Sparrows and Numbered Hair

I remember my last semester in college when my heart felt anxiety and fear, as I tried to figure out what was next. And a year later, the same anxiety and fear, as I tried to decide which school to teach at. And now, as I prepare for a self-brought-on-but-feeling-very-led-towards slight career change, I feel that same fear. It’s that feeling in the deepest pit of your stomach that makes you want to vomit everywhere. It’s the desire to hide underneath your bed and hope upon hope that no one and nothing find you.

I remember one time in college my friend Kristen shared this verse with me or a group of people or somewhere – that’s not important. What is important are the words, the truth that this verse communicates – Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

It is amazing how quickly my heart forgets this place of fear and anxiety into which God faithfully steps in time and time again and just works things out. It is because I plan my course, but God determines my steps – in other versions of the Bible it says guides, directs, establishes, leads. I plan. He leads.

And that is why Jesus tells me in Matthew 6 to not worry about tomorrow. He tells me that the flowers don’t worry and the birds don’t worry because flowers and birds know that God provides. They see him provide in drought and in storm. They know that times of need are temporary, so they wait, knowing that God is faithful. And how much more valuable am I to God than flowers and birds, right? He calls me daughter and friend. He faithfully guides and comforts me in spite of my reckless spirit. He grants me righteousness and holiness that I did not earn. And he promises provision.

And I’ve seen it. He’s done it before. He continually saves and blesses and provides for his wayward daughter. And in these moments of anxiety and worry and stress – when the worse-case scenario runs through my head – I have to remember that he is God and he is good and he directs my steps in spite of my well-thought-out, overly-detailed plans. I have to remember that, even if the worse-case scenario does happen, I am blessed and loved and valued and saved by the creator of the universe, so it’s really not that bad. In fact, “bad” is not even a word to use; worse-case scenario with Jesus is actually good.

This – right here – this moment, day, week, month, year, life – this is temporary. I can survive this; more than mere survival, I can rejoice in these moments because this darkness and uncertainty is temporary, even if it lasts for the rest of my life. Because in the end, I get heaven. And in heaven there is no anxiety or fear or worry. And that is where I get to spend all of eternity – foreverevereverever – not here, bogged down in the fleshy, sin-y body.

So, I can breath, and I can surrender, and I can relax, knowing that the inventor of heaven and earth, my loving and cherishing father, has already determined my next step.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, Ellie Sheayou are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12)

Vlog Entry #1: “I am beautiful”

Alright guys, here it is – video #1. It’s pretty rough, as I am not a natural speaker. I repeat myself a lot. It took a million takes to get it this good. That said, please be gracious to me. Pretend you’re having a really awkward conversation. I hope that the message is clear. I hope that it is well-received. I hope that my speaking is not so all over the place that it causes you to be confused.

If you don’t feel like watching the video, know this truth: God made you, and he thinks you are TOTALLY beautiful. And I think you’re TOTALLY beautiful as well.

Life Things

It’s coming! I’m starting a vlogging series called “Life Things” in which I’ll be recording really superly awesome and inspirational and funny and possibly inappropriate people about a billion different things. It’s going to be so so so so awesome!

It starts tonight with yours truly. I’ll be telling a story about my teeth and my eyebrows and my big, manly feet and its going to be really awkward! Get ready!!!!

A Prayer for Boston

Dear God,

I’m sure where to begin. There is no use in asking “why” of such a senseless tragedy. There will be no good answer, no answer that will bring peace or closure. This world is full of fear and hate and pain. And events like what happened in Boston force me to face that this world really is an evil place.

So God, now in this time of complete, all-consuming sorrow, make yourself known. Show yourself to be good and faithful. Motivate your people in Boston to serve and love and give in order to shed light into the darkness. I pray that you perform a mighty work in that city.

I lift up the injured and their families. Heal and teach and fix. Show yourself to be merciful and kind. May this prove to strengthen families, bringing them closer to each other and closer to you.

God, you are an expert at taking evil intentions, and turning them around for good! Be the great physician, counselor, friend. Show Boston, show the world, that you are the God of rebuilding brokenness! Have your way, o Lord.

In Jesus’s name,

Amen

Scary Ellie

Today, right this moment in fact, is chaotic and stressful, and I have that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach that makes me want to simultaneously throw up and scream.

In moments of stress, I usually turn into this person who I call, “Crazy, Insane, Psycho, I’m-gonna-bitch-slap-your-ass Ellie.” She’s not pretty. She’s not fun. She’s not nice. My friends and family call her, “Scary Ellie.” She looks a lot like this cat

Before I continue on, I’d like to quickly comment about “Scary Ellie”:

Comment 1: She is me. I am her. Sometimes, I like to separate myself from her. I say, “That’s not who I am; that’s just what I do when I’m stressed.” But the thing is, “Scary Ellie” is me. “Scary Ellie” shows the world that I am a person, fleshy, evil, completely self-centered. She shows that outside of the grace of God, I am completely incapable of considering anyone else besides myself. She proves that unless God transforms my mind, I live thinking that I am the most important being alive.

