Number Nineteen

Everything’s in except the piano. Another move in the books. From a rented pool house in a friend’s backyard to a 2-bedroom apartment twenty minutes closer to town and five minutes from church. It’s my eighth move in the ten years I’ve lived in Arkansas, and it’s the third move in four years here for Aaron. The other day I counted up the number of places I’ve called “home” since being born. This is number nineteen. That seems like a lot for thirty-three years. Thankfully only a few of them involved an uprooting from one whole area or state to another. Two were international. I never could relate to friends who had all their memories in one house. Part of me envied that, but I loved my family’s adventures too. My mom excels at packing. Unfortunately I only partially inherited/absorbed this skill.

My husband has moved a fair bit for his age as well. His father was Army for 30 years. For my part, God made me a homebody who loves travel. I love seeing the world, and I even like a lot about the hectic excitement and apprehension of moving to a new area, but when I’m home I want to be home. Don’t need to find something to do downtown thank you, I’ll enjoy a book by the fire or on a blanket under a tree in the yard in Spring. Maybe a play or musical once in a while if a good one comes through town. So, for years now I’ve said that I figure God has one of two reasons for having nudged me all around the country and the world; 1) He has allowed the moving and travel (nine countries) so that if I never get to move or go anywhere again, I’ll have absolutely no excuse for complaint (not that there would be anyway), because just look at the places and people I’ve gotten to experience!

Or 2), He’s preparing me for more.

Well, now I’ve married into the military. So it’s looking like the latter. Aaron is Air Force. He wants so badly to see the world, to go fight the monsters. And I want him to be able to. He’s ready. I’ll miss him, but I want him to get that chance. They haven’t sent us anywhere yet but we can bet quite a few more moves lie ahead, especially considering his long term goals. But as you all know, here’s the thing about “home”: it’s where the people you love most are, regardless of the point on the globe. In that sense, a lot of us have several homes. We are blessed with people. I feel like I’ll always have homes in Minnesota, California, South Africa, and Arkansas. Despite all the times my family has picked up and left, God has given me wonderful people; family, church families, and friends that have defined home for me.

And now, my husband. I look around this cozy apartment and I’m so grateful for God’s provision. For yet another place to call home. Until it changes once again.
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Another attempt to revive this blog. I seem to leave it dormant for months at a time. Also, it recently struck me how much of my tone here is corrective; that’s not beneficial to anyone, and although my goal is usually to exhort, the result certainly reveals my pride. I aim to correct that. 

Ive been ruminating on a few post ideas, but have yet to make the time to write. In addition to matters that interest and concern me, I would also like to take a more light, every-day tone and share little happenings and photos from my life that are less likely to interest Facebook in general, but will be here for closer friends and family who wish to see them.

If you’re reading this you probably already know about the man God has seen fit to bring into my life; naturally, he will be featured with growing prominence. 😋 He’s pretty easy on the eyes, if I may say so, but I’ll reign myself in at least a little. Were I to tell you a mere fraction of the funny and kind things he’s said and done, I’d break the internet.

So here are a few snippets from life lately!


In the middle of October, Aaron’s parents and brother came to visit and we climbed Pinnacle Mountain. Beautiful weather!


Sometimes I help cover the front desk at FamilyLife. You never know who will call — I’ve talked to Fox News correspondent Todd Starnes — or who’s going to walk in the door. One morning I looked up to see Paul David Tripp and his mustache two feet away from my face! I nearly jumped out of my skin. Never heard the doors open.


Our pastor has been teaching through Matthew, so when we saw these huge bottles of lamp oil at Wal-Mart, well, we couldn’t resist!

In June we got to pop up to Niagara for a day in the middle of visiting family in Pennsylvania. Leslie Ann was able to meet us there and we had a grand time. There was also quad-riding with my Uncle David!

And a few weeks ago Aaron was awarded the service medal for his time in the Honor Guard last year. (Apologies for the sideways photo, I can’t get it to rotate.)

It’s been a wild, fantastic, hectic year!


Meet Miranda…


Flowers from the fella


Lincoln’s birthday plays a role in our story…



5 Staton men



That’s a 105 caliber shell casing.


Four trips to Texas, two to Oklahoma, and one to Pennsylvania and New York, I have spent a LOT of time in the car these last few months. Plus all the wonderful busyness of life in Little Rock. Like I said, it’s been a wild year. But a wonderful one! And tomorrow, our church singles group goes to Silver Dollar City for the day…

Apples of Gold

If Christians are to be known for hating anything, it should be nothing so much as our own sin.

