Sunday, December 22, 2013

Guy/Girl Friendships Series – The Lowdown

Hello!  I've been thinking a lot about this series, and though I've already started writing the first post, I decided to make an introductory post to explain what I hope to address.  I'm going to try and fit things into four posts which will roughly be the following:

  • Desire, Downfall, & Duty – This post will set the foundations for the rest of the series.  It will explain where things stood between man and woman when God created the world, how sin twisted our desire for the opposite sex, and how it can be redeemed.
  • What Guy/Girl Friendship Should Look Like – In this post, I'll look to a couple books and much wiser people to explore what pure, God-glorifying friendship between guys and girls should look like. 
  • When Our Emotions Get in the Way – Especially for us as women, our emotions can majorly trip us up when we're trying to go about the whole guy/girl friendship thing in a way that will keep those relationships friendly and sisterly.  Sometimes though, we allow our hearts to go nuts and despite our best intentions, guys can occupy our minds, our heart skips a beat when one walks by, or in an effort to keep the friendship platonic, we can even come off as indifferent.  In this post, I'll offer some solutions for when our emotions run away and for when we need to adjust our focus. 
  • What's the Point? – In the final post of this series, I'll attempt to answer a question I've always had to re-ask myself about the purpose of guy/girl friendships. 
All of the things I'm going to write about are things I have specifically struggled with or need some work on.   I'm super excited about it!

I hope you have an awesome Christmas this week!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

2 Corinthians 11:2

Hello and happy December!  We're a few days in and I'm feeling the Christmas vibes like crazy over here.  Between listening Christmas music non-stop and secretively planning gifts to get (though that's no longer secret now), I just need the snow and I'll be all set!

Enough about impending holidays... onto the verse!  This is one of my favorite verses right now.  I guess what gets me about it is the jealousy part.  To know that God is jealous for me because He has promised me to Christ really hits me.  It also prompts me to evaluate my position.  Am I being faithful to Christ?  Am I upholding my end of the bargain?  To know that God desires me and is jealous for my affection and my heart motivates me to make sure that I am being purposeful in my quiet time and that I am keeping my heart for one person – Christ.  I am promised to Christ; am I keeping my focus on Him?

I'll be writing my first post of a series on guy/girl relationships very soon.  Have a great Friday tomorrow!  xo, Ella

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lord of the Rings & Us

Hi!  Okay, so the last time I posted I promised to write about guy/girl relationships.  I still plan on doing that.  We're actually heading to Florida on the 20th, so I am planning on re-reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye and It's (Not That) Complicated.  I'm going to take notes and plan some posts on the drive down there.  Sometimes I think I enjoy the drive to Florida as much as I enjoy the time we have there.  The Starbuck's breaks, the books on CD, listening to music like all the time, and counting palm trees.  Well, that last thing might not happen this year.  ;)

Anyway, I wanted to write a post just so I could geek out a little bit.  About what, you ask?  Well, if you haven't already figured that out... Lord of the Rings.  AG and I are fans of the books (although technically I haven't completely finished the last of the trilogy) so we decided it was time to watch the movies.  So far we've watched the first two movies, and are planning on watching the last one tonight.  Although this is totally uncharacteristic of me, I must admit that the movies brought the books to life.  I mean, though I loved the story and the characters when I read the books (Aragorn's still my favorite character), they weren't the type of read I just could not put down.  I reeeally wanted them to be, but they just weren't.  However, after watching the first two movies, I am totally reading the books again.  'Definitely my favorite books/story ever.  Definitely.

