Thursday, March 31, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday - Prayer

Next week I will be doing a period of refreshing. I will be doing a 3 Day Refresh and treating it like a fast ... being between Bible studies made me want to take a fresh look at my prayer life.

The church we are members of has a very active prayer meeting each week. I have seen more answers to prayer ... clear, miraculous answers, than I can ever recall seeing over such a short time period. But that also means my prayer list has grown quite lengthy.

I don't want to spend my prayer time simply listing names, and I don't want to make my prayer time lengthy ... length isn't equivalent to righteousness. In fact it is something Jesus Himself warned against.

Obviously the word "pray" and "prayer" show up a LOT in the Bible. And you may have heard many of the Biblical stories of answered prayers. Instead I'll share a few of my own that stand out ... and the "instructional" verses that have stood out to me on what prayer looks like.

Why do we pray? Clearly we pray when we need help - someone is sick, we are confused, we've reached the end of our rope. We pray to lift up others. But prayer is also a form of worship. When we accept with gratitude what God has given us, recognizing all good things as being from Him. And prayer is when we simply recognize who He is.

There have been countless answered prayers in my life. I probably don't remember all of them, and sometimes I don't recognize them as that until much later ... sometimes years. But a few instances stand out clearly.

When I was 17 they finally decided to remove my tonsils after I couldn't stay well without antibiotics and they were so swollen they were touching across my mutilated throat. I bled more than usual during the surgery, and started gagging up more blood in recovery. They were about ready to put me back in surgery when it suddenly stopped. My family and their pastor were outside praying.

My pregnancy with Shelby was 37 weeks along when I was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome. There had been (and continued to be) no protein in my urine throughout her pregnancy ... I consider it a miracle that they caught it. I consider it a miracle that she was unaffected and I have no lasting effects. It was even a miracle that I didn't know how sick I really was until much later. No doubt I would have been a lot less calm during my stay at the hospital.

Shelby hit her teeth on a planter on Valentine's Day ... she had SO many people ... friends, family, and church family praying for her. When we went to her one month follow up to see if her teeth were going to be ok ... they told us they had made six months progress in that time. You can hardly even tell she did anything to them anymore aside from one being chipped.

These are all medical ... what about provisions? We prayed about silly things like searching for a vehicle. Not knowing we were already pregnant, we found Beast ... our 1994 Land Cruiser, which has been just right for us. How we got it for the price we did is beyond me because it truly is a Beast. I'm not saying praying is going to get you that dream car ... but God sure does love to provide His children with just what they need right when they needed it (even if they didn't know that yet).

I prayed about this guy I met ... I wanted to get to know him better. That was seven years ago ... God is answering it every day as Tim and I grow together as friends, lovers, spouses, and parents.

Then there are times we simply don't know what to say. Our loving Father made provision for that too.

Jesus gave us a simple example of how to pray, and I wanted to get back to using His example to guide me every day when I talk to the Father. No fancy acronyms. No formulaic approach guaranteed to get you results. Just the Firstborn among many talking to His Father.

Matthew 6:9-13/Luke 11:2-4

Our Father, who is in heaven

Acknowledge who He is ...

Hallowed be Your name

Acknowledge He is Holy and that I recognize His Holiness ... I find this helps quiet my mind and posture my heart to receive Him

Your kingdom come

I know He is coming, and I am anxious for His return

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

His will is already done in heaven, I want to see it carried out here on earth

Give us this day our daily bread

Give me what I need right now, not so a I can hoard and be self reliant, but just what I need for today because I trust and rely on you to provide it

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors

Forgive me in the same way I forgive others ... if there is someone I haven't forgiven I need to work that out before I come to the Father in prayer

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil

Help us see the way out of temptation and give us Your strength to resist the devil's schemes against You

Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Again I acknowledge who He is and offer up any glory for good to Him.

When it comes to praying for others, instead of trying to "get all my prayer in" at one sitting, I try to lift up prayer needs I know about throughout the day. It keeps me focused on Him and on others. And sometimes it just holds back that evil, wretched flame of a tongue from lashing out at the ones I love.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What Shelby Said Wednesday - Little Momma

Having been an older sister myself, I always expected some "mothering" out of Shelby. Especially since she has to be one of the most nurturing little girls I have been around. She steals Victoria's baby doll and names it Julia (after one of her friends) and says "Julia needs me to take care of her! Tori left her all alone!"

