No Spend Semester

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Okay, it’s time to be painfully honest for a moment.

I’m not that great at managing money. Yep. I’m a self employed photographer and I’m not that good at managing money. Yep. That’s not a great thing. I will admit it openly and honestly. It’s not that I’m horrible. I manage to never run out. I can do my own taxes and keep track of expenses and ultimately, I make it all “work” in the end.

But I think God is calling me to not just have it all “work out” or to scrape by financially, but to actually be a wise steward of the crazy blessings He has placed in my life. I’m aware of my privilege – of having a roof over my head, food in my stomach, owning clothes and books. Those things are luxuries. Starbucks is a luxury. Even thrift store shopping sprees are a luxury. Having a clean and safe apartment is a luxury.

Yet my careless attitude towards money does not reflect that knowledge.

I’ve also had an attitude towards money that it’s something I earn. I know, that’s the prevailing thought in our culture. Work hard. Hustle. Make money. Be successful. It’s not that it’s all wrong, but it’s been a source of pride for me. I like proving my worth by my earning potential. Asking people for money always makes me cringe. I’ve done several trips (missions and otherwise) without asking people for money, but last year I had to ask for funds for Vegas and it was pretty horrible for me. Okay, it was stretching and growing and good more than anything, but still really hard.

All this to say, I’ve had plans for the last six months to get a job come January. It’s been on the radar, even as I purposefully lived in the moment and didn’t worry about it before it was time. I’m moving into the slow season for photography. So I figured that it’d be time to get another job for the semester so that I could save up money. Then I got to January and nothing seems quite right. Now, I totally 100% know that sometimes you work any job that comes your way and it’s not about finding the perfect fit all the time. But what I’m lacking is a peace in my spirit to move forward.

The other day, I made a to-do list for Well Water Fargo for the month of January. My heart started to race as I continually thought of things to add. Dang. There’s a lot to do. Time consuming things. And I’m still running a photography business and finishing editing clients’ photos. I’m also still a student and in my last semester of classes that I desperately want to knock out of the park with straight As. I’m also a small group leader and mentor and the thought of the time with these girls being severely diminished makes me feel sick as I know God has still called me to pour into them for the remainder of this school year.

Yesterday, I heard the story of the boy bringing the fish and loaves to Jesus. Twice. He brought what he had to Jesus and then the miracle happened. Abundantly more was poured out than what was ever put in, but action was also required. Last night, I was praying and asking God to make job things clear to me, for Him to provide a way for me to have both money and time.

He told me to stop spending money on coffee.

Ouch.

You know, it makes sense. If I’m seriously about really wanting to spend my energy on what I believe God has called me to and placed in front of me, I need to be willing to make sacrifices. God will show up, but He asks me to do the same.

I believe that this season can be one of abundance. God has been showing me lately the crazy favor He has placed on me as His kid. That He wants to see me walk into an identity powerful and into a destiny that is wild. Part of the preparation for that though involves me growing up and learning.

So Welcome to No Spend Semester

From now until May 11th, the last day of MSUM finals, I’m not going to spend money on anything but essentials. That means yes to:

  • Rent + utilities
  • Grocery store food
  • Gas
  • Essentials like toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo. No one wants a stinky Liv.
  • Spending for Well Water
  • Tithing to my church + giving to others

That means NO to:

  • Fru-fru coffee. “Pay as you can” drip from 20Below is allowed on coffee dates/work time.
  • Spotify Premium membership. *tear*
  • New clothes. Not even thrifting.
  • Eating out. “Let’s do dinner!” can be cooking at my apartment. That way I get to improve my cooking skills, practice hospitality, AND save money. Winning.
  • Books. Or journals. Or pretty little things. Even at the Craft Fest in February.

Practical steps include:

  • Turning in weekly receipts to a trusted friend
  • Meal planning and prepping
  • Packing food for trips
  • Working odd jobs like babysitting and cleaning and whatever else comes along.

I believe that this semester can be a time of saving, abundance, favor, and generosity all while not having a steady income. This is me, bringing my fish and loaves to Jesus’ feet and letting him break it to give me back more than I can imagine. What if I actually saw my savings account grow? What if I learn to live wisely, but not controlled by fear? What if I gain skills in self control, management, organization, and discipline that will set me up for success in the rest of my life? What if I see God provide for me in both big and little ways by making this practical step of trusting Him?


What if?

I guess I’ll find out.

P.S. Shout out to people who’ve proven this is possible and have inspired me, namely Marisa Jackels’ No Spend November and Hannah Brencher’s Contentment Challenge

When Wild Comes to Visit

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Wild.