Okay, so I could talk about the cast and the characters forever, but I probably need to get to the "meat" of what I was going to write about.  If you ever start a conversation with me, know that I will not shut up if you bring up Lord of the Rings.  Just a warning.  :D

All that aside, I had a revelation when I was watching those movies.  (See, Mom!  We should watch more moves.  We get insight from them!)  ;D  I started wondering why I was so wrapped up in the story line and what was so captivating about it.  I realized that as humans, we have an inherent desire for a good ending.  I guess that's kind of a duh thing, but it just kind of hit me.  Part of it, though, is how we want Good to triumph.  If those movies ended with the triumph of the evil side, no one would watch them.  Who, while watching LOTR would cheer on the bad guys?  It's just common sense that the Orcs are nasty and evil.  No one would want them to take the ring and kill the Fellowship.  Why?  Why are we so wrapped up in the hope and in the need for the Good to be victorious?  I realized that it is another bit of evidence for the existence of a Moral Law, and ultimately, a God.  If there was no Moral Law, like people are trying to promote, then there wouldn't be a Good side, let alone would we passionately desire a good ending.  I'm working on Ethics right now in my worldview course, and this was totally ethics!  Of course there has to be a Law somewhere in us that tells us what is right and what the Good even is!  If there wasn't, then what's with our infatuation with the "Good" side?  What's with our longing for happy endings?  Okay, my rant is finished.  Now, I'm going to wrap it up with a cliché statement.  'Cause those are always good.  ;)

As Christians, we have the ultimate happy ending.  When the Good really does triumph, we're going to heaven – the best ending.  We will be wedded to Christ Who gave his life so that His bride could be dressed in the whitest, purest wedding clothes – the only way we could ever hope to reach a happy ending.  In Revelation, John talks about what Christ's bride will look like and it almost makes me cry when I read it.  "I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband."  I guess this especially speaks to me since I'm a girl, but the fact that Christ loves me – loves His church like that fills me with gratitude and joy.  If He went through the cross and drank the cup of God's wrath to clothe me in white so that I could be His bride forever, then what am I doing getting distracted and forgetting to read my Bible and forgetting to pray?

Another verse that goes along with this theme is Hebrews 12:2.  "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  Holy cow.  Jesus didn't die on the cross only because He knew He had to.  He did it for the joy.  The joy He would get from clothing His bride in splendor and purity.  The joy He would get from marrying us – His church at the end of time.  That joy He'd get from seeing her descend from God – so beautiful and radiant I don't even dare to imagine it.  And it would all be because of His sacrifice – His death.  That death He endured for the joy set before Him.  Every time I think about that, my mind gets blown.  

Well, once again, that post got way longer than I intended it to.  That seems to happen a lot with me.  That's the problem with people who like to write, I guess.  I'm not always the best at conversation, but when it comes to writing stuff, it's like, watch out!

Okay, well, I'm going to wrap this thing up.  I've really got to work on my long-windy-ness. :)  I hope you have a good week!  xo, Ella

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Whoa, Where'd Summer Go?

It seems to me that every other post I do is explaining why I haven't been posting very much.  Well, this time my hiatus is result of my forgetting about it. Oops.  Here I had brilliant plans about how much I would post over the summer, but then along came mowing, reading, and Drivers Ed.  Oh, well.  

I am excited to have remembered about blogging again, and I am feeling very inspired to write, write, write!  

Over the summer I was also working on Health.  Because it's a Christian program, I read a book called I Kissed Dating Goodbye as part of it.  The book is by Josh Harris, who, though he was single when the book came out, now has kids and is a pastor somewhere on the East Coast I think.  I truly can't say enough good things about his book.  Now, I kissed dating goodbye a long time ago.  Even before I became a Christian I knew it was something I didn't want to do.  Josh's book, however, doesn't necessarily focus entirely on dating.  He discusses the slippery slope of guy/girl relationships even outside of dating.  I've read my fair share of Christian books on these relationships, and I have to say that this one is probably my favorite.  I was able to resonate with so much of what he talked about!  He specifically targeted so many of the points I think girls struggle with.  One of my favorite parts was his list of things that warn you when your friendship with the opposite sex is becoming more than just a friendship.  The heart of the book is to tackle the popular view (that even Christians have) that guy/girl relationships can be short-term, romantic, self-serving, and marriage isn't even in the picture at all.  His book's on a mission to renovate our view of these relationships by proving that guys and girls can be friends, that these relationships can bring the individuals closer to God, and that it's not impossible.  As you can probably tell, I can't recommend the book enough.  I'll get it up on my "books" list very soon.

