I’m not 100% sure where to start this blog post. It’s been a long time coming, that’s for sure. I often have things on my heart I want to write about but it seems like I have to intentionally press pause on life to be able to sit down long enough to get all my thoughts out of my head. Anyone else feel that way?
That’s how I feel about today’s post. It’s been in my head for a long time, and I feel like while hiking today I finally got enough content (and time!) to sit down and push out my thoughts. A-freaking-men.
I’ve been home from Israel for about 5 months now (and it’s been about as long since I last wrote on here), and I am just now coming out of whatever reverse culture shock I experienced. I honestly didn’t think that was something I would struggle with, so it surprised me that I missed Israel as much as I did, so much so that I usually would shed tears over just thinking about Israel or hearing someone talk about Israel. It was serious. It was uncontrollable. I didn’t really know what to do with it or how to handle it. But it lasted legitimately until maybe a couple weeks ago. I think something shifted in me at the Hillsong concert at Crossroads on October 16th. I felt it – I can’t explain it exactly, and it wasn’t a big “aha” moment, but I felt a shift and I knew it was the beginning of the end of the grieving period I was in.
Needless to say I have been spending a lot of time processing why the heck I’ve been so emotional about anything related to Israel. I’ve been discussing it via WhatsApp with a few of my friends still living in Israel, and most are telling me the intense reaction likely means returning to Israel long-term or in some way serving in Israel is likely in my future. I don’t doubt it. I’m not sure in what capacity or what that looks like, but I don’t think they are wrong. I’ve also been struggling because I see posts from Z4 (the 4th Zealous Israel Project, currently in the midst of their year in Israel) and they seem to all be best friends. Let me tell you that our year in Z3 was much more of a struggle bus and I don’t think anyone ended the year being best friends with anyone else in the group. Not because we didn’t desire that – we did – but that wasn’t God’s plan for us. So I’ve been praying through that a LOT, and I finally felt like God told me that our year was about HEALING. And below is what I feel like God revealed to me about it.
It was hard because we were all healing or trying to heal from something, and sometimes healing causes us to hurt one another. We hurt ourselves. We hurt others when we resisted the healing process. And sometimes to heal we need to be taken out of our comfort zone.
So a lot of Z3 hurt one another. Not intentionally, but because we weren’t whole and couldn’t love others because we couldn’t love ourselves. We were in a place that was so holy, and yet we were so broken. And I think we didn’t know how to reconcile those two things, even though we may not have known at the time that’s what was going on. And because we weren’t on solid ground, the spiritual warfare battle was harder for Z3 than it was for others in past and current Zealous Israel Projects. Jerusalem is a spiritual battle zone, and to live there we must be secure in our wholeness that comes from God alone.
Those words are straight from my journal and let me tell you – they gave me so much closure. The past season in Israel was a holy + broken season; the season I am walking into at the Vineyard is a holy + hopeful season. I was grieving Israel because I lost something dear to me. It’s normal to grieve the loss of something you loved. And now that grief period is over and it’s time to move onto bigger and better things that the Lord has planned for me.
It’s hilarious to me that all this hope is coming during the fall. I think it’s intentional, really. God is intentionally allowing the fall to be hopeful because, in the past, fall has always been a really bitter and dark season for me. It’s symbolic, too – there is hope in the fall. We are fallen sinners, but there is still hope that draws us closer to God as we enter into His forgiveness and mercy. There is beauty in the fall. And you know what else is funny? In the darkness, if you look, fallen leaves still reflect light. I noticed this on my hike today.
Things that are fallen still reflect His light.
Even in our fallenness, we can still reflect His light.
Thank you, Abba, for new transitions. For releasing new joys. And for healing broken hearts.
My time in Israel is not over. In fact, I feel like today God gave me more clarity on what is ahead. It’s exciting, and I feel like I now have a vision I can cling to and work towards. But that is for another day, and I hope to share it soon. ❤
Good morning from Cincinnati! ❤ 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!!
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.
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. 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!].
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?