“passionately eager or enthusiastic”

“not subject to restraint or regulation”

“marked by turbulent agitation”

“going beyond normal or conventional bounds”

“indicative of strong passion, desire, or emotion”

To say that Wild is on its way is not the most comforting thought. It’s the sort of thought that sends chills up your spine and makes your stomach clench into a tight little knot. Wild is not predictable. Wild is not safe. Wild is not tidy.

But Wild is fun.

Wild shows up with crazy hair that knows wind and waves intimately. Wild laughs from a place of astonishment with life. Wild grabs your hand and pulls you into the things that you are not ready for. Wild makes a big mess and leaves you to clean it up yourself. Wild isn’t always the most impressive one to take home to meet the family. Wild makes you smile, though. Wild is a great encourager. Wild inspires in a way that is so native and natural.

I can’t shake Wild.

Wild gets comfortable in the places where I am most uncomfortable. Wild may not quite carry the depth of a forever friend, but Wild will be the friend needed to get to the next place and to take that next step. I may do a few more dumb things when Wild is hanging around, but I also do a few more brave things.

And doing a few more brave things is good for one’s soul. Sometimes the brave thing is simply speaking words out loud that have been hidden away for years upon years. The brave thing may be to let yourself dream about the future and actually figure out what you want. The brave thing could be be showing up and being present when you want to hide from the world or that one particular person who hurt you. Sometimes the brave thing may mean putting yourself out there, to fill out the job application or ask the person on a date or vocalizing the burning question.

Brave is a subjective term. It looks different for me than it may for you. But big brave or little brave, brave things build bravery. And bravery is a weapon that’s worth possessing.

Wild is teaching me to possess bravery in these ways:

  • to dream of impossibilities
  • to shake off false humility and comparison
  • to pursue the creative things that I’ve held back from
  • to build a life of intention and a community of depth
  • to squash lies that attack my identity and say that I’m not enough
  • to live in wonder

I’m not ready for Wild to visit. I never will be. That’s okay.

Wild stirs up within you the ability to do things scared. And doing things scared is really the only way to get anything done.

God is Not Worried About Me

God is not worried about me.

I get worried about me. I fret and fuss about the little things and the big ones. I wonder what to do with myself. What to do with myself in the next day to get everything done that needs to be accomplished. What to do with myself when looking for jobs or the next path for the future. What to do with myself in regards to all the big dreams and bursting passions that live inside my chest.

But my Father is not looking at me and scratching his head. He’s not wondering what to do with the crazy girl in Moorhead, Minnesota. There’s no shocking him. There’s no confusing him. There’s no twist or turn that my life takes that will ever throw him for a loop or take him off guard.

There are things that concern him. There are places where he looks at my life and whispers, “baby girl, let me take that from you. Because if you hold on to it, I see the end and it’s not going to be my best.” There are moments when I think he sighs because he sees me struggling with things that were never intended for me. In those moments, his heart feels emotions for me, but he does not worry.

Worry is a “state of anxiety and uncertainty over actual or potential problems.”

There is no uncertainty in him. There is no anxiety in him.

Why would there be? He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). He crafted and upholds the universe by the breath of his word (Hebrews 1:3). In him there is no variation or shifting shadow (James 1:17). He doesn’t change his mind or lie when he makes promises (Numbers 23:19).

This is who God is. He isn’t fickle. He isn’t swayed. He isn’t distracted. He is steady. He is powerful. He is all knowing.

I’m not sure why I’ve spent so much of my life believing that God was confused about me just because I was. My first real encounter with God as a kid was a dream where God called out my destiny and I knew from the age of about seven that God had something in store for me bigger than I could wrap my mind around. But walking around with dreams bursting inside of you is no easy feat when you’re just a crazy, loud, overly friendly girl from a small town in Minnesota. I spent a lot of my life feeling like I was too much for myself or others around me and trying desperately to tame myself, while always wishing to live with the same abandon that I did as a young child.

And in my life, I’ve spent plenty of time being worried about myself. What if I don’t live up to my potential? What if I actually don’t have that much potential? What if I miss my chance? What if I never see my dreams become reality? What if I see every dream come to fruition? What if I don’t get any job after college? What if I take the wrong job after college? What if I am actually supposed to go do something crazy instead of get a job? What if I marry someone who quenches my dreams? What if my following my dreams means not having a husband and family?

