Tag Archives: joy

Soul Searching

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“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified…” 1 Thessalonians 4:3

I’ve taken a temporary hiatus in part because life feels crazy at the moment, and in other part because I felt like I was misappropriating my time. That being said, I’ve reevaluated things, and I’m back, at least for this post. 😉

I was really trying to do some soul-searching; figure out what I want to go to school to study, what I want to do as a career, how I’m going to pay for my education, etc. What I found out was that in spending so much effort thinking about the what-if’s and how’s and why’s, and when’s that I took my sight off of deepening my faith and in my morning devotions had just been going through the motions. So, I took a break from everything I felt was distracting me, and I set aside some time to really think on things. I came up with a few conclusions:

1.) God indeed has a will for me, and it is His intent that I discover what His will is for my life.

2.) In order to see God’s will, one has to be in close fellowship with God; I like the illustration of walking in pitch-black darkness, with only a lighter to lead the way- the closer to the light, the more you can see.

3.) My focus should forever be on the Lord and His teachings because that is my ultimate purpose- to serve and worship God, not to go to the right college, or get the right job, or have all kinds of money. My purpose is to be a servant of God and to His people during my time here on this earth. It is God’s will that I be sanctified, or set apart and dedicated to the Lord, not living consumed by the things and desires of the world.

It was made clear to me when I did this soul-searching that my priorities had slid out-of-order and I was trying to pile my goals on a stack of uncertainties. Imagine a large stack of books teetering as you try to carry them to the shelf; the stack goes up past your head and you can’t see where you’re going, all the while the stack of books sways unsteadily as you attempt to move forward. What happens then when you meet an obstacle you didn’t see coming because of the precarious book stack? You trip, fall, and books go everywhere. I decided to put down the books and discard the few that were blocking my vision. So I picked up THE book, God’s Word, the Bible and I started to read. God’s will is for me to be a servant to the least, to throw away my pride, anxiety, and selfish ambition and focus solely on Him. That is the ONLY way to learn and follow God’s will; to learn and follow God’s teachings. Then the Holy Spirit will reveal the Lord’s truths through scripture and study.

Would you all like to know what happened after my big, epiphany of letting go of the unnecessary and focusing in on God? I’ll tell you what happened…

I had been completely preoccupied with finding a way to pay for my schooling which I would like to start back to in January. Anyway, I had been filling out financial aid forms, surfing scholarship websites and looking for grants of any kind for which I qualified. Finally, I had enough of the exasperation of searching for “free money” for school and I just turned to God. I prayed, “Lord, I don’t know what you have in mind for me, but I’d really like to. I desire to further my education and get a good job. I know my motives tend to slip toward monetary and earthly things and I pray that you’ll guide my intentions and keep them pure. God, I’m tired of searching and coming up empty and I’m ready to let go, and trust that you’ll provide a way. Even if your answer is ‘Not now,’ or ‘Not this way,’ I will be content with your answer because I know that your way is always the best way. Lead me, God, and take this burden away from me. Amen”

Later that week, I was called for an interview with the county school board for a position as a substitute teacher. I had almost completely given up on that as a valid option seeing as how I had taken the class in July, and school has been in session for almost three months now. That only goes to show you that God’s timing is not the same as my timing and that when it’s the proper time, His plan will unfold.

As I sit and ponder the situation and my upcoming interview, I still wonder things like, “will this position pay enough to cover the costs of my tuition?’ or ‘Will I be able to handle the demands of the job AND the demands of school?’ and ‘If I have the opportunity to work full-time, should I take it and postpone my schooling until I’ve managed to save some more money and go back to school with my husband after he gets out of the corps?’ Following God’s will doesn’t mean you will stop having questions. If anything, closer proximity to the Lord has only raised more questions in my mind. Now that I know this, what comes next? But I think that’s the way God made us, so that we’d be continuously seeking HIS wisdom, and HIS insight, and HIS will because HE is the only one who can answer our plethora of unending questions.

A Change

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A Change

Have you ever had that moment when you are fully aware of the Holy Spirit speaking to you, but you’re not sure what it means?