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 + 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. 🙂
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 🙂
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]:
Deeper understanding for Jewish roots + Judaeo-Christian Understanding
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. ❤
This year in Israel has been somewhat of a beast for me. It’s been really, really good – I’ve grown a lot, made new friends, and gotten to experience life here in Israel. It’s also been somewhat of a pressure cooker, bringing to light issues in myself that I didn’t know were issues, and forcing a lot of growth in areas I both did and didn’t want to grow in. There is still a lot of that happening, and I’m still learning how to manage it all (with only 4 months remaining here in Jerusalem).
The most impactful things for me this year though have come in two areas of my life I’ve been trying to get under control for years now: my spiritual life (through learning to worship with excellence and establish daily God time) and my health (through consistently working out and eating healthfully).Although there are lots of other things I’ve been challenged on this year, these have by far been the biggest. What I’m now starting to learn is that the two are significantly intertwined.
In January my roommates and I did either complete or modified Daniel Fasts – which you can read more about online. That helped me start eating healthfully again and unintentionally caused me to lose 12-15lbs, which is about halfway to a weight loss goal I’ve had most of my life. After that, I started working out again, doing various workouts a few times a week. I also cut dairy (mostly) out of my life. Two months later and I’ve still been working out consistently and eating mostly dairy-free, which has caused me to gain a lot of muscle, lose some more fat, and keep the weight off. I’ve started running once or twice a week and recently completed the Jerusalem Marathon (half) with some of my co-workers. Now, I’m trying to eat a largely paleo/Whole30 approved foods during the week. I’m really enjoying it and it’s taught me that I can cure my sweet tooth with dried fruits and naturally sweetened things instead of sugary sweets and unhealthy carbs. I’m hoping this will help me reach my weight goal by the end of the Zealous Israel Project. I feel lighter, healthier, and more confident than I have in a long time.
What I’ve realized, though, is that health and faith are actually deeply linked.
I started thinking about this while in school at Fuller, but it’s become more of a reality here in Israel. I’ve been getting hit with a lot of negativity recently, whether it’s from other people or the Enemy trying to bring me down. But I’ve also been called to a lot of spiritually draining things, particularly intercessory prayer. I’ve learned that in order to intercede for someone in prayer without taking on all the emotions and negativity myself, I have to make sure I spend time with God on my own being filled up. It is only when I get that personal time that I am able to stay grounded and remain disconnected from feeling what other people feel (which I am learning is really necessary when doing intercessory prayer). And boy do I need a lot of personal time here in Jerusalem. I can’t get enough of it. It’s the same with health and fitness. I need to pray about it and let God into it if I’m going to consistently take care of myself.
With that being said, here are 4 things I’ve realized about the connection between health and God since living in Jerusalem:
1. My body is God’s temple, and thus I need to honor Him by taking care of it; fitness is a form of worship.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
This belief started for me while in seminary when I was researching something for class. I don’t remember exactly what I was looking for, but it had something to do with self-care. Anyways, I stumbled across this blog post that a guy wrote about how he views fitness as a form of worship, and how he stays active so that he can be physically ready to go wherever God sends him and do whatever Kingdom-bringing work he is called to do. We are often called to do physically strenuous things for the Kingdom – and how can we expect to do those things if our bodies are not physically capable of doing them? Being fit and healthy helps us to go where God calls us and it serves as a form of worship by honoring God’s temple. Realizing that fitness is a form of worship has completely changed how I view working out. I’m still not as consistent as I should be with it, but I am getting a lot better.
I have a hard time thinking or talking while running. Honestly, I envy people who say they get quality prayer time or personal time while they run. I wish I was to the point where I could do that, to the point where running clears my mind from other things. It doesn’t. Maybe someday it will. But for now, most of my runs consist of me praying one thing over and over in my mind: “God, please help me to push through this run so I can do your Kingdom work. So I can honor and worship you by taking care of my body, which is your temple. Give me strength to keep going for Your glory.” That is basically my mantra for all runs and is constantly on repeat in my head. That is honestly what keeps me going.
