If I Had One Year to Live….

When I heard the news that my sister in law, Nadine Brandes, landed a contract on her book, “A Time to Die,” I was elated. My excitement soon turned to apprehension, however, as I realized I would have to actually read the book and give a review of it. Quite frankly, I hadn’t been able to finish a fiction book since I was fifteen when my sophomore English teacher convinced me I would love to read if I just would give the book, “Rebecca” a chance. I hated it.

“What if I hate Nadine’s book too? What if she really can’t write at all? What if it is so bad, I can’t finish it? How will I write an honest review of the book? After all, she is my sister-in-law…”

After reading “A Time to Die” last month I am proud to say, all of my fears were unfounded. The book is absolutely incredible! In fact, I can see it on the big-screen. It is that good!

From the moment I started reading, I was captivated.

With three young children, a part-time job, and a bible study to prepare, I was able to read it (on my phone- imagine that) in just a few short days. The story is well-developed. The characters are relatable. The imagery is vivid. The message is thought provoking.

I could hardly put it down.

In honor of the book release, I decided to participate in the blog hop to answer the question: How would you live if you knew you had just one year left on this earth?

Blog Hop Button

(Click here for instructions on how you can participate in the Blog Hop, too.)

So… How would I live if I knew I had just one year left on this earth?

This is a question I have rolled over and over in my head for weeks. What would my life look like? What would I change? What would I keep the same? How would I live?

I could tell you a million things, but there one particular that sticks out in my mind leaps and bounds above the rest. While I try diligently to perfect this area in my every day life, I am constantly falling short.

In my last year of life, I would undoubtedly be present in my present. In every situation and every conversation – particularly with my children – I would strive to be all there.

With all of the demands placed on me, I frequently find myself only half-present in my now. I half-listen to the excitement in my daughter’s voice as she relays the latest book she is reading. I  half-witness the pleasure my boys enjoy as they conquer another Indiana Jones adventure… Each time, only half-experiencing the moment I am living in.

I take for granted that “there is always tomorrow.”  I wrongly trade my enjoyment of today for the opportunity to experience it tomorrow.

But tomorrow never comes.

I hear myself telling my children the same lines over and over again. “Yes. Mommy will play with you in just a few minutes.” But, the laundry takes longer than I plan. Or the phone rings and I get sidetracked. Each night as I prepare dinner, three sets of hands beg for my attention, but I don’t have time. I send them away. “Not today. Tomorrow we will have fun in the kitchen making dinner.” But tomorrow, never comes. Homework calls and the dishes long to be washed. The kids’ teeth need brushed and their hair washed. Before I know it I am hollering from my computer, “Hurry along kids! It’s time for bed. Tomorrow is another day.”

We will do it…

Tomorrow.

James  4:13-14, “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow…” 

Even as I write this post, I am convicted. My throat has a lump. My eyes feel heavy. Tears stream down my face. Why do I put off the joy of life through the wonder of my children for the chance to clean my house, again.

Pretty soon, they will be all grown up. They will head off to the movies with their friends. They will beg me to drop them off at the football game. They will leave for college. And have children of their own. Instead, of me saying it to them, I will hear my own words echoed through their voices…

“Tomorrow Mommy. We will spend the day together tomorrow.”

I don’t want another tomorrow to come without being fully invested in today. Rather than let  another moment pass me by, today I am throwing away the half-life. From this day forward, I will be completely vested in experiencing to the fullest – my present.

No one knows the day or the hour that our lives will end. But one thing I know for sure…. It will come much quicker than I have planned.

I don’t want to half-live another minute.

How about you?

“Lord, I can’t do is without you. I need your help recognizing what is truly important in my life. Help me to lay aside that which can wait to invest myself fully in that which really matters. Help me Lord, to be present in my present from this day forward.  And forgive me when I fall short. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?  (Book Summary)

Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government’s crooked justice system.

But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall —— her people’s death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her Clock is running out.

Giveaway: Click here to enter the rafflecopter giveaway for a signed copy of “A Time to Die” and/or a $10 Amazon giftcard!

