Who Am I?

Amanda: Worthy of Love

I love the smell of fresh-cut grass
 Tiger lilies and cornflowers along the roadside
Scenic drives
 Walks, particularly ones along the beach
Blue skies
 Summer heat
 Autumn colors
 Smell of wood smoke
 Mulled wine and sangrias
Early fall when it's just cool enough to pull out jeans and hoodies
 Plaid shirts
 The freshness of spring
 Perfectly ripe peaches
 Listening to deep theological and philosophical conversations 
 Connecting with people when you thought you were the only one
  God's creation
 Comfortable silence with friends
 Fresh home-made bread
 Books and more books
 Vinyl records 
Country music with the windows rolled down
 Stylish without completely forsaking comfort
 Hot tea and blankets on a cold night
 Western decor
 White Christmases
Playing the piano
 "An Old-Fashioned Girl"
Snow globes
 Freshly laundered sheets, especially flannel ones
 Nachos and cheese
Hallmark movies
 Sugar snap peas 
Sauteed green beans
 Children that melt your heart
 Hugs from Dad
Big Sister
Younger Sister

Driving/Road Trips
Old Barns
Wind through the Trees
Home-cooked Meal
Chicken Pot Pie
Independence Day
Word Searches
Wrapping Gifts

Perfectionist, reserved, prideful, controlling, superiority complex, insecure, fearful, stubborn, spiteful, bitter, selfish, gossip, backbiting, jealous, idolater 

I am a sinner saved by grace. Washed in the blood of Christ. I am an adopted daughter of the KING of KINGS and fellow heir with Jesus Christ! 


A Work in Progress

It would seem that in spite of my best intentions, one or two posts a year is a trademark of mine. It can be a bit challenging to write about life and the lessons you're learning while you're right in the midst of it. When it comes to my blog posts I take more of a reflective approach.

This past year has been full to the brim with lessons to learn, experiences of life, and God ever being steadfast. I have been stretched and pulled spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally. It's hurt a lot and I've shed many tears in the process.

We are called to daily die to self. The victory has already been won for us through Christ's sacrifice, but we are still in our fleshly bodies and very much in the world. Temptations do not cease once we accept the gift of salvation. Instead they become opportunities to resist and grow closer in our walk with Christ. Trials and tribulations are meant to challenge us and push our limits. Sometimes we fall....BUT what is being required of us is to die to self and reach for the victory that Christ is already holding out to us freely given. Freely given you say? But doesn't everything have a price? Maybe it's free of charge, but I at least have to work for it, right?

The price has already been paid in FULL by the blood of Jesus Christ! We cannot obtain a gift by working for it. If that was the case we could no longer call it a gift. We cannot earn salvation. It is being FREELY given. Say we have accepted this FREE gift. Now what? One of my struggles after accepting Christ was that I falsely expected a switch to be flipped and perfection to be reached. That resisting temptations would be a breeze and God would give me patience in spades. In other words, I was expecting God to act like a vending machine. I would ask for what I needed or wanted and as His child there would be no hardship in obtaining my requests. Instead I found myself on the front lines in a battle I felt wholly unprepared for.

This year alone God has been showing me that I need to be STILL and KNOW that He is God, keep a quiet heart, that prayer can be messy, and He is FAITHFUL. He's also convicted me of different areas of sin in my life that need to be addressed. Bitterness, jealousy, impatience, insecurity/self-worth, and lack of trust in God. I am always a work in progress.

There's a couple verses in Isaiah that God has shone some light on to get my attention.
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9
Have you ever noticed that as you search the Scriptures that Scripture itself becomes your plea? Your prayer? Your praise?

I've clung to this,

"Hear my cry, O God; give heed to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy.
Let me dwell in Your tent forever; let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah.
For You have heard my vows, O God; You have given me the inheritance of those who fear Your name." Psalm 61:1-5 
 draw comfort in this,

"Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You." Psalm 63:3 
"Bless our God, O peoples, and sounds His praise abroad.
Who keeps us in life and does not allow our feet to slip.
For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined.
You brought us into the net; You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins.
You made men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water, yet You brought us out into a place of abundance.
Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer nor His lovingkindness from me." Psalm 66:8-12, 20 
and always rejoice in these sweet words:

"The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every  morning; great is Your faithfulness.

