Hold your Tongue.

If I asked you, “What comes to mind when you think of my name?”

What would it stir up?

       Amanda Rager

Was it positive or negative? True or false?

Lately, the Lord has been convicting my heart about my tongue and judgments.

I have been reading through James, and I knew I was approaching the chapter about “taming the tongue.” I was so tempted to skip over it and never look back, but I knew God would convict my heart. So, I braved the chapter.

That was fun…said no one. Ever.

It’s chapter 3 if you wanted to know or if you wanted to avoid it…

I had already felt God moving in my heart about my tongue before reading James 3, and I didn’t want to face it.

I am going to be honest with you. It is a real struggle for me.

Let me tell you why.

I am very insecure, and I have been hurt a lot. Like many of us, I have been the target of cutting words. Kids can be ignorant, teens can be self-absorbed, and adults can be cruel. For whatever reason, I have always felt very different and very unwanted. This was something that I wrestled with constantly. Just ask my mom. She was my constant. She was the one who told me I was beautiful just the way I was, or that people were just speaking from their hurt. It probably had nothing to do with me. She was great, a balm to the hurt, but people’s words still cut deep.

My coping mechanism for being treated this way was to talk about the people that hurt me to the couple of friends I had and to poke at their weaknesses. What started as a way to deal with bullying as a kid/teen morphed into a bad habit as an adult. I wanted to feel better about myself or justify how people were treating me, and I did that with my words.

Does this justify my sin? No.

Does it help you to understand why it’s a struggle for me? Maybe.

Are you judging me right now for my brutal honesty? I hope not…;)

I want to be brave enough to face my sin with vulnerability. In hopes that someone reading this will know they are not alone in whatever they are facing or struggling with. That maybe, in my mess, they can see theirs and have the strength to face it too. This is tough to overcome. For real.

So, I googled the functions of a tongue. It took me on a weird youtube journey. Tongues are interesting and gross all at the same time. I saw too many of them.

Don’t do it y’all.

The tongue weighs about 2.5 ounces. Think about that in regards to your body weight. My tongue is a very small part of my body but a very BIG part of my life. To live without a tongue is to live without taste, talking, singing, and with a great difficulty in digesting food. Trust me. I read WebMD extensively. 😉

16-Home-Remedies-To-Get-Rid-Of-Blisters-On-The-Tongue

The Lord calls the tongue a “small member” and likens it to a great ship’s rudder, the bit in a horse’s mouth, and a small fire that can overtake a great forest. The tongue can be vital and dangerous all at the same time.

Whoa buddy, do I know it.

Recently I was talking to my counselor, and I made a definitive statement about someone. She looked at me with her blue eyes that pierce into my soul and asked, “So, are you their judge?” Um….ouch.

No…no I am not.

Her point in saying that to me was that I have no idea what that person is going through and what has led them to this point. She was absolutely right. I only know what I see, and that is NOT enough to make that kind of snap judgment.

It was hard to hear.

It got me thinking about all the things I have heard about myself from others growing up. Most of them were quick judgments by people who never took the time to know me or what I was going through.

And here I was doing the EXACT. SAME. THING.

GUILTY.

The next day in my devotions, I came to Chapter 3 of James. Oh Lord, You have such a way of working those things out. It was perfect timing. My counselor had tilled the ground of my heart, so God’s word was ready to be planted.

James 3: 7-12 –All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

God can not do any kind of work through my mouth when it shoots “deadly poison.” My mouth shouldn’t bless the Lord and then curse those He made in his likeness, whether they have hurt me or not. Whether they deserve it or not. Whether I am feeling bad about myself or not.

Gulp.

I asked you at the beginning of this blog what came to mind when you thought of my name. I did this for two reasons.

One, to see if you have negative thoughts associated with me and to ask yourself why? I may never cross your mind, but if I do, what thoughts are connected with my name? and why? Is it true because you experienced it with me? Or is it gossip? I did this with various names and I realized what I thought of were things I have heard other people say. Most of which, I have no idea if it is true or not! That is terrible!