What I didn't expect are the sweet ways that Shelby mothers Victoria. They most often happen when she thinks I can't hear them.

The other day I found her helping Tori out of her pajamas and into some clothes for the day. She had picked Tori's clothes out and laid them out on the floor.

Sometimes I hear her teaching Victoria about things she already knows about. How to behave. Things that will get you a spankin. Reading books to her. Attempting to comfort her when she's upset. Trying to talk her into doing her part picking up.

Then sometimes she's back to crying at the table because Victoria told her no. They are sisters, after all. But I love their complex sisterhood. I didn't have a sister growing up and I love my brothers but it is so fun to watch this unfamiliar relationship play out. Especially when they are sweetly in sync with one another.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Transformation Tuesday - A Breakfast Meal-Prep for NON-Preppers

I'm a little surprised by how many people say "Oh, is that the one with all the meal prep?" when I tell them that my success was had with 21 Day Fix.

And it can be! Many people have a lot of success doing it that way! Perhaps if I were working that is more along the lines of what I would be doing. BUT ...

I love variety. I love spontaneity. And I like to have the freedom to change my mind.

However, last week I came up with something that would be a really helpful recipe for any prepper to add to their list. I'm not even sure what to call them, but they were SO easy, and they are even easier to heat up for Tim's breakfasts.

He started doing Hammer & Chisel with me this week, so I wanted to be able to send him off to work with a hot, high protein breakfast in his belly instead of a waffle.

What you will need:
Muffin tins OR silicon cupcake liners (I NEED MORE OF THESE! They are SO HELPFUL, especially with this recipe)
A large mixing bowl (I can hear all my fellow Fixers wincing at that)
A whisk or fork
A dozen eggs
Unflavored, unsweeted almond milk
Fresh veggies (I used three stoplight bell peppers, grape tomatoes, and spinach to add up to about 8 cups)
Preheated oven to 350

How to prep:
1. Crack open all those eggs into your mixing bowl. (Mine were duck eggs so if you use chicken eggs it probably won't make as big of a batch).
2. Whisk in your seasonings (I used dehydrated onions, garlic powder, and Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle)
3. Whisk in about 1/4 a cup of the almond milk (spread over the servings I don't count this in my containers)
4. Chop up your veggies pretty small (if you are using something like onion I would suggest pre-cooking it)
5. Whisk in your veggies
6. If using muffin tins, spritz with olive oil (I love my Misto for this!). I didn't use anything on my silicon baking cups.
7. I used 1/3 cup of my mixture ... it will rise some (at least, it did with duck eggs). Mine made 18 this time.
8. Bake in the preheated oven until no longer runny and lightly browned.
9. After cooling, remove from cups/tins (mine stuck fairly badly in the tins) and freeze (I lined them up flat in a single layer in gallon size Ziplock freezer bags).

How to eat:
While Tim is in the shower after his workout, I pop two on a plate and defrost them for a couple of minutes. You and your microwave may have to work this out.
Then I "chop" them up with a fork, sprinkle on some cheese (if desired) and put some tortillas on the side of the plate. Then I heat it for about 30 more second to melt the cheese and warm the tortillas.

He comes out ready for work to hot breakfast tacos served up with salsa! I feel like the wife of the year!

The eggs themselves I count as 1 red and 1 green. Then count the things you serve with it (1/2 blue of cheese, 1 yellow for two corn tortillas, etc).

I like that they are "prepped" but that the serving options are pretty well endless. Instead of breakfast tacos, make them spicy eggs benedict by serving on a whole grain English muffin topped with healthy hollandaise from Autumn's cookbook, Fixate. The possibilities are endless. As are the ingredients ... I think I may ask Tim to make me some turkey bacon to add to it next time (I always burn the bacon - ALWAYS).

Monday, March 28, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday - Easter Eggs

I love Easter. And it isn't even about the chocolate. I love coming into spring with a fresh reminder of exactly why I am able to have a relationship with God. Why we sing Jesus loves you to the girls. Why we have every reason to celebrate.

With the heavy responsibility of teaching these truths - why we believe what we do and why it matters, I often find myself overwhelmed, Pinterest style, with the simple, creative, and even catastrophic ways I could share the Gospel with my own little ones.