Today I’m thankful for the patience and love of my Mom and sister. Most of us sin against our families more than anyone else and I’m no exception. I put mine through a lot. A sharp tongue and stubborn heart have been my greatest long-term spiritual battlegrounds at home; easier to control around the office, church, and friends . . . but with family? So difficult. Improvement has certainly occurred over time, but it’s been slow.

Yet they love me enough to say the hard things I so need to hear. And I’d be a fool to ignore them. Thank the Lord, that is at least one aspect that’s beginning to improve more and more: a quickness to let their words in, and accept that they are true. That once again, my family’s right. It’s still a constant battle against pride, to not simply think them too critical, and remember that these are the people who know me best in the world, who see what my behavior is like when unchecked, and again, LOVE ME ENOUGH to say something. To recognize that this is God working through them.

May the Lord help us all to be humble, keep soft hearts, teachable spirits, prayerful attitudes, and take action to change.

Listen to those who love you. Be thankful that they are speaking up.

Mom, Becca, thank you for words fitly spoken.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold

In settings of silver.

Proverbs 25:11
Apples of gold


Dedicated to The Bible Church of Little Rock

About four years ago, during what I thought was a time of personal trial, I sat at my desk and mused, Elizabeth, what do you know about God that will help you through this?

You know all those “Attributes of God” sermons and series that churches do over the years? We sometimes give a little internal sigh when they’re announced, don’t we? I’ve certainly been guilty of that a few times. But as my pastors knew would be the case, it’s what I know about God that has gotten me through every struggle in my life.

So, that day in 2011, with thunder and lightning booming outside, the metaphor of a storm seemed to fit and I began writing as I asked myself these questions: What things about me get me into trouble? What am I tempted to do when times are hard, when I’m uncertain, or when I don’t like what God’s doing? What attributes of God answer those things? 

The answers led to a kind of give-and-take in each verse; I have to give these up to God, and in return, take of the wonderful gifts He offers in Himself.

Well, much, much harder times have followed since I wrote it, in my life and the lives of brothers and sisters in my church. God is teaching our little body to love one another well through deep pain and loss. BCLR, I could not be more grateful for what you have been to me, and what I have watched you be to one another.

With love, I would like to officially dedicate this to The Bible Church of Little Rock, specifically the Oxner and Tittle families.

Give Him the Storm

Give Him the storm of your prodigal will
Lose not your way on the steep of the hill
Give Him your failing and faltering feet
Take of His guidance and follow the Street

Give Him the storm of your thoughts in the wind
Fret not for the thundering battle within
Give Him your weary and uncertain plan
Take of His strength and then cling to His hand

Give Him the storm of your questions and cares
Sink not away into suff’ring and snares
Give Him the sorrowing sighs of your soul
Take of His joy and by it be made whole

Give Him the storm of your anger and tears
Dread not the time though it linger for years
Give Him the flood of your frustrated cries
Take of His patience and worry not why

Give Him the storm of your violent unrest
Faint not for the lightning and downpour of tests
Give Him the strain of your weakened resolve
Take of His Words and His Wisdom recall

Give Him the storm of your anguish and grief
Cast not away all your hope for relief
Give Him the depth of your darkest despair
Take of His peace and be able to bear

He holds the storms of the earth and the seas
He raises those who have sunk to their knees
He is the One who has called you His own
Take of His courage and trust in His throne

Elizabeth Howell – 8.March.2011

Who’s In Your Cloud?

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
— Hebrews 12:1-2

The writer of Hebrews had just been delineating the incredible sacrifices and suffering of past heroes of the faith. They are the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us.

Perhaps those we knew personally who have passed into glory were not martyred, and did not suffer for their faith. But we knew them, and loved them, and they have gone before. Their faith instructed us. Their love challenged us. Their joy encouraged us. And so much more. They are part of our cloud of witnesses.

Thinking about the fact that people I actually know, people I hugged and loved and laughed with and sang with and cried with, are actually experiencing Heaven at this moment, makes Heaven so real to me. It’s there! They’re there! Heaven is a place.

In fact my friend Jody wrote a song called “Heaven is a Place”. I listen to the CD and hear her sweet, somewhat husky alto voice singing, and tears always come. As the musicians begin, she calls out to the audience (I and my family were their for the live concert recording), “Are you ready to go to Heaven? I’m excited to go there because that’s where we’ll finally meet the King! Face to face. There will be fullness of joy, and pleasures forever! Maybe tonight. I’m ready.”  Then she sings. How her heart longed to be there. And on September 30, 2006, her desire was fulfilled.

