Category Archives: True Stories

Flashing as an art form


I’ve spent a lot of time writing about my journey into fosterhood lately.  Mostly because I’m SUPER excited about it and can’t wait.  But today I thought I’d remind you all why this blog was named after Murphy — namely because when it comes to me, Murphy doesn’t just have a law but a full-on war.

A while back I shared my first experience with flashing . . . errr, wardrobe malfunctions.  Yeah, that was fun.  At the ripe old age of 16 I was already well versed in humiliation.  Unfortunately that was not the end of my road as a flasher.  Nope.  There was the following year when my high school show choir was performing, complete with girls dressed in sequin-covered halter dresses, and my halter hooks snagged on the sequins and busted free in the middle of our performance at the local nursing home.  But as we’ve all learned, I take the concept of “the show must go on” very seriously.

But all of that was nothing compared to the embarrassment I experienced in Orlando.  It was nearing Christmas, and probably warmer there than it is right now in Syracuse.  Ah, how I miss the Florida sunshine.  Anyway, our church was rehearsing for a musical, a great show about a single mom in the 1930’s struggling to provide a good Christmas for her son.  It was Sunday, so after a full day of orchestrating kids ministry, I went out to eat with an amazing group of people I was lucky enough to have as friends and then went back to church for rehearsal.

Rehearsal was off to a great start.  Everything was coming together and I was getting excited for our performance.  It was nearing the end of rehearsal and we decided to go through one more big number.  It was set in an department store filled with both clerks and shoppers.  I was playing the mom in the story and at the end of the song I hopped up onto a cart next to the piles of goods.  Because the cart rolled, one actor was stationed behind it to hold it steady as I jumped up.  Then everyone else on stage angled towards me, pointing their arms my way as I flung my arms high for the finale.  That’s when it happened.

I was wearing a new shirt.  I can still remember it.  Chocolate brown, 3/4 length sleeves, with little silver rectangles which snapped up the front.  It was my first time wearing it.  And when I flung my arms wide in a high V for the big finish every one of those dang snaps popped open.  Every single one.  In rapid fire from top to bottom, as if someone had shot them off.  And there I was, sitting pretty on the cart with a cast of 30 all focused on me.  Did I mention that I was on staff at this church?  Yeah.  I was their pastor.  Let that sink in.  I was their pastor and I was flashing them all.  Fantastic.  Fan freaking tastic.

Everyone was too stunned to know what to do.  You would think that all these good Christian people would have had the wherewithal to turn away, but apparently they were in a state of PTSD.  Only one person seemed to be free from the shock.  Dear George, who is kind of my adopted dad.  He was the one stationed behind the counter I was sitting on.  Faster than I would have imagined possible he leapt from behind the cart and stood in front of me.  He spread his arms out as if protecting me from a bullet, while I tried to quickly reattach all those snaps.

Somehow I managed to show my face again at church, although I’m not sure how.  Two things I can tell you:  First, that shirt went the way of my green romper and was never seen again.  And second, to this day I always have on a tank top underneath what I’m wearing.  I’ve had enough flashing experiences to learn my lesson.

A whirlwind of a week . . . or two. (Part 1)

A whirlwind of a week . . . or two. (Part 1)

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind, to say the least. Mostly great, a tad overwhelming, and completely exhausting. Last week I joined our team at the Vineyard on our pastor’s retreat. It was full of laughs, discussions, crazy stories, and falling ceilings.

Seriously . . . falling ceilings. I haven’t really written much about Murphy’s story on here lately, but let me just say that we went away for a retreat and the cabin ceiling fell down. Ceiling tiles, metal framing, and plaster ceiling . . . all crashing to the floor in a loud cacophony.

At any rate, it was a great retreat despite the less-than-comfy couches and falling ceilings. It was great because I work with an amazing team of people. Seriously. Amazing. They are hilarious and smart and tenacious and graceful and amazing. They challenge and encourage me. They have patience with me and I am becoming a better person and a better pastor because of them. It is an incredible blessing to get to work with such a team, and I thank God for that blessing every day.

After the retreat, I moved into party-planning mode. Those of you that know me understand that if I ever give up ministry I’ll probably become an event planner or wedding coordinator. I love making celebrations beautiful and memorable for people. On Memorial Day, Jenni and Tim held their wedding reception and I was honored to be able to decorate for them.

Here are a few shots from the day . . .

