good>God / thank God, for God

Time flies when… your busy, depressed, overwhelmed, traveling… I MEAN… having fun? I honestly can’t say this semester has been one of my favorites, in fact, I struggled through most of it. The only thing that kept me going was my alone time in the mornings, but even those were dry and not fantastical. I overbooked myself way too much, not even the normal overbooking but I really did myself in this time. I have been taking 19 credit hours of classes, working 24 hours in the library, involved in 9 shows/exhibitions, and still trying to maintain volunteering with Missio, being an active participant in Mission Group, and make work that I wanted to be making. Oh and it would be nice to have friends, too. (PS this is why I don’t have time for Facebook…)

With all this being said, I think my busy schedule was a blessing in disguise. This semester I was overwhelmed with this terrible feeling of being unwanted and unneeded. It hit me really hard about two months ago and I just couldn’t shake the feeling. I would get really excited about something and then poof! gone! I felt helpless. I was working so hard at so many things all at once and in the process of doing that, I was becoming a slave to my work ethic, my business, my perseverance, my service, my talents and gifts… woahhh. I didn’t see that coming. How can I be a slave to good things? How can I feel locked up by having a strong work ethic or a serving heart? Well, I wasn’t spending intimate, passionate time with Jesus, I wasn’t running to my Father in prayer, worship, and guidance, I wasn’t caring about my heart and soul spiritually, and I wasn’t loving anyone with Christ’s love.

I was dead inside because I was focused more on finding a place where I was needed, wanted, and fit. I was working hard for scholarships, summer jobs, and traveling opportunities. I was filled with a busy schedule because I want to be that girl that can do it all: make bank and take more credit hours than recommended (and I can at the expense of my soul). I was pushing myself to show up to everything art related and missio related and persevere through it even though it was draining me. I was saying yes to every service opportunity because that’s what you’re supposed to do right? Oi. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

This semester was filled with these feelings of wanting to fit in with my Mission Group and the art world more. In striving to find a place I was wanted and needed, I stopped thinking I needed Jesus. I didn’t need more Jesus I just needed more community. Wrong. I needed Jesus so I could feel filled and alive again!!! I needed Jesus so I could remember that all those times I was feeling mocked or rejected for who I am and what I love, that Jesus was mocked and rejected for being THE SON OF GOD, the essence and purpose of himself! (Matthew 27:29-31). I needed Jesus so I could remember that when I am feeling forsaken and abandoned by everyone around me, that he felt forsaken by our Heavenly Father and he had to be abandoned in order to save… me. (Matthew 27:46) I needed Jesus to remind me that working hard won’t earn me anything because he already bought me, paid the price for me, in FULL. I don’t need to earn anything but rather I need to work for the Kingdom. My heart needs to be shaped into an employee of Christ.

So let me tell you what God did, because man, he wrecked/rocked my world this week. After feeling unwanted and unneeded all semester, I finally hit the wall and decided to talk to Him about all this… aka cry and yell at Him in frustration. My prayer time/ venting session went a little like this, “God, why would you put these feelings and opportunities in my heart and dangle them in front of my face if I’m not actually going to get them?! Why would you make me desire marriage and having children so much if it seems like I am never going to be able to have a healthy relationship because I don’t get what they are supposed to look like?!?! Why would you gift me with loving kids endlessly and having crazy energy just for them if you are going to take away all the job opportunities I had for kids this Summer and post-grad!?!?! Why would you put me in this mission group if I don’t connect with any of them and I feel like I am the only person who hasn’t lived a holy, christian life their whole life?!?!? Why would you make me passionate about art and put me in art school when art school tempts me to go back to my old ways?!?! Why is this all happening right now? ….. Ok God. I am feeling your presence and I feel your gentle hand. I think what you are saying by your gentleness is that I need to be content in all of this right now. I think you are telling me you love me and you are shaping me in the midst of this struggle. I think you are telling me that I need to be broken down a little, humbled a little, reminded of your power and control. Oh, God. You are in control. I submit all these feelings to you and I lift them up to you. You are in control and I know you will figure this mess out for me because you know I can’t do it myself. I know you know my heart better than I even do. God, I am going to be content in feeling unneeded and unwanted right now. I am going to be content in my failures right now. I am content because you are what I am standing on and despite how much I tend to forget to fall on my knees and get closer to the foundation I am standing on, I know you will never pull that foundation away from me. You are always right here.”

So, I sat in my hammock and lifted all my discontentedness up to my Father: a few art shows I wasn’t satisfied with my work in, my friendship-only relationship with Justin, my letter of regret for a scholarship I was really pumped about, my failed application for teach for america, a phone call that informed me all the positions were filled for wesley chapel this summer, the discomfort I have been feeling within my home, the rejection I was feeling within my Mission group, and the outcasted feelings I had in DAAP.

