Amy Lanham

finding beauty in the middle of the mess

Tag: Story



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,




One Word That Can Save Your Life


What cell holds you captive?

Sometimes you read a story and it is forever etched on your memory.

I shared the following story with some friends not long ago, and I thought my readers might appreciate it, too.

Once upon a time there was a king whose brother tried to assassinate him. The attempt was unsuccessful and the king’s brother was captured. His punishment was to spend the rest of his days in a cell by the sea.

This cell possessed an unusual quality, though. The cell had an opening, but no door to close it off.

You see, the king’s brother was a very large man, quite fond of food. He was told if he could lose enough weight to fit through the door, then he would be free.

However, every day the king’s servants would bring the brother platters of delectable food.

He could eat to his heart’s content.

And that’s just what he did.

And he died in that cell looking out over the sea with the fresh breeze blowing in his face… just like the king knew he would.

I ask again, what is your cell? Because it may not be food that holds you captive, but we all have habits or hang-ups in our lives that prevent us from enjoying life the way we were created to enjoy it.

Could it be desire for success, alcohol, perfectionism, past mistakes, image management, pride, pornography, fear of failure? The list here could be quite long.

I read a blog post once written by a woman confined to her home due to a chronic health condition. She wanted to remind herself to be joyful by writing something on her bedroom wall. She thought about writing the word joy, but instead she wrote the word “choose.” Because the thing is, joy is available to all of us regardless of our circumstances. What separates us from one another is our ability to CHOOSE joy.

At the end of Joshua’s life (the man who led the Israelites in their battles to make the promised land their home) he called them all together and challenged them to choose that very day whom they would serve. Would it be the God that led them out of Egypt, or the gods surrounding them in their new land? The people insisted they would follow God.

Just a couple of chapters later in the book of Judges we discover the people had already fallen away from following the one true God. Wow, that didn’t take long.

Yet, when I look at my own life, I can see similar patterns: great determination in the beginning to make the right choices, and then a few chapters in things begin to fall apart.

That’s why mercy is so important. Because we strive, and we fail, then hopefully we pick ourselves up again and choose to do better.

What choice will you make for your life today? Don’t just watch the waves from a distance. Make the choice to jump into the water with both feet. With reckless abandon enjoy the sun on your skin, the wind in your hair, and the salt water stinging your eyes. It won’t all be comfortable, but living life engaged sure beats the alternative. Seize the joy.







Note: I originally read about the king’s brother in Steven James’ book Story.

Picture without words found on Stock Exchange.


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