Monday, July 21, 2014

When Life Happens

I've been neglecting this space lately. Honestly, I feel like I've been neglecting it for the majority of 2014. I kicked off the year going to Africa, came back, and something shifted. At first, I thought it was just the Africa thing. I thought I was avoiding coming to jot down my thoughts, because I couldn't figure out what my thoughts were. I couldn't possibly get out the words to capture what happened in my heart over there, so I kind of just didn't

I tried writing about other things, and yet I still found myself not writing. I still found myself consistently choosing other things over blogging, whether it was time with friends, or time alone with God, or time with sleep. 

2014 marked a shift. A shift that left me with more living, and less writing. And at a certain point, I became okay with that. I knew writing was a big passion of mine, but I knew following Jesus where ever He took me was an even bigger one. I knew that if He was calling me to invest in my real world community instead of my online one, I had to be okay with that. 

I think it helped that part of me knew I wasn't done with writing. 
Part of me knew that He wasn't done with my writing. 
It was just a shift, and I gave into it, trusting Him fully. 

While there are many things that I miss about regular blogging, one of the biggest is the documenting. I love looking back over the years, and walking through the memories. Some things that deserved to be documented, and plenty that probably didn't, but I love that it all was. 

Some things just hands down deserve to be documented, and this weekend, one of those things happened.  







I don't even care that I look ghostly in these pictures, they bless me more than I could even express. This weekend, I had a brand spankin' new view at church. I stood behind the pulpit for the first time, instead of sitting in front of it. I had a mic strapped on for the first time, spoke for multiple services for the first time, and busted out all my best hand gestures (those are a fairly regular occurance). 

This weekend, I got to preach the gospel. I got to share the story of how Jesus has transformed my life, and was privileged and blessed to encourage others in their journey with Him. 

There are no words for what happened in my heart on that stage. All I know is it's what this heart was made to feel. 

I've been speaking at a Wednesday night gathering I'm a part of, and the passion I feel for teaching about the Lord is unreal. There is so much to the story of how that even started, how I even got to be in this body of believers, and on that pulpit in the first place. Maybe one day, I'll share the whole story here. It's a likely possibility. 

But for now, here's what I have to say. Our God makes dreams come true. Our God creates each person so uniquely, and places specific desires in their heart. He delights in fulfilling those God-given desires.

Growing up, I had a passion for speaking. In my high school youth group, I asked if I could speak one Sunday and share my testimony. It never happened, and I was disappointed at the time. I can look back now and realize that it was most likely because my testimony hadn't even begun yet. 

Somewhere along the line, the teenage insecurity kicked in and pushed out that passion for speaking. You put me in front of a classroom in high school or college, and my knees would start shaking like no other. Being in the limelight had no appeal when the voice quivers came in full force. 

With Jesus in the picture, that passion slowly started coming back. I'm not sure when it even did, but somehow, I was speaking and teaching and loving every minute of it. Somehow, the desire to share my testimony publicly resurfaced, and lo' and behold, our pastor asked me to do just that. 

Sunday was a day I will forever remember. It's a day that I hold onto as the beginning of something big, dreaming with expectant faith that my God has a plan here. 

Because my God makes dreams come true. 

Dream big, my friends. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My Better

I don't often hear audibly from God. I always feel His leading, constantly experience His peace, and I know He's there. But tangibly hear a voice that's not my own? That's pretty rare. 

So when it happens? You bet I hold onto it. 

***

It seemed like a typical Sunday. Besides the fact that I was coming off a church conference high, everything else seemed normal. I woke up, got ready, made my way to the high-school-turned-church down the street, embarked on my usual round of greetings/hugs, and went into the theater for service. 

Worship started, and I was whole-heartedly worshiping, while utilizing the spiritual gift of multi tasking. {you know you've done it too}

My mind was in two places, half focusing on the powerful lyrics of praise, and half focusing on a potential love interest. Thoughts were swirling as we sat for a slower song, which is usually my prime time to channel my inner rebel and stand. But for some reason, this time I sat. I sat, and I thought. 

When I was just about to reach a personal record for the amount of over-analyzing performed during a worship set, a voice stopped me. Clear as a bell, I heard the words that I haven't since forgotten. 

Amy, I have better for you.

The sentence repeated itself a handful of times, as my mind just soaked in that moment. It took me a while to come back enough to realize I had missed the cue to stand, and was now the sole individual sitting in the midst of a raised audience. 

Dang, I thought to myself. 


I wrote it down. I let that promise sink in good and deep, because I knew there was no other alternative for processing a word like that from God. 

It had nothing to do with the person on my mind, and everything to do with a loving Father trying to get His daughter's attention. Mission completed, Big Guy. 

