Monday, July 4, 2011

New blog

I've not posted in a while because most my posts have been on our newest blog: Six (and a dog) in a Van

If you haven't read that one, it's following our next adventure of moving out to Oregon from Michigan to plant a church in Corvallis - home of Oregon State University. There's amazing stories of how God is bringing conversation and changing our lives through the people we meet... and a lot of updates on how the church planting is progressing, as well how to partner with us as we grow. 'Follow' that blog so you can be getting those updates. Many of my musings are now posted there as my life is now centering on this church plant rather than fighting cancer - YEA!

Check it out - I think it's pretty neat. (Especially the background, as far as aesthetics go!)

Monday, April 4, 2011

OK, God - Thanks for that today

I'm not a worry-er. I'm very much take it as it's given, cross that bridge as you approach it, it'll be fine kinda gal. I don't worry about stuff.

But lately I've been worried about my kids. No, they'll be fine as we move and transition schools and homes and friends and everything else. It's not those major things that worry me and keep me awake at night. Brace yourself... what worries me is Levi's sniffles. See!! It's not even a life-shattering thing that's causing me to stress! It's distressing to me because at night, it really sounds like he can't breath, and sometimes he'll stop for a bit. Mind you, it's been going on since early February. I had horrible thoughts of...well, never mind.

So today, I said a little prayer to God before cracking open the My Utmost for His Highest that there would be a special word for me today. If you have another minute, please read it: The Way to Permanent Faith

As I saw the title my thoughts were, "Excellent, who couldn't use this information!" Yes, it give perspective to my current worst-case-scenario thinking, which is helpful for today, but even moreso it confirmed what I had to convince myself of last night. Amongst the troubling or tough times, God is through it all and it is my fragile faith that causes me worry. See, I realized something about how I'm feeling about God at the moment. I have absolute assurance that He's the author of life, however, I don't always trust it. I realize the outcome will always be greater than what I know the present to be, but I don't trust the methods. I have forgotten His infathomable love for me - I'm convinced that the only way for me to see His blessing is by traveling through the pain - that He'll bring difficult or horrible things into my life so that I may see the blessings.

I expect disaster. And I don't think that's who God is. I believe it's the work of Satan in my mind as of late. And I and my family are easy targets right now.

I'm still supremely confident that God is moving and working all over the place in our family, in Rockford, in Corvallis, in my kids. And my worries: it doesn't add a minute to my life. (Matthew 6:27)

Ha! Busted, Satan!! (At least this time.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


We had a sermon at church a few weeks ago from the book of Luke - the parable about the widow's mite. She gave just a few cents, but it was far more precious than the hundreds of dollars the wealthy gave back to God.

But that's not what struck me. The point I walked away with (even if Jon didn't intend it) was that we are to surrender it all to God because it all belongs to Him in the first place. The point was from a financial perspective, and for our family, that's the easy thing - it's a tangible thing we can see if we are following through.  But what struck me is that there's other areas of my life that I am selfish about and it's not tangible. I'm selfish about my need to escape - to be alone, do my own thing, tune out the world - essentially cut out relationships for a time. It's a huge need for me!

We were looking at houses to rent in Corvallis and came across this really cute place that was for sale with a remote possibility of being rentable. It was 1400 sq. ft on two levels. often are all my kids quietly tucked away in their rooms? Catchin' my drift? We would be 6 people and a dog happily living on top of each other in about 700 sq. ft. - actually less than that b/c the 'master' bedroom was also on the main level. I just Googled the personal space needs for Americans and only came up with the 'two foot rule' which doesn't help in this scenario. But the point is, it'd be very tight quarters. I was spending my mental energy that week trying to come up with ways that I'd be able to find a good space to 'get away' from my family, even for a short time: putting a nice Adorondek chair in the back yard with a small fountain for white noise was the best I could come up with. I love my family, but I have a huge need for escape.

But this is not why God created us! The whole reason God made us was for relationship! What a bondage I'm living in when I don't want to fully appreciate His creation! Would not my life be more "full" if I was not such a slave to my isolation? Sigh. So often the things that bring us comfort are those things which keep us in bondage. We love to eat and be merry, but are then bound by an unhealthy body. We appreciate quality, but are slaves to dissatisfaction. Love children at the cost of a wholesome union with our spouse. Love recreation, but a slave to time. I show my biases in my examples, but what about the intangibles that we are slaves to? Finish the sentence for yourself, "I need to...." or "I have to..." "If I don't do XYZ...." These are the things to which we can be slaves! If you pursue these things, what is it costing you?