Nadine

“A Time to Die” is Nadine Brandes’ first novel in the Out of Time trilogy.   To learn more about her, you may find her at any of these places. Simply click on one of the links below:

Website: http://nadinebrandes.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/NadineBrandesAuthor

Twitter: http://twitter.com/nadinebrandes

Goodreads: http://goodreads.com/nadinebrandes/

Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/nadinebrandes/

Battlefield of the Mind Podcast: Quiet Your Mind to Hear God’s Voice

Part 1: Hearing God’s Voice

Part 2: A Wondering Mind

Battlefield of the Mind:  Quiet Your Mind to Hear God’s Voice – Week 4

Chapters 8 and 9

Occasionally, I wonder what people who knew me years ago think of me now. “How did she get here? Why is she so bold about her faith? Why does she feel such a huge desire to share it with everyone she knows?”

My answer is simple.

I was twenty-one and had everything I ever needed to make me happy in life. But… I wasn’t. I was still missing something. I longed to have true joy. To be filled to overflowing. To reach that place of peace the Bible talks about.

I began to cry out to God to show me what was missing in my life.

Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Since that day so many years ago, I have had many amazing encounters with the Lord. I have tasted for myself of the Lord’s goodness. I have seen the Lord in a real, tangible way in my life. He is not a far- off God to me anymore.

He still speaks today.

In the first part of this podcast, I share an amazing testimony of how the Lord taught me to hear His voice. I believe it will begin to answer some of those questions you may have had about why I am so quick to share the message of Jesus Christ and how much He loves you.

If you have ever wanted to know how to hear the voice of God, this message is for you. I just know you will enjoy it!

How Would You Live If You Knew The Day You Would Die?

As many of you know, my sister-in-law, Nadine Brandes, has recently written her very first novel: A Time To Die. It is the first of a three book series. (Click here to read the first chapter.) The novel is dystopian- like Hunger Games or Divergent- only with a Christian theme.

In the book, the main character, Parvin Blackwater was given a clock at the time of her birth. Now, she knows the time she will die. And her time is running out. With just one year to live, Parvin makes a decision to live her remaining days with purpose. It is this decision that sets the scene for the amazing journey that ensues.

A few weeks ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to read an advanced copy. (You can buy it here now.) I absolutely loved it! It is beautifully written. And entertaining. And thought provoking. And inspirational…. And yes. I truly believe you will love it too. So I invited her to be a guest on my blog this week to give a little background on what inspired her to write this incredible book.

Without further ado, here is Nadine….

Let me introduce you to a young man named James.

James, doesn’t finish things — at least, not the things expected of a man in his mid-twenties. He’s a little too adventurous and daredevil, traipsing off to Africa to hunt and serve in needy villages.

This is a great pursuit, but he should find some way to make a living or at least get a degree to support his travels to Africa. After all, he’s a young man — an adult now — who will get married someday and he needs to be the breadwinner. After that, he’ll have his whole life to go serve in Africa.

This is the opinion I formed about James from the snippets I heard about him from others. Every chance I had to meet him would fall through because he’d ditch to be in Africa or something. My overall impression of James was that he was an unsettled, somewhat irresponsible, but good-hearted guy. Why couldn’t he just get his degree and then go to Africa?

I’ll tell you why.

Because he died at age twenty-seven. In Africa, from natural causes.

My entire view of his life changed after I found out. I realized how shallow I’d been, putting his life in the typical box of expectations. But once he was gone, I understood. James didn’t have time for lengthy college or the American dream. Something in him — inside his soul — knew  his time was short…and it needed to be spent in Africa.

You see, James was close to my age. His death shook my foundation. What if my  time was short like James’s? What if I knew  how long or little I had to live? Would I live differently?

Would you?

Through James’s death, I questioned life…and God answered me with the book, A Time to Die.

The story idea — of a world where everyone has a Clock telling them how long they have to live — plagued me as I finished up my last years of graduate school. In fact, it grew so heavy in my mind I finally abandoned homework one week and just wrote it out.

I’d always felt called to be a writer — always wanted to spend my life penning stories. But this…when this came out of my fingers, it was like nothing I’d ever written before. This was the culmination of my writing dreams, and it all started from a young man’s death. I’m reminded of a verse in Hebrews talking about Abel’s faithful and righteous sacrifice to God. The verse ends saying:

“And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.”

Through James’s faith to follow God’s call into ministry for the African people, his death spoke into my life — and I’m sure many others. Now I’ve been given a chance to live with new perspective. Hopefully my writing will inspire others to do the same. 

