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Words On The Water

10991347_10155220065000319_85553230725493590_n My dad is going to be your friend. Seriously, whether you like it or not, he’s going to do everything he can to be on your Myspace Top Four your new BFF. Whether you are serving him at a restaurant, standing next to him in an elevator or sitting beside him on a plane, he’s about to become your best friend. Yep, my dad is that guy. How does he do it? Questions.

He’s going to ask you the questions you ask yourself in your journal, but don’t actually want to answer, the questions that force you to take the filter off. It’s the best/most-uncomfortable thing ever. Usually during one of these BFF sessions, people will answer one of my dad’s questions with, “I don’t know.” I don’t blame them.

Without skipping a beat my dad will reply with a smile, “ok, but if you did know…”

And the person will mirror his smile, take a deep breath, and answer.

And cue the BFF status…

Last year I went on a trip that changed my life.

It was overwhelming and inspiring and exhausting and surreal and completely beyond my wildest dreams. I took a trip to the Holy Land, Israel, with a group of strangers.

I still can’t sum up the trip. I still can’t articulate my biggest take away. I am still at a loss for words.

Ok, but if I did know…? Fine, you got me.

The waves gently lapped against the boat as the captain turned off the engine. The birds flew silently towards the sunset, as if to call our attention to the most beautiful sight we would ever see, and as the sun began to sink towards the horizon, I began to cry.

It wasn’t the jet lag. It wasn’t the excess hummus and bread I had eaten at lunch. It wasn’t the winter air invading my exposed skin through my poor excuse for a jacket. The tears were rolling down my cheeks because, as I looked out on that sea, the very picture of peace and calm, I was catapulted back to my bedroom when I read about that one time the sea had not been calm. It had been fierce. This was the very water, the very location where Jesus’ friends thought they would die. This was the spot Jesus called Peter to walk on but then rescued him as he fell prey to fear.

And as I stood there on that sea, remembering the stories and recalling the storms, I began to think:

How many times have I thought the storms of my life were going to destroy me? How often have I become prey to my fear?

And then, a different voice. His voice. And He said:

“My baby, this is not a place of fear. This is where I deal with fear. And today, I will deal with your fear. This is a place of trust. This is where I teach trust. And today, trust is what I am wanting you to learn.”

And with that, my tear stained face looked up and saw it. The most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.

It was there, on the Sea of Galilee that I understood… With just a few words from Jesus, the most ferocious storm can just as easily become the most peaceful sunset.

It was in that boat, it was on that sea, it was in that moment that I saw firsthand…

The very water that threatens to drown us can become the very thing we walk upon.

With just a few words from Jesus.

I don’t know how to sum up that trip to Israel, but if I did? It was on that trip I began to walk on the water that once threatened to drown me.

Wanna be friends? You can subscribe to my blogs or jump in on the conversation below and then it'll be official. BFF's babe.

{PS. Wanna buy my book? You totes should. Just click here.}

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It's Not Over!

ELYSE-13 Guys, it's almost Christmas. What. The Heck. Just FYI, if you need me over the next 25 days, I’ll be somewhere watching Elf.

But seriously, we have one month left of 2015.

You started the year with a countdown full of hope, dreams and champagne. And with one month to go, I’ve been thinking about you. I’ve been thinking about how this year has been, for you.

Maybe 2015 has been the best year of your life. If so, more power to you boy/girlfriend (go ahead, choose your own adventure). Perhaps you found your person, held their hand and felt all the feels. Or you finally decided that nobody lets your dream sit in the corner, and you did something about it. Or you went on the type of trip that Instagram was created for, and everyone double tapped the heck out of your photos. Or you ran that Disney marathon with your best friends.

Maybe you were the Beyoncé of this year. And if so, may I pet your weave while you tell me how you did it? Just kidding (I think).

