It’s enough to know the next step

“Publish Blog Post” says Google Calendar. How can I publish what I haven’t written? I’m pretty sure I deleted the last reminder though and I don’t want to skip over this one, so as I brush poptart crumbs from my keyboard, here’s your latest installment of “How long will it take for Ellie to realize the obvious?”

I take very careful mental notes of everything new, whether new people, new ideas, or new experiences. Depending on how much coffee I had that day, I can usually recall with decent clarity the day I first met someone, thought of something, or tried something. I like to live in that moment and think, “One day this will be a memory.” I’ll store up that feeling and later recall just how it felt, just what I thought, and what came out of it.

It’s a good hobby! I think it comes so naturally to me because I always expect something wonderful to come out of everything. Being on the young side, I realize that small things that happen now could lead to huge changes for the rest of my life. People I meet, places I go, they could one day mean the world to me.

But I’ve found myself lately trying to figure out exactly who that is and where that is. I want to know! I want to know exactly where God is leading me, and I want to pay special attention so one day I can think, “I remember how it all started, and how it felt.” Several times, many times, I’ve thought, “This. This is where God is leading me,” but just as often those doors have been closed, those ideas have failed, or sometimes I just decided it wasn’t for me after all.

So you can imagine the tears, the disappointment, the discouragement, when I am called just to wait and pray. I’ve been tempted to think and feel that there must not be a plan for my life at all. I think I’ve forgotten that waiting and praying isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it can be very, very good.

It also came as an epiphany (although it should have been obvious) that I don’t need see the entire plan before I take the first step. I have so many wonderful adults in my life! As I think of all the conversations I’ve had and all the advice and prayer I’ve received just in the past few weeks, I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude! Maybe I should write a blog post about seeking advice from godly adults. But for now let me paraphrase one of the many helpful people I talked to, “If you believe you want to go to college, than I’d say go ahead and start. You might get a couple semesters in and realize it’s not what you should be doing, or you might get a degree under your belt and decide to go farther. Be in such a relationship with God and be so receptive to the Holy Spirit that you know, not the whole plan, but the next step to take.”

We were talking about college, but the principle applies to the rest of my life too. I can just forget about trying to lay out the whole map of my life. If I can just be so in tune with God that I know the next step, even if the next step is waiting, His plans will come to pass. And I know His plans are wonderful!

With love,
Ellie

A Quick Clarification of Feelings and Gut-reactions

I feel like I need to explain something about myself, because I’ve only recently begun to realize that people don’t think the same way I do. Surprise! Okay, I’m kind of kidding, because I do know that people think differently, but I didn’t realize they didn’t understand my way of thinking, and at the risk of sounding self-centered, I want to explain.

If you’ve known me for awhile or if we’ve had extended one-on-one conversations, you probably know some of my weaknesses. You have probably seen at least part of my struggles, and you probably know some of the doubts I wrestle with. That’s because I usually give out that information without hesitation, especially if you have showed a bit of your own vulnerability to me. But I realize some people might be confused as to why I so readily share those things. Here’s why–because I am encouraged when others share their own vulnerability, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This will sound mean for a moment, but when I hear that others are struggling with the same things I do or in the same ways I struggle, my first thoughts are thoughts of encouragement (to myself, I mean.) I think things like, “I’m not alone.” “Other’s have been here too.” “This problem is defeat-able.” “We can do this together.” That is why when someone shows a piece of their heart to me, my gut reaction is to show a piece of my heart to them, and show the same struggle in my own life. I will say (or at least think) things like, “Yes, I’ve struggled along those lines.” “That happened to me too at this time and that time.” “I deal with this too.”

What I’m realizing is that this doesn’t always come across as an encouragement. It either comes across as 1) trying to one-up their pain with my own pain or 2) giving them an excuse not to deal with it. That’s not it at all! My pain is no more important than your own, and even though some trials seem so much larger than others, I know that while you’re in them–they are all painful! What might be a small deal for one person, is huge for another, so to each his own. Also, if you are dealing with sin, there is no excuse to let it sit and fester. I only want to be there to help you.

Before I close, I do also acknowledge that my feelings above are not always the case. Sometimes I am in a bout of self-pity, I am too self-centered, and I talk before I listen. That aside, I only want to understand and be understood.

I suppose all I would like to say is that I really do care, I want to fight with you, and I’m sorry if I’ve ever hurt you by talking about myself instead of letting you talk about yourself.

