30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 30

I do believe that as the month of November continued, my list of names grew longer, rather than shorter. I can think of two reasons for this:

Reason number one: I am living an extraordinarily blessed life. I am surrounded by people who love me and encourage me. People who have had made significant impacts on my life through their words and/or actions. I never want to lose sight of all the goodness God has given me.

Reason number two: The more I was able to honor people, the more people I saw who I wanted to honor. We live in a culture that loves to embrace the negative and bring to surface all the faults a person may posses. This is tragic. We are called to something greater. Our words have the power to bring someone down, or lift someone up to their full potential. Let’s focus on the latter. My hubby had the opportunity to speak at church yesterday, and his message was all about how positive thinking can be life-changing. If you missed it, check it out here! You won’t regret it.

Grand Canyon
A photo from a trip we took to the Grand Canyon about 6 years ago. I chose this because we are just on the horizon of what God has in store for us. Such grandeur, and our eyes cannot see it all.

There is always someone else to recognize. Another person who could benefit from a little love and encouragement. On this final post, I would like to highlight a few more people. I know I am leaving out more than I am including, and I wish this were not so. But demonstrating gratitude and honor should not be a month-long event. It should be a lifestyle. Will you join me in this?

I think of people like Dallas, Emma, and Ella. My go-to babysitters. It takes quite a bit of trust to be able to bring someone into my home to care for my little girls. I want these ladies to know how grateful I am to have them. They are trustworthy, love the Lord, and my girls adore them. I am so so grateful for them.

There are several staff members at Daystar that I didn’t get a chance to mention. Seth, our youth pastor, is so good at what he does and will one day be directly impacting my own children! Jon does community outreach and is working on a special serve day that will make a huge impact in our city. Jennifer is a counselor and has a sweet disposition, yet a powerful woman of prayer. All of these staff members are important and deserve great recognition.

Rick and Amber have been in our lives for a number of years and I have learned so much through their wisdom. They kept our girls for a few days for us while we went on a trip this fall. They give a great deal of themselves to so many people and it is an honor to call them friends.

Then I start to think about people who have impacted me at various times in my life. College friends like Hannah, Rachel, Beth, Amber, Maddie, Kristen, and Vickie. Each of these women left a positive imprint on my life and I love the memories that we have shared together. I also greatly treasure friends from my childhood like Emily, Sarah-Eileen, Caitlin, and Kaitlin.

Trish was someone I always looked up to spiritually. She and her daughter Ashley threw me a baby shower for my first born. The two of them have a special place in my heart. Ashley, we need another girl’s night soon!

In this month I was able to mention all of my immediate family members, but didn’t get a chance to touch on my extended family. There are too many names to list them all here, but I love each and every one of them. They are spread all throughout the country in places like South Carolina, Delaware, Kansas, California, and Hawaii. Some I have known better than others, but I value each moment we have spent together.

My thoughts travel to one who is no longer with us. Leigh Lane was a precious friend of mine during my last two years of high-school. I was a homeschool girl transitioning to public school, and she was such an inspiration to me. She lived with unstoppable joy and had a great peace about her. She was the type of person you knew had a special relationship with the Lord. I wish I had more time with her.

I could go on. There are so many more. But it doesn’t have to stop here. It doesn’t have to be a blog post or a Facebook status. It can be a card in the mail, a text, a phone call, a gift. Let’s live a life that brings honor to others.

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How to Ruin a Pity Party

Image was created by my sweet friend, Brett Redgate. She is so talented!

*This post was written in real time, but I’m just now publishing it several months later. I think I personally need this reminder!!*

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Truth be told, I went to bed on the wrong side and then woke up ready to gripe about all the “injustices” in my life. So, out of habit, and without any sort of desire to change my heart, I sat down to do my quiet time.

Pity party mistake #1: Have a moment of quiet to spend with God.

Pity party mistake #2: Open your YouVersion app and pull up the next day in your New Day, New You reading plan by Joyce Meyer.

This is such a bad idea when you want to start your day spewing venom.

The title of the day’s devotional content? Complain and Remain, Praise and Be Raised. I mean, really.

