Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pieces of my heart...

It’s been a few months since I’ve written a blog post. Life has gotten a little crazy and blogging seems like the last thing I have time for these days. But sometimes a girl just needs to get some thoughts out of her head and put them on paper, and today is one of those days. Or rather, tonight is one of those nights.

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you know I’m passionate about a few things. I’m passionate about the beauty of womanhood. I’m passionate about purity. And I’m passionate about living life with Jesus. There are probably a few more things to add to that list, like chocolate chip cookies and warm, fluffy slippers, but tonight I have some thoughts on living life with Jesus.

I moved back to Minnesota about 3 months ago, and I feel like ever since I got here, I’ve just been running, trying to keep up with life. I haven’t ignored Jesus in this process, but I have to admit, there have been a few days when I haven’t fully invited Him along either. And it’s usually on those days that I start feeling down in the dumps and wondering what I’m even doing here. You would think I would have learned my lesson by now… don’t wake up in the morning and forget to let Jesus tag along with you throughout the day. For one thing, He’s really good at tagging along and He also really loves it.

I’m going to admit something, out loud, to my world of readers out there. I’m lonely. For the first time in my life I am struggling with major feelings of loneliness that I can’t even begin to understand. Now you might think I’m crazy, because if you know me, you know that I live on a college campus, surrounded by a lot of people every day. So you might be thinking, “How on earth is she lonely? She thinks she’s lonely? She has so many people to talk to everyday!” And it’s true, I do. But somehow deep within me, something is missing. It’s a longing that I can’t describe. For those of you who are giggling on the inside, and thinking I’m just longing to get married, think again! While I do desire to be married someday, I also know that the longing within me cannot be satisfied by the companionship of a man. The loneliness I feel is something that can only be satisfied by my Creator, the One who loved me enough to sacrifice life in a huge way for me. Simply me.

Have you ever thought about that? How God, would have sacrificed His only Son, just for you? He needed no other reason. You were enough. He loved you that much. He still does. It seems simple to a lot of us when we read it, but when we actually stop to think about it, it’s incredibly profound. That kind of love is hard to find. Actually, it’s impossible to find. There is only one source and it is through the life giving blood of Jesus. Nothing else can satisfy like that, no human, no animal, no product of man.

I wish it were that easy… that we could just find it in the things we can feel and touch every day. I miss my mom’s dog. I really do. He likes to cuddle and he’ll sit on my lap for hours on end and cry when I leave his presence. It’s a strangely satisfying feeling when someone, or something, loves you that much. Don’t worry, I’m not about to compare Jesus to my mom’s cuddly, lap sitting dog. What I am going to say is that Jesus longs to fulfill whatever deep longings you have within you. He created you for longing and He created you for loving.

In the world today there are so many things that we can turn to in our attempts to satisfy that longing that lies deep within. The enemy has filled this earth with so many counterfeits to the true nature of Christ and the love relationship that we were created to be in. If we aren’t careful we will be sucked in, drawn to even the tiniest, most “innocent” counterfeit satisfaction, drawing us away from the One and only true satisfaction of our souls. The longer we look, without drawing from the true source of life and love, the further away we will find ourselves. We’ll walk into the lion’s den of false hope and pleasure in the confines of money, sex, and other worldly “treasures,” but none of these will ever do. We will just keep seeking, keep looking, continue being disappointed, and never find the answer.

There have been times in my life, some past, some more recent, when I have looked through the wrong window or cracked open the wrong door, looking for the answer to my loneliness and longing, only to be disappointed, left with feelings of guilt and shame. And then there have been times in my life, some past, some more recent, when I have knocked on the right door and asked the right One to live my life with me, and to teach me how to be truly satisfied in Him and Him alone. My heart longs for the day when inviting Him to walk with me will be the most natural thing in the world. I’m getting there, but I’m still far away, still holding onto false realities at times, thinking I know the right answer and neglecting to trust in the only One who really does satisfy all of my desires.

