God is Present Through It All

Success doesn’t equal God’s approval; failure doesn’t denote His absence and most importantly disappointment doesn’t mean He doesn’t care.

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2016 was a rough year for me. Not quite as rough as 2015 had been– the year where I entered the work force; had 0 church community and started to struggle with depression, insecurities and negative over analyzing . 2015 was one of the worst years of my life thus far and 2016 followed quite closely.

In 2016, I became more self aware of my struggles and I gradually started to take steps to come closer to God to change them. It was an arduous process. My mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical state really were at rock bottom. Depression hit me hard at times; I was overwhelmed with insecurities, jealousy and a comparative spirit. Even my physical appearance started to reflect what was going  on inside (weight gain, minimal hair growth/hair breakage and acne breakouts). I’ve provided links to some in depth blogs I’ve written about some of those struggles so I won’t go into greater detail about them, but I will say that they all pointed to the fact that I needed help.

So that’s what I constantly sought from literally anyone that would listen. Any chance I got I would send ranting essay text messages to friends complaining about my insecurities, my jealousy, my heartache, my over analyzing, and etc. One friend eventually called me out for it, rightfully so.

I was spending so much time complaining to humans when I should’ve been intentionally, wholeheartedly running to Jesus to get me through the rough season. Sometimes I would, but sometimes I would wait. I would wallow in my self-pity and allow myself to be consumed by every negative thought, feeling and emotion that was entering my mind. It sounds crazy, but there’s something satisfying about indulging in your sadness and your anger. Maybe it has to do with the sin nature and a God complex; when I analyze a situation and perceive it the way I want to then I am in control of the outcome and it feels dangerously good to be in control. Until you realize that that control is robbing your ability to connect to God and to see the truth in an area of your life that He wants to help you through and take hold of. Moving on….

So what does any of this have to do with success or failure? Well if you’re connected to me on any social media site then you know what else I accomplished in 2016: I wrote, directed, produced and funded two short films that cost me thousands of dollars and that took a lot of time, creativity and energy. And as previously noted in this blog post, I wasn’t in the best place mentally, emotionally, or spiritually, yet I was still able to create two films that I’m incredibly proud of.

I’ll say it again: Success doesn’t equal God’s approval; failure doesn’t denote His absence and most importantly disappointment doesn’t mean, He doesn’t care.

When I look at those films, I think to myself 2016 was a successful year. God blesses us with success, right? Wrong. God blesses us out of His grace and mercy, but that doesn’t always mean we’re doing the right thing. I disobeyed God and chose the world over Him, more times than I’d like to admit (and I’m sure I will still do both of those things). Just like any Father, while I know He loved me through it all, I don’t believe He was pleased with my actions and my thought life. Yet, in His grace and mercy, He provided for me and enabled me to complete those films.

I was reading John 11 yesterday and verses 21 & 22 struck a chord with me:

“Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.”

To provide context, Mary & Martha’s brother Lazarus has just died. Jesus had received word that Lazarus was sick a few days prior; rather than running to heal him, Jesus “abode two days still in the same place” (verse 6). (SPOILER ALERT: Jesus raised him from the dead)…

Martha’s words are what got me thinking about success & failure and how we relate the two to God’s presence in our lives. In that moment when Martha goes to Jesus, I picture a woman whose disappointed, yes, but I also see a woman who hasn’t allowed that disappointment to change her faith and love for God. She still believes in Him. She still knows His character and she still knows that even in this dark hour, God can do something incredible.

I know I’m guilty of allowing disappointments and earthly circumstances shape my view of God’s presence in my life and also guilty of then questioning whether or not He will do something in that dark night of the soul. Logically, I know He’s sovereign, but logic goes out the door when a disappointment hits and when you’re at your lowest.

I was able to accomplish solid work in 2016, yet many other areas of my life were a mess. God was still there; I just wasn’t turning to Him enough. If I had failed to make my films, I would’ve been disappointed, but He still would’ve been there. If something “good” happens, it doesn’t mean He’s present (He’s present regardless of that outcome– not because of it) and if something “bad” happens it doesn’t mean He’s absent. It’s foolish to use earthly parameters to define God’s presence in our life. Yesterday, today, tomorrow, He’s still the same.

