Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Sincere and serious trigger warning here.  If you struggle with addiction and/or depression/anxiety, this may not be a good read for you.  If you do, however, choose to read this, please finish it.  


I have lost a friend.  The world has lost a light.  And while this is one of the last times and one of the times I want least to make it all about me, like most everyone who knew her, I need to tell you my Sarah story. 


I used to see her around, knew who she was, knew whose kid she was, but I didn’t know anything about her until the day she walked into my 12-Step recovery group.  In fact, she was escorted into the room, crying and clearly broken, a caring guide on either side of her.   It was after all the, “Hi, my name’s Amanda, and I struggle with addiction,” introductions so she didn’t get to/have to say any of that.  But I knew.  We were the only two of our kind in the group.1

Sarah did not come back to my group, and I used to wonder if she was too embarrassed or discouraged2, thinking she was the only one of her kind ~ which I could easily wonder, having often thought the same thing.  Sometimes the addicts are obvious, but not always.

Later, I would have the good fortune to become friends with Sarah, and later still, she did reveal her struggles to me.  I can’t actually remember that conversation the way that I remember her coming into the room that day ... because it was like ink and water between us.  I knew and she knew that I knew.  And that’s how it remained between us.

We never chilled together - or whatever it is the young folk call it these days.  We really were just at odd angles to one another, I think - her being right between my daughters’ ages and my own.  But I kept an eye on her, would see her around, and would always have a sense of where she was on the scale, and I know that she knew that, and there was never a distance, or a judgment, or discouragement or embarrassment between us that I could sense.  I loved her and I’m convinced that she knew that too.

On Sarah’s memorial page, another of her friends posted a story about the first time they met.  She tells how Sarah insisted that she listen to a song with some possibly sketchy lyrics ~ who does that when you’ve just met?!  I don’t know if you’ve seen Garden State, but there’s a similar scene in that movie that maintains a special corner in my mind.  There’s Natalie Portman, grinning with joy and something akin to pride, as she shares her song with someone she’s just met, someone she knows in her soul is kindred.  I’ve inserted Sarah’s face into that ethereal scene. 

I've also read those lyrics.  
Sarah’s paths were darker than mine have been, but still, we knew each other.


That Sarah struggled with addiction may or may not have been obvious, but something else about her was clear and bright.  She did know Jesus.  She did know that her hope was in him.  And she did cling to him, knowing that he would never leave her, no matter the path.

For people without this kind of faith, I imagine it’s hard to imagine that someone can struggle with something like addiction, and at the same time be assured of God’s love and salvation.  I can pretty much promise you: it’s even harder for the believer to believe it.  But as I’m certain that Sarah must have, there are certain promises to which we may cling.

For instance, I am certain that God, who began a good work within me, will continue his work until it is finally finished. (Philippians 1:6)

Sarah fought harder to overcome her addictions than anyone I’ve ever known.3 She may not have beaten it in this life, but I am certain that he has completed his work in her.  And while I may not see Sarah again in this life, I will see her on the other side.


I’ve never been the devotion-writing type of writer.  Don’t think I’ve written much or often or anything, maybe, that inspires someone to ... anything, maybe.  I’m usually making it all about me, but if ever I could write one especially for you, for those of you who’ve been to the otherside, this would be it.

And here’s what I want you to know and what I’m convinced that Sarah would want you to know:

Even when we are broken, when we struggle, when we continue to struggle, when we are addicts, when we hurt people, when we can’t get our shit4 together, when we can’t overcome, when we fail, when we feel lost, when we feel unloved or unlovable...

We are loved.  
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) 

We need not be lost. 
Indeed, Jesus has come to seek and to save those who are lost. (Luke 19:10)

And we are never alone.
“For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”“ Hebrews 13:5


Not all of you will understand this, but some of you will.  Some of you will know me, will know Sarah, will know the struggles of which I speak.  Sometimes the lyrics are obvious, but not always.

So just on the chance that you need a new song5, I’d like to pass you over my headphones...

1.  Celebrate Recovery mixed group

2. I’d written most of this before Sarah’s memorial.  I learned during the service that this may very well have been the first of any kind of group she’d entered, but it was certainly not the last.  In fact, in the years that followed, she immersed herself into a community of supportive, caring people.  This is a key step to recovery.

3. As another of her friends has noted, this kind of loss can be a discouragement and even a trigger for certain ones of us.  Part of Sarah’s legacy is to fight hard against that which would defeat us.  Please remember her for all that was good and beautiful about her.  And please fight hard for your sobriety.

4. I’ve maintained a pretty strict code regarding the words I put in writing, but this time - I’m sorry - my imperfection had to show.

5. I Am Not Alone, Kari Jobe

6. If you know me, my family, my situation, any of it, then you know that Sarah could have been my daughter.  To have made this about that, however, would have seemed indecent in my pit, in my spirit.  Another time.  Maybe.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Truth Or Fiction

The Lord is my Shepherd;
I shall not want...

is probably the second prayer my grandma taught me, and I've mostly remembered it for most of my life, and like most people, I've quoted it at the (mostly) appropriate times ~ you know, like when somebody dies or ticks me off.

