My mama heart is hurting.

Hurting people hurt people and sometimes I want to lash out.

It’s a humbling time for me. I can only imagine how it feels for my daughter. Basketball is her thing. She’s been “the star” for as long as I can remember. High school led her to three years as the captain, three years of 1st Team All Conference, and senior year as Conference MVP.

I’ve always encouraged her to put her all into ball. It comes naturally for her and she takes pride in it. She loves it and laughs and it’s hers.  When she’s on the court, life isn’t difficult.

Life never came easy for her. From birth, this kid has been a fighter. Born with a low APGAR test, she had a tough time coming into the world. Four months of colic about drove us all nuts. At 9 months old, she was beat up a daycare. A year into her birth, we had to do a tear duct probing; in kindergarten out came her tonsils and adenoids; diagnosed with sleep apnea in 1st grade, as well as a language based learning disorder. She spent 2 years at Sylvan Learning Center to just catch up to grade level.  College was an uncertainty for her.

My daughter has always been a hard worker. She is passionate, and strives to do her best. To have people who encourage her and who remind her to believe in herself is key. The teachers who condemned her for being different never motivated her to her full potential. The teachers who believed in her brought out the best in her – even in math.

Such it is with basketball. With a coach who encourages and believes in her, she steps up to the plate and doesn’t disappoint. A coach who yells and cusses at her deflates her and her full potential is not realized.

Welcome to her freshman year of college.

Adrianna

I’ve attended all of her home basketball games thus far. She has played less than a quarter total, and that was in the first game. I have not seen her play again since. I wrestle with her lack of court time.

When I saw her getting the starters water, embarrassingly I wanted to tell her “Quit serving them! All they will see you as is a water girl!” Thankfully, this was one time I was able to hold my tongue.

As much as my daughter’s lack of play time bothers me, I’m sure it bothers her much more. To say her response to this situation is admirable is an understatement. Basketball is a game, but life is not. All of the play time on the court will not help her in life the way her developed character will. My little girl who is hurting is choosing to serve her teammates in the face of her pain.

I’m humbled.

She could lash out, but she chooses to be Jesus to those around her.

She motivates me to be a person of better character, and that makes my mama heart happy.

 

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Facing my own mortality

A spontaneous decision with some friends after church service today led to some relationship building on the motorcycle. Admittedly, I’ve become a bit apprehensive about riding, as death weighs on my mind more than it should. Losing loved ones and unexpected tragedies have made my own mortality very real.

Above the sound of the engine, it’s difficult to hold conversation. We have the standard helmets – no fancy walkie-talkie ability. It provides ample time with my own thoughts. I pray a lot – usually for safety. Sometimes for other things. Always giving gratitude for my husband. There’s something about my body being wrapped around the back of him as he drives that warms my heart and fills me with gratitude. I lay my covered head on his back and squeeze him, as if to hug him. He’s such a blessing to my life.

Normally we ride alone. My husband is very cautious. At every stop sign, it’s two feet down before he proceeds forward. There’s comfort in that for me, as many scenarios of how we’re going to crash have already played out in my mind. I almost always keep these scenarios to myself – during the ride and after. He knows they’re there.

I’ve been working on remembering that my days here on earth were numbered prior to my creation so I can enjoy the moment. It’s important to be cautious, but not to allow fears to overtake me. Sometimes I win; sometimes I lose.

Our friends led most of the ride today. They move faster than I’m used to. My husband’s driving felt different. He was faster; perhaps not as cautious. Not reckless by any stretch of the imagination, but not two feet down at every stop when there was no cars for miles.

I didn’t feel anxious. I was at peace in it. Perhaps I’m growing. Perhaps I’m trusting my Creator more.

Whatever it was, it felt good to my soul.

motorcycle

 

 

Letting go of what once was…

Change is hard. It doesn’t matter if it is change we desire and set out to make, or if circumstances demand our response to change. Change is just hard.

In August, we moved my first born to college an hour away. She has been prepared for such a time as this, but I don’t remember getting myself prepared. Moving day just showed up one day and I’ve been navigating through what that means for my life. It’s so much quieter at home. The good noise and the teenage noise she brought has left a deafening silence. I’ve also lost my unpaid taxi driver. We provided the vehicle and gas, and she provided the rides for the other kids. It sure was a blessing.

