The Weekend I Got Set Free

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.

“Everybody ready?”

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.

My small group 🙂

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! 🙂

Michela, my small group leader 💗
Ysabel, Moa, and Emily
another pic of my small group 💗

Lindsey 💗signiature
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Charlotte.

A homeless woman in a wheelchair entered the fast-food place I work at. She was skinny, and used her feet to push herself around. My co-worker Tristin saw her and he walked around to the front of the cashier. He bent down to hear her speak, and she ordered some food in a raspy, quiet voice. He took her order, and she then held out a small, crumpled handful of dollar bills— the only ones she had. The 21-year old manager entered the food into the monitor, added some huge percentage of a discount, and then went back on to the line to make her food.

I saw he didn’t put a drink on the monitor, but she asked me for one.

“Can I just give her a cup?” I asked him. He nodded.

She started talking again, but I couldn’t hear her so I bent down to her. She asked me to fill the cup with ice, and then Dr. Pepper. I did what I was told, put the straw in for her, and then handed her the drink.

“Thank you,” she said, quietly.

Tristen brought out her food, and she thanked us profusely. He opened the door for her as she left, and then he went back inside. I followed her outside where one of my other co-workers was chilling, and she made eye contact with me.

“Can you hand me my signs?” She asked.

I looked over next to the bushes in front of the store and saw two cardboard signs. One of them was blank, the other said, “hungry, anything helps.” I handed them both to her. She asked me to hold her food while she organized her stuff, and then she thanked me again and used her feet to push her down the ramp.

A rush came over me because I’ve been hanging out at Jesus Culture too much. I got this gut feeling that I needed to pray for her. I walked back inside the store. Something screamed at me inside to go back, to ask her what her name was. I see a car pull through the parking lot. I run to the back of the store.

“Can you take my headset for a minute?” I asked him.

“Yeah,” he said, confused. He put my headset on and took the next order. I ran through the back door, down the ramp past the parking lot until I caught up with her.

“Wait!” I exclaimed. She turned around.

“What’s your name?” I asked her.

“Charla.”

“Can I pray for you?”

“Yes.” I pushed her wheelchair off the street back onto the sidewalk, and then I laid a hand on her.

“Dear God,” I start. I was nervous. I didn’t know how everyone at my church did this. What if it didn’t work?

“I declare Charla’s body to be healed on earth as it is in heaven. I pray you would heal her, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I pray that you would help her to know that she is loved and that you care for her deeply. I pray that you would show her how much you love her, and that she would know how much you want to heal her. Amen.”

“That was so sweet. Thank you,” she said.

“Did it… work?” I asked, shaking.

“Not yet.”

“Can I try again?” I said.

She looked at me, content, and said, “Honey, healing takes time. Miracles take time. It’s okay. Thank you.”

I wanted to cry. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to cry more because she didn’t get healed, or if it was because I was questioning whether miracles did take time or not. I’ve seen people get healed right before my eyes. I believe in instantaneous healing and crazy miracles. God do you see her? Do you actually see what she is going through? Are these the plans you have for her that are supposed to be good?

But at the same time, what a journey it is: this thing called healing. It doesn’t end. These things that happen to us may shape us into who we are, but they don’t make us broken or worth any less. Maybe we will always have scars, and the past doesn’t disappear. But those things don’t define us. She was not worth any less.

And I wasn’t either.

Today, I saw beauty in the broken. I found empathy for the needy. And I found humility in my privilege. I embraced her and then walked back into the store. I’ve been trying to figure out the balance of praying for healing while also finding ways to be grateful in the process. Maybe healing wasn’t so black and white. Maybe sometimes God heals us in an instant, but other times it’s a journey. Maybe both situations were equally beautiful in their own ways. Maybe healing could look different for everyone. She understood. I walked back into the store, where Tristin gave me my headset back and I resumed cashing out orders.

“Her name was Charlotte,” I told him.

On to the Next Chapter

Dear old self,

You’re going to spend your entire senior year wishing high school will end. It does end, I promise. And when it does, you will realize how lucky you are and will wish you could hold on a little tighter.

Your entire senior year will not go as planned. Your 3 academic classes + a dance class at the community college plan will get wrecked the day you get your schedule at orientation and  realize Calc BC is 5th and only 5th period. You will not get to leave school at 11:45 a.m every single day. Your senior year will not be the relaxing and easy experience you want it to be. You will have to add two classes to fill the holes in your schedule: Anatomy and Physiology and a T.A period. You will cry about it. But you will understand why your plan didn’t work out when you meet the teacher you T.A for.

The amount of papers you have to grade at first will overwhelm you and you will wonder what you have gotten yourself into. But you will get so good at grading, and the time you spend grading and watching her teach with that passion in her eyes will be time you spend slowly healing from a past of struggling in school. You will find out that the teacher you T.A for is an extremely strong Christian and goes to the same church as your parents. Don’t be afraid to open up to her. You will find yourself at her door, debating whether or not you want her to see you crying after getting a C on a calculus test. Choosing to go in will be the best decision you ever make. God will do miracles in your life through her. The second she opens up to you about her faith, you will both become incredibly open with one another. She will give you her number though she’s seriously not supposed to. She will read your blog posts, send you off with a hug before your calculus tests, and be the first person you tell when breakthrough happens to you in and out of school. She will become your go-to mentor for this season, and you will spend many days after school talking about God, faith, and life. You will fall in love with her seven-year old daughter and will meet her at both her church and your own. She will trust you with a lot more than grading. You will learn that vulnerability is the best way to combat shame through your relationship with her. After graduating, you will realize that God knew you needed her more than you needed that dance class you wanted to take by a long shot.

