I've Moved!

This little blog has moved over to the official AHeartSurrendered.com! Check it out; can't wait to see you there.

Friday, January 24, 2014

faith walk

Yesterday I took my two youngest brothers, Peter (age 2) and Paul (age 10 months) for a little walk around our neighborhood.  It was a brisk day--in the 50s--not too bad, I buckled them into the little red wagon, covered their laps with a fluffy blanket, and we were off.

Paul was in the rear, so when I turned around while pulling the wagon behind me, I could see his little chubby face--mouth wide, his four little teeth formed into a huge grin, clapping his hands with delight at the ride.  Peter was in the front of the wagon, facing backwards, so I couldn't see his face.  I was hoping that the walk would brighten his attitude as he had just gotten up from his nap a little on the grumpy side...

I was taking a big loop around our neighborhood development, following the sidewalks along the lines of the dozens of cookie cutter houses.  About two thirds of the way around, I heard Peter's little voice with a bit of a worried tremor, "Amy, I wanna go home..." I turned and looked at him.  "Okay, Honey, we're going home. Don't worry."  "Nooooo, I want to go HOME!" he whiningly reiterated.  "This isn't the way!" He was looking at our surroundings.  Then I understood.  He didn't recognize the way that I was taking.  He didn't realize that it was a loop; he thought that I would turn around to go home.

"Don't worry, Honey.  We are going home.  Just trust me, okay, Baby?" I asked, hopeful.

He settled into the wagon, "Okay."  His voice sounded satisfied, he trusted me.

Sure enough, about five minutes later I rounded a corner.  He immediately recognized our street, "There it is!"

Of course it is, Baby, didn't I tell you so?

This reminded me of my life.

I feel like Peter.  As I go through life, I look at my surroundings, the things that I go through, the sidewalks not recognized and sometimes I get nervous.  I find myself piping up to God, "Um, Lord?  I don't get this--I don't understand this, where are we going, anyway?  I don't recognize any of this.  I mean, I thought I knew..."  He just keeps leading steady, "Don't worry.  Trust Me."  His voice soothes, and I remember our previous stops--hasn't He been faithful so far?

Then I settle into the wagon, snuggle under His blanket.  And enjoy the ride.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight."
~Proverbs 3:5,6

Saturday, January 18, 2014

coffee converts

My friend jumped into the passenger seat of my car.  She sniffed, then chuckled.  "Of course.  Amy's car would smell like coffee!"

What she actually smelling was a combination of  the new French Vanilla air freshener that I had just put up that morning, and my Starbucks Pike Place that I had grabbed on the way over.

But what she was alluding to was my (apparently) infectious and contagious love of coffee.

I don't know what it is that I like about it so much.  Wait, maybe I do.  The smell of it captivates me...my parents laugh at me when I walk into a Starbucks, close my eyes and just take a long, deep breath.  It probably has to do with the fact that pretty much every morning for my entire life has started with the smell of fresh coffee brewing.  Nostalgia?  Call it what you will.  I love it.  As for the taste.  Ha, we won't even go there.

Anyway, my friends tease me all the time about my love of coffee.  When two of my besties came over not too long ago, as they were stirring their cups of freshly brewed coffee they were remarking about how they actually never really liked coffee.

"I don't know... I never used to drink it.  Then I just started drinking it all of a sudden, and I don't know...wait..." they locked eyes, then turned and looked at me.

"What??" I shrugged.

"It's you!"

I raised an eyebrow, chuckled slightly and lifted the mug to my lips.  "I don't know what you're talking about."

Okay, so maybe I have a coffee addiction.  And maybe I talk about it too much ("it", meaning, the coffee itself).

But you know, I was thinking.  I so easily converted my friends over to coffee drinking.  How?

I shared my excitement.  I showed them the beauty of it.  The smells, the tastes, the different ways to fix it.

What if I put this same energy into telling others about Jesus?  Hmm.  Convicting thought.

I'm so passionate about something as carnal as coffee... why can't I have that same passion in God's love?

The beauty of it; the smell of it, the sights of it, the feel of it, the redemption in it.  The eternal value of it!

