Seize The Day

Seize The Day

Have you ever opened your inbox to find more unread emails than you were prepared for? It’s kind of like when you go to the mall during Spring Break and see every teenager ever born, and suddenly online shopping looks very appealing… In both contexts.

A few months ago I was flying home from a conference and had this experience. Feeling overwhelmed, I decided to unplug from the wi-fi, which is now accessible 40,000 feet in the air. You know, in case birds need to update their Facebook or something.

I reclined my chair, opened a can of soda and turned on the screen in front of me. I figured the best way to relax was to watch a movie, and I’m sure it would have been, if I had chosen anything other than The Fault In Our Stars. 

If you’ve seen it, you already know. It was not relaxing. It was traumatic. The amount of liquid that came out of my face during this movie probably could’ve solved the California drought. If you haven’t seen it, you really should, but please, watch it at home with a million boxes of tissues and your best friend on speed dial.

As I sat there with the credits rolling, taking deep breaths and accepting tissues from complete strangers, I realized this was more than just emotion. I was challenged to make my life count, to make today matter. You see, it’s more than a love story; it’s about two teenagers finding their fairytale while fighting for their lives. They both had cancer.

I hate cancer. These days, almost everyone has been bullied, broken hearted and left bewildered because of it. I just wish we knew how to stop it.

Maybe that’s what frustrates us most about life. Not knowing the cause or cure for something, whether a math problem, a heartbreak, or cancer.

My uncle went home to heaven a couple of years ago because of cancer. While I’m happy he’s in Heaven, probably philosophizing life with C.S. Lewis, I miss him. I miss the calendar I could count on from him every Christmas. I miss the deep conversations about life over red wine. I miss hearing him pray at the top of his lungs, even when his words stopped making sense. I miss him being here, with us. Maybe you can relate.

Movies like this sting a little more because of my experience with my Uncle Jim. And yet, this one struck deeper than a heartstring. These teenagers determined to live today passionately and love each other deeply, in the midst of circumstances that seemed the furthest thing from fair. This movie was more than a challenging love story; it challenged how I lived my story.

Too often the fault with me is that I allow my sickness to determine my story, and I don’t mean physically.

How many times has my comfort zone stopped my creativity? How many times have I talked myself out of the life I was created to live? How many times has fear closed the open door?

Too many times.

I’m done letting my withered hand get in the way of a wonder-filled life.

Have you ever heard the saying today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present? It probably makes you cringe a little, or a lot, and you are not alone. And yet as much as I wish there was a cooler way to say it, it’s true. There’s a reason you woke up this morning, and that reason is not so you would spend today being worried about tomorrow. Seriously, who brags on a Monday about their wild weekend of worry? No one.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:25-29 that worrying is pointless, which we kind of already know. But even better, He tells us what to do instead:

Matthew 6:34 in The Message bible says, "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes".

So what do we do with today? That thing.

Forgive that person. Start that business. Ask that person on a date. Apply for that course. Do that workout. Send that text. Start writing that book. For goodness sake, buy that puppy! Do something that will make today count.

So my friend, live full and love well today. And I pray as you climb into bed tonight, you will remember to thank the One who gave you this day.

Ok? Ok.

Filters and Facades

Hello. My name’s Elyse, and I have a fear of missing out (also known as FOMO).

I remember a few years back some friends of mine went on a vacation to Bali, because that’s what you do when you live in Australia--you fly to Bali and pay to have your hair braided so tight that you can almost see your brain thinking. And then you take photos and caption them with ‘just another day in paradise,’ with the hashtag #TheStruggleIsReal.

So my friends came back a week later with their suntans and stories, and I was so jealous. You know the crazy thing? I had just been to Bali a few weeks before them with a good friend of mine, and we had the best time ever… Suntans and stories of our own! So why was I so upset?

Because I wasn’t on their trip. I didn’t have their memories. I wasn’t included in their photos. 

The way I saw it, I missed out. I get it. It sounds selfish. It totally is. Youngest child, remember?

