What I Wish I Would Have Read 16 Years Ago

Calvin Miller, a long time pastor and writer who I had never even heard of before, has captured my heart with his book, Letters to a Young Pastor. This is the book, aka diary, I have always wanted a peek into. Pastors have a hard time of it. We must love the unlovely, keep a smile on our face, shoulder the burden of the gospel, all while maintaining our own sanity and salvation. Mr. Miller sheds light on his own mistakes in ministry and made me laugh over and over with his personal stories. Ministry is hard, true, but if you have been called, its the only thing you can do. Thank you Mr Miller for helping me to see that I'm not the only one out here who feels this way.


Why I Hate Toy Story 3

NO, no I'm not a boycotter of all things Pixar or Disney or make believe or what have you. I hate the movie not for its content or message but for the power it has over me. Now to be truthful I haven't actually sat through the entire movie. That's because I can't. It makes me cry and you know how I feel about crying in front of people aka my children. They'll think I'm a wuss or something. But really Toy Story 1 and 2 are wonderful movies, but not the dreaded 3! I can't even stand to hear it. Just today I walked through the living room where one of my children had it paused and even in stilled form I felt it begin.

Let's clarify here okay. Andy is Tony to me. They played together, packed up their toys together, and dagum went ahead and grew up on me. Just writing about it drives me to tears. Will this torture never end? The bittersweet torment of a mother who grew a man and now has to let him go. He's not quite gone yet and I won't bore you with the intricacies of my love for him and all he represents to me, just know that I mourn his wonderful metamorphosis quietly so as to not embarrass or alarm him. But dang I hate Toy Story 3.



If you haven't already noticed through reading my blog or by knowing me personally, my family is a fruitful one. Not just me and my husband, but the in laws too. If you recall my last pregnancy I was sharing time with both my husband's sisters and my sister in law. Fast forward two years later and I'm the odd one out, here they go again. My sister this time and Josh's sisters again. We love babies, and our husbands of course. My kiddos gained two new cousins just this week two days apart. Jack Cohen and Gabriela Cricket. Beautiful babies, beautiful mamas, but this blog I wanna talk about something else, something generally passed over. The daddies, my brothers in law.

I love weddings and baby births. Two things I love to be a part of. But I'm the one not so much watching the bride or mama. I focus on the guy. It never ceases to amaze me. The look on his face when he sees his bride gliding slowly down the aisle or the glint of pride in his eyes while he's showing off his new little baby. This week as I was visiting the girls I just couldn't get away from the thought of what a true blessing a good man is. A daddy. So many people struggle through life without one. I am so glad that my children are surrounded by great men who love their wives and children.

Trey, Manny, Adam, Aaron, and Josh, thanks for holding our hands and reminding us to, "Just breathe, baby!"



Do you ever have one of those days where you wake up and feel like the sun shining through your window is sparkling just for you? Morning commute prayer time is like kneeling before the throne of God and placing your requests at His feet personally? Smile on my face, pep in my step. You know what's coming next don't you? Slam, sucker punch right in the gut, air pulled from my lungs, trying not to let my lower lip quiver. What was that? Somebody tell me I just dreamed that and I'm gonna wake up in a second. Response time: cry, pray, cry some more, tell somebody what just happened, suck it up, move on. The ground just disappeared beneath my feet, but I'm gonna dig and scrape my way up the other side. No stopping this girl. Every set back is just another opportunity to implement the change step. The show must go on.


Abasement Stories

Paul learned to be abased and to abound and to be content in both places. I'm still learning. I struggle with entitlement. The inner dialogue begins, "God I've been working so hard for you...., so why did this happen to me???" Again and again and again. My great desire is a trendy prayer room in downtown Fayetteville, with the capacity to span the generations and the denominations. My present situation: a basement. Kind of ironic huh? God deals with me like this. College bound? Teen mom. Yearn for companionship? Learn to battle loneliness. Want an amazing marriage? Deal with this....first. Want to counsel others? Six kids...handle them with care. The hardship leads to the testimony leads to the victory. True victory is found in the telling. My story is what reminds me of His goodness, not my own. The deeper the descent the steeper the ascent. Abase me and abound me Lord.


