Free and Ungrateful…

My heart has been searching for a solution… For an answer… For a sign… For anything God or the universe might give me to help me move forward in the season of life I’m in…

Because I’m constantly questioning, “Why do I feel stuck? Why aren’t things moving forward? Why are all of these seemingly negative things happening? Mainly, why am I still in Shreveport, LA almost a year later? This was not part of the plan, my hopes or my dreams.”

And the Holy Spirit has led me to this…

The smallness of a moment… The smallness of a season of life… The times when our bank accounts are low and the money isn’t “rolling ” in for some reason… The moments when you know in your heart you’ve followed God just like He said, but feel like every door has been slammed shut in your face… The responsibilities that seem to continue to pile up because everything that could go wrong feels like it is going wrong… The reality of the thought, “Okay… What could possibly happen next? Please let it be good!”

Basically, life feels small… I feel cornered… Cornered by the reality that everything around me has pushed me to have complete confidence and security in an intangible God, who works in intangible ways… And that all ways leading to tangible security continue to fail me quickly…

And because I feel small… Because I feel cornered… Well I am learning to cultivate a new level and lifestyle of humility… A place where I am forced to learn and grow, even when I don’t want too…

And I believe smallness is a great thing…  Because I’m learning that a humble heart is a grateful heart…

So what am I grateful for what you might ask?…

I’m grateful for the fact that I have the freedom to live the life I’m living… God has set me free of so many things from my past, but I choose to complain about the things I don’t have… I spend too much time comparing myself to others and thinking, “If I only had that.” When in reality, I should be grateful that I don’t have to live under the insecurities, pain and burdens of my past… He’s given me a extremely free life… And the Holy Spirit is always opening up new avenues, where I learn new areas that my heart and soul can become free…

Freedom… What a reason to be grateful!

I’m also grateful for my relationship with God… Lately I’ve been angry with God because I don’t see a lot of things He’s promised me becoming a reality… So I’m confused… But then I should just become grateful that I even have the opportunity to cultivate a relationship with Him… And I don’t mean a relationship we find in religion, that’s centered around a pastor or priest and his/her teachings… I mean one where He literally has conversations with me all throughout my day because He is my best friend and closest companion… Because He is the one willing to walk or crawl with me through the ugly, low seasons of life…

And I can go on and on over the things I am becoming grateful for… But mainly my thoughts are leading me to this… As humans, that live in this country, I believe we should be grateful for what we’ve been given and stop looking for things we don’t have… I believe most of us have forgotten that this country wasn’t just given to us… People have lost their lives and their freedom so that we can have it… And I get it, it’s fun to celebrate our country by dressing up, having fun and getting drunk… But are we truly grateful in our hearts?… Because that is where our celebration for our country should come from…

And I don’t know where we are headed as a nation, but my current life status is teaching me that I need to be grateful… And that desire to be grateful is encouraging me to remind others to be grateful too… Even if your life isn’t in a season of smallness right now… Look around and be grateful for the foundation your life sits on…

Because a foundation is the basis of life… It’s what holds us together and keeps things tight and secure… And I promise, if we can humble ourselves and become grateful for what we are built upon, well I believe we will see growth, new life and prosperity like never before…

But, in order to do this, we need to get out of our own heads… We need to stop looking at what we want and start becoming grateful for what we have… We need to think of others more and ourselves less… We have to look up at the world and vast universe around us and not be so focused on the black boxes in our hands…

Life is simple… We’ve made it complicated…

Angry with God?..

Anger… How do I trudge through it with peace in my heart?! I really don’t know.. I definitely feel like I’ve been robbed of so much and that angers me… But more than anything anger is causing me to want to punch God in the face…

And it’s kind of funny… Because, in the past I’ve told others, “You can be angry with God. He can handle it more than anyone I know.” But… Here I sit with so much anger towards Him, and I don’t exactly know what to do with it all.

Why am I angry? Simply put, life is not going according to the plan of Amanda. So much has been shaken and removed from the foundation of my life. I’ve made so many Holy Spirit-led decisions… Decisions that cause me to think, “Why did I follow Him at all?! If I had known this would be life I would’ve created and followed my plans for life!”

And when it comes to Cultivate Life (the business I own), well that’s where I really want to scream at Him. Because nothing makes sense at all.

So, how do I continue to cultivate life in the mist of all of this anger? Food never helps. Complaining never helps. And since I am angry with God, He doesn’t seem to be my most trusted and helpful companion right now.

