Exactly 2 hours after my math midterm, I was in Pastor Will’s car with 5 other people on the way to Lake Tahoe for my first fall retreat. I had no expectations for this retreat. I just wanted a weekend where I didn’t have to study. I just wanted a weekend to rest.
The drive from Davis to Lake Tahoe passes through my hometown in Sacramento. It was the first time I was home since I moved in, even though we were just driving through. Exhibit A was the exit to my high school. Exhibit B was Capital Christian, the church my parents and mentor go to. Exhibit C was the church I grew up in. Exhibit D was my neighborhood and the creek behind it that ends on the highway. Exhibit E was the Taco Bell I worked at over the summer, and Exhibit F was the exit to go to Jesus Culture.
“I still can’t believe we met there,” Will told me, after we passed Jesus Culture.
“I can’t either. Will, your leaders are amazing. I’ve never felt this well surrounded in my life,” I told him.
“I’m so glad to hear that,” he said. We sang worship songs the whole ride down, sharing stories and simply getting to know each other better. But it was super ironic that all the worship songs we sang were about finding our self-worth in Jesus.
We arrived at the camp around 9p.m. Worship had just ended and we found seats in the room. Jeremy, the speaker, began sharing about comparison, self-worth, identity, and freedom. Okay, this is even more ironic.
After he spoke, he opened up the room for people to get prayer. Leaders came up in the front to pray with people. I sat there, anxious and convicted, wanting to go up but not sure if I was supposed to.
“You look like you want to go up,” Johnathon, a guy from my small group tells me. He was sitting next to me the whole car ride and was sitting with me then.
“Yeah. I don’t know.”
“Well so like I was having super bad allergies and I just prayed right now and they went away. So like, you don’t have to go up there to receive from God. But at the same time, if you feel like you need to go up there, you should. I don’t know. You can’t lose either way,” he said.
“Hmm,” I said. My heart was so heavy. When I had called Michela during my breakdown on Wednesday, she had me declare out loud so much truth over myself that I didn’t actually believe. I felt like I was still walking in bondage and wasn’t completely set free.
“I’m going,” I said, giving in. I walked up to the front. Paige, one of the Bethel Students, smiled and greeted me with a hug. I told her about my week of striving, my breakdown, and all the lies I had been believing about myself. She took my hands in hers and prayed for me.
“Do you have panic attacks a lot?” She asked me.
“Kind of. I’ve definitely learned to manage them, but they still happen.”
“Hmm. What does it look like to surrender to you?” She asked me.
“You shouldn’t have to try. You fall in love with Jesus and it just happens,” I said.
“Yeah. Getting set free is like that too. Don’t think you need to do a billion things in order to get set free. He’s already set you free. You just have to receive it.”
She starts praying again. “God, I pray for you to reveal the moment when anxiety entered Lea’s life…”
“Mmm.” She looked up. “Can you think of something?”
“I know exactly when anxiety entered my life. I was in middle school. I was failing test after test after test. And then in high school, I found so much healing. I’ve had breakthrough in this area of my life before, but the thoughts came back.”
“Hmm. Well, Lea, it sounds like you aren’t that far. You already know when anxiety entered your life. You’ve already been letting people in your struggle. You’re on the right track.”
“I guess I’ve lived with it my whole life so I don’t believe I deserve to live without that weight on my shoulders,” I said, tears stinging my eyes.
She shook her head and smiled. “That’s a lie.”
She hugged me again. “Your healing is right here. You just have to reach out and grab it.”
How do you reach out and grab healing? I thought. It’s not an object. I can’t hold it. Yeah, I really don’t get this at all.
Saturday morning I found myself in a room next to all my friends with a bunch of Bethel students in the front of the room giving words to people. It was like a literal recreation of my first day at Jesus Culture.
“I’m so scared right now,” I told my friend, Kallista, who was sitting next to me. She squeezed my hand and said everything would be fine. There was an anticipation in my heart, as I knew how broken I had been the last few days. The light was about to be let in. And I was terrified.
I held my breath as people I loved all around the room received extremely powerful words. We stretched out our hands and prayed over everyone.
The students took turns giving out words. Then, a guy named Stephen came up.
“Is there a Preston in the room?” he asked. A huge “wooahhh,” erupted all around the room. Everybody knew Preston. He was one of the coolest leaders ever. He stood up and received an extremely powerful word about how his whole family would come to Christ because of Him. Everyone surrounded him and prayed that word over him. When we finished praying, we all clapped and hollered for Him.
“Okay, I have one more,” He said. He took a deep breath.
