Penuel

Penuel is the name of the floor I live on in my dorm. It is also the name of the mountain where Jacob wrestled with God. The name Penuel means “Face of God.” Jacob named the mountain that because it is where he saw the face of God and was spared.

Why do I mention this? Because I keep fighting God at every turn. You remember that last post? Yeah… I’m still telling God no. I’m much more reluctant about it, but no is still no, and God is still expecting a yes.

Just recently I am beginnnig to fully understand how much of a superiority complex I have. Before you roll your eyes or sarcastically gasp, let me clarify, I have always know I’ve had a superiority complex. I know I’m pridefull, and I know I think I’m better than everyone. That doesn’t go unnoticed by me. I just didn’t realize how deep that complex went until I looked around one of my classes and thought that everyone there was stupid and I was better than them.

God has been telling me to seek Him. All I have been doing, and quite frankly, want to do, is seek out my own gain.

Recently my chaplain said:

We have to surrender the surrender.

That hurts. I feel like the one thing I still have control of is what I give and what I don’t give to God. All the while God is holding out his plate asking for more of the pie I cooked. I’m running low and I’m not happy. I want to keep hold of something, or at least I want something in return. So often I feel like I seek God and I seek God and I seek God and I seek God and I seek God and I… the process of seeking goes on forever.

“God, I’ve been in the prayer tower every day! I’ve been seeking you! I’ve been quoting scripture and living in your throne room! Where is my reward for my faithfulness? Why haven’t I seen your faithfulness?” And all I hear in return is, “Seek me, it’s coming.”

What the heck does that mean! I’ve been seeking God. I’ve been on my knees. I’ve been raising my hands and dancing as an act of worship. What more can I do.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes; fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.

~ Proverbs 3:5-8

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.

~ Matthew 6:33

Delight theyself also in the Lord and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him and he shall bring it to pass.

~ Psalm 37:4-5

They kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.

~ Matthew 6:10

I listened to a message by Steven Furtick tonight and he said, “Trust and time are inseparable because trust takes time.”

Seek God. Trust God. Do it again. Seek God. Trust God. Repeat. It’s a lifestyle that doesn’t end. Trust in the Lord and He will direct your paths. Seek His kingdom and all things will be added unto you. Delight yourself in Him and He will give you the desires of you heart. Seek His will not your own.

Do you know how hard that is? That means catching yourself in every decision and trusting that God is leading you and guiding you. That is knowing that you can’t but God can. You can do all things through God who gives you strength, and all things are possible with God.

So often I ask myself, “Elizabeth, are you in God and are you with God?”

All I have to do to answer that question is look at the outcome of my situations.

I am such a prideful human being. But I have to understand that I can’t live off of the confidence I have in myself. My confidence needs to reside in the goodness of the Lord.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

~ Psalm 27:13NIV

Where is your confidence?

I know, I’m probably speaking to the choir, but this is everything I’ve needed to hear, and I’m still hearing. Now it’s just a matter of listening, getting it through my thick skull, and acting on it. As hard as everything is, and as tired as I am getting, both mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, all I know to do right now is to keep seeking God and trusting Him. There is nothing better I can do. I have seen His faithfulness before, and I will see it again. I know my God. He is my Daddy.

Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Of if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

~ Matthew 7:7-11

When you don’t know what to do, do what you know. I heard an old youth pastor of mine say that before. Right now, I know how to wake up, go to class, eat food, and enter into the prayer tower. It is a monotonous routine, but I know my God is not boring, and I will see Him in the land of the living. There are no shortcuts. He is not going to take me around the Red sea through the land of the Philistines. Rather, He will split the sea, so I can walk right throught it. My God is faithful, and I will see Him on Penuel in the land of the living.

Therefore, I will remain confident, not in myself, not in my ability, but in fact that when I am weak He is strong.

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Habits Vs. Addictions

Habits are not Addictions. Like wise, Addictions are not habits. They can not be broken or overcome in the same way. I want this to be made very clear.