Yea, though I walk through the valley...
I will fear no evil... 

It's always had a certain Tarantino-esque quality to it, you know?

Like some dude's saying to me, "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. ..."

And I'm saying, "Yeah, well, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, mo#fo#."

Now, I been sayin' that for years, but it occurs to me lately that, as much as I might like for him to, Jesus probably wouldn't come out all guns a'blazin' at the dude.  I mean, he might call somebody a Pharisee, but probably not, well, you know.

I mean, well, when he does come back, 
he's coming like a total bad hmmhmm, 
but that's a side note.

I'm a little like a first century Jew, I guess.  I see the tyranny, and the evil, and the selfishness all around me, and I think I'm ready for Jesus to come on back and level the field, but that ain't the truth.

The truth is

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies

I get so wrapped up in the middle part that I sometimes forget the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, if you will.  I become so distracted by the world around me that I lose sight of the one who created it.  I get so wrapped up in my own perspective that I lose my peace.

I lose sight of the path sometimes.
I sometimes am the tyranny and the evil
and the selfishness.

But I'm tryin'.
I'm tryin' real hard to be (like) the Shepherd.

Maybe I should just stop trying so hard.  Maybe I should just lie down for a bit, have a rest and a drink of water.  Because the truth is

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Psalm 23 (NKJV)

Monday, April 20, 2015

What I Got

It was a weirder and harder day than some.

That g'boy'o'mine had a mind for misbehavin'.

House was a mine field of unknown substances.

Thank God for friendly reminders:

Love's what I got
Don't start a riot

Facebook said I said that sometime back.

(Clean up poo.)

comes rolling through.

(Rolls and rolls of toilet paper...)

Give it away give it away give it away now...

through the radio.

(Laid out, fit-pitching for The Juice, The Juice Now!)

Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends,

Jesus said.

(Pee on the floor.  Again.)

And so, as I was encouraged by my Wednesday group-mates recently, I knew I had to just get through it.

One mess, one fit, one reminder at at time.
Till it was bedtime.
And he asked for juice.  Again.

But after finally meeting all of his bedtime needs, feeling exhausted and relieved for the coming respite, as I left his room that last time, he said with soooo much fervor and enthusiasm,


Yeah, love's what I got.
I said remember that.

Friday, April 17, 2015


I [capital air quotes] lead [close capital air quotes] a Bible study group on Wednesday nights.

Yeah, I do that too:  wed .. nez .. day.

It's been a pretty good run for me, personally.
I pretty much just compile a list of questions:

  • Hey, what's that mean?
  • Howdy, how's that applicable?
  • Etc.

Lately, the topic's been repeatedly, inescapably abiding.

Recently, a question was:

  • Do you have any personal ambitions that make it difficult to abide with Jesus?

and it's had me thinking ever since.

I probably should say, "thinking on purpose, thinking up front, thinking out loud," because the subject of personal ambition has been running in my background memory for some time now.

Now, I've never been one of those goal-oriented kinds of people or even the kind of person who wakes up with a plan for the day.  Just, whatever, okay?

Maybe I should have taken one of those skills or talents tests when I was still young enough to be taught new tricks.  Maybe knowing early on what I might be any good at would have goaded me to go.  I don't know.  Whatever.  Okay?

But there is a thing that I have known, 
a thing I've known is not my thing, 
not for me, 
not my forte.

If I've had any nameable ambition, it's been to not hang out with kids.

(Collective gasp, kid-lovers.  Get it out of your system.)

It's really not that I don't love them.  The Lord knows that I do love them ~ particularly my own.  I just don't understand them.  Don't know how to play with them, for sure.

Think I'm kidding?  I tried to play a game with a g'baby once, a game I'd seen the kids playing with her, some "pretend to bite the kid's hand" dog-jaw game.  I actually bit her.  We both cried.  It seemed obvious, then, that we'd both be safer if I just skipped the whole play thing.

What, then, but to aspire to empty-nesting?  It's a natural-seeming goal for a middle-aged woman, correct?  It's not wrong that I should aim to eat my food without sharing half of every single bite, watch what I very well want that isn't a cartoon, come and go and dress as I please without every decision hinging on the needs of a toddler, mop my floor just once per week ... right?

Never mind any true desires, if I'd had any.

And now that I've gotten all of that out my system, thank the Lord that I'm able-bodied and that our circumstances (humbly, prayerfully) allow for us to raise our two-year-old grandson. Thank you, Jesus, for every one of my kids and grandkids and for every child with whom You'll grant me the blessing to hang out.

No, I mean it.

Personal ambitions that make it difficult to abide with Jesus?  Well, I might have hoped to be a fairly average grandparent, one who just gets visited with some regularity, one who may or may not have special skills, one who gets to write complete sentences in one sitting.

But I don't usually get to write sentences without consequences:

I guess kids are just the task that's been assigned to me.
I guess I'll just aspire to play along.
Lord, just help me not to bite anybody!