I didn't know exactly what "better" was, but I knew my God was revealing to me that He had a different plan. And praise the Lord, I was finally at a place of trusting Him enough to know that
His plan is the only one I want. 

***

We were driving in the car, stuck in San Francisco traffic. I knew I was falling pretty hard when I didn't want the traffic to clear. I was enjoying just being with him, miles of break lights and all. 

There were moments of silence, and I actually enjoyed them. They gave me time to soak up everything that was happening, the butterflies and the magic and the jitters of a new relationship. The stuff that you never want to go away. 

In one of those silent seconds, that story came to me. I went back to that moment of hearing that promise from God, and I smiled from head to toe realizing the truth of that statement. 

I looked down at our holding hands. I've got a story for you, I said. 


I finished, and paused. With the biggest smile on my face, I squeezed his hand a little tighter. 

You're my better, I said. 

***

He has so much better for us, guys. I never want to forget that promise that was given to me that Sunday morning, because I never want to settle for less than His plan. 

It's not just with relationships. He has a perfect plan for me, and a perfect plan for you. So easily we can look to this world, and try to figure it out on our own. Try to accomplish our dreams, go after our goals, strive to be the person we want to be. 

Guys, He's got better for us. So much better. And I hope, and I pray that none of us miss it. 


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

25

You know when you build something up so much in your mind? When envision it down to the tiny details, start thinking about it way too far in advance, and have a perfect image in your head? When you've imagined it being so awesome, that there's almost no way it can live up to the expectations? So it doesn't and you just shrug and move on with life? Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. 

This was so not that. 

***



I can honestly say I've been thinking about my 25th birthday since I turned 24. I'm usually not that girl, but this year was going to be special. It wasn't just turning 25, though that's a big one in and of itself. It was marking a whole year of sobriety, and that I wanted to celebrate. 

I envisioned a beach party, a 'come when you want, leave when you want' kinda thing. Super low key, just a day for any and all friends to come and hang out and celebrate life. I envisioned a mocktail bar, a little touch to bring the sobriety factor into the party. I envisioned fun, and relaxing, and rejoicing. 

Welp, friends. That's exactly what I got. {thankyoujesus}





You know it's a good day when you hardly take any pictures. You also know it's a good day when there's salted caramel latte cupcakes involved. 



My friend Madeleine made these. She asked what kind to make, and I told her something that reminded her of me. I'd say she nailed it, yes?


Everything about the day was so wonderful, exactly how I'd hoped it would be. 

The one teeensy detail I didn't expect was this guy:


He drove 5 hours each way just for my birthday, and met about 35 of the most important people in my life all at one time. I'd say he's a trooper, wouldn't you? 


I'm feeling mighty lucky right about now. And 25 is looking pretty darn good. 

Happy Humpday, loves!

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Last Month

This last month of being 24 has been such an insane blessing. One of the things dating has shown me is the immeasurable value of a friend who listens. Not just because she has to, but because she wants to. 

I confess that I haven't always been that friend, but this makes me want to work at being one. I've talked countless ears off in these last 4 weeks, gushing and gushing and gushing about all things butterflies. I can't express what a blessing it is to have friends who listen, who celebrate with me, who praise Jesus with me. 

And you guys? You're that type of friend, too. So many of you have asked for details of how this whole relationship landed in my life. Thank you for asking. Today, I deliver. :)

***


Oh, how I love those photos. They were taken shortly after PJ and I had our first real conversation, slow dancing to far-from-slow music in the middle of the crowded reception dance floor. We were pushed into the photo booth by two of his friends (thank youuu, Amanda and Kyle), and the result was two different photo strips. He kept one, and I kept the other. 

For each photo strip that came out, a copy was put in a guest book. When ours was glued in, I grabbed the sharpie to write my note:

Thanks for letting him crash your wedding. ;)

XO,

Amy

***

The moment on the dance floor wasn't technically our first convo. 

After the rehearsal dinner, two other bridesmaids and I did a Target run, while everyone else mingled at the hotel bar. By the time we got back and finished decorating Colleen's bridal suite, everyone had already been hanging out downstairs for a while. Honestly, every part of me was ready to call it a night. But thankfully, I fought my inner grandma, and went to be social with the other bridesmaids. 

As soon as I got downstairs, I spotted someone I didn't recognize. Not gonna lie, I found him attractive, and was intrigued by the fact that I didn't know who he was. I recognized everyone else from the rehearsal dinner, but not this guy. 

