Singing the Background

She sings bold notes, belting from her soul, loud and clear, deep and full, ringing through the acoustics into people's souls. She's young. A beauty pageant runner-up, straight-A student, former cheerleader, and vocal talent. Oh, and it seems important to mention that she has blond hair, big like Texas.

From my older and wiser lips, I sing softly, delicate and feminine, barely heard. I am the girl with hair that's destined to live out its days straighter and flatter than a memo sheet pinned to the wall, but I flutter a high-noted harmony that blends into her voice, elevating it. The background.

I am singing the background.

Without going into a long drawn out Amanda's Vocal History lesson, let me summarize it like this: I have always wanted to be a singer. I have never been all that great of a singer.

Time and experience have left me with a usable voice, but I will never be the Nora Jones or Adele that I dream of sounding like. In fact, the other day I was singing over suds and plates and spoons, and I decided to record myself with my camera. Friends, if you want to deflate your ego, record yourself singing. I could hear Randy Jackson saying to me, "Like, yo, dawg, it was pretty pitchy. Like I had trouble listening to it." Yeah.

In spite of my vocal shortcomings, years of trying to sing and playing the guitar have also left me with an ear that can pick out a harmony. I can't explain how I do it. I just do. I hear it in my head.

I don't have the voice that was made to shine. I was not made to be a soloist. I have the voice that was made to be in the background. It may seem un-important, but having been around bands and music teams for a long time, even leading one myself, I know, those background people cover the mistakes of the foreground people. They keep the melody reeled in tight when a young voice hits the power notes out of control. They cover the sharps and flats with the grace of their harmony.

All this got me thinking about parenting.

My son just started walking a few weeks ago. His walk is still a bit like Frankenstein--stiffed-kneed and arms out. While I was watching him walk, I had myself a moment. Tears. My baby is a toddler. He's turning 1 in a few days. {I am crying again writing this. Life is so fleeting and precious and changes so fast. From being the girl that wanted 4-6 kids, to having the hard pregnancies and a delivery that made me say "Maybe I am okay with 2," to now longing for another baby; can I just confess my sentiment: God, you are a tricky one, you are.}

Here's the truth about babies learning to walk: They walk when they are ready to walk. We, as parents, need to do very little. We stand in the background encouraging, arms out-stretched to meet their first steps. We wait and we watch and we are there to catch them should they tumble.

It seems like a lot of parenting is like this. We, the parents, are in the background singing the harmony helping our kids find their melody while they walk, then talk, first day of kindergarten, making friends, losing friends, first crush, first broken heart, discovering Jesus for themselves, wearing make-up, spiking hair, first dance... {I think I need to stop there. I don't want to be in tears again over this whole my-kids-will-be-grown-up-one-day thing.}

God made our kids wonderful and unique and special. He gave our kids talents, personalities, and a different way of seeing life and relating to God. He grafted onto our kids' hearts purpose, potential. As parents, we watch our kids' personalities come to life as they grow. We see their struggles. We see their strengths. We may not know exactly what they will grow up and do, but we want to see them get there (well kind of, I am pretty sure there is part of us that wishes our children could stay young forever). We want to see them walking in their purpose and in their dreams.

We want to see them belting out the melody of their life's song.

We want to be there to reel them in should they find themselves a little out of control.

We want to help them find the Grace that covers all their mistakes.

And because of this, there is a subtle harmony each parent was meant to sing over their child. We sing it as we watch those first steps. We sing it as we prepare them for their first day of school. We sing it as we tend to their broken heart. We sing it as we show them how to apply make-up or do their hair. We sing it even when they don't want to hear it, when their eyes roll, when they think they know more. We sing that soft, subtle harmony that lifts their voice, guides them to their melody. It's quiet, but it's wise. It never outshines the melody, but it is important.

No matter where your kids are in life, they need your harmony. They don't need you to sing melody. They don't need your will, they need you to lead them to God's Will. They need you to sing harmony, the background, the guiding role rather than the leading role. They need your prayers and your support, your grace.

{Side Note: I think this analogy translates well into church leadership too. The best kind of leaders are the one's that can sing the harmony so that those who follow can find their melody.}

What do you think?