Two, I wanted to know if it was my words that came to mind. I hope it was not the bitterness of my words, but if it was, I am sorry. I ask for your forgiveness if you have heard me say anything negative about anyone. I ask for your help. If you hear it happen again, stop me. Tell me what my counselor did. You are not their judge. You have no idea of their struggle or what they have been through. You do not know what has brought them to where they are or to what they did.

GIVE GRACE, AMANDA.

Let’s give grace today to those around us. Even if you hear that they are talking about you. Even if they treat you terribly. It would be so easy to degrade them with your words or to even listen to others say negative things- I know! But what would it look like if we stopped the cycle of hurt and gossip and offered grace into the hurt?  It would definitely halt the pattern of slander. I believe God would be glorified, and He would take care of the injustice you feel.

He says so in Romans…

Romans 12:17-21 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Let’s trust what God says today. I’m right here with you. Offer it to Him to handle. He PROMISES He will, and you can trust God on his promises. He always keeps them.

It is going to be HARD. I am scared.

My mind is screaming, “NO! I HAVE to defend myself when wrong is spoken of me. People HAVE to KNOW those things aren’t true. I have to say what bad I can about that person so that I can look better.”

But my heart whispers back, “God has it. He knows the truth. He is ALL that matters. He will right the wrongs. He will bring truth to lies. Vengeance is HIS. Not mine.”

Speak Life. Offer Grace. Be kind.

Let’s brave this storm together.

Let’s hold our tongues. We will be better for it. God will be honored in it.

Let’s do this thing.

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A Word.

A couple of years ago I read a book by Debbie Macomber entitled One Perfect Word. It is about choosing a word to intentionally focus on for a whole year of your life. Debbie Macomber wrote about how this practice changed her and how the Lord worked greatly through it in her life.  In her book, she shared fourteen words that each represent the seasons of a particular year in her life.

This book came to me through a dear friend. She had spoken about how it had made an impact on her at a Bible study I was attending. She shared that her word for the new year would be “Joy.”

I was intrigued. I love this kind of stuff. It sounded poetic and I wanted in. I asked to borrow the book and I read it quickly and chose my word even quicker.

Little did I know that would be the year of undoing.

My word was Hope.

It had been one of Debbie’s words, and I wasn’t feeling that original at the time. It sounded good enough. I wanted to share with my friend a word that I had chosen after reading the book, and “hope” just sounded good, you know?

Everyone likes to have hope…right?

Hope – to cherish a desire with anticipation to want something to happen or be true.

Oh the irony.

I would choose that word and forget it almost as instantly as I had decided on it. All “hope” I possessed flew right out the door with my dreams of how our life, marriage, jobs, home, and ministry would grow.

I lost all hope that year. It would take me years to find it again.

…ANYWAY…

This concept flew back into my brain recently, the idea of choosing a word for the new year. A word that I would intentionally seek out, pursue and study. I determined I wanted to do it. But I would take some time to decide on it. None of this “fly by the seat of my pants and chose some word I hadn’t thought a minute about” business.

It was tough.

A word that I would want to define my whole year.

One that I could cling to and claim.

A word that I would seek out and ask God for in my life.

And one night as I was lying awake, unable to sleep, I caught a glimpse of the sign that hangs above our bed. I sat up and looked at it for a long while.

Brave 2.jpg

I had picked up this sign months ago when we had moved in with my parents. I asked Joshua if I could pick up some things to make the room more “home like.” He gave the go ahead, and I charged Hobby Lobby with debit card in hand.  This would be the only thing I picked up though. I looked at all sorts of signs and pictures but this one just felt right.

And now I know why.

My word for this year is Brave.

Brave – ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.

In all honesty, I have a REAL struggle with being brave. I actually run to being afraid and discouraged when faced with the choice to be strong or courageous.

I obsess and cower when confronted with hard situations.

Just ask my husband.

He knows the depths that my worry and fear can take me to.

But this year, I am going to focus on the word Brave and try to practice it as well. To stand at the ready to endure danger or pain. To show courage and strength in the face of fear and discouragement.

I know I can do this because of the second part of Joshua 1:9, “…for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” 

I don’t know what this year holds. It could be a banner year or one that breaks me down for rebuilding. God only knows, but I feel a rumbling within my soul that He wants me to rise strong and courageous no matter the outcome because He is with me.

