Thursday, July 28, 2011

"She Speaks" Part Three: My GPS

July 23, 2011

"Hold My hand in joyful trust,
for I never leave your side."
July 23, Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

“Liz, your aimer is broken.” That's what my Dad said after he took me out to hit golf balls a few times when I was growing up. It’s true – I have a good backswing, but my follow through and aim are terrible. It has been proved time and again not only in golf, but also in map reading and direction following. Quite honestly, I would do a lot better if I had a GPS attached to me at all times.
So it really comes as no surprise that on the very first day of the "She Speaks" conference I went to the wrong session. But because I had prayed over every seat that I would sit in before I left, I realized I was in the place God had for me. Nonetheless, when I woke up on the second day I repeated my daily prayer asking the Lord to direct my steps and my conversations, placed my personal seminar schedule in the front of my notebook and thought, “I am not going to mess up again today! Today, I will make doubly sure to be in all the places I am supposed to be.”

And I was. It was a packed morning kicked off by the gifted Renee Swope, and later filled with tips on writing for magazines, devotional writing and platform building. After our session ended, the friend sitting next to me asked me where I was going.
I replied with great confidence, “The fiction writing panel.”  

She made a funny face. “Wow, that's pretty ambitious.”

“I guess so.”

I walked down the hall, entered the room and made a beeline for the front row. One of the authors on the panel was the wonderfully talented Nicole Seitz, whom I had the good fortune to sit next to at lunch the day before. She has published five novels with her sixth coming out this fall. Nicole came to hug me when she saw me. “I’m so glad you came!” she said.

The session began. There were five authors on the panel, as well as two moderators. Questions had been submitted in advance, and I dutifully took notes.

I don’t remember the question that was asked when Nicole answered as she did. But I do know that my life changed forever when she spoke.
“You all want to be in here, right? God has you in here for a reason, and He wants to take you through the process of writing a novel.”

At that moment, sitting on the front row, I started laughing. “I can’t believe I did it again, Lord! This is not the session I signed up for! This is not where I am supposed to be!”
And then, I couldn’t stop crying.

I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

My very own GPS – God Powered Steps – had taken me into the right room and given me a front row seat. The day before, He sat me next to Nicole Seitz at lunch, someone I had prayed for long before I met her. He blessed our conversation and she spoke directly into my heart.

You see, since I was in middle school I have wanted to write a novel. But it seems an insurmountable task, doesn’t it? I mean, how do you even write a novel? I had an idea for a story, but what would people even say if I told them? So I nursed the dream privately, and then I covered it up with life and babies and laundry.

I left it for dead.

Remember the parable about the Dead Girl (Luke 8:52-55)?
"Jesus said ‘(The dream) is not dead but asleep.’ ... he took her by the hand and said, ‘My child, get up!’"
Right then, in Concord, North Carolina, the Lord of Healing reached deep into my heart and woke up a dream too long ignored.

At breakfast on the last day before our final session, my GPS took me to a coffee station with just one other woman standing nearby. Because that is the way God rolls, it turned out to be Marybeth Whalen, Proverbs 31 team member, fiction author and one of the panel moderators. I told her about my experience on Saturday and confessed to her how scary it was to begin this journey. She understood completely, put words to some of the fears I had and comforted me, too.
I went to "She Speaks" thinking I would learn better how to write devotionals, or magazine articles or perhaps a Bible study for pre-teen girls. Then I met Jehovah-Rapha. I left knowing that God wants to take me through the process of writing a novel. I can't even imagine where to begin, but I will trust my God Powered Steps.

"She Speaks" Part Two: Jehovah-Rapha

July 22, 2011

There is a prayer room at the "She Speaks" conference. I read about it online as some of the previous attendees expressed their excitement to make a return visit. It seems the organizers of the conference pray over each of the people who will be there, and then prayerfully attach each person’s name to one of the names of God. I understood it to be a place of peace, and of quiet, amidst a cacophony of ideas and words on the other side of the door.

