What it Means to Take Heart, Part 1

writing on a benchMy first-born son has deep-grey eyes and a thick chest like his purple-hearted great grandfather. He’s come to learn a few strengths as the oldest of four sons while he’s patiently taught his brothers how to catch and balance and ride. He reads to them, a teacher by virtue of how they watch him. I see good out of him for a million miles. When I first held him in my arms, I knew the future. He is what good men are made of.

Is it any wonder then that this week, on the first day of his third grade year, when another little boy called him a name in front of many children and then decided for the group that he couldn’t play football with them, that I actually imagined taking an 8 year old by the collar and throwing him across a field? I consoled my son and spoke of grace and what the LORD has for those of us who suffer well, but internally, my oven cranked up to the burnt toast level.

He slips his arms into the straps of his backpack again every morning after that, back into the world, and my mind reels of how much I have to learn. Jesus made no bones about the trouble we have coming in this world. So what does it even mean for us to take heart that He has overcome the world, what with so many troubles?

This summer, the world fell flat for me, the colors, the metaphor, the song. Someone highly esteemed in my heart had hurt me, and the news of broken marriages and miscarried babies became like waves, a dark shroud pressing down. I found myself multiple times holding my body up on the kitchen counter, so dizzy I couldn’t stand, so pressed down that I couldn’t breathe. It’s what some of us call depression (or oppression), and even though it had been at least a decade since I had experienced this, there I was in the pit of my bed, in a fast and unrelenting ache.

Other things come in to play here, like living out of suitcases for the summer in a crazy house-selling/buying escapade and also the fact that my children lost all sense of consistency and discipline, but right now, it’s beside the point to list all the things that bring suffering into a heart. Some of us carry painful memories like invisible, tightening nooses. Some of us have witnessed places that seem so God-forsaken that HOPE sounds about as useful as a fortune cookie.

What does it mean to take heart, what with all the suffering? What am I saying to my child when I ask Him to cling to Jesus? It seems to me as I sort through the world, as I’ve been coming back to life and into His arms, that there are two ways to handle suffering.

One way leads to life, and the other way? It has the sting of death all over it.

Part II will be up tomorrow. Thank you for visiting and for sticking with me if we’re old friends. I haven’t so much as written a grocery list since I last wrote here, but I know what’s coming, and it’s a lot of writing – here and on the book. Those of you who have prayed for me and written notes to encourage me, even when you didn’t know what was going on? I have no way to tell you how grateful I am. As for today, the Haines family is doing so well. We completely love our little house and how God put us somewhere we wouldn’t have chosen. There’s no doubt in my mind that God cares for my character more than He cares for the square footage of my home. Soon I’ll share how we spent 8 weeks this Summer without a house!

Something happened in google rss feedburner land while I was away, so add me to your list, if you have one. Also, I would love to see your face on Facebook! Conversations and messages there are my favorites.


About me


Reply August 23, 2013

Seeing only good out of your heart for a million and then more miles.
I love you and how those chambers beat.

Reply August 23, 2013

You're right here. (Jennifer puts hands to beating heart.) And you have been all summer.

    Reply August 23, 2013

    You, lady, you know how to love people good, and I have felt it so much. thank you.

Shelly Miller
Reply August 23, 2013

So thrilled to read your words again, they are life giving and inspiring. Look forward to part two and so on . ..

John Ray
Reply August 23, 2013

Thanks Amber,

It has been a strange summer. One of outward beauty and relief in the weather, yet filled continual tidings of suffering. The incongruence of the mild weather and harsh news has been disorienting.

I am teaching Sunday on the passages from Matthew and Luke, Jesus' warnings and encouragement to His followers to "not be afraid" to know they are worth more than birds and the number of their hairs is cherished. But the context is one of very serious, very frightening things happening.

I wonder what words of comfort and courage he wants to speak to us? How those words spoken to the disciples around Galilee would translate to us disciples circa 2013?

Might sound much like a mom telling her battered son about grace and suffering and hope that is more than a fortune cookie promise.

Grace and peace friend.

    Reply August 23, 2013

    John, it's really strange. And this season comes to me right after such a full and wonderful season. I'm hearing around me how folks have been struggling super hard this summer.

    We love you Ray people!

      Reply August 24, 2013

      Not so strange perhaps - the hard season after the wonderful one. You have the company of Elijah who after the wonderful of Mt Carmel finds himself overcome - exhausted and disillusioned. Praying God will likewise, send his angel to feed you, and may He come to you with the whisper of good news too - others of God's people to attend to you, sharing the burden. (1 Kings 18:16 - end of chapter 19)

Reply August 23, 2013

You've been missed! I am so sorry for the struggle. Much love, my friend.

Phyllis Runyon
Reply August 23, 2013

Dearest child, I've had a bad news summer too, while reading a three set novel about post crucifix Christians. Not accidentally, I am reminded that bad things have always happened to God's people (eaten by lions for Goodness sake!) and we have always had to choose His hard way for life. The easy way to death is not an option for us anymore, not with any peace, praise Jesus! I've missed you and I'm glad to see you back writing as we knew you would and have needed you to do. Take (grab it, choose it) Heart, I love that!

Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect
Reply August 23, 2013

Oh, Amber, I just love you. And I'm crazy grateful that you're on the other side of your summer...and that you're so generous to share your story and your journey with us.

Sarah H
Reply August 23, 2013

Amber, can I go beat up that boy too?!!! No one should ever speak mean words or leave out sweet Isaac. He is an awesome kid.
Sister, I'm thankful this summer is over too. It's been rough. I know one day we'll look back and see a multitude of things we learned from it. Sometime soon we'll have to come see each other's new houses. Yours looks so cute from the little bits I've seen in pictures. I can picture us out on our deck (that's not built yet) on a cool fall night hanging out and looking out in the woods. It would be so fun. Love you, friend. I don't see you enough, but you're always one of my forever friends, you know.

