Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Time Has Come...

For more blogging....

I am going to try and revive this blog starting in January...stay tuned :)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Freedom Journey

My journey really started 30 years ago.  Born a very needy, emotional child, I lived trusting that everything thing my tender and extreme heart felt, was out and out truth.

When I made my cross country move with my family in January of 2009, I had a fanciful vision of what it would be like.  A close knit family support system, a stable job, friends who could meet my every need...and perfect life. A girl can dream right?  And boy did I.

The family situation was different that I had dreamed up in my head.  My friends had lives of their own (duh).  And the job situation was not nearly as easy and secure as we had thought it would be.  So much of this was exaggerated by my insatiable nature and my extreme trust in my emotions.

Anyone who even kind of knows me, knows of my struggles with my little girl.  She is the sweetest, most beautiful little stubborn soul that I've ever met.  My struggles with her started during pregnancy.  My fear of having a daughter, quickly turned into my fear of her in general, when she just became the most difficult baby that I have ever encountered.  That, coupled with the fact that I averaged 2 hours of broken sleep per every 24 hours, and severe postpartum depression, I really didn't see a way out of my very very very dark tunnel.  I tried so hard to build relationships, masking my own passions and dreams and beliefs in order to get people to like me...in hopes that I would have a huge support system.  I didn't want to express who I was or what I thought because I quickly saw that that was a reason for me to be rejected.  I sort of weaved this web of lots of "friends" who really knew nothing about me.  I was internally dying, angry, sad, lonely and quite honestly, beyond miserable...just ask my poor sweet husband.

In Oct of 2010, things started shifting.  We moved.  My sister was living with us.  Her and Will decided that we would make, what I was certain would be, another failed attempt of finding a church that would be a fit for our family.  I was DREADING that Sunday morning with the worst attitude one could imagine.  But we got there, and shockingly enough, I didn't despise it.  So that was a good start.  The people we met that day sparked something in me.  Something that spoke of hope...

That helped me to start looking around at the people I called "friends."  People who I could not be myself in front of.  People who talked about me behind my back, just like they did about everyone else.  People who I knew weren't my true friends...people who were just making this void larger and larger...

It also helped me see the things I was trying to numb my pain with.  It brought me to a place where I wanted to make some changes in the way I was valuing myself.  I started getting serious about eating better and exercising, which did wonders for my state of mind.

I did some gardening, so to speak.  Got rid of some weeds.  But it wasn't enough...every time the "rains would fall" those weeds would spring back up.  My anxiety would paralyze me, depression would suck the life out of me...it wasn't a permanent solution.

I really started to get serious about my relationships.  I also started to see that it wasn't my job to internalize everyone elses pain.  It wasn't my job to make everyone like me.  It was NO way to live at all to feel guilt for things that no one should ever feel guilt for...

I kept trying and trying and trying to do all the right things....but I'd get into a slump, and Id be back to feeling so much anxiety and so much loneliness and so much fear and worthlessness and guilt...that I would be paralyzed, yet again.

Doesn't it all seem SO SO SO effective??? All it takes is less than perfect circumstances, and suddenly, I can't function.  I have been that way my entire life.  Believing in all the lies....I am worthless.  I am alone.  My anxiety needs to rule my life because I have no control over it.  I am fat.  I am unacceptable.  I am a bad mom and terrible wife.  Etc etc.

I was at small group bible study with some of the most amazing people, blubbering my eyes out, which, again, if you know me at all, oatmeal heart, Im ALWAYS crying haha.  Its my "thing."  As clear as day, like a punch in the stomach, I was looked square in the eyes and told, "Emotions ARE NOT TRUTH."


Emotion: A mental state that arises spontaneously rather than through conscious effort and is often accompanied by physiological changes.

Truth: Constancy. sincerity, the state of being the case, real things, events, and facts, being in accord with fact or reality

I really started to study, observe and drive home this amazing truth.  I was living in a wallpapered prison cell that told me that I HAVE to listen to and believe every emotion, because even though it was a spontaneous, unconscious mental state, I believed it like it were the rock solid truth about every single area of my life.