I can’t have room for the words fear or worry.

Be BRAVE Amanda. God resides here with you.

Just in the week that this word has been circling around in my brain, God has brought many books to my attention that focus on being brave, and I plan to read these books this year.

Then Joshua and I were walking though TJ Maxx when we saw a sign that said, “You make me brave.” We purchased it right away and gave it to someone that has made being brave easier with their kindness and support.

This year I want the thread of bravery to run through all I do. I want God to do a work in me that allows Himself to be seen because I am not afraid to stand for Him, no matter the cost. Also, I want to breed bravery in others. More often than not, when someone is willing to be brave, stand up, and walk forward, others are more willing to do so as well.

One author that I have been reading after is Brene Brown. I may not agree with everything she writes, but I have learned SO much from her. Her book Daring Greatly is one of the reasons I believe so deeply in vulnerability and authenticity. Vulnerability is the birthplace of so many things we crave in this life : joy, courage, empathy, creativity, hope, accountability.

In her book Daring Greatly she shares a quote by Teddy Roosevelt that has stuck with me and that I want to share with you.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Oh, I want to be known as the person who is daring greatly in the arena; moving forward with a brave heart because I have a force within me that no evil can stand against. He has me in His hand and is with me every step of the way, “wherever I go.” No matter if I fail or succeed He is proud of me because I “dared greatly” for him, and His opinion is ALL that matters. I refuse to stand outside the arena and be the one who smirks under my breathe about others who are trying. That person doesn’t win anything. They are miserable. I am done. with. that.

I want my face to be marred with the dust, sweat, and blood of bravery and courage as a child of God fighting and standing for right. I want to be known as someone who speaks truth with courage and tenacity even when its frightening and lonely. Even if I fail, I will know I failed while giving my all, daring greatly for God. I will fix my eyes on Him.

I challenge you to pick a word for this New Year. One that you can look for, study, search out, and even turn around and give to others. And please share with me! I would love to know what word you choose!

Happy New Year! My prayer remains that God will do a great work in each of us for His glory!

Amanda

“Not Yet?”

My son Judah is four years old. He is a treasure to my heart, and a constant adventure. Even this picture is a tribute to the fact. He was supposed to stand next to me and throw the leaves in the air while the picture was being taken. The idea was to be photographed together laughing and having a fun fall moment while leaves floated down around us. But in usual Judah fashion, when we said “go” he ran forward yelling and throwing the leaves…and we did it about 4 times. Not according to plan, Juju. 🙂

juju.jpgPhoto Creds: April Teceno Photography

Judah is the type of child who wakes up asking questions. I am convinced it is his favorite thing. A usual morning consists of the same three questions asked about, hmmm, 50 times.  Here they are:

Can I have a snack?

When can I watch TV or play Mario?

What are we doing next?

Deep down he knows the answer to each of these questions. We LITERALLY follow the same schedule every day. But he HAS to ask the questions. I think its because he needs to hear the answers said aloud, so nothing is left to wonder in his little mind.

Usually I give him the same answer over and over again, each time becoming increasingly frustrated. “No Judah.” Not now Judah.” “After your nap Judah.” “Nothing Judah!”

And almost every time he answers back with those big brown eyes staring straight at me, “Not yet?”

“Not yet, Momma?”

He needs to know these things WILL be coming. It’s just not yet…but soon.

Well, last week this scene was unfolding like it usually does. I was vacuuming his room and he was 27 questions deep into the morning when he asked about something again. I answered, “No Judah.” To which he replied, “Not yet?” God stopped me dead in my tracks. I froze in realization that I am Judah.

My mind began to flood with everything that I constantly ask the Lord for. Day after day. My prayers are filled with requests. Mostly for myself, if I am being honest.

And lately His answers have been “No.” And my heart will inevitably whisper, “Not yet. Not yet. Right Lord?” I have to know that these things I am praying for will come. That one day it will be here, He is just making me wait for right timing. Just like I do to Judah.

But what if that is not the case?

What if the answer is No.

