Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I'm Smarter than I was on July 1st. And Here's Why.

Lately, months hold so much. As I look back to just four weeks ago I'm amazed at how much has happened in that slice of time. And, for now, that feels so exhilarating. I'm trying to take it all in, to steep in it, and to come out the other side more flavorful, more fun, and more reflective. Right now that process is joy-filled and feeling adventurous.

So, today I document the things I've learned since July 1st and tomorrow I soak in the inaugural day of August.

1. Being brave is rewarding. Brave on all fronts. Mostly, social fronts this month. I made a new friend at a party that is going to come over and hang out. I reached out to one of my favorite bloggers online and she was more beautiful than I expected. I reconnected with decades old friends over a book and loved it.

2. I don't miss shopping as much as I thought. But I'm only three weeks into this five month fast. Oh Lord, help me.

3. Boldness in prayer. Because God listens. And He answers. Sometimes you have to start taking the steps and then He swoops in and blesses that action.

4. As much as I adore weddings for the love and the flowers and the lace, the dancing is undeniably my favorite. Seriously, this girl tore up the dance floor until the live band hit midnight and were done with their set. Talk about a Sad Sally.

5. I've got myself some great genetics... As long as this dementia thing isn't taken into consideration. Seriously though, Mama Bird's going to be 50 folks!

6. My dog's a good one. She's stinky sometimes and she's doing the terrible twos like a professional, but at the end of the day, she puts up with my incessant pictures, me constantly trying to get her to talk, and being picked up like the little puppy she used to be.

7. Louis Armstrong has a voice of golden sunshine. Seriously, it feels to my ears like the warmth of the summer sun on my skin.

8. Growing up a wanted to be a princess. Now, as a grown up, I, more specifically, want to be Princess Kate Middleton who can walk out of an English hospital looking glamorous less than 24 hours after giving birth. Girl, GIVE ME YOUR SECRETS.

9. Passive aggressive behaviors irks me to no end. Especially in men. (Not my husband kind of men, more like in coworkers kind of men) Seriously dude, just say what you want, or don't and get over it.

10. Family vacation is soul-filling. A break from the hum-drum that can make up every day life is necessary. And who better to fill that break with than your own genes. Summer beach trip, you went too fast and you will re-arrive too slow for my taste.

Farewell July. August, here you come. Memories -good and bad- fill you from years past and, yet, I look forward to your adventures.

Want to share your lessons? Head here
Or just leave a little something in the comments. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

In that annoying moment when dementia teaches you something else...

"I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. 
...The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. 
The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad." 
-Psalm 118:21, 23-24 

will: (verb) intend, desire, or wish to happen
become: (verb) begin to be, grow to be, turn into 
rejoice: (verb) feel or show great joy and delight

Last week, dad had a grand mal seizure. Almost ten minutes of shaking, followed by an ambulance ride, hours in the emergency room, and a few days of hospitalization. He lived. We feared of his suffering, his feelings, his pain. Yet, our fears were not realized. He lives.

We have spent many months asking God for a sign. Screaming, pleading, praying, begging for something that said, "Yes my children, he is ill. This dementia will take him from you and bring him to my heavenly side." Finally, He answered us. He heard our cries and acted boldly, undeniably.

So, we rejoice. Today, I find joy through the seizing body of my father. The convulsions that shook him physically, rocked me spiritually.

In the hideousness of such sorrow, such deep fear; I will allow His message -Amber, I'm here, I'm taking care of you, of Popsicle, of Mama Bird, of the family- to become my savior in this circumstance. While I could spend my days trying to figure it all out (and I have tried previously), I relinquish that desire. Instead of seeking control and answers, I choose to rest in the freedom He provides me. Allowing Him to be Lord over every bit of my life is challenging... But joy-filled. Over His strength, timing, control, action, grace, I will rejoice.

While He's managing dad's disease and its timeline, I am afforded the chance to be. Dad's seizure reminded me of His eternal plan for us. Whether our fight with dementia ends tomorrow or a year from tomorrow, Christ's offer stands unchanged. I am free to focus on how best to write, speak, pray, read for His glory. So, I do. I will. I am.

Thank you for your gift of freedom from sin, from fear, from death.
Instead of working to control the uncontrollable, I let go.
You are the all good, all great, all grace. 
I will lean into you Lord.
I will be marveled by your strength, your plan, your answers.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Life's Tough: getting a helmet ain't gonna help a lick.

