Amy Lanham

finding beauty in the middle of the mess

Category: Mess (page 2 of 20)

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.





When Boxes Become Cages


Recently, one of my favorite friends wrote a blog post and this one line stood out to me more than any other: “I want to write about being multidimensional when you want to make me black or white.”

I will admit, my own words here are motivated primarily by the political rhetoric that has been going on in recent months, but as I thought about the topic, it evolved into so much more.

Why do humans like labels so much? We try to wrap people up in a neat little box.  Does it make us feel safe? Validated? Purposeful? Smarter? Like we belong?

When I taught elementary school, great debate occurred over whether or not it was beneficial to “label” students with certain disabilities. Some parents, and some educators, felt the label might cause teachers to underestimate the abilities of the child. I agree it is a valid concern, but as an educator I found it helpful to know a student’s struggle and it helped me have at least a ballpark idea of how to best address the student’s needs.

Even accurate labels encompass such a spectrum, though.

A child with autism is still vastly unique from another child with autism, and what works for one may not work for another.

The same holds true for religions. To say a person is Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, etc. is wide-encompassing. I pause to think about issues which people in my own church hold different beliefs about, let alone the entire religion of Christianity.  I once heard a man speak who considers himself to be a Christian who said he feels the entire Bible is up for personal interpretation. That is vastly different from what I and the bulk of Christians believe.

In America, I feel like I am supposed to be either a Republican or a Democrat. If you had asked me at the age of 18, I would have said Republican. If you ask me now, I don’t have an answer anymore. I agree with pieces on both sides of the fence, but find the choices incredibly limiting.

After doing a little research,  I found that America recognizes five major political parties. Did you know that there are over 30 minor political parties, not to mention countless regional parties? We are a multidimensional people.

When we were in London this summer we went to the Churchill War Rooms and I learned that Winston Churchill changed parties not once, but twice.

I find this information from  the Churchill Project interesting: “In his 1927 essay, ‘Consistency in Politics,’ Churchill defended his actions: ‘The only way a man can remain consistent amid changing circumstances is to change with them while preserving the same dominating purpose.’ While circumstances changed, from Free Trade to Parliamentary reform to the rise of socialism, his dominating purpose remained to maximize liberty.

‘I shall not be like that saint to whom I have before referred,’ he told the House of Commons in 1942, ‘who refused to do right because the devil prompted him. Neither shall I be deterred from doing what I am convinced is right by the fact that I have thought differently about it in some distant, or even in some recent, past.'”

Guess what? You are allowed to change your mind about things. You can affiliate with a particular group, but not adopt 100% of their values as a whole in most cases.

Sometimes it is necessary to label people for a variety of reasons. However, that label should not feel like a cage that cannot be escaped.

Recently, I saw the movie Hidden Figures.  The main character, Katherine Johnson, is a black woman  who was a computer at NASA during the time of segregation. She was moved to an office in a building where there were no restrooms she was allowed to use. The nearest one was a half a mile away! Her label of “colored woman” was a cage from which she fought hard to break free in so many ways, including the right to relieve herself. I can’t even imagine the frustration.

I guess the bottom line is, I don’t want to be just one crayon, but an entire box of them. I want to have depth, breadth, vibrancy, adaptability, and the ability to be sharpened. 

The good thing is cages have keys, so lets do our best to unlock ourselves and each other from the cages other might push us into.

For me, with the self-imposed label of Christian, I will do well to remember Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”



Crisis of Conscience

What would you do if you were accidentally given something extra at a store that you didn’t pay for? Would you return it? Keep it? Just give it away?

Back in December, I purchased some movie gift cards at Sam’s Club. It was one of those giant cardboard doohickeys that you have to take up to the front. The deal was 2 $25 cards for around $40.  The cashier had to have a floor manager get them. He brought me two envelopes and I went out to the car.

When I got there, I opened up one of the envelopes, and realized each one held two cards. Oh, what to do? I ran back inside and the lines for the service desk were super long. I was in a bit of a hurry at this point, so I just figured I would bring them back on another day.

During the proceeding days, my mind began to play funny tricks on me. My brain started telling me things to get me to keep those extra gift cards.

  • No one will know if you keep these. No one. Only you.
  • It was their mistake. They should have been more careful.
  • They’ll never even miss them.
  • Wow! Think how much you could save by using these cards.
  • Maybe you could just give them away as a gift to someone else.
  • This is your reward for other nice things you’ve done. Take advantage of it.
  • You know, you just paid more at Sam’s for that printer you bought than you would have paid at Staples. Sam’s doesn’t price match. It’s your way of regaining that money. It’s no real loss for them.

I kid you not. These are ACTUAL thoughts I had inside my head. There are a few others that I’m too embarrassed to admit. My brain’s ability to rationalize keeping something that didn’t truly belong to be was both stunning and disturbing.

Finally, absolutely disgusted with myself, I made a trip to Sam’s with my spoils. As I checked out, I handed the envelope to the cashier and explained what had happened. She called a floor manager over, handed him the envelope and repeated my explanation. Finished checking out, I started to walk away. I overheard them talking:

“Wow, that was super honest,” the cashier commented.

“Yeah, not many people would have done that,” the manager replied.

I had decided to treat myself to a pretzel, so as I approached the desk to make my order, the manager was walking away and turned on his heel toward me. He extended his hand with the envelope. “Here. Take them. They’re all yours. You didn’t have to bring them back, but you did. This is our thank you.”

Stunned, I took them in my hand. I nearly made a fool of myself gushing. I probably should have refused them. I wanted to say, “But do you know the awful thoughts I had inside my head??? I don’t deserve these at all.” He would definitely have considered me crazy.

Ultimately, I suppose I did do the right thing, but boy was it an eye-opening lesson to me on how quickly our human nature can lead us down the wrong path. And this was just over gift cards that I didn’t even steal. What does your brain tell you when you are tempted to do something you know you shouldn’t that is far more damaging?

  • Oh, it’s only one more drink.
  • This site is just mild porn.
  • No one will know if I don’t report all of the money I made on my taxes.
  • The church doesn’t really need my money. Plenty of others give more than enough.
  • Flirting isn’t cheating. What harm can it do?

I spoke with a gentleman recently who is recovering from an addiction. His comment to me was, “What’s disgusting is, I knew better. I knew better, and I went down that path anyway.” Knowing better and doing better are two distinct things. We are all susceptible to the false messages our brains send us.

I’m glad in this one instance I made the best choice. My conscience would have gotten the better of me over time.

Take a moment to evaluate yourself right now. What lies are whispered in your mind that you need to stop listening to?

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32


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