Friday, December 19, 2014

What I Learned

10 weeks ago, I started a journey called #amydoesseminary. 


70 days were spent reading through the book of Leviticus, and I'd like to think I walked out different than when I walked in. 

I signed up for the class as a fluke, testing to see if any classes were still open. I had probably tried about 6 other classes before typing in the code for Leviticus, and when I saw I got in, I immediately dropped the course. I didn't have any interest in trudging through the book of the law, but after reading the description and the requirements, I realized my mistake. I had to call and get a one-time-only exception to re-add the course I had dropped, and as I snagged the last remaining spot, thus began my study of Leviticus. 

I learned a lot in these past 10 weeks. The girl who thrived under the pressure of school all of her life suddenly found herself overwhelmed with stress. It didn't make any logical sense; I enjoyed what I was studying, only had one course load to manage, understood the material, and typically enjoyed writing about scripture. So why the unexpected anxiety? 

I don't know if there's a clear answer, but here's what I do know: I'm thankful for that stress. I'm thankful that it forced me to take some deep breaths, and completely sift through everything I've ever believed about school. I had to ask myself, why am I doing this? Am I doing it to get straight A's? Or am I doing it to learn? There was never any doubt that the answer was the later, so I was forced to reframe what my 25 year old mind has always believed about success. 

You see, my entire life I measured success by the outcome. A successful course received a good grade; it didn't matter how long I retained the information so long as my report card displayed 'success.' Seminary school has brought me to a new measurement style.

Am I learning? If the answer is yes, then I'm doing what I'm supposed to. If the answer is yes, then I've got myself success. 

So now let's ask the question: did I learn something? Besides some personal growth, did I learn anything biblically? 

Absolutely. 

I had read Leviticus before, multiple times in fact. But though I had read it, I had really only skimmed it. I had really only read out of obedience, rather than seeking to learn something

This time was different. Perhaps it was essays and homework assignments that forced me to go deeper, or perhaps it was the aid of some incredibly insightful and wise commentaries {it was definitely both}, but either way, this time I learned more than just how to obediently read scripture that doesn't appear applicable anymore.

This time, I gained a deeper understanding of the beauty and necessity of the law. You know that statement of Jesus', "I didn't come to abolish the law, I came to fulfill it?" I get it now. 

I get that the law was given out of love. I knew that before, but now I understand it. Funny how there can be a big difference, right? Between knowing something, and understanding it. Now, I understand that the law was designed to protect what God designed for good. God designed man to live in harmony with all the earth, rule over its inhabitants for their protection, and enjoy fellowship with the one and only God. 

So when you read laws about agriculture and farming? It's so that man can live in harmony with all the earth. And when you read laws about dietary restraints? It's so that man can rule over the animal kingdom for their protection, not for their harm. And when you read laws about maintaining holiness? It's so that man can enjoy fellowship with a holy God. 

How frustrating is it to be forced to follow a law that doesn't make sense? (Speed limits and red lights when there is no one else on the road, anyone?) It can spark a reluctant and rebellious heart, that's for sure. Understanding the meaning and intention behind the law changes everything. It illuminates the fact that our God is worth obeying because He loves us, not because He is a distant tyrant. 

To close out this post, I want to say a giant thank you. Thank you to everyone who read one of my (multiple) SOS PRAYER posts on Instagram, and prayed. In the moments where I was desperate enough to publicize my melt downs, those prayers were game changers. 

You guys are all game changers, though. I hope you know that. I started this blog in quite possibly the most distant position I had ever been from God, and somehow, He met me in this space. So from the very bottom of my heart, thank you for being a part of it. 

If you obey my decrees and my regulations, 
you will find life through them
I am the Lord. 

Leviticus 18:5

Monday, December 8, 2014

Thoughts on People Pleasing

About 4 weeks ago, I walked into a chiropractor's office with complaints of shoulder pain, and walked out with the diagnosis of a partially dislocated shoulder, along with x-rays revealing a nonexistent lumbar curve, and a whiplashed neck. Talk about the trifecta, right? 

I had no idea that I had any lower back or neck issues. Whatever caused them most likely happened years ago, and my body started compensating as necessary. I didn't feel any serious pain, and any symptoms I may have had went unnoticed. So when I started going to the chiropractor 3 times a week to get these things fixed, I got a few "but you don't have any pain? why don't you wait until you know there's an issue?"

The thing is, sure, my body could continue compensating for these things for a loooong time. These issues could remain hidden for who knows? 10, 20 years? 

