Prideful Conditions…

You know those moments in life when you think, “Gosh I really should’ve listened to what I was told? If I had I won’t be living with this pain now.”

Yeah… That’s exactly what I’m thinking right now…

In the past 72 hours we’ve experienced freezing weather, snow and ice… Well mom has been locked inside for two days, convinced she needs to stay off the roads and out of the crazy conditions…

If you know me, then you know there’s no way I’m staying in… I have things to do… Places to go… People to see…

So for two days I went about my business, and every time I left the house mom said, “Amanda be careful out there. Black ice is dangerous.”

In my heart, I knew what she was saying was true… But in my head I kind of mocked her a little… I mean, I know she cares about my safety… But come on mom, I get it…

Well… Her first day out, she takes 10 steps walking to her car and BAM… Down on the ground she goes. Black ice.

When she finally told me the story, all I could do was laugh… I mean, after all the caution she gave me and then she slips and falls… It was hilarious…

Later that night I was leaving a house to head home… I just made a comment about how cold it was and then took a step down the stairs… Next thing I knew, BAM… I was on the ground…

All I could do in the moment was laugh… I mean, it really was funny… After all of mom’s caution, my mocking/jesting mind and then I end up on the ground…!

After I scooped myself up and got into my car to drive home I started to think… “Geeze, I wasn’t really paying attention when I walked out that front door… I should’ve looked around…” And that’s when God (He’s always on time even when I don’t want Him to be) said, “Yeah, pride Amanda. You didn’t listen to your parent and the pride in your soul got the best of you.”

As funny as the story is, He was right… The pride in me kept saying things like, “Can’t mom just let me be the 29 year old I am. I’ll be fine. I’m responsible. Why does she think I’m going to be so dangerous and careless in freezing conditions?”

Ironically… isn’t that how we are with God a lot of the time? He says, “Don’t do that. It’s dangerous in these life conditions. Be cautious. People out there are reckless because they don’t know what they are doing. I’ve brought you too far to see you caught up in pain again. Please, be safe. Stay alert and aware of your surroundings.”

But we don’t listen… The pride of our heart says, “I know what I am doing. I’ll be fine. It’s not like I am going to end up in that much trouble.” And, because we don’t listen to Him we end up like me… An icy fall and a bruised hip… Pain that wasn’t ever supposed to be in our lives is now there, and we have to wait until it heals…

Death Halts Life….

Have you ever walked into a situation completely blind?… Believing in your mind you know the solution will be quick and simple, but then very quickly realizing, “This is going to take much more time and effort than I thought.”

That’s been my year… A continuation of, “How much longer is this going to last? How much longer do I have to struggle? How much more can I endure?”

Now, don’t get me wrong… This year of life has had it’s ups, but it’s downs have been frustratingly out of my control…

Which is why, as I sit down to write, well I want to look over what I’ve really learned…

Never did I think coming home to help my mom move on with her life would have so many trials… Never did I think it would cause me to keep choosing selflessness over my own wants and desires… Never did I think the Holy Spirit would lead me into places that terrified me for a moment, only to realize the things I feared didn’t destroy me at all… They’ve actually made me stronger…

However, I guess the greatest thing I’ve learned this year is that death… Death halts life…

The last three and a half years have definitely had their fair share of tragedy and heartbreak… It seemed just as we would begin to heal from one thing something or someone else was shaken loose from our reality and realm of life…

And as we adjusted, well I thought life would just evolve and continue to pan out for the best… And while it was for Bridge and I… Well mom’s story was a little different… Unknown to me, a year ago, she was stuck in a continuous season of death…

Now, what does a season of death look like you might ask? Well, the excitement and joy that always encompassed my mom was dry… She was a shell of herself in so many ways… She was stagnant, unmoving and unwilling to even try the unfamiliar for fear of the unknown…

Life, the life she’d known for 30 years was gone… Changed in an instant… Halted by death… And understanding how she would pick up the pieces and move forward wasn’t even possible because she kept focusing on things that were making her sad and depressed… She kept looking at the pain and destruction of it all… She wasn’t focused on the life she now had to live, but the death of the life she once had…

Funny thing about death… The more you hang around it, the more you become attracted to it and it’s ways… Because very quickly my sister and I found ourselves somewhat locked into this lifestyle… A lifestyle that wasn’t advancing life forward… And very quickly I found myself saying things like, “Gosh I miss my life. I miss my freedom. I miss the joy that I once had before.”