Historic Downtown

I haven't always loved Fayetteville, but I have always loved its downtown. Even back in the day when Hay Street conjured up different images like Rick's and the Korean Lounge. If you have lived here for any amount of time, you know what I'm talking about. The night before our first daughter was born back in 1995, Josh and I were there walking up and down the streets admiring the faded beauty. We were ecstatic when things started being renovated and never cease to be astonished at the changes that have come. The pull to have a prayer house in the midst of the Market House has been on our hearts for a few years. So much potential, so much more to reach for. Intimacy and Fire, God's desire for His people in Fayetteville!


Return from the Summer Sojourn

I know I haven't posted since something like February, but I thought the post title sounded more mysterious. Kind of like I had embarked upon a incredible journey sort of adventure, but for people. Maybe I have. All I know is a lot of emotions have been running around in my brain and I didn't want to be using the blog to just make me feel better. Plus, teaching this year really drained all my creative juices outside the classroom walls and enough of my explaining/complaining. I return now to remind you I'm still here...
So, this summer has been fun. Kids going here and there and me and Josh realizing that we have reached that age in which we enjoy our bed best. We are vehicularly impaired this summer and therefore would not take our entire brood to the beach, mountains, or frankly even to church in one vehicle. Pray with me that our mechanic will be released from whatever it is that is keeping him from dropping the brand new engine into my beloved Expedition.
I got to go to my first ever conference without kids this summer. Global Awakening had a prophetic school in PA and I stepped out and went with a couple of friends. Wow, I forgot how amazing it was to just be a girl. Not a mama, not a pastor's wife, just little ol' me. Thanks Kim and Kathy for letting me tag along. You guys are truly the bestest! Some really great things were opened up to me at the sessions, different and new things. It seems like that's what has been going on with Josh and I for the past three years or so. Things are coming into our line of sight that we probably would never have been opened up to before. While God is a unchanging God we as human vessels are learning more about him everyday. He's just that big, and awesome and multifaceted. As you get close to Him, the light hits just a little different and you notice something you never noticed before. My prayer is that it will always be that way for me, that I never get "grounded" in a particular way of seeing Him.


Always Good...

Do I really believe that? I remember the pastor saying, "God is good" and the congregation would respond, "All the time!" and there were times that I doubted. When my whole world is turning around and around and the bottom drops out and I can't find my bearings. He's the one ripping off the covers and making me face those things that I've hidden from. Where is my belief that He's always good? Is He really always, always good? I can so quickly turn into the people of Israel and complain just like them. Did you deliver me from that, to kill me with is? Really how shallow, how ridiculous; that question doesn't even make sense. Where's the trust in that mode of thinking? In that perspective I'm essentially saying, "I'll handle this I just needed you for that, God." But what we fail to understand is that He is in everything, really, really. Look for the goodness, look for Him. He always gives us the grace to to go through with it. Success cannot be measured by our weak, human eyes. We can only attain it by pursuing Him and taking all that He gives us, not running from the bad, the difficult, the scary things and embracing the lovely and good only.


Mountain Climbing

The way is steep, the path narrow, but the perspective is so much better. I climb this mountain and it takes my breath at times, and my calves scream from the stretching of muscles out of use. At its base I can't see around it, can't tunnel through it, can't dig under it, the only way is up and over. But the view is indescribable to those who don't make the trek. Things look different from above, from His viewpoint. You can see over the circumstances, the way to come, further into the distance. On the way, He leaves little traces of His own steps, love notes for you to read, treasures for you to find. Here's one He left for me on the trail this morning:

Luke 12

22-24He continued this subject with his disciples. "Don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more.
25-28"Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? If fussing can't even do that, why fuss at all? Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don't fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?

29-32"What I'm trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don't be afraid of missing out. You're my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.

Leaning down to tighten up my hiking boots I trudge on, knowing that He's got the vantage point I want to look for.