Reply August 23, 2013

Oh Amber - I have had one of those summers too. I am so sorry I didn't keep in touch. I was so self-focused. Please know you've been on my heart and forgive my selfishness.

Jessica Y
Reply August 23, 2013

Love you precious girl and SO love to hear how He's on the move in yalls hearts.

Diana Trautwein
Reply August 23, 2013

Ah, such sweet relief! I am grateful beyond words to see your name in my inbox. Glad you've landed somewhere you love and that the darkness has lifted. But man, I could do physical damage to that kid who made your big boy feel left out. Praying for all of you - mostly thankyous, over and over again.

Reply August 23, 2013

I love you.

Annie Downs
Reply August 23, 2013

Oh I love you.

Reply August 23, 2013

Just so happy you're back.

Reply August 23, 2013

Want to know what I have learned with struggling and adversity as a Christian?

Fear, anxiety and doubt is not an absence of faith, trust and hope. We are human, just like Job, King David, and dare I say, Jesus Himself. Do what Job, David and Jesus did, submit to God and your faith invalidates your fear, anxiety and strengthens your trust and hope. Jesus had "The Garden", David had King Saul and Job had his boils, his wife that lost faith - and his awful friends. I could add so much more to this but I don't have the time right now.

Keep the faith!

Reply August 23, 2013

i've lived in that place. the how-do-i-take-heart-when-this-one-is-completely-broken one. and awakening? beautiful. glad to read you again.

Reply August 23, 2013

Taking heart, finding and clinging to hope. Having faith that the wings you once had will once again find flight. I know this road and this struggle intimately.

Donita Adams
Reply August 24, 2013

Your writing is so inspiring and that you share with all of us makes it feel so "personal." You have such a beautiful God given gift and you are using it to bring glory to Him....but that doesn't make you any less human than the rest of us and it doesn't make your pain and your hurts less painful. Prayers for you my friend....prayers for peace and happiness .... blessings, Donita

Reply August 24, 2013

Amber, I'm meeting you for the first time - came over from (in)courage this morning. I am finding myself in that counter-leaning position all week. And oh it has been hard. Looking forward to reading the rest over at incourage today!

Reply August 24, 2013

Thank you for this, Amber. I resonate with your feeling this summer and feel not so alone when I hear of others finding themselves in a similar spot. I am having to remind myself to breathe deeply and count blessings moment by moment. Sometimes it is so.darn.hard. Yet just yesterday I read again the "take heart" passage from Corinthians. And yet another gentle reminder this morning... :)

Reply August 24, 2013

What treasure there is in loss & brokenness - for when we arrive at the other side, there is a newness in Christ Jesus that cannot be compared! Take heart dear Amber, have courage! I have seen first hand the darkness and pain. Like the loss of a sense, and the keening of the remaining senses, it actually can hone our ability to hear God's voice in a clearer way, to seek Him more passionately in a new and deeper way.
These times now remind me of word of the hymn, "Be still my soul...the Lord is on my side! Bear patiently the cries of grief or pain; Leave to thy God to order and provide - In every change He faithful will remain." von Schlegel
Remember Psalm 118: 1-6, He, the Awesome Almighty God, is on your side!
And because of Christ, we too, fellow members united in Him, can stand, through prayer, with you as the Ephesians did with Paul whilst he was in prison. Standing with you now...

Reply August 24, 2013

Thank you for this, Amber. I resonate with your feeling this summer and feel not so alone when I hear of others finding themselves in a similar spot. I am having to remind myself to breathe deeply and count blessings moment by moment. Sometimes it is so.darn.hard. Just yesterday I read again the "take heart" passage from Corinthians. And yet another gentle reminder this morning with your post ... :)

Susan Dominikovich
Reply August 25, 2013

Amber, I think I am a new friend. :-) Just arrived here from (in)courage (going back to read part 2, I promise) and I am so glad I did. This: "This summer, the world fell flat for me, the colors, the metaphor, the song. Someone highly esteemed in my heart had hurt me..." Heartache and betrayal and oppression. It was a summer I'd like to forget, a Christmas (southern hemisphere), spent in tears. And yet without it, I may not have found my love of Jesus again. I guess 10 + years of preschoolers and I'd forgotten where to look for comfort and guidance. I've been devouring the Word ever since and now nearing the end of winter in my part of the world, I've found "the colours, the metaphor, the song." It's in Jesus; it's in me. Because Christ is in me. And it's good.

Quiet Girl
Reply August 25, 2013

Amber, I have definitely felt your absence...in a semi-creepy way in which I've been typing "therunamuck" into The Google every other day to make sure I did not inadvertently miss something. Welcome back. Thank you for always sharing your messy-beautiful.

And now I feel like I have to share something that probably won't make sense. I recently viewed Climbing Redwood Giants (Nat'l Geographic) on Netflix. I learned that when the Parks began protecting the Redwoods from fires in an effort to preserve their kind, mysteriously no new trees sprouted. Scientists have since discovered that fires are essential to these wonders; the intense convection heat is necessary to open their seed cones, and the ashy disaster of the fire's aftermath allows direct sunlight to penetrate to the otherwise permanently shaded forest floor, creating the circumstances necessary for the Redwood saplings (the future giants) to thrive. Well, you are the poet so I will leave you with that. :)

Kelly @ Love Well
Reply August 26, 2013

This is just ... redemption. It's what happens when we sow the seeds of sorrow into God and let those roots grow in the darkness.

Love you so much friend. My prayers are thick around you.

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