For in reality, my life is soo wonderful. So much love in my family. I'm so blessed. My parents spoil me as much as they are able. They protect me. And teach me. And guide me.
I AM blessed.
And I know this.
But sometimes, without warning, my heart hurts.
That's when the spiritual battles begin.
Unable to be explained, except for an unrest festering in my soul.
My parents and I are visiting family in Utah, so my Bible reading and prayer has kind of gone on a back burner. Bad idea, especially when in the midst of a Spiritual battle.
Anyways, the unrest ensued. My heart hurt. And I wasn't seeking the Lord, His help, guidance and comfort. I wasn't taking up my Sword (God's Word) and using it in battle against the evil ones.
But then, I picked up my Bible...
and kept reading it.
1 Corinthians 4 jumped out at me:
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed..."
I was feeling unworthy. And God reminded me that yes, I am unworthy, but He loves me anyway.
I am the earthen vessel from this passage. Ugly. Disfigured. Made out of the crudest of materials. Used for the most degrading of tasks.
And God uses ME to hold his treasure. If we go back a bit in the chapter and read the verse right before this passage we can find out what "this" treasure is. Verse 6, "For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the one who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Christ."
The GLORY of God in the face of Christ.
What a marvelous treasure!
And we, as Christians, have this treasure, kept in our ugly disfigured sinful earthen vessels.
Our question is answered in the next verse, "...so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves..."
God knows that we are imperfect. We live in a sinful world. And we are sinful people with dreadfully sinful souls.
And God still uses us.
He wants to use us.
Because when He uses our unworthy, unable selves, His glory shines through. Heh, because is so obvious to everyone else that it's not US that's done anything good, but only God working through us.
There's SO much more in this passage that I want to breakdown and talk about. But for now, remember, God wants to use you.
I was so encouraged by this.
I am imperfect.
And God, in His goodness and glory still wants to use me for His wondrous purposes.
You are an earthen vessel.
But God wants to fill You with the marvelous treasure of His glory in the face of Christ.
I'm sure you've heard me say before that I'm ready for my next adventure! And I am. But it's not coming. I'm still here, doing the dishes, visiting my great Aunt and doing secretarial work for my dad's business. All of these are good things, I know that fully, but sometimes they feel so...well, insignificant.
This morning I picked up Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris and read a chapter called Small Hard Things. It was so encouraging!
"In Rudyard Kipling's novel Captains Courageous, fifteen-year-old Harvey Cheyne, the son of a wealthy railroad tycoon, is washed overboard from a transatlantic steamship and rescued by fishermen. Cold, wet, and forgotten for the first time in his spoiled existence, Harvey at first tries to convince the fishermen of his parents' great wealth. He wants them to abandon their fishing season and take him ashore, where he promises his father will reward them generously. But his please don't work. In the end he is forced to earn his keep mending nets and gutting fish. At first Harvey can't believe his bad luck. The backbreaking work, the long hours, the stench, and the cold and wet disgust and overwhelm him. But over time, Harvey mysteriously changes. His body toughens. He learns to use his hands and his head to perform the tasks and weather the trials of fishing on the open sea. He begins to actually enjoy the hardships and to admire the strength and intelligence of his new companions. When the boat finally returns to port, Harvey wires his parents who rush to the small town. Amazed, they find a transformed son. Their lazy, demanding boy has become an industrious, serious, and considerate young man. No longer needing or wanting his mother's constant doting, Harvey is ready to start a successful career in his father's shipping lines. Maybe you feel forgotten and alone, grinding away at pointless routines that seem guaranteed to lead you nowhere...The truth is that your life (both now and later) will require you to invest a lot of time and energy into things that aren't big and that don't seem to make much of an impact. Some days they don't even make sense.
Sometimes the smallest things can be the hardest things of all."
Why are the small hard things so difficult? The book gives us a list of the top five reasons: 1.They don't usually go away after you do them. whew! I agree with this one. No sooner have I cleaned the living room, and it's messy again. Or if I exercise today, I still need to exercise tomorrow and the next day too.
