The Cashier

When I woke up Saturday morning, I would have never realized that one simple gesture could mean so much to me. Who knew a cashier at my favorite crepe place would impact me just by looking me in the eyes? Sometimes our hearts have to be primed and ready to receive that which otherwise would roll right over the tops of our heads. Being ready isn’t always easy.  Sometimes it confronts us in ways that are unkind, in ways that reject who God made us to be and cause us to pause in front of the mirror wondering if something really is wrong with us…because I feel like something is wrong with me based on what others say, on what I choose to hear.

“You should always speak first,” they said. Excuse me? “The pastor’s wife always speaks first, so when you didn’t we knew you didn’t like us,” they said. I don’t? I thought I did, but suddenly I had become aware of a rule I wasn’t following, making an impact I didn’t know I had made. No “did you have something on your mind,” or “maybe you were busy getting your child to her classroom,” and no “maybe you just didn’t see me.” All I heard was accusation and all I wanted to do was defend myself. No, this was not my intention, and it is not who I am. Just the Sunday before, the same people said, “We’re so glad you are real and stay true to who you are.”

We want others to be real until we decide our version of real is not good enough.

A life in the fishbowl is one I’m okay with. I’ve never known any different. The title of “pastor’s kid” has been traded for “pastor’s wife,’ but the one God made to be the way she is has not changed. The fishbowl brings cries of “You should speak first” and “You shouldn’t let your daughter wear that,” because you are a pastor’s wife, and they are pastor’s kids.  Deeply loved people leave our church doors to enter doors of another church, and each time I make a deal with myself it will hurt less each time, but it doesn’t. I can’t help but care. Seats are empty because choices are made that “we need a break from church.” Personal? I don’t know, but it stings.  Those cries, those departures, those choices scream rejection, their punch packed with confusion. My life is my life, but it carries the weight of a title that I hold so deeply that can’t stop me from caring deeply. Defense attempts to step in, make it right, set everyone straight, but no one defends like He defends. Yet, life feels weary lately. It feels like  the core of who I want to be and aim to be is invisible, like anything I do doesn’t matter…

until a cashier looks me in the eye and sees me.

No reading between the lines here. I would never trade my life for another, but the experiences of it hurt sometimes, make me want to hide and never come out. I’ve tried keeping it to myself, – the hurt, the exhaustion – but the real me never did that before. Our story has to be heard (or read) by someone, because someone is always going through something, and someone always needs to know there’s another someone who relates.

imageSaturday a cashier in my favorite crepe place looked me in the eye and said, “Are you (emphasis addedhaving a great weekend?” Did she see the exhaustion behind my eyes? Could she feel the pounding of my headache like I could? Did I lie when I said I was having a great weekend? No, I really was, and no, I don’t think she could tell I was tired. “Are those your girls with you?” “Yes, one is. One is not. We are celebrating a birthday early.” She said these words to me, “You know, I can tell you’re an intentional mom.” Did she know that meant everything to me? The life of a career was never mine, not because I didn’t want one, but I wanted more what God wanted for me. For me, it was to be home with my girls. I’ve heard the accusations there, too, the criticism that I should have a “real” job, but no matter the title in my life, my heart has never changed. I just want to do what God wants me to do. Saturday, a cashier in my favorite crepe place looked into my eyes and cared for me. She was kind. She was purposeful. She spoke life. Those negative words of what I’m not being to someone, or not doing right by my kids had been invading my heart and rooting deep down as truth. I didn’t realize the impact until she spoke fresh words. Truth isn’t who others perceive or say I am. Who does God say I am? Saturday in my favorite crepe place truth wore flesh and spoke louder than the critics. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt someone peered so deeply into my eyes that they really cared about how I was doing, but it ignited a fire within me to speak life, share my story, to stop hiding my hurts and to never quit!

Opinions are flying everywhere in our culture these days. We all just want to be heard. Opinions take little time to ever peer deep into the eyes because opinions generally never take the time. I’m not the only one that needed life spoken. There are TONS of people everyday that don’t need more opinions. They need more action to back up those opinions. Let God do the changing of lives. Let’s be an instrument to help bring that about. I lead our women at our church by these four power words – WELCOMED, KNOWN, LOVED & ENOUGH. When a person is reminded THAT is who they really are, then, and only then is there an opinion that really matters! We can all be like the cashier at my favorite crepe place.