There are others in my cloud. Those that I knew on at least some personal level. The first was my dear grandpa, Jess Vanderpool. I loved him so much! And there is Lynda, Bethany, Jody, Claire, Jasmine, Greg, Chris, Rob, and Tori.

Mrs. Claire Clint was my 2nd grade Sunday school teacher at Grace Community Church. She could have been my grandfather’s teacher, too, if he’d grown up near her. Because she was born six months before the declaration of the Spanish American War in 1898, and was 14 years old when the Titanic sank I sang in choirs with her great-great-grandson. She once told me she still remembered how she felt upon seeing the newspaper headlines. Between Grace Community and her former churches, Mrs. Clint taught Sunday morning classes for 80 years.

Talk about faithfulness.

Jody’s talent was music, and her gifts were never underused. Nether were her gifts of encouragement, speaking the truth in love, and helping others set their minds on things above. Bethany’s exhortation to all of us was always “walk worthy!”. She so desired herself and her fellow believers to walk worthy of our calling.
Tori was all about others. How she could serve, how she could pray, how she could help. She offered to talk any time I needed to . . . wanting to be of any consolation to my sore heart that she could.

I think God has been teaching our little church here in Little Rock how to love suffering people well. How to love, how to be grieving people. We have experienced a great deal of loss in the last several years. Our cloud grows, while we mourn. However, instead of a dark, heavy cloud, this cloud is full of light, joy, and anticipation. They now know that fullness of joy unspeakable, and they eagerly await the day that we will join them.

And we want to! It’s the Christian’s sanctified death-wish. We want to be with our loved ones, those who spurred us on to love and good works, and whom we loved so dearly. Even more we want to be with our Lord. They, with Him, are waiting for us. Let it be soon! Or come quickly, Lord Jesus.

It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.
– Ecclesiastes 7:2

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever! 
— Revelation 22:3-4

Listening to the Sound of our Mourning

This week I am grateful for melancholy music. Not for wallowing, but for the cushion it seems to place between my emotions and the cold hard ground.

Music’s ability to aid the feeling and expression of sorrow is amazing. Although ultimately for the worship of God, with the advent of sin, misery and tragedy He allows us to use its great power help us make it through the depths.

In the darkness of my own trials, or when anguished for others like the Tittle family, why would I listen to doleful music when I’m already sad? It’s not for everyone and each of you knows whether or not it helps or hurts. Nor is it for every stage of those emotions. There’s a time and a place. Certainly there are times when any music at all may feel like a mockery to the sufferer of intense grief.

For me, as an avid lover of choral and orchestral music, those are my musical refuge when sadness overwhelms.

Author J.K. Rowling put it this way in one of her books, when after the death of an important character the grieving friends hear a Phoenix singing in the distance, with terrible beauty and an unearthly quality that they felt must be
“their own grief turned magically into song, and it seemed to ease their pain a little to listen to the sound of their mourning.”

To somehow hear my heartache, bound up in a lovely sound, and thereby let go of it teeny tiny bits at a time. The poignancy of certain musical sounds seems to draw the grief out of me like a gentle syringe.

The following pieces are my go-to for such times. Pieces with lyrics that don’t match the specific circumstance of a particular struggle are chosen for the arrangement of the music itself.

  • Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” — simple string quartet. Full string section versions are gorgeous as well, but the exposed, raw quality of just the four parts better suits its nature, to me.
  • “Agnus Dei” — choral version of the above. Barber chose to set the Agnus Dei text to his haunting melody.
  • Eric Whitacre’s “Sleep” — choral.
  • Eric Whitacre’s “When David Heard” — choral. A stunning piece representing King David’s grief upon hearing of Absolom’s death. It’s about 15 minutes long and worth every moment.
  • Joseph MacKenzie’s “Mansions of the Lord” and end credits of the film We Were Soldiers — choir and orchestra.
  • Puccini’s “Crisantemi” — for string orchestra. Written for the funeral procession of a noble.


Excerpts from “Meaning at the Movies” by Grant Horner

“The Lord God has created almost innumerable elements of this world for us to experience, and he has also given us minds sensitive to his fingerprints, which are everywhere visible throughout his creation (Romans 1:19-20). Making man in his own image, as a being who is intelligent, emotional, creative, and capable of perception, memory, imagination, and anticipation shows a particular aspect of God’s will for us: he wants us to experience things. He wants us to think, to feel, to create, to enjoy, to remember, imagine, and hope. He wants us to do all these things within the boundaries of his care, his holiness, and his will (1 Corinthians 10:23-33). His goal is not simply for us to have experiences, but to choose experiences and to respond to experiences in such a way that we grow more and more obedient to him (Philippians 4:8). He desires for us to desire to live lives that please and glorify him, and thus to edify ourselves and each other—which will in turn bring us the pleasure of obedience. Obedience to God is the greatest pleasure there is. He wants us to make right choices by acknowledging his rule in our hearts and his will for our lives.

