I have a complicated relationship with words. When I was younger, I was severely bullied and verbally abused by my school peers. Last semester, I learned I was still carrying around deep hurt in my heart from some old wounds—they were still raw and were refusing to be ignored.
These wounds continued to create problems in my life and over time, I came to understand that while God had carried me through those situations and I was in no way a victim of my circumstances, I still had unaddressed trauma.
Recognizing that you’ve been hurt it is one thing. Making time and space to address that hurt and heal from the wounds it produces is another thing entirely.
When I started my senior year of college in the fall of 2017, I was looking forward to graduating. I had started working at one of my favorite places in Waco, started interning at a non-profit as part of my degree program, loved my classes, and was excited to apply to graduate school for a dual Masters degree program.
I had a lot of exciting dreams and goals, and I still have those. But by the end of September 2017, I found myself up to my eyeballs in stress. I had taken on way too much. I was wrestling with the fact that even though everything I was involved with was wonderful, enjoyable, and productive, somehow I was drowning.
In the unseen places, I was battling again against depression and anxiety. These had plagued me for 12 years, but during this season I struggled with them more than ever before. I had three full-blown anxiety/panic attacks in one month. The learning disorder I have added to the stress of the situation. I increased my medications and added a new one when I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
While I was driving home, I definitely knew something was wrong when the thought of crashing my car into a telephone pole casually floated into my head. I was emotionally and mentally exhausted. I felt incredibly lonely, un-pursued, isolated, and fragile, and I could not understand why I was unraveling.
Until God arrested my attention.
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God…”
That verse came to my mind over, and over, and over again until I finally asked God why he kept reminding me of it. This is what He said to me:
“You are trying to know me without being still, Liv. You can only know so much of me without taking time to be still in my presence. Seek my face and not my hand, seek my heart for you, not just what I can do for you. I have more of myself for you Liv. Are you willing to listen and follow where I lead, even if it doesn’t make sense, to find the more of me that I have for you?”
So, I decided to finally listen to God. After a lot of thought, prayer, counseling, and many hours of talking with all the necessary people, it became clear to me that in order to address the things God want to work on with me, I needed to dedicate time to that process.
I decided to take a break from undergrad to focus on my relationship with Jesus, my relationship with myself, and moving towards healing and wholeness.
In January of 2018, I was asking Jesus what I should do with the free time I now had outside of my part-time job. He reminded me of how the Psalms had ministered to me in some of the darkest moments of my life. Not only that, but He also reminded me of how crucial writing and journaling had been for me in the past when it came to processing my often very intense emotions.
Journaling has been a habit of mine for years, and I’ve been writing poetry on and off for most of my life. In high school, reading books, writing poetry, watching videos of Slam Poets on YouTube telling their stories about their own pasts—even when they were really dark—helped me believe in my ability to do the same with my own story.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Jesus had given me the ability to write and perform publicly to show others that even in the darkest places of life, there is still hope because Jesus is still there.
So I founded a Christian creative writing group, open to all writers and anyone who wants to join a community of creative people. It’s called Ivory Lion Poetry (ILP), and it has been quite an adventure.
I made ILP as a platform for others to share their stories of Jesus’s presence in their lives through the written and spoken word, with the focus on sharing the love of Jesus in ways that others may never have been exposed to before by embracing and talking about life’s hard issues.
I hope that one day, this group will grow into a team of passionate people who are willing to, as I say, “spit the truth” out on a stage, believing that God will give us the words to write, speak, and share publically with people so that they too can get a better picture of His love for them.
As the founder and group leader, I’ll be working with other members to help them perform their own spoken word pieces in the way that they want to present them at Open Mic nights and possibly other venues.
Liv Nortillo is a “senior on sabbatical” at Baylor University from Chicago-land, Illinois. She is studying Social Work and Religion and is a Jesus-loving, loud-singing, truth-speaking, coffee-drinking adventurer who is passionate about empowering people to be their best selves and tell their stories. When she’s not working as a barista at Common Grounds, Liv dedicates her time to Ivory Lion Poetry. You can follow Ivory Lion Poetry on Instagram (@ivorylionpoetry), where Liv posts regularly and welcomes outside submissions that will be credited to the author in the Instagram post.