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  • acleveland 10:12 pm on December 28, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    burning bridges, finding grace 

    “Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine. Together we can see what we will find. Don’t leave me alone at this time, for I’m afraid of what I will discover inside.”
    It’s satisfying and reassuring to hear other people voice our own desires. The wishes that we hide because they seem needy or embarrassing. It seems weak to place them on display, like a trophy or a badge of being incomplete. When one person screams what everyone else ignores, that person gives the world permission to do the same. You don’t have to be religious or introspective to acknowledge the human condition. You just have to be human, and willing to admit your flaws. Unfortunately, those two things don’t seem easily compatible anymore.
    “‘Cause you told me I would find a hole within the fragile substance of my soul. And I have filled this void with things unreal, and all the while my character it steals.”
    We’re preoccupied with the worldly and the finite. We try to create the perfect connection that would fulfill our hearts. Before the fall of man, Adam and Eve were one with God. There was no disconnect, there was no sin, there was no battle. They were naked and unashamed, they were free to love and be loved. Yet when sin was first introduced to the world, things changed. Suddenly, temptation greeted us with a sly smile and irresistible pressure. We unsuccessfully attempt to recreate that previous relationship – the fullness, having no shame, no doubts, no voids.
    “Darkness is a harsh term, don’t you think? And yet it dominates the things I see.”
    The easy path of darkness tries to draw us near, lying with a guarantee of instant gratification and fulfillment. Darkness can’t serve as a building block, it only tears you apart like a wrecking ball.
    “It seems that all my bridges have been burnt… But you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works. It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart, but the welcome I receive with the restart.”
    The first line about grace makes me smile every time. The rest of it reminds me of the prodigal son. He screwed over his father, he left, he came back, and his father threw him a party.
    I burn down all these bridges of communication. I turn my back and run, I do things my way, I ignore the ropes that are thrown to me because I’m too ashamed to grasp hold. It’s not when my brain decides, “I need to return to God,” that my heart changes. My heart changes when I trudge back home with a heavy head and I’m greeted with open arms, the welcome at the restart. When I hear, “Welcome home, I love you, I missed you. It’s okay.”

    The funny thing is, the artist of this song is not a Christian. He doesn’t follow or believe in religion or Jesus or God or faith. Yet, his lyrics show his heart’s desperate need and yearning for God..even though he doesn’t realize it.

    New favorite song:  Dear God 2.0 – The Roots

  • acleveland 11:52 pm on December 27, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    grow down 

    Sometimes there is an ache in my chest that rattles, catches on a memory, and sinks. I see little kids and I’m envious of their innocence, their faith, their naivety, their carefree hearts. Even though I’m still young, only seventeen, time is moving too fast. At times I want to rewind back to the days of Santa, being read to by Mom, holding Dad’s hand when we crossed the street.
    I miss being that little girl. I want her back. The bright lights of childhood, radiating innocence and wide eyes, smiles and skips. I feel like those lights are flickering, becoming tired and dimmed. Losing that bright string of lights that made me a child, where the version of AIDS was cooties, where worldwide hunger meant everybody wanted snack time, where the only bad word was “stupid”. Where being bad meant calling someone a name.
    I miss when messing up meant coloring outside of the lines.

    Today I sat in my room, turned on the Mumford & Sons album “Sigh No More”, and listening to the whole thing straight through. No pauses. Every song burrowed their easy lyrics into my brain and it just MADE SENSE. It made sense like no math problem ever has. It resolved perfectly like no chemistry equation ever will. I took their words and made them my own. Music brands the chapters of my life and thoughts with someone else’s lyrics when I can’t find the words.

    I miss people that are right next to me. I miss them like crazy, like it’s been a hundred years since I saw them. Or, maybe, since they saw me.
    But I think if I was sitting next to them and I said, “I miss you,” they would look at me with a confused look. “But, Amanda, I’m right here.”
    Do you know what I mean?

    New favorite song: Tighten Up – The Black Keys
    New favorite album: Sigh No More – Mumford & Sons

    • Kelli 11:22 am on December 28, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Answer to your last question: Yes. Very Much Yes. Growing up is so overwhelming. I miss being focused on the now. Everything is all about the future. And when you’re a kid it’s all about what is happening in the present. I think we miss the present too often and then we are stuck missing the people and the past.