How might your life change if you knew how much or how little time you had left?

 

Nadine

About Nadine:

Nadine Brandes writes stories about authentic faith, bold living, and worlds soaked in imagination. She lives in Idaho with her husband and works as a freelance editor. When she’s not writing, editing, or taste-testing a new chai, she is out pursuing adventures. A Time to Die is her first novel.

Visit Nadine on the web at:

Her Website: www.nadinebrandes.com

Amazon: http://bit.ly/AmazonATtDpaperback

 

Battlefield of the Mind: Podcast – Expect Good Things.

Part 1

Part 2

Battlefield of the Mind Podcast: Expect Good Things – Week 3

Big stick. Angry God. Ready to hit you over the head when you mess up. Or have a beer. Or smoke a joint. Loose your temper. Or have sex outside of marriage.

Is this how you see God?

Until I really came to know Jesus, I spent a lot of years running from Him. I guess I thought if I ran from Him, He wouldn’t notice all the wrong choices I was making.

Then one day, He tapped on my heart and instead of running, I listened.

I realized I wasn’t doing so well on my own. So, I invited Him in.

I made a choice not to run anymore.

It didn’t mean I didn’t make bad choices anymore. It was simply a decision that said even in the midst of my choices, I wanted Christ in my life.

I needed Him in my life.

So, I began to stand. Facing Him. In my guilt. In my sin. I accepted His goodness in exchange for all my weaknesses.

It was then that I realized: He is a Big God—- But he doesn’t have a big stick. He has a Big Heart and He longs to be gracious to me. The sinner. The one who ran for so many years. The one who put Him on the cross.

He longs… to be gracious… To Me. And He longs to be good to you, too.

Isaiah 30:18 (Amp), “And therefore the Lord (earnestly) waits (expecting, looking, and longing) to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show you loving kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who (earnestly) wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him (for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship)!

This week’s Battlefield of the Mind Podcast Series will encourage you to understand and know how much the Lord longs to be good to you. It will encourage you to press on to be all that Christ has called you to.

I encourage you to get a copy of Joyce Meyer’s book, “Battlefield of the Mind” and follow me on this journey to freedom in your life. I promise you, it will change your life!

This week’s podcast is a review of Chapter 5, 6, and 7. Enjoy!

Battlefield of the Mind: Podcast – Don’t Give Up.

As many of you know, I have recently started teaching the series, “Battlefield of the Mind” at East Coast Christian Center in Merritt Island. (It’s Thursday mornings at 10am. I would love for you to join us.)  Amazingly, with my lack of technology skills, I have managed to figure out how to finally get a podcast of the message from this morning. It is 100% raw. There is not one ounce of editing involved. Should you take a few moments to listen, I am confident (despite the background noise, “um’s” and other flaws) you will be encouraged.

Though, in the day in which we live, many would consider this podcast unpolished, I am beyond thrilled to call it mine. Standing in front of a crowd preaching the Word of God is like oxygen to me. More than anything else on this earth, I want to see people everywhere living out their potential in Christ Jesus. My passion is to share His amazing love with others, that they might know how He longs to heal their hurts and comfort their hearts.

In fact, my heart is leaping right now, knowing that for the first time ever, others will get to hear the good news of Jesus through what He has done in my life.

This “Battlefield of the Mind” podcast marks what I consider to be “small beginnings.” And those small beginnings, I do not despise. I am so excited to be taking this step of faith. For years, I have felt a call on my life to teach. For years, I have been faithful to share His Word with anyone who would listen.  Finally, I am getting to share it with you.

I pray that as you listen, you will be ministered to. That the words from my voice would bring life, and peace, and hope to you. That the anointing from the throne room of heaven would fall on you as you hear the truths outlined in the message. And that you would never be the same.

I don’t want to be a good speaker. My words are just words. It’s His anointing that breaks the power of sin and death. May His anointing rest on my words as they enter your heart and change everything for His glory!

Thank you for sharing in this time with me. I call it a blessing to know that you were here today.

With excitement and expectation for what is- and what is to come.

Yours Truly,

Amy Brandes

If Something is God’s Will, Will it Automatically Come to Pass?