Forever.

What will I do then?

It was in that moment when I was vacuuming and heard Judah’s sweet voice say those two small words that God filleted open my heart and threw a realization on me that stopped me dead in my tracks. I looked up, stopped vacuuming and caught my reflection in a mirror in his room.

“God, is this what I am doing?”

I turned off the vacuum, went into my room and collapsed into my desk chair.

I was shaken.

It was one of those moments that felt like God struck right to the center of me. He peeled back a piece I wasn’t willing to let be touched. In the words of a four year old.

Some of the best things that have happened to me are because He has told me an affirmative, “No.” Why is it that I just now am realizing that I am fighting Him on it?

I know that I know God loves me and wants the best for me. He has told me over and over again in His word. That I am loved and treasured. That He WANTS to bless my life.

He just never said when or how.

I have treasured and held close to my heart verses like Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 37:4, Romans 8:28.

But recently I read 1 Peter 1:6-7 :

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

and James 1:2-4 :

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

My face was ripped clean off.

As I read these passages I was reminded of something my counselor asks me whenever I bring her situations that I am struggling through and asking God to relieve. She just asks these two simple questions EVERY TIME.

“What might God be doing in this trial?” “What might He be teaching you?”

UUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH.

Who wants to hear that? Who wants to think about that?

I just want this awfulness to GO AWAY.

I want people to treat me with kindness!

I want sin to let go of me!

I want hurts to be healed!

Wrongs to be righted!

I want life to be easier than this!

I don’t want to be stuck here, in all of this!

But what about James 1? What about rejoicing when I face trials of various kinds?

He says it will produce steadfastness.

Steadfastness – being immovable, unable to be shaken, deeply rooted.

I really believe that God is trying to produce steadfastness in me. Because before all of this I was very movable, easily shaken, and blown by every wind.

Through each circumstances He has rooted me down deeper and deeper to Himself. And He has done this through giving most of my requests an affirmative “no.”

It was like through those two small words from Judah that my eyes were opened to what He was doing for me.

He is securing me to Himself. He is making my heart, joy, peace, comfort, strength more dependent upon Him instead of my circumstances. He knew what I needed for that to happen.

I needed everything I found comfort in, security in, to be ripped away. So that I could find everything I truly needed in Him.

Here are some examples in my life where this has happened so very clearly.

I found comfort and peace in relying on Joshua, my husband, for every answer. He is the leader of our home and I thought that meant he had to make every decision and I was supposed to just follow in line. God began undoing everything that we had built on Joshua’s shoulders and we learned that we had to lean on each other and God to be able to even limp through this trial. It brought so much authenticity into our marriage. We were able to see each other for exactly who we were. Not this “perfect” persona we had built for the “perfect” marriage.

I have rest and contentment when I am in my own home surrounded by the things that we have built for ourselves in the last ten years. God hasn’t let me live in my own home for 3 years now. I have lived in a camper, a college dorm, and my parents house. This has given me a renewed sense of thankfulness for everything I am given, big or small. And a realization that we need much much less to be truly happy in this life.

I really appreciate feeling in control of my life. Being in control of my feelings, not allowing anyone to see the slightest misstep. Not allowing anyone to hurt me because I haven’t allowed anyone too far in. That blew up in my face when I was going through such a deep hurt that I didn’t know up from down. I lost all control and had to allow myself to be vulnerable and open with people. It has been one of the most hurtful seasons of life, but oh, the treasures He has allowed me to behold in people. To be truly seen, embraced, and loved anyway? It has changed my life forever.

You have to know that in these three instances I asked for Joshua to be healed quickly, for Him to give us a home of our own again, and for me to pull it together. His answers would be and still are, no, no, and no.  And until that moment in Judah’s room I kept whispering back, “not yet…? Not yet, Lord? Soon though?” But the answers may keep being no. I am choosing to look for the lessons and promises in the No’s.

So far they have been life changing and always for my good. God knows the bigger picture. I will try to trust Him in every no and try not to answer back with questions.

Today I will rest in Him.

Because He is doing a great work of steadfastness in my life. Linking my every happiness to Himself.

And really, what in this life could compare to what He has to offer?