“Oh, I’m so addicted to coffee!” No, you are not addicted to coffee. You just have a habit of drinking it every morning. Besides, you wouldn’t be addicted to the coffee as much as you would be addicted to the caffeine. If you go a few days without drinking coffee and start experiencing withdrawals, it’s because of the lack of caffeine that your body got used to having.

To break a habit, just don’t do whatever the habit is for roughly 21 days. Habits are mindlessly done. A habit is making a cup of coffee at six in the morning while you’re still half asleep. It’s an action you’ve done and completed so often that you don’t even have to pay too much attention to what you’re doing.  Unless you accidentally pour orange juice instead of creamer into your coffee, then you better wait a few more minutes before you make your drink.

Breaking an addiction takes focus, will power, determination, and a whole lot of forgiveness and grace from God. Although, it should also be made clear that not every addiction is a sin. You could be addicted to caffeine. It doesn’t mean you have fallen from grace and lost any chance you had at forgiveness (Honestly, you could never fall from grace. You can always be forgiven.). It just means that too much of a good thing became a bad thing.

My addiction example will be pornography, because that’s what I know.

You can break the habit of looking at pornography everyday. Yay! Good job! That’s a win. However, two weeks later of breaking the habit, the desire to look hits you in the chest like a two ton mac truck, and in your head you’re telling yourself it’s a choice, and you know you’ll feel guilty afterward, and that you really shouldn’t. This is the breaking point of an addiction. It could be two weeks after breaking the habit, two months, six months, a year. The time in between gets longer the more you choose not to look. Each time you say no, is a win. Each time you say yes, doesn’t mean you lost, it just mean you have a set back and a bigger come back to make.

It’s hard. It’s disappointing. It’s rewarding. It’s jumping for joy and texting your best friend that you didn’t look. It’s breaking down in tears at three in the morning because you failed and you hate yourself.

It’s a journey, and it’s worth taking. I don’t know what you deal with, but keep going. I believe in you. I’m so proud of you for taking steps toward being better. Read Hebrews 12. Read Romans 7 and 8. Talk to me. Talk to God. Don’t quit.

Fighting! Good luck! 加油! 我爱你!再见!I love you! Good bye!

 

*** Shout out to my Aunt for putting down cigarettes. You’re a freaking goddess and I love you.

 

Selfishness or Selflessness

A friend of mine and I were talking recently. She said, “My goal this semester is to focus on myself. That sounds selfish, but I can’t worry about taking care of everyone else. I need to focus on me and take care of me.” (Maybe that’s not the exact wording, but it captures the general idea.) While she was very sure this is what she wants, she sounded anxious about the whole ‘selfish’ concept.

I was then reminded of a quote by Rick Warren in The Purpose-Driven Life and later reiterated by C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. 

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

I began to think about this idea of taking time to not focus on people but to focus on yourself. Is it selfish? Perhaps, but I also think it is a necessary step toward being selfless. In order to pour out into people we first need to be full. What do we do when we get empty? Take time alone. Meditate. Relax. Focus on our self.

Being selfless isn’t looking down on yourself. It’s not, “Oh, you look so much prettier than me.” “Wow, I wish I could do that like you.” It’s not declining a compliment because you don’t believe it. Being selfless is using your confidence in yourself, in the knowledge of who the Lord made you to be, to lift others up, and to bring them to a place of the same confidence.

Humility isn’t cutting yourself down. At the same time Humility isn’t puffing up your chest. Humility is being aware of who you are and living in the truth without gloating about. Humility is encouraging other people in the same truth.

Someone can say, “Wow! You’re really good at that!”

Humility, selflessness, replies back with a simple “Thank you.” Pride says, “I know,” and Low Self-Esteem says, “No I’m not. This is horrible.”

There is a difference.

It’s okay to take time to step back from the podium. Get away from the party and go fix your makeup. Take some time out at the gym. Relax by a warm fire and read a good book. Binge watch a t.v. show. If it means taking your phone to the bathroom so you can scroll through Facebook or watch a ton of Buzz-feed videos without being interrupted than you do it. Go to the movies alone. Take yourself out on the date that you deserve. Fill yourself back up. Reaffirm who you are in Christ. Remind yourself of the promises. Then get back out there and help others do the same.