The centerpieces for the table. (You can’t tell from the picture, but inside the third mason jar is a photo of the awesome couple.)

Table Centerpieces

This was the guest book for the day . . . a game of Jenga.

Guest Book

It was a busy week, but pretty awesome. Jenni and Tim know how to throw one awesome party . . . Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, a nacho bar, a bounce house, an ice cream bar, sand volleyball, and ultimate frisbee. Congrats to the awesome couple!

Also . . . another thing I haven’t posted a while is any of my artwork. So, here was my present to the happy couple:


Invasion of the Coffee Snatchers


I realized it has been far too long since I have shared one of Murphy’s attacks on me.  And we must remedy that right away.  I have already shared with you the story of the flood.  So it seems appropriate that we move on to the next plague of biblical proportions.  The pestilence.

I was living in Orlando at the time—in the same apartment where the flood occurred, and later a fire happened.  But that’s another story.  If you’ve ever lived in Florida you know that dealing with bugs takes on a whole new level of challenge in that warm state.  It’s the place where I first learned about storing your sugar in the freezer so that you wouldn’t wake up to find a spoonful of ants instead of sugar in your morning coffee.

It began gradually—the invasion of the ants.  There were the normal five or six you might find who had snuck in under the door frames.  But soon I was noticing a lot more ants than normal.  They were coming in through the side of my front door—apparently there was a large enough opening around the door for the disgusting creatures to scuttle through.  And from there they made a beeline to my kitchen.

If you’ve ever watched ants travel you’ve probably marveled at the way they move in a single file line like a small army bent on taking over our world.  Soon I was watching this tiny army march from my front door, across the wall, into the kitchen, along the counters, and into my cupboards.  There were thousands of them—disgusting, tiny, black beasts.  They were everywhere—in my sink, in the pantry, even inside the dishes.

I tried contacting the apartment office and requesting pest control.  They came out, sprayed, and left behind an army of unphased ants.  I kept calling the maintenance line.  The ants kept multiplying.

And then one morning it happened.  I poured water in the coffee pot, put in a filter and coffee, and switched it on.  As the inside heated up, suddenly ants started climbing out of the machine!  Hundreds of them!  Marching in that infuriating single file line out of my coffee pot!  I freaked out, to say the least.  And I hadn’t even had my morning cup of coffee!

I called the apartment office and received the same standard “We’ll send the pest control guy out next week.”  Clearly they didn’t understand the severity of the situation.  I tried to explain that someone needed to come out immediately.  They said “We’ll see what we can do.”  When I got home that night, it was clear “what they could do” was nothing.  The next morning I grabbed a garbage bag, put the coffee pot in it, and tied it up.  Then I went to the office,  walked in, and set the trash bag on the manager’s desk.  When I untied it, the army of ants began swarming out all over the place.  Now it was her turn to freak out.  “Put that back!!  Get that out of here!!” she began screaming.  I think I made my point.

The next day pest control came out and did some intensive work at my apartment.  Most of the ants died that day, never to be seen again.  I thought I was rid of them until several weeks later I opened the cupboard to make some tea.  I took out my stash of special Ugandan tea and discovered where the little monsters had been hiding.  Apparently they have a taste for Ugandan tea.

Were Adam and Eve cave people?


Were Adam and Eve cave people?

That’s what I was asked by a kid at church recently.  Let me back up.  At Kid Connect we believe it’s important to involve kids in the learning process, so we encourage them to ask questions.  We don’t want to be that teacher calling out the standard fill-in-the-blank questions looking for “Sunday School answers.”  So, throughout the worship experience kids have the opportunity to write down questions.  We take those questions and the inspiration leaders (our large group teachers) address those questions in the teach time.  As you can imagine we get some awesome questions.  Teachers have three options when they read a question–they can answer it themselves, challenge the kids to come up with the answer, or they can put it in the “Expert Box” for me to answer later.

As you can imagine, I get some very interesting questions.  And so it was that last weekend during one of our venues our inspiration leader pulled out a question and read “Were Adam and Eve cave people?”  There was a moment of awkward silence.  Then she looked up, smirked at me, and laughed “Well, that one’s going in the Expert Box.”

Thanks a lot.

