This book brought back a delightful wave of memories when our children were younger and the adventures of Bibleman—a faithful staple in our home. Alas, they are teenagers now, so it's been a second or two since I've engaged with our mighty fictional hero. However, the truth presented in this little story was on point just as I remember.
Bibleman and his team engage in battle with the Grand Duchess of Greed during her scheme to trick Lila into buying a glittery, expensive phone case instead of giving her pledge of $30 to the school fund-raiser for those in need of food and clothes. Armed with the story of Elijah and the widow coupled with Jesus' words in Luke 6, the Bibleteam are just in time to save Lila from committing a sin she would have regretted.
Give, and it will be given to you . . . For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you."
Greed. Such a relevant topic in today's world. And one is never too young to learn the importance of giving from a heart overflowing with gratitude. My junior reviewer, Brooklyn, turns 8 in October, and is an avid reader. She enjoyed the story, learning more about what Jesus has to say about giving. She totally understood the concept of greed. The glittery and shiny, perfect temptations for a girl of her age (and for us bigger girls as well . . . ahem). Brooklyn loved the colorful illustrations. She did say she asked her mother for help with a few of the bigger words, and she would have liked if the book were a little longer. For those reasons, she gave the book 4/5 stars.
However, the book pushes to 5 stars for me because of the Parent Connection page, Remember (Scripture), Read (Additional Scripture and Application) and Think (3 questions to discuss with your child) with a key thought in bold.
Show God's love with generosity.
Highly recommend. Age range is 4-8. Grade level P-2nd grade. 17 pages.
I wrote this poem as a tribute to my parents, who were both tragically killed in a car accident, September 20, 1994. The original poem was four stanzas and read at our wedding by Diana Hammitte, aka Gabba. The reading of the poem was our way of including their memory on our special day. Over twenty years later, God has been faithful in blessing our marriage in more ways than we could have imagined. Although the glory goes to Him, I'd like to again honor those we've lost with words of hope.
If you could have crawled inside my mind yesterday, you would not have identified me as a Jesus girl.
Yes, my feet hit the floor, I prepared for my Bible study, led a sweet group of women, and went about my day. And I believed every word that came out of my mouth during the hour we gathered together and studied God's Word. 1) Enjoying God's presence despite our circumstances is legit and expected, 2) Unbelief is an obvious obstacle to believing God (not believing in God), and 3) Pride is an absolute obstacle to glorifying God. (Beth Moore, Breaking Free). Yep, yep, yep. Got it.
Then, I drove away and unraveled.
Not visible to anyone else, of course. Typically, my emotional melt-downs occur internally. I'm not a crier unless I'm angry or devastatingly heartbroken. I envy my friends who cry easily. Why? Much like the water that builds up behind a dam during a storm, a slow release can cause damage (don't we know it), but nothing like the devastation in the wake of the dam exploding because of intense pressure (or in my case, imploding). In other words, tears are very good. Healing, even.
Yet, I can't force myself to cry. After the death of my parents, my tear valve malfunctioned. It's been under repair ever since. I have my moments, but they aren't near as many as I'd like.
No, my grief takes on another form. It's very hard to describe, but a rebellious spirit is close. Not on the outside, but internally. It's a very intense push and pull between being fearfully and wonderfully made, yet broken.
Why? What caused the unraveling yesterday?
Fatigue. Weariness. The state of the world. The looming hurricane and the panic surrounding it. The missing of my brother. The missing of Diana. The missing of my parents. My husband's persistent cough. Traffic on I-75. The depletion of gas, bread, and other necessities. Irma hijacking my calendar.
After a very long day, where my thoughts and actions had run rampant, a conversation ensued.
I am so very little, and God, You are so very big. But, I'm tired of praying, tired of reading Scriptures, tired of talking.
And I'm angry and I'm sad.
Ding, ding, ding! (I do think God says that to me, sometimes.)
Amanda, I'm the Creator of the hurricane that strikes fear into the hearts of so many. I hold the ocean, the winds, the sky, the moon, the sun, the animals, the people, YOU in the palm of my hand.
Do you believe I love you? Head hanging low. Yes.
Do you believe since you are called according to my purpose, all things work together for good? Sigh. Yes.
Even if your brother died? My bottom lip almost bleeds as I grit out, Yes.
Even if you lost your parents and the substitute mother I gifted you with? Eyes close. Yes.
Even if you're mother-in-love was diagnosed with breast cancer? Lips suck in. Yes.
Even if the hurricane hits and the frogs invade? I laugh through emotion. Yes.
He reminds me:
Forgive me, Lord.
I did, I do.
Go Georgia Southern Eagles!
Traveling to see our alma mater play major universities is a commitment my husband and I have made since our children have entered into teenage years.
The reason is twofold. First, we are loyal to our beloved university and want to demonstrate said loyalty through support. Second, we feel it's important to expose the kids to as many campuses as possible during their pre-launch years.
On that note, this past weekend was a whirlwind of travel to beautiful Auburn, Alabama to watch our eagles face off their tigers. We visited with dear friends, walked downtown, took a selfie in front of Toomer's Corner, participated (kind of) in the Tiger Walk, watched the war eagle soar (after, of course, making our daughter look up the why behind the what . . . educators as parents, ya know), stood in awe of the sold-out stadium, and even got a front row seat right behind the tuba section (which was legit cool). And an added bonus for me—I sat behind the most enthusiastic player's mother—mad respect for that sweet sister. I needed this weekend desperately. It was the first day of football season since Matthew's (baby brother was an avid college football fan) passing, and I missed him—desperately. Being surrounded by friends who are family helped ease the pain, but, yes, I may have been oversensitive. But then again, I don't think so. You can make that call if you'd like.
Temperatures had dropped and although by halftime, the predicted outcome of the game didn't favor our side of the scoreboard, it was a good night. Except for one thing. The row behind us, inebriated to the point one of them got kicked out of the stadium, engaged in such foul language and banter, my superhero of a husband stood up and very nicely (sort of) asked that they stop because his wife and children were present. I love him.
College kids will be college kids, right? What do you expect, Amanda? It was a night game, right? Major university, alcohol consumption is expected.
Yes, I get it.
