Amid the Dizziness

Hello Friends.

I would like to update you all on what my life looks like right now.

I am in week 2 of a beautifully crazy full-time nursing program.  My program is the top-ranked nursing program among all the community colleges in the United States, producing the best, most-prepared nurses. I have discovered this week how it earned that ranking. Things I have learned:

While a certain university down the road requires a 2.2 to pass a nursing class, my college requires a 3.0. I must get higher than 80% in every class or else….

However, it isn’t easy to get those good grades.  These classes are stinkin hard!  The professors are strict, and write challenging tests to prepare us well.

As one of my professors said “You all walked in here 4.0 students, almost none of you will leave here with a 4.0.”

Apparently, many of the second year nursing students are on anxiety medications just to get through school.

Oh and we are expected to gain an average of 20 pounds a person over the next two years. Lovely, eh?

There was even a meeting held the week before school started just for the families and support people of the student nurses. Do you know what was said?  Pretend like your loved one is missing for the next 20 months. They will be unavailable and completely consumed.  Step in and take over their duties for them. They need so much support to get through this.

It is so true.

This is one of (if not THE) hardest things I have ever done in my life.

I am away from home so much, and when I am home I have to be virtually consumed with studies.  There seriously isn’t enough time in a day to even study everything I need to.

I have cried every day for the past ten days. (True, some of those tears were tears of joy, tears of exhaustion, and tears in the card aisle at Meijer while finding an anniversary card…but still…I’m ready for a dry-eyed break.)

I am used to sailing through classes with relative ease, and now I am stretched to understand and keep-up.  The rush hour commute, copious reading, extra-lab time required, crazy-difficult tests… well, they don’t mesh so well with how I am used to doing life.  I am missing dinners with my family, bible-studies with friends, conversations with my kids (I haven’t’ seen them since 7 am today for instance… oh how I miss them!) My house is a wreck, and will be for the next 20 months (But as my dear friends reminded me, the house will recover eventually.)

Anyway. Where am I going with all this?

I want to tell you that if you are reading this, and you are someone who is used to seeing me, and maybe occasionally grabbing coffee or something, it may be a while before that happens again.  I love so many people. My old self loved to keep up with friends so much I would have coffee with at least two different people every week.  Now I have to put that on hold a little, and I am afraid people will be hurt that I am not available, not calling…. but it is my life for now. When it all boils down, I need to prioritize like never before. I NEED time alone with God – that is so evident. He alone is my rock through all this.  Finding undistracted alone time lately has been near impossible…. I NEED to pour attention into my marriage and my children – so critical. And then I NEED to study my brains out…stay up late, drink lots of coffee, get up early, drink lots of coffee… and I will try to keep up with friends when I am not completely drained . . . And then I will blink . . .  and it will be April 2015 and I will be graduating . . . and I hope that some of my loved friends will still be around.  Please don’t mistake my absence as lack of interest or love. It is killing me to have to miss out of my favorite conversations….

And finally I want to thank the people who have already come along side me.  The loved ones who have stepped in for me watching my kids… picking them up from school, feeding them, playing games with them, loving them. I want to thank my husband for being amazing. For pitching-in extra around the house and understanding when I just can’t think anymore. I want to thank my kids for understanding when I can’t remember what day it is, when I don’t have time to read an extra long bedtime story, when I can’t watch a movie with them . . .

My heart is tender….

I am praying for strength and the wings of eagles.

In Faith, Hope and Love,

Amy

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Undone

I was made for summer vacation . . . late mornings and my children making pancakes. Neighborhood kids run through my house and yard all day long – playing capture the flag and having epic water fights. Lunch at 2. Dinner at 7.  Stories on the sofa . . .  then more screaming and laughter, puddles and threats. My very own 8 o’clock bath still lit up with sunshine.  And then making them go read in bed at 9:30… so we can get up and do it all again tomorrow.

At the end of this day, I crawl into bed with my love and stroke his wonderfully scratchy face, and ask him how he is doing. We talk about life . . . and I pray . . .

