Category Archives: Grace

Here’s to you. Yes, you.

Here’s to you, the one who got out of bed this morning. Who put on her big girl panties and drove to work. Who stayed home and made another. blessed. PB&J. Who got outside and ran one more mile. Who cleaned up somebody’s mess. Literally or figuratively. Again.

Here’s to you, the one who thinks she’s not making progress. That if she were, then things would feel easier by now. That she wouldn’t be so tired. Still. That she would just be somehow, some way, better.

Here’s to you, the one who forgets how far she’s actually come. That she has moved forward. That she’s still tired, NOT because she’s still so weak, but because she’s RUNNING FURTHER.

Here’s to you. The one who’s still showing up.

You’ve come further than you think.

Here's to you, the one who got out of bed this morning. The one who thinks she's not making progress. The one who forgets how far she's come.

Starbucks Confessional (I am a freaking hot mess. Now, what?)

Yes, God helps in our need. It's a broken world, and bad things happen to good people. But what about the messes I get MYSELF into? What then?I’m doing something that makes me nervous. I was feeling pretty raw and low last week and it spilled onto the pages of my journal. I’m nervous because I know I’m supposed to share it.

I wanted to edit it first – but not in the way I usually edit my writing. I could tell I wanted to edit the desperation out of it. Just take it down a notch or three. I can’t have you all thinking I’m losing it over here.

But what? I don’t want people to think I’m that broken? That flawed? That needy?

So I’m not editing it. Because maybe one of you needs to know that if nothing else, you’re not the only one who is that broken. That flawed. That needy.

And maybe you’ll find that the God who is big enough for someone as broken, flawed, and needy as me, can be big enough for you too.

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I’m low. And I’m apparently stressed, as I have a behemoth trifecta of a cold sore eating my face. I’m in Starbucks, face unwashed, Abreva on my mouth. Wow.

I’m low. I’m sluggish. I’m blasting music through my earbuds to drown out the Starbucks crowd.

I’m not going to run the 1/2 marathon I’m registered for this Saturday. I didn’t train. And why?

Just because I chose not to.

Just like every day I choose NOT to do the right thing. To give my body the healthy food it needs. And the time in God’s Word. And the break from so much caffeine and sugar. (As I sit here with my grande quad shot two pump white mocha Americano, thankyouverymuch.)

It’s like I’m rebelling against my own freedom. I’m rebelling against my own success, health, growth, victory. What in the world for? Why?

WHY?
WHY?
WHY?
WHY?

Laziness? Addiction? Oppression? Simple rebellion? Self-loathing? Pride? Perfectionism?

I don’t know why I do this.

Does it matter why?

I wake up tired. I go to bed tired. I walk through my day looking for my next cup of coffee.

I think about doing awesome things. But I do the opposite.

It sounds like Paul’s words. “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing… WHAT A WRETCHED [WOMAN] I AM! WHO WILL SAVE ME? WHO WILL RESCUE ME FROM THIS BODY OF DEATH? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

I only copied the part about “Thanks be to God” because I feel like I should, but it doesn’t feel real right now.

I need to write. But what!? WHAT DO I HAVE TO SAY!?

“I feel low. Blah blah blah.”

Well, I feel low BECAUSE I MAKE POOR CHOICES. I feel low because I know what my body needs, what my mind needs, and I REFUSE TO DO IT. And even do worse. No one does this TO ME.

I DO THIS TO ME.

I am rebelling against my own freedom and I am angry and ashamed and tired and fed up and sad and nothing. And low. Just low. And apparently anxious, judging by the aforementioned face-eating cold sore.

So what now? How do I even approach God with this? I’ve done it – AM DOING IT – to myself.

Adam and Eve come to mind. In the Garden. It was so beautiful. It was perfect. They could have so much, but they chose the one thing God said no to. They traded ALL THE YESes for the NO. They rebelled against their own freedom.

Were there consequences? Absolutely. Um, hello, fall of all mankind. [You can read the account in context here.] But that’s not what I’m thinking of right now.

I’m thinking of this verse:

“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21)

He could’ve left them naked and ashamed. But He didn’t. He clothed them. He covered them. He allowed them to experience the consequences of their rebellion, but HE MADE THEM GARMENTS AND HE CLOTHED THEM.

EVEN THOUGH THEY GOT THEMSELVES INTO THIS MESS.

God called to them. He met them in their shame. In their defeat. In their utter failure. And He met their need.

And I’m trying REALLY HARD to not cry in Starbucks right now. Because I need that. I need Him. I need Him to come and get me in this pit. I can’t climb out to find Him. I need Him to hear me hiding, naked and defeated, make me a garment, and walk me back out into the light.