When you obey me, you are abiding in my love, just as I obey my Father and abide in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your cup of joy will overflow! John 15:10-11

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


So, speaking of trash, I don't generally pay attention to the rubbish piles as I'm walking the 'hood; however, there was recently a particular mess that caught my eye.  As I passed, a hundred little slivers of a broken mirror were reflecting the rising sun and inviting me to do the same.

The first natural-seeming thing to do was to take this picture because, you know, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.

As I walked and thought more about who I am, who I've been, and who I am becoming, I remembered that when I was young, I wanted very much to do something with photography; however, over the course of time, I've accepted that it's not going to be my number one something.  
But it can still be something.

Romans 1:20

Because I see created art from nearly every angle, and understand that it is mine to behold.  And mine to photograph, regardless of the outcome.

Maybe it's a simple-seeming conclusion, but for me this is fairly liberating.  It's as if a light's come on in the darkness.

Matthew 4:16

And that reminds me of the thing that counts the very most.  Like so many things I've tried, I probably won't be great to start.  Possibly, I'll never be great.  Possibly, I'll blunder, look the fool, maybe fail. However ~ and it's a mighty big however ~ I am in the process of transformation.

Because "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  
For we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."
2 Corinthians 3:17-18

From overcoming to overcoming, from triumph to triumph, from glory to glory, I am being transformed, thank the Lord.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Trash or Treasure

Dude, I have been a moody individual of late - have vacillated between March madness and menopause as possible explanations.  Seriously.

It's Lent and that's been a whole thing.  Possibly, that explains it.

I've found myself stirring up trouble, speaking out of turn, or against my inner compass at times - each time feeling very nearly out of control.

Then I saw Why am I not further along in my Christian walk? and decided to just take a walk.

I took some pictures.

These are not the high-quality, super appeal-to-the-masses kind of photos that generally accompany photo blogs.  These are, however, places that I see beauty and blessings.  I do, in fact, see it all around me and nearly all of the time when I'm making good choices about where I turn my gaze.

A friend just posted a picture where she sees the same.  It's a picture of her daughter, wearing a pink princess dress, hair all a'yonder, and holding a garden slug as if it were the tiniest, sweetest baby bird.  My friend says that when her girl realized she would get to hold the thing, she exclaimed ~ with much fervor ~ that she had waited her "WHOLE LIFE" for a garden slug.

I pray that young'un never loses her heart or her enthusiasm or her desire or her ability to see the beauty and blessing that God does deliver all around us.

I pray that you may see the same.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tap Out

I am finding fewer and fewer sound-seeming reasons for showing up, but it’s not for lack of looking, I promise.

It’s been a whole thing, this searching out, this attempting to reach the end of certain sentences.  Would that I could even start one of those here and now, but time ~ or lack of it ~ that’s a whole other thing.

So I’ll just tell you about the day that one of my favorite bloggers sinned in public.

See, she posted this video that was one of those horrible “you really shoulda known better” kind of things, set to music.  And she shared it with a note about how she'd watched it over and over again, and how she'd laughed so hard, and also how much she obviously needed Jesus because of it.  Folks, I made some time for that.  I watched it over and over again.  I laughed really hard.  I downloaded it.  Re-mastered it with better music.

Then I went back and started reading the comments on her post.

Folks, let me just say...

There were others like me (as I’m finding more and more to be true).  People who saw the humor.  People who needed a laugh.  A break, for durn sake.

But there were other people who tore this girl a new one.

“You are a Christian.”
“You are a leader.”
“You are a dignitary for Jesus.”1

In other words, your a** had durn sure better never make a mistake, or laugh, or let loose for a second, or fail to live precisely the life that Jesus led or you will have failed in front of all of us to do what we durn sure knew you couldn’t do anyway.  Which is to be perfect.

Now please, for all of our sakes, don’t think that I think that lets the leaders off the hook - this knowing that none of us will ever be perfect.  The leaders have a high call and a greater responsibility to do like they oughta.  I know that painfully well as one who serves in various leadership roles with my church.  I regularly review my own actions, and, often enough, I have regret.  Often enough, I know that were I to have the kind of attention that some of my favorite bloggers do, maybe regret would be an understatement.

So ever since that day, since the day that girl put herself out there to such chagrin (if mine), I've been asking myself if the public arena is someplace I even want to be.  Yeah, no, I'm not even in the ring yet...

So as I said, it's been a whole thing, and the thing that comes to mind now is this:

"To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”" Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)

Oh, God help me to be humble ~ at all times, in all situations, including those times that someone is calling me to a higher standard.  God, forgive me when I screw up and remind me to be merciful to others when they do the same, or worse, or even just meh.  God, thank you for getting me this far, for helping me to see as much as I do, and for all that I know you'll help me to eventually grasp.  Thank you, especially, that whatever I've done or will do tomorrow or the next day or the next, I don't have to hang my head in shame because I have Jesus.  I pray I never stand apart from that confidence.

1 Obviously, these are hardly new-one-tearing kinds of statements.  I'm totally summarizing the discussion that called her entire character into question.