Amy Lanham

finding beauty in the middle of the mess

Category: Experiences (page 1 of 8)



If you suddenly had to pack up most of your belongings, but you couldn’t take everything, what would the things left behind say about you? The recent hurricanes have me thinking about things like this.

The other day my husband and I had the chance to explore an old, abandoned home. And not just old, but built in 1870. There were so many amazing features, and some not so amazing due to the lack of care for who knows how long.


The once beautiful stained glass around the front door gave the entry character, as well as this piece inside the home that the camera on my phone doesn’t do justice to. I also loved the double-sided fireplace.


I loved the entrance to the backyard. I’m even more impressed with how I caught the rays of light filtering down. As you can tell from my photos, I’m clearly not a photographer, but sometimes I fancy myself to be one.


The ruined garden showed the previous owners possessed a touch of whimsy. They clearly loved nature. There was a composter on the property and even a small greenhouse built on to what I imagine might have been an art studio, but that’s purely conjecture.


I’ve always wanted a house with little access doors like you see below. They just make my imagination run wild. My cousin had a small door that led into her unusually shaped closet at the top of the house when I was little and I thought that was so amazing. The poet, James Whitcomb Riley, had one like this in his house and he made up poems about it. My gramma used to read this one to me:

Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,–An’ when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs, His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl, An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wuzn’t there at all! An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press, An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’-wheres, I guess; But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an’ roundabout:–An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you Ef youDon’tWatchOut! –from “Little Orphant Annie”


As I walked through the house, I tried to piece together my own story of what the owners were like and what they valued and enjoyed. While doing so, it made me wonder what someone would think about me if I suddenly pulled up roots and left pieces of my life behind.


Hmm…what do you think?

So, I did a little online research, and it turns out that many of my suspicions were accurate. It’s fascinating what just a few items can convey and what a home can say about a person, even when nearly stripped empty.

We love to watch home improvement shows at our house. Recently, we’ve been watching Good Bones which is actually based in Indianapolis. Many of the homes they renovate are historic homes just like this one and often have layers of items left behind. How does that even happen? Do the people die? How can they manage to leave all of their possessions behind? Abandoned homes scream tragedy to me, so I love to watch the people who can bring them back to life.

I’ve always had a big imagination. When I was in third grade I got in trouble because I scared my friend Hope with a story I made up about a house in the woods you could see from our neighborhood. Her mom called my mom because my tales of potential ghouls in the house gave her nightmares. I’m not sure whether to laugh now or be mortified! I think the people in this house were a bit interested in ghouls themselves.

So, here are my final questions. Would your home reflect a person you would be proud of if someone were to piece together the leftover puzzle of your life? Is the person you portray to others the person you actually are? Sometimes who we are and who we desire to be can be vastly different. Let that soak in for a bit. For me, these are sobering questions.

Here’s to more imagination,




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?

Handprints on the Window

When is the last time you waited for something with eager anticipation?

I doubt many of you reading this enjoy spring cleaning, but I’m sure there might be some of you out there that get excited about it. As of this week, spring has officially sprung, and with that brings the need for a few extra tasks around the home. One of the main tasks that usually tops my list is cleaning the windows inside and out. Ugh.

Our front window in the living room is the biggest and tends to get the dirtiest. I sighed as I began to clean off the handprints and fingerprints coated on the inside. Not only was I having to clean the window, but the curtains too. Grubby hands had pulled them back one too many times, and who knows what stains were contained in the fibers.

“I have a 9 and 12-year-old. When in the world will they stop smearing their fingers all over the place?” I wondered as I sprayed the glass cleaner.

Suddenly, as I scrubbed, I felt a powerful nudging in my heart to be grateful for those little prints. First, they are an indication of life inside our home, and more specifically, the life of young people that are growing all too quickly. There will come a day that I will be sad to have immaculate windows. Truly, I will.

Secondly, and a thought that was even a bit more sobering, was that those prints represent anticipation. How did they get there in the first place? They got there from the times my kids ran to the window to see who had arrived at our house. Long minutes spent waiting for friends coming over to play. Standing at attention as they longed for their dad’s truck to pull in the driveway coming home from a business trip. Hoping for the mail truck to arrive (do postal workers realize how much joy they often bring people?). Birthday party days where the boys eagerly awaited family and friends to join us. Hands pressed against the window as one or the other of them waited for grandparents to show up and take them somewhere. I can hear the calls from the living room…”How more minutes, mom?” “When did they say they would be here?”

Over the years, time has been spent at that window watching the garbage truck do its job, awestruck. Watching construction equipment in neighbors’ yards. Gazing at the moon or at a sunset. Observing a snowfall or rainstorm.

I long for that kind of anticipation and wonder in my life. Why do we lose it? Does it slowly fade, or is it there one day and gone the next? What is it in us that disappears that no longer spurs us to place our hands against the glass?

My mind wandered to this topic in relation to my faith. Psalm 130:5 says, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Is this true of you? Could you honestly say this? Sometimes I think I get too complacent in my faith. I need to make known the things that I yearn for to God, then sit back in hopeful expectation. I miss the childlike days of longing.

Think about it. What are some things you anticipate? What do you long for? If that question is hard to answer, maybe, like me, you need to make some adjustments. Call a friend so you can look forward to having dinner or coffee. Plan a get together so you can await your guests. Sign up to volunteer somewhere so you can wake up ready to make a difference in someone’s life. Investing in others can be a great cure for a lack of excitement or purpose. I feel that anticipation on Thursdays when I am getting ready to meet the teen girls that I mentor. Also, on Friday mornings, when I walk in the church where my roomful of young mamas will be and I wonder just how God is going to show up that day to prompt them to make changes in their lives and in their homes. I can picture myself on those days with my face pressed up against the glass.

I love how God can take a moment of frustration and turn it  into something beautiful. Remember, many of the messes we deal with exist because of the beautiful life that surrounds us.


Those fingerprints on the window
Made by sticky hands
Make you shake your head right now
But one day you will understand.
Palms pressed longingly to the glass
Made with an eager heart
Waiting for dreams to be fulfilled
You will miss them when they depart.
As you wipe them away offer praises
For they will disappear by and by
Soften your heart to anticipation
Let it become your soul’s cry.





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