Yesterday at church our preacher spoke about Mark chapter 8 and the distinct shift Jesus made in going from preaching to all people about salvation to specifically teaching his disciples about who He is. Pastor George asked the question, “Have you ever made a decision that makes a life-changing shift in your relationship with God?”

Pastor George went on to reference Mark 8:34. He said that Jesus taking up his cross, to him, represented Jesus obeying God’s will for Him to die for the salvation of all mankind; that the “cross” is to know and follow God’s will. What is God’s will for me? God knows what He wants me to do, so I have to ask Him.

What is it I’m doing, and what is my “cross”? Pastor George left us with the thought that we should discover God’s will, and act upon it; that we should seek a change, or a shift, similar to that in Mark’s gospel.

Well, I woke up this morning and turned on the TV. It was on the Today Show, and the first thing I heard as I turned on the television and the picture came in to focus was, “Make a change; Change something…” and then it went to commercial break.

Then I read my devotion and it centered around Romans chapters 9-12, and that we should live sacrificial lives in response to the grace God has already given us, using our spiritual gifts to serve the Church… Then I read Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I hear you, Lord! I hear you, but I don’t understand what you’re trying to say! I feel like Samuel! I keep hearing God speak, but I don’t know what it means! What am I supposed to change? Which aspect of my life requires a shift in a different direction? How am I not using my spiritual gifts that I SHOULD be?

I don’t know. I know that there has to be something that needs to be renewed or shifted or changed, but I don’t know what that something is. I’ll wait. I’ll ask God to continue speaking to me through any means he chooses… I’ve been doing tons of things differently today in an effort to stumble across the thing(s) that needs shifting… I’ve done a different yoga series, I ate a different breakfast from my usual, I unconsciously wrote the check for our water bill differently… I want to know and understand… Pray that God will show me and open my heart and mind to be receptive to His message. Word of God, speak! and let my ears hear!

Friends and Family

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Friends and Family

“The same Jesus Who turned water into wine can transform your home, your life, your family, and your future. He is still in the miracle-working business, and His business is the business of transformation.”  ~ Adrian Rogers

My mom just got remarried over the weekend! Congratulations, Mom and Jim!

They are stopping by our place on their way back home and like any good daughter, I’ve been scrambling around the house cleaning like Mom always did when we had company 😉 After all, I don’t want them to think we live the way we actually live with clothing thrown over the back of the couch, dog toys scattered throughout the house, and empty water glasses on every visible surface…

Anyway, the separation of my parents and their lives with their new significant others got me thinking about God, and family, and His power to transform a negative situation into a positive one. I think about my childhood and I remember good times I had with my sisters and brother; kickball in the back yard, bike rides around the cull-de-sac, playing in mud and convincing my youngest sister that it was dark chocolate pudding, roller blading around the neighborhood and the wrap around porch… There were some good times. Life wasn’t all bad, although I wasn’t oblivious to the struggles that were present.

I think what I’ve learned most about family is that it’s not just the people whose genetic make-up you share that count as your family. It’s about the little old ladies across the street whose houses smell funny, but they’ll always invite you in for some Schwan’s Ice Cream. It’s about the friends you had, then and now, who call just to see how you’re doing, and will come and sit in your living room and not do much of anything at all, but be content in spending time with you. It’s about the people you meet in the midst of chaos and struggle who choose to stand by you anyway. My friends are my family, and my family make up a great bunch of friends.

This is important; so much more now that I’m grown, married, and live hundreds of miles away from my little sisters. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish I were closer to them and my brother. But I’ve seen first-hand how God can take something broken and hurting and use the pieces to build this brand new thing that’s more complex and beautiful than anyone could have imagined it to be. I imagine the fictitious bird, the phoenix, bursting in to flames, and then rising majestically and beautifully from the ashes.

If you think about this transformation in regards to Christianity, you see that the very best things, the only things worth living for come out of death. In marrying my husband, I died to my single self, and became one with him in body and spirit. In the separation of my parents, two new couples emerged with the blessings of step-siblings (and I’m still the oldest 😉 ) From the pain and adversity that came with the divorce came faith the likes of which I have never seen displayed before by my parents. By the death of Jesus Christ came salvation for my short comings and failures; righteousness from the torture and death of an innocent and pure man.