2. Fitness creates discipline, which leads to discipline in other areas of life.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
1 Corinthians 9: 24-27
I think this is probably the most quoted verse for exercise in the Bible. At least, it is personally the one I hear the most quoted by those connecting health and God. The thing is – it’s true. Exercise and staying healthy requires a LOT of self-control. It means making time every day to work out, and choosing to eat salads instead of pasta. It means more than just setting a goal; it means sticking to a plan that will cause you to reach your goal (and even surpass your goal!). It means not just telling other to put their health first, but doing it yourself as a living example for others. Because living this way requires a lot of self-control, it teaches self-control in other areas of life, too. Since continuously practicing self-control over the past few months in what I eat, I’ve noticed I’ve gotten better at having God time daily. It creates habits of discipline that can be applied in other areas of life, too. That is a vitally important skill to have.
3. A healthy life is a joy-filled life.
“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” -Elle Woods, from Legally Blonde
I’ve also noticed that I turn to working out now when I get frustrated or upset with something or someone. Instead of letting myself think negative thoughts, I pray for freedom from that and then go work out, because working out releases endorphins, which make you happy. I always feel better after working out and I usually feel less stressed and happier, too. It makes me a better person both mentally and physically.
I’ve learned I have to make time every day for both working out and spending time with God in order to feel truly at peace and happy. It doesn’t have to be a huge workout – it can be something small and quick – but my best days are the days when I get at least an hour or more to spend with God, and an hour or more to workout.
This usually means I have to wake up early and prioritize God-time over everything else – and I’m still working on doing that, since I am not a morning person. I am trying to do that, though. The days where I wake up at 5 or 5:30am and get quality God time are the best. If I don’t do that, then I try to spend time with God on my lunch break. God-time in the morning, and working out in the evening. Those are the days when I feel my best and most ready to tackle anything that comes my way. Those are the days I feel the most joy. Those are the days I can tackle intercessory prayer and not feel weighed down with emotions.
4. Health is not just food and fitness – it is other forms of self-care and beauty, too.
This really struck me this morning, on what I would call the perfect Shabbat. I woke up early (for the weekend), had coffee and God-time, made a healthy breakfast and lunch, and made a turmeric mask for my face. Pre-turmeric mask I was staring at myself in the mirror and thinking about how much I hate the red marks on my face, and I just want them to be gone before we hike the Jesus Trail in April. After I washed the mask off my face, it’s amazing how much better and more positive I felt. My face felt soft and smooth, and the redness had gone down some. The marks were still there, but I felt a lot more positive about them.
I’m not typically one for doing girly things like facials and baths and pedicures, but I’m starting to realize how much better I feel about myself when I do those things. They make me more confident and help me feel peaceful, which works wonders for my mental health. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your spiritual and physical health and should not be overlooked. Our mind is a part of God’s temple too, so we need to do what is necessary to honor that part of our body. For me, that currently looks like face masks a couple times a week, homemade coffee sugar scrubs, taking personal time for myself, and painting my toes once or twice a month. It doesn’t take a lot. But those things help me significantly to relax, and I’m going to start being a lot more focused on self-care.
So, there you have it – my rant on all things health and fitness as they relate to the spiritual side of things. Hopefully you can get something from that and be encouraged to see self-care as a form of worship 🙂
Most of my time in Jerusalem has been spent praying about what God has next for me. On July 2nd, 2018, when I step on the plane to return home to Cincinnati, what am I going to be walking into? What is my next job, or my next calling? Honestly, I’ve spent a lot of my time this year BEFORE moving to Jerusalem praying for this, too. I have no clue and no inkling of an idea what’s next for me, if I’m being sincere. I wish I did. But I am learning that this year in Jerusalem is all about preparing me for what is next. This morning during my quiet time, I journaled the following:
Abba, please show me what’s next for me after this year. I have so many thoughts + ideas + possibilities, but I want to go where You want me to go and do what You want me to do. Even when it’s difficult. You’ve shown me that I am a LEADER and that was who I am created to be. A leader. An intercessor. A fighter for others. And that my words are a powerful way I operate in that. That I am impacting people and being a role model for them even when I don’t know it. And I know I will do that wherever You send me. But Abba, please direct me and show me where. Cali? Ohio? Israel? Somewhere else? Where does my heart collide with my passions and Your will? And where does that intersect with the world’s needs + who You’ve created me to be?Abba, I know this year is about preparing me for what is next. So, what IS next, exactly? I found an Instagram post that says “CALLING is where your talents and burdens collide.” Where are you leading me that my talents and burdens collide? Further, what ARE my burdens? What weighs heavy on my heart?What prophecies have been spoken over me that I know to be true? And how will You fulfill them? Abba, I have a willing spirit. Where You go, I go. Send me.
