Not this time

The “Write” button at the top right freaks me out every time. I don’t know how it’s different than picking up a pen and writing on paper. But let’s be honest: that freaks me out too.

For years and years before the advent of blogging (people know that this word originally came from web + log, right?) I used a pen, any color, though it drove me crazy to not have the same color, and a notebook to write my thoughts before bed. I had the same routine. I spent a lot of time writing. Now, since typing on a laptop is so much faster, I have eschewed analog writing.

I think for years I’ve actually been fighting the urge to write every night, or most nights. Things were simpler and less complicated when it was just me, Elizabeth, in my room with my music and my lamp and my stuffed animals. I didn’t answer to anyone (in those moments anyway). I wrote whatever I felt like writing, and often with damn good vocabulary.

Now as a thirty-something contributor to society I tamp down the urge to pour out my thoughts and feelings for eight hours a day. Then, when I come home from this thing that takes up eight hours of my day, I still have other adult-ish things to do and I further tamp down my thoughts. Then I spend time on this stupid thing called the Internet and I can just feel my subconscious screaming to be let up from the silence.

So then, my friends, after working out and making dinner and cleaning up and walking the dog my mind finally takes a huge breath and starts talking.

And here I am, on my bed (husband is downstairs, “Just 10 more minutes on ______”), window open, fan on, warm nonalcoholic drink on my bedside bookshelf, typing away while my brain works out the kinks not just from today but my whole damn life it seems.

A couple weeks ago I found my journal from literally 20 years ago. Ok, found isn’t true. That’s a lie. I knew where it was. I keep all my journals close. So I knew where it was, and I finally thought I’d had enough therapy to delve into my old journals to see what 13-year-old Elizabeth was up to.

Holy mother of everything, my friends, huge newsflash here: Elizabeth is still Elizabeth, and she always has been Elizabeth. She still is a hopeless romantic disguising herself as an apathetic wannabe emo. She still uses words like superfluous and reiterate in normal conversations. She still judges people for not using fancy words like the above in normal conversations. She still loves God and wants the approval of her friends and her mother. Elizabeth is still Elizabeth. Elizabeth is still me.

Upon encountering this 20-year-old discovery, I felt… comfort. I felt like myself. I felt like all the shit I’ve been through in the past few years might have done me in in some ways, but I’m still me. The skeleton and muscles are still intact. I am still myself after all these years.

I think we’re all under the illusion of two things: either that we can’t change at all, or that we could never go back to being the person we once were. I think both are true all the time.

As I embark on the next 20 years, I hearken back to these words, from myself, nearly 20 years ago:

Sunday, December 12, 1999

Dear Journal-

Okay. Brand-new journal. Crisp, fresh, “acid-free” paper. Bold black pen. This is how it starts. Excitement and anticipation build. Then long forgotten periods of neglect. But not this time…

February 24 | Wrestle

Wrestle

Every day on the Alive Now site, there’s a prompt. Usually I just write what comes to mind, but today I’ll answer the prompt in light of the word for today: “What is the prayer of your heart today?”

God,

I’m sorry for wrestling, for undermining your sovereignty in my life. Each day I see new mercy that you give for my shortcomings. You give grace every day, and some days I’m able to receive it. Other days I’m not, whether it be my own pride, my anxiousness, or even my unwillingness to receive it.

I’m sorry for wrestling against the work you’re trying to do. I pray for patience, and you give me opportunities to practice patience, and I complain. I pray for the ability to submit to my husband, and you give me opportunities to do this, and yet I complain.

Jesus, I want to be like you. I don’t want to wrestle with the will of my Father, but instead, I want to graciously complete it. I don’t want to wrestle with the minutiae of life, but I’d rather see the big picture. There’s more to life than hours worked, students taught, floors cleaned, and groceries purchased. Help me see beyond the insignificant into the extraordinary.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Lent 2016

Preliminary Thoughts

It’s been a very long time since I really recognized Ash Wednesday by giving something up or taking on a new habit. Growing up, this was an integral part of the church calendar as I grew up in a United Methodist church. Now, I find myself in a new season of my own spirituality. A season that I know will bring simplicity and a childlike faith back into my life.

These next 40 days will also be a season of healing. For nearly two years, my husband and I have been trying to conceive a child to no avail. However, now that we have completed our cross-country move and settled (to some extent), I feel like a new chapter is beginning and I don’t want to miss it. For the past several months, probably since the summer, I could tell that I was spiraling down into depression again. My anxiety was high. My trust in God was at a low. Most days I didn’t even know how I felt about Him or His promises. I engaged in worship, but to be honest, that has always been the easiest part of the Christian walk.

