When silence speaks the loudest

Pharisees: I relate to them. Do you?

Remember when you and I used to sit on folding chairs in slightly stale church offices and learn about those strange men? With pocketfuls of goldfish we listened about their hard hearts, their judgmental thoughts, and their general rejection of Jesus. In case you slept through Sunday School (holla at the back row), the simplest definition of a pharisee is an overly self-righteous person, a hypocrite, a person who beats you over the head with his or her own religious superiority. In biblical times, pharisees formed a Jewish sect that prized strict adherence to religious law, and they consistently challenged Jesus.

In the pictures we saw, Jesus was the man with the long brown beard and the kind eyes – he was the new kid on the block. Meanwhile pharisees huddled to the side, one big knot of insecurity and jealousy.

My heart is not to be a pharisee, especially as a Christian in the twenty-first century. My heart is not to live hypocritically or belittle those who are new to this faith thing.

Yet there are many days when my feet walk me into pharisee territory.

Let me explain.

Pharisees never stopped talking. They encountered God’s one and only son in the midst of his ministry, but they were so busy proclaiming their perfection that they missed Jesus’ redeeming love. They wrote fat checks to the church, they fasted, they avoided unclean foods, they prayed extra loud so that everyone could hear. According to religious law, they were pros. But they were consumed with themselves.

Pharisee problem #1: desiring self-glorification.

I don’t know about you but that stings a little.

How often do we seek to advance our kingdoms instead of giving honor and glory and praise to Jesus? How often do we make others feel unworthy, portraying ourselves as all-star Christians?

There is so much truth found in Jesus’ conversations with the pharisees and I encourage you to read them.

His shepherd’s heart looks upon their pride and says don’t you know I love you? You are enough and I love you. Just as you are.

The pharisees made a lot of noise and I think that’s because they were afraid of what they might hear if they were quiet.

The very presence of Jesus forced them to ponder. Forced them to consider their struggles with temptation, their mistakes, their failures. And they didn’t like that.

If you’re in that place, a place where the very mention of Jesus offends you, won’t you admit your curious? Curious to know what it is he’s been trying to tell you all this time?

God is a bit like a freight train. And you and I are sleepy little towns.

He suddenly barrels through the quiet of humid July nights, breaking through the crickets and the cicadas and the street lights. He is equally intriguing and awe-inspiring. God whirs through our hearts, his boldness running parallel with our quietness. He becomes our sound and our fury: our power.

He is an interruption, he makes us wait, and he calls to us in the dark of night.

When you hear that train whistle coming on by, don’t ignore it. When God’s voice urges you to fix your eyes on heaven, draw near to him.

If we as Christians would only pause and let Jesus speak, we would realize that he is for us. He is on our side, he is worthy of our trust, and all he asks is that we acknowledge him.

Our Father, in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come,

Your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

(Matthew 6:9-10)

The Scottish Adventure, Uncategorized

Amy and Scotland – Part III

I remember exactly where I was when I said I love you to Matt for the first time. Gene Kelly had just finished singing in the rain and all three of us were on the same page. Happy and head up, with joy in my heart, why is each new task a trifle to do? Because I am living a life full of you.

Nailed it, Gene.

Love has a way with us, doesn’t it.

Love takes us by surprise and makes us bolder. Love comes in quietly and offers a hand to hold.

I’m not sure when I first began to love St. Andrews, but despite many battles with homesickness, I have fallen for this place.

I have knit myself to the hearts of the people here, discovering that shelter, encouragement, wisdom, and kindness reign supreme in the kingdom of Fife.

New pockets of friends have reminded me of old ones – always making room for me.

No matter how late, someone in St. Andrews is forever on standby, waiting to put the kettle on. Do you take milk or sugar is such a comforting question to be asked when you’re weary and miss teatime chats with your momma.

I thought studying abroad would be about me taking care of myself. Grownup Amy charging into a world of independence with an especially epic playlist stowed in my carry-on.

But it’s actually been about me surrendering. Saying hey guys, s.o.s, life is better together, so help a sister out?

It’s been about releasing roles and responsibilities, walking with palms up, hands open ready to accept change and growth.

Studying abroad has been about missing Matt. Like crazy. Realizing that love is unbearably good because it makes you ache in ways that strengthen you. Our emotional biceps are so toned.

Studying abroad has ultimately been about letting others take care of Amy.

Being accepted into little communities all over this town has humbled me in ways I’m still processing. Through St. Andrews, I have encountered Christ-like love, and it has made me whole.

I feel like I’ve undergone a transformation of Cinderella proportions: from stranger to somebody.

