Category Archives: faith

called to create

Tonight in my wind ensemble rehearsal, I actually enjoyed playing my clarinet for the first time in a while. I’ve played for about 11 years, but I’ve had a complicated relationship with my clarinet for the past couple. Somewhere down the line, I started to care too much about whether or not I sounded great, and I felt like there wasn’t much of a point to playing at all if I didn’t sound great. There are several problems with that mindset, and one of them is that I would lose the desire to play whenever I felt insecure about my skills. Since I’m too hard on myself, this has happened a lot.

But tonight I tried to take a different approach to playing. I thought about how blessed I am to be able to have studied music in college, to play clarinet, and even just to own my beautiful instrument.

I’m a sinner. I don’t deserve grace or mercy. I don’t deserve the clothes on my back, or the heat of the sun that shines down on me, or another day. And I don’t deserve Christ’s life given for me on the cross. But God has given me all of those things, and more than that too. It is by the grace and love of God that I get to create music; it’s another gift that he has lavished on me. And it’s a good gift.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, with whom there is no change or shifting shadow.” -James 1:17

Put that way, I can stop worrying about whether or not I sound great, and I can play out of a heart of thankfulness.

I think that people need to create out of thankfulness. Not just music, but art or writing or cooking; any number of things.

Have you ever gone through an extended period of time where you didn’t create anything? Or perhaps you only created anything for the sake of achieving productivity. That’s what I’ve been doing lately, more or less, and it has made me feel sad and empty. But when I create something just for the fun of it, just because I can, I feel good. I feel a sense of purpose and joy at the marvel of building something with my own hands.

If we’re made in the image of God, I think we need to create. I suppose it’s a calling. None of us would exist without his desire to create, and I think that he has passed that desire onto us. I think it’s good for our souls and minds and bodies. But we can’t create just to try and be great. If that’s your purpose, you’ll just find yourself at a dead end sooner or later.

I think that God loves to listen to me play clarinet, but not because my playing knocks his socks off or anything like that. It doesn’t. Rather, he loves to listen to me play because he loves me and because he’s the one who gives me the ability to play. When I play, I’m making good use of one of the gifts he has given me, and I think that it warms his heart. My playing is like a silly crayon drawing that God has hung up on his fridge. He doesn’t love it because it’s amazing; he loves it because he made me. And he feels the same way whenever you create too.

Puppy Love

If you know me in real life, there’s about a 99% chance that I’ve told you about my dog, because I almost never shut up about him and I share a lot of pictures of him.

His name is Auggie, and he’s truly one of my best friends.IMG_5391

We’ve had Auggie for about five years. In most ways, he’s just like every other dog. However, though he is an ordinary dog, he’s been an extraordinary part of my life. As I sat with his head on my lap last night, I thought about all of the ways that God has used this little guy in my life, and I just couldn’t help but be a bit overwhelmed.

Someone once said to me that it’s impossible for my dog to really love me, because he doesn’t have a soul. While I agree that dogs most likely don’t have souls, I do believe that they are capable of love, even if it is not love in the same way that God or humans love.

God has certainly used Auggie to show me that I am loved. If I tried to count the ways that God has shown me love in the past several years, I’d certainly fail to count them all; there are too many ways. While many of these may even be unrecognizable to me right now, Auggie has been an undeniable source of love in my life. My relationship with Auggie is a simple one, but a truly meaningful one. I’ve faced a lot of challenge and change in these years (new friendships, lost friendships, breakups, sicknesses, moving out, a slew of bad decisions, and more,) but nothing has ever changed that Auggie is happy to see me whenever I come home.

Some of my relationships with friends have grown weaker or were left behind as I faced these challenges and grew, but Auggie has treated me the same, with companionship and a care that almost seems human, through it all. In many ways, his love resembles unconditional love. He doesn’t care about the unwise decisions that I have made in the past; he doesn’t even know about them. He only knows that there are some times when I’m hurting and I just want him near.

Sometimes he’s a pain, and sometimes he’s needy, but he doesn’t ask for much. He’s content with not much more than attention, food, water, snuggles, playtime, walks, and love. These things don’t seem like much when I consider how much satisfaction my family receives in calling him ours.

He’s six years old, but to me, he still feels like just a puppy. I’ve had five years to get used to him, but I’m still hardly any less excited about seeing him than I was on the day that we picked him up. Even when he’s being difficult, I can’t help but love him and be proud to have him as my own. I often show him off to others, and say, “Look at him! He’s amazing! I love him so much!” As I thought about this kind of love that I have for him last night, I thought that maybe God looks down on me with the same kind of love.

