Friday, March 31, 2006

Home from vacation

It's all a blur, our vacation went by so fast! But a five night cruise was almost too long for me anyway. I can't even begin to explain how much I missed my babies. What can I say? I'm a sucker for my kids! Many moms told me, "Just get away. They will be fine. You need this vacation." All those that gave advice were totally right, however, I missed them and thought of them constantly. God really knows how to speak to me and it is almost always through my kids. I know he longs for me to come running his way when I have been on my own for a while. He never quits thinking about us, never. It was a joy to see my kids running to the car to see me when we arrived home. I know my Heavenly Father can relate.

This was our second cruise and it was wonderful. If you know me very well, you know that I love striking up conversations with total strangers. While standing in line at the sushi bar, laying out by the pool, riding the bus for a shore tour or waiting in line for customs, I made some friends and came home with some business cards. I love meeting new people and I am so glad that God gave me the gift of gab. Sometimes it seems that I most comfortable with those that really don't know me. Aren't we all!? It's amazing how sometimes God has to take us to Mexico to reveal some things about ourselves. Through this trip I have discovered that I am a much better evangelist and not a very good minister. I don't really mean that in the formal way it sounds. I just struggle so much with maintaining my relationships and commitments. It's so much easier to become buddies with a stranger in the sushi line than trying to keep things strong with those that I love so much.

For some reason it is a struggle to relax. If I wasn't out on deck or attending a show or party, I felt like I was missing out. But after a while I got so tired and decided to just to go the room and take a few naps. When I am at home, I day dream about laying on the couch and watching a movie with no interruptions so I did just that. I went to the room on the days we were at sea and watched movies and slept. I enjoyed every single second of it! Now that was a vacation! Sometimes I live too much for the big events in life, I need to learn to go with the flow and enjoy the naps in life. Learning to relax, now that's a hard thing for me!

I have been singing my whole life and very early on in life, I adored the stage and the bright lights. I love a big crowd and the bigger the better! But on this cruise I did something that brought great fear! My friend Laura, wrote my name down on a piece paper, made me choose a song to sing and then handed it to the karaoke DJ. First let me say that I love to sing but singing in front of hundreds of people while on vacation is a different story. Almost everyone in the room, except for the four of us that were on vacation together, were a bit buzzed. So I knew if for some reason the song didn't go my way, I would hear about it from the crowd. The room was packed, many names were called before mine. Then all of the sudden I hear the DJ shout my name into the microphone. "Come on up Amanda!" All of the crowd began to hoot and holler, why wouldn't they!? Just kidding, they were buzzed, remember? Anyway, as I stood at the microphone the DJ says "Amanda, I can't find the song so just tell a joke or something." Here was my chance to be the silly, loud me and all I could say was, "I'm too scared." Finally the music starts and I sang Cheryl Crow's Soak up the Sun. The person I followed was horrible, thankfully. So, I was pretty sure I would be okay. As my heart pounded and my hands shook, I sang and I sang it pretty good! The crowd cheered and the DJ thanked me over and over again. Apparently I was the first person of the night that knew how to sing. I was terrified, I didn't go back the rest of the trip but it was fun! Why was I so afraid of doing something I am confident I know I can do? Thank you Lord for the shaking hands and pounding heart! Even though I was singing in a room full of drunks, I was solely depending on the Lord to help me out! Thanks Laura for making me do something I was terrified of doing! I guess I'm not as confident as I thought and I think that's a good thing.

Well, what a trip! The last thing I want to do right now is be on a boat again but now we are off to the lake with the kids. It's my husbands last day of vacation, so I gotta go with the flow and do what HE wants to do! Still working on that one. So until the room quits swaying back and forth and until I'm walking straight, bon voyage!

(Thank you Jeremy for the cruise! It was a wonderful 30th birthday gift! I love you so much and thank you for always being my best friend. I loved spending every minute with you on the cruise. I am so blessed to have you for my husband!)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The enemy's tactics

One of my closest friends that just moved from Texas to Indiana called me a little while ago. I was so excited to hear from her and find out about their long trip to Indiana. When I saw her last week, everything was set. The closing for their new home was set for first thing Monday morning. But all the sudden, their lender called and said they could not close. In fact they were told that their loan would not be funded because of a discrepancy with an appraisal. After a long day of back and forth phone conversations, the loan was funded and they closed Tuesday morning. The company paid for the move and all of their belongings were on a moving truck. At first they thought they would have to put their stuff in storage and stay in a hotel but the closing went through. Then Tuesday night after beginning the moving process into the new house, something else happened. Their youngest little girl had a pretty bad fall and ended up in the emergency room. My friend explained that as her and her husband stared at each other in the emergency room, he looked at her and said "Did we hear God right on this? Are we supposed to be in Indiana?"

Another friend called to tell me just a little while ago that her husband was laid off today. No warning whatsoever. He went into work this morning to a job he loved and is now on his way home with two weeks severance pay. They are also in the process of a huge change coming their way with some other personal stuff. We sat on the phone talked and then I prayed for her. When I finished praying I felt so strongly that God was going to bless them. But with all of the decisions coming their way she expressed how she wondered if they were doing the right thing. "Have we made a mistake?"

In the book of Job, Job's three friends are quick to point out that he is suffering because of something he has done. But the Bible says that Job was an honest man, a man of his word. He was completely and totally devoted to God and hated anything that appeared evil. Job was blameless and full of integrity. However, Job's friends felt that there was no way that such affliction would be happening if it wasn't for sin in Job's life. Why else would such horrible things be happening to Job? Obviously Job was out of God's will! Right?