This feeling of belonging has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with others showering me in their grace and joy.

My bible study has kept me sane. They’re a radiant group of girls that gathers together, eats good food, opens the bible, and tackles the hard stuff. Never before have I experienced such generosity or found sisterhood so quickly. Our Thursday nights are 100% the church breathing and moving through her people.

My roommate, Emman the Great, is a comedian, avocado enthusiast, and general superwoman. She is perpetually keen about all things Starbucks, and I treasure her.

The McIntosh Hall study abroads saw me through jetlagged confusion in January and continue to be trustworthy companions. We haven’t done anything exceptionally wild or exciting. And we don’t need to. Sunset beach walks and breakfast dates, beers and coffee – that’s all it takes for love to settle in and stay.

St. Andrews has figured out how to do life authentically.

Funnily enough, it really isn’t that different from home.

St. A is love defined in new ways through new faces. And I’m very okay with that.







Ball2 Ball4 HG


Easter from the air

I read a novel about middle class disillusionment the other day.
90% of the book was probably hot air.

But there was one part I haven’t forgotten.

One of the characters muses that we secretly thrive on the hustle of airports because for once in our lives, we actually know where we’re going. It’s printed on pieces of paper held fast in our hands.

I read that and had to wonder to what extent it’s true.

As a student the world is supposedly my oyster. So why does this world leave me hungry for more?

Maybe the constant presence of evil has something to do with it. Between plane crashes and extreme terrorism, this earth can feel like it’s spinning out of control. I’m not the type to have flying anxiety but after recent headlines, I found myself in Heathrow carrying a bundle of nervous energy. Instead of feeling confident about my final destination, I felt sick.

I scrolled through Facebook because that’s just what you do. Of course that wasn’t exactly therapeutic, so I went to the bible app.

In John 20, after Mary encounters an empty tomb, she runs around frantically until she bumps into Jesus, alive and well. She is so overcome by her emotions that she doesn’t notice him. “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?'”

She continues to worry and so he speaks again. I can imagine him looking at her with complete kindness and love, gently shaking his head at her frazzled heart. He says, “Mary.”

That’s it. Just, ‘Mary.’

You can almost hear the calm fall over her.

And tonight, as I boarded my plane, he spoke through his creation, catching my attention with the lingering colours of a sunset. The steady beauty of the skies tugged at my heart like a whisper: Amy. The voice said.

Amy, I am with you and I will not forsake you.

Even now, as I look out the window, His brilliance lights up the night. Have you ever seen the sun set twice, once on earth and once again in the clouds?

I have felt unsettled all day long, but watching the heavens from a plane high up in the sky, I have found peace.

This world is a scary place. Even when we are sure of our destinations, things can still go wrong. Plans fall through and people fail. Darkness is a reality.

Yet Easter – resurrection day – is a reminder of all that is right. Jesus overcame darkness with a death so full of grace. He did it because he loves you and me.

From my bench in Heathrow, I kept wondering if all those passengers are content with who they are and the places they are going. More importantly, do they know where they’ll go after life finishes? When they breathe their last, are they spending forever with a God who is desperate for his children to love Him back?

I don’t know. But Jesus, before his death, said to God, “‘As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.'” (John 17:18, ESV)

We are so intentionally placed on earth for good and we are invited to spend eternity in heaven – not because of anything we have done but because of who Jesus is. He is my strength and my joy – the biggest cozy sweater when nothing else fits quite right.

I’ll fly with him as my co-pilot any day.


Things they don’t tell you about long distance

“Be brave.”

These are the words my best friend wrote in a Christmas letter to me a few months ago, and I think she knew. She knew that bravery is much more than a fighting smile – because bottom lips quiver and smiles fade. She knew during the minutes, moments, hours when my heart was aching that I would need those 7 little letters.

Be brave, be brave, be brave.

Most days, I am brave. But yesterday was not one of those days.

I think everyone in Scotland knew how excited I was to skype my Matthew on his birthday and yet when we finally connected and I could see his face, I fell to pieces. I was so frustrated with myself for killing the b-day spirit, but ugly crying was on the agenda and that was that.

There really is an actual ache you feel when separated from the ones you love. It’s heavy and settles in the empty spaces and yes how wonderful it is to have something to ache for, but how difficult, too.

Homesickness and lovesickness are peculiar house guests who don’t knock, barging right in and taking rooms you weren’t ready to surrender.

After an incredible birthday celebration of my own earlier this week, I felt so smothered in kindness by my new Scottish friends that I never saw my meltdown coming.

