Saturday, February 23, 2008

Music and Grace

I know this isn’t true for everyone, but there is something about music that speaks to a deeper place in me. I am moved often to tears, rendered silent (which is odd for me), or you might find me clutching my chest with emotion in the same way I would if I had just seen a beautiful new baby or been given a million dollars, or was having a mild heart attack. This chest clutching one that I just mentioned…this is the one that most often describes me when I am listening to something that speaks to my heart. It is not something I am conscious of doing at the time, but I know, sort of, why I do it. It seems so natural to physically touch the place that it touches most deeply in me. Also, it sort of feels like holding it there in my heart is not quite enough…that I want to hold it in my hands, too. Like I try, with futility of course, to grasp onto it physically. I do this often with the Lord. The funny thing, though, is that I am, in the end, relieved that I can’t actually physically grasp it. I know that my grasp is human and that it is much safer in my heart, which is inhabited by the Divine. This bit of grace allows me to understand deeper truths than those that permit themselves to be grasped and I am so thankful for it.

Just for your information, and perhaps for your own version of chest-clutching, here are some of the words to songs that bring about this in me:

“Lift your eyes to the heavens, for the Creator is living in you” Watermark w/Shane and Shane, “Arise and Be Comforted”

“I will not be moved, and I’ll say of the Lord, ‘You are my Shield, My Strength, My Portion, Deliverer, My Shelter, Strong Tower, My Very Present Help in time of need.’” Hillsong, “Made Me Glad”

“Give me Jesus. Give me Jesus. You can have all the rest, but give me Jesus” Fernando Ortega, “Give me Jesus"

“My name is graven on his hands. My name is written on his heart. I know that while in heaven he stands no tongue can bid me thence depart.” Selah, “Before the Throne of God Above” (the whole song really…I can not drive and hear this song!)

“One day death will retreat and wave its white flag. One day love will defeat the strongest enemy. So we wait for that one day. Come quickly! We want to see your glory!” Nicole Nordemon and Selah, "Glory"

Just to name a few.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Young Life Commercial

This is one of my husband's many many talents. He made this video, just for fun, to play at Young Life club and it made me laugh out loud, so I had to share it. Hope has a cameo appearance so look for her. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 17, 2008


My heart and mind have been so stirred lately by a couple of books I have read….books that I will not be naming here, as I do not want to get a firestorm of e-mails. I really don’t even want to discuss it all that much yet. I am still researching, formulating opinions, obsessing about content, and wondering if it is worth all the effort.

You see, the problem is that these books are best sellers, expertly written, engaging. They are humorous and full of heart. They are about faith. “Where is the problem?” you are, no doubt, asking. Well, the thing is, I am not sure they are about my least as I understand it. That wouldn’t bother me much, generally speaking. People can write about whatever they want. What bothers me about these particular books (did I mention they are best sellers?) is that they discuss ideas that sound so similar to my faith at times that it is confusing. There is such an element of what I believe to be truth that, catch me in a less self-assured moment, and I might just dive right in. (This less self-assured me, coupled with the me that doesn't ever like to appear naive makes for a scary combo) I love witty repartee and I love new ideas (I love them both in a discussion about faith) but I don’t want to get so caught up in witty repartee about new ideas that I just take them in without respect for what is old, timeworn truth.

To some extent, it is a gut reaction. These books rub me the wrong way because I feel like they make Christianity a little too comfortable for those who don’t commit. (Comfortable enough to make them best sellers…did I mention that?) They make it a little too, “This is what I believe about it all and you probably feel a little different and that’s okay.” In some respects, I am sure that it is okay. In respect to some discussions of faith I am known to say, “that isn’t a deal breaker for me.” For instance, if it was proven that God didn’t create the world in seven literal days, it wouldn’t shake my faith. It is not, “a deal breaker.” (Please don’t e-mail about this!) I have to hold on to certain beliefs loosely because I know that my understanding is limited by my humanity. I actually take great comfort in that. But, there are other tenants that I grab tightly to. Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father, the justification for our sins, and the only way to God. This is, to me, non-negotiable.

I guess what bothers me is that there seems to be this idea, about who God is and who we are in relation to Him, floating around that I am now gonna call a “soft conversion” (I might have just made up that term and if anyone knows how I can make some money off of copyrighting it, then let me know). This is probably not even an accurate term because I don’t really believe there can be such a thing. What I mean is, there is this idea of God and an encouragement of tapping into Him, minus a good part of the humility I believe to be necessary for salvation. Humility that causes you to believe that, without him, you are desperately incomplete, not merely unenlightened. To me, this is just an affirmation of the scripture that says, “Narrow is the gate that leads to salvation.”

