Today, Amberlin talks to us about the difference in Eastern and Western thoughts, amazing books for your list, a powerful tradition she learned from her aunt, and the time she almost lost her eyebrows (she is a very funny storyteller).
Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood: My childhood was by marked certain traumatic losses. I am actually finally learning how to accept that and move from allowing that to be my identity anymore. Victim mentality is one thing I focus on in my work. Victims do need support, justice, validation, but not a pass on creating change where they can (pruning out negative attitudes, stopping addictive coping cycles – unproductive complaining included -, learning how to create boundaries with evil people in order to stop allowing a reason to be victimized).
Inspiring biblical passage of the moment: This sounds clique, but it seems like each one speaks when I read it. Honestly, I have not been deep into a pure Scripture study in a while. For about the past year, I took some time to learn about ancient life and the context of the Bible. I learned that much of what I was reading before was illuminated by that contextual change, from my lifespan and experience to the life and times of the people who wrote the scriptures. I know it’s a life long study, so I need to dive back into daily reading again. I bought an NIV Cultural Study Bible since, and I really enjoy it, though I must confess right now I end up reading the historical info more than the verses themselves. It all lends to greater understanding though, but I notice the active work of the verses when I read them alone too. Then I am reminded, I need to read this more often! I suppose the ones about perfect knowledge in Christ in Col. and Cor. are loud to me right now. ( I explain the message in question 6)
Spiritual growth focus at the moment: I’m focusing on how to be ok with sadness, without wallowing in it. I had to do it last night. I was feeling the loss of a certain relationship, or rather both the desire of it and the abiding space from lifelong lack of it. I told myself that sadness is a natural reaction to this situation. The sadness itself is not my problem to be solved, and that I had already made the best decisions of how to live peacefully with the actual problem.
I nodded to it, prayed over it, affirmed that God is my peace. That is a pattern of growing grace we must do, surrendering every moment of displeasure instead of acting in irrational and reactive ways to get rid of displeasure. I had all kinds of solutions in my mind on how to feel better or on how to rev up this relationship – all things that have been tried and failed and that in rational and unsentimental moments I have decided against, so I acknowledged the sad feeling, remembered my action plan and solutions, and prayed for comfort. I know I will do this over and over again, the rest of my life. I rely on God, and I thank Him, as Charles Surgeon said, I am thankful for the waves that throw me against the Rock of Ages.
I see all these beautiful IG posts in January about having a word for the year. I never thought to focus on it much. In a way, it seemed like forced prophecy; I would never demand a word from God, and I had feared that putting too much energy into receiving one would lead to my own manufactured “prophetic” word. But sure enough, for a few mornings after asking for one, I woke up from sleep with an image of a wooden chair with the word “sturdy” ingrained in me. I will be sturdy. I will be measured. Not robotic and unfeeling. Chairs are made of tough organic stuff, and have soft centers where people can rest. That is what I want to be; reliable, lovable, welcoming, safe, a respite for tired souls, able to keep myself upright because of what I’m made of (grace from the Holy Spirit). I want to be like a chair. Sturdy.
“I will be sturdy. I will be measured. Not robotic and unfeeling.”
Profession: SAHM, writer, publisher. My last project was to compile, format, and publish a book of redemptive stories of the people who have gone through a drug recovery program that is local to me. It is on Amazon – Testimonies of Angels, by Penny Foskey.
Tell us about The Complainer’s Journal. What inspired it? Years of negative gabbing, which is still hard to guard against, now. Like I mentioned earlier, I had lots of stuff to complain about. With reason. It is seared in my mind my cousin’s grandmother was talking about me to a friend and she said, “When is that girl going to get a break?” I owned that and wore it around, and filtered every adulthood experience through that cloth. I complained about work, family, my husband, my past…on and on. Because my complaints were actually legit I had a supportive audience for a while, but after a couple of years of talking without processing and growing, I was wearing out the welcome of my friend’s time. I didn’t want to be known for what hardships I had to endure (genuine or perceived).