May God continue to lead and guide us every step

May we never judge what we do not understand

May His church be full of forgiveness and unity

May our words ever be full of grace

May our hearts be bold to hear

His Kingdom come

His will be done.

And I am unraveled again in the knowledge of Him.

His incomprehensible goodness. His perfect ways.

I am undone at the thought that I am enough for Him, and He is pleased with my worship.

Indeed, the great distance He has brought me thus far, gives me incredible hope for the journey that lays ahead.

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Stepping Out Onto the Water

“Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.

And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.  But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”

And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” - Matthew 14:25-32

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There are times in life when Jesus calls us to leave our comfortable little boat and step onto a wild sea. Will we be discouraged by the wind and waves, or keep our faces directed at the Savior – trusting Him to keep us safe?

When He calls me, I want to obey.  Seeing Him out on the water – my Lord who makes the impossible possible – I have such peace and confidence as I prepare to step over the side of the boat.  He calls me and I am joyful and expectant at the possibilities that lie ahead of me.

As I step out though, voices real or imagined, doubters or naysayers, are like the raging wind.  Those voices can cause me to second guess what I am doing – my feet already on the water, already in the middle of the miracle of obedience - will I own what they are saying? Will I be one of little faith who sinks so quickly?  Or will I instead hold true to my Lord’s voice that I have heard to clearly – calling me to step out?

My husband and I have heard challenging calls before…. calls for Andrew start his own business . . . to begin homeschooling our children . . . and each time there were people afraid for us, or thinking we were wrong.  But we know what we heard. We know Who we heard… and those leaps of faith produced such beautiful fruit.

Our confidence is in Christ, the perfector of our Faith. He is working something good in us, and it will be completed as He promised.  We can’t see every step, but we see His face, and we hear His voice calling us to come to Him . . . to walk on the water.  (And I’m the kind of girl who would much rather be walking on the water than sitting in a boring ol’ boat anyway.)

You see…

When I close out the sound of the wind – all becomes quiet,

and it’s just me and my Lord.

And in that moment,

all I feel is peace

and the guts to take another step.

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Action is Eloquence

I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts.  ~John Locke

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Actions speak louder than words – it’s a saying as old as time.  

I like how William Shakespeare said it: “Action is eloquence.”

1 Corinthians 13:1 says  “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

There’s a whole lot of noise in this world, so many clanging cymbals all at once, and I’m tired of adding to it.

Sometimes I consider taking a temporary vow of silence.

What would it look like to be able speak my love only through my actions?

A peach tree is recognized not because it shouts out its name, but because it produces peaches. Likewise a Christian should be recognized for the goodness their lives produce. We shouldn’t have to say a word; the fruit of our life speaks for us.

In other words, I don’t want to hear what you believe; I want to see it working. You can stand on the street corner and shout out until you’re black and blue that God is good, that He is speaking to you in your quiet times, and you are following him, but if the fruit I see in you is division, anxiety and pride, I would rather you put a cork in it.  John 13:35 says “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  That’s it.  It’s not by how well we can quote the scripture, not by how serious we can make our face when we talk about God, not by how much of the world we abstain from. It is by our Love!

The band Extreme said it so well…

“More than words is all you have to do to make it real

Then you wouldn’t have to say that you love me

‘Cause I’d already know…”

Heaven forbid my actions would strikingly contradict my words. I see this in the church and I cringe – people saying they believe in Love – but minutes later they are making serious derogatory remarks behind someone’s back.  They have a failed marriage, they vote differently than you, they sin different than you….and so you puff yourself up by putting them down.

Where is the fruit of love?

Speaking of differences, do gays feel loved unconditionally by us, the church? Or does the love we give them come with the understanding that to receive it they must first know that we are right and they are wrong and they will eventually need to change if they want our full love and acceptance. I’m glad that’s not how God loves us.

Maybe its’ time to examine our hearts.  Maybe we would all do well to take a vow of silence for a while, and instead of talking, we could serve others . . . give of our time . . . give of our hearts . . . .

