Big Dreams Start Here

Chris Fly Fishing

Yesterday didn’t start out like a good dream. Unless of course, you consider waking up to a filthy kitchen a dream come true. My first moments of consciousness were welcomed by the irritation that comes when the young men I live with don’t do what they say they are going to do. Instead of a smile, my heart was grumbling, “I’m sick of this crap.”

I am the token female in this house, and although most days I love and adore my boys, there are some days where I want to scream, “I must have sanitary conditions!”

So, even though I often feel like Cinderella pre-fairy godmother, thanks to God, my days often turn into something a little more princess like. Yesterday was definitely one of them.

My Dad, my husband, my brother, and I have a tradition of going to an annual fly fishing show at a local fly fishing shop. Even though my brother couldn’t come this year, we carried on.(We missed you PM!)

After a stop for donuts and coffee we met my Dad and stood outside in line for an hour so we could be some of the first 100 people to get goodie bags. These bags hold the possibility of fun things like gift cards, hats, product cash, stickers, etc.

Fly Fshing show group shot

The theme of the show this year was “Big Dreams Start Here.” I love fly fishing. The arc of the cast soaring backward in a perfect loop and then gliding forward and laying out in front of the fisherman. The fly landing gently on the top of the water like the bug it’s meant to imitate. I love fly fishing.

And yet, I’ve never fly fished. Yeah, you read that right. I’ve never been in the river with waders and a fly rod. I’ve taken pictures of my Dad and husband doing it but I’ve always watched from the shoreline.

Yesterday at the show, God surprised me with his tender care for the little dreams I hold tucked down in my heart. My small dream found its beginning.

In my goodie bag was 1 out of 5 $100 gift cards to use in the shop. I also had $35 worth of product cash. With just a minimal amount out of our own pocket, I was able to buy waders and boots for less than what the waders cost. The fun didn’t stop there.

The owners do raffles all day long and in the afternoon I tied with a guy for a $120 fishing pack but lost in the tie breaker. A half hour later, my competition, a young man I’d never met until the raffle, called me over to him and told me he wanted me to have the bag. He insisted and I will not forget him or his generous gift. The young man’s name is Lucas and he didn’t just give me an awesome pack.

When he put it in my hands, I heard God whisper to my heart, “Just because I love you.”

I walked away in awe because I knew that was a gift from my father in Heaven. I knew He was saying, “Daughter, I know how hard things have been lately. I know you feel weary. I know you’ve been praying for ways to connect with me. Let’s go fishing…”

At the end of the day, my husband won the grand prize for the second year in a row, a brand new fly rod. Chris picked it up, walked back towards me and handed it to me with a kiss. I now am a proud owner of my very own fly rod!

I know God is the same every day and His love never changes and yet, I know that His love comes to us in extra special ways sometimes, just because.

Sometimes big dreams start with little dreams. I’m thankful that even if my dreams are small, my Abba in Heaven is big.

Enjoy God all the time…but don’t let the moments pass when He bends down to tell you something special. This is part of the adventure of loving Him and being loved by Him.

Big Dreams Start Here…with our big God.

Has God ever answered a small unspoken dream in your heart? I’d love to hear what it was in the comments below.

Aimee Fly Rod

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Intimacy Exposed

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In the last blog, I invited you to join me on a journey. We asked God to love us up close, intimately. I don’t know about you, but when I think of intimacy, visions of candles, sweet conversation over coffee, and hopefully chocolate drift through my mind.

I daydream longingly about all the possibilities of uninterrupted time in each others presence. This goes for my time with my husband or with my Lord. Wait, you don’t eat chocolate during some of your quiet times? Anyway…

There is something very important I forgot to say about true intimacy when I invited you on this journey, so I want to make mention of it now. Let me tell you a story…

Imagine me, a wife, who is looking forward to a special alone time with my special mister. Maybe no special date has been set for this moment, but my heart is longing for that time together, a time to reconnect, to be sure of him, of him and me.

One night after a busy day at work, dealing with drama at home, and then collapsing into bed, my husband smiles at me with a slight twinkle in his eye. Now, one would think that the invitation to intimacy would have me excited and throwing back the sheets. I mean, I’ve been daydreaming about this time to reconnect, right?