Darwin’s Dilemma

I held my cat for a long time tonight. I had felt a surge of panic as I thought of the day’s conversations and everything I had done wrong, and before I knew it, the cat I was in the middle of putting outside was clasped tight under my chin. I’m amazed at the gentleness in her. Most of the time she doesn’t like being held like that, probably because her old joints need specific support to be comfortable, but I must have gotten it right, because she didn’t struggle once but purred and rested against me. I hugged all the anxiety away. I know I’ve said it before, but my cat seems to know when I am sick or hurting, and I’m always amazed. Animals are amazing.

Our family also watched a documentary tonight called “Metamorphosis.” After a (rather long) exploration of the journey from caterpillar to butterfly, and then a look at the Monarch Butterfly migration, the biologists finally made the point they were coming to, two points actually.

The first has to do with metamorphosis itself. In metamorphosis, a caterpillar, inside the chrysalis, does something similar to decomposing. Its cells break down, they die, they turn into a pile of mush. Some of those cells disappear, and others are used to the reorganization of a completely different body. Wings, legs, proboscis, compound eyes, antennae, digestive tract, heart, and reproductive organs–they are all completely new and altogether different from the caterpillar. This metamorphosis poses a problem to the common-held theory of evolution which states that creatures evolved by natural selection and slowly grew in complexity over time. Because metamorphosis doesn’t work like that. First off, a creature wouldn’t (figuratively) kill itself unless there was a planned outcome. It cannot just randomly develop this habit of committing suicide inside a chrysalis and killing off most body cells without a system already put in place to rebuild itself. Secondly, it cannot slowly develop this process. So many things, tiny and huge, have to happen all at once for this to work. If the wings and eyes worked, but not the organs, the butterfly would die. If the legs and proboscis worked, but not the connecting muscles, the butterfly would die. If everything, by some happy, random chance, was put together perfectly except for one thing, the butterfly could not survive. For all of these amazing developments to happen at once is quite improbable, maybe impossible. The more logical conclusion is that it was designed.

The second point the biologists came to was that because of the art and beauty in the world that we observe, we can perceive that there must be intelligence behind it. There are approximately 20,000 species of butterflies in the world, and every single species has a different wing shape and pattern. In some cases, patterns help the butterflies to survive, but in many they are simply there. Natural selection has no reason for beauty, and no explanation for how it came about.

Look at a sunset. Look at the stars. Look at a cat. Look at a tiny butterfly. It is art. It is simply the logical response to assume that something intelligent is behind it all, and it is simply the right response to give our praise to that something.

 

In awe,
Ellie

Anxiety vs Our Big God

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Photo credit to Lily Caldwell, thanks girl!

What do I have to be anxious about? Nothing, right? I am a child of the Creator of the Universe. But I’ve been struggling with anxiety and fearfulness for a few weeks now. Anytime I’m alone, I’m subject to a wave of terror and nervousness sometimes displaying themselves physically with shivers and a lump in my throat so big I have to cough to breathe. In a nutshell–I’m afraid of myself and my sin. I’m afraid of destroying relationships and people that I love. I’m afraid that my future will be one disasterous spiral as I mess up again, and again, and again.

I’m not used to anxiety, because I’m usually optimitic, sometimes even unhealthily to the point of not thinking about consequenses. So this new anxiety has paralized me, to a certain degree, but more than that, it’s forced me to lean on God, and for that I am thankful. When I feel my throat seize up and dread of impending doom settle in my stomach, I have two options: 1. fly apart as I believe that I am in charge of my life, or 2. acknowledge that Jesus is my Savior and my Master and He has freed me from the power of sin.

Isn’t God greater than sin? Hasn’t God directed me this far? Hasn’t He held me so very tightly that not even I can destroy our relationship? How dare I doubt that the God who can control stars can control my life, every single hour of it! From atoms to galaxies, He is Lord.
We’ve been going through a Bible study at church called Behold Your God. It’s wonderful. Through it I’ve come to see that what we need most is to see God for who He truly is. It has been my goal in the fear and anxiety to fix my attention on God instead of on myself. Psalm 139 has been my fallback scripture since I’ve been working on memorizing it. This is what I have memorized right now.
 
Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up. You discern my thoughts from afar. 
You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold O Lord! You know it altogether. 
You hem me in behind and before and lay Your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me! It is high, I cannot attain it. 
 