In my early twenties, Pastor Chris Hill from the Potter’s House Church, prophesied over me. A portion of the word was this, “I have taught you how to walk. I am teaching you to run. There’s an eagle in you. You can fly… if you want to.”

In the weeks and months that followed, I must have mulled this word over in my heart at least a thousand times. There was one particular portion that always made me pause: those four little words tacked on to the end of his statement, “… if you want to.

Who wouldn’t want to fly? To float above the trials of life?

Yeah. I wanted to fly.

But why did he add “…if you want to”? If God wanted me to, wouldn’t it just happen? I mean, doesn’t God’s will always happen in the life of someone who prays?

With years of experience under my belt, I have learned a great deal about God’s will. And no. Just because something is God’s will, doesn’t mean it will automatically happen.

There was a time in my life that I wanted a lot of things. I wanted to be married. I wanted to be free from the emotional roller coaster I lived on. I wanted to be healthy and maintain a normal weight. I wanted to have joy independent of my circumstances.

Today, I still want for things. I want to pay off my house in the next six years. I want to write (and publish) books. I want my kids to be successful in every area of their lives. I want to have a great marriage fifty years from now.

Wanting something, however, isn’t enough to make it happen in our lives. In order to see our desires come to pass, we can’t just pray about a matter. Or even hope for it (though both are important). There comes a point when we have to turn our “want to” into action.

In order to meet our goals, we have do something about our want to. And I know from personal experience, if you want something bad enough, you will do whatever it takes to get it.

When I came to a place in my life where I really wanted to be married, I began positioning myself to meet that special someone. I struck up conversations with strangers and went on blind dates. (And you better believe if I had known about a dating website where I could investigate a potential spouse’s resume, I would have been on it. I would have winked, and smiled, and done whatever it took to allow God to work a miracle in my life.) No matter how many Mr. Wrong’s I met, I did not stop until I met the one. In reality, once I positioned myself appropriately, it was less than a year before I met him.

I wanted to be healthy mentally and physically. And I wanted it bad enough to do whatever it took to bring it to pass. I prayed and asked God for help daily. I read books on how to harness my emotions and have joy based on Christ alone. I surrounded myself with people who would encourage and challenge me. I listened to sermons. I took the steps needed– no matter how hard it was. I tried any, and everything I could until I found what works. And guess what? I got free in the process.

One of my goals as of late is to be completely debt free. When we bought our current home, my husband and I decided we wanted to pay it off in ten years. Is that an easy goal? No. It requires self-discipline. Lots of it. I can’t buy a new outfit every other day. I can’t take a vacation every other month. My kids can’t go to private school. But every month, I see huge steps toward paying off our house. At the rate we are going, it will be paid off sooner than that and I will be free to do what God has called me to on a much larger scale.

Big dreams start small.  Large callings start with faithfulness in the mundane. Acting in faith in little ways. In areas that few notice. In ways that don’t feel all that special. And seem to be going nowhere fast.

I want to write books, so I started this blog. I want to help others be all that Christ has called them to be, so I began teaching a bible study at my church. (which – by the way- will be starting again Thursdays at 10 am. Sept 4, 2014 at East Coast Christian Center.) Both are small steps, but they are steps in the right direction. I am writing. I am teaching. I am being faithful in the little things. It isn’t always easy. As much as I love to help others, there are days I dread sitting down to write. But I do it anyway. Standing in front of a group of expectant ladies can be daunting. And nerve racking. But again, I do it anyway. When I am seventy-five, I don’t want to look back at my life and say “I could have… if only I would have.” I want to help others live victorious lives. So I take action to do what I can with what He has given me, and trust Him to take care of the rest.

It seems almost silly for me to write about this, because it seems so obvious… To put action to our desires… Yet I see so many people around me wishing for things that never come to pass. Don’t be like them. Don’t sit around and wish for something to happen in your life. Get up and do something about it. Take a small step in the right direction. Then do it day. After day. After day. And one day, off in the distance, you won’t be wishing anymore. You will be living the life you desire.

Today, I want to encourage you. God is faithful to His word. 2 Corinthians 2:14 says, “ Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.”

The average person is where they are in life because of the choices they make and the things they wholeheartedly pursue- day in and day out. In order to live the life you want to live, you have to be willing to step out and take calculated risks. Unfortunately, you can’t just “want” something to happen. You have to want it sooo badly that you will do whatever it takes to get it. And as you follow the Spirit of God down that path, He will lead you to the victorious life you long for.