Here are some of the other questions I’ve been asked:

  • Did God know Santa?
  • How do we love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, when we’ve never met him?
  • How was the “big bang” made?
  • How many people die from hunger in 24 hours?
  • Why did the women not get treated fairly?
  • Why are people mean?
  • Can I beat up people?
  • What does God look like?
  • How do I get people to stop hitting me?
  • How does hope spread?
  • Can God stop school?
  • Why didn’t God just wipe out sin instead of making Jesus die?
  • Why are some churches so big and fancy and some don’t have a playground?
  • What do you do when there are a lot of people annoying you?
  • When you get baptized is it like falling back into Jesus’ arms?
  • How do you tell someone you are afraid of about Jesus?
  • Why do people think it’s all about money?
  • Why do people bully?
  • Does God have a Holy Spirit in himself

Wow!  Right?

So, it’s time for you to get involved!   What questions have kids asked you?  Or, what questions do you have that you’ve been too afraid to ask?  And how would you answer these questions?

A horse is a horse, of course, of course . . .


“A horse is a horse, of course, of course . . .” unless of course that horse is a vicious beast determined to eat you alive.

It all started one Christmas Day at the Smith household.  The Smiths are an amazing family whom I’ve adopted.  Or maybe they adopted me.  Either way, they rock.  We’ve shared holidays, birthdays, countless Sunday dinners, theatre performances, and much more. Everyone should have some Smiths in their life – they make life fun.  Take Christmas for example.  They have an amazing tradition of wrapping presents in a very special way.  First they take your gift—let’s say a gift card—and they tie it up in a plastic grocery bag.  Then they wrap a fourth a roll of packing tape around the bag.  Then they roll it in newspaper.  Then more tape.  Then repeat at least twice—plastic bag, tape, newspaper, tape.  Then eventually they progress to other packaging – brown paper bags, magazine pages, wrapping paper from 10 years ago, gift boxes they “reclaimed” from their famous neighbor, and always . . . more packing tape.  Once I unwrapped a gift from them that had 50 different layers—and that’s not counting the tape.  Christmas gifts cannot be opened without several tools, including pocket knives, scissors, and extreme amounts of patience.  It’s genius really.  First of all, it’s incredibly fun.  Second, it really draws out the gift giving.  Talk about teaching your kids some patience and appreciation for their gifts.  Like I said– everyone should have some Smiths in their life.

Anyway, back to the vicious beast determined to eat me alive.  One memorable Christmas day we had finally finished unwrapping the presents and were settling in to relax.  I had the flu and so my brain was a little foggy.  Therefore when my friend Rusty asked me if I wanted to go with him to feed his pet horse (whose name happened to be Orlando—not Mr. Ed) I stupidly agreed to go.  We walked down the road to the stables and I watched as Rusty started the process of feeding Orlando.  I reached up to pet him (the horse, not my friend), and that’s when everything went downhill.  I was wearing Rusty’s jacket—which apparently smells like him.  Orlando thought that meant I was there to feed him.  The problem was he thought I was the food.  He opened his big, ole horse mouth and chomped down on my arm.  He latched on like I was the tastiest meal he’d had all week.  When he finally released me I was staggering away.  I was so out of it that I didn’t realize how bad it was at first.  But eventually the tears began flowing.  In case you’ve never been attacked by a horse, let me fill you in: it hurts.  A LOT.  It was dark and cold outside, so I couldn’t really examine my injury.  By the time we had walked back to the house and I got the jacket off, it was clear this horse was not nearly as considerate as Mr. Ed.  I had deep bruises on both sides of my arm in the shape of numerous horse teeth.  It was like the horse was being fitted for a retainer and my arm was the mold they were using to get his imprint.  Ah, you vicious beast.

The next year I went with a group of friends to see Rusty perform at Dixie Stampede.  After the show we walked around to see him and his other horse—Ty.  We decided to take a picture, and I bent down to point out the all-important sign warning visitors not to feed the horses—they bite.  A truth I knew all too well.  That’s when Ty leaned over his stall and tried to take a bite—of my hair.

I think I’ve learned my lesson.  From now on I avoid Rusty’s horses at all costs.  I have no desire to end up as horsey-chow.

I Vant To Suck Your Blood


Our culture has an obsession with vampires.  Brooding ones, sparkly ones, dangerous ones, ones with a soul.  One of the old vampire legends is that they can change form–usually from their more human-like form into a bat or bird.  Which has got to be a pretty neat trick when you’re trying to escape werewolves or lovestruck teenage girls.  I don’t have any personal experience vampires, but I have battled with my own set of bloodsucking creatures.  And apparently my blood was exactly their personal brand of heroin.

