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Spring is coming

January 30, 2016

It’s 55 degrees today. 

I stepped outside after spending the morning indoors at school, and I smelled it immediately- spring. I know it won’t last but a day or two, but this something about that spring smelling air that does wonders for my soul. The sunshine, cool breeze, hair blowing every which way from open car windows…I needed this. 

It’s been a long winter. From a weather standpoint it’s actually been pretty mild. Some snow, some cold, but that’s all to be expected. It’s been a long winter for my grief. 

Winter has this way of sapping the joy right from me. The mountains of snow, the ice on the roads and the air so cold that it hurts to breathe…some days it feels like the grip of winter has me so tight that it won’t ever let go. The days are short and the darkness comes quicker than I’d like. My soul had resonated with winter’s darkness. For me, winter came early this year…mid September, in fact. The grief from losing my niece, Cora, sits like a thick layer of snow and ice over my heart. Some days it feels completely impenetrable, just like that layer of ice on your windshield. The darkness sits heavy, not allowing much respite from its grasp. 

But then, there’s days like today in the middle of my winter. The sun starts to shine a little bit brighter. The air isn’t so harsh, so I breathe it in deeply. The smell of hope, of possibility, of what’s to come…it’s all there. I know the winter will come back, and I’m so thankful that my Savior walks through it with me. But for now, I’m relishing the sweetness of just a few hours of this precious gift. It’s almost as if Jesus is saying to my unsteady heart, “It’s okay to hope again.” 

http://youtu.be/Bco4kmBHEKQ (If my words have been nothing more than jumbled thoughts, take a few minute and listen to this song that I’ve listened to dozens of times over the past months.) 
Spring is coming. 

He is big enough for my grief. 

November 1, 2015

I’ve been feeling a press to write for a few weeks now. My journal has had a few pages filled, but not many  and this space has been silent. Today, I tried to push it away again by shopping and Netflix. But I couldn’t shake the push this time. So here I am, frail words and all, trying to piece together my thoughts and feelings. 

This season has been so heavy. Almost two months ago now, my baby niece, Cora met Jesus before she had the chance to take her first breath here on earth. Grief is so unpredictable. One moment you can be just fine, and then the next moment, the pain presses in so deep that it’s hard to breathe. Yesterday was one of those moments, all day long. As I cried through the songs at church, I could sense the presence of Jesus drawing me near once again. I was talking to a friend afterward trying to explain away my sadness. She gently said to me, “You know, it’s okay to be sad.” 

She was right. Sometimes I fight this internal battle brought on by the belief that God is tired of me being sad and that I just need to get back to life as usual.  I think about dear friends who have lost parents or siblings and I think “My grief surely isn’t as big as theirs. I need to suck it up and not be stuck in this place of grief.” 

How silly of me to compare my grief with someone else’s. What a lie from the enemy to think that a God is tired of hearing about my sadness over and over. He’s not. He is big enough for this. He is big enough to handle the weight of my grief, the ache of my heart and the feelings that come in the midst of loss. Even in the times when I struggle and bring my questions and anger to Him {and oh how I wish that I didn’t doubt Him…} there He is again, with His Father’s heart, telling me that He knows. He knows my grief. He knows my anger. He knows my heart…and He says that he is big enough for it; that there’s nothing too hard for Him. He is eating to be my place of refuge and of solace. He is drawing me near. 

One of the passages of Scripture that has been so precious to me is one that I have known for most of my life. I sat in my parents’ porch swing the day of Cora’s funeral and said it through tears: 

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You annoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23)

Jesus is the comforter of my soul. There is nothing too hard for Him. In the moments of my greatest weakness, He remains faithful. 

“Though I cannot have the answer that I’m wanting to demand, I’ll remember You are God and everything is in Your hand. In your hands you hold the dunk the moon, the stars up in the sky, for the sake of love you hung your own Son on the cross to die. You are faithful, yes You are faithful. When you give and when You take away, even then still Your name is faithful. And with everything inside of me, I am choosing to believe- You are faithful. (You Are Faithful- Steven Curtis Chapman) 

Moving

June 17, 2015

I think there is something to be said about the walls and the rooms and the spaces that we call our home. No, those walls can’t speak and the rooms certainly can’t can’t be our companions. But in a way, the places where we live see the best and worst of us. If our homes could talk, I’m sure they would have a story to tell.