It was afternoon of the first day before I had a chance to visit. It was a smaller, dimly lit room made cozy by a rug on the floor, two prayer rails, several floor pillows and a few soft benches along the sides. At the front of the room were three tables, each with four or five 8 ½ x 11 pieces of paper. On the middle of each paper was a name of God, and taped along the edges were each person’s name.

I found my name rather quickly, on the paper with Jehovah-Rapha in the middle. It was not a name I knew. It means "The Lord Who Heals," and below in parentheses (God has provided the final cure for spiritual, physical and emotional sickness in Jesus Christ. God can heal us.)

I have to be honest. It didn’t knock my socks off. I was hoping for something a bit more, I don’t know, encouraging. More empowering. Basically, I was hoping for something better. How about El Elyon, The God Most High? Or Adonai, My Great Lord?

Then I thought, Oh great! I’m going to get sick! God is telling me that I am going to get sick but it will be okay because He will heal me.

I can laugh at that silliness, now that I understand. On the last morning, a few of the Proverbs 31 leaders participated in an alternately funny/emotional drama about how we are never satisfied with the gifts the Lord gives us. Generally, we want the gift the other person got and not the one God picked out for us. That is pretty much how I felt in the prayer room, like I had gotten the mini can of Coke while someone else got the two-liter bottle.

But that was before the Lord reminded me of the parable of the Dead Girl (Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-42, Luke 8:40-56). The sick little girl’s father had gone out to find Jesus, to bring Him back to his house so Jesus could heal her. She died before they returned.

“Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. ‘Stop wailing,’ Jesus said. ‘She is not dead but asleep.’ They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, ‘My child, get up!’ Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.” Luke 8:52-55

Jehovah-Rapha, The Lord Who Heals.

Next - "She Speaks" Part Three: My GPS

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"She Speaks" Part One

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Proverbs 31 “She Speaks” conference in Concord, North Carolina. It was an amazing experience that I am processing in bits and pieces. Here is a glimpse at the conference through my eyes – the first of three installments.

July 21, 2011

I sat on the plane in a seat that wouldn’t recline. It only added to my discomfort. I was heading to a conference with 649 women, none of whom I had ever met in person. Certainly I had made some new Facebook friends and I was looking forward to the real life version of these people I had only seen in photos the size of my thumb.
Absently, I flipped through the magazines I brought with me. Am I really doing this? I thought. The conference was something I desired to attend for the last three years, but the timing was never right. This year, the Lord tugged on my heart on New Year’s Eve and whispered, “Go.” Six months later with my husband’s blessing, off I went.

For days and days leading up to the conference, I had prayed over every single detail. I prayed for the people I would sit next to at meals and in seminars. I prayed the Lord would show me why He wanted me to go in the first place. I prayed the Lord would direct my steps and my words as I took this giant leap of faith.
Thanks to a new FB friend, I had dinner plans on the first night. Since the conference does not technically begin until Friday there are no organized plans for those arriving early. But, I responded to the blanket invitation to meet in the hotel restaurant for dinner. “No, no, no,” said my introvert head. “Yes, I’d love to,” typed my fingers, which somehow knew better.

It was like a giant blind date, this first gathering. There were 30 of us split among three tables. And here is the crazy thing about social media – the people in those tiny pictures? They are actually real life, 3D versions, funnier and smarter and wiser than you even knew. Because She Speaks is a writer and speaker conference, nearly everyone there had a blog or two. So then I began to identify them by their blog titles: “Look! I’m having dinner with the LazyChristian! And there’s Jessie’s House! I can’t wait to go to the seminar with Chatting at the Sky.” It’s an odd thing, really, the way our minds work sometimes.
When I returned to my room, my discomfort had lessened. I had made some friends. I had gotten some of the vernacular down – “Are you on the writers’ track or the speakers’ track?” I learned to answer “writers’ track” without laughing. Still, I wasn't certain why I was there.

