I'm taking a break from Wellness Wednesday and the 30 Ways to Be series to remember. Thank you for indulging this nostalgic mama.
Jeromy and I had been married seven years when his wise grandfather imparted truth. If you're going to have kids, get with it or you'll be too old to play with them.
So, we tried and we tried and we tried—for months;)
Not the most terrible time in the world. (Echoes of disgust from our teenagers ring in my ears.)
Finally, we were convinced help from the fertility specialist would be in order. Until I got the phone call. At school. In the hustle and bustle of a high school office. (Pre-cell phone era)
"You're not going to be needing that prescription."
Silence. I hung up the phone without bidding farewell to the nurse. She was probably used to shocked expectant mother syndrome. I walked to my classroom in a haze and waited for that last bell to ring. Then I drove to the high school where Jeromy taught/coached and got him out of wrestling practice under false pretenses to impart the news. We stared at one another for a few seconds and then hugged in the parking lot. Goal accomplished. We were pregnant.
Months of planning followed.
Zachary showed up 5 weeks earlier than he was supposed to and taught us that God's plans are not ours and we should probably get used to that.
Blessed with a healthy baby, we went home in two days.
TWO DAYS, y'all. I BEGGED the doctor to keep us one more day. After all, he was a preemie. A 6 pounds, 4 ounces preemie who displayed remarkable health, considering.
Postpartum depression set in. That's a whole other blog, book, series.
However. I got help and navigated through those early days. (Note: GET HELP.)
Back in the gym, determined to regain my figure, I was plugging right along. Then one day I went to get a glass of water and THAT FEELING came over me. You know the one. A little dizzy. A little nausea. A little pregnant.
Zachary was 4 months old.
We had a plan. Pie charts. Graphs. A budget. All the things.
Bada bing bada boom. Cue God's laughter.
13 months, almost to the day—our exclamation point in the form of a beautiful, healthy, hungry blue-eyed baby girl came on the scene.
Jeromy and Amanda plus Zach and Mack.
14 years ago.
And as we've navigated through everything from diapers to puberty, we have laughed, screamed, and cried. We are grateful. For every second, for every season, for every shift.
Happy Birthday, Mackenzie.
Thank you, Lord.
A leader who is inspirational draws people in through their words, and most importantly, their actions.
A vision is cast.
An element of the presentation resonates with the audience. A seed of belief is planted. That seed sprouts quickly and produces a burning in the belly that propels.
Outstanding. Now what?
There's a classic war movie based on the events of Pearl Harbor. As depicted, American pilots were challenged to fly bombers off the bow of aircraft carriers. Impossible. The guy in charge inspires them through his powerful words and work ethic. However. Inspiration did not catch fire after the speech. Inspiration did not catch fire after he rolled up his sleeves and worked alongside them. Inspiration caught fire when HE flew the plane off the ship. Proving it could be done. Showing them the impossible was indeed possible.
How does one influence others from a passive state to an active one for the vision to become a reality?
Here's what I have found through working with dozens of leaders:
People can practice what they preach,
Best foot forward,
Walk the Walk AND Talk the Talk,
Crafting every move.
And still, fall flat.
There's an element of inspiration that MUST transfer off the page and away from the megaphone into the day to day grind. To inspire in the real world is to flesh out expectations within walls. Not figurative walls. Literal places of business. An inspiring leader has to be willing to roll up crisp white sleeves and dirty them in pursuit of demonstrating pace and example—coming out on the other side whole, unimpaired, prosperous, and real.
Research successful leaders in the world of business, education, and politics. Were they inspiring to others? How did that inspiration come to life?
Verse: Proverbs 3:13-14
Impossible. There could never be a problem with pockets. I agree. I'm such a fan I wrote a whole blog about the beauty of these magical folds of fabric.
When it comes to wellness, I have discovered that oftentimes I try to live my life in pockets. And that doesn't work.
You know those jewelry organizers? The ones that hang in your closet and every piece of jewelry has a place? No guess work involved. No tangled necklaces or missing earrings. I have one or six, but they are wasted on me because, well, I'm—me. My jewels fall (are thrown) in a drawer—kind of like a pirate's treasure chest. And yes, I get my kicks from untangling and rediscovering all the precious something shiny(s). Fun, right?
Some of you are breaking out in hives at the thought.
Back to the point.
Separating spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental wellness into pockets doesn't work because they are all intertwined into the unique, wonderful, and masterful creation called YOU. In the past I have been discouraged because one or two areas are on point, yet another is out of control. Because I'm on this journey with you, I don't have the answers, but I can tell you where I am in my thought process. Three questions are rolling around in my head like marbles and I'm journaling through them. Join me?
In the meantime, live well (somewhere between a pocket and a pirate's chest) and choose joy.
*This picture has more to do with THESE BABIES are both going to be in high school than the actual topic of the blog. So, excuse this sentimental mama. Note, Zach does have pockets in his cargo pants;)
No one likes being lied to.
Not one person.
Not your parents, your teachers, your friends, your significant others, your boss, your co-workers, or your children.
Not even you.
Captain Obvious statement?
Maybe. But then why do we lie to ourselves?
Yes. We are our biggest offenders. Self-awareness is a rare quality these days. Whether that's due to the everyone gets a trophy mentality, our gold-star obsessed society, or the praise minus constructive criticism mindset—I'm not sure. Although the cause is somewhat of a mystery, the effect stares me in the face every day.
