Welcome to my summer of Adventures with Jesus! Recently, I promised Jesus I would do anything He asked me to this summer. I would get up every day and ask Him, “What are we doing today, Jesus?” Whatever He said, I would do it. AND I committed to sharing my experiences with y’all - so that I can tell the story in real time… what it looks like to step out in faith. The fun, the blunders, the learning, the victories, the times Jesus has to step in and just make it all right. Because this is real life, not a fantasy… sometimes we get it right, sometimes we’re learning, sometimes we're failing, but ALWAYS God is faithful.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good and His faithful love endures forever!” Psalm 106:1
This past week, He asked me to go down to Los Angeles to do ONE THING, and it turned out to be one of the most rewarding adventures I’ve had in a long time. It grew my trust for Him, but it wasn’t super easy going through it… It was stretching because I had NO PLAN past getting down there and meeting a young man He was sending me to talk to. After that, I had no idea where I was staying or IF I was staying. In the midst of that uncertainty, and even some pretty dangerous moments, I experienced God’s love for me in new ways and learned a few lessons on the way that I want to share. So settle in with a cup of your favorite beverage and take a little trip with me to the City of Angels!
HOW DID I END UP HERE?
Let me back up and set the stage. Last year God told me to buy a ticket to Heaven Come (Bethel’s worship conference) in Los Angeles AND Dallas. This year, as the conference in LA drew close, I started asking God what He wanted me to do with the ticket. Maybe it was for someone else, or maybe I was supposed to sell it? I was mostly unsure because I didn’t have the extra money to take a trip. I kept hearing the same thing, “There is something down there for you.”
It wasn’t coming to me as a “Thus saith the Lord” which I would have much preferred. It was more like a really good suggestion. Mostly because we’re in this season where God is teaching me to make my own decisions and own them - which is beautiful. It’s become more of a partnership, a friendship, than a Dad telling His daughter what to do all the time.
I didn't see that at the time and I kept waiting for a command (again, mostly because I was unsure about the money part of it) so I would feel secure moving forward. I thought I needed to have the money in my hand before I moved. Finally, I told Him that if He wanted me to go down there, He was going to have to give me a certain amount of money and find me a place to stay and THEN I would go. Ummm… let me tell you, when you give God an ultimatum like that, He will play along with you, but He never does it on your terms.
In the meantime, I was volunteering at an event at Bethel Church here in Redding. One day I was talking with one of the attendees… we were telling each other our dreams and I mentioned wanting to be a screenwriter. She shared with me that her son lives in LA, has written 3 movies and is trying to sell them. But she was concerned about him, too. You know, living in LA, not necessarily going to church, etc., etc., etc. It was out of my mouth before I knew what I was saying… “I’m going down to LA next week. If you want me to meet him while I’m there and just pray for him and encourage him, I’d be happy to!” She looked at me, didn’t say much and I thought that was that. The next day she came and found me and asked me if I was serious about talking to her son. Something in me knew this was a God assignment, so I told her I was serious. She sent me his contact information, I reached out and he wrote me right back and said he would love to meet.
Great… so now I had a real reason to go down there besides just attending the conference, but I still didn’t have the money to do it. Jesus? What are You up to?
I guess God heard my question because the next day someone walked up and handed me a stack of cash that would cover my gas to get to LA and back. Huh….
I still wasn’t sure though. I mean, none of my other requirements had been met by God. I didn’t have a place to stay, I didn’t have any cash for while I was down there… all I could see was what I didn’t have. In the span of about a week and a lot of time just sitting still and letting Jesus speak to me, I KNEW I was supposed to go down there to meet this young man - even if it meant driving 8 hours, giving him my ticket to the conference and getting back in the car to come home. Jesus really sealed the deal when He told me, “I am the One who got in the boat, went across the water for the one man in Gerasenes, got back in the boat and went back to the other side. Will you be like Me?” Yup. Can’t fight that one.
He also told me to go ahead and pack my bags like I was staying the whole time. Okay……… ???
HERE’S WHERE THE LESSONS START
When I sat down with this young man, I KNEW beyond a shadow of a doubt I was in the right place. It’s hard to describe how because a lot of it has to do with his story and that’s his to tell, not mine, but just take my word for it. It was a divine appointment. Through our conversation that night, God was able to clear up a lot of things that had been confusing him about his life and his creative gifts. I offered him an extra ticket to Heaven Come that a friend gave me the night before I left (funny, huh?) and although he was leery he said he would come at least for the first night.
LESSON 1: GOD WILL MEET YOU AT YOUR LEVEL OF FAITH AKA RISK
Here’s where I had to start listening moment by moment. Remember, I have gas money but nothing else. I mean, there was money in my bank account but that was for rent and you know, food and bills. Each night was a journey in listening to God and letting Him lead me further into trust. The first night, it was 10 pm before we finished talking and I didn’t feel right about an Air BnB, so I found a nearby motel. I was nervous about paying but I just kept hearing God say, “I will cover it. You’re here for Me. I’ve got this.” So I booked the room for one night because I legitimately didn’t know if I was staying past the following day. My new friend had only committed to go to the first night and I thought I was there for him, not for me, so I was taking this moment by moment.
