No Substitutions Allowed

Here in our house, things still haven't quite settled down to normal since school went back in session. What with Josh's birthday, family in town, work, church events, and school we had a pretty chaotic schedule. Then just as things started looking "normal" momma got sick. I came down with this sinus, cold, stuffy head garbage that you can wade through during the day and then in the evening you just succumb. Not good for a full time working mommy with school kids and a busy schedule. Inevitably something is left undone. Round about Wednesday morning I tried to stay home from work and my husband reminded me how difficult it would be to find a substitute for me at work, so I trudged on. Actually, it made me pretty mad on top of feeling so ill. I mean how unfair that I must go to work sick because I have a job nobody else can do...

Then I started thinking and wait a minute, hold the phone. My whole life is that way. Nobody can be the mommy around here, the wife I can be, the list goes on and on and on. I don't mean any of this in a prideful way, just that I am one of a kind, unique. There are no substitutions allowed for me. If I am absent from any of these situations there is a vacancy, a lack. The same is true for all of us.

And even more importantly the same goes for our relationship with God. He made us each unique and with a purpose in mind. If you even think for one minute that God doesn't notice you, you are so wrong. Your daily struggles and your heart's cries: they matter to Him. Take a look at your relationship with Him. Is it blatantly one-sided? Is He the constant in the relationship and you just flit in and out when you have a need? Know this, God desires a friendship with you, a close relationship, not a fair weather friend and no substitutes are allowed.


Book Review: Finding God in the Bible by Darren Wilson

I absolutely love it when a book I chose to read comes around at just the right time. Stumbling through books that I don't enjoy is not my style, I don't have that kind of time to waste, and it always amazes me how God can use books to speak to my heart and reveal things I didn't know were there. From the introduction this book had me in its grasp. The author, Darren Wilson, grew up in church like me and was pretty much freaked out by many of the stories in the Bible. This fear kept him from really seeing God for who He is and what His real purpose is in doing the things He does.

The book takes the reader through various major characters and the weird stories that maybe like me, you never really understood either. I mean God does some pretty unusual stuff and asks His people to do some weird things. Don't you ever ask yourself why? Darren is honest enough to say yes. What it all really boils down to is that God desires to have a close relationship with us. He loves us and wants us to love Him back. Friendship is what He is after, not a casual acquaintance. keeping God at arm's length is what most of us do, because we don't really want to know Him that well. He's a little scary and some of us have had misconceptions about His motives for so long that we really don't trust Him either.

Finding God in the Bible will help you to reach past that initial impression and see who God really wants to be to us, His chosen people. A closer relationship with Him and and understanding of His unfathomable love can be the result if you really let the message of this book sink in and grab a hold of your heart and mind.

Read an excerpt from the book here.

I received a free copy of this book from Chosen Books a division of Baker Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.



So remember when I wrote the post yesterday and I said that everything would hit me later on this week and then I'd just crumble? Well it came a little earlier than I expected. Josh and I drove Tony to Charlotte last night and dropped him off for his semester to really begin. A headache began and escalated and then this morning I literally woke up and started crying. Being a girl is so weird sometimes. Ech! Crying and emotions are just so inconvenient. Anyway, I figured that here in the midst of all this I'd go ahead and write again to help with the pressure of all these fast flowing thoughts and reminisces.

As we were driving through Charlotte, Tony brought up the idea that had we stopped with him and Rebecca we would have been "done" by now. In his mind he loves his siblings dearly, but I think as he's gotten older he thinks me and his dad are a little crazy to have had all these kids considering that life would have been so much easier had we stopped at two. My mind went to this movie quote from On the Waterfront which should be familiar to you, but with which I am going to make a few alterations to make it fitting for this post...
"You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a mum, which is what I am, let's face it. "
Ok, silly I know, but you get the picture. I used to think that way, just like my son, that in deciding to become a mommy I was giving up some rich life full of adventure and wealth and success. Before I had my kids, I had things really "going" for me. I could have become anything I wanted to, and I chose this.

This life.

These kids.

This adventure that has brought me more joy and excitement and fulfillment than I could have ever imagined.

I am not just somebody, I'm somebody's momma and that's all the recognition that I could ever hope to achieve.

Done is so final. Sorta like : this is Amber's portion of life in which she has raised little people and now that that's over let's get back to the real story (period) Meanwhile, now that the kids are all gone, what now? How sad, how selfish. I pray that my kids never feel like they are speed bumps in the highway that is my life story. I look at them like fellow travelers and even when they are grown I really want to travel on with them branching out and merging back together as we all head to the same destination.

For the record, I will never be done with them.


Tiny Dancer

This week has been one crazy ride! For those of you not in the know, we celebrated my husband's fortieth birthday last night. We are really elegant so we turned off the lights, splattered some paint on the walls, dressed in retro 80's costume, served pizza rolls and white castle burgers, all while we sang karaoke. This so wouldn't have happened without some amazing people running the show and Josh had a blast. He told me it was his best party ever and he was really overwhelmed by all the people who came out to help us celebrate him. You guys are like totally rad ok...

Permeating all of this joyful celebration has been some pretty dizzying busyness in our house. Two weeks ago, I went back to work at the school and my four youngest returned to their studies as well. Zion, my baby, began Pre-K and I'm still trying to swallow the enormity of that. Then last week Rebecca Lynn, my first girl baby started college and I gotta tell you, driving away from her standing there in front of the school was just as difficult as walking Zion to class. The turmoils of a mother's heart! Tony left to return to UNCSA on Thursday and the only thing that has kept me from crumpling into a heap of utter mush has been my exhaustion and busyness. I know that later on this week, as all of the family returns to their homes in Texas and the Dominican Republic, its all gonna come crashing down and I'm gonna need a trip to the beach or something to keep from going completely bonkers.

