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Love Thy Neighbor

Our neighbors are Muslims…

and we love them.

No, seriously…

 

They moved into our neighborhood about 2 years ago when Jet was born. And Jethro was the type of baby that tortured us with sleepless nights and colick so we could hardly leave our house, much less walk across the street to meet them.  He held us hostage for almost a year. But I digress…

The Courage to Let Go.

Oh boy, I can’t believe I’m writing this.

 

A few years ago, I stepped out into a new opportunity, unfamiliar territory, the world of business owning. There’s something about owning business that will supercharge your personal development skills faster than anything else. It will make or break you. And I’ve been broken so many times, I lost count.

 

I made so many highs and lows in the business.. And being a pastor’s wife, I get to balance ministry along with business. I hardly talk about what I do at church to not use my “name” as a pastor’s wife to bump up business.   I love people and want to help them naturally but I struggle with the balance. Out of respect, I go elsewhere and I believe it’s a wise decision. I’ve take it as a compliment when others don’t even realize I am a “mom-trepreneur.”

 

In the past few years, I’ve also had some great people walk out of my life. Quality friends that for some reason or another, we are not longer connected except in passing. I’m loyal to people that I love, whether they walk along side me or not.  I think of them often, looking for opportunities to rekindle the flame of friendship I once had with them. In the past few years, it hasn’t been reciprocated by some that I dearly cherished. Ouch.

 

Back to business, my job is to mentor and build up people to do what I do. A lot of effort, training and may I say, TIME is involved with this. I have made so many mistakes that bit me in the butt later about investing in people that aren’t invested in me. Ouch again.

 

Recently, I had a crucial conversation with one of my would-be “leaders”. One I would pour my heart into, my efforts for the last 3 years had come to this moment- would she take what I’m offering or walk away, leaving me to work even harder and potentially collapsing a great part of my business. She said yes, she’d take my offer and we’d move forward quickly.

 

That night, I couldn’t sleep.

 

Although I wanted this badly, I knew she didn’t. My hard work and efforts were evident to both of us but were not enough. I couldn’t convince her to commit. I felt like I was asking her, even begging her to “marry me” in business for just a season.

 

I wrestled all night with the Lord about this situation. I’m begging God for wisdom at this point because I’m physically spent by  running my own business with some that are not committal while caring for two small boys,  I desperately need an answer from the Lord because this is not working.

 

Well, 2am came and I got my answer, not what I wanted to hear: I need to pull the tooth. Cut my losses and walk away. I cried til 5am- I’m talking about the blotchy-red-swollen-face-ugly-cry. Slept an hour then cried the rest of the day. This is a devastating loss to me. I can’t take back the hours of investing, working hard, and the evenings spent away from my boys that I can’t get back. I’m grieving a major loss.

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You won’t see this on instagram! #uglycry

 

 

Through my 5am tears, I grabbed my Bible. I’ve neglected His Word lately as I’ve been juggling everything else. I’m begging God for forgiveness and wisdom. I’m asking Him to speak to me so clear. A ‘lil Russian roulette with the Word gave me this:

 

 “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,’ declares theLord…”

 

The next day, the business partner I had asked to commit “broke up with me” over a text.  I’m so so thankful that I got the answer from the Lord before I read that message.  I spoke to her later and we parted ways cordially. She apologized because she knows my loss is way greater than hers.

 

Physically I’m exhausted and emotionally I feel like I’ve been in a major car accident. Overwhelmed yet learning very quickly. In business, I’m learning to cut out what’s not working and focus on what IS working, as well as invest in the right people. But right now, I feel like I’m starting over.

 

All this mirroring the friendship world, in some ways, I’ve also felt like I’m starting over. There is a handful of people that I care for, think about, and yet I’m  casually not included in their lives. And after this much time, I should take the hint and see that if I haven’t been welcomed back by now, it’s just not gonna happen. It’s time to invest that energy elsewhere.  The loyalty in me hangs on waiting for a door to open. I miss them dearly. Yet my reality is I need to deal with the dull ache of this rejection, make like Frozen and let it go.

 

And through these first painful weeks of March,  the Lord is still speaking to me.

 

” When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked are no more. But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.” Proverbs 10:25

 

Praise God that He speaks. I’m beyond thankful for His Word that gives me real Hope. Through the storms and losses, the Lord still is an ever present help in times of trouble. I’m thankful for His leading and the ways He encouraged me in the storm. I’m thankful for the new people I have in my life, those that are willing to dig deep with me. I will always cherish friendships of the past.  I’m thankful for the firm foundation that only He can give!