I’m settled! I proudly declared to my bible study group on Thursday.

The more I think about it, that isn’t accurate at all. I have put down roots. I have tethered myself to friends and community and favourite study spots. But I am not settled. Until I get home, I will be quite unsettled simply because I know myself. Studying abroad has made me realize that I am a shameless homebody. A small town girl with dreams to change not the whole world but little pieces of it, one at a time…alongside the people I love most.

Which is why when I finally looked at Matt through puffy eyes and a sea of tissues we could both be brave together and say this sucks.

We’ve come to the conclusion that we may be good at long distance, but we don’t like it.

And how selfish that feels!

Longing for home will actually make you feel like the whiniest being on planet earth. I’ve had that fight with myself over and over again: Amy. BE BRAVE. There are opportunities for the seizing, woman. Get yourself together. Jump out of bed. Rejoice in a new day!

It is a privilege to study at a prestigious university, I don’t think anyone studying abroad doubts that.

It’s just that the foreignness of navigating life on your own is uncomfortable.

When you’ve met the one, how do you suddenly re-meet your alone self? The version of you who walks into restaurants as one person, not two…the version who actually drools over couples holding hands because the lack of physical touch you have in a new place is surprisingly depressing. (Really though, when you’re surrounded by strangers all you want is for someone to hug you, just like your mom does, and tell you that you can conquer the world.)

Of course, I am learning lessons through all of this – it is not an aimless battle I am fighting.

I’ve grown. I’m becoming best friends with patience. My faith is ten times stronger because some days it is all I have. I am forming a strange relationship with solitude…we don’t know quite what to make of each other, but we’ll get there. I have a support network and a God who never fails me.

Be brave, be brave, be brave.

I cried my heart out to Matt and he took it like a champ. Even though we both wanted to reach through the screen, we couldn’t, and that is a continuing lesson in itself.

Had I known that I would be engaged when I applied for my Scottish adventure, I don’t know that I would have gone through with it all. The Atlantic Ocean is no joke. It is big and wide and deep and far. My future husband is on the other side. My family is on the other side. My best friends are on the other side. Naturally I want to be there too.

What they don’t tell you about long distance is that admitting you want to be home is not a failure on your part. No, it is honesty on your part. The fact that your feet are planted in the ground miles away from all that is comfortable is bravery.

I’ve toyed with the idea of bailing out…oh how tempting that is. Except there is nothing brave about escape. Being brave is having the courage to say today, I am not okay. Today, I need to whine about missing home. Today, I am thankful for the gift of life…only life feels daunting right now and a hug would be nice.

What they don’t tell you about long distance is that there will be days when you don’t want to leave your bed. There will also be days when you feel guilty for loving your new view. There will be days when you cannot stand the different time zone. Days when you feel strong and days when you do not. There may be days when you feel desperately lonely but there can be days when you find yourselves laughing together like fools from your separate corners of the world.

After “be brave,” my best friend also wrote something else:

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” 1 Chronicles 28:20

Being brave is not about fighting alone. When you are transparent with one another, burdens are lifted and oceans start to feel a bit smaller.

The Scottish Adventure

Amy and Scotland Part II

I think it’s kind of accurate, albeit a little unorthodox, to say that I’m currently dating St. Andrews.

We’re in the slightly awkward beginning phase, in which we’re still learning more about one another. How invested do we actually want to be? What fears are irrational? How will our schedules mesh together?  What adventures will we choose next? We’ve discovered favourite coffee shops and we like long walks on the beach.

Our relationship is evolving quickly – we both know it can only last a few months – and so far, I’ve had some pretty big revelations.

First: when a pub advertises 241 burgers, there aren’t actually 241 burger options. Depressing, but true. Instead, there exists a 2 for 1 deal made available to students who are smart enough to read signs properly. (College diplomas are overrated, right?)

Now for the good stuff.

This past week, I have been amazed at just how fiercely God protects us when he calls us into new seasons.

But seasons cannot happen without change, and for a girl who really dislikes change, moving somewhere foreign is all sorts of difficult.

And yet Jesus, in his ever gracious, all-knowing way, has made this transition so beautiful.

I’ve recently started Beth Moore’s book Jesus The One and Only. She is walking me through Luke, and oh how Luke 1:45 has been imprinted on my heart: “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her.”

When you’re surrounded by the different and asked to take audacious leaps of faith, you have nothing and no one else to lean on except God.

He has reminded me not to underestimate His goodness. He has told me to trust and to trust with my whole heart. He has said that people will absolutely fail me, especially when I’m expecting them to. But God? He has never and will never let me down.

