2017 – woah…

What a year. What – a – year! I look back at 2017 in total shock & awe. WHAT just HAPPENED? First of all – it flew by. My 25th year of life made me feel very old, but very young at the same time. And talk about HILLS and VALLEYS! Oh my… There were SO MANY ups & downs. I can’t believe it! I really, really can’t.

Here are a few highlights (& lowlights?):

  • We went to Israel! – Definitely one of my favorite memories. Fun, emotional, educational – this trip really was one unlike any other. To see where Jesus walked was an honor & a privilege. It really solidified the person of Jesus (as Paul Miller would say.) I learned a lot, too. Being a visual person, it’s crazy to see God’s words alive – literally! Even today, seeing the nation of Israel really helped me understand so much of his word. 
  • We bought a house! Yeah, that’s right. And looking for a house in itself had a lot of lows. It revealed my character… It wasn’t fun. I wasn’t looking forward to it. But then, actually moving into a home with my husband to start a life in a neighborhood where we will raise a family that will, god-willing, be grace soldiers is actually very exciting. And our house is awesome & cozy. I love having people over, I love being able to feel at home & I love having a spot to grow with Zak to lay the foundations for what is to come. 
  • I was depressed for 7 months… Oddly enough, I literally can name the day it started & the day it ended. It was like a cloud hovered over my mind, weights were on my arms, & a rope around my throat. That’s how I felt & functioned for 7 months. Every day I was on the verge of tears, I was utterly hopeless. It wasn’t like any other depression I’d been through in the past. It wasn’t self-inflicted… It was pain. And loss. It was an inability to understand certain situations – losses, failures, setbacks – truly painful, hopeless things that happened in ministry & in my personal life. Basically, I got to the point where I was no longer clinging to Christ, I only had one finger tip on him while I was completely turned away. (All the while I was trying desperately to find a reason to turn back.) 
    • But, in July, I was freed from depression! It’s true – one day, it stopped. I’m still unsure of the exact reasons for when/why/how it began/ended/was, but I know this: I wasn’t believing that God was working in my life. One of the things that freed me from my depression was actually living in full trust that He was there & He was all I need. It sounds so utterly simple – that’s because it is/was. I got to a certain point that I had certain expectations of how God should look, what fruit is, & what it is to grow… When those things weren’t happening & when the opposite started to happen, I lost it. “How could God leave me here? I must mean nothing to him. I must be the stupid, useless bitch I & everyone thought I was all along. Why even try. Life is meaningless.” – Thoughts I had every day. (Yeah, still as dramatic as always.) Anyway, the moment the depression was lifted, the moment I had a joy in my heart that has literally not gone away since July. It’s unreal. It’s like nothing in the world could take me out as long as I know God is with me & I am His. Like – WOAH.
      During this time I had the privilege of studying 1 Samuel in IP. I got to teach one of the craziest stories of David’s life – 1 Samuel 27-30. Everything is falling apart for David (once again, but this time, he really did it in for himself.) Then, this happens: (30:6-8) 

David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the Lord his God. Then he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring me the ephod!” So Abiathar brought it. Then David asked the Lord, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?” And the Lord told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!”

From these verses, even after everything David did, he finally turned to God for STRENGTH & then for GUIDANCE. So, I started doing that. Everyday, I’d pick up the Word & ask God the same two things: 1. Can you please strengthen me w/ your power today? 2. Can you please give my your guidance? (NOT mine, not what I think or how I think it should be… YOURS.) It’s been wonderful.