And it wasn’t the only time I’ve felt that irrational pang of jealousy or emptiness, and you know what I’m talking about. When you hear about that event you weren’t invited to, or you see another Facebook status of someone else getting engaged, when you’re just trying to get someone to ask you to coffee. It’s that sting of pain that hits your heart before you can give yourself a pep talk of perspective.

Whether we want to hear it or not, it’s true. Aren’t we all just scared of missing the moment? 

I don’t want to be left out of the Instagram photo. I want to be included in all of the statuses and tagged in all of the photos and invited to all of the events. I don’t want to have to ask what I missed; I want to be the one people ask.

As a generation, as humanity, we have such a fear, not of over-committing but of under-committing. We think that saying no to an invite somehow means saying no to life. We assume we will regret rest because we won’t be seen on ‘the scene.’ 

And so we hold our breath and refresh our phones and spend our night checking to make sure their night didn’t include a post-worthy moment. Because that would mean we missed out. And that would make us feel anxious, lonely, and rejected. Am I right? I’m totally right.

When did we get so obsessed with being everywhere, with everyone, every time we’re asked?

Social media. I love it and hate it so much. It’s the popular group at school -- I’m fine to tell you how pathetic it is, but what I don’t want to admit is that I still want to be apart of it. And so here we are, with our Instagram approval now determining our inner approval. 

But I think if we could pause for a moment, you and I would tell each other the same thing. Our fear of missing out is just another manifestation of something deeper, comparison. We all struggle with it, and we all wish we didn’t. 

We’ve all had moments of comparing ourselves with the people around us, instead of accepting the person within us, and looking to the One who created us.

The truth is comparison affects us all. Before we were keeping up with the Kardashians, we were keeping up with the Jones’s, and yet the Bible warns us against both. In 2 Corinthians 10:12 Paul says “…but when they measure themselves with themselves and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding and behave unwisely.”

Comparison is written about so much in the Bible because it is not a selective issue, it is no respecter of person, it has affected us since the beginning. In Genesis, God placed Adam and Eve in the most beautiful garden, with everything they could desire. They were so full with joy, until they realized there was another option, and that other option would steal their joy. 

Comparison. The thief of joy. 

This comparison came along in the form of a serpent in Genesis chapter 3, and he began to question the boundaries God had put in place for them. He began to tell Eve of the things they were “missing” and Eve listened to him. She disobeyed God because she didn’t want to miss out, and yet that decision actually caused her to miss out on all God had for her, for her husband, and for mankind. How ironic. 

So it started with Eve, but it continues with us. The same issue of comparison Eve had in the garden, we have in 2016. Different temptations. Different technology. Same fear. 

And yet perhaps the more we commit our emotions to Him, our Creator; the less we need the emoticons. The more we are completely honest with our feelings, the less we need a filter.

I want to learn to embrace myself, filter free. And I think you should too, because you are the beauty behind the post, and you have been created in the image of the Master. We are His masterpiece. And our validation doesn’t come from a Valencia filter, or Mayfair, or Nashville. Our validation comes from Heaven. 

So post that photo, but not at the expense of the memory. And once you post it? Put your feet up, relax and smile. You haven’t missed out on a thing. Today, be FOMO free. Be filter free. Just be free.

As Seen In Propel Magazine -- July 2016

My Issues. His Grace.

My Issues. His Grace.

It’s a common myth that we have it all together. That just because we know the words to the worship songs, and have our names on a reserved sticker, we are living the #BlessedLife. Sometimes though, it’s just not true.

I mean, let’s be real. We all have days where we really need Jesus to hold us back, because we just might cut someone, get arrested, and go to jail. And then suddenly feel a call to start a prison ministry. No? Just me? Awesome.

Seriously though, we all have moments where it feels like God is busy with someone else, when our thoughts are taken up with more “what if’s” than “but God said’s.”  

So what do we do when our heart is just as broken, our storm is just as scary, and our situation is just as messy as the person standing in front of us asking for prayer?