Except these were grown people (my age) donning my school colors and they didn't give a flying flip about who was around them—because why? I paid for these tickets, so I'll talk how I want to, regardless of the family of four sitting below us, or the three-year-old girl on the other side of me who watched the game from the vantage point of her daddy's shoulders (again, we were behind the tuba section #southernpride)
Y'all, believe it or not (wink, wink), I was no angel during my college years. And as an adult, I'm still no angel. A work in progress who can get frustrated and let one or two slip now and then. No judgement here. In fact, as a middle and high school teacher we would brainstorm curse words and trace back to where they originated. Super fun times, although the students accused me of sucking the fun out of everything. #Whatever (See Philippians 4:8)
No, this blog/rant/plea is more about the heart behind the words. Our world is in peril. Evidence exists all around us. But this encounter, despite hurricanes looming in the Atlantic, the horrific trauma in Texas, or threat of nuclear war, bothered me most of all.
I don't know. Maybe because my children (and yes, they are still children) were distracted to the point they couldn't pay attention to the game. Maybe because my son literally placed his arm around me out of protection because he thought the gentleman above me was going to stumble and fall on his mama. Maybe because my daughter bent her father's ear, asking him to clarify several statements that had nothing to do with football, and everything to do with sexual not-even innuendos. Maybe because I had a strong feeling these men and women would wake up in the morning and not remember the lasting impression they left on my children.
And, yes, I'm aware my kids hear the equivalent in the hallways, but still, this was somehow different. More disturbing. I encounter this type of behavior from my generation more and more every day, whether it be through cursing, wrong behavior displayed in public, or a downright disregard for what little eyes see and what little ears hear—it's not okay. I've always made it a practice of listening in multi-layers, underneath the sting of the curse words to the heart behind them. And these people were hurting and angry. Very, very angry. And not just because we were losing.
Many people are angry and tired and at the end of themselves these days, I get it. I am too, sometimes. However, a total disregard for acting in a way that is honorable, reasonable, and dignified is unacceptable.
Lord, help me to remember it's not okay.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23
Praise God, on the upside, our children saw distinction of right versus wrong behavior. They heard their father stand up for them. They observed our two friends, both men, help women to their seats, open doors, and care for the general well-being of those around us. For that, I'm thankful.
Steal Away Home-Charles Spurgeon & Thomas Johnson Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom
A B&H LifeWay Review
If I had to describe this gem of a book in one word, I choose hope.
In today's time not many people are familiar with the names, Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson. Two guys who walked the planet back in the 1800's. Why take time in 2017 to read a story about people who no longer breathe?
One reason: Their legacy of hope and joy through suffering is a gift every single person in today's society needs to study.
The crafting of this story, so engaging in its literary style, presents a relationship based on bondage-though different in its nature-and the quest to find freedom in Christ alone.
Over 100 years ago, two very unlikely people intersect on their pilgrimages. A young boy from Essex, England inspired by the faith of his grandfather, but weighed down by depression and anxiety and a young boy from Virginia during the heights of the civil war, inspired by a wise mentor, but weighed down by the chains of slavery eventually met as men, through a chain of events set off by a book burning.
Charles H. Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson did not meet until later in life, but their stories as told by Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey are beautifully woven together in a way that is relevant, moving, and applicable. As explained in the Introduction, this book is not a biography or a history book. It's a story based on letters, books, journals and sermons. The authors researched for years and yes, they had to fill in the blanks at times. However, although I was familiar with Charles H. Spurgeon and his epic ministry, if not for this book, I would never have read more about his life and certainly would have missed out on the breathtaking relationship between two preachers who lit up the globe for Jesus, from England, to America, to remote places in Africa.
The title, "Steal Away Home", is from a hymn Thomas sang as a slave in Virginia.
I highly recommend for young and old alike. Beautiful story and much appreciation to the authors for taking the time to write it.
"I can't go back to yesterday because I was a different person then." Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
So true. No matter how hard we try, we can't go back.
Can we look at the flipped pages of the calendar and glean wisdom? Gosh, I certainly hope so. No, I know so.
But will I?
So many times when I listen to individuals, and I mean really listen to the heart behind their words, I hear a yearning desire to go back to the day before today.
The day before that last kiss.
The day before those first steps.
The day before that last first day.
The day before that horrid mistake.
The day before those words were spoken.
The day before that diagnosis was made.
The day before the betrayal.
The day before goodbye.
The day before.
But history took the day before today, folded the hours neatly into its pages, and left us with the consequences—good, bad, and ugly.
Yet, we woke up this morning empowered to choose.
Don't ignore yesterday. It happened. Many of them happened. And time dictates their numbers will continue to grow as long as the sun rises and sets.
Look back, squint your eyes if you have to, and piece through what worked and what didn't. Celebrate the successes of those who have gone before, trailblazers who did their part in the weaving process of who we are. Try to understand the pulled threads, those decisions that threatened to unravel us and step up to strengthen the ties that bind. Show gratitude and regret.
But, move forward. Move past the day before today. Simply because we must.
The type of friends whose words or actions bring you down.
My teenage daughter has educated me on the concept of frenemies, and as a "big girl" who preaches about pulling on those "big girl panties and dealing", I've spent some time pondering the concept of a frenemy.
Then, an epiphany from the heavens hit me. My hormones are my frenemies. Like friends, I'd be in pretty bad shape without them because they serve a valuable purpose. Technically, they are my messengers, delivering important information to different parts of my body. However--
I'm a word girl, so the origin of the actual word fascinates me a bit. Throwing back to the Greek, I see phrases like to stir up, to rouse, impulse, and assault.
Yep. Sounds about right.
So here's the deal:
My hormones and I have been together for a while now. They are my constant companions and gosh darn it, they are here to stay. My little buddies sit on my lap during the rollercoaster of life—the ups (happy, happy, happy), the downs (nonsensical weeping), and the sideways (general hysteria). We've been through puberty, pregnancies, and pre-menopausal purgatory. It's been quite a trip, and I am thankful for them, in a bizarre kind of way with a I hate you, I love you mentality.
Anybody with me?
I turn 43 tomorrow, and at this stage of the game, I've packed my suitcase labeled life lessons full of valuable tidbits. Here's one. When it comes to hormones, I've had to have some role clarity moments.
What do I mean by that?
My little army of minions tend to think they can overtake the ship and control my behavior. Then, they stamp their excuses--Sorry, I'm hormonal, It's just hormones, You know, it's that time of the month, so sorry--all over my relationships.
As a result, they wreck my ship. As in, steer it right into the rocks of regret.