It all happened just north of Romania’s own Transylvania in the country of Ukraine.  A coincidence?  I think not.  I had just arrived with a team of approximately 25 people.  We were there to serve in an special non-profit home that rescues homeless kids from the streets and provides them with a loving and warm family environment.  It’s an amazing program where the kids are welcomed into a family and not just crammed into an orphanage.  (You should check them out at  You can even make a donation or sponsor a child.)

Anyway, we had just arrived in Kiev and were going to spend the night there before heading out to the home.  We were spending the night in a  large church.  The women were all sleeping on the third floor and there was a pile of comfy foam mattresses that were our beds.  It was a gorgeous night out and so one of my teammates and I decided we were going to sleep outside on the porch.  We drug our mattresses outside and settled into our sleeping bags.  The night sky was beautiful–lit up with a million stars that seemed close enough to reach out and touch.  Fireflies were dancing around the trees and birds were softly chirping a lullaby.  Soon we were both sound asleep, cocooned in our sleeping bags.

The next morning I stretched myself awake and climbed out of my cozy bed.  I smiled at my teammate and wished her a good morning.  (An impressive feat since I hadn’t even had my coffee.)  She looked great, stunning actually.  Far more beautiful than any woman has a right to look that early in the morning when climbing out of bed.  Smooth hair, perfect skin. Just beautiful.  I slumped my way to the bathroom to begin brushing my teeth and pulling the knots out of my hair.

To say I’m not a morning person is a gross understatement.  So I wasn’t really paying that much attention.  It wasn’t until I straightened up after brushing my teeth that I actually looked in the mirror.  What I saw was not pretty.  I had been attacked by bloodsuckers. No, there wasn’t a set of fang marks in my neck or blood trickling down my throat.  But it was a vicious attack.  Apparently a scourge of mosquitoes had decided to attack in the night, and I’d been completely clueless.  I sleep on my side, with my hands tucked under my chin, and you could clearly tell by the placement of the mosquito bites.  Although I do change sides in the middle of the night, I spend the majority of the night on one side, and you could see that one half of my face had twice as many bright red welts as the other.  The bites continued on my neck, arms, and hands.  There were literally hundreds of bites–I looked worse than when I had the chicken pox.  I stared at my reflection for the longest time.  Baffled.

Then I opened my door and went in search of my teammate.  The one who woke up looking so stunning.  The one who also slept outside under the stars.  Where were her mosquito bites?  Apparently nowhere.  She didn’t have a single mosquito bite–not one!  And I had hundreds!  Apparently there really is something to that “personal brand of heroin” crap–and here I thought it was just some romanticized nonsense invented to sway the hearts of the juvenile lit crowd.

I spent the next week trying to avoid scratching my face to a pock-marked mess.  Those vile creatures had done quite a number on me–sucked my blood and left me miserable.  Which leaves me wondering . . . maybe instead of just turning into bats and ravens, maybe vampires have perfected the art of turning into mosquitoes.  It’s a brilliant plan, really.  They can just attack us in our sleep and we’re none the wise . . . I’m just sayin’.


My Legs Are On Fire!


Don’t you just love vacation — the relaxation, the fun times, the friends, the new adventures, the memories made.  I love vacations.  Coming home from vacation, not so much.  And not just because coming home means returning to the daily grind.  Returning from vacation has proven to be a very dangerous thing for me.  (Remember that time I got lost, missed my plane, got sick, broke my toe, and on and on?)  Perhaps I should just stay on vacation. Sounds good to me.

A few years ago I was flying home from vacation and was seated in a window seat next to an old man who had an oxygen tank and breathing tubes.  I had a sore throat, so when the flight attendant began serving beverages I requested hot tea.  In case you didn’t know, hot tea can cure any ailment.  It can also set your legs on fire.  I’m not sure what happened–maybe the flight attendant didn’t set the drink down properly, maybe I bumped the drink, maybe a puckish fairy snuck in and pushed it over.  Whatever it was, my cup of scalding hot tea went from the flight attendant’s hands to rest briefly on the tray before making a tragic turn into my lap.  My legs were on fire!  The water had just been boiled, and the heat was searing through my pants.  I was in agony.  It was so painful that I couldn’t speak or even scream.  My mouth was gaping open, but there was no sound coming out.  I looked like a crazy fish.  My first instinct was to pull the fabric of my pants (which was soaked in hot tea) away from my skin.  But I couldn’t move–I was strapped in with a seat belt and held in place with the lowered tray table.  Beyond that, I was blocked into the row by a man with an oxygen tank who couldn’t move.

