Thursday, October 10, 2013

Addendum to “grace & small revelations"

(Slightly related elaborations from this post.)

Something else God pointed out to me:

I was upset because I had nightmares lat night.  I’ve been upset on many, many nights because insomnia was robbing me of much-needed sleep.

But you know what?

God made night and day.  And He called them both good.

I hear that from time to time:  people talking about how God made everything and called it good.  But I usually hear it referring to people‚ or to nature—living things.  All true and excellent, of course.  Yet, God said everything was good.  He took the time to call out every individual thing He created and tell it how good it was.

So I have “good” nights and “bad” nights. There’s grace in that, too.  There is grace because God always shows up.

So I bless the night.  I bless it even when I don’t meet the new morning feeling phenomenal.  I bless it even when it made me miserable.  I bless it, because God did it first.

grace & small revelations

Today was what I would usually understatedly call “not the best day ever”.

I had nightmares last night (which is an extremely rare occurrence in my life) and woke up feeling really gross.  I was tired all day.  We had an activation in the morning session where we had to tell people why we loved them, but I wasn’t able to find most of the people I wanted to talk to.  When we did treasure hunting in the afternoon, nobody wanted to talk to us and we couldn’t match any of our words of knowledge.  We had chicken for dinner.  I napped by mistake and missed a meeting of my outreach team.  We went to House of Prayer (two hours of intercessory worship) in the evening, and I was feeling really sick, with no recourse.  Then, just as I was ready to go home and crash, one of my outreach team leaders came up to me and filled me in on what I missed at the meeting…

…we’re sharing testimonies tomorrow night.  Not in the school—in front of the church.  Having had no prior practice.  And because most of our team is leaving for the holiday weekend (Thanksgiving in Canada is inexplicably in mid-October), it’s only going to be me and two other people.  There was also somebody that I was feeling a little bit judged by in the evening, which is not something you encounter a lot of here, so even a little bit of condemnation (real or perceived) feels like a ton of bricks.

I was literally on the verge of bursting into tears.  The whole way back to the dorms, I was just like I can’t do this.  There’s no way.  I don’t want to do any of this. 

In lieu of having any comfort food (I haven’t been able to buy chocolate because I’m poor), I took a hot shower and God and I had some space to talk.  I poured out what i was feeling, and ended it with “…it just has not been a good day.”  and suddenly, I was reminded of a quote I heard a couple of weeks ago from a guy called Graham Cooke:
“[God] is faithful.  From this day on, for you there is no such thing as a good day or bad day.  There is only a day of grace.  And some days the grace of God allows you to enjoy what is happening.  And some days the grace of God allows you to endure what is happening.  But don’t think about good and bad anymore – just enjoy the grace that is present.”
So I started thinking about what grace showed up in my life.  obviously I endured, or I would be dead right now.  So how was God showing up in my “bad day”?

Although I was really tired this morning, I was still able to immerse in the storytelling glory of the marvelous Chris DuPre (our speaker for the week; more on that in another post).  Even though I hated the chicken at dinner, the sweet potato fries we also had were fantastically good.  I was able to reach out to people this morning that I might not normally talk to a lot.  Even if it felt like our treasure hunt was a failure, we still stepped out despite feeling incredibly awkward, and that’s a stinking big deal.  We finally got our shower head replaced this week, so I actually had water pressure for a decent shower (glory, glory hallelujah!).  Emily lent me use of her hot chocolate mix.  I was able to participate in the rapid-fire prayer at the House of Prayer and actually feel like I was connecting with God even though I felt sick.  Somebody randomly turned out to have a book I’ve been wanting to read and offered to lend it to me.  One of my roommates gauged that I was in a weird mood (she became alarmed because I wasn’t talking to myself) and asked if I was okay, which meant a lot to me.

I still am feeling really not-okay with testimony-sharing tomorrow, but there will be grace. There has been grace for every time I’ve had to get up and babble in front of people before.  I actually have a testimony to share, and I have a friend or two that will let me practice on them in the hallway tomorrow.  So that’s a good start.