James 1:17 – “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

 

 

89 Roses and 2 Apologies.

I was recently given 89 roses. They were magnificent.

89 rosesAnd heavy! Whew!

My husband, Joshua, gave them to me.

Now, I could tell you they were given to me because he just had me on his mind one day. I could smile big and flaunt to everyone. But that would be such a disgrace to what they mean to me. To be honest, I think a couple of years ago if anyone had found out about my gift, I would have said just that. It was just an extremely thoughtful present.

But they are so much more that that. They are redeeming and grace filled.

The day before I received my gift of 89 roses, Joshua and I had an argument. One of those big bad ones you have sometimes in marriage.

Oh, you don’t? Ok. Just us then. 😉

We had both been going through a lot personally and had placed expectations on each other in the midst of it. And when they weren’t being met we both imploded. I wanted him to be more open and honest about everything and he just wanted me to understand that he struggles with that as someone who has been through deep hurt and to leave it there.

We were pretty hurtful to each other and made accusations that were far from truth. And then we walked away from one another for a whole night and day.

The silence was deafening.

Then he came home with 89 roses.

We talked for what seemed like forever. We were open and honest about everything we were hurting about. Most of it had nothing to do with each other, it was just manifesting itself in our relationship. We said hard truths and offered each other grace and understanding. We asked for forgiveness and gave it freely to one another.

God was all over it.

Because, trust me, our reckonings don’t usually go like that… 😉

This journey God has placed us on has taught us so much about our marriage. We have learned that we have to deliberately choose to be open and honest with each other, no matter what. We are partners and are in this together. Forever. If we just go off assumptions and half truths we will end up in a mess (erm…like this one). We need all the information. All the time. I need to know where he is hurting, and he needs to know where I am. I need to know where he is feeling weak. He needs to know the same about me. The list could go on and on.

When things are left unsaid, you have to start filling in blanks on your own, and I was never good at guessing games. Especially for a man’s mind. And a man trying to fill in a woman’s unsaid thoughts?! It only creates distance and confusion.

In a marriage relationship, vulnerability and authenticity are vital. It took so long for us to understand and start grasping that. And we still struggle. Being totally vulnerable with someone is one of this life’s hardest climbs.

But it has the best views.

Being vulnerable and open, I mean truly open, can breed a connection like you will never understand unless you have done it.

It is groundbreaking. Especially for a marriage.

Now back to my story. After we had talked, I was looking at the roses and I asked Joshua, “exactly how many roses are here…?” He said, ” I bought 90, but gave one to Cadence (our daughter), so you have 89 roses there.” I was floored! “Joshua, where did you get 90 roses?” His answer stilled my heart.

“Well, I had to buy all they had.”

My husband, hurting and not understanding at all where I was, went and bought a store out of their roses.

For me.

My heart was overwhelmed.

It is in moments like that I can really see a portrait of who God is. That despite all the hurt I had inflicted on him, he wanted me to know I was loved and cherished.

We have been through so much in the last three years, and I can remember some days being so lost and hurt, wondering if we would ever make it through. But then moments like this one happen, and God brings so much beauty into the hurting. As I stood, admiring this vast bouquet of flowers I just saw grace and redemption all over them.

God is redeeming our story for His glory. And offering grace into every hurt.

A rose is such a classic unique flower.

It has a long stem filled with sharp thorns that lead to a beautiful case of soft petals. And those petals hold one of my favorite smells. But if a rose is not handled with care and purpose, it can hurt you.

Marriage can be the same way.

Beautiful, with a sweet smelling savor. But if not handled with care, can become hurtful and hard to maneuver . We let the thorns of hurt, misunderstanding, miscommunication, pride, fear, and silence take away the beauty of the bloom.

Choose honesty and openness today in your relationships. Choose hard conversations over the “I’m fine” response. Say I’m sorry and genuinely mean it. Try to really forgive and give grace, if you can, because so much grace is given from the Lord to your life. Verbalize your expectations. That way, together you can decide if they are reasonable for each other.

Each of these moments will be like cutting off a thorn.

And thornless roses are so much more enjoyable…don’t you think?🌹

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hang On.”