Obviously the best way, the most lasting, most convincing, is for them to see me live it out. But sometimes God hands me little lessons ... neatly wrapped little gifts. Like eggs.

Last Thursday Shelby and I made a handful of dyed eggs. I didn't plan to hide them in the yard or anything ... it was actually a last second thought as I had decided to hard boil some eggs. I was making them with gel food coloring, so the sky was the limit. I asked Shelby what color she wanted to make.


Dear, the eggs already are white - don't you want to make a special color for Easter?


Oh my.

So I decided to go for a rainbow of colors. As I mixed red and blue for purple, I noticed it was rather dark. So I added more blue and ... wallah! Black Easter egg. The day before Black Friday. How appropriate!

Shelby wanted to eat the black egg for lunch, and an object lesson hit me as I stood by the trashcan with the cracked egg. Thank you Lord, for this gift. We may have to make it a tradition.

I showed Shelby how the egg was black. I said that sin in our lives was like that blackness. I showed her our rainbow of colors and explained how light ... white ... is ALL the colors, and black is no light. Jesus is called the light of the world. So without Jesus, there is blackness.

As I peeled the egg I told her that we celebrate Easter because Jesus died so He could overcome our sin. Then He makes us white as snow ... or white as this hard boiled egg is as the black shell goes away. I pointed out that the egg wasn't perfectly white ... Jesus can do SO much more for us because He makes us perfectly white. I was just throwing the black shell in the trash, but Jesus takes our sin and throws it as FAR as the East is from the West.

I put the egg down and took her outside. The East is where the sun rises. Over there. Past the trees. Past the EARTH. Then I pointed the opposite way. The West is where the sun sets later. Past the trees. Even past the sunset. That's how far our sin goes when Jesus throws it.

Shelby is three. I'm not sure how much of it sunk it. But I was teared up over the numerous, countless ways nature can show us just how much He loves us. And He proved it Easter morning.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Freestyle Friday - Zero Turn Mom Guilt

This is for my fellow moms (and perhaps those who love them and try to understand them).

Mom Guilt didn't come as a surprise to me. My children came along after the internet, and blogging, and Facebook were widespread and I watched many close friends struggle with Mom Guilt.

Mom Guilt is special; it isn't so much about actually being guilty as feeling guilty.

According to Merriam-Webster:

\'gilt\ is a bad feeling caused by knowing, or thinking that you have done something bad or wrong.

Obviously Mom Guilt is specific to motherhood. Mom Guilt is how you feel when you delay a diaper change only to discover your baby has bitting sitting in poo. Mom Guilt is how you feel when you wonder why your toddler's mood is so rotten only to find a new molar in the back of her mouth.

It's that sinking feeling when you say or do something, or fail to say or do something, only to find out there was a very good reason behind the undesirable behavior or situation.

It sneaks into the pantry with you as you hide and snack when you've missed a meal (because you were too busy playing waitress/bus girl/entertainer to the children during their meal). It crawls under the bathroom door with tiny fingers as you try to steal a moment of privacy for necessary business ... or just to take a breath.

So while Mom Guilt didn't surprise me, sometimes it catches me in the strangest places. This weekend I finally got around to trying the zero turn mower while Grandma watched the girls. At first I was scared ... what if it gets out of control? I'm sitting on top of whirling blades of death and dismemberment!

Then it hit me. I'm sitting on top of whirling blades! Watch me knock down this grass! Take that, eyesore! Nowhere to hide, snakes! It was amazingly satisfying. Who knew. Besides that, it is a form of driving and I do so love to drive.

Between the roar of the motor and the helicopter rush of the blade, I couldn't hear a darn thing. Just me and God. It was like taking a break yet getting something accomplished. And no one was asking me for anything. No one was telling on anyone. No one was crying.

Enter Mom Guilt. As I enjoyed the rush of clearing the yard on a pivot point ... Mom Guilt interrupted my enjoyment. How DARE I enjoy not being able to hear my children!

It wasn't like I had abandoned them somewhere. They were with their Grandma for crying aloud!

So next time a mom close to you is suffering from Mom Guilt ... just know that it almost never makes sense. It can strike anytime, anywhere. It has nothing to do with actual guilt. And honestly - I think that kind of feeling - feeling guilty for enjoying something like a moment without responsibility - is from the father or lies and is best ignored.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday - Death

Tomorrow is Good Friday, and that has me thinking about death. Easter is about life ... the Life Jesus has to offer us ... but He had to conquer death to do that for us.

