Category Archives: wholeness

it might be hope

I made a telling discovery this morning during my morning devotional time – a few thoughts I’m lingering on and in as I begin this grace-day with Jesus. It’s about my standing “near the cross” and the posture of my heart therein. Let me explain.

Three years ago, I led a group of women through Alicia Chole’s study, Choices: to be or not to be … a woman of God. In this current season, I have the privilege of doing the same with another group of women at our new church. One of the questions that Alicia repeatedly asks of us in our times together is, “How is your garden growing?” (alicia chole, choices: to be or not to be a woman of God, 2003, p.4)

What I like most about this question is that it roots in intentionality—something along the lines of: This is the garden of your soul, Elaine; what’s being planted in that place? What is growing there? And therein, I cannot sit back and simply lead. Instead, I must sit alongside my sisters as a participant. Just because I’ve done the study before, doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be some fresh digging, fresh seed planted in the soil of my own heart. If I can’t give God access to the spade and shovel to work within the confines of my soul, I certainly shouldn’t waste the time of the members of my group in shepherding them toward the same.

And so, I give the trowel over to Jesus and ask him to break up the soil of my unplowed ground, to see, once again, what is growing within me nearly three years after this familiar blade first broke the soil regarding the choices I make … to be or not to be a woman of God.

Week Three, Day One (ibid, p. 29). Alicia guides me to consider that familiar scene at the cross, where Jesus’ mother, close friends, and followers were “standing by” as eyewitnesses to his suffering (see John 19:25). I journal my thoughts regarding the many, strong emotions that must have been present that day. I do so without looking back at the responses I wrote to this same question three years earlier. In keeping my responses fresh, I’m able to (at the conclusion of the activity) look back to those earlier responses and compare them with my current ones. It’s a rich exercise in evaluation.

Easily, I find the similarities. Feelings that include: confusion, emptiness, sorrow, loneliness, fear, gut-wrenching pain. I imagine many of you might reach these same conclusions regarding the emotions surrounding that day at Calvary. What surprised me the most in the comparing of my two lists was the inclusion of a couple of emotions this time around that were glaringly absent from my list three years ago. Those emotions? Relief and hope. Relief that Christ’s anguish had come to an end—a finishing point to an event that had, undoubtedly, been building up in their minds for a long season. And feelings of hope based on the reality of the finishing work of the cross—something along the lines of: Now that we’ve come to this moment in his story, I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do next.

And therein is my discovery, my lingering. Why the emotions of relief and hope this time around and not three years ago? Well, that’s another story for another day. But when I look back to where I was three years ago (a season of deep suffering and wounding) and to where I am today, the discrepancy is more clearly understood. Suffering sometimes clouds the truth, and the truth is … suffering does a finishing work in all of us. When we arrive at suffering’s end, hope often turns up in our hearts to surprise us and to invite us forward into holy expectation for the words yet to be written onto the pages of our lives.

This is the garden of your soul, Elaine; what’s being planted in that place? What is growing there?

Well, it feels like relief; it feels like it might be hope. What about you, friends? What is growing in the soil of your heart? Won’t you take some time today to consider the question with Jesus? It’s a fine deliberation and one that has the potential to yield abundant fruit for your soul. As always …

Peace for the journey,

the woman I no longer need to be . . .

Siix years ago in my dreaming, I didn’t plan on my current reality. The life I’m living today wasn’t the life I was dreaming about in my yesterday. Six years ago . . .

  • I had just written my first book / Bible study about the prophet Nehemiah and was sure it would be an instant best-seller (it’s currently collecting dust on a shelf alongside two other unpublished works);
  • I was knee-deep into Beth Moore Bible studies, both as learner and facilitator;
  • I was enjoying the idea of free time, “me time” (child #4 had entered the world of Kindergarten);
  • I began a speaking ministry beyond the boundaries of my local church;
  • I was strong (physically, mentally, and spiritually);
  • I was deeply and “holy” motivated for the future.

Six years later, here I am . . . less of all of these.