But do I really want to wait until I have surging pain to treat the problem? Nooo sir-ee. I do not. 

So how come I so often do that with issues of my heart? 


A post this long definitely requires some fun pictures. So I'm gonna throw in the documentation from our 1920's speakeasy holiday party, and we'll just pretend they totally correlate to the post, mmmkay?


I'm so thankful that just like there are chiropractors committed to refining the spine, there's a God committed to refining His children. 

|| And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. ||

Philippians 1:6

|| For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him. ||

Philippians 2:13


Recently, God has been doing a whole lotta work on this heart of mine. Seminary school has been the biggest blessing, hands down. But you know what else it's been? Stressful. 

My reaction to the stress acted kind of like my shoulder pain; I couldn't pin point exactly what was causing it, but it absolutely alerted me that something was off. I knew I needed a check up, except instead of a chiropractor, this one required the Big Man upstairs. 

Just like I walked out of the chiropractor's office with a list of things needin fixin, I started noticing a similar list with my heart. Perfectionism, procrastination, these things that didn't show themselves too prominently without the pressure of school. But add deadlines, reading requirements, and essays to the equation? Let's just say I had myself some serious symptoms.


As I asked God to sort through this messy heart of mine, I started noticing some other things. I guess tracing an issue to its source will do that to you, like reaching for a necklace and finding it's tangled to another. 

Something I found? People-pleasing. 

Can I confess something though? I secretly hate the term 'people-pleasing'. I try not to use it for myself, cause if I'm being 100% brutally honest, that doesn't accurately describe what I struggle with. That's what our society calls it, but for me, it's just painting a deep sin in a prettier color. It's appearing others-focused, when really, my issue is wrapped in a buncha self-centered thinking. 

God recently took a big ol' spot light and shined it on this area of struggle for me. For the first time in a long time ever, I started myself some tough questions. And this process He's got me in? It's one that I want to document. Maybe for you who are struggling with people-pleasing too; but really, for me. Because oh how easily I forget. 


When I want to jump and offer to help, I stop and think: am i offering to serve with a genuine heart? or am i offering to serve to feel liked, valued and appreciated? 

When I'm trying to make a difficult decision, and I want to ask a friend's opinion: am i genuinely wanting advice? would i realistically change my mind based on another's opinion? or do i want to feel validated, and approved? 

I'm writing this post after 48 hours of asking those questions, and the result? Serious liberation. I've noticed that as I weed out the "people-pleasing" that is rooted in insecurity, I'm able to truly please people with genuine love. I'm able to discern when my motives are in the right place, and it makes the world of a difference. 

Most importantly, I'm able to identify the root of this "people-pleasing" habit I've formed. I'm able to clearly see that it all boils down to misplaced identity, finding my worth in feeling liked, appreciated, validated and approved by others. Instead, I want to recognize that I am liked by God, appreciated by God, validated through Christ's sacrifice, and approved by the Father, because of the Son's love

Thank you, Jesus, that just like a chiropractor won't leave a spine misaligned, neither will you leave a heart in the condition you found it. 


Friday, November 7, 2014

A Letter

Dear May 30th, 2014 Amy, 

You probably should have left 15 minutes earlier for Colleen's rehearsal dinner. You're going to hit traffic, you're going to be late, and you're going to get yelled at as you pass through an intersection a tad bit too close to a pedestrian. 

You're going to feel awkward walking late into the chapel, with everyone else already lined up by the aisle. You shouldn't though, you didn't miss anything, and nobody cares. I promise. 

Plus, 3 and a half months later, you and your boyfriend will get stuck in LA traffic, and entirely miss the rehearsal for his best friend's wedding. So remember, it could be worse. And say a little prayer thanking God for gracious brides and grooms. 

Oh, I'm sorry. Did you get stuck on the word boyfriend? Yeah, I expected that to get your heart pumping a bit. You read it correctly, you have a boyfriend. That cute boy that you're going to spot across the hotel bar after the rehearsal dinner? The one that you're going to find out is a wedding crasher? You're going to fall in love with him. The next 24 hours are going to be the dreamiest of your life; enjoy it. And here you thought you were only here to celebrate someone else's love. ;)

You're going to wake up on June 1st wondering if everything that happened the night before was too good to be true. Don't worry, it wasn't. You're going to think you texted him first, but a few minutes later you're going to see a snapchat that was sitting in your inbox since before you sent that text. It's going to be a picture of the bench you and Mr. Wonderful spent the wee hours of the morning on exchanging life stories. It's going to have a red heart drawn around it, and from that very moment, you're going to know. It's not too good to be true; this is it. 

