True life: I am a hoarder. I keep EVERYTHING. And at the moment of decision, to keep or not to keep, my brain always seems to come up with a reason to keep the object in question. Embarrassing, I know. But whether it’s cabinet doors from a yard sale or old papers or gelato spoons (which are the cutest thing!), I tend to keep everything. And as one keeps everything, everything has a tendency to spill out into one’s living space. And as sad as it is to say, nothing has changed here in Italy. Although the quantity of my belongings here is significantly less, it grows day by day and it is terrible.
But in spite of my embarrassment, I have to share this. On this one bag of cookies it said:
“500 kcal: La colazione ideale per un uomo dinamico”
Which translates to “500 calories. The ideal breakfast for the dynamic man.”
bahahahaha. That just cracks me up :)
But anyways, let me backtrack a minute and talk about my three day trip to Rome last weekend, because it was amazing! We stayed in this cute little bed and breakfast hotel and then toured the major sites by day. Rome is HUGE in comparison to the other cities I’ve seen so far in Italy. I liked it, but not to live in. We took a bus from the train station to hotel and we literally packed that thing full. I was standing overtop of someone else and I had to twist my body around in a very obscure pose to avoid a backpack that threatened to knock me off my feet every time the bus took a turn.
In our 36 hours of active field tripping we saw the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum (which was flooded unfortunately), more churches than I can count on my fingers, St. Peters Basillica, the Trevi fountain and various others, the Pantheon, Capitoline Hill, the Spanish Steps, and I could easily go on. Like all of our art history trips we saw everything we possibly could in the time we were there. It was crazy, but well worth it!
On a more personal note, God has been teaching me some crazy things as well. In the past I have felt the Holy Spirit work in me so many times. I won’t know what to say and suddenly I’ll be speaking words that are not my own, or I will be struggling with fear or doubt or sin and I will open my Bible right to Scripture that speaks directly to my heart. And even though I have personally experienced God’s Spirit move in these ways, I also read about gifts I have never even seen such as prophecy and healing and speaking in tongues. And so coming to Italy I asked the Lord to teach me about His Spirit. And to say the least He has been. In so many ways.
Almost immediately upon arriving I saw the Holy Spirit come up in the sermons at church and in our Bible study, in my own time reading the Bible, and especially through the testimonies of the amazing people I have met here. Since being here, I have met Christians who have the gift of tongues, who have helped to caste out demons, who have seen healings, who have had prophetic words spoken over their lives and others who have experienced the Spirit leading them to speak words into the lives of others. Things that I had never experienced and to be completely honest, scared me to death, especially the gift of languages. When I first read in 1 Corinthians 12 about the gift of tongues I said, thanks but no thanks, God. I would love love love to see your Spirit at work in someone else, but I don’t want that for me. And that was that. I asked God to show me authentic movement of his Spirit in other people. And he did.
As the Holy Spirit came up more and more in conversation, I started to realize that the gifts of the Spirit were being poured out all around me to people just like me. I asked my best friends here if they had ever spoken in tongues or seen healings or had prophecies spoken through them or to them. And to my complete surprise, God had blessed every person I spoke to with the gift of languages. My one friend told me how she had once felt this overwhelming need to pray for her family, but she didn’t know what to pray for, so she had started praying in tongues, asking the Holy Spirit for words. Later that day she got home and found out that her parents had almost been in a car accident around the same time as she prayed for them. The Bible says, “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8: 26b). Another of my friends told me how God had spoken directly to her through the pastor of her church. She attends a Brazilian church here in Italy, and in the middle of the service the pastor stopped preaching, pointed directly at her and said, “don’t follow your heart girl, it lies,” then continued preaching. Crazy thing is she had just had someone very close to her try to convince her to turn away from God by telling her to follow her heart. And I could go on! As I heard my friends, the people I trust, talk about their experiences with the Holy Spirit, my fears and misconceptions about the gifts started to melt away. I heard how God was moving in the lives of those around me and I wanted what they had. I wanted more of the Holy Spirit, and in particular I wanted the gift of tongues. 1 Corinthians 14 says, “…anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God” (v. 2) and “he who speaks in a tongue edifies himself”(v. 4). It later says that our spirits pray when we pray in tongues (v. 14).) So to say the least, those things all sounded pretty sweet to me, and if all that intimacy with God was available to me through the Holy Spirit already inside me, then I wanted it.
And so a few nights later I prayed during Bible Study for the Holy Spirit to fill me to overflowing- or baptize me, or whatever you want to call it. All I knew was that the Bible talks about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and I wanted them if God chose to give them to me. I was not satisfied with the Spirit simply living in me (which he has since the day I accepted Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14); I wanted more, for the Spirit overflow in my life that I might have every blessing and every gift Jesus talks about giving to those who follow him…. and nothing happened. I felt nothing. haha. I had expected that I would speak in tongues or something crazy would happen… Or that I at least would feel something. Anything. But I didn’t that night, and it made me even more confused, and very frustrated. I didn’t understand. But I sure as anything wanted to.
