Amy Lanham

finding beauty in the middle of the mess

Category: Encouragement (page 1 of 20)

Stretching Yourself

What is something that scares you when it comes to interacting with other people? For me, I can get up in front of hundreds of people with a prepared speech and be nervous, but not feel like I’m going to die. Put me with a small group of even just four people that I don’t know to simply chat about life, and I feel like my heart is going to stop.

This may sound a little dramatic, but I’m only exaggerating a little bit. Sunday evening, our church provided space for a group for international students at IU to host their welcome banquet. A good friend of ours was in charge of planning the event. He invited us to be table hosts for the evening. My husband was game, but me…not so much.

I very reluctantly chose to join him. My heart was thumping out of my chest. “What am I going to say to these people? What if they can’t speak English very well? I don’t even know how to talk to Americans.” All of these were thoughts going through my head. My husband politely kept encouraging me to get a grip. He knew I was ready to jump out of my own skin.

We ended up with two masters students from India who spoke English fluently and a Chinese woman with her daughter who knew a little of the language. We had our boys join us at the table to make the little girl feel more comfortable. The evening consisted of food, door prizes for the student, a dance by some doctoral students from India and an instrumental performance/calligraphy demonstration by students from China.

Here were some of my observations:

1) Sometimes what we build up in our heads to be terrible isn’t that bad in reality.

2) Gathering people from multiple countries is a beautiful thing. Diversity should intrigue us, not frighten us.

3) Culture truly is fascinating in how what can be acceptable in once place can be totally unacceptable in another. I love how dance is such a huge part of India’s culture. It makes me sad that growing up with a conservative Christian background that I got the impression dancing was something to be looked down on.

4) Exposing our kids to people of different cultures is so important! We need to teach them to embrace the beauty of differences. My boys thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

5) Our international guests attending IU are brave! I can’t imagine going to another country to live knowing very little about their culture or language. I’m so glad our church is willing to provide a place to reach out to these individuals and show them that at least some of us in this country are eager to welcome them and help them adjust.

In the span of two hours, we learned so much! I rarely regret pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. My guess is, you wouldn’t either. Take a chance and put yourself in a position to get to know someone different from yourself.

Oh, and that awesome banner in the picture? My husband designed it. #proudwife

What is something you have done for others that you did reluctantly, but were glad you did it later?

It’s the Little Things

“Look what I just bought!” my mother-in-law beamed as she proudly produced a brand new sugar container. She proceeded to show me the nifty way it opened, unlike the jars of old with the little metal flap.

Now, most people would likely not be impressed with her recent purchase, but for me, it was special.  The appearance of this sugar container in her home was a direct result of her thinking of me. When we have family gatherings my father-in-law always makes coffee. Two pots–one regular and one decaf. Of all of my family members, I’m the only one who uses sugar. A side note: I tried for a whole month to drink it black…I. can’t. do. it.

The older I get, the more and more I realize that it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day. We have neighbors who keep a special kind of soda in their fridge for the neighbor boy. Growing up, I had neighbors that kept a special drawer in their kitchen that had snacks just for me. My mamaw would often make me banana pudding (one of my favorites) and my grandma would have cheese curls, corn chips, and other treats. When people pay attention to your likes and dislikes, it means something. I keep croutons around, mainly because one of my son’s friends loves to snack on them. Suddenly, I’m noticing a food theme, how about you?

What do you do in your home for someone that says, I see you? Have you given a friend something lately to let you know you are thinking of them? It doesn’t take much. A favorite candy bar, a book you know they’ll like, or even just a quick note of encouragement are all things that let people know they are on your mind. If you have been the recipient of someone’s generosity this way, you know how much it means. We all know how these things make us feel, but too often our pace of life gets in the way of taking the time to bless others. Don’t underestimate the importance of letting others know you truly “see” them.

Comment below with an example of how someone has made you feel extra special!



Letting Your Light Shine

“Mom, will you help me fill out this question? It says, ‘Describe the qualities you possess that would make you a good ambassador.'”

My youngest was completing an application for school for a role that is in some ways like a student council member. He was the ambassador for his other elementary school in second grade and loved the job. He was taking the process quite seriously.

I gave him a couple of examples of things to list so he knew what was expected. He carefully and painstakingly wrote out his qualities. I walked over and looked over his shoulder. It read, “I am kind, helpful, responsible, trustworthy, and brilliant.” A smile crept over my face.

Initially, I thought about saying, “Hey, buddy. Brilliant might not be the best word in this situation.” But, I stopped myself. Why not? Of course, as his mama, I do think of him as brilliant, yet somehow the word has a bit of a bragging tone to it, right?

“Ahhh!” he exclaimed. “I was supposed to do it in cursive. He began furiously erasing the words, and then proceeded to even more carefully make his list.

Later, after he had already packed it away, I went to take a picture of it (that’s what bloggers do when they think they might have a good blog post in the works). When I looked at the paper this time it said, “I am kind, helpful, responsible, and trustworthy.” Brilliant was sadly out of the picture. Somehow, without me even saying anything, his gut told him it shouldn’t be included.

One of the definitions of brilliant is to be exceptionally clever or talented. Even if we are truly brilliant at something, our culture teaches us not to share that out loud with other people. We might describe our family, friends, or even strangers with that word, but certainly not ourselves.

However, there is another definition of brilliant which is “very bright or radiant.” This is something I think everyone of us should strive for.  In Philippians 2:14-15 we read: “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” Additionally, Matthew 5:16 tells us: “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

If you are reading this and you are a Christian, you are an ambassador. In 2 Corinthians 5:20, it actually says this: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”

There has been crazy stuff in the news lately about people claiming to be Christians, yet spreading messages of hate. This is in direct opposition to what we read in scripture. Our light is to shine brilliantly, pointing the way to a Creator God and displaying His glory.

Friends, regardless of your religious beliefs, we all have a light. We can all shine in such a way to spread kindness, inclusion, acceptance, and grace. Who are you not to be brilliant?

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. —Marianne Williamson

Together, we can make a difference.


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