Write it girl
Life In Bloom

"What's Your Capacity?"... and the First Giveaway Winner

This morning, I woke up, ate my Cheerios, drank my coffee, and then plugged in the numbers to my first ever giveaway. (Actually, I think it would be more accurate to say I drank my coffee and then woke up.)

And the 22nd Comment belongs to:


Who said...
You Rock! I haven't read the book either, but it seems like a great one. I'm thankful for a certain 2 year old running around the house at 7:30 screaming "Morning Daddy! Morning Bru-Bru!" Too cute...
 Yeah Katie! You win! Happy for you! Expect a forthcoming email with all the details.

And now for today's post: It's not a "Made Monday" because, to be quite honest, I haven't had time for recipe experiments or crafts lately. I don't want to post something just to post something. But I have had a whole lot of inspiration going on in the way of encouragement. It's time to start posting them.

So, here it is:

I got a word for you that I have been thinking on a lot lately.


I have a BA in English. I graduated with honors. I taught 5th and 6th grade for 2 years. I left my teaching post and worked part-time as a substitute so I could pursue full-time ministry. I was a children's pastor for 5 years. I led a thriving midweek program that reached out to kids in the community. I mentored up-and-coming leaders in the church and helped run an intern program. I was important. 

I am now a stay-at-home mom. My big accomplishments are when I manage to get the laundry cleaned, folded and put away on the same day or when I get my husband fed and out the door on time for college. My days consist of cleaning juice spills, picking up toys only to pick them up all over again, answering the constant cry for more... more snuggles, more milk, more attention, more snacks. I rarely wear make-up anymore. 

It's been my dream for as long as I can remember to raise children and to stay home with them. I wouldn't have it any other way. BUT... It's an almost thankless job. My great passion in life has nothing to do with cleaning toilets, picking up toys, folding laundry, meal planning or grocery shopping, yet that's how I spend most of my days. I led children to Christ on a weekly basis, I ran a thriving ministry, I was "on top of things," I raised up leaders, I was important! And now I cook, clean, wipe dirty bottoms, remind a little girl to put her toys away, and somehow find time to write a little.

I have a feeling I am not the only one who's ever felt like this. 

So here's where the word capacity comes in.

You are still you. Your talents haven't changed, though you can probably add "able to feed a baby, dice your preschooler's food, and get food into your own mouth all at the same time" to your list of talents.  Your call hasn't changed either, though it now entails motherhood.

Who you are and what you were made for hasn't changed.

It's been added to.

And because of that, your capacity has changed.

Every person has a fire-marshall required sign posted over their abilities.

God is that Fire Marshall who determined long ago what your capacity would be. Everyone came with a unique capacity (so don't compare). And each person came with a maximum capacity (so don't overload yourself). You can only do so much. And when you enter into motherhood, you are adding more weight to your metaphorical elevator. You may have to let some things off the elevator.

As your kids get older and more independent, they will get "lighter" and your capacity will increase. (Though I think it should be important to note, they will be seasons in your life that are "weightier" and will shift your capacity).

So, when you are up to your eyeballs in mundane laundry to fold; when your are tired of your constant nagging to lift the lid and aim straight, to pick up the toys, to eat the vegetables, to do the homework; when you feel seriously under-appreciated and not so very important... know you are doing the most important job in the world. And you are still you. And your capacity to do the other things will return.

So, if I follow with my analogy, there is a certain order to what takes up our capacity:

1. God (Time with Him. You were made for relationship with him.)

2. Husband (You want your marriage to last through the crazy child-raising years, keep him before your kids. This may mean, putting a baby safely in the crib, a movie on for the kiddos, and locking the bedroom door for a short while.)

3. Children

4. Your Job (If you stay home, this is your job)

5. You! (Time to yourself, time for soul refreshing... i.e. friendship)

6. Your Ministry (This is often the thing that you most enjoy and is definitely not limited to something inside of church. For me, THIS is it. It may even be the job you left to start a family.)