Please come, Jesus.

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Oh my goodness. A garment. Oh JESUS, YOU CAME to make garments too. Just like the Lord God did in the Garden.  You came “…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61:3)

You guys. Could you use a new garment? Or any garment? Will you answer Him from your hiding place?

Unexpected Laughter: the tale of a blogger, a Pakistani, & a hot cup of Chai

“It’s been too long.”

More accusations drum in my head:

“I should’ve gone over weeks – MONTHS – ago. What will we talk about anyway? I’m a horrible human being. And a worse neighbor.”

My insecurity is unrelenting. My neighbor is from Pakistan. English isn’t her first language and I’m a fool when I talk to people who don’t speak much English. [I use lots of little words and I nod and smile and pretend I understand them. And I speak way too loudly, as if “can’t speak English” means “CAN’T HEAR.”]

I almost didn’t knock on the door. What happened after I did surprised both of us. But, I package up some homemade granola, grab Molly by the hand, and walk to our next-door-neighbor’s front door before I can change my mind.

“Hi, Uzma! Molly & I baked granola today, and we wanted to share some with you.”

“Hello, Amanda! Please, come inside!” She joyfully looks from me, to Molly, and back to me. [Then slight confusion at the granola. Dang it. She has no idea what granola is. Should’ve gone with cookies. Oh well.]

We walk in and sit at the kitchen table. She stands to offer me a cup of tea. I hesitate, not wanting to be an imposition.

[Also thinking, “WHAT ARE WE GOING TO TALK ABOUT?”]

Uzma stands at the stove, tea kettle at the ready, as the lightbulb goes on in my head: “Get over yourself. You are not an imposition. You are invited. Have a cup of tea and visit with her. YOU CAN DO THIS!”

“Yes,” I hear myself say out loud. “Okay. Yes, I can stay for a cup of tea today. Thank you.”

Delighted, she puts the kettle on.

She pulls cups and saucers from the cabinet and I speak up: “Uzma, I’m sorry that I haven’t said hello in such a long time.”

“It is okay! You are very busy. I understand.” Her kind smile spreads wide: “And you are here now!”

I smile, too. “Yes, I’m so happy to be here now.” And I am.

She serves our tea. We sip. We chat. And this time, rather than nod and smile and pretend to understand, I choose to laugh at myself and admit when I don’t understand – and she laughs too. [There is a lot of laughing.]

Then we find a rhythm: she, eventually finding words; I, eventually recognizing them; both of us, laughing at our combined herculean effort. We stumble through stories of children and family, illness and loss, and back around to daily life.

“Uzma, what do you like to do during the day?”

“Oh, I am very boring here.” With a sheepish laugh, “I watch TV.”

“What do you like on TV?” I brace for a struggle to understand something about a show on Pakistani cable, but am completely disarmed when without a moment’s hesitation, she gleefully declares:

“ELLEN!”

I erupt in laughter. “I love Ellen too!”

In an instant, the language barrier crumbles, the culture gap dissolves, and we gasp with laughter as I attempt a high-five which she receives as a handshake/hold, and we giggle like little girls over our lost-in-translation gestures.

I compose myself to I bring up an urgent matter: “Uzma. I bet Ellen would love to hear that you watch her show. Let’s take a selfie. Do you know what a selfie is?”

Uzma shakes her head no, eyes gleaming. [At this point she appears giddy at the chance to partake in what must be an important American tradition. Perhaps I’m overselling it.]

“I will teach you how to take a selfie. Lean in and smile!”

She’s delighted with our selfie, and I promise to text it to her daughter’s cell phone. And also to Ellen on Twitter.

Uzma loves Ellen!

(Hi, Ellen!)

“Uzma, your tea is delicious. Will you make it again the next time I visit?”

Eyes wide and hands clasped in delight, she says, “You come, I make tea. Every time, I make tea. You will come tomorrow?”

“Yes, I’ll come tomorrow!”

And I do. And she makes tea, and her daughter Zainab joins us. We look at family pictures this time. I ask questions about their family traditions, and we work to understand each other.

And we laugh.

For all our differences, our commonality trumps them all: we’re women. And don’t all women struggle to be understood and to understand? And isn’t the victory in admitting this doesn’t always come easy? And isn’t the joy in laughing at ourselves and taking ourselves lightly and embracing the stumbling and fumbling in it all?

Whether she’s from a different country or a different season of life – just because she feels foreign to you doesn’t mean she’s far from reach. Make the first step. Dive into discomfort and embrace the awkwardness.

Whose door will you knock on today?