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.
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)