15 March, 2017

Why I Run - Again

There are a lot of organizations I stand by. There are lots that I will promote and spread the word about. But there are only two I engage with regularly, that I go above and beyond to actively participate with and give of my time and money to.

One of those is To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA). I have written about why I support TWLOHA before here, here, and here.

On April 15th I will run a 5k thru my neighborhood. I will be joined by people in all 50 states and 11 countries around the world, as well as those running in TWLOHA's "official" race in FL. (If you want to run with me, I'd love to have you!)

But the question posed is: What Will You Run For?

I truly believe that if I knew something like TWLOHA existed when I was in middle and high school things would have been very different for me.

I would have known I was not alone.

I would have known people cared.

I would have had a community to share my struggle with instead of isolating and being filled with shame, self-hatred and pain.

So, I run for those who still struggle with mental illness, for those who cut, for those who find life so difficult to navigate through.

I run against the stigma that keeps these issues in the dark. Stigma that keeps us labeling and blaming those who hurt to feel vs. helping them in a way they will be receptive to.

I run for myself and every day since the last day I cut. I run for the good days when life is amazing and the bad days that feel like a slog.

I run because it is a form of self-care and too often caring for ourselves gets lost when we struggle.

I run because I can.

And I want you to join me!

You can donate here.

You can run with me on April 15th wherever you are (just let me know)

(You can also get your official gear for the run here)

You can shop.

From now until April 15th, I am donating 15% of sales from my small business to TWLOHA. Any purchase made through my website or any Facebook event will go towards the total. If you would love to support TWLOHA and host an event with me, please let me know.

15 September, 2016

Daily Time with God

My morning routine is pretty established. I see my husband off to work, get my coffee cup, sit on the couch and pull out my Bible. For the next 45 minutes (ish), I read the Word, reflect and journal. I have come to see that my days are better if I give the Lord these first moments, before the sun is up, before I check social media, before I sit down with my planner and figure out my day.

I like to mix up my quiet times. I am reading through the Psalms with a friend. I am doing a study on Genesis. There are a few apps with daily readings I will sometimes use. I might read a book on faith by a trusted voice.

There is a balance to be had between listening to others and letting God speak to us. Time with just His Word removes the filter of another’s perspective, and gets us over the “lie” that we don’t know enough, aren’t educated enough, etc. to come to God directly.

God left us 66 letters to tell us about His heart and His ultimate plan: to make us holy and images of Himself. It’s an overwhelming and downright scary idea. It’s one we shy away from. We are content to be His disciples, and He wants to make us like His Son.

To do that we have to give up comfort, control, stability, luxury. We have to get messy and in the mud. We have leave behind prejudice, superiority, cultural standards, and isolation of the “other” and wade into the deep.

But it is what God calls us to. We look at people like Mother Teresa, Jim Elliot, Corrie Ten Boom, Dietrich Bonheoffer and others and marvel at their faith. I would argue they were not any more courageous or bold than you or me. They just took their faith seriously and let God have control over their lives.

We are all called to live like those individuals. We might not be called to love the lepers of India, to be murdered trying to bring His Word to the isolated, or to stand up against an oppressive government. But we are called to live a life marked by Him.

Let me give you a simpler example. My mother. She is an incredible woman. She works at an organization that, by getting people in America to send money monthly for a child in the third world, is able to send that child to school, provide food, medical care, etc. It’s an amazing idea. But sometimes people just want to give but not want to write the child they sponsor. My mother stands in the gap and writes those kids. At last count she is writing over 100 of them. She is faithful in monthly writing these 100+ children, to answering their letters and ensuring they know someone loves them and is thinking of them. She has even had the chance to meet a handful of them. It’s a powerful testament really.

Her actions are having an impact for these children, their families and generations that we won’t know until we reach heaven. I really believe it. She hasn’t left it all behind to go live in Honduras. But she is doing something to affect the world around her.

What Can You Do?

We have bought into this lie that to have our lives matter we have to do something extraordinary. We have to sell it all and move to the jungle. We have to start a shoe company that changes the world. We have to open a safe house in the worse part of the Red Light District.

