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…

Off Road Following 

If you’ve ever read my blogs or know anything about my personal life, then you know I follow the Holy Spirit…

Growing up I was taught, when we accept Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives… He is the Spirit of God that lives within us… And that He brings a great host of personality and power to help us cultivate a better life…

When I was young I really didn’t have a relationship with Him at all… I only knew about Him because of what others told me… 

But, as I grew up I cultivated a relationship with Him… And that relationship is something that I deeply depend on to this day… 

Without Him in my life, I’m pretty sure I’d feel dead and confused… Walking through my days and years as a zombie…

So I’m really grateful to have Him… I believe everyone should have their own personal relationship with Him… And that He speaks to us in different ways…

But lately, well my relationship with Him has become frustrating and all over the place… 

And so I keep asking Him questions in hopes that He’ll show me where He is leading me in life…

Recently He said something to me that truly caught my attention.. “Amanda, you aren’t confident in following me. You always follow, but you aren’t secure in my ways.” 

You see, the goal is always fairly simple and clear, follow Him in all of His ways… Listen to His voice and have faith and hope as you follow…

But the more I follow the more He takes me on an “off road” journey… The kind that’s unmarked and unpaved… And honestly, it makes me nervous…

So nervous that I have emotional breakdowns because I feel so confused… Constantly, I look around at what others are doing in their lives and I realize my life looks absolutely different… And then I think “I can’t be following God. Right now, He’s led me to what feels like a brick wall. How can that be good? How can He be good if I feel stranded?”

You see, being “off road” makes me feel insecure and unsafe… My fears become high as my worries point out all of the darkness and danger I see… 

And no, I haven’t bumped into any of the things I fear yet… But gosh I’m terrified of them…

And then I just continue to hear the Holy Spirit say, “Just follow me. You are fine. You aren’t confused. You’re just following me. Be confident in the follow.”

Which causes me to wonder, “How was my grandmother able to follow so well? She always made following Him look so simple and graceful.”

And that’s when He reminded me of what she used to always say… “Never take your eyes off of Him. Never look away from the ways of Jesus. Always look to Him. Especially when you’re in the midst of the storm. Look at Him and you’ll stay uplifted. Look to Him and you’ll remain secure and at peace.”

I never understood what she meant when she said these things… I never really needed them until now… 

But now He has brought me to a place where I have to look at Him and His ways in order to keep moving forward… Because the worry, fear and doubt are so heavy that He must be the only solution… 

Expectancy of Life…

Hope… I’ve been on this journey with hope for a few weeks now…

Discovering exactly what it is and why it’s so important to place my hope in God alone…

And I’m going to be really honest, this has been some what of a challenge… A struggle… I feel like I am struggling with God over this… Placing my hope in Him, but then in constant wonder of why hope still seems deferred…

And so it wasn’t until this morning when I finally feel like I gained more of an understanding…

I had this vision… I saw this mountain I had been climbing… I got to a certain place of climbing and stopped at a cave to walk in and explore… The cave was very dark on the inside, but I felt encouraged to move forward into the darkness… As I moved I looked back and could no longer see the light from the sky behind me… This scared me at first but then I realized I could see around me because an angel was following me with a candle… And I could hear the Holy Spirit say, “I am right here with you. Just move forward in the darkness as I guide you.”

So together, the 3 of us moved forward… The more I walked the more I felt fear… I kept thinking, “Where am I going? What am I doing? I know God is with me and I know I can see, but I do not understand where He is guiding me.”

Then I looked to my left and saw a wall that scaled high… I looked to the right and realized the path was very, very narrow… If I stepped too far to the side I would fall into a deep abyss because I was walking on the side of a cliff…

In the darkness I kind of froze… But then the Lord said, “Just keep moving and do not be afraid I am with you.” So forward I went… I felt like we had been walking for hours, maybe even days… And I didn’t know where He was guiding me…

All of a sudden, in the distance, I could see a something… It was a pinkish/purple colored shimmer of light… Almost glow-in-the-dark, but translucent… I didn’t know what it was and God wasn’t saying a word… So I approached it… Then He said, “This is treasure. Take as much as you can carry, turn around and go.”