The next 5 months are going to be full of wonderful adventures that lead you deeper and deeper in love with this man. But I want to let you in on a little secret, God has a lot of other things going on too. 

You're going to apply for seminary school. Yupp, that thing you dream about in the far-off-distant-dream kind of way. One thing will lead to another, and you'll find yourself staring at a computer screen that describes the perfect program for you. You're going to apply, and you're going to get in. Congratulations!

You're going to have a few freak outs as things become real. You'll cry when you make your first payment, and when it hits your account. And when you do your first homework assignment. And when you write your first essay. 

But you don't cry when you do your first midterm, so boom. Progress.

You're going to find out that your job is changing at precisely the same time that you're starting seminary school. You're going to train for weeks before you make the switch, but you still won't feel prepared. The first two weeks will feel like you're in a foreign country, not understanding a word that is spoken to you. You'll almost cry a few times, and you'll feel yourself doubting your abilities. 

Don't. By week 3, you'll have your confidence back. I promise. 

Oh yeah, one minor thing. You're going to speak at church. On a Sunday. For two services. Sharing your testimony. 

I lied. It's not a minor thing, quite the opposite in fact. It's actually the coolest thing that has ever happened to you. Soak in it. Praise Him for it.

Shortly after, you're going to feel the pull to return to your home church. The timing won't really make sense at first, and you're going to get serious anxiety over "letting people down." A little spoiler alert: it's all going to make sense soon. And you're not letting anyone down. Your "pull" is very much from God, and He will bless you by each and every conversation you have explaining the decision to people. 

May 30th, 2014 Amy, get ready for the best 5 months of your life. As you can see from above, you should probably get yourself some tissues for those stress tears. Don't worry too much about them, though. They're all a part of God teaching you how to handle your stress, instead of letting your stress handle you. 

Get ready for a lot of your dreams to start coming true. Getting to share your testimony? Getting to speak on a Sunday? Getting to start legit studying the Bible? Dreams be coming true left and right, lady.

And get ready for the love story that you have been dreaming of since you were a little girl. It's even better, if you can believe it. 


And to think, we're only 5 months down the road. 

Love Always, 

November 6th, 2014 Amy

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Find The Beauty

I started seminary school this week. 

Or, to more adequately put it, I had about 4 minor freak outs within the last 7 days. I was intimated by the syllabus, cried when I submitted the biggest payment of my life, cried some more once it actually hit my account, got knots in my stomach when I tried understanding things I usually breeze through in Exodus, and pretty much felt all around discouraged, inadequate, unprepared, and just plain scared

You know what, though? Through the fear, and the anxious nerves, and the worried tears, and the uncertainty, there was this undeniable joy. 

Oh you guys, the joy has been so darn thick. 

Because I can one thousand percent say that there is no where I would rather be. There is nothing I would rather be doing, and nothing I would rather my money go towards. 

This life I want to live might not look responsible, or rational, or realistic. But as my dear friend Diana said in a gchat therapy sesh, the Lord never called us to be responsible in a worldly standard. If He had, He wouldn't have praised the woman who broke her alabaster jar full of expensive perfume on His behalf. 

I want to be a woman who gladly gives it all for Jesus. Because there is so much beauty in a life surrendered to the Lord. 

***

You know where else there's a whole lot of beauty? Over on Bouqs.com



The Bouqs Company is a new online floral company that delivers beautiful, vibrant, fresh flowers straight to your door.  



The flowers featured above are called "Desperado," and they're even more gorgeous in real life. 

If you're like me, sometimes it can be tough to get a gift in the mail on time for a special event or birthday. I've always been a fan of sending flowers to show someone I love that I'm thinking of them. 

I've had a variety of experiences with different companies { I won't bash anyone, but once my flowers didn't show up on Mother's Day! :( }, so I know good customer service and good prices when I see them. And though it's not shown in my wardrobe choice above, I also know vibrant colors when I see those! 

The Bouqs Company has it all. Know someone who might need a little extra lovin' right now? Why not send them some flowers to make their day? I know they'll be thrilled to see this on their doorstep.


