My Destiny is Not my Identity

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I think every home should have a prayer room.

During my time at YWAM Las Vegas this summer, I spent some time in the prayer room. Not a ridiculous amount, though I’ll confess to intentionally sleeping in there on my last night in Vegas because an empty base is creepy as all get out. But the time I did spend in that prayer room was life changing. I had no clue how much God spoke to me in that little white room with a soft rug and cozy blankets until I kept finding myself telling people stories of what I learned or prayed in that place.

There, God reworked and rewired fundamental areas of my heart and life. He showed me His Father heart. He spoke to me of my identity. He held my hand as I surrendered all my dreams and hopes and fears.

I went to Vegas thinking that it’d bring me clarity to my dreams and life plans. I left so much more confused. Yet in that messy process, I learned something valuable that maybe you need to hear today:

My destiny is not my identity.

I am not defined by my calling or my dreams.

I love reading what common people said about the Apostles in Acts. There were these strong reactions to those who completely changed the world. From mass crowds deciding to follow Jesus, to throwing them in jail, to more humorous comments about thinking they were drunk – they always caused a stir. My favorite description of all is when people noticed that these were uneducated, common men – but they had been with Jesus. And that changed everything about them.

I vividly remember thinking about those words as some spontaneous Bethel song played and I asked God, “could I be known for knowing you?”

See, I had spent much of my life being “the anti trafficking girl.” Seriously. For about 8 years, that’s what I’ve been known for – as someone passionate about anti trafficking causes. It’s not a bad thing to be known for. I’m not ashamed of my involvement in these issues. I started to ask what it would look like for people to look at my life and go, “dannnnng, that girl is on familiar terms with God.” Maybe that’s all they see. Not education or expertise or beauty or intelligence or personality – just a whole lot of Jesus. How crazy would that be?

I realized this:

I don’t want my life to be about a cause.

I want my life to be about Jesus.

It’s not that I didn’t want my life to be about Jesus before, but He’s leading me into a deeper, purer, more intimate place in my walk with Him. He’s leading me into my identity; my identity as a daughter and not as a servant. That I am loved, beautiful, worthy, enough, and free – not because of anything I do, but because of the radical grace that leads the Creator of the universe to call me these things. It’s wild, but it’s true.

My identity was the same on the day when God created me in my mother’s womb and it will be the same on the day when He calls me home. It’s not optional. It’s not conditional. It’s not up to me. It’s truth. It’s reality. It’s grace.

The Bible speaks to who we are – to who God made us and how Christ has restored us to our original design. We are called forgiven. We are seated in heavenly places. We are redeemed. We are victorious and led forth in triumph. We are children – coheirs with Jesus (best brother ever) and adopted into the family of God.

The callings that we have as individuals – our destinies and our dreams – they are beautiful. God has given them to us. We rejoice and celebrate them. We chase them. But they do not define us. They do not dictate our “enough-ness.” They may not always turn out how we expect them to and we may be led to seasons of surrender, but our identity is truth that can be clung to.

That’s what I started grasping this summer – that fullness of identity. The journey led me to a season of rest and letting go of dreams. It led me back to a season of crazy dreaming and seeing lifelong dreams play out before my eyes.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that part of my calling, destiny, and dream is to work with women in crisis. God has confirmed that time and time and time again. No matter how many times I’ve tried to do other things with my life, I keep coming back to this anti trafficking arena. So I’ll embrace that. I’ll work with nonprofits and read books and watch documentaries and go to trainings. I’ll start my own strip club outreach in my city. I’ll follow opportunities that arise in the future. I’ll hone my craft and become an expert. Those are all good things.


But that’s not my identity and not really even what I want to be known for. I want to be seen as one who has been with Jesus – because I know that my place of completion is in His presence. My identity is wrapped up in the unshakable promises of Love. But even if people choose to see me differently, it doesn’t change how God sees me.

He sees me as His daughter. Loved. Chosen. Beautiful.

Nothing changes that.

From Healing to Wild

wild-12015 was:

Finding my signature look of red glasses.