Comment 2: “Scary Ellie” is impossible for me to overcome in my own strength. But with God, with Christ, with the Holy Spirit, she is powerless. She does not get to own my actions; she does not get to own my thoughts. When Jesus defeated sin and death on the cross, he defeated “Scary Ellie,” and all the other awful, sinful, fleshy parts of me! Praise God!

Bringing me to what I really want to say: God is good. He is worthy to be praised, not just when I’m happy or depressed or overwhelmed, but also when I’m angry and frustrated. My prayer today when I woke up, when I was clueless of the stress this day held, was that I would serve the Lord with gladness. I realize in these moments that I am to serve the Lord by not freaking out, by being kind and loving even when I want to scream and hit something or someone. And through the great strength of God and the prayers of my faithful friends, I am doing it!

Connections and Rugby and I hope this makes sense…

It’s 2:00, and today has been a busy day. I went to the Memphis Urban Summit this morning, and then left around 12:00 to go to watch PCA’s final rugby match. There are so many thoughts that are swirling inside my head right now, and I’ve been wanting to write about it all day long, so that is what I am doing. 

Swirling Thought #1: Angel/Devil Thoughts

You know this – the angel and the devil on your shoulder saying opposite things to you. Well, I had one of those mornings this morning while getting dressed. I felt fat and ugly and I simply wanted to not go to the Urban Summit because what if I were to meet my husband there, and I looked ugly; I don’t want the first time my husband sees me for me to look fat and ugly. (Ladies, I am working on not having these thoughts anymore, but it takes time. Men, all women have thought this at one point in their life, so please don’t judge me; I won’t judge you for pretending that you’re samurai.) Anyways, because I felt ugly and fat and unsuitable for the public eye, I almost didn’t go to the Urban Summit. However, something squashed the devil voice long enough for me to get in the car and start driving. In four words: I”m glad I went.

Swirling Thought #2: Why I am glad that I went

It has been written. Memphis will be my home for the foreseeable future. It is easy to diss Memphis because Memphis has some problems. But it is even easier to celebrate Memphis because so much amazing growth is happening in this city. I heard from some great leaders in the city speak about justice, and I spent some extra time listening to one of our public defenders as he (and we) discussed criminal justice and the homeless and the mentally ill and our youth. I don’t know if anything was “accomplished” necessarily, but one thing was proven to me that needed to be proven: Fixing Memphis will be an act of God. God is doing that act. It made me grateful to be here, to be a part of a movement, to be involved in change. 

In the break-out session, our keynote speaker, Stephen Bush (yes, his name is a link you should check out), said one thing that really got to me; there is a good chance it is random, and I will try to make this flow a little. He said, “In the city where we killed Dr. King, justice must mean more than punishment.” Incredible, right? It is so easy to think of justice in terms of punishment, but we rarely connect it to the concept of righteousness – what is right! We have to begin thinking about living out justice – living out what is right. 

Swirling Thought #3: Marginalized

Justice makes me think of the marginalized – those who suffer injustice every single day. I think about the homeless man holding a sign on the corner. I think about the 5-year-old students in elementary schools around the city who do not know their alphabets yet. I think about single mothers and the mentally ill and generations and generations of poverty. I think about my own students, the ones who would have fallen through the cracks in a regular public school, and the ones who still fall through the cracks in my own classroom. I think about it, and I begin to feel overwhelmed and sad and helpless. And I guess that is how many of these people feel too – overwhelmed, sad, helpless. And if I didn’t know that Jesus had overcome death, then I would feel hopeless too. But that’s the thing – he did, and so I don’t get to be hopeless. I get to trust that God will use my overwhelmed, sad, helpless hands to restore justice to his world. Annnndddd that’s awesome. 

Swirling Thought #4: And God is good (my rugby boys)

I saw God working today in a sweet, sweet, sweet moment after my boys (I should call them young men, but I still think of them as little middle schools, not almost-grown high schoolers) lost the last rugby match of the season. It was led by an incredible young men named Jahlyn (he’s going on a mission trip to Mexico this summer – click here to read and give him money). At the match, there was a huge, muddy puddle thing on the side of the field. Right after the game, the winning team all jumped into the puddle and were, you know, playing in the mud. A few moments later, as our team was walking off the field looking slightly defeated, Jahlyn looks at the team playing in the puddle, says, “Come on” to his teammates, and led the team into the jump-puddle-play time. It was sweet and showed incredible character. Jahlyn and the other guys could have chosen to be angry and bitter and negative; instead they chose to let it go, move on, and celebrate with each other. Maybe I’m too emotional, but I was majorly touched by this, and it reminded me that change is happening and that more change is coming. 

To close…

God is real. God is here. God cares deeply about me and you, the marginalized and not marginalized. God is working in this city and cities all over this country and this world. His kingdom is being restored here on earth. It’s awesome and magical, and I’m grateful that he repossessed my heart and urged me to get involved.