Bloom (Part Two)

As I started on this new journey of seeing myself through the Lord’s eyes (find part one of this journey here), I began to pray for the Lord to lay His vision for me upon the canvas of my heart. I envisioned myself coming to Him with a blank slate, without any pre-conceived notions, and just simply asking Him to show me what He had planned for my life.

Not long after I started praying that prayer, a phrase came to mind:

“Bloom: Where you are, as you are.”

I loved the concept since it encompassed everything the Lord had been teaching me, but I wasn’t quite sure how He wanted me to apply it. Maybe a nonfiction project?

So I set it aside to mull on for later.

Shortly after that, my friend Tessa and I joined an online Bible Study together called Becoming: The Unfolding of You, where women first uploaded videos of their testimonies followed by a video with a craft tutorial of some kind. We both loved that combination of creativity and faith, and unbeknownst to us, in two different states God began laying the same idea on both of our hearts.

As soon as Tessa returned from visiting family, we talked about the study over coffee. Without even meaning to, somehow I found myself blurting out the very idea I’d only thought of once: “You know, with you wanting to lead a crafting class of some kind lately and me wanting to teach on God’s Word, it would be cool to do something like the Becoming Study ourselves.”

To my surprise, Tessa grinned. “Really? I was thinking the same thing!”

A light bulb went off. “There was this idea I had, about a book, but maybe it was actually for this…”

And Bloom Women’s Retreat was born.

Bloom Header

It was a crazy idea from the get-go, which only convinced me even more that it was from God. There was opposition from a lot of sides, not least of which was my own family trying to warn me of the very real possibility that no one would show up.

Which they were absolutely right about. It was a huge possibility.

But I knew that this idea was not of my own making, and it burned so strongly in my heart, I couldn’t let it go.

Even if just five women showed up–what if those were the five God wanted to reach?

There were many times Tessa and I lost faith and almost gave up on the whole thing. But every time we grew discouraged, God would send something or someone to show us we were on the right path.

Amazing things such as a Chaplain having a Word of Knowledge for me about the retreat, a dear friend volunteering to be Worship Leader for us after we’d given up on being able to afford one, and finding the perfect venue after our first choice fell through.

But all that wouldn’t matter if we didn’t have anyone to come.

Months earlier in the stages of planning, Tessa and I had both agreed that five women would be our minimum, fifteen maximum. It just wouldn’t make sense with any less than five because of the way we had structured it as well as the time and money we were pouring into the two-day retreat.

But with just a week out, we only had two women signed up.

As it ticked closer, Tessa and I both started to worry. Had this been a terrible idea? Had we missed God by so much? Was my family right?

The night of the registration deadline, I said a prayer. Lord, I believe that this idea came from you and that you can bring the women who need to hear this message even now. But we need at least five to be able to make this work. 

Lord, if this idea is from you and you still want us to do this retreat, please give us those five women before the weekend is through.

Before the weekend had even started, we had five women signed up that night.

But the external opposition couldn’t even compare to the internal battle going on as I thought about sharing my testimony for the first time.

How could I have been so stupid to think that I could do this? That I had anything worth saying to anybody and was ready for something like this?

The absolute vulnerability nearly had me shaking with fear. I was already panicking with stage fright, and I wasn’t even in the room yet! Knowing it was getting out of hand before we’d ever even started, I took a deep breath and envisioned myself holding up the shield of faith (Eph. 6:10-17) to stop the devil’s fiery darts of fear from hitting me.

God interrupted then and gave me His own vision: Me holding up that heavy shield of faith, but with His strong right hand cupped underneath my elbow, helping me hold up the shield of faith.

Immediately flooded with peace, I laughed.

I was not alone in this! How silly of me to think I was. Not even in having enough faith to see it all through. Even with that He was there to help me!

Nor was I doing any of it in my own strength. I didn’t even have enough strength to hold up “the shield of faith”! It was both a funny and encouraging vision as I realized the disconnect between how I was viewing things and how the Lord was. It all looked insurmountable to me, but to God, all He had to do was lend just a touch of His strength.

The day of came, and I found myself looking out at the faces of eleven precious women.

Women I was expected to lead when I’d never done anything like this before. My hand holding the mike began to shake– a warning sign of nerves I was very familiar with.