In Sept of 2011, me and a few close friends <3 started working on Beth Moore's Breaking Free study.  Our group time together ended up dissolving but I can look back now and see that it was all in Gods perfect timing. I remember reading about breaking free from chains that had been wrapped around you your whole life and having the thought that, #1 that is impossible...and #2 aren't these chains kinda comfy??

Over the past years and most recently, months, this mind renewing transformation has just been mind blowing for me.  I continued alone doing Breaking Free alone.  It was a 10 week study that took me almost 10 months...but the timing was perfect.  God has been driving me oh so slowly...because He knew that was all that I could take.  Knowing that God rejoices when I even move forward in inch, is mind blowing.  Its like with our own babies.  We freak out, rejoice, dance around like idiots, when they first smile, when they first roll over, when they take one teeny tiny step.  We don't hover over them and wish they were completely grown, knowing everything, impatiently wishing away their life...we watch, listen, guide, teach, as they slowly grown and learn.

That is what God has done with me.  Im so thankful.

I can see how effective the paralyzing fear, anxiety, lies, depression and loneliness were .  I can see that for my entire life, I missed out because I believed those lies.  What a break through...what a stronghold broken.  Now, let me tell you, this is a process that I have to work at every single day.  I have by no means. "arrived" but I can not operate any more, the way I once had, because I now know, if nothing else, that the lies are just that...LIES.  Working through things is a whole different story...but I know, that God has given me every single thing I need to receive all that He has for me, which is so much more than I could ever even imagine.

I can see now, looking back, how much pain these strongholds have caused me and people around me...how much I have missed out on...and it is so inspiring to me because I do not want to miss out anymore.  I see the fruit of my labor.  I see God raising me up to do all the things He has always wanted me to.  I wont be robbed any more...and it is SO exciting!!!!

He is renewing my passion for children that I buried so long ago.  He is teaching me how to do things, even when I am scared.  He is teaching me how to grow and love and let go and how to take every single thought captive before I let it freely roam around in my mind.  Its just amazing!!!

I want freedom for everyone I know.  My whole entire life is changing before my eyes and I want to shout it from the rooftops. I cannot keep quiet about it.  This freedom is so completely Him in me and at the same time, so completely not me at all.  Its just, ahhh, words cannot describe it.  I want freedom for my children and my family and my amazing friends...I want it for the person I see pumping gas and the girl who is ringing up my groceries.  I just want it for the world...because each precious soul deserves it.

So much of my life was spent trying to please others...and while I still definitely want to be a great friend, a life changing mother, an amazing wife....I don't live being responsible for others feelings anymore.  I recently lost a friend...with no explanation, a person who really changed my life, chose to just walk away from me.  I still have no idea why, and I have a feeling I will never know....but the old me, would have panicked, feared, questioned myself...I know the truth now, though: I am not defined by someone else's choices or misconceptions.  Now, I can see my friends, and all the people in my life, without owning their sadness and pain...while still praying for their hurt, loving them through what I can....but giving their situation fully and completely to God, knowing that He is all powerful to heal and comfort...and also knowing that I am but a tool, who feels so honored to be used by Him.

I am blown away by His love for me.  I am completely awe struck by His pursuit of me. He is patient and loving and He doesn't get tired of all the reassurance that I need.  He will tell me of His love for me over and over and over and over.  He doesn't write me off because I am not good enough.  Man, I don't know how to react to love like that....other than to give every single ounce of who I am to Him...and pour out all off the self that I have filled my own vessel with so that it is empty and sparkling clean for God to fill, overflowing-ly so, that nothing, and I mean nothing but Him flows out of me.  Picture a vase, full of mud....how could you pour anything beautiful and wonderful into it until you first, dump all the mud out, clean it...and then wait to be filled with some incredible.  The more you allow it to be emptied, the more it is continuously filled.  Incredible, right?

I am so so thankful for such amazing friends and family...who have been so patient.  Who have loved me unconditionally, and without fail, have not turned away from me.  I am so blessed to have compassionate support...people who genuinely care.  I am so blessed to be loved so limitlessly...

And to my God that will never give up, who has a love for me will never ever run out on me,
I am empty, to filled....Yours forever.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Awesome Giveaways

Just wanted to post some awesome giveaway info.  If you care about your health at all, you should def check it out!!!


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I'm Positive!

