Painless Days

Remember a few months ago when I said I was doing a lot ofoff road following with God?.. Well, guess what?… We’re still “off road” and I honestly have no idea where I’m going…

Plus, to make things a little bit riskier, my “New Year’s resolution” is to not plan… To not think ahead of today… To just be in the now… To let life and God surprise me… To get really up close and personal with the unknown and unfamiliar…

And, although it might sound ridiculous, I’m quickly learning that life is much better like this… There are less things to stress and worry about and more things to enjoy… Because if I’m being completely honest with myself, stress and worry only create unnecessary pain in my life…

And… I don’t really need anymore pain… It’s taken far too long to get rid of the pain of the past… Creating more is just, well it’s exhausting…

But this idea of living one day at a time… Not thinking about tomorrow… Not stressing about next week… Not wondering where I’ll be when this house sells…

This idea is giving me life…

It’s providing me with what seems like more time to rest and relax in the truth that God is going to continue to meet right where I am… That I don’t have to make anything happen any faster than it’s supposed to happen… And, that if I can just continue to stay diligent and disciplined to Him and His ways, well we will continue to make a great team that moves forward in life…

And honestly it’s taken me a long time to be at a place where I can let go of my control… In my mind, my control somehow guarantees I won’t lose in life… Somehow I’ve convinced myself that pain and problems won’t happen if I can predict tomorrow…

But, you know what? Letting go of tomorrow has actually given me the energy to be in today… And if a problem does arise, it’s so much easier to find a solution without the worries of tomorrow and next week getting in my way… My soul feels lighter too, and I can actually think without impending emotions getting in my way…

So, I know it goes against the curve and culture of today, but I’m just fine with just living in the present… I mean, we only have now anyway… Right?

Sassy and Entitled

When I was 14 years old all I wanted was a pink iPod mini… I mean, Apple had just really started to become cool and I “needed” one…

However, my parents didn’t just buy us whatever we wanted when we wanted it… We’d almost always have to wait until a birthday or Christmas… So I knew this was going to take some great convincing on my end…

For days I went round and round explaining to dad why I needed this new gadget… Finally, he decided if I helped him clean up his job site he would give me the money for the iPod mini…

So I agreed… And, for two weeks, in the heat of a Louisiana summer I cleaned up sheetrock inside of a 3-story house he was completing…

Of course, there were days  that I would whine and complain and get super sassy… I mean, “Come on, can’t dad just give me the money now” is all I would think…

But he was persistent that I finish the job and finish it well…

Now, don’t get me wrong… I don’t mind getting dirty or working hard today, but in that moment I was not about having to walk 3 houses down from my house everyday to be the clean up crew… I mean, I was super entitled

Entitlement… It’s a interesting word… An interesting word that I keep bumping into in the most random places… I’ve actually come face-to-face with it so many times lately that I decided to really search myself out… Asking God to reveal how entitled my heart is…

And, you know what I found?… I’ve discovered that deep in my heart is a place that believes I deserve all of the goodness around me… Somewhere in there my mind is convinced that life should stay on the rise, without falter…

I honestly believe I’ve taken complete and total advantage of the blessings I have too…

For example, this house we live in right now… All I can seem to focus on is the fact that it won’t sell and that we are losing money because of it… I can’t seem to see that I should be grateful to have the opportunity to even live in a house like this… I mean, I didn’t work hard to make the money to afford it… That’s what my parents did…

I also didn’t work hard for the finances that are paying the bulk of the bills to be here… Again, my parents did that… But I am so sassy all of the time about how much it sucks that we are in this situation…

I keep forgetting that I need to continue to cultivate a lifestyle of gratefulness... My heart and soul keep tip-toeing around the truth that the life I live is free from a lot of baggage, but that other people (and God) worked really hard so that I can live this way…

It wasn’t free for some… I had to watch my parents overcome a lot of adversity to build what my mom has today… It wasn’t a walk in the park for them…

And I don’t want to be entitled… Quite honestly I can’t stand to be around it when I see it in others… But then, well I reject it so harshly inside of myself…

You see, I guess what I am trying to express is that I need God to really help me become grateful for the things I don’t deserve but have been given… I really need Him to help me cultivate another level of humility…. A level that is willing to stay small because my identity and faith is in Him and Him alone… A mindset that is fixed on the truth that His Son gave me the freedom to live a lifestyle free from pain… And that, when I encounter pain, He will use what I don’t really deserve to rebuild and restore an area of my heart and soul… An area that is a little darker and eviler than it should be… An area that is longing to be filled with so much grace and gratitude…

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…

Do Not Resuscitate

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I find myself questioning a lot right now…. In my own mind and with mom… Actually my conversation with mom sparked these thoughts..

