No More Boxes | Saltwater + Grace

I know I’ve mentioned the story a few times, but part of the way I came to finally stop the fight and find faith again last year was the product of me realizing that I actually had checked everything off of my dream life list.

I had a list…and it was very clear. It didn’t become clear until I met Mike, it was always kind of this fuzzy and general thing. A long time ago, it looked like this:

Marry someone
Live in a big/nice house
Go to my job everyday and make good money
Have kids
Retire in the Outer Banks

Let’s be real, that list is TERRIBLE. I had no real direction for my life before I met Mike, at all! When you don’t know who you’re going to be with and you have terribly low standards for yourself like I did when it came to settling for people who weren’t at all a fit for me, you don’t see your life’s potential NOR do you respect yourself much. Why did the house have to be nice or big? I thought this would make me a happier person. The only really SOLID thing on there was that I wanted to live in the Outer Banks eventually..but that was it. Even “have kids” wasn’t very well defined on this list, it was just kind of like a “next step because that’s what you do” kind of thing.

After I met Mike, things changed, a LOT. He refined my list just by loving me well. Priorities changed, I changed. I started to slowly become better in a lot of ways and came up with a new list after a few years together.

Marry MIKE 🙂
Live anywhere we were happy, size and aesthetics just don’t matter
Become a BUSINESS OWNER doing something that I know can change lives! 🙂
Have three children, close in age
Live in the Outer day, hopefully sooner than later

If you know me, you know that I have checked off every box on this list. It’s done, there is no more of my life list left.

That’s what I thought. And honestly, I was VERY content achieving those things until one day when I was dealing with something that was really emotionally difficult to get through and having all my boxes checked off wasn’t enough for me anymore. I had Mike, a happy home, two perfect little girls (this was before little AJ came around:)), a job I adored and clients that treated me so well and I lived in the best place in the world. Something was missing and I felt terribly selfish thinking that way. What in the world else did I really think I needed?

I needed the Lord. And the thing is, He had been there all along while I had refused to acknowledge Him. So truthfully, I needed to acknowledge the Lord and stop fighting so hard. There are dark and sad things I went through in life before being saved by my selfless and loving husband and those experiences caused me to put up walls I thought were made of steel to fight even the toughest of hurricanes. Looking back, I’m so glad my walls were made of sand. They lasted a long time, but watching them be washed away by the crashing wave that was my faith returning was one of the biggest life victories for me to date.

Before I list all of the steps I took in the beginning, I just want to say that this is a very individualistic experience for everyone. Only allow my steps to be your guide to finding your own unique way if you feel a pull in a different direction! This is a beautiful and personal journey for everyone, I’m STILL figuring myself out and how faith looks to me every day!

1. Books

Start Here is a WONDERFUL book for people who are like wait, I know there is something bigger and I have this feeling about God but I don’t know what to do with it or where to go. It’s just so laid back and not pushy and very, very clear and it’s truly helpful! Alongside of that, it’s great to start on Jesus Calling, a devotional book and maybe get a journal to write alongside of it! The format takes verses in the bible and breaks them down in a paragraph or two beforehand translating how this relates to our every day life (thinking too much, feeling overwhelmed by too much to do, control freaks like me, etc) — and it just brings a lot of clarity and peace to my days amidst some really chaotic times.

2. A Community: Online or in a Church

There is no shame in researching local churches, reading their mission statements and values and seeing if anything aligns with how you feel to find a match! Also, just going to a service and feeling it out is a great way to see if it feels like HOME and you like what they’re saying. We had an incredible church we started out with and more recently have switched to another but both are wonderful in their own ways!! The main shift we took was from traditional to contemporary because I really, really like to sing now and have a more laid back environment for us and the kids!

When searching online, thankfully there are SO many wonderful communities out there to be a part of! My favorite is Pursuit, a group for Christian women and I recently attended a Pursuit Conference in Rome, Georgia and it was a seriously life changing experience for me. I needed that way more than I ever realized and would do anything to go back again, yearly!


