brokenness · darkness · death · grief · healing · Spirit

Year Five

Five years ago today I watched my dad take his last breath. All in one moment the reality of death made his appearance in my life.

You see it was evidently clear that I was starring at my dad, but then at the same time I wasn’t.

Every part of him (the smile, the jokes, the instigation I couldn’t stand, the love, the brilliant gifting that made him unique)… It was gone. His essence… His soul… His spirit… The aura that filled his body was gone. And so he was gone.

And so that was the moment… The moment I realized life… Life really, truly is temporal. And our bodies…. Our bodies really are nothing more than the vessel we use to travel in while we’re here on earth.

So now you might be thinking, “Amanda, why are you sharing this?” Well… To be completely honest with you, I just really care about the health of people. Actually, let me rephrase that…. I care about the inner health of people. I care that we are alive on the inside. I care that we thrive on the inside. I care that we find grace, love, forgiveness and healing; and then that we maintain that healing long after our moment of transformation.

You see in today’s culture I believe it’s so easy to get caught up in our outer appearance, race, sexual orientation, religion and political background… But don’t forget, before any of that can matter, we are all intangible on the inside first and foremost. We’re all created with some type of God-spark that makes us eternal and immortal.

And so I guess that’s why I’m writing this…. Because I want to remind you and encourage you to look past the surface of what you can see and shift your focus to what you can spiritually feel. Because the health of that “thing” inside of you, that “thing” we all so casually overlook, is what is truly alive in life. 🌱 #cultivatelife

faith · freedom · grief · healing · Mind · soul

End the Anger

Anger has been coursing through my veins lately… And while I do realize that the anger is only really harming me, I don’t want to make peace with it. Instead, I keep hoping that it will eventually touch the person I’m angry with and make that person feel pain too.

Life just feels so unfair and unjust sometimes. And I guess the unfairness and injustice I feel has led to my anger.

I’m having a hard time making peace with it too. It constantly runs circles in my mind, and throws my emotions for a whirl.

A wise person said, “Amanda, the unfairness you feel is a result of brokenness and incompleteness. You’re seemingly whole in God and you’re angry because you want that for this person. The amount of brokenness and incompleteness is hurting you. You have to let go and move forward.”

And while I know all of these things are true, sometimes it’s just so challenging to move forward. You know?

And then when I seemingly do… When I’ve made peace… Well there are always these little voices that pop up and remind me of the past. Saying things like, “Well what about this time when this person hurt you here and made you feel so small, insecure and incomplete. Be angry with the life you’ve been robbed of Amanda. Be angry.”

But you know, I’m just so tired of this rollercoaster. And so I’m trying… I’m truly trying to get off of this ride so I can move forward towards the life God continues to unfold in front of me 🌷🙌🏻 #cultivatelife

brokenness · death · family · grief · healing · love of god · pain · restore · strength

I Cry

I laid in bed the night before last and wanted to cry because I felt so weak… So emotional… So caught in the chaos and frustration of life.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Life is good. Life is very, very good. But… Sometimes I just want to cry. Sometimes I do cry. I cry about the loss of life my family has experienced. I cry about how God is going to seemingly continue to restore everything and make sense of the pain I feel. I cry because I am weak, and only made strong and stable through Him alone.

It’s funny, people say to me all the time, “Amanda, you’re so strong. You’ve encountered so much and been through so much adversity. You handle it so well. You’re just so strong.”

And as true as my strength appears, none of it… not a single ounce… is found within myself. God literally allowed my world to shake so hard, to the point that there was nothing left to hold onto but Him.

And so when life reminds me of loss… When it reminds me of pain… When I’m left in a constant haze of “why” followed by streams of tears down my face… Well I remember that He’s there. I remember that God is sitting with me while I sit in my closet and cry, hoping for a solution to this madness called life. I remember that my pursuit of Him is the only solution I’ll ever need because He is the only One that keeps me consistently full, at peace and alive! 💃🏻⚔️🎄 #cultivatelife

brokenness · darkness · death · freedom · grief · healing · love of god

Thanks Death

I’m not one to wallow and get down about life and what I’ve lost, but lately I’ve found myself missing my dad more than I can explain. It’s sometimes unsettling the way he’s constantly on my mind, and then I’m forced to think about my reality. My mind begins to remind me that death happened, but that life has continued to go on around me.

And though it is so challenging to understand why he died so young. And though I miss him and the life my family had before he was taken from this earth… Well I am still so grateful to have experienced death.