Granted, there's a healthy balance in it all, but for me, it was a 'hit me on the head' kind of realization. I may not hoard money, but I hoard giving of myself. Now I need to find the balance b/w healthy Amanda and the relational Amanda that God created me to be!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

End of an Era

While I still have at least one more surgery to go, I'm kinda moving past this chapter of my life because we're beginnig a new one soon - our move to Oregon.  You can follow that one, too: Six in a Van. 

God has been walking along us the whole journey - from Josh finishing seminary, diagnosis, declining the church plant position in Lethbridge, treatments, reconstruction and now leading us to a new ministry (in the Pacific NW, no less!). The amazing thing is not just in how He's provided for our family in a multitude of ways, but how He has groomed us for each step. We (Josh & I) have been able to use the time during my treatments to further refine who we are as His children and what we can bring to ministry. Certainly wouldn't have chosen cancer as a 'time-out,' but I feel it's been a blessing for our growth.  We've certainly struggled and new things have risen to the top that we must now address, but how much better to expose those struggles and deal with them straight-up rather than ignoring or remaining ignorant to their destructive results.

Praise God for my breast cancer! One heck of a 'pruning' season, but a blessing in the end.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Praying for a Block in the Road

The lat flap surgery of October 8 seems to be pretty much behind me now (there's a pun in there somewhere!). At surgery, he - the plastic surgeon - placed a tissue expander between the old, leathery, radiated pectoralis and the latissimus muscle (now a new chest). Today was the second 'fill' of that tissue expander and amazingly, I'm feeling quite well! The first fill knocked me out for a good 5 days. That is to say, limited ability to use my arm, sometimes it hurt to breath b/c it would stretch my chest muscles a little more, sleeping was a hassel... driving, problematic.

But today after the second fill, I'm feeling very 'able,' which is exciting for me. Though I'm in conflict yet about my desires to do lots of 'stuff' like all the things that kids and household require, but also wanting to take the best care of myself which includes things like exercise, but also rest. So my conflict is to rest and heal (and feel the guilt of laziness) or to exercise and 'do' and potentially burn out. Such is the question for anyone, right? How much is too much and how little is just flat out wrong or unhelpful.

On another note, I heard a great sermon on the radio the last two days by Tony Evans about Jesus' handling of the death of Lazarus. One point he makes, among many (I had to pull the car over 3 times to jot down notes) is about faith NOT being a feeling. Faith in God is an action. The Bible talks about walking faithfully with God. Though perhaps I'm interpreting incorrectly as the Bible never states exactly that we 'walk by faith', I'm inclined to agree w/ Mr. Evans that faith, then, is an action much like walking is an action. Faith is not a feeling: "I feel God calling me to XYZ" but rather that our faith is more a reflection of obedience to God's Word. I may not FEEL that I should stay in a yucky situation or take steps for a new direction or whatever the case may be. But if I have been mandated by God to follow his commands as laid out in His Word, in love for Him I am to step out in faith. I cannot understand the ways of God, but I am assured of His promises and that is where faith is my blessing.

Preach to the choir, Amanda. Josh and I are praying and trying to seek God's will about what to do next: is it a new church plant somewhere, is it working for an established church, is it facilitating a restart for a church? In all these things, how will we best fulfill His command to 'go and make disciples'. Do we over-think these things? Is it as simple as 'going and making disciples' and God will fill in the blanks? I guess, Lord, I need a starting place - just like you can't start a swim race or a foot race w/out a starting block, we need a block for our family to start from.

We pray for a clear block in our road. :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Simply this...

What can I bring to the King of kings?
What can I give?
What can I bring?
What can I say as an offering, Lord?

Simply this...

I will offer up my life
In spirit and truth,
Pouring out the oil of love
As my worship to You
In surrender I must give my every part;
Lord, receive the sacrifice
Of a broken heart

I have a lot of angst today.
I have lat flap surgery on Friday morning. I don't like not knowing specifics of my life - like how long in the hospital, how long until I'll drive, will I bounce back quickly or slowly, when will this all be over? You know, the basics.

So what to do about it? As I finished running this morning (amazing thing in itself!), this Matt Redman song I Will Offer Up My Life came on my iPod. Combine pending surgery with a compelling question Josh challenged me with last night, "How ARE we different from non-Christians? Our life doesn't really reflect different values than anyone else except that we have a different schedule on Sunday mornings. We don't make it an intentional part of our lives to pray for those who don't know God, to serve the widow and orphan or those in distress! What ARE we doing??"

