What it Looks Like || The Well Water Journey

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A peaceful scene from a recent evening drive spent in prayer/freaking out.

Most days, I feel certifiably insane. I’m a twenty-year-old ex-pastor’s daughter virgin who felt called to start an outreach to women dancing at the local strip club called Well Water Fargo. It doesn’t make sense. Despite years leading up to this and training received, I often feel completely clueless and in over my head.

I’ve compared this process to having a baby – if you really thought about the pain, years, money, and hard work that it takes to give and sustain the life, there’s no way you’d agree to take on the challenge. So you just go for it. Not knowing exactly what this thing will look like, where it will take you, or even if you’re doing things right.

I want to be transparent about where I am at and how this unfolds. Maybe it’s not the best marketing strategy and there’s this nasty pride in me that wants to pretend that it’s all easy and wonderful and I have this extra helping of faith that makes the whole world look like a magic fairy dream land. The truth is, it’s hard. Chasing dreams is hard. Starting new things is hard. Having faith is hard. If opening up to you, dear internet readers, about the hard parts means that you are encouraged to press in to the dreams and desires God has placed in your own heart, then it’s totally worth risking looking weak. His power is made perfect in our weakness – which is why He gives us callings so far beyond our perceived abilities. This thing is beyond me. It scares me.

And this is what it looks like:

It looks like endless cups of coffee – those brewed in my own home and those sipped over conversations about vision with people wanting to get involved.

It looks like monthly lunch with the women’s ministry ladies, most of them decades older than me, but filled with more wisdom, encouragement, and Holy Spirit than I can express.

It looks like books being read – autobiographies about women in the sex industry and insightful quick reads on prayer and nonprofit management.

It looks like spending a lot of time praying – not always in bold intercessory moments, but more often in my spirit talking to God and saying a whole lot of “what is the world did you get me into?” sort of prayers. It looks like freaking out and letting go. It looks like doubt and questions and moments of fear.

It looks like God saying to me once again, “have I not commanded you be strong and courageous?” It’s almost like He is saying, “c’mon Liv, how many times do I have to tell you this? I.Have.It.Under.Control.”

It looks like me sitting at the keyboard in my living room and just worshiping God because He’s worth it. In return, He quiets my spirit and brings peace in it all.

It looks like returning to the stories of the Israelites coming into the promise land and how freaking faithful God was even though they were total butt-heads. I can relate in many ways.

It looks like seeing my community come out and support me and every time I think about it, I want to cry. Like I’ll never ever be able to express the fullness of my gratitude for the friends who were there for the first Well Water meeting. These beginning stages are so emotional and seeing which people prioritize standing beside me in a crucial part of my life journey is crazy humbling.

It looks like emails and newsletters and videos and prayer lists and strategizing and all the administrative hoopla.

It looks like starting to set foot on the ground around the club and just trust that Holy Spirit is making a way even now through simple things like praying as I walk around the block.

It looks like trying to balance the rest of my life as a student, small group leader, mentor, photographer, and general human stuff like family member and friend. That looks like days of putting Well Water on the back burner because other things just need to get done.

It looks like a mess sometimes.

It looks like a beautiful adventure.

It looks like a move of God.

I’m somehow standing in the middle as God reminds me to lift my eyes above the craziness. It’s so easy to be overwhelmed, but my Jesus is right there – asking for my gaze, my heart, and trust. He’s so dang beautiful that no chaos could rival for my attention.

That’s what it comes down to at the end of the day – not the craziness or the mess or the hardness or the fear – it comes down to the fact that following God’s call on my life is worth it. Not because of success or anything on this earth, but because my God is just that good. He’s worth extravagance beyond my wildest imagination. He’s worth every single dream and plan and desire. He’s worth the largest sacrifice. He’s worth lavishing my life at His feet.

The best part is, we could never out-lavish Him. For every time we say that He’s worth it, we are only grasping a glimpse of how He feels towards us. He says that we are worth it. Absolutely insane, but absolutely true.