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence. If I ascend to heaven, You are there. If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say “Surely the darkness shall cover me and the light about me be night” even the darkness is not dark to you and night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 
 
For you formed my inward parts, you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works. My soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me when as yet there were none of them
So wonderful and soothing. My God is big enough to calm all my fears. He is faithful and patient and will never let me go.
In Christ,
Ellie

Ten Questions to ask at the Start of a New Year

 

I think I broke my record for “Quickest time learning to write the new year instead of the old year when I write out the date.” If that doesn’t make sense, don’t worry, it’s not important.

I realize that it would have been helpful to pass along these ten questions at the beginning of the year or slightly before when everyone was making their resolutions and hardening up to be a better person, but maybe it’s best that that didn’t happen. It’s about now we have lost the excitement of the New Year and realized that we’re still the same old people we were last year, and only hard work and prayer is going to change that. So maybe now is the right time to examine ourselves yet again and decide to implement what we’ve resolved to do.

I didn’t write these questions, I’m only sharing them from what Don Whitney shared here. He also has 21 more questions if you’d like to ponder 1 question a day for a whole month. Let me tell you now, it’d be an overwhelming, but probably edifying month. And it’s a very worthwhile article.

Anyway, I want to share these 1o questions with you for your consideration.

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years? In eternity?
Convicting, no? Definitely a lot to swallow and think about, but don’t forget to put it into practice too. I’m setting reminders on my phone and Google Calendar to come back and think about these questions every month to examine my progress.

 

Love in Christ,
Ellie

A piece of my journal

November 14th, 2015

A scene comes to mind, one I heard of years ago. Why does it come to haunt me now? It disturbs me even more than it did then. Is this the manifestation of the fear that comes from ISIS and hearing about their plans for global domination?

The scene was told by the mother. A cartel invaded their town and began ransacking homes, plundering them and killing everyone who was found in them. This mother gathered her children who were in the house and as five men broke down the front door, she fled with her children out the back door and into the woods, where they ran straight into another cartel that was lining up people to chop off their hands.

She stood in line with her children and her heart began to plead with God to save them somehow. Then her youngest, a little girl, began to cry. She tried to quiet the child, but she only wailed louder. The desperate mother could do nothing. They tore the little girl from her mother and held the screaming child as they dug a hole in the ground. The girl cried until the very end when they buried her alive, her wails silenced by the earth.

Oh God! How my heart inside me melts and my spirit is burdened with the weight of this pain and cruelty! How can people do this? The battle inside hurts, this never-ending struggle to know: is man totally evil, only doing good when it benefits ourselves? Is there any decency in a man left to himself? How can one human being do that to another? How can one ignore this instinct to love and protect children and murder one so small? Does their conscience tear them? Do their morals scream for attention? How can such atrocities be accepted anywhere by anyone?

What happened to her? Was she and her children saved? And how could she ever be happy again having seen such things?

And while men and women are being executed on the other side of the earth for their faith, we struggle to wake up in the morning to read our Bibles that are easy to access in whatever format we want. We read without any fear of arrest, but then toss it away like another box on the checklist. And then we complain that the weather is not to our liking. We whine about people who rub us the wrong way and think that we ought not be forced to put up with these kind of people. We wish the pay checks were higher and our time free to spend at leisure.

What ugly pigs we are. How foolish and shallow I am. Lord, if there is anything I can do, show me. And remind me again of the pricelessness of your word.

My Two Cents

I am not very patriotic, to be honest. I don’t feel comfortable pledging my alliance to a country I don’t believe in. So I don’t. I pray for our President and the leaders of our country, but I don’t make any show of agreeing with them.

So when the Supreme Court ruled for same-sex marriage, I was surprised at the load of sorrow I felt. I predict that the country cannot last long after such a blow. Families are the building blocks of society, the vitamins of fruitful souls. Families are what produce and raise healthy lives. Without them, society cannot last.
Christian families need to be stronger than ever to survive in a hostile land. It will become more and more obvious as we go along, who the true church is. It will be harder and harder to be a Christian, and we can no longer take it lightly. We will be called old-fashioned, haters, and discriminators, but there is no better time to shine God’s love than when the rest of the world is dark.
I don’t pretend to admire America or its values, but it is my country. The history, the people, the land, I love it more than I realized.
Morals and virtue are almost gone, but I vow to stand for America, despite what it does to itself.