Las Vegas.

Sunflower fields.

Falling in love with Fargo.

Living with my best friends.

Small group(s).

ATL.

Shauna Niequist + Hannah Brencher + Donald Miller books.

Endless cups of coffee.

Countless trips to Starbucks.

15 weddings.

YWAM.

Making more music.

Art club.

Block parties.

Adulting. Sometimes.

Naps on the beach.

Holy moments on docks.

Road trips.

Airports.

Tears.

Laughter.

Dancing. Particularly dancing in the rain. in a ghetto. in the desert.

Building community.

Refinding family.

Refinding church.

Learning to rest.

Surrendering dreams.

Wrestling comparison.

Getting dreams back.

Friend dates for days.

Full journals.

Tattoo.

Nannying.

Momming.

Pastoring.

Interning.

Learning.

Growing.

Healing.

At the beginning of 2015, I thought that my word for the year would be “dauntless.” And maybe for a brief moment it was. At the beginning of the year, I was so desperate to get out of survival mode that it took a fighting start. However, within a matter of weeks, I started to see that the song of war sounds more like a lullaby. Now, it sounds more like a dance anthem.

Many of you may know the popular quote that: “You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living breathing screaming invitation to believe better things.” (Jamie Tworkowski)

That was my year minus the passport, but I made up for it in 12 airplane tickets. I learned again how to “believe better things” after a 2014 that kicked me in the butt. Piece by piece, I was put back together again by Holy Spirit through this year that ebbed and flowed in the most divine way.

I started off January so deeply broken. Church gave me anxiety and left me in a pile of tears. The thought of ever getting married and having a family made me outwardly laugh, but inwardly curl up in the fetal position. Being alone with God had to be done in small doses. Then God arrived so suddenly but so sweetly.

He arrived in the prayers of a friend, our faces both covered in tears as we asked for healing from my fears of marriage. He arrived in the modeling of a missional + healthy relationship in Las Vegas of all places. He arrived in finding myself returning to a Sunday morning church and returning that rhythm to my life. He arrived in friendships that were kindred spirits. He arrived in wedding ceremonies that moved my soul. He arrived in the most unlikely place of an internship with a church plant in Sin City where my views on marriage, family, purity, and church were renewed. He arrived in rest. He arrived in community. He arrived in a little church filled with hungry hearts and expectancy for God to show up. He arrived in a counselor’s office. He arrived in so many quiet moments.

I can point to dozens of times in this last year where God moved and changed me. Very few of those moments had any sort of pomp or flair. They were healing moments where He placed another layer of balm on my raw skin and as time went on, on my new fresh skin. It was a process. Sometimes slow. Sometimes speedy.

Now the time for healing comes to a close. It’s not that there will never be moments or new stages, but the deep and intense levels of healing are actually really well done. This year, I dug in my heels and did things that terrified me, but that healed me. I was desperate to be made into gold so that the fire would not be in vain. I didn’t fight the process, I fought with it. I learned how to heartily embrace the waves as I felt the thrill of throwing myself into them expectantly rather than just trying to survive their unexpected impact.

It’s beautiful because I feel like this whole last year, especially the last few months, were the upward climb of a roller coaster. Up. Up. Up. Climbing steadily. Now stopped. Ready for the drop that is 2016. Ready for arms raised, lungs screaming, laughter rising, heart racing, blood pumping, going too fast to really be afraid, but still really being afraid.

What does 2016 contain? I’m not really quite sure. I have ideas. I have some rough sketches. Many things feel actually rather planned out and orderly and tidy, but I know they wont stay that way. Life rarely goes according to plan and is always messier than anticipated. But there’s one word that I just can’t get over to describe what lies ahead: WILD.

Wild.

Yeah, it’s going to be wild.

Freedom

Stop the Meanness

“I have been so mean to myself.” 

 The thought washed over me all at once as I sat in my car and drove away from the clinic. I have been so mean… so mean… There was no prettier word that could come to my mind besides “mean” and as I felt myself sticking to that word, tears streamed down my face. After two years of brushing off my body and pretending that none of it matters, it finally hit me what I had been doing.