Next -  SS Part Two: Jehovah-Rapha

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Tribute to FamilyLife

Last week Mike and I had the amazing opportunity to go to Cabo for a FamilyLife marriage conference. We don't travel very much so the fact that the whole thing came together in such a short amount of time was surreal. With 10 days out, Mike said he thought we should go -- which meant I needed to scrounge up a birth certificate, get a new passport and arrange care for our three kids and our three pets. I had no idea it was possible to get a passport so quickly, but we managed to have that turned around in about 48 hours. My mom and several friends helped out with the kids and pets in varying capacities, and we left knowing all were in wonderful care.

The hardest part of going on vacation is organizing the schedules of whoever is not going with you. (More on this later in the week.) So once we finally sat down on the plane we breathed a sigh of relief -- and promptly fell asleep.

It is hard to know where to begin to describe these four days in our lives. The accommodations and service at the One&Only Palmilla were beyond description. The food and setting were spectacular. We had a date night dinner on the beach at tables lit by tiki torches, we lay on the beach in hammocks beneath a thatched roof gazebo and we listened to music by the immensely talented Jonah Werner. But as much as all of that was a part of our experience, it was actually the least of it.

Mike and I had the opportunity to attend our first FamilyLife Weekend to Remember nearly 12 years ago. At the time, we had only one child and one dog, and the conference was at a local hotel in Houston with 1,000 of our closest friends. We were fresh from a four-month quarantine after our daughter's life-threatening illness, and we needed a weekend to reconnect.

This time, we were several thousand miles away with 20 other couples, along with FamilyLife co-founders Dennis and Barbara Rainey, vice president Bob Lepine and others from their amazing staff.  Although our family has changed tremendously in the last 12 years, the mission of FamilyLife has not. In fact, it grows more relevant with each passing day: To effectively develop godly marriages and families who change the world one home at a time.

Dennis, Bob and Barbara all spoke to our group and reminded us of the basic truths of marriage and of life. Through our sessions and subsequent application projects, each couple had the time and platform to tackle tricky issues we try to set aside at home. I can only speak for us, but I know that Mike and I are reticent to talk about things that are bugging us because who wants to ruin a perfectly good evening? The great thing about a FamilyLife conference is that THEY bring up all the stuff you'd rather not mention, but that you will benefit from addressing. We had application projects on differing communication styles, wrote each other love letters (it sounds hokey but who doesn't want a love letter from their spouse?) and even had a project on managing conflict. (Hmmm ... it occurs to me that, in a vintage conflict avoidance move, we have yet to complete that project. We'll do that tomorrow. No, really.)

We are big fans of the family. We know that many marriages and subsequently, families, are hurting. We know that while divorce was not part of God's original plan, we live in a fallen world. He hates divorce, but no more than He hates sickness or murder or a million other things that have seeped into our lives. I have some friends that I love dearly who have been through the pain of divorce. Guess what? God loves them much more than I do, and He has a perfect plan for their lives. He has a perfect plan for all of us.

As I mentioned, there were 20 couples who attended the conference all invited by our good friends Vince and Patti. We didn't know many of these couples on the trip when we arrived, and I regret that we still hadn't met everyone by the time we left. We made new friends, though, and we thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with some old friends, Carrie and Sparky Pearson. We wish they lived closer because WOW did we laugh a lot.

Many of the families that were represented in Cabo were in much different places in their lives than we are. Several couples had kids in college or just out, a few had younger kids like us, and fewer still were further down their marriage path -- one couple had been married for 45 years. Everyone started the weekend in a different place, too -- for some, it was a time of polishing the already honed surface with some lemon Pledge. For others, it was a time of getting out the medium grit sandpaper and smoothing rough areas that had worn badly through the years. At the end of the weekend there was a time of sharing, and one spouse stood up to say that when they arrived, their marriage had been a D-.  But they were encouraged by what they had learned, by the tools they had been given to rebuild what was once there.