3. Music

This at first was not my thing. I will admit, it took me some getting used to and now I can NOT get enough good music!!!! I have to tell you, the coolest thing in the beginning was getting CD’s from my friend and former bride Christabel. I think about it all the time how selfless and amazing that was of her! Kari Jobe (Revelation Song is my FAVE!) is definitely one of my favorites, and then I love Hillsong and Bethel of course. Elevation and United Pursuit, too! 🙂

4. Journaling/Learning to Pray

I started a prayer journal and it really taught me how to pray for people, because it made me sit down and be really intentional with what I was writing down. Online we can type super fast and text super fast and we just kind of do everything SUPER fast all the time without thinking about it..but just like seeing people in person versus on social media all the time, physically writing is a change up from the digital quick paced world and it does make you really think about how you’re going to strain that hand to write. This was seriously the most helpful thing for me, I LOVE my prayer journal and love filling up the pages with talking about where we are in our lives and how I can pray to thank God for what we have, not what we want or think we need!

5. Talking to Family

I knew that this was my personal journey to be on, so I didn’t want to force Mike…but the ironic thing is that MIKE is the one who has been religious all along, haha! It was really a weird situation when I did a 180 and stopped fighting the fight and said, you wanna come to church with me? He obliged because he likes going to church! But then I wanted to do more with him spiritually and didn’t know how to go about it because he’s not really into all of it yet the way I am. Honestly, it’s been really cool seeing him get there on his own recently. He loves our church and the fellowship we have with the members and I really see him growing in his faith over the next year, all on his own, and I kind of love that 🙂

We also pray with the girls and Cammy has her own Adventure Journal and Kids Bible. She is SO into this! I LOVE it! And, both girls hold hands with us at meals and pray and it’s completely adorable. It really means a lot to me to raise them with this bold and unapologetic faith in their hearts but of course it also means a lot to me to never, ever push it on to them and let them make their own decisions as they grow and want to do things differently for themselves if they choose not to worship how we do! One of my MOST FAVORITE things about our faith is that you ask the child at a ready-age whether or not they want to accept Jesus instead of saying alright, wake up, go to Sunday school, go get confirmed, doesn’t matter what you believe in. That was always a big struggle for me growing up and I think it’s what pushed me away for so long! I never understood why I wasn’t given the choice of free will, it really goes against the general point of having this beautiful faith journey. True faith isn’t about image, it’s about what you believe in your heart.

If you are reading this, I am so proud of you. I know how it feels to be lost, to make bad decisions time and time again and not understand why you have no strong moral compass in your heart to guide you, and to feel SO new in this journey. I STILL am. I am figuring out how to word things when I pray, I’m figuring how to use the Lord in hard situations to react better and it’s already working but it’s always a challenge. A WONDERFUL example of how the Lord is playing out in my life recently is this:

Two days ago, I contacted a boutique I ordered a shirt from and it was severely delayed by the person they order from so it was out of their hands, and I noticed a lot of people freaking out and bashing them on their page. I kindly asked them, do you have any idea of when it comes in? And they responded professionally and apologetically. I responded and said oh I can’t even imagine how stressful this is for you guys, it’s okay! Thank you for letting me know! At instincts wanted to be like, WHERE IS IT?! But instead I put myself in their shoes and you know what? It was the Godly thing to do. They emailed me a gift card immediately for my kindness, and that’s not at all what I expected but I sure appreciated it and I felt like it was a reward for choosing the Lord’s way of things instead of my own selfish needs and reactions.

This journey will ironically start out about you and how you want to feel and how you’re seeking comfort and peace, and quickly become about something bigger. Something far more amazing and you will actually love it when that happens. Prayers and good luck to you! 🙂


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh Amanda, How I love this!! Another great devotional that I’ve found is called “Savor” and I’m really liking it! Also, I know how you felt about the music! It’s still way too much for me right now and kind of weird, but I know eventually I’ll come around to it because I love music so much!!

    Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Sheila says:

    Thanks for sharing this!! I loved it! 😊

  3. I’m using Savor too, I think you would LOVE the author, all her books are incredible. Her nam eis Shauna Niequist and i can’t recommend her enough!

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