Then, here’s the kicker. This is where it gets really good. The main verse she references in her devotional is Ephesians 4:29. You know, the one that’s hanging up on a huge wooden sign in the middle of my living room. The one that essentially says not to spew venom but only speak words of life. Bah, humbug.

Begrudgingly, I agreed with Ms. Meyer and decided to recognize my complaining attitude as sin and I chose to praise God instead.

What freedom we find in Christ! The enemy has been defeated. We can choose to walk in freedom or let the enemy weasel his way into our lives. There is so much hope to be found when we recognize the work of the devil and call him out on it. There is so much joy to be found when we surrender our circumstances to the Lord and praise Him in every situation.

It was really hard to do this at the beginning of the day, but by the end of it I could see the hand of God working in my life. By choosing joy, I was able to encourage others instead of put a damper on their day. By choosing to focus my attention on the goodness of God, I managed to forget why I was so angry in the first place.

I’m expecting a long night tonight as the baby is working on some new teeth. But tonight, instead of complaining, I choose to praise the Name of the One who entrusted me with this precious child.

Tonight, I choose joy.

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NLT)

21 Days and Counting…

We are wrapping up the final days of 21 days of prayer and fasting at my church. As my last post stated, I started out a bit rocky. However, in the past two weeks I feel like I am experiencing significant changes.

My main objective was to get up each morning at 6 so I could dedicate the first part of my day to the Lord. Did I do this perfectly? No. Was it worth the effort? Absolutely.

(The above creative video was made by our church’s amazing production team specifically for this period of fasting.)

Here are a few things that I have discovered in my efforts to wake up early on a consistent basis:

– Setting an alarm is a necessity. If you are awake at 5, this does not mean you will be awake at 6. Also, check the alarm setting on your phone to make sure it has a ringer. If not, you will wake up at 6:30 with a very silent “Alarm” message flashing on your phone.

– The enemy will use every tactic possible to keep you from your appointment with God. Things like, children waking up uncharacteristically throughout the night, illnesses, and extra little ones in your bed. This is a sign that God wants to do something BIG in your life. Don’t let the enemy steal this time from you!

– Find something that helps you focus. I personally find it difficult to pray for an hour straight. It has helped me to turn on my worship music, write out my prayers, or even to pray while coloring. Taking a shower right away and turning on bright lights is a great way to help your body wake up so you don’t fall back asleep while praying!

– By far, the most beneficial thing I have done during these morning prayer times is write out my prayers. I’ve had journals in the past, but this time I typed out my prayers and what I was learning on the computer. I type rather quickly, so I was less likely to lose my train of thought. I also love having the ability to look back on the things that I have prayed and see how God has answered my prayers. One morning in particular, I was praying about fear and took the opportunity to search for and write out verses on how we do not have to be afraid. This was a powerful way to start my day!

As a side note, I have been blown away by the love and encouragement I have received from friends during these 21 days. I have received texts, cards, and offers to watch my children so I could go to prayer at church. I also had several people come up to me and encourage me in some way at one of the special Wednesday night services. It has been so heartwarming to have been on the receiving end of such encouragement. This makes me want to do the same for others! Our words have such a powerful impact on those around us. Let our impact be a positive one!

Final takeaway? It’s all worth it. I am going to continue to dedicate my mornings to the Lord. There is no better way to begin my day.

“Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” (Psalm 5:3; NLT)

Welcoming New Life

Baby Boy
Isn’t he such a handsome fellow? (photos provided by his mommy)

I have a friend who I admire deeply. She is choosing a path of faith and hope in the midst of what most would call utter darkness. She has recently brought into this world the precious life of a little boy; her son. Every mother knows the joys and challenges that a new baby brings, but her circumstances are rare. She has chosen life in a situation when many would have chosen death. I am proud of her and the choices that she has made.

Today, with her permission, I am sharing with you the letter I wrote to her for her baby shower. While this letter is written specifically to her, no matter who we are and no matter what our circumstances, we could all use a little reminder of some Truth:

Dear Friend,

Welcome to motherhood! This has been one of my favorite phases of life. There is something so special about seeing my babies grow and learn under my influence. There are times that I am stretched beyond my wildest dreams, and times that I sit back and think about how blessed I am to be entrusted with these precious lives.