All of the sudden I felt a million times lighter. Sometimes, I put my worth in my work, in how many awesome relationships I have, in my gifting of how good I am with kids and pushing for vulnerable, close community, in my art work, and in my perseverance when everything seems to be falling apart. So God lovingly took all of the things away from me. Completely. And let me tell you, I felt unbelievably unwanted, unneeded, alone, and certainly above all else, a failure at everything. All the things I knew I was good at, all of the sudden I didn’t have it in me to work hard, be vulnerable, maintain friendships, make good artwork, nail down jobs revolving around kids, and I had zero perseverance.

Work is good. Community is good (and crucial). Kids are good (very good, and adorable). Art is good (well most of it… there’s some weird stuff out there now a days). Serving is good. Relationships are good. Perseverance is good.

But above all things, God is good. In fact, HE is what makes all of these things good for me.

IF
God > good
THEN
all these things in my life can be good, too.

IF
good > God
THEN
God will take away the false idols in my life that I am putting my hope and worth into and he will bring me back to his heart.

So to end this on another positive note, a few days after I was told that all the Summer positions were filled at WCMC and I lifted everything up to God and told him he can be in control of my life again (haha that’s a joke because who can give God permission… hee hee, He was always in control) I got a phone call… There is a position available at Wesley Chapel because one of the girls got a job elsewhere and they want to hire me! WHATTTT?! God DOES work everything out for our good but ONLY when we are following Him and relying on Him. I get to hang out with kids. I get to work with a Jesus-loving staff. I get to love on kids with Jesus’ love. I get to be a kid. I get to play, laugh, love, and enjoy! I get to let God work through me all Summer long… with kids. Did I mention I get to be with KIDS! Through this, God reassured in me that I am still meant to stay in Cincinnati. I have a reason, a purpose. I am wanted and needed. All those things need to be rooted in God, though. I am meant to stay here not because of art, work, or relationships, I am meant to stay here because God wants to move through me right here in Cincinnati. (PS. I am super geeked about this because I LOVE Cincinnati!)

Please be in prayer that God continues to shape my heart and prepare my heart for whatever is in store for me this Summer. I want to have a soft heart all Summer and love on these kids actively and consistently. Also, prayer for the kid’s hearts that they can get to a place where they want to seek Jesus, too. And safety is always a good thing to be praying about when you are working in urban environments like OTR 🙂

God is good, guys. So so good.

 

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fearless but fragile.

luggage

Everyone is sleeping right now and I am still experiencing terrible jet lag. I just drove back to Michigan from Cincinnati and I’m ruining Christmas this year because Santa knows I’m waiting up for him. Whoops. I can’t help it, it’s 3 in the afternoon in Jingdezhen (side note, my auto correct wants to change Jingdezhen to Hernandez.. I just thought everyone should know.. ahahaha), China… not here though. So this is me… attempting to do something productive for myself while the world is dark, silent, and awaiting Santa Claus.

I’m still processing everything there was to China, round two. I think I will be processing this experience the rest of my life, really. I have changed, a lot. In fact, more than I do on most my adventures. This trip was nothing like before. My experience with the International Baccalaureate trip was planned, it was touristy, and it barely hit the surface of what China is really like. I have very few stories from that trip. I have pictures and I had fun, but this trip.. this trip was full of experience, life, and richness. This trip was worth every penny. This trip took me over seas, wrecked my previous thoughts on China, shook me a little extra in ways I wasn’t expecting, pushed my hands to make better work at the same time pushed me to let go of my control as an artist and let others do it, challenged my mind to think conceptually in a way I wasn’t used to, opened my heart to the other people on the trip, and spurred me to find ways to break the barriers between me and the people of Jingdezhen.

I shall begin. We had one quick night in Shanghai before our final destination. During this very short and sleep-deprived visit, we went to the Pottery Workshop. PWS has four locations. We visited with Dryden Wells who helps run PWS in Shanghai, and then we were residents at PWS in Jingdezhen. Dryden was a wonderful tour guide for the night and it was nice to experience a small taste of a more modern China before really jumping into small town Jingdezhen.

Now off to Jingdezhen. Unfortunately the majority of our group lost our luggage on our way to China, so for the first 5 days we were confined to the same clothes… ew, I know. Following the fact that I didn’t have clean clothes, I also didn’t have any medication and I winded up pretty stinkin’ sick by Friday. The first week was a lot of touring the Sculpture Factory, the Pottery Workshop, the local shops or hot spots around Jingdezhen and San Bao, and lastly taking classes from the locals. Our group took a Blue and White painting class, an overglaze painting class, and a throwing class (which I got to experience how to throw porcelain-  “Ghost” style… unfortunately not with Patrick Swayze, though, whomp whomp).