Now, if you know me at all then you’ll understand that I (almost) always try to figure out how this relates to my spiritual life… How it relates to my relationship with God and spirituality as a whole…

And honestly… Well honestly making sense of this entire year has taken time and I am positive I will continue to look back and try and make sense of it for years to come…

But for now… Well this is what I see…

I believe we, as believers in Christ, are caught in a season of death… That, for the most part, our focus is on the cross… That we look at all the pain he went through and destruction He faced for us, rather than what He did when He was alive on this Earth and what He can do with us now that His Spirit lives in us…

Now, I’m not saying to forget or discredit the cross… It was most definitely a defining moment… But what I am saying is that when we focus on the pain, when we lift up what brought His death, well we can easily slip into a stagnant, stale lifestyle…  We can easily get caught in religion and doctrine and forget that the lifestyle of following Christ is supposed to actually be ALIVE because we have the spirit of God within us today… That He is here to move us forward in our spiritual growth… And I don’t mean picking up a devotional, watching a sermon or attending church… I mean, how many of us actually access the presence of God while sitting in our car or standing in line at the grocery store? How many of us actually know what it means to be involved with the God-head on a daily basis? How many of us can rely on and have relationship with Him without the guidance of our religion?

Because when I look around at church and all this religious propaganda we’ve created, well I just see a stagnant, stale, unmoving group of people… People who are unwilling to move forward with God because it might mean walking away from life as we’ve always known it… Unwilling to just follow wherever the Spirit leads us…

You see, I believe having Him in our lives not only makes life come alive, but He also leads us past all of our comfort zones… I don’t believe He is about staying in one place at one time for too long… There’s too much work to be done… There are too many seasons of refinement, development, maturing and growth He so wants to walk us through… He’s constantly aiming to refine and define us so we can flourish…

And honestly, I don’t know what it’s going to take for us to wake up and realize, as a
whole, we are dead… A group of people who proclaim life, but practice a lifestyle of death…

But I do always hope and believe for better… I have too… In this year I’ve not only witnessed death halting life, but I’ve also witnessed life moving forward for my mother… Sure, some days are slower than others… But everyday we choose to put more faith and hope and love into life, is one more day we are choosing to cultivate a lifestyle of life over a lifestyle death…

Imaginary Life…

As God has continued to truly leave me somewhat stumped on where He’s leading me, I’ve had to make a conscious effort to remain confident… Constantly feeling fear and insecurity about where He’s led me, but then hearing His voice firmly and repeatedly say, “Be confident in ALL of my ways Amanda. ALL of them.”

And so I pick myself up and choose to grasp confidence over fear… Because in this moment He’s working me through something that has truly destroyed me for years… My imagination: my ability to make up stories in my head to escape my current reality…

I’ve done this for years to escape the stress I’ve felt when my parents wouldn’t stop arguing… Or when I felt so insecure because I hated the body I was in… Or when I didn’t know who I was or what I was doing… Basically anytime I’ve felt fear or insecurity, I’ve used my imagination to conjure up a story to make me feel seemingly better…

The downfall? It’s a story… It’s fantasy… It’s fiction… It’s not real… Meaning I’ve left myself filled with disappointment after disappointment… I’ve created a way to get rid of the stress I can’t handle, and in reverse I’ve caused more stress on my soul and mind…

So God has been working me through it all… And it’s really been a huge mountain to climb at this time… When finances are the lowest they’ve ever been, the house won’t seem to sell and the reality of life is at an all time high… Stress, fear and insecurity seem to be the most obvious route for me… Creating illusions to “make it” through this seems to be the easiest, most mind-relieving way to go…

But with God, well I am pulled to learn a new way… A new route… A better way to navigate through life…

And I’m learning that life… Life is what I lack security in… I lack the confidence to admit to myself that this is my reality… I lack the confidence to be confident in the good and the bad… It’s always easy to embrace and love the good… But the bad, who wants that?…

For me, I’d rather ignore the stress of it all and just create a better story in my mind… I’d rather change the story up some and convince myself of a bunch of lies… I’d rather be weak and cope with what I don’t understand than be confident that bad things have happened and I have to navigate through them…

But that’s when God showed me something… He showed me that deeper than being confident in life (the good and evil) is to be confident in eternal life…

Not Heaven or life after death…

But the truth that I have eternal life living in me… And that eternal life is always aiming to take the ugly parts of life and make them beautiful…

I guess you could say He wants me to be confident in the truth that Jesus is alive in me at all times… That Heaven lives in me at all times, and so a solution is in me at all times… Even when I can’t find it, He’s aiming to create a better life for me…

And so that’s how I feel right now… I see this colossal imaginary mountain I’ve created for 25 years and I feel utterly disappointed… And I’m up against another mountain called the reality of life… And they both seem so big, so scary, so much bigger than me… And I want to run and hide and be confident in the fact that I can create to escape them all… But then God says, “No. No just be confident in all my ways. Be confident in eternal life. Be confident in the truth that I am taking all of this disappointment, pain, hurt, confusion, frustration and stress… I am taking it and making it beautiful. I am making you whole. I am making a better way because that, that is what eternal life through my Son does in your life.”

