I Live in a Zoo

Or for your literary scrutiny, the alternate title: Why My House Will Never Look Like the Ones in Magazines

Our Spring Break officially started yesterday and like all vacation-time beginnings, I start out with a trip to the grocery store and a quick clean up of the house. My thoughts are on a long awaited project's completion and some measure of rest and relaxation. Ahhh! Slow breath of relief. Tranquility, quiet, peace.

I don't know why I do it to myself, because it never happens that way. A quick trip to the grocery store turns into a 3 hour tour.  I return to find my littles still wearing their jammies and my idyllic scene turned on its ear. It truly shocks me to note the level of squalor at which my teenage daughters can find themselves comfortable in. They will be serenely watching a movie or texting on their phones with their feet propped up on a table laden with snack plates and wrappers and empty glasses. Don't even get me started on the laundry at our house.

I work full time all week and help my husband with church stuff most afternoons and nights, so on the weekends (basically Saturday, since we have church again on Sunday) I "catch up" on chores. Maintenance goes on each day, but I'm talking about really cleaning. Sometimes I can't take it anymore and I clean the whole house by myself really, really well and then go around threatening everybody if they look like they are gonna mess anything up. But it amazes me just how quickly my pristine home can turn into a pigsty with the introduction of the locals to the habitat. I've never actually timed it because I'm afraid it might send me to the hospital, but believe me its fast.

Now, don't get me wrong, we don't REALLY have anybody here who is a complete slob and never picks up after himself of herself. Wait, I'm lying. We have actually done some observations and noted that the absence of certain family members actually resulted in a cleaner living environment, but they know who they are and I don't want to stir up anything.

So in the meantime I chose pinterest and home decor blogs to help give me a sense of peace. The immaculate living room, the sparkling clean bathroom, the clutter free kitchen. These things will never be for me, but I can at least dream. Our house may not say, "Peace To All Who Enter." Its more like, "Give Me a Break, People Actually Live Here!" My house may look less like a museum and more like an episode of Sanford and Sons. The bottom line is: Be It Ever So Humble, There's No Place Like Home.


One Step Away from Crazy

Therapy. When do you decide that you need it? I learned in school that the first step toward healing is admitting that you need help and you can't do it on your own. But what do you do when you know all the questions a therapist is going to ask and all the ways he or she is going to try to get you to open up?

I decided in high school that I wanted to become a psychologist one day, and thus I would be prepared to help people with their issues. Really crazy people scared me, and still do by the way, but I wanted to help "normal" people who needed some help getting through a rough patch in life. My own life wasn't exactly an easy one up until this point, but I handled it without any lasting psychosis. I began my college courses full of hope and dreams of grandeur. It took me a good ten years to get that four year degree and that was really only the beginning. Unfortunately, a funny thing happened in the midst of all my plans. One day everything was fine and dandy, and then the bottom fell out.

Today, I finished the book, "Silver Linings Playbook." When I say today, I should add that I started it this morning and just finished it a few moments ago. It was that good. I picked it up after watching the trailer for the movie and realizing that its a story about two "crazy" people. The appeal to me was that these two perfectly normal people each encountered some pretty serious life traumas and did not come out unscathed.

Now, I don't need to go into details here so I'm not going to, but believe me, I seriously related to the characters in this book. When they describe the things that go on in their heads and the reasons they react the way they do, I understand. When someone you love is suddenly gone, or utterly betrays you, what threads do you hang onto to keep you sane? It can take years to recover from certain traumas, and the very worst part is the very beginning, when you are struggling to keep your head above water and continue to function like "normal." Life is like a dream world, but not a good one. You keep hoping that you will wake up and everything will be like it was, but deep down you know that's not true. Its almost like you are hovering somewhere above your body and watching events unfold. There is a numbness to your daily existence.

Slowly, ever slowly, you come back to reality and life goes on and you survive. Its like being pushed under by an enormous wave and fighting to the surface to gasp for breath. You heal, but you're left with a scar. With emotional trauma, people can't see your scars, but you know they are there. You get over it, but you can never forget, because something is missing, something is changed inside of you.

I know this post is depressing and slightly morbid, but that's how life is sometimes. God forgives and He heals and He restores, but He is a God of process and sometimes the process can be slow to our human understanding. That is where faith comes in and that was my thread when I was hanging on. Some days it was a very thin thread, but it was my hope that He would somehow make it all come around...and He did.
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.


Book Review: Unexpected Love by Julie Coleman

The Bible can be a difficult book to decipher anyway, but in regards to women there are so many stories that just don't make any sense. The tendency then is to either gloss over those difficult passages or take them out of context. Christian women are left with their questions unanswered.  This book , Unexpected Love, helps to shed some light on this dilemma.

Nine stories are told of women who came directly into contact with Jesus during his ministry on earth. There is no common thread in their stories other than each one was sought out by Jesus and was never the same after. From Mary Magdalene to the woman at the well, the author breaks each passage down into bite size pieces. Each story begins with the specific scriptural reference and then explained according to historical and societal norms of ancient times. Best of all, the author strives to help the reader apply the truths revealed to our own lives.

The moral of this story is that Jesus seeks us where we are. He is concerned with our lives regardless of station in life, sins of our past, or financial situation. Women were important to him and still are. At a time when women were looked down upon as second class citizens, he broke through the barriers and welcomed all to follow Him.

This book, a free copy I received from Book Sneeze, was truly a joy to read and I found myself amazed more than once by a revelation that I had never realized prior to picking this book up. It was an awesome read on my own for personal edification, but it would also work great as a women's Bible study in a group setting.