There’s always grace.  Ask for it, and you’ll find it.

Monday, October 7, 2013

SoM: the dreadfully overdue update, part one

Hello friends!  Apologies for going three weeks without a post.  Oy vey.  Our schedule has been turning on its axis rather faster than normal the last couple weeks, but I’ll get into that in a bit.

We wrapped up Core Values month in the last week of September with five sessions of prophetic training from the famed, the mighty, the two-and-only Ivan and Isabel Allum!  That was crazy, let-me-tell-you.  Not only were we supplied generously from their fount of wisdom, advice, and admonition, but they also made us do lots of activations (a word that used to give me goosebumps.  Seriously).  (If you’d told me a month ago that I was going to prophesy over half the school in the space of two hours, I would have completely flipped my lid.  Now prophesying and blessing people seems like sort of a regular thing…we’ve done it in the hallways a few times as well as being requisitioned into it at church.) I also got a prophetic word from Ivan, in which he used the word “visionary” five times in two minutes.  So that was super exciting!

We followed that up with a four-day shift as ministry volunteers at the Catch the Fire conference on Sept. 25th-28th.  All the students were on the prayer team in the evenings, in addition to having another duty in the morning or afternoon.  I was on Welcome, which basically boiled down to standing by the front door for four hours giving out “good morning”s and directions (and occasional hugs).  I was a bit amazed by how many people were genuinely excited to be greeted at the door, by someone who wasn’t just checking for registration wristbands!

The conference was full of great highlights, by the way.  David Ruis led the first worship set and I was basically transported back to my childhood.  Two measures into the opening piano of “We Will Dance” and I was literally crying.  We also did this song on the third night, which was one of the most powerful corporate worship experiences I’ve had.  A guy I’ve never heard of named Duncan Smith gave a great message on “Jesus as our magnificent obsession” (it especially appealed to me because he opened it with a literary analogy [about Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, which isn’t one of my favorite stories, but I’m not going to argue with the Holy Spirit’s artistic revelations]).  The very last session was led by none other than Heidi Baker (I’ll pause if you need a moment to fangirl like most of us did) and it was amazing. She just shared about how she got into her current mission field and some of her very early testimony, in addition to a few stories about the lowdown in Mozambique.  She is a passionate, hilarious, fiery, humble, very blessed lady.

God’s still getting down to the basics with me.  Right now we’re working through some forgiveness and honor stuff—which is simultaneously really refreshing and really hard—and He’s also still making sure I’m taking HIm at His word.  Both prophetic word, and Bible word.  We did a fire tunnel at the conference, and because it was following the Heidi Baker session, i was sort of expecting it to be explosive, expecting to get some great revelation or anointing.  I thought that was what i needed—some direction, some clarity, some vision, eh?…
Nope.  I was feeling some stirrings of joy and love and general manifestations of Holy Spirit goodness, but not hearing much from God.  No visions…nothing.  I was physically manifesting pretty intensely, so much so that I had to just lie on the carpet for awhile. So here I am:  the sanctuary is full of shouting and laughing and whooping and people generally having a really great time in the Spirit, and then…quiet.  It’s just me and God.  I try to ask him questions, try to ask for revelation, and I’m still not getting anything at all.  So I gave up.
And then it’s that tickling voice, that quiet, heavy voice, and He says:  “Say you believe Me.”
“Okay—I believe you.”
“Keep saying that.”
“I’ll say it as many times as it takes for me to really believe You, at a heart level—“
“No.  Never stop saying that.  Never stop believing in My pursuit of you.”
So i said it a lot.  I even shouted it out loud—which is really not a thing that I do, not that anyone was going to notice it in the midst of the Holy Ghost party.
And I’m going to keep saying it.  God, Your yes means yes and Your no means no.  I believe You.