You see there’s just something so motivating to me about death. I believe death is a being, and I believe anytime we experience him we must respect him even though he’s been so seemingly disrespectful to us.

You see death left an imprint on my life. He left an imprint so wide and so deep that it sometimes felt unbearable to breathe again.

However, since my dad’s death I’ve been thrusted into this place of living. A place that’s forced me to stare down death and decide that I will not allow my experience with him to define me in a negative way, but in a positive one.

Because of death I live freer. I love harder. I think more in-depth. I take risks. I consider others. And though he’s helped toss my world upside down, I give more. I’ve gained more. I stop and think of others and where they might be in life because there is a compassion inside of me that wasn’t there before I met him.

And… Although it’s so challenging to not become angry and bitter with God, I’ve found myself more connected to Him than ever before. He’s shown me what true love is. And within that true love I never feel truly broken or without.

And though I don’t know where you stand today, what you’ve lost or how utterly broken you may feel… Please know this. I believe it’s very healthy to feel every ounce of death. But then I also believe it’s so healthy to live life to it’s very fullest. To love with every part of our hearts we can love with. And though it’s challenging to forgive and not become angry with God, I’ve found that He will fill in the broken and battered pieces when we’re ready to let Him in again.

cultivation · darkness · death · family · grief

Year Three…

This time of year will come and go every year… For the rest of my life…

And honestly, well it has gotten easier… But I wanted to share how I feel about being three years into life without my father…

Three years without dad has been different… It’s been strange… I’ve grown up… I’ve had to learn to put my complete and total confidence in God as my Father…

His death has motivated me to just live life and take what comes as it comes… To be a better problem-solver… And then, to place my faith in my Heavenly Father when I no longer know how to solve those problems…

I’ve watched my mother struggle with her reality… Struggle with her identity, confidence and security… And she’s really been on her own, coasting through life… Without much support…

She is now the strongest woman I know… Because she’s lost more than any human I know, but she still gets up everyday and tries… Even when she feels lost and confused…

I think what I want to say more than anything is… We live in a day and age where we are so connected, yet we aren’t a community of people that truly love one another and are there for each other…

We are more there when it’s convenient… Or when tragedy strikes… But then once the smoke dies down, we are gone… Back to our own lives, our own drama… Our own selfish intent… I am equally at fault for this…

We live behind screens and black boxes that promise to keep us close and connected, but are really tearing us apart…

Yes, you now know some of my thoughts and feelings because of this this blog… But have you taken the time to actually get to know me, my story, my ups and downs…

Are we learning, growing and cultivating life together?.. Or are we filled with useless information about one another?…

What if we took the time to care a little bit more?… To put down those black boxes and actually do life together… To actually do more than send a text message… But to go out of our way to help those in our community?.. To build one another up, rather than tear one another down?..

And, if you have a platform… Use it for life… Stop playing into society’s lie that we have to “have it all”… New clothes, shoes, swimsuits and cars always…

Trust me… It doesn’t do anything uplifting for the spirit and soul… And when you lay in bed alone at night, it cannot and will not bring you the comfort and peace you are longing for…

Because spiritual treasures are only found within the intangible… Within the heart of Father God…

Which is why, losing my father has taught me to love hard… To look around… To help those that might be having a bad day… To lift people up and encourage them… To get out of my own selfish agenda and become a part of something bigger than me… Even if that means smiling at the stranger next to me… Or God forbid building community and relationship with those outside of my race, religion or my way of thinking!… Shocking right?…

Truth is meant to open our eyes to a new world… To the reality of life… To motivate us to become something better… Something greater than we were before we saw it…

And… Death, death has been truth in my life… It has opened my eyes and drawn back the curtain so that I can see what’s authentic, real and true… It’s given me dark times… But it’s also given me life…

Death, I respect you as a whole… You are very wise in your teachings…

And now, I have faith in the truth, that we have come to a time where, if we don’t place our complete identity, security and confidence in God… Then life will be harder than it’s ever been… If we do not turn to Him and solely Him for all of our needs, we will become more lost, confused and deceived than ever before…

And who really wants that?.. I don’t want that for myself, my family, my friends or even someone I meet on the streets…

So if you’ve followed this blog for 3 years, thank you… Thank you for listening to me try to make sense of my world in a public setting… Even if you don’t agree with what I say, I appreciate the fact that you took the time to read…

There’s a heart and soul behind these words… And I believe we are all worthy of expressing ourselves in our own God-given way…

And, I hope, more than ever… You are encouraged to just live life… To become secure and confident in Father God when your life is shaken to it’s core… To have faith in Jesus… Not so that you can go to Heaven, but so that you can receive good in life, even when the world says you should receive bad for the bad thongs you’ve done…

And most importantly, to me, that you allow the Spirit of God to lead and direct every step you take… Even when it means moving home to help your mom finish moving through this thing called “life without dad”…

death · grateful · grief · healing · pain · redeem · restore

Time… A Healer?