Now that you had such a year, with one month to go, please… Reflect. And keep reflecting. Find the person who encouraged the pants off you this year (not literally, unless you’re married, then hey-yo!). Write them a card. Send them a text. Buy them a coffee. Say thank you. Don’t let your thanksgiving stop with the turkey and sweet potato. Please, always say thank you.

Maybe for you, this year felt less like Beyoncé and more like Britney’s meltdown. Maybe you seriously considered turning in your adult badge, burning all your grown-up clothes, and shaving your head.

Sometimes, despite our prettiest mood boards and proudest mantras, life just pulls out some plot twists.

Maybe this year, life got you real good, with jabs and swings and kicks so intense, it landed you the ground. Maybe you’re on the ground right now, reading this, trying to catch your breath, with one hand on the white flag.

If your heart is aching right now, I get you. I’ve had moments like that myself this year. Where the stress of life becomes claustrophobic and loneliness feels like it will be your legacy. Where sleep seems so enticing until you get in bed, and your thoughts kidnap you until 4am. Where your hope feels like a memory and good days a distant dream.

But please, listen to me. Do not wave that white flag, not yet. Keep fighting. Stay.

Listen to the lesson that whispers stay when everything else screams run.

That’s the lesson I’ve had to learn this year. On the outside I was Olivia Pope’ing the heck out of life. But on the inside? I was falling apart.

I was keeping up appearances during the day. But the appearances were keeping me up at night.

And this time it wasn’t about running from the bright lights and the big city. This time it wasn’t about escaping the big, bad world. This time it was about staying.

Sometimes that decision to stay is the secret weapon to success. I think it’s in the whisper of stay, that home is found.

And yet in order to stay, I had to be known. Not followed and not friend-ed, known.

I had to wave my hand. I had to let people in. I had to admit that I couldn’t fix everything, that I couldn’t be the hero of my own story. I had to let Him heal my heart. I had to decide not to shut people out when they ask the second and third question.

I had to be ok when my tears were the response I couldn’t verbalise.

So yes, I know how tempting it can be to run. But darling, don’t wave that flag. Not yet. You still have fight in you. I know you do. If I got back up this year, in some of my darkest moments, so can you. You have one month left to stand up when others are lying down. You have one month left to smile in the midst of a storm. You have one month left to let people in. You have one month let to praise Him even when it doesn’t make sense just yet.

I don’t know what your year has been like, but I know you have one month left. I know we have one month left. And I guess I just wanted to remind you that it’s not over until that countdown get to 1, until the fireworks begin to crack, until the text messages roll in.

It's aint over till it's over. We have one month left of 2015.

Let's do this. Let’s make it the most wonderful time of the year.

Jude 1:2 "Relax, everything's going to be all right; rest, everything's coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way!"

Wanna be friends? You can subscribe to my blogs or jump in on the conversation below and then it'll be official. BFF's babe.

{PS. Wanna buy my book? You totes should. Just click here.}

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This little light of mine...

8472999836_a6e60ebfcf Growing up, my favourite song to sing in Sunday school talked about letting my little light shine. Perhaps it would be helpful to know that I was kind of a pyromaniac, so a song about not letting my light die was bound to get my attention. I have since learned the intended meaning, but, each to their own, hey? The song went something like this:

This little light of mine I’m gonna let it shine Let it shine Let it shine Let it shine.

This last week has been a dream. A crazy, pinch-me-except-don’t-because-I-will-smack-you, I love everyone, surreal, dreamy dream.

Waking up last Tuesday morning, the day my first book was finally released for anyone to read, felt like Christmas, my birthday and the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Ever since, I’ve been trying to find the perfect way to express how I grateful I am, because I am so grateful. For my hero’s that endorsed me to my friends that celebrated with me. For the posts that promoted the project to the texts that checked in with the girl. For the cards and the calls and the flowers… And for my Jesus who made the whole thing possible.

I am the luckiest girl in the world.

But how do I say all that perfectly? Maybe I don’t. Maybe words don’t always have to be neat. Maybe thoughts don’t always have to be cohesive. Maybe it really is the thought that counts, as long as that thought is actually expressed.