Switching churches will bless you more than you can imagine. Right now you feel a tug on your heart to step out in faith and go to Jesus Culture, but you’re afraid of leaving the church you grew up in behind. Take that chance. The timing of you ending up at that church will be so incredibly perfect. The amount of healing and restoration that will take place in your life will be unfathomable. When you graduate, you will look around at the people who came and realize that they’re all from Jesus Culture, and you will be affirmed for the millionth time about how good God is.

Second semester, your friend Tori will diagnose you with Senioritis and you will fall into the trap of wishing life is easy. You will start to live with your hands held over your head, trying to defend yourself from a life of pain. You will be miserable for a good 2 months, and will document the entire journey of misery on your blog. It will get so bad you will check in with your therapist, who will casually remind you of everything you already know. Her words about choosing to live as either a victim to what you go through or a survivor will only click when you get your first pair of pointe shoes in ballet and find yourself so excited to embark on a journey that will make your feet hurt like crazy. Those shoes will remind you that there is beauty in the unknown, that nothing worth doing is ever easy, and that trying to live an easy life is no way to be happy. You will realize that saying yes to the beauty in the good and bad seasons of life will give you your joy back. Your dance teacher, Carolyn, will continue to inspire you to be present and fight the mental battle of saying no to negative thoughts and finding the good in everything. Shortly after you realize this, you will find out you got into every college you applied to.

God will keep prompting you to choose him in the wilderness rather than your way and your close-minded perspective of what you think is best for you. All your plans for going to an easy college will get wrecked. You will end up choosing God in the wilderness, UC Davis, after LeeAnn Danielson, Moriah’s parents, these two doctors from Jesus Culture, and some people who read your blog knock some sense into you. You will have to hear the words, “fear is a liar” 12502821 times before you actually listen. There will be a point if you wonder if what is in front of you is all God has for you. It’s not. It’s not because one of the options in front of you has a lot more opportunities than your fear is allowing you to see.

You will burst into tears after the first dance of your last dance recital. Your tears will be caused by a mixture of choking during the dance, the fact that you are leaving, and the fact that regardless of how much you grow, the devil will still try to tear you apart by telling you that you aren’t good enough if you just mess up all the time. You will realize that the show always goes on in that moment, and you will once again have to accept being flawed and fallible for the millionth time in your life. You will remember the panic attack you had in dance last summer that led you to keep dancing after you sent Carolyn that blog post, and will start crying even more thinking about the college essay you wrote about dance. You will realize then that the whole time you were taking dance classes you were simultaneously learning what grace is through your teachers who never yelled at you for messing up or missing so much class, but always wanted you to learn and be present. You will understand that your breakdowns allow you to be all the more close to God because they allow you to experience His grace. One of the dance teachers will find you and clean the makeup off your face, and then you will finally get up and be able to dance the rest of the show surrendered.

You will deliver letters to a handful of people that made a difference in your life and will get to read those letters to them. Your counselor will tell you she is going to keep your letter forever and ever, and that it reminded her of when you read your college essay to her when you had just met. You will see tears in your dance teacher Carolyn’s eyes after reading her letter sitting on the stage of the church sanctuary and she will tell you that your letter was what she really needed to hear because grace was such a huge theme in her life for this season. You will want to cry when you open Carolyn’s card and find a UC Davis gift card in it, because she went there too and literally watched you grow up. You will remember she was the person you went to when you had a crazy meltdown at church and that she was the person who guided you to take a year off of dance and youth group junior year. She was with you when you bought your first pair of pointe shoes with your own money— witnessing one of the first big adulting moments of your life. She was the person who sent you so many encouraging texts all the time and always checked in with you to make sure you were alive when you were missing so many days of class, and was always a text away if you needed prayer. You will hug her and tell her you will never stop dancing. She will be more excited for you than you are, and she will tell you that you’re definitely supposed to be at Davis.

Your English teacher from freshman year will be shocked that you actually remembered that piece of advice he gave: that maybe the next time you have a hard decision to make, you should choose what would make the best story rather than what seems the most right. Your story will inspire people in ways you never thought it would. You will realize that anxiety, inner conflicts, emotions, and meltdowns— all the things you don’t like about yourself—make for good stories. You will realize how that is the most beautiful thing in the world when you make it and can see your whole story of high school.

Your graduation will fall on an extremely hot day. You’re going to be burning in the sun so badly that you will just want to get out of there, and because of that you won’t cry at your graduation. This is a good thing, because it will allow you to actually get some good pictures. The celebration afterwards with your friends and family however will be absolutely perfect.

Lastly, I would apologize for the fact that nothing will go as you planned, except now that I’m on the other side I can acknowledge that your plans really suck compared to what God has in store for you.

So, old self, hold on to senior year but don’t be afraid of it ending. Count your blessings every day. You don’t deserve the teachers and mentors in your life at all. But know that when high school ends, it is really just the beginning. It is a new chapter in your story.

~

Since I’ve been writing lots of letters to people, I thought it would be interesting to sit down and write one to myself.

At senior checkout, I went to my counselor, Mrs. Greene for one of my last signatures. All of the counselors were sitting together.

“Lea!” She exclaimed, with a smile.

“Is this real?” I asked, handing her my form.

All the counselors started laughing.

“No it’s not,” I said.

My counselor from freshman and sophomore year, Mrs. Wilson, looked straight into my eyes with a soft smile and said, “I couldn’t tell if you were going to start laughing or crying, because you do a lot of both.”

I used to really hate that about myself. I keep getting thoughts that I’m too emotional to survive UC Davis.

But then I thought about the story those emotions make. They make for higher highs and lower lows. God created them, and they’re beautiful.

