Lessons from Psalms

It amazes me how reluctant we are to embrace changing rhythms…we clutch onto stanzas of our lives with desperation, usually forgetting that we hate monotones. The songs of our lives have to change – need to change – otherwise we grow stagnant, bored, deaf to His voice. And nobody likes a dead beat.

God’s updating my playlist right now, and I’m trying to accept it by dancing a little bigger, singing a little louder.

He has taught me that change is mostly about caging my fears…about locking each one up and choosing to step into all that tomorrow offers, unhindered.

Change is about being refined – admitting we are diamonds in the roughest of roughs and allowing the heat of his love to smooth our jagged corners.

Change begins with letting go; allowing the good, the bad, and the ugly to sift through our fingertips into his hands which are big enough to hold this world and our baggage…yes, every little piece of it.

If you can align yourself with the pulse of His heart and leave the worries of this life in His palms, I promise you’ll be able to wrap your head around this change thing.

And he’ll proudly call out to you, as all loving fathers do.

Don’t you feel lighter, child? I’ve seen your suitcases full of regret and grief, anticipation and disappointment, weariness and confusion. Doesn’t it feel good to lay it all at my feet?

Dance free now, daughter. Dance free now, son. Let me see you shine. Let me whisper love into the quiet spaces of your today. I satisfy the longing soul and I fill the hungry soul with good, good things.”

My heart calls back in response – Jesus you are beautiful. And that is the beginning and the end of everything. You are radiant and worthy of all honour and praise.

“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand….oh how abundant is your goodness which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you…Blessed be the Lord for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me…Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.” Psalm 31 (Emphasis added)

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Mastering the art of gratitude

Life is so ravishing right now that I cannot contain her with my poetics. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Never have I felt the truth of John 10:10 this deeply – I came that they may have life and have it to the full.

I am weary, legitimately exhausted from the daily grind, but I am bursting with happiness – actually glowing with this thing they call love. It is a deep, pure love and it has me radiating warmth.

In the midst of deadlines (which are stacking up faster than my dirty dishes), God is reminding me that he, the gift giver, invites me to lay down my head and rest. What good, he says, are gifts that you have no time to enjoy?

So this is me, remembering to breathe.

This is me being quiet.

And here is what quiet sounds like:

~Leaves waltzing their way to the ground. The world is humming along with life, singing a song I want to dance to more often.

~Chocolate chip cookies for dinner.

~Spontaneous drives to meet halfway, to hold one another and to look at the stars.

~Laughter. The good kind that starts in a place way down deep and spills out in great big hiccups.

~An absence of right words. Holla at my fellow creatives – ever feel like your art has gone MIA? Like those innovative bones of yours have dried up and gone to dust? Sometimes I think we need to be speechless. It is only then that we fully awaken ourselves to all that is happening around us.

~Lattes. So many lattes. Foam mustaches and pumpkin everything.

~Surrendering the workaholic tendencies. Leaving the to-do list at the door and showing up completely. Saying hi, I’m fully present because you’re important to me and you deserve that.

~Being late when it matters. Sometimes conversations carry eternal weight and what a shame it is when we turn people into points, running from A to B to C and prioritizing punctuality over the fragility of a friend’s heart. Pausing to really listen is a powerful action that speaks loudly of love.

~Praising instead of complaining. There’s some proverb about a dripping faucet that plunk-plunks drops of negativity into a metal bucket all day long. I’m quickly realizing that I would like to be a refreshing ocean spray or a cheerful little fountain over a grumpy tap.

~Hugs. I’ve always struggled with physical touch – what are healthy boundaries, what if it’s awkward – but a hug is a profoundly simple way of sharing devotion. Hugs are security and hope, faith and adoration all rolled into one.

~Sitting awhile in the arms of Jesus. He brings restoration and contentment, always.

Matthew 11:28 is my anthem today: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 

 

 

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Writing love letters to God

Writers are like Cupids of the English language. We find two words, say hey you guys should meet, and hitch them together in a sentence. This matchmaking is an art all its own.