Lord, I thank you for the power that dwells on the inside of every single believer to get up and do something with the gifts and dreams that you have placed on the inside of them. I release that power in their lives right now to act on what you have called them to do each and every day. I thank you in advance for their ability to see that great plan come to pass in their lives. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Anything is Better than Nothing: How I Finally Got Motivated to Start Exercising Again.

Before I got married, I ran three miles a day. Four days a week. Faithfully. I never liked it, but I always did it. For the obvious reasons. Exercise is healthy. It helped me stay thin. And I had extra time on my hands, so running and going to the gym kept me from sitting around feeling sorry for myself. For a woman who desperately wanted to be married, it gave me a social outlet and posed a way to meet a potential hubby. In my opinion, all great reasons to get in shape.

Then I met Landon.

In that moment, the life I knew changed overnight. I was hypnotized by him and wanted nothing more than to spend every waking moment with this charming, new gent. (Funny how love does that to you.) Without question, learning every detail of who he was, talking into the wee hours of the night and going to dinner with him far outweighed the grueling runs and trips to the gym I had incorporated into my every day life.

Our relationship grew quickly. Six months after meeting, Landon and I were married. Shortly thereafter, I became pregnant with Aspen. Then Jayce. Then Ty. With the addition of a husband and three small children in the scope of six years, I had little time for myself. Rocking babies, changing diapers, and chasing little ones around the park quickly replaced exercise on my priority list.

Eventually, I stopped all formal types of exercise completely.

It wasn’t something I intended to do. In fact, frequently, I would set goals for myself. Running a mile or two at least three times per week. Walking thirty minutes a day. I even had a gym membership multiple times throughout the years. For a brief time, I would meet my goal. But it wouldn’t last long. My husband would go out of town, one of the kids would get sick, or a dirty house would beckon me to clean it and I would miss a date with my running shoes.

My frequent inability to stick to the plan would cause me to quit exercising altogether.

This year, however, I made a new resolution. One that finally motivated me to reestablish an exercise routine. And keep it. The resolution is this: There are no rules. Anything is better than nothing. When you can, exercise. Walk. Run. Bike. Go for as long as you like. Stop when you want. If you can do it once a week. Great. Two or three times. Fabulous. If you aren’t able at all one week. No big deal. Pick it back up the next week.

Anything is better than nothing.  

As a physical therapist, I tell my patients this all the time. And it really is the truth. Yet, for years, I failed to incorporate this advice into my own life. Instead, I let the demands of life and my own high expectations prevent me from doing anything at all. In my mind, if I was going to exercise, I had to go all out. Otherwise, I was failing. If I couldn’t run a full mile. Or for thirty minutes. Or at least three times per week. I wasn’t making a difference in my health. And I certainly wasn’t meeting my goals. So, I would quit.

In March, after a discussion with one of my patients about the importance of exercise for our physical and mental health, I began to take my own advice. I quit comparing myself to the “cross-fit-junky” friends I have, strapped on my running shoes for the first time in a while, and went for a jog. Two minutes in, I decided to start walking. But I stuck to my plan: No pressure. No rules. Just do something. As frequently as I can.

Anything is better than nothing.

It has been four months since I made my new resolution. Most weeks, I only exercise once or twice a week. There have been a few weeks, I have missed all together. But, I am still at it.

Getting back into shape has been a slow process. Only recently have I started to see the results of my efforts. The other day, I ran a mile and a half without stopping. A small feat when compared to my three mile/four days a week season of life, but huge for me in today’s season.

Running still isn’t my favorite pastime. But it is important to me to live a long, prosperous life; to be around to see my kids and grandkids grow up. So I am making it a priority again. And like every other area of my life, I am learning that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I am learning for myself, what I have been teaching others about exercise for years…

Anything is better than nothing.

2  Corinthians 8:11, “But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability.

How I Got Rid of the Stress – I Didn’t Know Existed – in my Life.

I don’t get stressed out very easily, but recently I watched a show that had me on edge from the moment it came on. The show is called “Hoarding: Buried Alive.” Have you ever seen it?