Good Things

Marriage is one of the most difficult journeys I have ever set out on, second only to parenting and ministry which are tied for the next slot. Today Joshua and I celebrate 18 years of traveling together down this road. I must say that there is something about sticking with something and not giving up no matter what. This has in no way been any easy endeavor for either of us. We disagree on a regular basis on the most basic of things, we get on each others nerves, we have broken one another's hearts in various ways. The thing that keeps us together and moving forward is our mutual commitment to the end result. We want to beat the odds, and make it as a couple regardless of the obstacles. Being a good example to our children, showing others that a Christian marriage can work, these are the things that keep us hanging on. Besides the fact that we are still madly in love and there is not a day that goes by that I don't think to myself how very lucky I am to have this crazy guy in my life.


Now its my turn...

My family moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina in August of 1993. I had just graduated from high school and had a four month old baby. Prior to having my baby, I had dreams of going to college and becoming a psychologist. Little did I know that God had other plans for me and my "mistakes" would not stand in His way. My parents waited for us all to settle in to our new home and then immediately went looking for the "right" church. It took about three churches before we visited Cliffdale Christian Center and they drove out of the parking lot saying, "This is the one!" I had no clue what had just happened or how my life would forever be altered.

I remember the first time I ever saw Joshua Goodman. He was walking across the parking lot of the church shouting about somebody needing to order a pizza or something. I thought to myself, "What a big mouth!"My little sister went to youth and told me I really needed to go, because there was this really cute guy there. So, of course I went and she was right, but it was that big mouth guy! His little sister invited us out to Wendy's after church and thus began a long and illustrious relationship.

Did I mention I had no clue that this guy was the pastor's son? Well, let me tell you...I didn't know that Josh was the pastor's son and when I found out I was terrified. Remember what I said about my four month old baby? Pastor's kids don't go out with girls with babies. Somehow his parents agreed to this crazy relationship and I've got to hand it to them, they were high in the grace department. They had to put up with a lot from us. I will never forget when his dad realized we were serious and he leaned across the dinner table and said, "Amber, I raised my son to be in the ministry. Some men are plumbers and they raise their sons to be plumbers. My son is going to be a pastor. You need to know that right now."

And so my adventure began. Josh and I have served as youth pastors, missionaries to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and planted a church in the past 20 years. I've traveled to places with the ministry that I had only dreamed of before. I've learned that leading God's people is a serious undertaking, and not one for the faint of heart. Tomorrow Joshua is going to be set in as the next pastor of Cliffdale Christian Center and we are going to step into the next season of ministry together. I stand amazed at how God can take two flawed vessels and use them for His Glory. The best is yet to come!

Book Review: Bread and Wine

I stumbled upon author, Shauna Niequist, on one of my frequent searches for good things to read. I'm so very glad that I did find her because it opened up an opportunity for me to read an advanced copy of her new book, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table With Recipes.

From the moment I opened the book, I was hooked. My husband is the cook in our house, but we love having guests over and sharing our home and lives with others. Reading Shauna's words felt like I was reading my own life story. There is not one thing that she shared that I have not experienced the feeling of myself. Each chapter is an essay of a moment captured with family and friends and lessons learned around the table. Most culminate in a recipe as well.

The thing I loved most about this book was its realistic perspective. I felt like I was right there, enjoying the tasty food, the laughter, the wine. The stories grab your heart because they could be anyone's story. Everyone has those foods that bring us back to our childhoods, vacations long ago, comfort foods that help us through the hard times and celebrations that remind us that its all really worth the struggle.


Totally and Completely Amazed (Guest Post)

Guest Blogger: Joshua Goodman

So, any story worth being told must start at the beginning or as close to the beginning as possible. I can remember 30 years ago moving to Haiti and beginning a whirlwind of ministry life that is only told about in storybooks:
Standing side by side with my dad, facing hundreds of voodoo worshipers and preaching the Gospel.
Cutting sacred cords around a voodoo tree at a sacred shrine of those that worship Satan, causing literally, a city-wide uproar.
Ministering to thousands, seeing hundreds saved and healed.
This list could go on and on, blind eyes, deaf ears, the lame and broken, all healed. Then 25 years ago we moved back state side to take over a little storefront church in a military town that I had never heard of.
The whirlwind continued… Growing one of the most effective and city impacting churches in Fayetteville. Being one of the first teams to legally bring Bibles into the former Soviet Union, meeting men that had spent the majority of their lives in prison for the sake of the Gospel. Planting churches and preaching to unreached people in the jungles of Thailand. Training leaders in the attics of China. And once again this story could go on and on. City impacting youth ministry, all night prayer meeting and church planting… WOW!!!
And here we are living in the Kairos (supreme and epic moment, the God ordained time). Spring has just sprung and the Bradford pear trees are in bloom. This is how the story concludes, continues and begins. This Sunday after being the senior pastor of Cliffdale Christian Center for 25 years my father will lay his hands on me and bestow on me one of the greatest honors of my life: legacy, heritage, and inheritance. We enter this time with great excitement as it only happens once in a generation.
This story is concluded, but the story will continue and the story of my life as pastor of Cliffdale Christian Center is just beginning. In the year of our Lord two thousand and thirteen, on the twenty-fourth day of the month of March I will be set in. On the twenty-fifth I will be married to the love of my life for eighteen years… And on Easter Sunday the thirty-first I will preach my first sermon… Spring has sprung and I stand totally and completely amazed.

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