I’m moving out of my very first “big girl” apartment in two days to a new place just down the road. When I moved here, I was a newly minted graduate, ready to jump into teaching, without a house church, and missing the friends who had become family through my years of college. These walls, floors, and rooms saw the best and worst of me in those days that turned into months, that have now turned to years. If this little apartment could talk, oh, it would have some stories to tell. This space has been precious to me. It has been a hiding place from the difficulties surrounding me, a center of solace from a long day, a couch full of friends and laughter, and a table full of tears as I muddled through some dark seasons. This place has been a refuge- a small spot to pray and sing, throw dance parties with myself, and take Sunday afternoon naps. It’s where I celebrated some of my life’s biggest joys and walked through some of my toughest days and nights. These walls and rooms that I’ve called my own have been a grace. And despite this home’s many imperfections and the many times I recall saying “I can’t wait to move!” this move to a new place is being met with a heart full of bittersweet feelings. Nostalgia is thick around me as I look at my now empty walls and sit on my mattress on the floor. The things that have made this place “mine” have been packed into bags and boxes, waiting to be put on a truck and driven to a different space. A new refuge. A new spot to laugh and cry and read and nap and eat my weight in Oreos.

In spite of the nostalgia and memories in this place that bring tears to my eyes even as I type- I’m thankful. I’m thankful that Jesus gave me this place for a season. I’m thankful that He allowed me to grow and change and be stretched and be humbled. I’m thankful for these walls and rooms, and yes even my ancient window air conditioner and coin operated laundry facilities, because I know that in this space, I grew to know Him more. I know that He has shaped my heart in my time in this little home and I am confident, because He is faithful, that He will continue to do just the same in the next space that He places me in.

So I think I’ll sit here for a little while longer tonight, maybe blinking back a few nostalgic tears, listening to that window air conditioner hum, being thankful for this season, and anticipating His work in the season to come.

God is good.

Running the race

February 16, 2015

I had the day off today (thank you presidents, past, present and future!) so in typical Amy fashion, I made a cup of coffee and planted myself in front of the morning news. I half-listened to the stories- SNL recaps, gas prices, the attack in Denmark…when I was drawn to a news story about a runner.

The runner, a 29 year old woman from Kenya was running in the Austin Marathon when unexpectedly, her body just gave out. Her legs quit working. She had trouble breathing. She was literally on her hands and knees, crawling to the finish line, vomit coming out of her mouth, shaking off every person that tried to offer her help. Here’s the thing that struck me the most about her in the clip that was on the news…

She never took her eyes off the finish line.

There were people cheering around her and others trying to help. She was crawling on asphalt for miles, obviously weary and worn. But her eyes were dead locked onto that finish line and she was NOT going to give in. She had one goal: finish the race. And that’s exactly what she did.

The runner didn’t start the race anticipating being struck with hardship. In fact, she was an experienced runner, and well-trained to handle a 26.2 mile race. But then, trial came. For whatever reason, she was suddenly faced with the unexpected and she had to make a choice. Would she quit? Or, would she finish and gain the prize she had worked so hard for?

As followers of Christ, we’re also running a race. Our prize is Christ. This race isn’t without hardship or suffering. We can train for it- spending time in the Word and in prayer, surrounding ourselves in community with other believers and being intentional about our obedience to Him, building our spiritual endurance as Scripture calls us to do. But even the most trained runner has a breaking point. Even a runner who runs miles and miles every day has to stop sometime. We’re human. Things happen. A job is lost. A relationship is broken. An unexpected death occurs. All of a sudden, there we are- a trained athlete, crawling on the ground, gasping for breath. We have a choice right then, don’t we? We can throw up our hands and say “I quit! This is too hard!” We can take the way of the world, the ones who offer us a brief solace for our pain, by burying it in something that won’t satisfy.

Or, we can fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. We can forget what is behind and strain forward to what is ahead. Unlike this young woman, though, we don’t have to rely on our own strength to pick us off the ground and get us to the finish line. When our legs give out, when our hearts are broken and we cry out, “I can’t take this anymore!”, Jesus says to us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.” Our Savior comes to us and instead of giving us a temporary fix, he asks us to learn from Him and to walk with him. He walks beside us and guides us so that we don’t have to bear the weight of this life on our own. He allows us to keep our eyes on that prize- Himself- all the while guiding us and allowing us to find rest in Him. What a beautiful paradox- taking something heavy on, only to find true rest. And in that rest, we press on toward the goal. Oh, it’s hard- there are days where we want out of that yoke. We think we’d be better off back where we were, on the ground, crawling inch by inch, refusing any help. But even if we wrestle our way out of that sweet yoke, God doesn’t abandon us to our own selves. He walks alongside, waiting for us to lay aside our pride and stubborn rebellion and once again come back to His yoke of rest.

Finish well. He is worth it.

images-2

{image from kingdompen.com}

Plans

August 31, 2014

“I would have never chosen this for myself.”