Get a little selfish so you can become selfless.

Manifestation of Heaven on Earth (At least to my romantic mind.)

I have this thing where I love taking pictures of the sun. Yesterday, when I was out on the back deck, I was wrapped up in a blanket writing, when I looked up and noticed the sun setting.

IMG_6755

At first I thought it was just beautiful. I was like, “Wow. Look at that. Such a beautiful inspiring view.” Then I was like, “No, this needs to be captured in a picture.”

Sun.jpg

After taking this picture I continued to just sit there and stare at the sun. (Probably not the best thing to do to my already terrible eyes.) Then I just looked around the yard and began to take in the full beauty of what was around me. One thing I had read in Celebration of Discipline was the discipline of meditation. I thought that sitting on the deck in full view of the sunset would be a good time to meditate. I closed my laptop and turned over my phone.

As I sat there, this thought crossed my mind: Everything the sun touches is touched by heaven. Or some sappy thing like that. Well, the whole yard wasn’t bathed in sunlight. Rather there was one strip of land, almost like a golden pathway (NOT a yellow brick road) leading to this small clearing a few feet back into the woods.  I walked down to that single strip of sunlight and walked in it, as if I was walking toward the sun itself. When I got to the edge of the wood I stopped. That glen was not on our property. It was on our neighbor’s, and technically, I’m not allowed back there. I turned around and began to walk away, but I quickly turned back.

The sun was setting. My feet were bare and cold, turning purple. I myself was still wrapped in a blanket. The only way to get to that clearing bathed in light was either to walk over a graveyard of dead leaves raked there over the years by my family and risk poison ivy, or to cross over to my neighbor’s yard and safely get there on mowed grass. I risked the mounds of leaves. I wasn’t sure what I was stepping on, but I knew I had to get there.

The grass in that area was the softest I had ever felt it. The whole area was covered in moss and fresh green grass. It was the greenest grass I had ever seen. It was this small area, and the middle was covered in ash. I’m assuming it was a controlled fire by my neighbors to create this little area. I don’t know, but it was as if I stepped beyond earth and into a supernatural place. It felt sacred, and I was thankful I wasn’t wearing shoes. I felt like Moses standing before the burning bush. It was a holy place. Certainly not a place for sinners to walk; I felt (like what is talked about in Romans 6 and 7) my chains and slavery to sin break, and a fresh binding and servant hood to righteousness form.

I’m not even sure how to explained what happened there. It was a sense of renewal, purpose, forgiveness, and calling. A fresh outpouring of grace. I am convinced I was standing in the presence of God receiving a calling just as astounding as Moses being told he was going to lead the Israelites to the Promise Land. Leaving felt like I stepped out of glory. I entered into a moment where perhaps, if I stayed a bit longer, I might have seen God’s back like Moses did.

I don’t think I’ll look at the sun the same way again. I’ve always been in awe of it, but now that holds a new meaning for me.

Sun 3

Sun 2

 

Pity Parties, Quality Time, and Explosives.

Just like the title, this weekend was a roller coaster. Nothing was altogether easy, but in away, I believe everything that happened was necessary. It all go me thinking about a lot of things I needed to encounter, and it provoked a much needed conversation between me and Little Sister.

For starters, yesterday I went to the Michigan International Speedway NASCAR Race. I went with Aunt, Uncle, and Mother. We left at five in the morning and arrived at MIS around 7:15a.m. The day started well. We set up the tailgate and headed to Gypsy Row. The only thing missing was Father and Little Sister. (He was at work and she was at church.) We bought several things, providing me with four shirts and a plastic back pack. (The back pack was cool and I bought it, while everything else Mom and Aunt Joan got me. Also what from what a bird said, it sounds like everyone was cammanded to get me what I wanted. So being spoiled a bit and getting some quality time with family was wonderful.) Due to rain, we left Gypsy Row and headed back to the truck. We sat around for a while, then headed in to walk around a bit more (not at Gypsy Row, but I don’t know what it was called.) We tried some free McDonald’s mango smoothie, then played a game which entailed tossing giant, foam Chicken Nuggets into an equally giant, cardboard Chicken Nugget box. (Up close, the nuggets looked like delicious cakes, but they felt really weird!) The only person who won was Mother. She got a McDonald’s t-shirt. We did a few other things but nothing too exciting. There was on guys on stilts who was funny. I should have gotten a picture with him, but talking to strangers scares me. (Having to socialize? Ewe.) We all went to the tailgate and cooked hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill, relaxed a bit, and then headed up into the stands to watch the race. Nothing too exciting happened. There were some spin outs and a couple blown tires, but nothing to oggle over. After the race we went and ate dinner, packed up the tailgate and went home. I was probably up until one in the morning.