There are two words that perfectly describe the state of my life for the past three years.

“Hang on.” 

Have you ever seen the 1996 movie Twister?

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The two leading actors in this film are Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt. The premise is this storm chasing couple is trying to further understand the inner workings of Tornados. The storyline and acting is sub par at most but for a 90’s film it really has great effects in the storm scenes. I haven’t watched this film in years, but there is one scene that is burned in my mind.

It is at the end of the movie. Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt find themselves face to face with one of the biggest tornados they have encountered and it is coming right for them. They take off running on foot from this humongous storm that is threatening their lives. What they have been chasing for so many years is now chasing them. They get pretty far on foot, but eventually reach a point where running is no longer an option. They dodge into this small building and are looking for anything that will anchor them from being taken by this storm. All they find is leather straps and a metal pipe.

Nail biting seconds pass as they maneuver and secure themselves.

Bill Paxton hunkers down next to Helen Hunt and says, “Hang on.”

Then it happens.

The tornado reaches them. First it obliterates the building they have sought cover in. Then it lifts them up, feet flying above their heads, held only to the ground by leather straps hooked around a metal pipe. They are terrified. But then all of a sudden, the music shifts and what once was a place of terror and uncertainty gives way to beautiful madness. They are both looking into the eye of the storm and it is glorious. This is what they have been chasing and researching for years and now they are beholding it in a way no one else has before.

You see them physically change from terrified to awestruck.

I see Joshua and myself in the face of Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt.

For years we had been “chasing” the Lord in ministry. We loved it and it was our life. Until God graciously began undoing us. One day we turned around and were met by an enormous storm. The biggest we had ever encountered.

Joshua had suffered an unimaginable trauma as a child. Sexual abuse is one of the worst possible things a child can endure. Innocence exposed to too much, too soon. He concealed it for 21 years and it had become a raging storm that had chased him into a small place where he couldn’t breathe.

So we tried to run.

We wanted relief. An instant fix. A building that would keep us safe, that the storm could not reach us in. A way to stop the storm ourselves. We tried so many things to stop that storm from ravaging our life. But in the end we found ourselves tied by leather straps to a metal pipe. Holding on for dear life as the storm roared above us. But it was in this place that God began to do the real work in our lives.

I look back on the time before all this came to the surface and I can remember Joshua I asking God to really make Himself known to us and to use us however He wanted to. But I have to tell you, I had no idea it would take us down a road of such brokenness, loneliness, undoing, grace, faith, redoing, and opportunities greater than we could have imagined.

We felt so alone during this time. Especially Joshua. Personal topics like this are so hard to talk about. And no one wants to really hear about these hidden places. It’s too raw. But there are so many hurting in the dark. Scared to really tell anyone what they have endured. How could anyone understand? Would they treat me different? Would they blame me? What would they think? Would they look at me differently?

Would you believe that before Joshua told me about his abuse, I had NEVER talked to anyone who had endured childhood sexual abuse. Now, after Joshua had the unimaginable strength to speak his truth and to take the risk of being really seen. I have talked with and met too many to count.

Too many to count. What a contrast to before.

There are so many people hurting in this area, and I had no idea.

I was down in a storm cellar somewhere, totally ignorant to the real storms people were and are facing.

I wish I could tell you now, three years later, that we are at the end of the movie in our lives. Where the storm has dissipated and the dark clouds give way to a new sky. But we are still right in the midst of it – feet flying above our heads, holding tight to that metal pipe.

BUT we aren’t terrified anymore. We have moved into the moment when we look up into the storm and are amazed.

We are watching His beautiful plan unfold in the midst of a storm I never saw coming that has completely changed Joshua and I. This storm that was meant for destruction and devastation became one of the most beautiful gifts.

God has allowed us to see what HE can do with a life shattered and brought back together by Himself. HE has given such peace that passes all understanding to Joshua. And HE has allowed new opportunities of ministry to come forth and start redeeming what the devil meant for evil.

Here is the truth. The Lord may never allow the storm to fully dissipate. It may always be raging above us or swirling near us until the day we step into eternity.

GULP.