Instead of turning towards him with my own twinkling eye, I turn away for a moment and blow hopefully minty fresh breath into my palm. Oh wait, I haven’t brushed my teeth yet and I ate garlic for dinner. Then I berate myself in my mind as I think back to my time in the shower that morning when I saved a few minutes by choosing to skip the razor and go into my day more like a Sasquatch than a supermodel.

In the moment where intimacy is ready to connect with me, my ultimate vulnerability is about to be exposed, and all I can think about is my imperfections and what makes me feel ugly and unacceptable.

What if he sees my hairy pits? What if he gags when I breathe on him? What if he sees how ugly I really am?

True intimacy doesn’t come when both parties are perfect but when the one looking upon you casts away all doubt by seeing you fully exposed and not turning away.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.1 John 4:18-19

Some of my most intimate times with my husband are not the days where my legs are shaved and my hair is done and I smell like, well, whatever he wants me to smell like…

The most intimate times are when he has seen me, completely exposed in every way, and his eyes have only held love for me.

Imagine Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2:25, it says, And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (ESV) They were fully exposed to a holy God and they were not ashamed. They had intimacy with God. That close familiarity, one to whom the thoughts of another are entrusted without reserve, to love entirely, to make one intimate to enter…

I would venture a guess that most of us are not living Genesis 2:25. We are more experiencing Genesis 3:9-10. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (ESV)  Intimacy has been broken, we are separated, we are afraid to trust or to love entirely, and we don’t know how to allow that closeness because our sin and shame has hidden us in the bushes.

I want you to know that as we embark on this journey to deeper intimacy with God, it’s not going to be all candles, shaved legs, and chocolate. It’s going to be vulnerable and scary and awkward and at times you will want to turn away.

When you wake in the morning and you hear God call to you, or in the midst of your day you hear that still small voice, I want to challenge you not to hide yourself away from the God who comes to walk with you.

The beautiful thing about the story in Genesis is that it was only the beginning. God still demonstrated his care for his creation when he clothed them before they exited the garden. He covered their shame even then and we can trust Him to cover ours now.

This isn’t going to be easy, but I don’t want to live the rest of my life in the bushes. (I hear there are snakes in there.) I want to walk in the garden with God.

Still want to join me?

Love Me Up Close…

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For the past few years, I have prayed and asked God for a word that I might focus on in the year to come. The last two years my words were order and restoration. This year, my word both frightens and excites me. It is INTIMACY.

The following are definitions from the Webster’s Dictionary 1828 – Online Edition.

IN’TIMACY, noun [from intimate.] Close familiarity or fellowship; nearness in friendship.

IN’TIMATE, noun A familiar friend or associate; one to whom the thoughts of another are entrusted without reserve.

IN’TIMATE, verb transitive [Low Latin intimo, to intimate to register, to love entirely, to make one intimate to enter, from intimus.]

Close familiarity, one to whom the thoughts of another are entrusted without reserve, to love entirely, to make one intimate to enter…

These struck me. Is anything stirring in your heart as you read the above? I don’t know about you, but I have missed God. I am weary of this world’s version of Him. I want Him.

God knows that the pain and challenges of life can cause us to withhold our hearts, not only from those around us, but most tragically from Him.

In the coming year, I hope this blog will be a place to talk about the journey God has me on as I entrust myself to Him with fresh intention. I’d love to have you join me if you too long for an intimacy with God. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to join me.

I am certain this will be challenging. There are some things we must be willing to do to go on a journey like this. We must be willing to repent of the things that are revealed to us about our own hearts. We must be willing to let go of all other things and focus our minds on God alone. We must humbly approach the throne of grace so that the intimacy can flow both ways. We must allow Him to prepare us for intimacy with love Himself.

My brokenness has made me ready, has yours?

Lord, my prayer is simple. I know that what I am asking is beyond my comprehension. Yet, I am still asking. Please come and love me up close.

It’s almost Christmas…

IMG_1811I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to hope lately. Actually, if I’m honest, I’ve been thinking more about hopelessness.

And, yet, it’s almost Christmas. The season of hope, joy, peace, and love. However, I don’t think I’ve ever felt the heartbreak of life like I have this year.