'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I have hope in Him.'" Lamentations 3:22-24

I know there are more lessons to come and that being in the midst of a war zone is no small task, but I am thankful. Each challenge I go through God prepares me so that I might stand stronger in the next battle.

In closing, I will leave you with this:

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 
Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of the wickedness in the heavenly places. 
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm.
Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints," Ephesians 6:10-18


Learning Step by Step

   It's always interesting starting a new year. Whether or not you set goals or resolutions for yourself, it's an opportunity to start with a fresh perspective.

  Here I am with February nearly behind me and already I feel like I've experienced a lot. To be honest the first few days into the year were pretty bumpy and I was praying that it wasn't a sign of how the rest of my year would go. Those few days have been put behind me and yet I am thankful I experienced them.
  I needed to address some things that God was bringing to my attention and while it was uncomfortable, I now feel so much lighter. God used those days to wake me up and draw me closer to Him. I am so thankful! He is busy planting the seeds of praise and joy in my heart. I realize the cultivation and growth process is long and a journey of itself, but I know God will be there every step of the way providing the strength needed.

  I started this post a few weeks ago (what you read above) but only made minor adjustments to reflect the current time frame. That being said...wow. I'm beginning to understand that I will probably never cease to be amazed at the hand of God. His faithfulness is proven throughout scripture and is displayed in my own life. Every time I stumble or struggle, He is there. As I learn to praise Him, He is there.

  I am learning so much in this year of 2015 and and continue to do so! As I form a closer relationship with Christ and study His word, He reveals more of who He is. Praise and prayer, I'm finding go hand in hand, in fact are inseparable to studying the word and drawing closer to God. I'm learning that true joy is not necessarily something you just pray for, but is obtained through a more intimate relationship with Christ.

  I'm starting to prioritize and that starts with putting Christ first. The occasional devotional, no matter how sincere, was not enough to satisfy my hunger or fortify my aching heart. My time with the Lord has increased tremendously and I am making a point to sit down for personal devotions twice a day. There have been a couple times where it was late and I was so tempted to skip out, but I didn't. Making it a priority and sitting down to actually study and read God's word is a refreshing and encouraging time. As I seek to know God, the less it becomes a practice and the more it slowly becomes a desire to KNOW Him. I am beginning to look forward my private time with the Lord. Not that I didn't before, but actually making it a priority and putting it into action puts it in such a different perspective.

   Praise is crucial to obtaining joy, I'm finding. I always felt that I was missing out on the true joy described by scripture and veteran Christians. It's hard to achieve joy when you focus on yourself. Joy is obtained when you focus on the attributes of Christ and praise HIM for who He is! I'm working on this and still have so much more to learn, but my spirit already feels lighter when I praise Him.

  I've journaled most of my life and from time to time would do it in a prayer format. Upon the encouragement from a friend, I started to become more consistent. It is now a regular part of my devotions. Writing has always been a way for me to focus and organize my thoughts. Prayer is no different. While I pray throughout the day, when I take the time to sit down and actually write what I am praying, my thoughts become much more focused and my mind is less likely to wander down a rabbit trail.

   Right now my prayer is that God would satisfy and fill me with His all encompassing presence and being. All of my earthly desires, regardless of how long I have sought after them, cannot compare to what He can offer. He is capable of satisfying each and every one of them. Again, still a work in progress, but God is ever so patient with me! In slow increments He's teaching me to relinquish my desires to Him. I definitely have my days where I struggle to do so, but the joy He is bestowing upon me is so rich!

  Another lesson God is teaching me and one He actually brought to my attention through reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, is to not jump ahead of His leading. Not by any stretch an easy lesson to learn! Prayer is gaining a fresh perspective and new meaning. It's all too easy to get caught up in a moment or emotional high and think that you have matters handled. God is good at graciously reminding me that I really don't have matters handled. Surprisingly it's yet another reason to praise Him! At the end of the day all things rest in HIS hands, not mine. I am so thankful! His faithfulness is proven throughout scriptures and I can rest easy knowing my life is in hands far more capable than my own.

  Even as I've worked on writing this, God has showed me that I still have much to learn. I went through a couple rough days and while I'm not exactly sure what will come next, God remains faithful. Sometimes it's the internal struggles that you grow the most from. When we run to God with all our weary burdens of the world, He will give us rest. Perhaps not the answers to our questions when and how we want, but He is still faithful.

"Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28&29 

"The world is passing away, and also it's lusts: but the one who does the will of God lives forever." 1John 2:17 

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." Matthew 24:35

"Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it." Psalm 37:5

"For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations." Psalm 100:5


Marriage: Out of Focus

 I don’t know about you, but through my experiences, I have come to realize that our prioritization and even our view of marriage is drastically skewed. We live in a culture where romantic relationships of any kind are emphasized and encouraged to the point it’s inescapable.

 In the Christian realm, we are faced with the same pressure. Marriage is viewed so highly that what matters the most has been lost. It no longer feels special, but mainstream.

 The FOCUS has been lost. The focus on having a solid relationship with Christ and growing individually has been neglected. Instead we have become SO caught up in the warm fuzzies that we gradually forgot the correct order of priorities in Christian life.

 It appears to me as though we might have gotten things a little backwards! 

 CHRIST followed by LIFE and in life, for some of us, comes the blessing of marriage. NOT the other way around.

 Our RELATIONSHIP with Christ should be viewed and treated as such. I think everyone will agree that any kind of relationship is a continual work in progress. Our walk with Christ should be no different. It should be in a constant state of learning and growth. Your relationship with Christ is EVERY bit as REAL as the people in your life.

 Christ is not a “means to an end.” It is all too easy to fall into this mentality. I have been guilty of it myself. You don’t strike up a friendship with someone expecting to receive a prize, do you? Why should we then treat Christ this way?

 Marriage should not be viewed as “an end” to be achieved. It is when two people determine they can better SERVE God together as a couple. The goal is not marriage itself, but a way to GLORIFY God in and through a holy union. A gathering of forces, if you will, for a larger purpose.

 Our main objective as a Christian is to GLORIFY Christ and to continually build upon our relationship with HIM.

 How quickly we lost sight of our TRUE goal! It is NOT to get married for the sake of being married and experiencing the sappy, lovey-dovey romanticisms, and landing a life partner to work beside. Let me quickly reassure you though that I do believe in the lovey-dovey romanticisms within a serious relationship. True romantic speaking here! But it should not be used as a sole reason to get married.

 It is about GLORIFYING and HONORING God! Plain and simple. Marriage is supposed to be a reflection of God’s relationship with the Church, His Bride. Not the other way around and that is where we have placed it...on a pedestal. In our ignorance, pride, and greed, we dared to think that God is supposed to reflect US. How far we have fallen in our sin!

 We are to be the reflection of God. We were made in GOD’S image. Not He in ours. 

 Don’t get me wrong! I firmly believe that marriage is a beautiful thing and it’s not wrong to desire it or even work towards it. It IS a beautiful union, not to be taken lightly or distorted. Because I believe so strongly in marriage between a man and a woman, I want to make sure we view it in it’s proper place and not on a man-made pedestal.

 In the end it’s not about being married. It’s not even about being single. It’s about living a life that focuses on keeping Christ at the center and bringing glory to Him. It’s a tall order, but one easily understood. God comes first and foremost...before anything and everyone else.

 Please don’t feel as though I am trying to point fingers. I write this not just for you, but for me. Life is a tricky road and I am all too familiar with the feeling of being the only one traveling it. If God blesses me someday with a family of my own, I want to raise my children as strong individuals whose focus is their personal relationship with Christ. I don’t want them to become so caught up in the idea of an intimate relationship that they lose sight of the one that matters most. Christ first and everything else follows.

 I have to laugh a little, because I’m still learning this lesson myself. It is my hope that I can reach out to my peers and remind all of us of what is truly important and so then pass it on to our children and raise a stronger generation.

*Luke 9:62; 2Thessalonians 2:14; Romans 12:2 & 14:8; Philippians 1:21, 2:11&13; 2Corinthians 3:18, 4:15; 2Timothy 2:15; Ephesians 2:10, 5:22-33; Genesis 1:27; Deuteronomy 4:9, 6:6&7; Psalms 127:4, 145:4 NASB* 


Open or Closed?

I wonder how many times I've stared at a blank page, wanting so badly to write, but lacked the words or organization to put them on paper? Too many to count, I'm sure. It's during moments like that that I just start. It may be silly, pointless, rambling, and usually extremely short, but I at least try to make an effort. Writing means too much to me to ignore completely. I may not be the most creative, but that's not why I usually do it. I generally do it to be honest with myself...or attempt to organize swirling thoughts. Thus the reason why most of my writing consists of journaling. I can express myself and still stay hidden and safe from the prying eyes of the world.