FamilyLife will be hosting several Weekends to Remember this year. Go to  to find one near you. Or, if you don't feel like you can take a weekend away, maybe you want to be a part of  the "Art of Marriage" video event that Mike and I will be hosting. The "Art of Marriage" takes all the great info from a Weekend to Remember and breaks it down into six weekly chunks -- covering topics from isolation to communication to leaving a legacy. We don't have all the details figured out yet but let us know if you would be interested in participating.

So, I just want to say thank you to Dennis and Barbara, Bob, Bill, the Metzgers, the Maurers, the Reidys, the Steegers and the whole FamilyLife team for pouring your lives into this mission. Truly, you gave us all a weekend to remember. May you be blessed beyond measure.

Friday, January 7, 2011

"Yes. Right now!"

I forgot where I put my blog.

Last spring when I launched the Happy Journey I gave it three months. I thought that would be enough time for me to figure out if it was something I really wanted to keep up with on a regular basis. Enough time for me to see if it was a blessing or a burden -- to me and to anyone out there reading it.

The thing is, I really liked it. But school ended and summer life began, we got a giant new puppy to add to the already crazy mix at Chez Elliott, I started a new job and life rolled on whether or not I was documenting it. Plus, I don't mind admitting I can be a little lazy.

So when I made the decision to come back, I had to look on my Facebook page for the blog address. And then, I had to remember my password so I could sign in. Then, I tried to redecorate my page and figuring all that out again took several hours (I'm still not finished). It might actually be more work to try not to have a blog than to just go ahead and do it.

Anyway, here I am. I make no promises on frequency of posts or prettiness of pages, but I will try to make you think and hopefully make you laugh a little. Happy Journey-ing.


The Christmas break was fun, wasn't it? I really, really love having my kids at home. I love the loudness, the mess, the sleeping in, the extra snuggles. I love playing with the kids and watching them play with each other. I will admit the break seemed a bit longer this year, and after talking to several moms we all agreed it's because the kids were off for the entire week leading up to the big day. And there is only so much excitement a family can take before it starts to wear on everyone.

Our three kids all get along very well with one another for the most part, but my book-end children really know how to push each other's buttons. They know exactly what will rile the other one up, and they know just how far they can go before the laughing turns to crying. Throw in all the togetherness, the excitement of the season and you have to expect a kerfluffle or two.

During the second week of vacation one of the kerfluffles ended in tears, so I went in to see how I could restore peace and order to the situation. "Can you treat each other kindly, and use gentle words with each other?" I asked both of them. 

"Yes," said my daughter.

I turned to my son, who still had some tears wetting his cheeks. "What about you? Do you think you can do that, too?"

"Yes," he said, wiping his face, a small grin starting. "But not right now."

We all burst into laughter and the afternoon was restored. But later that evening as I was recounting the story to my husband, I thought about how often I have shared my young son's response.

How often have I been asked to do something and said Yes. But not right now. I know I have done it with my family, and I feel confident I say that to God on a daily basis.

Will you honor your husband in this situation? 
Yes. But not right now.

Will you put someone else first besides yourself?
Yes. But not right now.

Child, will you do what I am asking you to do?
Yes. But not right now.

Lots of times we just plain don't feel like obeying right when we are asked. It's a human response and God knows it because He created us. But just as I expect my children to respond to my requests, my Heavenly Father expects me to choose to respond to His.

This year, I would like to change my response. If I feel the Lord is asking me to do something specific I want my response to be "Yes. Right now!"

In 2011, what question will you say yes to -- right now?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

It's Their Doody

Last month at our school's carnival we won a puppy. This was quite a surprise, since we never win anything at the carnival. I don't, at least -- occasionally the kids do. Every year I toss in my tickets for jewelry, or overnight hotel stays, or restaurant gift certificates and ... nothin'.

This year, though, we won and won big. Since there were a few animals up for prize drawing -- a puppy, a hamster, and a frog -- the Carnival Chairs decided they would protect themselves a little bit by making sure that the winning ticket for an animal had an adult's name on it. Well-played on the part of the chairs, in my opinion. Nothing worse than having little Johnny win a pet that Mommy didn't agree to.