I smiled. “That’s so true,” I said, nodding. “And I am finally okay with that.”

With that, I took my paper to the vice principal, and he officially signed me out of Rio Americano High School.

~

Epilogue

During service last week I really had to pee, so I got up to use the bathroom. When I walked out, I saw a guy wearing a UC Davis shirt. I felt a sudden inclination to talk to him.

“Is that a UC Davis shirt?”

“Yeah!”

“Really? I’m going there next year!”

“Really?” He smiles.

“Hi, I’m Will. I’m the pastor of campus ministries at UC Davis.”

Wait. WHAT?!

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah! We do a worship service and a message every Tuesday night in the social science building,” he said, casually.

“This is my wife, Jenny. We lead it together.”

Jenny smiles and stretches her hand out to me.

“And these are our kids!” A bunch of happy kids wave at me.

“Wait, this is crazy,” I said.

“God is in love with you,” Jenny said.

I’m shook.

“Do you guys commute here from Davis?” I asked. If they commute here from Davis, maybe I could still attend my current church when I’m there by hitching with them.

“No, actually this is our third time here,” he said.

“Probably for you,” Jenny said.

“Probably just because we were supposed to meet you,” he repeated.

He gave me his number and texted me all the information about their ministry.

I had been praying for this.

“Can we pray for you before we go?” They asked.

“Of course!” I replied.

When they finished praying, I embraced both Jenny and Will.

“Thank you so much,” I said, still shook.

“We’ll see you on campus,” they said, beaming.

~

God Of Miracles

Almost exactly one year ago, my skin condition had its worst flare up. I’m going to leave the before and after images at the end of this post, so I’ve warned you. I’ve been meaning to post this for kind of a while but I figured now was the perfect time as we are beginning a new year and I want to go into this year praying for a lot more miracles. This was by far a huge highlight of 2017 for me. You can read more about me wrestling with the whys and hows of supernatural healing here.

Long story short, I was injected with a potent steroid. It cleared my skin, and then a month later my eczema came back with a vengeance. I was afraid of trying any of the other steroids my doctors wanted to give me after that. So, I tried every diet on the internet. I read every article about eczema. It seemed like everything that seemed to work for other people, like coconut oil and going vegan didn’t work for me. We could go on and on talking about the treatments for eczema and debating the pros and cons of steroid creams and everything I tried that didn’t work.

But underneath it all lied the real disease: I didn’t believe I could get better. I believed that God wished eczema on me to teach me something or keep me humble for whatever reason. This isn’t a story about magically finding a cure for eczema, but realizing that I was worth it. That God loved me enough to want to heal me.

~

Tuesday, July 25th

Sunday. Sunday was an insane day. It was insane, and long, and powerful.

The leaders were sharing testimonies about supernatural healing. They were crazy. But Brittany’s really struck me. She used to have lupus. She was in and out of Bethel prayer rooms until one day her dad had a dream that someone stole 50 bucks from him at an airport. He was able to get 30 dollars back. When he woke up, he heard God tell him, “It is finished. Take her back to the doctor’s to run the tests.” So they did, and lupus was gone from her system.

But what about the other 20 dollars? Brit was saying that she still struggles with autoimmune diseases every day. She said she gets so frustrated with them sometimes that she will bang her fists on her steering wheel. However, she believes that God healed her before, and will heal her again.

Afterwards, I went up to her and was like, “Hey, I have an autoimmune disease too!”

“Really? Which one?”

“Eczema.”

“I used to have that one too!”

“Really?”

“Yeah, God healed me.” I nodded, slowly.

“Where do you have it?” She asked me.

“Like everywhere.” She couldn’t see it, until I pointed it out.

“Oh yeah, that’s eczema. Does it make you insecure?”

“Of course.”

“No, I get it.” She looked at me straight in the eye, and I could feel her empathy.

“Well, can I pray for you?” She asked.

In the next instant, she had her arms around me. She prayed in a way I’d never thought to pray before. She approached God with such confidence, saying things like, “A thousand years ago you paid the price so we wouldn’t have to live with sickness anymore,” and commanded God to heal me.

At this point, I was crying.

“We are going to keep praying for you until the eczema is gone.”

“I just, I just don’t know if I believe it.”

“Well, you have my number. So whenever you’re having a hard time believing it, just text me.”

“That’s why I asked about Paul’s thorn. I’ve always believed it was something I needed to accept and learn to deal with.”

“No, I guarantee you, God doesn’t want you to have eczema.”

And I wanted to ask her how she knew, but I knew the answer. Because atonement. Because God doesn’t intentionally inflict pain on us. Because people who told me he did for a greater good were wrong. No, it pains Him deeply to watch me suffer. And I wanted to ask her why it hadn’t happened yet, but I knew the answer to that too. I never in my life prayed expecting God to heal me. I always prayed for the strength to live with something I was never supposed to live with.

I had only scratched the surface. I left youth group that day with so many questions. I tried to believe that God healed Brit of lupus and would definitely heal me. Except Lisa Bevere said, “You will never know God’s will for your life by looking at someone else’s.”

After church, we went to a pool party at my friend’s grandparents’ house. I wasn’t supposed to swim because of my skin condition, but I did anyways.

My friend’s grandma, Leslie, made me a smoothie because I was the “gluten free, dairy free” girl. We ended up talking a little bit.

“How long have you been going to Jesus Culture?” She asked me.

“Like a month.”

“No way.”

And we talked about churches and leading worship and how JC challenges us. Leslie went to a church close to where I live. Small world.

It was time to go back for the Healing Night of Worship. I saw Leslie walking down the hill.

“Leslie!” I said. She embraced me.