Huh..."prying eyes of the world." That's not the first time I've used that phrase or one similar. I think it shows just how private I tend to be and even how important it is to me. See? I learn things about myself when I write. I keep so much to myself. I don't often express how or what I'm feeling and when I do it has the potential to come rushing out all at once with little consideration to the listener. I over-analyze almost everything to the point I usually end up "psyching" myself out. Opening yourself up isn't easy and and some of us, meaning me, tend to do so with great reluctance...yet I wish it came easier. Being vulnerable actually requires great strength. When vulnerable you open yourself up to ridicule, heartbreak, betrayal, fear, and pain. On the other hand you also open yourself to warmth, love, compassion, comfort, support, and even understanding. I admire and respect people that display the strength of character to be an open book. To wear their heart on their sleeve.

Talking with a friend this past week has made me even more aware of my tendency to hide within myself. I find it easier to withdraw than share my fears and doubts. To laugh than admit that I cry and to hide rather than declare I've been hurt. I used to think that not telling all left me with a sense of mystery, but all it was a facade. It hid my fears and disguises my weaknesses as strengths.

I've always found it easier to communicate through writing. My mom discovered this fairly early on and encouraged me to write. There were a few times in my early adolescence where I would write notes to my parents because I was unsure of my wording or felt awkward about saying it in person.

I am still learning and I am so thankful that God's mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22&23)! Growth is not always achieved without pain and I need to remember that that includes stepping outside my comfort zones. Not just activity wise, but on a much deeper and personal level.

"But now, O Lord, you are our Father, we are the clay, and you are the potter; and all of us are the work of your hand." Isaiah 64:8 NASB


Peek Behind the Curtain

I am a strong and opinionated woman.

   That being said, it doesn't mean that I don't have my own set of doubts, fears, and insecurities. I also have those days where you're so tired (emotionally, spiritually, and physically) that you don't want to climb out of bed. 

   Am I living my life and following Christ as I ought? Does my life reflect His glory, grace, and love? Will people receive me well if I fail at a responsibility? Am I capable of rising to the occasion if I succeed? Do I have the fortitude to carry on if no one is there to catch me? Am I considered reliable? 
Does that cute guy across the room notice me? Will I ever find a man to love deeply? Will I be able to find a man who accepts all of my quirks and challenges me not to settle?

   The questions are never ending. Some days they get the best of me. Sometimes I wonder if it's even worth it. Giving up appears to be the easier path to take, but it is oh so deceiving. A false sense of security. 

   Surrendering one's self to Christ is such a constant battle. Sanctification is an ever on going process.

   How do I manage to get out of bed on those miserable mornings? Through God's strength! He surely knows that I cannot muster it myself.
   How is it that I can look myself in the mirror at all? His mercies are new every morning!

"Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. 
Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me.
This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.
The Lord's loving-kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. 
They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." 
Lamentations 3:19-23 NASB 

   As we remember the day that Christ sacrificed his life and bore the ENTIRE SIN of the WORLD on his shoulders, to die on the cross, and buried sin in death. Let us not forget that we only have hope because Christ ROSE from death, VICTORIOUS, in turn giving us also victory over sin and death.

"By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him." 
1 John 4:9


God's Abundance

It's February! It was just Christmas! 

   This year promises to be a full one. Three weddings are already on the calendar, one of which I will have the joy and blessing to be an active participant in and who knows where I'll be going next.

   Have you ever taken a step back and just stood in awe? Looking back and seeing the growth from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. I marvel at the journey my life has taken thus far and am simply amazed. I see the fingerprints of God.
I've walked some rocky trails and experienced a few shadows along the way. I have been bruised and beaten. I've been angry and confused. I have been afraid and lost.

   I have been joyful and abundantly blessed. I've been healed and renewed. I have been given affirmation and peace. I am found and without fear. God is my source of strength. When I look back and see only one set of footprints, I know it was then that I was carried.

   2013 was a full and busy year and while I enjoyed it, here's hoping for a slightly less crazy and a bit more organized/structured 2014. I have no idea what God has in store for me, especially regarding spiritual growth, and I will admit I'm a little nervous. I can only pray that I will receive his instruction with an open heart and the obedience to put it into action.

   There are a couple directions I could take with the remainder of this post, but I think I'll end it right here as short as it is. Lord willing, it won't be a whole year before I'm back again with the next one. :-)

   May God bless you abundantly in this coming year!