I’m sure everyone is curious and confused as to how the Pottery Workshop and Sculpture factory work, as was I before I left. Essentially, our group each had a table and shelving unit inside of one large room in the Pottery Workshop. This was our studio space. The Pottery Workshop is located inside of the Sculpture Factory. The Sculpture Factory is filled with Chinese men and women who each have a space for their particular trade. So there are a few spaces for mold making, a few for firing kilns, one for buying slip, a few for having your molds casted, some for making cute boxes for your work, another for packing your work, etc. They have someone for everything. I could have taken a sketch and found someone to have that sketch thrown for me. Or I could have taken a small toy dog to a man and asked him to sculpt this dog twice as large and he could have done it. It was really incredible. Every station had multiple workers and they were all incredibly friendly. So this is where the dilemma of my control played in. I didn’t quite know how to let go of my personal hand in the process, the making, the art. I think a lot of the group had the question of “is it still my work?” and “am I exploiting these workers or am I helping them feed their families?” The experience was very surreal in comparison to how western culture teaches you to “be an artist.” I suppose I didn’t come up with any real answers to these questions, but I think the answers depend entirely on the artists actions towards the workers.

While I was there, I desperately wanted to communicate with the sculpture factory workers and the locals. Since I couldn’t just miraculously know and understand Chinese, I asked Kim (one of our translators and my friend) to translate some phrases into Chinese characters so I could copy them onto cups. I then gifted the cups to the people around me who had blessed me.

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a huge thank you to the carry man.

DSC_0320the slip casting lady certainly impacted my life.

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the burrito lady was beautiful everyday I saw her.

These people touched my life. In little ways and in deep ways.

The carry man was small but so strong. His mannerisms were patient and steady. He didn’t have a prideful walk or facial expression. He was simple and only wanted to help and serve us.

The slip casting lady was in her factory day in and day out. She worked on casting lots of horses during our time there. Every time I walked by her room I would wave at her and she always smiled and waved back. One day I was carrying my work to the kiln man on a wooden board. She spotted me and ran out of her studio where she was busy with work and took my board and carried it for me. She stopped her work in order to help me, someone who has never done anything for her but wave and buy casting slip. I was so grateful for her loving help.

The burrito lady was incredibly sweet. Sweetness just poured out of her. She would talk and talk and talk at me while I waited for my breakfast burrito. I had no idea what she was saying but I would just smile and nod. She was so amused. At times I could tell she was asking me a question and I would say “I don’t know what you are saying, I am sorry.” Eventually, she began to realize that I could only say Hello and Thank you in Chinese. She would laugh at me when I didn’t know what she was saying. It was such a genuine laugh though. As if she was laughing with me and wanting me to feel her joy. She shared her life with me despite the fact that I hadn’t a clue as to what she was saying.

Beyond just the artwork that we saw and made, the adventuring that we were able to go on was awesome. I wandered by myself quite a lot. The diversity in living blew my mind. While standing in one spot I could see three very distinct different living conditions. See below.

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Along with wandering alone a lot, I wandered with Colin and Leah one day for several hours. It was an incredibly challenging and thought-provoking journey. Among many bittersweet experiences, the one that continues to linger with me was a passed away body on the side of the railroad tracks. There wasn’t a strong odor, so it seemed he had passed recently. There were flies on this person’s body… it was so sad. I haven’t been able to forget them since. It seemed to unreal. I was convinced they were sleeping. I wanted to wake them up. Other locals were walking the tracks and passing them without a second glance. It was different there. China isn’t America. There was nothing I could do and that was a defeating feeling. The image below is in honor of that person. I hope their soul followed that railroad until it merged with a greater railroad track.

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Hopefully I will have better and more professional images of my artwork soon. Until then, I will leave you with our group picture…

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our lovely group ❤

oh yeah, and this picture below is for grandpa. a shout out to him and his meticulous packing and organization skills. love you grandpa!

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keep growing and learning.

 

One of the biggest reasons I am so close to my grandmother is because we are both avid seekers. Both us us quench knowledge. Not math knowledge or proper literacy (although those are nice, too), but people knowledge. I would even bring my mom into this bubble as well. All three of us are passionate and interested in people. It a beautiful and frustrating passion to have, but I lean more towards gift.