  • Less writing;
  • Less Bible studying, both as learner and facilitator;
  • Less free time, “me time”;
  • Less speaking;
  • Less strong;
  • Less motivated.

And mostly, I’m undisturbed by the transformation of my dreaming. Why? Because I no longer need to be the woman I once dreamed about being. Instead, I’m making peace with the woman I am . . . right now, today, no strings attached to an agenda that stretches me beyond reasonable, God-ordained limits. No lofty expectations that push me much further ahead than these next twenty-four hours.

Six years ago, maybe even six months ago, I was caught up in an uncontrollable current of need—needing to matter; needing to be needed. Today, it seems as if I need my “need” to a lesser degree. I just want to live in and with the truth that all I have ever needed is the “all” that I currently hold in my heart.

Today (not six years ago), I’m living my dream in proportion to my need, and it is enough. At forty-six years old, my need is being tempered by truth, and the truth is: less is more in the economy of God. Less is freedom. Less is faith.

Oh for the wisdom and strength of God to finally be able to release the need that cripples us and keeps us from knowing peace . . . from living free!

Are you there, friend? Are you caught up in a long-standing dream that makes less sense to you today than it did six years ago? Are you fighting the current of your need—needing to matter, needing to be needed? How long have you walked around and within the parameters of your plans, refusing to consider God’s plan for your right now? Has tomorrow’s focus become too broad, too cumbersome, and too consuming so as to overshadow today’s sunshine? What dreams are preventing you from fully and completely living the life in front of you?

Are you willing to let go of what’s in your hands in order to take hold of what’s in God’s?

I’ve spent a lot of years holding on to dreams that have yet to breathe, a lot of time striving to be more—to be that woman who lands a spot on the stage, in the magazines, in the headlines, on the best-sellers’ list. She seems just out of reach for me . . . that woman. Accordingly, I’ve made a decision. I no longer need to be her. Today, I’m letting her go. Today, instead, I’m opening up my hands to the Father and allowing him to fill them with the glorious witness of this moment . . . a moment of less that feels a great deal like more.

Go live your life, friends. Right now. Don’t waste another minute. I’m not asking you to throw away your dreams; I’m simply challenging you to live the dream that is currently on deck. It’s called today, and it won’t last forever. Let it be enough, and let the truth of who you are be enough.

You are God’s. Be at peace.

authenticity . . .

Authenticity. Being authentic. Not fake. Genuine. Real. Threadbare and exposed.

Are you authentic? If you answered “yes” then allow me a further probe. Who decides what’s authentic? How do you determine the boundaries for the definition, or does the definition (in and of itself) require that no boundaries be put around it? Does being authentic mean you just throw your “all” out there and hope for the best—take me or leave me, this is who I am?

It’s getting a lot of buzz these days . . . authenticity, especially in our “Christianese”—the vernacular of us religious folk. There’s something to be said for our exposure before one another; truth-telling can be a crucible for holiness. We can’t move forward in our faith by faking it. But I’m wondering, if, perhaps, our version of authenticity stops short of being a productive, spiritual discipline.

What’s the point of keeping it real, if keeping it real becomes an end in itself rather than a means to achieving an end—holiness?

Case in point. I’m about to expose myself. Hold on. You might not be ready for this one.

Yesterday, I canceled my appointment with my general practioner . . . for the 2nd time. It was scheduled for 3:45 PM. I called (actually I had my husband call) and cancel around 2:00 PM. Why?

  • I didn’t want to weigh in.
  • I didn’t want a repeat lecture about my cholesterol being too high.
  • I didn’t want to weigh in.

My decision was based on an earlier encounter with the bathroom scale—my husband and my twenty-three-year-old son’s throw-down, weigh in. They bantered back and forth about who weighed less, who ate more, and who would be thinner the next time around. When I heard their numbers, I was crushed and loudly pronounced my angst.

“I’m the heaviest person in this family. I weigh more than the rest of you. Call the doctor, Billy, and reschedule. I’m not going in today.”