 For so long, I’ve been heaping ridiculous pressure on myself. I think it’s been a real problem since my senior year of high school when I really started trying to figure out just what kind of person I wanted to be – and that person is unobtainable. I started to put all these ideals on myself.

 Some days, I drowned in the person I wanted to be. I wanted to be someone so beautifully brave and kind and passionate and smart and talented that it would make a difference. I wanted to change the world. I wanted to be loved. I wanted to fix everything.

 That perfectionistic idealism has manifested itself in a multitude of ways over the last few years. It’s manifested itself particularly in my schedule as I try so hard to do everything. School, job, campus ministry, church, friendships, photography, save the world. I have put myself through more 12+ hour nonstop days than I’d care to admit. Yet I get so burned out and I get so tired. I power myself with lots and lots of coffee, but it doesn’t seem to really help. I get not enough sleep at night and constantly feel like I’m lagging behind. This results in heaps of guilt and shame and doubt. The feeling like “I should be able to get this. I should be able to do this.”

But I can’t.

And it finally hit me that the way that I treat my body is exactly why I can’t.

 See, I have some problems with hormonal imbalances. It runs in my family and it’s this lingering nasty thing that’s made me gain weight and just messes with my body. In addition to that, I have a long history of being deficient in different vitamins and minerals – including iron.

 That’s what brought on the tears after the clinic. My hemoglobin level was at 9.0, down from the already low 9.9 it had been at six months ago and the low levels it had been at a few years ago. It has just kept getting worse and worse – despite my wishful thinking that maybe if I ignored it, maybe it’d slip away in the night.

Nope.

 I’ve been pushing myself to these horribly idealistic standards for myself and beating myself up every single time that I don’t measure up. Yet I’m functioning on less oxygen flowing through my blood than what is good, normal, or healthy. So there’s no wonder that I have difficulty concentrating or that I’m constantly tired.

 This finally was a wake up moment for me. It was a sudden realization that dang, I really need to get this is order if I want to be half the person that I desire to be. But not only that, but it hit me that I really need to stop being so hard on myself. I need to stop squashing my soul under the expectations that aren’t meant for my shoulders. I need to shut up the voices of endless comparison and self-doubt. I need to fight the feelings of failure and shame and inadequacy. I need to learn what my life needs to look like between me and God.

 Guys, it’s a journey and a process and I am so in the middle of it, if not at the beginning. But I’ve just realized that I need to be kinder. Kinder to my body. Kinder to my heart. Kinder to my soul.

 That’s what I started out 2015 saying to myself. I discovered the thoughts in my journal recently and this is how I will end. I admit that 4 months later, I have made very little progress in this area. BUT I am starting to see more and more pieces that need to be adjusted – problems that I didn’t know where there. And my prayer is that daily, I learn a bit more how to just be a bit kinder to myself.

I hope you learn this too.

2015

Who do you want to be?

Someone who is brave + dauntless and doesn’t compare herself to others.

Someone who speaks positively about + to people.

Someone who unplugs + slows down.

Someone who breams big things.

Someone who creates + captures beauty.

Someone who loves deeply.

Someone who worships God passionately.

Someone who thinks hard + asks hard questions.

Someone who is healed.

but why do I put all this pressure on myself? Maybe I need to be someone who loves herself – broken, imperfect, and messy.

Maybe…

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.

Where were you, mom? || Living out Future Stories

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 Someday when the history books are written and the days going faster and faster each day, my future children will ask me questions. There will be night of sitting up on the counter eating cookie dough at late hours and talking about the world. There will be times they will look at me across the dining room table and at some point, when they get to the point history where they’ve calculated I was alive and kicking, they may ask me the question of, “where were you, mom?” 

Where were you, mom… when ISIS was killing Christians in the Middle East?

Where were you, mom… when police brutality reigned and Ferguson was a sea of protests?

Where were you, mom… when 276 Nigerian girls were kidnapped?

Where were you, mom… when there was 27 million people in this world who were victims of human trafficking?