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The Real Problem

It’s not you, it’s me. No. I’m not just using a line. I’m being serious because I am the problem. Unless you’re reading this post after you’ve made a dumb mistake, in which case– you are the problem.

Last week I got into the Christmas spirit and did some cookie baking. I used the Sara Lee mix and followed the cutout recipe. I melted the better, measured the flour and poured in the cookie mix and I mixed and mixed. Twenty minutes of mixing, my dough wouldn’t stick. Thirty minutes went by. No matter how much I mixed and kneaded and dropped on the counter, my dough would not hold. I rolled the dough out and watched it separate before my eyes when it should have maintained its form and spread out. I stubbornly pressed the cookie cutter into it anyway and watched the dough fall apart instead of adhering to the shape of the cutter.

You know you’re doing something wrong when you’re baking cookies  and you’re so frustrated that you’re on the brink of tears and you actually start to contemplate tossing the cookie dough in the trash. No problem is too small for my Jesus. There I stood at my counter, kneading and praying. Praying to Jesus for the wisdom to form the perfect dough. God’s got this. And yet there I stood, twenty minutes after having prayed with no change. I think I started to get a little angry at God for not helping me out. Baking cookies is very simple so why couldn’t He just give me a hand?

I paused my mixing long enough to turn to the other counter in my kitchen when I saw it: the egg. The egg that was supposed to be in my bowl of cookie dough was still sitting on the counter. Oops. I felt like an idiot.

“There’s a spiritual lesson in here somewhere….” I thought to myself.

 

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It’s not You it’s me. It’s not you it’s me.

God isn’t the problem. Your friend isn’t the problem. Your teacher isn’t the problem. Your boss isn’t the problem. Your boyfriend isn’t the problem. Your parent isn’t the problem. You get where I’m going with this.

You are the problem.

How many times have you gotten mad at someone close to you because their actions have upset you? Because they’ve been ‘inconsiderate’, ‘rude’, ‘disrespectful’, ‘insensitive’, etc.? How many times have you rationalized your anger? Have you told yourself that things would be different if they just changed or if the scenario were different?

Let me be less vague and be a little vulnerable– I haven’t done that in a while.

I spent a lot of 2016 getting angry at a friend of mine. I had strong feelings for this friend and was hypersensitive to any and all of their actions. If they didn’t answer my texts, I thought they were ignoring me because they thought I was annoying. If they talked to someone else more than they talked to me, I was jealous. If they were curt and didn’t acknowledge the times when I would go out of my way to do something for them, I was hurt. If they flirted with me and paid attention to me, I was hopeful. Until they ignored my texts again or flirted with someone else or didn’t notice how much I cared for them. It was a vicious cycle.

I told myself a thousand times, “if they just (fill in the blank with any action), things would be different.”

“If they treated me like this”

“If we spoke about this”

“If we got to know each other more”

Blah blah blah, essentially, things would be different. So I thought. So I hoped. So I was wrong.

Things wouldn’t be different because the situation and the other person didn’t need to change. I did. My perspective, my actions, my attitude all needed to change in order for me to break the cycle.

When I was trying to form those ingredients into cookie dough, I used all of my strength and efforts and even called on God for help. Nothing I did made a difference because I didn’t remember that I had left the egg on the counter. I didn’t see it. When I turned around to the other counter, my perspective was widened. I could see things ( the egg) that I didn’t see before. Things with my friend and I weren’t that different. When I spend time with him or talk to him– what I text him; what I don’t text him; what I wear around him; what I say to him. With every detail, I secretly hope ingredients are being mixed together to change how he views me and to form dough, which in this case is a more solid bond between the two of us.

I keep missing the egg. The biggest detail. Without it, no matter how hard I try, that dough will not form. Love. I can work as hard as I want, but love will always be the missing ingredient that makes it impossible for the dough to form, which is why I’m the problem. I think I can will something to happen with my own actions instead of believing in The Holy One’s plans. It doesn’t matter what my friend says or does or what I say or do; as long as love isn’t in the mix, that dough will not form.

Now what about your situation? What’s the missing ingredient in your relationships?  Is it one that can be easily added? Or is God calling you to throw out your batch of dough?