Some times, strong things or people have to take a hit so that a weaker being can survive to be strengthened in the future. In the same way, sometimes, weak things have to die to make way for stronger things to emerge in their place.

I see God working in ways I never really understood but I see now that he had a plan for my family’s mistakes; he had in mind for us all to be stronger, more courageous, and more faithful than we had previously thought possible. And I will praise Him every day for the rest of my life for that.

Left to Right: Mitch, my husband; Step-dad, Jim; Mom, Amy; and me

Stress

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Stress

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

I’m having a difficult time with stress lately. Mitch’s work and my lack there of are sort of converging into what is starting to feel like a giant ball of molten lead sitting in the pit of my stomach and I can’t make it go away.

Fry from Futurama, obviously feeling stressed

I’ve really been leaning heavily on the Holy Spirit for guidance and peace. That’s not to say that my human nature isn’t fighting for the win in keeping me a nervous, anxious wreck…

There are so many things that I thought would be different after a year here at our Permanent duty station, and they’re not at all the way I imagined them to be. That’s life though, right? I feel like I’m in the midst of a “tower of Babel” situation; I had great and lofty plans for myself and none of them seem to be working out the way I wanted them to, leaving me with a sense of defeat and confusion.

I trust that God has something spectacular in mind for me and I just have to buckle up and enjoy the ride that takes me there. In the mean time, I’m praying for the Lord to just destroy my anxious spirit and bring me peace amid the chaos.

It’s strange that the more you try to plan for something the less prepared you feel. I can’t keep thinking of all the worst-case scenarios though, because it’s creating stress over things that don’t even exist! How ridiculous is that?

Imagine being in a construction zone, but without any road signs; that’s my current state. I can’t see where I’m going, but I know that the closer to the Light, the more you can see… so I’m doing my best to remain as close as possible to God in a time when I know I need His guidance most. I feel like that is something I’ve gained- being able to know when I need God- in wisdom in the past year. It wasn’t always so clear to me, although it seems blatantly obvious now.

I feel somewhat detached, as if I were watching from above someone else living my life. I typically try to be a source of encouragement in my blogs, but it would appear as if I’m the one currently in need of encouragement. If nothing else, know that whatever struggles you are currently facing, there is always someone else out there who is also fighting a battle. I’m reminded of a passage in Ecclesiastes that says something to the effect that there is nothing now that has not been before, and God will call the past to account. My feelings are nothing new… and God is bigger than anything I go through.

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Here’s to faith and trust that when the time is right, I’ll understand, and that I’ll be able to rest in the peace of Christ until then.

Small Group

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Small Group

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another– and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25

So a while back I mentioned wanting to start up a small group Bible study. Well guess what? I did it! Or I suppose I should say WE did it. Mitch and I open our house to a total of 3 other people at the moment, and we’re hoping we can continue to grow and fellowship with as many people who feel lead to come. 🙂 This coming Tuesday will be the 4th week of our group’s existence and I can’t say enough how proud, blessed, and pleased I am each Tuesday evening as we share scripture and life experiences with one another, growing in spirit and wisdom. I’ll take a picture or two of our next get-together so you can see us all in “action” 🙂

God is good and we would be in a very dark and abysmal place without Him as Lord of our lives. That is what makes our small group study such an amazing blessing; we have found a group of people who desire God and want to walk with the Spirit. I just thought I’d share with you our topic of discussion for next week and give you all some things to ponder this weekend.

We will be discussing the subject of “Choosing to be Servants”.

1. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12– a Cord of THREE strands

  • Is God an integral part of your marriage? Your relationship?
  • If not, why?

2. Ephesians 5:21-33– Biblical Submission: Submitting your right to be right because Jesus is right. 😉

  • What is your first thought when you hear the word “submit”?
  • What does Biblical submission look like to you?
  • Is your marriage following this pattern outlined for us in Ephesians?
  • Do you believe that order and unity under God’s design for marriage are truly more important than demanding to get the decisions “right” based on pride rather than righteousness?
  • If not, why?