“My gosh. You are such a sweetheart. Dry skin and food intolerances, Jesus paid the price all those years ago so you wouldn’t have to live with them.”

She embraced me again, and said, “God will heal you and make you whole again.”

She took my hands in hers.

“I hope so,” I breathed.

“Hope? I think he already has healed you. So I’m expecting to hear a good report when I see you again.”

Kelly, her daughter/my driver walked by.

“Kelly, I think I’m going to take this one and keep her,” she said.

“I don’t mind,” I said, laughing.

A thousand double chin snap-chats from the car ride later, we arrived at the worship night. Matt Brock from Elevation was leading it and they had reserved us seats.

We sang,

Walking around these walls

I thought by now they’d fall

But you have never failed me yet.

I’ve seen you move

You move the mountains

And I believe

I’ll see you do it again

You made a way

Where there was no way

And I believe

I’ll see you do it again…

And we sang

A miracle can happen now

for the spirit of the Lord is here…

Leaders came onto the stage. They were naming conditions, asking people to stand if they had them. When they said, “auto-immune diseases,” I stood. It was interesting standing, as all of these people saw me so happy today but had no idea what I was really going through. Across the auditorium, I saw Brit standing.

As they kept listing things, more and more people stood. It was comforting in itself, as we were all believers, struggling, hoping for the same thing.

Matt Brock even listed mental illnesses. “Bi-polar disorder runs in my family,” he said, “but it doesn’t exist in the kingdom of heaven.” Cheers erupted in the audience through every illness he commanded the Holy Spirit to have power over.

Then, people around me were praying for me. Healing exploded all around the room. The girl sitting 2 seats from me did not have scoliosis anymore. People’s pain disappeared. But my skin remained the same.

So they kept praying, and praying. “Now is the time to check things. Move around and see if you are healed,” he said.

“It’s still there,” I told my friend, Anna.

“Sometimes it doesn’t happen immediately,” Anna said. And they prayed again.

“Lea I got chills all down my spine praying for you,” she said.

It was a powerful night. I was finally starting to believe the lyrics on the screen when we sang them in closing.

I almost laughed the next morning when I woke up and still had eczema. But it didn’t bother me. God would heal me. I didn’t know how, or why, or when, but I knew he would.

~

2 worship nights later, my eczema was under control. I am in no way completely healed, but I can say that I eat whatever I want now, and that is still a miracle.

On the far right of this screen shot is my mentor LeeAnn and her baby, and next to her is me. It was a week after this worship night that I was wondering why my skin looked so good, and then realized I probably got healed.

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Some good things that have come from this: It made me really want to become a doctor. Like I said, my eczema isn’t gone, it’s just under control. It comes back when I pet something I’m allergic to or use a cream I’m sensitive to or when I get really stressed out. But because having this all over my body (and face at one point) was so difficult for me, and I know people who have had it far worse, it is my dream to cure this. I used to wonder why doctors existed if people could just get supernaturally healed, but God uses everything right?

It has stirred up questions in me that I never even knew I had. I don’t understand supernatural healing. I don’t understand God’s role in suffering. But I do know that God is good, and wondering why we aren’t healed yet is the wrong question to ask as we are called to just keep praying.

So we keep praying, and praying, and praying. Maybe you need a breakthrough in your life. We use the term breakthrough to describe anything that only God can do. So maybe step out in faith and pray for that thing that seems impossible. You don’t have to understand how it happens in order for it to happen. You don’t have to go to a worship night to get healed. You just have to pray believing that He can.

~

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January, 2017. This was taken after starting to try diets and stuff. I didn’t take a pictures of my face or neck because I was so insecure about it, but I wish I did.

November 11th, 2017

Pray till your breakthrough breaks through the ceiling and keep on believing. Don’t you ever give up on a miracle. 

Comment below any questions you have for me, or any miracles you want to happen in 2018. =)

I am still praying for complete healing from allergies in general. Like, I want to be able to pet all dogs and cats, not just hypoallergenic ones like poodles.

Sheer Breakthrough 

I ran to my teacher’s room at 7:30 in the morning.

“Miss Lea, how are you doing?” she said to me, smiling.

“I have a story to tell you! The craziest thing happened to me, and I think it will make you happy!” I exclaimed.

“Tell me your story,” she said, beaming.

But the story of breakthrough I told her won’t make any sense unless we backtrack a little bit. So I’m going to tell you the pre-breakthrough story first.

~

She feels lost in her own life

Treading water just to keep from slipping under

And she wonders if she’s where she’s supposed to be

Tired of trying to do it right

Her dreams are just too far away to see how steps she’s making

might be taking her to who she’ll be…

I had been crying every day for the last week. Now, I was trying to study for the ACT, which was just another hopeless mess. So I told the teacher I T.A for that I was dying and asked if I could study instead of grade papers for just that day.

I had taken 2 practice tests by the end of the period. It was not looking good.

I looked at my teacher in defeat. “I don’t know what to tell you,” my teacher said. “You’re stressing out too much. You’re not thinking at your fullest potential.” I didn’t know what to say either, so I left. I went to the parking lot and threw my stuff in my car.

But something made me go back to that classroom. It was so obvious she was a Christian. I knew she knew I was a Christian, and I had been praying for the ball to drop, for me to finally be able to open up to her completely.

I made my way back to her room and met her gaze, speechless. I had no idea what to say. I lingered in thought as she helped her actual students, and she came back to me and met my gaze again, waiting for me to speak. “I can tell you anything right?” I finally gave in.

“Of course,” she said, leading me outside. “Come here.” I followed her. “What’s going on?” she asked, listening.