But it's my ship. I don't have to say what I'm thinking in a moment where everyone breathing annoys me. I don't have to lash out when my impulse is to scratch eyeballs and slap faces. I don't have to roll my eyes, suck my teeth, or turn my back when someone close to me pi—ticks me off (see how I did that?)—again.
Nope. Ultimately, they can't control me because I still get to choose.
I can breathe life into others even when I feel (fill in the blank).
I can step away from the keyboard when I know nothing affirming could possibly flow from my fingers.
I can pray for Jesus to take the wheel and the Holy Spirit to shut my mouth.
I can, I can, I can.
And you can too.
Steering with Scribbles,
Alarm goes off. Children awake. Hustle and bustle of lunch making, form signing, hair brushing, clothes ironing begins (In all honesty, they are independent and take care of this; Jeromy and I just tend to be in their way).
My Love and I sip on steaming cups of coffee while watching the news (ugh). Jeromy insists we stay informed. I agree. (Sort of.) Breakfast in bed is a ritual these days. Nothing elaborate. He munches on a bowl of cereal while I consume whatever concoction I've created. Between bites and sips, we discuss the agenda for the day/week. Who is taking who, who is picking up who, birthday celebrations, work, etc. If we skip this step, someone will be left behind. Not good.
Eventually, we kiss and wish one another success in our missions to divide and conquer. We join the children in separate vehicles and make the drop offs.
Depending on my schedule, the after looks different. Today, I'd blocked off time to write, then exercise, before launching myself to the southwest side of town to do a job I'm blessed to love. My characters and I spent some quality time together, discussed dialogue, and whether or not someone could have a firearm. We came to a peaceful treaty and a thousand words later, I bid them good-bye for now.
Then, I strapped on my headphones, dialed into my compel writing podcast, and set out on my two-mile jaunt around the neighborhood. Glanced at the clock. 9am. Twenty feet from my driveway I run into my neighbor who, bless her soul, is sweating bullets and attempting not to get wound up by the three dog leashes criss-crossing in front of her. She's multi-talented because I'd never make it to my mailbox without breaking my neck. We asked about kids and commented on the scorching heat. August in Central Florida, y'all. No joke.
So, I continue my walk and listen to wise words emphasizing misplaced pride in our adamant refusal to ask for help. Look to Jesus where the gospels account countless examples of Him living in community and leaning into assistance from others. Good words to ponder.
Then, the podcast ends and as I look at my phone to close out of the app, I'm a bit shocked by the drops of water quickly accumulating on the screen. I hadn't noticed a section of the sky that had darkened since I left my home a mile ago. But there it was. No thunder. No lightning. Only gentle rain falling in neat lines, as if an artist, or rather The Artist, had a piece of white chalk lightly dashing away at the canvas.
In that moment, I made a decision. I didn't switch to Pandora. I didn't answer an email. I didn't call a soul. I just walked the remaining mile in the silence. And what do you know? I heard the birds chirping. The roar of the garbage truck making its bi-weekly run. Dogs barking at other dogs through the slats of fences. And then I saw the flowers and plants. Really saw them. The variety, the diversity. Blooms in shades of yellows, greens, pinks, and blues. Elephant ears with perfect red centers edging out carefully cultivated gardens. (I may not have a green thumb; in fact I struggle to keep my three houseplants alive, begging them to stay with me just a little longer, but I so appreciate the talents of others.)
All the while the gentle rain—nurturing, life-giving, healing rain—quenched the thirst of every patch of growth.
During the last seven years, the two mile path around our neighborhood has been the setting for much healing. I've prayed, cried, and laughed with every step at some point on my timeline. Today, in the midst of getting wet, I slowed my steps instead of speeding up. I even skipped once or twice, not to hurry, but to play. Because that's what hope provides, an opportunity to experience joy in the healing.
Dancing with Scribbles,
Time slow down.
As another school year takes flight, the above phrase has accompanied countless social media posts made by parents desperate to hold on to what was a little longer. I know, because I'm one of them.
But in case you haven't figured this out, time is disobedient, or rather immune to our wishes. Second, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and years march forward—relentlessly. And no matter how many mamas and daddies stand in front of the army of moments begging them to pause, the soldiers keep their eyes forward and just. keep. moving.
I used to associate time with tick tock, tick tock. But that's a clock, a device man made to measure the elusiveness of a concept impossible to capture.
Time passes in silence.
And if we dwell on what we cannot change, we'll miss the message time conveys.
Time will not slow down, but we can.
In other words, don't scream at the rain in pursuit of stopping it. You and I don't have that power. However, play in it. Dance in it. Appreciate it. Be thankful for it. Here's a reminder I use to help me slow down:
S-Stillness allows me to reflect on all the goings on around me. In the silence I can ask questions, be quiet and allow myself an opportunity to listen. My ability to express sincere gratitude is greater as I march beside time and whisper thank you to the Maker, the commander of the army, for all the memories time permits.
L-Love big. In a way that is selfless and not all about us. That's hard, because our very nature demands we look inward, and protect ourselves, because if we risk loving big, we risk losing big. And the temptation to shield ourselves from painful loss is real. Don't fall into that trap. So, how do we do it? Begin by learning how to love God first. Why? Love leads to trust. And trust is a teacher whose main objective is, while we do not see the span of eternity, God does. Trust leads to hope and in hope we can soar on wings like eagles. The eagle-eye view is a perspective changer, allowing us to glimpse the bigger picture, asking God for discernment, wisdom, and strength for what is to come. He is faithful in the most gut-wrenching of times, and He will give us what we need.
O-Own what is ours. As in, all our junk. Don't waste time blaming others for what rests on our shoulders. Making excuses is the equivalent of running on a treadmill donning a rucksack full of bricks. We expend a lot of energy and time going nowhere, while all the world around us, those we love, are moving on. And we are missing it.
W-Write down what we don't want to forget. Or record it, document it, whatever works. But don't be passive as time moves on. While we can't capture moments, we can capture memories.
As long as I'm happy, what difference does it make to you?
If you really loved me, you'd want me to be happy.
Don't worry. Be happy.
You do you.
If we existed in a vacuum, cut off from everything and everyone, whatever makes us happy in the moment wouldn't matter. Why? Because the consequence of choices, much like a pebble thrown into a pond, wouldn't ripple through someone else's life.
We don't live in a vacuum. Created for community, our fellow humans yearn for connection, relationship—love. And that four letter word binds us together whether we like it or not.
