Amanda Fillebrown

Writer, Teacher, Planner, Dreamer

Reality Check

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Anyone who knows my husband knows that he is into virtual reality.  His goal is to write music programs where people can experience music in VR.  Several companies are going to be releasing vr machines this year.  So, he is super stoked about that.  A couple of weeks ago we drove up to Cincinnati to the Microsoft store that had a free demonstration/trial of these machines.

The VR machine consists of a large headset – a mask-like device that straps around your head and fits over your eyes, some large headphones and two controllers – one for each hand.  There are also two black boxes that are mounted to the ceiling that are used to track your movements.  Once you are “suited up” you can then enter the world of virtual reality.  I also did the free trial, and I will admit that was pretty cool!

It puts you right in the middle of the game or activity that you are doing.  The first demo looked like you were on a ship in the bottom of the ocean.  You could walk around and explore all around the ship.  You could lean over the boat rail and see the sandy ocean floor.  There was a shark swimming around that looked like you could reach out and touch it!  Another demo was an art program.  You had the ability to paint all around you using your controllers and you were right in the middle of your masterpiece!  It was a lot cooler than I can describe, so you will just have to take my word for it – until Andy gets his machine and you can come over and play with ours.  😉

 

 

At one point, Andy was doing the art demo.  He was walking around and painting.  He was less than two feet away from me standing face to face.  I could have reached out and touched him.  However, He was completely unaware.  I snapped the picture below.  It looks like he is posing, but he had no clue I was right there in front of him!

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This was the most awkward feeling for me. I felt invisible.  It was such a lonely feeling.  I began to think about how often we do this in real life.  How often have we looked right past the people who are right in front of us?  One might think we only do this only in crowds, but the sad thing is we often do it to those who are sitting right in front of us.  How many times do we look over someone’s shoulder or get distracted by other things? It may not seem like a big deal, but it can send subtle messages to others that there is something else more important than them, that they are insignificant.

Paul E. Miller writes about how Jesus had a one-person focus.  “When Jesus interacts with people he narrows his focus down to one person….When Jesus is with someone, that person is the only person in the room.  Jesus slows down and concentrates on one person at a time…..This one-person focus is how love works.  Love incarnates by slowing down and focusing on just the beloved. We don’t love in general; we love one person at a time.” (A Praying Life)

Who do we need to slow down and concentrate on?  Who needs our complete attention?

Shelter

image2 (1)Wednesdays are one my most favorite days. I usually begin my day by stopping at a place called the Iron Bell. It is a beautiful place where you can go to pray and spend time with the Lord. I grab a seat and listen to the music with my Bible and journal waiting to see what the Lord wants to speak to me that day.

There is a large door at the front and center with glass windows that you can see out. A couple of weeks ago, snow had covered the ground with a thin white layer. As I sat listening to the music and looking at the snow outside, I became very aware of the warmth that surrounded me. It felt safe and strong and peaceful. God used it is a gentle reminder that no matter what is going on around me, He is my shelter and my protection.

Psalm 46 says:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though it’s waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (1-3)

I think its interesting that even though He is able, God doesn’t always stop the chaos that is going on around us. Instead, He holds us tight and promises to keep us safe if we allow Him to do so. We don’t have to be afraid; all we have to do is trust Him.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” -Isaiah 41:10

This verse from Isaiah is one that I committed to memory a long time ago.  I love the image this verse invokes in my mind.  I picture myself curled up in a ball in God’s great big hand whenever I repeat that verse in my head. I think I know now what it feels like inside His hand.

 

My Heart’s Desire

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Let me preface this post by saying that I believe God’s word to be true…all of it.  That being said, some verses are difficult. We wrestle with them and try to understand what they mean for our lives. Sometimes we figure it out out and other times we are left wondering.

The verse that I am currently wrestling with is Psalm 37:4. It’s one of those verses that people like to throw at you because it offers hope. “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Everyone wants to believe that the deepest longings of their hearts will be fulfilled, but what happens when we begin to realize that those desires will not likely be fulfilled? What do you do with with a verse like Psalm 37:4 then?

One of the desires of my heart has been to have a baby. My husband and I have been trying. (FYI – Yes, we know what you have to do to get pregnant. You have to love the people who like to question you about that.) Unfortunately, it has not happened yet. At first I was hopeful. I mean, God promises to give us the desires of our hearts, right? That’s what all my friends have been telling me. However, in the past couple of months I have come to a point where I am not so certain. Some may say that I have lost hope, but I don’t think so. I still hope that it happens. However, I am at a place of peace; I am content. Regardless of what happens, I know God has a plan for us that is far beyond anything I can dream or imagine. I think often the desires of our hearts are limited to what we can imagine – finding a spouse, having a baby, moving up the ladder at work, etc. The awesome thing we need to understand is that God isn’t into being limited by our thoughts. He is so much bigger than that and so are his plans for us.

