"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The courageous choose hope.

“Celebration when your plan is working? Anyone can do that. But when you realize that the story of your life could be told a thousand different ways, that you could tell it over and over as a tragedy, but you choose to call it an epic, that's when you start to learn what celebration is. When what you see in front of you is so far outside of what you dreamed, but you have the belief, the boldness, the courage to call it beautiful instead of calling it wrong, that's celebration.”
Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life

Today, I saw this quote in the bathroom at my local Zumba studio. So random, I know. But this excerpt from this book I've never heard of stirs a deep place in me.
Because anyone can be a cynic. Anyone can look at their life and find tragedy and heartbreak, because we all have it. It's easy to make a list of all the ways I've been hurt and the ways that life hasn't always turned out exactly how I pictured. Its easy for us to go there, because it akes absolutely no faith. Being cynical about life, or even what the world defines at "realism", takes absolutely no faith in the goodness and faithfulness of God. Because when we're cynical, we're placing our trust completely in how we perceive the state of our circumstances. In cynicism, there is no space for the goodness of God to blossom hope in our hearts.
But, oh, how painful it can be to hope again. The Bible itself tells us that "hope deferred makes the heart sick". When we have allowed ourselves to hope, only to be disappointed, it is difficult to have the courage to believe again. I am learning that faith, hope, and love are all hard. They are difficult, and they take courage and boldness to pursue. To choose to see, by faith, beauty where ashes still lay is bold. It takes faith in the unchanging character of God and the faithfulness of His word (Isaiah 61).

Anyone can be a cynic, but only the bold, courageous, and tenacious children of God can see harrowing circumstances and STILL believe that He is good, He is stronger, and He is working all things together for our good. So be strong and courageous-- allow Him to ignite a spark of hope within your heart.
"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Psalm 27:3, NIV
"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living." Psalm 27:3,NASB

Friday, July 20, 2012

my 20's bucket list.

Thanks, insomnia, for keeping me up to write a post at 2:30am.

In no particular order, here is my bucket list for my 20's. I have somewhere around 7 years, 10 months, and three days to complete it. I've got this.

1. Train my way through Europe. Extremely stereotypical, but seriously? Trains are the coolest. Ever since I first saw White Christmas I've pretty much been obsessed. And what 20-something doesn't want to go to Europe? This one does for sure.

2. Do something crazy. Now, while I'm not your typical crazy type, it is highly doubtful/ impossible that I will only do one crazy thing in the next seven-ish years. But I'm talking BIG crazy... like taking a risk on a random job opportunity, or moving somewhere crazy. Following Jesus in a radical, adventurous way that gets me completely out of my comfort zone. Healthy risking with Jesus.

3. Move out of Texas. Preferably in the next year or two. Pretty self explanatory... I've been here for a while, it'll always be home, but I'm ready for a new frontier.

4. Go back to India. I feel like I left a piece of my heart there. I want to go back so badly.

5. Become a better long-distance friend. I'll be taking notes from the best at keeping up with people, the one and only Emily Jean, for the next 6 months-to-a-year in preparation for the many goodbyes to come (and those already in the process).

6. Give hilariously. (term borrowed from Al.) After this last year (PRAISE THE LORD) of grad school, I'm sure I'll have several slim years as a social worker entering the workforce. During this time, I don't want to get a poverty mentality, but I want to give hilariously out of my need to the Church and to the hurting of the world. From my time and from my wallet, I want to give freely of what I have, because I am and will be operating out of the ABUNDANCE of my Father!

7. Live life fully in the season I'm in. I don't want to look back on any time during my 20s when I was wishing for something in my life to be different. I want to live fully the life God has me in for each passing season. There in fullness of joy in His presence (Psalm 16:11), and His presence is with my always, so I can experience FULL JOY in every season and circumstance. Would this mark my 20s!

8. Learn how to do my hair in finger waves. Hey, I love the 1940's, what can I say?

9. Dance as much as I can, in whatever context in available. Zumba, in my living room, in classes, whatevs. 

10. Make time to read. One of my favorite things in the whole world.

Well, this is all I have for now. I'm finally getting tired, thankfully. 

Any thoughts or bucket lists of your own?

Thursday, July 19, 2012


My name is Amanda. While you probably know that, you most likely do not know that my name means "worthy of love". I've known what my name means for as long as I can remember. In my grandma's house, she has a picture collage frame for each of her grandchildren, and stuck inside the frame of each was, for most of my childhood, a little wallet-sized card with the meaning of each grandchild's name. Mine was pink with roses on it, and it told me that my name meant "worthy of love". 

Worthy of love. 

The thing about my name is that I've had it for as long as I've been alive. I've actually pretty much had it since before I was even conceived, because my older brother was going to be named Amanda if he was a girl. Once he turned out to be a boy, my parents knew that their first daughter (me, the one and only) would be named Amanda. As a side note, had I been a boy (my parents didn't know our genders until we were born), I would have been Stephen ("crown").