We are terrible at being honest with ourselves. Granted, the truth might be buried under false security and inflated self-esteem. Still. The truth dwells deep in the marrow of our bones—waiting to be called out.
A compelling, successful leader can look in the mirror and unashamedly assess. Then, magic happens. Empowerment tickles the fingertips.
Why is that?
Honest assessment identifies strengths and weaknesses. True strengths are capitalized upon, and weaknesses are shored up by the construction and development of a capable team.
Call to action?
Be honest with yourself.
Ask trusted friends and family to help identify strengths and weaknesses. They sometimes know you better than yourself. Be willing to listen.
Verse: Ephesians 4:25
Come on y'all!
Let's get a clue.
Me versus you
will never do.
You post that.
I take it in.
No wrinkles, no crinkles
I look at me,
Unfiltered and real--
I'll never meet that crazy ideal.
Yes, I can.
Magic Wands at your service!
Shrink and crop--
Filter and blur and—voila
That's the shot!
No wrinkles, no crinkles
That's not me--
Not even close.
Do you see?
A mask, a moment
but one you perceive
as absolute perfection.
Oh, don't be deceived!
It's all an illusion.
Yet, oh my goodness!
What a fuss!
Our who we are,
Twisted and tainted--
How bizarre . . .
You are not them.
They are not you.
Come on y'all.
Let's all get a clue!
Amanda H. Williams
A little poetry never hurts to power through hump day, right?
I'm the worst offender in the comparison game. I would like to think I'm getting better as common sense (not so common) reminds me of the veil all of us drop over our social media accounts.
Can today be a call to action? Just stop. No, I'm not saying take all the filters off your phone. Everyone likes a great picture.
Only stop defining someone by what's on the screen. That's not real. It's a moment—a snapshot—a blink. You do them a disservice, as they do you one in turn, by summing up their identity in pixels. That mindset is the opposite of wellness. It's weakness.
A person has depth, pain, sorrows, moments of ugly, moments of beautiful, and all the messy in between. The breathtaking wholeness of a person, a fellow image bearer, can only be captured through authentic relationship. And even then, let's reach out for community, not comparison.
Bob Goff doesn't need my endorsement, but let me tell you, I needed his words. In Everybody, Always, Goff breaks down what it means to become love. He simplifies what we tend to make overly complicated. What does Jesus require of us? Is it our defense or is it our willingness to reach out to the difficult and make love known? So many causes to pause and chewable nuggets! I actually listened to this one on audible.com and if that's you're thing, I highly recommend because Goff is the narrator.
Featuring a fellow author friend, Raven H. Price. Blinded by the Light is a short story with unexpected twists that will make the reader pause and evaluate truths presented betwixt the pages of fiction. The dialogue between the supernatural beings and the main character is fascinating. Great, short read!
"Ellen Draper has a near-death-experience like no other. She dies, has her physical sight and hearing destroyed, and is taken to heaven by three angels to be judged and scrutinized by a tormentor.
Before her trial begins, the angels prepare her by giving her a royal treatment and tutoring her biblically for the battle. Finally, she is forced to remember her horrible past, so she will be prepared for the accusations.
When the angels feel Ellen is ready, one shoves her in a room to face the devil, or so she thinks. Who is the accuser she can see and hear inside this courtroom? What will is the purpose behind this ordeal? Will heaven assist or allow Ellen to take unspeakable punishment? Will she be the same afterward, or does she buckle under extreme fear?"
This classic novel is part of a delicious series by Winston Graham. Set in Cornwall during the late 1700's, you won't be able to get enough of the intense drama! And—Masterpiece has made a FANTASTIC adaptation. If you like period drama, this is a must read/see!
Why do we set intentional goals?
To achieve results? Of course.
In my experience, long term results are well—LONG term. And here's the thing. I'm not a patient creature.
Short-term goals with immediate rewards are my friends.
This morning, I completed a programmed 2-mile work out. I met my pace goals and did not stop. That may seem small, but guess what magic occurred as a result of that one accomplishment? A shot of energy, productivity, and a big ole' dose of positive attitude. Before 9 am. When my air conditioner is broken. And it's 100 and whatever in Central Florida.
Whether those baby steps look like:
All of them are signs of moving forward—toward the bigger goal.
Speaking of—here's my progress report from last week:
How's it going for you?
BTW, the Lord works in mysterious ways. My book to review this month?
I'll let you know how it is.
Moving with Scribbles,
Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart
How To Know For Sure You Are Saved
Reasons I chose this book to review:
Love it, especially for teens. WHY? Because it's easy to stick in their string bags or backpacks. It's PORTABLE. Necessary, right?
Very user friendly, guys. You won't be intimidated to start reading. Table of Contents and thorough Notes section included.
As a kid who grew up in the church, I can relate to the premise of this book. It's an issue for teenagers—especially for those who are reared in the pews. My own children have struggled with it and during our family discussions I flash back to my adolescent fears. Greear does an outstanding job of compiling a lot of information into a non-intimidating package. I'm buying several for friends/family. Invaluable resource.
My big takeaway: Repentance is not a prayer. Repentance is a posture.
Wow. That word conjures up quite a few images, right? Relax. I'm talking 30 ways to be a leader; not 50 shades of not-going-there.
What in the world does passion have to do with leadership?