Then my next day started at 7:30a.m.

I struggled to get up, but whatever. Got dressed. Fixed my hair in the bathroom. Michigan Best Friend arrived. Cool. I was awkward. Ugh. When am I not. The morning went by casually and slowly. Big Brother arrived to clean out a stinky, moldy, cooler. We talked and he helped me put some things into perspective. (Which will be discussed further down.) He left. Michigan Best Friend and I started watching Got7, BTS, and Seventeen video memes. (Dude, the addiction, the struggle is so real.) We laughed. Yay! Then mother arrived and we got busy getting ready to go set up the firework stand. (Yes, this is my third year working at Yellow Box Fireworks. Do I love it? Eh. I enjoy it to some extent, but I would much rather be at home writing or studying Mandarin. (Not that I do that now in my free time.) But I am with family, so that’s a bonus, and it’s a rather easy way to bring in a little extra spending money.) While Mother and I were getting things together before we left, she said some things I disagreed with (not to be discussed later, because it really doesn’t matter. If I say anything it makes her feelings invalid, and in no way do I ever wish to do that to someone.) and that, I admit, I allowed to begin the bad mood I would continue to sit in for the rest of the day. (No, that’s wrong. What started everything, was the fact that I woke up with a mysterious rash on my arm and neck. Before we left, Mother had me take a Benadryl.)

*Fast forward*

We’re at the firework stand. Things are going well. I have a question about some of the fireworks I was taping wicks down on. I turn to Big Brother who is talking to Mother and call his name. Nothing. I call his name again. Nothing. I wait for there to be a pause in the conversation. I call his name, just as I say it he begins talking again. “Story of my entire life,” I say. Best Friend comments, saying, “Well, he is talking to your mom.” This is true, so maybe I was interrupting; however, people do it to me all the time. I take a deep breath, I try not to get defensive, (even though I already did.) and wait. He stops talking to mother and walks right past me. He never even heard me say his name. Whatever. Now I’m mad, but I’ll move on. I won’t finish this row, I’ll move to the next shelf. The cakes (a type of firework) on this shelf were packed so much tighter then everything else that it made me even more mad. I set the tape down, removed everything, and looked for the tape. It had put it right there and now it’s gone! Frustrated, thinking I won’t do anything since I obviously can’t, I put everything back, and ta-da! there’s the tape. It was behind all the product I just put back. Now I’m pissed. I’m tired, I have a rash, I’m on Benadryl, the light is too bright, I have a headache, the world is spinning around me, and I’m ready to either collapse or go sit down. I remove myself from the yellow box (Yellow Box Fireworks is really just a giant, yellow container.) and go sit in the car. My thought process was the worst thing ever.

Me to myself: Wow. You were ignored. You never have anything important to say. No one really cares. Ugh. Look at Best Friend working so hard. Why are you so lazy? You never do anything you’re supposed to. You’re eating a freagging bag of Cheetos and Gluten Free Oreos. You need help. You should pray. Gosh, don’t blame it on demons, Elizabeth. Sometimes bad things happen, and sometimes it’s just sin. Pull yourself together. Look, if your family weren’t so negative this wouldn’t be an issue. Like you’re one to talk! Look at all this negativity you’re spewing out right now! Like this will actually help anything.

