Saturday, March 2, 2013

A tale of two lists

As soon as I spoke the words aloud, spread them out on the screen for any to read - I will begin writing a book this year - they seemed to dry up.  No, more than that.  I have felt my words, my stories, buried alive in a hole carved deep in the ground, while clods of earth fall on my face and pile up around me.  

Life.  It falls in a fresh rain at times, and in other seasons, chunks of dirt and rock.  All is grace, this I do believe, but what to do when you feel swallowed by the earth, crushed by the weight that builds up faster than you can dig out from beneath it?  When this is life, I struggle not to lose sight of the story that is bigger than the one I'm living.  Were I to make a list of all the things that press in to crush, this alone would open up and swallow me whole.  I know such lists are death.

But thanks be to God, I am not crushed.  I am at times in pieces, yet being made whole.  This I do believe.

And it's all these "little" beliefs, that when added up, measure so much larger than life and all that lifts a shovel of dirt to throw down upon my soul.  And I press in to the words Mama spoke today over coffee, not meant for me in that moment but I seized them as my own.  Live out of belief, not emotion.  This, quite possibly, is the hardest thing for me to do.  

I don't love out of emotion, but out of belief that love is a commitment and a choice I make every day.

I don't forgive out of emotion, but out of belief that I, of all people, have received forgiveness too great to be withholding from any other soul.  

I don't put my faith in God out of emotion, but having been convinced of his character, I believe and therefore I trust.  

On paper, so many fears and heartaches stare me down with beady red eyes, and so I tear my gaze away from paper and set my heart, with all its emotions, in the hands of my God.  And I write a new list upon which I turn to feast my gaze.

photo credit

Lover of my soul.
Very Present Help in time of need.
Hiding Place.
Mighty Savior.
The One who sees me.
Grace Giver.
Emmanuel, God with us.
Friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Light of the morning.
My Joy and Song.
Sovereign King.
The One who makes a way, where there seems to be no way.

This last one, I whisper again and again, and the emotion has not shifted, but something is shifting in my spirit.  Truth washes over me.

With this list I breathe out, throwing off one dirt clod at a time.  I will not be buried alive, except by gifts of grace heaped upon grace.


  1. Dear Amber
    Oh, dear one, how I relate to your words! I have an illness that causes chronic pain and today it seems as if it wants to crush my soul, yet we have a God who shows Himself strong in our weakness and brings beauty out of our ashes!!! Thanks for this encouraging post!
    Much love

    1. Oh friend. I'm really humbled and grateful that these words spoke encouragement to you. Praying for you tonight, too, in the crushing feelings. I can't imagine living with chronic pain. I do know I take comfort in the words that speak of us being pressed on all sides, but not crushed... We will not be crushed. Love to you.

  2. Thanks you so much for this post. I really needed to hear your words at this moment. Emotions go up and down, but belief and faith stay strong, and sometimes we just have to cling to that hope! May you continue to do just that as you encourage others with your words.

    1. Wow, thanks to God for using these words at just the moment you needed them. It is such an encouragement, even just to realize that we are not alone in this roller coaster of emotion as we try to walk by faith. Let us cling to the hope that he is with us, always.

  3. Wow, Amber. Your words are just... unbelievably beautiful. That feeling of being buried alive... boy oh boy, do I know that one. The relief you feel at the end of this piece is palpable. THIS is how I know you have that book in you. Because if you can write just a few paragraphs here and have moved me in the matter of a few seconds, I can only IMAGINE how much you can move me over the course of a few thousand words... A novel is in you. I know it.

    1. Lauren, you have no idea how your words encouraged me tonight. Really. You know how it is as a writer, not knowing really how or if your words really move another - whether they felt what you felt as you wrote, in some way. Thank you for giving me a little glimpse here. I know I keep coming back to your writing because it moves me, too.

  4. What wisdom from your mama: "Live out of belief, not emotion." That is powerful. I am so proud of you that you are continuing to choose the new list. The list of truth -- that speaks of your identity and the identity of the One who chooses you daily and has given you the calling to write.
    I have a quote above my desk and I often look at it when I feel uninspired, often because I become bound by fear. It is by Van Gogh, "If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silent."

    1. Oh, thank you for this. For reminding me, too, that I am chosen and called to write, regardless of emotion or qualification or whatever else is piling up in my life. I love, love, love that quote by Van Gogh.