“…that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,”Colossians 2:2

The Weight Around Our Necks

    I am a lover of words.  They can pack a punch, and yes, they can hurt us.  I keep visible items around me everyday that challenge me to the core to BE who God created me to be, and to love people no matter what. I’m also pretty particular about surrounding myself with any words that may be contradictory to how I live, or want to live, my life. If I can’t jump on board with the message fully, I typically don’t wear it, post it, tattoo it on me (yes, really). Why? Simply because I can be oh so very human and that sticker I might put on my car may say one thing, but my road rage may be saying quite another.  I just don’t want to be an oxymoron.


File_000About a year ago, give or take, a song captured my heart. Its words woke me up to the reality that I had been living life out MY way, and my days ended more often than not, empty. Ever been flat out sick of yourself? That was me. It was in those days that I heard these words, “I found my life when I laid it down.” (“Touch the Sky”, Hillsong) It was if God had sent me those slap-you-upside-the-head messages I have to have from time to time.  “Amy, stop carrying the weight of YOU around your neck. Let me show you life to the fullest!” That day, the words of that song literally lifted a ton of bricks off of me.


We’re pretty good at overthinking, over-complicating, over-controlling our lives – all of its burdens (many of which we make), all of its interactions (many of which we assume mean one thing, but mean another) and all of the MUSTs (many things we think we HAVE to do or have in order to have it all) – at the end of the day have us feeling like we’ve carried the weight of the world on our shoulders. Those things which we bind up around our necks choke out the life  God meant for us to live, and can be seen in the lack of time we have for Him, or for our friends and family, or the lonely days when we feel we have no one all because we’ve been chasing a life that is really no life at all. You’ve felt it, haven’t you? That empty, what is it all for, life. Promises made that He’d be your #1, only to be broken when something else better came along to fill up a void. Friend, let me tell you a little secret…He is, and forever will be, the ONLY void filler in this life. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” What does the life thief look like in your life? Maybe it’s working overtime just to have something you really don’t need? Maybe it’s a relationship that you don’t need to be in, or maybe it’s being so busy that you say, “I’ll see you in church Sunday”, but something else ‘better’ comes along. What’s the result? Forsaking the BEST thing for the NEXT best thing. We all probably know the right answer, but the grip of wearing the chain of it all around our necks is strong.


Today, maybe it’s ONE move toward the Father that is all you need to feel like you catch your breath. The words to a song put life to my heart that day a year ago.  A gentle reminder that I absolutely do NOT have to do it all, but He can do it all through me. Nice, isn’t it? Sweet sister, He is truly all we need to put anything that happens after Him in perspective.  The abundant life…His promise, His fulfillment.

“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” Psalm 84:10a. It is. It truly is.


I Walked the Halls Before You (an open letter to my daughter)

As a 17 year old heading into college back in 1991, my focus was laser sharp on what was ahead of me. My mind was consumed from sun up to sundown that I would be leaving my beloved Venezuela and heading north to the United States to begin college at Charleston Southern. Truth is, I was terrified, but excited.  I was hopeful, yet fearful. My constant was only this, “God go before me”. My sweet daughter, the hope that outweighed all of the other stuff was that God had a plan for my life.

IMG_3847You are heading to walk the same halls I’ve walked, to the same classrooms in which I sat, to eat in the same cafeteria in which I ate and to trek over the same ground I’ve trekked. I never even imagined this is where you would be, but yet you are, and laced within the story God is writing on your life, He was beginning it long ago in my own. They say “hindsight is 20/20,” and I can definitely agree to that! While the prayers of my heart all those years ago were for my “hope and my future,” little did I know that you would be part of that one day.  Little did I know that the days I began in my own dorm room in Women’s North dorm with my Bible open, heart seeking and praying that God would use me, that He would indeed use me in the greatest role of my life – as your Mama. The preparation God began in me in the halls of Charleston Southern University held no details of the outcome, no neon signs saying, “Go Here,” or no audible voice telling me the specifics of my future life. The halls of a college only represented the path laid out before me.  The halls of that same college represent the path He’s laid out before you, too. Where He leads…well, only He knows. The hope you will always find is by answering ‘Yes’ to the question, “Will you commit to go?” I do not know the ultimate adventure God is laying out before you, but I do know that if you do not go and follow, you (we) will never know! If had never gone, I would never have discovered the potential that dwelled within me to be more, or never met some of the greatest people I’ve ever known in my life, or felt the deepest love I have ever felt when I met your Daddy on that campus.  The not knowing what “could be” is so much more painful than the process it takes just to BE! So, as you go, I have only a few things to want to encourage you to do:

