Wednesday, February 22, 2017

To an Anonymous Friend

Dear friend,

Hi.

It is strange to send a message this way, but it seems like the best way to do it. I want to say something, and I pray that the Spirit will guide my mind and my fingers as I type this to you--and to everyone reading.

I think you see me and you are intrigued by me and you want to change me. You think, maybe, that I am clinging to perfection and idealistic beliefs, and that maybe, if I could just go a little crazy, you could show me how and we could have fun going crazy together for a shared moment in time.

The thing is, the one I believe in is the one who makes me who I am. Without him, I shudder to think how different I would be. I would be less, not more. If there is any goodness or light in me, it is only because of him. And I must follow his ways because he is the only one I trust completely, even when his path is hard.

"Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him..."
-Job 13:15

You think, maybe, that I am not being realistic, that I want a pretty bow tied on life, and that you could be the one who enlightens me, who shows me life as it really is. There is nothing more than this life, so let's meet up and enjoy it together while we can! Let's eat, drink, and be merry, devil may care, because tomorrow we die?

But what if I know something you don't? A way that you have seen peeking at you behind bushes in mysterious gardens of the soul, but a way that has remained hidden and elusive to you? A garden path you sometimes think about going down, but one you barely believe exists anymore?

What if the reason I was put in your life is to hint at that path, to bring the scent of that home country to you? Maybe what you like about me...is Him? If you see me being kind, does it seem like there is something beyond that kindness, powering it and enabling it? In my strength do you see an empowerer, and do you see someone carrying me, even when I am not strong?

Do you want him to come and carry you for a while, too?

What if I am not the "fair sun" that your heart is searching for, but "the inconstant moon", a ball of dust that the sun is gracious enough to shine upon and lend its glory to and set in a place where you can see it? The moon is a reminder of the sun; it is the "faithful witness in the sky" (Psalm 89:37), but has no light source in itself. Its light is bestowed from another source.

If you see me as a light, could it be that that light is a lamp meant to lead you through your darkness and take you home, to the true source of life?

I know you may not want to believe what I am saying, but can I tell you that I already see the Imago Dei in you? Your kindness is like his, your love for people is a dusty reflection of His.

I am not the one you are looking for, though he is making me more and more like him all the time, graciously giving me an amazing new me as a gift.

I am not the one you are looking for.

But I want to be your sister. You matter to me. So I will keep on praying:



"Bring him home."



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Battle is Real

This weekend, I saw God in a way that I never have before.

I believe in spiritual warfare, but over the last few days, I experienced it on a whole new level. I feel so passionate about writing this blog post, but very uncertain of what to share and how to share it. As my toddler son says, "I don't have words." So this may come haltingly, but by his grace alone, I am going to write.

This year, the word of the year that I think God gave me is the word "seek". Since the beginning of the year, he seems to have been calling me to seek not just the amazing gifts he has given me because of Jesus's life, death, and resurrection, but to look closer than that. He has been drawing me to seek his face.

"My heart says of you, 'Seek his face!' Your face, Lord, I will seek."
-Psalm 27:8

I can feel my need for this on a gut level. I can't wait to look him in the eyes someday.

Over the last few days, a battle has been raging for my heart that I don't really know how to explain. I have seen God work more through me in the hearts of others than I have possibly ever seen before in such a concentrated time, and I have also wept in the arms of a friend to the point of shaking--twice.

I have driven down the road singing along to songs that spoke a secret language from the Lord straight to my soul, and I have driven down the road yelling at Satan to take his claws off of my friends.

I know this all sounds very vague and mysterious. Please bear with me: I am trying to clearly communicate things that are hard to put into earthly words, and in this weird, semi-confessional blogosphere space.

What I want to say is that there is a battle raging, a very real one, between very real opponents. There is a real hero, a God who considers you so valuable that he let his only child be crucified for you. And there is a real enemy, one who hates you and wants in every way to take your life.

At some points in the last few days, it was as though I could feel that enemy fighting for control of my mind. He sets traps. He "masquerades as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). He makes you think good is bad and bad is good. He plays strategically and without rules.

