DAY TRIP, FROM MY EYES TO YOURS

Montana has a mysterious appeal about her, one i always sensed and now have immersed myself back into.  i was born here in a small town,  left this place when i was 17, bound for adventure & travels & bigger cities & better things, only to find in my mid-thirties i wanted to return -  and to never leave.   there are moments when being back in Montana feels the same to me,  like when i smell wood-burning stove smoke in the air in winter or when i feel the distinct chill in the air when fall is turning.  but in some ways i know i'm seeing & experiencing Montana with new eyes, my grown-up eyes, my i've-been-through-a lot-eyes,  with a deeper appreciation than i've ever held before.    

  

i wish you all could experience the place of Montana, too.    if you haven't before, or you want to,   i am inviting you. 

Chris & i have been dreaming & praying &  planning our next geographical and house move in this great state, in hopes of hosting people - artists & married couples & retreat groups & the likes of whoever wants to get away, witness the grand expanse of Creation, eat delicious food, listen to & see wildlife, and collect their thoughts next to a river.   we are looking ahead to great things. 

in the spirit of Montana's wealth of beauty,  i'm sharing a day trip Chris & i did two weeks ago north to the Flathead Valley, one of our favorite places to go.  the valley is home to the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi and to Glacier National Park,  just such beautiful territory to meander and take pictures.    And a sidenote worth mentioning - we ate at Hops in Kalispell, our favorite place to converse & sip a beer after a day of exploring.   

so from our home & backroads to yours, from my eyes to yours,  here is Montana for a day. 

postscript :   this first photo Chris took, and it's the fiercest attempt to look fierce you'll ever see me make. 

& post postscript :   you can see more of our photography work on Archer Messenger .  

 

definitions of MARCH

welcome to March, defined as “the third month of the year, in the northern hemisphere usually considered the first month of spring". 

also known as the noun, “forward movement“,  or the verb: “to move in a direct purposeful manner.” 

or in French, " avancée, "  which means progress.  everything sounds better spoken in French, that's my vote.  ce est mon vote.  
 


i was reading the Psalms this morning, which many days i turn to because they find me where i am.   i arrived at Psalm 3 where i saw my handwriting scribbled next to verse 5.   i had written, “You awake me for another day” along with the date:  March 3, 2014.   i  remember that morning, which i then eventually shared with y'all  in the shape of this blog post.  

i can’t believe it’s been a year since then. as we all know, [as we get older] the months fly by.  but in other ways it feels like the course of three years has been crammed into the months leading to now.  

last week i wrote about this season of waiting,  where it has been easy for me to fall into the lie of believing that “nothing” has really changed or is changing, or giving way or transpiring.  but when i saw Psalm 3 this morning it reminded me, it triggered my memory of the mighty amazing things that’ve come this year.

this year has been one of healing…
many of you have written me emails & notes of encouragement as i’ve shared about bouts of depression that sink down heavy. you resonate because you face these too.  many of us women are facing them.

we’re brought to places of struggle that give way to wanting help, like a dam finally breaking and a flood pouring out.  these are places of very distinct Grace.  isn't realizing you need help one of the most beautiful things?

ULTIMATELY WE WERE DESIGNED FOR HELP AND FOR REDEMPTION....  

and God uses many different means to draw us to a place of surrender.  

in november my fight with depression came to a head.   for me it came quietly but swiftly one morning as i sat in front of our fireplace, staring & thinking like i often do. and i realized two things - “i need help”.  and secondly - “i’m putting chris through hell by not asking for help. it’s selfish of me to stand my ground”.  

i asked some close friends their recommendation for a medical doctor and like a little, nervous bird i walked gingerly into the clinic and told the kind doctor about my brain. he listened well, and his listening was a comfort.  in the end i left with a prescription for a very low dose of an anti-depressant, still skeptical if it would work - or do more harm? i didn’t know. but i did know my capacity to be stubborn had disintegrated and i prayed God would use this step as a means towards mending.

when chris & i left the pharmacy with pills in hand i jokingly told him for his anniversary gift  i got myself anti-depressants.  we both laughed out loud. at that point we had both cried & fought enough to be able to make light of things. 

and from clinic to pharmacy to parking lot to front door to kitchen table, i began something new with hesitation and also hopefulness.

i will not write here that pills are the answer for all our problems. they are not. but i will say that there are times in our earthly life when medical means of help is a God-send.  