If God calls you to that, amazing! But that calling will come from a walk with him. It is extraordinary – but you won’t go alone. God will be with you. God often gives us “simpler” ways to serve and love those around us.

For where you are, God could be calling you to:
  • Serve at a homeless shelter.
  • Become a CASA for a child in the foster care system.
  • Take in a foster care child (or three).
  • Offer the empty rooms in your home to a mother and her children who are homeless or want to leave a domestic violence situation.
  • Sew quilts for nurses to wrap around preemie babies in the ICU.
  • Cook chili once a week and take it down to the homeless in your area.
  • Do a potluck quarterly for your block (or the floor of your apartment) so people aren’t so isolated.
  • Start a bible study at the local juvenile detention center or jail.
  • Put down your cell phone and engage with your children, take them outside, let them choose. Learn what it means to play with your children.
  • Take your spouse out for a meal without your phones (or kids) and actually see them. Get to know them. Treat them like you did when you first met and that spark was everything. Love is a choice – so choose it with the one promised forever to.
  • Ask someone to go lunch who you know is isolated, a stay at home mom, a co-worker, the older lady across the hall.
  • Start a hiking group at your church.
  • Volunteer your time for a local nonprofit for their annual fundraising event.
  • Learn to be a ref for a local Paralympic sport. I tell you, wheelchair basketball, tennis, swimming, etc. is incredible to watch.
  • Ask someone if they’d like to meet for a weekly Bible study.
  • Support (or start) a local anti-trafficking group in your area.
  • Collect toiletry bags and clothing for the police or local SANE nurses to give out to women they encounter.
  • If you’re a photographer, volunteer your time to give teens in foster care senior photos, or to provide Christmas photos for low-income families or for parents of stillborn babies (find more here).
  • If you’re a tattoo artist, volunteer your services for girls tattooed by their pimps to get them removed or remade. You can also do it for women who’ve had mastectomies (see here)
  • If you’re a chef, offer to cook a gourmet meal for a foster care facility or ask your church if you can use a space in their building once a month and invite those in a four block radius to come get a free meal. (If your church says no – find a new church!).
  • Help organize a shopping day or Christmas shop for low-income, homeless, or foster care families to come and get clothes and items for Christmas.
  • If you are in a position to, offer an apprenticeship or training for a teen in foster care, a man getting out of prison, a mother re-entering the workforce after a divorce or leaving her husband who beat her.
  • Do some research and find out what groups work with resettled immigrants in your community. Ask how you can help.
  • Go to the local retirement facility and spend time with those who never have a visitor and are forgotten. Be there and love them.
  • Offer hair cuts to those seeking to re-enter the work force who don’t have the funds to get one (see here).
  • Coach a local teen sports league.
  • Organize an event for all those who work from home to feature their businesses.
  • Offer to help a woman start a stay at home business (some are really not that expensive), let her choose which one she feels she can really get behind.
  • Lead a workshop on finances, budgeting, basic bank services, etc. for a local nonprofit working with the disabled, low-income, women starting over, those just released from jail, etc.

The possibilities are endless. But God does call us to action in some form. The key, as we’ll get to next week, is the attitude in which we are serving. If we are doing it out of obligation, pity or self-righteousness (a harder one to ID then you think), then we are just an annoying squawk with no purpose because we have lost the point entirely. People can tell when we are there for the wrong reason.

So what can you do? Take some time this weekend, leave the screens behind (computer, TV and phone). Find a quiet place in your home or go for a walk. Take your Bible, notebook and pen and let God talk.

I will do an entry soon on quietness/stillness but for now let me say – let it come. Your mind will be jumbled, you will get antsy, you will want to reach for the distraction of your phone. But stay with it. Anything worth doing makes us uncomfortable. If it didn’t, then we can do it on our own and where can God work in that?

Can you give God 10 minutes of your time?
Ask Him to show you a place where you can love others around you.

It starts with being quiet before God on a regular basis. The rest will come. For now, find time in your day to meet with God and let Him show you who He really is.

13 September, 2016

The Lie of Having it All

We’ve all heard it. The pervasive lie that sneaks in when we least expect it and makes us feel like we are failing. It’s the lie of perfection. It’s the lie that somehow we can do it all at 100%. We can be fully present at our jobs. We can be there for our kids. We can take care of the house, volunteer at church, still have a social life, and somehow none of these plates are going to fall.