Say Uncle!

Wave after wave, trouble upon trouble it mounts and I fight for the surface and beat back the foe. But what if I'm not being bullied, what if I don't think about giving up and crying for release? What if I don't hide from the next storm, but instead I speak to it and learn to exercise my voice and authority? Change my perspective and realize that everything that comes to me comes through His hands first, no matter if I recognize it as good or not. What if I really believe what He says, all that He says? What if I stop saying Uncle and start saying Abba...


Gratitude Journal and the Book of Job

So I heard somewhere recently how a person should never say that their troubles are akin to the trials of Job, and I agree. I told you all in my last post how I started reading that amazing book and to go along with it I began keeping a Gratitude Journal. Now, in this space of my life I really really need this to keep perspective. I complained and got tears in my eyes and all for my husband today, and asked him the age old question, "When is it bad enough?" Wanna know his answer? "Have you ever thought it was good?" Of course, I have, I'm just not as emotional or vocal at those times. So I keep writing about the little things and find myself in a situation similar to the victim of a disaster picking through the rubble to find something salvageable.

1. unexpected gifts delivered to my classroom by my first born.
2. the stillness of the house when its just me and God.
3. clear sky full of stars
4. daughter's quiet voice singing along with God-songs on the radio
5. pink clouds behind barren trees
6. quiet voices in the next room
7. early morning hugs from princesses
8. hearing the soft whisper of His voice even in the little things
9. Rob Thomas and White Merlot on the wine aisle
10. the silent invitation of a lamp
11. the quiet of early morning
12. big brother and little sister cuddled
13. apple fritters
14. garments replaced
15. new gallon of milk and a full tummy
16. instructions repeated (again)
17. a new church growing one person at a time
18. watching my husband, the pastor, find his bearings and climb up high
19. teenage sons who still kiss mama and daddy good night
20. waking up with arms around me
21. car to put gas in
22. job to go to
23. electricity and a portable heater
24. reading in context

I guess its not bad enough yet...


Eyes Wide Open

I love to read! My joy is found in reading those books that pop up at just the right time to bring correction, direction, focus, to what it is that I find myself struggling with. Over Christmas break I found this blog,

holy experience

and fell in love instantly. The daily blogs are beautiful, the pictures draw you in. We used the Jesse Tree Advent and the girls loved it too. As soon as our finances allowed I bought the book by the blog's author, Ann Voskamp.

The book is just as beautiful. It came to me last Wednesday, on the afternoon of a no-good, horrible, I don't-think-I can-take-much-more-of-this day. As I opened up our screen door to walk into the next phase of the beforementioned chaos, there the beautiful, brown Amazon box lay, at my feet, and even though I had expected it, it was still a gift, from God, to me. A such a time as this moment. So, I hurried through my before Core chores, and abandoned my husband to the burrito making. I ran a bath, because that's the only place in our house, where I can read and cry and pray all at the same time and nobody's gonna walk in on me. And so it began, me reading another girl's story which feels to me an awful lot like my own and I'm finding grace to plod on and redemption in her invitation to focus on the gift that life is. My life, no matter what comes, has God all over it, woven through, and I have to look around to find it each day. I'm loving it. Check it out!


Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Marry Pastors

Don't be confused by the title. I absolutely love my husband. However, I find it crucial at times to encourage others to remember that I didn't marry a pastor, I married a man. Granted he was a pastor's son, but he assured me that he was gonna grow up and be something cool like a missionary martyr. I mean, really, I remember clear as day the moment he told me that he intended to give up his life for Christ by the time he was 25. I still married the weirdo. Point is, no one marries a profession, they marry a person. Pastor's wives seem to have it especially hard because no one else seems to believe this.