In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul says to “eagerly desire the spiritual gifts.” And at this point I started to desire them very badly. My attitude had changed from I most definitely do not want the gifts of the Spirit, to how can I receive them? And because I knew I had Gods Spirit living in my already I wanted to know what I had to do to receive the blessings he promises in Scripture. I talked to a lot of people who had received the various gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12), and each of them told me the same thing. I just had to ask God for them.
In Luke 11:11-13, Jesus says, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead … If you then though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” And in Matthew 7:7 Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives….” According to Scripture, God filled me with more of his Spirit the second that I asked him to (that night when I prayed)! After reading his Word, I then I started to ask God why I was still unable to speak in tongues.
Then one Saturday, about a month ago, I came home to an empty house; confused, filled with doubts and very very frustrated. And let me just says that when I am confused, and doubting, and frustrated with God, things start to happen. Those are the points in my life where I am not content with where I’m at in my faith and I want answers. I want to go deeper with my God. And in those moments God is always faithful in drawing close to me. Like Jesus says, seek and you will find.
So I opened my Bible. And I prayed. After reading countless Scriptures and crying a lot because of the turmoil in my heart, I read this passage from John 14:27. In it, Jesus says:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
At Jesus’ words my anxious heart stopped freaking out. God started to bring to light the fears and need for control that I still held on to so tightly. Deep in my heart I was still so scared of what would happen if I relinquished control of my words to the Holy Spirit. What would it sound like, what would I say, and what would people think?!?! But as I sat alone in silence with God I realized that none of those fears had any place. My God is so good and so faithful. I could trust Him, and I wanted to. I was given more of the Holy Spirit the instant I asked, but my fear and unbelief put a wall up to keep me from experiencing the gifts that come with knowing God more intimately. So I got down on my face and begged God to remove everything that was keeping me from accepting everything he had for me. And after that I don’t really know what happened. I started praying and my words were not in English. It sounded foreign and I had no idea what I was saying, but I kept saying the name of Jesus. And my body was freaking out. I had a strange pins and needles sensation everywhere, but it didn’t hurt. It wasn’t like anything I had ever felt before. My fingertips felt like they were going to explode from the pressure of the tingling. And at one point my temples felt like static electricity had just shot through them. I stopped praying and when I stood up my legs were all shaky, and when I looked in the mirror the skin under my eyes was twitching, but not twitching… more like vibrating super fast, and rhythmically and I could see it move! It was really crazy.
And then I wrote everything down in my journal as fast as I could. My hands were shaking so badly that I couldn’t even write straight, but by the second page of writing everything was completely back to normal, as if it had never happened. And instantly my mind was like, that didn’t just happen. you made that up, all of it. you wanted it so badly that you made it all up. that was not of God, and that was not the Holy Spirit in you. And then I tried to say something in tongues again and I couldn’t. And once again doubt flooded my mind as my brain reasoned away what I had just experienced.
The next night I went out into one of the town squares and I poured out my heart to God. I voiced my frustrations to him. All the doubts, especially about what had happened the day before. I told him I didn’t understand and I told him that I wanted everything He had for me, but I wasn’t sure what that looked like. I read Psalm 51 out loud over and over again, but my heart was so restless. I asked God to show me the truth. I asked for clarity. I said, God, if this thing, which is so strange and unfamiliar, if it is from your Spirit, give me a peace like I have never felt before. And if it is not, if I am making anything up, if I am not in your Spirit and if this is not of you, then convict me like I have never felt convicted before. And then peace flooded my heart and I prayed in tongues again and my heart was filled with this crazy joy. :)
So to say the least God is teaching me some crazy crazy things. And I am very very excited to continue to draw closer and closer to him in the future- whatever that looks like. Please please pray for me in this.
Also, for all of you who believe in Jesus as your Savior, I urge you to pray over all of these words and test everything I have said against the Bible, because this is all super new to me and I do not even pretend to understand. I am just sharing what I have seen and experienced as best as I can.
And for all of you who don’t know Jesus yet, he is amazing, please ask me questions. Christianity is not a religion! It is not about what you do, because nothing you do, good or bad, will get you to God or to heaven. Christianity is about God, in his crazy unbelievable love, sending his Son to die, making it possible for us to know him personally. Ask me questions. I would love to talk.
Scripture About the Holy Spirit (for those of you who want them :)) = (John 14, especially verses 15-21, 26-27 ) (John 16: 5-33) (John 17 LOVELOVELOVE) (Romans 8: 26-27) (Romans 8:1-17) (Acts 2:1-4) (Psalm 51, especially verses 14-17) (Isaiah 44:1-5)
Phew. This was a novel. Talk to you all soon, and thanks for taking time to read about my life! :)