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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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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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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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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.

What do you do when life doesn’t care about your plans? When the dreams you were counting on become their own algebraic equation you can’t solve? When your birthday comes and goes and in the place of a career goal, you’re just trying to figure out if you should eat ‘Chipotle’ or ‘In N Out’ for lunch?

A few days ago, I turned 26. I am no longer in my early twenties. I am closer to 30 than I am to 20. And if I’m honest, my life is not where I thought it would be at 26-but-may-as-well-be-30. I thought I would be married and well on my way to taking over the world… For Jesus, duh.

And yet, I’m so thankful I’m not where I planned to be. I’m so thankful that God didn’t give me my plan. Because where I think He is taking me is way better than I could have ever dreamed or imagined.

So today, I want to share with you 26 things I have learned on my way to being close to 30. Ok fine, 26.

1. Say yes to God. Figure out the “how” later

I wrote a book. If you didn’t know, now you do.

But before I could get all Beyonce on the writing world, I felt God speak to me during the writing process. It wasn’t audible, but an impression I got that I couldn’t shake. He said, “Elyse you’re not the first person I asked to write this book, but you’re one who said yes.”

God is not looking for someone who has it all together, someone who is qualified, someone who has all the answers. He’s just looking for a “yes.”

Be the one who says yes.

2. Vegemite on toast cures most things.

Sick? Heartbroken? Bored? Angry? Vegemite. Seriously, always Vegemite. But Americans, please don’t try this one unless there is an Australian present.

3. Keeping secrets will only make you sick.

Over the years I held onto secrets way too long, and just for the record, more than 24 hours is way too long. I don’t do that anymore. And the freedom I feel is second-to-none.

I know the voice in your head is telling you that you can “handle” your secret, but you were never meant to carry the weight of your mistakes or someone else’s alone. Speak up. Your secret has been hidden long enough.

4. Bad company corrupts good character.

It’s biblical. Who you choose to hang out with on a Saturday night tells me what kind of night you’re going to have. How do I know? Because I’ve been there.

5. Grace is a real thing.

My mum said to me the other day, “Elyse, no one chooses their path to knowing what grace is. It’s not an easy one. It’s messy. But when you experience the revelation of grace, you won’t lose it.”

My mum is so smart.

6. Writing clearly about the chaos brings clarity.

I over-think. I feel too deeply. I love too easily. It’s a recipe for a full head and a confused heart most of the time. But then I start to write. And when I write with #nofilter, I get clarity, find healing and uncover revelation. And you can too.

Write the letter you wish you could send. Start the sentence you don’t know how to finish. Write what you’re thinking. Even if the sentences don’t make sense and the page is blurry from tears, write. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you read.

7. There is always time for Chipotle.

After all, Chipotle is my life.

8. The spotlight will require sacrifice.

I’ve learned that not every thought needs to be tweeted. Not every picture needs to be posted and not every breakup needs to be broadcasted. We all know that social media isn’t real, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a platform. If we want a life in the spotlight, we need to be prepared to make the sacrifice. Good enough just might not be good enough anymore.

9. Don’t go on dates with people you have to put a filter on to your friends.

The truth cannot be twisted. If you have to tell your friends he’s ‘between jobs’ when he’s not even looking for one, rethink dinner. If you have to pretend that she doesn’t own pants when she just refuses to wear them, you may be on a dangerous slippery slope. Tell the truth to the ones who love you, they may just save you from a landslide heartbreak.

10. Texting when you’re lonely only leads to awkward conversations later.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve partaken in my fair share of ‘flexts’… You don’t know what flexts are? They’re flirty texts. OK I just made it up, but can we pretend it’s a word? I’ve also had to have just as many awkward “we’re just friends” conversations.

If you are texting late at night with that guy or that girl, do it because you are generally interested in them, not because you are watching The Bachelor and feeling lonely. Deal?

11. Adulting is hard sometimes.

When you’re a kid, and you do something wrong, your parents punish you by putting you in the naughty corner. When you’re an adult, there is no naughty corner. You get to make decisions for yourself. You bear the consequences for yourself. That makes ‘adulting’ messy and painful. And that’s just the truth.

12. You have to say no eventually.

I really want you to like me. No, really. The fear that you might not makes me say ‘yes’ more times than I say ‘no’ — to events, to favors, to dates and to projects. But I’ve learned that eventually the ‘yes’ will catch up with me! Learn to say no sometimes, especially to going out on the town, for the third night in a row. It’s good for you.