If you have been reading my blog for long, you might have realized that I am pretty candid.  I paint everything about myself very boldly.  In reading back, I feel like I have been awfully negative as well.  In fact, I have been that way for awhile.  I remember my mom always asking me why I was so pessimistic as a child.  What can I say, I'm a regular ol' "my-glass-is-half-an-eighth-of-the-way-full" kinda girl.  What a bummer to be around, right?  Can we say Debbie Downer??

Recently, I have made some friends who have taught me A LOT about how being positive, and relying on Gods truths about myself, can literally be life changing for me and everyone around me.  First, I had one friend open up and tell me, "I am going to try and achieve my goal of not being negative."  Hmmm...I hadn't even thought of that.  It planted a seed, so to speak.  Then, another friend, wow.  Her positivity, man, its powerful.  We would talk or text and anything I would say, she was always able to launch a POWERFUL, encouraging, positive arrow right back at me.  Sometimes, I would be asking for advise, sometimes I would be complaining...no matter what, she always had something incredibly uplifting to say.  Sometimes, and I'll admit, initially, that can be annoying.  Like, seriously?  Are you for real?  But it got to the point where, when I was communicating with her, I was constantly thinking of positive things I could share with her.  I didn't realize it initially...but it started spreading around me like wild fire.  I couldn't say enough positive things.  I would spot positive things in places I never even thought to look.  When I would see myself being negative or complaining to other friends, I would apologize.  It was allowing me to not allow others negativity to get me down.  I wasn't trying to to "jump on the band wagon" but rather be a source of life giving encouragement to everyone I talked to.

This last month was a little rough on our family (but just a teeny itty bit).  Coming back from CA trips is always rough because we miss everyone so much and then we got smacked over and over with a ton of cooties!!!  I found myself losing that joy and really letting myself slip into the woe is me pit. It wasn't pretty, friends.  I finally got myself the little knock on the noggin that I needed.  A few people shared how they really just changed their entire environment with a few kind words...and then, I remembered how good it felt to breathe life into people, and how life changing it was for me...so...I got back on the positive train!

Yesterday, I was in a waiting room.  A woman stormed in and you could just tell, she was not the happiest camper.  She signed her name in.  No one was at the counter.  There was only one person working and she was in the back taking care of a client.  I had been waiting for about 15 minutes.  She rolled her eyes as she took a seat.  With about every 3rd breath, she let out a VERY annoyed sigh.  Typically, because I'm super shy, I don't talk to people I don't know.  I obey my mommy's advise, and "DON'T TALK TO STRANGERS!" haha.  But I was getting so annoyed with this woman.  I have never seen someone so impatient and she was really getting on my nerves.  I thought, "I'm going to ask her to knock it off and have a little patience!!" Then another man walked in, and she huffed in ways that could only let this man know, we were doomed, in this waiting room together, for life!  So I sat, I tried to muster up the courage...and then I thought,  "Wait, I wonder if I could make a difference with a different approach..."  I quickly looked her up and down, sweatsuit, running shoes...nope, purse...THAT'S IT!!!! 

"Wow, I love your purse...it is so bright and colorful!" I cheerfully said.  (this was a white lie, but it didn't matter)

The lines in her face vanished.  She smiled, "Oh, thank you!  Its my favorite colors."

She started chatting with me and the man who had joined us also chimed in.  The darkness in the room was instantly, and I mean INSTANTLY, gone!!!  I seriously couldn't believe it.  I felt like I had witnessed a tiny miracle.  And it fueled my positive fire like nothing else.

So, I'm going to keep on chugging.  It isn't easy for me to talk to strangers, in fact, its REALLY hard.  But I changed a few moments in that woman's life (even if her blood pressure was the only part of her that recognized it) and it was amazing.

Try it...guanteed, it willstart changing everything and everyone around you.

Friday, February 24, 2012

It Only Took 30 Years...

My entire childhood was spent in a bit of a "Christian bubble."  My 3 siblings and I went to Christian school, which was also our church, had very strict parents, I knew all the books of the Bible in order by the time I was 5 years old, would tell everyone I knew "about Jesus."  It wasn't really a personal relationship that I had established (yet), but more like a way of life...I am Amber, I am Caucasian, I am a Christian.  It was just the way it was.  My parents didn't drink, didn't swear (like EVER! I'd do anything, even now, to hear my mom drop the "eff  bomb" lol I digress) and made sure that they protected us from every single bit of worldy corruption that there was. 