Does this mean that my desire for a baby goes away? I don’t think so. I don’t think that desire will ever go away. However, I can have joy in knowing that he is able to do things in my life far greater than I can even think to ask for or desire.

 

photo credit: Drawing hearts via photopin (license)

PSA for the Ladies

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Today I want to break away from my normal topics of choice to write about  something a little lighter but very important. This post is a public service announcement for all my ladies out there. It has to do with lingerie. You know, those pretty, sexy little things made out of lace and satin. They look so cute on the hanger. They always seem like a good idea at the time. You buy them with the thought that your husband will find you irresistible and to give your confidence a bit of a boost. For that reason, you are willing to pay a ridiculous amount of money on something that will only stay on for mere minutes (because let’s be honest, that thing isn’t going back on tonight – you are going to put on your cozy pajama pants as soon as possible).

However, you may quickly find your confidence diminishing. The majority of these things use those tiny hooks and loops to hold it together. And, of course, they are always in the back which makes it next to impossible to put on by yourself unless you are a contortionist. Also, the designers try to be kind by putting more than one set of these hooks on the item so that you can wear it if you gain or lose a little bit of weight. How kind of them, but seriously, it just makes things more confusing. When you have three rows of about twenty hooks and no eyes on the back of your head, it is easy to hook it on a loop on the wrong row or even worse, to miss a row. When the latter happens and you don’t catch it immediately, you have to then unhook all of them up to that point and redo it.  If you get really daring and get something that has more than one piece, you may find yourself having to secretly text a trusted friend or Googling a how-to video.

So, ladies, I am here to offer an extremely important warning: always do a test run prior to the night you plan to wear it! Otherwise, you may end up in the bathroom for 45 minutes trying to put the thing on while your husband is waiting in the other room. Trust me, it will save you some tears and cursing that night.

 

photo credit: Lonely Heart via photopin (license)

Winter and Grief

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The weather can be very unpredictable in Louisville. The changing of the seasons has a tendency to sneak up on you. One day you are wearing flip flops. The next day you step outside and your toes feel like they have icicles forming on them. It’s two weeks before Christmas and last weekend the temperature got up to 70 degrees! My husband was pretty excited since he hates the cold and tries to hide from it. You never know what to expect from one day to the next.

Grief is the same in a lot of ways. It is unpredictable. You don’t know what to expect each day or even each moment because it can sneak up on you. You never know what will trigger those memories and feelings of what you have lost. A photo shows up on Facebook. A smell takes you back to a time and place in the past. A loved one goes through something similar.

Many people think that grief is a process that once you go through the steps it ends and you go back to normal. However, that is a misconception. There is no “going back” to anything. The pain eases. The memories become sweet.   You find your smile and laughter again. You find a new “normal”. Though they may come much less frequently, there will always be those moments of grief that sneak in just like an icy cold winter breeze. Eventually, you will find that it feels different when those moments come. They are no longer bitter. Instead of trying to hide from them, you bundle up and walk through it.

photo credit: View from Rathfriland [E] via photopin (license)

Waiting

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My husband had a procedure done earlier this week, so I had to wait in the waiting room while it was being done. I have spent more time than I care to recall in waiting rooms and I often joke that I earned my master’s degree there. I am only half kidding when I say that. I wrote many research papers while waiting with my first husband – waiting during surgery, waiting during doctor’s visits, waiting in the ER. Doing something else made the time go by faster and kept my mind from wandering to the worst possible scenario.

I am usually a very patient person. I don’t mind waiting at the hospital or in long lines or for my food at arrive at a restaurant. But waiting on God is a different story. I am very impatient with God. I expect him to move and to do things in my time, and I don’t want to have to wait for answers from him. I think this is because I have a tendency to put life on hold while waiting for God. I let the fear of making a wrong decision paralyze me from doing anything.

There is no question that there will be times when we have to wait on God. God does not work in our timeframe, but rather in his. The good news for us is that his timing is always perfect. The question we should be asking ourselves is what are we doing while we are waiting. While waiting in the waiting room, I stayed busy. I think that is also the key while we are waiting on God. In the book of Acts, the disciples devoted themselves to prayer when they were waiting for the Holy Spirit to arrive. In 2 Thessalonians, Paul warns those believers who had become lazy and quit working while waiting for the Lord’s return. I think we need to do these things while we are waiting for God in our lives too. We should continue to work. We need to keep gathering together and encouraging each other. We should always be praying and seeking him.