 

I hope this post encourages you to seek His face about the specific things in your life that you need His wisdom on. Oh my, does He give it! In every area, may you please Him and be following His lead.

 

In His Grip,

Amy

 

The January Rollercoaster

I have to admit, the last few weeks have been like a crazy roller coaster and we just passed the half way mark with January!

 

It was 3 days before Christmas, I ran into a (former) friend at the park. When I asked how she was doing, she rolled her eyes and during this brief altercation told me she “just wants to be selfish right now.” My heart aches for her. I miss her tremendously. She told me that I hurt her. She  told me to leave her alone. So painfully, I will respect her wishes. I’d yell “fire!” for  anyone walking down a path of self-destruction. I’d do it all over again, yes, even at the cost of our friendship. I grieve for her.

 

Earlier that week, I found out that a grade school friend was gunned down outside of San Fransisco in a drive-by shooting. She was 33 years old.

 

Fast forward to January, I headed to that funeral while Jonathan spoke to the congregation over the weekend on Choose Today– and the rollercoaster went up, up, and away! Story after story piled in- we almost didn’t have time to absorb each one! With all the incredible testimonies of neighbors coming to the Lord, families changing their lives and to the girl I sat next to in service saying she’s going to recant her divorce after hearing the message. Jonathan was beyond privileged to be asked to speak at a prison on Tuesday and the stories kept coming in. God is good!

 

That same weekend, another death. Oh, my heart ached to hear of the loss of 2 1/2 year old Ella Harper, the sweetest Trisomy 18 sassy-pants that ever graced anyone’s presence. She was a miracle baby from before birth, and when doctors encouraging to terminate the pregnancy, my brave friends Matt and Chelsea trusted God for the miracle -and He gave it and then some! She was a rockstar champ who surprised everyone. After a risky surgery this past weekend, that brave little toaster took her last breath and met her Creator. I could not hold back the tears today at her service thanking God for the miracle while grieving the loss.

 

I just needed to rest today. Sometimes we all need a little time to rest and reflect. {I find that gardening gives me solace. There’s something about digging into dirt and the possibility of growth that is renewing for me. I always thought that I had some ‘farmer’ in my blood. Don’t judge me for asking for earthworms for Christmas a few years ago.}

 

As I sorted out the herbs, I was reminded of a conversation that was delivered to me during prayer week. Through the highs and lows of this week, there was a day in particular I was wrestling in frustration about two different issues, wondering when a breakthrough would happen. God is so good that He would even consider me. I think there is nothing in the world He hasn’t already given so my goodness, why am I in such need, over things so trivial? But as extravagantly gracious as He is, He sent some encouragement my way. A friend approached Jonathan during the 6-7am prayer sessions at church and asked him to relay a message the Lord wanted me to know — that He will perfect that which concerns me. One of my favorite verses. He’s too good.

With all that’s transpired this month, Jonathan’s message, the two funerals, I’m confronted with the whole “life is short.” theme  again. No one knows their own day or hour when it’s over. I don’t know where I’d be without His presence daily correcting, encouraging, guiding me. How good He is to speak to His people, whether we are in desperate times or just need a good word. But even more than that, eternity is forever– we can hardly grasp the concept. What are we doing that will last? Are you ready? Am I?

 

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The Lord will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.
Psalm 138:8

In His Grip,

Amy's Signature

Let No Man Separate.

This post should’ve been published 6 months ago! Apologies!

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage these days. With the Supreme Court ruling recently, things are quickly shifting in our culture much faster than they once did. Regardless of these changes, people continue to search for answers.

 

Men and women are different. The way we communicate astounds me sometimes. Check out this convo I had with another musician a few months ago- I asked a question on what sound I needed to use on the keyboard and thought it would be a simple answer, like the “Pad” “Strings” or “Rhodes” sound, yet it was wayyy outta my mental league, more  like gibberish to me.

 

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So I don’t think it takes much convincing to say that we’re all just different.

 

I have a friend that is getting ready to be married. She wants to have a successful marriage but what does that look like? Where’s the manual? Is it possible to be happy with just one person for the rest of your life?

 

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I haven’t read this book she’s speaking of. But I can say one thing: I don’t think “feminism” ruined relationships. I think  selfishness and pride and sin did.

 

It goes all the way back to the Garden, people.

 

Once we broke God’s law, we were separated from Him. Shame, guilt, pride, blame- all that entered the picture and that’s why it’s called the Fall. Because of God’s holiness, we couldn’t go back to perfection.

