Looking back Thankfully and Looking Forward Faithfully!

“We have this moment to hold in our hands2014-Sign
and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand;
Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come,
But we have this moment today.”

So so true! Those are probably some of my favorite Bill Gaither lyrics. Each day of our lives is filled with moments that could be our last, I’m so thankful that the Lord gave me another entire year to live out, to grow in, to love more, to bless others. I’d have to say that, looking back, 2013 has been one of the best years thus far! I’ve grown as a person, a writer, a musician, and most importantly as a child of God. The Lord’s blessings on my life have been so overwhelming this year that it goes far  beyond a “Happy New Year!” Facebook status.

God has placed so many amazing people in my life, each helping me to grow, encourage me, and just love on me. I’m so thankful for my wonderful family, my church family, and my friends. Because of these beautiful people, I know there will always be someone there for me to turn to in times of trouble, to pray with me or for me, to share my joy with, just to do life with! Each of them means the world to me and I’m so thankful for their presence and involvement in my life, be it everyday or once a year. I wouldn’t be who I am without the impact they’ve had on my life.

2013 was not only filled with wonderful people, it was also overflowing with incredible inspiration and growth in my writing. If you would have told “senior in high school” me that four years from then I would be writing poems, for fun, I would have laughed at you. When the Lord hit me with that initial poem in August of 2012, I assumed that it was a one time only thing. Boy was I wrong! It was five months until He fed me the second one, but since then He’s handed me the inspiration and words for 30 more of them. I’m in awe everyday as He works through me. It’s an amazing feeling.

As much as I LOVE to write and the quiet time that comes with it, I love even more being able to play clarinet to bring glory to the name of Jesus. I’ve mentioned this in multiple posts, but it’s such a huge part of who I am, I can’t be thankful enough for the opportunity! Our church has been blessed with an incredible piano player, (whose CD is playing as I type actually!) she blows me away every week. Not only has our church been blessed with her wonderful music, I personally have been blessed with her  love of accompanying. Many Sunday mornings she’s come in to rehearse and told me how late she was up working on an arrangement, then hands me a beautifully printed and bound piece of music for us to begin working on that morning. Each time we get together to play, I grow in musicality and how I express myself through my playing. “It’s better to express than impress,” that’s what we live for. I’ve gained confidence in my playing and learned things that I would have never learned had I continued on my career path for music education. I’m right where the Lord wants me musically and I’m forever greatful that He’s put me here. I’m in awe of her abilities. Her and her husband are so sweet to me and I thank the good Lord EVERYDAY for the blessing they are in my life. Piano and Clarinet

Last but not least, 2013 was a year of incredible spiritual growth. I’ll be honest, I didn’t manage to read through the Bible in a year, but what I did read of it, has done so much work in my heart, my life, and in how I look at those around me and the situations life throws me. I’m taking my time to read through the Bible so I can have the time to listen to the Lord and soak up what He speaks to my heart.  I may not have spent my childhood in church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night, but I’m so thankful for the solid Christian upbringing I did have. My grandpa was a huge part of that and I really don’t know where I’d be today if he hadn’t been there to tell me Bible stories, teach me the life lessons he did, and show me the love of God from a young age. Now that he’s gone, and I’m at the age that I understand and explore God’s word for myself, everyday I find that I long for that guidance that I didn’t completely understand while he was with us. I want to have those deep conversations, to run my blog post topics by him and get his input.

I also wouldn’t be where I’m at in my walk with God if it weren’t for the two incredible men I get to call my pastors. I’m beyond thankful for their guidance, love, and encouragement. I know I can always turn to them when I doubt myself or need clarification. I’ve been blessed with the best!

Through the notes my grandpa left behind, his resources, and the guidance of the Lord, I pray that I can continue to grow in my relationship with my Heavenly Father and become a woman of God that my grandpa would be proud of and impact the lives of others with God’s love and message of hope and salvation through His word.