What exactly does that mean?

The day we call Good Friday was the day appointed for Jesus to face off with death. The ultimate price of sin. Jesus knew what was coming. He warned His disciples but they didn't understand. Even that day they didn't understand His warnings and forgot His promises that He would return.

The earth shook and the sky was dark. All of creation cried out when the Son of God met death. When He was separated from God in order that we might be reunited.

But Jesus isn't just a martyr. A life spent to inspire others into action. He did so much more. He met death. His heart wrenched to a stop. His blood separated. This was no coma.

The Bible doesn't detail exactly what happened in those three days. But Jesus squared off with death and came back with the keys to hell itself. The Bible may not tell us the details but it does tell us He had the victory.

That which would eagerly swallow us up in our frailty lost. God didn't callously abandon us. He sent His son to die so that He could face off with death and claim victory on our behalf.

Death isn't just what comes after life. It is how we pay for our life unless we accept that Jesus paid for us. To reject that gift is to spurn God.

But accepting that beautiful Easter morning gift opens the door to a new life. An eternal life where Jesus tells death "NO, not this one. I paid for her." He holds the keys. He can set you free. Your body may die but your soul will be the Lord's. What better place for it than with its Creator?

Friends. This isn't just some holiday that I celebrate as a Christian to welcome spring. This isn't our adaption of pagan rituals just because they are fun and we want to be included. This is everything. And it is serious.

Would you be allied with anyone other than THE One who has victory over death? Who can restore your wandering soul to where it is from?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What Shelby Said Wednesday - Ridiculous

The other night at dinner the girls got into a bit of an argument.

Victoria has figured out that all she has to do to bother big sister is say "no" or "nope." She does it very casually. Sometimes you can see her watching for the reaction, and sometimes it is almost as if she is bored of it and simply keeps it going because she can.

Shelby becomes increasingly exasperated and dramatic, and lately has started saying things like "This is ridiculous" (which she says she got from Daddy, when we asked her).

We think "Come on!" is courtesy of Woody on Toy Story (complete with eye roll) and the part about arguing ... well. We might have a threenager. And we may have already had to have some talks about arguing.

I'm telling you, sometimes around here things get adicious. I mean, ridiculous.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Transformation Tuesday - Breaking Excuses

Deep down, we all really want to be healthy, don't we? I mean ... if you don't there might be something psychological going on that I'm not going to dig in to.

When we aren't doing something about that desire ... we're making excuses. May I invite you to take a little walk with me through some of my excuses that are now shattered? Sometimes it feels like excuses are freeing you from doing the work that it takes to be a healthier version of you ... but in reality excuses are chains holding you back from achieving something.

Last summer, after Victoria turned one year old and I had mentally released myself from being a nursing mom (she wasn't done yet, but I wasn't going to try to continue if she was ready to stop) ... I realized one of my "most valid" excuses - being a nursing mom - was now gone.

At first, instead of doing something about my fitness ... I just decided well, this is me now. I'm in my late thirties, I've had two children, and I'm plus-sized. I shop at Lane Bryant. They have awesome bras (and they really do, I haven't absolutely nothing against Lane Bryant and appreciate their love of fashion for women of all sizes and shapes!).

I half-heartedly worked out "if I had time." I did something easy where I wouldn't sweat too much (guess what, I still did sweat). I half-heartedly counted points. I didn't even attempt to balance my diet, I just tried not to eat more than my allowed points in a day. But if I went over, I let it go and REALLY went over.

Then I had my annual checkup. My triglycerides were up. Not dangerously. But they had never ever been elevated in my life.

Nope nope nope nope nope! I woke up. I realized I was going to have to do something. I've shared before about how I found 21 Day Fix and Beachbody. No more excuses. I'm still busting excuses every day, but here are some of those first ones I had to break through to free myself to become a better steward of this one body for this one trip on this earth God gave me.

1. I don't have time. Um, make time. Get up earlier (the exercise will make up for the lost sleep I promise). Get off Facebook/Amazon/the Internet/texting ... Especially with 30 (or even 22!) minute workouts available! It's an excuse. It is relatively easy to adjust your schedule, or perhaps get it organized for the first time since college, and make 30 minutes to get yourself moving. If it is meal prep that scares you ... take those container lists to the grocery store and just make sure your home is fully stocked. It is pretty easy to make a meal using the containers. Still need a green and a red at the end of the day? Eat a cup of carrots with some spiced Greek yogurt! I've never done the big meal prep a lot of "Fixers" do because I don't like to be locked in to what I'm going to eat. Call me a rebel.