What a job! Right???  I mean, that is quite a task in every possible way.  One of thier biggest sacrifices to raise us according to their convictions was definately financially.  I just looked up the tuition cost for the school that we went to...my parents, very humble but hard working people were paying close to $3000 a MONTH to send us there.  My dad fought hard for us.  He was/is a police officer and worked hard to allow my mom to stay home with us kids.  I can't imagine what it requires to make such a huge sacrifice.  And you know what the 4 of us kids did???  Complain...say how much we hated it...even after we were all graduated.  I can't tell you how many times we would sit a rip that school apart.  I swore, I would never ever send my kids to a Christian school.

I didn't like school.  I didn't like my school.  As an adult, I thought they should have put more emphasis on our academic education instead of the religious aspect.  I felt like that was the job of my parents, to instill those values in my, AT HOME, not at school.  However...if I wanted a better education academically, I could have pushed myself further.  I hardly tried.  I had a few amazing teachers (Mr K, Mrs Stip, Ms Lake) who have made a massive impact on my life, and who also really taught me a LOT!  But my experience, overall was negative.  Looking back, Im sure a lot of my experience had to do with my attitude, enduring my parents nasty divore during Jr High, and overall just some major life altering things that really shifted my heart, soul and mind. 

I have a Kindergartener right now.  I am homeschooling him currently (something else I swore I would never ever do), but we are looking to send him to school next year.  We looked at our districts public school.  Its nice.  VERY large!  Lots of kids, kids that live close to us.  But I have a nagging in me that I never thougth would be there...

This last year has been a big one for me.  I have realized a lot.  I have realized that while my overall school experience was not pleasant, I have something that many people do not.  I am by no means smart (infact, Im really a little dumb) but I have something that I took away from Christian school that has saved me and contiues to save me daily.  It isn't geometry (although that was my favorite subject in school), its not World History...its this insane amount of Biblical knowledge that I never even realized I had.  I mean, I am about as far from a Biblical scholar as they come, but the things I know, I know because of my amazing parents and their amazing sacrifice to raise me according to their convictions.  Because of their sacrifice, I am practically applying tools that I know and learned only because of them.  Sometimes I look around and so many people are just really struggling (as am I)...but I have just been overcome by the realization that my parents were phenominal.  They failed, majorly, at times.  They made huge mistakes.  They have hurt me, and we have fought and screamed and there have been times were we haven't spoken to each other for a long time.  But looking back, I have an example of what I want to be like.  Even though my parents and I still disagree on plenty of things...they sacrificed everything to raise us and equip us in every way possible.  My siblings are amazing.  They love God with all their hearts...and they live their lives accordingly.  My parents will say Gods hand was upon us growning up, but my parents, man...they definiately did something right.  They dedicated us to the Lord, handed us over to Him, and did everything in their power, including sacrificing financial security, to protect, mold, shape and nurture us.  What an amazing thing!

So, back to that nagging, Will and I don't know what we are going to do for our kids schooling.  But we have definately been exploring our options...even Christian schooling.  These little souls are in our care...what a gincantic, daunting and, at times, frightening task.  We want to prepare them to be giving, loving, grateful, merciful, kind souls, who give their lives in thanks to the Great Rescuer.

I hope that Will and I can look back and say, "Wow...these kids are amazing...thank you God for giving us the strength, the wisdom, the love and power to raise them to be all that You desire them to be..."  My prayer for my kids is that they are deep vessels for what the Lord has in store for them.  Through valleys and mountains, they search for the Lord...because He has allowed us to raise them and prapare them for the rest of their lives...

Here is to my incredible parents who gave everything for us...and still would to this day!! 
And cheers to Christian School!!! haha

God...is amazing!!!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

We Have Hope...

We have Hope, to carry through the darkest night.  Our God has overcome the fear inside.

These lyrics from Pittsburgh East Community Church's worship album (You Have My Heart -Amplify) have really been burrowing their way to the core of my heart. 