2.They don't seem very important. Especially when "well meaning" strangers inform you of how important your life is. *sigh* does it never end?
3.They don't seem to make a difference. My mom is sweet and tells me how important my helping her and dad is, and I super appreciate it. But this point is still very true in my life, especially when I do something over and over and over.
4. They don't seem very glamorous. Yes. 5.No one is watching. Again, yes.
"Doing hard things is how we exercise our bodies, our minds and our faith. Small hard things are the individual repetitions - like a single push-up. They are seempingly insignificant by themselves but guaranteed to get results over time."
God even talks about this in His Word: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." Colossians 3:23
I just LOVE this from Martin Luther King Jr. -
"If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music...Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well."
So now I'm encouraged. Ready to tackle my t0-do list for today with zest and vigor! Even if what I'm doing sounds silly and insignificant (doing the dishes, laundry, exercising...) I'm able to realize that being able to do those things with a sweet heart and for the glory of God will train my heart and mind, strengthening me day by day for whatever comes next.
Today at Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) one of the ladies commented on how grounded I was in my faith. This isn't the first time that the ladies there have commented on my spiritual insight or knowledge in the scriptures, especially for my age. I giggle, remembering the time during fellowship when my group was talking about the lesson, our testimonies and how God is working in our lives. I had just finished talking about something God had been showing me, and one of the ladies looked at me with a smile and said, "Will you marry my son?!" LOL!
Why do I mention this? It's not to brag, I assure you, because it's not because of me that I have any knowledge, grounded-ness or spiritual insight. I fail soooooooooooooooo much. Please do not misunderstand me, I am a sinner (a wretched sinner for that matter, just ask my mom), yet loved still. Human hearts can't ever fully grasp the unconditional love of God, but we can certainly know a piece of it.
Here's the truth: Ever since I was a little girl, I have been pursued by God.
Not because I'm so great or awesome, but because I'm His daughter, His child, His beloved. (Your His beloved too, you know, check your heart, is He pursuing you tonight?) Every time I've strayed, He has been there to tenderly lead me back onto the right path, and into His loving, shepherding arms.
I haven't always desired to live for Jesus. When I was 12 or so I quite expected a rebellious teenage-hood, sexy clothes (and fights with my mom over those clothes), and a string of boyfriends. All of course, under the safe covering of calling myself a "Christian".
Then, by chance, a friend of ours told us about a week long camp in the mountains called Daughters of Destiny Camp. It was a Christian camp for girls, and that's really all we knew. It sounded cool, was only $35 and a bunch of my friends were going - I was there!
It was there during that week that Jesus captured my heart and soul.
I learned of a new way of life, of serving Christ with my all, and being completely Christian (not just on Sundays or when the situation called for religion). It was totally new. I learned about honoring my parents and truly serving them. The speaker, Shelly Hendry, spoke of going to your mom after she's had a hard day with some lotion, and rubbing your mothers dry hands with the wonderful smelling lotion, in a loving, humble way, just as Mary Magdalene used the good smelling perfume on Jesus' feet. She talked about being best friends to your siblings, and caring for your younger siblings, serving and loving them, not just "tolerating" them or worse, hating them. It was a whole new standard of living. One that God prepared and opened my heart for.
As the years past many people came in and out of my life. The "servant's heart and love for God" stuff I'd learned about at camp faded from my heart, and the World replaced it with sin and worldliness. I was pulled away from Jesus time and time again. And then time and time again God would call my heart back to Himself.
God has given me such a love for Him. He pursues me every single day. I feel His gentle whisper as I get ready in the morning, reminding me to take time to beautify my soul, more than to beautify my face and hair. I hear His voice as I reach for the fashion magazine or click on celebrity gossip sites, telling me that those things will only leave me feeling empty and inadequate. I feel His love, giving me butterflies on the inside, every time I feel alone.
When I was 14 I remember going out onto the front porch to get some air and some peace and quiet. It was Christmastime, and dinner time, so the house was a little crazy and I just needed some space. I sat in the cool night air, the Christmas lights twinkling above my head. I breathed in a deep sigh and waited to hear God's voice. Normally at these times He tells me something I need to work on, or someone I need to apologize to (with a mouth like mine, there's always someone to apologize to). But in the still of the night, with the breeze blowing onto my face, all I heard Him say was,I love you. The Creator of the Universe, The Lord of everything, He loved me!