It’s a lie. One that it starting to crack. People are starting to realize that it is impossible to “have it all.”

In order to say yes to something, you have to say no to something else.

Shonda Rhimes writes about the wonderfully in The Year of Yes. (She also writes incredibly well about how motherhood is not a job (it’s who you are) and that it’s okay to get help with your kids). Read it. Please.

But there is no “having it all” unless it includes rest, relationships and a new definition of “success.” The theme of taking a step back and reevaluating our lives, what we are committed to, and what we have let define us, is coming up all over the place. This is a message we desperately need to hear and digest!

Last year I read Alli Worthington’s Breaking Busy, Emily Freeman’s Simply Tuesday and Lara Casey’s Make it Happen in rapid succession (I’d highly recommend all of them). They all speak to this idea that while we are busier than ever, we feel like we are getting less done and losing what really matters in our quest to conquer the out of control to do list.

Okay, let me get this straight. Worthington writes. Women are sacrificing sleep, recreation, hobbies, friends and even family on the altar of busyness. So we aren’t sleeping, aren’t taking care of our bodies, and we aren’t doing things we enjoy with people we love. Then what in the world are we doing? (pg. 22 - emphasis added)
Worthington talks about capacity. She looks at her cell phone as an example. Your phone can only do so much at one time. It will only work for so long without a recharge. We tend to keep going on empty, to try to do more on limited reserves. It just doesn’t work.


A year after reading all of these books I am still on overload.

I am not “busy” per say. My planner is mostly work, writing and working out. I do not have children, am not committed to anything outside of my home. My life is relatively stress free. But that does not mean I am not outside my capacity or am not overloaded.

I tend to focus on too many things at one time. In my creative life I try to push too many projects forward. I get too many ideas of things to try (got to love Pinterest). I will want to excel at cooking, become the perfect Bible journaler, and run my own business. I join clubs on Facebook I have no intention of engaging with and have more newsletters coming to my inbox than I will ever read. My desk is cluttered with impulse buys, notebooks and print outs to read and digest.

All of this can stimulation leads to feeling overwhelmed. To me it is a sign that something is not sitting right in my core.

Too often we restrict our barometer of busy to our planner, but what about how much time we waste multi-tasking or on social media or procrastinating?


What if we took a step back and looked at our habits. Where are we over-indulging? Is it food, shopping, TV, buying more planning supplies or books (guilty!)? It is volunteering everywhere? Or over-booking our children’s schedules? Or, is it subtler – like never putting down our cell phone and constantly checking our feeds?

All of these are a form of escape. Avoidance is easier than admittance and without admittance we will never take action to correct what is wrong.

According to my planner my life is the last thing from busy. But internally – in my head, in my heart and with my emotions – I am so overloaded it leaves me feeling empty, not creative and tired.

At the heart of all of this is learning to say NO!

Learning to say no when it comes to:
  • what we are committed to.
  • what and who we let define us.
  • whose voice we listen to.
  • believing the lie that we have to do it all.
  • making our lives appear like what we see on Pinterest.
  • this idea that we are our kids’ social activities director, when really I think kids today need engaged parents who eat dinner with them and ask them about their day.
  • the guilt and shame that is heaped on us by the very distractions we use to numb.

Rhimes’ book is about empowering herself to stop being the shy girl in the corner and move out into the world (seriously, read it now!). But maybe someone can write a book about stepping into the shadows and realizing that saying NO is the best thing most of us can do.

08 September, 2016

What I'm Reading

I set a goal to read 25 books in 2016.

I love to read. I spent most of my childhood doing it. It was my escape. It fed my imagination. It shaped me into who I am. My book collection is kind of like my music list - varied and dependent on what's going on around me. I go through phases of biography, faith based, books on my craft. I went years without reading a fiction novel. I now tend to read three books at once: one on faith, one on my craft and one fiction.

