Time to Walk on Water

I am nearing my birthday at the end of February. A new year causes me to look back over my life and evaluate where I have been, where I am and where God is taking me.

My twenties seemed to be the decade of decisions gone aloof. Not necessarily horrible choices but ones that, in one way, shape or form, got me far from where I intended to be. I spent the latter half of the decade trying to get back on the right track. A lot of self discovery happened. I sure learned a lot and can close that book and shelf it.

My thirties are taking off and it feels like I am making sound decisions rooted in my convictions and in knowing who I am according to Christ and no one else. I am proud of who I am and am thankful for what I have gone through to be where and who I am now.

The past week or so has been challenging as I continue on this path God has set before me. So many insecurities and questions and what if’s have risen to the surface.

Can I really do this task of caring for a child in foster care? Do I have what it takes? Am I ready for it? What am I sacrificing? Am I willing to make those sacrifices? Should I really be thinking about buying a home? Can I say goodbye to the life I had planned for me and trust God for a better one? One I can’t even begin to fathom?

I get stuck in a frame of mind that many relate to. That mindset that follows what the world thinks and says I ought to do. I want to play it safe.. It’s hard to think that I can step out on my own and really grab hold of the calling God is charging me with. I have been thinking and over thinking way too much.

I have rarely been good at taking risks. I think way too much (obviously) and because I think too much about unlikely and unforeseen outcomes, I become paralyzed. That paralysis causes me to act or not act in ways that can lead to regret. That’s nothing but pure fear. It’s a wicked emotion. What’s the saying? 80% of what we fear in life never happens.

I know that if I live life in fear it will own me. Yet when I look at the road before me I am so much a two-sided coin. One side is ready and willing, eager to fulfill this awesome responsibility. The other side gets hung up on my short comings, inadequacies and doubt. I really want to throw in the towel. At least that’s what my head is saying.

Instead I hear God nudging me to just take the next step. I don’t have to know all the answers to all my questions. If He is who He says He is, then He is a sure thing. I can risk knowing that my return is Him.

The mind can play cruel tricks on you, especially when you least expect it. If I can impart anything it’s this: Remember whose you are and the truth God has made known. When you get caught up on the teeter-totter of faith and doubt, don’t forget who is the center. God is and has everything we need to succeed in this life for His glory.

This song (click here to listen) came on the radio at about my breaking point. I love how God reassures just when we think we’ve had all we can take. I know it encouraged me. Take a listen and see what you have to lose…

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I’ve Got Some News….

Beth Moore has said that a year of ones life can be summed up by a theme. What’s yours? For me the theme of 2011 was perseverance.

I have been told I haven’t been posting enough on my blog. While that is true there are immense treasures I have stowed away in my heart throughout this year that I chose to keep hidden. Let me recap you on some of the goings on in the life of Elissa.

After my return from my second trip to Africa the beginning of January, I felt challenged and convicted in regards to serving the least. I had the greatest of intentions in being available to go and serve wherever needed, whenever possible. God spoke directly to my heart and challenged me to serve and love here in Tennessee. My prayer life since then has become intentional of finding what that exact avenue would be. No immediate answer arose.

I began babysitting regularly for a family in January which provided a mutual benefit for all parties involved: I needed to pay off debt and my friends needed child care. It was good deal all round.

February through August proved to be the hardest months I have ever faced as I endured change in major areas of life including relationships, job, finances, etc.  To add insult to injury, the one voice I needed to hear the most through the trying season seemed absent. Where was God when I so desperately needed him? Did he even care what I was facing?

Months passed with continual struggle but little change. The hardest thing was the absence of understanding of what the change was for. Then one day, like someone turned the light on in a dark room, the cloud lifted. Now it is nearly the end of 2011 and my heart is in a different state than when the year began. I am debt free, light hearted, joyful and at peace. More importantly, God has answered my fervent prayer and I now have a purpose and a plan. Are you ready to know what that is?

Before I share I want to stress that God was in fact talking even in the moments I felt he was silent. I believe this season provided a different way of listening for him which produced a new level of faith.