  • acleveland 9:13 pm on December 25, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    ahh navidad 

    Well, it’s 9:04 pm on Christmas day. It’s been a great day filled with the blessings of family and smiles and joy. I’m filled with amazement and gratitude when I take the time to appreciate how lucky I am. Days like today make that easy, when everything goes right and nothing is lacking.
    It’s sad that it will be another 364 days until the next Christmas, but then again, the truth that the season brings remains the same throughout the whole year. It’s been a great day filled with the blessings of family. Nothing can ruin this day, because the reason for the season happened over 2,000 years ago and nothing can take that away. Even if things didn’t go according to plan for you today, your Christmas cannot be stolen..History doesn’t change.

    New favorite song: Greensleeves – FHS (yeah..that’s right)

  • acleveland 12:34 am on December 21, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    and finally.. 

    School is out until 2011, finals are over, and my breath is no longer held captive in my lungs. The bell ringing at 12:00 was like the key setting me free from late night sessions of cramming and my head falling in desperation against the chapter heading for the Respiratory System and “you may begin,” and “time is up” and… ah.
    Yesterday, I sat in PreCal trying to decipher the world’s greatest mystery.. x = ? You’ve seen it on countless worksheets and mixed in textbooks and scribbled in the margins of notebook paper. As much as I hate math, there are certain parts of life that I wish worked like a math problem. I could divide big problems into smaller ones, subtract unnecessary situations, multiply the good feelings. In the end, x would equal the by-product of all those circumstances, all the multiplying and dividing and adding until all you have is an X, simple, clean.
    There are some things that aren’t bursting at the seams with life, vitality. These things aren’t blooming with the promise of a new day and of hope and bright futures and grinning and relationships. Instead they’re meddling in the unknown, trying to find the “X” of this so-called life. And these things look like they’d work, at least for now. But when you plug that X back into the equation, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t equal what it’s supposed to. It’s not the right answer, it just looked good for the time being. It supplied an answer when you got tired of working the problem and wanted to take a break.
    There’s a definite answer and infinite wrong ones. The real solution for X is covered, stashed beneath the lies and the temptations, but it’s concrete and solid.
    So if you’re not living the right answer, if you got the wrong “x”, then what are you doing? If you’re not living LIFE, then what are you living? I see life stretching and roaming over a huge full amount of open space. There are certain parts excluded, left in the unknown and the dangerous, and they’re hiding in the shadows of life’s fences.
    Live, it’s what you were made for. Life, living, alive. Somehow we’re made to find the answer, as soon as we step out of the shadows on the outskirts (easier said than done).
    X = Life
    X = open free new refreshing full abundant
    (Real) life = open free new refreshing full abundant

    New favorite song: If I Give It All – Will Reagan & The United Pursuit Band

  • acleveland 10:06 pm on December 20, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    3.5 hours left 

    Part of the reason I quit writing on here is because I hated stripping it down and polishing it and scraping away all the knicks and holes and scars. Like a tree. Its imperfections are what make it beautiful, natural, real. The outside of it – its gritty, rough bark that scratches your knees when you climb its branches. But we chop it down, rip away the bark, and sand it away until it’s smooth and looks like any other tree. It could be the most special tree in the world, but after you put it through a machine to make it “beautiful”, it’s no different than the twigs in the backyard that go on the fire.
    Writing is the same way. You can carve out the letters and phrase the thoughts to make it acceptable, but then, what makes it any different from a wikipedia page or a textbook paragraph?
    I remember I used to have this thought, this idea, and I thought it was so new and revolutionary and cool. What if we all lived in the dark? Would you still be friends with the same people if you couldn’t see their faces or their name brand clothing or their nice haircut? Would we still instinctively try to find ways to group people by something as insignificant as their voices?
    I look back on all these photos and videos and I see me and then I look at my hands and I see they’re the same ones as in the picture.  And I look at my eyes and wonder what was going on behind them. And I look at my smile and wonder if it’s more full than it is now. I listen to my laugh in videos and want to harness it and keep it in a bottle,  precious and more treasured than the riches of a king. Because that’s what matters in life, more than PreCal grades and Anatomy notes. I bet a bottled laugh would be silver, like a ringing bell, and shiny enough to bounce back your own reflection. But you wouldn’t see the reconstructed you, the tree that’s been chopped and stripped and sanded. You would see you in all your glory with the notches and the weathering and the life.
    Christmas is coming and I’m ready.