So we bought our tickets and I took 10 of them, wrote my name on them and tossed them in for the dog. At 33 cents each that is $3.33 more than our first dog, Daisy, cost us. Anyway I put them in there thinking, "At least I can tell the kids I tried," and then I moved on to a cute looking duffel bag I thought I had a better chance of winning.

You can imagine my surprise when my friend came out to tell me my ticket had been drawn. "Are you sure you want the dog?" she asked. It helps having friends on the Prize Drawing Committee. Friends don't let friends win dogs they may not really want.
But I told her yes, we did want this little LabraGoldenDoodle. It's quite a mouthful so let me break it down for any cat lovers who are reading this: the mom is a black Lab, and the dad is a Golden Doodle. A Golden Doodle is half Golden Retreiver and half Poodle. I don't know why they don't call it a Golden Poodle because that makes a little more sense but to quote some 'tweens I know, "Whatev."

I kind of felt like I was on a game show after that ("But Wait! There's more!") because we didn't just get the puppy, we got chew toys, treats, a gift certificate to PetSmart and ... drumroll ... a month's subscription to a service called "Doody Calls."

Doody Calls is a backyard pooper scooper service.

Let's let that marinate for a second.

Now, our backyard isn't all that big so I feel kind of funny calling these people and having them take 3 minutes out of their busy lives to walk around our yard and scoop the poop. On the other hand, we do have two dogs now, and it is kind of hot out there ... I just wonder if they will scoop the poop out of the garage while they are at it, because our sweet Angel Belle goes in there sometimes.

I'll have to find out. When I call them, I'll definitely have to wear the Doody Calls T-shirts they provided in our gift basket.

And I'll need to be using one of these for my coffee:

Because nothing says "Good Morning!" like a mug like that. Cheers!

Friday, June 11, 2010

This Little Sign of Mine

This morning I received two urgent calls from a friend, one on my home phone and one on my cell phone, to tell me that our elementary school parking lot was being torn up and I better get up there quick to claim a little piece of property that has been near and dear to my heart this year.

I didn't receive either of her messages so Susie came and tracked me down at our neighborhood pool. I am extremely grateful because my little sign and I have been through a lot together this spring:

You see, I "won" a parking place at our school at an event we had last Fall. My husband likes to say I bought it, I like to say I won it. It really doesn't matter, because now its former home on this lightpost

is now gone. Patrick, the nice fellow in the photo, was kind enough to take the sign off for me when none of the 3 screwdrivers I brought with me were right for the job. We are having a new school built and for the most part it is really exciting, except for the fact that I seemed to have lost a parking space for the time being.

The reserved parking spot has been cause for unanticipated angst on my part. When I won it, I foresaw glorious days of me sailing into the lot at 1:59 p.m. for a 2 p.m. event and having a guaranteed space. I would arrive, cool and together, while others were glistening with sweat from hiking in from the back part of the lot, or further down the street.

What I did not foresee was all the people who would park there anyway, "just for a minute." So then I started arriving at 1:30 p.m. for the 2 p.m. event, just to make sure I got my own space. Not only was I early for everything under the sun, I was also irritated at this unexpected turn of events.

To be clear, I hold no grudges -- I totally get it. Crowded lot + empty space = no brainer. People honestly think that if you are not parked there at that moment, that there is no possible way you will arrive while they are in the spot. They mean no harm.

But what I learned about myself is that it's not worth it. Having a spot with my name on it is not worth me getting bugged about. Frankly, I'd rather be the one who has to park half a mile away and is still smiling than the one who is getting in a wad about a sign.

So you won't catch me "winning" this particular item again. But that is okay, because at our last school event our family won something we will have a lot longer than a parking space:

And Angel Belle can join the rest of us in our new Elliott Family Parking space -- on the driveway -- any time she wants!