“Is there a Lea in the room?”
A chorus of “whats,” “dangs,” and even more “woahs,” erupted once again. Oh crap. He got my name. I stood up, not surprised.
“Do you sing by any chance?” He asked. Another huge chorus erupts. My friends all yelled, “Yes she does!”
“Sort-of. One time these people had me sing and I thought it was a disaster but they thought it was great,” I said. The room started laughing.
“So yes,” he said. All my friends nodded.
“Okay so this is kind of a heavy word. Who are your closest friends?”
I looked around me. “They’re all right here,” I said, eyeing the people in my small group sitting with me.
“Okay, can I just have you guys surround her and lay your hands on her while she receives this?”
They all surrounded me. I started freaking out even more.
“I think God wants you to know that when you sing, your voice can break off thoughts of suicide and depression,” He stated.
“But more than that,” he continued, “You have the authority in your voice to break off all the lies you believe about yourself.”
After last week’s breakdown, that had been such a huge theme in my life. I was completely shook. Tears began to fall down my cheeks and my friends held me even tighter.
“Can we pray that over you?” He asked. I nodded. They all started praying. Michela came over to where I was and took my free hand. I held it tightly. I looked straight into her eyes with tears all over my face. She was with me in yet another vulnerable moment. There were arms all around me, and my tears became more and more uncontrollable.
“Wait there is so much more in this moment!” Another Bethel student says. “Right now, if there is anyone who has been struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, I’m going to ask you to be brave and stand up right now.”
More people stood. And more people surrounded the other people that stood. Everyone was crying and praying so passionately. We were all begging heaven to come down.
Music started to play. People kept praying fiercely. There are whispers all around the room. Kallista, on my left, has declarations flying out of her mouth. “Thank you God! I had been praying for Lea to get healed today. No more starving God. No more striving. She is now free!”
From behind me, I hear, “She lights up every room she walks in. She has a purpose that is so unique to her. Thank you for who Lea is.”
“Mmmm. Yes God!”
Madeline came up in front of me and added her hand to the pile.
“God, I know this gift is a heavy one to carry, but your burden is light God. I pray for no more lies, God. She is healed. We pray for your peace to come. She is set free. Thank you that you have set her free.”
“I pray for a fresh baptism of the holy spirit over her God! Come and fill her up. We want more of you God,” Lindsey proclaimed.
“Lea, I think that if you are going to get tongues, today is the day.”
And we kept praying, and praying, and praying. I opened my hands to receive, crying, not sure how to receive anything, not sure if I really believed I was set free.
“I don’t know how to receive it!” I told Lindsey through my tears.
“You might not get it right now, but you are definitely going to get it later,” she said.
2 of my friends, Kellie and Tristan had come up that morning. I turned around and Kellie embraced me, tight.
“You missed it,” I said, crying like crazy.
“Girl, we missed nothing,” she said, smiling.
Afterwards they started calling out physical conditions, saying that there was an anointing in the room for healing.
“I feel like there is anointing in the room for people with chronic headaches. If that’s you, can you raise your hand?”
My friend Emily raised her hand. We started praying over her. The second we lifted our hands off her head, she opened her eyes extremely shocked.
“The pain is gone,” she said. She started crying. “I’ve been having headaches on and off forever.”
The girl in front of me, Svetlana, had a hand injury. We declared healing over her, and it was completely gone.
My friend Xylia had numbness in her hands and couldn’t pick up anything with her fingers. We prayed for her and she was able to pick up a chair afterwards.
And we kept crying, and praying, and crying even more. Healing exploded around the room. People raised their hands as they received it.
“Can we celebrate what God is doing in this room right now?” One of the students proclaimed. We all started cheering. The worship band began to play again.
I couldn’t stop crying. He knew my name. And he knew that I sang. And he knew that I was struggling to break these lies off of myself.
I had been fighting God all week, and when you play that game, God fights for you back. He chases you down. And He called me out today, because he knew that was what it would take for me to come back to Him. I was full of awe and wonder. I had been expecting to get called out, but not in this way.
How did he know my name?
We decompressed for an hour or so from crying so much and then went to a prophecy and evangelism workshop. The Bethel students answered questions about words of knowledge and how to give them, and then led us into an exercise.
“I want you guys to just listen and hear what God is trying to say right now. When you come up with something, I want you to write it down. Afterwards, we’re going to have you walk around and see who you’re supposed to give that word to.”
I soaked into my thoughts. The thing that kept coming up was, Your thoughts define me, not my own. We listened for about 10 minutes, pressing into the voice of God.
