December 3, 2012

Home Again

Over a year and 591 miles later, I've said a bittersweet farewell to the East Coast and hello again to the Mid-west.  As I boarded my one way flight to Virginia over a year ago, I never would have thought I'd be fitting my life in a 1999 Toyota Camry and making a 10 hour drive back to Michigan. Funny how plans change.

Despite the mixture of anxiety and sadness I felt as I took one last look at what had become home, I began my journey back to the Mitten.  As if I wasn't emotionally overwhelmed already, the fact that I had never driven more than 3 hours alone only added to my state of mind. Fortunately, I had three mixed CDs, two Camelback water bottles, one bag of Haribo Gold Gummy Bears (the best), one box of Hot and Spicy Cheez-Its, one bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms, two robust playlists, AND The Chronicles of Narnia Audio Dramas along for the ride. This company of music, snacks, and not to mention my own reflections on the past 15 months of my life, got me all the way to the Ohio Turnpike, where I made my first stop.

Now, I understand when normal people stop to rest they usually pay a visit to the restroom, do some stretches, fill up the tank, and get a bite to eat. Yes, I did use the restroom and fueled the Camry, and I did stretch while I waited in the McDonald's line for 20 minutes. However, that rather lengthy wait was not for a meal, all I wanted was a large ice cold McDonald's coke. I'm not going to name any names, BUT a certain someone thinks I'm pretty weird for believing wholeheartedly the coke at McDonald's tastes better. I promise you, IT DOES, and it was well worth the wait! ;)

So with coke in hand and The Magician's Nephew through the speakers, I was on the final stretch.  I don't know if it was the dry contacts, sore butt, or one too many gummy bears, but the second half went by a bit slower than the first. The "Welcome to Michigan" sign came and went, though, and just as the sun set, I was greeted with excited hugs and a feeling of accomplishment. I was home again.

It's been three weeks since, and as I sit here watching a Christmas movie with my parents, I realize how grateful I am for seasons. Virginia was nothing I expected it would be. I learned some hard lessons, had my share of disappointments, and faced a lot of confusion, but I also lived close to one of my bests, met a few kindred spirits and a pretty awesome guy ;), was blessed with "sisters" I've always wanted, and got the privilege of living with incredible spiritual mentors.  More importantly, through the trials and the joys, I started seeing more of the fullness of Christ.

I have no idea how long the Lord will keep me here or what here entails. The only thing I can really expect out of this season is to discover more of His fullness through whatever comes my way.  I'm reminded of something I hope to live out that I read in Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest,
"If God has made your cup sweet, drink it with grace; if He has made it bitter, drink it in communion with Him."
Well, Michigan is a sweet cup. May I drink it with grace.

November 8, 2012

Speechless

Recently, I have been bent toward a speechlessness before God, and I don't mean that in an in awe or reverent sort of way. In fact, it has been a frustrating silence on my end. I know the importance and power of prayer, yet it has been a struggle to articulate any. I know they exist somewhere inside me, I feel them bottle up, but they have been a fight to release. However, in this mess of myself, I know God is trying to tell me something. The role of the Holy Spirit, specifically as presented in Romans 8:26, has been brought to my attention multiple times over the past month or so through sermons, the bible study I attend, and my own readings.
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
This is not to be used as a cop-out from prayer. I know it is God's will for me to do my part and "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17), but I can at least take comfort in knowing the Spirit is able to make sense of the tension and groanings within myself. Keith and Kristyn Getty released a new album this year, and it's so good I could probably write a post about every track. One in particular really resonated with me, though. The first time I heard "Holy Spirit (with Gabriel's Oboe)" I was thankful.  The lyrics expressed all I couldn't but have been wanting to, which to me, is proof of the Spirit's intercession in my life. It's a beautiful prayer that, through gifted musicians, He has given me for the times I can't find the words.



Holy Spirit, living Breath of God,
Breathe new life into my willing soul.
Bring the presence of the risen Lord
To renew my heart and make me whole.
Cause Your Word to come alive in me;
Give me faith for what I cannot see;
Give me passion for Your purity.
Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me.
Holy Spirit, come abide within;
May Your joy be seen in all I do—
Love enough to cover ev'ry sin
In each thought and deed and attitude,
Kindness to the greatest and the least,
Gentleness that sows the path of peace.
Turn my striving into works of grace.
Breath of God, show Christ in all I do.
Holy Spirit, from creation's birth,
Giving life to all that God has made,
Show your power once again on earth;
Cause Your church to hunger for Your ways.
Let the fragrance of our prayers arise.
Lead us on the road of sacrifice
That in unity the face of Christ
Will be clear for all the world to see.