My eyes have rested upon young people who struggle to feel that they belong in this world, so much so they try to end their life. My ears have heard the voices of old men who’ve lost their wives of over 50 years begin to cry like a child as they tell me about their great love.

Oh, how I’ve cried with each of these as they’ve allowed me to sit with them in the empty places in their hearts.

My eyes have seen them, my ears have heard them, and my heart, for the first time, is truly beginning to understand what a true gift it is to have a place to put down our pain and pick up hope instead.

I’ve been wondering why my own heart has felt its own empty places so very much this year. I’ve questioned. I’ve yelled. I’ve cried. I’ve felt broken and in despair. I haven’t known where to put my pain.

I realized all of this as I sat at a work party where great gifts were being given away in a raffle. As I held my red ticket and looked down every time they called a number, I realized I was sitting on the edge of my seat. I was hoping. I had forgotten what that felt like.

Hopelessness had taught me to expect nothing. And yet, it is almost Christmas.

The work party came to a close with the singing of Silent Night and I thought about what it would have been like to see a star, see a baby, and know God had fulfilled a promise to a broken people. And I realized something very important.

Without expecting that hope would come, they would not have known that hope had arrived. God’s miraculous promise would have been nothing more than an unusually bright star and a poor dirty baby.

This year, my heart has felt broken more by the pain and confusion of this world, and yet in contrast, the hope that comes from a great God willing to come to a broken people is coming to life inside of me.

Not only has He given us a place to put our pain, but he became the place to pick up Hope.

It’s almost Christmas.

My prayer for myself as well as for each of you is that in the silent night, under the star shining bright, you would stop to look in the manger.

Do you see what I see?

Is it Emmanuel? God with us? Or is it just a poor dirty baby?

Let hope decide…

Fall’s Fresh Breath

There have been a lot of changes for me recently. I am still a Resident Adviser at the Joel Home, but I have also taken on a job with The Navigators. Now that my full-time training is over, I hope to get back to offering more consistent posts as I settle into a new routine with my schedule.

Here is a poem I wrote this past week while sick in bed. I hope you enjoy it. After reading, let me know what your favorite thing is about the changing seasons, I can’t wait to hear!

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Fall’s Fresh Breath

Oh do you feel the cold breeze blow?
Promising winter chills and falling snow
Whispering that leaves are changing
Colors bright, colors fading

Blow, breeze blow! Bring your peace
Chimneys smoking, cozy fleece
Cups of warmth wrapped tight in hands
Sheep wool skies, a quieted land

The air holds fall, winter close behind
Lay back sweet soul, breathe restless mind
Inhale deep, the fresh wind blowing
Close your eyes, exhale knowing

The fingers of God move through your hair
Whispering to you, dear one, a new season will soon be here
The painter of the valleys and hills has begun
So open the window, and let the fresh air come

Copyright 2015 Aimee Haywood

Fighting With Hope

We have three young men’s lives in our hands. Lives that so far have experienced neglect, abuse, and abandonment. Lives that are broken and aren’t just laying in pieces but lives that are missing pieces all together.

I lay there, staring at the ceiling. God, how do we do this? Who are we to heal their deep hurts? Who are we to silence the voices that have told them they’re worthless or an object to be used? Hopelessness tried to get me to pull the covers over my head. And yet, hope stilled my hands.

When my husband and I decided to move into a home where we would care for young men aging out of foster care we didn’t think life was going to get easier. From the moment we applied, we knew our dependence on the one who tends to our own brokenness would increase.

Jesus alone is the healer, and right now my husband and I often sense Jesus asking us to be his paramedics. We are living in a home with wounded hearts that are in critical condition. They could die, but the other option is that they could live. We, more often than not, live in emergency mode. We are constantly assessing a situation and determining what the best course of action is to sustain life so that more can be done to change the future of these young men.

Like a paramedic, we urgently attempt to transport them to the one who has the power to heal deeply and truly. Every day we put one foot in front of the other, hoping to lead them one step closer to Jesus. One step closer to the one that sets his life and his hope over their hearts, protecting them from that which intended to harm them.

