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…

It’s Not Concrete Anymore

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Can I do this day without as much drama as I did yesterday? Can I take the stress I felt from yesterday and decrease it? God how can I truly move onto the next phase of my life if I’m staying so low? That’s what I’m doing right now…. I am staying low because I am lowly in my words, thoughts and actions… but I need to rise above drama and stress… because that’s not the way to live…

It’s not very becoming to be this way…. to continue to stir up a mess and leave myself wound up for no reason at all…. I don’t miss dad like Bridge does right now…. Is something wrong with me?… two weeks ago I cried myself to sleep 3 nights in a row… now I feel empty about the entire life-altering situation…. how do I move forward? do I move forward? or does grief come to me?

I don’t feel worried or stressed for mom either and I don’t really know why… it’s kind of like I just feel like it’s all going to work out… I have to have this kind of attitude about my own life…. so I mineswell have it with mom and bridget’s too… I guess in this strange way we are all using faith like never before… in extremely different ways… ways that are personal and central to us… but none the less very important to each one of us…

And I don’t know where any of this will take us… I don’t know how living in Cali will become a relationship and a family…. I don’t know how Bridge’s living in Cali will become her career and I don’t know how mom’s living in shreveport, moving through the mess and mud will become her new life… it’s all a mystery now… before life seemed simple… it was for sure that dad and mom would alaways be in shreveport with their house and the business….

Now… now all of that has changed… and it’s not concrete anymore…. Nothing in my life is concrete anymore…. I guess it would be wise of me to allow myself to become concrete…. To really know and understand me… For who I am and what I want…. Because if i know me…. if i am continuously familiar with who I am… Well then I will stay true to me…. I won’t really fidget when life begins to change again… I’ll just go with the flow of things and live my life in peace…

That’s what I need God…. to live my life in peace….

Confidence

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Sometimes I feel like death is teaching me more than I wanted to learn. Like when I lay in bed at night and miss my dad. I just want him back. It’s strange… most of the things we want in this world we can have. I mean it may cost us but we can still have it. But with death…. well with death it’s not possible to have a person back. The soul and breathe have left and the body’s in the ground… so bringing them back is a task…. I’m sure it’s possible, but who really knows how to do that? And why on earth would God let anyone know how to do that?

Still, I miss him and I’m nervous leaving mom here alone. I don’t want her to get depressed. I want her to find something, anything to live for. I want her to move forward and take on life. She’s really capable of so much. And I know it’s going to be hard without dad here. I mean… he was in her life every single day. So his absence is more noticeable to her than it is to me.

I still think I’m in a state of shock though… a little disbelief. For most people, cancer is a long, drawn out process… for us, it was a month. One month after finding out, our world’s shook like never before. You know, my grandmother said God told her, “The girls will be alright when the earthquake happens.” She’s been telling me for months that we’d be ok. And it wasn’t until after the funeral that I realized… yeah we would be ok. She was looking for a physical earthquake to strike in Cali. What none of us saw coming was death…. which has surely shaken the ground for all of us. And when I told Bridge about this, she said, “Yeah, Amanda we will be alright. Even mom. I believe God included mom when he said the girls will be alright.”

So in this moment of fear for my mom, I have to believe she’s going to be alright. Depressions not going to set in and become a way of life for her. She’ll have moments, but I believe she’ll move forward. Last night, I tried my best to throw this challenge at her as a good thing. Because I believe when she looks back she’ll be able to say, “Wow, I did cancer. I did death. I did medical bills, construction bills, house hold bills and even the construction of a million dollar home. I did all of that. Wow.” And I think it will help her confidence grow tremendously.

Life is pretty amazing. I think if we all choose to look at the difficult times as blessings, great blessings it would help us all move forward in life. It would build our confidence and self-esteem. I don’t have very good confidence in me. I mean it’s grown tremendously, but it’s still weak. But in moments when it’s weak, I have to remind myself… “Hey Amanda, look how far you’ve come in life. You used to be the girl that was too afraid to enter a room because you feared what others thought. Now… well now that’s not even an issue.”

And those thoughts… they motivate me to enter fearful moments with great confidence in me. Confidence that I helped structure because they are built from my previous experiences… And I believe we all have these moments. We just have to look for them. Maybe finding confidence in self isn’t as challenging as we think… it’s simple. Just look into your past and find those moments when you’ve done things that you couldn’t do before… things that you impressed yourself in doing, and those things… those things should help you become more confident in you than ever before. I know they help me.