Recently, I have had an incredible heart for my community. I see the same people in the same spots everyday and I didn’t know them. I have been searching for a very long time how I can spur myself into my community, incorporate my faith and art in the same project, and how I can get my functional pottery to be used and not just collect clay dust in my studio. Well fancy that, the answer wasn’t far around the corner. I won’t get into the details of the project, you can check that out at http://artsej.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/a-community-art-exchange/ . I will go in depth on the lessons I am learning through this, though. I have become more and more grateful for life and relationships than ever before. In meeting the community around me I have been incredibly humbled by the life that each individual lives out differently in such close proximity to another. For example, in my neighborhood, there is a pretty close ratio of 50/50 college students and Corryville home owners. These two group rarely, if ever, overlap. The college students rent houses, throw parties on the weekend and only invite their friends, walk to and from campus daily, and stay pretty secluded in their apartment the rest of the time. Corryville home owners sit outside and chat with their neighbors, people drive by and holler at one another, they throw fish fries and invite everyone and anyone, they go to the park and play together, and they know everyone by name that lives in the neighborhood. I don’t know about you but I think the people of Corryville have something to teach college kids.

My mom and grandma came down to Cincinnati for my show at Essex a few weekends back and we talked a lot about my project. It was really cool to hear all that they had to share because they are both seekers, learners, and people lovers like me. The generation difference of experiences added some extra cool perspectives. Through talking to them and experiencing community with my community, I am obtaining my own story and encountering challenges that I need to face in my own life. I started thinking about why I didn’t sit outside and engage with my community more… what am I doing in my house that can’t be taken outside? Oh right, I am surfing the web, posting on facebook, pinning pretty pictures on pinterest, watching a movie, playing kingdom hearts on PS2… essentially, I am wasting time. Not that those things are bad by any means, but they have become the “norm” and if they are always the “norm,” then we will never experience much else. I can’t really get to know anyone through those activities. If I truly want to seek out human relationships and get to know people better, I have to get out, experience life in a different way, and engage in any opportunity I can. Upon doing this, my life has gotten richer, sweeter, more fulfilling, and I am growing, learning, changing… all for the better.

I don’t know how else to communicate the blessing this project has been for me. I hope to continue it as long as I live. People are so important in this world, especially their hearts- and if I don’t get to genuinely know them then I will never know their heart or be able to serve them according to their needs. This project has inspired me to take every moment as a blessing, consider every person as a friend, and move slower in my every day life so that I don’t miss out on meeting someone really amazing.

I challenge everyone to give the stranger a chance to talk to you. Listen to them. Hear their story, listen to their life, look at the wrinkles on their hands, and try to make a new friend.

A huge thank you to my mom and grandma who have passed down these genes and supported me every step of the way… I love you guys.

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identity crisis.

I recently received snail mail from one of my good friends Amanda Harris. She was a huge part of my journey towards Christ Freshman year. In her letter to me she wrote, “I am sorry to hear that you are missing Christian companionship. I felt the same way in Guatemala. It is hard to be on your own in an unknown place.” After reading this, I instantly thought about  my thought going into the Summer. I wanted to live alone, I love being alone, on my own, doing my own thing. What is my definition of alone, though? Maybe I just love doing my own thing but not so much doing it alone? I like people, I like friends, I like sharing life together with people. I enjoy reading a good book in my favorite cushiony chair in the corner of Rohs Street Cafe while I see people I know walk in and out throughout the day. I like running away into the woods of Bellvue Park with my Bible but knowing that I have plans later that night to hang out with friends who will care and have interest in what I did that day. What I am discovering about myself is that I can handle one or the other. I like being on my own in a familiar place or I like being with friends in an unfamiliar place. When both are taken into account.. I start to struggle. I asked myself, why? (Because I am a thinker and I want to understand my feelings and thoughts) So why can’t I handle both of these aspects of my life right now? It’s because of my identity. I have part of my identity in people and places. When one or the other are missing, I still have some of my identity so I can adapt, BUT when both are not there to support me, I lose my mind, I become vulnerable to everyone and everything that might shake me. I suppose it’s a good thing that I am figuring this out now, but it’s a habit I don’t want to continue. I don’t want my identity to get stuck. I want my identity to travel with me like my shadow does. Cincinnati, DAAP, Justin, NAVS, Rohs Street, and Bellvue Park are NOT able to follow me everywhere I go. I don’t want to have to go somewhere to know who I am, but rather, I want to know who I am everywhere I go and be able to share who I am with those people and places that meet me. I also don’t want to have to RE IDENTIFY myself as a person every time I move somewhere else.