It is important to know, the weight of each of the items on the list is in a constant flux and there is often a fluidity to their order... like keeping up your house is actually a way of serving your husband and children. I am finding that for whatever reason, I am starved for friendship so I am currently adding more weight to that item. You can best love your children when you are at your best, so sometimes you need to add weight to the things that refresh you. This list is not exact or perfect, but it definitely helps me keep the most important things, the most important things.

And here's the thing I learned from doing children's ministry for 5 years: I could build a team of teenagers and young adults. I could bring in bouncers and games and slime and water fights. I could put together the most interactive lesson that eloquently broke down the deep things of God for a child. I could lead children in the sinner's prayer. But I could never be the most important influence in a child's life. That's YOU. YOU have THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB. YOU have the greatest impact on your child. You might feel under-appreciated, insignificant, and like you used to do important things that mattered. That couldn't be farther from the truth.

You have the most important job. Right now.


It's time for me to hop to that important job. Right now.

Wishing you wonderful weeks!


I would love to hear from you! Do you ever feel this way? How do you deal with it?

Joy! Journal AND...

There are a thousand ways a mom can feel overwhelmed.

A thousand things to accomplish.

A thousand worries.

A thousand hours of missing sleep over the course of 4 years years of parenting.

There are a thousand things to drag a mom down.


But there's this crazy hope inside of me, that I could live fully. Here. Now. Amongst diapers, grape juice stains, cheerio bottoms, whiney voices, and temper tantrums. (And later amongst wardrobe battles, rolling eyes, boyfriends, and attitudes). Because I truly believe motherhood is a gift, even when I feel exasperated and so very tired... I know these children are my blessing. I want to live on purpose and not so "half-there" because I'm tired and I can't figure out any other way to be.

I want to fully live.

I want to instill in my children how to fully live too.

I stumbled across the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp a couple months ago when a friend invited me to her church's study. I know I've mentioned the book here at least 20 times, but it's good, and it's changed me. It's a simple idea. It's really just about slowing down a couple times a day and counting the gifts you've been given. It's about finding the joy in the messes and beauty everywhere. It's inspired my Thankful Thursday posts and now a journal I keep super handy in my kitchen.

I count gifts and all the precious and fleeting moments with my children, because they're gifts too. I count the beautiful things I see and record things like my daughter trying to take Jed's "tensaber" (temperature, for those of you who aren't fluent in Addy). Things that perhaps only I will appreciate, but maybe Addy and Jed will one day as well. I try to write down the hard things too, like that the mess of cheerios is really just evidence that I am blessed with active children or how even when I was rushing Jed to the emergency room with a punctured ear drum, God was there and He gave us peace and kind doctors and an unexpected friend's visit who happened to be on her nursing shift.

My children are learning to be thankful. I am even writing love notes to my husband thanking him for all he does.

This simple act is changing my life, my family, and my marriage.

I may sound like a complete thankful fruit loop, but it's worth the risk if it helps change someone else.

Couple of notes if you want to try "Joy Journaling" or "Gift Counting" out for yourself:
1. Make the journal handy... like wherever you most often find yourself in your home. For me, it's the kitchen. And don't just put it anywhere... make it prominent--where you are very likely to see it and be reminded by it.
2. Quick notes, sloppy notes, poetic notes... it doesn't matter. It's the stopping, the seeing, the gratitude... that's what makes the difference. It's not about the list. The list is the tool that helps you live a grateful FULL life.
3. If it helps you to have a guided way to count your gifts: visit Ann Voskamp's blog. Every month she puts up a printable with suggested items to count (They are always towards the bottom of page on her Monday posts). Actually, just check out her blog. It's good.
4. The book is awesome, but I found it to be a little like wading through oatmeal. The poetic language makes it thick. It's packed with revelation. The truths it exposes are weighty. It's a little difficult to get through (at least for me). But it was worth the "wading," definitely worth it, especially when I got to Ch. 8. That was the life-changer for me. So, while I strongly urge you to embark on this joy dare, I think it is a highly recommendable idea to read the book too (and to know if you find it a difficult read, don't beat yourself up. You are not less-spiritual or the only one.) :)

To make the journal:

I made myself a journal out of a good old fashioned composition notebook... wide ruled so it's easier to make fast notes. They are less than a $1.00. I covered it in scrap fabrics, a family picture, scrapbook paper and modge-podged it all on.