  • I celebrated my one year anniversary with the most sacrificial, patient, wonderful man I have ever met – my Zak! He’s truly been the more amazing than I have ever imagined. The daily tiffs & miscommunications are interesting, but we’ve become a team. To be known by someone & still loved is truly awesome. I thank God for Zak & for how much more God loves & knows me.
  • I made it through one year of working for IGL! I love IGL. But it’s been a battle for me to give up certain things in a career shift like this. I complain about it all the time when in reality, I have been blessed to work for an organization that is doing such amazing things AND I get to work with some of my best friends!
  • New people came into my life! The first was through our Discovery Group – it’s a Bible study, but rather than being taught what it says, people who are curious can come to the Bible & find the answers themselves. We did this last year, too, Jeri & I. It failed. By the end, we started with 6 & ended with 2 – the two of us. But this year, God has brought us a bunch of ladies who want to know more about him! It’s been SO CRAZY to see what his word does! Literally. We just show up, open the Bible, & the Spirit freaking moves! A couple girls started a relationship with Christ this year through this little hang out time! Wonderful. Also, my longtime friend accepted Christ! She then proceeded to give up her lifestyle of leisure & partying in Florida to move to Ohio, move into a ministry apartment & join our discovery group! It was an amazing miracle I had no part in but have been able to take great joy in. Lastly, I was invited to join the middle-school ministry. I love them – I love seeing how perceptive they are to real life even though they’re so young. I love seeing God speak to them. Even though it’s just beginning, I can’t wait to see what else God does through these girls.
Here are a few takeaways: 
  • I am powerless.
  • I have peace.
  • God is a great best friend.
So, yeah. It’s been a crazy year!  I hate New Years Resolutions, but I do have some goals I want to be talking with God about:
  1. Think of myself less. Love more.
  2. Become less materialistic.
  3. Read more. (Thinking of instead of doing a poem a month, rather publishing book reports on my blog. This would be very anti-Elli, but would be a good way to visualize goals. Idk.)
  4. Have a more grateful heart.
That’s it! Here is to 2018 – “But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.” – Joshua 24:15
Thank you so much, Father!

December

Sadness

It is there.
As I mask it with ribbon & tape,
It lives.
As I use these gifts & song to cope,
It prevails.
As I wish & wonder & hope,
It doesn’t go away.

It’s still there –
The fact that life… sucks.
It hurts. It squashes. It burns.
People pass & they… hurt.

Such a small word for something so…
Mighty. So altering, so meaningful.
Hurt.
Oh, the pain they feel – I feel.
I wish I could take it away!

But it won’t go away.
Maybe it will & then –
It comes back! Something new
To torment them.
And it sucks.

I wish I had the words for them,
For me.
Yet as I see the pain many see,
Sometimes it doesn’t sting.
Sometimes, I can smile.

Sometimes, I can breathe.
I can take in the beauty around me
Without seeing the death.
I can hear the sweet songs
Without the sad notes.
I can be rid of this prevailing reality –

And be consumed in a warm, never-ending embrace –
One shoulder I can cry, whom strokes my head,
As he wipes every tear from my eye,
He says he’ll get me through the pain,
And bring me to the end.
Where joy lives and where he conquers death.

(Those are the words I have… Thankful for the Prince of Peace sent to the world to rid it of all the sadness – someday – and presently, to give us hope & peace while we wait for eternity.)

November

Nothing out there for me

Trying, trying, trying to find

Something, something, to fill my mind.

 

With no answers, there is no end.

With no answers, what can be said?

 

Making up what I can to satisfy

The wants of my open mind.

 

But nothing will fill that gaping hole

That tries and wants and needs full.

 

It’s all just nothing out there,

Where they claim to bear

…nothing.

October

This is what I have to say:

If I could leave the world a word
I know it would go unheard.

But if anyone would care to share
This is the message I would bear:

God came down a person, real
to help, to hear, to start to heal.

He came to show all of the hope
that allows us in this darkness to cope.

I’d say to you: this isn’t a choice,
He’s a real being, a real voice.

I’d tell the ones I love to CEASE:
God is offering a great peace!

That you cannot get on your own
So stop living life as just ONE!

He offers forever with him,
Please: go out on a limb.

Ask him to allow you to understand
I assure you, he will stick out his hand.

He will show you that we are broken
and that is hard to hear once spoken.

But not without hope for he has an offer.
Forgiveness it is and he is the author.

So, please, reach out to the greatest Father,
Who wishes us all be sons & daughters.

September

Helper

I have been viewing losses as fail
And effort like breaking out of jail.

I’ve looked and said: “please, help!
I’m searching & there’s no hope I’ve felt.”

