Inception

One of my favorite movies is about a man hired to use a dream machine to plant an idea into the mind of another man… It’s called Inception.

In one scene you find Leonardo DiCaprio (he’s the one hired to plant the idea) and his colleagues in a room full of sleeping people who are using the dream machine. One of the men looks at the sleepers, turns to the other men and says, “They come here every day to sleep?” Another man replies, “No. They come to be woken up. The dream has become their reality.”

“The dream has become their reality”… Ironic as it sounds, as I look around at our sleepy culture, I can’t help but think about that line.

You see I believe we, as a whole, are becoming more and more like the sleepers in that room. We’ve convinced ourselves we need the internet and devices to survive. It’s not enough anymore to go through life just being. We’ve found a way to convince ourselves that we need to live in an altered, artificial reality. I can’t share a photo anymore without thinking, “Do I look good enough?” Because I know there are at least a million other women my age using an artificial app to make them look “thinner, thicker, tanner, toner, younger and more flawlessly perfect” than they truly are.

We are living in a dream state. It’s constantly before us every time we pick up these devices to be “social.” And it’s growing to the point that people feel so down on the way their lives really are that they’re physically altering their appearances.

Okay, so I’m not here to talk down on society, but I am here to be honest. I’m here to say we need to WAKE UP! Life… You know, real, actual life is around us. It’s flawed and full of chaos and it might seem unworthy, but it’s REAL and meant to be experienced without the box we all carry in our hands.

And though I don’t know how to help our society wake up and see the truth… I do hope we can find the self-discipline and willpower to put down our mind-altering devices, connect to the supernatural and just live life the way it was originally intended to be. 🌱 #cultivatelife #justlive

(Side note: These photos are what I actually look like. No editing in the posting 🙃)

A Decade in the Making

Okay… Today, I hit the decade mark of losing 100 lbs! So… What does it mean to me to look at the girl on the left, the young woman on the right and the woman in the middle? Well… To me the three make up a cultivated lifestyle of restoration and freedom.

When I finished losing the weight, I didn’t realize I’d spend the next 10 years allowing Jesus to refine, develop, mature and grow me as a whole.

So when I look at these three photos I don’t see me… Instead I see Him… I see what He’s done in me.

You see, He’s taken a girl who was incredibly insecure, fearful, anxious, prideful, selfish, jealous and bitter… And He’s transformed her into a woman that’s confident, secure, courageous, at peace with the unknown, humble (I still struggle), selfless, grateful and full of joy towards others and myself!

When I started this journey I thought I knew Jesus. I thought I knew Father God. I thought I knew the Holy Spirit. I grew up believing in them, but life and death have taught me that I didn’t know them at all because I hadn’t experienced them on a personal level.

So today I can confidently say they are my foundation and source of life. Together, they constantly keep me strong, healthy and secure. While the past versions of me desperately searched for identity and security, today I believe I stand still on the truth that I can’t be shaken, tossed or turned. My life and all that I am is in Him.

And while the world around me continues to try to show me why I’m not thin enough, thick enough, tan enough, flawless enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, successful enough or even “godly” enough… Well guess what? His opinion of me is all that matters. And He says, “You’re more than enough Amanda because I’ve helped you become a new creation and given you new life through Christ.” 🌱 #cultivatelife

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?”

Loving My Body…

Just recently I had a conversation with a friend about health and fitness…

Knowing the journey I’ve been on in life with my weight, image and overall approach to health, she asked if I had “gained a better understanding” of what it means to gain our confidence from within…

I thought about it for a moment… And then realized something…

Honestly, it’s taken me time to respect my inner beauty over my outer beauty…

I definitely feel more confident when clothes fit me well, but the place I was in 3 years ago was scary… I let outer beauty and its importance take me over… It became such a form of control in my life…

But then… Living and working out here in Cali taught me so much about myself…

And I think just being in an environment everyday where I didn’t feel judged by anyone for the way I looked definitely helped… Kimora was a supermodel, but she never looked down on me for the way I did or did not look… She really just helped me accept myself… And I’m still not sure how…

And the kids too… They didn’t love me for the way I looked… They loved me for being myself and giving them what they needed, 120% of the time…

But… I think more than anything, just accepting myself helped has cured me…

Accepting who I am internally has caused me to love who I am externally… I will never ever be super tiny… I’m taller and bigger boned than what Ive been taught I should be… And my chest I broader, which I’ve always disliked…. And I don’t have huge boobs, which I’ve also disliked before…

Plus, I hated all of the stretch marks and extra skin left on my body from weighing so much for so many years…

But the truth is, no one sees any of this but me… And if people care, then they aren’t looking at my heart… They see surface things…

This is my body…  It’s my story… I live my life in it everyday and it deserves to be appreciated as much as my spirit and soul do…

Plus, I’m going to live every single day in this frame for the rest of my life, so I have to continue to learn to love it…

And… As silly as it may sound… I recently started speaking and sending more positive thoughts to the parts of my body I still struggle loving, and it’s helping SO much!..