I've another post in the works about this past week and what’s coming up – but I don’t want to burden you with my entire autobiography just yet, so I’ll wait a day or two before posting.  Thanks so much for reading!  <3

Saturday, September 14, 2013

SoM: Father-Heart Week

Okay, the last six days have been intense. I’m not going to be able to sum up everything in the teachings, plus all the extraneous stuff that happened in my heart…

Father-Heart Week.  The week that every intern and second-year student says messed them up the most, the week where almost everyone cries their eyes out at least twice.  We basically spend five days seeking revelation of the love of God as a Father.  Because this pretty heavily involves Him filling in the gaps in areas where our own parents might have failed us, it tends to hit some pretty deep wounds.  I heard a lot of crazy stories.  I kind of was a crazy story.  For obvious reasons, I’m not going to go into many of those details on this blog.  Coming into the school, I already knew I had some serious issues with both my parents that I’ve been working through. So God acknowledged those.

And then He was like, “Look at these other hang-ups you didn’t even know you had!”  And subverted all my expectation for the week.

I had one really good cry, on Monday.   I actually spent a lot more time laughing.  Joy was a definite theme of the week for me—I think God’s trying to get it through to me that He isn’t passive about me.  He delights in me.  There was one fantastic activation we did yesterday (normally I dread activations, because they usually involve uncomfortable prophetic encounters with people you don’t know well):  the speaker told us we were going to invite childlikeness.  So we did it really literally—we blew up balloons, and blew party horns, and had a dance party to songs that were popular in the ‘90s.  It was crazy awesome, definitely one of my highlights of the week.

It wasn’t all fun and games, though.  There was one message, on Thursday, that was really hard to hear:  it was about having a spirit of sonship (or daughterhood, as it were)—especially towards your natural parents.  Part of me was listening to the message going, “Oh!  This is really relevant!  Hurray!” and another (bigger) part of me was going “WHOA, I’m not ready to hear this; I can’t do this.”  I think the events of my family life in the last two years have so changed the way I relate to both of my parents that I don’t even have a frame of reference right now for how to apply this message.  Intentionally being God’s daughter?  Okay, that sounds awesome.  Intentionally being a daughter to my parents?  That idea really threw me for a loop, and I wasn’t expecting it.  I didn’t even know it was an issue.  So that’s going to take some time to unravel.

We also had ministry team training—basically, practical instructions on how to (and especially how not to) pray over people.  Now, I’ve actually had similar training for my young adult group’s prayer team back home (which I never really served on), but it’s still incredibly intimidating.  For me, coming to the SoM was largely about overcoming fear and being equipped to do just this sort of thing without freaking out, so I’m trying to just say “yes” and listen to the Holy Spirit.  Whew.

A nutshell version of what God’s been telling me this week:

  • He is my defender and deliverer.  
  • He just loves it when I try; He doesn’t push me to do better than my best, even if my “best” seems to me to be not very good.  
  • He wants to protect my heart so I don’t have to do it all myself.
  • He’ll keep His word, and/therefore I can/should take Him really seriously.
  • Spending time with me is tons of fun for Him.  His investment in me is always 100%.
  • I can be as fanciful in my imaginations of heaven as I want, and I won’t be wrong or disappointed.  (I had a crazy hour-long vision about this one, guys.  It involved part of Revelation 19 and took me seven pages to journal about.  It was amazing.)
  • This time at the school isn’t about whether I have what it takes, it’s whether He does…and yes, He does.
It’s a lot, right?  It’s a lot.  And next week is about “Healing Life’s Hurts.”  Ooh boy.

I’d be happy to talk to anybody about anything more in-depth, by the way! Or just to catch up with Kalamazoo! Totally feel free to message me on Facebook (or Skype me! I have Skype now!) sometime.  My schedule’s not super full until the end of September, so sometime in the next week and a half would be an especially good time.  

* A note to my fabulous commenters:  If you do leave a comment and are not signed into your Google account, please sign your name in the comment so I know it’s you—I had three anonymous comments on my last post that were very lovely, but one was unsigned and I couldn't tell who it was from!  :)  Thanks so much for keeping up with me!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Catch the Fire SoM – week one!