Therefore, the consideration of others in decision making, no matter how great or small, is an expression of love—or lack thereof.
So, to be still, to pray, to think, to be intentional in our God-given choices is essential in the practice of love.
My personal experiences tell a tale of selfish behavior when I was determined to fill the God-sized hole in my heart with something else—a filler. Other times, carelessness has overruled consideration. Either way, I've hurt others through my choices, and I've been hurt by others by their choices.
So, here's a challenge for all of us:
Before you ingest something into your body, consider those you hug and those who hug you back.
Before you say those words, consider what can't be unsaid.
Before you view that image, consider the impossibility of unseeing it.
Before you post on social media, consider the permanent scar created by the stroke of the keys.
Before you walk away, consider who you are leaving behind.
Before you allow pride to rule the day, consider who your subjects are.
Before you unplug, consider who you are unplugging from.
Before you pretend to live in a vacuum, look into the faces of those you care about most.
Insert foreboding music . . . (Maybe from Jaws)
Monday, it begins.
What begins, Amanda?
The FALL SCHEDULE. The relentless reminder that #thelazydaysofsummer are a sweet memory to be cherished. Blow it kisses and gaze back on the pictures of sun and sand with fondness; then buckle up and get ready for the CRAZY.
But . . . darn it, it doesn't have to be this way. As I turn my face away from June and July (August got red-rovered to Fall a long time ago), I put my hands on my hips, narrow my eyes, and determine to master the giant piece of paper that covers my desk-the one with squares listing agendas, practices, games, doctor's appointments, drop-offs, pick-ups, and to-dos.
How do I master what has so often OWNED me?
My answer: NIP it.
As in stopping something before it grows.
N-No is a powerful word in our vocabularies that signifies an unwillingness to participate or volunteer for those activities (good/bad) that simply don't fit. Saying no is freeing, and it's an admission that we are not superheroes, capable of leaping tall buildings or placing more seconds on the clock. No recognizes there are other people very capable, willing, and led to say YES. Don't be afraid of it; embrace it.
I-Intentionality, y'all. The reason I switched back from electronic to paper is paper allows ME (not speaking for everyone) to visualize the bigger picture and filter what needs to stay and what needs to go. Have your non-negotiables in place and stay firm.
P-Purpose defines why we do what we do. I'm a Daughter of the King (Glorify Him, love Him, honor Him), Wife of Jeromy, Mother to Zachary and Mackenzie, and the list goes on. But my umbrella is to love God with my heart, mind, soul, and strength AND to love others as God loves me. Where and how can I do that best?
Join me in this fight. Refuse to be flattened by the time-stealing freight train of the calendar.
200 plus pages of interactive fun! Need I say more? Maybe.
For this review, I brought in an expert avid reader with a ready opinion who just happens to fall into the age range for the target audience.
Meet my new Junior Book Reviewer: Miss Brooklyn Heath
After collaborating with Brooklyn, here are our thoughts:
1) This resource provides a variety of activities to keep our littles busy accessing all parts of their developing brains. From numbers to word searches to coloring, it's all there. Brooklyn happened to love the coloring pages the most. She wished there had been more stories to accompany the pictures, and put the scripture in context. (But, the accompanying scripture is a plus!)
2) Presented in chronological order, from Old Testament to New, this book is a great accompaniment for Bible stories, whether it be at home during devotional time or in Sunday School.
3) I, personally, thought the interactive parent guide was helpful, but could be more extensive. Some parents are well-versed in the Bible; others, not so much. It could be a great witnessing tool for parents and grandparents!
4) The price point is fantastic.
5) Brooklyn is eight, which is the top of the age range for this book; however, she did require parental assistance with some of the activities, which leads me to believe children of ten to twelve might actually enjoy this book as well.
6) Last, but really important, and precisely the reason I brought Brooklyn on board, from a child's perspective, the pages are too thin. Why? Because Brooklyn likes to use markers, and the markers bleed through the pages, causing her frustration when wanting to complete the next page.
Overall, our collaborative rating is 4 stars. Brooklyn recommends this book to the targeted age range.
I am blessed to look back on a decade plus of teaching with a wistful smile and a bit of nostalgia. God opened doors for me to have the privilege of standing in front of classrooms—from college-aged to high school to middle school, as TEACHER, and when God closed the door on my formal career in education, I mourned. I eventually celebrated the next season, and anticipated the seasons to come, but my heart ached as I kissed those sweet faces good-bye.
When I reflect back on those twelve years, I must say my favorite grades to teach fell right in the middle. Yes, that's right. I loved those in-between-alien-like-know-just-enough-to-be-dangerous eleven to fourteen-year-olds. (And now I have TWO living under my roof! Woohoo!)
Don't get me wrong, teaching college was a blast and explaining anything from life skills to Shakespeare to high school students took my breath away (such a nerd, I know), but my tweeners take the prize.
Why, you (and many others) might ask? As a middle school teacher, you get a front row seat to the awe-inspiring (and yes, head banging) process of a child transforming into a young adult—a glorious metamorphosis, much like that of a pupa turning into a butterfly.
It's slow, and at times painful to observe, but so worth the wait.
Those kids made me laugh and cry and everything in between. A middle schooler knows a lot of stuff, especially in this day and age. Granted, they are often clueless as to what to do with it, and for the love of hormones, y'all, sometimes, bless their souls, they don't even know which way is up, down, or sideways. But . . . they are creative risk-takers who are trying to figure it all out and in the process scrape their knees and bloody their noses. As their teacher, I was blessed to squint my eyes and see through the "front", and help bandage their knees and clean up any other injuries, tough love in check and operational. And, we'd rewind, go through the application process yet again, and wait with bated breath for those uniquely designed wings to break through and start flapping. And when one finally becomes airborne, those sweet things fly without abandon and it is simply a beautiful sight to behold.
I spent many years as a Jesus follower in the figurative middle school years. Not a baby in the faith, but not an adult either. I knew enough to be dangerous, and didn't have a clue as to what I was being called to do with my head knowledge. My emotions, and yes, hormones, drove the ship and I crashed and burned more times than I can count. From a faith perspective, I remained in middle school for about ten years.
And as an adult, I don't have it all figured out. I know God's purpose for my life and am aware of my strengths and weaknesses. I'm learning when to say yes, and when to say no. My ratio of obedience is improving. And, I can finally say I trust the One I follow, and value His discipline in my life. I'm grateful.
