Starting with a Song

I stopped scrolling when I saw this post. My friend re-posted this and suggested we think about where we started 10 years ago. Sure, the decade realization is enough to make my head spin, but I love how she used the word started.

A decade ago, 28-year old Amanda was living in a very different place – both literally and figuratively. She was paralyzed by complacency and the illusion of comfort, but it would take her another solid year to do anything about either of them. In hindsight, it all make sense: the uncomfortable feeling in my skin and my behavior trying to hide it.

Remembering used to make my blood boil. If only 28-year old Amanda had done this instead of that, things would be different. I can’t say if only she knew better, she did… to some extent. In reality though, 2009 Amanda was doing the very best she could with what she had at the time. And God knows she was strong enough to make a way for 2019 Amanda, so I am grateful.

I joke with my friends that I cheer for “sportsball.” Read: I am NOT a sports person (much to my husband’s chagrin). I played varsity basketball and was the cheerleading captain in high school until I dropped geometry for drama. That was all it took to dive head first into musical theater and never look back. (For what it’s worth, I still haven’t used geometry in my professional career.) But because I have a brain for jingles, I still remember most cheers: 1st and 10. 1st down, do it again!

Can you see me accompanying this with plank arm movements followed by a hurkey jump? No? Bless you. I mean, we didn’t even have a football team.

My ears perked up when my pastor mentioned 1st and 10 one Sunday. He wasn’t talking about the Titans (is anyone? badum-psh!), but a practice he’s cultivated – 1st thing in the morning, listing 10 things he’s grateful for. He shared how this small act of gratitude has transformed his entire day.

After Rachel Held Evans passed unexpectedly earlier this year, I moved her book Inspired to the front of my library queue. I hadn’t read any of her work to-date, only the kind and glowing comments of friends and readers regarding the legacy she left behind.

Inspired works through those biblical accounts that Christians don’t typically like to talk about: war, genocide, slavery – even rape. A little under halfway through, it’s a tough read, but I’m up for it. Remember how Jacob wrestled with God in the wilderness? In the same way that I believe this is the Living Word, I also believe God is inviting us into a wrestling match of understanding and application. And in the same way God wrenched Jacob’s hip as a blessing, I am choosing to see joy in life’s circumstances.

“If you are looking for an outdated and irrelevant ancient text, that’s exactly what you will see. If you are looking for truth, that’s exactly what you will find. This is why there are times when the most instructive question to bring to the text is not, What does this say? but, What am I looking for?

—Rachel Held Evans, Inspired

We’ve had what my mom refers to as a hiccup in the road. Somewhere in the middle of September, we (and a team of doctors) set out on a fact finding mission to address pain my mom had been experiencing. An ultrasound and biopsies later, this “hiccup” now has a name: cancer.

Sometime in the middle of this testing, I visited my parents home in Georgia. One morning when it was still dark out, I joined my mom on the couch and we talked about messy middles. I read a piece by Annie F. Downs talking about songs – how they’re so easy to sing on the front-end of a problem when you’re rallying the troops and pumping everyone up; how they’re so easy to sing when the problem has passed and you’re in celebration-mode. But what about the messy middle? What about the liminal space? What about the time in the wilderness when you have zero idea of what’s happening and the unknown looks a little a lot scary?

In Luke, Mary — still pregnant with Jesus, in the middle of not knowing — sang.

I can’t control my mother’s pain. I can’t heal her body. I can’t change the diagnosis after the MRI came back with additional cancer findings and the knowledge that we have to start this entire process over.

I am powerless. But I can sing.

I can look for truth and remember that an autoimmune disease my mother didn’t know she had and has never experienced symptoms for is the cause of her pain — the very pain that caused her to visit a doctor; the very pain that alerted the doctor to the cancer which wouldn’t have otherwise been caught in an annual exam; the very pain from the condition protecting her lymph nodes from cancerous invasion.

We are singing and recognizing God’s kindness in this. We are remembering that suffering brings perseverance, perseverance brings character, and character brings hope. We are looking for lovely.

“In our culture of constant access and nonstop media nothing feels more like a curse from God than time in the wilderness. Our society tells us that if and when we get ‘there’ — the job or position or degree we’ve always wanted — that’s when all the important stuff will start happening. Not so. All the good stuff happens in obscurity.”

—Jonathan Martin, Prototype

2009 Amanda might not agree, but if there’s one thing 2019 Amanda knows to be true, it’s that if we’re at the bottom, wrestling in the wilderness, God draws near to the broken-hearted. Even if we have to hang out here for awhile, I’ll say it’s still a good place to be.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Gail Jones says:

    Love this and you! Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

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