Friday, February 18, 2011

Lessons from Illinois

It’s been about 4 months since I’ve lived alone. And, I’ve discovered there’s a big difference between living alone and living “on your own”. I’ve been responsible for my own decisions and schedule for all of my adult life, on my own so to speak. But, my living arrangement had been with my family, until I moved across the country - where I rented a room from friends. The fact of the matter is when you live alone, all responsibility falls on your shoulders. There’s no one else to fill up the gas tank or check the oil. No one else to make dinner or to run to the store. Either you do it, or it doesn’t get done. Not being someone who is thrilled about being alone, I was expecting this season of my life to be hard. In many ways, it is. But, surprisingly, I’ve actually come to appreciate being by myself. Sure, I am still a very social person. And, it is no fun to come home to a cold, dark house and have to make dinner, but our God is good and uses these circumstances to remind us of the vastness of His love and care.

Family and Friends are Irreplaceable
There’s nothing like 1,653 miles to teach you that lesson. We live in a society that almost makes taking others for granted a sign of nobility and bravery. I know I’ve said it before, and I will probably say it again and again, but the family and friends God gives you are irreplaceable. There’s no easy substitute, and there shouldn’t be. Yes, technology is helpful. We can email, instant message, and even video chat. But, you can’t sit down and have coffee with a good friend, or hug your Mom, or give your little brother a high five. You can’t bake cookies for your Dad or have a tea party with your sister. You can’t hop in the car and help a friend move or take them chicken noodle soup when they are sick. It’s not the same. Treat your friends and family as if they are irreplaceable.

Good Community is Irreplaceable

God made us to be in community - in relationship - family relationships, friendships, and Church relationships. The older I get the more I realize how important good community is - and how rare. When one is surrounded by good community it’s like having a wonderful feast spread out before you, and without the presence of good community you can feel like you’re wandering in the dessert, parched and alone. Whether it’s the constancy of being fed the Word of God on a Sunday morning, or the consistency of encouragement from an old friend, or the wise counsel of your parents, good community should be of the highest priority in our lives. And, when one has found it, we should nurture and treasure it. But, being a part of good community is not just a passive experience, it’s active as well. You must take responsibility to be a giver and encourager in this community. Share, edify and be edified, reach out, and be hospitable. Don’t forsake the gathering together with your community - however large or small.

Hospitality is still possible
Along those lines, I learned that hospitality is still possible in a little 700 sq foot home. It may not be glamorous and elegant, but I think my Great Grandma would be proud of my efforts nonetheless. Sure, I can’t invite a whole family over, but I can invite a few people at a time, or small families. But, I can also be hospitable in other ways - baking cookies and taking them to work, volunteering to help with Church outreaches, being neighborly. All of these are ministries of hospitality.

Being Alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely
This is a lie that I had come to believe, and I had started to get fearful of living on my own. I certainly don’t think God made most of us to live alone all our lives, but being alone and being lonely are two very different things. Being alone is a state of being. Being lonely is a perspective, an attitude. The Lord has promised to be with us and never forsake us. Do we take Him at His Word? Do we look for opportunities to be friendly rather than wallow in our alone-ness?

Discipline is Essential
I like having a schedule and sticking to it. Being by myself, though, I can set my own schedule and have much less incentive to keep a good, disciplined life structure. I know that for the future and even my current overall well-being this is not a good plan. I can so easily get distracted by “good projects”, “interesting articles online” or “just one more episode of this show”. I can so easily forget important things - study of God’s Word, sleep, and eating regularly. It’s all just a matter of discipline, and living alone - when no one is looking over your shoulder - is a great opportunity to work on my Character, and make the things that are truly essential my priorities.

It’s often easier to hear God in the stillness
In my quest to be more disciplined, I have worked to remove distractions in my life by minimizing extra “stuff”. I rarely go shopping unless I absolutely need something (such as groceries), and I almost never go shopping for clothes. If I do, I try to have an accountability partner with me who will remind me that I really don’t need everything I’m tempted to try on. I have found that without the distractions that we so endearingly pass off as the necessities of life, the statement, “Be Still and Know that I Am God” has taken on new meaning in my life. I am savoring the stillness, the opportunity to see at a distance God working in the lives of those I hold dear - and even my own life. Many times the best course of action we can take is to stop moving, to be still, and to know with all we have and all we are that He is God, and He is good - perfectly good.

Trust, Faith and Move Forward
Moving over 1,500 miles away from home doesn’t seem that smart. It doesn’t seem like the brightest thing to do. Some days I wonder if it was. I mean, chances are I will move home someday, so why do I sojourn here? But, then I remember something that I learned so very clearly when I went to Asia to carry Bibles into a restricted access nation: “Trust Me, Have Faith, Move Forward”. I often repeated that to myself over and over and over and over as I set about my clandestine mission. It seems like utter foolishness to me. Why does God allow these borders to remain closed to large shipments of Bibles, but allows foreigners to transport His Word in? There’s only one answer that He’s seen fit to give me: “Trust Me, Have Faith, Move Forward”. And, so I did. And, so I do. Every day. Wherever I’m at. To whatever task I’m called at the moment. I try to do as he says: “Trust Me, Have Faith, Move Forward”.

"I will do my work quickly and efficiently, but I will live my life slowly and intentionally."
This is one of those quotes that I feel like the Lord has given me for this season of my life. It is a season of learning, of change, of trust and faith. That doesn’t mean I feel any less passion for the work He’s put before me, but I am more aware of the purpose He’s created me for, and the ultimate calling He’s given me. When I am tempted to get caught up in busy-ness, or distracted by things that should be secondary then I remember this quote and focus on the being slow and intentional with my life and life decisions.

I praise God for this journey and hope that these lessons he’s taught me might be a bit of an encouragement to you as well.


  1. Encouragement, yes. Good thoughts, Elysse.

  2. Wow! Thanks for sharing. :) Those are great lessons that He is teaching you. I love hearing how God is working in my friends and families lives!!