 

For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

But the best part is this: God, who is rich in mercy, made a way for it to work. He orchestrated a beautiful plan of redemption, strung from the beginning of time until now.  And He loves us that much to give us free will. A choice! Brilliant and devastating at the same time! Obviously, the effects of sin are still very much evident today. Hurt people still hurt people.

What makes a good marriage? Fun, teamwork, intimacy,vulnerability,  humbly submitting to one another.

What destroys a marriage? Pride, unforgiveness, anger, resentment, loneliness… feminism.

I am thankful that through the pages of Scripture, He has given us the “secret” code to a great marriage. (Be wary of those who twist Scripture to fit their fancy.) It doesn’t contradict nor is burdensome. And when done right, brings peace. Can I get a witness for some PEACE these days?!

My Pastor recently shared on marriage. He spoke on how to do life right and  the the 3 different types of love needed in a marriage. One of the first things he said was:

“Marriage is a lifelong commitment to an imperfect person.” 

Isn’t that so true?

I went out with a friend of mine who just finalized a painful divorce. As she knocked back a corona, tears spilled down her face about what she’s experiencing is worse than death. She screwed up. He screwed up. And instead of covering with grace, they both pointed fingers.

“You don’t wanna be me. No one wants this.”

She talked about how she feels like she and her husband were like two pieces of duct tape stuck together and it feels like it’s being painfully ripped apart. That was the same analogy my pastor used in his marriage teaching. Heartache.

Marriage is tough. Something that became so much more clear to me recently is when it’s looked at like a contract, it won’t work. A contract meaning, “you keep up your end of the deal, and I’ll keep up mine.” If you treat me well, I’ll do the same. If things go downhill, I’m outta here.

 

Seems like even maintaining a friendship can be a lot more difficult now that we live in a throwaway culture, much less a marriage.

 

This summer, as we were treading this season of marriages and the difficulties within them, the Supreme Court made it’s ruling about same sex marriages. My husband came across this video by T.D. Jakes that I thought was spot on. Take a look. I thought it was encouraging.

 

 

 

Jonathan and I have a healthy marriage but I’ll be so honest to say we still go through seasons just like everyone else. This summer was particularly difficult. We had been involved with a few others who’s marriages were crumbling. And it seemed as if they didn’t want the help we so badly wanted for them. I tend to want to jump in front of a train for people and can get burned in the process. With that, along with other stresses we faced, we began turning on one another.

 

But God, so rich in mercy, knows how to gently restore. I’m thankful for so many of His promises about leading us by still waters, His promises of restoration and healing that’s so desperately needed. Not only for my own life but those same promises are available for anyone who chooses to follow Him. Don’t we all need a little restoration at times?

 

Wherever you’re at in marriage, I pray you would give the reigns over to Him who can work all things to the good of those who love Him. He’s so good and He cares so much for even the details. Would you trust Him with your marriage? The good, bad and ugly, He knows. He’s so faithful to see you through every season in life, I pray you’d trust Him.

 

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. Psalm 27:14

In His Grip,

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The Lion’s Den

Romans 15:5-7 “Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Christ Jesus. Therefore accept one another just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”

 

It’s been one year since I walked into the Lion’s Den. Let me retrace the story.

 

I was running errands when I received a text. I saw who it was from and immediately put the phone down. I need to get home, to a safe place before I read this.

 

To say that this text was important was an understatement. The timing of it, however, was more than I could bear: Adjusting to two children was more difficult than I could’ve imagined, and my infant son was not conforming to any kind of sleep schedule (waking up 3-5x a night was the norm), all while I was trying to juggle a new business. I was thin from exhaustion. Just earlier that same week, there was a conflict with a family member which knocked the wind out of me. Words were spoken that I didn’t see coming, that had my head spinning. How am I destroying her family, one which I love dearly? I was devastated. Needless to say, with the lack of sleep, responsibilities juggling and emotions shaking, my circuits were fried. And this was leading right into Thanksgiving week!

 

I knew this day was coming. I had been praying for it for close to 4 years. But why now? I was not to question the timing but be faithful to walk through this door that He set before me. That weekend, I took up running that weekend to handle the stress.

 

The text was sent on a Thursday. We would meet on the following Monday with a mediator.   Countless thoughts plagued me. Harsh words were spoken in the past when I tried reconcile in the past few years, I don’t think at this point in my life I can handle another wound.  “Will I be safe at this mediation?”  I had not felt protected the last time we met with a mediator on church property, affecting me greatly. “What about all the things I wish she knew about my side of the story…”

 

I know I am an emotional girl. How can I contain these emotions in the mix of this crazy stress? Oh Lord, I need you to guard my mouth and my heart more than ever before. I know the Lord will do His part, but can I do mine?