every day i take my little half-of-a-pill, and i also eat well.  i cannot stress this avenue for body & brain wellness enough.   vegetables are what will win you energy and commit less stress on your internal workings.   arugula is the new kale.   and going for a walk is paramount my dear friends.   these are all good things that promote wellness.  

i can write to you today, one year from my last post about depression, and say freely i'm discovering amy again.  i can think clearly.  i’m not scared to leave the house. i have ideas. my brain doesn’t feel like it’s screaming at me, or like a fright train that won’t slow down.  it's cause for celebration.

i know very well there isn't a perfect, pretty bow to tie on top of this post or this subject or your intimate circumstance, but i share all this in detail to encourage you, surely to those of you sisters who are fighting deeply with darkness this morning.  depression isn't easy, nor is it simple or formulaic.  

i will say this assuredly to you:   i've learned that your hope and my hope is not in a pill or a diet or our husbands or our besties but in God who gives us all these things for our goodness.

it was the Psalms that convinced me of this, and have continued to be a place i go to almost every day.  if you can only read one thing when you wake in the morning, the Psalms are heart cries from dark places to the One who is our Hope.  He hears you, and wants to be your Refuge.

can i pray for you somehow? you can write me a note & tell me so.  i hope we can encourage each other in this month of March,   in the places we we want to move forward, in the circumstances we want know progress.  in the darknesses we want to find Light again.  in brokenness, healing.  


WHERE DO WE GO IN THE NOT YET?

                                 
waiting isn't just about what you are hoping for at the end of the wait 
         but also about what you will become as you wait. 


--- Paul David Tripp
'Shelter in the Time of Storm'

 


this season is pressing in and turning me inside out... not the calendar season, or Montana's faux-spring-in-winter, but this life & soul season of waiting.   

six months ago we put our house on the market, feeling led to another place geographically & also relationally, closer to friends in the city, and with intentionality of having a family. our conversations over the last several months have turned to what we desire for 'our family home' & talking about pregnancy & adoption, starting our own family, the beauty and hope of it all drawing us so deeply.

it's now february,  our house still for sale and so far pregnancy feels like it's a thousand miles away. 

my heart feels wrenched some days,  in moments especially when i see instagrams of pregnancy announcements,   lovely nurseries new moms have made,  families growing and expanding while we seem to be in this one place, still.  just waiting & asking & waiting some more.

i've been thinking about what i'll remember when i look back at this season....  

the word longing is what comes to mind.   it's stamped on these weeks & months:  longing in the waiting.  for change, for movement forward, for a new home, for a family, for something to give way, for the next chapter.

i think a year or two from now i'll remember my own junk - how i panicked a hundred times, how the 'if only's'  & the 'why's' have swallowed me.  how doubt & discouragement won too often.  how even anger took hold of my heart & my thoughts & attitude, made me negative & harsh & weary.   this is not my finest season...  my waywardness is instant, so quick to toss me off a Purposed course.   

i wonder how many of you are experiencing your own painful season of waiting...  maybe you're longing to be a mom & it's just not happening.   or you're waiting to make that geographic move you've been aching for.   or you hate your job & nothing else is showing up.    or you're dying to find reconciliation in a relationship that feels hopeless. 

how can i know Jesus in this place of waiting and the in-between discomfort?   what does my relentless pining give way to?   doubts & fears,  disheartenment,  anger at God,  for starters.   & i'm pretty sure every nuance of those has manifested itself in me in the last few months.    

this morning christopher & i read this together: 

"He is committed to using every tool at His disposal to rescue you from yourself
and to shape you into the likeness of His Son...    


waiting is one of His primary shaping tools".    

&

"waiting isn't just about what you are hoping for at the end of the wait 
         but also about what you will become as you wait."

--- Paul David Tripp
'Shelter in the Time of Storm'


those words confront so much in me today.  
what will i become as i wait?  
how is He changing me to be more like Him in this season when i wonder if change will ever get here?  because it's not so much about me getting what i desire, but about taking note of where my heart goes in these tough places.  when i don't get what i want, even if it is good & seems right & the best thing, oh it brings out the ugly.   i am witness to this, emphatically.  

even though this season has been kicking my butt,  i'm returning to this -  
that i want to know Jesus, deeply, deeply.  
 

& i want to know the movement of my heart towards Him, 
even if everything around me seems to be standing still.