2. Loose skin. Ya know, the loose skin hasn't been as bad as I expected. I've never liked to show my belly, but when I get to my goal I will show y'all my belly in all its white, baby-stretched glory. My breasts are actually still the same cup size ... but my band size keeps shrinking. Oh darn. Remember Lane Bryant? Nothing there even fits me anymore. I took myself off their list. Now ... I've never lost a massive amount of weight a quick way, and I imagine the skin is more of an issue in those cases. But when you are losing the healthiest way, by working it off, your body will surprise you. God designed us to be adjustable, after all.

3. What will people think? If they love your before, they are going to love your after too. I actually worried that my dear husband, who found me sexy 28 pounds ago, might not like me as well as a thinner Amanda. Not true! And I'm more confident ... which never goes out of style. I would dare say anyone who has something negative to say about getting in better shape probably is dealing with some kind of guilt or jealousy. Cut them some slack. Show a little extra mercy. Maybe don't rub it in ... though when you make big changes like this people can't help but notice.

4. I don't like to sweat. Yeah me either. But I'd rather sweat during a workout and feel accomplished afterwards than sweat all day just because I'm overweight. And frankly my dear, if you live near me ... this is Texas ... we ALL gonna sweat come summer.

5. I don't like to diet. Then don't! This is a LIFESTYLE. I focus on what I can have and why it is important. If I don't like Swiss chard I'm not going to eat it. I'll find a veggie I do like, or a way to make it that is more palatable. Sometimes I put two greens of spinach or kale in my Shakeology because I just don't feel like gnawing on a bunch of veggies that day. So I drown them in chocolate superfood. Done. I still indulge sometimes, I just don't let it derail me. I indulge in something tasty. I don't keep eating just to keep eating. The zombie apocalypse has not arrived - there will be other deserts. Sometimes a bite is enough. Step away from the Blue Bell. If you aren't enjoying it but just devouring it, it might not be worth it. It is worth delicious ... nothing is worth guilt, sugar crash, and self-pity. Or the way it affects your workout the next day. Trust me, after you eat clean for a while, you will notice a change in your performance after a cheat.

What are some of your pet excuses? I'd love to know. Let's work on breaking those chains so you can be free too. Make a way ... not an excuse.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday

Sometimes, the ways of the Lord are difficult for us to understand. Either we aren't listening to Him, or He doesn't mean for us to understand yet.

I've learned to continue in faith even when I don't understand. The Israelites had all the prophecies about Jesus ... yet they failed to recognize Him, in part so we Gentiles have access to God.

I don't want to be so wrapped up in trying to understand that I miss something right before me. And I don't want to spend my time trying to understand something that I'm not meant to understand yet. I trust in God's timing and believe He will reveal everything in His perfect time. 

When I looked at persons in the Bible who understood ... even the authors of the wisdom in Proverbs admitted they didn't understand everything. Sometimes the knowledge of God is too wonderful for our finite human minds to grasp yet. Which makes Him all the more worthy of our worship and obedience.

However, it is possible to lack understanding because we are not seeking it. Perhaps we are afraid of what the answer may be. I know I have avoided certain studies in the past because I didn't really want a deeper understanding of the particular part of scripture. James was like that. I knew He was a lover of the Law and there were times in my life that I was not interested (and perhaps not ready) to hear about the Law. So I didn't ask.

Can you imagine? Being at the feet of Jesus, not understanding, and being too afraid to ask? As much as I like to think I would have hung on every word and have begged for an explanation of anything I felt I didn't grasp ... I imagine I would have been much like them. Unsure. Perhaps not fully convinced.

Here I sit, after the resurrection. After Jesus conquered death in three days time. What a glorious place to be when His own disciples who walked the earth with Him didn't understand.

Perhaps to someone without faith it sounds like a cop-out to say that when I don't understand, I simply trust that I don't have the whole picture yet. But I know that God who is in all times and all places and Lord of ALL knows the big picture and is orchestrating it to an outcome that is glorifying to Him ... I can rely on Him for my best. Even if I don't understand.

