4.17.19

Free write again. Because my life is not together enough to plan what I will write about until I am already writing. Here goes.

I smelled rain yesterday.

Do you love the smell of rain too? What is it about that first inhale of wet earth that makes us feel so alive and full of hope? Whatever it is, I will take it.

The miracle of hope.

. . . And that’s all I’ve got.

Besides a serious case of writer’s block 😉

Wingin’ It

[Bed Time Free Write. No fuss. No planning. No editing.]

When my friend shared her sourdough starter with me, I was so thrilled. Her breads are amazing, and I am eager to try my hand at this new skill. The actual bread making is a lengthier process with sourdough than with traditional yeast breads – it takes a good two to three days from start to finish. Stir a little here, stretch a little there, and rest, rest, rest. My dough is currently in my refrigerator where it will sit, slowly rising until I bake it tomorrow.

I have no idea if I’m doing it right. Of course I can’t do it the easy way and just follow the recipe. I had to look up SCORES of recipes to try and get an idea of what I wanted. And then, on my FIRST time ever attempting sourdough bread, I made up my own recipe. Followed my own preparation schedule. Improvising like a good jazz musician.

WHAT AM I THINKING?! Why couldn’t I just follow the recipe?! Geez-louise. But I didn’t, and there’s no way to know ahead of time whether all this work will produce good results or . . . not so good results.

Come to think of it, it kinda reminds me of having my first child. Pregnant at 18, I had no idea what I was doing then either. So I read some books and had the baby, and improvised as best I could along the way – hoping for good results.

The great thing about baking bread, is that even if it turns out that my improvising wasn’t so great, at least it will make good croutons, or breadcrumbs, so there’s that.

Now if only you could turn kids into croutons . . . .

.

Quiet Rain


I was going to write today about my one-word theme for the new year, but my head just won’t focus.

Work was exceptionally challenging today. Occasional sadness is all but certain when you work with sick children, and today I am having a hard time shaking it off.

And so today my heart feels quiet. Drawn in. Protective of itself.

I treated myself to Starbucks on my way home. I prayed. I napped (yep, even after a venti drink). I cuddled my dog and ate comfort food . . .

But the steady rain outside my window seems like tears from above – from a God who is also sad about the suffering in this broken world.

Today I have no answers.

Just a quiet heart, waiting on my Father.

Come, Lord.

Make everything right.

Hope Amidst Brokenness.

In our home, and maybe in yours, this time of year can be such a mixed bag of emotions.

Many people this time of year find themselves in difficult situations or wrestling with grief – and this season adds the burden of thinking that they should be happy, because after all, it’s Christmas.

But all is not merry and bright, is it? People we love have passed on, or are sick, or homeless, or struggling, or removed. Relationships are broken – feelings hurt, people confused. The whole world around us seems to be crying out in pain – tsunami’s, wars, terror, hunger . . . and none of it seems right.

No, it often seems quite the opposite of right – it’s all so broken and seemingly beyond hope.

But I would say that this brokenness is precisely why we celebrate Christmas.

Christmas is, at its core, a reminder of how broken we are, and how much we need Jesus to be our Savior.

The trap of Christmas is to view it as some sort of journey of sentimentality or nostalgia. We hold images enshrined in our mind of family dinners, and gifts exchanged. Lights and trees, carols, movies, games, and laughter. Impossible standards exist in our minds of a perfect holiday. And we think we need certain things to have a good Christmas. We must bake these specific cookies, watch these 3 movies, buy these pajamas. . . . Christmas won’t be complete without “xyz” . . . And we slowly confuse what is truly to be celebrated.

Are we celebrating family? “Family is everything!” some people say. I would argue that it is not. Could you celebrate Christmas if you were completely alone and without family on this Earth? The answer should be yes. It is a gift to be able to celebrate with family, but if that is our focus we are missing it. If we use “Jesus’ Birthday” as an excuse for celebrating family togetherness we are missing the point.

Are we celebrating generosity, beauty, love? Human characteristics that remind of us good? Even this is short-sighted and misses the fullness of the Nativity story. Hope in these things will quickly fade the moment we see selfishness, ugliness and hatred rear it’s ugly head in the world around us.

I will always treasure this Holiday in my heart because of all it represents: the Incarnation. God coming to Earth in the quiet dark of night, as a helpless baby. Our Holy Father showing that He is not above subjecting Himself to all sorts of pain – if that is what is takes to reach His children.

His children, that is what we are after all. We are the broken ones. Disobedient, rebellious, stubborn, selfish children.

We mess things up, and deep down, we all know that when things get messed up, someone has to pay. We look to place blame. We get angry. We yell. We cry. We judge.

And He stepped in – and said HE would pay. The best Father ever.