He complied; I cried and continued to wrap myself up in the enemy’s shame regarding my appearance. Nothing’s fit right since cancer. Nothing looks right, either. It all feels wrong on me.

There, that wasn’t so hard. There’s some real and authentic truth for you. I’m not proud of it; I should have put “my big girl panties on a dealt with it.” Problem is, the big girl panties are too big, and I’m not keen on exposing them to others. Just keeping it real, friends. But here’s the problem: it’s not enough to tell you about it, throw it all out in front of the world while shouting, “Take me or leave me, this is who I am.”

This isn’t authenticity, not according to God; this isn’t transformation. This is defeat; this is refusing to do the hard work that follows personal disclosure. That hard work for me?

Well, it’s not just about my moving more and eating less. Greater still, it’s about exposing my pain before Jesus, about moving more into his Word, and about eating less of the enemy’s assessment regarding my body.

This is authenticity . . . not being afraid to fully disclose the pain and truth before the mirror of God’s Word and before God’s heart, knowing that with reflection will come greater understanding, greater strength, and greater exposure to the only truth that has the power to transform me rather than to judge me. If I’m willing to do this—to go all in with Jesus and with his assessment regarding my appearance—then I can boast about personal authenticity. Otherwise, I’m just living a lie, kidding myself and trying to kid the world into believing that my big girl panties and me are here to stay; take us or leave us, this is who we are.

Authenticity. It only comes to us as we are willing to come to the cross and expose our nakedness, our wounds, and our truth to the nakedness, wounds, and truth of Jesus Christ. He is the standard-bearer for authenticity; he defines it, refines it, and mines for it in each one of us. He is the means to our holiness. He is the end of it as well. When we go to him and pour out our reflection before him, he begins to pour out his reflection into us.

This is how we can make peace with our flesh and live in peace with God’s people. His truth over-powering and replacing the enemy’s lies. His estimation overtaking the mirror’s assessment and bringing forth new life from woundedness. More of Jesus reflecting authentically through less of us. Accordingly,

Take us, don’t leave us, Jesus, this is who we are, and this is why we so desperately need your hand of grace in our lives. Amen.

Sassy Granny has also written a post about authenticity. You can find it here.

coastal daybreak . . .

There are many moving parts to my story. They change on a regular basis, moving on to the stage of my life without warning and, just as quickly, making their exit. I cannot predict the flow. I only know to expect it—an ever-shifting current of ins and outs, ups and downs, heart-highs and heart-lows.

This is survival.

It’s not easily defined and even harder to defend. Each day is a fight—a deliberate choice to enter the fray, to live forward and to do so in the shadow and strong witness of Calvary. Because Jesus survived the cross I, too, can survive mine. He is the standard-bearer for survivorship, conquering the grave and stepping forth into resurrected light. I want to step accordingly, to greet each new morning with the expectation that what has not yet been wrought in me will be cultivated in me by the hands and willing grace of God.

As the sun rises, so does my hope. Daybreak heralds the arrival of possibility . . . opportunity. A new day for a fresh work of God, by him and for him. There’s so much yet to learn, so much yet to become. I am limited in my abilities, worn and torn by the struggle of my flesh. I am renewed by the truth that spirit trumps flesh, that eternal wins out over temporal, and that the pulse currently within me caters to them both—my now and my then.

Who, but our God, could fashion such a form to house both the seen and unseen seeds of forever? What mystery exists within us! The moving parts of our stories make for interesting dialogue, and for as long as our earthly tenures continue, we should our conversations with the Father. This is how we get to know him. This is how we move closer to holiness. When we tether our words to him, he tethers his Word to us.

This is survival. Real survival. This is how we rise above the madness and make sense of the many moving parts of our stories. This is how we live forward. We keep talking to God. In doing so, we acknowledge the Holy, and we open up our hearts to receive fresh words of consecration that, not only validate our survivorship, but also move us into a place of effective, kingdom ministry.