So I’ve been in Canada for just about a full week!  In some ways it feels like I’ve only just arrived, and in other ways it feels like I’ve been here for ages.

I won’t spend too much time detailing my arrival.  My and Emily Wright’s drive up from Kalamazoo last Monday was mostly uneventful, save for a three-hour delay at the border because the customs officer didn’t like our immigration letters and almost didn’t let us through (thank you Jesus for favor!  Getting turned back would have been so awful).   We arrived at registration for the School of Ministry on Tuesday bright and early (half past noon, a.k.a. too early:  I spent an hour and a half milling around the parking lot feeling awkward while all of last year’s returning students and interns were gleefully reunited).  

This is my American-ness showing, but I’m a bit geeked out by how international this place is.  There are about 60 students total, plus 20 interns and staff, in the building.  Only (I think) 6 are from the U.S.  There are a lot of Canadians, several Brits (a few Englanders, two Welsh folk, a Scot, and an Irishwoman), quite a few Germans, several Scandinavians, and one guy from Singapore. One of the interns is a New Zealander. There’s also an American woman living long-term as a missionary in Uganda.  I love hearing all the accents and comparing cultures.  It’s great fun, and it’s so amazing to see all the diverse people bond as one mini church body.  We had a social on Thursday night at which we all dressed up in costumes, played competitive trivia games, and had a dance party – all of which agitated my social anxiety much less than I feared it would.

We got settled into our rooms without a hitch (especially since we started off by setting up a communal stash of chocolate and tea)!  I have three lovely roommates:  Linda and Kelsey from Canada, and Christina “Teeny” from Germany.  They’re super fun.  :D  Community living is less fun, at least for an introvert like me.  The hallway right outside my room is proving a popular place for late-night card game tournaments and guitar practice.

Last week we heard teachings from Mark Virkler on hearing God’s voice.  In a nutshell, he gave us four keys:
  1. Still yourself (remove distractions).
  2. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
  3. Tune to spontaneity (realize that God speaks through thoughts that may seem to come from nowhere).
  4. Write down what you hear as you go!
Most of it was familiar to me – my home church teaches pretty much the same methodology – but Mark Virkler was very detailed and full of super practical advice (and charts.  He liked charts).  He made us practice multiple times in the middle of the teaching, though, and then share our journaling with another student.  This was really intimidating, but since we also have to do this on a weekly basis with our small group (yikes!), it was good practice.  It’s a good way to kick off the school – foundational, but really encouraging.  You know you’re starting off on the right foot.

So here you have it – my first official update from the School of Ministry!  I will blog more in-depth posts about the teachings and other awesome goings-on as the days go on.  I also plan to blog more often than once a week, so I can write shorter posts on more focused topics.  Yay!  Thanks so much for keeping up with me. 

* If anyone wants to subscribe to these posts, you can do so in the left sidebar, either with Google Connect, or by submitting your email address.  Please, if you feel so led, leave me a comment! Even just to let me know you’re reading.  :)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Part Two: Fear and Other Things You Shouldn’t Let Run Your Life

The blog post with this title has been sitting in my drafts folder for three months, untouched and untyped.  I have felt so incredibly unqualified to do everything this summer—I’ve been working as a pretty good bakery employee, but I’ve not been doing half so well at everything else.

(And this is going to be a long post sort of analyzing why.  I kind of meant it to be a follow-up to the first post with this title, but it only loosely ended up that.)

Um, I’m going to Istanbul, Turkey in the last two weeks of August.  I’m going to the School of Ministry in Toronto in September (literally two days after getting back from Turkey.  ohyai).