I told her everything. I told her about the teacher who unintentionally demeaned me. I told her about forgiving him, but how the thought of being full of crap came up in my head every time I couldn’t do something. I felt like I was too broken from my past to do anything right. I couldn’t focus on anything. I was jealous of people who didn’t  mess up. I was jealous of people who didn’t cry and weren’t broken. I was jealous of people who had never failed in their life before and didn’t have anxiety. I was stressed about this test and felt like it was going to ruin my future.

“And I don’t know why I feel all of these things when I know none of them are true,” I said.

Then, she took my hands in hers. “You go to church right?” she asked me.

When I was torn between my home church and my current church, I went to church with my parents for 3 weeks to avoid the problem. One of those weeks I ended up running into her. Seeing her that one time was a miracle in itself.

“Yes,” I said, astonished.

And then she went on a passionate rant about how God made me who I am for a reason. About how there’s no reason to worry about being perfect or to hate myself for having so much emotion. She stressed that I can’t mess up my future on the ACT, because God has it, because I can’t create my future, because some things have to be taken on faith.

She told me her life story, and how she found her calling to teach. We talked about how Jesus paid the price for us, how the battle has already been won, and she told me about her own dreams and spiritual journey. My teacher was talking to me about God on the campus of a public school. The ball had dropped.

“Your dream college might not be what God has in store. Only he knows what is truly best for us,” she said.

“I know that,” I replied.

“And God loves you so much,” she stressed.

“I know that too!” I declared. “I believe in everything you just told me so strongly. I know I have nothing to fear. So why do I still feel so messed up?” I ranted.

She smiled. “Because you’re human.”

“Crying is so counterproductive!”

She shook her head. “No, crying is healthy. It cleanses the soul and helps you to refocus.”

“I have no reason to cry. Nobody is dying.”

She shook her head again. “No, God created emotions. Everyone feels them on different levels. It’s okay to cry.”

“Well, I don’t want to feel this way anymore.”

She smiled. “The other day I made a girl cry. She cried for like an hour. I felt so bad.”

“Did you pull her aside?” I asked, laughing.

“Yes. But I still feel it. Like you do.”

She went on to tell me about a time she trusted in God and how it lead to breakthrough. “I wish I trusted God like that more often.”

“Those breakthroughs happen to me all the time,” I told her, thinking of my blog.

“So it does happen to you.” She smiled again.

“A lot.”

She took my hands in hers again. “I know you know that God has your future. We both know it. But keep crying. Not too much though. Cry through it and he’ll find you. Okay?”

The bell rang, and she embraced me. “I knew you were a Christian the second I met you,” I said, so incredibly happy.

“Do you feel better?”

“Yes. Thank you.”

“Go home and eat chocolate. You’re going to be fine.”

“I will,” I said, laughing.

“And keep smiling,” she said, meeting my gaze for the last time.

~

“On Friday, I cried the whole day. And Saturday morning was the test, and I was crying the whole morning. I didn’t think I was going to make it to the test.

I’m driving to the test center, and I can’t stop bawling. So I just start crying out to God, ‘I know you didn’t make me full of crap. I know you have my future. I know this test can’t mess up my future. You didn’t make me to fail. You didn’t create me to be hindered by anxiety and mess up all the time. Fear and anxiety don’t exist in your name. So I don’t know why I still feel this way. I know the power of your presence God, but I don’t feel it right now. Right now I feel so broken and incapable, so this is all you. I can’t do this on my own.’

And here, where the night is darkest black

She feels the fear

But she can’t feel the things she knows

And through her tears

She can see the dawn

Its coming skies will clear

And the light will find her where she’s always been…

I was crying so hard. And then I pulled into the parking lot. I told myself that if I was still crying when I entered the room that I would just ditch the whole thing. But the second I stepped out of that car…”

“…everything I was feeling vanished.”

“It’s a miracle. You know me. I am not one to stop myself from crying. And even when I do, pain always lingers. But it all went away like that. It was like a supernatural peace had swept over me.

So I took the test. It wasn’t super easy, but it wasn’t painful, exhausting, or discouraging either. It went by so fast. There were questions I didn’t know, but they didn’t bother me. I got through the whole thing. I was so happy when it was over. And I don’t know how I did, but it doesn’t matter because nothing can ever take away the joy I have right now,” I preached.

“Wow,” she said, beaming. “It’s because you were proclaiming God’s word.”

“But that’s not how the story ends.”

“Go on.”

“Yesterday I went to church and was telling my leaders the story. And one of them told me that last Sunday when I was bawling tears during worship, he was laughing. And he made a note on his phone:

Seeing youth Lea cry during worship is making me laugh. This is because tears aren’t a sign of weakness, but they symbolize the joy that is to come in the kingdom of heaven.

“He asked me how I felt right now. And I told him I felt like nothing could take away my joy. I was feeling the joy that was to come.”

“And now it makes sense. It really is okay to cry,” I concluded.

She nodded, smiling so wide. “God is so good. What church do you go to?”

“Jesus Culture.”

She smiled. “It’s a good church. My kids always want to go to their events. But it doesn’t matter what church you go to, as long as you are growing.”

I smiled, thinking of my journey leading me to attend my dream church.

“Did you know my parents go to your church?” I said.

“I did not,” she said, smiling even wider than she was before, if that was possible.

And we talked a little bit longer about college and emotions and she showed me her favorite podcasts. Then, the bell rang for first period.

“I am so happy that you are growing,” she said, embracing me.

“And I’m so happy I found you,” I told her before running to class, “I’ll see you in a few hours.”