But in recent years the habit has faded. I buy books but don’t read them. I have the best of intentions but books end up half done (if that) and forgotten. Maybe it was grad school. Maybe it’s the distracted way I’ve lived for far too long. I realized if I wanted to read I needed to be intentional about it. I spend so much time at night zoning out with the TV or re-reading what I write. Instead, I am trying to be better about reading. I want to get away from the screen and read. It’s not about plopping down on the couch and looking at my phone instead of the computer, but opening a book, recharging instead of zoning out.

Like anything worthwhile in life it comes with intentionality. With four months to go, I need to read ten more books to reach my goal. Two and a half books a month? I think I can do it.

Here is what is currently on my bedside table:

Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen by Queen Liliuokalani

I am researching Hawaii’s overthrow for a book I am working on. Who better to learn from than the woman who saw it happen? Liliuokalani was the last queen of Hawaii. She took over after her brother died. The wheels of change were already set in motion. The queen, in an effort to get her side of the story out, published Hawaii’s Story in 1898. She hoped it would strengthen their efforts, put a stop to the overthrow of her nation. But it was not to be.

The queen writes about her life, how she grew up, her travels to London to see Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and the slow takeover of her homeland. The book was published before the final push by the American business community to full coup her kingdom. It is a key read for anyone wanting to understand the heart of these islands and helps put some context around the discussions happening now in Hawaii.

Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend

A Book of the Month selection for June, Enchanted Islands tells the story of Frances “Fanny” and her best friend Rosalie. It is loosely inspired by the memoirs of real life explorer to the Galapagos Frances Conway.

I am still in the start of the book. It is slow to get going. I will see what Amend does with the story, but question why some of this backstory is needed.

The book is set as Fanny looking back on her life, now an old lady in the retirement home with her lifelong friend Rosalie. They both escaped less than idea childhoods and have made a break to Chicago. I will stay with the book for a chapter or two more.

I am fine with rambling stories about life. It’s what I enjoy reading (Molokai, Home, Anna Karenina are some of my favorite books). It’s what I write. But I have to care about the characters and at this point I find Fanny too gullible and Rosalie overly self-absorbed. I know Rosalie isn’t going away and, based off her attitude in the first chapter, she doesn’t change. Unless Amend can endear me enough to Fanny to see her life through, I might leave the Islands and go research Conway’s life on my own.

A Writer's Diary by Virginia Woolf


I love journals. I love reading how other people see the world. I will almost always buy someone’s journal if I come across it in a bookstore because I think it one of the purest ways to really get to know someone. One catch - they can’t be selected. I don’t want someone going back and editing a person’s history. A journal is a private place. It is where we wrestle with the best and the worse of ourselves. It’s where we become. If a person can’t be real in their journal where they can? Edited journals to me are someone taking out what makes a person true.

I read Plath’s journal in college, the one edited by her husband Ted Hughes. Something was missing. Plath was a genius. She was deep, true and troubled - yes! But in her troubled-ness was her genius. Hughes tried to contain her. In how he edited her thoughts we lost a piece of who Plath was. I bought her unedited collection to read. I want to know Sylvia without her husband’s intrusion.

Woolf was a prolific journaler. I amend my protest against edited journals here because it is thematic. Her husband cut her words down to entries on writing, reading, the craft and what she was taking in as she worked on her own works. He lets us have a view of Woolf without editing her voice to fit his agenda (which I feel like Hughes did with Plath).

This book is repeatedly recommended in other writing books. I see why. It feels like a conversation with a master. It also challenges me to invite my reading and work into my journal. Woolf wrestles through books she read, where she is with her own work, and what is going on in circles around her.

A definite read for any budding writer or someone who enjoys Woolf’s work.

What are you reading?

01 September, 2016

Why I Kept Living

TWLOHA’s has released their statement for this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day campaign:


It came from Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. He says about it, “I think the statement is just a declaration that life is not always going to be the same, that when we feel we are in the bad place we have to ride it out, because there will be many better times, many better versions of us, which we can reach simply by holding (on). … Depression lies. And I found beauty in life after I thought it had been made extinct.”

TWLOHA goes onto explain, “At the heart of this campaign is an ask, that you will keep going. That you will stay and fight. And not just fight but rest, and let others fight as you recover. We should win and lose together, for that’s the way it’s meant to be. That’s a life best lived.

