"What a shame, for I dearly love to laugh." Elizabeth Bennett Pride and Prejudice
My favorite fictional character of all time, btw. Sass, wit, and class personified. Love you, Lizzy B.
Like Lizzy, I find humor necessary to a life well-lived. Laughter fuels the soul for the journey, puts a pep in your step, and propels you to just keep going. I tend to gravitate toward those who like to laugh, and I've said this before, but I firmly believe my husband's ability to draw joy from the depths of my sorrow during the lowest time in my life is what led me down the aisle straight into his forever arms.
So, here's to my friends and family who make me giggle, throw my head back, and at times, spit various forms of liquid right out of my nose.
To the friends who:
Induce laughter just because I hear theirs.
Manage to crack me up with one or two words phrased just the right way.
Have natural reactions laced with southern accents and exclamations that deserve a whole other category of dialogue.
Can mix the sacred and the silly.
Share a like-mindedness and have the ability to sum our thoughts up with the perfect mix of empathy and sarcasm.
Overflow with energy and excitement, therefore causing a joy bomb to explode, bathing me in precious sing-song shrapnel.
Send me videos and gifs and memes that have the power to pull my car over on the side of the road so I don't take someone out while in the throws of hilarity.
To my brother who is a phone call away:
You just genetically sync with me and force laughter from my person with a simple facial reaction or eye roll. Why do you think I video call you every other night? No, it's not just to see my adorable niece and your charming wife, although I love them both. We get each other, and I'm grateful.
To my brother who now resides in heaven:
I'm happy for you, bro. You have graduated and are now with Jesus and a host of family and friends. However, can I just tell you your sense of satire and wit is sorely missed? It's simply unfair that I can't call you after watching the train wreck of our present national circumstances and get your reflections and thoughts. I miss your laugh, man. Love you. Until later.
To my children:
Gosh, your dad and I have done a good job because y'all are turning into two of our favorite people. (Wink.Wink.) Zachary, your timing is impeccable and your word bombs send your father and I into hysterics. Mackenzie, you inherited sarcasm and wit. Once you have graduated from thirteen, you will be well on your way to mastering both. Together, your one-two punch is without comparison. Seriously, y'all make us laugh and keep us young.
To my husband:
No words. Except. My prayer is we will be blessed with many, many more days to lay in bed, watch the news, roll our eyes at the ridiculous, simultaneously break out into laughter at whatever, exchange snarky comments meant in the most loving of ways, and play off one another much to the amusement of our friends and family. I really, really like you.
To the world:
Oh, we are funny creatures. People watching is a nice way of saying the world is our zoo so let's just cop a squat and wait for it.
I'll end this here:
I'm not a fan of making fun, but I am a fan of having fun. Let's not miss out on the laughter in the process of taking every, single thing so darn seriously.
And, to drop the mic and make my little space a bit spiritual:
"This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24
I am not good enough.
What am I even doing?
What prideful insanity has invaded my brain?
What possessed me to think I could?
There are so many better than me.
What is the purpose?
No wonder they rejected me. I would reject me, too.
God, really, how could You have planted this idea in my head?
This doesn't make sense.
Me? I can't even.
Just me, myself, and I on the couch last night with my two children watching The Voice while questioning why I ever thought I had the audacity to put my fingertips to a keyboard and attempt a writing career.
True story. And no, I'm not fishing for affirmation or constructive criticism. Just a little truth-telling on this Tuesday morning. You see, my hormones had stirred my emotions into a full blown cyclone. Much like Dorothy, I was on my way to being swept up in the funnel cloud—a target of flying debris/tittle-tattling lies, destined to be dumped out into the familiar pits of Hopeless and Confused.
Here's the good news, though. This Dorothy is no longer 14. This Dorothy is 43 and can call out my companions for what they are—biological, cyclical indicators of my current emotions. I take a deep, cleansing breath, say a prayer, grab my figurative megaphone, and demand they step away from the controls.
But these lies aren't only whispered when the whackadoos (I name them) threaten to steer my ship; no, these lies can threaten to knock me off my road at any point of any day—no matter where I am or what I am doing. Sometimes, they sneak up from behind, when I'm least expecting the attack. The struggle, my friends, is real.
Have you ever been rambling down the road of life, trip in a pothole, or stumble over a rock, only to notice upon regaining your footing and looking back up, the path is not recognizable?
When (noticed I wrote when, not if) this happens to me, I either immediately shake off my injuries, shine my light and find my way back on the right path or I stop—confusion and fear rendering me paralyzed in the darkness, wondering Who am I?, Why am I here?, and What am I doing?
I have spent years standing still or blindly clawing my way back onto a road not meant for me.
Allow this seasoned road-weary, battered fellow sojourner to impart some hacks you might not be aware of:
1) Know the terrain. The road—on this side of heaven—is shall we say, a bit bumpy? Understatement? Agreed. Y'all that's not changing. No matter how well you've planned, provided, and protected, the world is broken and your road will be affected by the seismic shock waves of sin. Cracks and crevices appear when you least expect it, causing the well-laid route to resemble an after scene from The Weather Channel. We are not Dorothy traveling the yellow brick road, nor are we saints rejoicing on the streets of gold. Not yet. Recognize the broken path and prepare accordingly.
2) Know your Companion. Never believe the lie of solo. If you have asked Christ to accompany you on this journey, He will be there. Remember, He is the light that illuminates the path.
3) Know your destination. Fix your eyes on Jesus, so when you fall, you aren't gazing at the ground; instead, you are focused on what matters—who is in front of you and Who awaits you.
4) Know your purpose. Be prepared to defend it. Battle-weary travelers can be lured off the path by promises of easy-fixes, feel-good fillers, and shifting shadows. Scripture isn't just an ancient book. It's a compass, a sword, and a shield all wrapped up in one.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Hindsight often defines the happiest moments in one’s life. Much like in a talent show, you don’t know the best act until the very end. And when the finale isn't fixed on your timeline, one must learn to appreciate the vivid colors of life as they come, because any moment could end in a bow and an until later adieu.
Here comes the bride.
One step at a time, dressed in layers of white satin and lace, I readied to walk toward my happily ever after. Flanked by my brothers, I looked at one, then the other and winked. We had been laughing outside in the scorching hot south Georgia July sun. They were fanning me to keep my makeup from sliding into the cracks of concrete on which you could easily fry an egg. The sight of them waving their arms as if they were attempting to take flight caused us to erupt into a fit of giggles. The laughter alleviated the nerves.