But isn’t it supposed to be faith (believing in God’s existence and that He’s rewarded us with goodness in the past) that gets us by in times like these? Life has been great in so many seasons before. I have seen opportunities constantly open up and I have felt so much excitement, joy and goodness in my heart…

But in this moment, well I don’t see any of those things happening… And it’s discouraging…

But then it’s been advised that I keep moving forward, even though I don’t feel inspired, motivated or excited at all…. That I move forward with patience, persistence and perseverance…

I guess that’s really what so much of this life is about though… That even when we don’t understand God and His ways that we still choose to follow Him because He does provide the most spiritually uplifting and good life.

But, I’m gonna be really honest. The closer I get to God, the more and more my relationship with Him is like a relationship with any person I am close too… And in any relationship there are times where you don’t really understand why a person does what they do… But I do love Him more than anything or anyone… And I do continue to talk to Him and spend time with Him all the time… But I still want to smack Him in the face and ask, “What the hell are you doing with my life because it’s super annoying and I feel like a fool for following you!”

But… Then, maybe I am on one of the biggest learning curves of my life to date… Meaning, when I look back, I’ll be grateful for the time of anger… Grateful for the growth. And even more grateful for God being God.

It’s All Crumbling…

Over the past few weeks I’ve come in contact with so many people who’s worlds are crumbling to the ground…

Everything they hold dear is being shaken…

From relationships, to deaths to sickness and tragedy… This world is evolving into a darker, sicker and more painful place than it was before…

And as I have conversations with people from all walks of life, my continued questions are, “What and who are you founded in? When you lay your head down on your pillow at night, what are you placing your identity in? What and who defines you?”

And for most the answer is the same… Too many are defined by the tangible… By the world the surrounds us…

When I say the world, I’m speaking to anyone that places their faith, hope and love in what we see… In people, things, jobs, institutions, the government and money… Life that is altogether here one moment and gone the next… The white noise that seems to dictate our lifestyles on the regular because we don’t know what we would do without it…

Let me say something for a moment… And I’m speaking to people in the church too who think in their minds (not in their hearts and with their spirits) that they are stable…

The only thing our life should ever lay a foundation on is God and His faith, hope and love… Not on a Bible, a pastor, a relationship, a job, makeup/clothes/shoes/electronics/furniture, the government, institutions, or money…

We try so hard to establish our careers, buy big houses, own expensive things and go on grand vacations… And what for? To show it off and say, “Look what I’ve accomplished! Look where I am! Look what I own! Look how hard I struggled to reach this success!”

But have you ever focused your attention on being at peace first? Have you ever ventured into the love that comes when we allow Father God to be in the center of our lives? Have you ever lived a life of faith, trusting that God is meeting all of your needs, not your wants?

Because I don’t believe He can properly connect with people that place their heart and energy into the tangible… I believe His Holy Spirit is searching for a group of people right now that say, “I will walk (not hustle or remain stagnant) with You through the ups and downs of life. Because You are the only One that can sustain me when everything is falling apart. You are the only One that continues to take the evil of this world and turn it for good. You in all that You are are enough for me.”

And sometimes it can seem a little crazy. “Ok, I’m going to place my lack of understanding, my fears, my failures… My whole life into the hands of someone who I can’t see… And then He’s gonna make it better? But all I know is this other way of life!”

But I believe that’s the great thing about learning how to have faith and trust in God. Through His unseen process, we give up the things of this world that own us for the one thing we can never own… Which is God. And then we allow His Spirit to completely lead us on this journey… And sometimes the journey is ugly and painful, but we can still have joy, peace, hope and love in the midst of this thing called Life.

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…

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…

Month Six…

IMG_1519

July 2nd… August 2nd… September 2nd… October 2nd… November 2nd… And bam… December 2nd is here…

It’s been six months… six months since dad’s been dead… and some of the months have happened without me thinking about the day or realizing “today is month number…”

But today feels different… And it’s for so many reasons… Mainly because the doctors said he might make it to Christmas…

Well…. here we are… we are 23 days away from Christmas and I am fatherless… A miracle didn’t happen and modern medicine didn’t save his life….

And it hasn’t been a bad thanksgiving at all… I board a plane today… Heart full of love from everyone I saw and all that I experienced…

But it still doesn’t make up for the fact that he’s not here… That I will leave mom here… Alone… Again…

And she’s in so much pain… And there’s really nothing I can do to make the pain go away….

I continue to realize there’s nothing I can do every time I hear her say her heart is broken…. “it’s just broken.”… she says…. She says it’s broken and she knows life will go on and she will heal… But for now the pain… the pain she has to live with is so much…

Mom says that there are just so many hurdles in front of her she has to cross… That there’s just so much responsibility in front of her now… And that she just misses dad so much…

And it hurts my heart to know she’s feeling pain…. and that I can’t do anything about it… There aren’t any words I can say…. There’s nothing I can do to help her mend her broken heart… I can love her and hug her… But I just feel like that’s not enough….