So, in 2012 I will be applying to become a foster parent here in Nashville. My mom asked me this summer if I had ever thought of fostering since my brother and his wife had (they went on to adopt the two siblings). I wrote it off. As if I could or should do something like that in my state of singleness. Then it hit me. Really, it was God speaking directly to my heart. Why not me? Why am I limiting my own ability?

I have worked through many questions, concerns and struggles as I have prayed through this venture. I have surrendered my ways of thinking and operating for those of Christ. I am utterly broken for children that are forgotten and in need of love. It has been confirmed numerous times and continues to be that this is my path where I am to serve. How could I not open my life and home to a child who is desperate for it? I put my YES on the table a long time ago and I meant it.

There are a couple things I am working on so that I will be in a stable position to go forward with the fostering process. Securing an appropriate work schedule and housing are first and foremost on the list. Please join me in this through prayer that God would be glorified in each and every step.

2011 was a hard year. It was a rather fast year as well. I am thankful for God taking me through the hard things of life, teaching me to preserve when I wanted to often give up and showing me that with Him I will come out on the other side stronger. Our God is faithful! Stay tuned for regular updates. For those who think I should up my blog postings, be careful what you wish for. You might just get more than you bargained for!

A Tangled Mess

I have a story to tell that led to a great epiphany to where I find my life these days. Promise not to laugh? Ok, go ahead but be prepared for God’s awesomeness.

It all started with an unexpected but much appreciated day off. Since I am not home on a regular basis I decided that today would be a day to catch up on my “to do” list. After homemade breakfast with my roommate (breakfast burritos = tasty) and a long overdue phone date with a dear friend, I made a list of my tasks for the day.

I was moving right along checking things off left and right when I decided it was time to shower. It was nearly noon and time to run errands around town.

I was drying my hair with a round brush that wasn’t working the way I wanted it to so I switched to a different brush. The chunk of hair I was working with proceeded to get tangled around the brush. I pulled and the tangle tangled tighter. I pulled again and it hurt.

Frustrated and perplexed, I looked at myself in the mirror and couldn’t decide whether to laugh, cry or yell. I nearly panicked at the thought of having to cut my hair free. That’s the last thing I wanted to do.

So I composed myself and asked my self “What would MacGyver do?“ Most of my hair was still wet accept for the part that was stuck in the brush. I literally let the brush go and it just hung there like a bug stuck in a spider web.

MacGyver mode kicked in. I decided to keep wetting my hair under the shower faucet in hopes that the wet strands would aid in freeing themselves. I tugged and pulled and winced. One… two… three times my head went under the faucet. I tugged and pulled and winced some more but had to take a break. I looked in the mirror at the still tangled mess and said “this is what my life feels like right now.” I felt defeated and nearly started to cry. I wanted to quit and cut my hair accept I felt a peace come over me.

My life does feel like a tangled, messy, jumbled mess. There appears to be no resolution in sight. There has been so much change this year I feel raw, fragile and broken. Sometimes I just want to give up.

As the last strand of hair came free, I sensed the Lord say, “Just like your hair came free even when it seemed impossible, so your life will move from what you think is a jumbled mess and you will experience freedom. Be patient. Trust me. The end is near.”

What would have happen to my hair if I decided to quit and cut it all free (other than an emergency run to a hair salon and bruised ego)?

This season has been hard, to say the least. Friendships and other pertinent relationships have been changed or lost. I see a series of tough decisions to be made in the near future that seem to have no answers. I am in a season of life where nothing makes sense. I can’t see a reason for all this change. I am not happy and I don’t how to get myself there. I am not patient and the name of the game is none other than WAIT. (Wow writing that sure sounds selfish-guess I need Jesus.)

To add insult to injury, the ONE voice I have so desperately needed to hear seems to be silent. I am tired. I am worn out. I am frustrated.

What on earth is God doing?

Who knew it would take an incident of a tangled mess of hair and a brush to speak insight into my situation?