September 29, 2012

Stop Pretending

Recently my dear friend and mentor, Mindy, insisted I read a book that easily fell into the "life changing" category of her book collection. In fact, she even bought and sent me a copy herself. Well, I'm only three chapters in, but I already understand why "Anything" by Jennie Allen resonated with her. It is certainly resonating with me.
"Freedom isn't found in rebelling or pretending."
I know that thought probably doesn't seem too profound, but it got me thinking about a point in a conversation I was having with Mindy and her husband when I confessed that I had been feeling like I'd rather be who I was before I became a Christian than who I've become as a Christian. Before I started to actively pursue Christ, I was caught up in all sorts of rebellion, but my desire for freedom brought me before Christ in a raw way. After reading, re-reading, and reflecting tonight, I realized who I'd really rather be is not who I was before I "became a Christian" but who I was as I was coming to Christ. I was real and raw before Him. But over the past five years, I began pretending more and more. I've pretended to believe things I don't believe in fear that others would question my salvation, and I've pretended to not believe things I do believe. I've pretended I didn't feel this feeling or that in fear that I'd appear this way or that. I've pretended to not have certain desires in fear that my relationship with God wouldn't be taken seriously. Little did I know, all this pretending for others caused me to pretend before God, leaving me paralyzed from truly understanding His grace. This freedom in Christ that everyone talks about, I can't say I fully understand what that's like, at least not right now, but I know His word is true when it says,
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." -Galatians 5:1
I fear I am a slave to other people's opinions, a slave to myself, and a slave to my sin. But,
"God is reaching out to us, wanting us to see we need him. But since he is God, we think he wants some song and dance from us-in other words, behavior modification. He actually just wants us. He longs to set us free. And yes, to accomplish all that, he wants us entirely."
Here's to entirety.

September 26, 2012

Babel

Just thought I'd share my favorites from Mumford & Sons new album, Babel:

5. Hopeless Wanderer: "I will call you by name. I will share your road. Hold me fast. Hold me fast, cause I'm a hopeless wanderer."

4. Holland Road: "But I still believe though there's cracks you'll see, when I'm on my knees I'll still believe."

3. I Will Wait: "And I'll kneel down. Know my ground. Raise my hands. Paint my spirit gold. Bow my head. Keep my heart slow."

2. Lover of the Light: "So love the one you hold, and I will be your gold. To have and to hold a lover of the light."

1. Below My Feet: "Let me learn from where I have been. Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn."

And if you missed their performance on SNL, eat your heart out:



Basically, if you have yet to buy the album, stop stalling. You won't regret it.

Live 2012

Excited to join the rest of the 3 million fans in reliving one of the best concerts ever. This is definitely going on my Christmas list.

February 24, 2012

Surely

Surely You will gather me,
collecting the living
and leaving the dead.
Daily I break.
Daily I fall.
But You sustain forever and again.

Surely You will take me to You,
not who I was
but as I am.
Daily I bruise.
Daily I stain.
But You make pure with the white of the Lamb.

Surely I will seek.
Surely I will find.
Surely I am eternally Yours.
Surely You are forever mine.

February 11, 2012

A Tribute

I can't remember exactly, but I'm pretty sure the first time I ever felt power and conviction behind a voice, the kind that sends chills down your spine and tears in your eyes, was when I heard Whitney Houston sing. My mom bought me The Bodyguard on VHS, and at the age of 8, inspiration took on a whole new meaning. So did singing.

I wish I could say all the lessons Whitney gave me via cassette tapes and CDs gave me a voice like hers, but let's face it, no one has a voice like hers, especially me! She did, however, teach me more about bringing a song to life, because along with her bold tone, flawless pitch, and ability to hit the high notes, she knew how to make anyone listening feel. Her performances weren't just memorable, they were always unforgettable.



Whitney, you will be forever cherished and greatly missed.

