The Moment

It’s been probably three years. Words often penetrate my heart. They cut to the core of the painful places, yet often restore the same wounded nooks of my heart. I’m always listening, always looking for ones to which I can cling. Those three years ago, the words were “Present Over Perfect”. Ever have those moments when the words ring loudly, you know you need them, even when you don’t fully understand them? That day was the day of peace for me, words I’d been longing to hear, to just unload the burden off of my shoulders.

Today those words are part of the ‘intentional’ to me. The striving for, the hope-to-be of their promise sticks with me, and most times grounds me to truly live in the moment. Sometimes, though, the moment I’m striving to live is not the right moment at all. All of the good, the face to face living, the seizing of the day moments just might not be the right moment to be living ALL of the time. How can that which is good be bad? When the longing for more outweighs the greatest gift of all. When we walk into the room searching and cannot remember what for, maybe it’s staring us right in the face all along. Maybe it’s more of Him we seek, the More than Enough that is always a cry away.

open-handThe weight on me has been heavy lately, no sense to be made of it at all. Life is good, smiles are the norm, but the weight of living is suffocating. Wheels spinning, little progress made even in the best moments, chasing myself round and round. Some call it a ‘funk’. I call it stuck. The magnifying glass isn’t even helping me see. The present over perfect moments are the desire always. The right moments have become a tiny dot I cannot see. It is Him I seek. In the season of Advent, it really is more of Him I want…not the Him that is hidden within the lights, sounds and cheer of the season, but the raw, quiet moments when He whispers, “I am your Present.” Not the one adorned with a bow, but He is the Present that makes all perfect. Maybe the right moment is the moment found away from the crowd, gazing into the eyes of the babe in a tiny manger, the promise of hope in His crooked grin. I want my right moment to be a moment with Him. Don’t you? Release the breath you’ve been holding, the one that has suffocated you for so long. Let go of the relationship where no God hope can be found. Release your grasp on more stuff. Replace it with the MORE THAN ENOUGH!

When the Expectation Is Unbearable

Expectations can be the best motivator or the biggest failure. Perspective is the difference between the two. I have to admit, I tend to favor the latter of the two. For me, it’s as if I’ve lived two different lives sometimes. There is the pre-hurt days of Amy, and the post-hurt days of Amy. Circumstances do that to us. When life seems full of more ups than downs, that day can come when everything changes. For me, the day(s) that happened are very real and still impact me everyday. My somewhat naive, slightly unaware life – one I very much enjoyed, mind you – completely left the day I experienced the hurt of betrayal, the loss of trust, the realization that the promise to “always be there for me” came with conditions. The days that followed felt foggy, impossible to believe I’d ever trust anyone again, and most of all, hopeless. Wasn’t my life supposed to be an investment in another life that actually made a difference? Yet, here I was, bruised and scarred, afraid to trust.

For years the hurt of my past has haunted me. It has stopped me in my tracks for YEARS. I’ve kept my heart very protected, bound in layers and layers of cushion, so that the hurt would somewhat bounce off, right? Right? The thought of being hurt again is suffocating sometimes, squelching out real living most times.

218850The enemy, while not all knowing, does know some stuff. He hits me in the face daily with accusations of “You are not enough,” “You are a failure,” “They don’t like you,” “You’re not meeting all of the expectations”. He’s a terror like that, invading the thoughts, filling the mind, doing whatever it takes to stop us from really living, from helping others to really live, too. Lately, the discernment that is God-given has collided with the lies I’ve allowed myself to believe the enemy speaks to me daily. While I know a title can hold certain expectations, the expectations have now become my title, the banner hanging over me that says, “You’ll never measure up”. Not being there enough for people, not speaking when I may not even see someone, not praying for someone when I don’t even know there is a need – some expectations true, some all in my head. Isn’t like the evil one to make us just insecure enough to render us unusable?

The words popped off the page at me, screamed “These are just for you!”

“When we know who we are, we are not defined by the opinions of others. When we know who we are, we are not defined by our successes, failures or by our circumstances. When we know who we are, we can change the world with Christ’s love!” ~Amy Ford

I wish the words  instantly changed things back to pre-hurt Amy days. They don’t. Within them is the challenge to take the hurt, the heavy-to-carry expectations and see that the love of God is within them, too. What passes through His hand is FOR our good, the hard and the easy. The weight I carry around of “maybe I should be more” falls off my shoulders when I lean against the Cross. For you, too, my friend.

Maybe today you are carrying around years of failure and mistakes. Maybe the enemy is using every opportunity to whisper words of death in your ear. Maybe you’ve missed years of real living because you’ve listened way too long. The truth is that we will never measure up to what man thinks we should be, but God says, “YOU ARE ENOUGH”. After all, He made us, and says to us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” James 1:17-18

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,

Mama

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!!