Today I want to run. Far as my legs will carry me. Deep into the distance. And not look back. And today isn't the first time I've felt this way. 

It's not a pack up my things and move somewhere needing a new adventure desire. It's a terrified, wishing for the comfort of rituals, disappear for an undetermined amount of time sort of run. There's no glamour to it. Not a "road trip" sort of run, it's an escape-seeking desperation that burns deep within me.

I'd never do it. Or, at least, that's what I tell myself. 

But life gets that shitty. And sometimes, just sometimes, for a few minutes, I imagine running. Far, deep, and with reckless abandon. 

It's got nothing to do with anyone else. I love Jason so heavily it's suffocating at times. My need for my Mama Bird is much like a newborn's need for its Mama, just more complicated. To describe the way I'd miss my Bubbas is impossible. And my identity which only seems to make sense in my hometown, my place, would be lost on more than just me. 

It's got everything to do with the blurry tears in my eyes. The hollow hole boring it's way through my heart over and over again. The shake in my knees and the pit in my stomach that seem more natural than not after the last few days. It's got nothing to do with the people I love, and everything to do with the disease that I ABHOR

Right now, life is shitty and hurtful and uncomfortable. It seems to heave pain and suffering unabashedly about which bruises my fragile, peachy heart.  It makes me want to run. Run, run, run. And yet, my heart refuses. Though my flesh and mind long for that away, my heart knows its place. Here, in this moment. This painful, hideous, exhausting moment. Soaking in pure ugly. 

And while I want to run deeply, desperately, and quickly, He says no. He says, be still. Know me. Know my strength, my power, my will. You're running the good race by choosing to halt. You're acknowledging the faintness of your fleshy self, that makes me proud. Hold on little one. Hold on to me tight. And don't move a step. Just be still

I'll be damned for going the distance. So I'll be still. For now. It's a moment by moment choice. It's unnatural, uncomfortable, and unusual. But, it's glorifying to Him. And that's what I believe my end goal is here: to bring Him something that looks glorious, even if it be scratched, dinged, and a bit tarnished. 

Today, I don't have a prayer.
Instead, I request your prayers.
For my pacing mind. For my restless feet. For my flesh-drowned heart.
May I be still. Steep in His provisions.
Let the burn to run escape my soul in tears, not steps.

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
-"Be Still My Soul"

Thursday, July 25, 2013

America, the Mission Field [My Friends' Kids]

I'm back with more of that local-context mission field stuff. Sounds so fancy, but it's not. 
We're having some new friends we met at a party over for a barbecue. They're bringing their kids. Three of them: two girls and a boy. All three under five. And, for the first time I'm thrilled and in no way nervous. What's different this time? (Since all our friends have kids who go out to dinner with us, who come over and play, who are almost always present) 

This time I think of the way those kids will see me be a friend to their parents. And I want to be someone they love as their buddy and as dear friends of their beloved mom and dad. I long for those relationships to illustrate God's goodness and grace to their children. I wish to be a presence in life's messiness so their kids know that friend's do do messiness together. I desire for their young hearts to know that sure a best friend is nice, but a true friend is better. 

There's been missionaries in my life in the form of friends to my parents. Friends who've shaped what I look for in my own. They come in different shapes and forms and times, but they fall into a few groups. 

Some are the fun times. They're always there for the fun. And they are fun. You know that no moment will fall short of excitement with them around. Others are the truth speakers. They deliver God's word directly into my family's lives. Into my parents and indirectly into all of us. Still more: the excuse makers. They've been around a really long time, but they're not truly engaged. Instead there's excuses about how busy, hard, tiring their life is and why that makes it impossible to be friends. And the dark clouds who always have a harsh word to say, a hard time to suffer through, a frown on their face. Then, there's the tried and true. They are our "aunts" and "uncles". Not by blood or marriage, but by choice and by love. They're the ones visiting, checking in, praying regardless of the way life looks. 

Jesus had a heart for children. So much so, he talked about them often. 
"Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." -Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:14

I want to bring them and not to hinder them. In order to do this, I support, embrace, love, encourage, befriend their parents who have been entrusted to raise God-loving children. In filling a mommy and daddy, I'm indirectly filling their babe. Oh, what an honor. 

My prayer is to be one that can be called tried and true. Who can illustrate the depth of friendship, the immeasurable value of dearness, and the rampant rewards of loving one another. 