No. Not this time, Lizzie, I reprimanded myself, bringing my other hand up to cup the shaking elbow and grip it firmly. You’re fine.

Peace filled me once again and I spoke with a strength not of my own making as I talked about my favorite subject–the love of God and of how it can transform a life.

Only later did it occur to me: one hand rising up to cup the shaking elbow while the other held something else–it was the vision God had given me! Holding up the shield of faith with His strength underneath supporting me.

It had come to pass, and I knew it wasn’t actually myself who’d had the insight to grip the arm failing in strength and courage, but the Lord’s Himself.

The rest of the retreat was an absolute blast as together we worshiped, made crafts, and studied just what it means to be a woman who blooms where she is, as she is.

It was a day I’ll always remember, but then, I’ll just let the pictures do the talking!

Getting ready for Bloom that first day! From R to L: Tessa, Creative Director, me, speaker, Rebekah, Worship Leader, Erin, amazing friend, attendee, and helper. Dear friends to me, all, and I felt so blessed to be able to do this with them. Such beautiful, talented, and strong women of the Lord!

Getting ready for Bloom that first day! From L to R: Tessa, Creative Director; me, speaker; Rebekah, Worship Leader; Erin, amazing friend, attendee, and helper. Dear friends to me, all, and I felt so blessed to be able to do this with them. Such beautiful, talented, and strong women of the Lord! I couldn’t imagine anyone else I would have rather spent the day with.

Welcome to Bloom!

Welcome to Bloom!

Rebekah leading us in Worship with her beautiful voice. We were so blessed to have her!

Rebekah leading us in Worship. We were so blessed to have her!

Sharing my testimony and explaining The Bloom Board.

Sharing my testimony and explaining The Bloom Board. (Which I’ll explain here too later. 😉 )

Break time! Getting to know one another.

Break time! Getting to know one another…

...having fun...

…having fun…

...Having fun and taking selfies!

… and taking selfies!

Tessa leading us in our first craft! How to make wreaths with coffee filter flowers. So much fun!

Tessa leading us in our first craft! How to make wreaths with coffee filter flowers. So much fun!

Choosing ribbons for our wreaths at the hot glue gun station.

Choosing ribbons for our wreaths at the hot glue gun station.

The finished product!

The finished product!

The next day's crafts were necklaces and paintings, which everyone had a blast with!

The next day’s crafts were necklaces and paintings, which everyone had a blast with!

Busy workin'.

Busy workin’.

One of my necklaces. Our theme verse was Proverbs 31:25:

One of the necklaces I made. Our theme verse was Proverbs 31:25: “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”

The other necklace I was able to make through Tessa's awesome guidance!

The other necklace I was able to make through Tessa’s awesome guidance!

All of the Bloom women with their finished paintings! We each commented on how fun it was that we were all inspired by the same example, and yet, our paintings turned out so differently! But each of them were just as beautiful in their own way. Just like how God works with us!

All of the Bloom women from day two with their finished paintings! We each commented on how fun it was that we were all inspired by the same example, and yet, our paintings turned out so differently! But each of them were just as beautiful in their own way. Reminded me of how God works with us!

One of the most powerful moments at Bloom for me came with something we called The Bloom Board, which was basically a visual way of sharing testimonies.

One side was labeled “My Story,” while the other said “His Glory.” On the first day, women were encouraged to leave one word that either used to describe them or that they wanted to leave behind on the “My Story” side. The next day, they were then invited to leave a new word that described them now.

Bloom Board

Taking it all in when the days were finished… tears filled my eyes and all breath was stolen from me.

Each and every woman I met had been such a delight, such beautiful and amazing people. So to take in their words from the first day…

Things such as “ASHAMED”, “Used for one thing,” “Unworthy”… none of the women I’d met were deserving of these words, and how heartbreaking it was to realize they thought of themselves this way.

Stories

But what joy and what freedom the other side promised!

His Glory

I prayed it then, and I pray it now, that those women continue to live by the words they placed on the second side of that board, and not the first.

When we let Jesus into our lives, miracles happen. Lives are changed. People transformed.

So for whoever reads this today, I hope you know that the same can happen for you. That He is the God who redeems our stories, and that you?

You are His masterpiece. 