It seems that every time something becomes difficult or when something bad happens, we think that we have stepped out of God's will and trials come to punish us for doing so. Often I have thought, "Maybe I made the wrong decision." The first year of marriage was difficult to say the least. My husband and I had many ups and downs and sometimes still do. But in the first year I sometimes doubted my decision. For so long I had desired to be married and I just knew that when it was with the right person, my life would be perfect. Ha! I know that I married the one for me, I know God brought us together. We have difficult times in our relationship because we are both sinners and we live in a fallen world. Troubles will come. When I was pregnant with my son Josiah, I would pray over my un-born child all the time. Every night my husband and I would lay our hands on my stomach and pray for Josiah. We prayed for peace, for health, for things that I can't even remember now. But one very big thing I prayed against was COLIC. Since I had prayed so long about it and prayed that I would have a peaceful and calm baby, I new I would! Well, the second night in the hospital he began to cry all the time. Two and a half weeks later he had to have surgery for Pyloric Stenosis. After that he suffered from Acid Reflux. It was HORRIBLE. Oh and he had COLIC! For three months I was miserable. I would take a bath and put my ears under the water so I wouldn't hear him crying. Then one night I told my husband, "I don't think I was ever supposed to be a Mom and this is why he is so miserable. This is a sign that I am not cut out for this." Well, it was during those days of holding Josiah with us both crying that I learned to trust God more than I ever had. If it wasn't for the colic, I don't think I would be as strong as I am today. It was then I learned how to just do it! Get it done! So what of he's crying, he's okay! Then Ava Beth came and she was NOT colic! Thank you Jesus.

A few days ago I listened to our President give a press conference. "Every war plan looks good on paper until you meet the enemy. Our enemy is constantly changing tactics. We must do the same." As I listened to him speak I thought about the enemy that I face in my daily life. When I'm not a threat to him, he lets me be. When I am a threat, he changes tactics and tries his best to get me off track, destroy my dreams, destroy my plans and cause me to doubt. So, why let him win? Why not change tactics on him?

One of the greatest ways to beat the devil at his game is to do what the Bible says, "count it all joy!" (James 1:2) When things start getting stressful, problems arise, sudden emergencies take place, or unexpected financial situations come, change your tactic. Don't doubt God! If anything, thank Him. For the enemy will do anything to bring doubt or trouble. His tactics will sometimes catch you of guard but as children of God, we've got our own tactics! Count it all joy!

So if the enemy is knocking on your door, look him in the eye and thank Jesus for the battle you've already won! He can't win, he won't win! He's already lost!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Josiah's prayer, LONG prayer

Tonight I prayed with Josiah while Daddy prayed with Ava Beth. Honestly, I was kind of in a hurry. But after tonight, I realize how precious our prayers are and how important it is to sometimes take our time. I also realized all the loved ones that stay on my son's mind. Many of you are so special to Him. He may not see you as much as he would like but he thinks of you constantly. This child remembers everything. And the coolest part about it? He knows who goes with who when he prays. He would never put one family member with another, he knows exactly who you go with. If you weren't mentioned tonight, there's always tomorrow night!

After I said my prayer for Josiah out loud, it was His turn.

Josiah: Dear Jesus, thank you for Sissy and Mommy and Daddy.
Thank you for Jordan (a little boy that comes over three days a week after school).
And Jesus, I will share with Jordan and we don't hit Jordan!
Thank you Jesus for MiMi and Pawpaw and Grammy and Papa and Opoh. (Thank goodness he never leaves ANY grandparent out!)
Thank you for Brookie and Brandon and thank you for Aunt Laura and Mr. Josh. Mommy, we have two Josh's.
Mommy: Yes we do. Let's finish praying.
Josiah:Thank you for Uncle Josh and Aunt Desiree and Mason!
Thank you for Aunt Kaufee (This his FAIRY GOD-MOTHER! No, really she is! And a family friend too.)
Thank you for Kyle and Brooke and Aunt Lori and Uncle Randy.
Thank you for Aunt KiKi and Uncle Jon-Michael.
In Jesus Name, Amen!
Good night Mommy, I love you.
And when I wake up in the morning, I'm gonna come to your bed.
Okay Mommy?

I must say, I am so proud of the little boy he has become. Even now His heart for God is unbelievable. I know that God adores hearing Josiah's prayers. If you aren't praying with your kids every single night, start now! We have done this with our kids since they were born. You may not think they get it, but they do. It will truly minister to you when you hear how thankful they are for life and all the people in it. Tonight as I rest my head on my pillow, I feel my prayer should be much like Josiah's, a prayer of thankfulness.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

And this has really made me think...

As I sit in my little world here in the United States, I feel completely ignorant about so many things in different Countries. My knowledge of other countries is minimal and if I had to tell you where some of the countries are located on the globe, I would fail miserably. To be a contestant on Jeopardy or any other game show that required me knowing a thing or two about geography would be my worst nightmare. Soon I will be enjoying a vacation in the Caribbean and soon my Sister-in-law and Brother-in-law will be on a plane once again to a foreign country where they will share the good news of Jesus Christ. And this has really made me think.

Since I have known Jeremy's sister, Christine (Chrissy) and her husband Jon-Michael I have watched them chase after God in the most incredible ways. Quite often it has made me uncomfortable because I have never understood what it was they were trying to accomplish. They have given away cars, sold their home, quit jobs and done things that I have wondered if they were crazy or not. Each time they have done something radical in my eyes, something happens even more radical. God provides. A car has been given to them, semesters of Seminary have been paid for and rent has always been paid. Their radical faith has produced radical blessings. And this has really made me think.

A few weeks ago my Mother-in-law was baptized. It was an incredible sight to see! As the pastor raised her up from the water, she came out with a hand in the air like she was cheering. Instantly tears began to roll down my face as I thought about the life she has lived and the pain she has endured. I quickly looked over and Jeremy and his sister to see their faces. Both of them were crying. Those two have prayed for their Mom for a long time and now she is surpassing us all with her pursuit for Christ. Looking at Chrissy made me realize all the praying that she has done not only for her Mom but for her brother, my husband. She prayed for years for Jeremy to be saved and about a year before I met him, he accepted Christ. Chrissy kept after him, begging him to come to church with her and finally He did. Praise God! If it wasn't for her and her longing to see her brother saved, I don't think I would have ever met Jeremy. Her prayers changed his life as well as mine. And this has really made me think.