What are you showing your friends' kids? 
Can you feel the little nudge that Christ is giving you to invest in the little children? 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

America, the Mission Field

Here's my missional team. How blessed the world will be by each and every one of us.

A life group question a few weeks ago that remains haunting, daunting in my little brain.

"What would you do if money weren't an issue? 
What are those dreams, those accomplishments 
that you'd pursue if cost wasn't an issue?" 

One says, "Go on a mission with my husband."
Another, "Serve overseas for an extended time (read, years)."
And my neighbor, "Travel to Africa with my family and my bible to share my God."
Then me, "Write a book. And stay at home with my kids. Maybe start a local women's ministry." 
Enters blusing cheeks from feeling lame.

I don't want to go abroad and build houses and speak His words. I just don't. I can list a hundred and two excuses, but really, honestly, I just have no desire to do so. 

I love vacation and travel and foreign lands. I love cultures and wonders of different lands and new experiences. But I have no desire to live there, to be present in the hurt there, to do mission there. Nope. While the heart for the international mission is beautiful and intriguing and so admirable to me, it's also completely foreign and something I haven't got. 

Sometimes, I feel lesser. Like I should be traveling far and wide to experience how far the east is from the west. To bring Him to life for another culture. Then I realize, Christ saw mission all over. So much so he told his disciples, "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel." (Matthew 10:5-6) The lost sheep of Isreal were right there. On the street corner, in the next building, at the water source. Literally, right there.

I have a heart for the women around me. Those hurting in the same emotional, God-lacking ways of African children, Indian women, and Chinese orphans. We write America off as a mission field because we've got so much. We're not worried about where water or food will come from, instead, we fret over our grocery list and next Target trip. We don't wish for shelter or a family because we've got them, but we do plan and pursue bigger and better. Americans look like we've got it all together. But we don't.

The census says we're Christian (by majority). But really, how much effort is it to check a box? We're a country founded "Under God", but focused on everything but Him. So I'll continue my effort. I'll seek Him in my mission at home. I'll speak, write, think daily of His heart for me and for America. For my mission here in Small Town, USA. And I'll know in a deep and joyful way, that He's doing work here. Work just as important as that in the African savannah, the small villages of India, and the bustling towns of Japan.

For those abroad, you go you. I pray for you and think of you. Thank you for your willingness to be away in order to serve others.

For those here, being missional in the local context. You're important too. You're vital to Him and to those around you. You're a lamp on a hill as much as the international missionary. So keep yourself sharp, and bright, and tall -you don't know who's looking to you.

In Matthew 19:24, Christ talks about the dangers of richness.
I think he might be talking about the good ol' US of A.

"Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle 
than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

 We're rich friends. Not just monetarily, but relationally, emotionally, experientially.
Beware of feeling like we all got here ourselves. 
Because we didn't.
We were born here. Born lucky. Damn lucky. 
And how is it that we're using those lives we've been given?

More on missions and context in this amazing piece.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

We're Off to a Wedding, Thus it's Only Appropriate to Talk About Marriage

Mama Bird and I are off to a wedding this weekend. I'm thrilled to be attending as her Plus One... It'll be wedded bliss with a major serving of Girls' Weekend. Holler for the wine-drinking, goat cheese-eating, late night giggling that's about to ensure.

I've always enjoyed weddings. But now that I'm a married folk myself, I love weddings. The flowers, the tulle and sparkles, the vows, the music, the dancing, the drinking, the love. Mostly, I love that I'm not the one getting married because that fuss over me is not so much my style.
Our wedding was beautiful and fun and full of loveliness. I wrote our vows. Yep, Jason's and mine. I have the knack for words, him numbers, so we agreed I'd write them. And we loved them. (Truth be told: Jason had no problem with his, I forgot mine part way through...)

As I remember the moments we shared those vows, I knew wholeheartedly what they meant in that moment in time. Now two years later, they are deeper, stronger, and yet, more challenging.

