A Very Rushed Post, featuring a story about my Niece

It’s been an exactly a year since I posted! Oh my goodness. I can’t let this go on. So here I am typing up a little blog post just so that it won’t be “over a year since I’ve posted.” That’s such a terrible reason, and I have almost NO time to type this either.

What’s to report? God is good! So good! All the time! Isn’t it incredible how He can be so good to us and we can still doubt Him when the going gets rough? Our church conference is this weekend, starting tomorrow, and the topic is “Grace through Suffering.” I know it will be good. And since band practice last night, which meant going over some of the songs we’ll be singing, now I REALLY know it’s gonna be good! The songs that have been chosen (I even got to choose one, yay) are so good!

God is very good to us. Sometimes His goodness is shown through his providence. Sometimes His goodness is shown through His discipline. One of the songs we’re going to sing this weekend has a line that says, “Why should I complain or want or distress, temptation or pain? He told me no less.” It makes me think of Job who said, “Should we receive good from the Lord and not receive evil?” If we weren’t so head-smart, we’d be able to see more clearly the goodness of our God in the good times, so that we could trust Him more fully in the evil times.

One time when I was babysitting my niece and nephew I had to swat my niece’s hand. Mariposa was about a year and a half old, and she is generally a very sweet child who wants to please, but she started testing her boundaries just a little. I told her twice not to touch something, and the third time she reached for it, I took her hand and popped it. It probably scared her more than anything. I’m not sure what I was expecting. I guess I expected Mari to get angry and reach for the item again, or I at least expected her to run away. If I had been on the receiving end of that hand-swat, I’m pretty sure I would have been angry, insulted, and rebellious. If I wasn’t angry, I’d be scared and try to get as far away as I could. Instead she burst into tears and fell into my arms. Without hesitation.

I was pretty confuzzled. I had just told her not to get something she wanted, and when she had insisted on getting it, I gave her pain. So why did she run right to me? How did she know I still love her? Why did she think (and rightly so) that she could come to me for comfort, right after I had inflicted pain?

Maybe because in her simple but trusting mind, she’s a lot smarter than the rest of us stupid blockheads!

I don’t have time right now to expound on everything this means to me or just what an impact her trustfulness in me made. I’ll just tell you now that I do love her. She knew I loved her. And after she was finished crying, she continued to cling to me and draw cuddles from me until it was time to go, when she started crying again and broke my auntie heart. I cherish that memory of her. We truly need to have faith more like that of a child.

Until Next Year! (haha, just kidding, I think)

Cheers!
Ellie

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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

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

My Life as it is Today

There’s a lot to report, because obviously, it’s been way too long since I’ve written a blog post.

The reason I haven’t been blogging is not that I haven’t been writing or that I forgot about the blog–it’s that my spiritual life has been very dry for quite some time. At first I made attempts to commune with God and enjoy the testimonies of my church family, but eventually it became clear that it was not succeeding and that I was not living as God would have me. And so I stopped even trying.

This is a confession of my weakness and low self-will. I was tired of working, tired of trying, and I let life just blow by me. I didn’t fight for joy and peace in God, and I was driven to depression several times. I was tossed about like chaff in the wind.

But that isn’t what this blog post is about. I have very little self-will and self-discipline, and I’m terribly lazy. But now that you know that, you can see what a great god God really is!

Even though I was in a slump, crying because I knew I ought to read the Bible but I didn’t want to, God still brought me around and thrust the Bible in my lap and told me, “Back to the basics. You don’t need long hours of prayer and penitence. You don’t need all your theology straight. You don’t need all the wisdom you want, nor all the growth you want. You don’t even need to feel the passion you want all the time. Just set aside a small part of your day for me, and let me give you the wisdom, growth, and passion.”

Very basic, very simple. I just needed to start like I was saved yesterday. Who knows, maybe I was, though I don’t think that is the case.

After months of not reading the Bible and praying, and weeks of depression and knowing that I’ll never find joy again–I’m finally communing with God! I’m reading the Bible, not to impress my friends with the deep theological implications of it, but just to read what it says, literally, simply, and go back to the basics of being a Christian.

Before this dry season (that’s the best way I can put it) I had been ecstatic about all the Lord had given me, family, church, a job, a home, food, trips to Mexico, not to mention a niece.

After I stopped reading my Bible daily and praying often, I lost all the joy I had. I lost all the thankfulness I had, though I knew in my head that I ought to be thankful.

Now I feel like I have it all back.

I have joy in my future since my confidence in Christ has been proven true one more time. I know that my future belongs to God.