All the repayments for all the horrors of the world were placed on His shoulders. He was the only one who could pay, because he was blameless himself. So he took the punishment for all of it – the child abusers, the corrupt government, the sex traffickers, the liars, for you, and for me – for all who repent and turn to Him. Forever and Ever.

Our God, so wonderful. He knew.

He knew that we would remain separate without someone to pay to make us presentable as friends of the Most High. He knew we would try to learn enough and to behave well enough to earn our way to happiness and holiness – and he knew that was futile. He even knew that some would say He was just a good man (who is also a crazy liar that claimed to be God.)

Jesus knew he would have to die for all of this. And he didn’t resist it. Because He loved us so much, He willingly surrendered to a horrific death at the very hands of those He came to save. Our spotless sacrifice.

And He defeated death.

Now He waits, to allow as many as are willing to choose Him before He returns again to make everything as it should be. And on that day, that marvelous day . . . tears will be wiped away, and we will live with our Lord forever. FOR. EVER. And these momentary trials will be a small memory in our minds.

What hope this should bring us!

A baby . . . a little boy . . . and then a man, and all the while: fully God. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. This is the meaning of Christmas.

Was Jesus born on December 25th? Almost certainly not. Was Christmas once a pagan holiday that was redeemed? Yes! And I celebrate this redemption power of Jesus every Christmas. He can redeem it all! Even the darkest of nights, and the most broken lives. He brings beauty for ashes and makes all things new.

And that is what I am celebrating this Christmas, my dear friends.

The pressure is off to have a perfect Christmas! We are broken and loved!

Merry Christmas, to you. May you find hope in your heart today to look up from the brokenness and into the eyes of Christ who has conquered it all.

May you find the Thrill of Hope.

xo,

Amy

Nothing to Say?

I have forgotten how to be in the habit of writing. I let it slip. I made excuses like “I don’t really have anything to say” or “I have no time”  and I rationalized – there would be time for it later.

And I let the urgent push aside the important.

I know better.

Urgent does not equal important.

But oh what wisdom it takes to discern how we should spend our time!

  • Do we do the dishes & laundry right now – or devote this hour to pursuing a passion?
  • Do we help this person in need – or empower them to help themselves?
  • Do we sign up for this & that “awesome opportunity” – or leave empty space on our calendar so as not to overextend, and save space for chance and spontaneous miracles?

There is no right answer. It changes depending on the day and situation.

That is where we need the Holy Spirit. I can guarantee I will make the wrong choice at least half the time if I am left to my own wits. But I  have found that when I quiet my mind and tune in to the most precious gift I have ever been given, I am much more likely to choose well.

Father, help us remember the gifts you have given us. May we not squander them. May we not forget to ask you for help in our every day decisions.

So here I am writing.

Even though when I first sat down I was sure I had nothing to say.

Even though I am tired.

And I am glad.

 

 

 

Love is Greater Than. 

Where x = Love and y = everything else: x > y.

Always.

Love is greater than . . . everything.

. . . fear, worry, money, pain, war, greed, pride, beauty, death, intolerance, tolerance . . . you name it.

Love is brighter than the brightest star, and more powerful than any earthly force.

And yet we discount it with our thoughts and actions. We may give it lip service, but at the end of the day we think it is not enough – so we give in to fear, worry, hate. We get mad and throw fits. We are turn to our own strength. We meddle. We fuss. We attempt to manipulate. We hold onto our hurts as if they will comfort us. It is all evidence that we have failed to grasp the greatness of God’s Love for us and others. That we have forgotten what His True Love is capable of.

I am as guilty of this as anyone.

If we could only stay in that place of being *fully aware* of the Great Love that created us and holds us. There is a Love so all-encompassing, and it has already defeated evil. A Love that already went to hell & back, surrendering to torture and torment in our place, to pay for OUR sins.

And Love won.

He. Won.

It is finished.

And He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…. This thought should create overwhleming joy in us.

His Love is THAT powerful.

And yet it just takes faith the size of a mustard seed to tap into it.

Do we really believe? Do we accept that His Love is for us? And for them too? That Love is powerful? That is has already won? That we can release trying to control? That it doesn’t depend on us?

My God is glorious – full of strength, beauty, and power. He is all at once terrible and gentle. The ultimate balance of justice and grace. His heart’s desire is that none should miss out on knowing His Love. It is up to us to choose it. We have to say yes to Him.

And when we do. . . when we finally surrender, we realize Love has been chasing us all this time. All this time we were too stubborn to see Him. And the most beautiful thing is – He doesn’t care how long it takes us. He loves us the same. True, He wants the best for us, but even if we take decades to open our eyes, He will still embrace us with the same strong arms and forgiveness than if we had come to him at first.

When we embrace the gift of Love living in us, it will transform our hearts until we become love to others. Living from a place of love emits light and life to those around us. Living any other way does not.