The next day, I asked Jesus what we were doing that day and He said, “Go to the beach.” Okay, not super tough, but I knew it wasn’t to soak up the rays (mainly because it was 60 degrees and cloudy… ahem.) I got down there and started walking with a tea latte in my hand, of course. I mean, it was chilly y’all. I went into random stores, prayed for a couple people, got stopped by the boys trying to sell you their “music for a donation”, smelled more pot than I think I have in my whole life and felt the compassion of Jesus in a way I never have before - except maybe when I was in Thailand. I was surrounded by so much “darkness”, but all I could see was people in pain who were just looking for some kind of relief, They didn’t know they had a Loving Dad who would love away the pain if they would just let Him close enough.
INTERMISSION: PAUSE FOR THE ONE
I think the encounter that broke my heart the most was stopping to talk to a young man named Liam who had two kittens playing in front of him on the side walk. It was obvious he was homeless, but here he was - sharing what little he had with these two babies. A can of tuna for one and half of his lunch for the other because she didn't want tuna. I knew God wanted to talk to him, so I stopped and asked him if I could play with the kittens. He was totally agreeable and I got down on the ground with him and started asking him about himself (all the while asking God what He wanted to say to this sweet young man.) I found out he was 19 years old and had been kicked out of his home when he was 14 years old. He was from France and has been tramping around the world ever since then. He’s seen some amazing things and been places that I’ve only dreamt about… but there was a deep pain in his eyes that belied the smile on his face. He just wanted to find a home. I could see it. After hanging with him for about 10 minutes, I asked him if it would be okay for me to pray for him. To my surprise, he looked excited and said, “Sure!” I don’t know why it always surprises me that people are so open to prayer, but I think something in our spirits will always answer the call when God’s love comes knocking.
I asked him if I could put my hand on him and listened to what God had to say. I heard God telling him that He was sorry for what happened to him when he was 14 - that it wasn’t His desire or His heart for him. That He cried tears of sorrow when it happened. Then God promised Liam a bright future and that He was going to encounter him with His love and be the Father he never had. That He would love him all the ways he hadn't been loved. He told Liam He made him to be a dreamer and a wanderer, but also to have a home… that he would be bringing him home very soon. And to remember when it happened that it was His Love reaching out to him. I finished praying and looked Liam in the eyes and told him how extraordinary he was and I could see it sinking into his heart. How simple is it for us to make an impact in people’s lives? It just takes seeing the human in front of us and knowing that God LOVES them so much…. Seeing the gold in them that God sees. If we ask Him for that perspective, He will give it to us. I saw that so clearly with Liam that day. He may have marked me more than I marked him.
BACK TO LESSON 1…
After walking around a bit more, I went to the conference downtown. I’d love to say I was paying rapt attention to every moment and getting so much out of it, but in all honesty I was stressing about what to do for a place to stay that night. I was starting to feel really bad about spending money on this when the extra I had asked for wasn’t coming in. When I asked Him, God just kept telling me, “You have money right now… you just don’t believe that more will come in when you need it. You’re on a mission for Me and I have no desire for you to sleep in your car or starve while you’re doing it. Do you trust Me?” But God, you realize that’s my rent money, right?! “Yep. Do you trust Me?” Gulp. Yes, I do.
So I bit the bullet and booked the cheapest room I could find (more on that in a minute….). Again, just for one night. The session ended, I walked out and my new friend told me he was sending me $100 to pay for the ticket I had given him. I told him it was a gift and he didn’t have to pay, but he said he wanted to…. Huh, obedience strikes again.
Now, here’s where it got interesting for me, and where I learned the biggest lesson. I went to the Air BnB I chose and let’s just say it was NOT glamorous. In fact, it was pretty sketch. When I walked in the door, there was no furniture in the living room and it smelled like pot. You smell pot everywhere in LA, so I wasn’t entirely freaked out. I put my bags down and went into the kitchen to boil water for a cup of tea and did a double take. The kitchen was filthy, the stove was disconnected and pulled halfway out from the wall and I knew whoever lived there was more than just “high on life.” I went back in my room, shut the door, locked it and stayed in there until it was time to leave the next morning.
Funny thing is, though, in that dingy little house (where I was entirely sure someone was up doing drugs in the kitchen in the middle of the night cuz I heard em), I had my best encounter with the Lord the whole time I was in LA. I got up the next morning with my heart crying “God… did I totally miss it?! This is NOT easy. Stuff You do usually has a grace, an ease, to it, right?!” I honestly felt like a total failure - thinking I MUST have heard Him wrong. I MUST be out of the will of God. He spent time with me that morning showing me what He was up to in my life - and that I was slap dab in the MIDDLE of His will for my life.
LESSON 2: FAILURE DOESN’T SCARE GOD AND LEARNING IS MESSY
How often have we heard that? I know I’ve heard it at least 50 times, but there is something about really facing what feels like failure that drives this point home in a special way. As I sat with God, He started unpacking what was happening.