Aren’t we all always asking God about what is next? We can never just rest in the waiting, in the in-between.We can never fully embrace, with patience, where God has placed us at this very moment. It’s not wrong at ask God about our future – in fact, He wants us to ask Him about our future. He wants to know we are seeking His will for our life. But there is something to be said about resting in the waiting. About TRUST over CERTAINTY. I talk about how to wait well HERE in a previous blog post (which I just re-read for myself and it really spoke to me all over again!), if you want to read it. We need to learn how to embrace the wait. Because really, it is about increasing our faith during this period – not seeking more answers (I talk about the concept of trust over clarity HERE). I’ve been struggling with this a lot over the past couple of years. I just want God to tell me what to do instead of growing in what He has for me right now. I’m seeking His hands (what He does for me) instead of His face (who He is and His heart for me).
Help me, Abba. Help me to rest in the in-between, knowing that You are working for those who wait on You. You will give me answers in Your own time. Isaiah 64:4 says: “From ages past no one has heard,no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.” God is working in the wait.
I’ve had the song “My Soul Sings (Just A Little While Longer)” by Cory Asbury on repeat the past week. The words really echo in my heart. There is a line that says:
All I want is just to know Your heart, So would You keep me here until we’re one?
I spent the morning reflecting on these words. This is my true desire – to know the heart of our Father. This is what I want to focus on this year in Jerusalem and this is the cry of my heart. But then it hit me – this is what God wants, too. He wants to know OUR heart.
Take a minute and image God is speaking these words to you. “All I want to just to know your heart, so would you stay with me until we’re one?” Imagine that. God WANTS to know your heart, too.He wants you to tell Him all about your day, your struggles and failures, your deepest desires and cries. He wants you to be real with Him.
Too often we aren’t real with God. We try to cover up our prayers with fluffy words and try to soun holy when we speak to Him. But God wants our honesty, not our fake words.The number of times I has sworn while praying would shock you. But when I’m angry and hurting, God wants to know and whats our authenticity. If that means I’m angry and I’m swearing while I pray, yelling at God, so be it. I’m not going to try to hide my emotions from God. He knows them already, anyways.
So back to the song. I wrote this in my journal:
Although this song is about us crying out to God, these are God’s words to us, too. He wants to KNOW our heart. He wants to hear our heart and sit there until we are one. He wants us to run to Him.
And I think this relates to what I was talking about earlier, about calling and resting in the wait. God is working for us while we wait for Him to move. And while we wait, He wants us to share our heart with Him and talk to him about the process.About the growth and the backslides. So let’s not get so caught up in asking what is next that we miss out on this time to pursue His heart and share ours, too. He is working for us and already knows what is next for our lives. We just need to trust that He will tell us in His timing and, meanwhile, live fully in the in-between.
So, Abba, I pray that You will allow us to fully seek Your face and not Your hands. To rest in the uncertainty. And to share our heart with You while we wait.
We have come to Mount Zion, city of the living God.
Heavenly Jerusalem, by His blood we have come. “Mt. Zion,” Jonathan David + Melissa Helser
It’s been six months since my last blog. Honestly, I’ve been trying to figure out how exactly to put into words my experience living in Jerusalem since I moved here in July. Words fail me when I think about how to describe it.
Of course, I could simply share some of the incredible things I’ve done and seen. Pruning pomegranate trees, hiking the desert wilderness of Timna, snorkeling in the Red Sea, riding camels, taking Krav Maga lessons, planting olive trees in the Judaean wilderness, leading our monthly worship team, leading worship weekly at Sukkat Hallel (Jerusalem’s 24/7 house of prayer), writing and performing my first original song, becoming a published graphic designer, developing relationships in the Jewish community, getting stung by a jellyfish in the Mediterranean Sea, touring the Knesset, going to a night of worship in the desert of En Gedi with thousands of people from around the world.