Tears of joy were a blessing. As in most weddings, there had been hiccups, near disasters, and temptations to call the whole thing off and elope. None of that happened. The day had arrived, all had fallen into place, and the time had come. Tall, dark, and handsome shifted from one foot to the other beside the good reverend as I paused just inside the arched entryway. Time stood still. They tightened their grip on my arms; we looked at the wedding coordinator waiting for the official nod. After what seemed like an eternity, she gave it, and off we went.
My brothers nervously smiled at friends and family who had gathered to support my groom and me during our wedding. In the absence of my parents, whose lives ended prematurely as a result of a car accident, my two siblings, one 19, the other 13 stood in for my dad. That sight alone—three orphans, banding together, moving forward—was enough to cause emotion to flow.
Add in a young couple desperately in love—all the feels were present.
They gave me away. I kissed each one on the cheek and stepped up into my new role. Wife.
Many happy moments during the last twenty years have lined up on my timeline. The birth of our two children ranks somewhere near the top. Anniversaries, holidays, vacations, reunions all call out for their place in line.
Death shoved one memory to first place—for the moment, that is.
Not the death of my parents.
The death of my baby brother. The one on my left. The one who grew up, served his country in a war, only to be ultimately taken by the ravishing disease, cancer. Thirty-four years old and the sensation of his grip no longer tugs on my arm.
Branded onto my brain and inside my heart, the memory of our fit of giggles in a churchyard over twenty years ago will never pass away. A perfect moment in time that didn’t gain precedence until much later in life.
A celebratory occasion made sweeter, more precious, and more vivid by a loss so significant.
A B&H LifeWay Review of 100 Days with Jesus A Daily Glimpse Into the Person of Christ by Diann Cotton
This beautifully-constructed, compact, hardback book is perfect as a gift, devotional, or valued addition to a library of resources. Each day presents a name for Jesus, the Scripture backing it up, the definition of the name, a letter to the Savior, and a few thought-provoking questions. On the opposite page, stunning photography accompanies the devotions.
Top 3 reasons to recommend:
1) It's constructed well and is quite pretty from the cover to the interior design.
2) The purpose is on point and relevant. Many times, I forget the sum total of who Jesus is. Therefore, I need to be reminded.
3) After reading this book, I now know I have been ignorant as to all facets of Jesus. Reading Diann's research and her presentation has made me more familiar with my Savior.
Tonight, my family attends a wedding—a joining together of two young people who met as teenagers, formed a friendship, and came back together as adults. Today, they stand in front of God, family, and friends committing their forever. Day Ten of the reading calls Jesus the Bridegroom, the man about to be married, awaiting his bride; in this case, His church.
The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears "come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:17
On this Saturday morning, I'd like to lighten my blog space up a bit and talk about a middle-age phenomenon, of which some of you might be able to relate.
BTW, you don't have to be married to get this.
At 43, excessive verbiage irritates me.
This reality concerns me a bit, considering I am married, have two teenagers, work in leadership development, write books, and speak for a living. However, a recent conversation with my beloved has shed some light on the why behind the what. I'd like to share.
My husband and I work together, meaning we may or may not pass one another at various times in the restaurant or offsite office depending on one another's schedule for the day.
Yesterday, around 3:00, I'm on my way out the door to pick up our daughter. Jeromy is sending a text to the team, while our training director and office director are diligently working at their desks.
Jeromy looks up. I guess my tone indicated I was talking to him. (Insert shoulder shrug emoji)
Me: "I need your face for a minute after you're done."
Jeromy: Nods, while never looking up. Continues to text.
Directors: Laughter and head shakes commence, as they continue to work without missing a beat. (They know and love us.)
He finishes texting and we exchange about ten words confirming football games, volleyball games, dinner plans, and sleepovers.
Me: "See ya."
Us: "Love ya."
Kiss on the cheek.
Me: "I'm out."
Laughter in the background.
Here's the deal, y'all.
Jeromy and I have come to terms with the reality that we are given buckets of commodities to spend during the ever-stubborn, non-negotiable 24 hours. One bucket contains patience. Lord, help it multiply. The other contains words. Yes, as in syllables with meanings.
Can Jesus renew and replenish the buckets? Yep.
We're not perfect, and many times our humanity gets in the way of the multiplication miracle. To put it bluntly, there is a point in the day when—we're done.
Y'all can relate.
We work with people. And we love our people. But people require words. Lots and lots of words. And then, when you add two teenagers into the mix, the commodity of verbiage is spent and consumed faster than you can accept or deny an eye roll or a blank stare. Therefore, when we get to one another, the following might happen:
1) We can have an entire conversation with no words. Sometimes these "talks" are romantic and super sweet. The I love you and get you and there is absolutely no need for you to speak for me to know that moments. And then there are the times when frustration boils over and eyes dart, body language screams, he goes to his corner, I go to mine, we meet in the middle with arms crossed and things eventually right themselves—or not. Depends on the evening.
2) Jeromy walks in the door and all I hear are strange sounds coming from his mouth that should be words, but don't quite make it to actual syllable status. When this occurs, I know we are done speaking for the night. Don't get me wrong, the temporary no words status can/and often is a mutual situation. On those nights, the sooner sleep comes, the better.
Here's our solution to both. You know what happens after a glorious few hours of sleep? The buckets replenish! More words come. So, Jeromy and I get up a little early, share two cups of coffee in bed, and exchange many, many words. Sweet moments, y'all.
I Corinthians 13 hangs over our sleeping space for a reason.
Flowers and chocolates have taken a back seat to energy and WORDS. When we anticipate a rare evening (almost a unicorn these days) where our attention is focused solely on one another, we INTENTIONALLY save our words.
Time has a way of redefining romance, but you know what? The sound of silence is not such a bad thing, either. Especially when you're sharing it with someone you love.
Who is a hard-to-forgive person/situation? How did forgiving them shape you?
The answer is me.
Showing myself grace and believing Jesus has been a journey filled with long talks and gentle, yet poignant reminders between me and my Savior.
The short list.
I have forgiven me for:
Turning away when I should have leaned in.
Showing disrespect instead of respect.
Not saying I'm sorry and meaning it.
Saying I'm sorry and not meaning it.
Shrugging my shoulders instead of allowing them to be embraced in a hug.
