Straight from a Gift-Wrapped Heart
By Lisa Elliott
I woke up to the Shepherd of my heart singing deep into my spirit and awakening my soul. It wasn’t audible. Nonetheless, I knew it was the voice of my Lord because it was straight from His Word and directed straight to my heart. Arise, shine, [Lisa] for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you (Is. 60:1, NIV).
I had been anticipating this day for several months. I was receiving honourable recognition at my alma mater and would be granted Tyndale University’s Distinguished Alumnus: Community Impact Award; given to an alumnus who has gone on to become a Christian leader of influence. The thought of it overwhelmed my heart.
The Lord impressed Isaiah 49 upon my heart in preparation for the day and I realized it could very well be my testimony. He said, “You are my servant, [Lisa], in whom I will display my splendor” (Is. 49:3, NIV). It was as if the Lover of my soul took my heart in His nail-scarred hands and wrapped it up with a beautiful bow. “[Lisa] the LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17, NIV). And, sing, He did. An entire day devoted to celebrating me!
I did not see this day coming. You see, much of my life was never intended to happen. Or, at least, not the way I planned for it to. The Lord, however, had different plans, plans for a hope and a future (Jer. 29:11, NIV). Allow me to explain by sharing with you, the words I shared with the audience that day.
“I came to Tyndale as a baby Christian with no money, no concrete plan, and absolutely no clue what I was doing with my life. Therefore, I surprised myself and everyone who knew me when, at the end of registration day I’d signed up for a four-year degree.
Who knew all the ways the Lord would show up to see me through and help me complete all four years. Who knew how much I would grow in my faith as I sopped up every ounce of the sweet fellowship of other believers, fully immersing myself in community life, including a year on Student Council as the Social Rec. Who knew of the myriad of ways professors, faculty, and fellow students would graciously and patiently encourage me to grow in my relationship with Jesus as I fumbled my way along.
Who knew how the most life-changing event would occur in my second year when I was selected to be a “Big Sister” for orientation week. That’s when David Elliott, one of my little brothers, was put on my path. Who knew that after watching all the other “Bridal College” couples begin dating in the fall, get engaged at Christmas, and be married the next spring, David and I would date— and I would wait—three-and-a-half years before we were finally married. I might add it was worth the wait! He has faithfully stood by my side and encouraged me as his ministry partner, mother of our four children, and in my personal call to ministry “beyond the church walls” ever since—including being with me here today.
Who knew when the Lord joined us together that I’d become a pastor’s wife? To be honest, I didn’t even know what one was! It certainly wasn’t the original plan. And yet, the Lord saw fit that I’d spend the next forty years serving alongside the man I loved, pastoring five churches, pouring into the lives of thousands of people? Forty years filled with hospitality, teaching, counseling, discipleship, camp ministry, and a wide assortment of other ministry initiatives.
Who knew that God would ever call me to be a public speaker to impact lives for His kingdom? I cringed at the thought of having to face my worst fears, insecurities, and inadequacies—from a public platform! And yet, over and over again, God’s power has been made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9, NIV) as I’ve shared all He’s taught me—straight from the heart.
Who knew that amid the full-throttle demands of full-time ministry, I would raise four pastor’s kids? Or, that one of them would be diagnosed with leukemia, at the age of eighteen? Who knew that an entire Facebook community, many of them complete strangers, would join our journey of faith in response to my heart’s cry from Psalm 40:1-4 (NIV) that says, I cried to the Lord and He heard my cry. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He gave me a new song to sing. A hymn of praise to my God. My prayer continues to be that, Many will see and fear and put their trust in Him.
Who knew that three books would be birthed out of my son’s death? Or, that God would turn my mess into a message of hope, opening doors I could never have foreseen and leading me to unthinkable platforms to “let it ripple” for the glory of God? Platforms such as: an oncology nurses conference, a VON appreciation event, an oncology students’ classroom, and the Starlight Children’s Foundation’s 25th Gala?
Who knew God would use my utmost loss to bind up the brokenhearted, comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve (Is. 61:1-3, NIV) by facilitating over twenty-five GriefShare groups alongside my husband and lead Grieving Parents’ Retreats as a part of a club we would NEVER have chosen to be part of?
Who knew that all of these events in my life would lead me to this moment of honorable recognition where I’d be standing here in the place where it all began?
While I could never have known … God knew! His ways are perfect, even when we can’t see or understand them. As God’s Glory Story continues to unfold in my life I have seen that God uses us in spite of ourselves, our background, our frailties, and our insecurities. And, I’ve seen how He uses even our deepest pain for His purposes. To God be the glory. Great is His faithfulness!”
Even now, as I bask in the afterglow of receiving this award I am overcome by how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:18-19, NIV). I can’t think of a better gift He could have given me than to take this heart of mine and wrap it up with His love, approval, affirmation, and blessing over my life.
About this Contributor:
Lisa Elliott is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of The Ben Ripple, Dancing in the Rain, and A Ministry Survival Guide. She’s also a writer for Just Between Us Magazine, theStory, and Good Ground. She and her pastor-husband, David, have four children (three on earth, one in heaven) and serve the Lord together in Ottawa, ON, Canada.