Happy New Year

Well, ok it might be a bit late, 2 weeks in and all. But I am ready for a new year. New…with endless possibilities… a clean slate, fresh with no mistakes. A new chapter. Fresh. Hopeful.

I can’t keep a resolution to save my life. I’m good for 2 weeks but get bored or undisciplined, most likely the latter. So I don’t make resolutions anymore. I am learning to set goals. Since I am the type that likes to make a list just so I can check things off, I made a list of goals for the year. Some small. Some big. Some that will be accomplished in the short term and others that will take a bit longer.

If you are one that makes resolutions only to feel like a failure when you slip up or give in yet again, let me encourage you to take a different approach. Try setting goals that you can achieve. Even if they don’t all get accomplished, give it your best shot without all the pressure! Here are some I came up with to help you:

  1. Set goals
  2. Stick to said goals

Okay I kid, I kid. For real now: (The last one I can check off my list as it is now accomplished…oh, goody!!!):

  1. Blog more. Write 2 posts monthly.
  2. Cook more. Set up monthly meal plan, budget accordingly,
  3. Get eye/dental exam
  4. Memorize a chapter in book of bible. Determine that section by Jan. 31.
  5. Go on a trip with a friend during the summer.
  6. Save $2000 this year.
  7. Build something new for home by June 1st

There is a great model to use when setting your goals: Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. So, think SMART. Think long term and short term, big and small. I broke mine down into categories: personal, spiritual, relational, financial, creative with at least 3 in each category.

I have been in prayer for a verse to claim over 2015. Today, as Ephesians 3: 20 crossed my path I realized something pretty important. It’s not about a list of goals to accomplish but experiencing freedom in Jesus in new ways this year. As I think through what I would like to see happen this year, I am choosing Christ first and will practice patience in the waiting as He unfolds the details of this story he is writing.

So for 2015 will you join me by claiming this verse? Let’s watch expectantly and with joyful anticipation of what He is going to do in, through and around us this year!

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think”. Eph. 3:20

Wait for it…wait for it

I remember as a kid being completely out of control. My emotions were an untamed beast. I had endless amounts of energy I am certain I drove my mother to insanity (so, so sorry, mother dear). During one of said episodes my mom would stop me, grab my face in her hands so I couldn’t look away and say “Just stop! Look at me!” At least that is how I remember it. It was most likely followed by “go to your room” or something like it.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus…

When I left my job 5 months ago I was worn out spiritually, physically, mentally, financially and every other ‘-ally’ there is. I wrestled with the fact I didn’t have something else lined up. In the balance was either stay and continue feeling utterly miserable or go and risk everything. A rule of thumb I try to use in life is to move from a place of strength to another place of strength. To leave a job with no alternative seemed downright stupid. How was that moving to a place of strength?

The Lord challenged my thinking and said “Elissa, I AM your strength. Make your decision and trust me. I will lead you whatever you decide. I’ve got this!” So I left my job. Oh what joy! Immediately that burden lifted and I felt peace.

…look full in His wonderful face…

I was continually reassured God was in this . On occasion I would find myself looking at my circumstances and felt out of control. I would try too hard, do anything and everything I could do to fix the situation, all to no avail. In the latest of those instances, something truly remarkable happened. I felt the Lord grab my face with His hands so I was looking directly in His eyes. “Just stop,” He said and smiled. “I’ve got this! Let it go. Keep your eyes on me. Trust me.” When I looked in His eyes, all the anxiety disappeared and my circumstance resolved.

…And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

I learned a lesson years ago that means more to me now:

There is a reason for the wait.

Waiting is never easy, always uncomfortable and sacrifice is required. Well, I am not patient. I don’t wait well. However, when the next thing comes and I find myself waiting once again, it will be a little easier because I have this season to remember. The wait is always worth it!

After 5 months of rest, soul searching and learning to trust Jesus, I have accepted a position with a Faith-based medical clinic. I think God likes to show off if we but give him the opportunity!

 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

 

 

Lessons from a tree

    tree

I am grateful for my Christmas tree and the beauty it gave this Christmas season. All good things must come to an end, though.  In a brief window of beautiful weather I decided to haul my live-but-near-dead tree to the disposal site a couple of blocks from my house.

The sun was shining, the sky was blue and there was a crisp-ness in the air that beckoned me. I jerry-rigged two bungee cords around the bottom of the tree and tied a knot so it would keep hold.