You want to change the world? Tap into the power of Love.

All I know is that out-of-the-blue today, I was hit in the gut with the sentence that His Love is Greater Than. And instantly my fears were washed away, and I knew I had been trying too hard, and loving too little. Instead of worry, I want to remind myself that His Love is constant and all-encompassing, and it has already won. His Love is Almighty. His Love is perfect and He is the only one in this story that always does what is right, and so I will trust Him.

Let us not forget. The cares of this world are sneaky and persistent. Let us daily remind each other to live as though we are perfectly Loved.

Because you are.

Elbow Grease

Reaching the mop far under the master bed yesterday, I cleaned away a year’s worth of dust and dog hair. Putting the stray shoes in their closet slots, one at a time, I felt a lesson coming on. Slowly, carefully, I dusted the top of our dressers, side tables, and windowsills, feeling grateful for the time to clean with such care. I put some nails in the walls that have been completely bare since we moved in, and I hung the wreath and embroidery art that seem to fit jusg right.

As I stood back and breathed, I observed that our room has never looked better. But it needed one last touch. I needed to polish my grandmother’s silver candelabra that sits on Andrew’s dresser. It was badly tarnished, and has been pretty much ignored since we moved in 2 years ago. I brought it downstairs, removed the candles, and got to work rubbing off the black.

Polishing silver is not a clean job. At least not the way I do it. It gets worse before it gets better. My fingers turn dark and greasy, coated with blackened polish.

Rubbing every tiny detail and nook of the silver takes time and care. As I rub, the lesson hits me in the face. All this care and attention I am suddenly giving my master bedroom. A room that has been all but ignored the past couple years. It’s tucked away upstairs, at the end of the hall, and often the last place I think to clean because of how little time I spend there. And it showed. The dust was bad. The walls were bare.

I suddenly felt that it somehow, paying attention to this silver was symbolic of my new life at home that gives me time to pay attention to the details. I polished that candlestick and prayed for my marriage, and for my husband – that we would care for our love, nourish it, protect it, attend to it like never before.

And finally I wiped away the polish, and buffed it until it shone. And it was radiant. A thing of beauty for sure.

Lord, polish our hearts – buff away the dull places till we shine of love.

Selah

Stripped Bare

For almost two weeks I have been a stay-at-home mom. That’s not very long.

I am reminding myself of this fact because already I’ve had fleeting thoughts of not being good enough at this new gig.  Pfft. Whatever.

I started prerequisites for the nursing program about TEN years ago. Ten! Being a student/nurse has been part of my identity for the last decade of my life . . . I have a lot of adjusting to do.

Now I sit here, stripped bare of the titles and identities that I once allowed to define me.

It’s a strange season.

For a moment this week, I was hit with a sudden wave of “Oh my gosh, what have you done?”  . . . I tumbled for a split second, under that crashing wave, feeling lost, not knowing which way was up. Who was I – if not a busy mom working as a nurse? What was my worth?  . . . The wave passed after a few breaths as I felt the strong voice of my Father reminding me of the truth.

The thing is, I cannot remember a time in my life where I have felt so happy, fulfilled, and free.  I cannot remember a time in my life when I have smiled more, sang more, laughed more.  The chronic stress and anxiety I have battled for so long is melted away in the sheer bliss of this new life.

The hard truth of it is that while being stripped like this isn’t necessarily fun, it is healing. We so often get caught up in being: wife, mom, volunteer, nurse, etc., that is easy to lose the knowledge of who we really are.  What if I lost it all tomorrow: lost my husband, my kids, my community, in one Book-of-Job moment? The only way to survive and move forward is to see ourselves through the eyes of the Creator. I am a child of the Living God; when He looks at me he sees an image of himself. He is pleased with me – just me. Not wife-me, not nurse-me, not mom-me. I was designed to add joy and light to this earth, just as I am. I am relishing in this thought. Pressing into it and squeezing out all it’s goodness.

Another wave hit me yesterday – this time it was a sudden wave of deep gratitude. Of course I was cleaning a bathroom when I was moved me to tears. (I’m telling you, the world in my head provides me with endless hours of fun…) Anyway, I called Andrew that moment to thank him for his hard work and for being willing to take this journey together.

My friend, I hope that today you can lift up your chin and know your true worth.

Far more than gold or any jewels on this earth, you were worth dying for.

 

 

 

 

On Being Sweetly Broken

I have set aside these first two weeks of my new life as “Amy’s Weeks of Nothing” and I imagined I would lay around for two weeks, recovering. Drooling on pillows, bingeing on Netflix, etc. But as I lay in bed this morning, doing “nothing” I found it rather depressing and not at all healing. So I got up. My weeks of Nothing will have to be a little more Something.

