“True love is that which lasts in times of adversity.” -anonymous
“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.
“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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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. 🙂
“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!
“What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar.” Romans 3:3-4
Yesterday I shared with you my take on how to reconcile the bits and pieces of Christian belief/tradition with the fact that we, as Christians, have received salvation not by anything we physically do, but by faith in Christ alone. Let me add to that statement by referencing 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which says that ALL scripture is God-breathed and useful for instruction. That means that nothing in the Bible is at all contradictory. The contradiction comes when believers and non-believers alike take scriptures out of context and do a “copy and paste” version of “faith” that will either cater to their comfort zone and lifestyle, or completely turn them against the Gospel. That’s not how the Bible is intended to be read or used.
That being said, I have some more thoughts on the subject of faith and our actions as a result of our afore-mentioned faith. I’ve heard the same story, multiple times throughout my life, of a man (or woman) who believes that God exists. The person has faith that God created the universe, and that His son, Jesus, was sent to die once for the sins of man. This person in question, however, refuses to be baptized, or go to church- in short become a Christian- because the individual is not yet ready to let go of his or her current lifestyle, which he or she does in fact believe to be contrary to the Gospel because of not wanting to be seen as hypocritical.
This story always makes me think hard on my life, and the book of Romans always comes to mind each time I hear it.
“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:7-8] Think about that… Think about your best friend for a moment. Think of what that person means to you, and how your life would be poorer if they were no longer a part of it. Now think of all the things that your best friend does to annoy you… think of your arguments… think of the struggles you know they face… think about all the dirt, sin, and failure that surrounds them… Would you still sacrifice your life to save the life of your friend? Would you abandon everything you have- husband, wife, children, career, wealth, success- just to save that person from their own despair? God did. God did that for us before the world ever recognized Jesus as the Messiah. For crying out loud, the Jews denied Jesus as the Messiah! GOD’S CHOSEN PEOPLE WEREN’T ABLE TO ACCEPT JESUS AS THE FULFILLMENT OF GOD’S PROMISE! It seems hopeless if you think of it that way. If the people who God set apart from the beginning to follow Him failed, how are the rest of us supposed to stand a chance? That is the beauty of the Gospel! “… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” [Romans 3:23-24] We aren’t bound by a lifestyle of sin. In fact, sin is not even a valid reason to ignore the call of God to repent and be baptized.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” [Romans 1:18-20]
See? The Bible makes a point of saying that there is no valid excuse for acknowledging God but refusing to follow him. God KNOWS we’re sinners. That’s why he sent Jesus to the world in the first place. He knew that we were a hopeless rabble. The beauty is that although we WILL fall short, we have still been given the gift of salvation. Therefore, we must TRY to be obedient to the word of God and the teachings of Christ. Repentance isn’t code for give up everything you enjoy because the Church wouldn’t like it. It’s about choosing to be close to God instead of marred by sin, which separates us from Him. It’s not an instantaneous thing, but a lifetime process. Being in a relationship with God is about daily deciding- yes, you have the choice to decide- whether you will sin because it feels good for a moment, or whether you will turn from sin and cling to righteousness because it will lead you toward an eternity of joy and salvation.
John Wesley is quoted as having said, “What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.” I see truth in this statement. From the looks of things, the generations before us tolerated confusion and misinterpretation of the Christian faith, because now it is rampant. Somehow over the course of the past 2,000 years, being introduced to someone as a good, Christian individual now has a negative connotation associated with bigotry, hypocrisy, commercialism, judgment, hate, and scorn. WHAT!? What happened to being the body of Christ? What happened to Christianity being synonymous with love, and compassion, forgiveness, mercy, and grace?? I find it absolutely appalling that people feel ashamed to wear the label of Christianity, not for fear of being seen as “Jesus Freaks” but because society has demanded tolerance of sin, and thereby embraced it, creating generations of politically correct hypocrites who don’t know what they believe anymore. The fact that people would honestly cling to the belief that it is better to be seen as a sinner than to be viewed as a Christian simply tells me that Christians have been doing it wrong for generations.
Let me take this time to be completely transparent with you. I drink alcohol. I don’t see anything wrong with enjoying a beer with a few friends over dinner. Drunkenness is not okay in my home, however with moderation, I see no issue in a casual drink. Is it necessary or healthy? No. Science has proven that, but I’m human, and I legitimately enjoy the taste of Yuengling. I also cuss sometimes. You’ve done it, be honest- you clumsily turn the corner and you stub your toe on the table, or the couch, or that bumpy thing that holds the carpet down in the threshold of the doorway to your living room, and you let one slip. We are human! We mess up! We do things that we might not want our preachers to know about. OH- in fact, there is a Women’s Circle at my church that up-front told one of our pastors that they didn’t want her to come to their circle’s meetings because they will occasionally discuss the scriptures over a glass of wine! Now I, personally, find that more messed up than not going to church at all because they feel like they have to pretend they’re better than they are! Paul leveled the playing field for us in Romans chapter two, verse one when he wrote, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”
There! It’s out! Someone finally said it! WE ARE NOT PERFECT! And that’s okay, because why? Because Jesus WAS perfect. That’s not saying we have a license to sin, because Paul addresses that also in Romans Chapter three, verses seven through nine:
“Someone might argue, ‘If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?’ Why not say- as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say- ‘Let us do evil that good may result’? Their condemnation is deserved.. What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all!”
Living by faith isn’t about becoming perfect overnight, or magically not being enticed by those things that were a large part of your life before you accepted Christ. Living by faith is acknowledging that you are flawed and that the only thing that can reconcile that flawed nature is a relationship with Jesus Christ, through daily prayer, meditation, and reading of the scripture. Little by little, the things that used to have a hold on you will start to fall away. How? Why? Because when you draw close to God, it is inevitable that your heart will begin a transformation that will make you more and more like Christ as you grow deeper in relationship with him. The closer you get to the Lord, the more your heart will chase after things that are Christ-like, and the more easily you’ll be able to abandon the things that had previously been binding you to sin. It’s so simple, yet so complex at the very same time! The simplicity is that all it takes for us to reconcile ourselves with God is to openly admit that without Him as the leader of our lives, we will fail, over and over again. The challenge comes in choosing something that may seem like abandonment of pleasure at first, but will ultimately lead to the greatest treasure for us; a life of joy lived in perpetual worship with our Savior in Heaven. Amen.