Las Vegas: Summer Edition

In January, I wrote to you all about my weekend in Las Vegas.

What I haven’t put up onto the pages of this blog yet, but what all my facebook friends know, is that I am going back! For 10 weeks. From May 30th-August 8th, I will be a part of Grace City Church as part of their Missionary Experience internship.

This is an incredible experience that goes far beyond just interning for a church plant. This is a rich time of training and hands on application into the world of urban missions and a movement of revival. Grace City has a big vision. A crazy vision, even. They are praying to see 100,000 people come to know Jesus in Las Vegas. They believe in relentless prayer, loving people, training disciples, and living in community. It’s beautiful and incredible. Every time I talk with a staff member, watch a video, or listen to a sermon online – I’m struck by how on point it is and I get really, really excited.

The whole experience of how I’ve wound up going to Las Vegas is pretty crazy and completely directed by God. He’s orchestrated and set my path clearly when it comes to this summer. I know that this is precisely where God wants me. That living in Vegas for this summer means living in the center of God’s will for me. I know that I will be changed as much, if not more, than Vegas is changed.

My only expectations are these: to be grown + stretched and to see God move.

What that’s going to look like is a mystery, but that’s the exciting part. This summer is a journey of faith – not of certainty, but of stepping out to places so far beyond my comfort zone that all I have is God to rely on.

So on this blog, I’ll keep supporters updated. You can also follow along on facebook at LIV Takes LV and on my instagram @livcreative. Here are some bullet point details for your praying purposes and to get all the important information in!

  • I will be flying in to Las Vegas on May 30th! I will be flying back for 3 weddings that were booked before I decided to do the internship. So pray for safe travels and that the time I’m gone from Vegas will not be overwhelming!
  • I still have a lot of money left to raise! If you feel led to give, you can go HERE.
  • We (the interns) are reading the book of Joshua and John chapter 15 as we prepare our hearts for Vegas. This is the portion of scripture that will be used in our training. Our focus will be on how to actively pursue God’s kingdom, while also abiding always in Jesus and the rest He gives. Solid stuff.
  • Pray also for the other interns! I’ll be living in community all summer with a super cool group of college kids from Liberty University. God has shown me already what He can do through a bunch of college kids during my time at Chi Alpha and I am so excited to see it in a new context!
  • We will be all living at the YWAM Las Vegas base! This will be an experience for us to live with a missions mindset and constant reminder of why we are there. The neighborhood is impoverished and crippled by drug abuse and prostitution. It shows the brokenness of Vegas so clearly and it serves as a backdrop for the work we will be doing and bringing “loving your neighbors” a real face.
  • Pray for my health! I’ve been struggling this year with low iron levels that’s left me anemic. It’s been really hard getting my iron levels up, so much prayer is appreciated! I want to have the energy to get the most out of this summer.

This draws the first blog post to an end! I am so thankful for all the support I’ve received from the people in my life. You guys are truly going along on this adventure with me. I truly believe that. So I’ll do my best to keep you updated!

Change is in the Air

change-1I sat on the hard wooden bench in the simple wooden chapel and cocked my head oddly towards the front. My facial expression was stuck in that of confusion and my brain was in slight disbelief. I had never doubted this decision before. I had it locked down. It made sense. It was as logical and as practical as any life decision of mine could ever be. But there was this still, small whisper telling me to make a change.

There’s a Howard Thurman quote that we’re all familiar with that goes, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” In some regards, I agree with this. In others, the thing that makes me come alive the most is also draining and beyond me and leaves me dead to myself and alive to God. Which in a way, ought to be one of the goals of our lives as Christians; to become fully alive to the presence of God and less dependent on ourselves.

Since I was in eighth grade or younger, I have felt drawn to counseling. It’s taken many routes of interest through the years from music therapy, art therapy, to just general counseling. For years I’ve wanted to work with victims of sexual exploitation – something that makes for an interesting dinner conversation when the extended family asks what you want to do when you grow up.