Rolling my eyes when I should have been laser focused.
Spending time constructing walls trying to keep out Who was already in.
Opening doors to destructive relationships.
Closing doors to constructive relationships.
Saying yes when I should have said no.
Saying no when I should have said yes.
Giving away what wasn't mine to give.
Harboring what wasn't mine to keep.
Cowering to fear.
Allowing my emotions to dictate my decisions.
Holding tears in.
Listening to the wrong voice.
Ignoring the right voice.
Speaking up when I should have shut up.
Staying quiet when I should have spoken up.
Celebrating my words while ignoring Yours.
Hearing but not listening.
Listening but not doing.
Believing grace has quite simply made me look less like Amanda and more like Jesus, smoothing the prickly edges that sliced my heart over and over again. I bled guilt, resentment, rage, and profound sorrow for years, long past the moment when conviction turned my heart toward repentance.
I covered my head with shame instead of turning my face up and allowing myself to drink in merciful, life-giving, thirst-quenching water.
Forgive you and let the healing begin.
Learning how to see yourself as God sees you is the first step in learning how to love others.
Moving with Scribbles,
My strength is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Dear 14-year-old Me,
Come close, sweet girl. Over here. That’s right. Stand in front of the mirror and be still for a minute. Allow me to whisper some truths. (Try not to roll your eyes.) First, you are beautiful. I know, I know. You think you are flat-chested, sporting a gap between your teeth, cursed with hair that won’t cooperate, and too poor to afford the cool clothes. You have knobby knees, rough skin, and a turned up nose that someone in middle school said made you look like a pug dog.
Don’t believe them. Don't believe the voice that says, "Not good enough." Just don't.
Not one word.
You are masterfully, uniquely, wonderfully made with no mistakes. Please learn to own that truth, sooner, rather than later.
You are smart.
You may not like math or science, but dislike and insecurity do not equal stupidity. It just doesn’t. Bend your ear, and don’t be afraid to embrace the unknown—to ask for help.
You have words, lots of words. But you are too shy to say them aloud. Be faithful to your journal. Write them down. One day you will look back and learn so much from what you left behind.
You love to get lost in imaginary worlds with characters who are beautiful and heroic. You block all out and focus on the pages. There is nothing wrong with immersing yourself in fiction; one day it will serve you well. But--
Don’t ignore reality. Life is happening right now and you are missing it.
Your world is small. Limited. You can’t see past the next day, much less the next year. You feel trapped. The time that seems to tick by at a snail’s pace will fly and one day, you will wish you had held on a little tighter to the pages of this part of your story.
And that weirdness you are feeling right now? Those are hormones. They will forever be around and will produce whacked out emotions that will threaten to run your ship into a mountain of rocks. Hold tight. You'll learn to take back the controls.
That relationship isn’t worth it. You are too young, and quite simply you don’t fully realize what is at stake. Guard your heart at all costs.
Don’t groan at the idea of game night or movie night with your brothers or parents. There will be a time when those minutes of boredom when you’d rather have been “out” become magical memories you try to recapture.
And whatever you do, learn about grace. Unmerited, undeserved favor. Get your buckets ready because you’re going to need to bathe in it and have it handy to dump over others.
Dear 21-year-old Me,
It’s true. He loves you. He really loves you. That ring on your finger is not imaginary and that wedding is going to happen.
You are worthy of his love. Don’t doubt it. Not for one more second. He desperately needs you to believe in him and commit to making this work, because neither of you have any idea what life will look like beyond the wedding.
Dig in. There is such as thing is falling in and out of love. But it’s momentary and fleeting. The truth is we choose to step in and out of commitment. I know, I know. Your heart beat is out of control when he walks into a room and your hands still get clammy when you occupy the same breathing space. You can’t imagine not being head over heels in love with every single cell of his being.
Life tends to dull the senses. Intentionality sharpens them.
Faith, my darling. Invite Jesus into your marriage.
Also, please give yourself time to grieve. Your wounds will not heal themselves. Turn to what you know to be true.
You cannot run this race fueled on your accomplishments. You will come to the end of yourself and nothing and no one can take the place of the One and Only.
And remember the grace thing. It’s about to kick into high gear.
Dear 28-year-old Me,
You are a mama—his mama. And this baby will grow to love, adore, and protect you. Trust. He will teach you how to knock down those well-constructed walls as he sways his way into the crevices of your heart you didn’t know existed. You are not going to screw him up—okay maybe a little, but no kid is perfect. Enjoy rocking him, singing those lullabies, and kissing that ginormous head. One day—quicker than he can spit up all over your fifth outfit of the day, he will be taller than you and running around a football field, rendering you to the stands cheering him on and praying for his safety.
Fast forward 13 months.
Breathe again. And again.
Yes, God has a sense of humor and you and Jeromy are the proud recipients. You are her mama, too—and she will attach herself to you literally and physically. She will stretch you like you’ve never been stretched before. She will fill your house with sass, laughter, and tears. She will be the exclamation point, not known for her subtleties. Enjoy the piggy tails, the dance recitals, the coloring sessions, the baby dolls, and the horseback riding. One day, she will be taller than you and she will ask you the hardest questions you’ve ever been asked. She will be beautiful and people will notice and again, you will pray. There will be lots of words spoken—more than you can fathom.
Give yourself grace and leave plenty of room for everyone else. You should be familiar with the concept by now.
Dear Today's Me,
You have endured a stretch of rough road, complete with bumps, bruises, scrapes, and black eyes. But all the while, Jesus held on to you, and you dug your claws into Him, and once again, you breathe.
There are hard days.
There are days filled with immense joy.
That man of yours still loves you as you love him. And most days—you like one another, too.
The kids are the best and most fun right this very minute and don’t you dare miss a second of it worrying, stressing, or flipping out over the maybe, the mights, or the what-ifs.
Enjoy them. Enjoy him.
Stay close to Jesus. He is your lifeline, your support system, your daily source of strength.
Love God. Love others. Use your gifts. Love your people.
And yes, you will most definitely take a shot of grace. Please and thank you.
Dear Future Me,
Your purpose is living and breathing as long as you are.
Love God. Love others.
Drink in your people.
Look forward to your future.
Give grace. Receive it with tons of gratitude.
You may call them your tribe, crew, circle of trust, or village.
True gut-level-to-the-core friends. Those few to whom you are deeply attached by feelings of affection. Those few who don't stand in judgment, but instead, stand beside you and yours as you grit through the hard.