According to dictionary.com, to be passionate is to possess a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.
Now we're talking.
But how do you become a passionate leader, one who is filled with a fervor that catches fire and spreads?
First things first. Find your passion. What sparks your interests? What excites you? What do you enjoy doing? What do you care about? What do you not care about? What occupies your mind and steals your attention?
Next, pursue your passion with a plan. I can't tell you how many times I sit across from someone at the interview table, and they share their end destination but have no map to get there. Again, randomness is not your battle buddy when it comes to crossing a finish line or beginning a journey.
Third, use your passion for fuel when stuff gets hard. Because, as stated last week, stuff will get hard. And, a part of you will want to quit. Always. Why? Because we generally don't enjoy hard stuff. So, how do you push through those walls? Inject that intentional, I-choose-it-even-if-I-don't-feel-it enthusiasm and excitement into the go-go-go of becoming a leader who is passionate.
Last, but most important tidbit of advice. Don't confuse the vehicle with the destination. For instance, if I handed you the keys to a car and a credit card and invited you to use those resources to go anywhere in the continental United States you wanted to go, would you do it? Hmmm, exciting, right?
You have to drive the vehicle the entire way.
Except—the car is a piece of junk. One that will run—most of the time. One that will get you there—eventually. One that might need a little tender, love, and care along the way. But still. I gave you the credit card. Would you go?
Would you expend the energy, the time, the intentionality to take the journey?
God has used vehicles—lemons and jalopies—to allow me to pursue my passion. And guess what? The road trip taught me a few key pieces of information.
I'm passionate about:
God willing, I'm using my gifts to passionately pursue leading in each of those areas. No matter the vehicle. No matter the job. No matter the walls. No matter.
Verse: Proverbs 20:5
To-Do: Spend some time exploring what sparks your interests. Think of the practical application of leadership within the context of what you are passionate about. Discuss with a trusted family member or friend.
Y'all, I'm knock, knock, knockin' on 44's door. And I'll be honest, between hormone crazy-town, the antics of two active teenagers, the ups, downs, and sideways of a few businesses, and the overall whackadoodle day-to-day, random survival is often the name of the game.
Whew. We made it.
Short-term? Fantastic. Everyone wants to check survival off their list of to-dos.
Long-term? Not. Good.
Why? Random, by definition, is without intentionality. I mean, technically, I guess you could be an intentionally random person, but—whatever. Not going there.
According to thesaurus.com, a few synonyms for random are:
accidental, arbitrary, designless, hit-or-miss, fluky (my fave)
Not words I'd like ascribed to my overall wellness plan.
On the flip side, a few antonyms for random are:
essential, methodical, planned, systematic, specific
Okay, now we're talking goals.
As in setting them.
There are seasons where I'm an ace at this part. My gig for the first twelve years of my professional life involved setting goals for other people. I'm kind of good at it.
Except when my grandfather used to say, "My give-a-damn is broken."
And there you go. That's the other season. The season where I personify the shrug-the-shoulders emoji 24/7. Not towards other people, but towards my self.
So, as I begin this journey of overall fitness, my GOAL is to be the opposite of random.
I'm striving for physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness. To be wholly fit on all levels.
Work in progress, but thus far, this is what I have:
Not fleshed out, but a work in progress. If you'd like to share yours, please do.
Moving with Scribbles,
An innovative thinker is one full of fresh, new, novel, unprecedented, and creative ideas. *
Give yourselves a pat on the back fellow GenX'ers! Why? Because. We, my friends, have raised an innovative generation.
These young people are bursting with all the upgrades, and they are eager to share.
Bless their hearts. Exposure to information began the moment they took their first breath. We poured our education into "parenting" these boys and girls and bada bing bada boom, 2.0 absorbed some stuff. Yay!
But we aren't done yet, Y'all.
What some of us have forgotten is that successful innovation must be paired with its infamous counterpart, patience.
Yeah. Patience. As in settling into a pocket and learning how a system works before implementing meaningful change.
Let me give you an example:
A fresh-faced junior in high school scores a job at a local clothing store. Her leadership skills are recognized, and the wise employer praises her for said skills during the interview. Well done, mama and daddy. Check the box. You raised her right. She did it!
You go out to dinner, celebrate, and maybe even open a checking account.
The first day of work arrives.
She is cute as a bug, and you post her image, nametag attached correctly, on all the socials.
Off she goes. Ready to change the world.
Clock in. Ready, set, go. What does this bright future leader get tasked to do? Fold t-shirts. For her entire 6 hour shift.
Stop. Eyebrows raise. Why would wise employer waste such talent? Why not task young, energetic shiny penny girl with a job that shows off that fantastic innovative skill set?
She's not ready—yet. She doesn't know the systems in place—yet. She doesn't understand the customer component—yet. She doesn't understand how ideas translate from the mind to paper and into the procedural practice of watching it succeed and/or fail—yet.
But she will. IF—she's patient. IF—you are patient.
Patience. The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.*
What plays out more than not is our innovative offspring are not patient enough to hang in there consistently over time to display their fresh, new, novel, unprecedented, and creative ideas.
Sad and scary.
These are our future leaders, after all.
Relax and take a deep breath. Squashing spirit is not the end game. However. Equipping them with a pair of wings that will soar to a height where others want to follow—that's what patience will do.