May my love and passion for Jesus be manifest in such a way that others will be drawn to Him; that they will smell His aroma on me, and desire to have Him too.  They will see His smile on my face, and yearn for His joy.  They will hear His heart beating through my voice, and desperately seek to find the center.

May my addiction to Jesus be contagious!

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place."  ~2 Corinthians 2:14

Thursday, January 16, 2014

for me, too

I sit, counting gifts, in the quiet.  Steaming cup of morning coffee by my side, the dawn's sunbeams beginning to peek in the back windows.

#96.  warm coffee on a brisk morning

#97. pretty pink pen

#98. dog sleeping peacefully

#99. dear friends

...and I stop.  I'm at 100 already?  I mean, I'll admit, I did start this thing months ago, but wasn't really being faithful until the beginning of this year...

What should I write for my 100th gift?  Shouldn't it be something special, something wonderfully profound?

I ponder, and remember something.

...and I write:

#100. grace

Okay, okay, I admit--it's beautifully Christianese isn't it?  :-)

Let me explain.

I find that I have a hard time remembering that grace applies to me too.  I mean, I talk about it all the time.  I preach it from the rooftops, I proclaim its promises upon the weary and broken...but I seem to miss it for myself.  

I realized this when chatting online with a friend the other night.  I was telling her about a situation in which I was fearful of the outcome because of some past mistakes that I had made.  I could almost feel her warm smile and arm around me when she said, "Ok. Let's move past that. We all make mistakes and God is in the business of redemption."

It sounds like the same old, same old.  But to me at that moment, it was like a flashbulb moment.

The words of a sermon by Paul Washer that I had been listening to not too long ago came to mind:

"How dare you think that your sin has more power than the blood of Jesus Christ? How dare you think that your puny disobedience is stronger than His obedience? 

You are dressed. You are dressed proper. You could go to a wedding at this very moment in the very court of God because He dressed you. And you are attractive to Him because He made you attractive to Him by His own work and if He hadn’t done it you would have never got there. 

It is all about Him." 

(Click HERE to listen to the full sermon or read the transcript--it's fantastic, don't miss it!)

I believed that His blood was enough for my sin in general, but for some reason, when it came to the everyday stupid mistakes that I made, it felt like I had to manage those on my own.  Pay for the consequences, deal with it.


God cares about everything.  Jesus' blood covers everything.  He is strong enough to overcome all.

He is powerful enough to redeem even me and my hopeless, everyday mistakes, distresses and grievances.  He is strong enough to daily cleanse me, to hourly redeem me, to forgive me and love me, moment by moment.

Do we deal with consequences from our actions and mistakes?  Yes.  

But the glorious promise that we have is that we never have to go at it alone, and that if we surrender ourselves to Him, He can take our weakest points and turn them into opportunities for His glory.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."  
~Romans 8:28

"...and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” 
~Matthew 28:20b

#100. remembering that grace is for me, too 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

i don't keep a diary

Earlier today in the car as I was driving to a meeting I was rocking and singing to an old album--BarlowGirl's Another Journal Entry--a piece quite instrumental in my spiritual walk when I was about 12 years old.  (The poor people in the cars around me...probably thought I was crazy.) Songs like I Need You to Love Me, Never Alone, 5 Minutes of Fame brought me back 8 years (has it really been that long??).

To the days that we first moved down south.  To the days that I was struggling to find my place in life. To the days that my grandma had lung cancer, and our schedule was crazy around my mom helping take care of her. To the days that I was searching.  To the days I was questioning.  Fighting.  Desperate.

It was during this season that a friend came to visit us for the summer.  She was about 20 at the time--8 years older than me.  I don't remember us discussing very many spiritual things that summer, but I do remember one particular conversation that impacted me for the rest of my life; everyday thereafter.  At that time, I was extremely sheepish opening up to anyone about anything--but I remember feeling so desperate, so stuck in my spiritual walk, I shared it with my older friend.

"Well, have you tried journaling?"  she asked.

I laughed slightly, I never could stand writing out the events of the day.  It was boring to me.  I remember at the age of 7 or 8, since I loved to write, my mom suggested that I keep a diary.  I didn't want to.  I did sometimes, I had a bunch of started journals, diaries, and notebooks, but I could never stick with it.