The moral of the story: make sure you use the right brush to dry your hair…

In all seriousness, today’s fiasco taught this: stay calm, be patient, persevere and never, no matter the circumstances, give up. Yes it might hurt and stretch and pull you in ways you didn’t think were possible. There is a reason for the wait and struggle. If you take the easy way out you will miss some of the greatest blessings in disguise. Don’t forget in the dark what you learned in the light! God is good and He loves you. It’s in your best interest to let Him.

I seem to be hearing THIS song on a regular basis and thank Laura Story for penning such an honest and vulnerable lyric that speaks to my heart even when I can’t find the words. I encourage you to take a listen and allow the Holy Spirit to challenge and convict you.

And please brush wisely or face your own tangled mess 

Bless you all.

E

There WILL be victory!

This has been a productive and eventful couple of months. I have been so excited taking care of debt that has been weighing me down for what feels like an eternity. I’m gonna be honest and give you the numbers. In mid January, my debt was at $6,100. Yikes! So, I have been working two jobs to help my cause.

As I write this post it stands at $940. By my estimate if everything goes according to plan, it should ALL be paid by the beginning of June. I have learned so much in the process. My faith has grown and I am eager to experience true victory in this area. It really isn’t about getting from point A to point B, but all about the character development in the process.

HICCUP: A car accident on Monday has pushed my sweet success back another month. Luckily my insurance is taking care of the repairs and everything in between, leaving me to only pay my deductible.

I feel caught in the middle of a tug-of-war. I am trying not to worry about the finances and the damper it puts on my plans, all while worry creeps in. In the grand scheme of things, a month or two doesn’t make that much of a difference.

What I came to realize very quickly is the “tug-of-war” isn’t here on earth but in the spiritual realm. Satan recognizes victory in the making. No matter how big or small, he will do WHATEVER it takes to make sure that victory doesn’t happen.

The day of the accident I felt like a moving target. There were a couple of other near-misses that could have involved me and another vehicle or more. My nerves were raw and I was getting used to a rental car – a hearse is more like it. However, I had this nagging feeling that I had a spiritual target on my head and Satan was stopping at nothing to see harm come to me.

Here is what I know:

  • The accident could have been so much worse; both parties walked away without injury and damage was only on my car.
  • No mean words were exchanged and the police officer was really funny.
  • My car is being fixed. No matter what financial burden this presented, I am still moving forward with the same goals to pay off my debt.
  • I must be doing something right if Satan feels so threatened.

THERE WILL BE VICTORY. I am confident in God’s faithfulness and am grateful for His protection.

He is good.

He is all.

CLEARANCE

Look what I found…..

These are left over treasures on sale now to you for $10.

Colors Available:

Orange

Peach

Pink

Blue (2)

Also….

I am selling the LOVE t’shirts again, this time at a discount!! That’s right! You can wear the LOVE by purchasing this shirt for $10. All proceeds go towards raising orphan awareness.

Available Sizes:

Small (16)

Medium (19)

Large (2)

X-Large (7)

And guess what??!!!!?? I am heading back to Africa this coming December with Visiting Orphans, this time to Uganda and Kenya.

To purchase either a shirt and/or a necklace, go to the MERCHANDISE tab here my blog and use the DONATE button.

Get ’em while they last!!!!!

One Step at a Time…

Heading into this season, I knew it to be a time to take care of responsibilities and be faithful and obedient to areas God had shed light on. Along with it have come struggles of looking forward to the next thing and trying to prepare myself for what could be next. The problem is I don’t know what’s next. Why can’t I just rest in the current season and trust God to reveal the next thing in His time?

I have such passion to be passionate about something. In the grand scheme of things, my heart is to see the Kingdom of God come to be here on earth, to love the least, to go and serve and be a light where there is none. There is just one hiccup:

What’s my THING???

A cause or idea that births passion…the thing that is the driving force to see lives changed for the cause of Christ…the thing that provides a catalyst to share the gospel through the physical and spiritual…

After many mission trips, including my most recent ventures to Africa, I guess I was hoping that my THING would make itself clear and I would come back and dive in. It hasn’t. Yet.

I do know that this current season is a prerequisite for anything that is to come. I still feel something big is on the horizon and it is important to see this season through so it can be a stepping stone into the next season.