But nobody can write like God himself. I usually write my conversations with Him down because I’m a forgetful girl and I like to return to my journal over and over to see what Amy of the past has conquered. 

Re-reading through prayers this summer reminded me of God’s sweetness. He is so gentle and loving, and the more I poured over his words to me, the more compelled I felt to share them.

So this is the first of a series of blog posts dedicated to love letters between God and I.

April 21st

Amy, I will fiercely protect you all the days of your life.

I am the keeper of your heart and I will not let you go to just anybody.

I am your redeemer and your salvation.

I belong to you just as you belong to me. I. Love. You. Dearly.

When your soul feels weary or restless, look upon my cross and find your peace at the foot of my immense love for you. When your knees meet the ground and you pour out your heart to me, I am most delighted in you. Keep me by your side, talk to me as you go through each day, and realize that I am constantly working all things together for your good. Allow me to be at the forefront of your mind and all your troubled thoughts will become mine. I am strong enough to carry the weight of this world on my shoulders but you are not. Don’t take on too much.

I am here and I am your champion. Walk humbly with me today but walk boldly too, believing I am Yahweh who will defend you to the end. Beloved I am here.

-Jesus.

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February 14th

On February 14th, I started a new journal. It began with a love letter to God and as I read it this morning, I fell for him once more. Without him, I drift. With him, every day is a reason to fill pages with words like these.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son…

Whispers of you are all around – the snow falling softly, softly, softly to the ground. Laughter in a dorm room with bad 90’s pop, markers, and construction paper. Text messages that whoosh off into the stratosphere saying things like there is grace, thank you and how’s life. And somewhere, amid all this noise, sits you. Your touch is gentle as ever and your spirit mildly sweet, kind – patient. Thank you, Jesus, for waiting on my fickle heart.

Thank you for knowing my soul and for carrying it in your pockets, sheltering it from the lies of a broken world and the judgment of my own thoughts. Thank you, Abba, Father, for  blessing me with a moment like this on a cold winter night – time spent next to you, conversing as friends, imagining the warmth of your smile and the depth of your laugh – sonorous, rich, from the belly.

God, I have failed miserably to adore you this week. Yet I find myself grounded in your peace and captivated by your love. I am revived by seconds, minutes, hours spent in your company and I offer my heart to you afresh now, realizing my distractions have been many over the past few days.

You, first love, have cherished me from afar and you sweep in now with all the freshness and hospitality of a warm spring rain. Alongside you, I am strong again. Confident again. Selfless again. You are an old friend, my funny valentine, that I can steal away with always. You see the crumbly corners of me and hand me inspiration, truth, and faith – that is the stuff of Jesus glue, putting me back together.

Praise be to you Jesus for patiently sitting, waiting, wishing. My heart needs you, yearns for you…you say, it’s alright, I am here. Regardless of your affection, I will be here. So turn your eyes from the horizontal, from the wild future you want to plan, from all around you, and look up, up, up. Search for my smiling face high up in the sky, filling the heavens with light. You are a child of mine and I love you oh so much. Enough to give my son.

Oh beautiful savior what can I give you in return?

Just yourself, beloved. You are worthy. Because I say so.

If there can be Christmas in July, then there can be Valentine’s Day in August.

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Free fallin the right way

It’s no secret that I am a certified bookworm – like, the kind of bookworm that highlights passages of Fitzgerald in bright pink and memorizes Pride & Prejudice. I pay homage to the literary greats by seeping up their words, and yet there are some words, specifically God’s, that I struggle to highlight…pieces of one book in particular that sucker punch me right in the gut.

The Bible is God’s love letter to me – and I hope that you, whether now or years later, read it as his love letter to you, too.

But like all good romances, Jesus and I have had rough patches. I spent time this week reading through my old prayer journals and needless to say, he has been far more gracious to me than I deserve.

This post is one I’ve hesitated to write because, well…it’s born of my own disobedience. I’m writing it anyway, though, because I know it’s needed. How? I searched for posts like these when I wanted validation and assurance that I wasn’t alone in my pursuit of relationships with nonChristians.