Sometimes I’m a pain, and sometimes I’m needy, and I ask for an awful lot… but God tells me in His word that He loves me in spite of all these things; that He sings over me and that He is proud to call me His daughter. He’s excited about me every single day, even though he’s had every day of mine written in His book since before I came to be. He’s had a lot of time to get used to me, but He’s still crazy about me. He loves me enough to give me each new day, to give me new mercies every morning, and to provide me with simple joys like beautiful weather, music, and Auggie in my life.

He knows about every one of my mistakes, and all of the times that I have failed Him, but He looks past these because of the sacrifice that He has made in Jesus. Though my earthly relationships come and go, He’s always there, and He’s always excited to hear from me.

Some things in life seem so simple, like owning a small dog. However, even within these things, God shows us love. Sometimes you need to look up close to see God’s loving care woven throughout every detail of life, but it’s there. He’s present, He’s close, and His fingerprint is everywhere.

In what simple ways has God shown you love in your life?

Yours truly,



Finding Him, Even When I Can’t Find Answers

There’s so much pain in this world. So much hurt, so much uncertainty. When I encounter these pains, I find myself asking:

“Lord, where are you in this pain?”

“Lord, why do you let these things happen?”

“Lord, if you’re so good, then why is there so much evil in the world you created?”

“Lord, if you love us and want to be with us, then why does it sometimes seem so hard to find you?”

I’ve been following Jesus for near my entire life, yet I don’t have the answers. Sometimes I might have the beginning of an answer or some probable explanations, but I never have certainty about the answers to these questions. Truth be told, that sucks.

Sometimes I get angry with God about these things. There are times I’ve thrown my fists down and yelled at Him in my fury. There are times I’ve experienced heartbreak over these things, and I cry and shout until I just can’t anymore.

One of the hardest things is when people ask me questions about these things. If I don’t have the answers for even myself, how will I be able to help other people who struggle with the same questions and doubts? I try my best to answer, but sometimes I don’t have any answer at all, and sometimes what little response I have might be misguided. It can make me scared to answer, and it’s frustrating.

However, I am glad when people bring their questions and doubts to me, because it reminds me that I’m not the only one who struggles with these things. If those around me are honest with me about their doubts, then I can be honest with myself about mine too. It also gives me the opportunity to offer to keep looking for the answers with others; it gives us the opportunity to find a shoulder to lean on.

I am also so glad to hear of people who have gone through intense times of wrestling with questions like these, and have still found God in the middle of it, even if they didn’t find all the answers. I don’t know why God doesn’t give all the answers (that’s another question of mine), but I do know that His word tells us that He’s good and that He loves with an unfailing, unconditional love, and that it’s a love that I can still find even in my questioning. I know that He doesn’t leave us alone when we go through these thoughts, and I know that He can even use those times of struggle to increase our faith in Him.

Most importantly, I know that my doubts in Him didn’t stop Him from going to the cross for me. I know that He’s not scared, intimidated, or angry about my struggles. I know that He desires to meet me right in the middle of my every mess, and that He covers me in His love, even when I’m angry with Him.

These are the things that continue to give me hope. These are the things that help me to trust that though I don’t have the answers now, someday I will, and that whatever the answers are, that they will be good answers; the best and most loving for this world, because that’s what God does and who He is: He’s good and He loves.

These things help me to find hope in my times of wrestling, because I know that no matter what happens, I will still have Christ. I will still be loved, unconditionally and beyond all measure, by Him, for all time. He hasn’t ever let me down, and though I sometimes doubt that He never will, I will take my doubts and point them to the cross. I’ll point them to the very place where He showed me that He was willing to give everything for me, the place where He showed that He won’t let me down, the place where no doubt or pain or anger in all the world could stop Him from loving me. I’ll lean on that cross.

Today, I don’t have the answers, and I don’t have 100% certainty. What I do have is a God-given strength to keep trusting Him. Today, I have only a little faith, but it’s just enough to help me to keep walking forward, and to know that I am loved.

Today, that is enough for me.

Love always,


A Letter

Today was a Tuesday, and Tuesdays are rough days for me. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but something about Tuesdays just gets me down in the dumps. Maybe it’s my busy schedule, or maybe it’s the knowledge that there is still the remainder of a long and stressful week ahead of me. Anyway, I decided to write a letter to myself to read on my future Tuesdays, and because I know that I’m not the only one who has bad days, maybe you’ll find it encouraging as well. Insert your own name.