Thank you 2013 for being so good to me, I can hardly wait to see what the Lord has in store for me in the coming year! I pray that it’s used to bring even more glory to His name!

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

Papa Bible

God with Us

Christmas Star

An angel came to bring good news

To a virgin girl named Mary,

“Don’t be afraid, you’ve found favor with God,

A baby boy, His son, He’s chosen you to carry.”

 

His name shall be called Jesus,

Emmanuel, God with us,

King of kings, Lord of lords,

In Him we’ll place our trust.

 

Mary and Joseph had a long journey ahead,

The Inn had no room for them to stay,

So Mary gave birth in a stable

And laid Him in a manger filled with hay.

 

The news spread fast through all the land

Of Christ our Savior’s birth

Sent to earth to cleanse our sins,

To give our lives great worth.

 

A single star that lead the way,

Three Wise Men to their King,

A baby boy, His manger bed,

Such joy His birth did bring.

 

A gift to us from God above,

Our Savior born that night,

A virgin birth, the Son of God,

The King of love and light.

 

~Amanda N. Sams

December 16, 2013

Innkeeper

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God.36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)

Thankfulness Journal Challenge!

be-thankful

November, the month that my Facebook feed is flooded with “30 Days of Thankfulness” posts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I LOVE seeing what each of my Facebook friends are thankful for. But why only in November? We should be thankful EVERYDAY of the year. Not just one month out of the year, or only on Thanksgiving day.

What if everyday, for a whole YEAR, when we wake up in the morning and before we go to bed each night, we chose one thing that we’re thankful for and write it down in a “Thankfulness” journal. I bet by the end of that year, we’d each realize how blessed we really are and we’d probably even be happier people! OR, each time you find yourself complaining about something, find something in the situation to be thankful for. That would probably be a tad bit more difficult for most of us, wouldn’t it?

Even when we might have legitimate reasons to complain, there are always many reasons to be thankful as well. It’s just a matter of how you look at things.

Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day. 

~Robert Caspar Lintner

So, will you join me for 365 days of thankfulness? I’m not gonna lie, I’m really bad at keeping up with “daily” reading/writing habits, but I’m going to do everything in my power to remember to keep this one up! Share this with friends, in fact why don’t you let THEM know how thankful you are to have them in your life. It doesn’t have to be big things, just BE THANKFUL! 

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

~Psalm 100:4-5 (NKJV)

Thankful

Psalm10045copy1-1024x820

 I’m so very thankful

for each blessing that You give

So thankful for Your guidance,

for the life I have to live

Talents used to praise You

bring glory to Your name

You fill my heart with so much joy

these words cannot explain

I’m thankful most of all

for the blood You shed for me

Your selfless, love filled sacrifice

the blood that set me free.

~Amanda N. Sams

November 24, 2013

Don’t Leave Jesus in Ruins

Haggai Late nights with Jesus are my absolute favorite. Everyone is asleep, it’s quiet, and I can really focus on what the Lord is telling me through His word. Tonight, it took me a whole four verses in the book of Haggai before I knew that I’d be typing up a blog post before I could even think about going to sleep! It was these words that spoke to me:

 “Then the Lord sent this message through the prophet Haggai: “Why are you living in luxurious houses while My house lies in ruins?”

~Haggai 1:3-4 (NLT)

So many different thoughts went flying through my head as I read those words, so many different ways to look at them and use them to better yourself and your relationship with the Lord. I think I’ve managed to choose two points that I want to share.

1. Are you too busy living a life of luxury to notice that your relationship with Jesus is in ruins?

There are so many prosperity preachers out there today that try to push a “how to use Jesus and His teachings to get rich” kind of message. I’m personally not a fan. Jesus didn’t die on the cross for us to pull His teachings out of context, try our best to then use them to get rich and live a luxurious live of ease, then die and go to Heaven.

NO.

Jesus died on the cross so that we could find forgiveness, joy, comfort and love in Him and live a luxurious life in eternity with Him, in Heaven, when we die.