Lord, please teach me to understand the things I do not but should. Give me patience and prepare my heart for the things I will understand but not yet. And build my faith to wait for the things that I won't understand until I can bear to see Your face which is too wonderful for me.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Freestyle Friday - The Time is ... Now

I try not to use my blog as a place to complain ... but I hate the time change.

Even though I stay at home, we still have a routine and this little bump throws everything off. We all feel out-of-sorts and a little grouchy. I mean, it's just an hour!

But it seems we're in an almost constant state of surprise for a while after the time change.

Surprise! It's time to get up!

Surprise! You need to eat even though you're not hungry because we still have to be somewhere at 9:30am!

Surprise! It's lunch already!

Surprise! It's nap time!

Surprise! Nap time is over!

Surprise! You should have been in bed an hour ago, sucka!

Once I told a teacher in high school I didn't believe in time. It was the class right after lunch, and I was tardy. I mumbled something about not knowing what time it was, and the teacher suggested I get a watch.

My sassy teenage self told her I don't believe in time. Somehow I ended up with neither a tardy nor a detention. The fact is, I really don't. Me moving the hands on the clock doesn't change the sun's path over the earth.

Saying that there is a clock somewhere in the world that has the official time doesn't mean squat. It's like me rummaging through my baking drawer and saying my measuring cup makes flour exist. It's really just a fancy ruler. It is something to mark and measure our days.

It does make it easier to meet up with a friend or have an appointment, I'll give it that.

Nothing can hold back time or speed it forward. It sounds cliche, but it is true that the only time that truly matters is now. They even sell a watch that simply says "Now."

It seems very hipster to me; wearing a watch that just says "now." Look at that! It is now right NOW. Where are your children now? What are you doing now? If this was your last now, what would you do with it?

Maybe that's why God doesn't tell us our last day. He doesn't tell us when Jesus will come back. JESUS Himself doesn't even know when He will be coming back. I wonder if that's what God will say, when it is time ...


Thursday, March 17, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday - Who's the judge?

Sometimes I come to a topic that I feel lead to write about that it takes me a long time to process. Judgement has been one of those topics.

I grew up in a small town ... and one of the things small towns are known for is the rumor mill. And often, with that, especially in the Christian community, comes judgement. Which is unfortunate ... we're supposed to be known by our love for one another - not judgmental, condemning attitudes.

So I considered myself, so often the "edgy" one with a testimony among my circles of Christian friends, to be pretty avoidant of such a practice as judging others.

Brother James pointedly corrected that. In "Mercy Triumphs" by Beth Moore, she announced last week on page 146 that the Greek term for "slander" also means "criticize."

I think at times all I've done is spoken something that was true, but that was criticism. I don't go around town speaking these truths, but I certainly have spoken them in our home to my husband. Repeatedly. When I feel wronged or hurt, my heart wants to sort it all out. Figure out what went wrong. Practice discernment.

Heaven forbid, I even have gone so far as to speculate the motivations behind wrongdoing. No no no no no. Jeremiah 17:10 says "I, THE LORD" not "you, Amanda." Even if my keen forensic mind can figure out why someone did or said something, I can never know for certain because there is no way for me to know someone else's heart.

While discernment is a form of wisdom, in my search for it I need to keep from crossing that thin line into criticism. Discerning something is true may also mean discerning that it doesn't need to be repeated.

When I judge, criticize, and repeat transgressions ... I'm also not trusting God. He will protect me, even when I am hurt or others slander me ... it is not mine to return the favor.

The loving thing to do is let it go and trust that He will take care of what, if anything, needs to be done. My job is to extend mercy and love even when the world would say someone doesn't deserve it.

As if we needed another reason to remove ourselves from the position of mini-judge, Jesus Himself teaches in Matthew 7:1-2 ... when I take it upon myself to judge others, I am setting the standard by which I myself will be judged. Lets be really lenient, shall we?

Whoa. I kinda need a lot of mercy. So I better get to giving mercy. Even in the privacy of my home. Perhaps especially in the privacy of my heart.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What Shelby Said Wednesday - Why?

Ya know, as a parent I've expected the "whys." I was starting to think my anticipation had headed them off somehow. It's the atypical thing for a child to say repeatedly, right? EVERYone must do it!