I thought I’d keep a good thing goin’, so if you feel like it, I’d love if you commented on this blog post with your own “Bloom Story”!

To get ya started, here’s mine:

My Story is that I was rejected.

His Glory is that I am loved.

Ask me about it sometime.

I’d love to tell you.

Group Photo

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Bloom (Part One)

Ugly. 

Invisible. 

Too sensitive. Too timid. Too everything. 

Reject. 

Joke. 

They were words that described me for far too long.

Looking out at the room full of women, I shared my testimony, or what I was calling “My Bloom Story.” Tears filled my eyes at God’s promises coming true, and thankfulness and joy welled up in me until I wanted to burst with praise.

But it wasn’t always that way. 

Before I was there, leading a room full of women in studying God’s Word and teaching about His love for them, I was in a hospital room with my dad.

Fallen on a sidewalk with a bleeding knee, and failing in my final year of college.

A grave site of a friend.

Sitting behind a group of people who’d left me out again, convinced nobody would even miss me if I were gone.

And finally, alone in the parking lot of a theater… wondering how I’d do it if I were going to.

They were dark, painful years, and it was a battle even my own family didn’t know about, with losses and victories no one was aware of.

I was enslaved in that dark depression, so fearful and ashamed to let anyone know I doubted God’s love or how deeply my self-hatred went.

But it was Jesus who met me in that hospital room when no one else would, and it was Jesus who bandaged my knee on that sidewalk, and it was Jesus who wrapped His arms around me one night as I lay on a living room floor and cried out, “God, hold me,” because the inner pain was so intense.

I just needed eyes to see.

This blog, while documenting my final days in Colorado, has also been about something much more…

It’s been about documenting God restoring my joy. 

For over a year now, God has been using plant analogies with me to help me understand my relationship with Him, and though I didn’t realize its significance at the time, even this blog ended up being named after a flower!

One of the analogies the Lord gave me that helped the most as I started off on this journey of healing was this:

“Just because a rose takes a while to bloom, does that make it any less of a rose?”

Before I could grow past the depression that held me captive, I first needed to understand the depth of God’s love and grace for me as is. That He saw me not as the broken person I saw myself as, but as the “rose” He inherently created me to be.

Until I was “…rooted and established in love,” (Eph. 3:10), I had no hope of stepping out into all that He had for me.

And He showed me that love, so relentlessly and faithfully until one day I realized: Jesus really did die on the cross, for me. 

And it changed my life. It saved my life.

One definition of “bloom” says this: “prosper or flourish: to reach the fullest stage of development or maturity.”

Though I don’t believe I have reached “the fullest stage” and won’t until I’m in heaven, because of Jesus’ death on the cross I now know another truth: “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree. They will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our GOD.” (Psalm 92:12-13.)

Against all odds, He has caused me to flourish, and I can tell you truthfully that I no longer struggle with suicidal thoughts. It would make your jaw hit the floor if I could tell you everything He’s done!

From having the courage to try new things and being able to laugh at my quirks, to re-discovering my love of creating, to re-discovering love at all through the course of this blog–the Lord Himself has “restored, confirmed, strengthened and established me,” (1 Pe. 5:9-11), and it is such a beautiful thing. There is so much cause for joy!

But I’m writing today because maybe you feel as I did. You might be as close to giving up as I was in the parking lot that day, wondering why you’re even here, and feeling just as invisible.

But dear heart, trust me, hear me–you are not invisible to the Lord of all the earth. Your name is written on the very palm of His hand, the Bible says, He numbers every hair on your head, and He died for you because He loved you. He died to set you free.

If you feel undeserving, if you want to believe that but aren’t sure you can–good! You’re on the right path.

And I understand. I was there too.

But it’s so important that you get it. It’s imperative you don’t miss it:

Grace? Grace is for the undeserving.

Grace is for the broken, and the sinful, and the doubting.

Grace is for people just like me and you, because people who don’t deserve grace are the only kind that exist.

Grace is a gift.

But like any gift, it has to be accepted first to be able to do you any good. 

If anything I said rings true for you today, then this is my prayer for you:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:16-19.) 

Let your new life start here, today. May you experience joy and freedom as you have never known.

And as you go through this life, my greatest prayer for you is this:

May you do more than just survive.

May you bloom.