What am I going to be doing for the next 40 days?

First things first, I’m committing to a time of prayer, reading, and meditation every day. I have not be in a regular practice of doing these things every day for quite some time (besides the Bible app’s devotionals). During this time of healing and introspection I really need to be ‘plugged in’ to God’s Word and my communication with Him.

So, in order to accomplish that, I am not logging into Facebook or Instagram until after Easter. I should preface this by saying that I have lived in legalistic ways before and as a result, they killed my freedom in Christ. This is not for accolades or to go along with perhaps a popular thing to give up for this season. The reason is that I can spend hours, hours on social media, browsing, judging, and comparing my life to others. This habit has hampered my prayer/devotion life and my overall well being.

I am not going to be doing any food/drink fasts. I’ve done them in the past (giving up soda, giving up sweets, etc) and for me, it was a nuisance more than a sacrifice. By silencing the drama and noise of those two social media platforms, I know that my mind will be clear and my heart ready to receive.

My cousin Anita is sending out a prompt twice a week to me and many other people as a way to let us write our thoughts about our own spiritual journeys. She’s basing it off of the Lent Photo-a-Day Instagram Challenge. So every day, I will write about each of these prompts instead of taking pictures, and on Sundays and Wednesdays, I’ll write specifically about the prompt received in my email.

photo a day

I’m also going to be reading Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller. I recently completed a devotional on the Bible app that included excerpts from this book, so I decided to read it over the next several weeks.

Why would I read a book about something so ‘basic’ in the Christian life? Because I need help. I need to get back to a place of communicating effectively with God, and sometimes that requires going back to the basics, even if you’ve believed your whole life.

So, here it goes. As we go through this Lenten season, it will also become spring. I don’t think that is a coincidence, especially for this weary soul.

 

 

Hello, my name is Elizabeth and I’m a control freak.

With winter break behind us, I’ve had some time, weeks even, to ponder things… events, ideas, prayers. So far my year of no resolutions is going great thankyouforasking… and I have to tell you that my one resolution was to make the bed every day. And as of Day 22 of 2014, I’ve succeeded. 😉 It really makes me feel like I have control over the day so early on…

I’ve really been pondering and mulling over this idea of self-control. It’s a fruit of the Spirit, but it never really stood out to me before. I always thought that maybe things like love and patience and goodness were more important or something. But lately I’m beginning to think that self-control is the key to all of them, and it’s the key to a full life that can manifest Jesus’ love on earth.

And really, it’s not self-control. Lord knows I cannot, I repeat can NOT control myself at Orange Leaf with all those delicious flavors of fro-yo, let alone the toppings. It’s a crap shoot, guys. He also knows that sometimes I just can NOT control my tongue on Interstate 10. I mean, seriously. It’s just offensive. So in all truth in a slow process I’ve been letting my self-control become God-control.

Self-control is a good thing to learn how to cultivate, but if you’re anything like me, you learn things the hard way.

Story of my freaking LIFE.

I have spent most of my 27.75 (as of today actually…) years on this earth being anxious, controlling, worried, planning anything and everything, and that’s my own personal version of lack of self-control.

I have spent a good portion of that 27.75 years letting my emotions get the best of me only to feel regret or embarrassment later. I’m like Kristen Bell; “If I’m not between a 3 and 7 on the emotional scale, I’m crying.” Can I get a witness?

I spent a few years of my 27.75 overweight because of my lack of self-control with eating and concurrent lack of exercise.

I’ve spent a different good portion of my 27.75 years saying things that just seemed to roll off my tongue only to be begging for forgiveness later.

There’s no doubt that running has helped considerably with my self-control. It takes patience and determination to train for a race, to get up when that alarm rings so so soooo early, to reject that second (or third) cupcake in favor of being fueled properly.

