This is what I do, don't try to understand how I do it; I don't really know either

A night of heaven

Last Friday my son and I got into our formal gear and went to one of the best parties I have ever been to in my life. It was Night to Shine, sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, a celebration night for people with special needs. We volunteered to be buddies to one of the 125 guests who came to be recognized and honored. My guest was a wonderful gentleman who came last year (this was year two at this church) and my son was with a young man who came for the first time. We went on limo rides, sang karaoke, had snacks, danced our hearts out and then had a crowning ceremony for our guests to be the kings and queens for the night. The mood was electric right from the start. The volunteers were excited to be there and waited eagerly for the guests to arrive. When they did, they walked down the red carpet to our cheers, a photographer, and videographer. You could immediately see that they felt special. I felt honored to be there and be a part of making them feel that way.

My guest and I hit the dance floor first and after one song he said to me, “you’re beautiful.” So simple, so honest, and coming from him it made me feel like a million dollars. I was super impressed with the dance skills of some of our guests with downsyndrome. They were amazing! We had fun at the photo booth even if we couldn’t get the timing quite right, it lead to lots of laughs. We sang to Aladdin and Elvis Prestley.

After my guest went home for the night I stood with the mom of my sons guest. My son and her son were still on the dance floor because her son didn’t want to leave – I don’t think mine did either. She said she was so happy they came. She said it was a night where her son didn’t stand out.

I looked around and realized that no one stood out. Everyone was there to have fun. No one cared what you were wearing, how you danced, or who you were outside of those walls.  There were politicians, police officers, pastors, moms, teenagers, and people from all walks of life, but it didn’t matter. We all felt accepted and free.

I am convinced that’s what heaven will be like.

I can’t wait for another night of heaven next year to party with the most amazing people.

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Is that what you want?

Do you really want something if your not willing to take any steps to make it happen?

If you look in the mirror and say, I want to lose ten pounds, but still eat the same and don’t exercise – then do you really want that or do you want the idea of it? Maybe you say you want it but if your not willing to do the work it takes to get there, then do you really want it??

Maybe you just like to talk about wanting it. Maybe your stuck in the dream stage. One of my core values is vision so I love to dream. I love to imagine -what if this could be? I feel very blessed that another of my core values is passion because it puts feet to my dreams. It moves me forward. I don’t want to just dream about one day, I need to see action to make it happen. It actually betrays who I was made to be to just talk but not move forward.

My overarching value is wisdom so I am a strong believer in strategic planning and moving forward with purpose – but still moving forward. I really don’t like to wait. There are times to wait, but too many use that to stall. I’m sorry but your actions (or inaction) is speaking so loud I can’t hear you. What you are doing, or not doing, says more to me than your words.

You can tell me what you want, but I will know by what I see.

Do you know me?

We think we know people. We have no other alternative than to go on what we see and hear. When times are good we think that’s who a person really is and then when times are tough it can cause us to question -which person is she really? The answer is yes.

We are all capable of good and evil. We can all love and hate. We can all be bold and courageous, but we can also be paralyzed with fear. I have been all of the above. Some choose to see one side of me and ignore the rest, but it’s all there.

Genesis 4 opens with Adam “knowing” his wife. The English translation of that Hebrew really hit me this morning. Adam knew Eve in deeply intimate ways. He knew her good, her bad and her ugly. I mean this is the woman who “caused” him to sin (actually he willingly chose it so it’s not her fault),

There is a meme that I have loved for a long time: Love says I’ve seen the ugly parts of you and I’m staying. It means you’ve seen the good and bad and it doesn’t make you want to run away or hide. You can handle it and you can love me still.

We suck at that. I read an article posted by a Christian MP that pleaded for mercy and grace for post abortive women and there we so many angry and hateful responses- from christians. “Sorry I can’t do that”. These people don’t even know the stories or reasons behind these decisions. I’m not calling for justification for the end of a life, but for empathy and understanding for what has brought someone to that point. There is still a life of value – the mothers, yet these christians don’t see it.

Some people are so good at hiding their weaknesses and keep up a good appearance. I know it’s why some people don’t like me. I own my good and my bad. If that scares you then we don’t need to be friends.

I serve El Roi: the God who sees me. He not only sees me when I am doing well, but also when I am lost and hiding in a desert having made choices that have hurt others. Hagar had had enough and she ran. In doing so, she and her son were about to die. God saw her as said I’m staying. Your bad choices don’t scare me.

Even if there is no one else, there is a God who sees you and He’s staying.