Because that’s a very real place to be in, trust me.

I am a church kid. Like, I’m a serious church kid. I could sing you through Hillsong’s worship albums (circa Darlene Zschech 1993) before I could tell you who Justin Timberlake was and why he was bringing sexy back. As I grew up though I learned quickly, and found myself dealing with the same things any other teenager did, church kid or not. 

I didn’t know church kids were allowed to have issues, I thought they could only have prayer requests.  

I thought that if I was honest about feeling lonely, about hiding the real me, and about wanting to kiss all the boys, I’d be shunned. I wish I knew then that life’s issues do not discriminate between church people and non-church people. We all have them. And I thank God for the people that saw me, saw through my façade, and held my hand in my failures.

Two years ago I moved from my home in Sydney to be at Oasis Church in Los Angeles. I guess I’m kind of a grown up now, emphasis on the kind of.  I’m a young adult pastoring other young adults through the very things I’m navigating. A lot has changed since my days reciting the fruits of the spirit and drinking Kool-Aid in kid’s church. But you know what hasn’t changed? My issues. His grace.

I may be a pastor, but I’ve had Sundays where I felt like a hypocrite, praying for people while silently screaming at a God that felt hidden. I’ve had weekends where I was at church less because I was passionate, and more because I was paid. Sorry, too honest? Whatever, I’m a non-filtered Australian.

And yet, in those times of praying through my pain, He saw
Every time I opened my hands when I wanted to keep them closed, He saw. 
Every time tears rolled down my cheeks during a song about joy, He saw. 
Every time someone I prayed for and invested in walked away from church, He saw
Every time I felt the sting of loneliness in a crowded room, He saw. He. Always. Saw.

And looking back on those times, the kindness of God was so evident. He drew so close to my hurting heart, and He pulled others close too. I’ve spent countless nights on my friend, Pastor Holly’s couch, ordering some weird organic vegan food, talking about Jesus, or just my obsession with reality television. Sometimes it’s in the toughest seasons that Jesus gives us the strongest friendships, He will always give us someone who will remind us of our song when we have forgotten the lyrics.

And as I remained real and resilient, I discovered something else. My questions have never taken Him by surprise. My broken heart has never been too broken for Him. My failures have never disqualified me. Even my most quiet prayer has never gone unheard.  And guess what, neither have yours.

We all go through times where the light feels a little dimmer, the tide a little lower, and the momentum a little slower. But it’s just a season. The light will shine, the tide will rise, and the momentum will pick up. And yet through it all, His call remains the same.

After all, our destiny is not dependent upon our emotional deficiency, but upon His divine direction for our lives.

I don’t know a lot, truly, I’m still in my twenties trying to figure out ministry, life, boys, and Jesus. But I’m learning this-- The Bible doesn’t say a lot about our calling being comfortable. Trust me, I checked, a few times. But it definitely says that those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed (Proverbs 11:25). So we can be confident that as we minister to others, He ministers to us, and that as we build His house, He will build ours.

And remember, He started this whole thing, so He’s going to make sure it ends really well.

Galatians 6:9-10 (Amplified)
Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap, if we do not give in. So then, while we [as individual believers] have the opportunity, let us do good to all people [not only being helpful, but also doing that which promotes their spiritual well-being], and especially [be a blessing] to those of the household of faith (born-again believers).

As Seen In Propel Magazine -- March 2016

The Dating Dance

Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth...”

Let’s be honest, my love life (if I’m allowed to have a “love life” as a Pastor’s Kid turned Pastor) has, for the most part, been like one of those junior dance recitals you had to go to for your friend’s little sister — children twirling in tutus over and over again, trying not to get too dizzy while wearing way too much hairspray and lipstick.

Sure, they’re doing the same steps as a ballerina, but possessing zero of her grace. There’s absolutely no flow to it, and, though it’s cute to watch, you find yourself stifling a giggle every now and then.

Dance Recital > My Love Life.