So what’s the point of writing this? Well, I have a feeling I’m not alone in my loneliness. I’m not even sure if loneliness is the right word to use here. I’m actually not even sure that the English language has a proper word for what I feel, and what I’m attempting to describe. How do you describe what it feels like to be unsatisfied apart from God? It’s much deeper than loneliness, deeper than despair, deeper than just a heart longing. It’s a place that I can’t comprehend, but what I do know is that once I begin to feel even just a twinge of what it’s like to have the Lord satisfy those feelings of loneliness and despair, I realize that nothing really describes that either.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fatherless No More

This is a short story that has been on my heart for a while now, so I finally sat down and wrote it out while in the Prayer Room today. A little disclaimer... While I can relate to the woman in this story in many ways, it is not about me. The feelings, emotions, and actions portrayed in this story are pulled from many, many women I have had the privilege to talk and pray with throughout my life.

There was a little girl who didn’t know if her father knew her name. She would often lie in her bed at night and think about her father and wonder if he even knew where she was. Sometimes she even questioned whether or not she really had a father. At school this little girl would listen to her friends talk about their fathers and as she listened to friends brag about how their fathers were policemen or salesmen, she wondered what her father was like. Was he a good man? Was he someone who went out of his way to help others? Was he taller than the fathers she saw at the school? What did he look like? What did he sound like? What did it feel like to hug him?

One day this little girl grew up. She was now a woman, and sometimes she still spent her nights wondering what her father was like. After growing up without a father, she had come to grips with the fact that her father must not be a very kind man. What kind of father would leave his child to grow up all alone, wondering where he was and what he was like? The fact that she didn’t have a good father, or possibly any father at all, started to hurt her deep on the inside. This woman felt the hurt so deeply that she didn’t know what to do. Sometimes she cried, sometimes she retreated to a faraway place in her mind, and sometimes she physically hurt herself in order to try and escape from the pain that was hidden so deep within her. She wanted to feel anything but the pain that was filling the void she had in her heart.

The woman tried everything she could to escape the pain. She went to church and began teaching Sunday School to little children. The woman believed that Jesus was real and she knew that church people probably had the answer. She thought teaching children would be evidence that she didn’t really hurt anymore. She even walked to the front of the sanctuary one Sunday and let an older gentleman pray for her. Perhaps if a father figure prayed for her, she would be able to get rid of the pain and the questions. But his prayer only stirred up more questions in her heart, and the questions began to turn into bitterness and anger. Why? Why was she alone in her hurt? Why didn’t her father care? Where was he when she needed him most?

Years past and the woman continued to fill the void with everything she could think of. She became an expert at masking the pain. No one knew she hurt on the inside. No one even knew that she had questions. She was the model citizen at work and at church. Everyone loved her and everyone wanted to be her friend. But often after an evening spent with friends, the woman would go home and give herself to something that would cover the pain, even if only temporarily. Sometimes she drank, sometimes she poured her heart into the latest romance novel, and sometimes she just ate a gallon of ice-cream as she watched the latest episode of reality tv.

One particular night after the woman got off work, she was starting to feel the pain and the questions rise up within her. On her way home she passed by a fast food chain, so she decided to pop in and grab a few items off the dollar menu. She didn’t feel like cooking, and a couple of burgers and fries and a coke would probably cover up some of her pain anyway. As she pulled out of the fast food joint, her eyes darted across the street and she noticed a sign posted outside of a church. The sign had been there for years, always with the same message, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1” The woman had probably passed this sign hundreds of times on her way to and from work, but this was the first time she actually read it, and when she did, something broke loose within her, and the tears began to flow. Embarrassed, she wiped her tears away and continued her drive home.

Two months later the woman was teaching Sunday School when one of the children asked her a simple question, “Teacher, does your daddy make you happy?” Suddenly the tears that she had forced to stop two months earlier came flooding back. She rushed out of the room and into the nearest restroom where she washed her face and tried to hide the tears. As she looked into the mirror she heard two words, “Let go.” Instantly she knew that God was speaking to her and in that moment she broke. She remembered the Scripture on the sign outside the church and she screamed, “I don’t know YOU like that! I never knew him like that so how can I know YOU like that?!?!”