13. Being single is not a disease to be cured.

And to anyone that asks when you’re finally going to settle down? Slap them. Slap them real good. They probably need it.

14. More followers does not equal more feels, just more filters.

15. Fail. Learn. Repeat.

I’ve learned most of these 26 things, not through sermons or blogs, but through fails. Epic, epic fails. Failures that made me cry and feel bad. And that’s ok. No one said messing up is fun. It’s not. Falling flat on your face sucks. But you know what’s worse? Getting to 30 and not having anything else added to this list.

16. Laugh. A lot.

Your workplace is probably hilarious. Your family is probably a sitcom waiting to happen. If you are looking for it, life is pretty funny most of the time.

17. Life plans must go.

For example, when I was 8, my life plan was to be Judge Judy. I’m so glad I’m not. So life’s not how you thought it would be? Join the club! Embrace it.

18. Turn off your phone.

Instagram will still be there. Social media probably won’t actually notice. Engage in conversation with your friends. Look your family in the eye. Experience a moment without Periscoping it. You’ll feel like you’ve had a vacation.

19. Nice guys are the best.

You’ll see.

20. Adding YOLO at the end of a decision doesn’t justify it.

It usually just means your head will be sore the next morning. Remember, fun isn’t fun unless it’s fun in the morning.

21. People change.

And there’s nothing you can do about it. Some will walk out, and you’ll be thankful. Some will walk out, and it will feel like you just stepped on a piece of Lego. Try not to hold it against them; we’re all just trying to figure this whole life thing out.

22. Don’t starve yourself, unless you’re doing the 40-Hour Famine.

Your body knows what you need. Fuel it. Don’t deprive it. If you want the burger? Eat the burger.

23. Find your crew and hold on tight.

Every few weeks my friends Ryan and Nikki have “family dinner” at their house. We eat dinner, tell stories and hang out. Sometimes when I beg, they’ll break out the guitar and sing. The night itself doesn’t have bells and whistles, just my best friends and a lot of love. It’s nothing overly special, but to me? I’ll never forget these nights.

After all, doing nothing with people who mean the most to you will make you realize what life is all about.

24. Time heals.

Heartbreak, well it breaks. I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but you won’t always feel this broken. Stay strong. Chin up, buttercup. Time and Jesus heal a lot of things.

25. Take the selfie. Ignore the haters.

“I don’t understand why we don’t entirely, one thousand percent promote the selfie. What’s wrong with thinking you are absolutely worth being looked at and absolutely worth being seen? Let’s not encourage a culture where we’re told to be unhappy with ourselves. If a girl feels pretty, let her.”  – Brittany Ghabriel.

My friend wrote this on her Instagram and I couldn’t agree more.

Feel beautiful? Document it.

26. You’re doing better than you think, little one. Celebrate 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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I am a church kid, this you already know. But, like, I’m a serious church kid.

I’ve got more prayer meetings under my belt than Benny Hinn. I slept under church pews so much that there was a permanent pillow and blanket under there for me. I could sing you through Hillsong’s worship albums (circa Darlene Zschech 1993) before I could tell you what was actually in The Wiggles fruit salad.

To me, the Backstreet Boys may as well have been another name for the disciples when they had to find an alternative route to the temple. And I thought the Spice Girls were the women who prepared Jesus’ body for burial.

I may be exaggerating a little because, well, that’s what I do, but you get my point. As I grew up though, I discovered all things Baby Spice and Backstreets Back (all right), and regained a little of my reputation. But in growing up, I found myself dealing with the same things any other teenager did, church kid or not. The difference for me was that I was a church kid, so I thought I had to keep quiet about my teenage-hood.

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

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 forever and a day. I wish I knew then that being honest is the only way out of loneliness. I wish I knew then that there are people who love the real me. I wish I knew then that kissing all the boys only leads to a hurting heart.

I wish I knew then that the very thing that scared me was actually the very thing that could save me. (tweet that)

But now that I’m kind of a grown up, emphasis on the kind of, I know that no filter living is actually what leads to freedom. A few years ago I felt the responsibility to make sure those growing up in church, or growing up their little mini-me’s in church, knew that too.