Our little trio of bridesmaids made our way over to his side of the room. He immediately noticed the florescent white liquid in my wine glass, and asked what I was drinking. Not exactly the most common color for a drink, right? I'm fairly certain I made some joke about it being straight up vodka, before confessing that it was a coconut water drink. Intrigued by my response, he asked if I don't drink. I told him no, I don't. 

That was literally the extent of our conversation. At this point, I can honestly say that I had no expectations with this. I didn't know enough about him to be seriously interested, though I was definitely attracted. But I had fully convinced myself that he wasn't. 

Why? Because of so many of my biggest insecurities. One, I was wearing glasses. I knew I would be wearing contacts for the big next day, so glasses it was for the rehearsal dinner. 


If you've been around for a while, you know that I have serious glasses insecurities. They've gotten better, but they're not fully gone. Add in the fact that I told him I don't drink? I seriously doubted that he had any interest, whoever this mystery man was. 

Turns out, I was wrong. :)

***

Mystery man's name was PJ. He had come down for a weekend getaway with friends, no intentions of going to a wedding. That is, until he was invited to the wedding the night before. Colleen met him at the hotel bar that night, and said "hey! you're here, you're friends with my future sister and brother in law, you might as well come to the wedding!"

{Three words: bless. her. heart.}

***

The day flew by. Getting ready, taking pictures, having the ceremony, taking more pictures, it was all such a beautiful wedding day. Ironically, as we were getting ready, I was talking to Colleen's older sister out on the balcony. We were talking about dating, and how I hoped one day all this wedding stuff would happen for me, too. 

It will, she said. When you least expect it, you're going to meet him. 

Zero percent of me ever thought I'd meet someone that night

***

When we got to the reception, all bridal party duties were complete. It was time to have fun, and with my glass of sparkling cider in hand, I was fully prepared for just that. Walking across the empty dance floor, I crossed paths with PJ. He brought his glass to mine for a cheers, "you look beautiful tonight," he said. He said something else after, but the butterflies distracted me too much to remember. 

There are so many details to share about the rest of the night, but for now, I just want to share a few. Like how Justin's aunt (Justin = the groom) created a mission to get us dancing. She was so dead set on it, that she ended up literally grabbing our hands and putting them together. The music was so upbeat, but we just started slow dancing. 


I love that this picture was taken. Neither of us like the way we look (though, I kinda dig that I look like I'm praising Jesus. I probably was), but this so perfectly captures that moment. Everyone dancing around us, and the two of us just engaged in that first real conversation. 

{Aunt Patty's in the blue next to us. You go, Aunt Patty!}

He told me he had been attracted to me when he first saw me, and I asked "when?" With all that hair and makeup did, I didn't think I looked much like the night before. 

"Last night," he said "at the hotel bar. when you were in your glasses."

{At this point in the convo, I seriously just had a moment with God. You would God, You would.}

He wanted to get to know me, so I did what any typical 24 year old girl would do to try to attract a guy: 
laid. on. the. Jesus. 

After being in my fair share of wrong relationships, and finally being in a place where I was content being single, I knew I couldn't even think about getting into a relationship unless we were on the same page about the most important thing in my life: Jesus. And to be honest, I don't think I expected we would be. I think I was being suuuuper up front about who I am and what I'm about fully expecting it to scare him off. 

But just like I was wrong about the glasses, I was wrong about this too. Turns out he liked that I loved Jesus. He agreed with all the relationship boundaries I talked about. 

Everything I doubted he would be attracted to, he was: the glasses, the sobriety, my complete obsession with Jesus. He liked it all. 

I'm kinda liking this being wrong thing. 

***

PJ and I started talking on May 31, and we haven't stopped since. It's been so fluid, so natural. In these short 4 weeks, I've gotten to see God working so much in him, and in me, and in our relationship. 

There's so many more little stories to share, and words to say, but for now, I think I'll leave at this:

God is so good. 








I kinda like him a lot. :)

Happy Friday, loves! Hope yours is a fabulous one. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Freedom to Listen

Sobriety freed me. I had no idea how thick the chains were until they were gone, and it felt good. I finally was free to discover who little Miss Amy Reed really is, without the fear of my personality changing after one or two or six drinks. 

I remembered how much I loved sober Amy, how fun and confident she was. In high school, I knew alcohol wasn't my thing, but I didn't judge others for it being theirs. After 6 years of that girl being gone, Jesus brought her back in full force. I truly can't express how grateful I am for that; I missed her. 

I not only was free to discover myself, but I was also freed from a lot of distractions. It's hard to hear God when you're battling a vicious cycle of temptation - guilt - temptation - guilt. It gets exhausting, right? When God so graciously removed alcohol from my life, He removed a big wedge that was getting in the way of my ability to hear Him. 