The fact that I stopped crying was a miracle. This teacher I found is a miracle. I don’t know how these things happened, but they certainly didn’t happen because of me. These experiences are a result of God’s goodness, and his love to bring sheer breakthrough into our lives. And that Sunday when I went to worship, I was singing the loudest in the room.

Because suddenly I am where I’m supposed to be

And after all the tears I was supposed to be here.

Superchick

~

Dear God,

You are so good. Thank you for your supernatural peace and joy. I pray it would never leave. I pray my fire for you would never burn out. I pray you would continue to show anxiety and fear how they have no power over me.

Thank you for creating emotions. Thank you that tears lead to breakthrough, and that tears don’t exist in the kingdom of heaven. Thank you that you always find me. Thank you that I’m never lost, even when I feel lost, because you have me in the palm of your hand.

It’s amazing how you love to show us favor and abundance. Help me to listen to your voice when I’m faced with tough decisions. I truly believe there is nothing you can’t do, and that there is so much more breakthrough to come. 

You are so good. And you’re never gonna let me down. 

Amen.

💜


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Home

I lifted my hands

I closed my eyes

I harmonized with my friends

singing on stage into our mics.

Paul strummed the guitar

as we sang about life

and God’s love being enough

to satisfy.

And as we started singing

an unexplainable presence filled the air.

I felt God inside this church in Camalu

and our audience could not compare.

I saw Mexicans on their knees

I saw them joining hands with us

Everyone’s hand on someone else’s shoulder

singing surrendered in trust

swaying back and forth

to the beat of the drum.

We belted the lyrics out unashamed

The crowd sang alongside of me

and when the music began to cease

I felt infinite peace.

Us leaders stepped back from the mics

and I felt their arms around me

I saw people so moved they cried

And I could finally see−

This is my home.

This is the body of Christ.

To read more about my second mission trip, click here 🙂

Trading Something You Like For Something You Love: My Story

I went on a journey to find what I love to do, thinking that my self-worth came from my talent and performance level. I began this search by learning to play the piano when I was 5. I loved it so much. When I was 10, my piano teacher went to college and I fell in love with my new teacher. Her energy and kindness enhanced my life, and she made me feel so confident and special. Although I never practiced, she saw something in me. She saw my maturity and ability to play with emotion. When I did practice, she saw the cleanliness and cohesiveness in my playing. She would tell me that she couldn’t teach my energy, and saw me becoming a professional pianist one day.

But I didn’t see myself that way. Whenever I played a song, it never sounded right to me. Competitions became abrasive until no confidence in me remained. I hated being unable to deviate from the sheet music. So, I started trying new things. I started dance when I was 12. I think I liked the idea of dance more than I liked dance itself. 12-year-old Lea was so self-conscious with her wire glasses and awkward arms, and ballet helped fix my posture. But being stuck in ballet 1 from the start was honestly extremely frustrating as I had no idea where dance would get me in life.

So 8th grade came. I was 13 then, and I decided to start figure skating. I had always loved the way skating made me feel after all. My parents saw that I was starting to lean less and less towards piano and were worried that I would quit and regret it for the rest of my life. So my dad sent my teacher an email, and my teacher responded saying that I was too old to get anywhere with dance, that my only hope was playing the piano.

I was so infuriated. Everyone warned me that I would regret quitting piano because almost everyone quits regrets it. 70 years from now I’m going to look back and everything skating has brought me through, and I won’t regret quitting piano. Instead, I’ll say 2 words. Worth it. So with that, I quit. To me, I had just trashed all of my talent. But little did I know that I had just traded something I liked for something that I would love.

Figure skating. My memories of figure skating consist of beautiful moments full of me falling and getting up again, learning what it truly means to be passionate about something. The rush of the ice is something I greatly miss today. From the clean, crisp sound of landing an axel to spinning so fast that you can’t see anything, skating really enhanced my life. Desperate to prove my piano teacher wrong, I became obsessed with a regiment of stretching and got extremely bendy in a few months time. In 6 months, I was skating at the level most people wouldn’t get to in years. I had 3 amazing friends that I always skated with, and we competed together and told each other everything.

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Then, that summer, I had to test for 4 levels at once. I totally broke down in tears during my Freestyle 4 test. I made my test proctor feel horrible and after the test and she made me repeat the words, “I don’t suck” a few times before passing me. After that, I realized that skating, although amazing, was not going to fill the void in my heart or give me a purpose by any means.

Then I started going to youth group. I hated it at first. Everyone here seems so fake. But I kept going because I had been wanting a place where I could freely ask my questions about God forever. That was the first time I realized that my self-worth came from God. Finally understanding what my life should be about, I got baptized the day after my 14th birthday.


I ended up quitting skating because I wanted to go to Mexicali, and that was the easiest way to pay for my trip. When I got back from the trip I realized that I didn’t need skating in my life anymore. I would take everything I’ve learned about going all in and being insanely passionate about something and apply it to my faith. After making that decision, crazy things started happening to me all the time. In essence, I traded skating for God, something I thought I loved for something I was ecstatic about.

I couldn’t go without physical activity though, so I continued to dance. The day before my algebra 2 final my parents told me not to go to rehearsal, but I went anyways and fractured my foot on a switch leap. I totally failed that final despite studying every day for 2 months, and I had never felt so hindered in my life. But that was the first time I had ever felt peace in my life. No one expected me to do anything because I couldn’t do anything. However, the support I got from everyone blew me away. My dance studio is inside my church, and I woke up on the day of my final with so many people texting me that they were praying. I called my teachers expecting the worst as I couldn’t dance in the recital, but they responded with an unfathomable compassion.

before fracturing my foot

I was scared to dance for awhile, but eventually, despite my doctor’s orders to not dance for 6 months, I started again. But all of a sudden I was leaving dance feeling so empty for no reason. When my best friends would take me home, we would just complain about everything we couldn’t do. There were days that it was super fun and I was super close to my dance friends. But then recital happened and I was bawling tears afterward over a misunderstanding because my parents didn’t congratulate me. It was the best recital I had, don’t get me wrong. But instead of celebrating like I had envisioned, I was outside thinking that my parents were still pissed at me for quitting piano and would never be proud of me, with one of my teachers telling me, I went through the exact same thing you did. And the most important thing is not what your parents think of you, but what you think of yourself. It ended up being fine, but it still hurt a lot.