We were discussing how awful it must be for Joan Rivers family… To have to make a decision like taking someone off of life support…. to hold the keys to life and death in your hands…. how awful would that be?

I think it would be so hard…. and I’m so thankful for the decision dad made…. to have “do not resuscitate”….

Thinking about it all right now…. well it kind of seems like a blur…. Did it all really happen? Did we really live through the tragic death of my father? The tragic discovery and quick downfall of a man in his early 50s with stage 4 cancer? Did that really happen, or am I dreaming?

I wish I was dreaming…. I really do…

Looking back now…. well, I realize that I may have lived through one of the most difficult and challenging times of my life… I still can’t believe it all happened and so very fast…. my mind is still swarming….

But this “do not resuscitate” thing has me thinking…. wondering and curious over the decision itself…

Dad said he made the decision based on a conversation he had with my grandmother…. that she has or wants the same…. Ironically when she coded 3 years ago they brought her back to life…. but that’s a different story and thought line…

Right now I’m focused on his decision because it seems like the one that is affecting me and my world the most….. the choice to well continue on with death if his heart stopped….

He said he choose this because why keep him here if that’s his time? Why allow man to bring him back to life with machines if God was ready for him to be in eternity? And I can see that perspective… that point of view…. but then I see it from the other perspective…

Isn’t modern medicine a modern day miracle? And if so, doesn’t that justify bringing someone back to life? Shocking their heart back into reality so they can breathe more and experience more time on this earth?

But if not, do we have a right where God is concerned to mess with the life of someone? Have several people lived that should’ve been dead? And, is it important to persevere life because we want someone here? Someone we love dearly close to us?

So many questions like this swarm my mind…. and honestly, I still can’t get over the fact that I watched my dad die…. that he took his last few breathes in front of the five of us…. it just seems so surreal and unreal…. like it didn’t really happen because it’s something you see in a movie….

Why? Why did this have to happen? Why am I stuck in a position of encouraging my sister that someone will come along and believe in her the way dad did? Why do I have to hear my mom cry when talking about how sad and depressed she is when she sees couples together… especially old couples? Why do I have to hear and think about that she’ll never get to grow old with dad? And why do I have to call my grandmother and know that she’s not alright…. that she’s down because it’s opening Sunday for the NFL and all she wants is dad there to watch the Saints and Cowboys games?

All of this seems so unfair…. so ridiculously unfair and not right…. But I know deep down in my heart that it’s part of life…. that it’s part of the consequence of the world we live in…. that no matter how much I could’ve helped… well I couldn’t have helped…

Because at the end of the day we make choices…. in a way I believe we kind of help choose where our lives take us…. and as much as it sucks to know that dad’s ended this way…. that all of our choices helped him get here… and that he’s never returning… well I have to live with that….

But I wish that I could bring him back…. that I didn’t have to text his phone and hope deep down that he’s receiving the message somehow…. I know life here is petty… not too important… but I believe he still cares 100%….

And I think all of this is teaching me a lesson in this very moment…. to love…. to live and to love deeply… and find someone and something that you are crazy passionate about…. that it’s enough to love from far away….

I feel like he’s so far away right now…. but the idea of dad’s love for all of us and his passion for building… well it makes him feel very close…. like he’s here right now…. even though he never will be again….

Shouldn’t we all love though? Find someone or something to love deep enough that only time can separate us until we are all together again? And if so, doesn’t that make the idea of death a little better? To know someone out there…. other than God… is extending their love… their hope.. their belief… and their presence to us…. and that one day when we aren’t able to be resuscitated anymore either… well… it will make the situation that much greater because we’ll be together again?