Dear Amberly,

You’re having a rough day. Perhaps your morning didn’t start off the way you planned, or you’re struggling under the weight of everything you have to accomplish today. Maybe everyone was not considerate or compassionate toward you. Maybe you worked hard and gave everything your all today, and it somehow still wasn’t enough, or you’re frustrated with yourself because you weren’t as productive as you wish you could have been.

Maybe you looked in the mirror and didn’t like what you saw, or you felt like a pest when you had to ask someone around you for help. It’s possible that your tongue slipped and you said something that was unkind, and you wish you could take it back. You reflected on your life and on the world around you, and you just weren’t satisfied with what you observed in yourself and in others. Your heart aches today.

Whatever it is that happened today, I encourage you to take a step back and remember a few things:

Amberly, you’re made in the image of the very same God who created the heavens and the earth. It is He that formed you, and He did this with more love and intention than you can fathom. Even though you don’t fully understand this, He has loved you with an everlasting love. There was never a time when His love for you wasn’t there, and there will never be a time when it will no longer be.

Today you faced many challenges, but you were never alone in any of these, because your God, through Jesus, came from heaven to earth as a man, and He gave His life for you in order that He might be with you. This display of love doesn’t make sense to you, as you know that you rebel against Him every day in more ways than you can count… but you’re His beloved creation, and out of His love for you, He has decided to pursue your heart to no end, whatever the cost.

If this isn’t enough to cheer you up, remember that Jesus didn’t stay dead. His authority, His love, and His power were enough to beat even death; His love for you conquered its greatest enemy. As you struggle against the dark depths of your own heart on a daily basis, His life is there giving you life. The price for your rebellion against your Father is already paid, and your sin has been nailed to the cross. As you make the daily choice to put your faith in what God has done for you, He’s making the promise to continue to be with you and to grow you to be more like Christ until the day that He comes back. You have nothing to fear. Not even your own worst sins can separate you from the love that He has for you anymore.

He walked with you today, and He will walk with you through all the days to come. On every day ahead, by yourself you will not be adequate, but He will be more than enough for you. Turn your focus off of yourself, and seek His face. Remind yourself of His character. He will give you hope when you have none, He will give you the ability to turn back and repent when you mess up, He will tell you that you are loved when you don’t love yourself, He’ll be there to comfort you when others hurt you, and He will pick you up when you fall. He sings songs over you and He is always rejoicing in you. He will be patient with you when you lose your focus, and His love for you will never run dry.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written ‘For your sake we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 8:35-39

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” -Zephaniah 3:17


There is a huge emphasis on leading in the world and in the church. Just go to any bookstore or library and you could likely fill multiple boxes with books on leadership. There are classes about becoming a leader at churches and in schools, talks about it on public radio, etc. etc.. It seems that people of all sorts, whether Christians or not, are obsessed with leadership in our time.

However, when I open my Bible, I find far more about following than I do about leading. Don’t get me wrong, the Bible does indeed mention leadership, but it always comes from a place of following first. In fact, to be a Christian in this world is to follow Jesus. Simply put, it is not more than that nor less than that.

So what does it mean to follow Jesus? I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve been thinking on these things, and these are my thoughts:

To follow Jesus is a way of life that involves following this person of Jesus, learning from him, and letting ourselves be changed by him. It is to turn our focus away from ourselves and tune it to Christ, towards his desires instead of our own. It is to find our treasure in Christ rather than in our earthly possessions and desires. It is to live in the truth and to have life in Jesus. It is to obey and deny ourselves, serving God and serving others, learning to love God first and love others as we love ourselves. It is to trust in his lead and follow him wherever he goes, even if that road leads to the cross. And it is to be loved on every step of the way.

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” -Matthew 16:24-25

This is why Christianity is more than a religion or a set of rules. It is not about making ourselves good enough for God, which we never could have done on our own anyway. Rather, it is about Christ, who has given up everything for us in love and is leading us to follow and become more and more like him. We cannot do this on our own, nor will we ever have to. We deny ourselves, and though none of us would have guessed it, we find what we were looking for all along.

And we will certainly fail along the way, but grace is what saves us and grace is what will continue to sustain us. If we remain in him, with his love and strength we will continue to follow and we will see his way until the end.

So with all of that said, it seems to me that if we long to lead, we are to learn to follow first.

Love to you all.