“Alright does everyone have something?”
We all nodded.
“Okay stand up,” he said. We rose to our feet.
We all nodded.
“Psych. The word is actually for you.”
Clamor erupts. Everything made sense now.
The word was totally for me. I couldn’t believe it.
After the workshop, we went to the lake. The whole car ride was spent belting out worship music and taking in how beautiful Lake Tahoe was. We hiked down the hill as fast as we could because there was a bathroom at the bottom and my beautiful friend Ysabel really had to pee.
When we got back to the camp, we had dinner and our last session for the night. The worship team began to play “Deep Cries Out.” They invited us to come from our seats to the front.
“You wanna go?” I asked my friend, Dorothy.
“Let’s do it,” she said. I took her hand and we made our way to the front.
We all started jumping up and down, clapping, dancing, and singing from the top of our lungs. Deep cries out, Deep cries out to you. We cry out, we cry out to you… The hardwood floor was shaking so much I was scared we would all fall through. We danced to the left when the song said go to the left and danced to the right when the song said go to the right. We cheered like crazy when the song said to shout in the river, and jumped even higher when the song said to jump in the river.
We’re falling into deeper waters calling out to you
We’re falling into deeper waters going after you…
Deep Cries Out was the classic youth group song that everyone knew. We stirred up deep-deep wells and waters in our imaginary cauldrons because God’s fountain never runs dry. And we were all dancing, singing, with our hands lifted, laughing, as there was so much joy in the room. We were sweating and completely out of breath by the time the song ended, panting as we cheered even more. Those were the best moments— when all you can possibly think about is how much joy there is in the journey of falling deeper and deeper in love with Jesus.
After that, they played “Oceans” and “You Make Me Brave.” Both of those songs highlight allowing God to lead you into the unknown and trusting Him through the process. I thought about the word Ysabel gave me 2 weeks ago. God just wants you to know that you don’t have to keep fighting the waters by yourself. He wants you to let Him in the boat with you.
I put my arm around Ysabel. And we both stood there, one arm around the other, with the other hand lifted towards the ceiling. The water isn’t scary, but it’s His fresh water pouring a new spirit and new life into you.
God, I prayed. You’ve called me out into the waves. These are the waves. They are all around me every day. I am terrified of them.
And I kept declaring these words over and over myself: But you make me brave. You make me brave. And you’re the only one who can make me brave.
Jeremy, our speaker, kept going on and on about our self worth through Him. He gave us time to receive from the Lord directly after worship, inviting us to take off whatever we had been needing to take off and detach ourselves from whatever lies we had been believing that didn’t belong anymore. He claimed that God wanted to set us free tonight, if we would just let Him in.
When I got that word in the morning, I was having such a hard time receiving it. Everyone had declared so much truth over me the whole day, but I hadn’t had a chance to declare it for myself. There was a heaviness on my heart as I began to pray.
Something compelled me to go up to the altar. They were singing, “What a Beautiful Name.” I allowed myself to fall on my knees and I lifted my hands and sang.
What a powerful name it is
What a powerful name it is
The name of Jesus Christ my king…
Do I really believe it? I asked myself. I pressed in further. Do I believe that His name can set me free from all the lies I’ve been believing about myself? Do I believe He can set me free from anxiety and depression? Do I believe that’s what He wants for me?
I remembered that the power our thoughts have over us is only the power that we give them.
“I think a lot of us have been doing the devil’s job for him for so long. We have been being so hard on ourselves. He doesn’t even have to try to tear us apart, because we’ve been the ones feeding ourselves all these lies,” Jeremy had said. “I think it’s time we make the devil have to work a little harder. I think it’s time we stop doing his job for us.”
I nodded in my head, still on my knees, and began to pray.
“God, I detach myself from all the lies I’ve been believing about myself. They have no power over me anymore. Who the son sets free is free indeed. And you have set me free. I just want to walk in that freedom from here on out,” I heard myself say. I looked up. It was finished. The battle had already been won.
I stood to my feet and sang:
I hear those chains falling
I hear those chains falling
I hear those chains falling
You break every chain, break every chain, break every chain…
“I believe there is so much more for each one of you who is seeking more of Him tonight,” he said as the music slowed down.
“If you are wanting a fresh touch from Jesus, I’m going to have you come up here.” He pointed to his right.
“But if you aren’t sure exactly what you need tonight, but you just want prayer, I’m going to have you come over here.” He pointed to his left.
“I just want you guys to have some time to really talk to Jesus tonight,” he said.