God has designed for you to be this little boy’s mommy. Along the way you will face challenges and triumphs. Here are a few truths and promises that you can cling to as you navigate these new waters:

  • You are courageous. In a world that would lead you to choose a different path, you have chosen the hard thing. God will honor this. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6; NIV)
  • You have chosen to follow God’s commands whole-heartedly, even in overwhelming circumstances. There is no question that the Lord blesses those who seek His face and His counsel. “Praise the LORD. Blessed are those who fear the LORD, who find great delight in his commands.” (Psalm 112:1; NIV)
  • The LORD will be your strength. When the enemy comes to deceive you with lies, when it seems all of your circumstances are against you, know that God is good and He will be your rock.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31; NIV)

  • By the very definition of his name, your son will be resolved to protect the innocent as he carries the name of Christ to the lost. He will not follow in the footsteps of his earthly father, but those of his heavenly Father. “God decided in advance to adopt us in his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (Ephesians 1:5; NLT)
  • Our God is the giver of life. He has a specific purpose in mind for your son, and you are called to be his mother. He is calling your family to great things. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10; NASB)
  • God promises us so much joy. There are over 300 references in the Bible on this topic alone. Trust in Him and you will have joy. Cherish the moment you see your son for the first time, because His Word teaches that the joy in that moment is like the joy we will have when He returns for His people. “It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.” (John 16:21-22; NLT)

If you need anything, have any questions, or just need someone else to talk to, I am here for you.

Love,

Amanda

Baby Boy 2
Sleep well little one!

Mommy Dearest

Me and Momma while I am pregnant with Baby #2!
Me and Momma while I am pregnant with Baby #2!

I’ve shared with you all that I would like to practice the art of speaking life. One of the ways I hope to do that is by using this blog to honor various individuals who have had a positive impact in my life.

Now, to be clear, I’ve been planning on publishing this post for quite some time, but didn’t realize it would land so close to Mother’s Day! I promise this is not meant to be a Mother’s Day post. I simply wanted the first person that I honored to be my Momma.

Amanda & Momma
Visiting home during a break from college.

Dear Momma,

I am in a new phase of my life as I learn how to be a mom and parent my children. There are many days that one of the girls will do something (whether it’s cute, sweet, or a full out temper tantrum) and my respect for you increases.

First, I want to say thank you for all of the sacrifices that you made for us, most specifically, your decision to stop working and homeschool us. I am sure that was a very difficult decision to make. It took a lot of bravery to go against what was “normal” and take complete responsibility for our education. I think it goes without saying that your efforts paid off, and your successes now give me strength to follow in those same footsteps for my daughters’ education.

I admire your ability to make so much of our time educational. We regularly went on field trips, did experiments at home, and pursued interests in things like art, music, and horses. We rarely watched television and I often wonder, “How did she manage to keep us away from the tv?” While I didn’t understand it at the time, I now see how important it is to limit time in front of the television. I aspire to follow your example with my own girls.

Most importantly, I am so grateful for the way that you integrated faith into our lives. We learned so many things about the Bible through AWANA, we went on mission trips with the dance team, and learned the importance of taking sermon notes at church. We could never complain about something being unfair, because we knew that it was “unfair” for Jesus to die on the cross; which allowed us to live in freedom. The Christian foundation of our home growing up has been so influential in the decisions I have made throughout my life. Thank you for depositing Christ’s love in me.

Your efforts have not gone unnoticed. I so appreciate everything you have done and continue to do for your children. Thank you for encouraging us to pursue our dreams, for pushing us when the road is hard, and celebrating with us in our successes.

Much Love,
Amanda

“‘Honor your father and mother.’ This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, ‘things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.’” (Ephesians 6:2-3, NLT)

“My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. What you learn from them will crown you with grace and be a chain of honor around your neck.” (Proverbs 1:8-9, NLT)

My Momma and I at a wedding shower. I don't look old enough to be getting married!
This picture was taken at a wedding shower – for me! There is no way I was old enough to get married.