After all, I think messy thoughts trump silent ones any day of the week, except maybe Monday. Monday should still be reserved for quiet cuddles and coffee.

My pastor Holly says, taking ground is really fun in theory, but the reality kind of sucks.

The journey to get here, to the place where I was ready for you to be able to read a book I started writing four years ago, has been messy. And this year? The messiest.

I’ve had to learn how to fight. I’ve had to learn who to let go of and who to hold close. I’ve had to learn to forgive myself for being human. I’ve had to learn to lead people through the very things I’ve been trying to navigate. There were so many times I wanted to wave the white flag; so many times I wanted to retreat back to home base, back to safety, away from the battle lines.

But no one ever won a battle from home base.

There were nights I laid in bed, unable to sleep, and I would stare at the flickering light outside my window. It would go on and off, on and off, like a strobe light that didn’t quite make the team. Just when I thought the light had gone out for the last time and it had died, it would flicker back on. Frustrating for a girl trying to sleep, but great for a writer trying to articulate her life through metaphor. This little light was just trying to lead people home, but it was clearly out of batteries. The darkness was putting up a good fight, trying to overcome it, but that light wasn’t giving up just yet. Interesting.

You see all I wanted to do was lead people home, but I felt out of batteries. Maybe you know the feeling.

And yet, all the while, God was doing something in me. He was teaching me to fight. He was preparing me for battle. He was training me to get back up again, even when I had every reason to stay down.

I haven’t really paid much attention to that little light outside my window, until last Tuesday night. I got into bed after my dream day, and my attention was drawn to my window. Not because the light was distracting me, but because the light wasn’t distracting me.

That little light was shining. No flicker. No straining. No darkness. It was, once again, a bright light, showing people how to get home. And finally, so was I.

Yes this year has been tough, but so have I. And now that I’ve been through the dark? I see the light brighter. Now that I know what the tunnel looks like, I see the road clearer. And hey, so can you.

We all go through times where the light is a little dimmer, the tide is a little lower, and the momentum is a little slower. But it’s just a season. The light will shine, the tide will rise, and the momentum will pick up.

Like my friend and spirit-animal (totally not a thing) Dory says, just keep swimming.

If you feel like your little light is flickering, keep shining. Don’t give up. As long as you’ve got breath, you’ve got life. And as long as you’ve got life, you’ve got light. So if you’ve still got breath, and therefore life, and therefore light, use it.

Babe, shine bright like a diamond.

My little light has come back. And I’m gonna let it shine. And you? You should too.

 

Wanna buy my book? You totes should. Just click here.

Wanna be friends? You can subscribe to my blogs or jump in on the conversation below and then it'll be official. BFF's babe.

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Stay.

9336e018485d420b2729721762236d68 Brave doesn’t always wear a cape, sometimes just a smile. Brave doesn’t always chase the bad guys away, sometimes it just means staying around the good ones. Brave doesn’t always mean getting it right, sometimes it just means trying again tomorrow.

Brave doesn’t always mean winning, sometimes it just means staying.

One of my best friends in the whole world Facetime’d me last week. I say the whole wide world because, these days, my favourite friends live everywhere -- from Sydney to South Africa, Los Angeles to London, Virginia Beach to… where else starts with a V? Move on Elyse…

This forever friend lives in South Africa. We grew up together in Sydney and she moved away the same time I moved to Los Angeles. She is the ultimate Christian, seriously way better at it than me. She’s the girl you call at 2am when he didn’t text you back and you feel like Gigi. She’s the one who will sit on the kitchen floor with you to drink coffee and watch back-to-back Friends episodes on the laptop, even though there’s a perfectly good TV and couch right there.

She’s the friend that won’t let you forget your dream, even when life feels like a nightmare. Every girl needs one of those friends.