I couldn’t make a sound, much less call the flight attendant back, and I began bucking in the seat, trying to get the tea off.  Eventually the person in front of me turned around to figure out what the heck I was doing.  Apparently she didn’t like me pulling and pushing her seat all over the place.  When she realized what was going on she immediately called for the flight attendant.  The woman assessed the situation, then helped the poor old man out of his seat before helping me climb out of my seat and walk to the bathroom.  By the time I closed the door on the tiny washroom and was able to peel off my pants, my skin was covered in blisters.  The flight attended brought me an ice pack–which is a fancy way of saying “she grabbed a large trash bag, filled it with ice, and shoved it through the door.”  I was in so much pain I didn’t want to move again, but unfortunately, the plane was now making its descent.  It had taken so long to get me out of the seat, and now the flight crew was insisting that I get back in it.

I begged the attendant to let me just stay in the bathroom, but she wasn’t having it.  So, I attempted (with a moderate measure of success) to position the giant trash bag full of ice onto both of my legs and still fasten my pants.  An interesting look, I can assure you.  Then I had to waddle out of the bathroom and back to my row, where they helped the old man out of his seat, I gingerly crawled in, sat on a wet cushion, and buckled up for landing.

As we touched down, the head flight attendant’s voice came over the loud speaker.  She warned everyone that there was a passenger who needed medical treatment, and everyone was to stay seated until that passenger could be evacuated from the airplane.  After we arrived at the gate, two flight attendants came back to our row and helped the old man stand up again.  (The poor guy probably was scarred forever after flying next to me.)  Everyone else in the plane assumed he was the one who needed the paramedics–he had an oxygen tank after all.  But no, I was the fragile passenger who had to be seen by medics.  I climbed out and the two attendants helped me walk to the front of the plane, where I was put in a wheelchair and rolled by paramedics to the nearest bathroom.  (Apparently that is the preferred place of doing a medical exam in an airport.)

Once we arrived in the bathroom they found a cleaning lady and sent her in to clear out the bathroom, since both paramedics were male.  Then they rolled me in and proceed to examine my injuries.  They determined that I had second degree burns all over both of my legs, and that I should probably go to the hospital.  Then they rolled me back out of the bathroom.  A helpful airline staff member brought my luggage over and placed it in my lap.  (IN MY LAP!  I had burns all over my thighs!  Was she insane?)  I tried to move the suitcase off of my legs, as she proceeded to push me in the wheelchair to the airport exit.  Then she left me outside, sitting in the wheelchair, to wait for my ride.

Ahh . . . if only I’d stayed on vacation.

Broken Bones, Mule Rides, and Jordanian Ambulances


I’ve met some people who have never broken a bone.  These people impress me.  What grace!  What poise!  I’m in awe of their ability to travel through life fracture-free.  I, clearly, am not one of these people.  As I sit here typing this I’m nursing not one, but two broken toes.  In the epic battle between girl and coffee table, this girl lost.  Last night I received the news that they might have to re-break one of the toes because it isn’t healing correctly and is more than a little bent out of shape.  Literally.

Altogether, I have broken five bones in my lifetime.  I’m kind of impressed that my number is still limited to one-handed counting.  But when I compare myself to those whose score is zero, I’m forced to acknowledge that I’m a bit of a klutz.

Exhibit One: My Trip to Petra

A couple of years ago I was living in the middle east and preparing to teach to teach a two-week intensive college class.  A couple of days before the class began the president of the college decided to take another professor and myself on a trip to Petra.  (For those of you a little behind on your world geography, Petra is a city of beautiful ruins carved out of rose-colored stone.  It’s most famous for the Treasury . . . you know, that building you see in Raiders of the Lost Ark.)

Petra is a place of astonishing beauty.  The incredible craftsmanship that has held up for centuries is truly remarkable.  We wondered through the ruins, soaking it all in.  Then my two athletic friends decided we should hike up the mountain to see the Monastery.  To clarify, the Monastery is not really a monastery.  It was an ancient building probably originally used as a temple to a Nabatean god or king, but at one point a group of Christians used it–possibly as a place of worship, a hermitage, or  hide out.  During that time they carved crosses into the beautiful rose stone.  The Monastery sits on a mountain overlooking the rest of Petra’s “city.”  The hike is a long one–about an hour from the city center.  It includes about 800 steps roughly carved out of the mountain’s stone.

