Got Your Wallet?

We just returned from a whirlwind trip through England, Belgium, France, and Romania. When one embarks on such a journey, there are many concerns. Not only was the Lord incredibly gracious to keep us healthy and keep things running smoothly at home; He was also very near. My heart is full as I ponder all that His hand provided and allowed during our month away.

One of the more stressful events of the trip transpired the day we were flying from Paris to Bucharest to meet Patrick’s mother and brother. The girls and I were excited to experience Romania for the first time. Patrick is half Romanian and spent his summers there as a boy. This part of his heritage was completely unfamiliar to me until this trip.

We arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris in plenty of time to catch our flight. We returned our rental car and began the tedious process of check-in, passport control, and security checks. These things took over an hour and a half. There were miles to make, trams to take, and long lines, for goodness’ sake! 

As we finally approached our gate, I mentioned getting something to eat and Patrick went pale. “I think I left my wallet in the rental car.” We frantically searched his bag to make sure he was correct. Unfortunately, he was. I simply said, “Run.” As the girls and I watched him sprint away from us, we realized several awful truths: 

First, we truly needed that wallet! Patrick couldn’t drive our Romanian rental car without it. I do not posses an international driver’s license, and the next part of the trip required much driving! Even if he could make it there and back in time for the flight, would the car still be there? It could have already been transferred for cleaning. Or, what if the car was there but the wallet was not?

Second, the wallet held all his credit cards. They were the same cards I was using so cancelling them would leave us with no money. 

Third, if Patrick didn’t make it back in time for the flight, the girls and I would have to travel to Romania without him, not knowing the language. Perhaps we could make it by taxi to our hotel, but we would have to manage all the luggage, and my back was not up for that.

It was overwhelming. It was 11:00. The airline attendant told me the door of the plane would close at noon. At 11:50 I received this text: “I’m back to where I left you.” He was rounding the corner, wallet in tow, and dripping in sweat. I was so happy to see my Frenchman! We all walked onto the plane together at 11:55. Whew!

Here’s the thing. As stressful as that hour was, I honestly was never worried. I am not boasting about my unruffled state. Rather, I am in awe of the peace the Lord continually supplied me during our travels. His reassuring presence never left me. I knew the whole ordeal was of His hand. All things are. Who am I to doubt His plan? 

Several miraculous events took place during Patrick’s fast and furious trek back to the wallet. He was already exhausted before he began his stressful journey, but pure adrenaline and God’s mercy allowed him the physical strength to run for a full hour. He mistakenly found the rental car departure location rather than the arrival area, where our car was located. A Turkish man (total angel) drove Patrick to our rental car. According to Patrick, it was like a scene from a movie, the driver recklessly weaving in and out of airport traffic. When they arrived, not only was the car still there, but so was the wallet! The man even gave him a lift back to the terminal (saving him 35 minutes of foot travel). Patrick resumed his sprint, constantly running into roadblocks of long lines of travelers. Several guards refused to help him to the front of the security line, but one tall officer kindly pointed him in a direction, giving him the approval to bypass several hundred people. The Lord’s provision was at every turn.

We still can’t believe he even attempted to get to the car rental location and back. The Lord moved mountains!

We laugh now as we remember the rental car agent saying to all four of us as we surrendered the car, “Do you want to check the car one more time?” “No, we’re good.” Oy! How many times have we assumed we are “good” or that “all is well” based on our decisions and choices when, in reality, we have assumed wrongly. This is a scary thought, except for the fact that the Lord knows. He has a path designed to both sanctify us and shine His glory through us. 

We all grew in our sanctification that day. All praise to Him who takes care of fools and babies! I’m changing that old saying to “The Lord takes care of Frenchmen and babies.” 

To finish the story… for the rest of the trip, whenever Patrick offered instruction for packing or gathering our belongings, we teasingly asked him one question in return: “Got your wallet?” 

Ifs, Ands, and Buts

It’s been twelve years since we were in Europe. This is incredibly hard to believe. We traveled there annually for years, touring musically in international churches and enjoying time with Patrick’s family and in his native culture. But, as we attempted to return in 2012, plane ticket prices doubled. We have tried several times through the years to get back over the pond, but the door has never opened to us. 