There have been many times where I have doubted myself. Actually, most of the time I feel like a crazy lunatic. I’ve fought God on this subject more times than I can count. Can’t I just have a comfy job, marry some handsome man, and settle into a peaceful suburban life with three kids and a dog? Yet time and time again, God reminds me that His plan for me is not always what I want.

What God wants me to do is to go into counseling and He got to smack me in the face with that reality while I was at camp counseling 9th & 10th graders a few weeks ago. My favourite part about camp is that the counselors have a one-on-one with each of their campers. I always struggle getting through all my one-on-ones simply because they are so dang long. For some reason, me and these girls get to talking and some of them just start pouring out their hearts and their lives. I listen and ask questions and give advice or insight as needed. Well this last week, I was dealing with some intense situations. My girls were so amazing, but were struggling with some hard things and it was through my attempts to help them, that God reminded me once again that this was what He wanted me to do with my life.

So I sat in our little chapel on Friday night with the pounding thought in my head, “Liv, you were meant to be working with broken women.” It wasn’t a new thought at all, but what was new was the startling thought that came part way through the speaker’s message. He was talking about The Principle of the Path and how our determination and desire doesn’t determine our destination, what determines destination is the direction that we are pointed. He was talking mostly in a spiritual sense, but for a brief moment he mentioned how it applies to careers and education as well.

That’s when it hit me.

I needed to change my major.

So that’s why my head was cocked and a funny look was on my face for half of the message. I decided I was going into Advertising and PR in November and I hadn’t doubted it for a minute since. It made so much sense. It was a mixture of psychology, business, and art and I could actually get a job doing it. There were lots of factors that made it a logical and safe choice. I would minor is psychology and maybe someday down the road go on to grad school if the situation was right.

But God asked me there if I was willing to commit to what He has called me to do; what I’ve known for so long is my purpose. It was almost this still inner voice that went, “c’mon Liv, you’ve known this for years. Just commit already. Stop running. It’s not going to work.”

So after more prayer, seeking the counsel of my parents and a few others close to me, and looking into my options – I decided to switch my major to a BA in Psychology. This also cements me in to a future at grad school.

Not only is grad school in my future, but I now have a significantly harder major for myself. I have to take college algebra AND statistics. This is from the girl who hates math with a burning passion and sung “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” on the way home from her math final this spring. I thought that was the end of math. I guess not. I also am required to have a 2 year foreign language proficiency, so I will have 14 credits of Spanish by the time I graduate. Yes, that’s another class I didn’t think I’d need.

Yet despite the stress and the added pressure (not to mention the weirdness of being in the Math and Science Department at NDSU) – I am confident that this is the right path for me. And if it isn’t? If I am a lunatic and I am not cut out to go into counseling? Well, then I suppose this is learning it the hard way. I have faith, that though this is not the easiest option for me in any means, this is the calling God has on my life. Yeah, I’m going all super spiritual sounding on you all, but it’s the truth. This is what has been pressed upon my heart for years and what this incredibly fickle girl has always come back to.

So I’ll pursue it full speed ahead.

Time for Goodbyes

location-10

I’m coming to the time of saying goodbye.

I’ve already donned my cap and gown.

I’ve already opened my house to friends and family to eat tacos and congratulate me.

I’ve already had senior night at youth group.

The goodbyes are increasing. It wont be long until I pack up my car and set out, off to new adventures and a new chapter. It wont be a surprise to most to know that I am not saying goodbye with a heavy heart, but one that’s excited and really ready. I eagerly count down the days until I move into my dorm at NDSU and spread my new quilt over a twin sized bed. It’s a welcomed change.

My dear friend Grace said something awesome at senior night that went something like, “I always sat and listened to the seniors all tell me that it goes by so fast. Well it didn’t for me.” I laughed because I knew exactly what she was talking about. Sometimes, it drags on when you feel out of place in a town. There are people you love and beautiful memories, but you know that you need something else.