Somewhere along the line, I think I figured that God was like me and was worried about these things too. But he’s not worried. He doesn’t ask these questions of what my life will look like, because he knows the end from the beginning. It’s all the same to him. He sees me as a child and me now and me in the nursing home and calls it all the same. He calls is all lovely. He calls it all important. He has the same destinies written on my heart and into my DNA.

A promise that I’ve been clinging to lately is from Psalm 25:15 (Message version). “If I keep my eyes on God, I won’t trip over my own feet.”

Seriously. Go back and read that again. And again and again.

How beautiful is that? God tells us that if we keep our eyes on him, we aren’t going to be tripping over our own feet. We aren’t going to miss anything.

So friends, I’m going to share with you what God has been speaking to my heart lately. “Eyes up here. Eyes on me. Look at how much I love you. Look at how much I care. Do you really think that I’m not going to take care of you? No, you are my prize. I created you. I went to the cross for you. I triumphed over death and sin for you. So trust. Trust. Trust. And keep your eyes on me because that’s the safest place you will ever be: with eyes locked and heart determined. I know what to do with you.”

The Weight of Glory

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“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Some days, and if I’m being honest, most days, I live under the weight of anything but glory. I live under the weight of people pleasing. I live under the weight of perfectionism. I live under the weight of idealism paired with obligations. I live under the weight of insecurity. I live under the weight of fears of never being enough. I live under the weight of stress, busyness, and worry.

I live under anything and everything except the weight of eternal glory.

This is a sad reality when reminded of the brevity of life and the smallness of this world. Yes, life can be difficult. Heartache is handed to us in fistfuls that seep out from between our fingers. Current events wrack our minds late at night as we feel powerless to do anything to stop ISIS or end institutionalized racism. Love blows up in our faces and we are left picking shards of glass off the floor. Life gets so busy and stressful that we find ourselves with a never-ending to-do list that haunts us as we sleep.

Yet these days are short. There is glory ahead that outweighs all the junk that piles upon us. When the glory of God in its fullness is revealed, it will so far outshine all the muck of this life that we will be consumed with nothing else.

The eternal weight of glory is the very presence of Jesus – enthroned and glorified at the right hand of the Father. The presence of God is a weird thing sometimes. It’s part of that unseen world that we can’t describe in tangible terms. It is vital for being renewed day by day, even as we and our world waste away before our eyes. We get to taste it on this earth by being temples of the holy spirit.

Yet for some reason, I tend to live trapped under the weights that so easily entangles instead of resting safely in the weight of glory. The two weights are the difference between being under a heap of blankets while trying to run a race, and being under a heap of blankets when it’s subzero temps and you’re trying to sleep. One form of weight trips you up. One form of weight keeps you safe.

It’s time to break the habit of heaping on blankets while trying to work out and shivering all night in the cold because I don’t feel like reaching for the blanket. I want to live freer yet safer. I want to be free from the life-sucking burdens and safe because I’m dwelling in the presence of the Most High.

This is what I want:

To live with the taste of eternity ever on my lips.

To live with the renewal of my inward being daily.

To live with the weight of glory on my heart.

The presence of God and the faith in unseen promises means this:

We are able to not.lose.heart.

Friends, take heart.

There is glory ahead.

Liv takes Las Vegas || Weekend Adventure

 “How was Vegas?” has been the question ringing in my ears this last week as I returned from a quick weekend spent in the infamous Sin City. I cheerfully exclaim how it was a fantastic trip and usually add in a quick blurb about what I did or how strange the city was. So if that is all you want to know, you can stop reading here. If you are someone who has been asking for more information – here’s a look into my adventure in Vegas.

The whole trip was set up in a really odd, divinely matched together sort of way. Originally, the intent of the trip was to attend a training on outreach to strip clubs. Women who are in the sex industry – even those of their own choice – are so close to my heart. Currently, I’m in a season of preparation and praying and waiting, but someday, I would absolutely love to be a part of a relational ministry to women in strip clubs.

So I prayed about attending this training. I realized flights to Las Vegas weren’t too expensive and I gave God a bit of a deal by saying that if He wanted me to go on this trip, He was going to need to provide a place for me to stay. I put a feeler out in some facebook groups of Christian photographers and one fellow photographer who shares a mutual heart for inner city/nonprofit work reached out with a connection. She connected me to Sarah, who moved out to Las Vegas this summer with her husband to be a part of a church plant.

Much quicker than I anticipated, I was all set up to stay with this couple I had never met and to do it for free. After everything was confirmed, I booked my tickets.