Patrick received a grant through the Indianapolis Arts Council to put us back on European soil in 2020, but Covid reared its ugly head. It was devastating to lose that trip, and even more so to lose Patrick’s father, Christian, a few months later. The girls could’ve finally gotten to know their grandfather on that trip, but it was not to be.

Lillie had traveled abroad five times before age four. The last time we were in Paris, we sat on a picnic blanket in front of the Eiffel Tower eating pastries on her fourth birthday. If we had known we’d not be back for twelve years, we’d have been heartbroken. If we had known this trip was the last time we’d be with Christian, the sorrow would have been unbearable. And, how does one go so long without returning home? My husband, of course, finds his home wherever we are, but country living in the midwest is hardly a substitute for his beloved Paris.

There are so many ifs, ands, and buts to recount over this past decade: however, we are on our way back this August! It will be a whirlwind adventure through England, France, Belgium, and Romania. We will spend some much-needed time with Patrick’s mother and brother. William is fighting stage-four cancer, so we cannot wait to squeeze him and offer our prayerful encouragements. 

Ifs, ands, and buts concerning this trip bounce around in my noggin every day as we prepare to be gone a full month:

1. What if-we-had-known moments will we learn this time?
2. What ands and buts will there be on the journey?
3. Can we stay healthy?
4. How will we afford this?
5. Will all that we leave behind be okay back here?

When we doubt or fear or find ourselves anxious, rather than listen to ourselves, we must speak truth to ourselves! I remind myself daily of these realities:

1. Christ knows what’s around the corner, so I don’t need to know.
2. Christ allows hiccups for our growth, so I can face them confidently.
3. Christ gets to choose the ifs, ands, and buts, so I need not fear.
4. Christ is my Provider, so I can rest.
5. Christ holds all in His hands, so I’m not responsible for what I cannot control.

We are abundantly blessed to have this travel opportunity, and we covet your prayers over us. We will be ministering musically at the All Saints Church in Marlow, England, and at the International Church of Bucharest. May Jesus Christ be praised in every scene, even, and especially in, the ifs, ands, and buts.

Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it. (Psalm 37:4, 5)

It Ain’t Me

My baby just turned thirteen. I now have a house full of teenagers! Well, there are only two of them, but it feels full! How did this happen? Sabrina has always been such a little peanut, so dainty with kissable cheeks. And now she’s a powerful teenage ballerina with bandages on her toes and mascara on her lashes.

Sabrie possesses grit and spirited charm. I’ve never had to wonder about how she feels on a matter. And now, she articulates her feelings with great clarity and conviction. Thirteen feels different. At least it does to her mother. I want to cling to my little girl.

Though her usual mode of operation is shyness, it is fun to watch Sabrina come out of her shell. At her birthday supper, she demonstrated recent dance combinations she’d learned from a ballet intensive and had the entire room filled with laughter. My mother kept remarking that she was seeing my grandmother’s spunk in Sabrie. I was internally marveling at her likeness to myself. Her hambone was in full operation, and I loved it.

Lately, I have referred to being a part of the sandwich generation, simultaneously raising these two girls while also assisting my elderly parents. Patrick and I have landed here because we waited ten years to start our family. It was a good idea at the time, and I wouldn’t change a thing, of course, but here we are. Every day I am learning over and over again one important truth: I am not in control.

I know that I know that I know who is in control. I’ve never doubted God’s Word.

Whatever the LORD pleases, He does,
In heaven and on earth, in the seas and in all the ocean depths.
(Psalm 135:6)

The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the LORD. (Proverbs 16:33)

The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD
He turns it wherever He pleases. (Proverbs 21:1)

Will the clay say to the potter, “What are you doing?” (Isaiah 45:9)

Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass,
Unless the Lord has commanded it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
That both adversity and good proceed? (Lamentations 3:37–38)

Obviously, there is only One in charge. When I am resting in Christ’s sovereignty, I experience relief from the pressure of each challenge. I can feel the squeeze of life without bearing its weight. I can wrestle with the sorrow of hardship or change without being pinned by its burden. I know who is in charge and it ain’t me! His control means freedom, peace, and rest. 