I love you, Jason Edward, and I thank the Lord for the love that has bound our hearts 
and lives together in spiritual fellowship of marriage. 
I will love, honor, cherish and obey you always. 
As we enter upon the privileges and joys of life's most holy relationship 
and begin together the great adventure of building a Christian home, 
I will look to you as head of our home as I have looked to 
Christ as Head of the Church. 
I will love you in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, 
in sorrow as in joy, and will be true to you by God's grace, 
trusting in Him, so long as we both shall live.­­­­­

It was easy to say in sickness as in health -until you watch a 25 year marriage end sharply and sadly in the throes of dementia, until you watch mental health issues tear through a marriage that seemed it would go the distance. In poverty as in wealth seems easy enough -until you watch stably employed friends lose their jobs and with it their house, until a crashed car becomes a heated center of arguments that don't seem to end. 
We are hanging out at "in sorrow as in joy". Oh, the sorrow. And yet, oh, the joy. Some days we talk easily, comfortably about any and everything... Those are the days we fall asleep giggling like giddy school children. Others I am withdrawn and introspective, longing for quiet to be with my emotions and my God... Nights that are long and muted and hard for Jason to understand why the hell I'm being so difficult. But, regardless of the sorrow or joy, the love has deepened, has multiplied to something larger than I ever imagined, has been a saving grace for my, at times, anxious, lonely heart
Married friends, it's great right? Not always circumstantially, but in the retrospect it's great. And so you embrace and seek what's next for you two

Engaged friends (there's so many of you), it's beautiful, marriage, it is. It's not what you expect or could predict, and that's the best part: the profound mystery that awaits you.

Single friends, don't rush. Marriage is lovely and wondrous. But not something you want to do with just anyone. Trust me. Plus, there's a lot of consideration that goes into everyday choices you can just make. You've got to be ready for that... And some of you aren't

Speaking of vows, have you read this?
It's so encouraging and refreshing for my mind and my heart. 

Congratulations Matt and Amy. 
You're going to do the Cuny name well.
I'm thrilled to celebrate this moment in life with the two of you... 
And to see the many moments your marriage will hold. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Unless the Lord, or my Attempt at Submission

I want to write this blog myself. In fact, sometimes I do. After a few days I get all cocky and impressed with me. When I get cocky and impressed, I also get lazy and less dependent on Him.

Then I get slapped. Sometimes emotionally, sometimes circumstantially, always figuratively.

Though there isn't a physical "SLAP" to burn my cheek, I end up jarred, dazed, and, mostly, annoyed with myself for letting it get there again.

Thankfully, God is made of as much love, grace, and mercy as He is power and truth.

"Unless the Lord builds a house, 
it's builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, 
the watchman stand guard in vain.
In vain you rise early and stay up late, 
toiling for food to eat-
for He grants sleep to those he loves."
-Psalm 127:1-2

In vain I run myself ragged in order to call myself accomplished. But to what end? 

I dream often about this blog being big, important, inspirational, fruitful. There's formulas to apply, conferences to attend, moves I can make to get more. More followers, more readers, more fans.

Or I could submit me, Mr. Thomas and Me, and my words to Him. And He will do with it as He wishes. I imagine this will look substantially different than my "big plans". But that end result will turn out to be awesomely greater than any plans I've tried to lay out and implement.

My prayer: 
Lord use this space. Bring those here who need YOUR words.
Remove my selfishness, my comparisons, my self-consciousness
and replace it with a need to speak of you and your greatness.
Create in me your heart, your voice, your glory.
Help me to be less of me and more of you.

A sermon I listened to this morning said this:
"Jesus' perfection makes up for all my imperfection."

What are you doing in vain friends? How can you submit it to Him?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Do you get hair-brained ideas? I do, then I draft friends to join me.

I've been known for going and getting some crazy ideas. And most of the time, I'm too shy to share them with anyone. I lock them away and let them wither. Then, I hope to goodness I don't remember them at a later date. Because usually that remembering process turns into a conviction to go for it. Whatever it might be.

This is one of those remembered, withered-up things. It went like this:

I like books. I like friends. People who like books and friends get together sometimes and do book clubs. Then blog about the books, friends, and clubs. They love the women they meet with and the authors they get to share with one another. This makes my heart pang with jealousy. I should incorporate a book, friends, club thing in my own life. 

See, fun. Right? Right... Until Self-Conscious Part of My Brain chimes in saying, "No. Don't do it chick. That's dumb and boring and no one will think you have good ideas. In fact, they'll think you're insane."
Me: "Really? Well, that was nice to pretend about book club. Go hide in a deep, dark cave of my brain and get all pasty-pale and then whither like a raisin. (And I won't miss you because I don't love raisins)"
Self-Conscious Part of My Brain: "Damn right. Why eat the sun-dried morsel when you can have the real thing?

(This isn't really about grapes.)