"I [Jesus] am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."
-John 10:9-11

We often think that we are at war with people, but I am challenging you right now to look past the surface and see that there is much more going on, usually invisible but always real.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
-Ephesians 6:12



You have a longing you can't explain, dear reader, but it never really goes away, does it? You think you can find its fulfillment in pretty things or in words from people or in the approval of an audience, but I need you to know that--PLEASE listen to me, because I want to protect you--that deepest longing of your heart is for the God of the Bible.

"The Lord will write in the register of the peoples:
    'This one was born in Zion.'
    As they make music they will sing,
    'All my fountains are in you.'"
    -Psalm 87:6-7
 
I want to share a little bit of my journal from the last few days, in hopes that its words reach their intended audience. Because, as Jesus told his disciples as he sent them out to drive out impure spirits and heal people,

"What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs".
-Matthew 10:27


I have my journal sitting out on the table in front of me. Here is some of what I wrote in the last few days:

"...this has been a night of spiritual battle where God has shown a new side of his personality (ahh...):

the defender of the weak
the--no MY--knight in shining armor who will ride on his white steed on the last day
the God who 'trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.'

He not only rescues his princess from the tower where she is held captive; he makes her his fellow warrior!!! Like my heart-longing to be the creature on Avatar, or Katniss on The Hunger Games. He is making me the WARRIOR PRINCESS I have longed and needed to be. Like Aowen [in The Lord of the Rings trilogy]: 'I am no man!' and then she cuts off the enemy's head. 'ROAR!' I say now, with my prince-husband and great king at the head of the charge.

'I looked and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.'
-Revelation 6:2

'I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With JUSTICE he judges and wages war.'
-Revelation 19:11 (all caps mine)

...

My food is to do the will of him who sent me.
(See John 4:34.)

I seek your face.

And tonight, you have shown yourself to ME as

EL SHADDAI
Almighty God*
'He who destroys, overpowers'
Sufficient One
God of the Mountain

YAHWEH-SABAOTH
'The Lord of hosts [armies]'
'a mighty war commander, able to bring to bear innumerable hosts or armies wherever and whenever he desires'"


This weekend, God rescued me from some very real spiritual attack and now I am on my horse, riding to you like Paul Revere, shouting, "The enemy is coming! The enemy is coming! Trust God! Fight in the strength he gives you!"

If you are reading this, please know that the battle is raging. For some reason, God has given me eyes to see some of it lately, and I want you to know how dearly loved and valuable and precious you are to the King. He is fighting for you.

Wake up. Stand up. Put on the full armor of God (see Ephesians 6:10-20), because it is needed--every day.


"Be sober [well-balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour."
-1 Peter 5:8, Amplified Bible



He loves you. Stand up. Resist the enemy. Follow the King.







*Translations taken from jesuswalk.com.




Sunday, February 5, 2017

I Want to Be The Greater Fool

This morning in church, I started thinking about a phrase I was introduced to on the tv show The Newsroom. My family can tell you that I (and then my mom and I) binge-watched The Newsroom this last fall. It is written by Aaron Sorkin, who writes incredibly intelligent dialogue meant to be delivered at high velocity by incredibly intelligent characters.

The phrase I had in my head at church this morning was "The Greater Fool". Over the course of the first season of the show, Will McAvoy, the anchor for News Night, a fictional news program, has been on a trajectory to stop trying to please people and to start living by his principles, whether that is good for the show's ratings or not.

In Season 1, Episode 10 of the show, New York Magazine has just printed an article about Will's new style, calling him "the greater fool", saying things like, "One CNN producer remarked, 'It's almost as though McAvoy is unaware of how ridiculous he looks..." Will is deeply offended by the write-up and has started to question whether he should even stay in his job.

At the end of the episode, a wicked smart economist and fellow anchor for the network, Sloan Sabbith, comes to Will as a friend. She knows how much his attempts to do the right thing are costing him, and she uses her knowledge of economics to speak into his feeling that he should maybe just hold back and play it safe:

“The greater fool is actually an economic term. It’s a patsy. For the rest of us to profit, we need a greater fool—someone who will buy long and sell short. Most people spend their life trying not to be the greater fool; we toss him the hot potato, we dive for his seat when the music stops. The greater fool is someone with the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think that he can succeed where others have failed. This whole country was made by greater fools.”