    New favorite song: Quiet Little Voices – We Were Promised Jetpacks

  • acleveland 10:44 pm on December 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply  


    A few nights ago, I finished my sixth journal. As I flipped the final page, I began thinking about how these pages are all documentations of my story. I began flipping through the pages of this last journal, noting the internal and external conflicts, the wants, and the obstacles. As the character, there were times when obstacle overpowered wants, and motivation stooped to negative levels. There were times when I felt infinite, loved, grateful, and peaceful. But all of  those pages combine to form part of a story.
    July 17, 2010
    God, I’m not even going to think about the cliche that these new pages and this new journal symbolize a new beginning. For one thing, I don’t feel new. I won’t fake a perfect first page just to set a good pace and keep appearances…”
    July 22, 2010 — “God, what the heck are you doing?! I don’t understand you at all. I’ve been begging you for months – we all have – to fix this. What more do you want?….”
    July 31, 2010 — “Whatever, it’s been awhile. A lot has happened, and I’ve been more mad at you than ever before. Raging, to tell you the truth. I can’t help but think you’ve exposed a harsh, stubborn side of yourself. I don’t know what’s bringing me back right now, but I still can’t go without you…”
    October 21,2010 —-‘God, I just finished Blue Like Jazz as tears were rolling down my face. That book spoke to me like no other. Thank you for teaching me about accepting love. Help me to LET you love me..to accept, sezie, and cherish your grace. Help me to live a better story…”
    November 1 —“Lord, I’ve failed you, yet I am still coming to you. My condition will not keep me from meeting you anymore; it will be my reason FOR meeting you. I’m starting to think that “you are as big as I’ve let you be” is incredibly true.. I want to know the REAL you. The God that is not swayed or altered by our countless personal opinions on His character. I want to know the GOd with a personality not determined by the world and our infinite misrepresentations….”
    December 5, 2010
    “Lord, I’m going to finish this journal tonight. I’m ready for a new one, a change.. in more ways than one.  I don’t know the impact that my story will have once I’ve finished this chapter. But I hope that soon I’ll be able to close this current chapter and use it to glorify you, even though right now it’s scaring me and the end is nowhere in sight. I can’t do it on my own. Help me progress and not be passive…”

    New favorite song: Hand Grenade – The Almost

  • acleveland 11:07 pm on December 7, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    ¿qué está tu vida diciendo? 

    I’ve been thinking lately about things that can move our hearts, meaning they must be significant. Relationship was one of them.  Another is STORIES. I know firsthand that stories can reduce us to tears. Whether it’s a book, a movie, a play, or a song, the power of story-telling is undeniable. This is important because stories relate to our lives – our lives ARE stories – so they have the power to resonate in our hearts. 
    Story can be defined as: A character who wants something and overcomes an obstacle to get it.
    So, we’re all characters in this huge story.  Maybe you think of it as a love story, or an action and adventure. Or maybe it’s a mystery so far. Ultimately, we are writing our own lives. I guess it’s time to accept responsibility and quit claiming to be powerless. We have free will  so that we can take action instead of being passive.  According to the definition, YOU (the character) want something and you have to overcome an obstacle to get it.
    So, what do you want?
    The average person is exposed to 3000 different advertisements per day. That’s 3000 different companies, managers, institutions, etc. telling us what we want. You want new clothes, a new car, to visit a certain store, to buy certain insurance, to eat at a certain restaurant. How epic of a story is THAT? Amanda is a character that wants a new car, and she has to overcome the obstacle of money to get it.
    Setting: Knoxville, Tennessee.
    Conflict: Wants a new car.
    Rising action: Gets a job. Works.
    Climax: Enters Honda dealership. Buys car.
    Resolution: Drives home in said car.
    The End… (**Wait for the sequel — Amanda wants a new shirt!**)
    What if stories like this end up dominating our lives? Isn’t that missing it?
    If you had to fill out a chart like that with your deepest wants, what would that say about the story you’re telling?
    There’s something out there trying to steal our potentially interesting, transforming, and powerful stories..and replace them with boring, pointless, and meaningless ones. If we let the empty things (like advertisements) dictate our wants, what we say with our lives is going to mean nothing. We have the choice to make our lives pointless … or full of purpose, driven by INTENTIONAL living, chasing what MATTERS instead of hollow distractions.