To Modge-Podge: paint a thin coat on wherever you are adding something. Paint a thin coat over the top to seal it. Just a note: you will battle wrinkles should you choose thin paper. Choose thicker paper (close to cardstock-quality thickness). Also, use thinner more cotton-like fabrics.

I got myself a letter-holder-type thing to hold my JOY journal in my organization station. I had tried just sticking the journal to the wall, but it fell off. Also, writing on something that is upright makes your pen get air in it... and that makes writing difficult. I still like the journal on the wall though (hence placing it in a letter holder). I see it every time I walk into the kitchen, and it reminds me to stop rushing, stop stressing, and be grateful.

I made a couple more journals just for fun. They are seriously easy... like half-hour-with-some-drying-breaks-in-there easy. This one is bright and cheerful. Addy loves it. I am thinking I may let her use it.
This one below is my favorite. I made it with a ribbon and velcro clasp that I embellished with an easy fabric rose. I love the quote I found amongst my scrap-booking materials. Seemed very appropriate.
"The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life."


Since I liked this journal so well and this book has changed my life...

...well... are just going to have to click the link below to see what this conquering housewife has brewing.

{Click here to find out about The CCHW's FIRST-EVER GIVEAWAY!!!! (I'm excited, in case the 4th exclamation point didn't clearly demonstrate this to you.) You will want to see this even if you aren't into reading anything longer than a page or writing in homemade journals. Wha-hoo!} 

Hope your Monday is MADE and your life is FULLY lived, Friends!

Comparison: Dream Killer, and 3 Ways to Keep Your Dream Alive

The other night, I participated in my first ever “twitter party” in an effort to get out of my comfort zone and meet some other women who are doing the same thing I am. A twitter party is essentially a glorified chat room, with a host, a topic and a bunch of people madly carrying on conversations simultaneously... all using # and @ to identify topic and person. You blink and you could miss 20 tweets. I felt overwhelmed... like sick-to-my-stomach, I-have-no-clue-what-I'm-doing overwhelmed... or, to bring a whole new definition to the word of one wise old owl, “twitterpated”... extremely and completely twitterpated.


What came out of it was this incredible sense of self-doubt. I was amongst twitter-pros, blogging giants, women with experience, know-how, and followings greater than my own. Women who not only maintain a blog but write books as well... and raise a family.

I felt defeated, miniscule, silly, like the 7th grade girl in the bathroom whose nightly prayer is for boobs and a period amongst girls all complaining about their times of the month and their bra straps. I am clueless, but so desperately want to be in the know. (Side note: Why, why, Amanda, did you pray so fervently for those things? Ha!)

Have you ever been there? You have a God-given dream in your heart and desire to pursue it. You pray, you fast, you step out... and then you find others with a similar dream doing what you want to do and doing it 100x's better. You can't help but look at them and wonder what in the world you are doing here. And maybe you even go so far as to wonder why God didn't give you the same measure of talent and overall awesomeness.

The day after the Twitter party, I made the blessed mistake of leaving my Bible within the reach of my son... the son with lightening fast reflexes who can clear a side table with the swipe of one arm. I came running as I saw the boy reach for the Bible, and by the time I got to him he had already made quick work of three pages. 

As I was putting the torn pages back into the Bible, my notes in the margins from ages past struck me. Big time.

God talked to me in my mess.

So let me give you a frame of reference for the notes:

Saul was the current and anointed King of Israel, but because he was disobedient God had appointed a new king to take his place, David. In this passage, David is running for his life from Saul who wants to kill him. My little revelations are from how David conducts himself when he finds Saul (who wants to KILL him, mind you) unarmed and completely helpless on two different occasions. Instead of killing Saul, David attempts to prove to Saul that he means no harm.

1 Samuel 24:6 “So [David] said to his men, 'Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to [Saul], the Lord's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the Lord's anointed'.”

my notes: It even bothered David to cut a piece of robe off of the one who was trying to kill him. David allowed God, who anointed them both, to be God.

David led by following God. He was NOT a man-pleaser. He didn't do what his men encouraged him to do... he sought God. Followed God.