The tree and I began our adventure. The trip, surprisingly easy at first, proved to be anything but in just mere minutes. I started to sweat. My legs started to burn. My hands cramped and I had to switch from right to left time and again to keep a good hold. Not 1 block in to this escapade all I could to was to keep one foot in front of the other, praying for it to be over quickly. Right, left, right, left, right, left…

The effort required to get from point A to point B became quite the struggle. I didn’t take notice of anything or anyone. With head down and breathing ragged I just wanted to get that blessed tree to the drop off.

I finally I did and untied the rigged cords, put the tree among the pile of remnants and took a deep breath, choking on the whiff of all the other trees as it smacked me in the face like too many pine air fresheners in a car.

I started back to the house. Legs recovering from the burn I was walking easier. Now that I had no burden to bear, I looked up and saw the purest blue sky with no clouds, birds singing and playing, and had the ability to make eye contact with passersby.

Thanks to my Christmas tree I had an epiphany. That little adventure was a picture of what struggle has looked like in my life the past couple of years.

Life happens and I learn to cope with its extra baggage. I drag it behind me like a ball and chain, learning to cope with its added weight. At first the path I am walking is normal but within a short period of time the weightiness takes over.

Weariness…fatigue…frustration…fear…loneliness…emptiness…every emotion and feeling all become my closest companions and cause me to wonder if this struggle will ever end. In the midst of struggle, my head is down. All I can do is keep one foot in front of the other. Right, left, right left. Are we there yet?

Leaving my job at the end of November is the equivalent to dropping my tree off at the drop site (minus the pine scent). I untied the burden of it.  I feel lighter. I can breathe easier. I have tremendous peace that continues daily.

In the weeks since I left my job I notice my head isn’t down anymore. I am taking notice of everyone and every thing. I am looking for ways to serve and bless. Knowing I don’t know how to “be” well, I am perfecting that art. I am creating and enjoying the extra time for artistic expressions of all kinds. I am nesting. I am enjoying God and what He is showing me in this new found freedom. I am honored to know Jesus as provider, sustainer and lover.

Life is a struggle. You are either in one, coming out of one or nearing one. I can honestly say I am grateful for the struggle. It has changed, challenged and charged me in ways I never would have imagined. I am reminded by my inabilities and weakness and am comforted and held by His perfection and strength.

Time, Struggle and Caramel Apple Spice

It’s October 30, 2013. I am enjoying a much needed day off from work, sipping coffee and watching beautiful leaves fall like snow out my front window.

Christmas banners and other garb are up, ready to usher in the hustle and bustle of yet another holiday season. Holiday décor is already lining shelves in most stores. The leaves haven’t even finished their fall and Starbucks is in full swing of pumpkin spice lattes and yummy caramel apple spice offerings. How sad to watch commercialism at its best, or worst.

I am thankful for a day to pause and reflect on the year that is nearly over. It has been full of struggle, growth, more struggle, challenge and still more struggle. I have often wrestled at the reason for it all. Feelings of confusion, loneliness, invisibility and even suffering have been ever reoccurring. Do you see me Lord? Are you moving? Why are you making me wait?

The battle between heart and mind rages. I seek for truth but only hear the voices of this world screaming loudly. Then one day, as fog lifts and the still small voice utters precious words of life and love and hope. His peace rules more profoundly than the feelings of confusion, loneliness and invisibility. Suffering is part of this life. It knows no limits and has no measure for depth or intensity.

I am reminded there is always a reason for the wait. The struggle is what produces character and trust. It’s the glue that makes this life a testament to who He is and his unceasing display of Glory. He is still on His throne despite and in spite of me.

Waiting is never easy. It’s often tedious, produces tidal waves of impatience and restlessness, and is relentless in its pursuit. Yet in all my years of walking with Jesus and the struggle that comes with it, it’s the waiting that produces the greatest blessing and joy. It’s where I find Him and where I am found.

The lies that say I am alone, I am invisible, I am insignificant and feelings of confusion are put in their place simply because of Christ. He proves over and He is greater.

This year certainly has gone fast and I shudder to think 2014 will be here in the next blink of an eye. Even though commercialism won’t let me, I intend to enjoy my favorite of the seasons. Today is a good day to stop, enjoy the fall foliage and its beauty, drink a caramel apple spice and consider all the Lord has done. If I have to struggle so that He may increase, so be it. He makes all things new.