 

The Cost is High

20 minutes until the train leaves. I can make it. I jump in my car to rush to the station to get to work just like every other morning– only this morning I’m behind the wheel. My parents usually drive me to the train station because there are few parking spaces left by the time I take the train and I’m always running late. This past Thursday, there was a mandatory volunteer meeting for my church’s Vacation Bible School that I would attend after work. My church isn’t far from the train station so I decided to drive myself.

I take the usual shortcut to get to the station and I arrive with 5 minutes to spare. That leaves me just enough time to drive down a few aisles as I realize there are no parking spots left. Alas, I see a patch of grass where 4 other cars have parked. If 4 other people did it, it must be legal, right? I climb the curb in my little Matrix and park next to the other cars. It must be my lucky day! I see a parking ranger driving by. I snap a picture of my car to show my parents I found a spot and I wave the ranger down. “Am I legally parked here?” I ask the man. He pauses for a moment, and looks where I’m pointing, “Yes,” he responds before driving off. I sprint through the parking lot and up the stairs to make the train.

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The day comes to an end. I get on the return train to the station. I walk through the parking lot and am met with an orange envelope on my windshield. No…. We all know what that means. I open the paper and am fuming as I look at my $75 ticket. I run down the line and look at all of the other cars that also have tickets. I get in my car and let out my rage by abusing my steering wheel with my half empty water bottle (those anger problems I previously blogged about; God’s still working on). I calm down and drive to the church meeting, talking to myself about the “stupid ranger” and the “unfair ticket”, all the while listening to praise and worship music.

The next morning my dad decides to look at our driveway through the living room window, “What happened to your hubcap?” he says. What. I run outside and stand next to the rear passenger wheel– it was gone. It fell off when I parked on the grass because I had to climb the curb.

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I was angry and ready to contest the ticket because of the ranger’s word. I didn’t want to buy a new hubcap. Then it hit me, all of this happened as I took a step to serve God’s kingdom more. I resolved to pay the ticket quickly. I realized a valuable lesson– the cost of serving Christ is high.

I just did a quick Google on bible verses that talk about suffering for Christ and there are a lot. Here are a few:

The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. — Acts 5:41 NLT

And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.– Romans 8:17 NLT

Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. — 2 Corinthians 11:23 NLT

All throughout the bible you see people suffering for the Gospel. Today there are still countless Christians  being persecuted in other lands. It may seem insignificant to some, but that parking ticket and missing hubcap really reminded me that being a Christian also means we have to be willing to serve Christ wholeheartedly, doing His work– no matter what the cost may be.

God has a different plan for each and every believer’s life. Thus, His plan for each of us to serve, and the cost each of us may have to pay will vary. I went to that meeting because a few Sundays ago when I saw the flier asking for volunteers to help at Vacation Bible School, I saw it as a first step for me to get back into serving His kingdom. The ticket and hubcap definitely gave me a clear picture of what we sign up for when we serve God and when we ask that His will, not ours be done.

Serving Him won’t always be easy. It won’t always be comfortable. It certainly won’t be perfect. Yet, just as the bible talks countless times about the suffering we are to endure as Christians, it also talks about our reward, God’s gifts, His goodness and His promises to us. We may suffer on this earth in this present body, but we are later promised a great reward.

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. — Romans 8:18

Seek.

 

imgresThe first half of 2016 was insanely busy for me as I threw all of my energy into making my first short film since graduating college while still working full time with a ~4 hour daily commute. It was mentally, physically and spiritually exhausting. This is the part where I say it was also the most rewarding experiences ever, and it was, but that’s not the whole story. Beyond the exhaustion was probably the largest spiritual battle I’ve ever had to face as I went through a season where I was more distant from God than I had ever been before.

I think my drifting from God started in June when I entered the work force. Though my job was (and still is) rewarding and enjoyable and my bosses were (and still are!) great, a little at a time my demons started to show up. As I entered this new season in life, I became blatantly aware of my insecurities and weaknesses; the parts of me that felt inadequate; the parts of me that constantly compared myself to others; the parts of me that always feared rejection and loss; the parts of me that chose to cry to herself and vent to others about her burdens rather than laying them at the altar. It was a time where I became reacquainted with the Amber I knew as a freshman in college- the Amber I knew as a freshman in high school– the Amber I hated.