Also, can we stop criticizing others (sometimes we act like angry toddlers when people make choices without consulting us first for our oh-so-perfect opinion…. ‘She is getting married too young’ . . . ‘They are not ready to buy a house’ . . . ‘They need to spank their children’. . . )  and can we just accept that it’s okay that they are different from us? No one knows the best path for us except God.

We are all on this crazy journey of life at the same time so instead of stepping on each other, let’s just walk together, yes?

What if we accepted that we don’t know everything, we don’t know best, and we certainly may be wrong?  What if we leave the knowing to God? We would be free from the pressure to feel like we have to state aloud how much we know all the time. What if we leave the talking to God too . . . and let His Spirit convict others.  Let His spirit guide them where He wants them to go. . . Sometimes it may be the enemy trying to cause division, sure. So we are to submit to God, resist the devil, and shut our mouths. Other times it is just our stinking rotten flesh, our nature that likes to put others down.  I have clearly side-tracked here, maybe this is more about what it means to love than the alignment of our actions and words, but it still supports my theme – that it is better to love in deed than to claim we love but then stick our foot out to trip our neighbor.

I pray that in the places where my words and actions don’t line up, God would show me my hypocrisy – so I can own it and repent. I can take part in grand talk, and have great aspirations, but if I never put my feet to action, what good is any of it? I struggle with this. I do.

This is me trying like hell to get the plank out of my own eye. I get it. I want to live it. I have dreams. I have beliefs – and I want nothing more than to live out those beliefs.  We get stuck in our old habits, our old ways of life. It’s comfortable there, and we know what to expect.

Branching out and stepping up to action takes guts. It takes learning to stand your ground and yet learning to let go at the same time.   The challenges of plunging into the unknown territory of loving someone you thought was unlovable, or putting our agenda and opinions aside so that God’s mission is priority, or rearranging your life to be less about getting your errands done and more about forging relationships with those who need it most – it all takes so much courage.

But we must step up.

We must stop analyzing what a perfect dive looks like and just jump off the diving board.  It has got to start somewhere.

So I am praying for strength to act.

I am praying for my eyes to be opened.

I want to see my life as it really is, not as I’ve imagined it to be.  We all have these ideals that sit on trophy shelves in our mind. We identify ourselves by these ideals, think we are good people, but people identify us not by those ideals on the shelf but by our actions. It is plain and simple, yet I am hammering it over and over because I believe it is that important. We think we are good people because we believe the right thing, and we are fools! Even the demons believe Jesus is the son of God. It is the ones who FOLLOW, who act, that are true Christians.

I’ll leave you with a section of James that encourages and challenges me today:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.  You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? ” from James 2

Let us learn this.

I pray that we, the church, learn to shut up and roll up our sleeves.

~Amy

When Death Gives Way to Life

The other day I had a momentary vision.  I saw myself curling up into a ball, and sinking down into feet of rich soil. And I heard these words in my heart, “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies…”

Of course the rest of John 12:24 goes: ” it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

I feel like I have been going through that dying process for a little while now.

  • my desire for comfort
  • my desire for recognition
  • my alignment to anything except the good news of Jesus
  • my right to be right
  • my attempts to change others
  • my need to be needed
  • my right to my own schedule
  • my right to keep my problems to myself

I’m letting it all be slayed by something greater.

Not that I have fully reached any of this.  It is a slow process, but I am in it and I like it.

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My hope is that my old ways will be replaced by a selflessness that shines like a lamp on a stand, and with a love that puts others first, a love that dares to step out with faithful action.

Today I had another momentary vision. I again saw myself as a seed of sorts. And I was churning inside. Growing. And suddenly the seed shell burst open and out shot a living shoot, bright and green.

God and I have been hanging out, and he’s been churning things inside this life of mine, good things, hard things . . . and I feel so much energy building up – enough energy perhaps to branch out of this casing and become a full-grown plant that produces seeds by the dozens.