These are the folks who get you and your transparent real. They're not put off by imperfection; in fact, they embrace it as you accept theirs.
Dusty houses, dirty toilets, piles of laundry, crusty dishes—these peeps get to view all that, along with pajama pants, coffee-stained t-shirts, barefoot non-pedicured feet, no makeup, and questionable breath.
None of that matters when shared coffee, meals, giggles, and tears are on the table, ready to be consumed.
We love our people.
We laugh at the ridiculous,
Cry at the tragic,
Roll our eyes at the stupid,
Send memes and gifs and emojis,
Play board games,
Solve world problems over chips and salsa,
Listen to difficult questions,
Tell the truth
Respond with an unapologetic, "I don't know."
Or agree to disagree.
Ask, "Why?" or "Why not?"
Friendships still in tact, stronger for the discussion.
We share traditions with our people,
Insist on intentionality,
Distribute bucketfuls of grace,
Say, "I'm sorry."—even if no one else will—especially when no one else will.
We make physical contact with our people.
They are not just profiles on social media.
Our people are flesh and blood,
Who we've sat on the beach, back porch, or grass and watched kids play, fireworks explode, or waves move in and out with the tide.
We look, think, choose, love differently than our people.
And our relationships are breathtaking because of the shades, contrasts, and depth.
We are blessed by our people.
Go find your people. They are gifts, and very necessary to surviving this day and the others to follow. We are not meant to do life alone.
Moving with Scribbles,
Their beloved grandmother, Gabba, was dying.
My husband of twenty years and I held hands, locked tear-filled eyes, then simultaneously stared at the hospital bed that held one of our dearest family members—a mother who had chosen me as her adult child after my parents were killed in a car accident more than twenty years ago.
Having no children of her own, Diana had stepped up and adopted our little family, later becoming the only maternal grandmother known to our two children.
From birth, she loved them passionately, and they loved her right back.
And now, a series of unfortunate events had led to the unexpected.
Her life was measured not in months or years, but according to the experts, only hours and maybe days.
We wiped away the tears that had fallen on our cheeks and through sobs he said, “We have to call them in and allow them to say goodbye.”
I nodded, in full agreement. Our children, Zach and Mack, Irish twins, needed to mourn their beloved grandparent. And the first step—an opportunity to speak what was in their hearts, no matter how painful it might be.
Our children had been processing the devastating cancer diagnosis of my youngest brother for three years. We’d had many discussions about our faith and the promise of eternity, preparing them for the inevitable —but not for this. Oh, how we wanted to shield them from this pain! What parent doesn’t? But the transition from life to death is one they would experience in their lifetime—repeatedly.
Guiding them through the mourning process is part of our calling as parents. After losing my parents, I did not grieve as I should have, and the effects were devastating. We would not allow history to repeat itself.
So, one at a time, they came in, and we allowed them as long as they needed to say their, “Until later farewells.”
Gabba, unconscious, and dependent on the machine to help her breathe, did not physically respond as each expressed how much she meant to them. She did not squeeze my son’s hand as his thirteen-year-old body gathered her in his arms and told her he was sorry he couldn’t fix this. Her eyes did not open as my twelve-year-old daughter fell across her heaving chest, weeping, and expressing thanksgiving for the part she played in her life. Both showed, through their words and actions, the assurance we would see her again. Both said goodbye for now.
The weeks following her death were gut-wrenching. Mourning her individually, we found ourselves crawling into bed with them at night, holding them as we did when they were much younger. We prayed, read Scripture, and talked about the gift of time.
And now, though we all miss her daily presence in our lives, we celebrate her legacy each and every day through remembering all she taught us.
A cheerful heart is good medicine. Proverbs 17:22
When I was a young mama of two infants/toddlers/preschoolers, my schedule revolved around nap times. When asked to go somewhere or do something, if it meant disrupting slumber, my answer—a resounding, "Nope, but thanks." My people thought me a bit extreme over this non-negotiable, but I was blessed to spend my LIFE with these littles, so time to rest, to unplug, to regain sanity—a necessary requirement to rock on in the day to day.
A dozen or so years later, we are all still here, so it worked.
Y'all, not to minimize the problems that are currently eating this world, thereby making society crazy, but I'd like to propose a baby step in the age old question of, "Why can't we just all get along?" OR "What the heck is WRONG with people?"
Take a nap.
Here's my logic:
Jesus (aka God in a bod) was in his 30's and took naps. (Documented Gospel Truth)
Therefore, Amanda (most definitely not God in a bod) is in her 40's, and should definitely take naps.
You know why I think Jesus took naps? I have a lot of hypotheticals here, but I'm going to share my top 3 or 4:
1) To maintain a high level of patience with the tomfoolery occurring around Him.
2) To avoid grumpiness and the desire to wipe stupidity out with one fell swoop.
3) To maintain a high level of productivity during his short ministry. After all, He was on a mission with a timeline.
4) To practice what He preached, because Lawd y'all, loving people is no small order sometimes.
I know, I know. He was divine, holy, and without fault. I GET IT. He's my Savior, too.
He was housed in flesh and blood, and being divine and all, knew when sleep was a necessity.
Many of us (Americans), know this truth, but choose to ignore this truth with kitschy quips, "I can sleep when I'm dead.", "Who needs sleep?", "I'm a night owl.", "I don't require a lot of sleep."
Raise your hand if you have super powers? Anyone, anyone? Nope. Me, either. So, as my Kentucky bestie says, "C'mon Y'all!"
We LOVE to work, thrive on busy, and if possible, would inject caffeine directly into our veins. People are literally dying in the pursuit to stay awake.
Stop. it. (Insert a hand clap when you see a period.)
It's a proven fact (google it) napping does the following:
1) Improves your health. (From your head to toe and all the unmentionables in between.)
2) Makes you more alert. (Wake up refreshed and join the conversation with open ears and a reasonable tone.)
3) Inspires creativity. (I'll take a little of that. Please and thank you.)
4) Improves mood. (Ummm...Yes, please.)
5) Makes you more PATIENT and willing/able to LISTEN to other people. (For the love of the planet, CLOSE your eyes.)
And the good news? Not much is required. 10-20 minutes.
My friends, allow me to anticipate your questions:
Well, I happen to be a habitual napper, so I can answer this question with a little creativity (get that?)
1) In an ideal life, at home in your bed or recliner or couch. (Never going to happen?) Read on.