Verse: Isaiah 40: 28-31
To-Do: Identify a problem. Take time to define the problem. Research the history of the problem. Understand this takes time and experience. Brainstorm innovative solutions.
Before the first day of work, talk to your kid about realistic expectations.
On a day much like any other, I was with two good friends, riding in the backseat of a truck, singing along to a song we were playing too loud to be healthy. In a sudden blur of color, two (probably modified) sports cars screamed past us in the middle and rightmost lanes going a hundred and something miles an hour. I couldn’t tell if they were racing, or just going fast because they felt obligated on account of all the money they’d spent to be able to. You see stuff like this on highways all the time, so I thought nothing of it and kept singing.
I wasn’t looking at the road when my friend in the driver’s seat gasped — I’m talking about an honest, stage-worthy gasp — and turned the music all the way down. I leaned forward, squeezing my shoulders between the front two seats, and looked out through the windshield. Something glowed bright in the distance, casting a soft light on the road in front of us. A fiery mushroom cloud erupted from a car and billowed at least a hundred feet into the air before caving in on itself. It was like a handheld nuke had gone off. It’s strange what goes through your head in moments like that. I remember thinking it was strange to see something so bright and so orange late at night. And on a highway where typically your view is comprised of long stretches of dark road. It’s like your brain takes a moment to process things like that — things that just aren’t supposed to happen. Eventually it seemed to understand: explosion.
We were going to stop, but there were already loads of cars parking on the side of the road. We called 911, and as we rolled slowly by the scene, we saw the car still immersed in that relentless inferno like some metallic bonfire, the driver’s side door blown off and laying on the side of the road beside a flaming tire. I knew immediately that I had just witnessed someone die.
We looked the story up in the news later. The kid was seventeen. And so, even though I believe in a perfect God, my question then was this: “How can there be a good God in a world where this happens?”
I think it’s healthy to question what you believe every now and then — to ask difficult, uncomfortable questions. I do find myself asking why a perfect, benevolent God would allow such tragedies to occur. In fact, one of the most popular arguments against the existence of God is the existence of evil. How can God allow these things to exist? If he’s all powerful, why did he not prevent evil from ever entering the world in the first place? Better yet, why does he allow evil to exist as a construct, as a concept? If it didn’t exist, surely it could never have entered the world. If you think I’m here to answer those questions, you’d be wrong. There are folks far smarter than me who devote their lives to studying these issues and formulating logical answers; there’s no use in me trying to stumble around forming a theological explanation. I do think that there are people out there who have delivered pretty sound explanations as to why God and evil exist. And I do believe that there are answers. But there’s a problem with having all the answers, anyway.
Once you know everything there is to know about everything, you have entirely removed wonder from the world, and you have abolished the need for faith. If there is nothing I don’t know, not a question I can’t answer, then why do I need God? Why do I need faith? I don’t. The thing is, there’s actually some stuff I don’t know — quite a bit, really —you could call it a lot and it wouldn’t be a stretch, I don’t think. I don’t have all the answers, and neither does anyone else, nor anyone past, nor anyone to come. It wouldn’t be called faith if we had all the answers. Not everyone will agree with me, and some may even despise me, but I’m choosing to believe. Not because I think it’s the most logical decision (even though it may be) but because I’ve felt the peace, love, and joy that I believe only God can provide in this world that so often feels broken down and rusted over, malicious and sadistic in its intent. In the end, I feel Jon Foreman described it pretty well when he said, “I think both faith and doubt are equally logical responses in the face of tragedy. Faith is to say, ‘Yes the future will have pain. But there is a meaning and a purpose deeper than that pain.’ For me, that is my choice: to believe rather than doubt.”
Sam Skipper is a university senior studying English and Creative Writing. He hopes to graduate within the year and pursue a possible career teaching high school English. While he is furthering his education, he spends his remaining hours working part-time, staying active in his church, and doing absolutely nothing with his friends. Sam enjoys the beach, traveling, camping, and hiking among many other things, but he values his relationship with Christ, his friends, and his family most of all. He lives in Jacksonville, Florida with his mom, dad, and brother.
Recreational football. Recreational, meaning fun. Except it wasn't. Zero wins when you're twelve-years-old translates into the ultimate downer; let's be honest, it's true for most adults, too. Those endless weeks of "fun" were contentious, combative, and downright gut-wrenching. If you've ever been a part of "little" league anything, you know what I'm talking about. Winning is great. Losing sucks—for everyone.
My husband had never quit anything in his life; nor had we ever encouraged our children to quit. In fact, we are very much a finish what you start family. However, when I tell you this experience was terrible, take me at my word.
About halfway through the season, we gave our son the out. Again, something we had never done. We presented our reasons and justified why this one time might be okay.
What played out next will be etched in my mind until my last breath. I sat on our bed. Our son stood at the foot. His dad sat on the floor, back against the recliner. Our little boy respectfully listened to every word we said, inhaled deeply, blew out a long breath and grew six inches in the span up of a blink. With big, brown teary eyes, he took his father and I to school with these words, "Sometimes finishing is the win. So I think that's worth it. I want to finish."
Okay, cue tears, right?
He completed the season 0-10. And it sucked.
The lessons learned from those weeks will stay with us forever.
Let's talk leadership.
When you commit to something, you are assigning time, energy, strength, endurance and stamina to said thing. Do your research. Discover the ins and outs of the task. Knowledge is power and frequently equips one with the giddy-up to say, "I do." and mean it.