Where were you, mom?

Where were you?

How I will someday respond has been haunting me lately. There’s lots of answers that I am okay with giving. I am okay with telling them about busting my butt in undergrad to become a social worker. I am okay with telling them that I was on my knees – crying to the Creator of this crazy world and begging him to bring heaven to earth because my earth looks nothing like heaven sometimes. I am okay with telling them that I did something by truly loving those of marginalized populations. I would definitely be okay telling them how I joined the Ferguson protests or saw Jesus redeem the hearts of those caught in the sex trade.

What I’m not okay with is the thought of having to someday having to look into my children’s eyes – ones if they’re anything like mine, hold bundles of intensity at times – and have to tell them that I was comfortable.

I hate very little more than the thought of someday looking back and realizing that I was complacent, comfortable, and lazy while there was a world that I was existing in that was so broken, hurting, and torn. To know that I had the Spirit of the Living God inside of me and that I did nothing but keep it to myself – that is my greatest fear.

Someday, I want to teach my children that activism is simple: if you see evil, do something about it. 

I want to show them by example. I want them to know that their mother was a mover and a shaker. I want them to hear stories of long fought battles that were won – not in the physical, but in the hearts of people. I want them to tell their friends that their mother was “sort of this crazy activist missionary” in her younger years.

Even if my radicalness is in the context of living in a cozy college town in the Midwest, I don’t want my location to be an excuse. I hope to tell my children of the city that was my fortress, my training grounds for the battles ahead. I look forward to telling them of the valley where I got up close and personal with a really big God, spent long hours learning through trial and error how to help people in need, stuck my nose in a few books, and loved deeply those who surrounded me.

Someday I will tell my children that all I wanted to be when I grew up was a world changer. My daily prayer is that I’m on a path to someday say confidently that when I was young and lived in a world so in need of change, I pursued the destiny of a world changer every day. Maybe I didn’t get to go overseas and do something crazy – but I still was crazy.

I am crazy. And to tell you the truth, I’d rather be crazy than comfortable any day.

Turning of the Years

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2013.

Some years come in with a smile and a wave – with lessons that you proclaim from rooftops and memories that you are eager to photograph and display on your walls in big, beautiful frames. This was not one of those years. Instead it was… sticky. The lessons I’ve learned have been rich, yet messy. It seems that everything I’ve touched has carried the marks of these messy lessons and all is connected; covered with a fine layer of sticky honey that binds them together. Sweet, but difficult to share.

Ultimately, there are stories that are not mine to tell. I will not try to explain it all away. I will not eloquently write to you about every lesson that is forming me into the woman I am and the woman who I will be. As important they are and as sentimental as I am, even I must realize when things need to be done. Acknowledge when you need to walk away and kiss something goodbye.

2013 was a year of oh so many things. Things that have past. Good and hard.

 Now welcome to 2014.

This is the year that is a blank slate, full of possibility and hope. Do you know what hope breeds? Joy. The Bible commands us to be joyful in hope. Hope gives birth to joy. So in the hope of what God has in store for 2014, I will rejoice and give thanks.

See, I think that New Years may be my favourite holiday. It’s bittersweet, horribly sentimental, and full of fresh beginnings. That’s about as Olivia Approved as you can get. I usually prefer to be alone as the clock turns, a cup of coffee in hand and a journal to scribble down all the introspectiveness that bubbles up inside of me. This year, I’ll be with two of my dearest friends from high school – my nerfighter, idealist, adventure prone girls – who are pros at reflecting and dreaming. However the evening is spent, there’s something about the turning of the years that just gets me.

And I think this year will be a crazy one. January itself is posing to hold a whole lot of fun and chaos, let alone the rest of the year ahead. You know, I could tell you all my goals and hopes and dreams for this year, but in the world of the internet, some things are meant to remain sacred. So this is what I will say: who I hope to be.

I hope to be brave – to have the courage to admit when I’m wrong and the feet firmly planted to stand up when I’m right.

I hope to listen – to ask more questions and to talk less about myself.

I hope to open up – about my story, my heart, and my dreams.