So I started looking into my past, why am I this way? Well, look at how my life has changed at so many fragile and crucial moments. What I am about to type here in my blog is not a blame game, it is just fact, this is how my life has gone and it’s not BECAUSE of any one person, it’s just how my life needed to play out in order for me to be where I am now. So anyways, in 6th grade Ladyfield closed down because of funding and I transferred to Christ the King. As a middle schooler, going through puberty, I was moved from one school that was sheltered and tiny, to a school that was significantly larger and the kids were exposed to more adult-knowledge (to say it nicely). This was a moment of identity crisis. I immediately felt the pressure to conform to the person who the people of Christ the King wanted me to be. I remember I had to wear a back brace at this time with my Scoliosis. I would go into school wearing it when I got dropped of very early by Marty and then I would run into the bathroom and take it off and hide it in my locker and then put it back on at the end of the day so my parents wouldn’t know I ever took it off. I was embarrassed. No one else at Christ the King wore one. People got made fun of there, too, and I didn’t want that. I was instantly ashamed of who I was at the age of 11 and 12. Talk about identify crisis.. I went through 2 years of being who and what other people wanted of me. My identity was in the pressure of the friends around me. Without them I wasn’t anybody (so I thought).

Then the beginning of freshman year rolled around finally and it was in a way, another chance to start over, make new friends, be my own person. BOOM, I get hit with a PVC pipe and I’m in the hospital for 10 days and out of school for a month. I am instantly identified as “the freshman who got pummeled by senior James Tefelski. There is my identity once again… Upon my return to CCHS, I realized everyone already found their friends and I was behind in establishing myself as a “someone” as anyone really. So, as an insecure, young, immature girl, I tried other venues to get attention and be someone.. anyone.

Senior year was here before anyone could do anything to help me and by this time my habits had deepened and my identity was stronger than ever; my identity in lies, boys, alcohol, self-harm, and the victim. Deep down my heart was desperate. I was desperate for someone, anyone to save me. I needed a hero. I needed a savior. I was broken, lost, scared, angry, but never willing to admit any of those things at the time. I became extremely close to a teacher who I looked up to. In a lot of ways, I found a hero in him. He gave me the stability and affirmation I needed. He was fired as a teacher because of our close relationship. This wrecked my world in many ways. As soon as he was fired I became an open target for rumors, ridicule, and resentment. I was once again being told who I was. I was called really nasty names and I questioned myself every day if I really was that girl. My family told me I was victim and everyone else told me I was the perpetrator. Who was I?

Eventually I lost control and couldn’t take it anymore. I was so confused about my identity that I didn’t want to be a someone or anyone at all anymore. I didn’t want to exist. So after two admittances into a children’s behavioral health place, I transferred schools once again to try to reestablish some kind of self-esteem and positive identity. Needless to say, Toledo is small, so before I even transferred I already had a reputation at Whitmer. Many kids already thought I had sex with a teacher and so they were fearless in questioning me about it. I was entirely taken aback by the fearlessness of my peers. Unfortunately, nothing changed at Whitmer, in fact, it just got worse. I could have cared less what I did with my body, my heart, my money, my thoughts, my words. I was reckless and I was okay with that because I was a nobody and I didn’t want to be anybody anymore.

My next life change was the best blessing ever. I followed my cousin to Cincinnati because I saw her happiness and something deep inside of me wanted that, too. I became a part of the Navigators and a part of a community that has blessed me in every way possible. They have been family to me since the first day I walked into room 114 Wednesday night. I have found my best friends, boyfriend, and most importantly my SAVIOR in that community.

So naturally I have found my identity in those good things, and they are very very good things, but they cannot remain as my identity. Once again I am having an identity crisis and it’s shaking me, breaking me down, pushing me down onto me knees and until about 20 minutes ago I  didn’t know what to do to get back up, but all I had to do was look at how much I have already grown and how much God loves me to pull me out of that life.

“God made me, Jesus saved me.” That is my identity. I can only pray to hide myself in Jesus and try to have the mind of Jesus, the heart of Jesus, the eyes of Jesus, the forgiveness of Jesus, and the love of Jesus. My identity is in a God who is so close to me, loves me so unconditionally, and has SAVED me from an identity in sin, a bondage to sin. I found my hero, my savior. I am saved and I am safe, wherever I am, I am in Christ and that is who I am. I am made in the image of God,  I have qualities of an All-loving God. My heart is his… He is a God I feel safe in and secure with.

Guys, Gals..

I have found joy.DSC_0146

I have been brought out of the dark, into the light.IMG_3138

All thanks to Jesus. Praise Him! IMG_3135

Whew.. that was an emotional blog, eh?

childlike.