3. James 4:1-10– Adulterous People

  • Women, how is submission to God essential in being able to submit to your spouse? And do you Biblically submit to your husband?
  • Men, how is your submission to God critical to you being an effective spiritual/ household leader?

4. Ephesians 2:2-3– Objects of Wrath

  • Are you at war with God?
  • If yes, is that putting you at war with your spouse?
  • What steps can you take to put yourselves at peace with God? With each other?

5.  Romans 5:1-2– Finding Peace

  • How does this scripture relate to your marriage?
  • Do you believe that peace with God or conversely, war with God will ultimately lead to peace or war within your marriages? Why or why not?
  • The fruits of our faith and submission to God’s will are peace, grace, access to God, the hope of Heaven. Do you see your relationship with God bearing these fruits? What about in your marriage?

That is our basic outline for study next week. I’m truly excited about the discussion the scriptures will inspire and the many insights that will be brought to the table. Think on these things for yourselves. If you are NOT married, think about these things in relation to what you hope to find in a future mate. Are you looking for someone based on what is scripturally sound? Are you setting yourself up for failure by going against God’s plan for marriage/relationships? What can you do to change or enhance your relationships according to scripture?

Enjoy your weekend and leave me some feedback on your thoughts/ideas of marriage/relationships and how they are or are not similar to those outlined to the Bible.

Doggie Prayers

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Doggie Prayers

“A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal…” Proverbs 12:10

I have a very – using the word ‘very’ liberally – sick doggie. 😦

Three mornings in a row Anna has had accidents in her crate, and can’t seem to control her bowels throughout the day. I’ve handled dog messes before, but for whatever reason, this time it’s hitting me harder. I look at Anna and see that she is in discomfort, and it breaks my heart. I’ve been doing the standard care for bowel issues; pick up the food for 24 hours, liquids all day, gradually ween the animal back to solid food via rice, boiled chicken/ground beef, low fat, low sodium… She ate a little bit of rice this morning, but she isn’t her usual self.

For those of you who think I’m a psychopath for being so concerned and caring for my little Anna Beth, let me share with you a few of my memories of her:

 

 

 

 

 

Those are only a few of my fond memories of Frisbee, “tennis ball hockey,” and her first romp in the snow… Anna has been a lifesaver, of sorts. When Mitch and I first got married, we moved into an apartment with another couple, who happen to be our best friends, and Mitch was without a family pet for the first time in his life. He got depressed, we started bickering over little things, and he just wasn’t happy… Every time we would go back over to his parent’s house, he would play with their Aussie Shepherd, Copper and he was himself again. I decided we needed a dog; Mitch needed that companionship. He needed that unconditional love and bond that only comes from man’s best friend.

I started scouring every classified section in all the news papers I could find. We did endless research on what breed, size, and energy level would be best for us and our lifestyle. About that time, we saw an ad in the paper for 6 border collie pups about an hour away from us in Missouri. I called the number and asked about the pups and we arranged a time to go down and meet them, and gauge their personalities. I was unable to go, but Mitch and my mother-in-law went down and looked at all the little fuzzies.

I’ve always considered Mitch to be somewhat of an animal whisperer, because he is able to connect with animals that generally hate everyone (for example, his parent’s sunshine conure who abhors me…) He tells me that when they pulled up to the address given by the breeder, there were at least 8 adult border collies chasing in circles around the house after their leader, who was holding a tennis ball. The puppies were in a kennel, sleeping in two separate piles. It was the middle of July, so it was blazing hot, but there was one puppy sitting apart from the piles who were sleeping in the shade: our little Anna. She was alert and focused in on Mitch as she sat between her brothers and sisters. Mitch knew instantly that she was the one.

When I got home from work late that night, I fell in love with her sweet little face! HOW COULD YOU NOT!? she was our baby! I loved the way Mitch just lit up when she would play with him. I loved how he spent the nights sleeping beside her crate so she wouldn’t cry, and how while I was getting ready for work in the mornings, she would sneak up on to the bed and they would snuggle. Ever since we got Anna, she has been a huge part of our lives, especially Mitch’s. He has a special bond with her.