I’ll stop it right there. You get the gist. I had about ten minutes of just that. My brain was searching for anything and everything to be negative about. It was horrible. I was in a pissy mood from then on. Eventually it faded after about two hours. *I am having such a hard time keeping my eyes open right now. Holy Cow.* TWO HOURS OF THAT STINKY CRAP FILLING MY BRAIN. Gross. G. R. O. S. S. From then on, it was a battle of me trying to stay happy and light.

Did I succeed? Only for so long.

I have never seen such a striking contrast between trusting in God and letting him handle things, and trusting in my own ability to handle things. Let me tell you something: I fail every single time.

Okay, let’s continue on here.

Got home (on a flat tire). Yay. Found Little Sister, and sat and talked with her for a good while about the family and many many things. I think, the most important being how our words change our world. I believe that very literally. For years I said I was going to travel the world, and now next year I am going to China. I also think that how we say what we say changes our world too.

If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.

~ Every mom on the planet ever

This hit me so hard today. This not only goes toward what I say about other people but what I say about myself. If it isn’t nice, encouraging, uplifting, or complementing, I shouldn’t be saying it. After all “life and death are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). I want to be giving life to the world around me. Certainly I want to be giving life to myself.

A lot of times I talk about or think about how negative other people are, when I’m right there in the same boat with them. The short stream of consciousness that I gave you is just a snippet of what I say to myself daily. Unfortunately, I’m saying things like that about other people too. What a hypocrite.

This also then goes back to the conversation I had with Big Brother. He had told me how busy he was. I said, “Man, I wish I was that busy. All I do is sit around watching T.V. and writing. Ya know, gotta get those blog posts up. But, ya know, writing for a blog or anything isn’t a job, so I don’t get a lot of the respect that you do.”

Big Brother said, “I wish I had your life. I never have time for anything anymore. I work at the coffee shop, I’m the bookkeeper for the cleaning service, and now with the firework stand starting off, and then at night I’m recording with Best Friend.”

It was simple, but it helped me see that I wasn’t completely lazy and that my life is a life too. I guess “the grass is always greener on the other side” is right.

I need to learn to trust God, move forward, and enjoy the moments I’m in. Like right now. I’m here writing this blog post, and my  Michigan Best Friend is on the couch two seats down from me scrolling through Facebook and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It is such a small moment, but I’m at peace and this is something to cherish.

Anyway, it’s a lot to think about, and a lot for me to journal…. tomorrow. I’m going to bed. Goodnight.

Fighting! 加油!Good luck!

 

I’m gonna be honest; I struggle with depression.

I think the title says it all. I do struggle with this demon called Depression. Sometimes he’s small and easy to squash like a worm, and sometimes he is a giant bigger than Goliath and much more like the Greek god Aries. He is brutal. He can be sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear until I flick him off. Sometimes he is much harder to battle. He can be a giant man standing in front of me shaking my shoulders and screaming in my face. When that happens, all I want to do is hide in a corner behind the pages of a book and ignore his presence.

Sometimes it can be really hard to remind myself that God is with me. Since I have finished Uninvited I have taken to quoting,

God is good.

God is good to me.

God is good at being God. (25)

That’s not always easy to say, because it doesn’t always seem true. My Tulsa Best Friend once called me out on trying to be God. She really challenged me with that idea. I came to realize that I do tend to take my life out of God’s hands and try to drive by myself. Let me tell you: There is a reason I don’t like driving and am sometimes scared to do so. I tend to crash and get into accidents. (Truthfully, I’ve only been in two accidents, last summer, and neither of them were my fault.) I am scared of my own ability and yet I am also scared to trust in God’s ability.

Are you catching that? I’m scared of trusting in the God who created the world. God created everything good–cats, dogs, oxygen, cookie dough ice cream, these words I am writing–and I’m doubting His ability to help me be happy…. Heck, God created happiness. He created Joy. “The Joy of the Lord is my strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Why then do I feel like I’m living Lamentations?

I hate to say it, but it’s a choice. I can live just outside of Jericho’s walls being ridiculed and mocked, or I can march and make my way into the promise land, the land of the living, flowing with milk and honey. Although, marching seven times around a wall… without talking… without advising God on how to do His job… requires trusting God.