I wanted to wander this Summer, I wanted to wander a lot. My heart, my soul, my mind, my body all agreed for once in their life; they all wanted to wander. Well, I have been wandering and I keep finding myself back in my childhood. I have been exposed to the beauty of the Upper Peninsula ever since my childhood. I’m sure that is one of the main reasons I keep wandering in the past, but there’s something else, something more to go with this. I am lonely up here. I have fun when I am in studio or doing busy work, but the second I stop and look around, I remember that I’m alone, without my friends, family, home, boyfriend, and things. I really struggled with this the first and second week I was here. In fact, I was quite sobby about it. In my vulnerability, my heart wandered back to childhood and I saw little Lizz playing with her rubber dinosaurs, by herself. I would name each one. There were 4 colors. I had my favorites, yellow and red. My absolute favorite was the yellow brachiosaurus name PJ. Anyways, they were my friends and they were the best company because essentially they were me and I was them, I was befriending myself through rubber toys. I was learning my right from my wrongs because in my head when one would be mean to the other, PJ would step up and put everything back into order. Well, I am re-learning how to play with myself as I did when I was a child and it is so wonderful.

I have heard time and time again how everyone needs to go search for themselves. I was in love with the movie “eat pray love” because the main character got to travel the world to find herself. I wanted to do that. I wanted to “find myself” I wanted to search the whole world until I found myself. If anyone else has that dream or itching to go searching and finding, stop right now, pinch yourself…. I’ll wait… Ok there you go, you found yourself already, that wasn’t hard, eh? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend my whole life searching for a better Lizz. What fun would that be? Instead, I’ve decided to befriend the Lizz I already am. I want to love myself just as I am, where I am , with what I have. I try to jump to tomorrow and search out the possibilities it withholds instead of simply spending time with the gifts and the people of today. As a child, I never worried about tomorrow. I didn’t worry that my rubber dinosaurs would leave me or my sandbox would get eater by a sink hole or that I wouldn’t be able to eat cereal in the morning. I just enjoyed those things in the moment because I was genuinely happy with who I was. When I was a child there were less influences than there are now. Now I have Facebook which gives me access to compare my life to everyone elses’ life. I have a cell phone which gives me constant communication and opinions from others. I am constantly influenced and being exposed to newer technology, better self-help techniques, bigger cars, smaller cell phones, heavier.. (nevermind, everything is getting smaller), lighter bodies, and whatever else. As a child, life was simple. It was one day at a time. It was me and my rubber dinosaurs and we were one big happy family.

I have re- befriended myself and it’s given me a peace that I cannot explain. It’s allowed me to put down this urgency to search for a better Lizz and just love the Lizz that already is. I can now take time to wander today instead of worrying about tomorrow. I can now be anywhere and know I am not alone. My mom bought me a set of Gwen Frostic books and one of the poems in it read,

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I am not alone. I never was. I never will be. This brings be to my concluding thoughts. God. I spent too many days sad, feeling alone, and forgetting about my Comforter. He definitely never fails to show up at the perfect time. I have always connected to God through nature. There couldn’t have been a better time for me to get up and go for a walk. It was a Saturday and it was very, very warm out. I put my hiking boots on and I went into the woods in prayer. I started in my head, but before I knew it was I was talking out loud and even began to cry. I have NEVER felt I had the time to do something like this back in Cincinnati, especially during the school year. I really needed a good melt down, totally alone with God. The prayers that came out and the problems I ended up confessing to him were really scary and incredible all at the same time . I feel fresh and I feel alive. I feel like a child again and that makes me so happy.

 

Cherish yourself.

a free spirit

I’ve had a lot of people in my life describe me as free spirited. I always took that as a complement and I never really contemplated what that actually meant. I am going to fill everyone in on some stuff before I get back to this free spirit talk.

Just recently I got in contact with a couple in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan to discuss the possibility of spending the Summer with them in their studio. It took a while before I heard back from them, but the moment we started exchanging emails everything was set up in a few days. I have officially accepted the apprenceship/ artist residency with them and I will be spending my Summer in the U.P! During this chaotic and exciting week of planning and then replanning my Summer, I sort of fell on my knees after tripping over my uptight plans and need for control. I started intensely stressing about how much I needed to plan and figure out and change now that I will be away for 3 months. I became unbelievably worried about what I would do without my friends, my community of beleivers, my boyfriend, my house, and my church. I realized that God definitely gave me this oppourtunity last minute for a reason. I really, really, desperately, needed to trust in Him and not my own plan. If God would have opened this oppourtunity up for me earlier, I would have had time to plan out things and try to take control. This last minute nonsense is exactly the smack in the face I needed. I am also realizing how incredibly shallow my worries are. I am worried about my relationships with other people as if they are just going to forget about me or hate me just becasue I am leaving for a few months. Such a silly thing to fret about. I need to have faith in God and in my friends/boyfriend that they care about my heart, not whether I am in the same city as them or not.