Here's my encouragement, though. As you encounter Jesus followers, remember each is at a different point in their faith journeys. Have patience. Be kind. Show love. Ask the Lord if you're being called to mentor or if you are in a position to be mentored, or if you're a classmate collaborating with a peer to follow the Savior.
Thank you, middle schoolers (who are now in their twenties and thirties). You will never know how much you actually taught me.
Moving with scribbles,
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (I John 3:1 a)
The voices of two beloved people are missing from my life—the curious, loving, quirky voice of my "adopted" mom, Diana and the inquisitive, witty, challenging voice of my baby brother, Matthew.
Both voices I heard almost every day, whether on the telephone or in person. Both voices I miss desperately. Both voices belonged to sounding boards, sources of humor, and loving members of a family doing life together.
And now they're gone. Except on recordings or videos—which I have to tell you are not the same, but powerful enough to spark automatic tears of joy and sorrow.
I talked to Diana when I had chores to do. Why? Because she, God bless her, wasn't named Gabba by her grandchildren by accident. She would talk and I would work. I'd input here and there, and sometimes, our conversations would dive so deep I'd have to stop folding clothes long enough to process. I'd also call her while I walked or ran. She got a kick out of that because she considered those "gab" sessions, her exercise regime, too. I'd give anything to walk around the block with her one more time on this side of heaven.
Matthew's conversations always went beyond surface and sometimes made me think so hard, my head hurt. I would take him on walks too, and by the end of my 2-mile loop, I had been physically and intellectually worked out. And he almost always made me laugh. That throw-your-head-back-with-abandon sense of humor is unparalleled and there's a part of me that will wait in anticipation until I can see that smile and hear that laugh, again.
Please understand, I have many other loved ones whose voices I cherish. Encouraging, generous, wonderful people who I pray I will hear for many years to come.
But, their voices, like Diana's and Matthew's, are unique. We can simultaneously be grateful for what we have and yearn for what is temporarily missing.
I've sought the Lord's voice during the absence of the unique tones of Diana and Matthew. I have completed chores and walked many miles in silence, thinking and praying. Processing. And that's not a bad thing—in fact, it's very good. But it doesn't take away the missing of the voices I held so close to my heart.
Here are some scriptures that remind me of God's voice in my life:
The Lord your God is with you; the mighty One will save you. He will rejoice over you. You will rest in is love; he will sing and be joyful about you. Zephaniah 3:17
See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God and so we are. I John 3:1
God thunders with His voice wondrously, Doing great things which we cannot comprehend. Job 37:5
And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. I King 19:12
Even though my ears desperately want to hear those voices again, God, through His word, is teaching me how to listen—especially to Him.
His joyous exalting.
His thunderous, wonderful, rumblings.
His low whispers.
And in the missing, I'm thankful.
Moving with scribbles,
Tired, weary, apathetic, unmoved, deadened.
If I had a cardboard sign hanging around my neck, the above adjectives would not be my choice of scribbles defining me.
However, I find myself tired of people's inability to see truth, apathetic toward those who won't help themselves, unmoved by tales of hope that should widen child-like eyes in wonder, and deadened at the never-ending reporting of horror, death, disease, and destruction.
Anyone with me?
Yet, I'm a woman of faith. Deep, abiding faith I refuse to release no matter how big the wave or how deep the sinkhole.
Faith-complete trust or confidence in God.
God, the Creator.
God, the Unseen Father.
God, Omnipotent and Omnipresent.
How do people of faith guard themselves against shrugging their shoulders and rolling their eyes through life? Hope. Hope is our lifejacket in a sea of jadedness.
Hebrews 11:1 states, "Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
Shift your eyes from the temporal carnage to the glorious eternal perspective.
My husband and I enjoy certain television series about war. Though not a fan of the blood and gore, I am a fan of the stories accompanying the soldiers that gave their lives for my freedom. I want to remember, place the events in historical context, and truly appreciate the sacrifice. One of our favorites is A Band of Brothers. One scene in particular has always moved me beyond words. It's called the "hope quote" scene.
"You hid in that ditch because you think there's still hope. But Blythe, the only hope you have is to accept the fact that you're already dead."
Without Christ, we are the walking dead. And when we recognize our state of being and reach out for hope, we can show compassion, mercy, grace in the face of the tired, weary, apathetic, unmoved—dead. Read the gospels. Read the gospels in the context of culture and history. Jesus personified joy and hope during his ministry. His soul was burdened for His creation, so much so He left heaven to breach the gap and to offer hope. Humanity gave Jesus every excuse to write us off. Yet—He didn't. And praise God for that. He praised the children for their faith, He forged friendships with the disciples, He healed, He laughed, He wept, and He acted with extreme conviction. On our behalf.
Something that indicates a limit.
What does it look like to live without limits, without restrictions? I don't know.
Countries have boundaries.
Parents have boundaries.
Employers have boundaries.
Relationships have boundaries.
Boundaries are not bad; in fact, limits can most definitely be our friends.
But, does love have boundaries?
It's a question I ponder quite a bit. After all, Jesus intentionally condensed the extensive law to two commands:
1) Love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength.
2) Love your neighbor as yourself.
Yourself. But, who are you? A creation of the Creator. The Creator, who by definition, is love. The Creator who wouldn't let sin stand in the way of relationship with his most beloved creation; therefore, He bridged the gap Himself.
Loving neighbors, though? Once you understand who your neighbors are (friends and enemies), this command takes on a new spin. To love another is to make a decision. A decision to treat them with honor, dignity, and respect because they, too, are image bearers of the Creator. Love in this case is most definitely an action verb. It's tangible. Real. Difficult. Messy.
Getting everyone to agree on an issue in this day and time would be akin to gathering a million 5-year-olds in a room and asking them to partake in a minute of complete silence. Never. going. to. happen.
That's okay, though. You can love someone without agreeing with them. You can even accept someone without agreeing with them.
I know, I know. But how?
Pray. Pray for guidance. Be honest. Be this honest:
You commanded me to love. I don't know how to love this person. Help me.
The little town of Ocilla, Ga. has been all over the news as of late.
Why would a two stop-light town make national headlines?
An unsolved case—solved.
