a love letter

Every week at the end of U-18 training, we have a words of wisdom time. From week one of meeting these precious young women, they have been asking questions about dating. I tried very hard to write something to introduce this letter. Every time I got any words down, I just felt like I was reexplaining everything to come…so instead, I’m simply going to say this: this letter is a love letter to these girls, to all girls, and even to young men; to me, to my friends, and to my brothers…please hear these words, and even if you don’t agree with my opinion on dating, please believe the words that speak the truth of what you were created for.

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Dear Girls,

Happy Valentine’s Day. You have all asked about dating, and I honestly don’t have any answers for you. I can only share what’s been put in my heart on the subject, the things I know to be true, and let you take it and do what you want with it. I have reasons for believing dating is not really a good thing, but even just giving you all a list, isn’t sufficient or helpful. The list doesn’t matter if it’s not in your heart.

I have dated. I dated the same guy for almost two years, starting my senior year of high school. And before that, and after, I went on a few dates here and there. So I have experienced the good and the bad of dating. And from it, and from a lot of prayer, and reading, and conversations with others who’ve dated, and others still who’re married, I’ve come to the conclusion that we were created for so much more than dating, where love is concerned.

I will not tell you that this conviction has made things easy. I will not tell you that I haven’t developed feelings for guys who are in my life before, even without dating. I will not tell you that it has solved a problem, or made me not long to be in a relationship… I will tell you this: It’s hard. It’s hard to be alone, and it’s hard to be different. It’s hard to explain to people why. It’s hard to explain to you all why.

Have you ever heard the term “patient endurance”? It basically means patient waiting and pressing on, even through the hard stuff. Enduring doesn’t really sound fun. But typically there is goodness at the end of whatever we’re enduring. Think about it in terms of soccer. Training to have endurance is hard work. It takes you to the end of your strength and your capacity. But you have to increase your level of endurance, so that when you get to a game, you can last the duration. Enduring in life is the same. There is training involved. It will take you to the end of yourself. There will be good things in the midst of the enduring, and there will be hard things too, just like in soccer. But you want to last; you want to make it the duration. A season of waiting means you must endure the seemingly stagnant daily things, the fear of the thing you’re waiting for never coming, and the tiresome aching in you for whatever it may be. But enduring patiently and faithfully brings reward. It brings blessing. Even in something like dating and marriage.

I know it’s hard to be alone. I know it’s hard when it seems like all, or at least most, of your friends have someone. Please trust me when I say, I know. It can be very lonely. And it can make you ask a lot of questions, like: is something wrong with me? Please hear this: you are not alone, and nothing is wrong with you.

I haven’t lived by rules, and I don’t want you to, but I want you to live by something planted deep inside your heart — something that says you were created for a purpose, for love, for truth, for joy, for hope, for peace and for fullness. I don’t know if many of you believe in the Lord, or have a relationship with Him, or anything, but this is one of the truest things I can tell you, whether you believe it or not (and I hope you choose to): He created you for the type of love that is whole, selfless, patient, sacrificial, filled with humility and hope and endurance. Love that is honest and true. A love filled with trust—so much trust that you would, and could, wisely put your life in someone’s hands. He created you for Himself. He did not create you to be the object of selfishness, lust, lies, deceit, fear, or division. He did not create you for imitation or by accident. True love — the type of love you were created for — can only come from Him. And you will only find it in Him, and in those who are filled with His Spirit. And you know, you may have to wait for it — you may have to wait a long time for it. And waiting may become tiresome; it’s that patient endurance thing again. But “our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on the object we’re waiting for” (Charles Stanley). But waiting doesn’t mean you don’t live fully now. You are not waiting for a man to make you alive. You are alive now. You have been given people to love faithfully right now, gifts to use faithfully right now, and work to do faithfully right now…

And none of this is exclusive to romantic love. This is all types of love. We were made to love and be loved. The young man you marry some day, was created for the same love you were. It’s so easy to only see today, and the near future. It’s hard to see how our lives right now will lead us into what’s to come. It’s hard to see how the decision I make about dating or being with a guy today, could effect a completely different guy 5 or 10 or 15 years down the road. But it can. And it will effect you. You are being prepared right now for where you are going tomorrow, and the next day. In life, and in love…

I have to pray. I need to. And I pray for whoever I may marry, the men my friends will marry someday, the men (and women) the kids I hang out with will marry, my brother’s future wives, etc. And I’m praying for each of you, and the men you may someday marry as well. I hope you can each hear this, not as a demand or a rule or something to make you feel bad, but as something from the heart of someone who believes you were created for more than what you (or I) can see right now — as something from the heart of a girl who, not too long ago, was where you are, and still, everyday struggles with this very thing.

I am so very thankful for each one of you.

Love,

Ellie

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what I lack, what I have

I am so very like the disciples in Matthew 14. Many of us have heard the story eight thousand times. Jesus feeds the five thousand. He performs a miracle. But before He does, He says something to the disciples…He says: you give them something to eat (Matthew 14:16; ESV).

On Sunday, Brian said, “We can’t be fearful of the way we go to get to the broken people.”

I am afraid. I’m afraid of not being ready, of being unprepared; I’m afraid I’ll fail and fall, that I’ll be rejected, that I’m inadequate…I’m afraid of these things and probably more. I only see what I lack. I forget and am blind to what I actually have…and that’s Jesus. Just like the disciples. They have Jesus, and they have five loaves and two fish…in their minds they have only five loaves and two fish. I have the Holy Spirit, and a teensy bit of experience, minimal knowledge, a very quiet voice, and I just don’t know what I’m doing… All I see is my lack; I can’t see that I have everything I ever need, in Jesus.