Why was I thinking of a quote from The Newsroom during church this morning? Because I think God is transforming me more and more into his greater fool. The kind that is not full of "self-delusion and ego" like Sloan Sabbith described it, but rather a fool who knows for a fact that I am small and God is the biggest thing ever, and he has saved me and given me his power to do good and truthful things. God's kingdom, it seems, is made by greater fools.

My sophomore year of college, I shared a room with my good friend Leslie in Hart Hall, the last non-air conditioned dorm on Texas A&M's campus. We thought that it would be an adventure. I covered our door and the mirror over our sink in quotes that would assault me with truth every time I walked into our room or stared at my reflection. One of the quotes on our door was from 2 Samuel 6:14: 

"...David danced before the Lord with all his might..."

In 2 Samuel, David is bringing the ark of God to Jerusalem, and as it comes into the city, David is "leaping and whirling before the Lord" to the point that his wife, Michal, "despise[s] him in her heart". When Michal confronts David about how he has been acting, he defiantly tells her, among other things, 

"...I will celebrate before the Lord. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight."

In John 4, when Jesus meets a woman at a well in Samaria, he reveals to her not only that he knows her history with men and that he is the promised deliverer that she and her people have been waiting for, but also that God is looking for a certain kind of worship:

"But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

In my training as an actor, I learned a lot about being open and vulnerable to your onstage acting partners and to the audience. Not only that, but also that good acting requires a full body, totally focused, completely present-in-the-moment way of being that is powerful for both the actor and the audience. In acting class, I found myself wondering why the way we are in our "normal lives" often feels so much less human than the way we were learning to be on stage. 

In "normal life", we seem so guarded, so small, so closed off and tentative and unavailable to others, in comparison to the way we were with each other in acting class. And that was both frustrating and inspiring. 

There is something about throwing your voice out there--speaking like you mean it, or singing like you are shouting, like you are really trying to communicate your inner soul--that is both terrifying and absolutely freeing. How many situations do you find yourself in in which you feel like you can really express everything that is inside you?

I think there are harmful places to fully express yourself. Depending on what we are expressing, and to whom, we can form bonds that shouldn't exist or hurt people unnecessarily. That is a different blog post.

But there is one place I know that I can fully express every facet of my being, every doubt or complex, indescribable emotion, every deep, deep joy, every thing inside me. That place is with Jesus. I can shout out my innards to Jesus. 

But I forget that fact--my sin makes me look around the congregation on Sunday in jealousy or pride, my self-consciousness takes over and my throat gets tight and I can't sing my heart because I am afraid of other people thinking I'm showing off, or that I don't sound good, or that I'm being distracting.

But somehow, for awhile at church this morning, I went into "open" mode, the way I was taught in acting class. I sang along with the songs, fiercer than my fears. I believed that God has not "given me a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7). I shouted out the lyrics of truth to my God with a forward sound and crisp diction, not hiding, but exposing my soul to my maker. I might have even sounded kind of bad. And it was amazing. 

And I sensed that for a while, I got to experience his presence in an astonishing way. After the opening song time, a video played and displayed the words of the Apostles' Creed, a statement of belief that I have probably said 1,000 times in my life. But this time, as I sat with my spirit and my palms open, every line held power and new insight and a sense that I was touching the divine and the everlasting that are found only in my God.

I think that maybe God is making me his greater fool, more willing to be ridiculous for him, to embarrass myself because of who he is. He seems to be using my acting training, and a Beth Moore Bible study, and little nudges from his Holy Spirit, and my word of the year, and so many other things, to say, "Wake up, Elizabeth. Who knows what I can do with you if you are willing to look foolish and feel stupid for me?"

I want to worship in spirit and in truth. I want to go no holds barred with this life because it really doesn't come down to my reputation. My reputation doesn't tell me who I am; Jesus's death and resurrection did that.