I’ve heard it said at least a thousand times now, “Time… Time will help you heal from the death and great absence of your father.. Time will make it easier to live without him”…

And I hate to be the barer of bad news… But… Time, I’m sorry… You haven’t been my source of healing…

For me, experiences, people, places and just Life in general have made it easier to live without him…

New experiences have shaped the way my mind thinks and the the way I feel…

New people have helped open my eyes to see how relatable I’ve become to a group of people I was never relatable to before…

New places have given me the opportunity to try new things…

And Life… Life you’ve given me so much… I feel like you and Death have worked together with Father God to help me heal in ways I never thought I’d be healed… Because you’ve even helped heal things in my soul that became broken before the death of my father…

And so… With all due respect to Time, I’d like to give the credit to other things for a moment…

Because without Father God’s love, Life’s newness and Death’s reality… Well I wouldn’t be who I am right now…

And I am so grateful for the woman I am right now… For the woman I’ve become…

And as hard as it is to admit, I am grateful for the death of my father… It’s made me stronger, wiser, bolder, more confident…

His absence has helped me appreciate Life and my own life so much more… It’s given me so much grace, compassion and love in my heart to share with others…

And, most importantly, it’s helped shape my destiny and purpose in life more than any experience I’ve ever had…

So, again, Time with all due respect… I’d like to simply shine a light on the healing power of Father God, Life and Death for a brief moment… I’d like to shine a light, and then encourage anyone that might feel broken and lost without someone you’ve cherished so dearly in Life… Please know, I’ve felt the same way… I’ve cried myself to sleep at night in disbelief of this trajedy… And I’ve even yelled and screamed and done things that weren’t healthy… All in an effort to make the pain and hurt go away… But then I’ve also learned, newness… The embrace of newness in the time of loss and grief, it’s pivotal moving forward… To moving upward and onward… To becoming a complete and whole person again…

death · family · goodness of god · grief · power

Mom-Mom…

img121Not knowing yesterday morning what was in store, I ended my journal entry with the statement that He is “always good”… Fitting for someone who used that line as an honest pillar in her life…

Right now… Now is the time I could easily say, “I don’t know what I’ll do without her”… But that’s not true at all…

Because many, if not most, will miss Delores Winder… The prayer warrior… The one who could heal with the power of God… The one who helped change people’s lives… The one with a powerful, powerful story and testament of true, authentic healing… The one with so much wisdom and love…

But, well… I’ll just miss Mom-Mom… The woman who was my grandmother… The woman no one saw but her family and close, close friends… The one who taught me how to bake, write letters to people and always took the time each year to take my sister and I on vacation with our grandfather… “One day all you’ll have left are these memories of us together,” she would constantly say…

I’m going to miss Mom-Mom like crazy… She was one of the only people that drove me absolutely insane at times, but I still loved her like no one else…

We were so much a like… Bossy, controlling, know-it alls… We both needed to have the “right” answer all the time… Haha!…

She would say, I pushed her buttons a lot… Because if she didn’t have the answer, and I knew deep down there was another way or a better way, well we would argue about it… And I would go on a quest to find it… At first this was a struggle… Me wanting more truth than I’d been given, her telling me that was it… Me believing there was more, discovering the more and then giving it to her…

After a while, well she finally just wanted to know what I’d learned… So we could talk about it together…

So to say I will miss the wisdom God gave her, the way she prayed and the things she taught would be untrue… Because Mom-Mom spent her time pouring every ounce of what she had into mine and my sister’s very beings… She knew that one day she would be gone and we would need it all… To teach others… To love others… To help direct people towards the Holy Spirit and His inner healing…

And so I believe that’s what makes this year so significant for me yet again…

Since entering the nursing home in January, I’ve really had no contact with her… And as pieces of my identity, security and confidence have been shaken from me, well the best choice I’ve found is to just follow God’s lead… Even when I can’t see… And though it’s truly been a shaky year, I believe she would be happy to know that her death hasn’t shaken me at all…