2) Car line
3) School parking lot
4) Grocery store parking lot
5) As you're going through the car wash machine thingy (Be cautious with this one.)
6) At your desk
7) Under your desk
8) Any parking lot
9) In the bathroom. *Note, a handicap bar is a great tool to use as a lean on device.
10) During your lunch break. (When I taught school I may/may not have turned off all the lights, moved a desk out of eyesight, and put my head down.)
You don't have to actually sleep. No worries. Download a white noise app on your phone, set an alarm, and close your eyes. Unplug those neurons for just a few. Guaranteed you will be a much more rational human afterwards.
All joking aside, this road is rough, and you require food, water, shelter, and rest (all figurative and literal). Claim the following verse and take care of you.
Proverbs 3:24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid. When you rest, your sleep will be peaceful.
Forever and A Day
A little girl
Who knew Your name
Enjoying the game
Played on Sundays
Where all we did
Was learn about You.
I didn't really know
Until one day
You did show
Grace and mercy
A promise made
If only I asked
And I did that day.
I opened the door,
And in You walked
Forever you promised
Rescuing one once lost.
I loved You then,
Sweet, sweet time
Of giggles and whispers
And secrets sublime.
Then, hurts assaulted;
I didn't understand
How every single thing
Wasn't safe in Your hands.
Heartache and loss,
Too much to bear
I shook my head
And embraced despair.
Determined to toss
To not care.
Until the end of me—beyond repair.
I, refusing to hear
Set off to look
For anything else
That might fill
For one once lost.
But nothing would fill
The home You claimed;
Even as I broke the heart You saved.
And again I felt
Your hand in mine
Ready to answer
Any and all.
At last we had
How in the world does THIS fall into Your plan?
Question after question
I threw in Your face.
We wrestled and fought;
Forever your grace
Never let go,
Held me tight--
And here we are.
My heart pricked with pain,
Yet absolutely knowing your name.
Day after day
The whys, the what-ifs, the I can't believes
You listen, You answer, You remember me.
The little girl,
Now a woman I stand,
All the answers I quite simply do not have.
Yet, laughter we share
Joy with no bounds
You make me smile despite hell's hounds.
In the midst
Of the pain,
There You are--
Ready to whisper
I love you,
Oh dear one, daughter of Mine
Hold my face and give Me your ear.
Trust what you cannot see,
And what you don't know,
What you can't understand
Will come full circle
As is My plan.
One day soon,
You and me
I'll look on your face
And there I will see
The one whom for all I gave
The one I've loved
Forever and a day.
"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." Albert Einstein
"I would rather die of passion than boredom." Vincent van Gogh
"Nothing great in the world has ever been done without passion." Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
"When you set yourself on fire, people love to come and see you burn." John Wesley
So, what exactly is passion? Excuse my word girl nerd status for a moment and go with me to dictionary.com. Passion is:
As you can plainly see, to possess passion—to be passionate—is no joke.
Traveling back on my timeline, I attempt to pinpoint the first time I experienced this intense emotional high/low.
(Puberty must not be considered, because honest-to-Pete (whoever Pete is), I was capable of "any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate" every day of my life for five years towards anything or anyone at any point or any time, depending on the state of my topsy-turvy hormones who absolutely had control of my ship.)
So . . . we'll just skip that part.
Let's go to college, shall we?
I had the privilege of being mentored by a high school teacher who taught students with special needs. Until that point, I didn't know words/phrases such as processing disorder, learning disability, and dyslexia existed. Seeds were planted in the what do you want to do when you grow up soil. Upon entering post-secondary education, the list of majors overwhelmed me as I entertained journalism, pre-law, and English.
However, I often thought back to my time with that one teacher, and an intangible—deep down inside my gut, stirred. More questions answered, more classes attended, and more exposure through volunteer work only fanned the flame, and soon I was committed in my heart and soul to becoming a teacher for those with special needs.
The burning in my belly translated to this: I desperately wanted to be an advocate for those with abilities that are masked by what some may call disabilities. These people didn't require my pity, they needed my passion, my overwhelming desire—to dig deep and aid them in the process of unlocking coping skills to set them up for success when learning.
My reward? To watch many knock down that wall of I can't and embrace with wide open arms I did it, I can do it, and I will do it. The mountaintop moments when I stood and witnessed, giddy with pride, as my darlings kicked those chains aside and soared to endless possibilities. Those seconds will forever play on the highlight reel of my life .
I am, of course, passionate about my marriage. I giggle this morning over my coffee as I can hear my teenagers groan and mutter through covered faces, Mama please don't go there. Some of our friends actually read what you write.
Allllllright. Sigh. I won't go there. See how much I love you?
Seriously though. Over twenty years into this 'til death do us part thing, the I feel sick when he walks into a room because my heart is kerthumping out of my chest emotion has taken a backseat to we made a commitment to love and to cherish and God bless it, we will do this no. matter. what. Grit through the hard times, cherish the mundane, and Superman/Lois Lane over those peaks. Amen. Moving on.
Raise your hand if you know what Mama Bear Syndrome is? Yep. So, there's that kind of passion. That protective, don't hurt my people or I'll come at you with claws unsheathed and a hair-blowing, spit-spewing roar that will rock your ever-loving world instinct the operates outside the realm of reason.
Leadership development, working with young people, ministry, friendship, speaking, crafting stories, reading what is good and right and true.
Number 11 brings me to a screeching halt with my all about me examples.
The last twelve hours of Jesus's life.
The choice He made. The sacrifice given in the face of incomparable pain—emotional and physical. My passions pale in comparison to the passion He displayed for me in response to His passionate desire to display obedience toward His Father.
Outside of reason, outside of what makes sense.
As I get older, wiser, somewhat more in tuned to what matters and what doesn't, my passion is shaped, defined by clarity of purpose—filtering everything Jesus's words as recorded by John.
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Ignite my passion. Let it be true.
Moving with Scribbles,
My daddy and I rode home together every afternoon the first summer I enrolled in college. Only 17 years old, my parents had wisely chosen to keep me close. Thirty miles of country road allowed us plenty of time to talk, debate, or simply sit in silence. There were no cell phones, and looking back, the sum total of those minutes—mountaintop gifts I hold near and dear. A couple of conversations stand out. This is one:
Me: Waving a piece of paper. "I got my grades today."