I'll let God's word close this post out. 1 Corinthians 1:20-25 seems apropos:

"Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."




Tuesday, January 10, 2017

To All the Other Mothers

This morning was a morning. Do you know what I mean when I say that? As in, the words, "This morning, there were constant battles with my two year old," only make the struggle sound everyday, when you know that this was a war for your soul and your child's soul.

After the third or fourth or fifth battle with my son, I could feel that the rope of my patience was about one centimeter long. The little orange flame was about to touch the gun powder and I could see it happening. I was being pushed and pushed and pushed, and while I love this little guy so, so much, and his dimples make me grin inside, I could completely empathize with a woman in my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group who said, "My son is three, and he might make it to four."

I was also remembering a story that my mother-in-law has shared, about when she was in the thick of raising three small ones. She recounts how she couldn't even find respite by going into her bedroom and shutting the door. Their little fists would start knocking on the door, pounding to get to her. So, she knew what she had to do: she decided to put two doors between her and her three little cuties and hide in the bathroom. Ahh, a whole room between them.

I was thinking about this as I watched my little orange flame dancing temptingly close to the gunpowder of my nerves, and I made an executive decision to veer off this dead end road. My son hates it when I leave him inside even to just take trash out to our trash can, but I had no choice. I explained to him that I just needed to go outside, and that I would be right back. And then I walked out the front door and closed it behind me, knowing that he would be standing at the window, looking out at me, most likely crying to get me back again.

I walked out to the sidewalk and stood there. Who knows what I looked like to the neighbors or the cars passing by. I think I was probably talking out loud as I said to myself, "There is life outside this house. There is life outside this house. There is life outside this house. There's a tree. There's the sky. There's a car coming home for a lunch break. There is life outside this house. There is life outside this house." I walked back in, feeling better able to tackle the situation, or in other words, to love Barrett in my actions the way that I do in my heart.

But soon enough we were crossing antlers again, and that flame was dancing closer, and all my buttons were being pushed--choose the metaphor that helps you to know that I was getting tested in the way that a toddler can test a mommy--and I put my son in time out, and told him something like, "I will come back when it's time."

I went up the stairs, walked into our bathroom, and as I looked myself in the mirror, trying to reconcile the idea of me as a person with me as a mommy, I started to do spiritual battle, no doubt spurred on by the Beth Moore Bible study I attended last night and the pamphlet I read a couple of days ago from my sister's church entitled "The Deceiver", about how Satan wars against us.

I started a verbal assault on the enemy, and as I spoke, it was like I started to wake up to the battle that he had launched against me, as though I could suddenly see his flaming lie arrows that had been previously invisible.

I repeated truths: "The fruit is coming. The fruit is coming. The fruit is coming. The fruit is coming. You are beautiful. You are beautiful. You are beautiful. He [Daddy God] loves you. He loves you. He loves you. Satan, you will be thrown down into the lake of fire, and you can't stop it. It will happen. The one who is in me is greater than you. The one who is in me is greater than you. The fruit is coming. The fruit is coming. The fruit is coming."

And you know what? I sensed that a spiritual battle had been won. Something changed in me. I became more of a mother. I was able to go back down those stairs and show Barrett grace. When he may have been expecting my impatience, I was, miraculously, wanting to instead surprise him with cuddles, a gentle correction, and then more cuddles.

Weird, huh? And amazing.

We are in battle, parents. We don't see it with our eyes, but we feel its effects. Other mothers, and you fathers out there, you and I need to know that we are in the trenches together. You are not alone.

A month or two ago, because it was so necessary for the preservation of my soul and because I felt compelled to (most likely the Holy Spirit at work), I took a piece of white printer paper and a Sharpie, and made a sign that I taped to the wall next to our bedroom door. It is that victory chant or call to action of the type you would see in a football locker room or at the exit of a church parking lot, something like, "Champions," or "You are now entering the mission field," something to look at every time you go back out there. Maybe something to slap every time you walk out the door.