But I am so unbelievably grateful He has given us the opportunity to see His hand so clearly working right in the midst of the storm.

And you know, as much as I see ourselves in the faces of the actors of this film, I see God in every other part. He is in the tornado, undoing all that we have built on our own, graciously passing over each thing and leveling it so HE can rebuild. I see His provision and sovereignty in the building, sheltering us from the debris long enough to become secured. I see his mercy and grace in the leather straps and metal pipe that anchor us from being taken by the storm that threatens our lives. And I see his majesty and power in the actors faces as they behold the beauty of the storm.

What is God trying to undo in your life today? What gracious prodding is He giving for you to tell your story and to really be seen. Taking a step in faith and taking the risk to be fully seen and known can be one of the hardest decisions you will ever make. It could go either way. People may embrace you and love on you or they may not be able to take in that kind of vulnerability. We have experienced both sides. But I will tell you, it is one amazing thing to behold God working through circumstances you never thought He could use.

I am so grateful for the thought of “Hanging on.” It means that there is nothing left I can do but to hang on or rely on a God who is strong enough to take me through the storm.

There is something so out of this world about holding this kind of hurt out to God and saying, “Here. This belongs to you, and I am willing and ready for You to use it however you see fit.”

2 Corinthians 4:7-11 : But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of usWe are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

I don’t know what your storm is today, but “Hang on.” And when you can, look to the Lord in the midst of it. He is our Savior, Shelter, Strength, Protector, rock, comforter, defender, peace, deliverer, God, and friend. I can almost guarantee you will be awestruck by the beauty He can create with anything you allow Him to use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weight. What?

Someone recently made a negative comment to me about my weight.

And this person was not a medical professional…if you catch my drift.

The sad part is, this isn’t the first time comments like this have flown my way. Sadly, it’s not even the second or third time. As far back as I can remember I have had negative comments made to me about my weight. Not from my parents, they were always so kind and uplifting no matter what I weighed. But definitely from every avenue around me. Extended family, friends, acquaintances, and the occasional medical professional…;) Which, that’s their job. They are excused.

Anyway, let me tell you about this recent encounter…

I had someone approach me and compliment me on my weight loss (The story starts good…just wait for the kicker). It was really nice of this person, seeing as I have only lost 20 pounds and that is a drop in a very deep bucket. But it has taken hard work, and is something to be proud of!

Now, my husband has lost about 130 pounds. Yes, you read that right 1-3-0. He is amazing! And a man. And we ALL know men can drop weight fairly easier than women, at least the men in my life can. Here is a before and after…

IMG_6417Wow! Right!? Josh is down 130 pounds and I got highlights! Haha!

Well anyway, this beautiful soul was telling me how they can tell I have lost weight and then someone else walked up and joined the conversation. Cue the ominous music.

I am NOT LYING to you, this is how it went:

Kind Soul: “I can really tell you are losing weight!” Me: “Well, thank you, that means a lot, I am trying hard.” Third Party: “Well, if you lost the amount of weight your husband has, now that would really be something.” Me: “Well, that might be a bit much, he has lost 130 pounds!” Third Party: “Well, I don’t know…” Stone faced.

Weight. What?

FOR REAL.

Now, I wish I could say I walked away laughing and said, “Oh well! Guess they need a lesson in talking to others!” But I didn’t. Y’all, that messed me up! I walked away and texted my best friend, because I needed a dose of love and acceptance after that heaping pile of hurt was dumped on me. And she delivered. Told me I was loved and valuable just the way I am. Thank you my dear friend.

In our conversation about my impending depression, my friend said, “Don’t you wish you could say something when people say things like that?” And I do! I so wish I could have looked at this individual and told them while yes it might be something to lose that much weight, I know that my value doesn’t reside there. And neither does theirs. (I really believe that people who say those kinds of things have been hurt in the same way they are hurting others.)  Their value doesn’t reside in the way they look either.

Think on God’s words here, for a minute.

Psalm 139:13-15 – For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 

Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 

Now, having read those verses, I have to believe the Lord knew I would struggle with my weight. He formed me. He knew what struggles I would have. He wove me together. Now, choices I have made have not always helped that struggle, but He knew I would have it. Genetics and all that.😉

And HE has plans for ME!