So still feeling the weight of piano on my shoulders, I wrote my piano teacher this long message, keeping things as positive as possible. It had been 3 years since I quit. She responded with such love and support that I felt like I could finally pursue whatever I wanted with no more false motives. (I may post something about forgiveness)!

This year, after consulting many of my mentors, I chose to take a year off of dance and youth group to focus on school. As long as you have a place where God is filling you up, and it looks like the hospital is filling you up more than youth group anyways, you don’t need to do everything they told me. I wrote about my experience with that here. I traded dance and youth group, things I liked, for AP chemistry, a class that taught me so much more than dance and youth group would’ve ever taught me combined. This I find weird because school is a worldly thing, and school grows my faith so much.

So here we are towards the end of my junior year. Next year I will have time to have a life again and will need to decide whether I want to go back to certain things or try new things. When I look back, I never hated piano. I just hated myself, and how I played. I loved skating and I was good at it but was insecure about it anyways. Not dancing this year has brought me closer to God, because dance was the last thing I was holding onto as a clutch and putting before him. I think we tend to be insecure about the things we are best at. This is why we must always seek God first because he knows us best.

This is just a piece of my journey. But what I’ve learned from all of this is that God will never make you give up something you like if he doesn’t have something greater and more amazing in store. =)

Speak

Secretly, I had a powerful voice. I furtively longed to express myself. But I barely talked in class, because I never knew the right answers. I always stumbled in my efforts to wing presentations. Nevertheless, in 8th grade, my friends forced me to try out for Speech and Debate with them, ignoring my arguments about how public speaking would kill me. To my surprise, of all my friends who forced me to try out, none of them made the cut. Somehow, I did.

I would write, memorize and recite poems in front of strangers, in a moving manner, to a crowd of biased jerks who would judge me as a person completely. I felt discouraged. One night, I sat on my bed with my journal and pencil in hand. If I had to speak, I wanted my words to inspire. “Once upon a time,” I began writing, “There lived a young girl, with a huge heart and huge dreams…” After 10 minutes, I stared at the finished result. The honesty appalled me. I would never want to read it in front of anyone.

I found myself in a classroom, barefoot, standing in front of our speech coach, Mrs. Owen, reciting my poem dryly and emotionless, unwilling to expose myself. I finished, and she looked at me slowly. “This poem of yours is brilliant and has so much potential. It’s nothing to be embarrassed of.” I bit my tongue. “Just by hearing you say this I can tell you’re a strong person. Only a strong person would have the courage to write that.” I tilted my head with disbelief.

“I want you to imagine your dad is sitting right there,” she said, pointing to the desk in front of me.

“I can’t,” I said, shaking my head.

“What does your dad’s room look like?”

“It’s square.”

“When he gets home from work, would you talk to him?”

“No,” I said, puzzled.

“Then what does he do when he gets home?”

“Look, I don’t see what you’re getting at with this,” I reply, rebelliously. She squints, eyeing me closely, carefully. “I’m trying to get you to imagine your dad because I want you to say this honestly. I don’t want you to feel like you need to hide anything, and I know you wouldn’t be dishonest with your parents.” The words stabbed me in the chest because I never thought my parents would understand. I placed a finger on my wet eyelids.

“Pretend your dad is sitting right there, and that he loves you, cares about you, and truly wants to hear what you have to say,” She stressed, gently.

“You’re making me cry,” I sputtered.

“That’s okay,” she said, gently. She gave me a minute, and then urged, “Now try it again.” I took a deep breath and began.

After the last few words, everyone clapped. My voice had strength and power, and I felt completely unashamed. I had spoken up for myself for the first time in my life. I would never be soft spoken again. “That’s what I’m talking about,” Mrs. Owen said, smiling with approval. When I caught my breath, she walked up to the front of the classroom and placed her hands on my shoulders.

“Stand confidently when you say this,” she said. She pulled my shoulders back, elevating my spine, and then lifted up my chin with her fingertips. My eyes met her gaze.

“Keep your head up high,” she told me, “and just speak.”

From my autobiography 

2.20.17: Conviction 

Dear God,

I have not been keeping up with this Curing My Eczema Challenge thing. I’ve been feeling the conviction here: perhaps I am such a selfish person that I want the glory of curing myself. Except that is not possible. It’s hard for me to keep up with stuff that I must do, so logging my eczema progress daily was never going to happen. Besides, school got super hard, and my eczema became terrible again. It got a little better after sleeping in a lot, and then really bad after I pet this really cute dog I ran into at a thrift store. I’m still not sure if it was worth it. For some reason, even though I keep failing, you never cease to put people in my life who inspire me.

I met a really cool patient on Saturday. His name was Robert. He was an engineer for 30 years traveled the world. He climbed the Egyptian Sphinx and floated down the Nile. He has a heart for Cajun food from the Bayou. He went to UCLA. I asked him if the math I’m learning in school was worth it, and he said I’m never going to use it. He really won my respect there.