My particular sign says this: "The fruit is coming. Be brave, dear one.*"

Your work matters, moms and dads. Our work matters. We are, none of us, alone. And this is just a season. The fruit of our labors is coming, though it may seem far off.

Fight for love. He is fighting for you.








*The line, "Be brave, dear one" is from a song by My Brightest Diamond called "Be Brave" (see last blog post).


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What I Learned This Year (The Birthday Post)

Graduation Dinner Family Photo (credit Mark Boerger)
"No fatted calf to kill
She made a feast of cuy and corn
She said, 'Who else knew my name
Before the day that I was born?'"

-Caedmon's Call, "All I Need (I Did Not Catch Her Name)"



My birthday was two days ago, and I try to annually sum up the lessons of each year on this blog, so here is that post. However, I am having trouble coming up with a clear idea of what to write.

My friend, David, sent me a song a couple of months ago by a band called My Brightest Diamond, a band I had never heard of before. But the chorus to their song "Be Brave" has been swirling around in the background of my life ever since that text (Shara Worden is the singer):

"Sh-Sh-Sh-Shara now get to work
Sh-Sh-Sh-Sh-Sh-Shara this is going to hurt
Be brave, dear one
Be ye changed or be ye undone
Be brave, dear one
Be ye changed or be ye undone
Undone"

This year, like a good number of the ones that came before it, has led me to wrestle and reel and question and find new revelations and new relationships, and to wonder what in the world is the "good work" that I, specifically, was "created in Christ Jesus" to do (Ephesians 2:10).

It has been a year of great change, like a good number of the ones that came before it. In June, my husband Chris and I made the fifth major move of our eleven and a half year marriage. I had just finished my three-year MFA in Theatre (Acting) degree program at The University of Alabama and we made the big move back to my hometown of Austin, Texas.

Not only that, but I made the huge transition from being a full-time grad student, immersed in a community that talked about jobs in New York and theatre productions and the craft of acting, to being a full time stay-at-home mom. BIG transition. It is new, deeply purposeful, and love-filled work that also demands personal growth (read: hard), and is also oh-so-different from my life before.

I feel . . . weird. And unmoored. And yet, at the same time, if I had to sum up what I have learned in this year of my colorful life, I would say that it has brought me to a strikingly unoriginal and familiar conclusion: I need JESUS. I am in the process of learning to stop trying quite so hard to figure out my life, and to just LOOK TO JESUS.

This blog has filled a unique place in my life, serving as a place to say things that are sometimes hard to say, or hard to find a time to say, in person. And I try very hard to walk the fine line (led by the Holy Spirit) of not pushing Jesus on anyone, and yet inviting him to use every word that I type.

With that in mind, may I ask your permission to do something a little gutsy? May I take this chance to ask for a belated birthday present from all of you, my dear readers?

Here is my bold request: If you are reading this, and you want to give me the best birthday present I could ask for, then please look into this Jesus thing. There is no pressure, and you are still so welcome here even if you ignore this request.

But consider it like a free sample at the mall. Whether you decide to commit to the purchase or not, you still get a free sample! If you need a place to start your exploration, I have been told the book of John in the Bible is a good starting point.

If you want nothing to do with him because of pain from your past, please, give him another try, even just a toe dip. You can tell yourself you are doing it for me. If you want nothing to do with him because your life seems fine the way it is, then try anyway. Maybe just say a quick prayer, "God, if you are real, and if what you offer is better than what I have now, please make it clear in a way I can understand."

Being a Christian can mean being ridiculously counter-cultural. I have felt it and experienced it. I am not saying it is going to be easy. But here's what I can promise you: it is going to be real. It is going to be what your soul has been looking for. It is going to be the "life that is truly life" (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

I know I am being bold and I know that this is maybe a departure from my usual style, but it is my birthday (sort of) and I am claiming birthday girl privileges! Not because I want to control you. Not because I want to start a fight (in fact I am pretty non-confrontational). But because the more I know Jesus, the more I know he is the Truth, as he said he was.

And because of who he is, I am willing to be his broken record, his fool.