 

today He is beckoning me to look at Him,  not at circumstance, longing, heartache, envy, or striving.  

even in the waiting,  even in the not yet.   may we take courage,  may we look to Him as our only Hope.   may we be the ones who are changed through it all as seekers of the One who is our Constant and All.   

Wait for the Lord; Be strong, and let your heart take courage;  Wait for the Lord!   Psalm 27:14   //    Let Your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in You.    Psalm 33:22  .

 

(photograph of us above taken by Cluney Photo) .

 

OUR BEAUTIFUL IDENTITY

 


it's faux spring here in western Montana...  sunlit mornings, 50 degree days, and my thoughts are drifting towards planting the garden and dinners on the porch.  it's January's joke and i'm pretty sure February's blizzard will be the punch line.  meanwhile....

i've been giving thought to the blog  & i want to share some good recipes you can make this week, including a very delicious bean salad.   but then i decided that  beans have been around for like forever, and they can wait.    what i’m really wanting to write about is being birthed out of asking, for months now — ‘what is it i most want to share with people?’.     and in the vein of my stirring desires and hopes,  i’m going to press in even deeper on the heels of my last post about lies, into the topic of our identity.         recipes, soon.  xoxo

remember back in the day the whole WWJD movement?   i may have worn a bracelet. maybe you did too.  but now i feel the question ‘what would Jesus do?’ missed the mark.
& the question we should be asking is ‘who is Jesus, really?.  

is He who i think He is, or have i made Him to be a whole bunch of stuff He's actually not? 

who is He, really?  and....  do i want to know Him?

this is the beginning of pressing into & understanding our identity in this life. because if God is who He says He is,  it will permeate & transform every part of us. 

if you ask yourself with honesty ‘who do i really think God is?’  innumerable responses creep up,  including the ways He’s hurt you,  the places He’s let you down,  how He’s left you to fend for yourself in this crazy life,   how He’s a jerk,  He’s distant and cold like your own real life dad.   

or maybe you feel a totally different sentiment altogether - that He is holy and perfect and awe-some,  & Jesus has set the bar super high and  "i need to be striving harder to meet that bar and be as holy as possible to make Him happy".    

do you ever feel this way? 

i had the joy of hearing Elyse Fitzpatrick speak last year in Kansas City, and if you aren’t familiar with Elyse i hope this sparks a curiosity to seek out her books or hear her speak if you can.  our church hosted a 2 day womens’ seminar and being the stubborn, prideful woman i am, i refused to go, thinking inside ‘ womens’ seminars are so 1993.  there’s no way i’m doing that. ‘  …until the day of the event, when i felt a distinct pull in my spirit saying ‘ you need to go to this seminar.  you’re meant to be there’.    uggggggggggh.  

so i went.   and i sat in the front row.  and my jaw dropped.  and my butt went numb in the pew.  but i didn’t care, because i was glued to the words coming out of this woman's mouth.  i had never heard the story of who Christ is shared so vividly, and who I am as a woman because of who He is,  told in such a bold, matter-of-fact, truthful way.  

right then & there in the pew God’s Spirit moved through Elyse’s words and set my feet on a new trajectory that is insatiable.   i realized that everything in our lives hinges on who we think God is.

i'm here to declare on this blank page blog place provided by squarespace these life-altering, life-giving,  true words: 

our God is gracious & good & He loves you 
       
                                                          you                                                                     

............  you  ........................

with steadfast love.

He is the God who says  I am your light and your salvation (Psalm 27:1).  
I am the opposite of a lover who leaves.  I am Constant,   I am Good.   I am yours.


I am near to you, 
to free you of  feelings of failure that dominate you & hold you captive,
to redeem you from the things in your life  that keep you from knowing freedom
and rob you of
 peace in my Presence. 


is that not radical?  it blows my mind apart.  

the gospel message is this:     Our Maker came to our earth - to the earth He made,  to the people He made-  to take your place and my place in the death we deserve because of our rebellion against Him, and then to die for us,   all to make us right with Him.  

"For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."   -- 2 Corinthians 5:21.

He is our Redeemer,  because  "He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready." -Romans 5:6-8.  