I want to be known for what good I create in the world through the Holy Spirit’s leading. The book is made up of observations of myself and of people I work and do life with, with relevant Biblical reflections. It’s funny, I was talking to my grandmother the day, probably complaining some, lol, but I was reflecting on how I wrote many things that were impressed upon my heart with such a conviction. I have revisited the book again and again, to make sure in my growth with Christ that I didn’t write anything out of bounds or untruthful from immaturity. What I find is that God has deepened my understanding of some of these topics I cover, shown me the how and not just the why that I focus on in the book. It’s a beautiful comfort and awesome thing to see unfold for me personally.
I take what I put out there seriously, as far as it being true to the gospel and what is healthy for people, but I also give myself grace in that I can’t know anything, and I can’t wait to write a book on my deathbed when I know all I am going to know. I trust God to grow the seeds I plant, and I extend the invitation of dialogue for anyone who has questions about my work. I want people to be healthy and grow in the love, image, and work of Jesus.
“I want to be known for what good I create in the world through the Holy Spirit’s leading.”
If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be? Thinking of that lately. The Complainer’s Journal is part memoir. I plan to write on, someday. I am waiting for that story to fill out. Maybe when I am 50. It would be about growing sturdier legs that carry me gracefully, about sprouting wings that cover my family and bring me closer to God’s abiding presence above the icky muds of life, about understanding the awesome power of being able to talk to God, stripping away the formulas and the false promises that we see from popular Christian thought today.
For a season after being new to IG and seeing all the mesh of spirituality, magic, and so on, I underwent a personal study of what magic is now and what it was to the Bible characters. I learned what power there is the verse when Paul said to put away old ways (old magic is another way to put it) because the most perfect knowledge is in Jesus. I had done some study on the Book of Enoch (a book popular in Biblical periods, and it is actually referred to directly in the Bible book of Jude), and in it God says the fallen angels knew of magic and things of that sort and taught it to people, but even those magical ways are imperfect as He didn’t tell them everything He knows and is. I put that line against Paul’s line about Jesus being perfect knowledge. Perfection. Perfect power – no need for old ritual. How freeing is that, to know that with anything we just ASK Jesus, and we are heard, loved, and taken care of for our best outcomes? No prayer formula with special keywords needed. Praise God, it gets me emotional to think of!
“How freeing is that, to know that with anything we just ASK Jesus, and we are heard, loved, and taken care of for our best outcomes? No prayer formula with special keywords needed.”
When did you first encounter God and how did you encounter Him? Always. My father worked in the church and my grandmother believed in being there every time the door was open. I have uncles that are preachers and theologians, and aunts that are so full of good works. My mother was the one who prayed “the sinners prayer” with me when I was about 7ish or 8 (my Dad was a Baptist Youth Minister and Choir director). Although I don’t think there is a formula for salvation in prayer form (the sinner’s prayer is not clearly outlined in the Bible) it was my first acknowledgment of sin in my life and my need for grace. From then on, I worked to know God better by Bible reading, and had a good idea of right vs. wrong and tried to live a holy and Christ – light filled life. As far as encountering goes, I saw God in the lives of my family members, and in the churches we attended. This attests to the idea that we are God to our kids; God looks like us to them, until they have understanding. It’s a holy reflection I work at. The Sunday school curriculum ORANGE introduced me to that idea. They are really good, if you need a solid curriculum for kids.
What has helped you grow spiritually in this season? Books! All kinds of books on Eastern Religion and mystical Judaism, so that I can identify the way Hinduism and Kabbalah is creeping into our churches (and it is for sure) and popular culture. Books on ancient Israel and the time of Jesus. Works by Michael Heister are good for that. He is a really cool cat; check him out and you will learn all sorts of funky stuff that really ties some Biblical themes together like I have never understood. As far as daily application, books about boundaries and emotional health. Anything by John Townsend and Henry Cloud – False Assumptions is a good one, as well as any of the Boundaries books series they have for marriages, kids, and so on. Their book, Necessary Endings is also a life changer. Changes That Heal, How People Grow, I could go on and on.
Just read/currently reading (and what has it taught you?): Stop Whining, Start Living, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, both by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. She is the one who taught me that things are what they are – you make a plan, you feel the pain, you rejoice in the good things without letting the darkness block what is filled with light. I do try to compare her work with Townsend and Cloud, as they are openly Christian and faith-based, and Dr. Laura is a former, now renounced-ish, Jewish convert who is warm towards Christianity. What I have read of her so far is consistent with the wisdom found within Biblical teaching.