I am currently re-reading the book and I'll begin working on some posts along the lines of guy/girl relationships/friendships and all that.  This is a topic I'm fairly passionate about, so I'm pumped about this!  

Oh, and I just can't wait for Fall.  The best thing about living in the Midwest is that we actually have seasons.  I think it     absolutely makes up for the fact that our scenery is zero.

I hope you have a great weekend!
xo, Ella

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Character Close-Up: Meekness (Part 2)

Alright, so I split the study on meekness up into two parts because it got sooo long.  In part two, I answer the third and last question about meekness: How do we cultivate meekness.

Finally, how do we attain meekness?  I'll admit, this was probably the hardest question for me to answer.  I've turned to So Much More, which, if you've read any of my other posts, should be pretty familiar to you as well as other resources.

I read an article once about gaining humility.  A reader of the magazine was asking how to gain humility.  Ironically, the author staunchly argued that asking how to gain humility was just the opposite of what you should do to gain it!  In fact, he said that you shouldn't be thinking about your own meekness, or your own anything.  Humility is attained when one thinks about others, not himself.  The author advised the reader to stop wondering how to attain his own humility and focus wholeheartedly on others.  It makes sense!  To really forget about yourself, one must stop thinking like that.

So, I think the most basic thing one can do to gain humility is to focus on others and stop caring for himself.

The writers of So Much More present an example of what a meek woman looks like, and I think it should help us to see what we can do to attain it.

"A woman with a humble heart doesn't seek her own glory and will not parade her greatness before others or try to "prove herself."  Rather, she recognizes that she is nothing without God and seeks His glory alone."

"A humble woman actively seeks to discover areas of her life she can change and repent from.  Moving ever higher in godliness is her goal."

Okay, so first we mustn't seek our own glory or parade our greatness or try to prove ourselves.  Second, we must recognize our nothingness without God.  Third, we must seek His glory alone.  Fourth, we must seek to discover areas of our life we can change.  Fifth, we must always continue to repent from our sins.

Surely, the best example of humility we have is Jesus Christ.  He came to earth from His splendor and served the least of men.  Lepers, prostitutes, hated tax collectors, all the people who were shunned in society were touched by His love and healing.  He washed feet, blessed children, and basically did what no one else would do.  He went to the cross and died a cruel death for people who hated Him.  How much meekness did that take?

Philippians 2:5-9 – "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:"  

And so we have found out how to become meek.  We must recognize how pathetic we are and how awesome God is.  We must continually grow and repent.  We must strive to have the mind of Christ.  I don't think we will ever gain His perfect meekness, but God will reward those who are humble, exalting them.  I will end this with a quote I found which sums up the study of humility really well.

"They that know God will be humble; they that know themselves cannot be proud." – John Flavel

I stumbled across this article while researching this post which is an extremely well-written article concerning pride vs. humility. 

xo, Ella

Monday, June 24, 2013

Character Close-Up: Meekness (Part 1)

Hello!  So, in keeping with our theme of surrender and laying aside our will this month, I thought that it would be appropriate to study the character trait  of meekness.

I'm going to try and adhere to a sort of outline for this post because I think a post defining something should be easy to follow.  First, I'm going to explain what the word meekness means using three dictionaries which are all quite a bit different from each other.  Second, I'll provide verses from the Bible on why we should cultivate meekness, and third, I'll explain how to cultivate meekness. 

Okay, let's get started.  (As a disclaimer, throughout this post, I will treat humility and meekness as the same thing)

First, what is meekness exactly?  To the world, it doesn't seem like a quality anyone would want to try and cultivate.  As we shall see, it is one of the most essential character traits in the Christian life.  To define meekness, I turned to the 1828 Webster's Dictionary.

From the 1828 Webster's:
Meekness: Softness of temper; mildness; gentleness; forbearance under injuries and provocations.
1. In an evangelical sense, humility; resignation; submission to the divine will, without murmuring or peevishness; opposed to pride, arrogance and refractions.