 

“How you respond will determine the outcome.”
-Cindi Killen

 

That weekend, another friend randomly sent me a text: “I had a dream about you last night. You and me and Gary were there, singing the song, “When you don’t know what to say, ‘Say the name of Jesus‘.

 

 

Hmmmm, say the name of Jesus…

 

I can’t even describe  how perfect the LoRd’s care is. That’s exactly what I needed. I didn’t know what to say at this Monday night meeting, or what logic could come out of my mouth at all during this season of my life.  And when those thoughts plagued me of all the million different ways this meeting could go, and throughout yet another  stress-relieving run, I kept saying the name of Jesus over and over again.  He’ll be my Rock and my Defender, like He promised. Though my knees are knocking, I’ll trust Him. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

 

It took forever to get to Monday. And all the while knowing I wasn’t emotionally ready. In fact, I called the mediator hours before the meeting to call it quits. I can’t go through with this. No one would blame me for backing out.

 

As the Lord would have it, our mediator never called me back, and I knew this needed to happen.  At the end of the day regardless of surrounding circumstances, I was just being chicken for trying to back out.

“You are going to feel fear when you rise up in faith.”
-Levi Lusko

 

It’s go time.

 

I arrived after her. When I walked in, our mediator was making pleasantries and showing her around the house. I didn’t know if this meeting would take minutes or hours but I figured if it’s taken us this long to get here, this might be awhile.  We all sat down in  the den. After our mediator prayed, she began with her Bible in hand:

 

“You both know the Word of God.. You don’t need me to read verses about the importance of forgiving one another..” And just like that she turned us loose to face one another. Heart pounding, I’m holding my breath, anxious of what might be said and yet at the same expecting God to make good on His promises.

 

“We don’t need to get into the details,” she started. Then with tears in her eyes, she told me that the Lord has shown her so much. How she misunderstood what I was doing.  And how it was through one of my blog posts that she realized that this conversation needed to take place. And she was sorry.

 

I sat silent for I don’t know how long. Maybe it was 5 seconds. Maybe it was a minute. In my mind, it felt like a hundred years. Phrases I rehearsed from times past if I ever got the opportunity, and yet all I knew He wanted me to say was,

 

 “I forgave you a long time ago.” 

 

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…

 

And just like that, the tension in the room had lifted and we were talking like old friends, even laughing about the ways God was working on us behind the scenes to bring us to this point. It was strange for me to be in the same room with her and to think this chapter of our history has finally closed.  We hadn’t been able to look each other in the eyes in years. Now, we’re chatting like old friends. Only because of Jesus.

 

I went home that night physically exhausted yet emotionally victorious, beyond relieved. And yet questions lingered in my head, “Is it really over? Really??”

 

In my few short years of following Christ, I’ve come to realize some of the devil’s schemes. Understanding the enemy’s tactics can be key, yet overcoming them is another. He comes to steal, kill and destroy. And might I add, bring a side of confusion. He’s pretty lame if you ask me, but deception and division is what he’s good at and none of us are immune.

 

Even after it’s all said and done, thoughts began of, “Well, you didn’t really get to tell her your side, did you? Now she’ll never know!” or  “This will be just like the other times we tried to reconcile and it came back around.” “You both lived  so comfortably with the tension, are you really ready to let it go?”

 

Oh, just join me now as I punt the devil in the face and invite this girl over for a playdate with our kids a week later. And I knew, this might be the most awkward, nerve wrecking playdate of our entire lives but I’ve gotta squash this thing until we’re “normal”.  I have a million questions about who she is now and what the Lord has been teaching her.  {It says that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come! I must believe that He who began a good work in both of us, will be faithful to complete it.} Or maybe instead of going “Level 10” which I tend to do, we should just keep our conversations “vanilla” and just work on  being in the same room together. Yes, that’s probably best for now.

 

Fast forward a month or so, an extended invite for dinner, our family over to hers.  Followed by future birthday parties and playdates. And praise God Almighty, He can make friends out of enemies. Only He can change a heart. The past is truly the past and it’s only because of Jesus, I can look at her in the eyes and see her for who she is now, not what used to be between us.

 

So today, November 24th,  I am truly thankful. Thankful for my friend who is dearly loved by her Creator, who is talented in so many ways, a great wife and mom, and a friend whom I can learn so much from. Thankful that He made good on His promises He gave me throughout this journey.  I’m thankful to God, who cared that much to reconcile sinners to Himself by the irrevocable work on the cross and that by doing so, gave us  the privilege to reconcile with one another. What a brilliant Author! And how many beautiful stories He would write if we would let Him!