Jesus Movement

The Jesus movement was a movement in Christianity beginning on the West Coast of the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s and spreading primarily through North America and Europe, before dying out by the early 1980s. It was the major Christian element within the hippie counterculture. The Jesus movement left a legacy of various denominations and other Christian organizations, and had an impact on both the development of the contemporary Christian right and the Christian left. Jesus music, which grew out of the movement, greatly influenced contemporary Christian music, helping to create various musical subgenres such as Christian rock and Christian metal.

~ Wikipedia

­________________________________________________________________________

My parents were heavily influenced by this radical movement in their early walks with the Lord.

Things were simple. It was all about Jesus. Just Jesus.

We now live in a day and age where simplicity is a thing of the past. Technology grows rampant. Everything we could possibly need or want is within a click of a button and without the need to do or move much to get it. Fast food, high-speed internet, 4G networks, ATM’s…

I am a child of the 80’s. I know what life was like before internet became such a phenomena. Writing in cursive was mandatory in the second grade. Snail mail was a novelty (I remember having pen pals in school). A cell phone was called a car phone, a large bag that plugged into a cigarette lighter in a car and only used for emergencies. Progress is something we can’t escape it if we want to coexist here on earth. Is there a way to combat it?

My love of music is not a secret for most people who know me. It’s so much a part of me and how I relate to the Lord and the world. To not use it would be to deny who God made me. What I appreciate most of my upbringing in a Christian home was the music we listened to that was birthed out of the Jesus Movement. Maranatha! Music was a huge catalyst in my young walk with Jesus. Psalty the singing songbook was a dear friend. I believe it was then that my passion and love of music, specifically singing, was fashioned. At the age of 2, it’s claimed that I would stop whatever I was doing when a favorite song came on (most likely Sandi Patti or Twila Paris), stand up, grab any apparatus available like a brush, or remote control, and sing to Jesus with my hands raised and eyes closed. Pure, unhindered worship.

Visiting my parents recently we were playing round after round of cards and listening to the music of my youth at my request. I was singing and sensing that same passion I must have had at age 2. I still get so choked up.

It was a simple time back then. I miss that simplicity.

The voices of life and others scream so loud these days. You can’t blame them. They are competeing with what we have become and allowed as a nation. Somehow it has become easier for me to head those loud voices and take their words as gospel rather than tuning in to His still small voice that holds every answer to every question. He continually speaks but how can He be heard when listening is a lost art form?

I often verbal process with my mom (bless her heart) the goings on in my head of life, love and the pursuit of happiness. Through my verbal processing with good ‘ol mom, I came away with a great challenge. If simplicity is what I long for when the world is providing anything but, go back to where it all began.

So, I am going to take a 30 day challenge and spend time with the Jesus I grew up with. I am going to listen to the music that heavily influenced me in growing in Him, worshipping Him, and praising His name. Can you ever be too old to outgrow Psalty?

I am going to sift through my technology and limit my use of it so I am, but more importantly Jesus is, not hindered by it.

Will you join me?

Simplicity doesn’t have to be the thing of the past if we determine the speed of life for ourselves.

**Thank you to my mom for listening with such grace when I rarely make sense. You have always been a safe place to figure out what I am thinking and feeling verbally. Dad, thanks for gently nudging me when I need it. I love that I am your daughter but I love even more that you are reflections of our Heavenly Father. Thank you for spurring me on toward Him.

Aside

Yet I Will Praise

You know it’s been a very long season. I am worn out. I am uninspired, spent and in all honesty, content to remain here. What convicts me is that I am more interested in my current state than praising Jesus. Ick.

Jesus, in His relentless grace, loves us enough not to let us stay where we are. He shows us the out. We just have to surrender our will and agenda and take His hand. I recently just heard in a message that the best prayer you can pray is “Yes Lord”. No matter the circumstance or situation, Yes Lord. Go ahead and throw those hands up in the air!

Life is hard. It’s a promise. The comfort in it all is He is God, He sees us where are and is right there along with us. We are not alone. It doesn’t mean that will never experience hardship because we belong to Him. But when we do, He will never leave us.