Ever since she moved overseas, she has had every reason to quit. While I was trying to figure out how to drive on the other side of the road, she was trying to figure out how to transport 20 kids to youth, with no car and no money. While I was making friends, she was being isolated. While I was annoyed that I couldn’t go to Vegas for the weekend, she was annoyed that she couldn’t get more teenagers to camp. (I'm a baby, I know).

She was my weekly reality check.

And yet, through the tears and the disappointments, she’s stayed. Through the heartbreak and loneliness, she’s stayed. Through the false starts and delayed promises, she’s stayed.

It’s been about a month since our last I-miss-you-I-love-you-let’s-change-the-world conversation, but last week, my phone rang. I was getting ready for an interview about my book, stressing over whether red lipstick was acceptable to wear for the Assemblies of God in America, or clear would be more appropriate. I went with the red, because YOLO.

I answered the call only to find my friend sitting in her car, crying more tears than an Undercover Boss episode.

“I have never…. been happier… for you to answer my call… than right now,” was all she could manage.

What’s happened now? Did she have another person tell her to give up? I’ll punch them in the baby maker. Did the boy that has changed her life throw away her heart? I’ll kill him. Was someone eaten by a lion? Not really sure to do with that one. 

“Elle, I stayed. I stayed and God is so faithful…. The bus… With the kids… and I started crying… He’s so faithful. I stayed.”

I didn’t understand the bus or the kids at first, but there was no mention of a lion, so that was a relief. Once she breathed, she began to explain a little more. She had set a personal goal at the start of the year to see 163 students come to Jesus, a bus full. And because she stayed, she was seeing those salvations.

“It’s actually going to happen this week. It’s actually going to happen. God is so faithful. I’m not sure I have enough money for gas, but God’s got it. I just had to tell you.”

Like, what?! I’m the worst Christian ever! After feeling completely convicted and deeply disturbed that I had just been trying to figure out when I could fit an afternoon nap into my day, I began to feel every bit of pride for my friend. The things we talked about together on the beach that night in January, with the stars as our witnesses, were actually happening. After cyber-hugging and squealing for a few minutes, we said goodbye.

I hung up the phone smiling. And then, I began to feel an intense need to remind you of something. Yes, you.

Perhaps the bravest thing you can do today is stare fear in the face and let it know that this time you’re here to stay. Not run. Not give up. Not quit. Stay.

 

Stay little one. Just stay.

 

Wanna be friends? You can subscribe to my blogs or jump in on the conversation below and then it'll be official. BFF's babe.

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Taylor Swift and Tinder Dates

christiandating1400 This article was written for Vital Magazine and can be found in its original intent here.

I'm the girl who still believes in fairy tales. I'm the girl who believes that my Prince Charming is still out there. I mean, right now He's trying to reroute because Siri gave him the wrong directions, but he's on his way. I'm the girl who believes one day it will all fall into place, like every pop song tells me. I'm that girl. OK, so maybe I've listened to one too many Taylor Swift songs, but hey, I'm a hopeless romantic. I believe I'll meet him one day while I'm hanging out, just minding my own business. He'll ask me to dinner, and I'll say, "Chipotle, yeah?" And we'll just know.

But can I be honest? Real-life romance kind of feels like an anomaly these days.

This past April a new Christian dating app was released called Collide. The tagline is "Christian dating. Reimagined." Here's the thing, if we're being honest - to me, it looks exactly like Tinder, but with less "I can see the stars in your eyes" and more "I can be your Boaz." The creators of Collide are admittedly not even Christian. I don't know how it is in your city, but in Los Angeles, Tinder is a dating app that, for the most part, has less to do with relationships, and more to do with casual encounters. Collide puts a new spin on things by asking users for their denomination and favorite Bible verse.

But is that what we are really looking for as Christian singles? Do we really think if our Bible verses "collide" then so will we?