See, I came here with a heavy heart and eyes full of tears. It was not my first choice, and had I been able to see into the future, it probably would have been my last choice. Tears have fallen to this rusty red ground more times than I could dare to count. Tears of loneliness and frustration and a few attributed to the feeling of soul claustrophobia. To those who have scoffed at those who don’t belong here, it isn’t always our choice. We can’t leave and sometimes, our souls feel trapped – please, don’t blame us for that.

But despite the difficulty and the heartache and the feeling of claustrophobia that I’ve felt so many times before, this place has grown me.

I learned that the crevices and peaks in the land brought me joy. I learned that there were still souls hidden here that I found connection with. I learned so much from this lil’ string of small towns. I learned how to stand my ground and how to stand out. I learned how to skip to my own tune. I learned how to gain some tough skin when I was criticized for being myself.

I don’t pretend that I haven’t had my happy days.  There have been many. There have also been many people along the way that make me thankful that our paths have crossed. From professors who challenged my thinking, to my dearest friends who fit in just as well as I do. I have had little kids who I’ve babysat for who have brightened my heart and I’ve had theatre groups who have formed special bonds by performing side by side. I do not want to belittle any person who has been in my life in the last eight years that I have spent here.

Yet my time here is done.

I say goodbye with peace and closure. I know that Fargo is where I’m supposed to be in the fall of 2013. Getting to that point was a weird story and makes me chuckle a bit, but in the end, God opened doors and enticed me through a few of them. Now, I’m more and more starting so see how I could so easily make sense in that town – in a way that I never really did here. I know full well that it wont be a peaches and cream sort of adventure, but it’ll be an adventure and it’s one I hope to make the most of.

So even as I’m saying goodbye, I’m also saying hello.

And sometimes, that’s the perk of saying goodbye.

2012 // Self Exploration Devoid of Self Reliance

hair2
    Here we are again at the point of reflection.
    There’s a single month that holds a whole year – those fateful string of numbers that we define our lives by. Somehow, we let all our thoughts and dreams and actions to be categorized by numbers. 2012. 17.
    Despite my past history with math, numbers fascinate me. Dates hold significance that go so far beyond a few strokes of a pen. Inside of the numeral, there’s a world of depth and meaning. 365 days hold such richness. All the little things that make up our daily living and the big moments that make us stop and reevaluate are held together by a number. Is it adequate? No. Yet numbers are what we have. It’s what us human can wrap our minds around, so we take it and hold onto it tightly.
    So here I sit, procrastinating on final projects and choosing instead to just let my soul think back on this year. It seems that every year has a few key things that define it and certainly have a few key traits that run rampant through it providing a distinct theme.
    What is this years theme?
    Self exploration devoid of self reliance.
    This year, I discovered so much about who I am, what makes me come alive, and who I want to be. I found myself caught up in this love affair with business, realizing that this is exciting. Thrilling. Invigorating. What started out as awkwardly realizing that economics was fun blossomed into thinking how this’ll effect my life. I dove deep into my work as a photographer and was given the opportunity to intern in social media. My weekends may be spent consuming insane amounts of caffeine while traveling to weddings, writing up marketing plans, and staring at Lightroom until my eyes cry out for mercy – yet it’s been an adventure.
    This year, I also saw four years of passion become something tangible and achievable. One simple google search that I had done dozens of times resulted in becoming a part of a community. This fall as I’ve been able to become a part of the anti human trafficking movement in my own area, I’ve been realizing that working with this issue, with these women, is what I have been created to do. It’s an amazing sense of purpose – even if I feel like a clueless little punk who is absolutely insane for wanting to have any part in something so monstrous and mammoth. While I am extremely unsure of how this will play out in the future, this is my heart passion. Beyond interest or talent as my business or photography may be – it’s a calling.
    Beyond figuring out big things like this, I also have been figuring out who I am deep in my soul and who I am striving to be. Further up and further in has been a way of life and a way of examining my own heart. Honesty has become a powerful factor. Sincerity and boldness are skills that I’m learning and finding peace in. While sometimes speaking your mind or your heart may be terrifying and painful, it can be healthy and produces growth. Growth of character and growth of relationships are products of loving honesty.
    Relationships – another area not only have I grown in, but God has blessed me in beyond imagination. He’s brought people into my life that I never would have imagined would be essential. Many of them have been hiding in the crevices and in God’s own time, came out into the light to play their crucial part. Some, I am still not sure of their roles, but God is and they’re a part of this journey for a reason. This independent spit-fire is discovering that she needs a tribe of nearest and dearest.
    This independent spit-fire is also realizing that she needs a lot and that she can’t do this all on her own. If I am not relying completely and totally on Christ, all I do in my own strength is rubbish. He is my only hope for “mattering” in this short life. He has taught me so much about the process of trusting Him and His plans. They are outside of my comprehension and my comfort zone, but every time that He tells me to let go and simply trust Him, I find that He knows what He’s doing. It’s scary, but it’s worth it.
    Maybe that could be the slogan of this year – “scary but worth it.” The only problem with that slogan, is that it’ll probably be my mantra next year and maybe the year after and maybe for dozens of years after that. I’m finding that most of what’s worth doing is quite frightening. It’s in pushing past that fear that we discover gold.
    So here’s to all the scary things that lie ahead of me! As I face them, I know that I’m serving a God of perfect love and perfect plans. That knowledge is what casts out fear and replaces it with peace.