The woman wasn’t really sure what to expect. She figured it probably wasn’t the greatest idea to yell at God, but she was so tired of so many unanswered questions. All she knew was pain and nothing she tried ever fully took it away. But this time she felt something different inside of her, she felt the pain as it was rising up, and she felt it want to leave. Never before had she let go of that pain. Her excuse would be that she didn’t know how, but the real reason was that she was afraid. She was afraid to let go because she didn’t know what she would find. If she dropped the mask, would there be more hurt?

The woman didn’t really know what to do. She thought about the words, “let go,” for a few minutes longer, and then once again, she dried her tears and walked out of the restroom, intent on ignoring the tumultuous feelings running deep within her. What the woman didn’t know is that while God was telling her to let go, He was not telling Himself to let go. As the woman turned the corner to walk back to the classroom, her eyes still damp from tears, she felt herself bump into someone. Surprised, she looked up, and her eyes immediately connected with the most tender pair or eyes she had ever seen. They were the eyes of the old gentleman who had prayed for her so many years ago. He took one look at her and said, “I have a message for you. I don’t know what this means, but I’m supposed to tell you that your Father loves you. He knows your name and He has always been there for you. He wants you to let go and He knows that even though you don’t fully understand what that means, He does, and so He wants you to surrender whatever is raging inside of you, and just let go of it so that He can hold on to you.”

As the woman walked away, tears once again filled her eyes. This time she knew the tears would not be leaving so quickly. This time she understood that the Father she had been missing since she was a child had always been there, she just couldn’t see Him through the pain caused by another man who had left before she was even born. Now the woman knew that the sign outside the church was meant for her. She was a child who had a Father, and that Father loved her no matter what. But now she had something she needed to do. Instead of heading back to the Sunday School room, the woman went home, where she opened her freezer and threw out the remaining ice-cream, along with the romance novel that lay half read at her bedside. It wasn’t that she was never going to eat ice-cream again, or even indulge in a good book once in awhile. It was that she had finally realized that in order to let go, and allow her heavenly Father to heal the pain she had hidden so deep within, she was going to have to surrender those false comforts, no longer allowing them to mask her pain, but instead, allowing her heavenly Father to hold her close as He took all her pain upon Himself.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Destructive Pits, Devouring Lions and Girly Emotions

This morning I was awake at 3am thinking about the meaning of my name, consecrated to God. I've been kind of mulling it over in my head for a few days now, figuring God was trying to pinpoint something, but not really sure what it was. But this morning, as I tried to fall back asleep, the Lord wasn't letting go, He wanted me to hear Him. He wanted me to understand what it truly means to be consecrated to Him.

Right now I'm sitting in the prayer room, flipping through my Bible and doing some research on the concept of consecration, already knowing what the Lord is challenging my heart with, but probably trying to find a way out, on a less narrow path. If I was still in college, being faced with a Dudek homework assignment, I'd dive in and write a 10 page paper on my findings, but today I'm resorting to my blog, because really, what the Lord is speaking to my heart is not an in depth matter that requires a ton of research, it really just requires a simple yes. But today I have a flesh problem, and "yes" isn't coming easy. I know I'm not the only one, that's why I feel pretty comfortable being straight up about my heart struggle today.

What led up to these ponderings about consecration? Nothing major, just a battle I was faced with in the dark of night. You see, I have this old friend. He's a boy and I like him, I always have. The problem is, he's not right for me. As a matter of fact, he's wrong in all the ways you can think of, including, he doesn't truly love the Lord. I haven't seen this friend in a long time, years actually, but he lives close and he doesn't know I'm around right now. I've made sure of that. But yesterday I started wondering how my old friend was doing and decided that I wanted to see him. A harmless desire, and admittedly from a completely pure heart, just wanting to know how this guy is doing and where his walk with the Lord might be right now. So I decided to make an effort to contact him. What I didn't know was that the second I clicked the friend request button on Facebook, that the enemy was just waiting to attack me. You know that verse in 1 Peter about the roaring lion? Yeah, it's true. My heart was about to be devoured, and I was clueless.