Sitting on a tank used in the Six Day War at Radio Hill
We’ve done and seen so much I’m having a hard time remembering everything. It’s been incredible. I often have to make myself stop and stare at the Old City walls or Temple Mount (only a short walk from where I work) and say, “I live in Jerusalem.” Because this place feels so much like home that I often forget exactly where I’m living. It’s so surreal.
Planting olive trees in the Judaean wilderness
Honestly, even though I’ve had the most incredible experiences over the past 3 months, some of my favorite moments are found in the everyday mundane activities. Watching young people stand and give their seat away to the elderly on the bus. Waving to Roni the coffee guy every morning on the walk to work. Watching Muslims and Jews engage with each other and love each other. Celebrating the Biblical holidays like Sukkot and Yom Kippur. Eating onion rings at First Station, the outdoor mall/hangout near our apartment. Deep conversations late at night with fellow Zealous Israel Project (Z3) members. Hammocking in the park. Working out on Saturday mornings. Baking cakes for birthdays. Buying fresh challah and flowers for Shabbat every Friday afternoon. Going to Krav Maga on Sunday nights. Hebrew lessons on Wednesday nights. Coffee at my 2 favorite coffee shops, Tmol Shilshom and Power CoffeeWorks. Everyday life is wonderful.
Hiking Solomon’s Pillars at Timna Park
Although I love life here, these 3 months have really challenged me more than I care to admit. As a natural introvert, I’ve been struggling to re-adjust to living with 4 other roommates and all the different personalities and preferences. I think because of this I’ve become a little more distant with people than I am at home in Ohio. I’ve really connected well with a few people, though, and find myself developing deep friendships I hope will last a lifetime.
Leading worship in the desert at Timna Park
I also have been struggling with feeling really unqualified for my role as the worship team leader. I am confident that growing in worship and as a worship leader is one of God’s major focuses for me this year. And with that in mind, I’ve kept saying yes to various things being asked of me. I’ve grown SO MUCH as a worship leader in the past few months, it’s insane. I’m so thankful for the opportunity. But all I can say is I’m thankful for my team and the way they push me, encourage me, and have grace with me. There is no group of people I’ve enjoyed playing music with more than the three others on my team, and we flow so well together, knowing without speaking when to play the same song for 10 minutes because the Spirit is moving or when to add songs not originally in the line-up. Nozomu, Eilir-Wyn, Eliza – I love you guys. May God set a fire in our souls.
Playing my first finished original song, Abundantly More.
All that being said – Jerusalem is home. No, it’s not dangerous or scary living here. I feel safer living here than I do in America, and the Middle East is nothing like it’s portrayed in the American media. The entire country is community focused, and everyone helps each other out without asking. Parents let their kids roam free because of the fact that the country is so safe and people trust one another.
Hammocking at the Promenade
This is the City of Gold – the city of God’s people. God’s presence is thick here. The history is so rich – it’s amazing to think that I am walking the same streets walked by Jesus and His disciples. That the stars I stare at in the middle of desert are the same stars Abraham and Sarah would have seen. That the roots of the some of the olive trees could have been the same roots from the time of Jesus. That I can visit and touch places where miracles occurred. The places of the Bible are real and still present today.
Hiking the Timna Arches
God has called me here for at least a year. As for what’s next after that, I honestly cannot say. I’ll be home in July for a friend’s wedding (yay for being a bridesmaid!), and that’s the only concrete plan I have right now. I’ve been praying that God will show me what’s next soon. Until then, I will wait and try to soak up every moment here. Leaving everything behind to follow the call has been so worth it.
A photo shoot for this article for Bridges for Peace’s Dispatch from Jerusalem magazine
I love you all. Thank you so much to those who have been supporting me financially. Every single dollar is so appreciated. If you are able to help support me financially, please click here to donate.
My Krav Maga class
Hoping to write again soon. Until then, shalom from Jerusalem.
It’s all very surreal to me, too. I’ll be moving at the end of July as a part of the Zealous Israel Project with Bridges for Peace, an 11-month servant-based discipleship program. I’ll be living and working in Jerusalem on the organization’s publications team doing graphic and layout design. You can read more about my role and the program HERE, on my support page. I would love if you would consider financially supporting me through this!