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Dauntless || 2015

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At the end of September 2014, I was burned out. I was working three jobs while finishing my first month at a new school where I was also leading a small group with Chi Alpha campus ministry. At the same time, I broke up (peacefully) with a really sweet guy because it just wasn’t right for either of us. Physically, emotionally, and mentally – I was worn thin.

In the midst of this chaos, one morning I felt God calling me to just come away with Him. So to a little wildflower grove on a warm, foggy day – I sought out some direction and refreshment. In that place of quiet, two words were laid on my heart: “fearless” and “dauntless.”

“Dauntless” was the word that stuck with me the most as I took the time to research the word and what it meant and the meaning is one that I want to share with you.

Dauntless: df. showing fearlessness and determination, to not be intimidated, to be intrepid and bold.

Daunt: df. to overcome with fear, to lessen the courage, dishearten, alarm, frighten, deter, discourage, thwart, intimidate, shake, subdue, dismay, dispirit.

To know that God had called me to be dauntless and that is how Jesus sees my identity, allowed me to walk into the following weekend ready to pour out on others at our annual campus ministry fall retreat. I got to pray for emotional healing with several girls who had undergone some dark abuse, a subject my heart really breaks for. It was such a powerful experience and reminded me of how much my heart just beats to work with young women who are victims of abuse.

What I had no idea of in the moment, what I could not have imagined in the moment, is how my world would come crashing down around me just a few mere weeks later.

The wound is still too fresh to write about in depth for all the world to see, but my reality was shattered in the matter of one phone call. Someone I loved dearly had disappointed me and hurt me in ways I never could have imagined. There were layers of shame, betrayal, humiliation, pain, and bitterness that instantly clung my heart in way I’ve never known before and hope to never know again. It was a life altering event that has changed me and stretched me way past the point I thought I was capable of.

Now I come into 2015 feeling really beat up. There are bruises and cuts and I’m just really tired – still feeling a bit like I got hit by a truck. My faith, my relationship with the Living God, has been something that requires a whole lot of fighting for these days, yet I feel daunted by the thought of fighting anymore, so most days I have laid in a heap and accepted my beating from the enemy. I have been daunted. Discouraged. Dismayed. Deterred. Frightened. Shaken.

And I’m tired of it. Finally.

I’m tired of not wanting more of God. Of being scared of Him and what He might expose within me.

I’m tired of skipping church. Of making up excuses and feeling anxiety and for letting my bad church memories and associations dictate my Sunday mornings.

I’m tired of feeling like a fake. Of being too concerned with what people think of me or of what a leader is supposed to look like.

I’m tired of wandering. Of feeling lost and broken and useless and tired.

I’m tired of resisting grace. Of pushing it away because it’s messy and required humility and also me pouring it back out on other people, which is hard sometimes.

It’s time for me to stop accepting defeat. I started this painful journey of healing with a fight – a fight that has faded into just trying to suppress and deal with the humdrum of daily life. In that process, I’ve resisted things like being alone with God because it requires me to feel things that I don’t like or want to make time for. Life is messy. Dealing with life can hurt. However, if we really want to strive towards being mature, healthy, and spiritually solid people: we need to learn how to press on.

We need to learn how to fight, but also how to let God fight for us. We need to learn how to be still – to be silent. We need to put the iphones and netflix away and just be alone – with ourselves and with God. We need to be able to rebuke the fear, the weights that hold us back from God’s best, and to be dauntless.

The words that God gave in the light – the identity which I believed He has for me – to be undaunted by the world, those are truths meant for the darkness. Truth is meant to guide us through the valleys, deep rivers, and long nights with no moon. The truth that guides me today is that: God calls me dauntless and asks me to live up to that identity through heaps of grace. So today, I will.

Honesty in Pain

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My life is like molasses. 