"No, I could never stick with that...writing about my day isn't really my thing..."  I explained my history with diaries.

She shook her head.  "Eh, I never went for diaries either..."  She laughed.  "Actually, when I say journaling, I mean like writing letters to God, just in a journal--like instead of writing out the day's events, write your prayers down."

I thought for a moment.  That had never occurred to me.

So I tried it.  And couldn't stop.

(Come on, you know you love my pink rhinestone-studded pen ;-))

It was then that I realized why the songs from Another Journal Entry touched me the way that they did.  The reason that they spoke so deeply to my questioning, yearning, preteen heart--because they were just that: words from another girl's journal, another girl's cries to God.

Journaling gave me a place to pour out my heart.  To shape these feelings of havoc into swirls of ink etched to make words.  And a way to go back and see the journey...

I thank my dear friend for that moment.  I don't think she has any idea the impact that she made, just by simply giving me that small piece of advice.  I have since finished several journals and have found such peace and enjoyment in my time of writing out my thoughts to God.  I especially love going back and reading my entries and seeing the love story played out; the ups, the downs, the valley moments, the ones on the mountain top.  

Scribbles on the tear stained, bent up pages remind me of God's hand, ever present--even when I don't feel it.

I cried out with no reply
And I can't feel You by my side
So I'll hold tight to what I know
You're here and I'm never alone

~Never Alone, by BarlowGirl
(acoustic version on Another Journal Entry)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

book review: A Promise Kept

Allison Kavanagh never expected it to happen to her.  He had been her dream, her life.  She never expected things to turn out this way.  She thought that God had promised to save her marriage.  Had she heard wrong?

Up in a solitude mountain cabin, inherited from her single, independent Aunt Emma, Allison tries to sort out her feelings to move on with her life.  In her converting her unmarried aunt's old cabin to feel like home, her curiosity gets the better of her.  When she climbs up into the once forbidden attic, she stumbles upon some old photographs, journals and even an old wedding dress.  As Allison pieces together her aunt's life in the 20s and 30s, she is surprised to discover the side of Emma's heart that she hadn't known, one that looked surprisingly like her own: broken.

Allison soon finds herself drawing comparisons and coming to terms with some difficult questions.  She soon learns what it really means to trust, and surrender everything to the Lord.

This book really kept me turning pages--in fact, I stayed up until almost 2AM last night finishing it!  In A Promise Kept, author Robin Lee Hatcher does a fabulous job of intertwining the histories of great-aunt and niece-- comparing their pasts, realizing the pain that they shared so many years apart, and finally using the older story to inspire the redemption of the younger.  I loved the characters of Emma and Allison--how they were so much alike, but yet still their own unique persons.  The mystery was masterfully done, the emotional burdens so vivid, heart rending.  The kind that cause the reader to stop and think, What would I have done?

I was unsure at first about where this story was going.  I wasn't thrilled with the idea that Allison was a divorced woman and her mom was trying so hard to get her married to someone else, to convince her that the guy at church "liked her", when her husband was still living and even appeared to be interested.  I was unsure of the worldview in that aspect.  There were also allusions to things that married people do, but totally subtle--nothing I would hesitate about except for when giving this book to someone under 13.

All in all I really enjoyed this book!  I really loved the combination of modern day and historical fiction.  Best of all, the redemption at the end of Emma's story was priceless.  I had been a little frustrated with her story, trying to figure out in my mind how the story could possibly end!  But then, it came.  So satisfying, so perfect.  Why hadn't I thought of that?

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Learn more about the book HERE!

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

book review: Popular: Boys, Booze, and Jesus

Okay, you might have been a little taken aback at the title, as was I!  But after reading a short article from the book's author, Tindell Baldwin, I was truly intrigued by her story...

Popular: Boys, Booze, and Jesus is a memoir following through the teen and early college years of Tindell Baldwin (at the time, Tindell Stanfill--the sister of Christian artist Kristian Stanifill).  It is a story that begins in the depths of pain and darkness that appears to have no end. When all hope seems lost, Tindell finds herself at the foot of the cross, her choice to surrender or die.  To choose the light of Christ, or the blackness of eternal separation.