I am very excited about this opportunity, and I feel very strongly that this is what God has been pushing me towards over the past couple years. In fact, I can point to three different times where my application should have either been withdrawn or incomplete. By no work of my own, and from a back story that I found out about after being accepted, I am moving to Jerusalem in a little over 2 short months. The fact that I was accepted is truly the work of God and a clear sign that this is His next step for me. So I’ve said yes to His call and am looking forward to spending the next year with 10 other young adults from around the world, growing in our faith and developing new, lasting friendships. I am also really, really excited that I get to work in the same building and live in the city as one of my close friends, Becca, whom I met in Israel 2 years ago on our Call to Zion tour. She just wrote a blog about perspective which I highly recommend reading, if you get the chance.
Becca and I with our friend Alex (also from the Call to Zion tour) hanging out at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY.
Becca + I at the zoo in Detroit, MI, trying to hang with the penguins!
When people hear I am moving, they usually respond in one of two ways. The first is to say, “WOW, aren’t you scared?” to which I say….no. Honestly, Israel feels safer to me than America in a lot of ways, and the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) do a wonderful job of protecting the country and its people. When I was there, Israel felt like home. It’s really hard to explain unless you’ve been there. But no, I am not afraid to live in Israel, regardless of what you hear on the news.
The second response is actually a little harder for me to embrace, and it should be the easiest. Most people say “WOW, that is so amazing! Are you excited?”
Again, this should be the easy question to answer. Yet it is the hardest for me to answer with complete honesty.
It’s complicated. As I’ve already mentioned, I am really, truly excited. Deep down. And I know I will grow more and more excited about it over time. Please hear me say that I am excited.
But if I’m being really honest with you, my answer is that right now I’m hurting.
Mostly because I am struggling to leave a few close friendships behind for an entire year, and the thought of leaving Cincinnati and the people I love, more often than not, makes me burst into tears almost daily.
I realize that technology is wonderful, and WhatsApp will allow me to remain in close contact. But it’s still hard, and I know this upcoming year will be an emotionally challenging one. I’m excited for the ways I will grow, develop, and be stretched. And at the same time, I am not excited about all the emotions that will come with it.
I’m saying yes because I am choosing to follow the call God has given me. This life was not made to be easy, and being obedient to God is often one of the most difficult things for me to do. What I want to do, in all honesty, doesn’t matter. What God wants me to do, however, matters a lot. A whole lot. So I will follow what He wants for me, even when it’s hard. And I will praise Him through the hurt, knowing that good things will follow.
“I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
That’s where I am right now. I plan to blog about my experiences while in Israel, so I hope you’ll subscribe via email and follow along with my journey. I love you all – thanks for letting me be honest, and know you can be honest with me as well.
I’ll just say it outright. Unfortunately, we all wait for something – many things, typically – during our lifetime. Christians, it seems, tend to wait more than the average person. What is God telling me? When do I act on what He is telling me? How do I act? And what if I don’t want to do what I’m told? What if it is scary or difficult?
When I wait, I tend to have a lot of questions that rise to the surface.
I’ve spent the past week and a half in Sacramento, CA. I came here to attend a week of on-campus classes with Fuller Theological Seminary, but I came early to explore San Francisco and Redding. I stayed a couple extra days to explore Sacramento, where I am currently sitting at Temple Coffee Roasters writing this. (Has anyone been to Temple, by the way? So good).
My experiences these past couple of weeks have been enlightening, to say the least. I heard God speak prophetically in many ways (which I won’t get into right now – but feel free to ask me about it, if you are interested). In fact, I feel pretty strongly that God is calling me into a time of acting in the prophetic, which both scares and excites me. I received some of the clarity I was hoping for in a previous blog post, and many things that shouldn’t have happened did, because God has a canny way of working things out. Again, that’s another story for another time.
I am starting to emerge from a dark time and a dark place; I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. What I failed to mention in my previous blog about clarity was that I seriously questioned if I was depressed during December and January. I felt bleak. I felt like life had been drained from me. Clearly the Enemy was at work. But God gave me hope, and I clung to it. Looking back, I can say that during those months (the past year, really) I learned in a new way how to wait well (becuase, unfortunately, I wait a lot). My experiences in Sacaramento and Redding confirmed this for me and gave me the peace and momentum to continue pressing on.
Now, I want to share my tips for waiting well with you.