So today is the beginning of a new challenge my Mom just gave me and I wonder if you will join me: For the next 3 or 4 days, instead of asking why and how and what and who, praise. Praise Him for the little things…the big things… the seemingly mundane things. Satan cannot reside where God is glorified. So let’s not let him!

This oldie-but-goodie Andy Park song came to mind as I have been pondering this very topic. Take a listen, read the lyrics and see what truths can set you free from the place you are in.

Yet I Will Praise (click to listen)

I will praise You Lord my God, even in my brokenness I will praise You Lord
I will praise You Lord my God, even in my desperation I will praise You Lord

And I can understand all that You allow, I just can’t see the reason
But my life is in Your hands and though I cannot see, I choose to trust You

CHORUS

Even when my heart is torn I will praise (trust) You Lord
Even when I feel deserted I will praise (trust) You Lord
Even in the darkest valley I will praise You Lord
When my world is shattered and it seems all hope is gone
Yet I will praise You Lord

I will trust You Lord my God, even in my loneliness I will trust You Lord
I will trust You Lord my God, even when I cannot hear you I will trust You Lord

And I will not forget that you hung on a cross, Lord you bled and died for me
And if I have to suffer I know that you’ve been there, I know that you’re here now

*** Lord I thank you that You are good. Your ways are sure and they are the best. I don’t need to know every detail of every single thing. I just need to know that you are in it. Thank you for not letting me stay in a place where You are not the focus. Forgive me for getting in your way and remind me that you are with me as I walk. You deserve my praise because you are worthy. May my mind and heart reflect your worth in the way I act, speak and live. I say ‘Yes’ to You! ***

Aside

Much has happened in and around me since my last post. For starters: I BOUGHT A HOUSE!!!

I can hardly believe it myself.  When I think about how quickly things have gone since the beginning of the year and the decision to step into something completely foreign and imperative, I am amazed by the ways I can attest to the faithfulness of God.

Let me tell you how the house came about…

It was day 3 of house hunting with my realtor and friend Allen. Several houses were on the docket for the day. It was more of the same: walk in and see a hot mess and walk right back out to the car.

We saw a couple houses before THE ONE. It was night and day in comparison to all we had seen. We left to go see one more property which was definitely not it. I asked to drive by again to get another feel. The wheels of my mind started spinning. Allen noticed the change too. Our normal friendly banter back and forth was interrupted by my bouts of seriousness. He would make a funny cut and I wouldn’t laugh. I was lost in my own head.

After we drove away that second time I made the decision to move forward with it. All along I knew God would show the way. I was getting good at knowing what wasn’t it but wasn’t confident in my ability to know the right thing. I trusted Him to make it clear.

Allen drew up the contract and said he would let me know when he got a response. Nothing came in that night. I went to bed with a huge sense of peace though. No matter what, God was in control.

The next morning I went to work as usual. After a couple of massages there was a message to call Allen. A counter offer had been made. Allen suggested I take it. He didn’t want me to lose it, have other offers come in or pay more than I wanted. My gut told me to counter back. I told him I would call him back after I had time to digest all of his advice. I spoke with a couple coworkers and my mom. I got confirmation to counter back. I called Allen back with my plan and he said he would let me know.

Time ticked by so slowly. No answer came. I was getting nervous. I think I wore out the linoleum in my office break room as I paced back and forth waiting to hear something. Worst case scenarios started playing through my mind. I left work and headed home. I got a phone call around five o’clock and expected Allen to say they countered back or worse, another offer was accepted. Instead, he said I had a contract on a house. What??? They took my counter offer! I was utterly speechless. I will have to ask Allen what I sounded like because I was in complete and utter shock when we spoke. I am not at all convinced I even spoke English.

My inspection was arranged for the next week, Valentine’s Day. No major findings arose to cause a deal breaker. We sent in a list of repairs to the seller (my contract was contingent on that and two other things) and they accepted it!

The loan process got rolling and soon an email was sent to me. I printed out my loan documents to sign and return and gathered the other documents I needed for compliance. Some 80 pages later and I had a packet ready to turn in to my loan officer.

The house has now been appraised and it’s good news. Things are moving along so smoothly. Just a few more odds and ends to tie up and then I close March 21.

The real takeaway in all of this is this: everything I have been through in the last year has led to this. Without it I couldn’t attest to the faithfulness of God and subsequently rejoice in it.

For such a time as this….I look forward to completing that statement in the not too distant future. Here are some pictures.