My innocent attempt at trying to reconnect with my old friend over a cup of coffee, soon became a raging war in my mind. I was shocked, I thought my heart was in a great place, I was surprised, I didn't think the old feelings were even there anymore, and I was plagued with thoughts all night long. If you're a girl who has ever had a crush on a boy, you know what I'm talking about. The downward spiral of all the girly thoughts, wondering if maybe he's changed, wondering if perhaps something could come of this after all. Wondering… and wondering… And for me, wondering is never good. In this case it was terrible, leading me to a place that I knew the Lord wouldn't really appreciate. He'd been doing His job trying to protect my heart from this boy for years, and here in one thoughtless click of a button, I had opened the floodgates of emotions that had never been fully given to the Lord. I'd hung onto them because I thought, maybe….someday…perhaps…

So at 3am the Lord was saying no, and my heart was unhappy because I wanted to say yes. If I'd said no in the first place, then maybe I could have had a full nights sleep, but God likes to wake you up when you're ignoring Him. So at 3am the Lord asked me what my name meant, and I sheepishly admitted that it has something to do with being consecrated to God. And so I sat up and let the Lord talk to me, and remind me that He knows best, and then He asked me one simple question, "So what happened to consecration?"

I thought about it, and I cringed a bit, as I realized that whenever I said I was "consecrated to God" I was taking the easy way in my mind. Kind of like when America says it's a Christian nation. Not all of us are, just some of us. So when I say, I'm consecrated to God, it has not been all of me, just some of me, the parts of me that I feel comfortable giving over to God. But there are other little parts that I wanted to ignore. Like the parts about never being able to drink coffee with this boy again for the rest of my life, unless I wanted to fall into a pit of destruction. Which I didn't want, but for some reason I wanted to play right on the edge of that lovely pit.

So I thought some more about consecration and I realized, my life matters too much to make a simple declaration. It needs to be more than that. When I got on Facebook last night, I should have consecrated that time to the Lord. Whenever I turn the TV on, I should consecrate that time to the Lord. Whenever I'm out to coffee with a friend, I need to also consecrate that time. I don't get to pick and choose these times of consecration. If I've given my life fully over to Him, it has to be all of it, and not just the parts I'm comfortable with. I know it's not easy, and some might say I'm just being legalistic, but I'm not. I love the Lord, and I've felt only a touch of His deep, deep love for me. Why shouldn't I give Him every moment of my life, fully consecrated to Him, set apart for Him alone?

Last night I discovered (yet again) that whenever you give your emotions to anyone (or anything) other than the Lord, things will get messy. Some of you might be thinking that this is a silly post, and that I have a silly problem, but the reality is, when we call stuff like this silly, we aren't taking it seriously enough before the Lord. He wants all of our hearts, including the silly parts, the parts prone to girly desires. He is the only one who can truly fulfill those desires. And my guess is, even if you're married you can relate to times when your heart has taken a silly turn, and not been fully consecrated to the Lord.

So I came to the prayer room today a little more humbled and a little more grown up, with a little more understanding of the care, love and grace the Lord offers all of His children. I'm 28, but I've avoided my emotions for so long, that it really doesn't surprise me that these silly ones came out last night. Yes girls, they do exist. Give them to the Lord. I did that, and through it, I felt a deeper emotion than I have ever felt before. I felt the Lord's love wash over me as I personally felt an immense grief in my own heart for having run the other way last night. I've never felt grief like that before. I've felt guilt, and sadness and shame, but until today I do not believe I have ever felt such a true, deep sorrow and grief for hurting my Lord. It came from a place of love. Deep love, unlike any I have ever known. If you've never felt it, I'd recommend quitting your job for a year just to go sit in a prayer room everyday and be face to face with the Holy One. It's actually worth it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Just a nobody who said yes

As I walked into the Prayer Room yesterday, my eyes drifted over to a couple sitting with their arms wrapped around each other. They were both wearing face masks to protect against germs, and I realized right away that one or both of them must be really sick. I headed over to my normal spot, directly below a heater vent and began my daily routine of sitting quietly before the Lord, waiting on Him to speak to me. Just so you know, it's quite rare that the Lord speaks directly to me in that moment of quiet solitude. I usually wait several minutes and then if nothing comes to me I'll join in the worship, pull out my Bible, or begin praying for whatever is on my heart.

