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

Jaded Heart?

Unfortunately, it’s been quite a challenge to accept God’s love lately. I’ve just been so caught up in pain, anger, bitterness and sorrow. And, for a brief moment, I almost let them talk me into hardening my heart.

You see… I could feel this wave of emotion and constant thought trying to push their way into my heart so that they could completely own it. I knew the feelings and thoughts weren’t my own though. In my heart I knew they belonged to an outside threat. Something wickedly supernatural that was begging me to follow it over the love of God.

And I do suppose the pain, anger, bitterness and sorrow are a direct result of loss. Sometimes I just feel like I’ve lost so much that I focus on my losses far more than my gains. I look at the past and how painful things have been, rather than focusing my attention to the present where love is.

However, I’m happy to report that my heart hasn’t been overtaken by these dark forces. Instead, I’ve chosen to place my constant focus on forgiveness, grace and love.

And… Honestly, that route has been a challenge too because life and death keep giving me reasons to become angry, bitter and somewhat jaded. But, well I just can’t stand the feeling of their presence anymore.

You see I enjoy feeling the love of God and then giving it back to others way more than I enjoy sulking around like the plague. And so I hope, I genuinely hope the pursuit of forgiveness, grace and love I am focused towards takes me places I never imagined to go. I hope they open avenues, windows and doors I never dreamed of walking through . And… most importantly, I hope they remain my constant way of life. ♥️ #cultivatelife

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.

Death of a Lie

Can I tell you the truth? I’ve been purchasing a lie with my free will for most of my life. What’s the lie? Well I’ve been led to believe I can’t be whole and complete without a relationship…

And if you really know me then you’ll understand that I’ve wanted to find someone, be married and start a family. Because in my mind I’d be complete.

However, because of the path the Holy Spirit has put me on that’s not my reality. And I’ve called the path stupid, ridiculous and annoying for so many years… But now, well I’m coming to a new place… A place where this path is actually beginning to make sense.

You see God has taken me on a journey of healing for about a decade. He’s constantly been revealing ways I can be made whole through Him. When life gets rough, He jumps in and saves the day and then makes my pain a place of peace, joy and new life.

And so I am learning that it doesn’t matter how much I think I need a relationship with a man to fill me with confidence and security… Because the only real relationship that will constantly fill me up and never let me down is the one I have with God. Everything else I’ve been taught is simply a lie.

And if I’m making some sense, then I want to encourage you to please find security and confidence and healing in God. Because He and Jesus are the only ones that can truly fill all of the broken places within our hearts and souls. They are the only ones that can make us whole again.

Resurrected Life

You know 5 years ago this fall I decided Cultivate Life and I weren’t for each other. I was filled with utter confusion and deep pain as I found myself in the darkest season of my life. I promised myself I’d never allow anything to hurt me like that again because the pain I felt as I watched my hopes and dreams die was heart wrenching.

And then I set sail on a new journey in Cali… Making new a new life and choosing to forget about what I felt was my destiny and purpose. The funny thing is, God had an adventure waiting for me in L.A. that would bring me full circle with Cultivate Life.

He picked me up and put me back together in the craziest environment I’d ever experienced. And the, after He glued my heart back together and saw that I was a whole person, He chose to drop Cultivate Life back into my life again. He resurrected it all.

You see I’ve learned that God is power. I’ve learned that living a life with Him but without His resurrection power is not living at all. I don’t ever want to go another day where I don’t see His Holy Spirit activated and moving in my life. And I realize we don’t always get to this place of power over night… But what I’m trying to say is… If you feel like your life is duller than it should be… If you feel like you’re missing something large and grand and powerful… Then please be encouraged to lean into the life-giving resurrection power of God. Because He alone can take what was dead and buried in the ground and restore it again. He alone can cause parts of your life to become fresh and whole again like never before. And… it all starts as we choose to cultivate life in the Kingdom of God.

Square Peg, Round Hole

“Fit in… just fit in Amanda. Figure out how to fit in and then you’ll be happy and confident and secure and complete!!”

This has been a narrative I constantly play out in my head. It’s been a narrative that’s taken possession of every season and chapter of life I’ve ever entered and lived through… This longing, this desire and want to just fit in and fit in well with those around me that are popular and leading the so called “pack” of life.

The funny thing is… It’s never worked.

Fitting in for me has never happened. Ever.

Sure I have dreams of fitting in with the world around me, but then I am left very disappointed when it just doesn’t happen. And then I’m left even more disappointed when I feel like an outsider and a loner because I can’t fit.

After my grandmother was healed she said she always felt like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. And while I’m not trying to take the words from her mouth, this is kind of what it feels like for me.

Funny thing is all of this trying to “fit” has produced A LOT of self-centeredness in my heart and soul…. Because, rather than being confident and secure in the way God has created me… Rather than standing firm in who I am as Amanda, well I find myself doing everything in my power to fit into that round hole.

So now, well I find myself having to set aside this deep want to fit. I find myself having to let go of the source of my insecurity. Because the insecurity has led me down a very unsatisfying road… One filled with endless thoughts in my mind that cause me to feel small and inadequate and unworthy.

However, God keeps telling me to just “stand firm. Stand firm in who I’ve created you to be Amanda and you will stand out as yourself.” And I don’t know if anyone else feels like that right now, in this place where you keep trying to fit to finally feel complete, but I just want you to know it doesn’t work. It’s exhausting and time consuming and ironically very self-centered from the way in which God would like us to be. Because instead, He needs us to stand firm and be secure in who we are in Him. He needs us to be all that HE needs us to be, and not what we see by viewing someone else’s projected life. And yeah, it does feel a little bit uncomfortable at first to let go of this way of life; however, once we’ve done it… Well we’ll find ourselves in more peace and satisfaction than before. Plus, not fitting in might actually cause us to stand out.

Timing of the Trees

I’ve been coming to my grandmother’s house on Cane River my entire life. It’s a place that is 100% country, yet southern.

While sitting on her porch yesterday I found myself very confused about a patch of trees. “Where did they come from? Did they grow over night? Why was I just now noticing them?” This is all I could think… So I asked my grandmother.

And she replied, “Oh they’ve been there for quite a while. Really small things. But you know, just in the last two years they’ve shot up like that and now you can’t see the road or field on the other side of them.”

I just kind of sat there and thought for a moment… To me it was kind of interesting that they’d been growing so long without any notice; however, now they’re tall enough to block the field view and I really notice!

I tell this story because the trees remind me of God’s timing.

You see I believe when we live a life that follows God’s ways we must also follow His timing… And for me, well I’ve always struggled with staying on God’s time table. I want what He’s planted in my life to grow up big and tall right NOW! I don’t like to wait for His process because it seems so long and drawn out at times.

But in reality He needs the time to cultivate and nourish these things inside of me. His ways require that we become strong and sturdy and capable of withstanding a lot. And like those trees it takes many years for this to occur.

But then, at the right time… Well I believe you have a moment like I did yesterday. One where you look over and think, “Where did they come from? They’re so big and tall and full of life that they distract and puzzle my mind.”

And I don’t know what God’s planted in your life in different seasons, but if you just continue to allow Him to cultivate it… If you just allow Him to strength you, give you an identity in Him and make you whole and complete… Well one day I believe you’ll look over and see that all of that time wasn’t a waste because something great did come forth. And now the things planted are taller than you and you can go places with them that you never fathomed.