So after four years of writing and developing, opening up wounds and letting them heal again, articulating the tears and bleeding on paper, it’s finally here.

Today I received the first copy of my book, Confessions of a Church Kid.

It arrived this morning at the office, just like any other brown paper package, tied up with string, except it wasn’t (sorry Fräulein Maria). Actually this package was duck taped so well that Edward Scissorhands would’ve had a tough time cutting it open. Finally, after I almost tried to convince myself that it looked better in the brown package, I opened it.

There I sat. Holding my book. My book.

I was holding a life of that time’s. That time I went from office assistant to pastor. That time I traveled the world with my main man — my dad. That time summer was all about Taylor Swift and too many freckles. That time I was addicted to Diet Coke. That time dating was something I dreamed about. That time dating was something I became a little too good at. That time my best friends dressed up and drank champagne in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. That time I left the only church I ever called home and realised it would never feel the same again. That time I learned “best friend” is a level of friendship, not one single person. That time I moved to Los Angeles. That time I wondered if Jesus could still use me, even though….

A life of that times, and finally, today, I held them, in one book. And as I held it, I realised that Jesus knew them all.

Jesus knew all my that time’s, before I even lived one time, and plans to use every time, to help someone else’s future time. (click to tweet)

Sounds like a pretty good time to me.

Confessions of A Church Kid is my honest story of the good, the bad, and the ugly of growing up in church. And guess what, you can pre-order a copy right now, just click here. Go on, all the cool kids are doing it.

My book will be released in a couple of months and I could not be more excited. Not just because I feel like I’ve been pregnant with this thing for four years, and I’m pretty sure any doctor would say that’s not super healthy, like I should probably be dead by now or something. Just to clarify, I’m not actually pregnant, although that’d be a plot twist. (Again, not pregnant.)

I am so excited because I finally get to take what’s been sitting on my desktop for far too long, and share it with the world. And I’ll be honest, because that’s kind of all I know how to be these days; I hope your friends read it. I hope your kids read it. I hope your sister reads it, and I hope your brother even reads it.

But most of all, I hope you read it.

I hope that as you listen to my confessions you resonate with my honesty. I hope you have a moment where you can nod your head and say, “me too.”

Because you and I aren’t that different you know. We’ve both been hurt. We’ve both asked “what if.” We’ve both had nights where our smile was all too fake. We’ve both wondered if anyone actually knows us. We’ve both learned lessons the hard way. We’ve both felt like our life was meant to be significant.

We both have a story.

I’d love to tell you mine.

And one day? I’d love to hear yours too.

Confessions of A Church Kid, it’s finally here.

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I am twenty five years old, and I have never been in love. Don’t get me wrong, I have more than enough awkward and hilarious and let’s-not-do-that-again dating stories to last us an entire girls night in, but as for love? Not yet.

You see, while I’ve never been great at knowing what I do want, I’ve always been pretty good at knowing what I don’t want, and so I’ve always known I don’t want to say “I love you” when something is nothing more than an infatuation. Because if I’m honest, I think we’ve confused love and infatuation so much that we can’t early tell the difference anymore.

So you wanna know what love is? Check out this video.

 

 

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

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I read the other day that a step backward after a step forward is not a disaster; it’s more like a cha-cha. I kind of love that, not that I have any ability to do the actual cha-cha, or dance in general. No really, I broke my foot last year trying to dance. It’s not safe.

Have you ever started making progress towards something — a goal, breaking a bad habit, reaching a dream — only to slip backwards? Two steps forward, one step back style?

You nominate yourself for that promotion at work, put in the extra hours and effort, are told you’re a shoe-in, only to find out that someone else to got it.

You gave up alcohol for good, but then St Patrick’s Day came around. And then a friend’s wedding. And Saturday brunch with mimosas. And then a Wednesday. And before you know it, you’ve fallen back into some scary, Bridget Jones style patterns.

You were three kilograms away from your goal weight after six months of sweat and spin classes, but then Christmas.

You decided to stop that toxic relationship; perhaps you even blocked his number or unfollowed her Instagram. But just as you were getting your life back on track, you reconnected somehow and, well, old habits die-hard.

… And it all just leaves you with that heavy, gut-wrenching feeling of failure.

Perhaps failure has gone from a feeling you have, to a label you have put on yourself.