(wasn't I just the nerdiest 15 year old?! glasses + braces + captain of the team, who had no idea what she was doing...lol)
Then I turned 15, I was playing volleyball and dealing with mean girls and hurtful friendships. One afternoon my heart and mind were a mess with problems and decisions, hurtful things people had said or done. I wanted to do right, but nothing made sense in my mind. It made me think of a big bowl of spaghetti, I didn't know where one problem started and the other ended. So I went down to our pond in the backyard and sat on a stump. It was here, bundled up in my mom's big red coat (with the fur trim around the hood) that I poured out my soul to God. I told Him everything, speaking in whispers, sometimes crying, sometimes praying silently. I told Him everything and I know He listened to everything. God took that knot in my heart and He untied it, gently, as always. I was at peace, a peace that only Christ can give. I've been back to the pond many times, sometimes with a hymnal, sometimes with my prayer journal and Bible, sometimes with just me, always with Jesus. He is my only source of true peace.
When I was 16 I got into a courtship (a fancy word for serious, discretionary dating) with a 19 year old young man. He was a good guy, but I was young and soooo unsure of who I was. It ended. But, wrongly, I didn't turn to God in my brokenheartedness, I turned to yet another relationship.
At 17 I met "him". Another one who broke my heart. I was rebellious. It doesn't seem to make sense that a girl so pursued by Christ and so loved by such a wonderful family would stray so many times, but I did. It wasn't a good situation. I gained a lot of heart-baggage. It hurt.
My pain led me back to Christ.
Jesus took my broken heart and slowly and gently mended it back together. Never once chastising me, but 0nly rejoicing in me being back in His arms.
Now I'm 18. Sooo much has happened this past year. So much change. My brother (and best friend) went off to college. My sister got married and moved 8 hours away, taking her son (my beloved nephew) with her. I graduated from High School.
Here's me and my mom at my graduation party. I had no idea the ride life would take me on in the next months.
What does one usually do after high school? One of two choices: go to college or go to work.
I did neither.
But what I did do is PRAY PRAY PRAY! In fact, I wasn't the only one praying. Many ladies, my older sisters in Christ, prayed for me too. We prayed that God would show me HIS will for my life. I didn't want to college unless God was sending me to college. Maybe He wanted to send me on a mission trip, I'd be ok with that. After all, I wanted to do something BIG! And in my mind, I hoped that God wanted me to do something big too.
I had an amazing summer full of beach trips, missions, parties, friends, and more beach trips! God really blessed me. At the end of the summer mom and I went on a silence retreat and the ladies who had been praying for me came over for my birthday. They told me what God told them. It was such an emotional day.
Here's some of the things God showed me in the Silence Retreat*:
"Behold, you will call a nation you do not know, a nation which knows you not will run to you, Because of the Lord your God..." (Is. 55:5)
"Do not fret because of evil doers, be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass, and fade like the green herb. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord... Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness...rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him..." Psalm 37:1-5, 7a "Cease striving and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
"Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary." Is 40:31
"For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness." Galatians 5:5
"Wait for the Lord; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:14
"Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season..." 2 Timothy 4:2
It's clear to see what God has called me to do in this season: Wait. No, I'm not waiting for a husband, I'm waiting on the Lord. But before I get into that I'll continue in what else God showed me...
Here's what the ladies heard from the Lord in my behalf:
Mrs. Liggitt said that the verse that kept coming into her mind as she prayed was Psalm 119:105, "Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." She said that when you walk with a lamp you can only see a few feet in front of you at a time, you can't see the whole way. It's the same with God's will for your life, you can only see a little ahead (if at all), but GOD knows what the entire path looks like and wants to cultivate faith in your heart as you trust Him, making Him a light unto your path. I don't know why God would have me wait, I don't know what's ahead, but I can have faith that God knows the path ahead and He lights my way.