A pastor's wife has to:

  • cook and decorate like Martha Stewart
  • sing like Aretha
  • love like Mother Theresa

and that's just what the congregation expects. Add on to that:

  • kids who behave like the Duggars
  • the wardrobe of a queen ( I was gonna say a celebrity, but queens have to dress modestly, they are never allowed to be caught in a mini skirt or tight pants)

My husband is called to minister to the church, I'm called to minister to the man. Ya see, if I don't do my job well, you won't get a very good pastor. The phone calls he picks up at 3 am?They wake me up too. The emergency trip to visit someone at the hospital? Family time lost. That outfit he wears on Sunday? I washed, dried, and hung it up in the closet. The smile on his face, yeah that's me too. No one else gets the responsibility or joy of cheering him on, being the one person he looks to in the crowd to make sure his sermon is hitting home and making sense. Geez, this is a tough job.

You may think its horrible that I'm not volunteering for nursery, or leading a women's ministry, or attending every event imaginable in the church, but my first ministry is to the man who leads the people. No one else can fill that position. So, mama, don't raise your daughter to marry a pastor, or a soldier, or a firefighter, (insert any job description here). I warn you. Train her to be a wife to a man, then the rest will all fall into place.



Big Daddy: Now tell me, what are you disgusted with?
Brick: Mendacity. You know what that is. It's lies and liars.
Big Daddy: Who's been lyin' to ya? Maggie? Has your wife been lyin' to ya?
Brick: No. Not one lie, not one person. The whole thing.

One of my all time favorite movies, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, cinematic gem that one. I watched it last week while Josh was in China, and I love it more and more. This time, something different came out of the screen at me, though. It was the dialogue above about mendacity. Now, I've watched this movie a dozen times, but it really struck a chord in me.

Mendacity: lack of honesty

Some of the synonyms are fabrication, fairy tale, lie

In the past couple of months some stuff has come to light for me personally that I can no longer push behind a curtain, or cover with a blanket, or stuff into a closet. Its smack dab in yo face hanging out in my living room frankness. I'm not sure if I never knew it was there before or if I'm just that good at sneaking around behind my own back. But no hiding it, its there screaming in my face to step up and take it down. Its not sin, its not really anything in particular, its like Brick said, the whole thing. I get this feeling like God is saying, "I'm tired of the mendacity, Amber. Take care of this stuff and come further and higher with Me." How I lie to myself, how I live in this world of tomorrows and some days. He's made me for now, for forever. There's no time constraint on His work in Me, but I've got to stop living in another dimension of fantasy. In some ways things aren't as bad as I think they are and in other ways they're worse. One thing remains, the lie has got to end. I've got to square up with this thing and approach it head on, take it down. The first step is the acknowledgement, but there is no truth until there is a turning away and moving onwards.


Two Days of Delays

If you don't have a child in the Cumberland County School system than you may not be aware of this, but this school week has been a complete bust. We had three days of snow, which as both a mother and a teacher I think it best to keep the kids at home, for their safety and the teacher's sanity. Mommy-me was ready to send my cabin-fever-ridden children off on any bus by Tuesday afternoon. The snow was starting to melt and just created a muddy mess for my kitchen floor to be tracked with. The kids had exhausted their imaginations, Wii, and Netflix. Walmart was a legitmate solution to this dilemma. When in doubt, head to Wally World; works like a charm. After one trip, we were all ready to come back home, snuggle by the fire and get along again.

Daddy came home from China late Wednesday night and school was delayed Thursday morning; which made for a leisurely morning in our house. School on the other hand was another force to be reckoned with. One hundred kiddos who had been stuck inside for three days, trying hard to defrost their brains long enough to learn something, while still not being able to play outside during recess due to the icy conditions on the jungle gym. Whew! Add more drama through a busted water main on Ramsey Road which cut water to 3/4 of PWC's customers and the CCS is back on the delayed list. I however, was in the dark about the ramifications of no water and my children's education correlation so I proceeded to drop my sophomore off at school. Much to her chagrine, there was not a soul there. Apparently, only 4 parents had not got the memo about school delays this morning and shuttled their offspring to school. My social bug daughter took her chance to avoid more quality time with her sisters at home and stayed at school until the rest of the student body arrived. That's dedication! The rest of us are lounging around watching Spongebob and sipping coffee. Did I mention there's no school on Monday for MLK Day?