If you’ve ever worn my shoes – especially if you’re still wearing them – the idea of dating a nonChristian (and being called out on it) makes your stomach drop. It has to.

I cannot tell you how frantically I scoured the Bible hoping that somewhere, I’d come across Jesus saying sweet children, go for it. You choose whoever makes you feel warm inside because you’ll be the one to change them. You’ll conquer their unbelief and I’ll help you do it.

Oh the audacity of me. I don’t tell God I’m going to change people. He inevitably face-palms and changes me. Because let’s be honest here, he’s God. He can do whatever he wants, any way he sees fit. And he does not need me to accomplish his plans.

The reality is, dear friends, if we are Christians desiring a fulfilling relationship with Jesus, chasing after a relationship with a nonChristian will distract, break, distance and confuse us. I have tried it – twice. I did not learn from my mistakes the first time around and (very, very stubbornly) went for round 2. Fortunately, God taught me a whole lot – he spoke loudly and clearly into my heart and he continues to heal me from the hurts I endured.

You are welcome to interject here. You are welcome to shout at me from behind your computer screen and say yeah Amy, that’s you. You screwed it up, but my story is different. I’m actually pretty darn good at the love thing and this is all a part of God’s plan.

Here’s what I’ve discovered:

I was so jealous of beautiful loves when I dated outside of God’s best for me. My heart was desperate for a pure, sacrificial, selfless love – an earthly version of what Jesus felt for me as he hung on that cross.

And the reality is that any nonChristian will never quite understand the cross or its significance, will never quite say the right words or meet your expectations because you. were. made. for. more.

If any piece of you – no matter how small – believes that to be true tonight, I’m praying for you. I’m praying that you’ll be brave enough to stand up and sever unhealthy ties. I’m praying that you’ll choose singleness over brokenness. It might sting now but chances are it’ll wound you later. I know it isn’t easy.

I know you’ll have to wrestle and you may cry a lot of ugly tears.

I also know that such a weight was lifted from my shoulders when I walked away from the messes I created. When I surrendered my love life to God and said please have your way, I found freedom. And as I creeped on friends’ wedding photos, freedom is what I always noticed radiating from each bride’s face. Those women, satisfied in their relationship with the Lord and consequently satisfied in their relationships with new husbands, smiled truly content smiles.

Don’t be afraid, either, of what the world might say. I have met so many lovely girls with the same story as me. We have an instant connection in our vulnerability. We can readily admit how embarrassed and humiliated we felt telling Jesus that we thought we knew better than him. We can also share in one another’s joy as we talk about how Jesus said don’t you worry about a thing, darling. I love you more so now than ever before.

Why am I able to blurt all this out into cyberspace now? Because I’m currently falling in love with God’s best for me. I finally can join the ranks of Christian girls on fire for Jesus and dating the real deal. My real deal is named Matt and he sends me texts like this: “God said to tell his beautiful daughter hi and remind her that she’s my beloved.” Does that not make your breath catch? How sweet is he?

Praise God for opening my eyes to the flaws in my past relationships and enabling me to be loved by someone who loves him first. Do not settle. Joy comes in the morning – my soul knows it full well.

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this little light of mine

Life, she runs. She runs hard and fast and she takes our breath away. Sometimes, this life, she falls. She bleeds and she cries out surely there is more.

I think today that life is looking for her saving grace because she sees children dying and countries fighting, mothers weeping and fathers lying.

Little pieces of tragedy flit across our screens daily – body counts and impending crises stacking up like dirty dishes. And the thing about dirty dishes is we’re good at ignoring them. Perhaps we are in danger of growing desensitized to the mass hurt afflicting our world. Because, if we’re honest, life is uncontrollable and it’s easier to find a friend on the sidelines than to lead the charge on the front-lines.

I am not suggesting that you and I are capable of fixing this bruised place we call earth. Fortunately we are unequipped to play savior.

Neither am I suggesting that we are to blame for Hamas, Ukraine, missing flights or the neighbors’ divorce. 