Still from the dictionary:

Meekness is a grace which Jesus alone inculcated (taught persistently) and which no ancient philosopher seems to have understood or recommended.  

Boy, I wish today's dictionaries referenced the Bible!  There's one point I want to highlight in this definition.  Notice the part where it says "submission to the divine will."  This is the surrendering part!  You can't live a surrendered life without meekness!  The two go hand in hand.  

Alright, at this point I'm going to insert a quote that I think illustrates meekness very well.

From Christianity Today - Strength in Meekness, "Perhaps meekness is strength that is submitted to an appropriate authority."

Okay, now we know what meekness is.  Second, let's investigate why it's so important.  (all verses KJV)

James 1:21 – "Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls."

This verse tells us that unless we are meek, we won't be able to receive God's Word.  That's a fairly scary place to be!

Psalm 149:4 – "For the Lord taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation."

Oh boy.  Meekness really is important, isn't it?  God will give salvation to the meek.  Think about it, though.  It makes complete sense.  Salvation requires a confession and a change.  To receive it, one must realize how small and detestably filthy he is before God.  He must be broken.  A proud man can't do that!  I heard a testimony several weeks ago that testified to that very fact.  If one thinks he is good enough, that he's fine like he is and doesn't need saved, then he absolutely won't be!  God can't work in the heart of one who thinks he's "okay."  When I realized who I was before God, and realized my sins, I felt far from proud.  Meekness is absolutely necessary for salvation!

Psalm 25:9 – "He [God] guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way."

Again, God can't teach a proud heart.  He can't guide us or teach us or mold us if we're hard.  We will never become who He wants us to be if we don't let Him change us.  

Matthew 5:5 – "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."

If we're meek, then our reward is great.  We will inherit the earth.  The new earth in God's kingdom.  Such a reward sounds worth it to me!

In part two of this post, I'll wrap up by answering the third and last question.  It was just getting way too long!  xo, Ella

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Oh dear.  Where did time go?  'Last I knew, it was barely May.  Cliché though this may sound, time seems to be flying faster than ever.  Anyway, things will hopefully slow down and I'll be blogging more consistently.  But for now, I'm taking an opportunity to put down what's been going on.

A few weeks ago, I decided that the thing I'm struggling the most with as a Christian is spending time with God every day.  I have such a hard time making it a priority.  Oh, I always have the best intentions, but somehow I always put something else first and forget all about praying or reading.  I always regret it, because I feel empty and distant from God when I've skipped a few days.  At Girls' Camp last week, the counselors put on a skit about the difference between a girl who did make her quiet time a priority and those who did not.  I admit, I bawled.  It was speaking directly to me and it was absolutely what I needed to wake me up on that particular part of my walk.  Not surprisingly, the theme of Girls' Camp this year was "Wake Up."

That was the first revelation for me.  The next came while I was reading my Bible last week.  Now before I go any further, a little backstory is necessary.  The past oh, 6 months my prayer has been that God would give me an opportunity to share my testimony with someone or for God to place someone in my path who I'm supposed to talk to about Him.  There were a variety of reasons that inspired this prayer, but today we're going with the abridged version.  Anyway, I had been praying this prayer for a while and nothing was really happening.  I was reading my Bible though, last week, and God revealed to me why He hadn't given me the opportunity I was asking for.  I had been reading a lot about love.  While I was sitting there thinking about it, something occurred to me.  God had just taught me a poignant lesson about spending time with Him.  Now He hit me with some verses about love.  I concluded that He was working on preparing me.  Maybe I wasn't ready to share my faith with someone. 

I read a book this past year in school called "Experiencing God."  In it the author mainly talked about knowing God's will and doing it.  That's how he described experiencing God.  A certain thing in the book that struck me then came back to me last week.  "Some people want God to give them an assignment to do for Him.  They vow that they will do whatever He asks.  But when God observes their lives, He notices that they have not been obedient in the things He already has told them to do."  Bam!  It hit the nail on the head.  I had asked for an assignment, but when God looked at my life, He noticed that I hadn't been prioritizing my time with Him, He realized I hadn't been loving those around me like Corinthians illustrates, and who knows what else He'll reveal to me.  If He had given me an assignment 2 months ago, would I really have been as willing as I thought I was to do whatever He had asked? 