Wait With Anticipation
Elijah is a prime example of this in the book of 1 Kings. Let’s take a look at his story in 1 Kings 18:41-46:
41 Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of rushing rain.” 42 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; there he bowed himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees. 43 He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” He went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” Then he said, “Go again seven times.” 44 At the seventh time he said, “Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea.” Then he said, “Go say to Ahab, ‘Harness your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’” 45 In a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind; there was a heavy rain. Ahab rode off and went to Jezreel. 46 But the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; he girded up his loins and ran in front of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
Ok, some context is needed here. Elijah has just finished going head-to-head with the prophets of Baal, one of the many pagan gods. Short version: God came through, while Baal did not. Go read the long version in 1 Kings 18.
The people here have been in the middle of a drought. They desperately need water. So Elijah intercedes on behalf of the people by praying to God for rain. This is where our story begins.
At the beginning of the chapter, God told Elijah He would bring rain. Now Elijah begins to pray for the rain to come. As he is praying on top of Mt. Carmel, he tells King Ahab (the current wicked king of Israel) to go look and see if the rain is coming.
There is no rain.
So, Elijah continues to wait and pray, knowing God will bring the rain. Again, he tells Ahab to look for rain. Again, there is no rain. This happens seven times. Eventually, the rain does come, as God said. But Elijah did not wait passively for God to act. He got on his knees and prayed continuously, looking up along the way to see if God had answered yet.
Waiting is active, not passive.
Elijah actively waited and prayed for the rain, anticipating God would fulfill His promise. Are you questioning that God will answer you, or are you CONFIDENT that God will answer you? Wait with anticipation.
There are a couple different words that we translate as “wait” from the original Hebrew, but in general, they mean “to wait in ambush; to wait eagerly for.” Again, the verb implies an active posture towards waiting, not a passive one.
This is the process of prayer: bow your head and pray, but don’t forget to look with anticipation for God’s movement.
Expect God Will Work While You Wait
Isaiah 64:4 says this:
From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.
Waiting will be a part of our lives as Christians.
Sorry, you can’t get out of it. What you can do is choose how you are going to wait. Will you wait willingly and patiently, or will you choose to follow your own path and go your own way? Will you wait even when it gets difficult? Painful, even? Will you allow the waiting to grow you?
The good news is that God works when we wait for Him.
Did you catch that? God works when we wait for Him. If God is working, it probably means that we are doing a good job of waiting (even waiting with anticipation, perhaps). Now, that’s not to say that we will wait perfectly; we will definitely screw up many times along the way. But we keep waiting, knowing that God will answer us.
Let’s confirm this with another scripture, Lamentations 3:25:
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.
Again, we see God works when we wait. And when we seek Him while we wait. This is key – are we pursuing God’s heart while we wait for His answer? Or are we just sitting around, passively waiting? Not to hit you over the head with this point, but wait with anticipation. This is key.
It’s hard, but when I catch small glimmers of God at work on my situations, it gives me the courage to pray with anticipation.
This is easier said than done, I know. I am incredibly impatient. But as I continue to wait, God gives me increased patience.
Habakkuk 2:3 tells us that we might be waiting a while. It reads:
For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.
God knows what we are waiting for, but the answer has an “appointed time” when it will come, and it might take a while. But if our answer seems to “tarry,” we need to keep waiting.
Because God will answer.
And when He answers, He answers quickly and “will not delay.”
In January, I hit a point where I was done with waiting. I was drained. Totally wiped out. Mentally and physically exhausted from following. This week in California, God encouraged me and spoke that He will constantly fill me with fuel to keep waiting. I will not run out of energy. He will revive me. And He will do this for you, too. If you’re impatient like me, He will give you patience for the long haul. Keeping praying for that patience, and keep praying for your answer. It will surely come.
If you struggle with patience, I encourage you to find another believer who has experienced waiting a long time for something. Ask them to share their story, and share how God gave them patience. I have been blessed to have friends in similar situations who can encourage me while I wait. I hope you do, too.
This was a long post, but I hope it encourages you to keep waiting and provides some ways to wait well. If you want to chat more, I’d love to hear from you. Find my email here or reach out on Facebook.
Until next time, friends.
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