Change is letting go of what once was.

This August brought promotion to my youngest son, who entered into high school. He chose to go to the public school, instead of the private school he’s been in the last two years. This new school also meant learning a new trade route. On the first day, I missed the exit and almost made him late.

Change takes time to get used to.

The majority of this year has been spent living out of a suitcase. I haven’t had easy access to “my stuff” which cleared a fog that stuff provides. I realized somehow I’ve lost touch with who I am. In my distractions and caring for everyone around me, I’ve forgotten to remember myself. In the clearing, I found myself resentful of parts of my life.

When the pain of staying where you are is more painful than change, I’ll choose change.

Who am I? What do I enjoy? What fuels me?

We all need something that’s ours. Something that we can call our own. I need something I can build and enjoy and feel refueled. Similar to how I feel when I’m blogging or when I’m able to welcome a newcomer to church. Oh, I love the feeling of helping a new person acclimate to their surroundings. It is incredibly bucket filling for me.

It’s this realization that has prompted me to make a career change. When I started with my company a few years ago, they knew this career step would happen eventually, but my fear of failing has kept me paralyzed. I’m not passionate about my job anymore. I’ve known I needed to do this, but change is scary.

Letting go is hard.

I’m in the beginning stages of training up my replacement at work and letting go of my position, while pushing back against feeling threatened and unneeded. I’m working hard to not have to feel a need to control everything, and hoping I can experience some cool things if I lean into this journey. Some days is easier than others.

Journeys take us to different territories and on different terrain. I’m in a land of the unfamiliar. There’s some fear, with much anticipation. There’s adventure and waves and sun. I might get sunburnt, but I’ll recover.

And when necessary, I’ll change.

A letter to my 18-year old daughter

To my dearest daughter Adrianna, on her 18th birthday,

There are so many things on my heart I want to tell you. Have I already told you these things? Do you know them? Oh, how I don’t want you to ever forget. Today, tomorrow, and in your hardest and toughest times.

You are now an adult. You are free to live life the way you want; free to make your own decisions; free to face consequences. Your choices matter. They impact you differently starting today. Ready or not, being 18 demands responsibility.

I believe you’re ready. You have a fighter spirit. From birth you’ve had to fight; to live; to be educated; to embrace your uniqueness. The challenges you’ve overcome will help you succeed as you walk out of our home and into the next stage of your life.

Never forget who you are.

Having your identity founded in Jesus protects you from someone stealing it from you. Who you are is not dependent upon your accomplishments, your beauty, or the basketball skills you’ve developed. Your identity is not determined by what college accepts you or by what boy likes you or who praises you on social media.

Your identity is far more precious than that. You are royalty. A princess. Not the helpless tiara-toting, dress-wearing kind of princess. No, you would never have that. You are strong and determined, yet soft-hearted and humble.

This world is going to try to influence who you are. Be on guard. Reject its criticism. Embrace both your strengths and your weaknesses. God has knitted you together for a purpose, even the parts of you that you don’t like. Don’t be ashamed that you struggle in math. If God wanted you to be a mathematician, He would have gifted you with that! You are wired the way you are for a purpose far greater than you. If your wiring were different, you wouldn’t be properly equipped for your purpose.

Remember this when you face rejection. You will face it. It’s an unfortunate fact of life, but easy to overcome when you remember your identity. Clearly the person rejecting you has no clue how amazing you are, and you wouldn’t want to be in any kind of relationship with someone that dumb. Move on and praise God for saving you.

Forgive. Hurting people hurt people. 

Don’t fall in love with the first boy who sweet talks you. Is he in a growing relationship with Jesus? Pay attention to his walk. Does he consistently demonstrate what he talks and over time? If he tells you that you’re hot or sexy, ditch him. I don’t mean that you should let him down easy. I mean, move like your house is on fire. Get outta there. He is fire and you will get burned. A real man will tell you how beautiful you are, and he won’t only only mean your outward appearance.

There are lots of frogs out there. Don’t waste your time kissing them. Your prince won’t show up in a kiss. You’ll know he’s your prince long before the kiss. Save your kiss for your prince. What a special gift.