He has shown me that when he calls us into new seasons, he always has a plan and he always prepares a place for us.

This was confirmed when I joined a home group full of the brightest, most welcoming faces. I could feel heaven smile as I found my way into a loving circle of girls, eager to know me – me of all people – and embrace me as a kindred spirit because of a common thread: faith.

Being in their company is effortless and that surprised me most of all. That God would make it easy for me to find community in a college Bible study in the kingdom of Fife strengthened my hope in His kingdom.

Our school also mourned the tragic death of a student this week. Although mourning is a deeply sad thing to behold, I realized that our ability to mourn is quite dear. For loss to matter, the loss must have been very great indeed, since we rarely grieve that which is replaceable.

I keep thanking God for my family and friends – all of whom I miss so much. Yet they are alive and well and that is another gift.

Having just four lectures a week means extra hours are in each day, and I’m realizing the joy of being still, being quite, observing, noticing.

I talk with God constantly, about everything. I have time to legitimately read my books for class. I can be in the room and have chats with Emman without checking the clock every five minutes. I can genuinely hear her because I have no where else to be.

So where does this leave me?

Awestruck at how much I’m learning.

Today at church, we dwelt on the fall of mankind – dark, but necessary. My heart paused for a moment to contemplate God’s magnificence and I had yet another revelation. Ours is not a rags to riches story. It is a rags to righteousness story!

A verse in Genesis was highlighted that confirmed again how ardently God loves us.

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)

This is the voice of yearning love. Come back to me, says God. PleaseLet me find you – all of you.

I am no longer afraid to admit how afraid I was to study abroad. For whatever reason, I thought I would be so alone. There have been (and may still be) moments of lonely. But God never, ever leaves us. He is quick to provide and ready to comfort daily. As new hours, minutes and seconds evolve, he is waiting to be asked! He hungers for our dependence upon Him, and this whole journey has opened my eyes to my immense need for Him in all things.

How can you be dependent on him today?

As the North Sea blows in freezing cold wind and I prepare for my first ceilidh dance, I am thinking of and missing my North American favourites. Drop me a line some time!

From Scotland, with love,

-Amy xoxo


The Scottish Adventure

Amy and Scotland Part I

I don’t think we are ever truly prepared for goodbye. At least, I wasn’t.

I am greedy with my love for others and want as much as possible, always . Faced with bidding America goodbye I suddenly found myself at a loss for just about everything. Can you hug your other half enough? Will being independent from parents and letting them let you go ever feel normal? Do little brothers ever get easier to leave?

Time simultaneously grinds to a halt and speeds up, until we’re left looking forward to whatever lies ahead.

For me, it was the University of St. Andrews, which, just for the record, is a charming place full of seaside character and Scottish history.

Never before have I made so uncharacteristic a decision. Uprooting myself from friends, family, comfort – the familiar – is not an Amy typical move.

Yet God has made it pretty clear that this is where he’s got me for the next four months. He wants me here. Even when I haven’t wanted me here.

And trust me, there have been many moments over the past few days where I have questioned why I’m here. Granted homesickness, jetlag, and the Atlantic Ocean’s exponential size are formidable things to experience all at once. Going to bed at night feels funny without multiple texts from Matt. I’m not sure I like it. But that doesn’t mean Scotland and I won’t get along.

Meeting tons of new people is equally thrilling and draining. But that doesn’t mean Scotland and I won’t get along.

Waking up in the mornings, knowing I’m sort of separated from loved ones until they roll out of bed hours later than me is weird. But that doesn’t mean Scotland and I won’t get along.

Change is unavoidable when you’re a study abroad kid – or a JSA as we’re fondly referred to here.

Some changes are wonderful. Homegirl had her first cider last night and also received one of the sweetest texts from her dad ever saying that hopefully said cider wasn’t too hard because some of it is “headbanging stuff.”

I don’t even know what that means but my dad had me smiling in a pub thousands of miles away.

I have classes that sound legitimately exciting: contemporary British fiction and the city and the country in Scottish literature.

I may be speaking far too soon, but I think the WiFi actually works better here than at Queens…how a tiny coastal town figures that out better than Charlotte is beyond me.

I have a new roommate called Emman and she is oh so sweet and kind and let me sleep in this morning.

There are gorgeous views everywhere I turn – I’ve traded the martini glass that is Duke Energy’s high rise for castle ruins, the North Sea, and cobblestones.

Some changes are a bit harder to explain and fully portray, but that doesn’t mean Scotland and I won’t get along.