There is a quote I love from the book Les Miserables that says, “If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.” These young men have been in darkness where they have committed sins but have also had horrible sins committed towards them. And yet, as the quote above says, the guilty one is the one who causes the darkness.

There is an enemy and he is after these young men, but so are we. We are coming with the light to push back the darkness, but there is resistance. The enemy doesn’t want people to be saved. He wants them left in darkness to die of the wounds he’s inflicted and possibly become ones who inflict harm as well.

But, we believe God brought these young men into this home so that the ending of their stories would be different. These young men in our care were not given rooms here so that they will leave as wounded as they came in. Hospitals don’t admit people in the hopes that death will come. People are brought in so that every measure can be taken for them to live.

It is not easy fighting for a life. There are moments of strength and moments of weakness. We have felt protected and we have felt vulnerable. We have felt hope and yet at the same time brokenhearted when we have seen how hard hope will have to fight for these young men. Luckily our hope is Jesus. We can’t win this fight without him, so we fight with hope.

Who in your life are you fighting for? It may be someone in your family or at work or maybe it’s even you.

Can I ask you to embrace one truth?

This is not your forever. I want you to stop for a moment and put yourself before Jesus. Reach out and grab his hands and cling to those hands until you can breathe again.

The one who is holding your hands, He is your forever.

Jesus won’t reject, abuse, neglect or abandon. He accepts, cares, protects and gathers all of us into his home when we have been left for dead. If you can’t find hope anywhere else, find your hope in that.

So many in this world are right now wondering if where they are, what they are feeling is their forever. Let’s show them that it’s not.

Take hold of their hand and take them one step closer to Jesus.

I’d love to hear how it goes…

An Unknown Mother

I am an unknown mother.

I stayed seated at church when all the mothers in the room were asked to stand up. I clapped and smiled for them and the little ones by their side, in their arms, or filling out their tummies.

Not many know that four years ago exactly I could have stood up, but that my husband and I lost our little one the afternoon before.

I am an unknown mother.

My pastor stood to give the message. Before he began, he paused and said he also wanted to honor those of us who have not been able to have a child. To honor those of us who are mothers in a different way.

My husband squeezed my shoulder. I didn’t hear anything my pastor said after that.

I wept unseen tears, lost in the memories of four years ago when my story took an unexpected turn, never to be like the stories of my friends. On Mother’s Day that year we sat at the kitchen table, watching our church service online, my body aching and my heart breaking from the fresh loss. That weekend I was an unknown mother.

Might this be you too?

I remember a few days after I lost my baby, my brother and his family came to see us. My brother got out of his car and walked to me and hugged me, saying nothing, wrapping me in his strength.

Just like he didn’t use words, I won’t either. There is nothing I can say to ease the pain that many of you are feeling today. I just want you to know you are not alone.

I often have wondered how our life would have been different and honestly, everything would have been. We wouldn’t have moved to Uganda for 5 months and had one of the greatest adventures in our marriage so far. We wouldn’t now be the resident advisers in a home that provides a family environment for young men aging out of foster care.

Do I still wish I could hold my child? Absolutely. Even though I cannot, I am still a mother. My mother’s heart still lives. I still give really good hugs and pull my muscles wrestling with my nephews. I still paint my fingernails with my nieces. And I most definitely worry and pray for the young men in my care without them ever knowing.

And I still cry whenever I watch an ultrasound or see my husband hold our littlest niece who finds his arms a cozy and safe place for a nap. I still cry, and you will too.

But, in the midst of this day that can cause so much grief, I say to you, though you have lost life, you can still bring life into this world. Being a mother isn’t defined only by the children by our sides, in our arms, or filling out our tummies. A mother is defined by the love held in our hearts.

My prayer today is that the God who sees you would hold you even tighter than my brother held me. Our God understands the pain of losing a child. You are not unknown to Him.

I have included some videos below. One is the story of my favorite hymn, It is Well with my Soul by Horatio Spafford. The other is a newer rendition of it with other lyrics added in.

May they minister to your heart wherever you are on your mother’s journey.

If you feel led to leave a comment, it surely will let others know they are not alone. Let us love and celebrate our mother’s hearts today.