He let us go wherever we needed to. People came up to the altar and knelt. Other people stayed in their seats and prayed. People all around we’re giving and getting words for one another. I went to the right side of the stage and began to pray.
A thought popped into my head. Tongues. I had been praying for it forever. To me, the scripture was evident that God wanted to give gifts to His children. I felt like there was finally room in my heart to receive it after detaching myself from all those lies. I open my hands to receive, and began praying for it. A Bethel student prayed for a fresh baptism of the Holy Spirit to fall down on me. Nothing happened. I kept praying, and praying. Maybe I’m trying too hard. Getting tongues is supposed to be super childlike.
The guy behind me started speaking in tongues. Dude, that’s not cool. I turned around and poked him. He was having this amazing spiritual moment with God and didn’t budge. I poked him again. It’s only now that I’m writing this that I hope I didn’t screw up his spiritual moment.
“Hey. That tongues thing. I want that,” I said.
“Do you really? Okay,” he said. He placed a hand on my shoulder and began praying for the spirit to come down. Nothing happened.
He encouraged me and then kept going.
“We pray for fire, God! Come down and fill her up. My sister in Christ is asking for more of you.” The girl in front of me started speaking in tongues. Okay, seriously this is not cool. The girl can’t stop laughing because she’s so full of joy. She turned around and they both started praying for me in tongues.
Vowels begin to form in my head. I tried to speak them. I was scared it wasn’t it. I spit them out anyways. They both started laughing and they kept praying. I do it again, and then again. Then it just started pouring out of me.
“Holy crap!” I exclaimed. I took a step back. They both looked up, laughing.
“Wow, I’ve never witnessed someone get tongues before. This is actually so cool,” the guy said.
“That’s it. I got it!” I exclaimed. The slur of vowels was on the tip of my tongue. It was the weirdest thing ever.
I ran to the back of the room and found Lindsey.
“Lindsey! I got it!” She lights up.
“Lea I knew you were going to get it today! I’m so proud of you and so darn happy for you! I had been praying for you to get it since you told me you wanted it.” She said, embracing me.
I told Pastor Will I got it because when he drove me up here I had told him I wanted it. I texted my mentors back at home that I got it. I even freaked out my parents and told them I got it. I had been praying for it since the summer. I think it was already there. Tongues are just a physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit. I just had to receive it.
There’s no check list to getting set free. It’s not about the things we need to do in order for it to happen. No. God does all the heavy lifting. All we have to do is just be.
I call this weekend the weekend I got set free. But I already was set free. I just fell deeper and deeper into that freedom, and deeper and deeper into that healing. And I still am.
The following day we shared testimonies. I cried again hearing what so many people had gone through. After I shared, Will asked me to sing. I sang “Defender” and then ran off the stage (watch the video haha). After that, I got to pray for a leader, Chelsea, to receive tongues because she had been wanting it for a while. She got to be the first person to hear what my tongue sounded like, and that was pretty cool.
In the parking lot I ran into Kellie. We were loading our stuff to head back to UC Davis. I embraced her.
“I’m so proud of you,” I told her. She had shared some deep stuff that morning.
“Thank you. Lea! I’m so happy for you. I feel like before you were in a really weak spot, coming to me and Tristan to rant and having a really hard time. And now you are singing to the congregation, praying in tongues over people, and I can just tell you are so much lighter.”
“Thank you,” I said, taking her hands in mine.
“Just don’t forget. If those thoughts come back or you have a slip up, run straight back to us. Everything that happened this weekend was real. If you do have a slip up, it’s just because you’re human. That is perfectly okay.”
“I really walked into college thinking I had these things figured out and then they hit me so hard,” I told her, laughing.
“Haha, don’t we all though?”
My weekend demonstrated exactly what reaching out and grabbing healing looks like. It just means trusting God will make it happen. Trusting that God sees you. Trusting that He knows what your soul so deeply needs. I didn’t do anything this weekend to make any of these breakthroughs happen. They just did. And these are just the breakthroughs that happened to me. If I included all of my friends’ breakthroughs in here I would have to write a book.
But also breakthrough doesn’t just happen in one weekend and then end there. Breakthrough is a piece of the journey. There is always still more healing to discover and more freedom to walk in. I just want to encourage you guys and say that you don’t have to be in a fancy room with lights to receive from God. You just have to come to Him, where you are. Let Him do the heavy lifting today. And please remember that you are just so, so loved.
Thank you so much for reading this. I love you guys so soo much. 💗 Please leave any questions you have for me down below! 🙂