Nashville

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Nashville for the very first time. I had always seen pictures and heard of how great of a city it was, and WOW! I totally agree.

I didn't want to do the normal things that everyone does, so I decided to research and explore.

The first day, I saw a show (Lea Michele and Darren Criss) at the Ryman Auditorium. Besides loving the artists, the show was incredible. I loved sitting in the Ryman, knowing that it was full of history.  

I am a major fan of escape rooms! It's my go to when I'm on vacation or when a friend is visiting. I did TWO while I was in Nashville, because the company was absolutely incredible! The Escape Game is a chain, and if it is in a city that you are visiting, I encourage you to check it out! It's creative, chilling, immersive, and FUN! 

My favorite part of the city was the Gulch. There you could find restaurants, shopping, murals, and live music. Everything was modern and vibey, and the energy was chill but also electric. LOVED!

My trip was short, so if you have any tips or suggestions of things to see, eat, and do next time I'm in Nashville, comment below!

 

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Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve is my favorite day of the year. I love the anticipation. The reflection. The clean slate. It's the same reason I love sunrises and Mondays. It's NEW! There are no mistakes in it, and there is so much potential.

At the end of the year, I often see people talking about how terrible the year was. I used to fall in that trap. I used to reflect on all of the things that went wrong and hope that the next year would be better.

365 days free of problems sounds like a dream... because it is. God never promised us that we wouldn't go through difficult times; He just promised that He would be with us through those difficult times... that He would protect us and cover us.

Reset your mind on this first day of the new year. If your faith is placed in God, you're on the winning team! Isaiah 26:3 is one of my favorite verses. Remember it for when the year doesn't look exactly like you imagined.

“With perfect peace You will protect those whose minds cannot be changed because they trust You.”

— Isaiah 26:3 (GW)

This year I urge you to decide that "God is good!" Don't change your mind when things get difficult. Remind yourself that He loves you and only has good things in store for you. You will be surrounded by and infiltrated with peace.

If your faith is in man, hope is a breeding ground for disappointment. If your faith is in God, hope is the stepping stone into your wildest dreams.

2018 is yours. Dream Big! Love Deeply! Trust God! This will be the best year of your life!

xx Amaris

Jump-Start Your Week

Fun fact: Monday is my favorite day of the week. I know that I am getting some wide eyes and side eyes, but just give me a second to explain myself. 

I love that every single week we are presented with a new opportunity to live the life that we have imagined. The last week may have been awful, full of heartache, and you may have wanted to quit... but coming on the horizon is another Monday, and it is begging you to give it a chance. Mondays show you that life is great and that God is faithful. Mondays are full of potential, and they have the ability to determine the trajectory of the next six days. Mondays are GOOD if you allow them to be.

You may be overwhelmed by life, or you may hate your job... Either way, I challenge you to keep your faith and expectation UP today! Walk into your office this morning with a smile. Your hope is ALIVE in Jesus. 

Here is what I know: Jesus is into every single detail of our lives. He is faithful. He is good. You may be in the biggest fight of your life, but that does not have to weigh you down. Your circumstances and feelings do not dictate who you are, and they do not dictate who God is.

The choice is yours: problem or potential? Every Monday has the potential for a miracle.

Happy Monday!

I won’t let the storm weather my heart.
I won’t let the darkness beat me down.
Sing in the night, my hope alive in You.

I’ll walk through the fire and not get burned.
Pray in the fight and watch it turn.
Jesus, tonight I give it all to You.
— When the Fight Calls - Hillsong Y&F

The Promised Land

When God asked me to move to St. Louis I really struggled with not feeling qualified. I didn't think that He could use me in the way that had been prophesied over me or in the way that He had revealed to me through dreams and visions. HASHTAG: LIE OF THE ENEMY. Those doubts creep up on me EVERY. SINGLE. DAY, but I have to shut it down. Reminder: If God called you to it, He clearly KNOWS that you can accomplish what He has set before you. Purpose can be overwhelming. Obedience can be overwhelming... but guess what! It's worth it!