It was easy for me to drift from God. I would roll out of bed around 5:30AM and groggily, rush through a quick prayer before spending ~45 minutes exercising. I’d then rush to the train and then spend ~12 hours out of the house. When I got home: Netflix. And then when tiredness overwhelmed me, I would kneel at my bedside and give God about 3-5 minutes of prayer before picking a scripture from my promise box; I’d read it, reflect for 2 minutes before calling it a night. This was a pattern I repeated for months. I would occasionally have the day where I’d give God a little more time, but I would always come back to this routine.

I blamed it on my lack of community, lack of time, but it was really just the result of my selfishness and laziness. I could’ve given God more of my free time, but I didn’t want to. Even when stressful situations arose, I let pride get the best of me. I would sit and pray for a bit before using my own logic and reasoning to solve whatever challenge lay before me. God was merciful and gracious in this time and bailed me out time and time again. I worked through some of my inner demons I’d been battling, but I never got to the root of each of them so it was always just a temporary fix.

Fast forward to December. I wanted to make a short film and when I read an article in the NY Times about the responses people had been having to the mass shootings, I knew what I had to make a film about. I inched a little closer to God as I sought His guidance and asked for His help to make the right script to address this sensitive topic. At some point, the story came to me. I started to brainstorm and outline and ask peers if they’d join me in making this project.

January began and so did the downward decay of my walk with God as I continued in pre-production. My emotions were out of control. I was always getting frustrated with those around me; I was impatient; I would complain; I was insecure; I didn’t trust people; I would get irrationally angry or irrationally sad. High stress + Distant from God = Recipe for Disaster. I was a mess. It was by God’s grace that I was able to clench onto a minor amount of sanity to get the film done.

Then production wrapped and I had freedom again. Rather than using my free time to get close to God again; I used it to mentally dive into the world.

“For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.” — Romans 7:19

This verse sums it up. I wasn’t physically or verbally sinning, but I was mentally. I was constantly at odds with what God wanted me to do and what my flesh and heart wanted to pursue. I would pray and pray for His voice and His will, then 5 seconds later I would allow my mind to wander and imagine the outcome that my flesh wanted. My mind is my best friend and my worst enemy.

I wanted to want God more than the world, but for a while, I didn’t know how. I felt lonely and different and after talking to a friend who was grappling with her own faith, I found myself thinking ‘that would be nice if there wasn’t sin, if there wasn’t a God…..’ I told my mom these thoughts and she’s a woman who knows the Lord– I mean really knows Him, so she spent that night telling me of stories where she’d seen the Holy Spirit move. I dismissed her stories and thought about my unanswered prayers, the miracles I’d hoped for, but never seen. In spite of these arising doubts and the massive distance between me and God, part of me still wanted to be with Him. So I still prayed and asked Him to help me through this season.

That Friday– desperate to reconnect to God– I decided to attend a young adult meeting at Times Square Church. I walked to that service in tears. I felt so depressed and overwhelmed and I didn’t even know why. All I knew was that I didn’t want to feel like that anymore. I got to the church and could barely worship. I thought to myself, God understands how weak I feel right now. Then the next worship leader got on stage and said she wants everyone to stand because any chains that are holding onto us, will remain there if we’re worshipping halfheartedly. So I stood on my feet and raised my hands as I surrendered to God. I went to subway outreach after the service and we just sang songs and worshipped. Occasionally a member from the group would step out and briefly preach. “I believe this?…” was the thought that came to me as I heard each person’s snippet of the gospel. The words and notions sounded foreign to me. That was when I realized just how distant from God I’d gotten. Nonetheless, hungry to reconnect with God, I continued to worship and sing with everyone else. Because while my mind was far and doubting, my heart knew this felt right.

Sunday. After the church service, my mom saw a sign about an art exhibit with prophetic paintings. She wanted to go look at them, but my feet hurt so I wanted to go to the car and sit. I got the keys from her and made it to the church lobby before a faint whisper (what I believe to have been the voice of God) came to me, saying it would be nice to go to the exhibit with my mom. I turned around and joined her and that’s when it hit me: peace. A peace I hadn’t felt in months. A peace that overwhelmed my feelings and emotions. A peace that could only have been authored by God. I looked at every painting and read the scriptures and words from the painters and they touched my heart. I felt a change brewing in me and it felt great.