And—well.  That fear thing?  It’s been getting worse.  Steadily and insidiously worse.  It’s consistently the first thing I feel when I wake up in the morning.  More often then not, it’s been getting me at night, too—I’m impressed I’ve slept even passably well in the past month (“passably” being 5-6 hours a night, even though I’ve been more or less scheduling bedtimes to allow 8-9 hours).  These things I should be really excited about—traveling and doing ministry and immersing myself in God’s presence—have become monolithic lists of Things To Do and Money To Make.  I can barely remember why I wanted to go in the first place—I only that I did, so very, very, very much.

I have all the money I need for my Turkey trip.  I’m turning in my passport paperwork tomorrow.  I still have research to do for the trip, and shopping, and packing.

By the time I take a hiatus from my job in mid-August, I will have saved about $2000 of the $7000 I need for Toronto.  I’m in the process of sending out support letters.  I should be able to turn in my application at the end of July.  I have to pack and plan and shop for this…and I have to raise $5000 in five weeks.  Which looks like lunacy.

I’m terrified.  And I’m trying so hard not to hate myself for allowing fear to keep me paralyzed, in a stranglehold, for the past year.  I’m trying so hard not to look at the entirety of 2013 so far and feel like it’s been a failure—like I’ve been a failure.  I mean, I got my first paying job, and I’m working at it about 38 hours a week, which is almost full-time.  Six months ago, I honestly did not think myself capable of that.  So that’s really huge.  That’s an accomplishment.  That’s an important milestone in my life.  I’m learning from it.

But I’m keeping up with my friends only barely, or not at all.  I’m short-tempered and irritable with my family most of the time.  I’m doing next to no writing at all—creative or journaling.  My relationship with God consists primarily of lots of guilt and frustration and not enough listening (all on my end); cracking open the Word and reading a chapter looms like a huge amount of work; taking twenty minutes to soak and pray feels like it would be just another opening for my overactive mind to be dangerously introspective, another foothold for the fear.  I feel like I have to distract my mind all the time, or else I literally begin to panic.

It’s been constant for weeks.  I can barely even talk about either the Turkey or Canada trip without my insides just clamping up with stress.

I know—I know—that letting God in is actually the solution.  I know that He shows Himself strong in our weakness.  I know that His grace is sufficient. But because I feel like all of this trouble is my fault—that I brought this all on myself by procrastinating—it’s that much harder to really trust that He’s going to come through.  I’ve had so many prophetic words about it this year—some of them from people who had no idea what I’m planning or what I’ve been feeling—and I can barely listen to them.  It’s incredibly painful, because right now looking grace in the face exacerbates all the shame I’m feeling about not being proactive for so long.

I think my problem is that I lack proper perspective.  Fear and shame = about me.  God showing Himself in my situation = not about me.

Why can’t I take hold of that?  Why can’t I just let Him in?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

my big news of today is

I got a job.

Yes, I’m using a reaction gif on a blog that’s not Tumblr.  Sorry not sorry.

That’s right.  After three-plus months of feeling useless and having angst and frustration and emotional meltdowns, Kiersten Lawrence is now a real adult with a real job that actually pays money.  MacKenzie’s Bakery hired me after an interview that was approximately 8 minutes long and consisted mostly of the hiring manager telling me stuff about the bakery.  I think the only questions she asked me were “Tell me about yourself” and “how do you know Jo?” (the lovely lady who gave me a reference).  She literally wrote me into the schedule less than five minutes after meeting me.

If that’s not a God-thing, I don’t know what is.  I’m excited.

I’m not as nervous about starting as I thought I’d be–maybe I will come Tuesday, which is my first day.  (But I’m not going to try to psych myself out.)  I’ll be shadowing the manager, and be on shifts with Erika (another fellow New Day-er, whom I don’t know all that well but is extremely sweet (no bakery pun intended)) for a few days.  It’s easily accessible by bus and the employees are nice and it smells good and IT IS AN ACTUAL JOB.

I am going to choose to be EXCITED ABOUT THIS.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

New thing I learned:

Sometimes, crying and praying and asking for answers doesn't do anything but get me more and more worked up. Sometimes I can (and/or need to) be like "Enemy, you suck." and just go to bed.