“Your story isn’t over. The air in your lungs is there for a reason. Let’s keep going. Let’s keep living.

“And so I kept living.”

Part of their efforts is for those of us who have kept living to say why. I have been open about how I cut in high school . It is part of who I am. I refused to be ashamed about it. But that is part II of the story.

Part I:

In eight grade life hurt. I was broken in so many ways. My heart was shattered from the loss of first affection (I refuse to even call it any form of love). I was lonely at school, at home. I was lost. There was a lot of pain ripping through my family. I felt left behind and forgotten. I learned to keep my head down and just don’t mess up. Don’t add to the chaos. Don’t make your parents cry. Be the good girl. Or more accurately: just survive without causing a sound.

It was hard. I needed something that was not there. Survival on fumes depletes everyone. I thought if there was one less person around things might be better.

I don’t remember which came first – cutting or suicide. It’s irrelevant really. I remember taking too many Advil and praying I wouldn’t wake up. I didn’t write a note. I didn’t give things away. I just wanted to decrease the chaos and dull the pain within myself.

A couple weeks after, a girl my age in our community shot herself. She found her father’s gun and took her life. A lot of people at my school knew her and it rocked us. Someone passed out ribbons. Her friends cried. It was something so unimaginable, sort of. I remember being jealous. Her pain was over and I’d failed to end mine. I remember shuffling between classes, waiting for a teacher to address what happened. Only they couldn’t, because what do you say?

I went to English (bless you Mrs. Dillon). She spoke into what was happening. She said our lives mattered. We mattered. She spoke into our pain, our questions and uncertainty. She asked none of us to do what this girl did because we all severely underestimated who cared about us. She was heartbroken this girl felt she no one to talk to but she hoped we all knew we could talk to her.

Just keep on living…

Mrs. Dillon saved my life.

I went home that day and something switched. Life would not always be this moment. Someday I would be out of high school. I could fly away to wherever I wanted to go and soar. I didn’t have to repeat the mistakes around me.

I wanted more for myself than where I was. And so that is why I kept living.

I still cut until I was sixteen. Resolve doesn’t mean chaos stops or pain heals. I knew which way to cut to die and which way to cut to hurt. I needed to hurt. I needed to feel. I needed something to control when life was uncontrollable.

But it was never again to die. I kept my eyes on the goal: someplace safe where I could be who I am. I didn’t find it until I was 22, at an internship program in DC. It was the first place I didn’t stutter when I said my own name. It was the place I could breathe and just be myself.

I kept living because I knew someday it would get better.

I kept living because life is so much bigger than middle school, high school or college.

I kept living because I refused to let pain, judgment, hatred and jealously win.

I kept living because I knew God was not done with me.

I kept living because tomorrow can be a really sweet victory to march towards.

I kept living, and I am so glad I did.

Find out more about TWLOHA’s campaign here.

30 August, 2016

A Fear of Success

I was struck again this week with the realization that I have a very acute fear of success.

I am tired of the self-sabotage; tired of my best intentioned dreams being littered behind me like forgotten gifts after Christmas. I am tired of being really excited to get out their for my business, or to try and meet new people (making friends in adulthood sucks by the way), only to have my borderline social anxiety keep glued to the chair and see opportunity turn into frustration.

So I did what someone with my bent does, I googled, ‘how to overcome fear of failure.’ I found some interesting articles (1, 2, 3). I made notes in my bullet journal, ready for that ah ha! moment to come. But at the end of it all I was left with a list of questions and the realization that staying on the surface wasn’t going to cut it.

I ended up at the beach on Friday. Listening to the waves hit, with a backdrop of other people’s conversation, I let my mind rest enough to consider why I'm sabotage myself when it comes to my dreams.

To put it into perspective, I am currently spending a lot of time writing, working on a couple manuscripts, trying to get my career launched. I write historical fictions, women’s lit, and nonfiction thoughts on faith and life.  I have a journal company where I try to infuse the ideas of intentionality, deliberate faith, and knowing thyself into something meaningful.