Needy Necklace…

When I turned 16 all I wanted was a digital camera for my birthday… They were new… They were exciting… Plus no one I knew really had one yet…

So when I went to open my gifts on my birthday I was convinced my parents bought me one…

As I prepared to open the last gift, I kept thinking, “The packaging is too small for a camera. Maybe it’s just super small and sleek.”

But the more I tore back the paper the more and more I was disappointed to find a small, black jewelry box…

On inside was the most beautiful necklace I’ve ever received… A heart with alternating diamonds and sapphires… It was a stunning piece… Something my parents wanted me to have as a sign of maturity since I was turning 16…

But there I sat… Trying to be as “excited” as I could be… But then on the inside I was full of disappointment because I didn’t receive what I wanted at all…

Now it’s taken me a few years and a lot of maturity to realize that that necklace is something I appreciate dearly… It’s so precious to my heart and soul… Especially now that my dad is gone…

But something that makes it even more valuable are the lessons it’s taught me throughout the years…

To me it is a symbol of identity because it’s filled with sapphires fitting for my birthday month of September… But then it’s also come to help me accept deeper revelation God has taught me about who I am in Him… Who He’s created me to be and sees me as in His eyes…

Now today I sit in life… Completely disappointed with what God keeps handing me… I want adventure… I want to live… In so many ways, I keep expecting to unwrap a digital camera type of life from Him… Something that let’s me go free from this chapter I am in…

But upon opening everything He’s given me I seem to discover something that’s actually very different… Something that resembles my diamond and sapphire necklace… Something filled with precious value and meaning and identity… Something that He has decided I am mature enough for…

Now my heart is touched by His constant gift of shaping me and molding me into who He needs me to be… But then my soul is severely disappointed because I wanted what was cool, hip and ever evolving…

So I’m left with these questions in mind… What happens when you don’t get what you so desperately want in life, but you do get what you so apparently need? How do you respond to it? How do I continue to make sense of this time in life where I feel somewhat angry and disappointed because I want God to give me what I want, not what I need? How can I be at peace with the fact that He is providing me with what’s of value, not what is easy to come by because it’s part of our current culture? And… How do I actually embrace, “If God sees me mature enough for these gifts, I must be. Even though I don’t feel it or see it or clearly see it at all?”

Being You… Complex?

What’s the biggest challenge of being you? Is it accepting yourself? Loving yourself? Or possibly just being confident in who you are?

What happens when the biggest challenge within you is interchangeable with the person you are at your core? The very essence of you?

For me… As Amanda Nicole…. My biggest challenge of being me is being confident in who I am… And yeah, it’s been an evolution of sorts… But when I dig deep, I know in truth that I’m still not the confident woman I so hope to be…

Now, the person I am at my core is well… To me the person I am, the One I hope to reflect the most is God… His heart… The deepest part of who He is… The purest part of who He is… A place so deep that it takes a walk through fire to truly obtain it in its fullness…

So, my biggest challenge is not just being confident in me, it’s deeper.. Much more complex… It’s being confident in God… In the ways of God… In the ways of His heart…

And it sounds kind of simple… Trust in God… Follow Him… Believe in Him…

But what happens when your heart cries out for more? What happens when the God in you wants more? When He’s asking you to go deeper… To just walk a little bit closer to that fire… To really experience the refine of that burn?