It is a show about people who collect “stuff”. For whatever reason, they get attached to their “stuff” and refuse to get rid of anything. Boxes line their hallways and clutter climbs to the ceiling making it virtually impossible to negotiate through their homes. Often their “stuff” is piled so high that they cannot function in their own living space. It is absolutely crazy! And stressful just to watch, let alone live in.

I am the exact opposite of these folks.

I am not a collector or a saver, and I don’t like “things”. I can’t stand having to dust around trinkets or store items I rarely use, so I keep my “stuff” to a minimum. I actually keep a box in my laundry room for clothes the kid’s have outgrown and things we no longer want or need. When the box gets full we take a trip to the A+ thrift shop to donate these items on a regular basis. This way, “stuff” never takes over my house.

I call it “dejunking.” And because I hate clutter, and stress, I do it often.

Recently, however, I took my “dejunking” to a whole new level. And doing so has removed stress I did not even realize existed in my life.

Let me tell you how it happened…

One afternoon two months ago, I threatened to get rid of my boys’ toys if they didn’t clean up their room. I explained to them that if they didn’t have so much “stuff,” they wouldn’t have to listen to me barking orders to clean it up all the time. I whined a bit about how if they had nothing to play with, they would have nothing to clean up. Eventually, they got their room – most of the way – clean.

For three days in a row, this went on. I would go in and bark. They would whine about having to clean. I would threaten them by telling them how serious I was about getting rid of their “stuff” if they couldn’t get it cleaned up in a timely fashion. Then, eventually, they would get their room – most of the way – clean.

On the fourth day, my eight year old son came to me and said, “Mommy, I think you are right. If we get rid of some of our toys we won’t have as much to have to clean up all the time.”

The words were music to my ears, but I had just “dejunked” their room three months earlier. I never really intended to get rid of all their stuff. Nonetheless, I predetermined in my heart that if my boys said they wanted to give it away, I would say yes. (See, though, I am not a saver, I still clung to some of the toys that were in good shape – even if they didn’t use them – simply because they were in good shape or expensive or a gift from grandma, etc. Can anyone relate?)

At the end of the afternoon, both boys had collected quite a bit of “stuff” to give away. And I was pleased.

A few days passed when Jayce came to me again noticing that he was still spending a lot of time cleaning up. “Mommy,” he asked. “Can I get rid of some more stuff?”

With that, we went in the room together and purged it of almost every toy in the room. We got rid of cars, action heroes, race tracks and Ninja turtles. Light sabers, Nerf guns, Frisbees and swords. When we were finished, we moved the toy box to the family room closet with five toys in it. My boys’ room was officially “dejunked.” With only a few books, Legos, cars and guys on a shelf, there was no major way to make a mess.

Before I continue, I am sure there are a few of you out there worried about how the kids coped after the initial excitement of the purge wore off. I want to assure you, they have hardly missed a thing. In fact we have only had one incident where they even asked for anything back. (It was a gun and we quickly remedied it by building stick guns from the yard and using their imaginations to play instead.)

Two months later, my house has never been so clean. I am not constantly yelling at my kids to pick up the toys they dumped on the floor (and never even played with) anymore. When it is time to clean up, it takes only a few minutes to get the job done. And doing so is much more peaceful.

In hindsight, I realize that the addition of all this “stuff” did not created joy at all. It actually added more stress- to both them and me. (In the same way “more stuff” doesn’t make adults happy, it doesn’t make our kids happy either.) In fact, the kid’s are in complete agreement. (Yes, I asked them.) – Dejunking their room was one of the best things we have done in a long time. I am so grateful that we stumbled upon such an incredible blessing. It has relieved loads of stress that I never even recognized was there… until it was gone.

How about you? Are you addicted to “stuff”? How would getting rid of some of the “stuff” in your home simplify your life? How would cleaning out the toy box change your life?

Mathew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

If I Could Write a Letter to My Twenty Year Old Self, Here’s What I’d Say.

Ten years ago, I walked the halls of Merritt Island High as my daughter took swim lessons in the pool out back. When I got home, I told my husband if it weren’t for the infant in the stroller I was pushing, I could still blend in with the high-schoolers.

He laughed. But I really meant it.

My, how time flies.

I turned thirty-nine on Sunday. I don’t think “blend in” is possible anymore – stroller or not.