I also sell fair trade jewelry made by women all over the world. It’s gorgeous, well made and unique. You can wear it knowing the person who crafted it was treated well, paid fairly and edified in her work. It’s right up my alley: women’s rights, women’s empowerment, connecting people around the world, educating people here about human trafficking, the reality for widows in much of the world, the truth behind most international adoptions, and the power we have with our dollar to effect change.

I love what I do. For the first time ever I can focus on the heartbeats of who I am. This should be my golden moment, my bliss, that time in a TV show where I am spinning around throwing my hat in the air with a huge grin on my face.

So why do I feel so inadequate? Small. Unprepared. Uncertain.

Are these the fears of starting something new? Starting a small business takes courage. Putting your voice into the world takes gumption. Going from a 9-5, to making it on your own is enough to petrify many to stay within the lines.

But that isn’t what this is.

I know how to grow my business. I make plans to do it and then don’t follow through. I edit, and edit, and reedit my stories but never get to the point of identifying an agent and writing a letter.

These choices frustrate me. They make me want to slink away. But part of me says, No! This is what I want. Just do what you need to.

But I know what life is like here. I know life in the trenches. I know what it is to fight for what you want. To dig and plan and try to get so you can see the land above. But the land above is scary. It’s unknown.

What if I actually make a higher level in my company and earn enough so my husband can quit his job and get his run at pursuing what he loves?

What if my voice resonates and people care what I have to say? What if I write books and put myself out there and people actually listen?

Why are these dreams scary instead of invigorating?

My first reaction is childhood. I was raised to be seen and not heard. I was raised to serve others and pull my identity by ensuring other people were taken care of.

I also stuttered severely as a child, something that hindered my ability to speak up for myself. 

I was told I would never be a writer because I could not spell.

I can list these offenses almost without thinking. Part of me wants to brush them off – that can’t be it. It’s too easy. I’ve dealt with those issues before.

So what’s underneath? If those are the surface, what lurks beneath them? Even now I am having to fight the urge to get on social media, to numb, to look for another article to answer what I can only find in myself.

This is a journey. One I invite you to come on with me. I will try to be candid here, to write with intentionality, love and honesty, to get to the core of what all of this means, to dive into the muck of my own heart, the hurt of the past, the fear of the future. Behind it all is the question: can I place my future in God’s hands and leave it there?

To the journey friends.

25 August, 2016

Loving the Woman at the Well

“This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:35 (MSG)

Recently a friend made a decision that changed everything. The ripples left behind have caused a lot of pain. Some people are building walls, hunkering down, letting anger be their shield and protection.

There is judgment. There is hurt. There is separation. But as I have walked with my friend through this time, able to see her reasoning on one end and the fallout on the other, I have often asked (and been asked) what does it mean to love her?

I turn to the woman at the well, a story I cling to because I have been that woman more than once.

The woman, oh how I wish we knew her name, knew the Word. It was steeped into her. She questioned Jesus on His place compared to Jacob. She knew a lot of the history of Israel and responded to Jesus’ reference to scripture with her own.

While she knew the Word and its history, she was not living it.

She knew what it was to trust God intellectually, but it was not in her heart. It did not affect her life.

She wasn’t even going through the motions of faith, and yet within her was a call to something better. Something kept her close to the Word even if her outside choices did not reflect it.

Too often we want someone to behave as we think they ought to before we engage. We hope our distance, our silent judgment, will correct their behavior. But as we look to the well, Jesus loved this woman in the midst of her struggle. He made reference to her sin only once. He did not tell her to leave her current lover and then come back. He did not let her sin keep Him from associating with her.

This is not a denial of her sin. Jesus had so much more for her. But He gave her the time and space to figure it out for herself.

God can hear us through our pain. He can hear our small cry when we are full of doubt. He is there when we are lost to even ourselves. The path is long and steep. It takes time, patience, maybe the loss of a few things dear to us, but God is there always, calling us to simply worship Him as we are.

To love my friend is to be there for her. To listen, encourage, challenge, and call her to a God who still sits at the well. I will not cast judgment on those who have chosen a different definition. I do know that during my time of greatest trial I would have loved someone to sit with me and say:

“Be someone who is simply and honestly yourself before God in worship” (John 4:21-23 MSG). Broken. Unsure. Imperfect.

That, to me, is love.

© Amanda Lunday