Scripture: Proverbs 16:3
Research an area of interest. Set a short-term goal pertaining to that area. Make sure a timeline is associated with the goal. Commit to finishing—no matter what.
Please feel free to share your goals/results!
I've been in leadership positions my entire adult life. Over two decades, I have had the absolute privilege of working with young people as they are trying to hone their leadership skills. Here's what I know.
There are born leaders who are going to lead others, no matter what. Now. Depending upon the person, the path might be positive or negative. However, they will lead. It's in their bones.
Then, there are those whose leadership qualities are learned, practiced, and tested over time. Not that the born leader doesn't take the development journey, but they have to choose to turn away from the status quo and turn toward a posture of learning.
Whether in the classroom, the collegiate world, or the sphere of business, I've seen what works and what doesn't. 30 distinct leadership characteristics stand out as vital.
Caution: You can read about these qualities. You can turn them inside out and sideways academically. Leadership, however, only translates when people in a specific environment choose to follow you.
Interested in learning more? Follow me on Thursdays. We will cover:How to Be:
It was a collaboration between Matthew, my youngest brother, and me. A back and forth, debate/argue/healthy discussion blog appropriately named, Sibling Says. We would choose a controversial topic, assume a position, and then hit the keys. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. Until one of us conceded or got bored with the rhetoric. Very few individuals attempted to read these hot topic forays.
Matt and I loved words. The bigger the better. The more the merrier. Bottom line? The rest of the world would weary of our multi-syllable entourage after the first paragraph.
We didn't care, though. He and I had bonded over countless games of Scrabble and verbally challenged one another on the daily. Loving the sound of your own voice? Yep, we owned that.
Outside of the blog, we did a lot of talking. A lot of creating. A lot of plotting. He inspired/pushed/encouraged me to dip my toes back into the world of publishing. He collaborated with me on the covers of seven of my novels. He asked me questions, challenged me, and pushed me to think outside my perfectly square box.
Then he got sick.
When conversation wasn't centered around that terrible six letter word, we continued to create.
After he died, the tip tapping of the keyboard shushed.
Words and ideas stuck in the mire of missing him and the slow comprehension of tragic loss gobbled up precious energy. Mourning sudden silence created a sludge of pushing through the paces of what would never again be normal.
Creating content felt forced—a word I had never used when it came to the writing process.
Thankfully, my army of thoughts have recently begun to discard their mourning apparel item by item and as a result, the creative energy is sparking, bit by bit.
Luckily, the echoes are true and faithful. Words Matthew wrote or spoke that remind me to NOT squander what God has given. To NOT squander the gift of life. To NOT squander the gift of creativity.
Matthew would often quote a random bible verse just to prove me wrong in an argument. He had a knack for flustering me when he did that.
I very much hear the echo of his voice when I read this version of God's Word.
I Peter 4: 10-11
Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!
We would have discussed Saint Peter, Rome, the original Hebrew language versus the above translation, and then proceeded down delightful rabbit trails—for hours. He would have rolled his big green eyes and made a sarcastic comment about infinite encores that would have caused me to belly laugh.
But he would have made his point. He always did.
Amanda, just write. Write about what moves you. Tell your stories. Express your thoughts. Inspire conversation. Lean in. Be real.
Okay, bud. Heard.
Thank you for reading my scribbles, for commenting on my thoughts, for signing up for my newsletters, for allowing me to read your material, and for cheering me on. I hear you and love you for it.
Sorry for the cussing. Offensive language isn't my typical go-to.
Today is the one year anniversary marking my youngest brother's death. He was 34. Cancer ravaged his body and brought everyone who loved him to their knees. And frankly, today I woke up pissed off.
I know. I know. I can hear my mother's voice in my ear as she admonishes, "Amanda Lynne, we don't talk like that. Where's the soap?"
Sorry mama. It's in the cabinet. I'll grab it later.
Alas. Matthew would have wanted filter-free honesty. Frankly, he always enjoyed when I let a cuss word slip. So here goes.
Not because I'm unaware of my abundant blessings. I AM. Moms and dads and brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews and friends and bonus kids and bonus parents and the list just goes on and on and on. My family is SHOWERED in blessings. Y'all. I know. I stand under the abundant stream of grace and let those tears fall freely. I feel the prayers. I feel the love. I do.
But today still sucks.
I broke down for a moment in front of the gurgling coffee-maker this morning. My husband pulled me into his arms and asked me how I was feeling. Here's what came out. "Damn it." Sniffle and a foot stomp. "I'm tired of writing memorials." He held me tighter, rubbed my back and chuckled with a hint of sadness in his voice. "Yeah, I know. But you're pretty good at it." I huffed and smiled. ( He's good at making me do that. )
He's right, though. I am good at it. Why? Practice. Decades of practice. Not obituaries or formal bits of anythings. Just tributes on social media. Happy Birthday in heaven. Happy Mother's Day/Father's Day/Whatever Day—in heaven.
Am I thankful for heaven? Yes. Of course I am. If you know me, you know my heart. I love Jesus and am profoundly grateful for His sacrifice. Engage me in conversation or allow me to engage you, and I'll share my heart and the miraculous healing Jesus has performed in my life.
But today, I'm giving you the gut-honest top layer of emotion.