Imposed Rest and Anesthesia

Don't think I'm weird for saying this, but sometimes I feel like God sets me up. Sometimes I can tell when its happening, other times I can only see it when I look back at the situation. Let me explain. I am the type of person who likes to stay busy. My busy may look different than your busy, but its my attempt to keep moving, put off stagnation. Busy may be reading a book in the tub, cleaning out a closet, playing with my kids, or any number of activities large and small. I hate having nothing to do. So, even when I'm on vacation, I'm cleaning up after people and organizing drawers and such. God's not into that.

He set a standard of weekly rest by HIs own example. He in His omnipotence and omniscience and omnipresence deigned it imperative to take a little breather at the end of creation week. Not because He had to, but because He knew we would need it. Think about it. If you buzz around all week, not taking a moment to take it all in, what is the point of what you're doing? That's not life. God stopped after each thing He created and recognized the worth of what He was doing. I don't often do that. I sometimes don't even know why I'm doing a task.

The first time I noticed this imposed rest in my own life was two years ago when I was pregnant with Zion and the doctor put me on bedrest. Hated it! If it would have just been for my own good, no one could have convinced me to lay around on the couch for three long months, but no, they had to go and put the guilt trip on me and bring my unborn baby into the equation. So I laid around watching tv and reading and bossing people around from my corner of the living room. But during the quiet parts of the day, when the kids were at school and Josh was busy at work and Emari was taking a nap, my world would close in and I'd have to really look at things. Rest forces you to slow down and examine.

I started to realize that I keep busy for less than admirable reasons. All that activity has a numbing effect. I stop thinking about why I'm doing this and where I'm going and instead keeping moving forward aimlessly. It all becomes robotic and automatic. Where are you headed? Oh I don't know this is the direction I was facing before so I'll just keep walking this way. Huh? This is the way my parents were walking so I'll just follow their lead? What? Do I even remember what I'm doing all this for? Vaguely...

Stop right there. Good.
Breathe for a minute.
Look around at the scenery. Do you know where you are right now? Do you like the look of the place that you're at?
Can you remember why you headed out on this journey?
Sit down for a while and clear your head.
Here eat this, you're gonna need some energy for the steps ahead.
Now isn't it nice to take a moment and talk to Me about where you're going?
You're doing a good job, by the way. I love you.
Ok back on your feet. Get moving.

Psalms 23

1-3 God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

4 Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I'm not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd's crook
makes me feel secure.

5 You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.

6 Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I'm back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life. (Psalm 23, The Message)



Do you ever stop to reexamine your own motivations? I do, maybe too much. I am the extreme introvert, constantly looking inwardly. Lately, the Lord has really been dealing with me on my perspective and outlook. "Amber, do you ever think that maybe some of your disappointment is based on the fact that you feel entitled to that new outfit, manicure, date night, perfect child, compliment, etc?"

That's God talking, by the way. Now, maybe for you its something else. Life, hasn't been perfect or easy for any of us, now has it? We can all sit back and judge others, and based on what they have or the way they handle themselves determine whether or not we think they deserve it. But can we really be accurate judges of others motivations? The Bible says we need to not envy, not judge, work out our own salvation daily, be a servant to all. Those things all deal with entitlement, what we think we deserve. Remember, people of God, don't desire what others have, you don't know the price they had to pay, don't judge their motives, you haven't walked in their shoes, keep your eyes on your own struggles, help others with their's with a pure motivation.

The wages of our sin is death; that is what we all deserve, what we are all entitled to. But we don't often get caught up in that little quandry, do we? We somehow skip over that part and start giving God our list of reasons why we shouldn't have to put up with whatever it is we're dealing with at the moment. "But God, I've been faithful to you my whole life, I've never stolen anything, or cheated or lied, or acted like that person over there. Why do I have to go through this?" His answer is this, "Pick up your Cross and follow Me."

So, the next time your inner man starts bringing up what you deserve, remember Who it was that came down to earth and died a death that He didn't deserve, so that we, who truly deserved it, wouldn't have to.
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