“You’re learning to hear Me, moment by moment, when it’s low stakes. You’re practicing. You might not get every nuance right, but don’t worry. I see your heart and you didn’t miss Me. I’m in this journey and I asked you to come down here. I’m taking you deeper into being childlike… bringing down your pride.”
Matt. 18:19, “So anyone who becomes humble like this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom.”
That's when it hit me... Try as I might, I had still come down there with expectations of what He should do, how He should deliver, how He should show up for me. And He was taking me the exact opposite way and just asking me to trust Him. To lay it on the line and ACTUALLY take a risk. I was still boxing Him in with my expectations instead of just trusting Him when He said He would take care of me and show up when I needed Him. If I hadn’t still been trying to take care of myself, I wouldn’t have chosen such a cheap (and potentially dangerous) place to stay in that night. That taught me a lesson.
You have to LET yourself be taken care of like a child and have an abundance mindset
- knowing God will give you MORE than you need, not JUST ENOUGH.
That was doubly confirmed when God spoke up super gently, but very intentionally, and told me, “Baby girl… if you had listened to me two months ago when I told you there was something down here for you and just planned the trip without needing to SEE the money in your pocket first, you would have had a much easier time. I want you to hear My voice moment by moment, but I also want you to walk forward in confidence and make decisions once I have told you something. You can go ahead and make a plan. I know if I need to change the plan with you, I can. But you don’t have to make it so hard on yourself by waiting on Me for every move. You have My permission to be powerful and move forward.” That got me. I don’t know if anyone else can relate, but I think sometimes we hyper spiritualize every move we make and it’s such a balance.
We have to be still and quiet enough to hear the gentle whisper when He tells us to move or to pause,
but we also have to be IN MOTION or He can’t guide our steps.
That morning, He gave me a number of how much to spend on gas and food for the rest of the trip (which was more generous than I would have been) and reassured me that He would “pay me back.” In all honesty, I’m still waiting for that money to come back in, but He told me it would by the time I need it and
I TRUST HIM.
LESSON 3: WHEN YOU PARTNER WITH GOD IN FAITH, IT DOES GET EASIER
Now that I was realigned with what God originally told me and confident I was supposed to be there, things started to fall into place much more easily. I reached out to a friend of mine that told me her brother might be able to help and the timing was perfect because he was going out of town the next day and was willing for me to stay at his place for FREE for a couple nights. (THANK GOD FOR COMMUNITY!!)
That night, I got another little microcosm lesson in listening. I was driving around trying to find a place… I decided not to do Air BnB again (for obvious reasons) so I opted for one of those “cute” little motels in the Valley. I was drawn to one in particular, and when I got there they had ONE ROOM available. But the catch was they only took cash. Oh, but wait! I had randomly gotten just enough cash back at the store that day to pay for the room. I don’t EVER do that guys. I just don’t carry cash, but “something” told me to take out some cash. When I was settled in bed that night, I heard God whisper, “See, I’ve got you covered more than you think.”
The next couple of days were much easier and restful. I met with my new friend a couple more times, got to pray with him (which was truly a privilege because he wasn’t open to it the first night we met) and honestly made a connection that I think I’ll have for a long time.
Also, it turned out the Conference wasn’t just for him… it was for me too. I received a prophetic word about being a screenwriter that was SO on point and encouraging. I think my biggest takeaway, though, was a renewed heart for surrender. That word gets used a lot, but what it means to me is holding nothing so tightly that it can cause me to start worrying instead of living in a state of gratitude and thanksgiving. I was so reminded that it REALLY IS as simple as trusting Him and using my praise and my play as a weapon to FIGHT against anxiety and fear - even when I don’t understand what is happening or know what is going to happen next.
Praise and play show that we trust God and gives Him the space and authority to move on our behalf.
FINALE: THE CITY OF ANGELS
The other BIG takeaway from this trip was a new dream for me. I walked at least 30 miles around Los Angeles in the 5 days I was there and as I did, I saw it all. The good, the bad and the ugly, as they say. I was in Malibu, Venice Beach, downtown LA, the Valley and a little bit of all over and all I kept feeling was God’s heart for the people there. I’ve known for a while now that I want to make an impact on the film industry, but God spoke so clearly to me while I was there that it’s about more than just the film industry. It’s about the people who live there knowing they are loved and restoring Los Angeles to what it was originally meant to be - the City of Angels, a hub for the light and love of God to shine from. A place where creativity flourishes and reaches out to draw people into the Kingdom of God through truth, purity and power. Not by preaching or correcting, but by partnering with the original Creator to make something that is so attractive that people just can't stay away... and in that process, they meet Him. I know that sounds almost impossible, but just watch… it’ll take a lot of us loving that place and the people there the way Jesus does and seeing past the things that offend our senses, but I believe it WILL HAPPEN.
TO BE CONTINUED...
This morning's answer to "What are we doing today, Jesus?" was to write this post, so here you go! I know it was SUPER LONG, so if you made it to the end, BRAVO! I'm still trying to get the hang of how to share these adventures more on a daily basis so bear with me. But as always, I love to hear from you, so please let me know what you think or if you have any ideas for ways to make it more engaging or informative for you! I'm here to serve and I love you guys! Talk to you soon!