Yet, you’re always guiding, turning
Me and answering my yearning

Telling me: “Daughter, it’s going to be okay!”

Since his will is perfect & good
And his love is more than it should.

And even if I lose every single thing
To him, my heart, I will still cling.

At the gates he’ll yell: “what did I say!”

And every single thing will be okay.

That Hideous Strength

Here’s a little excited update on what I’ve been reading! A fiction book! AHH – it’s been so fun. Here are my passion-filled thoughts:

Those who know me know my love for fantasy – I’d call it extreme fantasy. Like, I would like to be transported into another world without any trouble getting there, smooth ride with no connecting flights. So, naturally, The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) has been an all-time favorite since I can remember. However, during my college years, I started falling in love with C.S. Lewis’ The Space Trilogy. Well, that changed my mind. As beautiful and explosive as LOTR is, it took precedent.

The Space Trilogy set the bar for books from then on. However, I only read Out of the Silent Planet (the first book) and Perelandra (the second book). I tried reading the third in the series, That Hideous Strength, which sounded so captivating, but could not finish. Those who have read it understand that the first chunk is pretty painful for those of us who aren’t scholars! It’s set in a university – with the a bunch of lofty dialog, theories, and college politics to start. You have to wonder – what is Lewis getting at? Dispersed between these (droning and draining) conversations and people, you meet a more interesting character. She is the wife of one of these sociology professors, Mark, and isn’t apart of the college politics. (Although, she is getting her PhD from the college – Bracton if I haven’t mentioned the name yet.) Her name is Jane. She is young and forward for the time, meaning, she is independent and isn’t all about the structure of lady-hood nor marriage. She seems to tip toward feminism and is definitely a logical thinker – she prides herself in this. I believe you are supposed to think at first highly of Mark Studdock – he seems like a smart, legit, but human person. We quickly know of his downfall, though, as he enters an undefined position with an unseemly organization and becomes obsessed with getting to the top of said organization without really caring what the organization is actually about… which isn’t admirable at all.

During the time Mark is checking out this job – and starting it – with this mysterious organization (ironically named N.I.C.E.) his wife discovers that she is mentally ill – or what she thinks is mental illness. She has reoccurring terrible dreams that feel so real. After telling a friend about these dreams, the friend refers her to a sketchy place – not the therapist she thought she was going to meet. This introduces a new side, the other side, in this story. We have the N.I.C.E. and we have the party at St. Anne’s. (I won’t mention their title for it is more fun to figure it out!) Eventually, without spoiling the details, Jane finds herself at St. Anne’s again to discover deeper secrets of the party assembled there all the while Mark slowly becomes deeply acquainted with the secrets underlying the N.I.C.E. or “the Institute”.

This story is a fantasy, yet too real to be so. The other books in this timeline take you to wild worlds I could never begin to imagine. But this one keeps you on earth – both literally and metaphorically. The reason for writing this little piece is this: the things Lewis describes happening in this fantasy war are things that could happen here, today! (Well, not all the time. Much of it is magic and mystery and history all combined, but the ideas behind it are very, very timely.)

Here are some extremely shocking and thought-provoking points Lewis makes in That Hideous Strength: (Mind you, this book was published in 1945…)