A few weeks later, I got an email saying that the training was canceled. My first thought was to just cancel my trip and that’s what I told Sarah I was going to do. Yet when I called to cancel my flights, I realized I was going to lose too much money and it made more sense just to go to Las Vegas.

I had no clue what I was going to do.

I had this idea that had been floating around though that seemed like it may just work. So I emailed every group I could find in Vegas that worked directly with women in sex trafficking or prostitution to see if any would be interested. Through this, I was able to set up a meeting to interview and photograph two women with histories of prostitution who are at Walter Hoving Home going through addictions recovery.

About a week before the trip, I got the idea to visit the YWAM base as well.

And that’s about all I had planned before flying out to Las Vegas.

It was slightly terrifying.

Somewhere deep down though, I knew that even though I’d never really had a desire to see Vegas, I was going to love it.

Here’s How it Went Down: the Highlights

Walter Hoving Home.

This was a ten bed Christian addiction treatment facility where I had the honor of interviewing and photographing two of the women there who had been in prostitution. There women were incredible. Like insanely amazing women who have been through so much in their lives. They both spoke of hope, God, second chances, dreams, and healing. I am so excited to be able to share their stories with you in the future once my project is complete.

The Strip

My hosts graciously showed me around the city and answered all my curious questions. Driving through the strip, it definitely was a sensory overload of lights and sights. There is so much to take in. So much glitz and glam and gaudiness. They took me to see the Billagio and we wandered around a bit – seeing the gardens, chocolate fountain, casino, and water fountain extravaganza. My hosts also told me about the other side of Las Vegas. How in the shadows of billion dollar buildings, people lived on the streets. There are up to 1,000 people who are living in the tunnel system under the strip. The homelessness problem is huge and it’s coupled with meth additions and all the other side effects of instant gratification gone wrong.

YWAM Base

YWAM has a DTS (Discipleship Training School) located in Las Vegas that is centered on worship as well as an Abolitionist training. While they were in major prep mode, they graciously allowed me to come in a tour their facility and chat with their staff about what they do. The base is located in a really rough area of town, the sort of looking neighborhood where you can feel the brokenness and poverty. It reminded me of places that we send missions trips to in Mexico. One staff member took me on a quick walk around the block and she pointed out two brothels on the same street. I heard several other stories of just how open and blatant the prostitution in this neighborhood was. Even as I was leaving, there was a family digging through the garbage bins in the alley, hauling off finds in their truck. The need here is is very real and very out in the open.

Hiking

From a selfish perspective, this was definitely my favorite part of the trip. My heart swoons at mountains. I love views and I love the boldness. Their majesty is my favorite thing in nature hands down. We went out to Red Rock and hiked in a canyon that contained pine trees and a creek in the desert. Fittingly, it was called Pine Creek Canyon trail. We had a fantastic talk about all the spiritual analogies of hiking and being able to just get outside in nature and not be an icicle was a nice relief.

My Hosts

I need to highlight Sarah and Greg. They showed me so much grace, generosity, and kindness. Their faith and their obedience is steady and obvious. Their heart for God and for the people of Las Vegas shone through every conversation. I was so inspired and encouraged by them and blessed beyond measure to be allowed into their lives for a weekend. Sarah and Greg are both on staff with a church plant in Las Vegas and while I was there, I got to meet a handful of the other staff. I was welcomed into their homes and social gatherings and we joked around that I was spending the weekend shadowing what missionaries do on their days off. Which, from my conclusions, is eating 1/2 off sushi and play card games.

There are more things that I could say about Las Vegas. I have typed up this blog post multiple times and am still at a bit of a loss for how to describe it all. These are my meager attempts for those of you who have been asking for more details and for more stories.

For a city that I never had a desire to visit, it certainly gripped my heart mighty quickly. The need there is so huge. The vibe from the city is so strange and different than anything I’ve ever known. This is a place that exists outside of my comfort zone.  This is a place of surprising beauty.

I don’t think God is done with the combination of Liv and LV.

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Be Careful the Stories You Tell Your Children

Parents, be careful the stories you tell your children. 
For stories turn into dreams.
Dreams turn into goals.
Goals turn into plans.
And sometimes, plans turn into reality. 
 
So if you want your children to be safe, tell them safe stories. Feed them average ideas. Fill their little minds with nothing more than the hope that happiness comes from fitting in and making money.
 
 For if you tell your children crazy stories, you may just ruin them. 
 
 Ruin them for a life of quiet. 
 Ruin them for staying in one place.
 Ruin them for fitting in. 
 