He is our Right-Maker, so that we can be in a wide-open, transparent, forgiven, comepletely-at-peace relationship with God.  and this is no small thing. 

but so often we tend to nod off at this point.  because we’ve heard this before, that He died for us, and now we’re saved and yaddy yadda bla bla the gospel.  

maybe we just don’t see how this Reality of who God is intersects with our every day life -   our every day of cooking meals and deadlines at work, getting stuck in traffic, our frustrations boiling over with our marriages, our hidden away secrets and hatred we harbor towards people in our lives,  our parenting, our sense of worth. 

how does the person of Christ, our God,  make a difference in these places?  is it enough to just vaguely know about God, that He’s there somewhere, sometimes near, sometimes far, floating in the heavens, looking down on our days and weeks and months, just loosely or rigidly commandeering the planets?  

or is He so intimately woven into our existence, our beings, our lives that who He is affects everything?    

do you believe He wants to transform you?   to redeem everything,      every,    thing?  
He does.
All of it >>>  our every day of cooking meals and deadlines at work, getting stuck in traffic, our frustrations boiling over with our marriages, our hidden away secrets and hatred we harbor towards people in our lives,  our parenting, our sense of worth.  

He is our salvation.   i'm praying you know Him as so....
and if you don't, i'll pray that He will make Himself real to you, and you would know Him as your only Hope and Salvation.

my prayer for us all is  that He would stir longings in us & give us desires only He can satisfy.

may Jesus be our Source,
our Good
our Redeemer
our Refuge
our All .

it is knowing who He is that, in turn,  shows us our true identity as women,  as lovers of Jesus, as livers who long to glorify Him on this earth with the lives we've been given. 

i hope these words feel like a giant comfy quilt you can wrap yourself in.  
i also hope they confront you in ways...
because  i care about you.  
and because God is pursuing you and simply put-  He never gives up.
His love reaches down to you & to me for the length & breadth & depths of all of it.

 

FOUR LIES WOMEN BELIEVE

this past year i've written about all kinds of weighty things, like depression & diagnoses.   about God's love for you & i,  about redemption in marriage.    And about lemon loaf.     

so today i'm just gonna go ahead & bust open a can of New Years worms & speak about what's been brewing in my heart. 
because..........
i've had so many conversations this last year with incredible, magnetic, inspiring women and i've learned something:   we are believing lies.   about who we are, and about who God is, and about who He says we are because of who He is.   i yearn for the day we will be whole, we will be in His presence without doubts and lies, anxieties, depression and sadnesses.  and yet, while we're here, i want to approach these in hopes we'll talk about them.  and in hopes God will move us from places of disbelief to freedom.     so without further ado, let's jump in ..................  Lie #1:

 

GOD DOESN’T REALLY LOVE ME.

this is a big one.  i’ve talked with countless women the last few years who say, at the root, the same thing with slight variances in language — God is angry at me.  God doesn’t even like me.  God is a cruel Father.   He left me. God just isn’t there. 

these words all say the same thing, ultimately:  God doesn’t really love me.  and so so many of us are passing through our days, walking to our jobs, making meals for our families, going on vacations, having hard conversations with our husbands while carrying the heavy weight of this lie around.  it grabs hold of us, it angers us, it breeds despondency and despair.  it breaks my heart.

this is a lie that facilitates addictions and harbors self-hatred.  i believed this lie for a long, long time.  and i lived it out in my life by sleeping with whoever i felt like, perpetuating sexual addiction, because why?  because God was mad at me.  and really, He didn't like me and surely He couldn’t love me.   so why even try?  this lie kept me  tangled up in barbwire,  in a ferocious, mad cycle of doubting Him — doing something blatantly wreckless  then hating myself  — then back to believing He hated me too.    

oh, how i needed to know  He loved me.  i had grown to hate him, after all.  and i didn't want Him.  and i surely didn't need Him.  until life crashed down all around me and left me on the living room floor with nothing left to give, and nothing left to get.   it's then I started reading the Psalms, and God, through His Spirit, graciously and tenderly gave me rest.     the words say:

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good .

He forgives...
He heals...
He redeems...
He crowns us with steadfast love & mercy....
He satisfies us with good.    
and we as women are in such desperate need to know this... to really know He loves you in your deepest, tucked away, raw, messy, painful places.  

my hope is  as you ruminate on these words, take them in and digest them, they will become real to you.  And God's love for you will be real to you.  and you will know surely without hesitation of His steadfast, unfailing, unwavering forever love for you.     which leads me to lie #2 -------

 

i JUST need to love myself  MORE.

i write this to you as gingerly & tenderly as i can, at my kitchen table, with winter’s sunlight streaming into the window.  