In the end, here is what I do know. I know that as I sat up, way too late one night, researching one of the authors I just read and obsessed with knowing whether she had a true conversion experience or not, God, in his illuminating way, said, “Amanda, what does it matter to you if her conversion was real? Why would you research her for hours trying to figure it out? Instead, pick up my book. Here are the words of eternal life. This bible will tell you all you need to know. Obsess over it.” So, I will because, as my husband put it in our wonderfully vigorous discussion, "my job is not to argue against somone else's belief, it is to argue for truth." And I am certain of where to find it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's to Me!

I sat for two hours tonight with my gorgeous husband and ate. Did you read that right? We ATE for two hours. We ate at such a lesiurely pace that we saw two sets of people come and go at most of the tables around us. It was such a lovely meal (soup, salad, bread, steak, potato, veggies, chocolate cake, chocolate covered strawberries, coffee...yum!) and such a lovely atmostphere (candles, music, flowers, etc.) and such easy conversation that it felt almost wrong not to milk it for all it was worth. Our kids were being, scratch that...they were being brillantly entertained and cared for by some of our dear friends. They were having the time of their lives at a Valentine party, princess style, just for them. What a gift that was! If you have children then you know what a gift it was. To eat a meal like that, in a place like that, with the love of your life, without interruption...well, it was more than a little delightful. It was bliss! Thanks Paul and Debbie! We owe you big!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Just a few words from my favorite comedian, Jim Gaffigan, about Valentine's Day.

"Valentine's Day, the tradition is we give each other those big red hearts filled with the gamble chocolate. Have you ever really eaten any chocolate out of those big red hearts with any confidence? 'Hmmm...well, this could be really good or totally nasty. I'm just pig enough to find out....oh crap, I got the one filled with toothpaste. I'll have to eat another nine to get rid of that flavor.'"

Thoughts for reflection, to be sure. :)

And So It Begins...

My sister just began the beautiful journey of adoption. Well, that is not entirely true. I am certain that this journey started long ago, long before trying to concieve, or infertility testing. Even long before she was married or dating. You see, ever since I can remember, Mel has had the gift of mercy. She has always been easily moved to tears by someone's story and moved to action by someone's need. I know this not just from the many times I observed it, but from personal experience.

Melodie walked faithfully with me on my own journey of adoption, praying diligently for my two beautiful baby girls, as well as with our sister, Amy, on her journey through years of infertility. (Amy and Daniel have two amazing, healthy boys that I adore and who I believe are products, partially of Mel's fervent, consistent prayers.) She walked with us, letting us feel all that we needed to and, no doubt, feeling it herself only slightly less. I can only hope that I have walked and will walk this road with her in a somewhat comparable fashion.

This gift that she has, this openness of heart, will serve her well during these next few months when the process of adoption threatens to take on a robotic feel. (Please read the following sentence in a robot-sounding voice)...get yourself fingerprinted, prepare yourself for a home safety inspection, fill out paperwork which consists of questions ranging from how do you plan on disciplining your child? to what is your policy on nakedness in the home? (what?!?!...I didn't know there needed to be a policy!), write a check, write a check, write a check, etc. But, with Mel's heart, it only threatens to be robotic.

I have no doubt that this will, instead, be a time of the sweetest glimpses of God in her life. She will be able to see the mundane as ways in which she is being positioned to recieve a huge blessing from the Lord. Ways in which we ALL, her family, are being postitioned to recieve our own blessing from Him, through her growing family.

In a lot of ways, I envy her. This may be something that can only be said by someone who has experienced this journey. Envy is not something people tend to feel for those who have struggled with infertility. But, I know what is ahead. A life-changing, Spirit-filled journey that leaves you with the assurance that you will never look at God's sovereignty in the same way again. Already I can tell she is beginning to see glimpses of his perfect plan for her life. I know that she will complete this journey in awe at the way God has sweetly expanded her own dreams. Grateful for how he interrupts our well-planned future. Aren't we all grateful for that?

So, Mel, if this winding path seems familiar it's because you've traveled it before, twice really, as it led to Hope and then Isabella. I am privileged to travel now with you and wait in anticipation for where it will lead. May your journey look nothing like you thought it would!

P.S. It should go without saying that my brother-in-law, her amazing husband, began the process right along side her. As a side note, he has leaped into this process with the fervor that a wife can only hope for in a husband. I am grateful, for Mel's sake, for his enthusiam, his tender care, his vision for their family, and his heart that beats with a stong desire for God's purpose in his own life and in hers. What a great man of God! I love you, J.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

More Than Anything...

Bella has taken to covering her eyes when we ask her to do something she doesn’t want to do. It is not the wild, throw yourself on the floor kind of fits that we encountered when Hope was her age, but she is expressing the same sentiment. She is quietly, but firmly acknowledging her distaste for our opinion. In some ways, I am thankful for her more docile way of handling herself. After all, she may never publicly embarrass me with an all out temper tantrum or reduce me to tears after a long day. There is some comfort in that to be certain. Bella may be more serene, but the thing is, at least with Hope, I am clear on where she stands.