Top three essentials: husband, books, babies.
How did God speak to you recently? You can be surprised and disappointed, but you can’t lose hope and faith. A friend of mine had missed out on a promotion that we just KNEW she would get. Anyway, I had prayed about it for her faithfully. When I found out that she didn’t get it, I told God was surprised, and then these words just slapped my mind : You can be surprised and disappointed, but you can’t lose your hope in God. I cherish moments like that. Answered prayer is so awesome; I remember these things if I start to doubt God’s presence or existence, as the devil tries really hard today to do that. You know, the Satanic church, the organized one at least, does not really worship Satan as a lord, but are more of an atheist civil group? Perfect pairing – the devil wants you think he is not real, that God is only your own imagined comfort. When I get those thoughts, I repeat those brain whispers in my mind and recount answered prayers. We have to in our culture that snuffs out the supernatural with doubt.
Hobby: Crafts, writing, publishing, decorating, cleaning up old things and making look new. I love junking and finding odd things for new uses. I have an old coffee tin as a planter in my kitchen right now, and an old rake head holding my keys and hats by the door.
Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong: Don’t stop reading solid Christian works and the Bible. Don’t let the commonness of daily of prayer hide it’s glory and effectiveness in the world and in your own heart. Pray for a network of Christian women and work on a close friendship or two with strong faithful women. Pour into your family, husband first, then children, and make sure to make time checking in on these women, too.
“Don’t let the commonness of daily of prayer hide it’s glory and effectiveness in the world and in your own heart.”
Favorite person in scripture? My favorite changes, but I like David. I feel like he and I would have been kindred spirits of sorts; just emotional, you know? Pretty much, the Psalms are like his journal that we are reading. He was all over the place it seemed, but he was grounded in God. Like his heart was a kite in the wind, but God held tight to the string. I want to keep a humble and repentant heart like him.
What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? That God is kind. He enjoys the people He created. I want people to feel important around me. I don’t want to use people as a sounding board for my complaints. I want to be strong and decisive so I’m not airing out bad news with everyone in conversation. I want to just try to focus less on problems I have solved, knowing I will always deal with the feelings, sometimes crying with a friend if I need to, but not using every interaction to make myself feel better about my problems. Be interested in other people, as God is interested in us all.
How do you leave your mark on your community? I write books, I write blogs and articles. I started up a Christian group that I have passed the torch on; I wanted one that wasn’t full of chain blessing memes, but rather good videos and articles. A good place to scroll. Its called Christian Culture and Calling, on Facebook.
I blog on my website, www.amberlinbooks.com. I am focusing more on family right now though, because it is a busy season for my husband. Putting him first means slacking a bit on the writing, so that he doesn’t have to help me around the house when the nighttime comes. Keeping a clean and peaceful environment for us all is an important job for me, as it refreshes us all for what we do outside of the home. (Allie Cassasa’s podcast, “The Purpose Show” helped me a lot in this area) I teach Sunday school once a month for 2-5 year olds, and sometimes sing at church and lead music when it is not busy season. Most of my ministering is within the home right now or from a laptop, as I have 2 little kids! I just roll with that and take it seriously, do my best, because I know later my hands will be empty and maybe I can fill them with mission trips, food banks, things I fantasize about in Kingdom work, maybe go back to teaching again or earn a counseling degree (I left the classroom when my son was a baby). Doing what I love – reading – and then the regurgitation of what I learn and how it all connects and applies to a life of Christ is ingrained in me.
I think carving out time to do those things, even though reading is mostly pleasure, is doing what lights up the world for Jesus Christ. It’s beautiful how my passions can reach others for God. Oh, I love it! God is so good to give me that gift of opportunity and enjoyment.
Favorite holiday? They all have good highlights. I love to decorate for each. So much of holiday practices can divisive because of pagan roots, and so some people abstain from this one or that one. But even Christian wedding services have pagan influences (facial veils, throwing the bouquet, flowers everywhere). I try to find what I can use to teach my children about Christ within each one, whether we are talking about leprechauns, ghosts, or Santa, I teach the pure meaning and I use the secular pagan rooted parts to teach truths to my kids. At Halloween, we acknowledge that there is evil and monsters in the world, that there is an afterlife, but that Jesus has overcome the world and given us access to life eternal. At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus and the generosity of Santa Clause. At St. Patrick’s Day, we talk about how St. Patrick changed a whole pagan nation for the truth of Jesus, and how being greedy can get you into trouble as in the stories of the old sly leprechauns. There are good and teachable moments in each one, and defiantly joy in Christ to celebrate.