Yes, some people have worldly riches and possessions and are just as good of Christians as anybody. I’m not saying that having money is a negative thing, We can do so much good with money, as far as donating and helping the needy. I’m just saying that we need to be careful that it doesn’t cause us to forget about Jesus and turn Him into an after thought.

When He says “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance. (to the full, till it overflows.)” (John 10:10 AMP) He isn’t necessarily talking about living a life overflowing with worldly riches and possessions. Jesus Himself can and will give us a life overflowing with joy and blessing. So don’t get comfy and cozy in luxury and leave Jesus out in the cold and ruins! Like the temple in the verse, do you need to “rebuild” your relationship with God?

2. Are you living in the warmth and comfort of Jesus’ love while your friends are left in the cold ruins?

I think all of us are probably currently, or have been in the past, guilty of this one. Are you letting your light shine so that others can see it, or are you hiding it around certain people because you’re ashamed of it, or even afraid to “offend” someone with your Biblical views? I struggle with this as much as anyone! I want everyone I encounter to know the love of Jesus, but I worry so much about “shoving Jesus down their throats” that sometimes I miss opportunities to share Him with others! I just pray that through my blog and my Facebook page I can at least reach a few people and change their lives because of something I post or mention in conversation.

Share the warmth of Jesus’ love this Christmas season, don’t leave others out in the cold without it!

 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

~Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

Your Dream isn’t Necessarily God’s Reality!

A.W. Tozer

Sorry to break it to you ladies and gentlemen! Just because YOU have your heart set on a path for yourself, it doesn’t mean God is in agreement. But believe me, God’s plan for your life is so much better than anything you could ever imagine for yourself!

“But I want…” “Why can’t I…?” “Do I have to…?” The one that sticks with me is “I could NEVER do that! I’m not good enough.” or “I’m not qualified for that!” I’m not sure who’s credited with this quote, but it sticks with me… “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” If God only called the qualified, I’m pretty positive that NO ONE would be qualified enough to accomplish the tasks He has set out for each of us in His will for our lives. Without His grace, love, and guidance we really can’t do anything. Let me share how He’s been working in my life over the lsat few years and maybe you’ll see what I mean! 😉

When I started high school, I had NO IDEA what I wanted to do with my life after I graduated. There wasn’t one area of my life that I excelled at and could make a career out of. I was super quiet, got average grades, and at that point really just planned on taking a year off after high school to get my life figured out. Then, at band camp the summer before my sophomore year, something sparked inside of me and I decided that I wanted to make a career out of my music. So, I quickly started taking lessons, I was blessed with a teacher willing to push me farther than I thought I could go and keep up the momentum to make up for the lost time.

Three years of clarinet lessons, a crash course in music theory, some piano (HA! Definitely not a strength of mine…) and two years of choir later, I made it into my music program of choice. Through many auditions, recital performances, lessons, piano quizzes, I was a ball of nerves. (There’s a reason I wasn’t a performance major, my nervousness was it.) Long story short, I made it through the first semester, came home for Christmas break and ended up absolutely dreading going back.

HOMESICKNESS. DEPRESSION. STEESS. Basically I was an emotional mess! So when the end of the second semester FINALLY arrived, I went in to play my jury, (basically a huge final playing test that lets music majors move on to the next level of classes, if passed.) feeling pretty confident…

Scales.

Prepared piece.

SIGHTREADING.

Oh shoot, sightreading… another one of my weaknesses. (Ironically, I’m pretty good at it now. I have no idea how that happened…)

In the end I failed it, came home for the summer and decided that it just wasn’t in the cards to go back the following Fall.

Now, I had to figure out something else that I liked well enough to make it into a career. Easier said than done. I dabbled in photography, overpopulated field. Business Administration? Pretty flexible, but I’ve heard it’s like watching grass grow, so I’ll pass on that one too. Okay, now what?

You see, the Lord used this time to draw me closer to Him and really begin to work in in my life to help me become the woman I am (and am still working on becoming) today! He uses our rough patches, valleys, good days, and bad days to shape us into Godly men and women who reflect His love into the lives of others.