I, like millions of other people, tuned into an Atlanta-based podcast and listened to the twists and turns of a twelve-year-old cold case turned on its head. Once an Irwin County resident, I wasn't quite an outsider, but I wasn't quite an insider, either. I knew some of the names and recognized the voices. But the more I listened, the more real it got. As episode after episode aired, the churning continued, arrests were made, and the lives of families will never be the same again.
But that's not what this blog is about. I didn't know the woman who went missing because I was long gone by that time, and a bit shy to return. Years flew off the calendar and I never returned to Ocilla, simply because the county limits of Irwin held my painful memories I wished away—through no fault of anyone's except a tragic accident. Yet, monuments stood at Henderson Chapel Cemetery reminding me of the reality of what had happened.
Then, a ravaging disease wreaked havoc on a beloved brother. A brother who chose Ocilla as his final place of rest. Why?
The people of Ocilla were his family.
They weren't blood. (Ok, that statement isn't quite true. The family trees in Ocilla are in a grove where the roots overlap.) But, love was given unconditionally and returned with sincerity. Matthew had traveled the globe, yet chose to make his home with friends who were family. Friends surrounded by other friends who figuratively and literally circled around him, showering him with acts of kindness, time, and fellowship.
And the names of the people? They wouldn't want their names mentioned, because they didn't do it for recognition. They did it because they loved my baby brother. But, the people who circled around him in the living room of his beloved best friends, the hospital room, and the nursing home are the same people whose names are currently being dragged through the mud.
And now, I'm no longer an outsider whose interest is peaked by names and places.
I'm the former recipient of time from a teacher who inspired me to work with children with disabilities.
I'm the former student of a woman who sparked my imagination and encouraged me to be better than average.
I'm the former classmate of sisters who also lost a beloved brother.
And . . . I'm the sibling of a brother who received unfathomable love.
Currently, I sit on the front row as the town who loved big, grieves big.
Do I want justice? Of course. But there is a difference between justice and exploitation. In honor of Matthew, I feel compelled to present another view of the town nestled in the heart of South Georgia.
To the people of Irwin County, my prayers are with the community.
And, above all else, thank you.
Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus.
Drum roll, please!!!!!
Today, I have officially been married over half my life.
But y'all . . . I was married when I was twenty-one. I am now almost forty-three and have been married twenty-one years. Those are some sobering facts, especially when one forgets how long she has actually been on the planet. (AKA, denial)
Whew. Yesterday, on our actual anniversary, our kids asked us about the BIG DAY.
What were you doing at this time?
Were you scared?
How did mom look?
How did dad look?
Did you dance?
Oh, yes, we danced.
My handsome groom walked up to me, and whispered, "May I have this dance?"
I laughed aloud and nodded eagerly.
You see, we had been preparing for this moment. Our first dance was rehearsed, complete with twirls and dips. And we nailed it. We lovingly gazed into one another eyes and hummed a tune by Harry Connick, Jr., while we made our debut as Mr. and Mrs. Williams.
The children listened to our stories, squinted their eyes as they looked at Mom and Dad, trying to imagine the Before picture. Like all teenagers, they have difficulty understanding life existed before their first breath. Jeromy and I take great delight in reminding them of how that first breath came to be. Wink, wink.
Anyway . . .
Then, we transitioned into favorite memories.
First five years?
Jeromy and I smiled over breakfast, gave our answers, and gladly reminisced about our ups, downs, and sideways.
And we attempted to be transparent with the kids, as much as they can comprehend; some nuggets of wisdom are stamped with until later.
But grown-ups understand, or they should. The romanticized version of marriage is full of warm and fuzzy. But what about the happily-ever-after?
Like most people, we returned from the honeymoon, and the real dancing began. The in-step, out-of-step, you-just-stepped-on-my-toe for like the millionth time jig that all couples unwittingly engage in after the rainbow has faded and the unicorn makes his get-away with the Just Married sign.
Thankfully, during the first ten years, we were quite in-sync and despite certain hardships, very together—even if the grip was characterized with white knuckles and gritted teeth.
But when years 11-15 came up, I quirked one eyebrow over the rim of my coffee cup and he looked down at his bowl of cereal.
"Mom, Dad, c'mon! Favorite memory?!"
Finally, we made eye contact—a whole lot of memories exchanged in that one expression, and in unison said, "Survival."
You see, those were the years when we walked the valley of 'till death do us part—not hand-in-hand—but solo. Figuratively, we had decided you do your thing, I'll do mine and then we'll pass in the hallway, kiss the babies, and continue on our treks.
What ensued was equal, but separate meandering in that dangerous place called the land of cohabitation. As in, the music cues and you don't like the song, so let's just sit this one out becomes okay. Except it's not okay.
We were not only unintentional about spending time together, we didn't want to spend time together. Why? Because we didn't like each other. We looked back on our BIG DAY and remembered—not with fondness, but with a sense of Who were those people? and Where are they now?
Obviously, we found one another again and made it. A baby on each back, we held hands, begrudgingly at first, and climbed that darn mountain. Out of breath, we reached flat ground and looked back at the valley, saw our separate paths riddled with pain, hurt, and confusion, and vowed
never to re-visit That Place—alone.
And, praise God, we're dancing again. Have been for years now. Do we have bruises, bloodied toes, and sore backs? Yep. Do we cry, laugh, wince, and grit through the many maneuvers? Oh, yeah.
But, within the context of us we're reminded of the bigger picture. The eternal one. God uses marriage as a metaphor for relationship with His people. We, the followers of Jesus, are the bride. He is the groom. And sometimes, as the bride of Christ, just like as the bride of Jeromy, my dislike of circumstances causes me to head toward the wall of chairs and own the title of Wallflower. But is that what I'm called to do? Nope. I'm called to dance. And not alone; with the other followers of Jesus. To move toward the final goal, giving God the glory . . .
Even when I don't like the song.
Even when I'm tired of injuries.
Even when I don't like my partner.
Even when all I want to do is hide in a corner because this broken world has worn me slap out.
Even when . . .
After twenty-one years, I'm thankful for the calendar—the one that tells the story of us, but also the one that reminds me to take my partner's hand and dance till the last trumpet blows.
A B&H LifeWay Review.
Love Lives Here: Finding What You Need in a World Telling You What You Want is a poignant account of Bob and Maria Goff's journey from Maria's perspective.
It's more than a memory book, though. It's a reminder of why we are here—to live life with the intentional call to love God and love others. To care for people where they are and meet their needs in a tangible, authentic way that demonstrates Jesus's relentless love for them is our calling as a body of believers.