God wasn’t attracted to you and didn’t choose you because you were big and important—the fact is, there was almost nothing to you. He did it out of sheer love, keeping the promise he made to your ancestors... Know this: God, your God, is God indeed, a God you can depend upon. He keeps his covenant of loyal love with those who love him and observe his commandments for a thousand generations.
— Deuteronomy 7:7-10 (MSG)

God chose you for the life that you are living because He knows what HE can do through you. All you have to do is show up with a willing heart. AND - He doesn't lie. If He is calling you over into the Promised Land, He will be faithful to fulfill what He has promised. You just have to take the steps of faith! With every step of faith comes another revelation of His love for you. And while you're experiencing that love, your act of obedience sets someone else up for the same experience.

God has proven to us over and over again that He is worthy of being trusted. In Deuteronomy 9, Moses had gone up to the mountain to hear from God. By the time He had returned, the Israelites had gone back to their old habits of worshipping other gods. God was faithful to them for FORTY years, and it took them forty DAYS to forget His love for them. They submitted to their fear instead of God's faithfulness. Life can be hard, but we have been blessed with a God who is present in the good times and the bad. Don't get so caught up in the fear and/or anxiety of your situation that you forget God's faithfulness. He has never let you down. Pastor Jerry Snider once said that with every situation, you have a choice: Will you focus on the problem, or will you focus on the potential? 

This week I hope that with every difficulty you encounter, you see the potential for God to move and be faithful to you. He loves you and wants to prove His love to you daily. Think about the things that God has placed on your heart. What would it be like for you to do one of those this week? It may be hard, but Jesus will meet you there.

xo

Amaris

 

St. Louis - Week One

A little over a year ago, God asked me to move to St. Louis. I said, "No." 

No - really. For a solid six months, I completely ignored God and made plans to move to Paris. One morning, in March of this year, I woke up with the most inexplicable sense of peace and knew that St. Louis was where I was supposed to be. From then on, I pursued the call.

The call did not come without its fair share of struggles. I readied to move to St. Louis without a house, a car, or a job. It was the biggest step of faith EVER. And guess what - God has shown His faithfulness and provision in ways that I have never seen. One day I'll be able to tell the testimony in full, and it will BLOW. YOUR. MIND. On the other end of the spectrum, my support system dwindled down to two. I was being questioned and discouraged about moving here from every angle. I had to decide for myself who I was going to please: the people in my life or God. Let me be clear: Your obedience to God is the ONLY thing that matters. The other people will come around (And if they don't - well, bye). One of the biggest lessons I learned this year was how to encourage myself. Previously, everyone told me that I could do anything that I could ever dream, but I never believed it. In the last nine months, my confidence has increased one-thousand percent. I believe in myself, and I believe in the God inside of me.

If God has asked you to do something, DO IT. He didn't ask you if you are qualified; He's the qualifier. He didn't ask you if you have everything you need; He's the provider. Seriously - jump in, do it, and be amazed by what He will do in your life. I'm not sure why we question God. Sometimes we pray for His will to be done and then refuse to do what He asks of us. God is PERFECT in everything He does and says. That means that if you obey Him, you're right in the center of His will; That's a good place to be. 

St. Louis was not where I wanted to be. As I mentioned earlier, I was planning to move to Paris for a year... and if Paris didn't work out, I was planning to move to San Diego or Seattle. St. Louis was NOWHERE in my plans. I was ANGRY, CONFUSED, and FULL OF DOUBT... and I let God know it. But oh - how God has changed my heart. I have lived here for five days, and I am absolutely LOVING IT! I never thought that I could even LIKE it. God is faithful, you guys.

I am so thankful for all who have called + texted words of encouragement. It means the world. My support system has blossomed from two to a multitude. If you think about me in the coming weeks, say a prayer for me! I would so totally appreciate it.

I'm not sure what this next season of my life holds, but I do know that I am trusting God with my present and with my future. God never calls us to less... always, always more.

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.
— Philippians 3:12-14 (MSG)

xo

Amaris

Life is a Highway

Yes, I'm singing Rascal Flatts right about now.