Don’t get me wrong. There have been some big swells in the music, moments of elation, just like in the movies, where, if you were watching from the outside, you would think everything was about to fall into place. But for the most part, my love stories have taken a turn for the worse. I’ve been left standing confused and alone (in the rain… with sad music playing softly in the background… or something like that).

The bible says in Proverbs 13 that “hope deferred makes the heart sick…” Or, in the Elyse Murphy translation (ahem, not an actual translation), when we have dreams that keep getting delayed, we have hearts that keep getting heavier. So what do we do when our hope has been overtaken by heartache? When this “opportune time” we hear about feels more like a train that forgot to stop at our station? Or when the dance choreography keeps changing and we can’t keep up with the steps? 

My dance started slow, very slow, watching the other dancers leap freely. You see, until the age of eighteen, I wasn’t allowed to date. Pastors Kid, remember? Whether I thought that rule was fair or child abuse, it was the rule. 

If I wanted to date, I had to do it secretly and within the confines of an eight-minute bus ride to and from school each day, which wasn’t too effective. Added to that, I didn’t know how to talk to any boy that didn’t share the same last name as me. 

But soon after that blessed day of July 24th 2007, the dance changed. Once I left school and had my first kind-of-but-still-not-quite real relationship (turned heartbreak) with the boy I thought would be my leading man, it’s like the floodgates opened. 

To be fair, the floodgates consisted less of actual boyfriends (and official changes in relationship status) and more of text messages and awkward encounters, unrequited flirting, skype “dates”, late night phone calls with declarations of my undying butterflies, awkward breakups that weren’t really breakups, and… Well, you get the idea.

Dancing was exhausting. Dancing is still exhausting. So many steps, so little movement.

I have so many stories of ‘oopsie’s’, ‘almosts’ and ‘never again’s’ that I could probably create a book of them. And actually? Maybe one day I will. As I was saying…

When I think about my journey so far, it can be a little depressing if I start to compare. After all, I’m not exactly “Mary Jane” who has always known how to do a pirouette, meeting her soul mate at four-years-old and getting married at eighteen, waiting until her wedding day to hold his hand, of course.

So often we keep trying to find some method to this whole thing, but what if that’s not the way our dance is supposed to go? What if figuring out your own routine is less about learning the choreography and more about trusting your instinct and going with the music?

After all, relationships might just be the messiest part of our existence. 

There is no cookie-cutter way to find the one you want to spend ‘forever’ with, there’s no one size fits all. There’s no template, no manual or foolproof system, because, at some point, we’re all kind of foolish at it… in the nicest possible way. Yes, even if we’re in ministry.

And there’s a reason I have so many stories, which are increasingly entertaining for my friends during a girls Taco Tuesday night. It’s not because I keep getting it wrong (granted there are a moments of stupid I wouldn’t mind rewinding), but because I put so much pressure on myself to get it right. 

And yet, when it comes to dating, we rush to choreograph the entire recital, instead of just focusing on the next step.

Maybe when it says in Psalm 119, “I am a lamp to your feet and a light to your path,” God wasn’t talking vaguely, but very specifically, to us. Because we do that, don’t we? We insist on lighting the entire pathway before we’ve ever taken a step, and freaking ourselves out in the process. Scripture reminds us that we were never meant to carry the weight of an entire journey, just the obedience of a single step.

We feel so much pressure to commit to ‘forever’ after just one cup of coffee, that we burn our tongue trying to drink it quickly. We forget to breathe, listen, or respond, then we run for the hills at the first opportunity, deciding the answer must be never!  Maybe we just need to remind ourselves that, for right now, the only promise we need to make is that we won’t make any promises, just yet.

Saying yes to a movie, a hike or a last-minute adventure to find the best pizza place in town, doesn’t mean saying yes “till death do us part.”

And I’m discovering that maybe; just maybe, the beauty isn’t in walking down the aisle, although that will be a perfectly beautiful day.

The beauty is in finally learning to dance.

Matthew 6:34 (The Message) “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

As Seen In Propel Magazine -- May 2016


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.

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