We talked about religion and food and medicine. He told me that he doesn’t take pain meds because he finds the strength to mentally block the pain out through his own meditation. This made me tell  him about my eczema, as it has always been my theory that if I could train myself to be mentally strong enough to not scratch, I wouldn’t have eczema anymore. When I told him that I was a Christian, he told me that he studied the KJV Bible from cover to cover and that he uses it for advice all the time.

“When I get to heaven, the one thing I want ask God is why he made my life the way it was, because it could’ve been so much easier,” He said, laughing.

“You know, sometimes I wish the same thing. Then I realize that in the moment I may not understand something, but at the end I always think to myself,’I wouldn’t have had it any other way.’ Because most of the good things that happen to me could’ve never happened if I didn’t go through all the crap first.”

“That’s a lot of insight for your age!”

“Long way to go,” I said, laughing.

I proceeded to telling him about all of my dreams, and he added his crazy experiences to my bucket list. I would one day get kicked in the face by a kangaroo in Australia, eat at a bistro in Spain, hear the choir in Rome, and sleep in a tree house in Africa someday. He told me I was kind, and I had many fine qualities. You don’t meet people like him everyday.

“Don’t waste your time on things you think you need to do. You have only so much time to cross all those things off your bucket list.”

“That’s good advice,” I said, smiling, “Thank you for taking your time to talk to me.”

“My pleasure,” he said, beaming. “Glad I could be a part of your journey.”

Talking to him made me feel amazing. I guess I am so broken, and selfish that I still search for inspiration from the world, nevertheless my amazing patients. And I feel like this is a problem. Not that my patients pour so much into me: they are perfect. But If my only motivation to do things is to make me feel amazing then I must have everything wrong. Because the world doesn’t revolve around me, but it revolves around you God. And I guess all my efforts to surrender control have all been a fail because I can’t seem to let go of myself. I can’t seem to let go of my desire to be known, to cure my eczema, to get straight As, and to tell stories about all the amazing people I met. But you put those people in my life, and you gave me all these talents I undermine. I am so mediocre without you.

And that sucks, but is so true, and freeing, and relieving, and scary. How do I be known, God? How do I be known for you?

I look in the mirror at my red, gnarly skin. God, you are mending me. If I want to be known for you, perhaps you have to break me of my pride, and my selfishness. You may never mend my skin, but I know every day you are making me more like you. 💜

“I’ve been there.”

“She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible. She took the weight on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings.”

Today was crazy. I failed 2 tests, and then this.

I left the room, ready to sprint after the girl who ran out of class crying.

I didn’t know how I’d find her, and my athleticism would probably fail at chasing her. But she settled for the bench right outside the classroom. I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Hey, hey,” I said, gently. I sat down on the bench next to her, as she buried her head in her arms and let the emotions spill out. I put my arm around her, rubbing her back. We sat there for several minutes, and my heart broke. My heart broke for her because I had been there so many times before.

“Do you want to talk about it?” I whispered gently.

She told me what was going on through hiccups and short breaths, and I listened. She was reading in class because that’s how she handles her stress, so when my teacher called her out for not paying attention she just lost it and left.

“She didn’t know what was going on, or that reading is just how you handle stress outside of school. She just wanted you to pay attention because she’s teaching imaginary numbers and those things are absolute hell. I promise you that as a teacher she does care about you,” I said, gently.

She nodded, but kept crying. I decided to unravel my history of crying in school. “I’m the queen of panic attacks by the way,” I said. A chuckle emerged in the midst of her tears. “I’ve cried twice here in this class when I was a freshman, a few times in front of my pre cal teacher, once in front of my calc teachers, and this year I had a full on meltdown during my English class.” She laughed even more.

Coating my words with a deep sense of passion and care, I stressed, “You have every right to be feeling what you are feeling. You do not have to put on a façade and pretend to be okay, because the longer you do the easier they break. And the more you keep things inward without telling others, everything will spill over more often and more meltdowns will happen.”

We talked some more about teachers who let us cry in class. “You wanna pet a dog? There’s a stress dog in the library.” She laughed even more. We walked to the library and Angus The Terrier wasn’t there. 😦

“Ah let’s just walk around then. If we get detention for ditching it’s on me,” I said. We walked around campus in the cold air. We visited my friend’s photography class, and my other friends’ calculus class. When the bell rang we made our way back. She tried to tell the teacher what happened, but she started crying again. She looked at me.

“Haha I told you. I always stop crying and then when I have to talk to the teacher I start crying again. I can’t even,” we both laughed.

“Yeah. Lea’s a good person to walk out with,” my teacher told her. We all just talked about emotions and life and ditching class until everyone felt better.

“Do you want my number?” I asked her. She nodded. I gave her my number, and we all exchanged hugs.

“Feel better!” My teacher told her. She whispered a ‘thank you’ to me, and I walked out with my new mini me.

And i thought, I have never been more happy to be someone who is extremely sensitive and emotional and undergoes meltdowns in my life.
Because if I hadn’t been me, I would not have been able to tell her all of my experiences and all of the things I’ve learned. As a class tutor, I’ve always prayed I’d be a good role model. I want to be someone caring enough to come alongside another but also experienced enough to teach. I guess you never know what people are going through, but when you find someone going through the same thing you did, it is incredibly healing.

Today, I am learning that if you are going through something, you are never alone. It takes a lot of humility to go up to a teacher and ask for help. And that is why we should build each other up. How is one supposed to buttress another if they don’t know what’s going on? If you find a mentor who understands what you’re going through, you should hold onto them for dear life. Teachers, leaders, and mentors make life so much better. I am so grateful for mine.

And when you are questioning why you are the person that you are, keep in mind that someone may need to hear the words “I’ve been there” when they feel like nobody understands. Always seek hope.