My old youth pastor once said,

When you don’t know what to do, do what you know.

I don’t know if I’m quite there yet, but sometimes, all I know to do is to walk and meditate on God and how faithful he is. Sometimes I’m yelling at him, sometimes I’m crying. Never once was God not there. There are times when I don’t feel like God is talking, but I think just as much as we need to take time to listen to God, God certainly takes time to listen to us.

Yes, there are times when my Lamentations season is a punishment for sin. Heck, the Israelites were kept from the promise land for 40 years because they sinned and disobeyed God and did not trust Him and his timing. But I think we get so used to the 40 years that we drag it on longer than we have to. Can you imagine being in a desert for 40 years and when the time is up God says, “Yay! You can enter the promise land today!” and in reply, you say, “That’s great, but today’s Saturday. I get to sleep in. We’ll see about Monday.”? Can you imagine???! We get used to living in Lamentations, in pain, that sometimes we don’t even leave when we can or we put ourselves back there. Sometimes we put ourselves back in the place we so desperately try to get away from. Why? Because we try to do it ourselves; we can’t; we fail; we get scared; so we run back to what we know.

One of the several books I’ve been reading is Celebration of Discipline  by Richard J. Foster. Before Foster jumps into any of the disciplines he quotes Heini Arnold:

As long as we think we can save ourselves by our own will power, we will only make the evil in us stronger than ever. (5)

I know how to be angry. I know how to be depressed. I know how to be the victim in every situation. When things don’t go my way, when I have a plan and that plan is derailed, I run straight back to being angry and sitting in my depression. I will fail every time I try to save myself. I know I can walk in the promise that God has giving me, in the blessing of Abraham, if I trust Him, but it is so much easier to sit and wallow. Wallow in pain (mental, physical, or spiritual) or trust God? One is instant, the other is a little bit harder, requires a little more faith, but has a greater reward.

Today was hard. Today I wallowed in my anger and my unbelief of a few things. I made quick assumptions. I hated myself. I was mad and upset. I laid in bed on my phone refusing to acknowledge the presence of my family (even my dear Athena). Today was hard. I’ve almost cried several times.

“Elizabeth, this is terrible. This is really raw. Why are you telling us?”

Why am I telling you? Good question. I should probably be telling a counselor or my mother. However, while I don’t have anything against them, I don’t want a counselor, and in due time my mother will read this post. And I’m telling you, because if you’re like me you’re not alone.

All God has been teaching me this year is trust. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I have the concept down yet. Haha. *That’s awkward laughing.*

Some days, like today, are really hard. But some days, like yesterday, like all of last week are really good. Yeah, sitting and wallowing is a choice, but if you can’t decide in that moment to take on your giant and to fight it with nuggets of truth (Lysa TerKeurst always said that lies flee in the presence of truth, and she is sooo right.) then know, and remind yourself, that it’s only for a moment, not a lifetime.

“Elizabeth, you don’t even know how old I am.”

I don’t have to. Lifetimes can be long times. Who’s lifetime are you going by? My great aunt lived to be a hundred. Some people in the Bible lived to be over a hundred. Jesus is still alive. I don’t live by the laws of this world, but by the laws of heaven.

Today sucked. I took my life into my hands, and it was the most terrifying thing ever. But now, I give it back to God. Now I am choosing to trust God. God is good. God is good to me. God is good at being God. (I might cry writing this.) I’m not going to give up. Please, you too, don’t give up. You don’t have to fight alone. If you need to tell a counselor tell one. If you need to tell your mom, call her up. If you need to tell me, I’m here.

Today wasn’t the best day, but tomorrow can be better. I believe in you. The Joy of the Lord is your strength. God is good. God is to you. God is good at being God.  Today was just one day in a lifetime. Don’t let it define you or tomorrow. We can do this together. We can fight together. We can trust God together.

Fighting! 加油!Good luck!

 

*** Two songs I listened to while I wrote this:

Thy Will by Hillary Scott & The Scott Family

Here’s My Heart by Lauren Daigle