 

“The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”  Lamentations 3:25

 

photo credit: It’s About Time… via photopin (license)

Even if He Does Not

In the midst of struggles it can be difficult to remain faithful. Our lives can be filled with wonderful things, but our vision becomes clouded keeping us from seeing and enjoying those things in hard times.  I am currently stuck in that place right now.  I have let my heart and mind get so focused on those things not going the way I want that I have allowed it to block my joy.  I have been wrestling with God about this.  In my spirit on Sunday morning, the question that kept being asked was: “but even if he doesn’t?”

What if God doesn’t give me what I want?  Why am I putting that situation before God’s plans or desires? Am I hinging what I believe about God on how he settles that one thing?  Its easy to say we trust God.  Its harder to say I trust God even if he doesn’t do what I want him to do.

“But even if he does not” was the response that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego gave to King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3.  I went back and read about that as I tried to answer that question for myself. The king had built an image of gold that everyone was expected to bow down to and worship.  He had also built a fiery furnace and anyone that refused to bow down to the golden image would be put to death in the fire.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were jews who worked for the king.  They worshiped God and were to worship no other, and so they refused to bow down to the image the King had created. King Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”  (Daniel 3:15, NIV)  They responded by saying: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”  (Daniel 3:17-18, NIV)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not willing to put anything above God….they were even willing to give their own lives in the fiery furnace.  What are we putting above God?   We may not be tempted to bow down to a golden statue.  But, often we are willing to bow down to other things – things that we want and desire that have been placed before us – things like money, status, possessions and relationships. These things in and of themselves are not bad.  But, when we put our pursuit of those things above God, then there is a problem.  When it comes to pursuing those things, can we say but even if he does not?

…even if he doesn’t heal me
…even if I don’t get pregnant
…even if I continue to struggle with this sin

Are we willing to trust God and face the fire?

Freedom

I just finished the book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.  I read the book for the instructions on writing part, but I fell in love with the insights on life that are woven throughout the book.  I would recommend it to my writer and non-writer friends alike.  One thing that she wrote really struck a chord with me.  She writes:  “Toni Morrison said, ‘The function of freedom is to free someone else,’ and if you are no longer wracked or in bondage to a person or a way of life, tell your story.  Risk freeing someone else.”

When I read that phrase, I had to put the book away for awhile and process.  Shouldn’t that be one of our main goals as people who love Jesus?  He freed us from slavery to sin.  He liberated us from a life of defeat and despair.  He led us to escape the grip of fear.  Shouldn’t the natural response to our freedom then be to lead others to that same freedom?  Or, have we become so used to our freedom–or so far removed from our bondage that we forget what it feels like?  I think we often forget how much power there is in freedom.

How do we help lead others to freedom?  One of the simplest ways is exactly what Lamott points out, tell our story.  When we tell our stories, we gain power over them, no longer imprisoned by hurt and shame.  I have a friend who has had opportunities to share her story at a women’s retreat and churches.  It is a beautiful story that she tells not only through her own experience, but also though the story of Gomer  in the Old Testament.  She shares how Hosea continued to love and pursue Gomer when she kept running from him just like God kept pursuing her when she was running.  Her honesty and transparency is creating a path for others to the God that is pursuing them too.  If we are free, then we should be blazing the trail for others with our war paint on and our weapons raised screaming “freedom!”  We do that by telling our stories to anyone who will listen -to anyone that we know who who is still bound.

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Instead, we lock away our stories and experiences like a teenage girl holding her diary tightly against her chest – protecting her secrets from being revealed. Only by releasing our grip can we experience true freedom. Galatians 5:1 says:  “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  When we continue to hold on to our pain, hurt and shame in fear of what people may think, we are putting on that yoke again. And as long as we continue to hide our stories away, we aren’t leading those we know to the one that can permanently remove that yoke for them.

 

Aftershocks

I was going to write about something else today, but I changed my mind.  That’s one of the great things about writing a blog.  You can write about whatever you want.

I am going to share something that I haven’t shared with many people.  For a long time, I blamed myself for my first husband’s death.  He got up before I did the morning that he died.  I was still sleepy, so I rolled back over and started to drift off.  I was in that state of half sleep and half awake.  You know the one where you are still aware of what is going on, but everything is a haze and its feels like there is a 50 pound concrete block on top of you making movement difficult.  I remember distinctly hearing a thump.  I figured my husband had dropped something and that he would call for me if he needed help.  When I woke up a little while later, I was greeted with an awkward feeling – I felt like I was alone.  But, how could that be?  I called for my husband, “James?”  Silence.  Had he gone out?  Surely he would not have went out without me.  He couldn’t drive and it was a cold December morning, so where would he have gone?  At that point, panic hit me.  My heart started racing and I was nauseous.  I called his name louder as I went into the computer room where I usually found him, but not this time.  As I rushed out of the room, I noticed him face down on the floor.  His body was heavy and lifeless.  After the paramedics arrived and assessed the situation, one of them said, “It’s too late.  there’s nothing we can do.”  I remember thinking that morning and for a long time after, if only I had gotten up to check on things when I heard that noise, maybe I could have saved him – maybe it wouldn’t have been too late.