Daddy: Signature cutting of the eyes and tweak of the salt-n-pepper mustache. "Oh yeah? How are they?"
Me: "A in English, B in History, C in College Algebra"
Daddy: Slow nod, eyes on the road and a slight shrug of the shoulders. "Okay."
Me: A little miffed at the nonchalance. "Okay what?" (Add in a dash of sass for more realistic tone)
Daddy: Deep breath. (He took those often when talking to me.) "Amanda, if that's the best you can do, then that's what your mother and I will expect moving forward."
Insert Life Changing Moment
Here's the thing. My daddy was a wise man and knew his only daughter like the back of his hand. Our similarities outnumbered our differences and he honed in on a game changer. There was no lecture, no punishment, no threat.
Daddy intentionally said what daddy knew would provoke change.
He pricked my pride.
And I was hot mad.
We didn't say much more about my grades that quarter. I continued junior college, waitressed and began making choices that would eventually define my career path. After packing two years of courses into 5 quarters, I applied and was accepted into a state university.
And I never made another C again. Or a B.
Looking back, my father gave me one of the greatest gifts that summer afternoon. He not only challenged my pride, but he encouraged me to hold up a mirror to my motivation. Why go for the A? What does it matter? Why is it important? Was it for them? Was it for my friends? Or was it for me? It all came back to this. I craved the intrinsic satisfaction of knowing I gave 1000%. And that endorphin hit after acing a test, a project, or a semester? Addicting.
Fast forward a few years, and my heavenly father challenged me on another level. That conversation went something like this:
Me: Hands thrown up in the air. "I'm done. At the end of myself. If I have to live another day like today, I'd choose not to."
Heavenly Father: "Yes, you are at the end of yourself. You've done the best you can do. Is it enough?"
Me: "No!" (Add in a ton of sass and angry tears for a more realistic tone.)
Heavenly Father: "Am I enough?"
Me: Very miffed. "What?!"
Heavenly Father: "I am close to the brokenhearted and I save those with crushed spirits. Remember?"
Me: Sucking of teeth. "Yes!"
Heavenly Father: "Will you check your pride and achievements? Allow me to bind up the shattered pieces of your heart and shape you into the image you were created to be? Am I enough?"
Me: Gulp. Head nod.
Is it important to do your best? Yes.
Is it good to be motivated by the intrinsic as opposed to the extrinsic? Yes.
Is it enough? No.
What's the answer? Him
These lessons from Daddy may seem unrelated, but both stand out as pivotal points in my development. The end result of both conversations shaped me into who am I today.
And you know what?
I have no doubt—despite my screw-ups, my intentional disregard for what I know is right, and my I'm too tired to do the right thing moments—both Daddies are looking down on me with immense love and tenderness.
Moving with Scribbles,
Young, fresh-faced and filled to the brim with bubbling enthusiasm for my future career, I had no idea what to expect on the first day of spring quarter, my junior year. My first official education class had made its way on my schedule, and I was thrilled to have finally checked off my core classes. The doorway through which I would step to become a teacher—a dream I’d had since my earliest memory.
The professor, a 6’4’’ giant of a man with a bald head and the largest mouth I’d ever beheld sauntered in, gave an introductory speech, the words of which I hung onto like a rope leading to the top of a mountain. Before instruction began, he asked the class to pair off and introduce ourselves. Impatient to get this party started, I tapped my pencil on my desk, looked around, and considered this activity one more hoop to jump through before the meat of what I had signed up for truly began.
I glanced around the room as people paired off and began chatting, and albeit, unknowingly, looked into the twinkling brown eyes of the boy sitting in front of me—my happily ever after. We introduced ourselves, came up with cutesy rhymes to help the class remember our names—Jeromy can’t jump. Amanda wants an A. Cringy, I know—and threw our heads back and laughed. Eventually, after giggling our way through the initial assignment, we sat back down, each very eager to soak up the words of our instructor.
Cupid’s arrow didn’t pierce our hearts on that day, but seeds of friendship embedded themselves deep into the soil of our souls. Over coffee-fueled study sessions, day trips to Savannah filled with out-of-tune singing and lots of laughter, and long walks between classes in which we engaged in the journey of finding ourselves, trust led to transparency, and soon our mutual like for one another landed somewhere in between just and more than friends. All wasn’t right in our tumultuous collegiate worlds, but we were in this journey together. Life was good.
Then, my world turned topsy-turvy when I received the news of my parents’ tragic death in a fatal car accident. Fog and poor vehicular lighting had caused their premature deaths. But where I stood, upon receiving the news, it was a blue-sky, crisp late-September morning. Nothing matched, nothing made sense, and I was broken.
The pillars of my world—gone in the blink of an eye. Many people—my best friend, room mates, cousins, classmates, even my ex-boyfriend—gathered around to comfort and offer platitudes. But, my heart only screamed for one person. And in an instant, he was there. I once again looked into those brown eyes, this time somber, reflecting the pain he held in his heart on my behalf. Jeromy held me on that day, and assured me all would be right once again. He communicated with my professors, made endless phone calls to financial aid, and followed me home to mourn a couple he’d never met. Just to be there.
And there he was—beside me through the fall-out of what came next, a witness to the painful decisions no twenty-year-old should ever have to make, and within an arm’s distance as I stared at the red Georgia clay that had become my parents’ shroud. My heart became numb that day, as did the hearts of my two younger siblings, and I was sure we’d never laugh again.
Twenty-four hours later, under the stars of a South Georgia sky, surrounded by sentinel-like pine trees, Jeromy confessed his love for me.
“I love you, too.” It was a fact. But one I didn’t know what to do with. And neither did he. Our foundation was friendship. This new development was unexpected and the timing couldn’t have been worse.
There were complications on both sides and the road forward—bumpy, with dips and ruts neither of us could have imagined—knocked us around and shook us to the core. But he helped me on the journey to healing, and gradually my heart began to feel again.
Less than a year later, on Easter Sunday, he dropped to one knee with a couple of dozen eager elementary-aged egg hunters as witnesses, and professed his love once again. He asked a question that needed an answer, and I said yes.
Over twenty years, two children, four degrees, and a couple of careers later, we have learned how to dance through the peaks and valleys of life. Mountain top experiences characterized by exhilarating twirls, dramatic dips, and magical kisses flit across our timeline like lightning bugs. Then, the desperate clinging together while traveling through the shadows as family members said their permanent good-byes, the most difficult of all being my youngest sibling who died of cancer at the tender age of thirty-four.