Does anyone else resonate with that statement? Whether it’s a difficult job, a relationship struggle, a living situation that’s just not working out, or a health crisis that’s left you broken- there’s many things in this life that we would never choose for ourselves.

I’ve heard it said before that the reason why God doesn’t reveal to us his full plan for our lives, but only gives it to us in bits and pieces at a time, is because if we knew the entirety of it, we would turn around and run the other way. It would terrify us. We would be kicking and screaming and saying, “No!” Whether that holds any truth or not, I don’t know, but this I’m sure of- if left to my flesh, I would probably want to tell God, “Nope. You’ve got it all wrong. Would you like to see my idea of how I think my life should go? In fact, you’re already a bit late to the program.”

You see, there’s so many things that I thought that I would have figured out, or checked off my life “to-do” list by now. Yet many of them have not come to pass, nor seem to be anywhere near to the moment I’m living in now. My entitlement that is engrained in my flesh is that of a two year old toddler throwing a tantrum. “Why haven’t you done this for me, God? Don’t you see that I’m serving you? Don’t you see that I have given this over to you? Why don’t you see that? Why aren’t you honoring that?”

But then, slowly and surely, I see it. He does see. He is honoring the sacrifices that, in light of His ultimate sacrifice, are so small, yet seem earth shattering to me. He is answering. It’s just not how I had wanted it to be. It’s just not how I would have done things.

It’s hard to be faithful where you are, when life looks so much better from the pictures that others post. It’s hard to be faithful where you are, when things get difficult, relationships get messy and there’s tension where there once was openness. It’s hard to be faithful where you are, when you look ahead to what little you can see, and there just doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel just yet.

Yet I’ve learned, and will ever continue to learn this little truth:

He knows.

When it feels like He doesn’t know your heartache- hold on. He does. He hasn’t left you.

When it feels like He’s not going to provide- hold on. He will. It may just not be how you would have thought.

When you’re discouraged and questioning everything you’ve worked towards- hold on. He knows you bette than you know yourself.

So, though I never would have chosen this life I find myself in on my own, I rest secure knowing that the One who has chosen it for me knows what will be best for my good and His glory.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Rest

June 12, 2014

When was the last time you really rested? Not slept, not napped, not binged on Netflix and took a day off “rested”…I mean, truly, deeply, inhaled who you are in Christ and exhaled peace. 

We run ourselves ragged, only to collapse in a heap and mumble Matthew 11:28-30 under our breath. “Lord, I’m really burdened and weary here…I could use some rest! I’m taking your yoke…yada yada yada…” And there we lie, in a place of at least trying to “rest” with the Lord, sometimes for just a moment, sometimes for days. But we always seem to get back up and get right back to where we were, don’t we? Duties call, relationships need working on, errands need to get run, and the Lord gets put on the backburner until we find ourselves scraping the bottom again. 

I am so guilty of this. 

I don’t think Jesus wants us to stop everything we’re doing, read Scripture, sing some songs, pray, tell Him, “Look at me, I’m resting!” and then move on. I think that taking those intentional times out are so needed in our walk with Christ just as a period of refreshment and fellowship with Him. But I think even more-so, we are called to a lifestyle of rest- resting in who He is and who we are in Him. Resting doesn’t always look like being still. Resting may look like choosing to say, “I am His” when doubt creeps in and you wonder if anyone sees you. Resting may look like choosing to remind yourself that Christ has already done everything we need to gain approval from God. Rest may look like taking a minute, reading or reciting Scripture to yourself before having that difficult conversation. 

I was chatting with a friend about life and rest the other day and as I was driving home reflecting on our conversation, I got a picture in my mind of exactly what the Lord is trying to teach me about rest. I was laying in a field- a green, lush, beautiful field that was swaying in the breeze. It was the picture of calm and tranquility. I could almost feel the cool blades of grass brush up against my skin as I pictured it. All around the field, however, was pure chaos. People fighting, wars waging, things being thrown…madness. But here’s the thing- I couldn’t hear it. I knew that it must have been loud- I could see the expression on people’s faces and I could see things flying and exploding in the air. But I couldn’t hear it. And oddly enough, as chaotic as it was around the field, I really paid no mind to it. I was at peace. Nothing could phase this sweet place of rest I had found myself in. 

I’m reminded of the sweet Psalm of David where he writes, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” (Ps. 23) In the midst of whatever may be going on in your life, you can find rest. It doesn’t even require you to stop and collapse in a heap. All it takes is a choice. Am I going to rest in the sufficiency of Christ today, or am I going to try to earn my salvation? Am I going to rest in who the Lord says that I am or am I going to be concerned about what others are thinking and saying? Am I going to worship Jesus in the trial or am I going to try and find a way to fix it on my own? 