As I reflected on another year gone by (and one closer to forty), I thought about what I would say to myself if I could go back twenty years and give myself some advice with the wisdom and life experience I have now.

I decided to write myself a letter.

Before I began, I was overwhelmed with emotion. It actually surprised even me. Tears streamed down my face, without having gotten even one word out. Some tears were of joy- because of the amazing life that I have today. Others were not so happy tears, as I remembered some of the more trying times the past twenty years have brought.

Today, I want to share with you that letter. As you read, I pray that you will see your story somewhere in the pages; that you will remember the times the Lord has walked you through trying circumstances and how you have grown in the process. And if you have not yet learned how to depend on Him, that through my words, you would grow one step closer.

Here’s my letter– to me:

Dear Amy,

How many times has your mom said, “You have the world at your fingertips?” Well… she was right.

You are about to embark on an amazing journey; one that turns out to be greater than you have imagined.

But, it is not for the reasons you think.

Right now, you think life is all about you.

But it isn’t.

Soon you will come to realize this. And in your realization, you will discover that while you have everything on earth you need to be happy, something is still missing in your life. On your quest to find happiness, you will discover how to have joy that is not based on who or what is happening to you. You will discover an amazing love; one rooted in Jesus Christ.  

The decision to follow Him will change the course of your life. It is, by far, the best decision you will ever make. 

For two years, you will be like a sponge, soaking in every detail of who God is. You will grow close to the Lord in ways you can’t fathom now. The Lord will birth dreams on the inside of you that you never would have imagined without turning your heart towards Him.

Many people will not understand the change that has taken place in you. Do not fret or shrink back because of the things others say. As you continue to trust in Him, the Lord will be faithful to you and the promises He has made you.

Before you see any of these dreams come to pass, though, your life will take some unexpected turns that will rock you to the core. Again, do not be afraid. It is through these times that you will grow into the woman you are today.Before they come, the Lord will prepare you with every tool you need to walk through these difficult years.

By your twenty-third birthday, the life you now know will not be the same. You will have met a man you thought you would marry. He will break your heart and you will be left with many unanswered questions. This pain will only be compounded by the fact that your “Leave it to Beaver” family will be devastated by your parent’s divorce. Your mother will move out of state. At the same time, your father will abandon you for a full year. You will take a job in a new city without the ties of a church, friends or family, as you work to overcome an eating disorder that has held you in bondage for years.

During these years, you will feel very alone. You will watch friend after friend get married and start their families. All the while, you will remain single for many years despite desperately  longing to start a life with someone. There will be days you will question your new found faith and wonder if the Lord is really true to His promises. People will tell you that the life you are believing for doesn’t exist; that the husband you are praying for is only found in fairy tales; and that you will always have predispositions to an eating disorder- that this is one addiction you can never fully break.

I want to assure you…They are dead wrong!

The Lord is true to His promises.

The dreams on the inside of you were put there by the God of the Universe… because He wants to see your dreams come to pass more than you do. The naysayers in your life are only speaking from their own understanding. Let go of their words and hold fast to the Word of God. In it is truth; and the amazing life you long for.

You will spend many years “walking by faith” and “holding fast to your confession” as the Word says. It will take years of steadfastness, but in time, you will start reaping the results of your efforts and the Lord’s faithfulness.

You will overcome the eating disorder and be completely free of all predispositions to it. You will actually be happier with your body at 39 than you were at 25. Not because it looks so much better, but because you will be comfortable in your own skin. And know that your beauty is so much deeper than the number on the scale.

As for your father, remember hurting people hurt people. His actions stem from hurt. Forgive him quickly, before he ever asks. Trust God’s timing and wait patiently for Him. When the time is right, your relationship will pick right back up where you left off because you have not allowed roots of bitterness to get in the way.

Your broken heart will have mended, and while you may never  fully understand it, you will be utterly grateful for it. After kissing many frogs, you will finally meet  your prince – the man you have spent years praying for. Amy, he is everything you prayed for. Please, don’t worry about who and how and when you will meet him. He is kind, smart, handsome and most importantly, loves Jesus as much as you do- just like you prayed. Your relationship will flow the way it should- with ease. He will recognize you as the pearl you are.  