Along with this realization of my need for planning and control I am recognizing that I have a very deep rooted anger in my soul that gets stirred easily when I am not in control. Now when I reference anger, I really mean angry, he shuddering, shaking, fist clenched, punching pillows angry. I experienced a lot of anger this week. I said some really nasty things to some people who want nothing but the best for me, just because I wasn’t in control as much as I thought I should be. Let me tell you, though, being angry and worried at the same time + being an emotional woman, causes for a lot of crying and snapping at people. This verse has been super helpful in trying to figure out what I need to be focusing on to change for the glory of God: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” 1 James 1:19-20. I definitely need to look inward and find the source of anger that seems to be neverending and then learn to slow that anger down. If I could just think about what I am getting angry about for a second before I let the emotions get to my head, then I think I would have been able to recognize that I had no reason to be as angry as I was getting. It’s so pathetic now to look back and realize I was angry at the people around me because I didn’t feel in control of my Summer plans when my Summer plans are amazing and I should not have the urges to control them.

This brings be to look deeper. Why would I be angry about plans changing even if they are change for the better? Well, I think it’s worry. I had spent a lot of time worrying about when I would work over the Summer, what classes should I take, blah blah blah. So when my plans changed suddenly, I became intensely excited and then immediately worried. All my worries were earthly worries, but this shows me how attached I am to my earthly desires. I am attached to making money (my job), being close to Justin, having a community of friends, the list goes on… BUT I wasn’t focused on the godly things at all, like what will my relationship with God look like? Obviously I am more attached to my bed, my friends, my boyfriend, my art then I am with God. This needs to change, immediately. Jonah 2:8 says, ““Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” I want to cling to the Father. Romans 12:9 says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” This makes me question, is my love for God sincere?

So this brings me back to my first topic. I want to know what loving the Lord sincerely looks like. The best answer I have at this point in time is to allow the holy spirit to be the root of my actions, the reason for my decisions, the words that come out of my mouth, the essence of my thoughts, and to allow the spirit to freely move about in my heart, mind, and soul. What better way to love someone than to serve them, affirm them, gift them, and spend time with them? I want to love God like this, by allowing the holy spirit to freely move into my life, every stinkin’ aspect of my life, too. So being free spirited… I looked up the definition and I found two: 1) a person with a highly individual or unique attitude, lifestyle, or imagination; nonconformist; 2) someone acting freely or even irresponsibly. Hm. I suppose during the durration of my life I have been every aspect of free spirited in one way or another. I desire to be free spirited, but (yes there’s always a but) I would like to redefine what it means to be free spirited. So here it is:

free spirit

noun

a person with a highly unique love for the Lord, which causes their lifestyle to look radically different than others and allows the spirit to come into their hearts and move freely in their life without conforming to the sin of the world

I know, I know, I broke every rule there is to defining words, and I definitely know I’d not supposed to use the word free or spirit in a definition, BUT it’s my own definition so I can do that 😉

This Summer, as I move to the U.P, I am going to focus inward, slow down, allow (not force) myself to be still, and listen. I cannot explain how at peace I am with this decision. I want to listen to the Lord all Summer long. I want to fall on my kness in front of his creation every week and worship him.

So here are the goals for my Summer:

1) focus on me and my relationship with God

2) listen to God

3) journal and explore the depths of my anger and need for control

4) wander; hiking, swimming, kayaking, waterfall hunting, wading

5) cling to my Father and let go of my attachment to idols

6) read, read a lot

I AM SO EXCITED! My goals are only one aspect of my trip. There are also all the cool things I will actually be doing up there with the apprenticeship. This is a very short synopsis of what I will be doing. I have totally been blessed with this oppourtunity to travel to the U.P. and stay with this couple (Jill and Tom). I will be working for them in anything that they need really. I will help out with studio stuff which will probably consist a lot of cleaning, firing kilns, moving things, watering the garden, helping to feed the chickens, or whatever. I will work for them part time (2 days a week) at the gift shop which is attached to the studio. Jill is totally vegetarian and Tom is “basically” vegetarian, so they have a fresh garden which I will be allowed to eat from! They also said they will make a space in the garden for me to plant my own crops and they have a bike for me to use to get around town! I will be able to work on my own artwork all Summer and they have lots of clay and all the glazes I could ever dream of having! Not to mention, I will be able to work and talk with Jill and Tom everyday about what running a gift shop looks like. I will be able to work with Tom (he is the potter) and hopefully learn more techniques and grow even more as an artist since he is many many steps ahead of me in talent and experience. I will also be allowed to sell the work I make!!!! How awesome is that??? I can answer that for you, IT’S AWESOME! I am so ready to learn. The ability to learn is such a blessing and I know this Summer will be full of lessons. I will learn how to be a helper for a couple I don’t entirely know, I will learn about owning a buissnes, I will learn about kilns and glazing, I will learn about living far away from what I consider “home,” I will learn about myself, and most importantly I will be listening to the Lord and hearing (well, hopefully hearing) from him things that I need to learn.