So what do Christians “do” with movies? Should we act the same about movies as those who do not know the God of the universe?

Like everything else in human life, a radically different approach to film is necessary for believers. Non-Christians will generally have as primary motivations for film-watching entertainment, pleasure, vicarious living, an event to share with friends or loved ones, and so forth. For the believer, every moment is is an important decision; some of these decisions will please God, and others will please only ourselves. We need to increasingly choose the former over the latter. Our primary goal should be to please God; and if God is what he claims to be, then the same decisions will result in our pleasure as well as his. Every scrap of our experience needs to be rooted in a consciousness of the presence of God. We do not move through one existential moment to another, seeking meaning only in ourselves. Those who love God are eternal beings, and every decision makes a mark on eternity.” pg. 59

“Some Christians fear all art and creativity, but without biblical warrant. We should avoid sin, not beauty and thoughtfulness, design and craft; we must resist evil, not every form of pleasure or enjoyment. Contrary to what some Christians think, there is not a bizarre kind of virtue in ugliness! How many churches have you been in that were tacky, ugly, or featured some lowbrow aesthetic? Or made every attempt to eliminate anything that might engage the sense, which God made? God does not expect or desire that you leave anything at the church door but your rebellion. He wants your mind, your body, your personality, your emotions, and yes—your aesthetic capability.

A basic thesis of this book is that for effective interpretation and discernment, the viewer must be able to decode a film’s worldview—it’s controlling philosophical position. Film, like all art, is open to varying interpretation. It is an untenable argument to claim that any film or other work of art has only one single valid level and range of meaning. Experiencing art is clearly a subjective event, and the very process of interpretation, which for the Christian should involve worldview analysis and discernment, is an opportunity for the Christian to exercise God-honoring discernment.”  pg.60-61

This book was written by my college professor and family friend, Grant Horner. I highly recommend it, particularly to  young people, their parents, and people my age!

This and That

My writing professor in college (Dr. Simons, a.k.a. The Supreme Potentate) taught that there are three keys to effective writing. With essays in particular, it’s about being  Specifc, Definite, and Concrete. As a young person known among family and friends for verbosity, those keys do not come without effort. Like most valuable things in life.

We get some entertaining questions at the ASO Box Office.  First, there are the people who think we sell tickets to the Blue Man Group, Shen Yun, the Elvis Show, et cetera.  Then, our favorites. Those who ask strange things about the seats we offer them. Most common is “Can you still see the stage from that seat?” No ma’am, sadly you can’t see a thing from there. They built in select seats without a view of the stage, and when you asked me to find the best available I went straight for those. Another recent favorite was, “The seat is in the Orchestra Section you say? Does that mean it’s on the stage facing the audience?”  Yes, some audience seating was built on-stage with the musicians.*sigh*  In regard to the upcoming People’s Choice concert, after hearing the explanation that audience votes choose the program and winners will be announced in an awards-show manner, the patron asked “So will there actually be any music played?” Nope. Craig and Dawn make the announcements, we all cheer, we go home. Now, I’m absolutely certain of the likelihood that I have called places, asked extremely silly questions, and been chuckled at once I hung up. So I don’t mind enjoying these immensely. Overall, I have had wonderfully pleasant interactions with ASO patrons!  I’ve “met” people over the phone from many countries, chatted with others new to Arkansas, had some genuine mutual laughs, given driving directions and, upon request, recommended all sorts of restaurants (that I’ve never been to).

Lately, I’ve discovered a few things:
My apartment key won’t lock my office.
My mail key won’t unlock my apartment.
When I run upstairs in 4-inch heels, things happen.
When I don’t watch for ice on the ground, similar things happen.
I should have watched The Blues Brothers many years ago.
Frosty the Snowman is not just a song, it’s a cartoon. Who knew.
It’s strange to hear my office phone number advertised all over the local NPR station.
I think I’ve become one of those Coffee People.
I LOVE BALLROOM DANCING. Always wanted to learn and now I can actually sort of do it, a little 😉
Running is something I want to do for the rest of my life.
I have even more to learn than I thought.
That “discovery” has been made many times and will likely be made many times more.
Admonition and forgiveness from friends & family are equally necessary, and equally sweet to my soul.
The above is true whether I see it right away or not.

While thinking about my family recently, I was convicted of how poorly I show them my love and appreciation, or thank them for showing theirs.
These words came to mind: Don’t waste the love you are given.