I would have rather my parents attended my graduation.
I would have rather my parents met my future husband.
I would have rather gone wedding dress shopping with my mother.
I would have rather my father walked me down the aisle.
I would have rather my parents held our children when they were still wrinkly and red, new to this world.
I would have rather my parents commented on social media about their adorable grandchildren.
I would have rather my parents and my brother come to watch Zachary play football and Mackenzie play volleyball.
I would have rather--
Any and all of it, here with me. With Marshall. With all of us.
Whew! It felt good to just type it.
Today will pass, never to come again, just like that horrible day a year ago passed with the sunrise and sunset of another day. And I will continue to honor my parents, my brother, my grandparents, Diana, and whomever else passes on from this life to the next with words and pictures and heartfelt sentiments.
I will celebrate.
I will hope.
I will never forget.
Today, though, I cling to John 11:35. Jesus wept.
God in the flesh wept angry, troubled, moving tears over this broken world. And so will I.
Brian Dembowczyk has created a beautiful resource for parents and children (age level 6-12, grade level K-6) to break down the nuts and bolts of their faith. The purpose of the book is to engage kiddos in the "why behind the what", "why we do what we do" and most importantly, "why we believe what we believe" conversations.
From the Introduction:
Cornerstones: 200 Questions and Answers to Learn Truth is designed to help kids learn the
foundational doctrines of the Christian faith—not with the goal of knowing more about God, but
instead to know God more. Each question and answer is designed to help explain who God is, how
we can know Him better, and why He does what He does. Cornerstones teaches through questions
and answers, a method that began in the early days of the church. The practice recognizes a
child’s natural inquisitive nature and offers doctrine in bite-size morsels. As kids understand each
question and answer, they begin to develop a comprehensive understanding of God that deepens
their love for Him. God moves from being a distant, unknown authority figure to a close, known,
The book is divided into eight sections, each with its own color scheme:
The Church and Last Things
The Parent Connection section is fantastic and should not be ignored. A serious opportunity for digging in exists on these pages.
Sample question from the Think section: Jesus said the Bible is a like a strong foundation to stand on. How can the Bible help us when life is difficult, such as when someone is being unkind to us, when we feel lonely, or when we are tempted to sin?
A Parent's Guide is also available as an additional resource. As a parent, I would consider purchasing both.
My junior book reviewer, Brooklyn, was excited to dig in and give me her "take" on the book. Here are her thoughts:
She loved the colors and design of the book.
The Scripture references cited in the answers were cool because she could open her Bible and look it up for herself.
Some difficult words were defined, such as grace and salvation.
There was no table of contents, so if she wanted to look up one question/answer, she had to flip through the book instead of looking at an index.
Final Analysis: 5 stars, a handy tool for the toolbox, and a sturdy purchase! See the posts on social media for an opportunity for a free Kindle copy.
The opposite of explosion.
Collapsing from the inside versus collapsing from the outside.
One is obvious; the other is quietly occurring right before the eyes of unsuspecting onlookers. Then--
Men and women make choices over time causing their lives to crash inward every single day.
In this Eric Geiger's, How To Ruin Your Life, he uses the example of King David's implosion documented by Scripture found in 2 Samuel and The Book of Psalms. He discusses the implosion, the confrontation, the confession, and at last, the celebration involving the man after God's own heart.
The book is divided into three parts: Imploded Lives, If You Want to Ruin Your Life... and If You Want to Start Over...
I commend Geiger on his ability to clearly state the steps of implosion and starting over, while weaving God's Word throughout the discussion.
How do you implode?
Isolation, Boredom, Pride
How do you start over?
Confess, Surrender, Rejoice, and Look to Him
As a reader, these points stayed with me and I remembered them for days to come. I could see myself on each page and the Holy Spirit pricked my heart and compelled me to look inward during the times of my implosions, and what to do to avoid future catastrophes.
Well-written. Well-organized. Biblical.
Win. Win. Win.
Seven Days Ago...
A 19-year-old, bent on destruction, hid in a bathroom overcome by a rush of adrenaline to seek, kill, and destroy.
A shot fired, a piercing scream, a crying girl, a look of panic, a compassionate intervention. A moment of divine stillness in the midst of chaos induced a shocking surrender.
An officer doesn’t hesitate to run toward danger, instead of away.
A child injured.
Men and women tasked with teaching tackle trauma.
Doors opened to provide shelter and closed to protect.
Messages, rumors of chaos spread like wildfire. Guns drawn, first responders on site.
A girl running-sprinting away from danger and toward home-trembling as she desperately tries to check on friends, siblings, family.
A mama moving heaven and earth to reach her baby.
A dad halfway around the world praying to get home, unsure of what home would look like.
Parents catapulted from the mundane to a shocking reality-desperate to touch the children housed inside the big white church on the corner.
A collective, trembling sigh of relief. Hugs exchanged in the palpable reminder of what is precious. No last good-byes.
A community brought together. A community inspired to act. A community driven to protect, to honor, to love. Whether through peaceful protest, prayer and praise, or pause, Marion County showed up and wrapped their arms around its own.
I’ve never been more grateful than I am today. I tucked my children in last night, and today, I’m allowed to reflect. And I pray for communities all over this nation who have suffered these unspeakable horrors- for parents, spouses, and children who unwittingly gave those final farewells. My heart bleeds.