God's ways are so different than ours and even though this is such a minute circumstance, I have an opportunity to trust Him in this area.  I'm excited to see where He'll take me this year.  May 8th marked a year since I gave my life to God.  My prayer then and still is that He'll do great things through me this year.  I prayed that He'll work in my heart that I can touch others for Him.  I prayed that His will would be fulfilled in a small part through me.  That's an exciting, if not slightly scary, prayer.  I don't know where He'll want to use me or what He'll do through me, but I'm excited to be serving a God whose plans are beyond the limits of our imagination.  May 8th wasn't even that long ago, and look what He's already taught me!  When May 8th comes around next year, I wonder where I'll be.  I hope I will look back and see that I had let God work through me.

So, that's my thought dump for today.  Hopefully I'll finally have some time this week to work on my next post on meekness.  xo, Ella      

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Laying Down Our Will

Hello!  This post is all about surrendering our will and letting God's will fill us instead.  I will be taking some excerpts from Set-Apart Femininity (find it above in the "books" link) and of course, the Bible.  

The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word surrender is a jar that's empty.  I don't know why it's such a random thing, but to me, a jar demonstrates surrendering will.  I kind of think of us being the jar and then God comes and fills it.  Well, let's jump in.  I might have to make this a two-part post – we'll see.

It seems to me that surrender is a word that is generally looked down upon.  White flag, cowardice, chicken, tail between your legs... you get the point.  Our society has turned it into something bad.  And yes, sometimes it is.  I think there are two kinds of surrender though.  The one is laying down your will, and the other is the result of fear (not the fear of God).  The former is what Jesus demonstrated so poignantly on the cross.  He was willing to give up His life, His self, for the will of His Father.  That is surrender in its purest form.  Now let's take a minute and look at several verses from the Bible in regard to surrender.  (all verses NIV)

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." – Luke 9:23 (emphasis added)

"And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." – 2 Corinthians 5:15 (emphasis added)

From these verses, we hear a very different perspective on surrender.  To follow Christ, we must deny self.  We do this because of what Christ did for us.  Now we begin to see that surrendering is more of an act of thankfulness, a sacrifice to God because of what Christ did for us.  Suddenly, it doesn't sound so bad.

From Set-Apart Femininity:

"The secret to becoming the radiant, beautiful, alluring, lily-white princess of childhood dreams is forgetting all about self and becoming completely consumed with only one thing – Jesus Christ."

"The Christian life can be explained only in terms of Jesus Christ,
and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of 
you – your personality, your willpower, your gift, your talent, your
money, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, your 
sacrifice, or your anything – then although you may have the
Christian life, you are not yet living it."

– Ian Thomas

This is what surrendering is.  Allowing God to come in and become Lord of our life.  To give Him the honor and glory for what He has done through us and what He has done for us.  We must view it all in terms of Him.  I was talking with my cousin recently and he mentioned the fact that he had come to the realization that he needed to make Christ Lord of his life and not just Savior.  Christ did come to save us, but He didn't mean for that to be the end.  He wants to come in and dwell in us, strengthening and empowering us to be so empty of ourselves that all that comes out is God.

Now that we know what surrender is, let's delve into the nitty-gritty and see what this really means for our lives.

Our goal is to completely forget about ourself.  Forget everything about us.  Then, and only then will God be able to come in and work in our lives to be glorified through us.  H. Bonar, a dynamic Christian leader in Spurgeon's day said the following:
"Look away from self to Christ."
-H. Bonar 

This is the epitome of total surrender.  Being so focused on Christ that self eventually falls away.  I think this is the difference between the day of Spurgeon and our present day.  Too many Christians have forgotten what surrender is.  Have you ever read a story of horrendous persecution to Christians and wondered how they go to their deaths singing to God?  Have you ever wondered how missionaries like Amy Carmichael and Gladys Aylward managed a house full of orphans or lead a band of children on a treacherous journey over mountains all while maintaining a peace and a joy and a passion that we so often lose whenever we're the least stressed out?  It is because their lives are not their own.  They emptied themselves of their will and God replaced it with something far more powerful, more world-altering than they could have ever been on their own.   