Life Giver…

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A few weeks ago someone spoke the words “life giver” to me…

And since then… Well they’ve just made sense…

Because when I think about life… All that it is… All that it can become… All that is possible… All that I believe for and that I have worked for and that I believe for in others… Well I continue to want to give those thoughts away….

Essentially I want to improve the quality of life around me… To make it more alive…

And I think… Actually I believe… That as I continue to discover the woman that I want to be… Well I believe it is best for me to begin with the fact that I am a life giver…

In a way… It’s something I’m passionate about…

I never thought I would say I was passionate about anything…

For a good while I’m questioned and even thought and believed I have no passion… That only some do… And that others… Like myself… Well we don’t… That we can live without them…

But as I continue to live signals continue to confirm and point me to the fact that I love to give life…

Now don’t get me wrong… You can find me equally destroying and stealing life too… Over of gossip, jealously and bitterness…

But for the most part I just want to give… I want to give to so much around me…

And I think with time I will learn that continuing to strength this one quality about myself… Well I think I will learn that it can and it is a foundation for my life… For the woman I want to become…

Because from that phrase “life giver”… Well you can find forgiveness, grace, kindness, goodness, love and the faith I believe I need for the woman I am going to become…

And I’m sure throughout the journey I will find other qualities… More truths that fit into and compliment this phrase…

But for now… It stands on it’s own…

And I cannot wait to discover, accept, embrace and become the true meaning of this life giving phrase….

The Woman I Want to Be….

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Being honest with myself is a treasure… Sometimes I fear that I’m not honest enough… That I hide things from myself in order to protect me from reality…

Other times I think I’m too honest with myself… Too hard on me… Too real with the person that I am… And not focused enough on the person that I’ve become through the process of life…

But lately I’ve had these thoughts… And that’s what they are right now… Just thoughts… Thoughts about the woman I want to be…

But the way I’ve chosen to think this over doesn’t involve criticism… It more involves curiosity and hope…

Because as I see myself getting older… Growing up more and more… I have to admit… I’m not some college aged kid anymore… But I don’t feel like an adult either… Sure I do adult things like working a full-time, nonstop job, paying bills and constantly cleaning house… But I still don’t feel like an adult…

And I’m not sure what point in life decides that we are adults… Maybe when I’m thirty I’ll realize that I’m finally an adult… But today… Today in this moment… Well I am searching some for the woman I want to be…

So in all honesty… As I look at women I admire… Well I see them as very strong, spiritual backbones and pillars of their homes… And I don’t mean the churchy, preachy, scripture reading woman I grew up around… I mean legit women who aren’t all that afraid of anything… Women that are vulnerable and honest… That have experience to draw from… And that are full of wisdom… Not knowledge and understanding…

Because one day I hope to be able to provide my family and children with practical advice that works and that can make their lives easier to manage and sail through…

It’s funny to think how my life has evolved and come to this point… Because through the decisions I’ve made it’s at a place where it could and can go absolutely anywhere…

And I don’t know where it will go… Where I might end up next… But I do see my next direction…. And it’s simply based upon the woman that I want to become… The woman that I want to grow into… The truth of myself that I want to leave behind in the lives of others…

And for me… Right now… Well I think it’s exactly where I need to be….

Being Human…

Why are we considered human once we’ve gone through tragedy?… What does it make us realer?… More reachable and accepting….

I’ve been thinking about that for the last 24 hours… And I continue to think about the amount of compassion and understanding that follows a tragedy…

Once we’ve been affected in a certain way…. Well it seems like we’re just more open… More willing to understand life…

So then my question is… Do we need tragedies?… Pain… Suffering… Deep, deep hurt?… Are those things necessary in a sense to draw us closer?… And if so, well why?…

And I know it’s not my job to ask questions like this anymore… But I do wonder… And I am curious… Curious about it all… Because it seems like these intense moments of pain help shape who we are… They can really give us a real factor… A reality check… An awareness of how alive and short life truly is…

And in the midst of it… Well I find myself more loving and accepting of the people around me… And then I find myself irritated when I’m not understanding enough… I’ll think “come on Amanda, you can do better than that. You can be kinder than that. You can consider what that person is or might be going through.”….

Because at the end of the day… Well what if that one of the purposes of this life… To accept ourselves and others… Flaws and all… Misunderstanding included… To just reach out and say, “I see that life is taking you up a giant mountain, but it’s okay because I’m not going to judge you. I’m not going to talk down about you. And I’m not going to make your load heavier as your climb. I’m just going to stand by you and walk and encourage.”…

I wish I could always be that way… Encouraging and inspiring towards those around me… Understanding enough to realize I don’t understand it all… And that I just need to be kind… But I guess that’s part of the learning curve of life….

And I also think it’s part of me taking the tragedy I’ve been through… The one that’s still fresh… Still new… And allowing it to be what it is… Allowing it to remind me that I am only human… And that those around me are human as well… And that they’ve probably faced something much worse than me…

So if that’s where I am in this moment… In this space and time… Well I’ll take it…