I hope to say no – to things and to people and to activities that don’t sit right in me or aren’t for the best.

I hope to be self aware – but not self conscious.

I hope to think more – about things that challenge me and cause me to grow.

I hope to feel deeper – and not be ashamed of the ENFP that I am.

I hope to try new things – not just the exciting ones, but the hard ones too.

I hope to build a firm foundation – in relationships, education, career, and for all things future related.

I hope to fall madly in love with Jesus – more and more each day like an overflowing well.

And I will be joyful in hope.

We Must be Our Own

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 Be your own, Liv. Be your own.
 The thoughts have echoed in my mind this fall as I’ve been thrown into the high pressure romantic world of college. In the midst of being surrounded by breakups and beginnings and being passed over, Emerson has kept me company with the words, “we must be our own before we can be another’s.” You must be your own.
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 Maybe it seems to others like I am my own already. Maybe I hide behind this mask of confidence and enthusiasm that makes me seem like I have things oh so figured out. But the truth is, I feel like I’m just starting to get to know myself. Who is this Liv character and why is she in this world? What is her purpose in this plot and how does she fit into the grand scheme of things? What does this girl believe and what does her existence look like? These are questions that I am just beginning to start asking, let alone answering.
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 In a world where so many people find who they are in someone else, to figure out your identity without another is a rare and difficult task. Because you are told that you are who you love. But we are not. Yes, who we love and how we love reveals much about us, but what I realized this fall was the very way that I love has more to do with my nature than the person I love. I am not one of those girls who can mess around. I am not one of those girls that can bring guys home drunk and screw around after a breakup. I am not one of those girls who can disobey her gut when it tells her that a boy is bad news. That’s not who I am.
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 I am the type of girl who loves deeply and strongly and is loyal to an extreme. I am the type of girl who does not easily move on. For me, moving on requires a large amount of road trips, good music, coffee, and time. Moving on requires tears and talks and tearful talks. I am a girl who’s learned to be honest and upfront about her thoughts and feelings – firstly to herself, then to others. I am a girl who will fight for what she wants in all areas of her life and for whom passion grips her every decision. I am a girl who will always be busy and who will always be chasing life as a whole.
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 These are some of the things I’ve found out about myself on this little journey of becoming my own.
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 There’s a lot more to figure out. There’s a lot more epiphanies to be had. There’s a lot more yet that I am wrestling with and sorting through. And that’s okay. It’s not a journey to which you arrive at your destination without a few stretching breaks and fuel-ups.
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 There’s always this bit of pressure in the back of your mind that maybe, in order to be another’s, what you really need to do is change. You need to dress differently, wear more makeup, flirt, dumb yourself down, or whatever it is that seems to be what is desired. Yet that will leave you being another’s, but not your own. Then when the other leaves, you are left with nothing until you find another one who can define you. In my mind and to my heart, being another’s and not your own is a great tragedy.
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 Who I am has always been out of sync with the general population. I do things my own way and am not afraid to be different. I’m not afraid to work three jobs at two different nonprofits, in fact, it’s what makes me come alive. Direct services especially for people who are struggling with life, being able to be a listening ear and a constant figure, that’s what I love doing. Things like working at a shelter for runaway teenagers is exactly what makes me feel the most like my own.
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 Sometimes, you wonder if being your own will leave you without another. And you know what? Sometimes it may. I wonder daily if this journey into working with nonprofits and disadvantaged people and women who are survivors of abuse and human trafficking will leave me without a man. It very well may. It could bring me to India or California or Romania or New York City or anywhere in between. The path that I am on and that I believe God has called me to, is one that may have me traveling el’ solo.
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 Yet who am I to say that the way God created me and the person that He is transforming me into is not worth the price that it may cost me? Who am I to throw away the journey of growing deeper into who God made me as an individual before I enter into a relationship? Who am I to argue that being different is not worth the cost? No, I cannot argue for any of those things.
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 So I will be my own. And if the day comes to be another’s, then I pray that it will be a union of two people who are their own. Then we will become each other’s.