Please. Please. Please.  In the years ahead, don’t waste one minute doubting God’s plan for you. His plans are perfect. His timing is perfect. And, His love is perfect, too. He will not fail you. He will not leave you. Rather, He will walk with you down every one of life’s roads.

So, I encourage you… From this moment forward, live like you know how much you are loved and accepted. Embrace every moment. Refuse to settle. Love without expecting anything in return. Give exuberantly.  Believe fully. Dream big. Laugh lots. And in every situation, hope.

Your life is what you make it.

With much love,

Your twenty years wiser self

 In closing, I want to leave you with one last thought… As I wrote, I found myself wanting to encourage myself over and over not to be afraid. It reminded me of how often the scriptures warn us not to be afraid, as well. I believe there is a great deal of freedom in living fearlessly. Each time I wrote it and every time I thought it, but didn’t put it on the page, something deep resonated on the inside of me.

Today, I am reminded to live fearlessly; to be bolder and to trust more. I am encouraged not to waste one minute in worry about the future. He holds the Universe in His hands, surely He can take care of the next forty years of my life and yours.

I encourage you today… Whatever your future holds, refuse to give in to fear. He has a great plan for your life too!

Isaiah 41:10, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

 

 

Never Judge a Book by its Cover.

I am going to make a statement that will make some of you want to throw up. But it’s the truth. And I am not ashamed.

I love the show, “The Bachelor.”

I can’t help it. I am a hopeless romantic.

It all started twelve years ago when Trista and Ryan fell in love at the same time as Landon and me.

We lived outside of Kansas City at the time. Landon would come home from his night class to his brand new wife lying on the couch engulfed in the drama of someone else’s love story. A big smile would be pasted to my face as I watched two complete strangers pour their hearts out to one another in front of the entire nation. Meanwhile, my sweet beau, Landon, would crack jokes and poke fun at me– and the ridiculous idea of “falling in love” on a television show.

I am not exactly sure which season it happened, but somewhere along the way Landon changed his tune. Soon, he began looking forward to Monday nights as much as me. (Not really. That wouldn’t be very manly. But it sounds ushy-gushy, doesn’t it?)

Before I go any further, I want you to know… I could share a million different thoughts with you, but as I prayed about what to write this week, one particular thought kept rising up in me. So… bear with me a moment. I promise you, there is a lesson here.

This season, there is a particular guy who has caught my attention. He is a quite a looker. Fit, confident, and poised. His name is Josh and he just so happens to be a former professional baseball player. As I watched him interact with Andi, the Bachelorette, I couldn’t help but pass judgment on him. I found myself doubting his sincerity and wondering if he really is all that he seems to be. Simply because… he is a professional baseball player.

To those of you who know me well, you may see the irony. For those that don’t, here is why I find my judgment so interesting. I happen to be married to an ex-professional baseball player (St. Louis Cardinals) turned current professional baseball coach (Washington Nationals.) Sports are a huge influence in my husband’s life. And if I may say so, Landon is quite a looker. Fit, confident, and poised, as well.

So, do you see the irony?

How is it that I – a woman fully vested and happily married, to a man who reminds me a lot of Josh – is having to fight the urge to judge him based on his good looks and career? My instinct is to assume that Josh is not who he appears to be. That he is really a jerk. And that America, and I, will soon figure this out.

1 Samuel 16:7, But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

It comforts me to know that I am not the only one who has struggled with this. Obviously, the prophet Samuel did too. In fact, David wouldn’t have been anointed King of Israel, if the Lord hadn’t set him straight. Before God’s plan for Israel could begin, Samuel needed to learn the same lesson my parents taught me… Never judge a book by its cover.

Prior to meeting my husband, my heart was broken by a former professional baseball player. When Landon told me what he did for a living, my first instinct was to run the opposite direction. Because, according to my thinking, baseball players are jerks. And they will end up breaking your heart. Right?

Wrong.

It is easy to go into a situation and determine the future based on our past experiences and preconceived ideas. And while, there is wisdom to be gained through past experience, we must remember to keep an open heart in all our dealings.

I can’t help but wonder what my life would look like today if I had allowed my past experience and first judgment to determine my response to the cute baseball guy who wanted to know my story.

So, I encourage you today. Resist the urge to judge. In every situation. And every person.

God doesn’t look at outward appearance.

He looks at the heart.

Shouldn’t we?