I’m afraid I’m not ready; Jesus is ready. I’m afraid I don’t know enough; Jesus knows all. I’m afraid I’ll fail; if I fail or fall, it’s in pursuit of Jesus, and He will catch me, or pick me back up when I hit the ground. I’m afraid to be rejected; Jesus was rejected, and He doesn’t reject the faithful. I’m afraid I’m inadequate; Jesus is adequate, I don’t need to be. He will fill in every gap that needs filling.

If I was prepared, fearless, adequate, successful, and accepted, I wouldn’t need Him.

Our lack means we have need. Need makes us desperate. Let us be desperate for Jesus, the One we do have. He is not only the One whose life, whose love, and whose death has given us everything…but He is the One who is our everything.

Jesus wants us to see what we have — what He has given. He says to the disciples “you give them something to eat.” They have been with Him, seeing the things He does. And yet, they don’t see Him with them.

Do they not trust He is who He says He is? Do they not know Him really? Or are they merely acknowledging their lack and their need for Him?

We see what He does, what He has done. We see what He promises He will do…and yet, we don’t see Him with us. Do we not trust He is who He says He is? Do we not really know Him? Sometimes I am acknowledging my need for Him, but more often, I’m fighting fear because I don’t trust He is everything I need.

Like the disciples, we look down at our empty hands, and our meager supply baskets, and we say: We only have this much. It is not enough. Jesus can turn nothing into something. He can turn only five loaves and two fish into enough for five thousand.

He still used the disciples, even though they couldn’t see. He still used their unbelief, just like He uses ours. He still uses us to pass on what He has given us. It’s a privilege not to be enough, not to have enough. We need Him; we want Him. It gives us an opportunity to draw nearer to our Lord…our Savior. He is more than enough.

“Jesus said, ‘They need not go away, you give them something to eat.’ They said to him, ‘We have only five loaves here and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children” (Matthew 14:16-21; ESV).

Burn it all from me.

You know me — the very thought terrifies and amazes me. Your Holy fire must desire to burn me — burn every blemish from me. Nothing of me would be left. But mustn’t that be the point? The only purity in me is You, and to be more You and less me is it. So burn everything from me. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Aren’t those the words? The ones David says? Renew a right spirit…

You see me — in every moment. As I read, work, drive, sleep, write, interact… As I read the same verse of Your Word 37 times before I actually understand just a fraction of what I’m reading because I’m so distracted…As I work half heartedly and frustratedly, not working with glorifying You in mind…As I drive weeping and screaming because it all hurts too much…As I sleep and forget about the world and the fight and avoid the things that need to be faced…As I write… or should I say not write?…As I interact with fear and anxiety, with wantonness and unprovoked intensity…

You’ve seen every moment of my life, and you’ve heard every thought. Sometimes I think nice things, Jesus, sometimes my heart has love in it, but Jesus, those nice things — that love — those things are You. The crap is me — the hiding is me. The fear and anxiety, the ungratefulness and bitterness — those are me.

But You want me. Why Lord?

For what I did, I repented,

And for what I do, I repent again, and again.

This past is forgiven.

Today I do not fight alone.

You still want me.

I’m broken,

I run from You

I hide from You

and still,

You want me.

I love other things more than I love You

but still You love me

and still You want me.

I choose other things

and people

before I choose You

and still,

You want me

and still,

You love me

and still,

You want me

to follow You wherever You go.

Jesus I want

to follow You wherever You go

I don’t want to chase the wind

or this world.

I don’t want to turn to the right

or to the left.

I want to enter through the narrow gate,

and walk the narrow path.

I want my heart to be like Your heart…

 

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being faithful in the now.

None of us will be here forever. I don’t mean that in a metaphorical one day we’ll die sort of way. I mean it literally. I won’t be 22, nannying full-time, living in Colorado, and just out of college, forever. That becomes more obvious as I continue to creep toward my 23rd birthday. Amber, Janae, Ruth, Ashlea, Grant, Zach, Nae, etc, won’t be here forever. I have a habit of looking toward the next thing, and if I’m not careful, I will miss this—this sweet time of friends, fellowship, love and learning.

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It’s so easy to want something that you can see in the future (whether it is distant or near). But we (and by we, I mean I) have to be where we are—in these moments. We have to take each moment we’re given and not wish it away for something yet to come. God puts us places for a reason. We go through seasons, and they’re not all “fun,” but that’s not always the purpose of them. In fact, many of them are not “fun.”

I wish I could put into words how much I love this season and how realizing this has made me long for things to stay the same. But you know something, when things don’t change we don’t change, and if we don’t change, that means we aren’t growing, and it’s very likely that that means we are not walking with the Lord.

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So even though we are to build for the future, and eternity, we need to cherish and grow and breathe in the now. Because if we don’t, we will miss moments, relationships, opportunities for faithfulness, etc, and even more importantly, we will miss the journey God has us on and the testimony He is glorified through.

And even though things can’t stay this way, God keeps showing me that there will be light and hope in every season through Him.

Every time Baby-E gets bigger, he also learns something new, and he blows my mind, melting my heart with the wriggle of his eyebrows or a crooked little grin. How amazing to see the promise of God in that sweet little face! Or when He brings a friend into your life who you’ve only known through letters, and then suddenly there she is in person…

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Babies grow so fast, visits with friends are brief; time is so fleeting. But God is so cool, because He reminds you that no matter the season, good or bad—one you want to last forever or not—there is more to come that can only be brought to fruition in the continued forward movement of each day and each moment—through living life—walking the path He has laid before you—and being faithful in the now.