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.

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”…

Life Lessons… With Death…

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Life’s strange… So many moments don’t make sense until we look back and connect the dots…

Death has definitely become something I’ve realized is part of… Well part of life…

It’s permanent for everyone affected by the one who is gone…

I can’t say I wasn’t, to some degree, prepared for this…

But it’s still sad… It’s still heartbreaking…

Neci was my closest aunt… She was my godmother… And… When I was younger, she was my close friend…

She was the one who looked at me after my dad died and said, “The next few days will be a blur. They’ll all kind of mush together. You’ll be exhausted. People will say things like, ‘I can’t even imagine what you’re going through. Losing a father.’ And you’ll look at them and think, ‘You’re right. Now leave me alone.”

She was right… That’s exactly what it was like…

And now… Now I feel heartbroken for my cousins… They’re more like my younger brothers…

And it hurts me to know that they are hurt… Hurting… And will forever have to live with the reality of losing a parent so young…

IMG_5207But I think… More than anything… In the midst of all of this… Well I believe death… Death of any form encourages me to keep living… To keep loving… To keep, as my aunt would say, “reaching for the stars.”

Because she, like my father, had a lot of faith in me… Always…

And so losing two people that loved me so dearly is sad… But it reminds me that we’re all going to die one day…

Maybe not now… Maybe in 5 years… Maybe when we’re super old and gray…

But we will die… And so how we live is so important…

Actually it’s the most important…

It’s important to forgive… To love… To let go of the bitterness, jealousy and anger we hold towards ourselves, God and one another…

Because when we die… Well I hope that others can see that we lived… That we took risks… That we followed God or whatever higher power we believe in…

And that we followed Him well… Even when things didn’t make sense…

Year Two…

June 2nd can be a bad day… It can be a day filled with regret, loss, tears, sadness, a “poor me it’s not fair… I want my dad back” attitude…It can be one that I choose to ignore… Choose to look past… Choose to forget all together…

But as I gather my thoughts… My feelings… Well I’m surprised with what I find…

Because I find myself in a place of peace… I hope that’s normal…

A place of peace because in this moment I’m realizing that God’s love, as my Father, well it’s completely enough…

I don’t know when I came to this place…

I don’t know when it happened…

My heart has simply changed…

And now… Well now I don’t feel like I’m lacking… I don’t feel empty… And I don’t feel without…

Sure, life is different…

But I’m realizing that God has filled every place that felt empty… Every place that my dad once filled… Well now it seems completely full with the love and pure grace of God…

I think He’s even filled the places that I always wanted my dad to fill… The ones that reminded me that my father was human and didn’t always make me feel great… He’s filled those up too…

And with the amount of love I feel… The amount of grace I keep seeing… Well it’s just encouraging…

Because over the last few months… Well I’ve had days and weeks that caused me to constantly wonder, “How will I ever truly be able to just experience the love of God?..”

But in this moment… Well I feel like all of a sudden I’m here… I’m here with His love… With His grace… With His peace…

And all of the questions I had before… The way I got here… Well… It just doesn’t even matter… Because… The thing is… I’m here…

I’m here and I see something I’ve never seen before… And what I see is that life without God’s love, without His peace, without His joy, without His grace… Well it’s not really life at all…

I feel like I wasn’t even living before… Or maybe I wasn’t living as full as I am now…

And… Though I miss my dad… Well again, I’m grateful for his death… Because it’s brought me to a place where I am full of the love of God…

Uninvited… 

Carrying around the love of God on the inside seems simple…

You go about your day enjoying the goodness of God… The awe of who He is and what it means to be His child…

But over the last three days or so I’ve learned something…

Something about the personality of the Father… And how sensitive He is…

I didn’t get invited to a birthday party… A party for someone I love so much… And honesty…. Well it hurt…

So in the midst of the hurt… In the midst of the thoughts that said, “But I love them and so much of my life… Of me went into that environment”…Well I found myself with a new perspective…

That perspective is this…

I assume… Since God is everywhere… That He is going to just automatically show up when He wants…

And because He talks to me throughout the day… Well I never realized He needed an invitation…

But that changed yesterday… For the first time I realized… The feelings I was having… We’re also feelings God has been having towards me…

I felt sad… Disappointed… And altogether let down… Because I wasn’t invited into an environment I poured my heart and my life into…

And I believe this is how God feels… He pours His thoughts, wisdom, love and grace into me constantly… And I speak to Him… I ask for His casual opinion… But then I hold Him back from being invited into the celebration of my day… Into the awe and thrill of the moment I may be having…

It’s like He’s worked so hard to help me become me… To place so much of Himself inside of me… And to give me the best life possible…

And then I choose to uninvite Him… I choose to go about the day… And if it’s blissful and amazing, well then I’ll thank Him… And if it’s treacherous and challenging, well I complain or ask Him “what’s the deal”…

But I don’t ever just flat out say, “Hey, God we’ve been doing life together… We’ve been on this amazing journey… You’ve taught me some amazing things… And you continue to show me what I good Father you are… Would you actually like to be invited into all of the moments I have each day?.. Like officially invited?…”

I never do that…

And honestly… The feeling of being uninvited to celebrate someone you love… Well it sucks… It hurts…

But then I guess it’s one more reason I’m encouraged to invite Him a long…

To invite Him as I just continue to live…