A Decade in the Making

Okay… Today, I hit the decade mark of losing 100 lbs! So… What does it mean to me to look at the girl on the left, the young woman on the right and the woman in the middle? Well… To me the three make up a cultivated lifestyle of restoration and freedom.

When I finished losing the weight, I didn’t realize I’d spend the next 10 years allowing Jesus to refine, develop, mature and grow me as a whole.

So when I look at these three photos I don’t see me… Instead I see Him… I see what He’s done in me.

You see, He’s taken a girl who was incredibly insecure, fearful, anxious, prideful, selfish, jealous and bitter… And He’s transformed her into a woman that’s confident, secure, courageous, at peace with the unknown, humble (I still struggle), selfless, grateful and full of joy towards others and myself!

When I started this journey I thought I knew Jesus. I thought I knew Father God. I thought I knew the Holy Spirit. I grew up believing in them, but life and death have taught me that I didn’t know them at all because I hadn’t experienced them on a personal level.

So today I can confidently say they are my foundation and source of life. Together, they constantly keep me strong, healthy and secure. While the past versions of me desperately searched for identity and security, today I believe I stand still on the truth that I can’t be shaken, tossed or turned. My life and all that I am is in Him.

And while the world around me continues to try to show me why I’m not thin enough, thick enough, tan enough, flawless enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, successful enough or even “godly” enough… Well guess what? His opinion of me is all that matters. And He says, “You’re more than enough Amanda because I’ve helped you become a new creation and given you new life through Christ.” 🌱 #cultivatelife

Dressed in Lies?

I got on the train this morning and couldn’t help but find myself staring at the young man across from me…. Dressed from head to toe in some of the “best” brands and jewelry around. You could just tell he felt “cool” and “complete” because that’s what those clothing brands stand for. But then I looked into his eyes and I saw some of the deepest pain I’ve ever seen. It really took me a moment to stop staring too because his brokenness was so strong it reached out and touched me.

You see I believe we buy so many lies about what causes us to feel complete in life. Like we honestly believe having more “stuff” will do something for us. However, when I looked into this young man’s eyes, I didn’t see gain… I saw loss. I saw death. I saw brokenness, heartbreak, sadness and lack of security. I saw someone who puts on a fashion facade everyday because that’s what our culture says we should do.

And I don’t mean to sound so honest, but I just wish we would wake up. I wish we could see that we’ve been lied too over and over again. I wish we could see that no amount of tangible possession will ever make us feel whole, complete and loved on the inside.

And I know there are so many clothing brands, lifestyle brands, movements, societies and groups of thought that want to make us feel validated, valuable, worthy and connected. But then every time I look at these things I wonder, “Why can’t we all just see that we, as a culture, are lacking foundational stability and security in God? Why do we keep tip-toeing around the obvious; and why can’t we start opening our eyes to the reality that this entire universe operates off of the intangible, spiritual ways first and foremost?” And, “When will we ever learn that our brokenness, heartache, sadness and insecurity cannot be healed because we decided to buy a new top that supports a positive mindset?”

And I don’t know when we will see the truth; however, I do believe movements, mindsets and brands don’t really stand a chance to the supernatural way of life. If we want to truly feel free, alive, connected, healthy and whole… Then we must be healed in the spiritual, supernatural ways of life first! 🌱 #cultivatelife

Broken?

It might be a simple truth… But broken things can be moved. Broken things can be shaken, tossed and turned in several different directions at once.

Which is why I believe the only way to take something broken and make it immovable and unshakable is to let God heal it. His perfect love contains the power to heal the most broken of hearts.

You see I thought my brokenness was gone. I’d given so much of it up. So much to the point that I was convinced that I was so whole in Him. But then… Then an intruder came in and shook me around a little. And, rather than staying secure in Him, I let my guard down. I let it down and discovered there was brokenness deep, deep inside of my heart. Brokenness that God’s been trying to heal.

It’s a challenge to let Him heal it though. Sometimes we can live with pain for so long… So long that we become reliant on the pain because it gives us a false sense of life and security.

But I can’t keep holding onto all of this brokenness anymore. It’s hurting me. It’s causing me to stay weak in others and the past, rather than strong in Him.

So I guess I am to pursue more love. More love than I’ve ever known. He keeps telling me to pursue love. That love will fix what hurts so badly. 🌷🌱 #cultivatelife

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.

Authentic Identity…

Identity… It’s been like a foreign language to me… I was basically getting by in life because I trusted that those around me would translate what I heard but didn’t understand… Because, with their translations, then I’d feel stable and safe… And who actually cares if what they told me was true?… I mean, I trust those people, places and things… It’s where I was placing my confidence, security and identity…

For many of us, I believe, identity is like a foreign language…

We are in this great, big world searching for meaning, significance and purpose… And most of the time we choose to place our significance in the tangiblableness of life… The relationships, homes and institutes we are certain will always be there… Because they have simply always been there…

And we trust them so much, that we allow them to define who we are, what we do and what we will do one day… Never truly thinking, “what if they collapse?.. what if they fail me?”…

So then when a loved one dies, when we loose our job or when a relationship ends… Well, we don’t have a clue who we are anymore… It’s almost like we look around to listen for familiarity… For the things we are certain will keep us grounded and remind us “it will be alright”… But then we don’t understand what we hear anymore… Nothing makes sense… And so, we feel lost and confused, uncertain of who we are and what we are doing…