Although the Monastery is a truly breathtaking site (arguably rivaling the more famous Treasury), anyone who knows me knows I wasn’t jumping on the bandwagon to hike up a mountain in the hot desert sun.  But the guys were all for it.  And honestly, how often does one get to see such sites?  So I sucked it up and started climbing.  I’m sure that one hour hike almost doubled in time with me along for the journey.  On a scale of one to ten, my athletic ability is about a negative seven.  But eventually we made it.  And they were right–the site was amazing.  We wandered around the Monastery for a bit, and then sat down to rest in a restaurant perched at the top of the mountain.  Unfortunately, what goes up must go down . . . in more ways than one.

Although the hike up was long and tiring, the hike down was actually the more dangerous one.  I was slow–well, even slower than normal.  I knew with my talent for injuring myself I should be careful.  Plus, I was suffering from an allergic reaction to a medication which made my legs and ankles swell up to three times their normal size.  Unfortunately for me, I hadn’t figured out that the medication was causing the swelling.  My friends were joking about how slow I was, and the president, who was traveling behind me, decided that he was going to go around me so he could move faster.  I told him that only meant I would fall on him instead of in front of him–replacing his chance to laugh at me with a chance for me to take him down.  He laughed that he would just catch me.

I swear to you, the words had no sooner left his mouth, than I misplaced my foot on the stone step, twisted my ankle, and came crashing down.  Only I didn’t land on him–I fell off the path and landed in a ditch.  Thanks for catching me, buddy.  It hurt like crazy, but I tried to shrug it off.  I tried to stand up and immediately fell back down.  I knew this pain–this was broken bone pain.  So there I was, sitting in a heap on the side of the mountain, tears streaming down my face, looking like a really dumb tourist.  Yes, thank you, we Americans are fat and out of shape and can’t handle your crazy Jordanian mountain with 800 stone steps.
The president immediately switched into problem-solver mode and began shouting out Arabic phrases I’d never heard before.  (Which, considering the extent of my Arabic vocabulary, isn’t really saying that much.)   Pretty soon he had wrangled up a young man who rented out mules for the American tourists too fat and out of shape to climb the mountain.  (Where were you an hour ago, mule-handler?)  Between the three of them, they managed to somehow get me on that mule.  And then we started down the mountain again.  Every step was agony.  Each time the animal took a step it jarred my ankle and sent shock-waves of pain up my leg.  To make matters worse, somehow in my fall I had managed to rip my khakis.  And not just a small little tear in some obscure place.  Nope.  This is me we’re talking about.  I ripped those suckers in a nice “L”shape about 6 inches tall along my upper thigh.  On the left leg.  Which just happened to be the leg next to the young Arab man who was standing beside the mule, guiding it down the mountain.  In a culture where you never show your upper thighs to a man, unless you’re married to him.  One small tear in Amanda’s pants; one great humiliation for all mankind.
By the time we finally reached the bottom of the mountain, an ambulance had arrived.  I was bundled into something that resembled more of a pick-up truck with a cap than a sterile medical vehicle.  It was so short that the stretcher inside was only about four feet long, and I had to curl up on my side.  The shocks were non-existent, and every bump and rock in the city of Petra was another agonizing jolt of pain.  When I finally reached the hospital a team of doctors and nurses rushed me off to an x-ray tech who determined that yes, I had broken my ankle.  They whisked me away to a large room where they proceeded to cast my leg.  They didn’t bother to wash off the three inches of pink dust that had somehow soaked through my khakis and caked on my leg, instead it was trapped inside my cast for the next few weeks.  Within an hour I was released.  I couldn’t help thinking that if I were in the U.S. I’d still be in the waiting room.  Of course, on the downside, they released me without any walking aide.  No crutches, wheelchair, cane . . . nothing.  I couldn’t walk on my cast (which was still wet), so it was up to my two friends to stand on either side of me and serve as my human crutches.

We made it back to the car and decided to call it a day.  We headed back down the highway on a two hour road trip to the hotel the college was meeting in.  Of course, in all the excitement of the day, no one had eaten dinner.  Although I was more than ready to forgo the meal (giant tear in my pants=inappropriate dress for a middle eastern dinner), my friends were both starving.  We stopped at the Jordanian version of a truck stop to eat.  My “human crutches” helped walk me inside as I tried to hide my naked leg.