When Jeremy and I went to that service at their church to see His mom baptized I looked over and my sister-in-law and brother-in-law a lot. Most of the time they were holding my kids and trying to pay attention to the Pastor at the same time. But that night I saw a passion in their eyes that I so craved. After the service we asked if they wanted to go out to dinner with us. "Well, I think we are going to stay for prayer. This is the best part of the service." While my stomach was growling and anxious for food, they were anxious for more of God. And this has really made me think.

I don't know very many people like this. Often I meet Christians that comfort me. They don't comfort me as far as spiritually but comfort me in my lifestyle. Most of them watch the same shows I watch, listen to the same music I listen to and struggle with the same sin over and over again. But what change are they bringing to my life? And this has really made me think.

As I looked at the pictures above from a trip that Chrissy and Jon-Michael have just come back from, I think about their life and what God has called them to do. The pictures from their trip in Belize brought tears to my eyes. These two people are pursuing their dream and chasing after the hem of HIS garment. Along the way, as they live their life, people are being saved. It may be a family member or a family from a different country. Their everyday life is evangelism and I can't say the same for myself. And this has really made me think.

Lou Lou

Jeremy's Mom, my Mother-in-law, owns a cleaning company. If you are a business owner, you know that owning your own business usually requires you to do the dirty work when someone else can't show up. This past weekend she needed help at a moments notice so I volunteered. This girl is always looking for a way to make some extra money so I put on my cleaning clothes and met her at the place of business that needed their floors buffed and waxed. As I pulled up to the place, I suddenly remembered that it was a Cat Hospital. My fear of cats is one that words can't describe. Just looking at a cat causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand up. Cats are unpredictable, sneaky and appear to calculate their every move. At any given time some cats have been known to jump on you. This terrifies me. Just thinking about it really bothers me. When I got to the front door to meet Charlene, my mother-in-law, she could see the look of terror on my face and reassured me, "They are all in cages, most of them are sleeping. But, they can't get to you." I know what all of you cat lovers are thinking right now. "Come on, they are just cats! They won't hurt you!" Well, it's just one of those things that I struggle with so Cat lovers please don't think I'm a Cat hater, I have the same issue with Dogs. But it's pretty plain and simple, I don't like animals.

After we got started, I didn't have much time to worry about the cats and their eyes staring a hole through my shirt. I was too busy trying to get the hang of a floor machine and that was a chore in itself. Most of the cats were hooked up to IV's or sleeping because they had just had surgery. Slowly but surely I got the nerve to talk to them. On each kennel/cage, a card was attached letting the staff know the name of the cat, the medical condition or what the cat was there for. Some were in the Cat Hospital to be neutered, others to be treated for sickness and some were there for much worse.

Lou Lou was her name. A cat that seemed to be the cutest of them all. She didn't look like a full grown Cat, instead she looked like she was maybe six months old. As I worked on the floor in front of her kennel, she began to talk to me. Shockingly, I talked back. "Lou Lou, I don't like cats so why are you talking to me?" Constantly she meowed over and over again. I know she wanted me to touch her but I just couldn't, I was too afraid. Even the feel of animals scares me and has my entire life so I wasn't about to conquer that fear while buffing a floor. And I have tried a million times to not be scared of animals and it's not something I can shake. So, I continued with my floor buffing. As Lou Lou got louder and louder with her talking, I decided to take a look at her white card attached to her kennel. "Private cremation." What? I couldn't believe it! I yelled out for Charlene asking her if she had seen the card for Lou Lou and she said no. "It says private cremation!" We both were shocked. Lou Lou looked so young, how could she be dying this young? The card did not say what her medical condition was but despite my fear and disinterest in cats, I longed for Lou Lou to live. For the rest of the night, I found myself talking to her and I even sang her a song. I couldn't stand the thought of this poor thing being surrounded by someone like me on her last night to live. Just a cat to many of us, but a companion for someone else.

God speaks to me through a lot of different things. It comes to me in some of the most odd ways but this one is just crazy. I don't like cats. And much to a Cat Lover's chagrin, I have even said something a bit stronger like, "I hate cats!" They scare me, I don't like them and I will never own a cat. So why on Earth would God use Lou Lou to speak to me?! But through the meow of this pretty little cat, God later spoke something to me that I needed to hear.

One of the hardest things for me to grasp in this life that I live is forgiveness. A few weeks ago, I was confronted by my best friend. As I explained my anger towards someone for something they had done, she said something I will never forget. "You haven't forgiven, have you?" As I thought about that question, I quickly assured her that I had but later realized that I hadn't. My feelings about this person were disgust, anger, shock and when I thought about this person I was just plain annoyed at the thought of them. I knew I had to get it right. Life doesn't come with a white card attached to each of us explaining our condition or showing the world our appointed time of death. Anything could happen at anytime and even those that you don't like or those that you abhor, you must love. So I went back to my friend and told her she was right and that I needed to forgive. At times we can't go to that person who has wronged us and hash it all out. Sometimes there is no need and it would not do any good. But that's when we work it out with God and let Him do all of the work without us talking to the one who wronged us. I think this is the toughest way to forgive because the flesh still wants to get that last word. Other times we have to go to someone and talk to them and look them in the eye and tell them, "I forgive you." So I made the appointment and met with this person that hurt me. After explaining my anger and my hurt, the person looked at me with tears in their eyes and said, "I knew you hadn't forgiven me. I could feel you hating me every time I was around."

As I stood in the cat hospital, it took me three hours of standing in a room with cats caged in kennels before I could even look at them. Helpless, drugged, sick cats that I couldn't even look at because they scare me so much. Finally I got the urge and began to talk to Lou Lou. And forgiveness sometimes takes a lot more than three hours to get used to. Forgiveness is a daily choice. Our minds struggle with the past and the things that have been done to hurt us. Even now as I type I am still struggling someone else I need to forgive. It's not easy. When I think about it, I get angry, annoyed, frustrated and I want to get even. But the Holy Spirit reminds me that no matter how much I dislike someone or hate what they have done, I must forgive even when I am NOT in the wrong.