The Army has also been a fantastic teacher of patience and self-control… and just life and marriage in general. Early on I’d let myself get all worked up about where we would move… looking up maps and races and interstates and houses to rent and jobs.. I bet you’re exhausted just reading that. I was exhausted, wrought with anxiety over many things I had no control of. I couldn’t even control my own actions or emotions and that quickly leads to a downward spiral which for me ends in depression. And that’s a dirty slimy pit. So dirty. And slimy. *gag*

The thing is, I asked to learn this particular fruit of the Spirit (ughhh silly me!), and I learned a few more fruits of the Spirit in tandem with self-control. And boy was I brought through situations where I was taught how to let go. I think for a Christ-follower to have self-control really speaks volumes of his or her sincerity of faith and growth in relationship with Jesus. With self-control you learn to control the following but Lord have mercy not limited to:

your reactions to things (ahem, crazy drivers on I-10 or Army ridiculousness),

your reactions to people (you know, that one person that just reallllllly gets under your skin),

your eating,

your working out,

your interactions with people at work,

your emotions when in a precarious situation (this I’m still working on),

your parenting (I have yet to encounter this),

your Internet usage (heh),

your Bible-reading,

your praying,

your relationship with your spouse (also working on this, I’m sure my husband is thankful).

If I let Jesus deal with these things and guide me throughout my days, that means that I trust Him 100%. When we start taking back control, we stop trusting. I want to trust 100%. Who wants to take their burdens back? I sure don’t. I wouldn’t wish my past anxiety or worry on anyone. ANYONE. I guess what I’m getting at is that all of this is connected as deep heart issues generally are.

Something I’ve been mulling over is that self-control leads to obedience. To be obedient means that you sometimes have to lay aside your plans, your worries, your anxieties, your wants, your desires, in order to pick up your cross and follow down the straight and narrow. It’s hard because we as humans think we gain something by staying in control. My friends, it’s quite the opposite. Believe me. Congratulations, you gain something alright; you gain back your burdens.

But I want to be obedient. I know God knows when I wake and when I lie down.. He knows my past, present, and future.. He knows what lies deep in the abyss of my soul and longs to take those burdens and control freak tendencies. I could easily be tempted to start controlling the next several months (despite the fact that we are in Army limbo [or purgatory??] right now) and apply to jobs, take teacher tests, and generally freak out. *Gulp*

(Aside: My ten-year PCHS Class of ’04 reunion is this year and everyone’s all “Do you want July 19 or August 2?” and I’m all “Hell *ahem* heck if I know what state I’ll even be in then! Must be freaking nice to know where your LIFE is headed in six months!” See?? Prime example.)

But when I am free from my control-freakness (hey, I’m a budding linguist so I can do fun morphological things like that ;)) and cultivate God-control, I can be freed up to be obedient… and that is the life in Christ I long to live. With the beginning of my 29th year of life and 7th year of marriage quickly (oh so quickly) approaching, I knew something needed to change. I should be better by now, less reactive, more proactive. Less anxious, more sure. God-control is the only way.

Surrender

I’m not sure when it started, but I haven’t been writing with any regularity. That’s not to say that there aren’t exciting things happening in life, or that I’m not still as introspective as usual. I just haven’t been struck with an AWESOME IDEA for this AWESOME BLOG that everyone wants to read.. (has that ever happened?!). So, I don’t know, this is a smattering of my current thoughts that may or may not be coherent.

I would say I’ve “settled” into living with my husband again on a regular basis, though he’s taken three soon to be four trips in the past six months. I would say I’ve “settled” into my classes and work. I would say I’ve “settled” into a workout routine. Ha. Hahahahaha. Ish.

But I don’t think I’m settling. Because God is the way He is and wants me to be as much like Christ as possible, He doesn’t let me settle but for a minute, which I think is a result of the fact that I’m doing better with surrendering recently. Maybe it’s that I’m getting older and approaching my 26 1/2 birthday (OMG! October 22!)…

I think it may have to do with that, getting older. And the fact that I realize we have one life to live. That’s it. Then we become dust, less our souls. Eternity has to be at the forefront of our minds, and we need to live life as if it’s our last day. Ugh. So so so cliche, but… I want all my experiences to be rich, all my relationships to be fruitful, all my time to be well spent. And I think I’ve been doing better with that recently than maybe in my whole life.

Surrendering is painful but compulsory for life with Christ. It means that I don’t dictate every aspect of my time, money, resources, friendships, conversation, habits. It means that I listen and wait… and listen, and wait…. and when I can discern what the Lord wants me to do, I act on it in obedience.

One caveat to surrender: it seems a little ridiculous at first, giving up all this control. It’s my life; I should take responsibility! What if this and this and THIS don’t get done?? But, after the initial withdrawl (possibly ridden with side-effects) is where we find freedom.