Overweight and all.

Imagine that.

God has so many plans for your life. No matter what you look like, the sin you struggle with, how smart you are, how much money or connections you have. He has already planned all that out, how HE can fill those places with himself.

Will you let Him?

Don’t let the temporal words of someone hit your heart today and stunt His plans.  Remember while people around us are looking on our outward appearance, God is more concerned with our hearts. (1 Samuel 16:7)

Believe God’s eternal words! He wants to use you right where you are. How you look. How you talk. With your humor. With your background. With your struggle. He loves to use those who seem to everyone else unusable. Just look at those he used! David was a man after God’s own heart and he struggled with sexual sin. Moses was used mightily to bring God’s people freedom and he struggled with lying and anger. And I could go on and on about people God used that were messy, broken, sinful, and imperfect.

So, friend, where are you feeling less than today?  Is it your weight?  Your beauty? Your works? Your sins? You are beautiful and valuable JUST THE WAY YOU ARE. God makes up the difference in these weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9). Remember that today when someone or something hits you in that sensitive spot.

TRUTH – My sensitive spot is my weight. And people and this world like to hit me hard there. But today I am going to let God’s words permeate my life.  So fat, while you might get in my way, you can NOT get in the way of God using my life. I have surrendered to Him, He is living inside me and will use me to do whatever He wants to do not matter my size or shape!

Have a beautiful day! And remember you are WAY MORE than the opinions of this world or even Christians around you!

Not just my words, God says so! ❤ 

 

 

 

Authenticity? Oh…None for me, thanks.

Authenticity is the quality of being genuine.

Sit with that for a minute.

When is the last time you remember being genuine?

Real. Vulnerable. Actual. Bona fide. True.

Its been a while for me. A LONG while. Oh, I can think of a couple times that I gave the appearance of authenticity, but I was very calculated in what I really put out there. Just enough to seem real, but still enough hidden that I didn’t scare the mess out of someone.

Why is authenticity so scary?

I was talking to someone once about how I wanted so badly to be vulnerable and authentic in this life, and their response was, ” You have to be careful with that, people don’t really want you to be authentic, they just want the appearance of authenticity.” I was so dejected by that statement, but you know, it is so true. We really do want the appearance of being real and genuine, just not the mess of it all.

We want to hear that you are struggling too, but we don’t want to know what with. Because that might be too far and we can’t rewind it once it’s said. We ask how you are, but we don’t really want to know the struggles you have faced this week…we didn’t ask for all that. And when someone answers honestly to that passing question, we are thrown. Especially when they are REALLY honest.  We either leave completely weirded out, with the thought that we will be careful to ever ask that person again, or we leave feeling relieved that we aren’t the only one having a tough time.

TRUTH – I am initially weirded out when someone is completely vulnerable and honest.  It doesn’t feel right.  It feels foreign and wrong.  But after a few minutes of seeing them reach up and slide the mask off, all I see is beauty. Beauty in the face that has been hiding. The true face of the hurting, confused, pained, happy, joyous, or passionate. I have seen quite a few. And then I feel such a connection with that person. They have let me see their true selves, maybe they wouldn’t mind seeing me for the mess I am. Vulnerability and authenticity produces connection.

People long for authenticity. At least that is my belief. But have one person stand up in church and ask for prayer for their addiction and they might as well be on fire we move away from them so fast. It’s too much. The sin is too real. It exposes the shame in ourselves and hits our hidden places. So we whisper to others and act appalled. But what would it be like if we ran to them the way the Father does? Arms outreached, with even a “me too” spoken. Oh, I long for that.

So, here is my authenticity.  I am Amanda Marie Rager. I struggle with pride, sensitivity, lust, anger, control, and people pleasing. Those are my top six struggles. No fluff, just being real. No editing, there it is. I have been on a 18 month journey to find out those top six and I can now call them for what they are. They are each a part of Amanda. They are definitely not my prettiest parts, but they are there none the less. And I find God in each one, redeeming and using them for His glory.

Whew. That was painful. Now, what are yours?