  1. In this time period, people are beginning to believe whatever they read if it sounds legitimate. This becomes a tool for the bad guys to use to gain their agenda with the masses to the point where they have so much sway and influence, people listen to what they say without even questioning it… Sounds familiar, eh? The bad side uses this naivety through the media. They write persuasive articles full of untrue facts about certain things that cause riots in the streets – over what? They don’t exactly know! We have some details about what they include, but the enemy is vague in the articles and people are without reason for their rioting… Interesting. Shooting at an enemy that you can’t really put into words…
  2. The prideful view of higher power. Jane finds herself resistant to any ideas of a godly realm. She’s always known that, but even as she becomes face to face with it, she digs her heels in. It isn’t until the Director of the party she becomes affiliated with pushes back on her ideas does she admit WHY this is. The why is this: her pride. He points out that in every area of her life, she is in control and never wrong. He points out how evil this is, with a vision to help make the point. She digs her heals in even further, but it gets her thinking… Is this really who I am? Someone so evil?
  3. The lack of Christians actually sold out to Christ. At one point, an interesting character (too good to name!) appears into the story. The Director of the previous book catches him up on (some) history he has missed. The story is central around Christians – those who are and those who aren’t. Everyone seems to identify those who are by the name, but then if they were raised that way versus actually devoted to it. At one point the interesting character asks the Director, in Elli’s paraphrasing, “Can’t we seek help from the surrounding Christian nations?” And the director replies: “There are none.” The character responds: “None? What about these values, have they spread East? Can’t we find some around the globe?” The Director replies: “You can go as far East to end up back here in the West, and you will find none.” Character: “Are there no dedicated Christians that are not leaders? Just normal people?” “No, the few that are remain in this house.” To that the character replies: “Is this then the end?” The Director agrees: “This Hideous Strength has the earth in its fist to squeeze as it wishes.”
    1. Interestingly accurate, is it not? I believe this is set to be nearing to the end times, or at least a picture of what it will look like. Lewis is saying that it already has begun, that Christians who identify as such aren’t really. They don’t know anything about their faith and are quick to abandon it to what the world says. SO INTERESTING!!

I love tales that hit home themes and ideas that are culturally relevant – as well as themes that deal with spiritual issues and faith. (This is one of the reasons I love LOTR.) This book made me think a lot about how we see these issues here and now.

I’d love to hear from other readers… I’ve been reading threads of analyses from people around the world and throughout time, old and new opinions and it is fascinating. But it’s a wonderful thing to have the best of both worlds – aka: get my fill of fantasy, but also be able to emerge with a greater understanding of reality. That’s why I wrote this little report on what I’ve been reading – to appreciate the just about prophetic analysis Lewis has on humanity and also to show what amazing things we can take out of novels that shed light into humanity.

August

To death!

 

I wonder what it’s like knowing not of death –

Breathing in freely, each being a long, lasting breath.

Not fighting, but staring up, up at the sky!

Enjoying, refreshing, knowing I will never die.

 

Much of my life I’ve thought of death –

I’ve thought about how this could be the last breath.

I’ve looked up and shouted, “take me in, sky!”

Hoping, wishing, waiting, pleading to die.

 

Then, others fear the end as final – death-

They charish every single, little, frail breath.

They shout, “Please! Don’t every take me, sky!”

And wonder why, oh why, do I have to die?

 

Either way, I know – I do not fear death –

Able to be grateful, but not cling to every breath.

We eternal can go fly up, up to the sky!

And know my Father did not create me to die.

July

To Be Found

Who is lost?
Not I! I am found.
So up high, away from the ground
I can’t even see
any near me
I am so found
I can’t hear a sound!

Yet I am alone
with no one, nor home
I have to fight
just to see a light
I think I can go
But I just sink below
I am lost. I need found

But he has come, to gather me up
To give me love, when I can’t get up
To love me (even when no one else does) [bad, elli]
And give me a home no matter what.
Oh, how I long to be found – again, and again, so close to your sound
It picks me up, as I drop down.
Oh Father, don’t ever put me down!

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what is lost.” – Luke 19:10

Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

June

Never Good

Frustration isn’t kindled, it’s explosive
That consumes heatedly emotive

Set off by expectations wildly high
That I myself set, but cannot get by

My heart crumbles when I get to see
How terrible I must really be

I struggle and fight and work so hard
Just to be good enough, but I’m barred

I try and try and try without hope
Oh, will good ever be in my scope?

No, it won’t. I never will.
I’ll always, always, always be ill.

May

Some Faith

Sometimes I slip,
Or someone slips,
Or life slips,
All the ways –
I end up on the ground.

Maybe not too bad,
Maybe pretty bad,
But to me it seems
I’m stuck on the ground.

And I try everything –
Over & over –
But nothing seems to work.

I’m stuck right here with no help,
Or so it seems to work.

Yet He calls me to listen,
Even from my lowly position

Calling me to look up.

 

“rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.”