  1. Do you. You’ve been set apart. Live life out like you believe that. You never have to compare yourself with another, compete to be better than anyone else or pretend to be anybody else than exactly who you are. You will ALWAYS be the best you that you can be. Give the gift of McKenna to everyone you meet.
  2. Trust the process. A professor will give you a syllabus with instruction of what lies before you, but the path God has set out before you may not always make sense, but before you seek to be frustrated or confused, or when you can’t see His hand, simply TRUST HIS HEART.
  3. Be a friend to everyone, but give your heart to only a few. We’ve raised you under the banner of “Be a missionary where you live, work and play”. NEVER stop being that. It will be the greatest investment you can ever make in a life, but seek the true friendship of those whose heart beats to the same mission.  They will be the   1 Thessalonians 5:11 friends in your life, the ones one will be the lifters of your head, the voices to spur you on and the ones who will rally around you no matter the season of life you are in.
  4. Be teachable – There’s something to learn in every situation. I pray you learn much from every interaction you have, every conversation you hold and every class in which you sit. Our greatest failures occur when we think we already know everything.
  5. Live like Jesus, love like Jesus and leave what Jesus left behind. You know the depth of this. With this thought at the forefront of everyday, it will THRUST you out the door with PURPOSE.
  6. Whatever it Takes. – Our family motto never changes even when our babies leave the nest.  What sends you out the door to college to take on the world of unknowns, and sends you back home to safety, remains the same – No matter where the path leads you, the courage to do WHATEVER IT TAKES won’t change. It will be the very thing that can take an ordinary moment and turn it into extraordinary.

My girl, proud of you doesn’t even scratch the surface of how I feel. Even in the hardest of moments, you’ve never disappointed me for one singular reason – you have NEVER given up. What an inspiration you are for me to be just like you “when I grow up”. When words were never your favorite when you were a little girl, the evidence of Jesus in a sweet girl’s little heart was ever present. When you found your voice, and began to use it for Him, the evidence was even more clear. As you find your adult voice, walking on a somewhat shaky ground, with no obvious details of where God will ultimately lead you, Jesus is the clearest I’ve ever seen Him in your life. I see the words come to life now more than ever that I prayed over you from the first day of your life,

13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Psalms 139:13-16

You are living out the words “in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Embrace them, my girl! Embrace the days that are before you with the confidence that God is writing your story everyday. It’s a beautiful story – ALL of it, the ugly, the easy, the confusing, the mundane, even! It’s YOUR story. Live out its pages to the fullest! He goes before you!

I love you forever,


My Confession 

I have a confession to make. Sometimes I tell my kids to do things that I, myself, do not do. I’ve told them this more times than I can remember, “Do not get caught up in the ‘likes’.” They post a picture of themselves and rate how well liked they are by how many likes they get. I even tell them,”How dumb,” yet I do it, too.I’ve always preferred to express myself in the written form. Talking in front of people has never been my forte. I choose to write a lot because I’ve found I stick my foot in my mouth less if I can go back and proofread. I place a higher significance on what I write on anything I ever say. Why? I want to inspire, to encourage, to bring hope. If I’m being honest, though, I also place a great emphasis on being liked through what I write. Over the last while, I’ve used a very good thing in my life to do one thing and one thing only – to bring ISOLATION. I write how I feel, I can somehow control my environment. I can “be” with the people without actually “being” with the people. If I create my safe little world through words, then I can better safeguard myself from getting hurt by people. I can allow all of you in my world and still encourage and offer hope without you fully knowing me. Guess what? That hasn’t worked. I fully believe in community, but I’ve longed controlled who gets in because my past of being hurt by people has caused me to be quite cynical. If I let you in, you’re probably in for life, because despite all of my cynicism, I’m fiercely loyal. Here’s the thing…this neat, little world I’ve created for myself has brought me hurt and loneliness lately. I’ve found myself wondering,”Why didn’t ‘that friend’ like what I wrote? They must not be for me.” I would allow moments of this thinking to create a false reality for me. “What did I do? What did I say?” I’ve allowed it to make me feel inadequate as a leader because I assumed I couldn’t inspire. I truly believe that we have to get messy in people’s lives, but I couldn’t allow others to get messy in mine due to constant assumption. Being away often brings fresh perspective. While I don’t see my favorite means of communicating to change, I do see my focus changing. You see, the one constant I do have in my life is I want more than anything to be obedient to God more than I care who likes me or doesn’t like me. I have allowed the opinion of others – real or not – to determine whether or not I write, whether or not I encourage, whether or not I want to be hopeful. This morning in my quiet time I read Romans 1:12,”“that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.”          ‭‭