Enter Shauna Niequist's Bread & Wine. Hi darling, we're happy to have you. 

Mom and I are running one morning, like always, and talking about the impending arrival of Bread & Wine from our dear love, Amazon. And that wither-y thought gains new life. I word-vomit something like: "What if we had a Bread & Wine book club?" 

She loves it. We brainstorm members. And it's obvious. We know just the people. 

Meet the Mo-Da Book Club. 
Mo-Da as in Mother-Daughter. 

My mom and I were beyond thrilled to host such a group of lovelies. And the best part: we got to pick roses from the yard and put out a tablecloth -both of which would be more than appreciated. And they were.
(Yes, I stand on chairs in front of guests to try for a good picture. Next time I may have to hop on the tabletop... I might be lying about the table top. Or I might not.)

Mom and I were in charge of the appetizers and main protein. My tomatoes have grown in spectacularly after having to make a homemade pesticide to ward off a major hornworm infestation. Highly fertile tomato plants and a bush of basil asked for caprese skewers (Thanks Pinterest!).

Mom rocked some Mini Mac & Cheese Cups (from the book- AWESOME) and these wondrous Goat Cheese, Peach Crostinis (they won't disappoint). Then came time for the meat.

I was a bit gun shy because I decided to rock the steak course. Yep, the girl who's husband grills any and all meat. So I had to take it on with much bravery. I trimmed my own meat into card-deck size pieces. And then followed Shauna's instructions to a tee. 

A glass of wine and eight steaks later. I was a happy cook. And can I take a moment to share... They turned out damn good! 

I look much more comfortable than I was. But the challenge was fun to take on and the company was nothing but encouraging! 

Debi rocked the risotto. Seriously, lovely. Shauna's recipe is pure comfort food. It tastes like Italy and home all in a single bite. But you might eat a whole pan, so be warned. 

We dipped plates. Dished salad. And brought our wine glasses from the counter to the table. Reds to fill where the whites left off. And then it's time. 

Time for culinary divine. Desert was amazing too... So much so no pictures were snapped. Damn it. I hate when my enjoyment of life overwhelms my blog-ability. (Or maybe I actually am too busy loving it!) 

Every morsel was perfect. Light, but flavor-filled. Savory, but not overwhelming. Just as Shauna would enjoy. 

The food was amazing. Truly culinary. But, the company...Indescribable. I truly believed we were meeting to talk about a book. But this isn't just a book club. It's a let's-do-life-as-friends-who-were-reunited-by-a-book-club club. And we all fell so naturally into it. We talked dogs, husbands, families, food, wine, memories (since we have all known each other pushing 15 years), traveling, wishes and dreams, and high school cheer. I couldn't have imagined the ease, the fun, the sweetness of the evening turned late night. 

We were captivated by one another. Six hours in we realized we were pushing midnight and yet, it felt like we'd just started. We all walked away from the table fuller in both our tummies and our hearts. 

 In fact, this picture captures us: 
Thank you to the women of the Mo-Da Book Club for jumping into an unknown and foreign adventure. We risked the possibility of an awkward night and were rewarded with renewed friendship, countless laughs, and a new take on the cheer team. Who would have guessed? 

Thank you to Shauna for a book that brought six of us around the table. Who encouraged us to be authentic, beautiful, and encouraging to one another regardless of the baggage we carry... And boy do we carry?!? 

And, thank you to you, my reader. Thank you because you know you're thinking this would be fun. You'd like to do this with someone or more than one. And my advice: do it. Who the hell cares of it flops? In fact, if you hate it... You feel failure, email me. I'll meet with you. Really, truly I will. 

And you know when an author is a good one? When you post this on Instagram:

And she does this:

I adored you before Shauna. Now, I feel your authenticity. I know your heart is in those words. And I just can't seem to get enough of them. Thank you. 

P.S. Is this what fame feels like? I ended up on a cherished author's radar! Even if just for five seconds... 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Words & Letters [6]

Dear Blog, I'm getting a hang of this suddenly. Life's going to come and screw this balance all up, but for now -we plan. prepare, brainstorm, and -mostly- we enjoy. 

Dear Friends, Your support is overwhelming. Seriously. Literally. Life sucks some days, then you share some love here, or here, or here and my heart explodes a little bit. Thank you. 

Dear my Newest Hero, Though I don't know you, I have one word: phenomenal. That's it. This is phenomenal. And dear Teleprompter, Seriously you didn't notice that?!? 