Seventeen and Crazy

I’ve never cared too much for the typical hullabaloo that is a birthday. Truthfully, that surreal day centered on oneself was shattered when I was seven. I doubt I’ll ever forget that birthday. Chocolate chip muffins. A four hour car ride. Wondering about why the sun reflects off the pavement to look like puddles. Seeing my mom in the hospital. Talking with her on the phone as I opened birthday gifts that evening.

 

 See, that summer that I turned seven was a difficult one. My mother spent most of it in the hospital with a life threatening post surgery infection. After a few weeks of such, my sister and I went off to my grandma’s for several weeks, returning on my seventh birthday. So at that young age, I realized that birthday are something that are meant to be special – but not perfect. No. Birthdays were not meant for self absorption and fancy ways, they’re meant for the simple things that make you smile all compiled into one day. And birthdays are especially made for reflection.

 

 Therefore, here I am. Reflecting on a year that I will entitle “The Year of the Firsts.” {P.S. Titling years is really fun} In the last year, I got my drivers license, started college, got my first job, shot my first weddings (second shooter or reception), got my first internship, and well, that’s a lot of firsts.

 

 Now some of my reflections I shall save for myself or else you’d be tricked into reading about ten pages of different things that happened this year and I have cheesecake waiting for me at midnight (self started tradition 3 years running!!). I will say, that this year has been full of surprised and mostly good surprises. Of course, one terrible surprise stands out: losing Austin in February. That will haunt me as another addition to the year of first – the first person my age that I personally knew to die. While I know he’s paint balling in heaven, I miss him and I still get tears in my eyes when I think about all the time that I missed.
 See, I could reflect all day.

 

 But I shall leave you with the thing that I look forward to the most about this year: being able to say “I’m seventeen and crazy.” Yes, because seventeen is an anticlimactic birthday wedged between 2 big ones (being able to drive and being able to date/being an adult – GREAT things if you ask me), the one thing I looked forward to since junior high was being able to quote Clarisse from Fahrenheit 451. This quirky, outcast who inspires a man to completely rethink the way that his life operates introduces herself that way. “I’m seventeen and crazy.” I’ve been in love with that phrase for years. Now it’s finally mine.

 

 I’m seventeen and crazy.