Two years ago, I couldn’t have predicted the parts of my story that have now moved on to the stage of my today. It would have felt too weighty back then; it barely feels a reasonable load right now. Still and yet, this is my story to receive and then to live. No one else gets to move the puzzle pieces. Just God and, then, just me. It scares me sometimes—this responsibility called my life. But what scares the most is not ever really living it, not daily making the most of it.

And so, this morning, to honor the moving parts of my story that belong to my Father and, then, to me, I said, “Yes!” to the morning’s light and joined Ben Ball on his radio talk-show, Coastal Daybreak. I trembled with the responsibility, and then I let it go . . . gave it to God, and said “So be it. Do with it what you will.”


(to listen to my radio interview with Ben, click on the following link: Elaine Olsen on Coastal Daybreak)


I don’t imagine I have a future in talk-radio, but I do imagine that God could take something as fluid as my story and give it a voice to further his kingdom purposes. In my weakness, he is elevated. In my brokenness, he is seen. In my survivorship, he is celebrated. And with my story, he is remembered.

When Christ is elevated, seen, celebrated, and remembered because of the moving parts of our stories, then we live the kingdom forward. We move it forward as well. What could be more honorable than this? What better way to finish the walk in front of us?

Keep moving, friends, and leave a kingdom trail behind you as you go. It’s the best that any of us can do.

Peace for the journey,


PS: The winners of Lisa Shaw’s book/CD and Cindy’s cards is Cheryl! I’ll be in touch, friend.

Do you want to get well?

“When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’” –John 5:6

Do you want to get well, Elaine? So whispered the Holy Spirit to my heart this past week.

Of course, Lord, I want to be well. I am well . . . right? Even before I uttered my response, I knew the answer. Otherwise God wouldn’t have asked the question. God doesn’t waste words with his children. God speaks them as they are needed.

Being “well.” What does that look like for you? Feel like? Live like? The culture we live in dictates a wide variety of responses to this question. Soundness of mind, financial security, health of body, a stable family, and a charitable life, are just a few of the barometers used by society to measure personal wellness. But what do you use? How do you know if you are well?

I’m asking myself the same question, and I’m doing so in the context of Christ’s sacred conversation with the invalid at the pool of Bethesda some 2000 years ago (see John 5:1-15). I’m backing into story and into an understanding of wellness by examining its contrast—what wellness isn’t.

Wellness isn’t:

• Lying on a mat for thirty-eight years waiting for the waters to be stirred.

• Lying on a mat for thirty-eight years waiting for the waters to be stirred.

• Lying on a mat for thirty-eight years waiting for the waters to be stirred.

Yes, you read that correctly; three times over. I tried to come up with more bullet points to further define the contrast. Given more time and more deliberation, I’m sure I could come up with a fuller definition, at least as it pertains to understanding what wellness is not. But I have an inclination that there is one or two or ten of you out there, like me, that could hear these words and have them be enough to shake you up, wake you up, and grow you up. There is nothing about lying on a mat for thirty-eight years that is going to bring you and me any closer to gaining the healing we long for, the restoration and wholeness our Father longs to bring to us.

What loves us closer to wellness is our willingness to stop making excuses and to start walking with Jesus. Just start walking with Jesus. Healing and wholeness take time. I am not devaluing or disrespecting the timetable attached to the process of getting well. I’m forty-six, and I still have work to do. But unlike the invalid of Jesus’ day, I know who Jesus is, what Jesus can do, and how I can be well. I don’t have the benefit of ignorance to coddle my excuses. I have truth on my side—an entire Bible’s worth of hope at my fingertips, holy words from the holy God that can be wholly trusted with the wellness road.

Do you want to get well? Have your “thirty-eight years” been too many years? Today is the right day to begin your healing walk with Jesus. Roll up your excuses, pick up your mat, and pick up the Word.

The waters have been stirred. There is no time to waste. Movement wins. With Jesus, movement always wins.

Peace for the journey,

Do you want to be well? What is one tangible way you can move forward with your wellness today?

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