This year has taught me at a whole new level that I cannot handle it all, that I am not enough on my own, and that I am so much more messed up than I would like to be, but the truth is that

He can,
He is, and
He covered all my messes by letting himself be torn to shreds and then proving that even death could not keep him from the ones he loves.

I don't always believe all of this, but He covers that, too.



My fellow travelers:
May you be well, may you know the Life, and thank you for reading.










Wednesday, October 26, 2016

How to Be Beautiful

"You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
there is no flaw in you."
-Song of Songs 4:7

"Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?"
-The woman at the well, John 4:29

"...to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes..."
-Isaiah 61:3 (partial)



I wrote a diary entry earlier this month, and although--or maybe because--it is personal, I want to share parts of it with you here on the blog. I apologize in advance for the amount of italicized words. This was written from the heart, people!

I think it's worth it sometimes to share words like this, scattered and fragmented and messy though they may be, because in that sharing, maybe we will all find each other more.

Most importantly, maybe we will find HIM.



Monday
10/3/16

5W [my 5-word headline for the day]: "I've tried to merit worthiness."


"I have asked the acting industry so often, 'What is my type?', meaning, 'Who do you say I am?' I have wanted to be cast as the captivating beauty.

The thing about sin is that it mars our originally designed beauty. I wonder if the heartbreak of the fall for women hits us there--in the crucial area of Beauty.

We long to be perfectly beautiful--I do. To be captivating, to have the power to attract everyone, to weaken their defenses, to soften hearts with my radiant beauty.

But the message of life on earth is [so often] that I am uninteresting, easily overlooked, forgettable, expendable, a commodity (actors sell themselves [as a product]), uninteresting, plain, inadequate.

And I want to fix this problem by finding someone to tell me that none of this is true about me, that I am like a radiant princess, a radiant jewel, worth being pursued, no matter the obstacles.

But sin has marred me, has stolen away my beauty and radiance, and interest, and worth. Because by the law's standard, I am not worth what I need to be worth. I am inadequate. I am lacking in quality and in power and in excellence and in beauty, because perfection is beautiful,
     and sin is not only
     evil, it is

     ugly.        

What can restore me?

I am lost forever, and no matter how much I try to dig myself out of this pit of loneliness, I only succeed in getting mud on my already deformed and unattractive form.

Under the law, I am unattractive forever, always longing for but never realizing my princess-getting-the-prince's-love dreams. . . .

Under the law, we half-men and ugly girls are left forever insufficient and groaning in our longing.

But then there's grace, grace bought by the one all-powerful, perfect lover prince letting himself be made ugly and weak for us, because only he could conquer that death-of-everything.

From a death that promised only a permanently marred form rotting into worm food, he instead came back perfect and glorified, walking through walls, appearing and disappearing,

DEFYING
NATURAL
LAWS.

For a seemingly forgotten and ruined and uninteresting church, he bought the right to not only be called beautiful and perfect and captivating, but to actually

BE
THAT
PRINCESS.      

We are...
Already but not yet."

Friday, September 23, 2016

Why I Am Not Following My Dreams

"Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him."
-Job 13:15a

"Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."
-John 12:24

"To the Solid Rock I fly
Though He bids me come and die."
-Caedmon's Call, "There's Only One (Holy One)"


Today I had a conversation via text that I didn't know I was hungry for--soul hungry. A woman I look up to, and who also lives at the crossroads of Christian faith and the arts, happened to ask me a good question, and it opened up just the right floodgate in my heart (and in my tear ducts).

The question was, "You're taking a break from acting, etc?"

Let me explain. I graduated with my MFA in Theatre (Acting) in May, and then my life changed significantly. I went from being a full-time grad student in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who had just completed an acting showcase in New York and spent her days reading plays, creating a mock theatre company, developing my craft, and teaching undergrads, to a full-time stay-at-home mom back in my hometown of Austin, Texas, whose mission is to love one, precious little boy. This dramatic (pun intended) change has been teaching me many lessons.