When I was home in May, my favorite pastor (you can follow him on social media here and here) gave an incredible illustration about life. He said that with every opportunity that God gives, there will be off-ramps. 

I lived at the Oceanfront in Virginia Beach for a year and a half. To get to the ocean, you take Interstate 264. As you're driving down I-264, there are many signs that say "Oceanfront." As the driver, you have the option to take any of those exit ramps; however, if you keep driving straight, the interstate completely ends at the ocean. 

I think that's a lot like God's will for our lives. Too often we are willing to take exit ramps that lead us through stoplights and extra turns, instead of following Jesus straight to the fulfillment of His promise, right in the center of His will.

Today I want to encourage you to pursue God wholeheartedly. Don't get distracted by the allure of a shortcut or by the ease of disobedience. When you commit to God's will, there will definitely be times of pain as you are growing... BUT God's will is worth it, God's promises are worth it, and your future is worth it. Trust God, knowing that He has the best of intentions and loves you with a fierce love.

But you need to stick it out, staying with God’s plan so you’ll be there for the promised completion.

It won’t be long now, he’s on the way;
he’ll show up most any minute.
But anyone who is right with me thrives on loyal trust;
if he cuts and runs, I won’t be very happy.
But we’re not quitters who lose out. Oh, no! We’ll stay with it and survive, trusting all the way.
— Hebrews 10:36-39

xo

Amaris

 

 

It Took This

For so long I remained silent ... Silenced by the what ifs and maybes. Silenced and removed. Unfazed by the tragedies that I ignorantly thought could have been prevented. Defending the actions of police officers that I incorrectly assumed feared for their life. 

Sadly it took this. It took a tragic, unjustified event in a beautiful city where I spent four of my happiest years. In a city where my brother and cousins who have brown skin reside. It took me seeing the son of Mr. Alton Sterling screaming, "I want my daddy."  It took me seeing the sweet face of Diamond Reynolds who witnessed her father murdered by the very people that she was taught to trust.

And like a ton of bricks reality sets in... The what ifs, maybes, and thoughts of prevention lies that I told myself to ease the heartbreak of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice die, and I am faced with reality. A reality that is almost too much to take. 

I've lived in a world where I've chosen to accept everyone regardless of skin color, socioeconomic status, education, religion, or sexual orientation. I've been blinded by hope. Hope that we live in a post-racial society. One that treats everyone equally. But today... Today I see color. It is our differences, not our similarities that are beautiful and work together for good. Yet every time I turn on the television our differences are the very thing that are being silenced.

And I find myself at 4AM with tears rolling down my face, as others sleep peacefully, blissfully ignorant of what having brown skin truly means. For so long I was that person. Wishing for better. Hoping that the words of the people in my community were words of bitterness from the past. Today that person died and was awakened to a harsh truth. The truth that what I thought was the past is actually the present. 

It is now
5AM, and I lie awake ... Thoughts racing. Thoughts of fear and thoughts of unrestrained anger. I want to pray. I want to pray that my family members are safe and that this is what it will take to finally wake up a complacent society that has chosen to ignore the plight of a hurting people... But sadly the hope that I once had has completely diminished. I know that the ratio of good cops to bad cops is favorable to the good police officers. I am incredibly thankful to those who protect and serve us, but how are we to know the difference? How does a traffic stop for a busted taillight end in murder?

Not twenty-four hours after I watched the murder of a man shot at point blank range, I watched yet another man lose his life as his girlfriend and daughter looked on helplessly. With Mr. Sterling, the police screamed, "Get down" after they had already shot him four times. With Mr. Castille, a police officer kept his gun pointed, while Philander Castille's blood was draining from his body, unwilling to help. 

These are the images that I can't unsee... These are the videos replaying incessantly in my head. It took this for the blinders to fall. I feel that I have failed for not speaking up sooner ... For not finding a way to pursue change. But here I am - 100% committed to the cause. 100% committed to my community. We will not be silenced. I will not be silent.

Faith It

Mary needed to hear Jesus to believe. The disciples needed to see his hands and his side to believe. Thomas needed to feel the scars to believe. God is a personal God, and He reveals Himself to us in a way that is unique to each of us.

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