From Set-Apart Femininity:

"We are meant to let all thoughts of self become swallowed up in Him." (pg. 48)

Galatians 2: 20 says:

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."

And so we see why we must surrender our lives to God.  He gave His life for us, and we must give Him ours.  We must allow Him to come in and inhabit us so that we become nothing.  Like the jars at the wedding of Cana, we must allow God to empty us and then fill us up with Himself so that we can become a living sacrifice, a testimony of His power and glory.  

We glorify God when we surrender.  We are a testimony to Him.  We point to Him like the wine at Cana.  When we are fully surrendered and in love with our King, others can't help but see Him through us.

From Set-Apart Femininity:

"Personally, I never saw stunning feminine beauty until I encountered women who were completely unaware of self and completely consumed with their precious King."

And that beauty glorifies God.  Think of the joy He must receive from looking down from heaven and seeing His children pouring out their lives before Him like an offering.  Giving up their own desires and begging Him to fill them up with His will and His plans.  Our mission is to serve God and to bring pleasure to His name.  May He rejoice in His children as we strive to look away from themselves to Christ.  

The rest of this month, I'll be talking more on a surrendered life and what that means regarding our walk with God and our actions.  

I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day.  Your mother is a live example of surrender – make certain she knows you appreciate it.  And those of you for whom Mother's Day is a sad holiday, make sure your heavenly father knows you appreciate what He did when He surrendered His Son for you.  
xo, Ella

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Upcoming Posts

Hello!  Wow, it's almost May already!  I know it's not quite over yet, but this month has been going by like a snap of the fingers.  I'm here to post a line-up of things I hope to discuss next month.  Also, I want to start presenting a particular topic for each month and then planning the posts for that month according to that topic.  For May, my theme is found in John 3:30.  "He must increase, but I must decrease."  I think of this verse as: He must increase, so that I can decrease.  Similarly, I must decrease so that He can increase.  Now, I decided to do this monthly topic thing after I had planned out all the posts for this month, so all of them might not be exactly along the lines of this verse, but since it has been on my mind a lot lately, I figure that most of the posts will have this theme.  Okay, here's the rundown.

  • Laying Down Our Will – (excerpts from Set-Apart Femininity)
  • Character Close-Up – Meekness
  •  Letting Go – Letting God power our responses
  • How Bible Study and Prayer Can Transform Your Day
  • Pray Unceasingly – (excerpts from Set-Apart Femininity)
  • Practicing His Presence – (the book)
  • Think On These Things – Discussing Philippians 4:8
  • Hero Focus – Esther's heart

Phew!  I'm laughing at myself right now because I know this list will be very difficult to complete before the end of May.  However, I am going to try to do better about that!

I also received that book about prayer in the mail, so hopefully I can give a little overview about it.  xo, Ella

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Remember Me?

Hello!  Ahh... it's good to be back.  It's been over a month since I've blogged, but it doesn't seem that long.  I've been so busy lately and I have a feeling it won't be slowing down any time soon.  Last week I had a writing class in Indy and then we headed to Cincy for the home schooling convention.  Since then it's been school, school, school.  Uggh.

Anyway, I'm super excited to be blogging again!  I have lots of ideas for posts floating around in my head that I've been meaning to put down on paper.  Since I started AA, the posts have basically just been whatever I feel like writing, but I want to start being more structured.  I haven't quite figured out how I plan to do that, but I'll be thinking about it.