A goal you have? Learn how to not use gossip as a bonding tool with new friends. Oh you don’t like her – me neither … let’s swap stories about this poor woman who can’t defend herself. AGH! Women use dislikes of certain people, or in-laws, or husbands in order to bond, and that is not good unless the conversation is really about getting advice and not just gabbing to gab. There are other things to talk about. It’s ok to talk personally with close friends who can give wisdom, but not as get to know you subject at a party. But that is so easy to fall into. I’m not sure how much is healthy on the speaking side, but I know the guilty party in discussion can’t speak up, and I see the unfairness in that. IT IS SO HARD NOT TO DO, but I don’t want people to think they can’t trust me. You know when a person who talks loosely and casually negative about someone else, they will talk about YOU. Not good for having trust in new relationships.
A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep: I grew up Holiness and Baptist, so Advent and Lent was new to me. It’s a new dynamic of our holiday celebrations. My sons love lighting candles for advent. At night we say prayers, the Lord’s Prayer and a prayer of protection from Numbers…”The Lord bless you and keep you, make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift His countenance upon you and give you peace.” I watched my aunt pray it over her kids and me visiting every night, and I took that tradition on with my own kids.
Question you will ask when you get to heaven? “Where’s my Dad’?, if he doesn’t greet me before the gate. “Is there anything I can do this side to get my family here?”
Thing you want to raise awareness about: Domestic abuse, childhood cancer, how to recover from depression and live a steady life, how to read the Bible within it’s own context, how to honor your spouse with love and attention to decrease divorce rates (the church statistic is the same as the secular), and awareness of other religious influences into our popular culture.
People here are evolving toward a more general spirituality and dabbling in yoga and other healing practices of oils and crystals and Reiki, while people in the East are seeing those ancient methods fail and turning joyfully to Jesus (Ravi Zacharias writes about this in, “Why Jesus?”). Something here has been lost in our understanding, causing us to seek out other ideas of God that might fit nicely into the generals of Christian doctrine, but in practice, application, and ideas about how God saves and grows us for the Kingdom and who He is, there is a difference we need to understand between the East and West thought.
“People here are evolving toward a more general spirituality and dabbling in yoga and other healing practices of oils and crystals and Reiki, while people in the East are seeing those ancient methods fail and turning joyfully to Jesus”
What does your morning routine consist of? A quick prayer, cuddle, shower, clothes on boys, bottoms in the car. I drive the kids to school and then either run errands, type something, or clean something. Holiness in just doing life with grace, working not [to] yell at the kids. I will have a season of quiet coffee and walks one day, but not today. I am ok with this. I read in short spurts, and try to play and clean hard enough burn some calories, take care of my body, choice-by-choice.
“I read in short spurts, and try to play and clean hard enough burn some calories, take care of my body, choice-by-choice.”
What is on your nightstand? On one side, there is a salt lamp, a crystal flower vase, a small gold and royal blue picture frame with the boys cuddling in a photo, and a mason jar of coconut oil with jasmine, lavender, and vanilla oils in it as a moisturizer. I almost burned my house down making that “lotion”. I decided to heat the oil on broil for a moment and forgot about it, as I was putting the boys to bed. Next I know, I was freaking out as the oven was full of flames. Then I threw water on it. DON’T THROW WATER ON OIL. It blows up bigger! I can’t believe I still have eyebrows. My husband said just turn the oven off. That worked. No water on oil, folks. Even inside the oven. On the other side is a pile of books, an oil diffuser, a turquoise vintage restaurant napkin holder I plan to put tissues in, and a colorful bird vase with fake grass sticking out of it.
“I can’t believe I still have eyebrows.”
Define Christianity in a sentence: A realization of and a lifestyle that preaches that we were created by one God, and created with free will, and that our Creator God has graciously given us the route to live as He intended in this life and in another that was set up by Himself, despite our inclinations of turning from Him.
For more Amberlin:
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Until next time, keep witnessing!