The Long Road Home | Faith

Good morning from Cincinnati! โค As I write this, it’s currently 7:30 am. I’ve been awake since 3 a.m. and went to bed around 12:30am, meaning I have gotten very little sleep. More on that later. Below is my current view… running on lots of espresso today!!

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I’m back Stateside and have been for a couple weeks now. The first week kept me busy with wedding prep (being a bridesmaid in one of my best friend’s weddings – such an honor to play + sing Reckless Love during her feet washing!), and the second week kept me busy unpacking, cleaning, organizing, and throwing out 95% of my existing wardrobe because nothing fits me anymore. More on that side of my journey later.

When I wasn’t cleaning, I was working out, eating healthfully, and working out with people. And spending time with Jesus, of course. These days, that is still all I pretty much do. I have a couple weeks left until I start my new job at Vineyard Cincinnati as their Ministry Director (August 6th!) – which I am super pumped about – and am trying to really soak in and make the most of all this downtime. I’m running on no income at the moment so I’m just trusting that God will provide.

The point for this blog post, however, is not to talk about how I’ve been relaxing for the past couple of weeks. It’s to share the journey I’ve been on that started in Jerusalem and is continuing now into the remainder of 2018. I’m going to share some of the major ways I’ve grown and changed this year through [mostly] difficult times over the year. Don’t get me wrong – Jerusalem was AWESOME and I would totally do the entire year over again in a heartbeat. I LOVE the city, people, culture, food – all of it. In fact, I honestly wouldn’t mind moving back in the future if that is what God calls me to do (and trust me, you have to be called to live in Jerusalem). But most of the year for me was like living under a firehose – constant push to change and adapt, largely through struggle.

Jerusalem honestly brings up a lot of issues in your soul when you live there long-term. I have had a lot of friends tell me this before and after I moved, and I didn’t believe it would happen to me. 3 months into living there, however, I understood.

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Sipping some matcha tea at a Jerusalem tea house!

I was suddenly struggling with an identity crisis. As someone who has always been (and still is) super confident in herself and who she is, in Jerusalem I found myself asking “Who am I?” “What do I even enjoy doing?” “What are my values?” “Why am I making poor decisions right now?” I was riding the struggle bus most of the year, honestly. People I spoke with regularly while living there were aware, but I think for the most part I kept a lot of the struggle to myself, leaving people blissfully unaware. Which is totally okay – I needed a lot more “me” time this year than I ever have before, and I embraced it. I was being forced to deal with things internally I knew I had to deal with at some point but had been avoiding. I’m calling my year abroad the “year of getting my life together.” And it is so true – it was the beginning of major life changes for me, changes that are still developing and strengthening as we speak. All good things! It was just an overwhelming amount of things I was confronted with at one time.

To the few people who really poured into me this year and invested in me with advice + dealt with my crying and emotional neediness – Becca, Abigail, Annelize, the Naidoos, my roommates – I love you all. Thanks so much for everything this year – you have truly been a HUGE blessing I cannot even begin to express, and I know I failed to express it accurately to you in person this year.ย Below, I’m going to highlight a few of the takeaways from the year, and the ridiculous reason I have been awake since 3 a.m. [ridiculous to me, not to God!].

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Getting ready to hike the Jesus Trail!

Takeaways from a year in Jerusalem

Healthy lifestyle: fitness + nutrition

This was honestly the most impactful takeaway for me. While in Israel, starting in January of this year, I started taking my health way more seriously. This is something I’ve always wanted to do but never did consistently. In January, my roommates and I did the Daniel Fast, and that kickstarted my health journey. After finishing that I continued to eat healthy, giving up dairy (still dairy free! It’s amazing!) and being more aware of what I was eating. I started to see weight loss, became motivated, and began working out a few times a week. Over time, I was working out nearly every day and lost something around 25-30lbs! It’s been an amazing journey. I am still not at my goal yet, and every day I push myself harder and harder to get there. I have seen so much progress! I am now focused heavily on weight training, doing that 5x a week (M-F) with workouts on weekends being optional. I currently eat dairy free and kosher (see below), lots of lean protein, fruits + veggies, plus low carb and low sugar.

This morning, I awoke slightly before 3 a.m. after only a couple hours of sleep. WIDE awake. I haven’t been able to sleep well this week, but usually if I wake up at odd hours of the morning, it’s because God wants me to pray about something. This was no exception. So I prayed for a few specific people (and even received confirmation an hour later about a person I was praying for!) and was STILL wide awake. Next question: God, what else do you want to say to me? Below is what I wrote on my phone:

God: “Focus on your health during this time [I’m doing 6 months of singleness, keep reading for more details on that!]. Do whatever it takes. You will need to be healthy for what I am calling you to do so it is vital you take care of your health in all aspects – emotional, spiritual, physical, financial. But right now, especially physical.”

Alright, well, I’ve been on a healthy kick this year, so that’s easy enough. THEN I immediately felt I needed to order a bunch of essential oils and start using them/understanding them. Weird, because that was one thing that hadn’t been on my mind. I thought, okay, I’ll look into it. I also heard “buy collagen peptides” [google them if you don’t know what they are] which IS something I’ve been researching the past few days. Again, kind of weird to have God telling me to buy essential oils and collagen peptides. When I’m broke and have no income. What?