The Lord has revealed to me one of the last things that I need to surrender. Well, He revealed this years ago but I’ve never acted on it.. my own desires and excuses have gotten in the way. Yesterday morning I woke up when my husband did, since he leaves earlier than me every day. I should have just stayed up, because I felt like I needed to pray… about people in my life, about my own life, about our future… and I didn’t. I went back to sleep, only to wake up a hour and a half later to a dog licking my face and feeling much more groggy than if I’d just gotten up in the first place.

God won’t ask us to do things if we don’t truly want to do them. I really want to start devoting a couple hours in the morning to work out and pray and read my Bible, a tithe of my time if you will. I really want to. So, I pray for a desire, for something to jolt me out of my complacency.. and I believe as I keep praying that prayer, the Lord will continue to nudge me, or maybe just rip off all the covers and kick me out of bed. I’m thinking the latter would be more effective in my case.

The battle over anything is ultimately won in prayer, in the spiritual realm. We can try as we might to accomplish something for good, but our works don’t get us anywhere without the Holy Spirit… we’re just a clanging gong or resounding cymbal (I Cor. 13:1).

Time is short. God is raising up missionaries to reach the last frontiers of His people who still have never heard the Gospel. If I am to be part of that, I need to get with it and surrender everything. While it seems daunting, I know in the end I’ll be the most free I can be to fulfill the purpose for my life.

Defending our faith

Yesterday I was enjoying a book and the late summer sunshine on campus when two girls approached me. The conversation went like this….

“Hi! We have a Bible study here on campus and we were going around asking people to see what they know about the Bible. Do you believe the Bible is true?”

“Yes, I do!” In my life, the Bible is 100% truth, infallible, and the guide for living our lives and a way in which God speaks to us. The Holy Spirit brings the God-inspired words to life.

“What if we told you that in the Bible it says….”

For an hour we went through the Bible together (it was the New International Version; I asked) and these girls tried to convince me of things not accepted by mainstream Protestant doctrine by using Scripture out of context. I asked them if they had looked up certain things in the Greek or Hebrew, and they told me that “Well, no, but it’s pretty much the exact same thing in English.” While I agree that we have some amazing translations of the Bible in English, in order to get the absolute entire picture, we need to cross-reference these verses with the original languages in which they were written. Even comparing other English translations can shed light onto tough passages of Scripture.

I’m by no means a Bible expert. However, just in the past few years, I really started studying more and learning how to debate (thanks Petr and Gabi for your Christ-centered debate group!!). By God’s grace, I stumped these girls on the issues they were trying to convince me of. They were like robots; they had many verses highlighted with Post-It strips indicating where to go next if the person being interviewed posed a certain question.

My purpose for writing this is not to nit-pick every issue we talked about, nor is it to bash other people or denominations. It’s to illustrate how important it is for us to know what we believe, why we believe it, and where to find it in the Bible.

If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything. Even a Christian who attends church and reads the Bible can be swayed by tactics such as these. Do you know where you stand on issues such as creation? Sin? Salvation? Heaven? Hell? The divinity of Jesus? The oneness of the Trinity?

Debating these issues can get heated and sometimes offensive, but I thank God for the grace He gave me and I hope these girls could see what I was showing them out of love. Above all, this is what is important:

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you

to give the reason for the hope that you have.

But do this with gentleness and respect..” I Peter 3:15

and

“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed,

but of those who believe and are saved.” Hebrews 10:39

You have not because you ask not

For the past week and a half, I haven’t been able to get this little bit of biblical wisdom out of my head. I didn’t even know what book it was in, but I knew it’d been planted in my heart for a reason. (Now I know it’s James 4:2.)

It’s simple. We’re too afraid to ask God for something big because you know, HE MIGHT SAY NO. Gasp! No way! That’s the worst that could happen???

I want to be bold and ask of the Lord in confidence and faith. I want my life to be more than what it is. A week in the mountains of Honduras was just what I needed… to detox from Facebook, worrying what other people think, being glued to the scale and the television and the bank account. I needed to see things from a different perspective, that there’s a peaceful and bold way to live life that encompasses much more than my living room (which by the way is perfect the way it is; we can’t take fancy furnishings to heaven anyway!).

You have not because you ask not.

Wow. I complain about not having a heart for the nations… when I haven’t even asked. I complain about my laziness and complacency, when I haven’t even asked for it to be taken from me. I complain about silly, dumb, TRITE things that people say on Facebook, when I haven’t even spent time in prayer and Bible study for the day, when those things that people say don’t even matter.

It’s time to live life dramatically, purposefully, peacefully, with no worries or fears. It may sound like a tall order, but I will have because I will ask.