The above links are affiliate links, meaning that I receive compensation for any referred sales. The above product was provided for review from The Bouqs Company, but all opinions are 100% mine.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

All Things Uganda

When I signed up to go serve in Kisoro, Uganda last year, I can honestly say I had zero clue what that would look like. I didn't know if I would be speaking, building, cleaning, hugging, teaching, playing, or serving in some other way, shape or form. I didn't know who I would be spending the majority of my time with. I had no expectations going in, besides the fact that I wanted to serve God. 



I got there, and the first couple days were a whirl wind. I saw so much. And I saw so many people serving in so many different ways. I saw doctors and nurses treating patients. I saw people helping to pass out medicine, and directing people from one station to the other. I saw people playing with children, sharing the gospel with little eyes and little ears. I saw people sharing the gospel with not-so-little eyes, and not-so-little ears. I saw people teaching on HIV/AIDS, and Malaria. I saw people helping with heavy lifting, and organization. 

My eyes kind of glazed over, to be honest. It was so beautifully overwhelming, and I would silently ask the Lord to show me where He wanted me, and to give me a heart humble enough to obey. 

Guess what. 

He did. 




It was about half way through our third day on the mountain when I felt it, the click of confirmation. We were eating lunch when I asked if they needed any help in sports ministry, and was happily accepted on board. 

There are a handful of highlight moments etched into my mind from this trip, and they all involve those faces up there. Racing along dirt roads, and then being laughed at when I would lose my breath. Chasing the boys through the medical clinics, and having them want to be chased each and every time they spotted me afterwards. Allowing them to help me clean up, and then seeing the radiating joy result from a simple task of rolling up tape. The smiles that came from using the same rolled up tape as a pretend drum during worship.  

I don't think I can ever look at orange tape in the same way, again. 

My absolute favorite moment? Hearing one little boy share the gospel with his friends. There's nothing quite like that, and I couldn't even understand the language. 


I left Africa with a desire to return. But wanna know the truth? I didn't expect to be returning this soon. I had no intentions of signing up for the 2015 trip. 

Until one day, I was driving in my car, and my heart flashed back to those boys. Something inside of me knew, if I had even the slightest chance of seeing them again, I had to take it. 

And then the following day, I decided to check the e3 website, and lo and behold, a Kisoro 2015 trip was listed. 

And that's when I knew I was going. 

Only God knows if I will privileged enough to see those particular boys again, but I know that regardless, He has good things in store. Great things. 

I can't wait to see what those are. 


Many of you have asked how you can get involved. The most direct need right now is financially, I have just over 100 days to raise $3700 more dollars. Is that number daunting to me? You bet. But is it daunting to God? No way. 

You can support financially right here, if you feel led. 

Prayer is another way to partner in this. You can pray for our team, that God would be preparing our hearts and raising the necessary support for this trip. You can pray for those that are in full-time mission over in Kisoro, that they would be blessed and encouraged by witnessing the work God is doing in that city. You can pray that ultimately, His will would be done, and His name would get all the glory.  

Today, I'm thankful for a God who calls us into His story, and for all of the wonderful people like you that He's placed in mine. 

Happy Monday, friends! If you've made it this far, thanks for reading a piece of my heart today. ;)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

She Is Beautiful! {Race Review}

Last year, I developed a slight obsession with races. I ran 5Ks, 10Ks, a 15K, half marathons, a color run, a bubble run, aaand you catch my drift. I just really fell in love with that runner's high that enhances when surrounded by hundreds of other runners. 


There was one race that really stood out from the others, and it wasn't just because of the stunning beach-side course (see above picture). It was because of the entirely contagious positive and encouraging atmosphere.

She Is Beautiful had their 3rd annual Santa Barbara run this past weekend, and as soon as the race was announced, I knew I had to run it again. 

The event did not disappoint, and I think the pictures prove it. 



Shout out to Tabitha, who designed our amazinggg shirts!






My family was in town helping my brother move to Santa Barbara (Reeds are just drawn here), so it was great to have my mom and sister at the finish line. 

Running never fails to make me feel strong, capable, and amazed at what this body can do. I can't help but reflect each race on the fact that not too long ago, I hated running. Like, legit hated it. The thought of a 10K used to intimidate the heck out of me, and now, it's my favorite distance. 

She Is Beautiful takes that "you are strong, capable, and your body can do anything" message and puts it on blast alllll through out the course. There are signs everywhere encouraging you every step of the way. Whether you're doing the 5K or 10K, you're going to cross that finish line feeling accomplished, empowered and inspired, no doubt. 



I already can't wait until next year!