Whatever you do, stay close to God. Make your relationship with Him the most important relationship in your life. Everything has a way of working out when you follow Jesus.

And never, ever, ever forget how loved you are. You may be an adult, but you will always be my little girl, and I will always be proud to be your mom.

 

❤ ❤ ❤ Mom ❤ ❤ ❤

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Amanda’s upcoming speaking engagements:

Saturday, March 11th at Bethel Baptist Church in Port Byron, IL.

Friday, March 24th at Central Church of Christ in Davenport, IA. Click here for more information.

Need a speaker for your ladies gathering? Contact me for pricing and availability. 

 

 

Five things I know to be true today…

A good writer should never apologize in an opening – it’s not a good “hook” – but I never claimed to be good. I’m sorry – this is a blog post all about me – and if you don’t know me personally, you may not care to read it, but perhaps it will speak to where you are in your journey as well.

1. I’m in the midst of a test right now…

This is a test that requires great focus and determination. A “roll with it” mentality is not hard wired in me, but this is a season that requires that. I recognize I have absolutely no control over the timing of our house being rebuilt from the fire, which is a struggle for me. I’ve granted myself permission to be satisfied with seeing progress in my growth, and not be so concerned about perfection, and this test has been a benchmark of how far God has brought  me. For that growth, I’m grateful.

2. Construction on our house will finally start this week…

I write that hesitantly, but optimistically. The contractors will have to do some demolition first, and then we will pray for consecutive days of weather above 40 degrees, so the roof can be rebuilt. Moving back home is hinged on us not having a hole in it, and February isn’t the best time for that kind of weather. God is big and can make it happen if He wants to. I believe He can. I just don’t know if that’s His plan for us.

3. I love mission work.

I especially love mission work when it’s in a tropical place. It’s so much easier to mission for a week or two here and there and return to a “normal” lifestyle. One of the values of my church is to “live on mission” – right where you are, wherever you are. With our living quarters at an extended stay-hotel, we have been having a great opportunity to live in a longer-term missionary status, with people we would never otherwise meet or have an opportunity to have a conversation with.

Meet Charles for example.

I first noticed Charles one evening during dinner, in the hotel lobby. He was walking slowly towards the pool area, assisted by a walking stick. He was elderly. Fragile. I’m not sure what it was at the time, but I had to make an effort not to stare as he walked by. He had some kind of way to get people to look at him.

As quickly as he was out of sight, he was out of my mind as well.

Until I was in the swimming pool.

“Let’s go swimming!”  the kids exclaimed, but when it came down to it, I was the only one who actually went in the pool. They sat on the side of the pool, watching. Relaxing.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed movement. The old man with the walking stick was headed towards the pool. He had on swim trunks, but no shirt. His body was a canvas of bumps. He was missing fingers. Maybe this was what caught my attention earlier.

As he came into the pool area, I tried to carry on and pretend I didn’t notice him. I swam laps and talked to the kids. There came a point I was really ready to hit the hot tub, but he was in it.

To be completely honest, I didn’t want to get in the hot tub with him. What if all of those bumps on him  were contagious?

And a song came to mind. “What if God was one of us? Just a stranger on a bus…”

As I made my way out of the pool and into the hot tub, I wondered how many people steered clear of him because of his physical looks? I wondered how lonely his life might be because of judgments –  no different than what I was caught up in. I wonder what his story was.

So it was time to swallow my fear and place my trust in God.

Charles grew up in the Quad Cities. A military veteran, he landed down south with a wife and family. On this night, he was passing through from visiting family in the Chicago area, and would continue his journey south after a couple of days visiting those he still had in the area.

While he didn’t share why his body was outwardly deformed, he did share about a loss of family that left division in property amongst the siblings. I enjoyed at how quickly he opened up to me, and was glad to be that ear for him.

Then he asked about me and why we’re at the hotel. It opened an opportunity to share the miracle God gave us that evening of the fire, and how He’s been at work since.

Living on mission.

We never know who we will meet, and the timing of that encounter. As Christians it is important for us to shine our lights for Jesus, when He opens the door to do so.

4. My husband and I have had a vacation planned for over a year, for just the two of us.

Our vacation is now in the near future, is completely paid for, and with being displaced, this situation is causing us some uncertainty with where kids are going to stay, etc. God knew we’d be in this circumstance when we booked everything last January, and has a plan.