1 Samuel 26:9 “But David said to Abishai, 'Do not destroy him, for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord's anointed and be without guilt?' David also said 'As surely as the Lord lives, surely the Lord will strike him, or his day will come that he dies, or he will go down in battle and perish'.”

my notes: Once again, DAVID ABSOLUTELY TRUSTS GOD. Be patient, honor God's way.

David knew that he was anointed to be King... that God had a plan and a purpose for his life. And David trusted God enough to bring it to pass.

In the pursuit of my dreams I have gotten worried
-that I am not enough
-that others are better than me
-that I don't know enough
-that I need to go about everything a better way


It's like the track runner who looks into the lane of his competitor and begins to accidentally step over into the other lane. A sprinter has to keep his eyes focused forward so that his foot-steps are sure. A sprinter has to run his own race... in his own lane.
Ultimately, comparison will dis-qualify you from your God-dream. And reminder: it is God who does the qualifying in the first place.

David knew that God had chosen him to be king. He knew that Saul was still king. He knew he had to wait. He knew that God was going to work it out. He knew that he could trust God.

And there it is.

He knew that he could trust God.

He could trust God to destroy his enemy (by the way in case you are following the parallel of my circumstance or even yours... other women bloggers are not my enemies. Those with similar dreams are not your enemies. But if there is an obstacle, know that God will see you through it).

Three things to learn from David about God-given dreams:

David knew that he could trust God's word for his life. He was called. Anointed. He never questions this.

David knew that he could trust God's timing. David might have wanted it to be time, instead of running for his life. But he waited. He didn't try to rush God. Be patient and honor God's Way.

David knew that he could trust that all the waiting was full of purpose and just as important as the dream itself. David grew so much in that time of running for his life. He might not have seen it at the time, but he became a sure-footed, strong leader who trusted God fully. Also, during this time God gave David allies in his hiding places, a smoking hot wife named Abigail, children, and mighty and faithful men whose loyalty and friendship stayed with him during his reign as King. This time of my life may not be the most productive in terms of writing and pursuing the God dreams in my heart... but they are important, wonderful, purposeful, needful... and who am I anyways to determine what productive is? Is it not a God-dream that I pursue? This husband, these kids, this home, all that I am here and now IS the dream, don't miss it by looking at what other people are doing with their lives. Different people. Different times of their lives. Enjoy the NOW. Live in the NOW. Thrive in the NOW.

And Trust God.

No really, Amanda, TRUST GOD.

Run YOUR race. Be the woman you were called to be. Trust God, His Word and His timing. Know that HE will make a way.

I've got a post, maybe a couple, in the works about pursuing dreams... somethings God has totally downloaded into this brain. If you want to know how to pursue your dreams, do return!


What Doubt is Really About

Have you ever felt left out... or forgotten? Have you ever felt like you didn't quite fit... you know, the whole square peg, round hole thing? Maybe quirky (which really is just a nice word to describe strange and downright weird)? Unrelated to? Awkward?  Have you ever felt insignificant or severely under-appreciated?

I know I have. A lot. Especially lately.

A couple nights ago I was struggling with that very thing: feeling like I didn't belong and had no friends. The feelings begging the question: what is wrong with me? Why don't I fit? My mom happened to be leading our women's Bible study that night. (Side note: My mom is pretty much awesome. I LOVE HER!) She spoke on "Doubting Thomas." I had never in my life heard the story told quite like she told it.

Thomas was one of the 12 disciples. Jesus chose him. He had a place. After Jesus died and rose again, all of the disciples were hanging out and Jesus appeared to them for the first time. Their casual get together became an amazing time with the Lord. He blessed them. He shared with them.

Thomas wasn't there. He didn't get included. The disciples later run up to him and gush about the amazing time they had, how Jesus was there, and how Jesus did and said all these incredible things. Thomas's response was something along the lines of "I won't believe it till I see it." Thomas crosses his arms and his heart defiantly refusing to be apart of the "Jesus is Alive" club that he felt rejected from. When he finally does see Jesus, Jesus calls him out on his doubt. (John 20:19-29)

But here's the thing. Perhaps it is that Thomas didn't doubt that Jesus was the Christ, but rather that he had a place in Christ. Perhaps, he got all upset at being the only one that was left out, that he was ready to throw the whole Jesus-is-the-Christ thing out... all because the disciples forgot to include him. Perhaps he felt like the one disciple that just didn't quite fit, didn't deserve to make the cut, the one always over-looked, under-appreciated and constantly forgotten.