Dear Mama Arnold, I literally cannot wait to celebrate Baby. He's going to be so handsome and so spoiled and so loved. Plus, he's got some rockin' parents. 

Dear Brittany, I love shoes. You had me at "women to stop hating themselves", then I fell head over heels at the shoe metaphor. I'm a flat, sparkly, sandal girl... But sometimes I adore wedges with a patterned... wedge. 

Dear Jason, Congratulations on one end and another beginning. Transition is fun for you and seeing your joy makes me joyful. I guess that's what marriage is all about, right? 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Oh, how I love thee.

Last Saturday was another visit with dad. I dread those days. I wake in the morning knowing it's the day and dreading that time. Mostly, I dread the way we drive down there, we walk in the door, we search him out, and we cross our fingers, pray our prayers, and hope to God it's a good day. Then the dread melts into another emotion completely. 

Sometimes it's white hot sadness burning a hole in my little heart and tracking its way down my face in silent, salty, drippy tears. Others it's pure, unadulterated grief physically aching inside every cell of my body as we wander the halls as complete strangers. And still others, there's the sadness, the grief, that lie under a light, slightly sick sense of humor as he shows us his many "skills" -namely, push-ups, furniture moving, and, like always, eating.

This week was a new, different emotional experience. There was joy. It was deep within and didn't look as joy usually does. But it was present. And that is different

We arrived with the breakfast with dad essentials: a morning bun and vanilla latte. (He's still got good taste folks) But we were later than normal. We sat through lunch with his fellow residents and enjoyed the community of sickness within which he lives. Truth be told: we relished the comfort of experiencing and witnessing the vastness of memory disease. 

Dad was friendly, sweet, and showy. His table mates are far more communicative than he, but one is bossy and difficult. The other is kind and quiet, but a party boy if you get him talking about something he deems fun. And dad, he makes everyone -patient or staff- laugh. Just like I remember him. He ate. We chatted. And there was silence amongst us. A silence filled by the strange noises and chatter of the other diners instead of worries, unspoken prayers, and fretting. A much-welcomed change for us

We walked the halls. Like always. But this time, instead of losing my resolve little by little, lap by lap; I was filled. How could I be anything but overflowing watching the two men I love walk hand in hand? 

Don't get me wrong. Dementia can go fuck itself. And then get hit by a train. A high speed, bullet type train that has a magical reverse and backs up and runs it over again and again and again. And then a swarm of turkey vultures will come and pick dementia's organs and eyes and brain out in the most peckingly and painful of ways. 

But, these glimmers are sublime. And hope-filled. And a reminder that while the disease makes me bitter, angry, and ugly: it births beauty in my life which births joy in my heart. 

Dad, Jason: I love thee. Deep, emotional love that words cannot do justice. Love that can't be spoken, only felt and seen. My life-long men, oh, how I love thee. 

I saw God's goodness and his truth delivered in those moments. And basked in it the days after.
"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the Land of the Living.
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."
-Psalm 27:13-14
Oh, how He loves me.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

That Stinky Sponge on the Edge of the Sink

"And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, 
but for him who died for them and was raised again." 
-2 Corinthians 5:15

At church on Sunday the pastor gave an amazing message about the radical love of Christ and the way we, as His children, are called, asked to love as He did, radically. He went on to illustrate the way the character of a Christian is revealed through the toughest of tribulations we face. 

He said, "When life gets tight and we are squeezed, what comes out of us?" 

Being a kitchen loving gal, I could only think of my pretty pink sponges. When I'm done cleaning the kitchen and the sponge is water logged, I am sure to squeeze out the excess water so it doesn't get stinky. Sometimes, I'm surprised at the color of the liquid that spews from it's pores. For example, today I roasted beets. That magenta color they are known for leaked out onto my counter, so I wiped it up thinking nothing of it. After dinner, I squeezed hot pink water from my pink sponge, a pleasant surprise. But sometimes, nasty brown water comes out. And I want to puke knowing that dirtiness came from my seemingly clean counters. 

I found myself wondering, when life squeezes me out to make sure I don't get stinky inside, does something pretty, bubbly, and pink come from inside me as a result of my loving self, or does brown nastiness spew out grossing out others (and myself)? 

