Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Letter of Thanks...

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you so much for being who you are.  I have tried to express it as often as I can, but I feel a fail miserably.  I am exceedingly grateful for the wonderful, caring, encouraging and incredible people God has placed in my life.  I know without any doubt, that had it not been for your investment in my life, I would not be here today.  That is not said lightheartedly, at all.  Over the course of this year, I have been constantly wrapped up in love.  God has richly blessed me with so many people who truly, deeply love my children and me.  While I do not understand the depth of this love, I know that it is a result of you listening to the Lord and doing as He has called.  Thank you for being instruments of His love and care!  I wish I had stronger words to express my gratitude!

I had every intention of glossing over my birthday this year.  Instead, I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from you.  I am going to do my best to address everyone, but there is a very good chance I'll forget something, so please be gracious...

To my family and friends far away:
Thank you so much for the Facebook messages, Facebook posts, emails, e-gift cards, and cards in the mail.  You have no idea how excited I get when I open my email and there is a gift for me...seriously, like a kid at Christmas.  More importantly, thank you for the words you shared...those words lifted my spirits and warmed my heart.  Thank you so very much for thinking of me!

To my East Campus Team family:
Thank you for a day that was completely Wild at Heart.  Thank you for acknowledging how I have changed over this past year.  Thank you for challenging me to grow.  Thank you for taking the time to celebrate with me.  Thank you for making me laugh, for being patient when I cried, and for arming me with a shot gun!

To my local family and friends:
Thank you for spoiling me rotten.  Thank you for a trip to a spa (amazingly wonderful experience), for the cakes, for the gifts, for watching Mary Poppins with me, for lunches out, for texts of silliness.  Thank you for the encouraging and loving Facebook posts!  Thank you for being a daily presence in the lives of Cecely, Titus, and me. 

To the ridiculous sneaky people in my life:
I have NEVER been as surprised as I was yesterday.  I have always had a part in planning my birthday or known most of what was going to happen.  When I walked into my favorite restaurant, rounded the corner, and heard you all singing, I simply could not believe it.  I could not understand why you had made that drive, why you had taken time out of you crazy schedules...I don't get why you love me so much.  But, know my heart...I AM SO GRATEFUL!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  

To the one who has restored my hope, my confidence, and made me happier than I have ever been in my life:
Thank you...I wish I had better words...honestly, I am speechless (insert joke here).

This birthday will be one that I will never forget.  God is good.  You all are amazing.  I am humbled and blessed!

Always,
Amber

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I Don't Deserve This...

How many times have you looked at the circumstances of your life and said "I don't deserve this?".  Have you ever rated your wrong doings against others?  You know what I mean..."I don't drink like so-and-so...I've never gotten a ticket...It's not like I beat my kids or scream at my spouse...I'm not doing anything that bad...".  If you are anything like me, you have been trapped by those thoughts every now and again.  Or, have you been encompassed by circumstances that make no sense to you?  "How did I end up here?  What did I do wrong?  Why me?..".  Oh, my goodness, it is so easy to let those thoughts overtake your mind.

Over the course of this past year, I have had moments of "how is this my life?".  I have had evenings where I ponder over every sin I can think of and think maybe this year was a consequence of poor choices of my youth.  When I would get low and depressed, I would have conversations at (note at, not with) the Lord asking why He had let me go through this.  In my moments of self-pity, I was certain I had earned every horrible thing that was happening.  You know what, in a sense, I was right.  I absolutely deserve terrible things.  I am sinner.  I am a messed up person.  Every hour of every day, I do something wrong...sure, others may not be aware of my sin, but it's happening.  I struggle with evil thoughts.  I battle insecurities and allow my doubts to take precedent of my thoughts.  I do not always do my best or give my all.  I grumble internally.  I lose my temper with my children.  I use "creative language" when I have angry outbursts...and even if the outbursts are in my head, the word choices would have my Mama wash my mouth and mind out with soap.  Sure, I haven't beaten anyone up, murdered, cheated, or been involved in any major public sinning.  Here's the thing, sin is sin whether everyone knows about it, or I'm the only one who knows.  And, according to the Bible, that sin condemns me.  In Romans 3:23, the Word says "All have sinned...", so I know I'm in good company, right?  Romans 6:23 says, "the wages of sin is death...".  Therefore, I'm a sinner, I deserve death.

BUT, something absolutely wonderful happened that redeemed me.  God sent His one and only Son, Jesus to die on the cross for my wrongdoing.  Jesus willingly gave His life, God willingly gave His Son to pay the price for my sin...for my temper, my terrible thoughts, my every sin.  When Jesus gave His life for mine, He took away my sin.  While I battle the memories of my past sin, God doesn't.  Psalm 103:12 tells us, "as far as the east is from the west, so far He has moved our sins from us."  All I had to do was admit that I was a sinner, believe that He died for me, ask for His forgiveness, and commit my life to Him.  I made those choices when I was 6 years old.  I am so grateful for the gifts of salvation, mercy and grace.  While I did not understand all of the theological implications of salvation when I was 6, I absolutely felt conviction of every sin my 6 year-old heart and mind was capable of.  As I grew up, made good and poor choices, I learned more of God's forgiveness, His grace, His mercy, and His redemption.

Right now, I'm in an awesome place.  Truly, I have never felt more undeserving, but in a great way.  In my former life, birthdays weren't always a big deal...honestly, most of the years, they were forgotten by the one person who I would have thought would care the most.  Don't get my wrong, my friends and parents always delivered...I've never been neglected by my faithful friends.  For some reason, this year I was dreading my birthday.  I had no desire for any acknowledgement.  With all of the chaos going on right now, I really though gracefully passing over that day on the calendar would be the best thing.  HOWEVER, God has placed so many AMAZING people in my life that I can confidently say this has already been the best birthday I have ever had (with the exception of the year I was at EPCOT on my birthday), and my birthday isn't even happening until Saturday!  This past Sunday, I went to church and had goodies given to me by two of my most faithful, giving, and loving volunteers...these were personal gifts that a lot of thought and effort had gone into.  I was so humbled and overwhelmed.  I stood in the hallway at church and cried and hugged these sweet ladies.  Monday, I went to my Connect Group after an extremely hard day.  To my great surprise, I was served a Mickey Mouse birthday cake, received one of the sweetest cards I have ever read, had a beautiful piece of art made by one of my favorite preschoolers, a Dunkin Donuts gift card (food may be my love language), and a t-shirt from friends who totally get me.  Again, I was astonished and humbled.  I've heard rumors that there are more surprises coming...and, here is all I have to say...I don't deserve this.

I do not deserve the love and attention that is being lavished on me by these incredible people.  I don't get it.  I do know that these sweet friends and family have Jesus in their hearts.  They have accepted the same gift of salvation that I did.  They are acting as God has instructed them.  They are being instruments of His love.  I am currently in a constant state of humility...I am so messed up.  I don't understand God and His great love.  I don't understand the love for me from His people.  I have never been happier...and I do know that is straight from God and His people.  Even with the knowledge of God and His love, I still have to say, I absolutely, positively, 100% do not deserve what He has given me...but, I am so very thankful!