I wish I could say from that point on I never felt sad or overwhelmed and I never chose the world over God, but I can’t. The next day I was hit with another spiritual attack. I felt weak and it was hard, but God got me through it just like He always has and like He always will. The biggest lesson I’ve learned throughout this season: “Seek and ye shall find…” — Matthew 7:7.

After being so distant from God, I’ve learned that there isn’t any magical formula to connecting to Him or to being a Christian. There’s no 10-step method or plan. Seek. Search. When you earnestly pursue God, He’ll find you wherever you are and come into your life. He’s gracious and merciful and He’ll bring you peace you’ve never known, but you have to keep pursuing Him. Is it hard to choose Him over the world sometimes? Yes. But is it also incredibly rewarding and satisfying? Absolutely.

I wrote this post without much of an agenda or plan. I just wanted to share what I’d been going through. I wear my heart on my sleeve, but when at my lowest, I bury my pain. Whenever I’ve gone through these seasons, God has picked me up, but I know there are other men and women out there that don’t have that luxury. They put up a masque to hide their pain because they’re ashamed or afraid. I pray and hope that my vulnerability in this post pushes others to realize that there’s no shame in being weak; there’s no shame in questioning God; there’s no shame in admitting that you’re in a spiritual, mental or emotional battle that you don’t know how to get out of. You are not alone and you can experience healing. Seek.

“Seek and ye shall find…” — Matthew 7:7.

Fundraising Tips & Film Thoughts

I launched the fundraiser campaign for my short film, One of Too Many exactly 11 days ago, and what an 11 days it has been. This is the first time I’ve ever done a fundraiser for a film, and in these short ~2 weeks I’ve definitely learned a few things about fundraising for a creative project that I wanted to share. Note: my tips aren’t ones that’ll give you a successful campaign– because I have no clue how to do that– my tips are on how to stay sane when you aren’t having a successful campaign.

Be patient. In the first 12 hours of the campaign not a single person donated. Definitely not the outcome I anticipated, but I stayed cool; “You’ve got this, God” I chanted to myself in the bathroom at work. A little more time passed and finally the first donation came in! It was from an ‘anonymous’ donor…  I opened IndieGoGo’s e-mail with the details of the donation and I learned that the ‘anonymous’ donor was someone I liked to call Mom… Yeah I shouldn’t have to explain the mix of emotions I was feeling at that point… Patience. Patience is needed because every person and every campaign won’t instantly raise thousands or even hundreds of dollars. It takes time and sometimes hard work to raise anything.

Be Thankful. For every penny that people do give and for every share, like or comment. No one has to give or do anything nice for your campaign. You are begging people for money or for a social media promotion. These things make people uncomfortable. We see it everyday in the subways and on the streets; someone begs for money and 95% of the population will walk by this person without so much as a second glance. When you start a fundraiser campaign, you have officially become that street beggar– not quite literally. You really have to learn to appreciate and thank those people that take the time to give; to share your campaign and to offer words of advice. Which brings me to the next point.

Be willing to ask anyone. A wise woman once gave me great advice:”The worst I can say is, ‘no;’ you never know until you ask.” Asking people for money is hard. It sometimes feels embarrassing, which is why at first it’s easiest to reach out to people that you are really close to– best friends, family, etc. or to people that you automatically assume will donate because of any number of other reasons. You soon start to realize that you’re limiting your options by thinking like this. Ask everyone for help. The worst anyone can ever say is no and people can surprise you. I’ve reached out to people I haven’t spoken to in months & some even years, and yet still these people generously opened their wallets for the film.

Let out your emotions. I’m a crier. I am probably one of the most sensitive, emotional people you will ever meet so when something bad happens, I cry. Day 1 of the fundraiser, I told myself “You can cry, wallow in self pity and contemplating quitting for five minutes a day, but that’s it.” Naturally, I broke my rule a few times and wallowed a bit more frequently than I should’ve. The point of this rule is for me to be honest and vulnerable with myself so that I can continue to lead my cast and crew with strength. I’ve gone the route of bottling things up before and it has never ended pretty. But the key part with this portion was for me to let my emotions out to God. I didn’t just declare my fears and doubts to myself. I prayed about them and wrote them in my journal and released them to God. He didn’t magically make them go away, but when I brought them to Him, He gave me clarity and peace of mind, which gave me the strength to continue to work on the film and to try to raise the funds.