I feel like the questioning of “who am I/what am I doing?” has been a constant in my life… But it truly became a reality when I moved to Cali almost 3 years ago… And then it increased when my dad died unexpectedly…

Of course 2016 has truly been a year of it’s own… In January, God told me to leave my job without telling me where my next source of income would be… He basically put me on a “bread crumb” trail that’s led me to this moment (which hasn’t always been fun)… And then my grandparents (whom I’ve always relied on to be there) went into a nursing home, and their 40 year old ministry was closed… Then my mom put our families house on the market, which is so much closure concerning dad… Plus my closest aunt died unexpectedly, causing my mom to become even more depressed and afraid…

And so, in the midst of the instability of life, I’ve begun to realize I can’t really rely on people, places and things to keep me stable and safe anymore… Because they are as unstable as I am… Here one moment, gone the next…

Now, I’m going to be honest… All of the uncertainty has caused me to be a teary-eyed mess at times… To be a little mean and feel a lot of insecurity… Because each time something I believed provided stability has been shaken loose from my foundation, I’ve looked around for something, anything to cling onto…

And it was a learning curve at first, but I believe I’ve actually discovered what I can always rely on… The one source of life that reminds me who I am and gives me confidence to know whatever happens, it will be ok because He will always be who He is…

And I’ve heard it hundreds of thousands of times in church, but no one ever actually taught me what it means to have security in God… To find my identity in Him… I can say it all day long, but it wasn’t until the things I’ve always relied on in life failed me that I experienced this security, confidence and identity…

And too me, well it’s more than just God… Because He is so vast, so complex, so memorizingly authentic at His core… Because identity has so many parts that make it what it is… So having my identity in God means I am drawing my confidence and security from His love, His peace, His patience, His perseverance… From the attributes that make Him who He is… They are actually making me who I am…

Plus, the amazing thing about authentic identity… It’s universal and eternal… I’m learning that it can’t be moved, shaken or destroyed… Because once we grasp it’s authenticity at it’s core, we can be certain we will always be secure and safe… Even when life takes an unexpected turn…

Unshaken Identity…

Identity… It seems to be a reoccurring theme in my life lately…

Who am I?… Where is my foundation rooted?… Why is it rooted there?… Are the things which it’s rooted in eternally stable and firm?

I feel as though this entire year should be themed “shaken”… Because I feel like God keeps allowing my life, my very foundation to be shaken at its core…

And it’s not enough to lay in bed at night and feel the shaking my soul is experiencing…

Because I feel like each month has presented me with a reality that reveals my identity has been held within people, places, things… Parents, grandparents, homes, cities, ministries…

My security has been trapped in too many tangible things…

And in the midst I feel so selfish… So self-absorbed… Because, in some ways, well I want to hold-on to the tangible, to what I’ve always known… Because those things have always been there to keep me safe… To protect me…

Or at least I think they have…

So then… Then how do I take all of this… The places my soul feels like it’s journeyed to while being shaken… How do I take all of this and stand with a firm, unshaken identity?…

Because, as the shaking has occurred… Well, it’s revealed God on an entirely different level to me… His compassion, His selflessness, His love, His peace and His joy… They’ve all been there waiting… As each tangible player in my foundation has been shaken loose… God has revealed Himself to me in another way…

And I seem to realize… Identity…. I believe it’s universal… That we are all universally searching for intangible, eternal truth about who we are at our core…

Yes, we are all different… But, deep within, I believe we are created to connect to essential truths that make God who He is… And to allow those truths to become the key components of our foundation… Of our identity…

Because with them… With those intangible pieces and parts, well I believe we are made completely confident and secure…

And then, when tragedy, confusion and life become a reality… Well we are left in a secure place… Confidently knowing, deep within, that our core is solid and whole… That it is completely and wonderfully unshaken…

Story and Identity…

Recently I sat asking myself questions about me…

In the midst, there was a statement asking for a description of a life experience I’ve been through that’s completely shaped who I am…

So, I sat there for a moment… And thought… Because I truly wanted to give an honest answer…

And so I decided that watching my father die had actually shaped me the most… Because it was the most heartbreaking, yet fascinating moment of my life… I can’t replace it with anything… It was amazing and significant to watch, and it truly changed me from the inside out… I will never be the same…

From that moment… Death, the reality of it… Well it became a part of my story…

Our story is who we are… The light… The dark… The pain… The smiles… The ups… The downs… The backwards… The forwards… The regret… The joy…

All that we experience, it’s contained within us… Within our story of life… And our story continues to go as we continue to live… Because it exists as we exist…

And when we are gone… Well hopefully we left such a story, a truth, realities of life that it’s all very worth sharing…

Because can you imagine not knowing?… Not understanding a person for who he or she really is or was?… We do it every single day… Everywhere we go, I believe we judge mostly because we don’t know what’s stored in the depth of another… The light that can be found beneath all of the darkness… Whatever it may be… It is there…

Of course… I equally believe the fullness of life comes through God’s love and the grace of Jesus… But then what?…  Then how do we actually figure out who we are?… What’s past love and grace?… What does that grace card actually grant us access too?… And how do we begin to actually live amazing, fulfilling, truly authentic lives?…

I believe identity is the solution… Because, when we begin to capitalize on what it means to just be us and to be us really, really well… Well, we can discover our identity is found in our story because it is who we are… Our strengths and weaknesses… The way in which we choose to handle life then versus now…

And so then we can come to a place where we judge a little less… Accept and embrace one another a little more… And choose to actually give the person next to us a sense of selflessness, rather than a sense of judgement and inferiority…