Not knowing what it was I picked up as much as I could carry on my journey back to the mountain side…

As I walked I felt afraid, but then something else began to spring up inside of me… I felt hopeful… For the first time on my journey I felt this deep imbedded sense of hope…

And then I heard the Lord say, “You are carrying hope… This is hope in Me.” No sooner had He said that and the gems in my hand began to light up in the most beautiful pink/purple color I’d ever seen…

I just smiled deep within… For I knew the journey back through the cave would be long and at times scary, but I felt hope that the distance I walked would would bring me life… Great life to hold onto and share with others in the future…

After the vision I thought back about something God shared with me last week concerning hope… He said, “Amanda, hope in me is the expectancy of life.”

You see, even when nothing makes sense… Even when we don’t have understanding at all… Even when everything is falling apart… I believe we are asked to have faith and hope in God… Because at the end of the day, faith in Him means that we are willing to follow even when everything is dark… And hope in Him means we expect life, whatever the cost, to come from our great journey(s) through the darkness…

I personally have no idea how much longer I will have to walk through the darkness to get back to the mountainside where there is light… I do realize I might have moments where I feel tired, weak and somewhat afraid… But, more than anything, I do believe I now have the hope required to keep moving forward towards the expectancy of life…

Challenging Hope…

Hope… It seems like a simple 4 letter word… We all hope for things deep within our hearts…

But, then… Well what happens when what you hoped for in your heart doesn’t happen?..

If you’re anything like me then you can become an angry, disappointed grouch… Stomping around, upset and trying to make sense of life…

I’ve done this very thing my entire life… I’ve set myself up for disappointment upon disappointment based on what I’ve hoped for in my heart…

And then I’ve elaborated on my hopes by creating details… You know, planning ahead in my mind… “This is how it will go. This is what will happen for sure.”

But lately, almost everything I’ve hoped for hasn’t happened… And I find myself irritated… Cornered in a way…

And that’s where I find God encouraging me… Encouraging me to move away from this place where I choose to place my hope in situations, possibilities, places, people, things and dreams…

And honestly, it’s a challenge… It’s a challenge to stand back and say, “I’m not gonna run wild in my mind over possibilities anymore. I am going to use wisdom and keep my hope in God.”

So, then… Well what does it mean to place my hope in God?..

I believe hope, along with faith and love, are the foundation to an identity in God… I’ve had to learn to place my faith in God solely… And a long with faith came confidence, security and trust in Him… But this hope thing, well… It’s different…

Because it kind of has me mastered right now… I’ve used a false sense of hope for so long… Longing for things that I’ve created in my imagination… Day dreaming about possibilities… Stirring up secrets in my heart… And, in the end… Well I only get completely let down with the reality of life…

So, now here I stand… I was convinced I had cultivated an identity in God… Solely and completely rooted in His ways only… But this hope thing has taken me for a loop… And now, well I need Him to reveal to me what it means to have hope in Him and Him alone…

I need Him to teach me how to stop using my imagination to create elaborate plans that only lead to failure in my heart and soul…

He’s brought me this far though, so I do have faith and hope that He will take me one step further…

Bye Religion…

If you know anything about me at all, then you know how I feel about religion… I hate it… It’s everything I hope to not reflect… It’s everything I hope that my heart doesn’t become trapped and confined too…

But… Here I sit… Troubled in my heart over religion…

Because over the past two weeks my eyes have been opened to these deep areas in my heart, soul and mind that contain dark corners filled with religious ways… And I hate it…

I hate the fact that I’ve allowed so many tiny areas and spaces in my life to follow man-made structures and practices…

And I believe the biggest thing that troubles my heart is the fact that, when I was growing up I was told, “Doing this is not religion Amanda. This is religion. They are religious. This is the right way to be and to do. Not that.”