The pain in breaking stories does not emerge overnight. Pain begins as a small pang somewhere deep inside – an indignation or an insult, a rejection or an unhealthy relationship. Pain finds company and flourishes alongside other hurts and it becomes this animal of overwhelming proportions.

What if, instead of feeling oppressed by heavy headlines, we found a way of looking that animal in the face, saying we are not afraid and we will not be moved.

Instead of scraping ourselves on the grit of self-loathing, what if we made an active decision to wake up each morning committed to something greater?

See, we are not called to be the light of the world. We are simply called to shine and to shine on his behalf. We are welcomed into his starry nights, invited to glow because in his sight, we. are. good. When we clothe ourselves in humility, we are filled with his deep love for people – an all consuming fire that burns brighter and longer than any other antidote this world might offer.

I cannot hold the hands of Palestinian children who smiled at me or grieve beside those whose families are victims of other peoples’ sins. But I can pray break my heart for what breaks yours. I can choose hope.

He promises peace and healing and I am forever thankful in return.

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?” Matthew 5:13 (the MSG)

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The art of letting go

When life speaks to a dormant place inside you, you better listen. When your heart begins unfurling and inspiration starts knocking like the most incessant little woodpecker that ever was, you better muster all the gumption you possess and prepare for a journey.

Sometimes I think we ignore these journeys because of all we’re afraid to leave behind – familiar roads, favourite corners in favourite coffee shops. People whose hearts we have translated, homes whose kitchen contents we have memorized. But the epitome of belonging is not whether or not we know where friends keep their mugs. The epitome of belonging is being so at peace with ourselves that we can uproot and replant wherever God calls, whenever he calls us.

I thought about this on a recent flight.  Flying in general has never worried me. I’ve always had this inexplicable, childlike faith in a plane’s capacity to stay airborne and carry me safely on. Take off fascinates me, because as I lose complete control and entrust my life into someone else’s hands, I can feel myself soaring towards the stars and up there, amid clouds and constellations, I am brave – braver than when I am on the ground. Sharing God’s view of the world reminds me of how small Amy Bareham and her problems actually are. Landing though, landing is difficult. What is it about descending that makes our palms clammy and our stomachs drop? Maybe we’re itching for the idea of adventure, instead of adventure itself. Journeys are full of mixed cds with summer hits from 9th grade. Journeys involve fast food indulgence and sunglasses that make you feel a little bit like Audrey Hepburn. And journeys come with directions and maps – instruction manuals that compliment the wind in your hair and the sun on your skin.

Standing at the precipice of new chapters is never easy because we arrive at Point B with fistfuls of baggage from Point A. Back on the ground again looking our new destination in the eye, I think our minds flash back to all the old nouns…the ones we couldn’t fit in our suitcases. What God has been saying to me lately is that my luggage quota is limited for a reason. Before heading for the UK as a girl, I’d cram stuffed animals into my backpack until we left the house. My mum would come alongside and force some beloved bear out, reminding me to leave room for what I’d be given. Not much has changed. When I stand before him with my hands firmly grasping everything I could have left behind, I cannot possibly receive everything that lies before me.

What a relief it is to have a co-pilot. Our traveling companion is the one who hung each star in its place. We may find Point B feeling disheveled and exhausted, but God satisfies us and is continuously producing new directions. In the event that we make a U-turn, he will recalculate. If we make a wrong turn, he will reroute. I sat down with God a few nights ago wanting to throw off all that hinders, asking to link arms with adventure and laugh without fear of the future. God whispered,  you don’t have to know all the answers. You don’t have to get it right the first time. And you certainly don’t have to live in the shadow of days long gone, days when your edges weren’t as soft and your heart not as free. I am here to fill the void. No matter how much you let go, I will satisfy. 

I want to be the kind of girl that touches down and says let’s do this thing. Let’s draw new pictures with different colours and maybe, just maybe, come up with something good enough to hang on the refrigerator door. I want to live not hand to mouth, but hand in hand with a God who is in the business of writing bestsellers. Amy Bareham Fully Surrendered: coming to a bookshelf near you.

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