Faithful Wounds

It’s good to have days now and then when we feel thoroughly ashamed of ourselves. Someone puts their finger smack-dab on an aspect (or several) of your behavior that needs to be changed, therefore an aspect of your heart, and suddenly you are left with an overwhelming sense of the weakness of your character. Sometimes you’ve been told before, especially by family, but it takes the friends in your life to finally bring it home. This was me three times this week. Thank God for family, and for those friends.

But then I start to badger myself with the “why haven’t I learned this lesson before?” questions, and feel as though I must be horribly thick to STILL need such admonishment. That’s what our fallen nature does: clouds our ability to recognize sin in the first place and then buries us in guilt when we do. Still, instead of slipping down that slope in the opposite direction of spiritual growth, I beg the Lord to help me be inspired by such conversations to make those changes from the heart and practice better habits. God put these people in my life, whether family or friends, and it is He who allows them to observe and speak. I want to be open to truth, whoever speaks it. When family tells me something I need to hear, it’s easy to think “well that’s true at home, but family notices everything negative and it’s probably not so bad around other people.” Sadly we’re all more comfortable sinning against our families than others. But that is such foolish thinking. Then “other people” speak up too, and it drives home the point more painfully. Our behavior really does affect them, and now character flaws that could have been dealt with long before have difficult consequences.

A lesson learned: don’t just listen to advice from the people you want to listen to. If you are blessed with godly family, listen to them. Be proactive about taking admonition with humility, and with God’s help make the changes. Be teachable. Have a soft heart, that of flesh and not of stone, given by our Father through Christ. Don’t be stubborn. Remember how often God called Israel “a stubborn and stiff-necked people”? Don’t be that person. He is endlessly patient, yes. But the sooner we humble ourselves the better. God is “opposed to the proud”. ‘Opposed’ meaning “to line up in battle against”. Don’t be the fool whose pride puts you in that fearful position. Because He is ready every moment to forgive, strengthen, and pull you up off the floor. His strength is perfected in our weakness.

I am so grateful for my family (all three of you) =] and for the friends God has provided. Thankful that they notice problematic patterns in my life and want to help me change them. Thank you all for speaking with grace and kindness. May God bless you for it, and may we grow from now on to better personal holiness and stronger relationships.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, and how unutterably sweet is their forgiveness.

My Almost Niece

Neil Kilwa Anderson . . . the best big brother a girl could have. Even if I never had anyone to compare him to. Even if he didn’t arrive until I was 12. Fresh out of hospital–he’d been ill–and fresh from the African bush, he arrived at our home and with surprising speed became an integral part of the family. Tennis rackets and bowie knives notwithstanding. Throughout his seminary career our little family fed him and taught him. As his new-found sisters we tickled him, bothered him, bickered with him, listened to his stories, lovingly ate his atrocious cooking, and in retribution hid all manner of creepy-crawlies in his bedsheets while he was in the shower. Snails especially.

And those stories –never have I heard the like. Dudes named “Fish”,  huge fires in the middle of the veldt,  wild trips down the Zambezi River, nearly “getting chowed” while surfing in the most shark-infested waters of the world, and all the other “Hectic!” things he did.

We watched him study himself delirious and succeed. We watched him learn hard lessons and recover. I made him coffee that was too strong and we cooked food that was too bland, but he loved us anyway.

Here’s to the friend who joined in tickle-fights even though he hated them, just to please us. Here’s to the friend who reprimanded me when I needed it. Here’s to the friend who was there for my Most Embarrassing Moment. Here’s to the friend who taught me how to drive a stick-shift. Here’s to the friend who totally freaks my melon. Here’s to the friend who gave me the book “Beautiful in God’s Eyes” for my 16th birthday: Kilwa, you are my brother.

And even though part of me cannot forgive you for moving back to South Africa, I know that’s where you found your wife so I suppose it’s alright. And I know that it’s where your heart is; you love your people and God is using you among them.
Thank you so much for bringing Nicole to meet us. I love how perfect she is for you. And lovely too. We enjoyed her so very much, grew to love her, and I am greatly relieved that she seems to love us back!

So lastly, here’s to the friend who finally got married and, now, is a brand new father.

Neil, I could hardly believe my eyes as I looked at that picture of you and Nicole and your precious Olivia this morning. There were tears in my eyes! She is beautiful as can be. I cannot possibly tell you how happy I am that God brought Nicole and this new daughter into your life. He has blessed you so richly. I can’t wait to meet her =}

Olivia Hannah Anderson . . . I’m already praying for you little one. And by the way, you have the best parents ever.