For me… This is my continued challenge at hand… To allow God to keep refining me… To refine me until I am all of myself, but then myself looks nothing like me and everything like Him…

It’s not an easy walk… It’s a challenge that takes days… Weeks… Months… It’s taken years… Heartbreak, loss and severe failure…

But I need this walk… I need it just as much as it needs me… And I don’t know what I’ll “do” with it all, but I do believe it is so rewarding… So meaningful… So purposeful… And it’s allowing me to be confident in Him and ALL of His ways…

Life on the Line…

I found myself sitting at the cemetery today… Why?… I went with mom to pick up the deeds for dad’s plot and the plot she’ll eventually be in…

And I’m not sure why, but death always seems to put life into perspective for me…

Whatever the case, the shortness of life on earth continues to cause me to realize that we should be living life to the very fullest everyday…

Taking risks… Making mistakes… Falling down… Getting back up… It’s all part of the process of this crazy place…

And I guess that’s why I feel more and more encouraged to continue to become confident in following the Holy Spirit…

I said before that I’ve never been confident in the follow… Yes I’m willing and able… But I’m also terrified at the same time…

But then, well if I don’t continue to follow am I even living at all?..

I feel like if I’m not following Him then I’m choosing to follow the ways of the world that surround me…

I mean, if we truly believe in Jesus with our entire heart we should all be following the Holy Spirit…

Life on the line… Head held high… With a heart full of passion and purpose…

When we follow Him there shouldn’t be a question in our minds if we are doing the right/best thing… We should just know and truly trust in the depth of our heart that His way is the best way… That He will not lead us into something bad, but good…

That doesn’t mean He won’t lead us face-to-face with our fears…

The last year of my life seems to be nothing less than facing my fears head on… And you know what, they haven’t destroyed me at all… I’ve actually watched them fall to their knees every time…

And I hope that that continues… I hope, in my deepest of hearts, that I never come to a place in life that I become content… At ease… Ok and settled with what’s hip, average and boring…

Instead, I hope that I always enter everyday with my life in God’s hands… Following the Holy Spirit… Knowing deep down that that could mean my life is on the line, but that living this way is the best way….

I mean, didn’t the disciples and apostles follow where ever they were led?.. We don’t know how to be led today… We don’t know what it means to live like Christ at all… We are more so consumed with comfort in our “Christianity” than the real life of a follower of the Spirit…

I believe He’s a little too exciting for some… A little to reckless for others… And somewhat of a badass in the way He handles where He chooses to take us…

But, with all of this said… I hope to continue to keep living… To keep learning… And more than ever to keep becoming confidently mature in the follow…

Off Road Following 

If you’ve ever read my blogs or know anything about my personal life, then you know I follow the Holy Spirit…

Growing up I was taught, when we accept Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives… He is the Spirit of God that lives within us… And that He brings a great host of personality and power to help us cultivate a better life…

When I was young I really didn’t have a relationship with Him at all… I only knew about Him because of what others told me… 

But, as I grew up I cultivated a relationship with Him… And that relationship is something that I deeply depend on to this day… 

Without Him in my life, I’m pretty sure I’d feel dead and confused… Walking through my days and years as a zombie…

So I’m really grateful to have Him… I believe everyone should have their own personal relationship with Him… And that He speaks to us in different ways…

But lately, well my relationship with Him has become frustrating and all over the place… 

And so I keep asking Him questions in hopes that He’ll show me where He is leading me in life…

Recently He said something to me that truly caught my attention.. “Amanda, you aren’t confident in following me. You always follow, but you aren’t secure in my ways.” 

You see, the goal is always fairly simple and clear, follow Him in all of His ways… Listen to His voice and have faith and hope as you follow…

But the more I follow the more He takes me on an “off road” journey… The kind that’s unmarked and unpaved… And honestly, it makes me nervous…

So nervous that I have emotional breakdowns because I feel so confused… Constantly, I look around at what others are doing in their lives and I realize my life looks absolutely different… And then I think “I can’t be following God. Right now, He’s led me to what feels like a brick wall. How can that be good? How can He be good if I feel stranded?”

You see, being “off road” makes me feel insecure and unsafe… My fears become high as my worries point out all of the darkness and danger I see… 

And no, I haven’t bumped into any of the things I fear yet… But gosh I’m terrified of them…

And then I just continue to hear the Holy Spirit say, “Just follow me. You are fine. You aren’t confused. You’re just following me. Be confident in the follow.”

Which causes me to wonder, “How was my grandmother able to follow so well? She always made following Him look so simple and graceful.”

And that’s when He reminded me of what she used to always say… “Never take your eyes off of Him. Never look away from the ways of Jesus. Always look to Him. Especially when you’re in the midst of the storm. Look at Him and you’ll stay uplifted. Look to Him and you’ll remain secure and at peace.”

I never understood what she meant when she said these things… I never really needed them until now… 

But now He has brought me to a place where I have to look at Him and His ways in order to keep moving forward… Because the worry, fear and doubt are so heavy that He must be the only solution…