The cool thing I see is that we both need each other in every area of our lives. I must live out my calling and you must live out yours. In the end, we’ve made each other better. Sure, there will always be people who won’t respond to our calling, but that is no reason to stop. Allow me to encourage you today to BE who God has created you to be, and DO that to which He has called you to do. Know today that you need those around you to become, so who can you encourage in that way today? Let me say, I AM FOR YOU! I BELIEVE IN YOU. I will use my little corner of the world to always be a place you never have to wonder if anyone is for you. You are loved!

The Real Life

A social media persona is really very little persona at all. Sure, we grab our phones, hit our favorite app to link us to the world – friends from long ago, new friends, people who have intrigued us to follow – yet, unless we are in the throes of life with them, let’s face it…we do not really know these people at all. I love connecting with friends who live far away. We have bonds that will unite us forever, but the truth is, they no longer really know me. Sure, they would be there for me in a skinny minute, but they no longer share the day in and day out life with me…they do not know when I’m so sick I cannot leave my house, or when the demands of life have me down, or when there’s a big decision to make, a celebration to attend in life. What we share through a screen barely scratches its surface, forget cracking it wide open with the honest truth. Over the last little while I’ve been away from my daily life, breathing in the salty air, sitting in the quiet, observing life – my own and lives around me. In my reality, “I can touch it, smell it, see it” life, I’ve shared laughter with those around me, sat across the table with friends to share a meal, prayed alongside my husband, watched my kids skip carefree through the day. In the realm of the world through a screen, I’ve observed many lashing out through a status, venting when things don’t go their way, sharing minimal real life moments behind the disguise of a smile, a “happy all the time” picture, shared moments created for the photo op and not the what’s really going on in their life’s moments. 

Here’s the thing…many of you will not read this post even because social media is good at picking and choosing who sees what we post. While we vent it out, hoping to make sure a specific someone “gets our message,” life – REAL LIFE- is happening outside your computer and phone screens. Somebody hurt you? Go talk to them!(Matthew 18). Need someone to walk through hurt with you? Go ask your flesh and blood friends to BE there for you! Feel alone? Shut the screen off and take that person up on their offer for coffee. Best thing I read an author write before is this, “Not every glorious moment must be shared with the masses!” We don’t have to post every opinion, angry moment, happy moment, etc. The beauty of life is capturing it our hearts and loving it. Start today by getting outside and doing life with those around you. Foster friendships. Make memories. LIVE!!