We were finishing up our meal, when I realized something very, very bad.  I had to go to the bathroom.  And we were at least an hour from our destination.  I was in so much pain and so unsteady in my hopping abilities, that I couldn’t move more than a foot or so without help.  NOOOOOOO!!!!!!

And so it was that two men had to walk me to the ladies bathroom in a middle eastern restaurant, wait for an attendant to clear out the bathroom, and yes . . . walk me to the stall.  They waited outside and then had to come back and help me hobble over to the sink.  As Inigo Montoya would say: “Humiliations Galore!”

Eventually I made it back to the hotel where I could hide my head in shame.  Finally, after a few days a nice lady who had recently recovered from hip surgery graciously lent me her cane.  I hadn’t even turned thirty and I was already walking with a cane.  That cane became my trusted companion for the next month–traveling all the way from Jordan to Dubai to Uganda and back while my ankle healed.   But that’s another story.

“Amanda’s got cooties!”


For those of you who may be unaware, I work with kids.  More specifically–I am a children’s pastor.  Most people have no idea what a children’s pastor does outside of weekend services–probably just play with Mr. Potato Heads and create new recipes for slime.  This is not true.  I only play with Mr. Potato Head on the weekends.  So, in an effort to help bridge the gap and build a better understanding of the day-to-day life of a children’s pastor, I thought I’d tell you about the time I got cooties.

It was summer in Florida, and I was participating in a time-honored children’s ministry tradition known as camp.  Our kids went to camp at Lake Placid.  (Remember that movie?  Crocodiles who eat cows and men without regard.  Sounds like a great place to take hundreds of elementary kids swimming and camping, right?)  We never met any man-eating crocodiles, however I did have my own frightening encounter with a flesh-eating creature.

It was our camp tradition to have a luau on the beach the last night of camp, where we would roast marshmallows, play limbo, and compete in hula contests.  This particular year I was in charge of the luau and was busy running back and forth across the sand to make sure every lei and hula hoop was in place.  (You don’t want any stray leis, that would be a disaster.)  My flip-flops were not cutting it in the thick sand, so eventually I kicked them off and went barefoot.  The night was a smashing success.  S’mores were devoured, limbo champions were declared, and a good time was had by all.  The next morning I packed up and headed home.  Over the next several days I prepped for our upcoming VBS (a wonderful invention in children’s ministry in which children’s leaders spend weeks entirely sleep deprived and running on a strange cocktail of coffee and goldfish crackers).  As the week unfolded, I began to notice something wrong with my foot.

It started with a small reddish line on my big toe.  Then the line began to grow.  And not just growing larger or redder–it was leaving track marks around my foot.  It was moving!  I headed into the doctor’s office and presented my case.  After a quick exam the doctor told me I had acquired a new friend– a parasite.  This thing was living inside my foot–moving around, feeding off my flesh and blood, and leaving a reddish-purple path in its wake.  Apparently these monsters live in the soil and sand, and my barefoot night at the luau had provided them with a perfect opportunity to pack up, climb inside my foot, and take up residence in my toe.  I was given a prescription guaranteed to kill my parasitic friend, and sent on my merry way.

I dropped the script off at my local pharmacy, and came back a few hours later to pick it up.  A baffled pharmacist met me at the drive thru window and explained that my doctor had prescribed a drug that was no longer manufactured.  Great.  It was Friday night and the doctor’s office was already closed.  I could wait till his office opened on Monday and request another drug then, but that would mean two and a half more days of this parasite literally eating me alive.  No thanks.

I decided to call in a favor.  One of the benefits of being a pastor is that although you don’t usually have friends in high places, you do have a good variety of friends.  And I happened to know someone who was a doctor.  He worked as an ER physician, so he was sure to be up at 8pm on a Friday night.  I called him up and explained the situation.  I hadn’t gotten very far in when he burst out laughing.  “Amanda’s got cooties!  Amanda’s got cooties!” he began chanting, like some punk from elementary school.  Seriously?  I think he might need to work on his bedside manner.  But he quickly called in a script for a different medicine that was still manufactured, so I decided to overlook his taunting. It took about a week for the parasite to die off and the track marks to fade.  In the meantime, I spent a week leading VBS and showing off my strange red marks to kids and adults alike who were fascinated by my new friend. Eventually though, my cooties bid me a fond farewell.  Or perhaps not so fond, considering I was killing them off.  At any rate, they were gone.