I’ve been there. I know the disappointment and frustration that comes with those steps back. I know how it can make you want to give up altogether.

The truth is, sometimes progress doesn’t look like progress.

It took me three years to break a habit of drinking Diet Coke. I was drinking nearly two litres daily, and as hard as I tried, giving up felt impossible. I must’ve “given up” over 50 times. One day I decided to set smaller goals, probably the same thought pattern as when I write a to-do list and begin it with ‘write a to do list,’ just so I can cross it off. Don’t pretend you haven’t done that.

I started achieving those goals, like drinking water in between and switching to sparkling water. Finally one day, with very little drama, the addiction just kind of broke. Sometimes progress doesn’t look like progress, until it’s progressed.

The truth is, sometimes progress feels a lot like heartbreak.

One time I decided to end a relationship that was bad for me, and then I kind of didn’t, for about three months. (Break up fails 101). There’ve been times I have deleted a guy’s number, only to search my history on my computer to retrieve it a few days later. iCloud and I at our worst/most genius, thanks Steve Jobs. But as I got honest with myself and a few of my closest girlfriends, even when I cha-cha’d backwards, I got a little more coordinated, a little stronger. After a couple of goes, I remembered what I was worth, and when I couldn’t remember, I was reminded. Sometimes progress feels like heartbreak, but over time, your heart will thank you for it.

The truth is, sometimes progress looks like failure.

I remember in school I ran for school captain (like class president) and I was pretty confident I would get it. Because Murphys are winners, right dad? Well, I totally lost. Sorry dad. What looked like progress suddenly revealed itself as failure. But you know what? Not being captain was the best thing for me, even if I couldn’t see it at the time. I realised what looked like failure, was actually God’s way of saying “I have something better.” And I’m glad I trusted his process to bring the progress.

Failure is a humble thread that weaves my story together, and my guess is, it has woven into your story too. Whether in a sport, in a relationship, at work or in school, a step back isn’t the direction you were hoping for. My guess is you didn’t start this thing so you could fail, unless you were hoping to go viral on YouTube with #epicfails. But my other guess is you are much clever-er (totally a word) than that.

Failing doesn’t make you a failure. Take that label off yourself today.

A step back is just what happens sometimes. Failure is part of our journey. Because this is life. And we are flawed. And we live in a broken world. And we make mistakes. But that’s why we are so desperately in need of a Savior. And that’s why He came and He died and He is constantly rewriting our story and shaping it into something so beautiful.

As long as you are facing forward, even if you have taken a little step back, you’re still in the right position for progress. And hey, if we aren’t failing every now and then, then maybe we aren’t making the kind of progress that results in forward movement either.

So, little one. Face forward. Chin up. Smile. The music has started. It’s time to move.

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

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It feels different this year.

Whatever it is, Easter feels different. The air feels warmer, my heart feels softer and the reality of Jesus and His grace feels more real than ever before.

The last year and its experiences have changed me. I am wiser with my words, more grateful with my life, and a little more careful about who I offer my heart to. And yet, in the last twelve months, there was one experience that completely altered how I view Jesus and the Bible, and made sure I would never look at the cross or His sacrifice through the same lens again.

One trip to Israel changed Easter for me, forever.

There I stood, before an empty tomb in one of the most tranquil gardens I have ever visited. It looked like a movie set with hanging flowers and birds singing and small, white tomb, carved out of a rock, minding its own business. Did we know for sure this was the place Jesus was buried and raised? No. Did I care? Nope. To me, this was it.

Standing at this tomb, I was closer to where Jesus had been, than I have been in 25 years of life. I was walking the same streets He was dragged through, while being mocked and whipped and bruised. I was in the place He died, so I didn’t have to.

And yet as I stood at the entrance of the tomb, with more thoughts flying through my mind than I had time to catch, I felt nothing. I wanted to be overwhelmed with emotion, with gratitude, with a new understanding of his sacrifice. But I felt empty and cold and alone.

I was disappointed. I felt like a disappointment. 

I looked around and the crowd had gone, our bus was on its way and it was time to move onto the next biblical site, or just to go eat some more hummus, both were arguably as amazing.

But I stayed lingering, I refused to leave with the same numbness and apathy as I came in. I needed to find Jesus.