I remember when I was a little girl and my great ambition was to grow up to become a famous ballerina. One of the things I longed to do was the elaborate spins those gifted dancers can accomplish. I learned that you can't just spin around and around, its not that easy and you will fall down or get out of control if you don't know what you are doing. Its a technique called spotting. The goal of spotting is to attain a constant orientation of the dancer's head and eyes in order to enhance the dancer's control and prevent dizziness. ( I took that definition from wikipedia)

You know I never reached my goal, but I do utilize the technique anyway. As my life rolls onward and I execute the choreography laid out before me, I must throw in some fancy spins and turns. Without proper technique however, I can get out of control or get dizzy from the pace. The key is to fix my eyes upon a singular point and allow my body to spin and spin all the while not taking my eyes off that point. Huh, crazy idea this keeping focused on one point and not allowing things to throw us into a tizzy. That's the saving grace of following Jesus. He's the one unchanging and unmovable thing in my life and keeping my eyes trained on Him, I can handle all this crazy go go go.


Book Review: The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

If you have never read a book by author, Brennan Manning, this one is an excellent start. From start to finish he will have you hooked with his message of ultimate and ever-reaching grace. In the Ragamuffin Gospel, Manning restates what all Christians know: that justification is by grace through faith. What he points out in each of us is the need to add more to that statement. Can't I work for my salvation? Isn't God wanting me to do more, be more, try harder?

The answer that the book points out and what we are truly in our heart of hearts know is that we don't earn our salvation. It may make us feel better to strive for greater accomplishments, but at the end of the day our walk begins when we acknowledge that no matter how "good" we are, we can't do this on our own.

As Brennan Manning so eloquently states, "Do you live each day in the blessed assurance that you have been saved by the unique grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? After falling flat on your face, are you still firmly convinced that the fundamental structure of rality is not works, but race? Are you moody and melancholy becasue you are still striving for the perfection that comes from your own efforts and not from faith in Jesus Christ? Are you shocked and horrified when you fail? Are you really aware that you don't have to change, grow, or be good to be loved?"

 If you think you've got it all under control, if you know that you don't, if you just need a reminding of how very awesome our God is in despite of our failings as human beings: read this book. It will envelope you in the true and unending love that God has for each of his people.

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Company in exchange for an honest review.

The Ragamuffin Gospel - By Brennan Manning (Chapter 1) by WaterBrook Multnomah


The Last Day

Being a mother of six, you would think that I had this letting go thing down to a science, but I must admit that I cry every step of the way. My kids don't know that, unless I tell them later, because I absolutely hate crying in front of them. I don't want to handicap their moment. You see I cry at all the major events in their lives and even at the small ones like starting and finishing another year of school. This can be awkward considering the fact that four of them attend the school where I work so my crying has to be a little incognito. But it happens, and there's absolutely nothing I can do to stop it.

We start school tomorrow and I'm fearing for the worst because we've got a lot of growing up that has occurred this summer. Here's the breakdown: Tony returns to UNCSA for his second year of film, Rebecca begins her first year of college here in Fayetteville, Serena begins high school, Taylor is starting 7th grade, Emari is going into 1st, and my baby, Zion, is entering Pre-K. Some pretty big milestones we're hitting there across the board. But this is the part that's really difficult: my BABY is leaving the nest to start on his formal education.

I remember, beginning with the pregnancy, I savored every little thing because I knew that it would be my last whatever. My last maternity clothes, my last baby shower, etc. Then through his babyhood, it was the last bottle, the last diaper, the last day in the nursery. There is something different about the knowledge that you are doing something for the very last time ever. There isn't much in life where you can have that certainty of finality and its sad even in the joy that you find in the memory.

Tomorrow I will be dropping off my last baby to school and that will be that. He's gonna be learning new things and making new friends and thinking that his teacher is smarter than me just like the others did. Except this time its different, because he's the last one. Today is my last day to enjoy my last one just like this and I'm gonna enjoy it.


The Path of Least Resistance

On August 1st, our church embarked on a 21 day fast. Now I've done this before, but how many know that just because you've done something doesn't make it easier to do again? I love to be challenged by difficult things, but when it really starts to press I want to give up. There are things in your life that other people can look at and say, "Gosh that looks hard and you do it so well." Nice compliment, but those things are usually the things that "come naturally" to me and don't take a whole lot of effort. What about the things that don't come easy and I have to push myself to do well?

You know in parenting my six kids, there inevitably comes that time when you have enjoyed them and disciplined them and lived life with them and then you really wish you could give them to somebody else for a few years until they get their heads back on straight. Parents of teenagers know what I'm talking about. Until I had teenagers I thought poopy diapers and sticky fingers were a challenge. Now I know the truth. However, I know that looking back at my own teenage years, they were the ones in which I really discovered what my parents were made of. Our relationship was truly forged in that time of our lives. It had its foundation laid in the early fun and easy years, but forging requires some heat and some sweat and tears.

Psalm 66:8-12
Bless our God, O peoples!
    Give him a thunderous welcome!
Didn’t he set us on the road to life?
    Didn’t he keep us out of the ditch?
He trained us first,
    passed us like silver through refining fires,
Brought us into hardscrabble country,
    pushed us to our very limit,
Road-tested us inside and out,
    took us to hell and back;
Finally he brought us
    to this well-watered place.

If we have chosen to follow after Christ then we have already chosen the harder way, but there are times along the road that we will be tempted to go back, take a detour or a short cut that looks easier. In conclusion, let me leave you with this well known poem.

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;        5
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,        10
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.        15
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.        20
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