But, over the past few weeks I’ve spent time really seeking the heart of God and looking to see what Jesus said… And guess what I’ve learned… Most of what I’ve been taught is garbage. Straight poison and assassination of my heart and soul… It’s what Jesus would’ve considered religion… It’s what He would’ve looked at and said, “You still don’t get it? How much longer do I have to spend time expressing this to you? It takes so little because the healings and miracles come from nothing you do, but everything I’ve done.”

Because I sit in this beautiful home that my father built, surrounded by the reality that my works have not sold this house… And I’ve had people tell me to sprinkle wine juice on the property because it represents the blood of Jesus… And then go back 30 days later and sprinkle olive oil because it represents the Holy Spirit… I’ve had people tell me to turn a St. Joseph statue upside down in my front yard because he is the saint that “sells houses”… I’ve had people tell me to spiritually clean out the environment of the home and then anoint it… I’ve had people tell me to pray more because maybe one of us in the house hasn’t done something “right” in the eyes of God for it to sell…

Guess what… One year and 3 months later it is STILL sitting here…

And, do you know what I see?.. All of these “works”… All of this “doing” has done absolutely nothing for the sell of this home… It just hasn’t…

It’s religion… It’s rubbish… It’s what Jesus encouraged we not do because it’s not the best system to follow… It has too much work involved and leaves our hearts confined to what man believes is “best”… But Jesus lived a life of divine wisdom and understanding, free from wrongdoings so that we could cultivate a lifestyle free from all of this trash… So that we could have divine authority in Heaven and on Earth…

And I believe the greatest wrestling in my heart comes over the fact that I’ve witnessed signs, miracles and healings before… Growing up, I traveled with my grandparents and the ministry God gave them saw an abundance of lives restored instantly…

But… Clearly, there is something off in my head and heart… Because… Ummm, HELLO my father is DEAD… There was no healing or miracle and I firmly believe if Jesus walked this Earth today my dad would’ve been healed 3 years and 3 months ago… I mean Jesus healed “all” that He encountered… And WE, yes YOU and I, are asked to do GREATER than Him…

Clearly, it was super, super, super simple for Him… He never included wine, olive oil, saint figurines, a spiritual cleanse of an environment, or extra daily prayers… It only took believing that God exists in our hearts and that He desires to bring goodness into our lives… It only took complete belief that we have been given all authority in Heaven and on Earth…

It was and is a heart thing…

And I believe, in my heart, that’s what I need… To do away with all of this religious, man-made trash and just follow the ways of Jesus… If it worked for Him and those that followed Him, it should work for me 2,000+ years later… Right?

So, with all do respect to those who I’ve chosen to follow because they’ve taught me so much, here’s where I exit… Here’s where I lay your teachings, ways and thoughts down… Because my heart is coming to know and understand there’s only one person who really knew and understood what He was talking about… And He’s really the only example I’ll ever need…

After the Anger… 

What happens when you realize the anger you’re feeling towards God is really just your misinterpretation of Him?..

That’s where I’ve been for 3 days now… 

A place of discovery… A place of humility… A place where being teachable is necessary for moving forward…

Because there’s an area of God’s personality that I thought I knew… I was convinced I understood Him… Because this part of His personality that I know, well I’ve always known… Right?!?!

But now I’m at a place… A place that is showing me I’m wrong… Wrong because this part of God’s personality was taught to me by someone else… It wasn’t given purely through a connection to Him, but through a second hand account…

So now I am left in this middle ground area… A place where I no longer want to assume He heals and performs miracles the way I thought He did… But open to the ideas and reality that there’s so much that I don’t know… So much that He has to teach me…

And becoming teachable hasn’t always been the easiest place for my heart… My heart used to be filled with pride and argonance… Believing so strongly that I had all the answers… But God, Life and good friends have helped my heart become a breeding ground for humilty… 

And so I truly hope, in this moment, that He will guide me past the unknown and into what is true, authentic and real about His miraculous, healing power… 

But until then, I am grateful that I’m no longer angry with God…