I grew up in the city.  Street lights, building lights, headlights...there is just a glowing all the time.  You can't really see stars because it is just that light outside.  When I moved to Uganda, I lived in a village, in the middle of ACTUAL nowhere!  When I first got there, we didn't even have electricity.  My house was one of the last to get A light inside of it and it was so temperamental that I usually used my lanterns and flashlights a majority of the time.  I would walk back and forth to my sweet friend Sophie's house constantly...and at night, it was pitch black.  I have never experienced the kind of darkness that your eyes never adjust to.  It was remarkable really.  There were many nights where one of the kids from the orphanage that we lived at would have borrowed my flashlight to use to study or I was out of matches and couldn't light my lantern and would need to either walk to Sophie's or home from Sophie's.  It was complete darkness.  I had walked the path many times with the light in my hand, so I could estimate when to turn, how many steps to take, but it was terrifying sometimes.  From Sophie's house, I would walk through her grassy yard, then onto a stony dirt road, then through a small corn field, out of there onto another a small dirt road and then on a path that headed to my own house.  The little corn field was the worst part for me.  I would picture me actually stepping over a black mamba or a python.  Sometimes a corn stalk would slap me in the face.  But you know what, I prayed for safety and courage as I walked like I'd never prayed before on those short walks in the darkest of night.  I had walked this path hundreds of times.  I knew what to feel for with my feet, I knew when to reach out my hands to avoid certain potential road blocks.  I had walked the path with light guiding me many time...so really, I was as prepared as I could be.  But the fear was sometimes still terrifying.  Being without light like that, in the darkest of the dark, what choices did I have?  I could be swallowed up...or I could choose to walk on in bravery, because God was with me.

Now, that story makes me sound a lot more courageous than I actually was.  But every time I hear "the darkest night" I think of those dark Ugandan nights!  (You know exactly what I mean right Sophie and Adam???)  And I also think of our "darkest nights" here...what those look like for me and for others. 

Maybe it is...

the woman struggling with her body image so severely that she can hardly take a breath without feeling inadequate. 

the man struggle with an alcohol problem. 

the woman who is living with an abusive man who she loves and doesn't know what to do. 

the woman who is fighting to forgive her husbands unfaithfulness. 

the couple who is fighting and screaming all the time in front of their children. 

the man that is entrapped in pornography.

the orphan with no family, who watched them all be taken from them. 

the person flooded with pain from a divorce, rape, loss of a child, or past mistakes. 

the woman who with holds her true self from everyone because she has bitterness and anger taking over her life.

...or worse...
maybe its the person who thinks they are so much better than all of these things that they would never find themselves in this kind of darkness.

Some of us have been in so many of these places, some have been in none of them.  But that darkness, that powerful absence of light, it comes for us.  It can be paralyzing, terrifying, humiliating, swallow us whole...imagine yourself in one of the above places for a moment...imagine...

But...it doesn't end there. 

We have HOPE to carry through the DARKEST NIGHTWe have it.  It is ours.  All we have to do is pick it up and carry it with us.   We have to reach out and accept the light.  We have to take that courageous step and grab it, and hold on to it and never let it go.  We can't give up just because we can't find it right this second.  We have to take the step, walk toward it, trust that this Hope, will carry us, just as He promised us.  But we cannot carry His hope if we will not reach out and grab on to Him.

I have been taking this idea a little further in my own heart.  I have been think about what these dark nights would look like if I really prepared myself for them.  What if I was constantly reading Gods word and filling myself with His amazing and perfect tools, weapons, and armor to withstand and overcome the darkest nights.  At my fingertips, I would have Him...leading me and guiding every footstep.  I would become so used to trusting that He was there (which He always is) that I wouldn't even have to go through that initial panic that I was all alone in the dark.  I would KNOW all of His promises and I would believe them.  His power and might would overcome my darkest nights...

He is a God who wants to not only allow us to carry His Hope through the darkest nights, but wants us to seek Him so deeply that we allow Him to carry US through the darkest of nights...

Today, I'm working on trusting that He even wants to do this for me....its a process, but His light is so life giving and so empowering and so life changing, that I truly want nothing more than to be overflowing with Him...because THIS LOVE IS UNSTOPPABLE.