You see, before this trip, I felt lost. I felt distant. I felt like Jesus was hiding and I wasn’t doing a good enough job trying to find Him. Maybe you know the feeling. I felt like I had done something wrong, that perhaps I wasn’t good enough, and I almost gave up looking. But at this tomb, in this garden, He spoke,

“Elyse, I never lost you. I am here.”

He was here. Suddenly, it didn’t matter whether He had been here, it didn’t matter how accurate the history and geography was, it didn’t even matter that I looked like a panda with my eye makeup running down my face, because my Jesus, He was here.

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In that moment, outside a garden tomb, I found Jesus. In that moment, I was Mary Magdalene.

She arrived at the tomb, like I did, undoubtedly feeling empty and exhausted by the weight of grief, ready to say just one last goodbye to the man that saved her life. Instead, she found an empty tomb, but a living Jesus. Talk about a plot twist.

You know what I love? I love that she was the first to discover Him. It could’ve been Peter, or John, or even His mother, and that would’ve made sense.

But for me the beauty in this story is this — Mary was the one who had been forgiven much. She was the one who knew what it meant to be free. She was the one who had felt firsthand the depths of His relentless love and unending grace. She was the one who found home, with Him.

I got to see where Mary might have been when she found our Jesus, first. For a moment, standing there, I got to be Mary, but instead of finding Jesus, in that garden, I was found by Him.

Honestly, before this trip, I lost Jesus for a little while. I felt the shameful sting of loneliness and the painful reality of regret. I was Mary. But Jesus never lost sight of Mary, and He never lost sight of me. And on that cold, windy day in a garden in Israel, I found Him again. My heart came home.

Today, if you feel lost, take heart, He hasn’t lost you. Perhaps you feel like you have messed everything up so much that He has given up on you. Maybe, like me, you have been searching for Him and feel like He is hiding. Don’t quit. Don’t you give up. Because maybe, like me, it’s when you least expect it, when you are at a place that looks like a bunch of rocks, that you will feel His whisper, “I am here.”

Maybe it’s in the silence we hear Him the loudest. Maybe it’s in our brokenness that He is the greatest artist, creating beauty from ashes.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s at the point we feel most lost, we are ready to be found. (tweet that)

I don’t know how to describe my trip to Israel. But if I did? I would tell you, Jesus found me on this trip. And Easter will never be the same again.

Maybe this is the Easter you find Jesus. And maybe this year, you will know exactly how Mary felt, because you will feel it too.

 

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

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

Sure, they’re doing the same steps as a ballerina, but possessing zero of the grace of one. And though there’s no flow to it, it’s kind of cute to watch, and 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 then, always without warning, 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).

It started slow, very slow, chained to the ballet barre (little aggressive, Elyse), 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. No dating (in front of dad) allowed — what? I’m all about viewer discretion.

If I wanted to date, I had to do it secretly and in 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. Also, puberty and stuff.

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 statuses, and involved more text messages, awkward encounters, unrequited flirting, vacation flings, skype “dates”, late night phone calls, 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, almost’s and never again’s that I could probably create a book of them. And actually? My secret plan (which is not so secret) is to one day write a book titled “Searching for Mr Right,” with each chapter a different type of wrong: Mr Player, Mr Perfect (In Theory), Mr Crazy Christian, Mr Over Achiever, and Mr Please Just Achieve Something Because You’re So Pretty…

But I don’t want to be the bitter single lady in her mid fifties who’s idea of a crazy night is to drink tea with her cats, so I figure I should find me a man first. Not a boy, a man. #ohsnap

I digress… 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 Anna-May 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 it, 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 own instinct and going with the music?

After all, relationships might just be the messiest part of our existence. (click to tweet)

No one really knows how to find the one they want to spend forever with, there’s no one size fits all. This isn’t a manual or foolproof system, because, at some point, we’re all kind of foolish at it… In the nicest possible way.

There’s a reason I have so many stories, which are increasingly entertaining for my friends during a girls night in with wine and cheese. It’s not necessarily because I keep getting it wrong (granted there are a moments of stupid I wouldn’t mind rewinding), it’s because I’ve been putting so much pressure on myself to get it right.

When it comes to dating, we rush to choreograph the entire recital, instead of just focusing on the next dance step. (click to tweet)

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, forget to breathe, listen or respond; and then 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 finding him, although that will be a perfectly beautiful day.

The beauty is in finally learning to dance.

 

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