Okay, my ramblings are over. Feel free to call me if you want more detail on what my Summer will look like or (warning: shameless plug) would like to support this journey with some gas money! (haha, just kidding, but not really…)

satisfaction.

In my last blog post I mentioned how I am currently trucking through the chronological bible. I have been camped out in The Book of Numbers for the past few days. I won’t even try to make my initial thoughts sound sweet, I was not looking forward to The Book of Leviticus or Numbers, but honestly, I am learning way more about my faith in these books alone than I have in a long time. I feel God has really begun changing my heart this year and I think he is using my journey through the bible as his main way to reach out to me. I have always had a bitter taste for the Old Testament and I categorized God as this mean, cruel, wrathful, moody, and very overly angry father. I have recognized that there will always be certain scenes where God punishes people and I don’t agree with it, but who am I to question Him?

So as I have been reading Numbers, a certain section really caught me off guard and really gave me that gut wrenching “ahh HA” moment. If you want, read Numbers 11:1-30, if not read this:

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

Moses and the people of Israel are currently working their way to the Promised Land and they are complaining of not having meat and fish to eat like they did in Egypt. This totally struck me as crazy! They were slaves in Egypt! Why would they EVER want to go back to Egypt? Meat or no meat, people aren’t supposed to want to be enslaved like that. The Israelites weren’t satisfied. They weren’t satisfied in Egypt because they were enslaved, so God sets them free through many many examples of his power. Then they are free but now without meat and fish, so they want to be back in Egypt for food, a very earthly craving. My epiphany really comes down to this: Is my satisfaction in the Lord?

I, like many others, am rarely totally satisfied. In fact, in most circumstances I find myself feeling cheated out of something better, something I thought I deserved. What arrogant and prideful thoughts of mine. photo[2]

So reading through the Old Testament has opened my eyes to some very sad truths of the human race. BUT THAT’S WHAT IS SO GREAT ABOUT JESUS CHRIST DYING FOR US! In case you didn’t get that last sentence, BECAUSE OF JESUS, WE CAN BE SATISFIED. Whether we are eating meat or fish or manna or mac and cheese, we all have a Savior who died for us, covered all of our weaknesses and sins up with his blood. It is finished. That phrase alone is satisfying!

Justin and I had a really eye- opening conversation last week as well. We were talking about his same section of the Bible and he was telling me how he was amazed that the Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt where God had rescued them from. He kept telling me about how that relates so much to any humans everyday life. How often do I want to sin? How often do I crave turning my back on God just to have my own sinful satisfaction? It was really cool to see how we both had different perspectives but they both led to the same conclusion: God is so good that we will never be able to redeem ourselves to get close enough to him WITHOUT Jesus, hence, we need Jesus. We will always have our moments where we turn our backs on God. We will try to barter with God, be in control of God, and attempt to have a better plan than God, but we will always fail. We have to give up all of our own control, surrender to our Lord, pick up our cross, and take upon the will of God our Father, and then he will give us complete satisfaction and peace. I know, it’s easier said than done. I may be one of the biggest sinners when it comes to coveting control. I desire control dearly and it’s a huge punch in the gut when I realize I don’t have any control over anything remotely important. I have recognized I cling onto the things I can be in control of; like my hair color, the clothes I wear, the rearrangement of rooms, my artwork, etc. I am just like the Israelites, longing for everything I don’t have. When I am finally freed from slavery, I long for it back in other forms, because I am broken, because I need Jesus.

I create my own bondage, but whether or not I am creating the most difficult handcuffs for myself or not, Jesus never fails at finding the key and unlocking me. He will continually set me free, give me grace, and delight in me. The journey of the Israelites shows this. They continually create more and more bondage for themselves through complaining and desiring what they feel they deserve.Wow, it’s so humbling when I have the realization that instead of desiring control over everything, I want God to have control over me. My desire for control is proof that I am not surrendering my life to a Heavenly Father who I have faith in, who is sovereign, who is righteous, and who is good.

If you get nothing from this, just remember this: God is good and only He can satisfy you.