I've had to identity "worthy of love" on my life since before I was even created. Is this significant? Or is my name just one that my parents picked and it happened to have a meaning that resonates with me? The thing is, the issue of my deserving or meriting love is not some sweet sentiment to me. This issue has been at the very core of the struggle of my heart for as long as I can remember. Though I grew up seeing those words on a little card by my kindergarten school picture, there was always a "but, am I really?" that followed. 

Jesus knew. He knew that this tender place in my heart would be a battlefield of the enemy. Telling me that I am deserving of love and worth loving was of such high priority to Him that He made even my name a testament to His Truth and the identity that He wanted to place on me. While I know that this is not always the case with people's names, I truly believe that Jesus chose to speak to me and plant Truth and hope in my heart in this way. In the times of the Bible, a name meant so much more than it does now. God would place huge destinies and life-altering identity onto His people by changing their names. Take Abraham, Sarah, Israel, Peter, and Paul, for instance. 

What is even more, God saw me and called me out as one who is worthy of love before I was knit together in my mother's womb. Before I knew Him or loved Him, He called me His child and stamped unwarranted and undeserved identity on me. Because the truth is, without Jesus' sacrifice washing my stains away, I'm undeserving and unworthy. Its only because He says that I'm worthy, that I'm enough, that makes it true. I haven't earned it.

Isaiah 43:1 is a promise that the Lord consistently speaks over my life: 
But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

Later in the chapter, the Lord promises the people of Jacob/Israel (we see a name change highlighted in this very chapter!) that whatever storms and fires of life they go through, I AM is with them. He calls them BY NAME. Being summoned or known by name is the difference between having a relationship with someone and just being one face in a crowd of millions. Today, Jesus is calling you out of the crowd. He is calling you BY NAME. He chooses YOU. Out of everyone in the crowd you feel like you've disappeared into, He wants you, He delights in you.

Psalm 139:1-18

1O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
2You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
         You understand my thought from afar.
3You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
         And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
4Even before there is a word on my tongue,
         Behold, O LORD, You know it all.
5You have enclosed me behind and before,
         And laid Your hand upon me.
6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
         It is too high, I cannot attain to it.
7Where can I go from Your Spirit?
         Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
         If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
9If I take the wings of the dawn,
         If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10Even there Your hand will lead me,
         And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
11If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
         And the light around me will be night,”
12Even the darkness is not dark to You,
         And the night is as bright as the day.
         Darkness and light are alike to You.
13For You formed my inward parts;
         You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
         Wonderful are Your works,
         And my soul knows it very well.
15My frame was not hidden from You,
         When I was made in secret,
         And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
         And in Your book were all written
         The days that were ordained for me,
         When as yet there was not one of them.
17How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
         How vast is the sum of them!
18If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
         When I awake, I am still with You.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A ship in port is safe.

Right now, I am just so excited about life. This time next year, I could be living literally anywhere in the world. The world is at my fingertips. There's no telling what God has planned for the next few years of my life! In the very places where the enemy brings insecurity and anxiety-- uncertainty about what I'm going to do vocationally, the reality that I am single, and my specific gifts, talents, and dreams-- God is wanting to do the opposite. These places in which the enemy is trying to kill, steal, and destroy my joy and my life are the very places where God is going to move most powerfully. These places are the ones I can be the most excited about. When I really know the heart of my Father, when I know His goodness and faithfulness, my anxiety and insecurity are transformed into excitement and expectancy! Instead of giving into the lies of insecurity, loneliness, or fear, I can be expectant and "confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalm 27:13). When I fully trust that my life is secure in the Father's hands and that He, with all of His extraordinary power, is working to my highest good, I can risk with Him. I can adventure with Him. I can love relentlessly. I can live fully. All without fear, because His perfect love casts out ALL fear.

When I was little, I had terrible nightmares. One night, I woke up in tears in the middle of the night. I was sick of being terrified every night! A few months before, I had asked Jesus to "come in my heart", and I loved Him as much as my little seven year old heart possibly could, I think. In a moment of pure, innocent faith, I asked Jesus to never let me have a bad dream ever again. And I haven't, to this day. I've had some kind of weird dreams, but never again the terrifying nightmares of my childhood.

I trusted my Father. That night, I went right back to sleep, trusting that my new friend Jesus would protect me. As a small child without all of the grown up "knowledge" that plagues adults, I knew the heart of my Father, so I risked going to sleep again. Had I not trusted that He would hear my cries and intervene, what would I have done? Never slept again? That seems preposterous. But don't we, as adults, do the very same thing? We ask God to intervene, then live so safely that we never risk enough to allow Him to show Himself faithful. We are like ships-- safe while at port, but made for so much more than idly standing on the sidelines of life, collecting dust and allow life to pass us by.