Fast forward a year or so.  I was preparing to leave the church where I had spent the last three years.  I had built some amazing relationships with parents and volunteers, and I was really going to miss them.  However, God had called me to go serve in another country, and I was excited about the plans he had for me.  As a farewell, a huge group from my church planned a trip to a comedy sports club.  This particular club featured an opportunity for you to purchase a special musical tribute to a member in the audience.  And my amazing friends chose to honor me with this.  They turned in a huge list of random details and funny stories from my life and the talented improv actors began to turn my life into a musical comedy.  Not surprisingly, my friendly, neighborhood parasite came back to reprise his role in my life.  The charming actors named him “Petey the Parasite” and told a story of how I exorcised him like a demon, preached the gospel to him, led him to salvation, and ultimately took him with me around the world to preach to others.

Although I’m back in the U.S. again, I like to think Petey is still  out there . . . sharing God’s love and preaching the gospel to the world–one parasite at a time.


In Honor of the Oscars: I Am Batwoman


It’s well past 1am, and I’ve finally removed the hundred bobby pins molding my hair into its party up-do, and scrubbed off the three layers of makeup.  Earlier, as we watched the Oscars, we marveled at what an incredible group of Leading Actresses were nominated.  Now the Oscars are over, and it’s time to settle down and share a story with you.  In honor of this year’s amazing performances by a group of brilliant leading ladies,  I’d like to share a story with you of a performance of mine that I’m confident deserves some kind award.

Those of you who read of my humiliation yesterday remember that I have have a deeply ingrained sense that, come what may, the show must go on.  It is the mantra of every live theatre performer.  Your costume catches fire, your uncle dies, a giant speeding comet is headed your way . . . it makes no difference, the show must go on.  And so, at the ripe age of fifteen, I was prepared to carry that mantle.  I was performing in “Rumors,” a comedy by the fantastic Neil Simon.  I played Cassie, which consisted primarily of arguing and flirting.  Our stage was an ancient beast which included a fly space that seemed to go on forever.  There were ladders and platforms, ropes and rigging everywhere.  No matter how high I climbed, the space always seemed to reach higher and higher.  And up there, in the dark recesses of the fly space, lived a bat whom none of us knew existed.  Who knows how long the bat had lived up there, where it came from, or what it fed on?  But one night he decided to make his presence known.

We were well into the show, and I was in the middle of a monologue.  I was caught up in the role, so I didn’t notice it at first.  But then people started screaming.  I continued my monologue, as I began to slyly scan the auditorium.  And there it was–my nocturnal nemesis.  The bat  had declared his independence and was flying freely throughout the room.  I continued on as I saw the bat swoop lower and lower over the crowd.  In slow motion, I watched a spontaneous wave take place as people ducked deep into their seats to avoid the creature. The screaming came in swells as the bat swooped closer and closer to them.  All the while, I steadily continued my monologue.  And then the unthinkable happened.

The bat had toyed around with the audience to his satisfaction.  He wanted fresh prey.  He wanted me.  And so he careened closer and closer to the stage, before landing.  On. My. Head.

This vile creature of the night was resting calmly on my teased blonde bouffant.  And I did what any dedicated artist would do . . . I kept on going.  Continuing that monologue as if it were tethering me to a reality where I might open my eyes and discover there was not, in fact, a horrid, winged thing on my head.  Bat or not, this show was “going on.”

I’m not sure how long the whole thing lasted–it felt like hours as I bravely recited lines all while being attacked by this evil monster.  It probably was only a few minutes.  Finally my director stood up from the back of the room and shouted “Enough!”  And with that, the show came to a screeching halt.  A few stage hands quickly grabbed brooms and began to chase the bat away.  Of course, there was nowhere for the bat to go but up.  And so up he went–they continued at him with their threatening brooms as they drove him higher and higher into the fly space.  Then they climbed the ladders and stood on high, brooms in hand, waiting to catch him if he dared to venture down again.

Once the theatre calmed down, we resumed our show, but I’m not sure we ever recovered.  It’s hard to come back from a bat attack, after all.   If they gave out awards for acting under distressing circumstances, I’m sure I would be in the running.  As it is, the Academy hasn’t yet chosen to honor those of us who act in the most dire and bizarre of situations.  In the meantime we are left merely with Best Performance awards.  I am confident my performance that day would never measure up to Meryl Streep’s.  Then again she wasn’t competing with a bat on her head.