The younger Mrs. Liggitt (daughter-in-law of the first) didn't have a verse, but she did encourage me and strengthen my resolve. She said that a decision to go against culture (not going to college or to work) is socially unacceptable. But, she said, get used to it. The life of a Christ-follower is never "acceptable" to the rest of the world, this step of following Christ's will for my life (instead of my own) is the first of many steps that everyone else are going to think is crazy. But it's right.
Mrs. Rauscher gave me a verse that I actually got from the silence retreat, "Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday." Psalm 37:5-6. I received SO much from Psalm 37.
A few days later I got call from my recently married sister Erin. She gave me the verse Colossians 1:9, "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." I am SOOO blessed to have so many praying for me. My bro-in-law Dylan gave me the verse Ephesians 3:13, Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulation on your behalf, for they are your glory."
So here I am. Waiting. Sometimes I'll admit, it's not much fun. I'm the girl who wanted to do BIG things. You know, like end human trafficking or solve world hunger. But God has a different plan for me. I am, as Psalm 37 says (above) dwelling in the land and cultivating faithfulness. What does this mean? This means that I'm learning. I'm serving. I'm being behind the scenes. Growing up. Growing closer to God. Not the most glamorous in the eyes of the world (or in the eyes of many Christians for that matter), but it's right, and I can honestly say, as much as I struggled at first, I wouldn't want it any other way. God has given me this time to spend with Him. What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and love Him forever.
I've learned a lot, that's for sure. I've learned how to lean on God and not on the standards of others. Oh you'll learn real quick how to not lean on the standards of others when you tell them that you're not going to college. I've learned to say it real fast and then flinch, waiting for their rebuttal. Funny how people think they know more than God about how life should go.
Get this, one time at youth group I was talking to a (CHRISTIAN!) woman and she asked me where I was going to college now that I had graduated (she assumed that I was of course going to college). I told her that I wasn't going, but then I explained how I had prayed about what God wanted me to do and He told me to wait on Him and largely, to spend my time serving Him and serving others. Hoooowhee! the look she gave me. She just shook her head and spat out a bunch of reasons that I should go to college. Then it was my turn to shake my head! I wanted to say (but didn't, out of respect), "I'm sorry, maybe you didn't hear me correctly, GOD told me not to go to college. Yeah, you know, GOD...the guy who created the universe and knows everything..." lol I can laugh about it now, but it truly was a struggle to get so much scorn from people I hardly knew (or worse, people who's opinion I treasured!).
I even wrote about it in my journal, "Y'know, following this socially incorrect pattern God has ordained for me wouldn't be so hard if it weren't for other people and their pointed questions and comments. Serving is not a dumb or pointless occupation. I just hate the blank stares and judgemental looks I get when I tell people I'm not going to college..."
But my hope is in Him. He's taken me on many little "adventures", as I call them, since then. Different doors He's opened and places He's sent me. The other day I read this in the Bible, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you...Then I said, 'Alas, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth.' But the Lord said to me 'Do not say, I am a youth, because everywhere I send, you will go, and all that I command you, you shall speak, Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.' Declares the Lord." Jeremiah 1:5-8. This is what I'm living right now, where He sends, I go, what He commands, I say (or, hopefully I'll be brave enough to say...I'm still struggling). God is sooo good to me. I have been blessed over and abundantly. Right now, a door has recently closed, and I think I see another opening, still praying about that. (P.S. on this last little bit. Notice that the verse here in Jeremiah states "before you were born I consecrated you"? Interesting note, my name, Elisa, is derived from Elisabeth, which means, Consecrated to God. Chance? I think not. PTL)
Ok, where was I going with this post...Oh yes, in the end, my friends, as you can see, I have been SOO pursued by the Lord. He is my everything. Yes, I will fail again and again and again, but He'll still love me. Just the other day I experienced His love in the midst of my failures. Actually, love in the midst of my doing well. I had had a great day, full of serving and kindness, I thought I did quite well. I was lying on the couch, exhausted, and realized something. God loves me just as much on that day as the days before when I had been in a bad mood. God loves me just as much on that day when I did so well, as He does when I am rebellious. Mmm, don't we serve a merciful God!