Perhaps Thomas really doubted God's love... that God made him wonderful, unique and with a specific purpose... that God saw him, flaws and all, and loved him.

Perhaps, my nobody-likes-me, what-is-wrong-with-me pity party is really me full of doubt and disbelief. Perhaps I doubt that I have a place. I doubt that God loves me. That He made me like, well, me for a specific reason.

I doubt. And instead of trusting that God loves me and has a plan for my life, I want to throw it away and be like someone else.

I can't believe I missed this! As a teacher and children's pastor, I was a pit bull about each child knowing that God loved them and had a specific plan for their life. I am a pit bull now for the same cause with my children. You want to make me super angry? Try sending a message to children that they are less than because they learn a different way than most kids, or by sending a message that the only way, or the best way to serve God is inside the church in a position of vocational ministry. RAWR! Yep, I will rawr at you. I know that God made each one of us unique. He gave us a different way to process the world. Some we label extroverts, some we label introverts, some we labels ADD, some we label free-spirits, some we label type-A, some we label slow... we have a lot of labels. But regardless of the label, God has a specific plan. He sees the evangelist in the extrovert, the deep-thinker in the introvert, the tireless-doer-of-many-things in the person with ADD, the outside-the-box thinker in the free-spirit, the get-things-done-and-get-others-doing-them-too in the type A... God has a plan! YOU HAVE A PLACE IN GOD.

Amanda. You have a place in God.

You. Just the way you are.

I love Jesus' response to the disciples on the matter (Matthew 28:16-20). Instead of getting on to the disciples and telling them to play nice and play fair ("Boys, you really need to make sure you include Thomas."), He sends out His great commission, "Go into all the world making disciples..." Stop worrying about what people think and whether you fit and how included you are, and go make some disciples. Instead of worrying about who isn't texting you, be the one texting that person who is struggling words of encouragement. Instead of worrying about who hasn't invited you to the play date at the park, grab some people and invite them out yourself. Be a disciple-maker instead of a pity-party thrower.

And as it turns out, when you get busy doing God's work, you find you have a place after all.

He loves you! You have a place in HIM!

Crap Happens

True Story:

It had been one of those crazy, stormy days. I have become this wild, hungry God-seeker. I want to see Him, know Him. My tired, mother heart is worn out by the end of the day, but I want to fully live. I have been reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and am taking her up on her challenge to live the fullest life.

Mike took the kids to his parents, and I had the house to myself.

But I had been in this house for 3 days straight, and I am ready to emerge from my tomb. (I am laughing at my bad analogy... no, though some days may feel like it, my home cannot be compared to the tomb where Christ laid). I grab my camera and decide to chase Beauty. Become the modern painter with a digitally-edited, photo-paper canvas. Try to hold Beauty within my lens. Grasp it. Capture it. Even for but a moment.

"'The glory of God is the human being fully alive and the life of the human consists in beholding God.'... Don't I give God most glory when I am fully alive? And am I most fully alive beholding God?"
-Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

I am behind the steering wheel, making way for vineyards and empty fields that open the world wide to the horizon. The tempestuous storm that had pelted our front door with little hail stones had given way to the most glorious sunset. Gold-lined clouds against a blood-red sky. I chase after this Beauty, desperate. 

I find a spot off the road. Pull-over. Grab my camera. I adjust my settings as I hastily walk toward the vineyard. 

It's cold. The breeze runs through my hair. Soft rain drops dampen my skin. I feel a large, warm rain drop thud against my shoulder and hand.

Wait... Warm?!

Raindrops are not warm. This was definitely not a rain drop.

One brave bird flies off towards the night. I got crapped on.

In the midst of my soul's revery--my wild Beauty hunt--chasing God, I got crapped on by a lone bird on a wire... when all other birds have taken to their storm shelters.