There’s a couple people who have already told me they were praying for me. I’m so blessed. So blessed to have the church family I have, the friends I have. I’m so blessed to have the Lord shaping me one day at a time. He is increasing the time I spend in the Bible daily, and even though I know I’m going to fail again and again, I know that He is faithful and so very good.

People have been praying for me, but I haven’t been praying for them. I want to begin again with the strength God has given me to pray for the people I vowed to pray for, and those who need it. Please let me know how I can help you.

In Christ,
Ellie

dry-land-boon-mee

Why I Battle

I have noticed in myself an apathy, and it concerns me. I haven’t struggled against sin like I should. I haven’t fought for righteousness and holiness like I ought. I’ve sat back and let sin trample me, throwing me down and around until I have absolutely no choice but to throw it off.

My own lack of passion has concerned me, usually when I am around other Christians who are striving for the life that the Lord would have them live–and I can barely managed to pray every day. Or when my brothers and sisters are convicted of sin–and I haven’t heeded my own convictions that fall like a puddle around my feet. It took me awhile to diagnose the problem. It is disbelief.

A few weeks ago at our church’s family camp, Mr. Tren Groat preached a sermon, linked here. He said in that sermon, “Satan wants you to believe that the sin in your life can’t be defeated.” I felt electricity course through me as I was lightning struck. I thought, “Well then–it can be defeated?” My head answered, “But of course!” Jesus died to rescue us from sin. He overcame death and the grave. God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His beloved son!

I realized then that I wasn’t believing what my head was saying, and my head was quoting the Bible. I wasn’t truly believing the gospel, that I have been rescued from sin.

The next evening, Pastor Scott preached a sermon, linked here. It was a beautiful sermon: a beautiful picture of a beautiful person who served the church in a simply beautiful way. I could have melted right there, swallowed in despair and the overwhelming feeling that I will never get there.

I love my church family so badly! I get choked up thinking about all my brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to serve them wholeheartedly, without prideful thoughts, without selfish intent. I want to be the person God has called me to be! But unconsciously I have been telling myself over and over that I will never get there, so why even try?

That question has beaten me up in the past few days. I couldn’t get around it. Why try if I’ll never get there? I know I will always have sin. I will never be able to do anything with a completely pure motive. So why should I try?

This is why I am not passionate. This is why I am despairing. This is why I am unhappy. Because I am not believing God’s promises.

I found the answer Wednesday night.

Why should I fight for righteousness? Because God is worth it, and our relationship to Him only gets sweeter and sweeter from here on out. If we could ever be perfect here on the earth, we wouldn’t experience His strength through our weaknesses like we can now. If we were perfect–there would be no grace. We hunger and thirst for righteousness because that is what brings us closer to God.

So why don’t I fight against sin? Because I don’t believe that I can conquer it. Which is true, but Jesus already did! I don’t have to subject myself to my old master. I’m no longer a child of sin, but a child of God.

Two things have really encouraged me through this battle to believe that the sin in my life is defeated, and I ought to fight against it.

1st, I look at people around me–and they aren’t perfect–but they’re awesome! I want to be like that. And I know that they didn’t get there by giving up. They got there by pursuing God with all their heart, soul, and mind.

2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

They struggled hard, went through trials, and sought after God as He worked in them to change them into a beautiful person. Those people–and if you know me, I’m probably talking about YOU–are the people that encourage me to love and good works. They inspire me to be more, to struggle farther, to follow after God and allow Him to work in my life. That’s why I need my church family so much! And for all those people–thanks.

2nd, the Bible is full of of admonishments to press on. On the one hand, that shows me that I’m not the only one who struggles with discouragement that leads to apathy.

1 Timothy 6:12

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

And on the other hand, I know that it can be done and ought to be done.

Romans 8:10
But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

1 Timothy 6:11
Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

And that is my battle from the last couple of weeks, believing that I am free from sin. This confession has tried to stay hidden for a long time. I didn’t want to write it. I didn’t want to be held accountable for posting it. I didn’t want people knocking on my door (figuratively) to make sure I was struggling on, fighting the good fight, warding off apathy. But what I have come to see, and what I hope you see, is that I don’t need a chart to make sure I am keeping up, but an encouragement in the promises of God. He promised that He would never leave me or forsake me. And He promised me that I no longer belong to sin, but I belong to Him. And through Him I will overcome the sin in my life.

And now with this freshly strapped to my forehead, I hope to fight on, not out of obligation, but out of a passion to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Romans 6:17-18
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

In Christ,
Ellie