    New favorite song: Broken – Evan Taubenfeld

    • Kelli 4:02 pm on December 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You- Amanda Wants to See a Cliche Movie About a Girl Who Loves a Guy Who Doesn’t Know She Exist- The Prequel. Preorder your tickets at Fandango!

    • Erin 3:06 pm on December 18, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I love youuuu!!! This is g to the r to the e to the a to the t. can’t wait for the sequel.

  • acleveland 10:09 pm on December 6, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    relational living 

    Relationships have power.  Connecting with other people can seem risky – it takes away our control, our quiet island of solitude absent of tears and vulnerability. Relationships allow someone else to have the ability to tug and strain and tear your heart. But if relationships can be a source of pain, then they can also be a source of healing. If they have the power to hurt us, then they obviously matter. If they have the power to impact us, even negatively, then they would also be a main source of joy, love, and restoration.
    It really bothers me how, it being 2010, we’re so dependent on technology for communication. Texts, e-mails, and Facebook substitute actual interactions. It takes a lot to really get to know someone, and that can’t be replaced by little letters and smiley faces sent in five seconds. It can’t be replaced by writing on someone’s wall “HEY GIRLFRIEND!” for all the world to see.
    It takes a lot to love people, too. One of the redemptive sides of relationships is loving a whole person, flaws and all. It has struck me lately how often we say “I’m fine” because that’s the automatic, expected answer. How often do we ask “How are you?” and then HOPE AND PRAY that they say “Oh, I’m fine, how about you?” Do we really want to know the truth, most of the time? If not, then this defeats the purpose of actual relational living…the type of life we are meant to pursue. We can’t look at a person and say, “I love this and that about you…but not those other parts. Hide those away.” We say, “I love YOU. Everything about you. The parts you are ashamed of, the parts you want to hide, the parts that nobody else knows.”
    I need to show this kind of love. I need to love all the parts of a whole person. I need to come into relationships with people and open up even if it’s scary, even if that just means growing in a couple of friendships and accountability partners that are TRYING to build right now, even as I push it away. I need to quit withdrawing and start accepting the love I don’t think I deserve. I need to quit expecting abandonment and start rejoicing in steadfast love, allowing it to transform me from the inside out. Because, really, relationship drives our existence. Grasp it, don’t reject it.

    New favorite song: Hero – Abandon

  • acleveland 10:57 pm on December 1, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    inconsistency is my forte 

    I was listening to the radio in my car, and some overplayed, redundant, and pointless song came on by a popular singer. The “artist” talked about how tonight she’d get plastered – she’d regret it in the morning, but who cares? I guess as long as it plugged the yearning for fulfillment, it didn’t matter.
    Because, you see, we stick ourselves inside these prisons. Prisons of achievement, appearance, addiction, pasts. We look around, throw our hands in the air, and beg God to give us a reason. Why must this be happening to me – how did You let me get here?
    There’s a disconnect between us and God, like an open circuit. It’s corroded by sin, shame, guilt, ignorance. We try to mend the broken and frayed edges with our temporary fixes, replacing God with materials, relationships, or even theology. I try to resolve my own unanswered questions by writing complicated explanations in my journal, weaving vivid descriptions and references into a tangled mess that leaves me even more confused. But at least then I have something concrete, something to flood the gap and make things managable again. All these facts, emotions, and stories don’t resolve neatly. There are strings left loose and in knots. The ends aren’t always able to be found, and it’s uneven. But it doesn’t have to be perfect – that’s where faith’s specialty swoops to the rescue.
    But these replacements don’t fit. They just leave us craving more. A certain strength is required to crack the issues wide open, revealing them for what they are. It might not look pretty and lovely in the light, but it’s light that will offer the solution.
    As I was saying before, with the singer, she was not thinking about consequences. Our bodies say “Go! Go! Seize the moment, fill this need.” Our heart, however deep down, softly cries, “This isn’t the answer”. One voice is easier to block out than the other.
    We live in a world of instant gratification. God seems like the slow way, and if you don’t have the golden ticket of patience, you’re out. Waiting for the faithfulness to make itself clear is hard. Waiting for the screaming need to subside is hard.
    I can’t say “but it’s worth it,” from experience quite yet, but I know it must be true. I don’t have all this down! I judge myself constantly by my grades, what other people think, etc. Instead of being fulfilled by God’s promises I cage myself in prisons. Noone is immune, but there must be a real solution that doesn’t fade.

    New favorite song: What If – Safetysuit

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