So, back to the home schooling convention.  I found a few really neat books there that I'm going to be sharing about here on the blog as I read them.  The first one is called Set-Apart Femininity by Leslie Ludy.  I've already read it and it was awesome.  In it, she talks about several Christian women of the past and a couple of the present who were set-apart for God.  She talks about how beautiful they are – not by the world's standards, but by God's standards.  They radiate Him and live for Him.  She explains how they do this and what it means to be set-apart.  It's a phenomenal book that is written at a crucial time.

The second one I found is called TrueFaced.  I haven't read it yet, but it sounded really interesting.  The following is from the back cover: "TrueFaced draws a clear distinction between two very different underlying motives: my determination to please God or to trust him.  The resulting difference from these two starting points could not be more profound.  One results in a striving that never feels it has done enough to please him.  The other results in a trust that experiences his full pleasure.  Our motives as followers of Christ will either keep us in unresolved sin and immaturity or free us into God's astonishing dream for our life."

The last book I picked up is about prayer.  They didn't have it in stock; it's being mailed.  Thus, I forget what it's called.  Sorry.  I do know that J. I. Packer recommended it, and that pushed me over the edge.  I'll talk about it when we get it.  ;)

Also, Leslie Ludy has a website called Set-Apart Girl and it's as good as the book.  She has lots of other books that you can check out there too.  On her website, she has an online magazine that I looked through last night.  It's amazing and has lots of good articles.  There are tons of resources on there like devotionals and stuff.  You can sign up for her email newsletter too.

Okay, that's all for now!  I'll be back soon to post a run-down of posts that I hope to do this month and next (if I don't drown in school first).  Have a great day!  xo, Ella

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Let's Get Dressed – Spiritually, That Is

The fashion world is somewhat upside down these days.  It's difficult to find a dress that doesn't hit mid-thigh, a shirt that doesn't cling to your body so tightly that it's difficult to breathe (okay, not really), etc. 

I was reading my Bible last week, though, and I came across some verses which talked about spiritual clothing.  I realized I had a lot to learn.  Most of us know what immodest clothing looks like.  However, do we know what God means when he talks about being clothed with godliness?  In Proverbs 31, it says that a godly woman is clothed with strength and dignity.  Further down, it says: "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." 

So maybe we don't wear immodest clothing on the outside, but what are we wearing inside?   I rounded up some verses from the concordance and some wisdom from a couple books, and I just want to share what I found out. 

Peter says:  "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.  For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.  They were submissive to their husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master.  You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear."  I Peter 3:3-6

Let's go through these verses.  First, Peter says that our beauty should not come from outward adornment.  I don't think this means that we can't wear flattering clothing, that makeup is a no-no, or that earrings are off-limits.  I think what he's saying here is that we should not rely solely on these things to make us beautiful.  We shouldn't spend hours in front of the mirror trying our best to make us look our best.  It's okay to wanna look nice and pretty, but the outside's not where our true beauty should be found. 

So if our beauty should be more than what's on the outside, then what should it be?  Peter says that it should be of a gentle and quiet spirit.  He calls this unfading beauty.  "...the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit." 

Trends come and go.  One month, maybe the color to wear is coral.  Then the next month it's mint.  It's impossible (and dumb) to try to change your wardrobe every time some new thing is trending on the fashion scene.  But get this.  The beauty that Peter is talking about he calls unfading.  This means it will never lose its luster, it'll never go outta style, it'll never (I hope) be left on the top shelf of a closet to collect dust.  It's a trait that will be beautiful forever.  For us girls, that's sure a relief. 

What's more, Peter says that this beauty is of great worth in God's sight.  How about that?  I'll admit, it's pretty cool when someone you think is pretty fashion-savvy comments on your outfit.  This is probably a dumb comparison, but it's all I could think of.  So when Peter says that this inward beauty – a gentle and quiet spirit – is of great worth to God, that's like when the most trendy person on earth comments on your outfit!  That's pretty neat.  When we wear the gentle and quiet spirit outfit, we are pleasing God.  "Don't you look nice today!"  ;)

Okay, we're almost ready to move on, but we need to discuss this gentle/quiet spirit thing just a little bit more.  What exactly is it?  I mean, what exactly does it mean when Peter says, wear a gentle and quiet spirit?  Does it mean that you aren't supposed to speak in more than a whisper?  Does it mean that you are not supposed to step on an ant?  (Bad example)  For this, I'm going to turn to a faithful standby.  The book So Much More (you can find it in my "books" link at the top of the page) has a really good few paragraphs on this character trait that are worth investigating for this part of the study.