                                                self-love is a myth, and will always leave you feeling jipped.  

there, i said it.   i believe this is the most intricate and deceptive lie to untangle ( along with lie #1 ),  because it feels like it feeds us such goodness,  such energy, such power & motivation.  the downfall of believing and pursuing this lie is this:  we are faulty lovers.  we are broken, we are sinful,  we are selfish, we are fickle, we are swayed by fads and our fault lines run more deeply than we want to admit.  and our ability to love other people, as well as ourselves cannot be satisfied by such a wavering source.  we will always want more.   we will do more, try more and try harder.  but our wells are too deep to be filled with fresh water by our strong armed efforts. and our souls, which are created for & crave more than human affection and love aren’t assuaged by trying harder to hug and adore ourselves.  

God is all too gracious and good to ask us to even attempt to be the ones who love ourselves.  

He has given us Himself, as our Love, as our crown, as our Joy, as our Radiance. His love for us permeates who we are & shines out our faces!   because it’s so dang overhwelmingly real & captivating. He is meant for our all, and in turn, because of His perfect and complete love for us we are then able to  freely & graciously love other people, and our little selves.   it is freeing far beyond our grasping attempts to fulfill our longing souls.      which brings us to lie #3, super close friends with lie #2 -------

 

 I’LL BE TRULY HAPPY WHEN  ______________ .

oh, the sooner we just toss this one aside, the sooner we can move on to the real goodness & depth of our life.  this has been a tough lie for me to shake… (see story of hoping to be married someday above).   and although sometimes it’s the big things like:  when i have kids someday. when we get that house i’m dreaming of. when we finally pay off all that debt.  when i finally lose those pounds i’ve gained.     it’s also small things too like when i finally have the perfect bedroom oasis. or when i get that handmade leather bag that will make me look amazing.  

 but  we may not verbalize these desires as the markers of  perfect happiness in our minds, but often when i stop myself from reeling over what i want so badly i realize there’s a place in my heart believing my happiness depends on the bag & the bedroom & the house & the fit body.  and every time, we come up short.                we come.  up .  short.          

                                             our God & Maker who loves us so,  says “I am your all.”  
                                        I am the feast you’re craving, I am the Hope you’re mustering.  
                                                                I am the Fullness you are chasing after.  

He is drawing us & calling us into the real guts of life, while we prefer to keep skimming the surface and settling for the lie that we can hunt down & give ourselves ANY thing & EVERY thing we want.  but you’ll notice that thing we strive for soon metamorphisizes into the next thing & the next & the next and our spirits aren’t settled and we’re tired.   we're exhausted from our own petering efforts.  and the truth is,  Jesus can be your all.   He made you to rest in Him as your all. this is such good, good news for our weary and flighty eyes & hearts.     

 

finding love will be the ultimate experience. 

our last lie is a sexy one.    because if you finally find love, it is sure to give you completeness,  fulfillment,  the truest of truest loves we could ever dream up.   but this is a lie that not only lures us in, but also often cultivates a sense of helplessness & despair.   so many times i’ve read on blogs young women writing about how desperately they want to find love,  how somehow all their friends around them got married and they got left behind and their twenties are sneaking past them smirking & doing the evil laugh while they suffer,  alone,  on weekends and holidays.  i know, because I WAS ONE OF THEM!  

i met Christopher when i was 34 and he proposed on my 35th birthday.  thirty-freaking-four, you guys.   a little “late” by some standards,  but God brought him to me nonetheless, and i was blown away by God's goodness.  but let’s be honest here -  this lie isn’t just for you beautiful single women, it’s also for us married women, too.  because we can idolize our husbands to be the ultimate prize.   and let’s be bold -  

                             finding love does not fulfill our deepest need or bring complete peace to our spirits.  

and i can say that openly because my dear sweet husband who i’m crazy about and who is just plain wonderful also happens to be a human.  a broken, messy soul & body who has the same need i do -  to be loved unconditionally,  perfectly, unfalteringly.  and he nor i are the ones who can give that to each other.  your deepest longings for intimacy and love in your beautiful, broken heart of hearts will only be met and mended by your Maker, your God, the One who is the Constant Pursuer.    

oh sisters, and maybe some brothers too,   i know i've only begun this conversation, and it's one we'll be engaging with for our lifetime.  i'm praying if you happen to stumble on this, and you read these paragraphs and words from Scripture, your heart will be provoked, to ask what lie or lies you might be banking on, and the places God wants to meet you and find you and redeem you.  
 
Send me a note too if you'd like to engage more deeply... i'd love to connect with you.

amy