I want to write more because that DOES bring me health. It’s like free therapy. These posts may be more rambling in nature so I probably won’t share every post on facebook, and please don’t feel you have to read every one. I write for me, and this blog is the easiest way to do that for me.

ANYWHO.

Brokenness: it has pushed through as a stubborn theme in my life. And I’m learning that is okay.

Last week I cried to my husband, “I just feel so broken.” For a brief, deeply felt moment in time, I was overcome with the feeling of being so. incredibly. messed. up.

For many reasons, I am thankful for these honest moments where I see clearly the depths of my need. So here I sit, sifting and sorting through the messes that have made me and the messes that I have made.

The people I admire most in this world possess qualities that seem to stem from enduring hardships. Their eyes could tell a thousand stories. One feels embraced by their knowing smiles: smiles that do not judge, smiles that love and accept. Their times of brokenness gifted them with quiet hearts and open arms . . . . These are my favorite kind of people.

I sometimes cringe at various parts of my own personality. The parts that are selfish, that are pessimistic, that interrupt, that say too much, or not enough. I am broken indeed. But there is Grace. And there must be balance . . . . I want to have grace for my own shortcomings . . . and the same time welcome the fire that refines me.

These past several years have broken parts of me for sure. My years as a nursing student and nurse were a hard learning experience that I would NOT want to repeat. And YET.

And yet.

Because of that crazy season I am leaving behind, there is a new feeling within me of being settled. My memories are rich with experience – good and bad, and I am thankful. Where I used to be quite sharp, there is a softness in me, however faint, that was not there before.

Even today, I feel like I can see a little more clearly what it was for. And that it was not in vain. I feel like a fog has been lifted, and the once unbearable load has finally been removed from me. When I was in the thick of it, I thought it would either never end, or that I might die from the pain. Like being in labor – the whole time praying just to survive it . . . . These past several years, I have prayed every day just to get through the day . . . One more shift, one more contraction . . .

. . . and now, now I can see the goodness that was born from that hard time.

Coming to terms with my brokenness means:

  • forgiveness for others
  • increased humility
  • gratitude for grace
  • hope for the future
  • softness
  • slowing down
  • letting go
  • breathing in (all that is good)
  • breathing out (all that does not help)

In the moments when my pain is great, and I feel stretched and frail, I read the scriptures to fill my soul. To remind me of who I am. And who my God is. And what He is capable of. And I am left a little more whole each time. In these moments, I sing songs of adoration to my Creator, and my spirit takes flight to another realm. My faith is made stronger with each song. My heart is momentarily free and at the same time wholly enraptured in His perfect love. And the cracks in my life become filled with His beauty.

I will not forget my broken times, for they are a part of me now. It does not help to pretend it never happened because it is in the past. No, I will not shy away from my brokenness or hide it away in shame. Admitting brokenness is anything but weakness or lack of faith and we would all do well to share our vulnerabilities with each other.

I certainly have a long way to go in this life, but if I look back, I can see that I have come far already. My cracks may always show, and I may always have twinges of pain, but they will serve to remind me of where I have been, and what I am promised. Jacob walked with a limp for the rest of his days after his wrestle with God.

I’ll take a limp if that is what it takes.

Underneath All Things

Book excerpt from my current read,

Hallelujah Anyway

by Anne Lamott.

“No matter how bad or lovely one’s childhood, almost everybody walking around was somehow held, fed, and cared for, at least enough to still exist. The universe gave us sunlight, water, and milk, and we grew. The human condition brought with it terror, and we wept. The human family held us, the best it could. Then it inadvertently destroyed us: we were taught the exact opposite of  what Mark Yaconelli calls the Rule of Love. He wrote a letter to the teenagers in the Sunday-school class I teach that said, “Anything that leaves you fearful, more isolated, more disconnected from other people, more full of judgment or self-hatred is not of God, does not follow the Rule of Love – and you should stop doing it.” But while I was growing up, most things left me fearful and isolated. 

Every so often we drop down into another plane, to that trusting spirit that knows that, underneath all things, we are held, that we are children, born into this world in tender innocence. This can be experienced while [. . .] snorkeling, and I would guess while hang gliding, safely suspended and held. But then we have to snap out of it, snap to it, get back up to the video game of life, get back to work, get back to everyone whose calls we missed.

Underneath all things means that beneath the floorboards, in the depths, in the spaces between the pebbles or sandy floor that contain the pond, that hold our own inside person, is something that can’t be destroyed, a foundation that keeps all the water from sinking back into the earth. Something is there, something we need, when we come to rest, when all is lost.” 

 

I keep reading that passage by Lamott over and over.

Some days I feel so utterly broken and beyond help.  I have to fight to sink down into the arms of the One who assures me I am held and loved.  The arms of true rest.

I am thankful and forever indebted to Christ, my bedrock, my sure foundation. Selah.