From So Much More: "We hear about "free" spirits, fiery spirits, fiercely independent spirits, fighting spirits, proud spirits, revolutionary spirits, and just plain "spiritedness" paraded as the essential virtues for the ideal woman.  Our culture views a woman with a gentle and quiet spirit as a pushover."

They go on to list a Bible verse.  Psalm 37:11 says: "But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace."  A gentle and quiet spirit is essentially meekness.  It is a spirit of meekness.  In our society, this is viewed as a soft, old-fashioned pushover.  But is that what God thinks of meekness.  Absolutely not.  He says that the meek will inherit the earth!  That's all the confirmation I need.  God doesn't view meekness as soft or weak.  In fact, He thinks so highly of it, that He's willing to give those who are meek the world!

From So Much More: "Far from the sign of weakness, a gentle and quiet spirit is the sign of a woman who is strong in faith, mind, and character."   

Okay, let's move on.  Third, this inward beauty is "the way the holy women of the past who puts their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful."  That's pretty awesome.  All the virtuous women in the Old Testament – and new – we will now see through new eyes.  I can think of a host of them who you can tell cultivated a meek spirit.  Peter gives the example of Sarah, Abraham's wife; Ruth comes to mind as well as Abigail, Mary (Jesus' mother), Deborah and Esther; the list goes on.  The gentle and quiet spirit made them all beautiful, and we can sense this just from reading about them.  This character quality will number us among them. 

If we cultivate a spirit of meekness, it will be apparent in our lives and when we come into contact with others.  It should be found in our hearts, our actions, our attitude, our character, and our words.  It should be evident in what we say, how we act, and what we spend our time doing. 

Phew!  I know that I have a lot of work to do!   Meekness is one of the hardest qualities (it seems) to cultivate, but I know that not only will our hearts will be beautiful, what's more, our lives will glorify God.  And that is true beauty.  xo, Ella

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Good Smell

Hello!  Recently my mom bought me a devotional called Wonderfully Made which you can find here.  One of the first devotions was called 'A Beautiful Aroma'.  It started out by telling a short story in which the author sat behind a woman who had a perfume on that smelled amazing.  The author and her mom who was with her asked the woman for the name of the perfume she was wearing.  They both wanted to smell just like her. 

The devotion went on to talk about how Christians should have a good smell too.  Sometimes when I'm outside in the late afternoon doing chores and it's cold and muddy and it smells like dead worms (sorry to be gross), I come into the house and I immediately can tell that whatever Mom's cooking for dinner is going to be awesome.  It should be the same way with us.  When we walk into a room, or have a conversation, or meet someone, we should have a fragrance that invites people to wonder what perfume we're wearing.  Whatever that "fragrance" is for you, whether it's your smile, your friendly disposition, your joyfulness, or your overall attitude, people should sense a difference in us as Christians. 

That difference should be good.  If you're a Christian and you have a bad smell, then what does that say about who you're trying to represent?  If I say I'm a Christian, then shouldn't I have a good smell?  If I chose to wear a scowl or a bad attitude, or acted as if I didn't care about people when I met them, or had  conversation, then that wouldn't smell very good.  Instead of bringing a good smell when I came into a room, I might cause people to pinch their noses and turn away in disgust.  I don't think that's how God's children should smell. 

I know that I don't always smell good.  My perfume isn't always so good that people ask me what I'm wearing.  When you claim to be a follower of Christ, can people tell when you walk in the room?  How do you smell; what perfume are you wearing?  xo, Ella

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I Am What I Am

I found this verse in Corinthians while reading last week.  It was a good reminder of what God did for me in the time that led up to my baptism.  xo, Ella