 And parents, if you really want to go off the deep end, tell your children stories of people who lost it all. Fill their heads with stories of people who say, “he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Read to them of people who risked it all to bring a message of salvation to a hostile people. Tell them about radical prayers that fed orphans. Praise those who were put in concentration camps and saw family killed for being brave in their righteousness.
 
 But parents, if you do that, those stories may become more than stories.You run the chance of ruining your children. 
 
 Ruining them for safety.
 Ruining them for saying no to God.
 Ruining them for making money. 
 
 And most of all, you may ruin them because their hearts may just break in two when they see a people in desperate need of a loving Savior. This heartbreak may propel them, fanned with the fuel of all those stories you told them. They may decide that while they could stay and touch hearts, what they need to do is go. To go far. To go where it is not safe. To go places that make you uncomfortable. 
 
 But parents, I want you to believe something – that this is worth it.
 
 No matter what. If your children come back in body bags. If your children never give you grandbabies. If your children kiss you goodbye and don’t see you for another five years. If your children aren’t there to care for you in your old age. I want to argue that this is all worth it as long as your children are following after a God who is good and sovereign and holy.
 
 For as this young man named Jim once wrote, “he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” You cannot keep your life. You cannot keep your children. So what risk is it really to give it all for something eternal that can never be shaken?
 
 So parents, if you are willing and brave – read your children biographies of missionaries. But beware the consequences. Because stories? Well, they don’t always stay just stories. 

In The Eighteenth Year

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Here we are at last, at the eighteenth year of my little life. It’s a big step. It’s a new beginning. It’s a grand adventure sitting at my fingertips.

I say goodbye to my childhood. I say goodbye to being seventeen and crazy. Soon, I’ll say goodbye to my family and set off on my first chapter as an independent adult.

Though it’s a bit bitter sweet and my heart is slightly melancholy at the thought of how fast time goes, I am excited and so ready for what the future holds. I often feel as if I live in this constant state of excitement. Part of that is probably due to being an ENFP with a thirst for adventure and a lust for life. I want to get so much out of life, wring every last drop of goodness from each and every moment – because living always excited, though it gets tiring, is so fricken fun.

In addition to being constantly excited, I am an incredibly introspective person. I’ve been made aware how rare that is for extroverted females like myself. For me, everything holds significance and meaning and depth. So not only do I approach 18 with excitement, but I see it as a hugely significant time in my life.

At 1am on the day of my birthday, I dyed my hair red in the girl’s bathroom of the camp I counsel at. It was a last minute decision made after 1/2 off apps at Applebees with my camp friends when a bunch of us decided to dye our hair. It felt really right to make a big change on the first day of adulthood.

I’m kind of in a weird exploratory stage right now. I’m at this place where I am figuring out who I really am and who I want to be. Who is Olivia Erickson when she’s on her own? Who is she when her family isn’t around? Who is she in a brand new town? These are questions that this year will hopefully begin to answer. I am going to try new things. I am going to discover so much about who I really am when I am outside of my comfort zone and in the real world. And while it’s really exciting, it also scares me beyond any words. It’s more change than even I feel comfy with. Me and Change are friends, but right now it’s pushing me to places that freak me out.

It’s my freshman (well, academically I’m a junior… but still!) year of college and I don’t think in all my day dreaming for all these years did I think it’d be this scary. It hit me the other day at camp that I will have very few people I can get hugs from at college. And hugs are essential to me. I don’t think I’ve ever gone a week without a hug in my life.  Little things like that are coming to mind that I never considered as a kid.

So as I embark on this 18th, what is my goal and what is my hope? It is this:

 I want to live this next year to the best of my ability, not dictated or held captive by fear, insecurities, or loneliness. 

This does not mean I will not feel fear, insecurity, or loneliness in the next year. C’mon, it’s my first year away from home – all those things are pretty much givens! The goal is to not live under the control of these things. I do not want to make decisions based on fear. I do not want to be crippled by insecurities. I do not want to become desperate out of loneliness. I want to find my identity in who Christ has made me and stand tall with that knowledge, no matter what my feelings tell me.

There’s one Bible passage that I have taken on as my verses of the year. I want to plaster it around places where I will see it and cling to the wisdom and truth in the middle of my self discovery. It just rings true in my soul and reminds me that despite the whole figuring myself out thing, I should not get distracted from what really matters. So I will leave you with the words of Proverbs 4:25-27.

“Let your eyes look directly forward,

and your gaze be straight before you.

Ponder the path of your feet;

then all your ways will be sure.

Do not swerve to the right or to the left;

turn your foot away from evil.”