I thought the calling for my life was to be a middle school band director, now I look at my life now and then look back at that thought and laugh. Really hard. (No offense to all of you middle school band directors out there, you are superheroes, really!)

Where am I at now in life? Well, for now I feel drawn to a career in Christian counseling with a concentration in drug and alcohol abuse/addictions. I’ve found my place musically, playing clarinet at church with a beyond amazing piano player by my side, singing on praise team, and teaching clarinet lessons. I have a wonderful Monday through Friday job that allows me to stay as involved as I am with my amazing church, and I also just recently started teaching Sunday school. (That last one is a shocker even to me, never in a million years would I have seen that one coming! Thy will, not my will, right? 😉 ) I’m exactly where God wants me to be as He continues to work in me and through me and I’ve never been happier!

So, after all that, what am I trying to tell you?

Wait on God.

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

~Psalm 27:14 (NIV)

God’s way is better than your own.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

~Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

Trust Him completely with your life.

Never say never. (Although it holds a lot of truth, I cringe a little every time that phrase gets thrown around because of it’s affiliation with Justin Bieber… seriously.)

God works in mysterious ways, never doubt His faithfulness.

And hang in there, God knows what He’s doing, I promise!

Jesus and a Bunch of Preschoolers

Jesus with Children I know, I know, the titles of my posts are getting weirder and weirder. I haven’t completely lost it though, I promise!

As I was hanging out with Jesus this morning before work, (I’m an assistant teacher in a beginning preschool classroom. Hence the title of my post… 😉 ) having a conversation with Him about the day I had ahead of me, I realized that a lot of the time us Christians act kind of like grown up preschool kids. I look at how most of my kiddos act on a daily basis and see a good amount of those same behaviors mirrored in the Church as a whole. There were three that jumped out at me:

1. We tend to whine and cry when things don’t go just the way we want them to go. 

Much like my preschool kids, (or any for that matter) who whine, cry, and throw fits when they don’t get what they want, or get to do what they want, we tend to do much the same. Calling out to God when something didn’t go the way we thought it should or wanted it to. Instead of trusting in His plans and that His way is infinitely better than ours, we blame Him, complain, and maybe even kick and scream when things don’t go our way. (Okay, I’d hope there’s no kicking and screaming going on, it’d look a little silly to have a full grown adult on the floor pitching a fit… ha!)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.”

~Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

“Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

~Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

“Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.”

~Psalm 37:7 (NIV)

2. We’re all a giant mess!

I’m constantly going behind my kiddos and either picking up toys that they’ve left out, wiping up spills, washing off their faces when they manage to get half of their lunch smeared all over it, etc. Jesus is constantly going behind us with His grace and cleaning up the messes we make in our lives. Cleansing our stained garments with His blood and making them white as snow. We may not get our lunch all over our faces, or leave a trail of toys behind us, but we are definitely messy!

3. Do we honestly spend enough quiet, one on one time with God?

Do you ever look back and wish that you could take back all of those naps you didn’t take, or fought hard to stay awake through in your preschool years?

ME TOO.

My preschoolers usually fight tooth and nail to take a nap. Are you doing the same when it comes to spending quality, quiet, one on one time with Jesus?

It’s not exactly the same as taking a nap, but it’s even more rewarding. How much quiet time do you spend with God on a regular basis? I know the moms out there love it when their small children will nap for even a short while so they can get things done in peace! Well, God wants us to take time out of our day, even ten minutes, to talk to Him. He wants to reveal things to you and begin working in your life and blessing you more than you can imagine! Just like moms can’t get much done with young kiddos up and running around the house like crazy monkeys, God can’t get much going in our lives unless we talk to Him, pray, read His Word, and be fully connected with Him and His voice.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” Sheep

~John 10:27 (NIV)

“I wait quietly before God,
for my victory comes from him.
 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will never be shaken.”

~Psalm 62:1-2 (NLT)