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

Shelby will be four years old this summer. For some reason I thought the why stage was around two or so? I guess in my mind anything potentially bad was going to happen at two though perhaps not literally. (Yes, I've been clued in to the whole teenager thing ... and once upon a time I gave GiGi and Dude a run at that dramatically hormonal chaos and believe it or not I do not have amnesia. I know I'll get mine and then some with two fantastically strong-willed and delightfully independent girls not quite two years apart).

Unlike so many stages, I can now pinpoint when "Why" started for Shelby. This past Saturday while visiting GiGi and Dude. I'm sure I had heard the word out of her before ...

But not like this. I bet she said it two-dozen times that day. It's actually kinda fun to come up with reasons why. We'll see if I'm still saying that in a few weeks.

I'm not going to lie. Why beats NO. Victoria answers any question with NO at first. She'll come find me in the house just to tell me NO. I suppose Shelby will be coming to find me just to ask - "Why?"

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Transformation Tuesday - Why I Workout

Work. Sweat. Struggle. Lift. Hold. Repeat. Breathe.

Most of us don't particularly like doing these things!

Ladies don't sweat! Women don't lift! We live in a world of convenience. The very lap of luxury. If I don't want to vacuum on a regular basis, there is a little robot that will do it for me.

NOT that that is wrong - I very much would like to have one of those little robots! But because we've enabled ourselves to be more sedentary ... to reach our full potential we're going to need to make up for that work.

Back in the day, our bodies knew we needed them. Food could only be stored for so long. Sustenance had to be found. Work had to be done. Sweat was as inevitable as the sun in summer. Our bodies were created for such conditions and they've not much adapted to the way we have adjusted our personal ecosystems to our specific comforts.

My dad has a book called "Younger Next Year" and as I get "older" I'm often inspired by it. The author's premise is that our bodies stop feeling the demand that we need them and basically begin to shut down. Instead of living a full life, we often make ourselves so comfortable that we live out a prolonged death.

He also mentions that God knows how long we will live. Our number of days has been set. While we may not be in control of how many years we receive here on this planet, we can choose what we do with them. Will they be quality? Will we steward our health? Or reach our set time miserable?

I want my time here to be of good quality. I don't want my good works and my fellowship with others to be limited by health I let slip through my fingers because I don't like to sweat.

I'm going to start a series of Instagram and Facebook posts about all the reasons WHY I workout. Because I don't like sweating! I don't enjoy jumping around like a fool. But there is so much more to it than that!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday - Sin

What is sin? Such a sticky subject. The politically correct thing to do is let each person decide for themselves what is and is not a sin. But that won't stand before a Holy God.

One definition in James is that sin is knowing the right thing to do but not doing it. Some call this the sin of omission. I didn't really do anything wrong ... but I didn't do that right thing I knew I should.

Sin is from the enemy. Make no mistake. Sin keeps us from relationship with God and each other. Sin is a master. We don't like to admit that, but it is true. When we let sin rule in our lives we are letting the devil be our master instead of God. Traps are carefully laid at our feet and we stumble into them and don't realize we are bitten until it hurts. Sin in our lives renders us ineffective and deaf.

God has given us parameters for how to behave. He didn't do this because He gets some kind of glorified pleasure from telling us what to do! He created us. He has a plan for us and He knows what is in our best interest and what is not so He gave us laws. I think most of us with children understand this. When we disobey Him we are sinning.

Why is this important? Why should you care what God has said is sin and worry if you are doing it or not? Since has consequences. Ultimately, sin will have to be paid with death. God made a way for our sin to be paid for with His son's death. Our sins can be forgiven and wiped away as if they've never happened. Or, we can choose the unforgivable sin of rejecting that gift and receive eternal damnation as a consequences.

When we let sin in ... as I said before it becomes our master. When we hear that Jesus came to set us free, we may scoff and say "Free from what?" From sin. Our eyes may not be open to it, but without Jesus' sacrifice we are slave to our sins. Ask any addict. Even if you choose right now not to believe in sin ... think about it. Is there something wrong that you have done more than once? Perhaps you don't even want to but it still happens. I would argue that sin has you SO captive you don't want to believe that it is an affront to a living God.

But lest you be now picturing a God like Zues, bearded and watching over humanity with a lightening bolt in hand, waiting for someone to mess up so that He can zap them in retaliation ...