I am taking life one day at a time, which I’ve discovered is really all you can do when you’re treading on foreign territory.

I am also trusting that God has every detail taken care of. He goes before us yet he never ceases walking beside us. What marvelous comfort that has been to me over this last week.

Stay tuned as I update friends and family here, sharing Scottish adventures and general insight into the life of one Amy Bareham. Until next time, know that I’m sending many hugs to you!


Your favourite British American xoxo




There’s something about Mary

In the post holiday hush, I have been thinking about a pregnant teenager far wiser and bolder than I.

Every year we sing alleluia, come let us adore him. There is such humility and goodness wrapped up in the Christmas bundle that is Jesus, but what about Mary, his powerful, deeply faithful mother? I love taking a moment to sit with her, be it April or December, January or May, because hers is a story of surrender.

We meet Mary as a small-town girl newly betrothed. Walking into a new season of being engaged and giddily in love, I relate.

What was this young couple like? Were they inseparable? Did Mary lie awake at night, dreaming like I’ve started to do, of my sweet fiance’s face when I come down the aisle? Were dreams bubbling up in Mary’s heart, ready to overflow into reality? Was she the town favourite? The go-to babysitter?

You can leave your children with Mary, she’s always had a good head on her shoulders. Have you seen her and Joseph together, aren’t they sweet? That Mary, so reliable, she’ll make a fine wife.

Much of Mary’s life is a mystery to me, and that of course, is the point. She was a nobody who God had seen as worthy all along. A nobody God was going to transform into a somebody.

When this precious girl is approached by an angel and he greets her, the Bible says she is greatly troubled, perplexed by unexpected favour from God. In no way did Mary consider herself fit for carrying a Saviour because she is meekness personified. But God knew. He chose her as his vessel, trusting in Mary’s mild, gentle nature.

As the angel delivers news of a virgin birth, I marvel at her response.

Fearful me, selfish me would cry out but what of  my reputation? How do I face my beloved? Why me, Lord, could you not choose another?! People will talk, my parents will disown me, my life will be ruined.

Did any of these thoughts race through Mary’s mind? Perhaps.

But she simply asks the angel what we’re all thinking, “How will this be?” She does not doubt God’s capability, she just wants to see His game plan.

I love that the angel gives step one only, not two, three, four. God asks us to depend on him, fully aware that we’re greedy individuals who want more, more, more. We aren’t satisfied with taking one step at a time, we want to run through life in our own strength.

The angel says God will overshadow Mary and that is enough for her. And then, in a move so typical of God, he surprises her by saying that her aunt, Elizabeth, will also conceive a son despite her old age. He rewards our trust with blessing upon blessing. My child, he says, lean on me. My yoke is easy and my burden light. Worry not. I’ve got this.

The Bible tells us that Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Oh to be that brave.

Mary offers everything up to God, her heart so soft and innocent.

I like to imagine Mary joyfully rushing towards Elizabeth later on, their embrace as expectant mothers, bound together in their faith journeys by the arrival of little boys.

“For behold,” says Elizabeth, “when the sound of your greeting came to my ears the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” I want to believe with as much certainty as these lovely women.

We all know how the story goes – the bright star moving ever closer to Bethlehem, the manger, the baby.

What baffles me is that even when there was no place for Mary’s family at the inn, she accepted God’s place for her elsewhere. She had been submitting to God’s plan for her life from the beginning, there was no reason to stop. Even in the midst of labor, after hours of travel, she managed to believe.

How beautiful that birth was.

Just Mary and Joseph, two kids suddenly alone with the responsibility of bringing God’s son into the world. I picture Joseph gazing at his future wife and saying you. were. spectacular. And I picture Mary cradling Jesus in her arms and murmuring yes, you are worth my everything.

My favourite part of this whole story comes months after Jesus’ birth, after the stream of visitors has slowed. “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

Mary takes a moment to dwell on what the Lord has done, treasuring up reminders of his promises fulfilled. She ponders his goodness and the miracle he completed through her.

With 2015 rapidly unfolding, I want to take a Mary approach to life. I need to be still and know. I need to ponder what God has done and is doing through me. I yearn to be softened that God may steer me wherever he desires. I’m sure Mary was afraid at times – none of us would blame her. But her faith was undeniable.

We’ll never understand, I don’t think, the bond between Mary and her Savior son. She watched him die in order that she may live, which is so backwards. I am thankful though, for a backwards, full of surprises God who cherishes us.

He is the reason for an ongoing season of joy and strengthened belief. He will always be the reason.


-Bible passages from Luke 1-2 ESV-