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Some of the BFP team who ran the Jerusalem Marathon!

So THEN, I’m still wide awake. At this point, I feel like I’m supposed to read the Bible. So I grab my Bible and start reading Psalms. It’s now probably 4-4:30 a.m. Well, a few psalms in, I stumble across this verse:

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions, your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. Psalm 45: 7-8

In case you didn’t catch it, all those fragrances are essential oils. CONFIRMATION. Okay, God, I get the picture. For some odd reason I need to be equipped with essential oils for whatever you are calling me to do. Got it. I keep reading:

Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean. Psalm 51:7

Again, hyssop is an essential oil. See the trend? For me, this is pretty hard to miss. I started researching hyssop and what do you know, it is known for purity, healing, detoxification and digestion…aka health and healing. Both things I’m supposed to focus on over the next 6 months.

Digestion. Brought my thoughts back to collagen. Collagen peptides have a lot of benefits (including deeper sleep, thank you Lord!, and skin +ย  nail + joint health), but one important one is that it helps your digestive system or “heals and seals” your gut, as all the websites tell you. While reading about collagen for the millionth time this week, I felt God tell me my “gut needs healing. HEAL AND SEAL.” Not literally – my digestion is pretty good – but internally, I need some healing too. So the collagen will not only help me reach my physical goals, but it’s a metaphorical reminder to myself to allow God to “heal and seal.” Okay, then. Guess I’m buying those collagen peptides today.

The big question I asked: God, this is all money I don’t have.” And of course, His response was “I will provide. Do whatever it takes and don’t worry about it.”

Stepping out in faith on this one, folks. But if all of that isn’t God speaking to me, I’m not sure what is.

Eating Biblically kosher

So, this actually didn’t start in Jerusalem – it started about a year prior, when I first started feeling convicted about eating Biblically kosher. I won’t go into what that all means exactly, but the basics are that I no longer eat pork or shellfish or unkosher gelatin. Moving to Jerusalem, I naturally ate kosher for the whole year (seeing at the entire country is mostly kosher), and when I came home I was still convicted about it. So last week I made the call to officially eat that way to the best of my ability. If you wanna know more about why I’m doing this, feel free to ask. ๐Ÿ™‚

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I also really love coffee. And sweets. Like these macarons.

Forced minimalism

As mentioned above, I lost a lot of weight this year, so I got rid of a ton of clothes I had this year both before and after moving. I came home with an entire suitcase less than I arrived with, and then tossed almost my entire wardrobe, plus a bunch of other things, when I got home. I’ve been wanting to go more minimal for a long time, so weight loss during the year naturally helped!

Lifestyle of worship

All this year I served as the worship leader for our Z3 worship team, Fervor. I also lead worship sets regularly at Succat Hallel, the Jerusalem 24/7 house of prayer. Both were AMAZING experiences and times of growth! I learned about leadership, music, challenged myself vocally and musically in ways I never have before. Learned to “flow with the Spirit” as they say and play how I feel God leading, not based on a pre-determined set of verses and choruses. Learned a lot about prophetic worship. It was amazing. Over the year I learned worship was my lifeline – when I was feeling dark, it brought me back to life, back to reality, and recentered me. I even got a tattoo on my collarbone expressing this. I also became passionate about making worship everything we do – worship is a lifestyle, not just music! Check out the videos below to hear more ๐Ÿ™‚

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Recording my original song “Abundantly More” outside of Succat Hallel!

Click here to listen to my original song, Abundantly More. Thanks Hannah!

Click here to watch me talk about a “lifestyle of worship.” Thanks Michio!

I NEED REST.

This was a big one, too. I needed a LOT more me time this year and time by myself. More than ever before. Which, I’m an introvert by nature, but even for me this was a lot of introverting. It has definitely carried over to the States and I really haven’t left my house much except for errands, unless someone specifically invites me out. It’s not a bad thing – just a new thing I’m adjusting to.

6 months of singleness

Okay, this is more recent for me. At the very end of June I felt prompted to take 6 months (until December) and dedicate them to growing with God, doing some internal processing and healing, and specifically staying single during this time. I have specific things I am working through, including boundary setting, finances, different relationships with different people, making God-time consistent, and focusing on my identity/values. I’ve started the process and it will be long and slow but super good. It’s already been really, really good and fruitful! And I’m trying to really embrace all the free time I have right now to work on this.

Other things I learned [but don’t have time to elaborate on right now]:

  1. Deeper understanding for Jewish roots + Judaeo-Christian Understanding
  2. International friendships
  3. I am called to [eventually] write a book. On what, TBD.

This is already a novel, and there is so much more I could say, but I’ll end it here for now. God is good – so, SO good. Even in the midst of difficulty (especially in the midst of difficulty, rather!). Jerusalem started a lot of change in my life and it’s only going to keep coming. I’m so thankful for the whole experience and the city and people forever have a place in my heart. โค

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