Your fan,

<3 Elise

January 22, 2012

Book Worm

I always have enjoyed getting lost in a good book. As a little girl, I was an avid Nancy Drew reader thanks to my Grandma Hartman, a mystery lover herself, who introduced me to the beloved sleuth. One of my favorite stories she tells of her childhood is of her using her bus change to buy two Nancy Drew books instead of one, which meant walking to the bookstore. Not much of a sacrifice considering her passion for books. A passion she so lovingly passed on to me through frequent trips to the library when I was young and giving Barnes and Noble gift cards at Christmas. Between her and my step-mom, Tami, who always challenged me to read more, it's no wonder I'm such a book worm!

Unfortunately, the busyness of college left reading for fun on the back burner, but I am thankful to say my post-grad life has given me a chance to fall in love with reading all over again. Since Christmas, I have read four books, going on five, and I thought I'd do a little sharing!

1, 2, & 3: The Hunger Games series, by Suzanne Collins. Talk about three books you cannot put down. Each book is filled with suspense, action, romance, and did I say SUSPENSE? If you like good unexpected turns of events throughout a book, then you NEED to read this series. Just be prepared to put the rest of your life on hold while doing so, though. And at least read the first one before the movie comes out in March, which, can I just say how excited I already am?


4: Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers. Inspired by the book of Hosea, this is a breathtakingly beautiful story filled with so much Truth about love and the way God intended it to be. After 464 pages, I was left wishing for a sequel and dreaming of my own love story that I trust God has written for me. I recommend this book to all woman. Single. Married. Engaged. Whatever! So much can be learned from the characters in this story. 


5. The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson. This is my current read, and it's literally changing the way I pray. Each chapter leaves me challenged to pray harder, more often, more specifically, and with more faith. Even if you are happy with your prayer life, I encourage you to get your hands on this book! "Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears." 


So what about you? Read anything worth while lately?

January 16, 2012

Green Tea Toner

I finally jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon, and I'm so glad I did! The insane amount of cheap DIY projects are easily my favorite Pinterest quality. How else would I have found out how to make my own green tea toner?


Source: glamour.com via Eliana on Pinterest








I've only used the toner for two days, but each time has left my skin feeling so refreshed! The best part is the simplicity. Here's what you do:

Fill up a small container with cold water.
Let one green tea bag steep for a couple of minutes.
Dip a cotton ball in the toner.
Apply generously to the face.

I use the toner right after washing my face and then follow it up with a moisturizer because it can be a little drying. 

And that's it! It's that simple, and I highly recommend it! 

Sunday Style

These days it's not very often that I get to embrace my love for clothes. My Panera Bread uniform consists of black/khaki pants and polos, and I don't exactly wear the best my closest has to offer just to run to Walmart. That being said, I look forward to Sundays when I no longer have to neglect the pretty clothes (and shoes) waiting to be worn. Thus, I present to you the first "Sunday Style" post (sorry for the awful photos):



Canvas Handbag: H&M
Dark Wash Jeans: Aeropostle (Don't judge! I'm 5'1 and finding jeans is difficult!)
Blazer: Zara
Purple Tank: Forever 21
Scarf: Forever 21
Flats: Target

Oh, and let's not forget the Fishtail Braid...


This outfit was simple and comfortable, yet classy. Just the way I like it!

January 11, 2012

The Mountain

It's been one of those mornings. Early to rise. Icy windshield with no ice scraper. Low gas light bound to turn on any second. Dreary weather. Life worries flooding my brain. I admit, my drive to town turned into a pity party.

Then I was reminded of Abraham.

No doubt about it, Abraham was a man of trying circumstances yet incredible faith. I am currently going through my own share of trying circumstances, but this morning's pity party didn't help me in the incredible faith department. In fact, compared to Abraham being told to sacrifice his only son, Isaac (the same son who was supposed to assist in fulfilling God's promise to Abraham a few chapters earlier), my circumstances don't seem as trying.

Despite such a confusing and scary call to obedience from God, Abraham, without question, made his trek toward a mountain, hand in hand with Isaac, who he bound and laid "on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son." (Gen. 22:9-10)

And we all know how this story ends. There was no slaying. There was rejoicing! An angel of the LORD said, "Do not do anything to him. Now I know you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." (Gen. 22:12)

And let's not forget, there was provision! "Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." (Gen 22:13-14)

I can't help but feel strongly convicted, yet immensely encouraged to continue on my own trek toward the mountain of the LORD, where He WILL provide.