However, when asked when our marriage has been most challenged doesn’t fall into the highs or the lows. It’s the times in between, when the monotonous day to day tempts us to dance solo instead of together. We vowed before God to love. It’s a choice we make every day. But to like—that’s more challenging and requires effort and intentionality.
I’m dating again—dating my husband. Laughing as we have all these years. Leaning on a friendship that trumps the butterflies of falling in love and the emotional ups and downs of the dramatic.
And just as I felt on the brink of what comes next that first day of my junior year, I feel the very same way as a forty-three year old with two teenage children. My eyes dance around our home and meet those brown eyes once again. So many unspoken words pass between us—then we laugh.
The older I get, the more I'm convinced mountain top moments often go unnoticed until opportunity/maturity to look back presents itself. Unless we are talking the epic experiences of marriage, childbirth, rite of passage such as graduation, etc. many magical tick-tocks of the clock don't get covered in fairy dust until, with longing, we mentally travel back in time and think or say, "Those were the days. Those were the good times. Those were the moments I wouldn't trade for (fill in the blank)."
Whether it be breakfast or dinner time around the table, family game nights, reading those little notes your mom left for you in your lunchbox, or rides to school with your dad, little did we realize, we were standing on the peak of good and wonderful and magnificent, and dog-gone-it, the busyness of the season or just not getting it managed to blind us from enjoying the view.
I think back on traditions—the many traditions where the adults in my childhood labored to provide year after year after year of joy.
One in particular stands out amongst the rest.
Dobbie's Christmas Stockings.
Every single Christmas morning from the beginning of memory until early adulthood has the following scene firmly fixed at the center. Groggy eyed, but filled with expectation, we (the Bradford/Hunter clan) would wake up to the smells of coffee, sizzling fatback, and fresh-baked sticky buns. As each person stumbled in from various parts of the Bradford compound, one site was ever-present and sought after.
The breakfast table.
Elaborately set with all the familiar holiday wares, each chair held what we all knew would be there—the overstuffed stocking with the fuzzy white top donning our name spelled in silver glitter. The contents of this magical sock varied from year to year. But—my grandmother (Dobbie) made sure by the end of taking out every, single, solitary item (still not sure how she managed to put 1,085 items in a standard-sized dollar-store stocking) the individual felt special, unique, loved, and cherished.
And, allow me to add, as we got older, there was always one item that was a teeny bit questionable. I swear she stumbled into Spencer's, not knowing where she was. (Evidence: Pens where Santa Claus was a little too exuberant when one clicked the button) Love you, Dob.
Anywho . . .
The old house, busting at the seams with cousins, parents, aunts/uncles, siblings, grandparents, and great-grandparents was the setting for chaos, laughter, tears, fights, and in retrospect, priceless gifts that had nothing to do with the contents of a package or a stocking.
It was the act of being together, taking part in something we knew was just—us. And, you know what? As the family extended or members brought friends, Dobbie widened that table or added another seat and no one—no matter how short of notice—went without a stocking.
I don't know how she did it, truly.
But on that one day of the year, regardless of where we were in life, Dobbie orchestrated a series of memories never to be forgotten.
Mountain tops in the midst of the mundane.
Mountain tops in the midst of the celebratory.
Mountain tops in the midst of the valley.
Cherish where you are right now. The next moment is not guaranteed. You may be standing on top of the mountain and be too distracted to notice. Stop. Breathe in the fresh air, look on those you love, listen to their laughter, spread your arms wide open, and enjoy the moment.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in Him in all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah Psalm 62: 6-8
I Know Not
A refuge, You say?
I don't understand.
Where to hide, to kneel, or to lay?
Spread like fire
As child after child
Succumbs to the mire.
The pain of a man,
So deep and distraught
He takes it out on
Crowds he knew naught.
I don't understand, Lord,
Nor can I trust
A valley full of shadows and ruts.
Where people unsuspecting,
Lives snuffed out,
Like mists in the air.
Yet, in this valley I do stand.
As others around me raise their hands,
One that evokes a sigh.
I do not know.
I never will.
An empty answer,
Our hearts, Lord.
All the same,
regardless of race, color, or name.
You could have,
Yet, you did not.
And in that knowledge I simply nod.
For I know that You, in all our pain,
Catch the tears
Not cried in vain.
Amanda H. Williams
I was born in 1974.
Just for funsies, I googled pop culture during the eminent year of my arrival onto the planet.
Interesting, laugh out loud trivia bits and pieces tickled my funny bone, but the turmoil swimming around the world was no joke.
Impeachment, war, demonstrations, controversial pardons, riots, civil rights issues, discrimination . . .
Sounds familiar, right?
The world keeps spinning, and the root of gargantuan sized problems don't change, only the dress code and soundtrack.
My desire is not to preach from my keyboard about the state of our current topsy-turvy. Good thing, because I would fumble it all up anyway. (Insert here. Please pray for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting.)
Nope. This post is all about me. And maybe you. And our kids. Depends.
As a young one raised in the 70's and 80's, I've made some observations that wrap back around to our little darlings we are pouring into with every waking moment of our existence.
Rewind to years 1-10, I can't help but call out vast differences in parenting approaches. Some of these are real memories; some are captured only on polaroids.
Safety- My only memory of a seatbelt is when our father used one to tie the passenger side door of our hatchback closed to prevent it from flying open, and possibly catapulting myself and my brothers into the murky depths of the St. Johns River. As we chug-a-lugged over all 3.1 miles of the Buckman Bridge to see the grandparents, I watched as the concrete whirred underneath my feet—literally. Seriously, I could have touched the yellow lines.
Nutrition- Mayonnaise sandwiches and star crunch Debbie Cakes infiltrated into my metal Wonder Woman lunch box every. single. day—for YEARS. (Sidenote-I am not a fan of mayonnaise at present.)
Playdates- The gathering of friends from the neighborhood armed with bikes and skateboards with firm instructions to check in for lunch only to return outside to our limitless domain until sundown.
Supervision- I'm the oldest of three, and distinctly remember rollerskating with my baby brother on our concrete driveway, before dropping him on his head. My mother didn't seem overly concerned.
Environment- The "bug truck" and its dispensation of chemical clouds was a highlight of any summer afternoon and every adult I knew smoked in and out of doors. Playgrounds were made of metal, coated with lead paint and perched over asphalt. My brother literally forked his tongue going down a metal slide that had reached about a thousand degrees in the September Florida sun.