I am disgusted. I want to throw my fist up, angry with God. How could You let this happen? I am here to worship and You let me get pooped on?! Really?

For a split second I stop my rant. In the time it took my heart to beat one time, I try to embrace the gift of that moment. Surely this moment does not contain a gift, but still I try to find it. And in the next heart beat, something even stranger than the gritty waste product on the back of my hand happens: Peels of laughter rip through the anger and inconvenience. I laugh.

I capture one picture and return to the safe haven of my car in search of tissue and Purel. I laugh some more.

Crapped on while capturing Beauty.

I crap-tured beauty. 

I am roaring now. And the laughter feels good. And God is in this moment too. 

I went out seeking Beauty... seeking a full life... seeking to know God... asking for Joy.

I found the beautiful sunset. I also found the lone, human-loathing bird on a wire that would dare to take aim at the innocent God-seeker. 

But still, I found Joy.

I could have allowed the birdy-poo to ruin my evening. I could have tried to find some deep meaning in the warm substance resting on my hand... Why would God allow this? Why would God let me get crapped on when I am trying so hard to be full of Joy? Doesn't He love me? Doesn't He supposedly give good gifts?... Or I could take the gift in the moment and laugh. I laughed with my Creator. I received the Joy in the moment.

Crap Happens.

In this beautiful, God-created world, crap happens... The diaper of the darling baby explodes and leaks onto his poor mama's pants who didn't think to bring a change of clothes for herself... The life-giving, bonding, and waist-trimming experience of breast-feeding can occasionally offer up clogged milk ducts that rack a body with feverish aches (Hi, this is where I am right now!)... temper tantrums from the sweet one, friend turned gossip, great day abruptly halted by the crunching sound of your own car's metal against another car's rear end... crap happens.

I cannot pretend to know the answer to the why.

It is a mystery. And even though I was able to find Joy in bird excrement, I am only just scratching the surface. There are far more crappy things that could happen in a life. I just have this strange sense that God is allowing me learn how to live Joy-Full in spite of circumstances.

Could it be that one could really keep their Joy every day, not just the good ones?

I know it involves trusting God. I know it involves taking each moment, easy or hard, and receiving it as a gift. It's like the manna the Israelites ate in the wilderness. Each day, God miraculously covered the ground in little wafers. It baffled the Israelites:
"God's people daily eat manna--a substance whose name literally means 'What is it?' hungry, they choose to gather up that which is baffling. They fill on that which has no meaning. More than 14,600 days they take their daily nourishment from that which they don't comprehend. They find soul-filling in the inexplicable. 
"They eat the mystery. 
"And the mystery, that which made no sense, is 'like wafers of honey' on the lips" 
 Ann Voskamp, Ten Thousand Gifts
Sometimes life is baffling. Sometimes painful. Sometimes wonderful. Sometimes it's offerings lead us to question God, "What is it? It doesn't make sense!" Our minds can't comprehend how all things can be a gift. But in taking the mystery, eating it, allowing it to nourish, we might just find that somehow it's like wafers of honey. Somehow it's sweet. Somehow it's Joy.

Taste and see that the Lord is Good.

I am not sure what it means. I do not know how to make sense of it all. But I did discover Joy in the most unlikely of places.

Joy in crap.
Imagine that!


A Pink Sock Covered in Cheerios

Two days ago, my day looked something like this:

My husband returns home from work. I hear the jingle of keys, a familiar deep voice calling down to someone from the stoop, the turn of the dead bolt, and then the sound of tromping boots... man has entered the abode.

"Hey, Amanda, do you mind if Martin uses our bathroom to change before we go study?"

"Um... sure... lemme just, uh, grab some stuff out of it." And by stuff I mean, picking up a pile of clothes complete with bra and underwear, shoving all things on the counter into the drawers in one mad sweep, and throwing a fresh roll of t.p. onto the back of the toilet just in case the current one runs out. I glance at the pile of bath toys and the baby bath I haven't used in months but haven't had the time (or memory is more like it) to put in storage. I choose to let them stay put. It's not ideal, but I only have so much time before Martin makes it up the stairs.