When Mitch went away to boot camp, Anna was devastated.

Anna, the day Mitch left for Pendleton

She literally sat in the corner and cried for days on end. I just wasn’t the same as her daddy, and she missed him; we both missed him. Anna is very emotionally sensitive and she picks up on our emotions. I started to really bond with her while Mitch was gone. We were sad together, we went hiking together, we played frisbee, we went on runs, we took drives. We did almost everything together! She was there for me in a comforting way that I can’t explain. I couldn’t be sad because she needed me. Anna depended on me to take care of her, and I honestly believe that having something dependent upon me for their health and well-being really forced me to choose faith and hope over depression and sadness.

I think about what our lives would be like without her, and it brings me to tears. We love Anna! She is our first baby girl! She keeps us strong and joyful! She comforts us when we are sad. She comes up and licks my face when I’m crying as if to say, “I’ll get rid of those tears for you, mommy.” She KNOWS us, and she loves us.

That is why seeing her in such discomfort and sickness hurts me. I don’t have children of my own, but I do have Anna, and she and Cyd are my baby girls.

Anna and Cyd both have veterinary appointments tomorrow, but I would appreciate your prayers that she holds out until tomorrow; that Anna will be able to sleep and drink so that she doesn’t become more sick. I felt a little silly this morning as I prayed for her, because yes, she is just a dog. But then I found Proverbs 12:10… Anna isn’t just a dog. She is MY dog, and I love her. If you can get over the “silliness” of praying for a doggie, I would greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers for my baby girl. 🙂

Updates

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Updates

“She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.” Proverbs 31:18

So far at our new house, I haven’t really done anything to make it “mine.” I did repaint the bathroom in the master bedroom, which I feel is a vast improvement solely based on the fact that the color no longer distorts the lighting when I do my makeup. Three cheers for NOT looking like a clown on Sunday mornings. It actually wasn’t that bad before, but the periwinkle/lavender with chrome and white accents it has going on now is much more my style.

We are discussing/planning to replace the sliding door to the back yard and build on a deck/patio area! This is a major project- the first one we have encountered as a married, home-owning couple thus far so I pray God gives us the resolve to finish it, as well as the finances to complete the project and do it well, and that God just destroys my pride so that we can get through the building project without putting a strain on our marriage… We’ve built things together before for our shows in college, but the infamous “Sweeney Todd Wagon” was just down and out an almost relationship destroyer… or at the very least, it tested us both in patience and communication.

Also, when I start making Thanksgiving and Christmas posts respectively two months early, I’m not crazy, it’s just that with the deployment looming ever nearer, I’ve decided to mega condense all of our holidays as the NC Elstons, so that we get to celebrate them ALL together.

That being said, I need to start planning my Thanksgiving dinner! (And figure out some way to have some football on since we don’t have cable TV) Football aside, I have never cooked a turkey before so this will be an interesting experience. I DO however have wonderful friends who are foodies and HAVE gone all out and made the whole spread before, so I’m looking forward to learning from their expertise!

Lately I’ve been in to the whole DIY thing with making my own cleaning/gardening supplies without using so many harsh chemicals and going toward more of a natural/non-toxic route. May I just say that baking soda and white distilled vinegar are my new favorite things!

Here is a recipe I used for my version of Windex:

  • 1 tsp. Dawn dish detergent
  • 6 Tbsp. White distilled vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. Jet dry solution
  • 1 empty Febreeze bottle; fill the rest of the way with water. Shake before each use
  • I got the original recipe from Pinterest here. I tweaked it to add the jet dry for a streak-free shine. Making your own household cleaning products is far and away cheaper than buying the brand name stuff from the store, and I liked this particular recipe because it was free of ammonia, which frequently irritates my eyes and my lungs. I’ve been finding/using lots of helpful cleaning tips found via Pinterest and you may follow me by searching “edenelston” on the site.

Anyway, that’s my update of sorts. Check back to my page entitled “Home Repairs” for more hints, tips, and pictures of our work on our new home!

Thanks for reading, and God bless!