Be prepared to fail. A lot of my disappointment from the first day of the campaign came because I expected the campaign to be an immediate success. I expected an overflowing amount of funds to come to the film. So you can see why I felt a bit distraught every time I glanced over at my cell phone, praying for an IndieGoGo notification. When I saw that the campaign was doing poorly I realized I needed to decide how far I was willing to go for this film; how much would I sacrifice for it. The answer came simply: everything. I am literally willing and preparing to go into debt to make this project. So if the fundraiser fails, I will still do everything in my power to tell this story.

To tell you the truth, I’ve been so wrapped up in pre-production plans for the film that I’d temporarily forgotten why I’ve spent the past three months trying to create this project. Last night, I was reminded of why. I read an article about a survivor from the Columbine shooting. The woman is crippled and now in her thirties. She recounted the day the shooting happened and she talked about the constant physical pain she is in because of bullets that hit her that day. I teared up as I read her story. My heart ached as I remembered the pain and fear the victims of mass shootings and people that haven’t even been victims, now feel. Why do I think I can make a difference? Why do I think I should tell this story? Why do I think I can write a mini series that can heal wounds and change lives? This string of questions raced through my mind last night. The short answer to all of them is I can’t. I can’t do any of these things because I am inadequate and far too ignorant to grasp the depth of the pain that people are feeling. But that doesn’t mean, I shouldn’t try. So that is precisely what I’m doing- trying. Trying to tell a story that will bring some measure of peace and healing into people’s lives. I’m a lucky one. In spite of the violence and horrible things that have been happening in the world, I’m still able to believe in the spiritual– to believe in a Good God that loves me and that brings me peace. I know that everyone isn’t able to do that; it’s hard for a lot of people to believe that God can exist when we live in a world full of mass shootings, bombings, and other tragedies. I can’t make you believe, but I can try to impart to you the peace and hope that I feel.

Choosing

My day started off with some much needed God time. It was one of my usual mini fasts where I avoid food and social media, put my phone into “Do Not Disturb” and dig into God’s presence, giving all of myself to Him for a few hours. I felt compelled to do this today because as I mentioned in my previous blog post, I’ve been on an up and down spiritual roller coaster and my connection to God certainly hasn’t been what it should be. While I have had a few of these mini fasts since noticing my decaying spiritual condition, the one I had today was a little different…

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Sometimes when I listen to worship music, I like to meditate; to close my eyes and see if there are any dreams, visions or thoughts God wants to instill in me. More often than not, my mind races and jumps, making it impossible for me to be still and for Him to really reveal anything to me, and today was one of those days. Not only did my mind race, but it jumped. It jumped into my hole of pain that I’ve done all that I can to bury. I couldn’t even focus on God anymore because I was so focused on my own past and sins. I cried and asked God to bring healing into this area of my life.

It took me some time, but I eventually wiped my tears, crawled out of bed and picked up my bible, my promise box and my journal. The promise I picked brought me to Isaiah 58– the scripture about fasting. I find it funny; almost every time I’m fasting, I’m brought to this passage, but God’s word is amazing. I can read a scripture 20 times and learn something new/relate to it differently on the 21st time.

Isaiah 58:6 reads:

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?”

I’ve read this verse countless times, but it never impacted me the way it did today. I cried– not just tears– I cried out with my voice to God that this is who He is, and this is what He does for His children. Take my burdens Lord; remove my sins of overthinking, my fears of commitment, my complaining and bitter tongue and make me new again. This was the cry of my heart and as I declared it, that peace began to wash over me again.

Declaring these things verbally wasn’t enough. I opened my journal– something I haven’t done in months– to get these thoughts on paper. When I was done, I chose to reread some of my journal entries from two years ago just to see how things in my life have changed and what I still needed to work on. My heart broke and my regret sunk in because a lot of my journal entries pertained to the very sin of my past that had been weighing on me that morning. I saw the problem’s progression where I journaled about it in its earlier, slightly more innocent stages, asking God for help, only to see that the problem spiraled and got worse and worse.