But today, we celebrate. #ForestStrong #ForestFriday
The subtitle of this book is, "Trading Restless Insecurity for Abiding Confidence".
Restless Insecurity? Yes, I think most women in today's society can grasp onto that phrase and identify with insecurity that can be defined as restless. We think we're okay. Then, we turn on the television, scroll through social media, flip through a magazine and believe we absolutely do not measure up.
Would most of us raise our hands and declare a desire to trade that horrible feeling for one of abiding confidence? I think I can answer a resounding, "Yes, please, and thank you." for most women whether they are Jesus followers or not.
In Bloom is beautifully written with entertaining, sometimes gut-wrenching accounts of Kayla Aimee's journey in dealing with her insecurities. Most will open this book and feel as if they are reading a friend's diary or memoir. And if that is what you are looking for—SCORE! Buy it now. Bonus: There are study questions in the back with scripture references from the Message that will lead you on an introspective question and answer session of your own.
My only drawback is the book is advertised as a "blueprint" or a "how-to" tool for growing in one's faith. I'm not sure this book is that.
Do I agree it's a "fearless, funny, and refreshingly relatable chronicle"?
Yes. It's very much a ME TOO journey of, "Yep, let's call out that problem for what it is and recognize I need to do something about that." But—the what's next step might lead you off a cliff of, "Wait, is that it? What about that whole metamorphosis thing?".
Access that smart consumerism and know what you're buying. Then, you won't be disappointed and you can very much enjoy the journey with this smart, witty storyteller.
The CSB Kids Bible, Hardcover was a big hit with my junior book reviewer, Brooklyn. Brooklyn falls smack dab in the middle of the age range and grade level for this bible. She loves the colorful design of the hard cover, as well as the multi-hued edging of the paper. During her reading time, she found the charts and maps very interesting, especially the timeline of Jesus’s life and the directory of kids in the bible. Her level of excitement over God’s Words places a smile on this big girl’s face. Enthusiasm is contagious!
The designers of this edition did a great job of finding a combination of sturdy and attractive. In addition, I, personally appreciate the way they targeted their audience through the intelligent presentation of information.
Considering all aspects, Brooklyn and I give this one five stars. Her only drawback—the orange bookmark. My JBR is not a fan and would have preferred a nice shade of blue.
Nevertheless, an overall high five and a big thumbs up!
“A true friend freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.” William Penn
Girl, wash your face, Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis is the equivalent of an intervention conducted by a best gal pal who loves you without question, but pushes you relentlessly to be the best you can be.
It’s in your face.
And here’s the deal. Like a flesh and blood friend, you may not agree with everything your bestie is saying but disagreement does not negate the willingness to listen.
Or it shouldn't.
I recommend this book with a caveat.
You may not agree with everything Rachel believes, but her honesty, transparency, and willingness to share should be reciprocated with a bent ear.
Rachel shares chunks of personal testimony that hurt your heart, make you laugh, prick your tear ducts, and evoke hollas of laughter and/or screams.
The point of the share is to break down a lie she once believed—a lie that you just might believe now, and share how the truth shined light in the darkness of isolation.
I highly respect the courage to reach through the surface, and be willing to get dirty for the cause of healing, therefore this powerful read gets a high five and a thumbs up.
I'm convinced that's exactly what I am—a version of my mother living in a different generation.
Aren't we all, though?
My perspective is a little different, because I can only imagine what my mother might think of 2018, since she's resided in heaven for twenty-four years.
I miss her this day—on the eve of her baby's birthday—a day she will get to celebrate with him this year. My heart hurts in his absence, but I smile knowingly. How wonderful that reunion must be!
I've celebrated one more birthday than she celebrated. And you know what, I giggle when I think of the difference in a day in the life of us. (Attribute this blog to the nostalgic rewinds, fast-forwards, and what-ifs of This Is Us.)
Let's turn on rewind and glance at the landscape of this week.
Me—using my navigation system
Me—using my iPhone, iPad, iWhatever
Me—using my SmartTV
Me-listening to podcasts
Me-checking email and social media
Me-using my air fryer to make dinner
Me-ordering groceries and just about every other thing using an app—checking in, paying, and picking up without ever speaking to a person
Me-making videos on my handheld device to market, to teach, to connect
Me- facetiming my niece, her granddaughter
Me-doing life as we know it...
A familiar scene plays out in my head.
"Mom, I know. You don't understand."
In my mind, I can still hear her say in an exasperated tone—5'2'', hands on hips, "Amanda, one day you will understand!"
Oh, mama, if you only knew.
As different as the "tools" of the time are, I do understand many things.
I, too, pray for my kids, even if, especially when they frustrate me.
I, too, burst with pride when they shine.
I, too, experience 'mom guilt'.
I, too, grapple with fear and insecurity.
I, too, dream big.
I, too, love my husband and fight for our marriage.
I, too, cherish my friends.
I, too, have doubts.
I, too, ask questions.
I, too, cry out.
I, too, love Jesus.
And there He is. The scarlet thread that connects generation to generation. Friends, when you strip the technological advances away, Solomon's words ring true—there is nothing new under the sun. What matters, matters—as it always has.
Observe how He loves.
Love others as He loves us.
So, yes, I am my mother—once removed.
Is God a divine librarian?