Parenting philosophy- As my seven-year-old self is teetering from the branch of a tree (yes, we were allowed to climb them), I distinctly recall a supervising adult wandering out into the yard (probably to smoke) saying, "Let her fall. Guarantee she won't do it again."
Every generation makes mistakes in parenting. Our parents ADORED us, and there was NEVER a question in my mind whether or not I was loved. I just knew it. For whatever reason, they just sort of thought we could take care of ourselves, and you know what? The majority of the time we did.
Fast-forward to today.
The most unsupervised generation has birthed the most supervised generation and here we are.
Welcome to 2017 where brilliant, knowledge-heavy, technical savvy teenagers are infiltrating the work force, yet some of have literally never been left alone a day in their existence.
I'm not logging on to lecture about the do's and don'ts of parenting. Lord only knows I am woefully unqualified. Just as we, the grown-ups, forge through the peaks and valleys of life, so must our children. And . . . I ask myself. Are they as well-equipped as I was?
I can count the number of times my parents chaperoned a field trip, attended an open house, or God-forbid, inserted their influence in my place of work on one hand; flip-flop—I can count the number of times I've actually MISSED an open house, parent conference, field trip, school event on one hand.
Why is that? Are we afraid if we miss something, horrible events will unfold? Is it the mom and dad guilt? Is it fear that because all the other parents are doing it, our kid will feel neglect, left out, unloved? Maybe all of the above?
Like our parents, we love our kids—passionately. And we would do anything for them, as demonstrated on a DAILY basis. But I'm begging you, as I look at my reflection, don't hold them back by convincing them a three-legged race is the best mode of transport in this life. Allowing our kids to walk independently through the day to day, complete with bumps, bruises, with no immediate access to band-aid wielding mamas and daddies is a GIFT.
Snip. Snip. Snip. (Hear that?) Painful, gut-wrenching sound of cutting the cord.
Exposure at an all time high plus experience at an all time low equals recipe for disaster.
Our parents weren't perfect, but the majority of us survived with scars enabling us to power through and become one of the most productive, gritty generations in existence. Sheltering our kiddos from the hard, from the yuck, from the sticky isn't doing them any favors.
I'm not saying we shouldn't participate in the lives of our children. We most certainly should. They look to us for instruction. Let's carry on equipping them on how to navigate the murky waters. But don't be tempted to strap a life jacket on precious(es), while dragging them along as we do all the work.
Jeromy and I (could be because of our careers) think of ourselves as coaches standing on the sideline cheering them on, giving them strategies and plays, but watching them execute. Allowing them to know what it feels like to win and to lose. Are there times we wince? Yes. Are there times we cover our eyes, afraid to look? Yes. Are there times we jump up and down after they get up, brush themselves off, and execute what they had been practicing all along? YES.
We have great kids, y'all. Motivated, super-smart, and more than capable. Let's not rob ourselves of the joy one experiences watching them walk—standing wide-eyed as they run—and looking skyward covered in goosebumps when they learn how to fly.
God bless us and them!
Moving with Scribbles,
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6:34 MSG
31 Days of Rambling through the Ups, Downs, and Sideways of life. Join me on this journey of faith, as we walk through the peaks and valleys of successions of 24 hours while embracing faith, family, and friendships. All the while, my plan is to lighten up the heavy load with humor, wit, and truth found in the marvelously mundane of day to day.
Day 1- Technically Speaking
Day 2-Just A 70s Kid Trying to Parent . . .
Day 3-I Know Not
Day 4-Dobbie's Christmas Stockings
Day5-Just a Little About Us . . .
Day 6-Lessons with Daddy
Day 8- Forever and A Day
Day 9-Nap Manifesto
Day 10-Mourning Together
Day 11-Our People
Day 12-Dear Me,
Day 13-I Forgive Me.
Day 14-No. More. Words.
Day 15-100 Days with Jesus
Day 16-Timeless Giggles
Day 18-For I dearly love to laugh...
Technically speaking . . .
What does that even mean?
For me, my immediate reaction upon hearing those two words is, "Brain, you may officially shut down because verbiage is about to get a tad bit detailed, complicated, and most likely, depending on the state of our hormones, annoying. And we are too tired to compute."
Welcome to 43, y'all.
And if you don't get me before 11am when my caffeine intake it at its highest capacity, I'm most likely going to be in the crash and burn, I must take a power nap before the clock ticks one more time mode. AND I must conserve any and all additional energy for my teenagers. Because after 6, when practices end, and the dinner table becomes the backdrop for drama, drama, and more drama, my husband and I better be powered back up and ready to Steve Trevor/Wonder Woman the topsy turvy melodramatic back into perspective.
Friends, pause and pray now, please. Thank you.
Yeah, technicalities and such cause my inner ostrich to raise its ugly head from the genetic pool before promptly burying it in the quicksand of If I can't see you, you don't exist.
It's a flaw, I get it.
And there is a need-to-know component about the inner workings of most things.
But good gravy, sometimes our happy, happy group of fellow image bearers takes 2 plus 2 and turns it into infinity and beyond.
What the hay day?
There are people-infused issues that need our attention. And 9 times out of 10, doing what is required ain't complicated. It may be difficult in its simplicity, but is it technical—nope. And all this other junk distracts us from what/WHO is important.
And guess what? We don't need to be in the know for every, single, solitary whatever in every, single, solitary moment of every, single, solitary day.
Over it. Can you tell?
My favorite passage of scripture lays out the dialogue between Jesus (Creator of the Universe) and a lawyer (Expert in Mosaic Law). Grab the sweet and salty and bend your ears to what went down over two thousand years ago. According to the good doctor, Luke:
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
In summary, the know-it-all guy tried to nail Jesus on a technicality.
Who is my neighbor?
Jesus wasn't having it.
Our Savior told a simple story with a wham, bam, thank you ma'am conclusion that zinged His point right to the heart of the issue.
Your neighbor is anyone who bears my image. Go above and beyond and love them in My name, because you love Me with all your heart, soul, strength (the whole nine yards). Show compassion and forgiveness—mercy—even when it's not expected, ESPECIALLY when it's not expected.
Jesus loves me, this I know, because He showed me long ago.
And He continues to do so, every single day.
Bless us, y'all!
Moving with Scribbles!
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.
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.