Several weeks ago I wrote these words, as simple as they are, out of a place of rest after fighting it for so long. I wanted to create it on my own so I tossed and turned and strived and fought…and came up empty handed. It was only when I rested in Jesus that He was able to redeem the broken places of my life and make me glad once again.

 

When tempests roar, and oceans rise

My weary bones head for demise

You lift my head, You comfort me

Jesus, you have made me glad

 

Oh my soul, rest in Christ

For You are my great delight

So my heart, it will be still

For you have made me glad

 

And when I’m weak, You’ve made me strong

When I compare, You come along

So my soul cries out your name

Jesus, you have made me glad

 

No greater love, no greater joy

You are my Father

You take my pain, You call my name

Jesus, Savior

 

And when the rain turns to sun

And when dark days are finally done

My song it shall forever be

Jesus, you have made me glad

 

Dear Class

May 18, 2014

My “babies” graduate in 4 days, so I wrote them a little letter to process the end of the year.

Dear Class,

I have to swallow back the lump forming in my throat, because the next time I’ll write that greeting is to a whole new class in the fall. How can it be that this year is already over? It seems like it was just the other day that you all walked through the classroom door for the first time, nervous and excited for what was to come. Your eyes did the talking when your mouth couldn’t- wide-eyed at the colors and things to explore, teary when you said goodbye to mom and dad, and dancing when I read you a book for the first time.

What will you remember about kindergarten? Will you remember your classmates? Will you remember me and the things that I taught you? Our room? Different projects we did or the silly songs we sang at the top of our lungs? I hope you remember all of those things, but you know what I hope the most? I hope you remember meeting Jesus in kindergarten. I hope you remember learning about who God is and what He has done for you. I hope you remember the day I cried reading the crucifixion story to you, because it never will get old, even when you’re an adult. I hope you remember our Bible verses and tuck them deep into your heart for those days that just get hard. I hope you remember the words of the songs that echoed through the kindergarten hallway: “Oh no, You never let go, through the calm and through the storm. Oh no, You never let go, every high and every low. Oh no, You never let go, Lord you never let go of me!”

At times, the days seem long, but the months just fly by…and here we are. In a few days, you will put on those white graduation robes that make you look like tiny angels and you will walk across the stage to shake Mrs. Woods’ hand. A kindergarten graduate. My mind wonders what you will be thinking in that moment. I know what I’ll be thinking.

“I’m so proud of them.”
“Look how far they’ve come.”
“Jesus, I’m so thankful for the way you used them to change my life.”

And that’s just what you did. You changed my life. Every day, I would close the door to our room and think of something one of you said or did that made me laugh, think deeply or want to go home and think of ways to change education. My dear class, thank you for the laughter. Thank you for the times that you went right along with my silly antics and the times that I pretended that I didn’t know anything so that you would give me an answer. Thank you for reminding me when I forgot to change the schedule, or the helpers, or the morning message or…let’s just say I was forgetful from time to time. Thank you for the tears, both yours and mine. Yours have taught me to be more patient, to slow down and to love. Mine have reminded me that Jesus knows our every need…and he knew how much I needed each and every one of you in my life this year.

I want you to remember a few things…things we’ve talked about over and over. These are the things I count of even greater importance than your reading or math. Those things will come, dear ones. But these lessons outweigh those skills in light of eternity.

1) Be a friend. Remember, treat your friends with respect and love. You won’t always agree, but you can always show love to them in spite of it.

2) Forgive each other. Jesus has forgiven us so much, so we need to forgive others. I know it’s hard. I haven’t perfected it either. But the next time someone says a mean word to you or decides to leave you out, forgive them.

3) “Faith is just believing what God says he will do. No matter what the circumstance, His promises are true. So when your life is hard and you’re not sure what you should do, it’s best to take God at his Word.” Oh, how I will miss hearing you sing those words. I pray, my sweet class, that they aren’t just words, but a declaration of truth. God will always be faithful to you.

4) God always, always, always, ALWAYS keeps His promises!

5) Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

Well, it’s time for you to go and for me to let you go, just like it was time for us to let our butterflies go a few days ago. They were ready, and so are you. I’m not a mom just yet, but I think this is what they must have felt like watching you walk through my door that hot August morning…a little piece of their heart walking away from them and into a new adventure. Remember, I’m always cheering for you. Even if you never walk through the doors of our school again, you’ll always have a special place in my heart and I will pray for you always. Keep Jesus close…He will never leave you. If you need me, whether its for a hug, an encouraging word or just a smile in the hallway, you know where to find me.

I love you, class.

Miss Kelly

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