Nakuona (Swahili, I see you)

The fact that the Bible does not make sense is proof that it was written by God and not man. Now, I know I have already offended a lot of Christians by saying the Bible doesn’t make sense and what I mean is that it isn’t black and white (though so many wish it was, pretend it is, and quote their favorite portions as such). People want formulas – how many “seven steps to xxxx” are best sellers?? We want hard constructs so we can see precise measurements that we can compare: do I measure up, or the more common – do they measure up?

There is only one grading rubric and that’s Jesus – so newsflash everyone, we all fail. How we live out our faith depends on what we read in the Bible and if the Bible were perfectly clear then we would not be so divided over it. I know that I was taught that the Bible is clear. I was offended the first time this concept of grey was presented to me, but once I moved away from my Sunday school stories and actually dug into the real stories of hurting men and women who constantly failed and God continued to forgive and love the more I saw the complexities of scripture.

People wouldn’t write that. We would write nice formulas and exact guidelines. I know the next argument will be that God gave us exact guidelines in the Bible – but did He? Sure we have the Ten Commandments and Leviticus but if those are our guidelines for today as well then why are we wearing clothes that blend fabrics like wool and linen? Why are you eating seafood? Jesus came and said he was the fulfillment of the law. God told Peter – kill and eat. The rules changed. The standard didn’t.

What that means is that Jesus was and still is the standard. Living like Jesus looked different in the Old Testament than the new, and today. People wouldn’t write that. We are not that forward thinking. Governments everywhere are having to make new laws as things change and remove old laws. People make these laws and demand punishment – God made a standard and said I know you won’t choose to live up to this so I’ll make the way for you. I’ll die so you can come home. People prefer punishments of prison and the death penalty. I know because I feel that way.

People would never write the way God wrote the Bible. That is comforting to me, but still uncomfortable because it leaves me wrestling with this letter from God to me. I have recently been reading to my kids a book by Rachel Held Evans called Inspired. We just read about her faith journey with the Bible and she talks about Jacob. It got my heart when she reminded us that when we wrestle with God we are not only given a limp but a blessing.

So if you see Christians who walk around perfectly straight, then you can conclude that they have not spent time wrestling with God. I don’t know how happy Jacob was initially about the limp but it’s significant and the blessing came hand in hand. He’s not a God who only keeps us humble but He is also a God of goodness.

So much has happened in my life that a black and white God and scripture actually won’t cut it. My life have been thousands of colors. He is in them all and He is giving me both a limp and a blessing. As I wrestle Lord, keep me humble and blessed.

Unpacking for the future

Scrooge was visited by three ghosts. His past, his present, and his future. They are all interconnected. I am wrestling with all of this so please do not read this with any anticipation that I have arrived at the answers or solution. This is my wrestling.

The past can not be changed. It will always be. I can change, how I view the past can be changed, and its impact on me can be changed. In science, they had to open up dead bodies so they could figure out how things worked. I feel like that is our past. We have to open it up, dig through the guts, and come face to face with it in order to have it release us to where we need to go. It is much better to process things through as they happen but most of us have never been taught that skill. Most of our parents were raised in days when you did not talk about things, you put on a happy face and pretended everything was ok even if the sky was falling. It is important to be honest (especially to ourselves) about how things made us feel so those feelings can no longer own us.

I wrote before about how my feelings are like a box and my sad box has so many things I need to unpack. Each time I open the box and unpack something it gets smaller. I mentioned there are some things in there that will never go away and that’s true, but they can get smaller and have a less negative impact on me. Our past will always be connected to who we are. It is part of my story but I don’t have to live in those chapters anymore. Maybe that’s why I am writing everything out. Maybe that is helping me move to the next chapters.

I watched a two minute video by Gary John Bishop (I love his accent!). They asked him how to move past your past and he had stong words that I mostly agreed with. The most impactful thing he said was, “you are defined by what you are about to do.” I’m mulling that over as I start 2019 and look at the blank canvas that lays before me and imagine all the colors I want to paint. I am writing my definition of myself by how I live my future. It means we can’t stall out, we have to keep going. The answers are not in the past, though the past is important. The answers are in the future as we understand our past and put it behind so that we can move forward.

The past wants to entangle us and hold us back. That’s not an option if we don’t choose it to be. The past is familiar and comfortable though it can be very unhealthy. It takes work and honesty to move ahead. It is difficult and usually painful but it’s worth it. Ken Dyck used to say “the only way through the pain is through the pain.” I love that because it’s true. The only way to get through it is to get through it

The future is uncertain, but what is certain is that I am heading into the future. I may not know all I am about to face, but I can know who I am as I am about to face it. I haven’t really been lost. I’ve been here the whole time. I’ve just needed to unpack.

One Day

The first day of the year everyone looks to the future. Such pregnant expectant questions like what will the year bring? I started by looking back. October 2017 to December 2018 has been hard. Harder than I every anticipated it to be, and it knocked me on my ass. We are all human and we all have our limits, I hit my wall.