As I sat there yesterday, I glanced over my shoulder at the couple and I began to pray for them. A few minutes later someone caught my attention and I joined my fellow interns for an impromptu prayer ministry time for the couple. It turned out that the woman was suffering from a 6 year battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. My heart went out to her and as I began praying, I felt the Lord speaking to me that He wanted her to know that she was not forgotten and that He had been walking with her through this whole thing. So I spoke up and told her what the Lord was speaking to my heart and then I prayed that she would be able to lean into the Lord and trust Him to be her Strong Tower during this time.

This prayer time was one of the most powerful I have ever experienced because I could so tenderly feel the Lord's heart for this couple. As I continued praying I kept getting the phrase, "You were made for such a time as this." It was coming at me over and over and over again. I knew it was from Esther and I wanted to speak it out to the woman, but I didn't know the message the Lord had to go along with it. I kept trying to speak up in between the others' prayers, but it just never happened. Toward the end of the prayer ministry time I started feeling incredibly nauseous. I automatically assumed that the Lord was giving me a glimpse into the battle this woman was facing so I began to silently pray for her chemo, but the nausea didn't leave me until we finished praying.

Later that night I was thinking about the entire situation and wondering why I never spoke up and told the woman what I had heard, "You were made for such a time as this." I was wondering what I had missed. The phrase hadn't left me all day and into the evening. It was sticking with me, and the only reason I could think of was that I was supposed to speak it out loud during the prayer time. The fact that I hadn't spoken it out was gripping me in a kind of intense way, so I prayed and asked the Lord to send another messenger to the woman. But as I prayed that, I heard, "The message wasn't for that woman, it was for you." I kind of sat there, a little stunned and then just shook my head. I've been diving into Esther a lot over the last few months, and so I figured the phrase must have just been on the tip of my tongue. There was no way God was really telling me it was for me. I was just imagining things. Besides, why would He speak something like that to me while I was clearly praying for someone else? So I shrugged my shoulders at my ridiculousness and then went to bed.

Well this morning, before I went to the Prayer Room, I noticed that I had a couple new comments on my blog. I clicked on them and read some sweet notes from a few of my blog followers, and one of them hit me, really hard. One of my girls, Claire, (the one who I can credit for teaching me all things girly) wrote... "I love how even though you were a mentor, and in a place of authority, you always allowed us girls to see the growth and transforming work God was/is doing in you. You have a beautiful heart and you have so much to offer. You are definitely placed on this earth for such a time as this! God has chosen to use you mightily in the lives of young women! Thank you for the impact you've had on my life!!"

Needless to say, I was a little taken aback to read the very words I had shrugged off the night before (thanks Claire). I began praying and asking the Lord to elaborate a little. If He was really trying to tell me something, I wanted to know what it was. I drove to the prayer room and once again sat in my usual spot below the heater vent. As I sat there, I opened my Bible to the book of Esther and began reading, nothing really hitting my heart. Then I looked over my shoulder where the couple had been sitting the day before, and the moment I did that it was like the Lord burst my heart open and I could see what He was trying to show me. I began weeping as I saw this woman's 6 year battle with cancer in an entirely new light. The Lord was giving me a picture of battles, not just her battle, but other battles, battles of women who have been molested, battles of women who have turned toward men for all the wrong reasons, battles of young women fighting to understand their role in society, wondering if being feminine is really okay. I was seeing battle after battle, and the message in my heart was that these battles were spreading like cancer.

And then the nausea returned and I realized that I had felt this nausea before. I had felt it after being hurt by a man in Greece. I had felt it after getting leered at in the streets of Brazil. I had felt it the many, many times I talked with young women and heard the horror stories of sexual abuse and of being ridiculed for being born a woman. And I had felt it in the midst of battling temptation to give in to some false pleasure to mask my own pain from not understanding who I am in the Lord. So as I sat there this morning, weeping and engulfed in nausea, I knew I was just beginning to feel the heart of the Lord weeping over His beautiful daughters, His marvelous creation. And I knew that the Lord really had spoken to me the day before, "You were made for such a time as this." Only this time the message didn't end there. It went on, "The cancer is spreading and the battle is raging, but I made you for this. I made you to be a voice and to help fight these battles."