Looking Up

Yesterday I wrote about hearts that ache – specifically how I am in awe of God and his massive never-ending heart ache.

I want to clarify that my feelings yesterday were nothing out of the ordinary. People who care about others will always have a degree of heart ache.

The mother aches for her child to find happiness.

The teacher aches for her students to discover the love of learning.

We ache for those who are sick or have lost their way.

I am not depressed. In fact I was no more sad yesterday than I am on any other day. I smiled a lot yesterday. I laughed some good deep belly laughs. Please, no worry or pity is needed here. No one in my life is going through what I would determine to be circumstances that are unusually hard. The truth is that life is stinking hard.  It is messy.  People have struggles – troubles that can help them learn and grow, or cause them to stumble.  But troubles are a constant in life.  And because I love people, these ordinary people with ordinary troubles, when I pray, I can feel a small portion of their stress or pain. That is all it was yesterday. Perhaps I am more emotional than other people, but for me, crying on behalf of other people is something I do on a regular basis.  It doesn’t cripple me, it makes me feel better. Anyway….

Jesus promised that in this world we will have trouble. And He reminded us to take heart because He has overcome the World. That is how I can be empathetic to my friends who are in hard times and not be depressed.  He has overcome the world. There is an end to it all that lies ahead.  Yes, I have moments of weeping for my loved ones, but it does not leave me moping about all day because my confidence is in Christ, not my friend’s ability to overcome. None of us is strong enough to overcome every battle.  But God is.

Thank you, friends, for your concern. I know it comes only from a place of love.  I promise if I need anything, or know anyone who does, I will ask.

When the Heart Aches

Yesterday was a day full of ordinary troubles. Not exactly an easy day, but nothing deserving of pity.  A night of sleep diminishes yesterday’s troubles even more. But in the moment, you know, a trouble is a trouble is a trouble.   It seemed yesterday brought more than its fair share.

All day I was longing for time with my Creator. When it wasn’t a conscious longing, it was that itchy nagging feeling in my heart that there was something else I would rather be doing right then.  Oh yes, to be with my God!

It was one of those days when I just could not be at rest.  Until finally that afternoon, 2:43 pm to be precise, I sat down on my couch, set down my hot tea, let my head fall back onto the sofa, and closed my eyes.  Oh that wonderful first moment of a day when everything fades away and I feel alone with my Love, my Lord.  My stress melts into him and He absorbs it somehow.

Sitting alone, thinking of Him, I try to find words.  Nothing seems right. So many needs are pressing on my mind. Do I ramble them all off to the Creator? As if He doesn’t know about that ailment that needs healing, that broken heart that needs mending, the relationships that are in distress, the one who is at the end of the rope, the one who needs a job, the one who needs to sell her car, the one who is suddenly out in the world seemingly alone. . . .

I am crumbling on the couch. My heart heavy and sore from aching for the ones I love. There are no words now, just tears.  I become aware of His greatness and strength as He somehow lifts these burdens onto His own striped back.  My trembling heart is trusting that I don’t need to speak all these troubles, because Jesus sees it all.

And His heart aches too.

It hit me hard – trying to imagine the magnitude of God’s heartache.  I may ache for a handful of people right now, but my Father has a world-full of heartache – a heartache that is thousands of years long.   What must it be like to love so many people so completely?  To have that deep and unyielding love even for those who reject you?

I am glad He is God and I am not. I would die of heart-break.

But I am His, and He is mine. He chose us, even knowing the pain that would come. And I am thankful for the hope I have found.  Without it my world would be so dark, or full of vices, or both.  Yet instead of darkness, there is light.  Troubles that would have tied me down years ago, lose their strength in the light of eternity. Pressing into the words of His Book, the bigger picture becomes clear, and I can rejoice to be a part of it all.

I expect my heart will ache until I reach heaven. . . . I don’t necessarily want to lose that because it stirs me to pray and to love, and it connects me with the God who has the biggest heartache of all.