What happens here on earth won't really matter, for we will all be together in Heaven someday. We don't walk around with white cards attached showing the world what our future holds. Some will come and go, some will stay for a lifetime but how long they are truly in our lives, we cannot know. So today if all could see my white card and my condition I know it would boldly say, "LEARNING TO FORGIVE." Just like Lou Lou, I may not know what tomorrow holds but I'm gonna cry out as much as I can so I can touch the world in front of me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

She's gonna change you

One day after church while I was pregnant with Ava Beth, we decided to go to lunch with a couple that we had not really spent much time with. They were older than us, not by much but older. They had three daughters who were always very well behaved so I thought it would be good to spend time with people we could learn from. After lunch we walked outside to our cars so we could head home for afternoon naps. But instead we ended up standing in the restaurant parking lot talking for a long time about our marriages, our families and of course, our children. As I shared my fear of having a daughter, Lorraine (friend we were eating lunch with) shared a prediction with me. Actually, I believe she prophesied something amazing over my life that I will never forget. Everything she said was true. With tears in her eyes she looked at me and said, "Amanda, this precious baby girl is going to change everything about you. While your first baby Josiah changed your schedule, your time, your responsibilities and many other things, this little girl will do something different. She is going to bring healing to your life. The things that you hurt over so deeply from your past and present, she will shed new light on that pain. God will use Ava Beth to heal the little girl inside of you. She's gonna CHANGE you."

Ever since I can remember I have wanted a lot of babies. I used to say that I wanted five, enough for a basketball team! Along with those words I would also say that I wanted all boys. Mothers of boys are so cool, so tough, so go with the flow. When I was pregnant with Josiah my best friend said, "You're not going to be just any Mom! You are going to be a Mom of a BOY!" And I must say that I love being a Mom of a BOY! We build tunnels for cars, we play in the dirt, we throw rocks in the lake and we love HUMMERS! But being the mother of a girl, is completely, 100% different. When I found out I was having a girl I was shocked. My friend did the sonogram and let me know I was having a girl with, "I see ballerina slippers!" Instantly I was excited and instantly I was scared. How could someone so messed up like me teach a girl how to be confident? But since she has been born God has been working on me and healing many insecurities. It's a good thing because she goes wherever I go. And as those gorgeous, big blue eyes watch me, I change. She's watching, I have to.

There is ONE woman in this world that has opinions that I care about like no other. What she says matters! What she thinks matters! I listen to her, I trust her, I believe her and I have never been jealous of her. I don't care of she sings better that me, looks better than me or has more friends than me. In fact, I hope she does everything better than me because I'm watching her. She's my Mom. And with that, I know that Ava Beth is watching me too. She's a part of me, she's a little woman that I carry with me everywhere I do. When I get my feelings hurt, I pray for Ava Beth about her feelings as a woman. When I choose the wrong kind of friendships, I pray for Ava Beth to be wise in who she hangs out with. I even pray for the teenage years. May she always sit at the lunch table with someone who will make her better. And may I do the same. She's changing me.

While Josiah learns to play Golf and Football, I long for the days of tap, ballet and jazz! Ava Beth is changing me, softening me and making me realize how important my choices are. Someday when she packs her bags for The University of Texas (we pray) or some other big Texas school, drives away and begins a journey on her own, may she not carry my bags along with her.

My little girl is changing me. She has brought about healing in a way that no one else could. She's helping me in my journey and may I help her someday in hers. Daily I pray that she will be more than I ever was. I know she will be!

Ava Beth, someday you will read this. I pray that when you do that we have a close relationship. Right now you walk around the house carrying your baby doll or your purse. But soon you will be all grown up, too soon! You may be in New York dancing or singing on Broadway. You may be walking the Red Carpet or Ministering to the world but whatever it is you are doing, I pray that you will hold your head up high, not care what anybody says about you, love who you are and KNOW that you are a strong woman. You come from a long line of Godly, strong women and I know that you will do us all proud. I love you AB.


Well, this is my 100th blog. A hundred blogs ago a friend encouraged me to start a blog. I knew only one other person that blogged and most of my friends and family asked, "What in the heck is a blog?". But now all the people on the front row of my life know what a blog is and some have even created their very own. I thought blogging would be a great escape from my day to day routine of being a stay at home Mommy. It has. I thought it would be a fun way to channel my creativity and it has. I really felt like all of the things God speaks to me could be shared with the world, it has. And while I took a long break from ministry work within the four walls of a church, I thought maybe God could use me to minister to others through writing and He has. But never in a million years did I think that creating this blog would also be an amazing healing balm in my own life. Well, it has! This blog has challenged me, enlightened me and really shown me 100 things that I always need to be working on in my own life.

For the past 100 blogs, I have grown like I never thought was possible. There has been a common theme in my life since April of last year, change. I never knew last April 2nd when I turned 29 years old that the year ahead would hold so many changes. Everything in my life that was my "normal", changed. My normal became a noun in life and God changed my normal completely on the inside and out. So the past 100 blogs has been me getting used to my new "normal". My new address, my new church, my new friends, my new attitude. There have been many "God stops" along the way, as Beth Moore describes it, and it hasn't always been fun ones to take. But God has answered so many of my prayers. Prayers have been answered that I thought never would be. You know the prayers you feel like you pray at least 100 times? With each new blog, came something new that God had in store for me. Sometimes it was a new friend, a new idea, a new opportunity, a new way of thinking or something else that brought a smile to my face. Other times, it was saying goodbye to a friendship, forgiving someone who hurt me or dying to myself for the 100th time.