And then she has to carry so much now… But in the midst of it all… Well my mom fascinates me because I don’t see her falling apart at every corner… She’s together in her own way….

And I know people have said the holidays are hard… But they haven’t been too bad… And maybe it’s my outlook… my perspective… But I see things differently… And I’m choosing to live in each day and just enjoy the fact that we are together as a family…

But I’ve had my moments… Like last night when I thought my dad had scared my sister… But then I quickly remembered that he’s not here and she was just scared on her own…

And of course I think living out in Cali makes this reality a little less for me… But it’s all still reality…

So I genuinely hope… today… six months from the day that I watched my dad die… Well I hope it’s filled with love and hope and goodness… Even if I don’t experience those things… I hope others do…

And I hope my mom doesn’t feel so much of a mess… That she can move through today with her spirits lifted….

And I know it sucks… Death isn’t a friend… But I do respect him for the job he does…

And more than anything… I just want my mom to be happy and her heart to be full again… I want her to be taken care of and loved…

That’s what I want…

The Provider

img070

Yesterday I starred thinking about the Yarbrough house…. the house I lived in for 16 years… the house my parents lived in for 20 years… the area of Shreveport we lived in before dad really got his business off the ground… the places where I spent my childhood.. and advantages I had in being so close to my grandparents house…. I could ride my bike there….

In the midst of those thoughts I began to think about the struggles my parents went through… the arguments they had… the misunderstandings I had… How could they be married if they argued so much?… How could they really, truly love each other?…

And then I thought about how hard my parents worked so that my sister and I could have a good life… My dad probably wasn’t trying… but he became a great homebuilder in the midst of providing for his family….

It’s funny and at the same time really sad…. but I feel like I am learning the greatest lessons from my father now that he’s dead… Now that he’s gone, I’m actually able to look at his life…. I never took the time to do that before…. I’ve always been so selfish and focused on me, my emotions and my problems with life…

But I continue to see who my dad was and it inspires me so much… And the thoughts I have of him lately are “gosh he was an excellent provider.”

But really the man never let us go without… He always made a way and provided for his family… And when we wanted to go on vacations, participate in activities or even have certain gifts for Christmas… well he made a way…

And I’ve never thought about provision until lately… I’ve never thought about what an honor it must be to provide for your family…. to make sure they are all taken care of… and I’m sure it can be a burden at many times… I know it was a burden for my dad…

But he always made a way… He almost always said yes… and if he didn’t say yes… well I asked mom, who I knew could talk dad into saying yes…

And in the midst of thinking about him providing… I felt ashamed that I never really truly thanked him for it… I’m not a grateful person… It’s something I am working on…. And so I feel ashamed that I wasn’t able to truly see how amazing he was when he was alive…

I took him and what he did for granted…. He always said “ya’ll don’t appreciate me or even care about what I do.” And although I denied it… it was the truth and he knew it so well… Now I wish… I wish with everything in me that I could express how grateful I am for him…

It took a conversation with someone at work to help me realize that dad has given me so much… Because of him, I have really good credit… He put my car and other things in my name and then paid for them in full… And today I am able to build on that credit because I pay things off on time…. Those are things he taught me…. things that I took for granted…

I have to call other people today so they can provide answers for me… I’m so used to calling dad… but now I find myself calling uncles, friends, co-workers… even mom…. mostly mom… and it does hurt… it hurts to know that I can’t pick up the phone and have him provide me with an answer….

I actually miss that provision way more… the provision of answers from him when I needed them the most…. And I’m working on allowing God to be the person I go too…. I’m working on asking him the things I’d ask my father…. And God does answer me… but it’s still not the same….

It’s funny what God told me the other day… “it’ll never be the same Amanda. I’m not your dad. I can’t replace him. I can’t be your dad. I can be like him, but I can never be him.” And I think that honesty, that truth, that amazing amount of vulnerability from God is one of the reasons I love him the most…

Because he knows as well as I do that no one will ever replace my father…. he knows that he can provide for me in so many different ways… but he can’t be the tangible man I called dad…. And you know what… that’s ok… I’m grateful that I was able to someone in my life that makes missing so challenging… I am grateful that no one can replace him… not even God….

And I am also grateful that God is willing to fill in the pieces and help provide for me… To help provide with answers and resources and just conversation…. And although it will never be the same… I am grateful for the lesson of provision from my father…