It’s sticky and difficult to work with. It’s thick and messy. It’s sweet, but complicated. It’s not something that you want all by itself to binge eat, but when mixed with other ingredients can make some of the best cookies you’ve ever tasted.

This was the picture I got as I walked through the crisp night air while reflecting on this fall. This autumn as it fades not-so-gently into winter, has made me actually glad that the season is ending. It was a season of pain, really deep pain, much of it being the sort of pain that takes longer than a short season to wrestle through to find long term healing.

And in this season of pain, I’m learning a whole lot about honesty.

You know the old phrase that states that God will never give you what you can handle? Yeah… I don’t believe that for a second. God definitely allows things into our life that are so much bigger and more than we can handle – because in those moments we see how desperately we need a God who is bigger than what we can handle.

I cannot tell you how many times I have cried out to God in the last few months pleading with Him in places of desperation. There were so many times that I told Him that this pain was too much for me. It was, which is where God stepped in and was so good. On days where all I wanted to do was lay on the ground and cry and weep – He gave me the strength to get dressed and go to class or work. Times in worship where I was just a puddle of tears, He sent words of encouragement to friends that reminded me that He actually loved me. As I walked through waters of grief, He placed me in a community that selflessly loved me and He gave me the tools that I needed to be able to fight back spiritually. As I’ve had some sudden losses, He has restored other areas of my life and relationships, giving me ample reason to praise God for His goodness.

I’ve learned dependence on the Holy Spirit in a very essential and practical way. Even in the moments of perceived silence where my pain was shouting louder than God’s voice and even in the times when intimacy with God scared me because it meant being vulnerable – He sustained me and carried me through. He stood bigger and stronger than the mess of this world.

As people have asked me how I’ve been lately, I’ve been struck by the need to be honest. Things have been hard. Really hard. But God has been so good. This isn’t meant to be some Christianese answer, it’s totally true. (Plus, it is a little better than emotionally vomiting on each person who asks me a simple question…)

This season is teaching me many things with the big themes all being honesty, humility, and perseverance. Let me let you in on a little secret – none of those things are fun and easy to learn. If we are being real here, they are lessons that suck.

Hannah Brencher wrote a blog post lately that stated, “do what it takes to make me your gold.” What a gutsy prayer. Somehow, that’s become the cry of my heart lately. I want to be gold, purified and perfected through the flames. Flames are the only way to purify gold. Trials are the way that we are refined and grown. We see in the flames what we are made of, which sometimes is comforting actually as you see how tight of a grip the Father has on you.

To wrap this all up, the words of Charles Spurgeon have been the best way to describe this season of pain – “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” Kiss the waves. Praise the Rock. For in the turmoil, He remains. Steady. Unchanging. Solid.

Dream Again

photo (4)Familiar words often fall on deft ears. They become so close that we cannot see them until they sneak out of nowhere and weasel their way to the forefront of our mind. “Feels like it’s time to dream again.” One line of a song I spent my last two years of high school singing excessively on the majority of Wednesday evenings was a line that God used to speak into my heart.

“You have my permission to dream.”

It hit me. It makes sense with several of the other things God has been teaching me lately. See, I feel like He’s been placing me in this amazing season of growth and joy. That growth and closeness with God has been resulting in a heart open to Him and a heart that’s open to this wild adventure of abundant life. He’s been overloading me with dreams. Dreams for what He is capable of. Dreams for all that is in store. Dreams for the person I want to be tomorrow and what that means for today. Dreams that are tied onto my heart tighter and tighter with every passing moment.

And the dreams are blessings.

In the stillness of my heart, truth is spoken into me. “It’s your time to dream. It’s the time for a multitude of dreams both big and small. You will not see the fulfillment of every dream, but I am the great Dream Keeper and I put dreams into your heart for a reason.”

And darling, if you are reading this and you are a dreamer too – know this: dance while you dream. Do not just sit still and dream of a day far away that you feel powerless to control. Dream big, beautiful, and powerful dreams while resting in the joys of today. Dance, darling. Dance while you dream.