This spring, as graduation got closer and closer, I felt the sense of anxious urgency that I needed to line up work soon, or else I would have a dreaded gap on my resume between graduation and my next gig. I could feel my own fear that, after plunging myself into my training for the last three years, staying home full time with my son would mean losing my hard-earned skills and becoming rusty and irrelevant. I felt a low level of controlled panic.

I put a post up on my Facebook page asking for information about Austin agents, and actually quickly received a couple of very helpful responses, including the offer of a referral. It looked like an open door! And yet, there was this something inside me saying, "Wait," and it sounded too much like the sweet, gentle whisper of my Savior to be ignored. So I waited, and stopped pursuing an immediate placement with an agent.

My parents and I went to see a Shakespeare in the park production of A Winter's Tale here in Austin, and, as we left the park and drove home, I traveled internally to that deep, reflective, other-worldly place I go when I am stirred by a piece of theatre. It is like discovering a new room in heaven.

I was so happy to find good work being done in our new home city, and I auditioned for that theatre company's fall production of Romeo & Juliet. But the audition did not produce a job.

I then decided that I would audition for our church choir's 1940's Christmas musical. Surely this would be a great way to process all of my questions and doubts about how to go about living out my faith as an actor. A Christ-centered piece of theatre! I would be acting with people I grew up around, and doing a musical that I remember my parents rehearsing for when I was a kid.

Catchy 40s-style tunes started rolling around in my head that I remembered hearing on repeat in our car in middle school: "Maxwell House is always great! Elate your mate and demonstrate!" I emailed the choir director to secure an audition slot, and got excited about the show. But again, there was this little nagging feeling inside.

And then I watched a movie that really illuminated some of the things I have struggled with as an actor, and the voice in my heart leading me away from this audition got clearer and more easily distinguishable.

Why did it sound like God's voice? It wasn't pushy or heavy-handed. It wasn't a voice of guilt or force. Instead it came gently, as a barely distinguishable whisper, accompanied by this picture in my head of a door being opened just a crack, revealing a golden light of life and abundance and music and creativity and wonder and flourishing on the other side.

It was almost as if God was saying to me, "Elizabeth, the choice is yours, freely. But if you want to, I am inviting you into a doorway to a whole new realm of abundant life. Do you want to come through the door?"

I always have to question whether what I am hearing in my head is God's voice, or my own voice, or the voice of the enemy. As a fallible human, I wasn't completely sure, but I wondered if I should pull out of the audition. I talked everything over with my dad and he said that my thought process sounded wise, and that seemed like the confirmation I needed to take action. So I emailed the choir director again and politely let him know that I wasn't auditioning.

I don't know what God is doing.

But you know what? When he makes himself understandable in Elizabeth language, it doesn't seem to matter much anymore that he may be asking me to change my plans, to go against my best guesses of how to achieve a good life, of how to do life right.

His voice sounds like life, and that is where it leads me.

When Chris and I were in China, I was in a group of girls who were reading the book Hind's Feet on High Places, an allegorical story by Hannah Hurnard. In the book, the Shepherd comes to the Valley of Humiliation and leads a girl named Much Afraid to the mountainous High Places.

A part of the story that has stayed in my memory is the scene that is described as the most difficult part of Much Afraid's journey with the Shepherd. Although Much Afraid can see the High Places in the distance, the Shepherd's path starts to lead in a direction that looks to be going in the opposite direction of their destination, and Much Afraid is asked to make a choice.

Will she trust the Shepherd?

I want to share a few pieces of the text conversation with my friend today. Her words were the ministry this frail heart needed, and maybe they will mean something to you, too:

"Girl, I fight through tall weeds every day. He will make a way. He will not leave you and he has gone ahead of you to prepare good works that you might walk in them. You know HIS heart is so good. He is kind...I've thought before that he's pulled the rug out from under me. But that's not true. He strengthens our need and our faith. Grows our roots...He likes to watch us look to him. It hurts. But don't doubt his heart...

Death brings life--and you probably really have to lean into the death before the life will come...But on the other side there is a harvest if you wait/watch for it. He will do it in spite of you. He holds you. He will bring the rain."

His heart is good. And that is one of the many reasons I am not following my dreams.



I am following Jesus instead.