Keeping God in the Mix

A few months ago, the church I'm part of in LA did a relationship series, which makes sense, seeing as 85-90 percent of the congregation admitted to being single or dating (if you need a date, look no further than Oasis Church!). It became quickly apparent in the Q&A section that people wanted to know if online dating was OK. Pastor, what do you think about it? Is it OK to use apps like Tinder? Could I meet my life partner on Match.com?

The thing is, I'm absolutely not against online dating. In fact some of my best friends have done online dating and love it, some have even met their spouses. So the real question isn't whether or not online dating is bad; the real question is what is our motive?

One of the beautiful/messy things about being a pastor so young is that I'm trying to figure life out with the people I pastor. It's an interesting dynamic to say the least. I have to check my motives the same as anyone else, and ask myself, Am I dating to marry or just to fill an insecurity? Am I talking to this person because I'm lonely, because it's late at night, or because I'm looking for a husband?

When my sister Leah was a little girl, she was independent and bossy. By the time she was 2 or 3, she was telling my parents, "I do myself." As they tried to feed her she would say, "I do myself." As silly as this story seems, doesn't it sound a little familiar? Often we have an, "I do myself!" mentality.

When we don't invite God into the mix of finding our forever person, we take on an "I do myself" outlook. We try to fix our singleness, as if it were some type of disease. The problem is we were never meant to do it ourselves.

So when it comes to online dating, or any dating, consider if your motive is, "I gave God a shot at handling this, He didn't come through. I gave it a shot in church, no one came to talk to me. I'll just do it myself," I think that's a dangerous area to be walking in.

You were never meant to do it yourself. Take the pressure off. Let Him take care of you. He knows the desires of your heart. (click to tweet)

Tips to Keep Dating Healthy

These days you can find out everything you want to know about someone, their dating history and weird Starbucks order before ever going to dinner with them. Between Tinder, Collide, social media and Google, we can find out any answer about anybody at anytime just by knowing their Instagram handle. In a moment, we can play detective, sometimes at the expense of trusting God with the mystery.

Here's my opinion: Online dating is a great way to meet people. If you like it, you go for it. But at the end of the day, it's just that; a great way to meet people. It's not a way to get to know a person. That still has to happen face-to-face. Awkward coffee dates and all.

So how can we keep a healthy perspective on real-life dating in our virtually obsessed world? Well, I'm still trying to figure it out - ah, the beauty of being in my 20s! But here are some things I have discovered:

  • Engage the person, not the profile. It's great to be a little street-wise to make sure the person you are meeting wasn't just on America's Most Wanted, but give them a chance to explain their awkward high school photos before you've Googled them (this coming from a self-admitted Instagram stalker!).
  • Listen to the Holy Spirit. His peace is the ultimate judge of character. If you don't feel settled, don't sprint to the altar.
  • Read the gospels. There are so many times Jesus shows us what to look for in our spouse by being the example! He was kind. He always responded with grace. He made time for everyone. He didn't get caught up in the opinion of others. I could go on, but why not make a list yourself?
  • Keep good people around you. I love the story of Ruth. Boaz sees her in the field and his first reaction? He pulls one of his workers/friends aside and says, "Who's that?" I love that. Surround yourself with close friends who will listen and be a sounding board when it comes to your dating life.
  • Don't get too serious too quickly. In that same story, Boaz invites Ruth to eat lunch with him, and brings her into a group setting. He isn't like, "Hey, I saw your profile. Let's get married."
  • Don't lose your sense of fairytale wonder. I love the possibility of going out and wondering, "Could I meet him tonight?" You just don't get that when you swipe right or swipe left. Get dressed up. Get your friends together. Get out there. Who knows? Maybe tonight is your night.

Regardless of how you choose to meet someone, whether online, in person or going all Taylor-Swift-Love-Story, it's important to remember that God sees you and He's got a plan. He knows what you need, and who you need, and He knows how to get you there. Don't rush the journey; enjoy it.

Wanna be friends? You can subscribe to my blogs or jump in on the conversation below and then it'll be official. BFF's babe.

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