Tindell grew up in a Christian family.  She had loving parents, three fun brothers, and a good life.  But it wasn't enough for her.  She decided that she didn't want the life of rules that her parents had for her--she'd rather have some real fun and join the "popular" crowd.  She even wrote God a letter telling Him, "Good-bye."

Throughout her journey, she found herself taking one compromise after the other.  It started with one drink.  Then it wasn't enough, so she had another.  Then that wasn't enough either...

Popular tells Tindell's painfully honest story.  The story that she longs for every teenage girl to hear--that they might learn from her mistakes, and learn of the breathtaking value and beauty that they can find in Jesus.

"Next time some guy grabs you and gives you a sly wink, give him two pieces of a tree, three nails, a hammer, and a crown of thorns and tell him to prove it--prove that he can pay the price that it takes to get your heart."

I must say that I truly enjoyed this book--the prose was beautiful, the honesty refreshing, and her redemption inspiring.  I found myself mentally noting quotes from the book (like the one above); such raw words, with such powerful truth!  I especially loved the chapter that she talked about her mom and dad.  Such humility and honor.

The words that she had for young women were all so true, such refreshing words that need to be heard.  Reminders of the worth and love that they can find in Jesus, and encouragement to find grace in Him, no matter where they have been.  Proof that God can turn ashes of our bad choices into the beauty of His grace...if we are willing to ask Him and surrender.

I will say, however, that this book is not for everyone.  The topics of alcohol, drugs and especially sex are heavy in this book--as is understandable.  There are no technical details, but specifically with the topic of sex, there was much mention and discussion on proper context.  There was also a tinge of slightly more coarse language in the text (example: words like "sucked"), and dashed out profanity.

I would advise caution for a parent giving this book to their Christian daughter under the age of 18 unless they are struggling with these issues personally. I will say though, that the encouragement that she had to offer was such a blessing to me personally, I do believe that it's a message that every girl needs to hear--but just at the right time.  My suggestion would be for a parent to read over it first to evaluate whether it is right for their daughter.

I would highly recommend this book if you know of a young lady that is currently struggling with the issues mentioned above.  Tindell provides such beautiful insight, her tone so sisterly, it is the perfect resource for a lost young lady in search of love and acceptance, shedding light on the truth of the Gospel and reaching her where she is.

See the book on Amazon HERE.

I received a complementary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

joy dare: three graces from people you love

(Yes, it's late.  Apologies for the poor quality-unedited photos! :-))

Paul Michael Victor, peacefully slumbering on me
Around last summer, I was experiencing a pretty stressful season.  To force myself to stop and slow down, I would hold Paul on the porch swing when he would get fussy and rock and rock.  I couldn't have my laptop open, I couldn't type emails, update spreadsheets, edit text, etc.  I was forced to just quietly rock the swing, ponder and pray.  The feeling of a sweet little baby falling asleep on you is exhilarating; I quickly grew addicted to my "therapy"...even to this day :-)

a candle, birthday present from my dear friend Elise
A spicy, rich scent--I lit it today on the window sill while doing dishes.
What a blessing it is to have friends that know me...and my silly obsessions with scents ;-)

my ring, reminder of love and grace
For my thirteenth birthday my mom and dad gave me this beautifully simple ring as a gift.  A pink opal in the shape of a heart, flanked on each side by a pair of diamonds.  A symbol of my surrendering my heart to Jesus, and entrusting it to my parents for protection until the day that I give it away to my husband.  
Some call it a "Purity Ring" or even a "Promise Ring"--I've never really seen my ring in those titles.  They seem too common for something that means so much to me.  Something that daily reminds me of undeserving grace and unconditional love.  You see, the year before I turned thirteen I went through a very tough time.  A time of questioning, a time of rebellion.  I disrespected my parents, I lashed out at God.  
It was that year that I repented, and rededicated my life to Jesus, fully surrendering myself to Him.  It was then that I was gifted with this token.  I remember receiving it--the first thought that came to my mind was that it was so beautiful; I did not know how any other ring could compare--not even my wedding ring in the future!  Then I felt it.  The kiss of grace.  The rush of love.