It took me a long time and lots of therapy before I could get to the point to where I didn’t feel like his death was my fault.  I realized today though that just because I had dealt with this and it happened over 8 years ago, that I am still affected by this trauma.  My life is still rattled by this experience, just like earth is by aftershocks of an earthquake.  Wikipedia says this about aftershocks: “Aftershocks are dangerous because they are usually unpredictable, can be of a large magnitude, and can collapse buildings that are damaged from the main shock. Bigger earthquakes have more and larger aftershocks and the sequences can last for years or even longer especially when a large event occurs in a seismically quiet area.”

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Just this morning I was made aware of an aftershock.  My husband started coughing while eating his breakfast, and I immediately asked if he was okay.  He shook his head and started laughing.  When I asked why he was laughing, he said because I am always asking him if he is okay-even when the littlest of things happens.  As I thought about his comment, I realized that he is correct.  I do ask him that frequently. I concluded that this action is a direct result of my first husband’s death.  I don’t want the same thing to happen to him.  It is an aftershock.

“Aftershocks can collapse building that are damaged from the main shock.”  I think this is the main concern.  If I continue to let my thoughts and actions be consumed by fear of something happening, then it is going to damage me and quite possibly my current relationship.  It is going to be easy for me to fall back into thinking that what happened to James was my fault.  I will become obsessed with ensuring that my husband now is okay.  When in reality, I am not in control of what happens to him at all.   Only God knows and controls the future.  I need to trust Him with it.

So, how do we deal with these aftershocks?  The Red Cross advises to do the following after an earthquake:  “Each time you feel an aftershock, drop, cover and hold on.”  Just like a physical earthquake, we may not be able to stop the aftershocks of traumatic events.  But when we see them coming or find ourselves in the midst of them, its best to drop, cover and hold on.  Drop to your knees and pray.  Ask God to cover you.  Psalm 91:4 says, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”  And finally, hold on.  Grasp on to the truth.  Cling tight to his promises.  One of our elders was praying for me at church about this awhile back and she said sometimes you need to say these things out loud. There is power when you give it a voice – proclaim it.  It may be scary the first few times, but over time it will get easier as you realize that these aftershocks don’t have to consume you.

 

photo credit: Quake damage to River Road via photopin (license)

Nothing is Impossible with God …even at 40.

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I am turning 40 in just 9 short days!

I never considered 40 old before hubby and I got married and started trying to get pregnant. Even then, I didn’t feel it was old. But then something changed. A friend of mine who turned 40 last year went to a fertility specialist. She shared with me what she learned; the specialist made it sound like it was nearly impossible for someone over the age of 40 to become pregnant naturally. So, ever since then I have felt like 40 was kind of the cutoff line. I felt like it had to happen before my 40th birthday if there was any chance of getting pregnant.

We went to a church on Sunday and the sermon was talking about the natural and the supernatural. The pastor said that we don’t have to just trust the natural – what the world and the natural order of things tells us is possible. We can trust the supernatural, because God is in the business of the supernatural.

I was texting my sweet friend Ellen after becoming very frustrated about this situation one weekend and she said: “God’s not limited by our age. He’s not limited by anything.”

I know they are both right. So, why do I have such a hard time believing that God would work things out for me? The Bible is filled with examples of God doing the impossible in peoples’ lives. If he did it for them, why don’t I believe He can do the same thing for me? Maybe that’s not the problem. I believe that God is able to do anything. If I am honest with myself, I guess I question whether he is willing to do those things for me. I think that sting may be worse than not believing that God can do the impossible. I let the times that I have cried out to God and asked for a something and his answer has been “no” to overshadow the times that he has answered “yes”. God may have said no to healing people I love. He answered “no” to things I have begged him to give me. His chose not to give me talents and gifts I have asked for. But what about the things he has said yes to? What about all the times he has moved to make the impossible happen in my life?

I am married to an amazing man who loves me and cares for me.

 I am living my dream of being a writer.

I get to minister to kids at an amazing church.

I have overcome my extreme shyness that I had as a kid.

The list goes on. All of these are things that happened because God moved or worked something out that was impossible in my natural abilities or mindsets. I need to remember and be reminded of these when I question whether God is willing to move in a supernatural way in my life.

One of my favorite things to tell the kids in my class at church is that nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 1:37; Matthew 19:26) That statement is followed by a period. That means it’s a complete thought. There is no but or however or if. I need to learn to put a period there in my own life and not add stipulations to what God can do. He can and will work in supernatural ways in my life.

P.S. My friend that went to the fertility specialist – She is pregnant …and conceived without the help of the specialist 🙂 Nothing is impossible with God.

photo credit: tombstone decoration via photopin – (license)

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