The Hurt and The Hope

My heart hurts on one hand today, and on the other it feels hopeful – I watch a country that, for the most part, I did not grow up in, but loved with all of my heart…one I knew I’d make my home in when I moved back from Venezuela…I watch it represent virtually nothing of those hopes, dreams, peace and love I remembering dreaming of. I am watching it HURT ONE ANOTHER and listening to media heighten that hurt by honing in on the hateful words, the enraged words…the UGLY words. This is NOT the country I longed to build a home or raise a family. This is a country that days ago sang in unison, “God Bless America,” but did it really know that God is love and love heals a multitude of things? So, my heart hurts when I dwell in that place, and if I remain there it seems hopeless. Yet, I’m NOT!
I hope in today because in my reality, in the little part of the world in which I live, I put my arms around my daughter, McKenna, who left on a plane today to share LOVE with the people of Costa Rica. I watch her go and I choose to remember that if LOVE is enough to change the hearts of those people, then it is enough to change my heart and the heart of those around me – the hurting, the hateful, the enraged, the brokenhearted, the black, the white, the police, and the sinner, of which we all are. 
We end every day in need of a Savior. We scream and we post, “God help us,” but gloss over those words when we allow the anger to become greater than the hope we possess. It won’t be the one who walks daily with God, who clings to Him in the ups and downs, that will alone evoke the change. It’s you, too, one who has wandered away from Him, who’s settled for saying you know and love Him, but have been keeping the HOPE of Him to yourself for way too long. It’s time to remember and dig deep to that place that changed you so long ago. It’s time to stop hiding it under a bushel and let the LIGHT you possess – the answer to the hurt – to shine bright once again. 
The choice we have today is the one we have everyday – we can add another opinion to an already stirred up pot, or we can begin today to turn the tide and offer the words someone is waiting to hear. The media isn’t gonna do it, and probably your neighbor won’t either, but maybe it needs to be you to be the fresh voice everyone is longing to hear, and the change in ACTION all are longing to see! Our brokenness has a way of seeing our God in a way we’ve never seen Him before. Use your brokenness today to do the same for those who are watching. #prayfordallas #prayforyou #prayforme

The Fishbowl

fishbowlIt’s often said that pastors and their families live in a “fishbowl”. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I’ve never really known anything different, but just yesterday I guess I didn’t realize how paranoid I can be when I stop and realize people are staring. Sitting in a restaurant with my husband and oldest daughter, I noticed a woman paying very little attention to the husband sitting across the table from her, but literally never removing her stare from my family’s table. It got to a point that I could not even focus on our conversation, then began to anger me and then I began to think the thoughts of the “fishbowl”. I sat there and thought, “She must know who we are”. It happens all the time. People know who we are from visiting our church, but we may not have met them personally, or their visit was brief and we never met them at all, but yet, they know us. My thoughts were so consumed with “Why is she staring” that I never stopped to just rest in the fact that maybe she was just simply seeing a family that loved being together, no TITLE attached to us, but maybe she was seeing what we have been talking about in our family over the last few days…living from a Christ-centered place and LOVING it out, if you know what I mean. Thing is, I can become so inward in my thoughts. I can make assumption the birthplace of my reactions, actions and even lack of action. In living in the fishbowl of ministry are people saying, “They didn’t speak to me when I passed them,” or “They haven’t done enough for me,” or when I pass another and they no longer speak or make eye contact, allowing my thoughts to be, “What did I do to make them turn away from me”? My thoughts can really turn an unreality into a whole ordeal in my head and heart.

Over the last few months, my everyday life has held a heightened time of chronic pain that I’ve lived with for 13 years, an anxious heart as my Mom has undergone tests and questions of possible cancer, walking with friends and people in our congregation who are going through difficult situations and illnesses, preparing for my oldest to leave our nest and fly out on her own, while still parenting her and our other daughters through their own everyday “life stuff”. The truth about the proverbial “fishbowl” is that while we believe everyone sees everything that we go through, no one can truly see the depth of what often goes on within our hearts. The assumptions that what we see in a limited time together, or on social media, will never quite replace the real vulnerability of opening up and sharing what we are going through. Maybe I haven’t known all that’s going on in your life, and you didn’t know until now, all I’ve had in mine, but today we can take time to ask, “How are you really doing” and follow up with caring, loving and praying. Today we can stop living in the “You should read my mind and know what I’m going through” and realize it’s okay to not be okay, and TELL somebody that!

To some degree, we are all living in a fishbowl. When you call yourself Christ-follower, many will look to discredit you – fair or unfair – because that is how the enemy works, but what can “feel” like an inconvenience is truly an opportunity to have a life that may not be all put together and tied up in a neat bow, but TRULY portrays that EVERYDAY we need more and more of Jesus, no matter what title you bear! Can we all just focus outward today to sense the need that someone you cross pass with today has to be LOVED? Change the tide today by stopping the assumptions and live in the reality that we all can offer love, and THAT changes everything!