So I ran and then did some yoga. Try this: lay flat on your back with your arms out to the sides like when you were a kid sprawled out in the grass watching the clouds. Now bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees dangle/drop toward the ground. It'll stretch your hips a bit. Now notice your belly and your breathing (God gave you that, you know). Relax and let your belly button fall closer to the ground when you exhale - but don't force it, just relax into it. NOW, ask God this, "What can I offer?"

My answer: absolutely nothing! I can't give God anything that He doesn't already command. I can only worship him in spirit and truth - offer my broken heart.

It's a place I'm not comfortable with. I want to do it! But I know my efforts are causing me angst and forcing me to go running and do funky yoga poses. But if that's what it takes for me to hear the voice of God, I may be running a very long way and then yoga-ing ALL day! (Seems a bit self-indulgent at the same time. "Sorry kids, no dinner, I'm 'sprawling'"

Thursday, June 3, 2010

'Passing It On' and 'A Dream'

I had a realization...and I had a dream.

We're finishing up our series at church about families and the last sermon was on Psalm 78 and passing along our faith to the next generation. This past spring, when I started radiation, I bought two things: a giant purse and a small Bible (I'm certain size is not an indication of priority!) The purse held things like my phone for my disastrous appointments, my journal, all my creams and lotions for the skin burn, and I wanted to add the Bible to the mix. I had a wonderful ritual of dropping off the kids and then parking the car to read one of my devotional books. The books always had references to scripture texts and I wanted to use this little Bible to supplement what I was reading, obviously. So I started marking up the Bible like I had all my other ones and casually thought about some day giving it to my daughter Abby.

Shift gears a second, but keep that thought.
We're living with a dear family, the Kenyons, right now and in order to make space for all the VanTils, Patti was going through some boxes in the basement that she had 'inherited' from her folks. Within all the boxes of clothes, fabric, books, papers, etc, etc she found a letter that her mom had sent to her that spelled out in great detail what she saw as the characteristics and strengths of each of her family members. One thing that impressed me about this was the joy that Patti felt when she found this note from her mother. Yes, the material was remarkable, but the pleasure that Patti as her daughter felt when she read these words directly from her mother about what she saw in her family's future was beautiful.

So coupling our Sunday message, this new little Bible of mine, and seeing Patti's joy at reading and realizing her mother's inward thoughts spurred me to step up my game a bit. I've become even more deliberate in writing in this little Bible and underlining texts or making references so that one day, maybe at her high school graduation, I can pass along this Bible, full of my markings and a few of my thoughts to my little girl.

The realization came in that I can pass along my faith in more ways than just 'word and deed.' So often as a parent we (or maybe just I) try to find ways to parent kids using Biblical principals - bring to mind texts to quote at the right time, use Biblical analogies for discipline - but this, for me, was a simple way to impress on my kids the importance of the Bible and how it's been used in my everyday living. A tool for giving my kids a generational perspective without all my babble - let the Word of God speak for itself rather than my weak attempt to duplicate what God has already given. I'm not doing justice, but hopefully you get the point.

The other was my bizaar dream last night. It may have been a direct result of the valium (that didn't seem to be working) I took to relieve back spasms after my re-fill by the plastics guy yesterday. BTW the second time around is NOT more comfortable than the first time of expansion. Great. Anyway... the dream is this: we (Josh, me, two 20-something guys, their friend and two other folks) are driving along in a van jawing about nothing, but I have this impression of the two 20-somethings that they are, as I would call them (forgive me for stereotyping) punk business kids. That is to say, they their 'wisdom' did not match up with life-experience but they didn't know that yet. I even remember what they looked like. One kid was dark haired and when he spoke, he jutted his bottom jaw out. The other was dirty-blonde with a spent-too-much-time-at-the-beach mussy/trendy look.

Both these guys were spouting off about stuff that didn't seem to have much backbone, but they all of a sudden, threw out the following question: What good do you see having your kids follow the Bible? Not in so many words, but essentially, what use do you see the Bible having for your children? Why use the Bible?

Within my dream I jumped in and gave my answer, but upon waking I was disappointed with my gut response. So I challenge you, reader: why the Bible? What value does it hold for you? I'm thinking along the lines of Jesus' question to the disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" Their response was a quick gut reaction of what other people thought of Jesus, but He pressed them - what about YOU? Who am I to YOU? So what about the Bible? What is it to YOU? A good guidebook full of pithy, helpful advice? Is it a history book that shows us the 'way it should be'? Or a book that shows us how screwed up the rest of history was and thank goodness God doesn't turn us to pillars of salt for looking back like Lot's wife! What is it to YOU and how is it used as a tool for the next generation?