Don’t be afraid of sparks in your soul. Don’t be afraid of contagious fire. Don’t be afraid to think of the crazy what ifs. Dig in deeper. Stretch out farther. Explore. Explore this world and explore yourself. Fall in love with the creator of dreams.

 As for me, it’s my time to dream. To dream and to live wildly. 

 I dream of North Dakota State University being radically changed by the gospel of Christ.

I dream of the markets of Mumbai and the faces of beautiful Indian women who are enslaved to a curse.

I dream of creating more art. Of paintings and photographs and words finding some way to make sense.

I dream of seeing myself be more in love with Jesus and more full of His joy each day than I have ever been before.

These are just the tip of the multitude. Dreams are welling up within my soul. They are overflowing from my mind to my mouth to my movements. How about you? Are you willing to dream with me? Do you have dreams that are welling up inside your soul? If so, let us dream together and I promise that it will be a beautiful adventure.

Equally Broken

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Sometimes, it astounds me. The brokenness.

You know, the aching and the longing and the fighting and the pain. How it seeps into every corner of this world, tugging on the strings inside our hearts, playing out a deep and rich song in a minor key. Our brokenness is our binding factor in a way. It’s what unites all of humanity. We are one giant hot mess of brokenness.

From the homeschooled girl who cries herself to sleep over unrequited love, to the pregnant teen mom who sits in the planned parenthood clinic anxiously twiddling her thumbs. We are no more – no less. We are broken. Equally broken.

No matter if you are pondering the great mystery of “is a bikini modest?” or trying to figure out how to exit the lifestyle that is selling your body to get by, we are all searching. We are all clasping to whatever we know and whatever is familiar to us. We are making do. In our own messed up, imperfect way, we are plowing through life. Whether we dance like a ballerina or stomp in the puddles, we will all get wet simply because it’s life and it rains.

Sometimes, it rains really hard.

It pours and it thunders and lightning bolts shoot down from the sky and you have no idea if this thing called life is going to turn into a flash flood that will sweep you right away. I think for many of us, the flash flood is precisely what we need to acknowledge our brokenness.

As a fifteen year old homeschooled pastor’s kid, that’s what happened to me. Truthfully, shit happened. I found myself in the middle of a flood with whirlpools and a few stray branches here and there that I tried to cling on to with no avail. My faith was shaken. I didn’t really even know if I could call it faith at times. I considered walking away. Walking away from all that I had known because it sure as hell didn’t feel real. It felt like a big fake lie and I was sick of being fake. I was sick of telling myself that I wasn’t broken and hiding behind Christianese and what I had been told.

It was then that I realized there was no way out without clinging to the one thing that I couldn’t entirely shake – Christ had died so that I didn’t have to. I realized the full extent of my brokenness and when confronted with the truth that God loved me despite of it, I was floored by the possibility. I could make such a huge mess of myself and of my life and still, there was forgiveness and grace and redemption.

I think that it’s when we don’t realize our brokenness that we are the most incapable of receiving love. Because when we think we have it all together, love becomes something we have earned. Love becomes cheapened. Love is not something that we associate with our own brokenness. Maybe we associate it with others in a, “wow, God loves that person… how amazing!” sort of way.

Yet that perspective is so cheap and so fake. It’s in the moments where you look at yourself in the mirror and say, “why would you ever love someone like me?” that love becomes something of worth. Love becomes not something that we earn, but something we are given, for what seems like no good reason. Love becomes our rescuer. Love becomes something tangible and personal.

It is only in our brokenness that the power of the gospel is made evident.

I’m sure many of you have heard this a million times, and maybe it sounds cliche. It does to my own ears! Yet I’ve come to realize, that the truth sometimes sounds cliche. We sometimes have to hear something over and over and over again before it clicks. Ok, maybe you don’t, but I do. Because at the end of the day, I am one really broken girl who is existing due to grace. Maybe you are too.