So, I'm still here, dwelling in the land. Who knows how long I'll be here, but you know what? It's ok. For right now, I'm at peace in the will of the Lord, and there's no where else I'd rather be.
Unless, of course, God wants to send me on another adventure :)
"The clear cold wind, Lord, You are there, as the chill unwinds my ringlets of hair. The sun glistens on the trees, I feel the warmth on my face, Closing my eyes, as I bask in your embrace. The ripples in the water,reflect blue sky above. Your peace wells up inside me, as I marvel at Your love. The mourning dove sings, It's eery song of praise, Lord, I am waiting, please, don't delay."
(written down at the pond, sitting on the stump sometime after I learned that God wanted me to wait)
I just finished a fabulous book today: Wild at Heart by John Eldredge.
A very interesting and enlightening read.
This book is about the hearts of men and how they are wild and free and totally meant to be that way. God created men and women differently, inside and out, we're different creatures with different desires and inclinations. This book brings out those differences and sheds a godly and scriptural light on them.
A lot of times churches, societies and women try to feminize men and make them into something they're not (and never should be): safe, sweet and tame.
"That strength [that makes man wild and free] so essential to men is also what makes them heroes. If a neighborhood is safe, its because of the strength of men. Slavery was stopped by the strength of men, at a terrible price to them and their families. The Nazis were stopped by men. Apartheid wasn't defeated by women. Who gave up their seats on the lifeboats leaving the Titanic so that women and children would be saved? And have we forgotten - it was a man who let himself be nailed to calvary's cross. This isn't to say women can't be heroic. I know many heroic women. It's simply to remind us that God made men the way they are. Yes, a man is a dangerous thing. So is a scalpel. It can wound or it can save your life. You don't make it safe by making it dull; You put it in the hands of someone who knows what He's doing."
I love this. Such an awesome perspective! How many times I've squished the dangerousness out of the men in my life. My father, brother, brother-in-laws, friends, boyfriends...these men have a wild heart, God created them that way. And instead of trying to "tame" them and make them safe I need to encourage them to be the men God created them to be.
And something that super applies to my life: "There are no formulas with God. Period. So there are no formulas for the man who follows him. God is a Person, not a doctrine...The adventure begins and our real strength is released when we no longer rely on formulas. God is an immensely creative Person and he wants his sons [and daughters!] to live that way too...So there comes a time in a man's life when he's got to break away...and head off into the unknown with God. This is a vital part of our journey and if we balk here, the journey ends."
Some of my favorite quotes and passages...
Life is not a problem to be solved...it's an adventure to be lived.
Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference.
Don't ask yourself what the world needs, Ask yourself what makes you come alive,and go do that, because the world needs more people who come alive.
If you read the book, take caution, it's got some certainly skip-able parts. But over-all I'm so glad I read it, this book gave me a great perspective on men (and women too, actually!) and how their minds and hearts work.
"Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart..." Psalm 37:4
My Savior, Jesus Christ - My Family - My Friends - Simple Pleasures - Thunderstorms, with thunder that makes the ground shake - the smell of rain - an un-stoppable belly laugh - bonfires - volleyball - sunglasses! - flowing dresses - a good cup of coffee - Family Dinners - Cooking - Baking - Old Books - New Books - Books that make me cry - God's Word - My cute, little country church - Playing the piano - listening to others play the piano - football games on a crisp, autumn night - baseball games under the starry summer sky - decorating and re-decorating - Gigantic Southern magnolia bushes - sweet tea - fried chicken - soul food - country music - bluegrass - cowgirl hats - horses - traveling to the "big city" - windy days - adorable nephews - flip-flops - watercolors - picking flowers - home grown vegetables - riding in the back of pick-up trucks - sewing - learning through doing - feeling creative - goofiness - fabulous shoes - people's individual personalities - hearing someone's life story - contentment - pretty aprons - road trips - the beach in the spring - the lake in the summer - mountain trips in the fall - sunshine - my Country - living - laughing - loving...