Part of me, the part of me that is drawn to a book for no reason, believes He is. There are times I sense the Holy Spirit guiding me down the virtual aisle of literary choices as I graze my fingertips over spine after spine, perusing descriptions, and reviews. One by one, I process all the good options, and then He stops and whispers, “This one. This is the one I need you to read.”
It doesn’t always happen like that, but in the case of If You Only Knew My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free by Jamie Ivey, I know He not only led me to the book, but physically sat me down at a table, opened the cover, flipped to page one, and placed His hand on my shoulder, compelling me to just be still and read. Ugh. As always, I wriggled a bit, but I obeyed. I’m so thankful I did, and I’m sure I’ll read this one again. Why? For a few reasons:
1) I feel as if Jamie is sitting across from me crisscross applesauce and we’re chatting over steaming cups of hot coffee. I dig that casual easy going writing style.
2) I can relate to the feeling of being ashamed of the past, hoarding secrets, deathly afraid of what other people might think of me.
3) The idea of God turning broken into beautiful was for everyone else besides me.
4) I, too, feel like I’ve worn the scarlet letter on multiple occasions, whether it be F for fraud or D for disappointment or L for liar. And just like Forest Gump tells the truth in his simple statement, “Sometimes there aren’t enough rocks.”, “Sometimes there aren’t enough pins to hold the letters of shame in place.”
5) I feel like Jamie’s vulnerability in telling her story leaves room for me (and you) at the table of grace.
6) The chapter titles are fantastic and on point: From Failure to Freedom, Permission to Be Real, Growing Up with God, Stuff Like This Doesn’t Happen to Us, Chased by God, It’s Complicated, Come, Thou Fount, Owning My New Identity, Sin Shock, Vulnerability Breeds Vulnerability, and Jesus is Better.
Favorite Quote: “The pages of this book are drenched with ‘me too’ tears, poured out over a so-far lifetime of failing and following, failing and following. Yet God has forgiven me, just as God has forgiven you. And even on days where we may see more losing than winning, His faithfulness and forgiveness will hold us together. For as bad as it’s been, and as bad as it can get, Jesus is better. Let us all be women who believe that to be true.”
I highly recommend this one for women and men alike. Then, I'd pray about giving it to your teenagers or young adult children to chew on.
Jamie is also the host of the podcast, The Happy Hour. You can hear more of her story there.
She's bleeding! He's bleeding! Quick!
An exclamation that tends to demand the immediate attention of most parents/grandparents/caregivers. We rush to the scene, examine our babies—no matter the age—assess the damage, determine a course of treatment, and hopefully, filled with thanksgiving, proceed down the road of healing.
We don't ignore such a call. We don't look the other way. We don't gaze at our cell phones and scroll through Facebook or stare enviously at Instagram while our children are hurting.
We stop. We look. We listen. We act.
Hear my heart.
Y'all, our babies—our children—our teenagers—are bleeding out.
Physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, mentally--
Desperately crying for help, screaming in pain for someone—anyone—to hear them.
Often, an echo reaches our ears, and we fumble to act. With the best of intentions. Responsibly. Proactively. Of course, we do. As a society, we pull out our box of band-aids—different shapes and sizes—and attempt to patch a wound that requires intensive examination, surgery, and weeks, months, years of healing.
HELP US TO WAKE UP!
I lay beside my husband this morning and watched the footage of the latest school shooting. I listened, in horror, as a child was interviewed, confessing her best friend had died beside her while she was grazed by a bullet. What was she doing at the time of the attack? Writing a paper about the horrors of the holocaust.
My eyes filled with tears, as did my husband's because all we could see were the faces of our children. Same age group. One was already on the school grounds of the local high school, the other on her way.
Would this morning be the morning when we kissed their faces for the last time? The horror of the thought makes my heartbeat quadruple as I attempt to comprehend the pain of those parents standing outside of the school hours from our home frantically fighting the crowds and checking their phones for messages—some for a message that would never be sent.
I just can't imagine. Yet, a part of me can--
I taught middle and high school for over a decade. I've been a part of lockdowns. I've waited for a code word to be spoken over the loudspeaker. I've gathered twenty-five sixteen-year-olds in the corner of a room, trying to contemplate where they would be the safest—where their persons would not be a target. I sat and helplessly looked into the eyes of my juniors and seniors as the horror of Columbine played out on a stage of absolute shock.
This world has changed.
Our children have been drafted and are on the front lines every. single. day.
What can we do?
Pay attention. Talk to them. Have conversations. Check social media. Don't look the other way. Beyond our children, listen to those children who don't have someone to come running when they are hurting. Be an advocate for those whose screams are silent.
I don't know the answers. However, I've worked with teenagers my entire adult life. Twenty-two years of listening to their concerns, hearing their dreams, crying alongside them as they pound on a wall out of frustration. I've had kids with behavior disorders throw desks inside the walls of my classroom and show me tangible evidence of the pain from which they suffer.
Please. Don't focus your energy on attempting to open a box of band-aids.
With both palms, hold the face of your child and the child beside them. Look into their eyes and volunteer to stand by their side on the front lines of their reality. See them. Listen to them. And hand in hand walk down a road to healing.
*While I was typing this blog, I received a mass message from the principal of our son's high school notifying all parents they put the school on code yellow because of a rumor that had circulated around the halls. The warning has been lifted. Thank God, the kids are safe. But those words drove the truth further into my heart—this is real.
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.