So, one step at a time. In the meantime, I am clinging to the truth of these lyrics in THIS song.

When will we all realize that life is not about us but about glorifying the One who gave us life?

It comes down to keeping eyes and ears on Jesus. This is such a pivotal time. I count it an honor to have so much time available to me to seek His face. I will only hear God to the extent I invest in quieting myself enough to listen to him.

There is a reason for the wait. God is more concerned with who we are becoming while we wait than what we are waiting for!

What A Difference 6 Months Can Make…

January 4

It’s a beautiful day here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The sun is shining, not a cloud in the sky, the breeze is blowing and the familiarity of the city is speaking loudly. It is so good to be back! So much of my heart was left behind 6 months ago as God broke me for this nation and its people.

Today is Day 1 of our time in Korah. Korah mean “cursed” in Amharic and this village of outcasts sits next to the city dump. Orphans, widows, lepers, prostitutes, you name it. All reside in this forsaken place but are not forgotten in God’s eyes. That is very evident.

The team eagerly ate breakfast and loaded up and headed out to a place that holds so much hope and promise. We drove down the streets close to where we were staying, Loveto, and turned down the road that leads to Korah. Where is that smell I remember? 6 months ago you were hit with a brick wall of foul, rotten, and wet funk. It was so distinct you knew you were in the right place. Now, it was barely there. Maybe it is because the city isn’t actively using the dump, or maybe because the rainy season has passed. 6 months ago the shock of it all was more than many of us could handle or process. Today, Korah was an altogether different place.

We pulled down the long, bumpy path down to where the church is located. What was muddy and littered with human waste was dry. The mobs and mobs of children that greeted us last time were narrowed down to around 65. We exited the bus and our hands were immediately filled with small, brown-toned, beautiful fingers. Sammy and Summer came and met us. It was so great to see their faces and squeeze them.

Since most had never experienced Korah, we were taken on a tour of the grounds which included visiting the hospital. The same little leper man who was weaving rugs was still there. This time he was sporting a New York Yankees hat. Tymm, our leader, was bewildered and demanded a photo be taken for proof. Even in Ethiopia people still have their teams (it was probably a gift but Tymm would accept no other explanation).

We stopped by the gift shop and gladly spent our newly acquired Birr to support the cause of the hospital. I came away with one of the woven rugs, a runner and placemat set and a handmade pillow case.

We loaded up in the vans again and headed back to the guest house for lunch. We came back to Korah and were led down the maze of roads that make up Korah and went on home visits. Tymm and his wife Laura (my teammate from the first trip) sponsor a child that goes to the boarding school. Tymm was able to visit that child’s family here at Korah. I think he may have walked away feeling more blessed but the family would beg to differ. It’s a beautiful toss up. A few more home visits came and went and we ended up back at the church.

Our time at Korah ended a bit early due to previous conflicts with another group the day before. The leadership was concerned for our safety and thought it best for us to just come back as planned the next day and let the dust settle. Thus we ended up with a free afternoon.

The team ended up accompanying Tymm to the gravesite of his first adopted child, Brighton. I had the amazing opportunity of experiencing Brighton’s grave back in June with Laura. We had planned that I would go with Tymm to show him the grave.

Tymm and I headed down to the grave first and the team came down a bit later to give him some time. I cannot begin to understand the depth of sorrow Tymm and Laura feel but I am grateful I could lend support to Tymm as he came face to face with his own history. Brighton was only 76 days old when he died. I saw Brighton’s picture standing with Tymm at the grave. Such a beautiful boy… Check out their unbelievable story here and here.

It was an experience I cannot put into words. To see this come full circle with the Hoffman family is something I will always remember. The rest of the team helped clear the surrounding areas around the grave and laid some fresh flowers.

Back to the guesthouse we went to eat dinner. Summer came by and shared her heart of how Project 61 came to be and to pow-wow with us about the next day’s events.

Emotions are flying high tonight. Korah is nothing like it was before. It’s a God thing. The hope that I knew was in store is now here and God is doing something incredible. 250 kids are out of the dump and in school where promising futures are held for them. From the smells to the familiar faces, Korah is rising above.