Suddenly I realized why my meditation had been interrupted with the regrets of my past; it was God’s way of telling me that I can keep praying to Him about my current struggles, and He will give me peace and strength, but the only way a long lasting change can come, is if I actively choose to obey Him every. single. time I am faced with that sin. I had been guilty of choosing my flesh over His spirit too many times in the past in that area of my life and that is why the problem was never solved.

A lot of people negate the power of prayer, and I am in no way doing that, but I do believe that with prayer, must come action on our part; that is why throughout passages in the word, God tell us to “follow,” “obey,” “do.” Our walk with Him is an active one.

Put it this way: if I’m overweight and I go to a nutritionist and a fitness instructor for help, they will provide me with meal plans, workout routines, ways to break old habits and other helpful advice. When I talk to them, I’ll likely feel better and more motivated to change, but then I pass that bakery and I see that cake calling my name. I remember the advice I was given, but I want that cake… No. I cannot eat that cake. I walk by the store and pat myself on the back for resisting the temptation. The next day comes and there are free cake samples being handed out on the street…

“Just one bite won’t hurt… You’ll go to the gym tomorrow and burn it off… You deserve a cheat day…”

*NOTE: I am well aware that a piece of cake for someone on a diet isn’t the end of the world*

The point I’m getting at is that that cake represents the sin in your life. You may resist it once, twice, even three times, but Satan will always try harder to make you fall. He’ll make it more palatable, more accessible to you, and unless you make the active decision to choose God’s way and the strength He has given you, you will continue to fall, and you will eventually come to that place of shame and regret, questioning how you fell so far.

God is merciful and gracious. He does heal our wounds of the past, so I do know and believe that He can heal my old ones and any new ones, but two years from now, I don’t want to look back with regret and shame because rather than resisting temptation and allowing Him to really change me, I constantly chose sin. I want a long lasting victory. Two years from now I want to rejoice because the sins that once held me captive are gone. So today is day one on a new journey  of actively choosing His spirit over my flesh.

Bringing back some Late Night Amber Rambles

“Speak Life” — this TobyMac song is amazing. I’ve heard it so many times before, but I never realized how profound it was until I was the one that needed “life” spoken to me after my latest impulse, crazy move. It was a move that I did to save myself from a pit of mental insanity that I was descending into. Dig deeper. That’s what I did. The only way I saw out of the pit was to dig deeper into it. To unearth every crazy thought  that I had been holding onto and hiding. I had to spew them all out to get my escape and my closure. In doing this, I embarrassed myself beyond belief. I felt crazy after I did it and what made matters worse was the fact that those closest to me that I discussed it with, affirmed my thoughts and said that I was acting crazy. I don’t blame them because my actions definitely were certifiable, but I didn’t need the obvious stated. I needed life and hope spoken to me and as I said I didn’t get either of those things. I’m not writing this to have my own pity party (I’ll do that as I toss and turn in bed for the next few hours). I came to my blog because writing clears my head and helps me get to the root of my problems, and while that’s not necessarily what’s happening now, it’s bringing me to a bigger point of the words we say to people everyday.

We have to speak life to those around us. I don’t always do that and I’m just now feeing how detrimental that is, especially when those around you are hurting. You never know what insecurities you’re pricking and what lies from the enemy you’re magnifying. So before you judge, condemn or use “tough love” to those around you, stop, think and really consider what they need in that moment.

I wish I had wiser words for my first blog post in months, but I don’t. Over the past six months, I have been on a roller coaster ride of mental and emotional highs and lows, but mostly lows. My spiritual life has declined; my insecurities have increased and my intense faith and belief have been swapped out for fears and doubts. My life has hit a low point and it scares me when I really stop and think about it. I feel like I’m drowning and like I have no control over what is going on around me.

*Cue the God-given epiphany any moment now……..

Still waiting……………………….. and still growing and learning. I believe God brings us through deserts to transform and change us so while I’ve recently had a hard time believing in HIs miracles, I do still believe in His goodness. If there’s a trial we’re facing, it’s there for us to shed our weak exterior, to make way for the person He wants us to be.