I exit the bathroom, my eyes peeking over the top of laundry pile in my hands to see not just Mike's classmate but his cute, young wife as well. My eyelids expand to take in the extra bit of reality while my nostrils widen to breathe in that same reality and let it back out.

My house is a disaster.

I have two doe-eyed newlyweds standing in my disaster.

I walk back into the room and try my little heart out to be warm, welcoming, conversational, but it's almost as though my brain turns into a camera seeking out messes in autozoom:

I see the baby's snack tray on his jumper crusted in browned avocado slime from the day's lunch.

I see the car seat that for some reason is in the middle of the living room and upside down.

I see the pink Disney princess blanket haphazardly lying over couch and floor.

I see every single one of my pillows I just made to make my seating "warm and welcoming" warming random places on the carpet.

I see every toy from Elmo to the play broom scattered on top of the office desk, on the recliner, on the dining table and sprinkled across the carpet.

And then, I look down and see, in all of it's glory, one pink little Addy-sock covered in gooey Jed-cheerios lying in the middle of the room... right below the black leather boots of my new acquaintance.

Don't look at the mess. Don't clean it up. Stop apologizing for the mess it just draws attention to it. Stop feeling uncomfortable you'll make them uncomfortable. Focus on your  mess  guests. Focus on your guests. Focus on your guests. I know. These are the first rules of being a good hostess with surprise guests. I couldn't help it. I cleaned. In my own defense I was cleaning when they arrived. I had been out of town the day prior and out of town a few days before that. I had only gotten my daughter's room picked up, organized, wiped down and vacuumed... if only we could have hung out in there. I see the vacuum cleaner that is out in the living room and waiting for order to be restored to the great room so it can be used. Maybe they will know that I am in the middle of cleaning. My mind continues. I am really not a messy person, well, not this messy anyways. Can I tell them that I have been out of town? Maybe they won't notice. Stop thinking your the center of everyone's mind, they probably aren't thinking of you or what kind of housekeeper you are... right?

And the deep underlying thoughts: They won't think I am a bad mom/housekeeper/wife, will they?They will know that I am enough, right?

I sometimes wish I had seen a few more cheerio-socks in other women's houses before I had kids. I have these dang expectations that somehow I have to be able to do it all because the hundreds of women's houses who I grew up going to, scrambled to shove their short-comings into their "mess space" (you know, the room, the drawer, the closet, the under-the-bed... everyone has their last minute cram space). I know some people are immaculate housekeepers and some are the polar opposite, and, as I get older and wiser, I am finding that most people are somewhere in between. Living happens in their living spaces.

So, here's the honest, hard, cold truth of it. That pink sock might want to speak to me and tell me that I am not enough. Why can't you love on your kids and your husband, cook dinner, do laundry, keep the house clean, make time for God, friends and yourself, keep up your writing, do the little projects, wear the make-up, do your hair, never wear pajamas past 9 am, and return from out of town without missing a beat? And how in the world does one end up with a hot pink sock covered in Cheerios in the middle of the flow of traffic in their living area... and on the one day they have surprise company?! But...Everyone lives in their living spaces. Cheerio-crusted pink socks are just the beautiful evidence that God blessed me with a little girl who is free-spirited and comfortable enough to run through our house barefoot, and the evidence of a healthy little 9 month old boy who has gotten the finger-thumb-to-mouth down and is crawling and cruising all over the place...and taking his Cheerios with him. That pink sock covered in cheerios is a monument (albeit one I will quickly clean up) of God's blessings on my life.

I have two small kids. They are healthy. They are active. They make messes. I am blessed.

I am blessed and I am enough.

I can't do it all. But I am enough.

I am enough whether my new friend, Mrs. Martin, thinks I should win housekeeper of the year... or not. I am enough even if she visited and made a mental list of the things she "will never do" when she has kids. I like to think that one day Mrs. Martin will have small mess-making machines for children (I am convinced most kids just come that way), and she will remember that pink sock in my great room and know sometimes messes are reality. She is still blessed and not any less of a woman/housekeeper/mom/wife for having them.

Your welcome Mrs. Martin! I am linked up at