Maria Goff shares stories of being intentional with friends, family, and strangers in the practice of extending grace and hospitality. She is transparent and authentic in the sharing of her personal journey of healing before and during her marriage.
In the wake of losing a sibling within the last two weeks, this book touched my heart in its ability to dig through the rubble of what doesn't matter and in the midst of the ashes, stand in awe of what does.
That girl or guy in the room that doesn't say much unless it counts? He or she tends to get mad respect from those who know them. Why? Because those people don't feel compelled to fill the silence with noise. Deep thought and meaningful verbiage are typically their calling cards. In my world, that quiet voice laced with wisdom typically ended an argument, or at minimum rendered people somewhat speechless. A voice of reason giving perspective requiring introspection.
I like those people.
We need more of those people.
Social media is a playground, with all the characters in play: the bullies, the victims, the crowds who take sides, and the innocent bystanders. As a teacher, I witnessed these dynamics play out in real time and whether it was a minor skirmish or a full-on brawl, hurt was always a consequence. Many times, deep hurt that couldn't be fixed with a band-aid or an I'm sorry. Grown-ups escalate the scene exponentially.
In this provocative age, how do we respond in light of Galatians 5?
14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
We are feasting on one another.
And it's ugly.
I'm a fan of Jesus's reactions to the folks he encountered as told in scripture. Whether he was responding to a pharisee, a disciple, a prostitute, a tax-collector, a traitor, or Satan himself, Jesus chose his words with the wisdom and timing of a pro. Seriously, if you haven't scoured the gospels and studied the fascinating Socratic method at its best, you should get to it. Jesus is the Master of truth-telling, flip-the-table, make-you-think-until-you're-twitchy responses.
But here's the thing.
I know he was God in a body. I get that. But he was also human. Flesh and blood. He was an infant that grew into a child that transformed into a teenager that matured into a man. And he must have been a studier of people. Did his divine perception one-up ours? Oh, no doubt. Jesus had zero problem seeing past the exterior in order to dive deep into the interior.
(Side note: He gave us the Holy Spirit upon salvation, so that 'ole,"But He was God," excuse doesn't work as well post-ascension. Do we really access that power on a regular basis and ask for wisdom and discernment? Just a thought.)
Personally, I believe Jesus learned serious skill in the workshop. Making things. I don't know what the carpentry facilities looked like in Bible times, but I would imagine that gig required perception, discernment, and silence.
God's timing is perfect, right? Jesus was in his thirties when He began his public ministry. If you're paying attention and intentional, you can learn a lot about people by the time the thirties hit.
So, yeah, Jesus knew his audience. He knew whether to ask a question, tell a story, perform a miracle, or walk away and rest on a mountain top.
The thought-provoking question that's been asked for a while now holds true. What would Jesus do? Too many people justify their behavior by playing that table-turning-temple-card. But those folks were desecrating His holy father's house. His response, though effective, could have been a lot worse. No, that question doesn't deserve a quippy answer. Study and find out. What would he do? What did he do?
Sometimes, he was #silentstrong.
Sound familiar? Maybe too familiar?
This tired, weak woman who had been suffering for years had come to the end of herself. There was only one thing left to do.
Tons of people crowded around him. People who would normally walk the other way. People who would guard their children from being exposed to her presence. But not today. Today, in this moment, they were obsessed with him. And if the stories were true, she understood why. She took advantage of the pushing and shoving, and hid in the shadows of the swell created by the men and women shouting his name. Jesus! Jesus! If she got low enough, and stretched far enough . . .
Rough fingertips touched the fringe of his garments. She gasped, then held her breath. It was done.
And . . . she. was. healed.
I'm sure a cocktail of shock, disbelief, gratefulness, fear, and awe churned in her gut. I can almost see her shaking hand cover her abdomen and glance up in wonder. Twelve years of bleeding and now, it had stopped.
But, that wasn't the end of the story.
"Who touched me?"
The disciples might have laughed at Jesus's question. All of them touched him.
But he wouldn't accept their answer. Yes, he knew they all had touched him. But one particular person needed to come forward—to be seen.
I can almost hear her rapid heartbeats two thousand years later.
The God she longed to touch—saved her. For years, she had suffered and no doubt, she had experienced anger, confusion, and sorrow. The echo of "WHY!?" must have bounced off the walls of a humble dwelling.
Had she been physically healed? Yes. But better than that, he had seen her. Trembling, she confessed, stepped forward, and lay before him, testifying to what had happened. God incarnate recognized her faith, and told her to go in peace.
A woman who had been sick, destitute, shunned, starved, hopeless, and hidden was now set free by Jesus, the One who not only saw her, but called her from the dark places of hiding into the light.
Jesus didn't choose to heal everyone. People who knew him died during his ministry. People who loved him died while he made others well. But . . . Jesus knew what they didn't understand. His work on the cross would bring ultimate healing for everyone who accepted Him. From the pharisee to the thief. From the Jew to the Gentile. From me to you. No one was excluded.
Yet, while we are here in the midst of the broken, God still sees you and desires that you live out His purpose. To love Him and to love others. Step into the light. Be seen and allow the Great Physician to do a work in your heart. A work that no accident can take away, that no bad cell can kill, that no malicious crime can rob you of.
Matthew 10:28 explains, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul . . ."
The Lord looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.
16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.
18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.
20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.
Over three years ago, I sat in my brother's hospital room reeling from a diagnosis no one expected. Shock filled the air and threatened to paralyze me with every breath. And the tears, tears that had been frozen for years, came pouring down my face.
Me: I'm so sorry, Matthew. I can't stop crying.
Matt: Amanda, this is how you are supposed to grieve. You are supposed to cry. I don't want you not to cry. Don't go down that other road.
Me: I nodded my head, eyes big, tears unchecked.
Matt: Promise me, whatever this looks like, you will take time to process and do this right.
Me: I promise.
My brother had witnessed the emotional fallout of glossing over the death of our parents, burying myself in activity, and the resulting disaster area created by years of refusing to process. His selflessness in calling me out was a gift I will cherish—and remember.
Processing—to treat or prepare by some series of actions
Whether you are graduating from college, celebrating a milestone, welcoming a new addition to the family, or grieving the presence of a loved one, processing change is a vital step toward intentional adjustment.
