A few months ago my team (pick a pocket) was invited to come to Norway for a YWAM Conference on Pioneering. We went back and forth on coming due to timing and in the end we decided it wouldn’t work. However, that didn’t seem to work for God. He continued placing Norway on my heart and finally at the last min I decided I would go.
What a good decision that was.
I left Nürnberg on Tuesday and made a lay over in Amsterdam. I arrived in Amsterdam happy and ready for whatever was going to come of this conference. I sat at the starbucks on my three hour layover drinking a nice latte, painting and asking God to give me perspective and breakthrough on this hell of a year I’ve had through this time.
After a nice moment I walked over to my gate and saw that my flight had been canceled. When I asked why, I was told it was "do to the Hurricane." This Florida girl turned her head to look outside the window to a slightly overcast Amsterdam sky. I laughed and said “are you serious?” The very serious dutch lady said “yes, serious. Get in this line.” I proceeded to stand in a two hour line to get redirected to my new flight. Now mind you, I entered the line having to go to the bathroom, so by the end of this line I thought I was going to pass out from having to pee so badly. (ok, gentle side note, sorry.) I was texting Uli in the line harassing him for letting me travel alone since every time I travel alone I seem to get into some kind of trouble: typhoons in Beijing, passports stolen on flights leading to me being in an airport jail in Munich, high jacking from rebels in Kenya… it’s always an adventure when Lizzy travels alone. (even harass Uli, this hurricane was clearly his fault!)
So. I was redirected to a flight the next morning. Which was annoying but in my head I thought “sweet, fun evening in Amsterdam!” As you can see I wasn’t taking the Hurricane serious at all… I mean, what the heck to Europeans know about Hurricanes anyways. Right? …wrong.
Well, an hour after that I was shuttle on a bus with about 80 other grumpy passengers to a hotel that I thought was going to be downtown. Turns out it was in some village 45 mins from down town on the sea. As I arrived in my HUUUUUGE luxurious hotel room (thank you very much KLM) and flopped down in my big bed I began to hear the thunder and rain picking up. In about 30 mins the storm got wild. In my room was an extremely large glass window and a sunroof above my head. (go figure.) As I saw the waves outside getting larger and larger and thunder and wind getting stronger and stronger I began to realize this was a full blown hurricane.
My Florida girl "hurricane survival mode” started kicking in and I began to prepare the room (in my mind) in the event of the storm coming through those glass windows. My flight was at 6:30am and my bus left at 4 so I figured I should get some sleep but I really had trouble falling asleep. I laid down alone in bed and I began to feel very scared. I started questioning why God would lead me to a trip like this. Why He would lead me directly into danger that I had no control over. And as I asked these questions I began to realize that this was exactly how this year had felt: Like God had lead me on a journey and asked me to follow Him and trust Him, only to lead me straight into an enormous storm.
As I laid there God asked me a simple question: “through all of this, have you ever felt alone?”
I had to think back through this last year. To all the struggle, pain, disappointment and let downs. Back to the feels of abandonment, fear, failure and loss. And I realized, even in the moments I felt most alone and insecure, I actually never felt completely alone because I felt His presence with me through it all.
I started imagining what it would feel like if that storm hit the glass window so hard that it shattered into my room and started to flood. And suddenly my bed felt like a ship. Did you ever pretend as a child that your bed was a ship and everything on the ground was water... or lava? Of course you did. Stop lying to yourself. We all did. That night, I felt like that. And I felt like my bed was the ship I’ve been sailing on all year.
The ship that has gone through a storm so big and disastrous that I can’t see or hear anything, not even if it’s right in front of me. But one thing God showed me that night was that "even though you may not hear my voice because this storm is so loud… be assured that I can hear yours. I hear your prayers. I hear your cries. I hear you."
I fell asleep. I woke up to clear skies. A flight that took off and a train that took me right to where I needed to go. And even though the journey there was terrifying and lonely… I never felt alone. For He was with me through it all.
The conference itself was wonderful. We had pioneers from over 30 countries through out Europe attending and incredible speakers like Jim and Juy Olson teaching on practical ways to handle going through seasons of pioneering. I have to say, I have a major crush on that couple and they know it …. oh they know it. ::embarrassing stalking::
Over the next days I began to unravel and work through my last years of pioneering Pick a Pocket, watching Pick a Pocket crumble and then trying again to pioneer it. Gulp. I listened to the exact struggles I was having that it seemed every other team in the world of pioneering was having or had had before. I took notes, prayed hard and allowed God to speak to my heart.
As I began to work through the storm I began to see that God was reviving my heart and passion for my ministry. And I realized that through it all I had a deeper understanding of how much I wanted it. How I would rather spend the rest of my life failing at this in the hopes of one day getting it right, then doing anything else with my life. And that was exactly what I really needed: the deep trust in my person belief in this. Not just the calling. The personal belief.
On one of the days I sat with the kindest most gentle Norwegian man over lunch. In a simple little voice he said “Liz, how has your year been?” And something about that question made me cry. He had such a fathers heart and I think it just got to me a bit. I began to open up to Him about everything I went through and all the deep and big questions I had for God. And how I didn’t know why I was at a pioneering conference when I feel like I’ve been pioneering for 7 years. He was pretty silent at this point. He looked down, breathed in and looked back up at me and said
“Could it be that God is re-pioneering YOU?
It all hit me. That’s what He was doing. The emotions began to get me and my first reaction was actually to become quite angry with God. I started asking those questions in my head like “what did I ever do to you that you have to re-pioneer me?” “was I that messed up? That broken?” “that off?” “That disobedient?”
He continued to tell me about how sometimes God allows things to break and unfold in our lives not as a punishment but because of a blessing. (rolling my eyes in my head happened at this point.) That through pain and tragedy we are left with nothing else but complete and utter reliance on God. And that when everything we once knew, worked for or fought for is taken away, we literally only have ourselves and Him to stand on. We are exposed, naked to the truth of who we really are and where our faith really lies and we are forced to look closely at our hearts and ourselves.
He showed me that God is re-pioneering my identity. My worth and value. Because God cares so much about me knowing that when the storms come and the winds shatter the glass to my house, that my focus on Him should not be broken because He is in control. His might, power and love for me is more powerful deadly then the storm could ever be. He told me to look closely into my identity and see”
“You can only understand who you are by understanding who God is. And you can only understand who God is, by understand who you are. “
My insecurities of who I was to God changed from disobedient and failure to loved and accepted. Understanding how much love God must have for me that He would shatter my whole world and rip everything down only in order to show me that my life is completely and exclusively in His hands and in nothing else. What a gift.
My year of hell felt more like one of the biggest life treasures I’ve ever been given. And even though I can honestly say I never want to go through any of it ever again. I am so thankful that I did. So thankful I went through that Hurricane.
“You never said it was going to be easy. You never said it would be this hard. But you said, you’d be with me through it all.”
Ok. Getting on my flight now. hope this one makes it.