It's almost here, I will be thirty years old in two weeks and I am finally beginning to like Amanda. I don't use my maiden name but I have struggled over the past year with liking myself and even liking who I once was. Regardless of my wretched childhood, my ugly past or ugly people that have come and gone in my life, I feel proud to be the girl, the woman, the wife, the mom, the daughter, the friend, that I am today. Regardless of the lies I have believed, regardless of what you or anyone else thinks about me, I now have a glimpse of what Jesus has created me to be. It's only a glimpse! For I know that there are more than 100 other things that I still have to learn. Turning thirty will be another end to a chapter as I say goodbye to my twenties. Maybe people will respect me just a little more, trust me a little more, believe in me a little more and like me a little more. But if they don't, I'm gonna be just fine because I respect, trust, believe and like myself just a little more than I did. But, I'm sure the next 100 blogs will be a brand new journey.

Do I have it all together? NO. Will people hurt me again? YES. Will I hurt others? I'm sure I will. That's the journey! I will still look to my Mom and ask for her Godly counsel. I will strive to have a teachable spirit and learn from those older women that I so badly need. And ten years from now I am quite sure I will look back at Amanda at thirty and laugh. But, as least I'm getting somewhere. There is still so much to learn but hey, I've got a lot under my belt. And turning 30 years old is a reminder of what a strong woman I KNOW I am.

Here's to 100 more blogs!

Monday, March 13, 2006

At the tubes

Well, I have a lot I would like to write about but today I thought I would post some pictures. For all of my family and friends from far away, look at my babies and how much they have grown! Josiah is three and Ava Beth will be 15 months on the 22nd! I can't believe how fast they are growing.

Here's our fun filled day at "The Tubes"! What a blast we had with MiMi, Brooke (my niece) and the kids! This is what Spring Break is all about! Wait a minute, it's Spring Break in my house every day! And Wednesday we are off to the ZOO, only on half price day of course.

Sorry I don't have anything important to share today and thanks for letting me use my blog to just show off my kids! I think they are the most fabulous kids I have ever known!

(Mom, you are lucky I didn't post that picture of you coming down the green tube/slide! That was hilarious! I told you it was fast and I told you about the static electricity too!)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Your husband is behind you

Before I met Jeremy, I gave my heart away to the wrong guys and fell in love way too easily. While most girls fresh out of high school dreamt of going to college and having a career, I dreamt of being married and having children. My first relationship out of high school was when I first fell in love but I smothered him. I called him too much, I did too much of the work. I didn't give him space and I worried all the time that He would break up with me. I remember one particular day I was in my apartment where I lived alone and I waited all day long for him to call. This day I will never forget because my parents had just moved to Houston and I was alone. There was no one I had to comfort me or to tell me how stupid I was for waiting on a guy to call! Most of my friends were off at school and the friends I did have I didn't want to call. If I told one of them that I was sitting around waiting on a phone call all day, I would be reprimanded. So, I waited and waited and waited. Finally, he called. Any girl that's waited by the phone for a man to call knows the anguish that comes with it. And that day set the tone for our relationship, I was always the one waiting. I never knew if I truly was treasured or not. He was a great man, a Godly man and I learned so much about my relationship with Christ when we were dating. But, he broke my heart in a million pieces. After a couple of years of dating, after finally letting go and attempting to move on, my Youth Pastor that I had known for years told me something that I still ponder today "Amanda, you love too deeply."

After it was said and done, I moved on. I moved geographically, changed churches and met someone else. This relationship started out as "just friends". We sang at church together, we lead a home bible study together, we hung out together. But we were still "just friends." Naturally our relationship progressed and for almost three years we were dating, then breaking up, then dating, then breaking up, then dating, then breaking up. Again, I was the girl sitting at home waiting for him to call, wondering when I would see him, wondering if he truly loved me. I smothered him, I called too much, I didn't give him enough space and all of those other things that men say. Then after it was all said and done, after saying goodbye once and for all, a friend says to me "Amanda, you give your heart to the wrong people."

When I look back on my past and think about the experiences that I have had in relationships, I am so thankful for my husband! I can see now that there is no other man I would ever want to be with. While I was dating those other guys, my husband was dating many of the wrong women too. He wasn't even saved. While I was praying for a Husband and hoping it would be one of those Mr. Wrongs from my past, my Jeremy was searching for Christ. He wasn't ready for me yet and apparently I wasn't ready for Him. My heart had to be broken a couple of times! Then when Jeremy came along, everything came together.

One day while attending church, a new church I decided to try, I walked in and sat in a seat that changed my life forever. Who knew that it would be picking out a place to sit for a church service that would mark my destiny! As I sat down, I noticed a very good looking guy sitting behind me. My parents were in town and were there with me that day. But I was in no way looking for a Man. Finally I felt content, I really did. I wanted to be married but a few days prior I told God, "No more! I'm not dating anyone. I just want my husband." At the time I was going to school to be a Hair Stylist and I saw someone I knew. They came over and talked to me and that good-looking guy behind me spoke up and said, "Are you a hair stylist?" We talked for a minute and then he invited me to a Lifegroup/Bible Study that was at his apartment. During the service my mom leans over and whispers, "You need to find out of that guy behind us has a girlfriend. HE IS CUTE!" My Mom's comment actually annoyed me. I didn't want to be distracted but deep down, I wondered if he had a girlfriend too. He did talk to me and invite me to his house for a bible study so maybe...... NO, I'm not going to date! Then as I listened to the pastor's message about how we need people in our life that will replenish us, how two are better than one, etc. I heard something. "Your husband is behind you." Okay God, now is that you talking to me or is my mom still whispering in my ear? We've talked about this God, I'm not dating so don't let my mind start telling me crazy stuff. I am sure Billy Graham knew the second he met His wife but there is no way you would tell me that my husband is here today in this service behind me. And there is no way it's this gorgeous guy behind me. He won't like me, he's too cute!

Two weeks later, we were dating (February). Yes, the good-looking guy behind me actually LIKED ME! My self esteem was shot back then so I thought there was no way anyone would like me but He did!! In less than three months we were engaged (April/Easter weekend) and in August we had a beautiful Wedding! And now we have Josiah and Ava Beth, our babies.