Yes, yes I am very, very sad… But I’m not broken or broken-hearted… More than anything, I feel firmer than ever…

And so I guess, well… I just want to tell her thank you… From the bottom of my very heart, thank you for loving me the way no one has ever loved me before… Thank you for believing in me and what God has given me to do in life… Thank you for teaching me how good God actually is… Thank you for the ups and downs in our relationship, they truly shaped me… Thank you for being my best friend…

And more than anything, thank you for showing me that life cannot be lived to it’s fullest without being healthy and whole from the inside out… That our spirit, soul and body have to be in alignment with Him… And that inner healing, well to me is just another way to say, “it’s time to cultivate life”…

death · grief · identity · pain

Story and Identity…

Recently I sat asking myself questions about me…

In the midst, there was a statement asking for a description of a life experience I’ve been through that’s completely shaped who I am…

So, I sat there for a moment… And thought… Because I truly wanted to give an honest answer…

And so I decided that watching my father die had actually shaped me the most… Because it was the most heartbreaking, yet fascinating moment of my life… I can’t replace it with anything… It was amazing and significant to watch, and it truly changed me from the inside out… I will never be the same…

From that moment… Death, the reality of it… Well it became a part of my story…

Our story is who we are… The light… The dark… The pain… The smiles… The ups… The downs… The backwards… The forwards… The regret… The joy…

All that we experience, it’s contained within us… Within our story of life… And our story continues to go as we continue to live… Because it exists as we exist…

And when we are gone… Well hopefully we left such a story, a truth, realities of life that it’s all very worth sharing…

Because can you imagine not knowing?… Not understanding a person for who he or she really is or was?… We do it every single day… Everywhere we go, I believe we judge mostly because we don’t know what’s stored in the depth of another… The light that can be found beneath all of the darkness… Whatever it may be… It is there…

Of course… I equally believe the fullness of life comes through God’s love and the grace of Jesus… But then what?…  Then how do we actually figure out who we are?… What’s past love and grace?… What does that grace card actually grant us access too?… And how do we begin to actually live amazing, fulfilling, truly authentic lives?…

I believe identity is the solution… Because, when we begin to capitalize on what it means to just be us and to be us really, really well… Well, we can discover our identity is found in our story because it is who we are… Our strengths and weaknesses… The way in which we choose to handle life then versus now…

And so then we can come to a place where we judge a little less… Accept and embrace one another a little more… And choose to actually give the person next to us a sense of selflessness, rather than a sense of judgement and inferiority…

family · grief

This Christmas

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/781/13106950/files/2014/12/img_2034.jpgIt’s not even that the holidays are hard… They just aren’t the same… Christmas isn’t the same without you dad…

Dad… You were the one that got everyone excited and in the Christmas spirit… And has odd as it seems… Well we didn’t learn this until your absence…

Because without you mom doesn’t want to decorate… She just doesn’t feel motivated to do Christmas….

You were like a little kid every year… Pressuring everyone to be Christmasy and bright… And making sure the tree was up and all the decorations were ready to go…

And it just doesn’t seem fair that you aren’t here…

And we actually decided not to exchange gifts this year… The effort to buy things was just so unnecessary… I mean we have everything we need… And how do you feel a void this big?… Because we all just want you back…. Here with us…

So this year… Well I guess we’ve started new traditions… We’ve done things differently to keep us merry and our spirits lifted… And we’ve done them together…

I’ll have to admit… Seeing Songs of the Season was sad for me… I realized that the last time I was in the church was for your funeral… And then before that it was for the Easter parade production… The last thing we did together as a family… And then a few of the songs had me so teary eyed and sad…

And then there’s the whole “not exchanging gifts things”… And of course I want to give our family members something… So we’ve put together baskets and such… Making this Christmas the least expensive on Winder record… I guess you would like that…

But don’t worry… We still spent 2 hours in Hobby Lobby… Shopping all of the isles… Mom needed to check out everything and I let her… Hey it’s the only store we were going to…

And then last night we made a gingerbread house… And it was so much fun… We actually did it on the coffee table in the living room…

Yes… I did put newspaper down… No it wasn’t enough… Yes… There was powdered sugar everywhere… And I was just waiting for you to walk in a bitch at us about making a “mess” and being too “loud” while you were sleeping…