I have felt like a car in a smash up derby that would keep getting hit but was of no consequence because its one tire was bashed in and the motor was barely running, but as long as you are in the arena and show some signs of life, they will still come for you. There has been new pain and old pain, because some pain never goes away fully, it just stays quiet for a while. I have just tried to hold on for dear life, clenching my teeth and every muscle in my body to make it to the end of the roller coaster. But something changed.

I wish I knew exactly what happened. I wish I knew a magic formula but something broke. Christmas eve I had a major anxiety attack and ended up back in bed in the morning. I laid there and could not figure out how I would get through Christmas. I processed for a while and then my daughter asked if she could do my makeup. We then had a dance party to Don’t Stop Believing by Journey in my bathroom. And something changed. I dont know if it was the makeup, the music, or just Christmas magic (and I really don’t like Christmas at all) but there was a shift. It’s like pistons started firing properly under my hood again. I knew I was going to make it.

Here I am on the other side of Christmas and it was not all good, but I made it and some parts were really awesome. Twice more anxiety tried to take me down and I looked that jerk in the face and said, “not now!” This is not to say that I’m cured or it won’t happen again but it’s like God is standing with Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones and my bones have started to come together. Next will be the tendons, then flesh, and finally spirit. All that matters is that it has started. The process of reclaiming me has started.

I often talk to my Upendo about One Day. Its a hopeful look into the future of what I want to come. Most people do this as a passive action, but that has never been me. I have never sat back and waited for life to happen, I went and happened to life. That is my plan for 2019. I am going to happen to the year. It’s my year to win. One day isn’t going to come because I am going to wait for it. One day is going to come because I will race to it, grab it by the throat, and make it kneel in front of me.  I can not control everything and I know there are going to be incredibly difficult times to come, but I am ready to face it all head on because I am amazing, I am God’s child, I am Amanda.

Hello 2019, I got your number. It’s time for One Day.

 

So many things have happened in my life that have been beyond my control. I have felt shame and a lack of self worth as a result. I am still in process but have made great strides in terms of owning my story without letting the things that I had no control over define me.

Brene Brown writes:

We all have shame. We all have good and bad, dark and light, inside of us. But if we don’t come to terms with our shame, our struggles, we start believing that there’s something wrong with us – that we’re bad, flawed, not good enough – and even worse, we start acting on those beliefs. If we want to be fully engaged, to be connected, we have to be vulnerable. In order to be vulnerable, we need to develop resilience to shame. (Daring Grately, 2012. pg 61).

So what about those parts of my story that were within my control and I botched things up bad? I was mean and hurtful or walked in willful disobedience? Do those not count? Are those irredeemable?  They are not good but they also should not allow us to be bound with shame. Look at Jesus with the woman at the well. He knew her story, her jaded past (and present). Devout Jews would never even be caught near her, let alone talking to her. Jesus not only was seen with her and talked to her, but he did not condemn her. It is humans, not Jesus, who want us to wear a scarlett letter. It is Jesus who wants us to wear his magnificent coat of grace.

I believe he saw past her actions and into her heart. He knew the reasons why she made the choices she did and he had compassion for her. He did not want her to continue in sin, but his heart broke for the reasons that enabled her unhealthy choices. He spoke to her so she could be free. Not only did she find freedom but she lead others to it as well.

My pastors are embarking on a journey to work with leaders who are no longer leading. They have discovered that God doesn’t change His call. Doug tells me about a man we knew who was a pastor and gave in to a gambling addiction that cost him his ministry and his family, but that this man would be at a blackjack table leading people to Christ. The call doesn’t change because we have burnt out, fallen, or given up. God doesn’t change His mind and say, woops, I  didn’t know that was how it was going to turn out so I’ll take back my giftings and call. He knew before we were born the mistakes we were going to make and He still said – this child is going to lead.

We need to own our story, every part of it. As I have shared some of my personal failings two separate people have said to me – your an insipration. I shake my head and say, did you hear what I am telling you I have done? This is not an inspiring story! I think what they see as inspiring is that I am owning my story, even the parts I am not proud of. My mistakes are mine and I am working on learning and being better. I have always been hopeful that my story would inspire and bring freedom to others, but I considered that to be the parts that happened which were beyond my control. I am now letting God be the great, big, incredible, redeeming God that he is and letting Him use the parts that I screwed up too.

John 12:27 Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? Father get me out of this? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say. Father, put your glory on display.

Father – use my story, ALL OF IT, to put your glory on display.

Doug and Rebecca’s minstry for broken leaders is : Life Long Leading

I highly recommend them!