 

“Trust in the Lord, and do good…
 Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

 Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in Him, and He will act.
 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
    and your justice as the noonday.

 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him”
Psalm 37: 3-7

   

Looking back on 2014, I remember one of my goals was to witness a miracle. Never did I realize, I would have the choice to be a part of it.  Many times we expect miracles to be instant and glamorous. Yet they can come through the simple act of obedience, a changed heart or a new beginning. How much power we’ve been given to help and heal one another!  May we all be agents of healing, representing His great love for us to each other.

So I ask you, dear reader, what kind of story would He write for you?

 

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy an peace in believing so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.   Romans 15:13

 

In His Faithful Grip,

Amy's Signature

 

3 Lessons I Learned at Epcot.

 

I recently took my kids to a theme park.

I’m not much of a theme park girl; I got stung by a bee when I was four and I think I cried until I was 19.  They can be crowded, expensive, and the wait-in-line-for-hours has not been a forté of mine. But Jonathan was working all day, it was my dear friend Sarai’s birthday and kids under 3 are free so LET’s DO THIS JAM!

 

We came. We saw. We conquered.

 

Here’s a few things I learned that day.

1. Never forget your sunscreen.

That Florida sun is unrelenting. I was charred… Burnt to a crisp… TOAST.

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A few drops of Lavender with some Coconut oil and problem solved. But boy, I was feeling it!

 

2.  OtterBoxes are for moms with small children.

Background: I drop my phone a lot.  I’ve had this phone for 2 years and been amazed that this sleek little number hasn’t broken yet. Until about 2 months ago, I set it on a table gently and it cracked. Yes, it was the straw that broke the camels back. And I have procrastinators blood in me so I’ll throw some tape over it and wait until the screen doesn’t work anymore to get it fixed. (Unlike my husband who gets things done right away.)

Well, the day came and Jonathan’s phone cracked too. He agreed to use it until the screen went out.  And it finally did. So it was time.

Sunday I had a shiny new screen. Weird to have such a good looking phone.

Six days later, Saturday (theme park extravaganza) it was shattered again.

UGH.

Welcome new bulky otterbox. I’ll get used to you soon.

 

3. Jesus loves me.

Not that theme parks strike me as a time to draw closer to Jesus but this time it did.

It was right about the time when my son says, “I want to go to the casa,” which roughly translates to, “I’m tired, let’s go, mom.” As I made my way towards the Big Golf Ball to leave, I saw Nemo: An AIR CONDITIONED, No-Wait-in-Line RiDe with FISH! I’m doing it! Last thing we do before we head home.

We sat in the little seashell and rode our way through the Nemo movie, exiting only 2 minutes later to the aquariums. Joram was having fun counting fish in spanish and in awe over the lobster when I noticed Jet lost a shoe, who was strapped to me sleeping. I just bought these sweet shoes, I gotta find it! I turned around to ask the lady where I could find it and BOOM, I realize not only am I down a shoe, I  lost a kid!

Stay calm. Stay calm. Move fast. Eyes darting everywhere, he’s nowhere to be found. I start yelling his name, holding back tears.

My heart was racing. I don’t know how much time passed whether it was 1 minute or 5 minutes, I’m scrambling! How did I know I would lose my kid at a theme park!? All the sudden someone handed me the shoe, and seconds later I heard his  voice yell “MoMmy!” and saw these little legs trying to get to me through a crowd. Reunited! Praise the LoRd!

It reminded me of what my mentor said to me when she lost her son. She had run a handful of errands and when she got home, panicked realizing he was gone and couldn’t remember which stop during the route she lost him.

ThaNKFuLLy, her story ends well also; her son was safe and happily entertaining the employees at one of the locations. That night, she cried her eyes out about how she could’ve lost him forever and the sheer panic she felt until she found him. Then the Lord spoke to her.

“That’s how I feel about the lost sheep.” 

When I heard that, I was stunned. Isn’t it true, though? The Bible says that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17)

And again when Jesus shared the parable of the prodigal son, how much He wants us to know that He is always pursuing us. Every single person matters to Him. Like a frantic mom who done lost her baby at a theme park, that’s how the Father God feels about those who don’t know Him. Oh God, the thought is too great for me!

 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.”

 “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.  Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:10-14

Praise God who continually seeks us! Tears of thanksgiving for the truth that He is slow to anger and rich in love. How lost I felt all those years and what great peace I have knowing I’m reconciled with Him! I truly hope down deep you have that same HoPe as well.

 

In His Grip,

Amy's Signature