I loved deeply, I gave my heart away and it's been in safe keeping ever since. So all of you single gals, love deeply (don't give it ALL and you know what I mean!) because someday it's gonna be to the one God has chosen for you. You may get hurt a little on the way but eventually your love with lead you to the right one. No regrets! I have loved and I have lost but my heart is safe with Jeremy. He is more than I ever could have imagined. He's never told me to give Him his space or back off or don't call him too much. I have been me and just me and he has loved me just as I am. He has made me understand that I don't have to be something that I'm not or change a apart of who I am. I can love deeply and give my heart completely. Love deeply.

This Sunday, choose your seat carefully! For you never know when your husband is behind you!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Rain boots

I knew the day was coming, I just didn't think it would come so soon. Today Josiah wanted to wear clothes that he picked out and the rain boots were a must. I really thought he would choose flip flops, he loves wearing flip flops so I have recently bought several pairs. But he thinks it's going to rain and it is in the forecast so he chose the rain boots. In fact, he insisted! If he were going anywhere except the backyard, I would step in and make a clothing and shoe choice for him but not today. I know the day will come when he chooses those boots on another day too, maybe church! Yikes! And then there are the tennis shoes with characters, I know he will ask for a pair someday. Please Lord, no Spider Man shoes, please!!! But, sooner or later I know I will have to give into at least one pair of character shoes.

My Heavenly Father has let me dress myself several times. I have chosen many things that were not in his plan. I have traveled many routes he did not want me to take and made many decisions that were wrong. My choices have been bad many, many times. But, he let me choose. He let me make the decision and I thought it was a good one. Just as Josiah thinks those rain boots are a must have in his attire, I have done the same in my spiritual life.

Daily I have to choose to let my Lord dress me. I have to let Him choose for me, decide for me and take me to the place that fits me best. Sometimes, he purposely lets me go out on my own in order to teach me just how much I truly need Him. It's just sometimes, it's a tough lesson to learn.

So before you put on those rain boots, check with HIM first.

My Will

I just want to remind all of you that there is some amazing writing and good word in this blog posted below. Check it out, put it on your favorites, read it as often as you can. I assure you when you visit this blog, you will receive wisdom and crucial word that everyone needs to hear. I am so blessed to have a Mom like this!

She's my Hair Stylist, spiritual stylist and hero. I sure love her!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Josiah, my precious three year old little boy, is growing up faster than I ever imagined He would. Not only is he taller and bigger in size, but he's smarter. His growing mind fascinates and amazed me every single day. Today as I saw him standing in his bathroom at the toilet using the bathroom, my mind took me back to three years ago when he was a newborn. He was colic, he hated having his diaper changed and he loved the football hold while I cranked up a Stephen Curtis Chapman cd to calm him. No more diapers (hallelujah!), no more carrying him around to soothe him! Now, he's a big boy and he reminds me of that quite often. "I can do that Mommy. I'm a big boy." So sometimes I like to get out his baby pictures and show him the day that he was born. I like to show him his first bath, his first tooth and his first birthday. He is used to my sentimental routine so when I pull out the pictures he instantly looks along with me and says, "Member mommy? Member when I was a baby?" And someday I will remember how he says member instead of remember.

Every day I try to show my children how much I love and adore them. At times I think I probably overwhelm them with my love but I never want them to remember anything but love from me. I know that it is inevitable, I will mess up. I will spank when I shouldn't. I will yell when I shouldn't. I will say no instead of yes. I will hurt my children's feelings. But I pray that it will be the love that they truly remember. May they forget the lies people tell them or the way that people mistreat them. Even me, their own Mom, may be guilty of that someday. I pray that those things will not go with them as those things have gone with me. But may they truly take things with them worth remembering. Anything else, I pray they will forget!

As I have gone through this purging process in my life, the one thing that has made it the most painful is my memory. Whenever we pray that God will allow any ugliness to surface, it comes. And it comes with a force! My heavenly Father has had to take me through situations and experiences in order for me to relive them. But, as I relive them, he re-tells the story. Don't ever doubt the power of counseling, especially from the great COUNSELOR himself! That's what he's doing, he's counseling me. It really works out great for my schedule for I don't need a babysitter for His counseling appointments. Instead he comes along side me and walks me through each and everything that seems to bring me pain. As the Holy Spirit re-tells the story, I do experience some pain. It maybe a time that I went through as a child. Just remembering makes me want to FORGET. It may be something that happened six months ago. Just remembering it makes me want to FORGET. For when I remember, pain takes hold. But I'm letting Him re-tell the story and remember only the things that benefit me.

When I was a little girl I would hide in my closet. I would turn off the lights, hide deep inside a bunch of clothes behind the metal rack, and cry. No one could hear me, no one could find me. It was just me and God. The closet was a place where I had many conversations with myself and with God. But when I went into that closet, it was always because of pain. My feelings were hurt or the world was against me. I always thought everyone hated me and that no one really cared about me. Still today, I go to the closet. No one can hear me, no one can find me. And now, I'm about to be thirty years old and the story seems to be the same. My feelings are hurt, no one likes me, the world is against me. But Jesus whispers, "Mandi, forget. You are not that little girl anymore. You are loved. You were always loved. Not everyone hates you and they didn't hate you years ago. The world is not against you, it never was. Forget it! Forget who did you wrong. Forget who robbed you. Forget who said ugly things about you. Forget those that overlooked you or didn't believe you. FORGET."

I seem to struggle with the same little girl. She hasn't changed much. She sometimes hears the same voices and believes the same lies. But now she's making a change and it's a hard one. She's trying to forget instead of remember.

It's a decision that has to be made in my life. I can't stay where I'm at and minister in the capacity that I know God has called me to do. I must forgive and forget. Holding people captive will only hurt that precious little girl. Forgetting is just as hard as trusting. But I so desire to let it go and release my pain. I want to experience freedom and fullness in Christ. The only way for me to get there is to forgive those that have hurt me. Some have not meant to hurt me, some have done it with spite. Both, I must forget.

Philippians 3:13(NLT) No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be,[a] but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead

4:8And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

And Lord, help me think about NOTHING else!