I was His.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

joy dare: a gift old, new, blue

I smiled when I saw this as the random verse of the day on my phone's Bible widget:

a gift old...

Earlier, after eagerly cutting out the fabric for some skirts this afternoon I ran some fabric through one of our nicer sewing machines.  I was horrified when what was supposed to be gentle lines turned out a mangled mess!  So, at my sister's suggestion, I pulled out my old machine.  The basic beginner's machine.  My birthday present from when I turned 11.  At 9 years old, it thrilled me that it worked...beautifully.


My dear sister Emma purchased a beautiful silver Starbucks mug for my birthday a couple of weeks ago.  To my utter horror the paint began to chip after a few uses!  So we returned it, but unfortunately, they did not have any of the same style--so I picked this one out.

I love the rustic yet elegant style; thank you, Emma darlin'!  :-)


God's words...His breath, encapsulated into a language that we could understand.
Mine, encased in blue.

How grateful I am for those that gave their lives that we might be able to read God's Word in our own language!  How precious is the blood that is spilt by those whose passion extends beyond the grave.

(My engraving is wearing off--there used to be an "M" there after my first name!)

 (Okay, so I'm a messy underliner ;-) )

Thursday, January 2, 2014

joy dare: a gift inside, outside, on a plate

a gift inside...

With some birthday money, I was able to purchase a Chemex coffee maker; turns out it can be awfully photogenic ;-) The taste of the coffee is so smooth, and it's addicting to make!

I love pouring the hot water in and watching it drip down...so romantic!  ;-)

a gift outside...

I took sweet Paul out for a walk this afternoon... His babbling and giggling is so precious.  I especially love to watch what he does with his hands--how he waves and claps, experimenting their inherent powers!

on a plate...

...and I break the romanticism with a picture of pizza--even with a bite taken out of it!  

Little Caesar's Pizza--a piece of my past, comfort food almost at it's best ;-)  When we first moved here, about nine years ago, Little Caesar's was a staple in our house.  We didn't have a whole lot of time to cook what with the busyness of that year with my mom helping her mom diagnosed with lung cancer, driving to chemo, etc.  So, in spite of the fact that it's terrible for you, it'll always hold a special place in our family's heart ;-)

Today was a work day--then it started to rain...fast and easy comfort food was in order!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

joy dare: three gifts heard

I print the calender sheets and tape them up on the fridge.  A schedule for the hunt--the list of treasures to be found everyday.  The pieces of joy to be found in everyday life.  These treasures, waiting to be discovered.

I've decided to take the Joy Dare.  

You all know how much I adore Ann Voskamp's work--her book One Thousand Gifts and her Christmas Devotional.  I had seen the calender sheets on her website before, the simple suggestions for gifts--three a day, amounting to over one thousand by the end of the year.  I had even printed one out a few months ago...but sadly, it grew neglected.

I hesitated from ever chronicling my gifts on my blog, for fear of the same thing.  That they would grow neglected.  That I wouldn't be able to keep up.  And everyone would see.

But then I realized that that very thought goes against grace--the very reason that we turn around to chronicle and thank Him for His gifts in the first place.  Undeserved grace.

So maybe I miss a day.  Or two.  Or 200.

Maybe I've only counted a few gifts since I first started...a year ago.  But that's okay.  Because of grace.

Grace extends the hand, and offers me a second chance.  So here I go.  :-)

Today's suggestion was "3 Gifts Heard".

Three gifts that bring music to my ears.


Oh, the joyful sound of carefree life!  Full of vigor, eager to laugh, thirsty to learn.

(Oh, yeah.  And because I'm like that, I feel the need to explain the necklace on my little brother, lol.  It's actually made of amber--like a sap, when warm against the skin letting off oils that help ease the pain of teething.  Purely function, not style, haha!)



I hear him in the hall...he grunts as he proudly lifts the rocking horse...all by himself.  It's in the way of his Duplos.  He takes care of it.  Like a man.  

What were your "Three Gifts Heard" today?