With the grace of God, I am working towards the pretty pink soap bubbles, spewing out love and grace, mercy and patience, self-control and gratitude when life calls for anything but such lovely things. It's not easy, in fact, I'm sure if you squeezed me tight enough right now something closer to brown would flow from deep within me, but I'm trying and, for me, that works. God doesn't need my pretty and pink, but He asks me to work towards it in order to glorify the great works He is stirring in my little soul. 

"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "yes" in Christ. 
And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God."
-2 Corinthians 1:20

What would be squeezed out of your sweet spongey self? 
Is it pretty and pink? Or stinky and dirty?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Hungry, Hungry, I'm so Hungry. [Hunger Series Part 3]

In kindergarten we used to sing a song before we went out to lunch. It went like this:

"Hungry, hungry, I'm so hungry.
Tables, tables, here I come.
I could eat a moose-goose burger,
Fifteen pickles and a purple plum." 

Quick, easy, painless, and -quite obviously- memorable. But, when my stomach was growling for food and we had to sing that damn song another day in a row, I wanted nothing more than to scream at the top of my lungs. Or, some days, collapse on the floor in resigned starvation (I've always had a knack for the dramatic). We'd be released onto the stifling blacktop and as I ripped open my velcro lunch bag I would find my appetite disappear. Nothing, not one thing suited my taste.

How was I just melting from my overwhelming need for nutrition and now, just minutes later, I sit disappointed and unappeased? How could mom do this to me again!?! I want more, different, better. All those kids have it. What memo did their mom get that mine just doesn't understand. Fruit by the Foot mom, it's what all the kids are eating. And little chocolate chip cookies. What's so hard about the Pringles in the special Pringle chip holder to keep them from being smashed to dust? Seriously, mom, seriously.

Little did I know the lesson she was -probably inadvertently- teaching me. Just because everyone else is eating it, doesn't mean it's good for you. Or even good for me. Gluten free, dairy free, sugar free... There's so many ways we're supposed to do things. No drinking except one glass of wine on Friday, dessert's only okay if it's sugar and flour free, an apple a day will keep the doctor away, egg yolks will give you heart disease. Rules, rules, rules. Everyone's on a special diet -you should be too.

That's how it is with God too. (You didn't think I was just talking about food did you?!?) It's like this: gossip is okay when prayer's involved, gays are always bad and God doesn't love them, if you voted for Obama you're not Christian. There's so many ways we're supposed to behave in order to be good Christians. No drinking that Devil's water, no bare shoulders, no tolerance for anyone outside your bubble. Rules, rules, rules. Every Christian's got to be rockin' a special lifestyle -Amber, you should too.

But I don't believe it anymore. I believe in God. In the salvation His perfect son gifted to my sinful soul. Oh how I believe. But I don't believe in the confined, restrictiveness of the modern-day conservative church. I don't believe this is how Christ would have run things nor do I think there's any glory going to God. We're all so buttoned-up in our religious corsets we can't find room to breathe. Don't you get it friends, fellow believers? Life's messy -Christian or not. Quit acting so damn perfect.

Someone spiritually hungry -like my kindergarten self- is going to open your lunchbox of life and see everything perfect-like and puke from boredom. They're going to elect to skip the meal you're offering. And what a sad, sad occasion. Not just for their wandering soul, but for you. My favorite of Christians are the ones new and just barely figuring this whole thing out. They're honest, vulnerable, and adorable in their exploration... Then I look at myself and realize I'm no longer fascinated, but bored. No longer tender, but sharp and overconfident. No longer proud, but entitled. And so are my Christian groupies. We aren't pushing each other or sharing in our struggles, pain, frustrations or trying new, crazy faith-bending exercises.

Spice it up. Enjoy the messy. Life's more of a scramble than a box of chocolates. (Take that Forest) Stop trying to make a truffle and grab some salsa, some goat cheese and enjoy the damn messy eggs.

Jesus knew who'd enjoy the eggs. He embraced them. 
"The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they said, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, 
a friend of tax collectors and sinners. ' But wisdom is proved by their actions." 
-Matthew 11:19
And at the end of the day, they crucified Him.
Yet you deserve better, right?

[None of this is dietary advice... Rather an examination of my process of faith. I believe in being healthy physically, spiritually, emotionally... 
This health requires a balance. Said balance is delicate and exhausting. 
I, by no means, have it right.]

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Fourth is over already? Now what to do with all my red, white, and blue?

Oh it's the Fifth of July. And my heart is still flowing over with all the American pride partying we did yesterday. So here I come to grace you with photo documentation of my joy. 