You see, I know, because I've hopped, skipped, and jumped right over processing, and the end result is unpreparedness which leads to reactions based on emotions, and over time functioning on pure feeling is a recipe for disaster.
Everyone processes differently. I take walks. Lots and lots of walks. And when I walk, I think, pray, and process. Every step is time to ask/answer painful questions, but necessary ones. What have I gained? What have I lost? What void is filled/created?
But you can walk through a situation without literally walking. My son plays basketball out in the driveway. My husband flies. My daughter draws. My brother works out. Some people sit in silence and are simply still.
Allowing time to answer these questions encourages comprehension. And comprehension can lead to a better understanding or at times, peace with not understanding.
I walk to process relationships.
I walk to process parenting quandaries.
I walk to express my thanksgiving.
I walk to pour my heart out and lay my feelings out in the open.
I walk and grieve.
I walk to remember.
I walk to work through problems from work.
I walk to process fear.
This passage from Ecclesiastes, chapter 3 reminds me to take time to comprehend the season.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Whatever time it is in your life, don't deny yourself time to process and comprehend. Take a deep breath and move forward.
A lot can happen in 168 hours.
This time last week, I sat in shock as I heard words I had expected for months.
My mind comprehended exactly what the sweet, broken voice on the other end of the phone meant. Matthew had left his body. He was in heaven. No more pain, no more anxiety, no more breathing episodes, no more fear. I was relieved—but shocked.
I hadn't expected the shock. My body began shaking uncontrollably, so much so I hid in the closet for fear our sleeping children would wake up early from their teenage comas and see me. The phone shook as I made my part of the necessary phone calls, texts, and social media posts, all the while I prayed for my hands to still. Eventually, they did. Then, the tears fell on my closet floor and I rocked back and forth as I stared at the white board with prayer requests and verses scribbled across it.
I talked to God and I wept.
God, you've been preparing me for this. I've asked for time to say good-bye, asked for so many specific things and You have answered. Give me strength, Lord. To mourn him without fear. To walk this journey out. To love in the wake of loss. I'm going to miss him. This hurts, Lord.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:18)
The hours of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday ticked by in a haze. 406 miles driving up and down I-75 to consult with friends and family and make the final arrangements. 406 miles up and back to hug, kiss, laugh, and cry our way through the visitation, the service, the burial.
And then, the gut-wrenching process of comprehension. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and now Monday. One week to the hour.
For those he loved, which encompasses too many to count, each day without him is painful. I yearn to see his name on my phone or his post on social media. I want to hear him laugh.
Lord, give me a window. Just a glimpse.
Trust. Even when nothing else makes sense, know I am here.
So for today—I will live, laugh, and love. Because there will be many more sets of seven days. Many more missed milestones and anniversaries that are too hard to imagine in this cycle of 24 hours. So, I won't attempt it. I will remember him and value the seconds that make up the minutes, that tick to the hour, that fill the calendar day. And I will rejoice in the gift of Matthew.
With every season change, normal, the idea of conforming to a pattern, morphs into an unfamiliar series of breaths and heartbeats that one must get used to—accommodate.
It all depends.
In the fall, our normal is set by the school and sports calendars. That coveted information is inputed into my app, and all vacations, staycations, doctor's appointments, business trips, etc. are scheduled accordingly.
Then winter brings in the holiday traditions and our normal typically involves the warm and fuzzy succession of new memories punctuated by turkeys, trees, and trimmings.
Spring shifts our attention back to the Almighty calendar, and we commence with the wrapping up of the school year. Another grade completed, another milestone achieved. Parents and students often reenact the last scene of Grease as they run away from the school building as fast as possible, papers flying in the wind, to welcome the beloved lazy days of summer.
Summer is typically our break from normal because for most people, a tad of spontaneity is thrown into the mix. Days can stretch out in front of us when pockets of time that are otherwise methodically filled, suddenly open up. A honeymoon of celebrating the absence of routine lasts a couple of weeks, before the doldrums set in and we're scrambling to make the next six weeks somewhat normal again.
And then there are celebratory moments that turn normal on its head: the birth of a child, a marriage, a graduation . . .
But when tragedy strikes and shatters the core of normality, there is often no going back.
Because the person walking the road of normal becomes broken—shards of a heart once filled with the dynamics of a relationship lay all over the path, causing one to wince in pain when taking the next step or even the next breath.
Can one possibly be healed from this state of heartbreak?
Yes. Completely. There are no band-aids in God's first aid kit.
Your life continues to have purpose and a life lived is a life one can remember, cherish, and learn from.
Yesterday, I stood arm-in-arm with my brother in front of a casket that held our baby brother, knowing the moment we drove away, the kind-hearted groundsmen working the funeral would lower him into the ground next to our parents. The same parents who were killed twenty-three years prior in a violent car accident.
Our normal was never the same after September 20, 1994, and our normal will never be the same after June 19, 2017.
But it shouldn't be.
People change people and the absence of people change people. Every second on the clock precipitates the shattering of someone's every day.
The disciples never found their new normal after Jesus's death and resurrection. They never even tried. They moved forward with purpose, fervor, and excitement. I know they missed him and they grieved his presence, but I also know they comprehended the gift that had been given. How? Because with the presence of the Holy Spirit, their message of grace and mercy lit the world on fire.
Nope. I don't want to look for a new normal. Because our family count—1, 2, 3, 4, 5 . . . will never be the same on this side of heaven. That reality rests on a little hill in South Georgia.
But I do want to celebrate today! My parents taught me a lot while they were on the planet, and so did my little brother. How to listen, how to learn, how to love. And just as I have missed them, I will miss him. He may have been nine years my junior, but he was very much my friend and confidant. I will grieve his absence—everything from his voice, to his laughter, to his unparalleled vocabulary, to his relentless debates. I will mourn him.
And I give up on finding my new normal.
But I will do somersaults through the extraordinary, stand in awe of what is rare and beautiful, and twist and turn the eccentric in childlike fascination. I will celebrate the hope in the healing and wait in expectation until all is made new again!
Amanda Williams is a forty-year old wife and mother of two who can still swing her pony tail and display just a tad of sass. She is also a Jesus loving girl who realizes she is nothing without the One who saved her. Amanda has two degrees specializing in serving students with special needs and is currently working in the field of Leadership Development. She is a Christian author, speaker, blogger, and publisher who loves serving beside her husband at her local place of worship, First Baptist Church of Ocala.