And it’s just so much to have you gone… And we’re staying happy and positive… But I still hate to see mom cry… And I have great hope for her… But gosh she misses you so much…

Today was the worst in a way… I was making Christmas gifts… Printing pictures for them… And mom and B were helping me pick some out… But that turned into looking through pictures from the past… Which turned into tears and more sadness…

But we picked mom up and pulled her together enough to go to Walmart so she could get the things to make her famous Spice Tea… And it’s just one more reason you’d be happy that this is the least expensive Christmas in Winder history…

More than anything though dad… I think I’m learning again… Or more like being reinforced with the truth that the holidays aren’t about things at all… They are about family and savoring the time we spend together… Every moment of it….

I don’t even want to think of presents… The thought makes me kind of sick… Because nothing fills the whole that’s missing… Not even the cookie I just ate…

Nothing will bring you back… Because you’re gone forever…. But I can continue to make these memories and cherish them forever…

And I know mom thinks this Christmas sucks because it’s unlike any other… But honestly I feel so rich and so blessed to be able to be home for 16 days and spend time with the ones I love…

Because dad… At the end of the day… That’s what really matters to me the most…

The time we’ve all spent together… Even though it’s without you.. It’s been good and laughter and tears have brought us closer… And I love each person close to me a little more…

And dad… I guess I just want you to know I’m grateful for you… Even though you aren’t here… Well you’re still teaching me lessons on life and showing me how to gain fullness here on earth… And I’m just so thankful…

And I want you to know I love you… I love you so very much… Because death is beautiful in so many ways… So thanks dad….

Oh and don’t worry… I made chocolate chip cookies… Even though you aren’t here… And mom and B ate the best one… Someone had to eat it because… Well you aren’t here to do it…

darkness · grief · heart · refine · vulnerability

The Memory Tree

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/781/13106950/files/2014/12/img_1849.jpg
Since I was around the age of 15 I’ve complained about one thing… I didn’t think we had any family holiday traditions….

I’d look around at other families during the holidays… I’d see their festiveness and annual excitement and I’d think “gosh, I wish my family had some tradition”….

So as I got older I’d try and find ways to create some tradition for my family… Like Christmas Eve dinners at a nice restaurant or opening presents a specific ways…

And my family would always get annoyed with me…

And I guess I basically believed that my family was so boring and so out of date… And that we didn’t do anything truly cool or traditional for the “Winders”….

So it was ironic tonight… Tonight as I was hanging ornaments on the tree… The tree mom kept bare until Bridge and I got home… So the three of us could decorate it together….

And as we were decorating… Mom said “this tree is a memory tree. I think we should call them memory trees”….

Now every tree is different… The decoration process I mean… But ours… Well ours is unique….

For every place we’ve ever traveled together as a family, mom has purchased an ornament…. We have snow skiers from Crested Butte, Vail and Keystone… Football Santas from the years we went to NOLA for the Dome… Several starfish from the beach…. Christmas in NYC…. Disney Princesses….

And then we also have ornaments for the activities we did… Cheerleaders…. Ballerinas… And of course BAMA football…

And then there are the ones made to put pictures of us in when we were kids…

And of course their are the handmade ones from preschool…. Mom loves those the most….

And we can’t forget “the three bears”…. Not sure where they came from… Or the toys that mom turned into ornaments because we loved them so much….

And true to Andrea form…. Each ornament has a date on it… The year we got it… And some of an extra kick like “ECA”….

But the beautiful thing was… As I unwrapped each special ornament… I began to realize mom’s words are so true…

Our tree is a memory tree… Because it’s full of moments we shared as a family… It’s a reminder that we went “there” and did “that”….

And with the absence of dad this holiday… Well the tree and the ornaments are that much more special and close to my heart…

And in the midst of all the decorating… I got lost in the moment and realized… We do have a tradition…

And all of those years I spent wanting one… Well we were creating one as a family… And now we have this beautiful tradition…. One that I hope to pass down to my kids and grandkids…

I get that some people like their ornaments to look the same and fit a mold of specific color…

But I feel like ours is just right… Because we are the Winders… And we have a beautiful story to tell through our memory tree…

And in a few years… When we look back at the Empire State Building…. Olaf… And Mary Poppins…. Well… We’ll know that was the first Christmas without dad… But more than that… We’ll be able to remember that was first Christmas we changed the name of our tree….

And you know what…. I’m more than ok with that…