Monday, March 06, 2006

I'm just tryin' to matter

It means as much to me as the Super Bowl means to my husband. It's The Oscars! I have waited and waited for the big night. Not only do we have the Oscars but we have the Pre-show to the big event. The Red Carpet! It's a place to see the stars walk in full glitz and glam. A pre-game warm up began as the "Stars" arrived wearing borrowed jewels, exquisite shoes, manicured hands, gorgeous hair and beautiful gowns fashioned by the most famous designers. Divine, simply divine. The Red Carpet brings me such a thrill. I anxiously await to see my favorite movie stars like Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Hillary Swank and of course America's angel, Reese Witherspoon.

Just recently I watched Walk The Line, the story of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. Country music is near and dear to my heart, especially since I am a Southern girl myself. Country music can always brighten my day. So the thought of watching this movie brought great delight. I love any story that took place in the South and especially one that happens to be true. Johnny Cash was a Man's man, a lover, a fighter, a sinner and a man who seem to always repent! As I watched the movie, my heart broke for Him. He was rejected as young boy by His Father and then struggled to find His worth in so much more throughout His life. I have read and heard a lot about Johnny Cash and I believe He is with Jesus. And then there is the precious, spunky, fiery, June Carter Cash. Now she didn't put up with much. She told it like it was and she fought for what she believed in. Her heart was pure though and her intentions did not need questioning for she was always desired to do the right thing and not offend or hurt others, even her fans. June was strong and she loved with everything she had. She's the kind you would want to go through a battle with you. She would hold your hand during the darkest hours and make you feel like you had purpose for that very trial you were in. Johnny experienced it and so did her children. June was a force, a woman to be admired. She lived her life with purpose and she mattered!

Reese Witherspoon has always been my favorite Actress. Our daughters share the same name too. Well kind of!I have my southern name, Ava Beth and she has her Ava! You won't see Reese on any cover of a magazine looking provocative. She would never act in a movie that would go against what her Mother taught her to be or one that would embarrass her daughter, Ava, years later. She would never choose to be in something just for the moment, she would think first. She is modest, poised, smart and respectful. She is a woman, a true lady.

What a perfect woman to portray June Carter Cash. I believe June would be pleased. Last night as my heart pounded during the announcement of names for Best Actress in a leading role Category, I prayed it would be Reese. And it was! As Reese accepted her award, her speech left me with even more respect for her than I had before. By far, her speech was the best thing said all night long. She talked about how her grandmother taught her what it meant to have self respect and how you should never give that away. Then she explained that when others asked June Carter Cash how she was doing, she always said, "I'm just tryin' to matter."

Thinking about my life, my family, my friendships, my ministry, my children, my husband, all I can think is the same exact thing. I'm just tryin' to matter! I have tough days, I have good days. I have sad days, I have happy and peaceful days. There are times that I make a mistake and throw a fit or say something I shouldn't but I know that when I love, I love with all that I have. When I care for something, I truly care. When I hate something, I truly hate it. When I disagree with something, I let you know. This is who I am. May I live my life with honor, self respect and love. May God use me to matter!

Oh how I pray that I will make smart decisions, spend time with people that will make me better, love with all that I am, and be all that my Mother and Mammaw Ritter taught me to be. May I do all the Southern women proud! I'm just tryin' to matter. I may never walk the Red Carpet or accept some amazing award, but I hope and pray that I will matter in this world and do all that God created me to do.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Wardrobe change

This past Monday I spent the day organizing my closet. The warm weather here in Texas has been a welcomed change. If it's January, I do prefer the weather to be cold but now it's March and I adore this beautiful new forecast. With this change of weather comes a change in my wardrobe! Tank tops, sandals, flip flops, denim skirts, capri pants! Oh how I love Spring and Summer fashion! So while trying to get my closet in order, I packed away the winter clothes and I'm officially done with my Fall/Winter boots until sometime in October.
I am sure there will be more cold days to come before it's all said and done. In Texas I would expect nothing less. However, on the cold days, which always seem to come back, I will just have to make do with the few things I didn't pack away. It may be sixty degrees tomorrow but I assure you I will be wearing flip flops. For a new season has arrived and no matter what the weather does, my wardrobe will reflect a change!

Two days this week we have gone to the park, thanks to my three year old son and his desire to constantly be outside. "Mommy, it's not cold outside. Can we go to the park today?" So we have spent a lot of time on the slides and swings this week. Just this afternoon we went with some friends to a beautiful, popular park in the area. When we drove up I noticed many Moms and kids having picnics, swinging on the swings, walking hand in hand or running around acting silly. The sun was shining bright and the air was warm. What more could you want for a day at the park?! As I stood in one spot most of the time pushing the swing for my daughter, I noticed a small boy standing by the slide that did not seem to fit in. While all of the other kids were dressed in shorts and short sleeve t-shirts, flip flops or sandals, this little boy was not. Instead this rosy cheek little boy was wearing a Winter jacket buttoned all the way down and jeans. The more I looked around at all of the kids, the more I realized how badly this kid needed to take that jacket off and breathe! He had to be hot! His little red cheeks proved it! Then I noticed his mom wearing winter clothes too. I thought cooler clothes would be a non-negotiable for an 80 degree day! But this Mom decided not to reflect the change just yet.

I have written many, many times over the past seven months about the change taking place in my life. I started writing this blog on Monday but I just couldn't get it together. It was like the Holy Spirit kept telling me that there was more He wanted me to understand before writing my thoughts out. Last week I realized God was once again pressing in on me and showing me yet another area that needed change. He showed me that there are things that must reflect the change of season. And some things are non-negotiables! Just as my winter clothes must be packed away, so must many things in my life keeping me from a closer walk with Jesus. So here it is folks! This particular post has been in me for two weeks now and God has finally given me the words. My friends have been praying for me to be able to release this so here it goes. You can hate me, you can delete my blog under your favorites, you can call me a Jesus freak, you can say whatever you want. If you are offended, well you are probably convicted of the junk in your own life. Being a Christ follower requires many things from us that can't be negotiated. What's right for you may not be right for me? What right for me may not be right for you? I am beginning to think that those are just big, fat excuses that many Christians use! Most of us have things in our life that DO NOT match up with who we say we are. Our lifestyle does not reflect a change. He wants us to be Holy! Is that an option?