Every year we host a float in the town parade. We deck out this 1962 John Deere tractor and fill it with screaming friends with hopes of taking the Top Spot Float Award... Illusive this far. (Though this year's results have not yet come out... Cross your fingers for us!) 

Here's the before: 
And the overjoyed, elated, yet oh-so-sweaty after: 

On my fourteenth birthday my dad woke me up at 7:00 am and said he had something to take up with me now that I'm sort of grown. Of course, I was mentally preparing myself for another birds and bees talk... When he dragged me out into the backyard and pointed to his beloved tractor.

"That," he said, "is about to be your newest skill." My thick head thought I'd get a lesson on tractor mechanics and detailing... Until he had me sitting atop the seat and driving down our desolate street. From that day on, it was love.

The puttering of the old engine, the rudimentary mechanics that run the machine without fail, the beautiful green and yellow have allowed this darn tractor to capture our family. Its strength totes around a trailer overflowing with bodies and bubbles. Its consistent idle calms the nerves and provides a rhythm for the ebb and flow of the driver's thoughts. Its that perfect place when your hands need distraction, your heart needs a break, and your mind won't slow.

Just as it provides a noisy "quiet", it also hosts a crowd with little effort. As onlookers gather to check out the retro farm equipment, he stands confidently and calmly while we flurry about loading kids on the seat, fussing over the gas lines, oil, and throttle, answering a million and one random questions. It's true: Nothing does run like a Deere.

And sometimes that Deere attracts the funniest of friends. Like Smokey Bear. We're always game for a good photo op. (Got to keep on picking up blog fodder!)

Once we're done showing off the sexy tractor, we head home for un-decorating, drinks, lunch, and the pool. Ahhhhh, the pool. But there's no fun in un-decorating without a little repurposing of sorts.

Since I own more red, white, and blue than is socially acceptable and there's only one day a year I can max myself out on the stars and the stripes, an outfit change is a necessity. Plus, I perspired nearly five gallons worth of salt water at the parade and I've never heard of sweaty swag so new threads are vital

Hello happy striped shirt and poofy American Apparel skirt that makes me look like I weigh fifteen more pounds than I did in the morn. 

I always look good for the fireworks. Always. I don't want those big flashy lights to outdo my outfit... Or I look like I've made myself a hoodie out of smurf pelt. Jealous much? 

Great weather. Great clothes. Great people. Great fireworks. Great day. Until next year July Fourth. Until next year.

P.S. Did you notice the new look around these parts? Bangin' huh? Thanks to my dear blogging buddy Angi the digs got a major upgrade. Check her out guys... She's affordable, so easy to work with, and had this sucker renovated in less than a week. She's the Target of blog design (and you all know how I feel about Target).

Monday, July 1, 2013

Bless my lucky stars. And the USA.

It's the week of the Fourth! This makes me want to jump up and down and swing my arms in the air and celebrate the good ol' red, white, and blue.

While I adore Christmas and the decorations and snuggles of the season plus the celebration of Jesus and His many important gifts to me, the Fourth is my absolute favorite day of the year. The sun, the waving of miniature flags, the red, the white, and the blue. Love.

We live in a small town and participate in the parade every year. Who doesn't love to ride around on a tractor and wave to a bunch of screaming, sweaty kids and their hot-as-desert-rocks, but enjoying-the-break-from-entertaining-their-kids parents? It gets me every time.

Seriously though, how lucky am I to live in a country where we can hoot and holler at people dressed patriotically for an hour with reckless abandon? Bless my lucky stars. And the USA.

Some days it feels like 'Murica is sliding downhill... Slutty superstars, weight obsessions, the "police of the world", birthplace of McDonald's, international spies, blah, blah, blah. I hear it folks. And there's times I'm a frustrated citizen of my very own homeland. Then I remember, every family has it's ugly moments... Has the times when one member -or more- doesn't love what the family stands for. But, you don't leave. You initiate change. You make an active choice to eradicate the ugliness associated with the name and you move in a positive direction.

So this Thursday, let's wave our flags extra enthusiastically to remind ourselves of the freedom of our American family. Let's hoot and holler in thanks for our armed forces protecting day in and day out both at home and overseas. Let's sport the red, white, and blue with more gusto, more excitement, and more family pride than any land has ever seen. (Plus, I've never seen anyone look bad in that combination of colors)

Blogger Template designed By The Sunday Studio.