I guess I worry that if Bella, indeed, grows up to be a quiet observer of the world around her…if she maintains her more cultivated disposition, that I may not notice if she walks away from the Lord. It might slip right by me on the way to church, or the youth council meeting, or See You at the Pole. (P.S. Don’t think for a minute that I am not just as fearful of the more obvious ways that Hope, in all her demonstrative glory might walk away! May the Lord have mercy on us all!)

In a lot of ways, I was that kid. No…not the quiet part. I was the kid who didn’t rock the boat much. I did all the right things, but in the end I am not sure that I was any better off than those who didn’t. Instead of walking away from God in an obvious way, I did so more subtly. Somewhere along the way, I began to believe that I had God all figured out. Gosh, even writing it now I am struck by what a dangerous road that is to travel. I stopped having questions and, instead had all the answers, and a dangerous shift took place in my heart.

To my great benefit, I had so many who poured into me and who endured my know-it-allness and who began to ask questions I didn’t have the answers to. Oh the power of the mysteries of God! Those difficult questions set me back on the right path…a path clouded with questions that can’t be answered fully this side of heaven. A path that requires living out of faith and that breeds a hunger to know more and more and more and the more you know the less it feels like you understand. Therein lies salvation!

More than anything in the world, I want my kids on that path. I often pray with a shaky voice that God will do whatever it takes to get a hold of their hearts. I confess I am sometimes too overcome with fear to say those words. But, when it comes down to it, what else really matters. Nicole C. Mullen (whom I have gotten to meet twice and who I am somewhat fanatical about) has a great song that she wrote for her kids about this very thing. Give it a listen if you get a chance. Here are the words:

I wish I could paint your world so beautiful
And I wish I could make it right
But of all the things I could ever want for you
I wish this more than life

Love the Lord, with all your heart
With all your soul, your mind and strength
Love the Lord with all your heart
With all your soul, your mind and strength

And if I could give you back your innocence
And if I could turn back time
If I could heal you of all the broken promises
Still the greatest thing in life is

Love the Lord with all your heart
With all your soul, your mind and strength
Love the Lord with all your heart
With all your soul, your mind and strength

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Art of Silence, as taught by a 4 year old

My daughter Hope and I were headed to church tonight. She was uncharacteristically quiet and I turned around in our van to notice that she had put her hood up on her jacket and had velcroed the front together around her eyes so that her face was almost completely covered. This did not alarm me as I am used to her dead on impressions of the Pink Power Ranger. I did comment on it, though. I said something like, “Hope, you can’t even see. You are so silly.” At this, my rarely quiet, energetic young child said, “Mommy I am closing my eyes so I can listen to the music.” Then, she sweetly held out her gloved hand to me, offering to share her quiet moment with me. I twisted myself around so that I could drive and hold her hand, not willing to miss this one.

I sometimes, I am often certain that my four year old, with all of her energy and her constant questions has an easier time discerning when life screams for quiet. In that moment, I knew she was absolutely right on. We worshiped together for a few minutes. This, mind you, was not the first time I have worshipped with my little girl, but it was the first time we did in such a way that I heard the quietest whisper of God saying, “Look how good you are doing, mommy.”

Letting Go

I just finished a book that was so well-written, it made me want to cry. It wasn’t so much the content of the book, although it was unbelievably moving, as much as the way the words were strung together so exquisitely. Some might find it a bit odd that I would be moved to tears by grammar and syntax. However, if you are a voracious reader (and I am not talking avid readers, I am talking about those of us who consume books nearly as often as we consume food), then you may understand my tears. You see, I have read a LOT of crap.

There are certain authors that never turn out a book unless it is exquisitely written…a masterpiece of sorts. These are the authors that cause me to gobble up everything they have ever written. I know I can count on them. Then there are those who turn out a wonderful book, one in which the words are artfully pieced together, and then, as if they had forgotten how, their next book reads like they have turned to autopilot and are simply cranking out the next paycheck. These are painful for a reader to digest and it was in the middle of reading one of them that I threw aside my notion to always, "finish what you start." My time is entirely too valuable.

It is for this reason that I have resisted the idea of blogging for so long. I love to write. I love putting words together and I get a goosepimply feeling when I know they have been put together in a way that will delight the average, and the not so average reader. I also know when they are crap and I am fearful that, most often, they might be. I do not, in general, require that my thoughts be artful or witty or even tasteful necessarily, unless they are to be put in writing. Then, they must be all of the above and so much more. It’s a lot of pressure.

I am going to try my hardest to let go of the idea that everyone who reads this will be bowled over by how smart and talented I am. I am starting this blog because I love to write and because, more and more, my wild journey with Christ requires that I share it. Mostly, I am doing this because the more I have contemplated the idea of writing like this, the more I am unable to let go of it. Compulsion trumps pride every time.