He loves us so much even as we disobey Him that He sent His own son to pay our pentality. Jesus died for all our sins so that we could be made righteous so we could have a relationship with God again. In the end ... that ugly, deadly sin that the serpent made so appealing ... is defeated.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Freestyle Friday - Confidence

Why is confidence important?

I'm not talking about ego. But as a woman who has walked around long enough with what I call "false humility" ... beating myself up in the name of not being proud ... I want to explore what age and perhaps even a touch of gentle wisdom has begun to teach me about confidence.

Hearing me beat myself up does not help those around me feel vulnerable. It makes them think things like "Wow, if she thinks that about herself, what does she think about me?"

Jesus said that on two commandments hung the law: to love the Lord God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:36-40) And how, Amanda, does this relate to confidence?

First - the only way to have unshakeable confidence is to place your confidence in something that is unshakeable. The only One who is unshakeable, unchanging, dependable, reliable, and constant is God. We have to know Him and continue to seek Him, draw ever closer to Him, to have any kind of confidence. True confidence ... not walking with your head tall, heels clicking, intimidating everyone around you but going home and crying in the shower and trying to hold back time by pulling at the ever lengthening crow's feet sprouting at the edges of every smile.

To love your neighbor as yourself implies a certain amount of self-preservation. It isn't wrong to take care of yourself. We are to pour out our lives for others, but even the early disciples admonished one another to take care as they worked to spread the Gospel:

Being confident about what we believe, and our place with God, allows us to share our faith without being defensive or antagonistic. It allows us to serve others without judgement. It allows us to know when we are responsible, and when it is ok to walk away because we cannot be responsible for everything.

We are rarely responsible for the words and actions of others. Our part is to do our part. We may not always reap the harvest ... we may be the one planting the seed. 
Confidence allows us to go out into the world and deflect the poisonous barbs that will be hurled at us. It allows us to explore our beliefs without being afraid they will fall apart.

Searching only the NASB version of the Bible (the one I use the most often because it is the most literal translation and I just don't know Greek) the words "stand firm" came up a dozen times just in the New Testament. Though my favorite is from Galatians:

When you feel self-conscious ... I admonish you to take it to God. Don't take that yoke on your own shoulders. Focus on Him and let Him lead you to the good works He has planned for you. If the lack of confidence is due to something you are lacking He will show you. I've found the closer I am to Him the more I gain my confidence in unfailing Him instead of fallible me.

If it is worth doing and within His will it will not fail, so be bold!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday - Fellowship

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a Beth Moore event with some women from several local churches. As nice as it was to eat several meals without anyone asking for milk or sobbing that they were "all done" as soon as I sat down ... that wasn't the most important part of getting away.

At one point in my walk, in my life as a believer, I grew tired of "the church." As a human institution, church bodies can often be painful places. I won't lie, some of the deepest wounds I've experienced have happened within the church body. So at one point in my life I decided I had had enough.

I didn't walk away from God - I wasn't doubting my beliefs. But I was sick of religion and sick of the groups of people in those brick-and-mortar walls. It was unknowingly an act of defiance and disobedience, but those days I wasn't doing a lot of praying for the revelation of sin in my life.

"God and I can do this without them", I thought. My Bible was always close by, but admittedly I didn't open it very often back then.

Eventually I came to realize God intended us to walk out our faith together. And that I was going to need to ask Him for some of that blessed grace and mercy He pours out on me so I could pour it out for others. Even if they didn't know it or didn't accept it.

This weekend I was moved to tears several times. Not just by the message being shared. Just watching and experiencing the fellowship among these women. We don't all go to the same church. We spanned several generations in age. I only know bits and pieces of all our stories, but I know that for this weekend they intersected and it was beautiful. Refreshing. Uplifting.

Friendship is sweet, but fellowship over open Bibles talking of our savior ... getting to know Him, and each other, better through vulnerability and shared meals. Shared stories. Shared rooms and childless trips to Target ... intertwined with shared faith ... it is fresh air to the soul.

God never intended for us to do this alone. Let's do more throwing off pretense and being real with each other. Let's dig in the Word together. Let's encourage one another. Let's be convicted by one another instead of calloused toward one another. Let's be quick to listen, quick to forgive, quick to "shake off" offenses, and unafraid to "shake up" one another. I'll take the wounds from a faithful friend over the sugar-coated words of an enemy any day.