5. I’m beyond ready for said vacation.

What do YOU know to be true today? I would love to hear where you are in your journey!

Discouragement is a joy stealer

It’s 4am and I’m awake. I heard crackling. it must have been in my dream, but it was enough to wake me up. Before I could fall back to sleep, discouragement set in, as I realized where I was. Or rather, where I wasn’t.

It’s been 23 sleeps since a fire took us out of our sleep, and out of our home. It seems like so much longer than that. 23 sleeps since I’ve had a really good night of rest. 23 sleeps since I haven’t been forced into making quick decisions filled with uncertainty. 23+ sleeps since I have felt healthy. Life changed instantly in those moments.

Each day I wrestle with discouragement. The process is moving sooooooo slow.

Discouragement is a joy stealer.

I do my best to stay away from the house, because it’s a harder wrestle as I don’t see progress being made. Yesterday I had to stop at the house and afterwards, I told Ben that I wish I knew how God was trying to grow me through this. Ben asked me what I was struggling with, and encouraged me that’s the area God is looking to grow me.

Trust.

To the human eye, it looks like nothing has progressed with this situation in over two weeks. On paper, two weeks seems so doable. In real life, it feels like so much longer.

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much.” – Job 38:4

Trust has always been difficult when I am not looped into the “whys”. Trust is difficult when I don’t understand the situation. Blind faith is difficult.

Blind faith is what God calls us to.

God is always at work on behalf of his children. Always. Keeping focus on that is harder than wallowing in a pity party. But it’s necessary.

Life did change instantly 23 sleeps ago, but it could’ve been worse. Instead of being inconvenienced, I could be grieving the loss of some of my family. Instead of feeling burdened with numerous decisions from picking out a new fireplace, shingles, paint and carpet, I could be burdened figuring out how to manage life as a widow or childless mom.

Perspective is an important choice.

Make no mistake, it IS a choice.

So today, I choose to trust in God’s character. I choose to hang onto Isaiah 40:31 –

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.”

I choose God’s truth in the midst of my wrestles.

This situation is beyond my control. I have to walk through it. That is not a choice I have.

My experience along this journey is my choice.

Today I choose gratitude.

 

 

***We don’t know how long we’ll be displaced and have really appreciated the home cooked meals provided to us from our friends and family. We’ll continue to add dates to the calendar until we are back home. Please click here if you would like to help us in this way. We are so grateful for all of the love and support we are receiving.***

Finding contentment in difficult circumstances

One week ago at this exact time, I was enjoying a warm fire in our fireplace. A few hours later, it erupted into a fire in our home.

As I’m sure you can imagine, the last seven days have been incredibly exhausting. The more days away from our normal, comfortable lifestyle, the easier it is to lose focus of the saving gift we received that night.

I have a confession.

I’ve had a couple of meltdowns in the past few days. Sometimes crying is healing. This whole thing is a lot to balance. Tomorrow I will introduce work back into the equation and I have concern that my newer employees are about to see the areas I have cracks. I’ll do my best to stay focused on that cracks create space for light to enter.

We have had more people than we could ever imagine offer to help us in some way. I am humbled and awed at the love and support we have felt. This week, one person who delivered us food got teary as she shared how much I have impacted her in her journey. If circumstances were different, I may have never heard that.

What if we told people how much we appreciated them while we still had an opportunity?

If we take a moment to slow down, we can see people around us who are impacting our lives for the better, yet they may never even know. We get so busy in our tasks and to-do lists, we never tell them. I wonder how much it would impact them to know how much they’ve impacted us. I know my friend impacted me that evening.

So I challenge you:

Tell someone today how much their presence in your journey has meant to you, and why. Then, find someone to tell tomorrow, and then again the next day. It can be someone close to you, or the Whitey’s girl who introduced you to the amazing Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup with Banana Shake. After reading the thank you card I mailed to her, she came out from behind the counter and give me a big hug when I saw her again. Take the challenge and see what kind of reaction you get.

We all have our own personal fires.

When we look beyond ourselves and try to make someone else happy, it is often then we can find contentment in our journey.

Thank you for walking this journey with me, and for being such an encouragement.

You make a difference in my life.