When I look back over 24, I see so much evidence of hearing God with new ears. One month into the year, I decided to sign up for a trip to Africa. The girl who had never been out of the country was getting on a plane to go share the gospel in Uganda - say what? 








Oh, how I miss those faces. It was staring into them that I saw mission with new eyes. I didn't leave the mission field in Africa, I brought it home with me. Something happened over on that beautiful, green Uganda mountain top. This girl had her heart set on fire for Jesus in a whole new way. 

Somewhere in those first few months of 24, I felt the Lord calling me to switch churches. Logically, it didn't make sense. I had no reason to leave my current church; still to this day, I can rave and rave and rave about how much I love it. But something in me felt it, this unexplainable peace that made the decision pretty easy for me. 

In that transition, God did so much work in my heart. He humbled me, grew me, used me, molded me, challenged me, encouraged me, and loved on me. I've met so many people that I never would have met, and I can't praise Him enough for that. 

24 was a year of learning to hear God, learning to search for His voice and follow it, trust it. It led to so many wonderful things this: new friends, new adventures, new stories. And I know this is only just the beginning. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Start of 24

Did you know that God has a story for you? One that's for you, and you alone. It's individually and uniquely crafted for you to shine the glory of our God into a world that desperately needs it.

 It's pretty amazing, when you think about it. We're all born into this world with this desire somewhere deep down inside that wants to live a life with legacy, with meaning, with purpose. And somewhere along the line, maybe you lost faith in that. Maybe this world convinced you that legacy, meaning, and purpose aren't for everyone. Maybe you're feeling average, normal, unimportant. 

If there's one thing I hope people find from this blog, it's faith. Faith in a God who writes big stories for little people. It doesn't matter how many people your story affects, what matters is how it affects. You are meant to be a light in this world. You are meant to carry the best news that can ever be heard, that there is a God who loves us so much that He sent His Son to pay for our sin, that we may be reconciled to Him. 

And that reconciliation? That friendship that is born between you and the God of the universe?

That changes ev. ery. thing. 

***

My life is forever changed because of Jesus Christ. I love telling my story, because it's a story I could have never written for myself. One with His fingerprints all over it, and I praise Him for that. Oh, do I praise Him for that. 

There are two key dates in my testimony, two dates that I now look back on as days when "everything changed." I didn't know it at the time; you rarely do, right? But now I know. I know that on those two days, Jesus reached down and with infinite mercy & grace, decided to change my life for His glory. 

I said I couldn't have written this story for myself, right? Case and point: those two dates are the only two dates in the calendar year that symbolize a new start for me. The first occurred on January 1st, 2012, the day I fully surrendered my life to Christ. And the second occurred on my 24th birthday, June 29th, 2013, the day I decided to give up alcohol. 

I just love that God took the two days of the year that I celebrate a new start, and gave new meaning to them. I will never be able to celebrate a New Year's Day without celebrating the day I recklessly abandoned my life for Jesus. And starting this year, I will never be able to celebrate my birthday without celebrating sobriety. 


I had no idea that was going to be one of my last drinks. And looking back on both January 1st, 2012, and June 29th, 2013, I had no idea I would ever look back on those days as good days. They both started hungover, they both started with lots of tears, and heart ache, and shame. They felt like ugly days, to be honest. 

But this is what I love about our God; He takes our ugly and turns it into beauty. For His glory. And, because He loves us that much. 

Before I get into gushing about the amazing, wonderful, blessing of a year that 24 was, I wanted to start at the beginning. I wanted to share that it didn't seem off to a good start when I woke up on my birthday to a thick blanket of guilt, shame, and regret. 

Why do I want to start there? Because I know someone, somewhere might be there right now. Someone might be stuck in the cycle that I was stuck in. Maybe yours has nothing to do with alcohol, or maybe it has everything to do with alcohol. 

Regardless, I want you to know there's hope. I want you to know that there is nothing, I repeat, nothing too ugly for Him to use. When He looks at you, He sees nothing ugly about you. He sees a life that He crafted for His glory, and He's just waiting, ready to write the story of a lifetime for you.

Sometimes, the biggest break throughs happen from the biggest break downs. On June 29th, 2013, I had a break down. I saw my sin so clearly, and it scared me. It scared me enough to run, as fast as I could, straight into Jesus' arms. It scared me enough to admit that I was meant for abstinence from alcohol, and that as scared as I was of sobriety, I was more afraid of what alcohol could do to my life. To my relationships. To my future. 

June 29th, 2013 may have started with a hangover, but it was the last one I'll ever have. It opened the door to a type of freedom I didn't even know existed. 

He took my ugly, and made it shine for His glory, the way that only He can.