November 18, 2016 § Leave a comment
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.
I‘ve 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.
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!
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…
January 23, 2015 § Leave a comment
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
August 1, 2014 § Leave a comment
“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
April 29, 2014 § Leave a comment
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.
February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
Some of these are not strictly Southern, but here is a smattering of traditions, terms, and foods I’ve been tickled to learn about since coming to Arkansas six and a half years ago.
1) A “Pounding”
When new folks are moving to a home in your area from out of state/country, such as a new pastor or a new position at the office, the community helps out by signing up to buy a grocery staple (in many cases a pound, thus the name) and bring it to a party or to move-in day. All at once the newcomers are blessed with a full pantry in their new home. What a GREAT idea.
2) The “Groom’s Cake”
Oddly enough the first wedding I attended in Arkansas was that of a friend from college (in California). She was from the church we moved to in Little Rock, and had a beautiful wedding on New Year’s Day, 2008. But I was in for a surprise at the reception: two cakes?? I mean, another cake is always a good thing, but having an official bride’s cake and groom’s cake was a totally foreign concept. I love it though! It’s an entertaining way for the groom’s personality to have a platform at what is so often a bride-centered event. In the six years since then I’ve seen Darth Vader cakes, cakes made in the exact shape and detail of a soundboard, and my personal favorites: simply huge chocolate cakes loaded with chocolate icing. Yum!
3) “Dirty Santa”
In California and lots of other places, it’s called “White Elephant”: the gift-giving game where you bring something to a Christmas party and everyone opens one and steals them from each other and has a general riot. Most of the time it’s up to the host whether you are supposed to bring something nice enough to keep, or total rubbish. Sometimes the distinction is not made, and the gifts comprise a little of both. (This would explain why I received an old Linksys router at my boss’s house this year.) I suppose it’s the rubbish-version of the game for which calling it Dirty Santa makes sense. Some people I have asked say that it’s Dirty Santa when you’re supposed to bring clutter, and it’s White Elephant when the gifts are to be “nice”. Alrighty then.
4) “Chocolate Gravy”
Similar to sausage gravy (or what the South calls “Biscuits and Gravy”), this extremely odd dish is just…chocolate gravy. On biscuits. Runny chocolate-ish “gravy” on plain dry biscuits. Great if you grew up with it I suppose, but this one I’m afraid I will never understand. (I did taste it.)
5) “Bridal Portraits” . . . weeks before the wedding.
This one really threw me for a loop. I felt pretty dumb. At that same New Year’s Day wedding there was a large, gorgeous framed photograph of the bride on a stand by the doorway to the reception. She looked exactly as she did in the service she’d just walked out of, but I couldn’t think how that photo could have possibly made it into that frame in the short space of time since her morning toilette. It was a morning wedding, after all. Did somebody take the photo and immediately have it rushed out to be developed, then get it in the frame and back to the church just in time? I was impressed. Mentioning this to the next person in line, I was informed of the tradition that is “Bridal Portraits.” Of course it wasn’t all done in a jiffy that morning. The photo had been taken weeks ago when the bride got all gussied up just like she would for the actual ceremony and went out for an official photo-shoot. Leaves more time for couples shots on the wedding day, and less stress for all. Huh.
6) “Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit!”
I couldn’t do a post like this without including at least one colloquialism. This is *so* my favorite, but I have yet to encounter the, uh, appropriate moment to use it…
February 26, 2013 § Leave a comment
Today I had an errand in the Facilities office. Of the six desks in the room all were vacant. At least, there were no humans in there. But one chair was filled by a very large – and by very large I mean life size – green stuffed bear. Noticing a FamilyLife name badge hung on his left shoulder, I looked closer, thinking someone had put their own badge or that of a former employee on it just for fun. But no. The picture on the tag was the same smiling, green, fuzzy face. The name underneath was Boz. This didn’t concern me, until I saw the name plate on the desk. Boz.
Sunday evening as I walked from my car to the church door I overheard, and joined, one of those conversations that reminds me I live in Arkansas. Jim had already made it halfway to the building but his 14-ish yr. old son was still standing by their car, barefoot.
Son: Should I just wear the socks then, and not the shoes?
Jim: They’re dry?
Son: Well, they’re . . . less wet than the shoes.
Me to Jim: Do I wanna know?
Jim: He wanted to go fishing earlier.
September 7, 2012 § Leave a comment
God has provided a roommate! In mid-December, Lord willing, I will move into another apartment with my friend Elizabeth Knight!
Elizabeth is in culinary school and works as a Pastry Chef’s Assistant at the Little Rock Country Club. She is very sweet and caring, has a little dog I can cuddle, and she might even teach me how to cook! Not sure what I have to offer her, but the Lord knows…
Please pray for us as we look for an affordable, safe, suitable place.
She’s the one on the far left =)
June 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
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.
March 14, 2011 § 1 Comment
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.