About a year ago I was at a play group with Christian ladies, in a Christian home, trying to create an Christian play environment for our children. As most of the women chatted about the weather, I listened in on a conversation happening in the same room. "Do you watch Desperate Housewives?" "Yes, I love that show and my husband likes it too!" Here were two Christian women finding such satisfaction and justification as they realized they both watched a Primetime, provocative, immoral show. Then I realized my own guilty pleasure of recording General Hospital every single day and watching it while the kids were napping. After all, I had been watching General Hospital since I was a kid. But the Holy Spirit began to reveal my ugly sin. I found myself rooting for two of my favorite characters that were dating to have sex! "Oh just do it! I want y'all to be together!"
I had these thoughts many times. A friend of mine who adores the show Grey's Anatomy explained a bit of the story line to me. She explained how the surgeon is married and involved with an intern but the viewers do not wish for him to be with His wife, they are rooting for the intern! They are cheering for an adulterous affair! And my current guilty pleasure? Boston Legal! It's a hilarious, primetime tv show that has me hooked every single week. As I meet other Christians that watch this show, I find comfort. It helps me justify it just a little more. One may say, "God knows my heart. God knows I would never do anything like that. God knows I don't support adultery. God knows that I don't agree with homosexuality and just because I watch Will and Grace doesn't make me sinful." Have you said things like this? I have.

"It's Christians like me that keep others from wanting to serve God! It's Christians like me that make people not want to go to church because they will feel that they can't have fun anymore! It's Christians like me that make other Christians seem weird!" Right? If that's what you're thinking, that's okay. I have thought those things about others too. I have been annoyed by Christians like this. I have thought how they are no fun to be with or hang out with. Yes, there are many Christians out there that suffer from a huge case of legalism. I hate it. But, what about Christians that are just pursuing Holiness? There's a price for Holiness and until now I haven't been paying too much.

Some of you won't go to rated R movies or rent them to watch at home but you have no problem watching addictive primetime tv shows. You see the devil is sneaky and it seems he has snuck in to many of our homes and even our churches! We take a stand on rated r movies but Desperate Housewives, General Hospital or Grey's Anatomy is okay. What about those of you that watch The Real World on MTV? How on earth can you justify? You can't! Gossip, lying, cheating, stealing, adultery, homosexuality, fornication, all represent these tv shows. We set our TiVo to record, we adjust our schedule to be home, we even eat our dinner in front of the tv in order to see the newest episode. Again, Satan is sneaky! He has used your tv to sneak in and slowly give you a tolerance for your sin. All of it is out of place! It's a non negotiable! This day and age you will have a very difficult time finding a show that does not give way to sin. I'm not saying that we can be perfect. I'm not saying that TV is bad.
But, some things are just too obvious. If it's too personal, if it forces a change of lifestyle, if it makes you feel too uncomfortable then suddenly I become a goody goody or a Jesus freak. Well, the season has changed in my life and it's requiring me to wear a different wardrobe.

It's not always fun taking these walks with God. It's hard. It's painful and it causes others to think you've gone crazy including family members. But, one thing I know for sure is what the Word of God says. It doesn't say for some Christians but not others. It doesn't say if you feel convicted then don't do it but if you don't, it's okay.
So now that my wardrobe is changing, so is my lifestyle. This won't be an easy road for me. And as I sat and talked with a friend today, she said "Okay, so let's talk about that conversation we had last week. You know how I told you that I was trying to figure out what needed to be cut out of my life? Do I continue watching Grey's Anatomy or not? Well, I unplugged the TV. For now, it's off. It's too hard to figure out what to cut out so I'm cutting it all out for now." We have spent many days talking about this and me explaining to her the conviction I felt for judging other Christians that seemed to be so odd. I told her that maybe it was me that just wasn't getting it. Maybe I have become so tolerable, slowly tolerable to this world, that I don't seek holiness. And now I realize that Holiness isn't an option and I must pay the cost to get there.

As the Oscars quickly approach, I wanted so badly to watch the movie Crash. It's nominated for six Oscars. It's rated R and I thought I would watch it anyway so I would know how badly it deserved an Oscar.
And as soon as I felt justified in doing so, I read that the movie has 182 expletives and the f word is used 99 times. Not something that would encourage my pursuit of holiness.

Even as I write this, it scares me. I know my flesh, I know what I enjoy, I know there is more to come that I must do away with. It's a new season and this wardrobe change is a difficult one.

If you disagree with my pursuit, it's okay. If you don't feel convicted, read God's take on things in Ephesians. Some of you, including myself, have stuck out like the little boy I mentioned from the park. You are just like him as you wear a winter jacket in 80 degree weather. You need a wardrobe change and it's required for the season!

Ephesians 5
1Follow God's example in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, because that sacrifice was like sweet perfume to him. 3Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God's people. 4Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes--these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. 5You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is really an idolater who worships the things of this world
. 6Don't be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the terrible anger of God comes upon all those who disobey him.7Don't participate in the things these people do. 8For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! 9For this light within produces only what is good and right and true. 10Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, rebuke and expose them. 12It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13But when the light shines on them, it becomes clear how evil these things are. 14And where your light shines, it will expose their evil deeds. This is why it is said, "Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light." Living by the Spirits Power 15So be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. 16Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. 17Don't act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18Don't be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you. 19Then you will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20And you will always give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, please give me the strength to face this change. It's tough Lord and I am ashamed that it's tough but I know this is what you have called me to do. Father, help me to not be talked out of convictions. I know that thieves will come from within, help me to resist their bargains. Jesus I need YOU, not the ways of this world. Thank you Father for helping me release all that you have been revealing to me. I feel a HUGE weight lifted. I know that I have been obedient. It was your Word that brought it all together for me and I can't deny your Word.