Then I looked in the margin of my Bible and saw where I had once written, "Esther was just a nobody who said yes." And I realized that's me. I'm just a nobody who is saying yes.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Just another chat with God

Three weeks ago I decided to do something totally radical. Well, radical for me. I decided that I was going to cut out all sugar from my life for a period of time. In order to make this practical, and not overwhelming to my Starbucks loving self, I decided that I wouldn't be overly strict, and if there was a special event like a dinner date or a birthday party, I would allow myself a small portion of whatever sugary goodness was available. Why did I decide to do this? Mainly just because I wanted to be healthy, but also because I felt like this was a good opportunity to spend some extra time talking to the Lord about my true longings, instead of my sugar longings.

As you can imagine, 3 weeks later I have discovered many health benefits to this new lifestyle. Yesterday I stood on a scale and discovered that I had lost 9 pounds. Now, before anyone gets bored and thinks this is another blog to convince you to stop eating ice cream and drinking flavored coffee, don't worry, it's not. This is a blog about self-discovery, or rather, discovering my true self in the eyes of the Lord. Read on my friends...

If you know me really well, you might know that there are certain topics I don't discuss with the entire world, my weight being one of them. The fact that I lost 9 pounds has happened before, and it's never been publicized to anyone. But today something shifted, and the shame of my weight struggles is no longer something I have to hide with humor or a shrug of the shoulders. This morning I was talking to the Lord, just having a pleasant conversation with Him, thanking Him for the many blessings He has poured into my life. In the midst of that dialogue, I thanked Him for the shedding of 9 pounds. And in that moment He stopped me, and He asked me this question, "Elisabeth, what's so special about these 9 pounds? You've lost 9 pounds before. What's the difference?"

I was a little taken aback, pretty certain He was the one doing the asking, but wondering why, since He's supposed to know everything anyway. But I thought about it and I realized that there really was a difference. In the past when I have fluctuated between losing 20 pounds and gaining 10, losing 3 and gaining 13, I was always "trying" to lose weight with one real motivation in mind... the eyes of the world. You see, I've never really cared about myself, but I've cared about what others think about me. In the world we live in today with diet ads all over the television screen and supermodels smiling at you from grocery store check out lines, it's no wonder I hated what I looked like.

I can quote you all the right Scriptures and preach you all the right things to tell you that it's not about what the world thinks, but what God thinks, but until I've let that really seep into my heart, it's not going to matter. It's all been an issue of comparison and self-hatred for me, masked by sarcasm and hard work, to prove to myself and others that I still matter in this world. I've never consciously thought of it that way, but it's all there. It's in the way I feel about myself when I look at old pictures, and the way I ignore the voice telling me not to take a second helping at the dinner table. Whether I want to admit it or not, I've never been comfortable in my own skin, and so I've fallen prey to the world's view of who I am and what I look like. When you're motivated by the world's standards, diet plans, exercise routines and even motivational self talk don't last very long. They are all temporary fixes to a much deeper problem that can only be answered by the One who created us.

So the answer to my Father's question about what's different this time is simple. This time, I didn't start this sugar free season because I wanted to please the world and feel good about myself. This time I started the sugar free season because I have tasted the Lord's pleasure over His creation of me and I have felt His love wash over me in the moments when I've begun to succumb to the world's pressures. He takes joy in who I am. A few months ago I never would have understood that but my heart has been changing and instead of just loving and caring about everyone else in the world but myself, I'm finally loving and caring about myself, the way He created me to.

So why am I breaking my silence on this issue? Because I know I'm not the only one. It doesn't necessarily have to be about weight. I've talked to enough girls to know that there is a lot of hurt in this world, and that a lot of that hurt is caused by a lack of understanding of who we are in Christ, our eyes focused on this world instead of the Kingdom to come. For years the Lord has been stirring my heart to intercede and help draw young women to freedom from self-hatred and other issues, but before I can completely go there I have to be willing to admit to more than just myself, that I have my own issues in this area. And it's true, I do, which gives me a passion to pray and talk to others, but for the first time my passion is being fueled by a true sense of self, found in the Lord and not hidden by a mask of humor and sarcasm.