It is much easier to bow before Christ’s throne than to attempt to rule from my self-made, puny throne that holds no power. The result of my surrender is that I no longer greedily cling to my treasured loved ones, but rather, I give them back to the One who put them in my life. When I place them in His hands, my joy in them is even more complete.

These teenage years are very special for my daughters, and so are these elderly ones for my parents. Finding myself somewhere in the middle, I plan to soak up all of them. And I will do so while remembering there is only One who is in charge, and it ain’t me. 

Last Times

In my sophomore year of high school, I switched from the basketball team to the tennis team. I had a lot of catching up to do compared to my teammates who’d been swinging rackets since they were little girls. I didn’t even know the rules of the game! My devoted dad took me to the courts and ran drills with me. I was so aggravated with his topspin tricks! But I ended up in the number one doubles spot and even received a scholarship to play in college.  

It is impossible to calculate the many things my father has taught me. He has coached me in sports activities, musical moments, and of course, he has been highly influential in helping me build my faith. For all of life and for all of my life, Dad has been there, educating, cheering, and praying. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t cover me in prayer. I remember when he taught me how to drive at the county fairgrounds. Perhaps that’s when his prayers really took off!

Recently, Dad was watching me play tennis with my daughters. He stepped up to the net and fed me a few balls. He is 84 now and is sometimes unstable on his feet. We didn’t play long before we both knew he should stop. As he turned to put the racket down and I walked to the back of the court to gather balls, I realized, “This is probably the last time I will play tennis with my daddy.”

Last times are hard. Often we don’t know when they are taking place. But there are poignant flashes when we’re keenly aware that we are enjoying a moment for the last time and we must say farewell to something precious. I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for my earthly father. What an example the one has been of the Other. As I enter a painful season of last times, I’m counting on two things: the Lord holds all my last times in His sovereign hands, and there will be tennis courts in Heaven.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Doing Hard Things

Choir is a required course of the curriculum at Highlands Latin School. Every student, kindergarten through twelfth grade, participates in choir. As you can imagine, not everyone likes choir. Not every person enjoys singing or aspires to be a singer. It can be a challenge to motivate such students. However, I see the value in maintaining this curriculum requirement for three reasons:

Number one, and most importantly, we are commanded by our Creator to sing. He made us musical beings so that we may worship Him with song. All creation sings the praise of its Creator. As His people, why would we not pursue excellence in doing so? Over and over in the psalms we are commanded to sing. 

Sing to the LORD a new song;
Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
(Psalm 96:1–2)

Read Psalm 150 and feel the importance of our musical praise. If you’re breathing, you’re without excuse!

Praise the LORD!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with tambourine and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flute.
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Everything that has breath shall praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD! 

Number two, there is great value in training our young people in how to collaborate with others and to effectively deliver the result of their work. Exhibiting professional stage presence, maintaining poise while under pressure, following a leader, and even the ability to stand still for long periods of time greatly benefit anyone desiring to be an influential adult.

Finally, can we put a price tag on the value of doing hard things? Adulthood is a daily grind of doing what we must do, not simply enjoying what we want to do. Too often in our society we hear sentences begin with, “I don’t feel…” or “I don’t like…” or “I don’t want…” When we train our young people to have the mental strength and the physical capacity to do hard things they don’t feel like doing, we are preparing them for life. 

To learn how to do this, we look to the best possible role model: Jesus Christ. He showed us what it means to do the hard thing. “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Christ is the inspiration for every action we take, large or small. 

What are the hard things in our lives? What do we not feel like doing? May we lean into our union with Christ for the power to persevere. Through His strength we can do hard things, even sing in a choir.


What is fate? 

The dictionary describes fate as an “inevitable and often adverse outcome, condition, or end,” “the circumstances that befall someone or something,” or simply, “final outcome.” Fate is a word that gets thrown around when facing a negative conclusion. In fact, my friend and I often make this statement when discussing such things: “Lord, spare me this fate.” For example, when someone is behaving in an ungodly manner and we understand our own potential to head there… “Lord, spare me this fate.” 

Not all adverse outcomes, however, are the result of ungodly behavior. My mother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and I have found myself pleading with the Lord to spare me this fate. The thing is, God has already ordained my steps. His specific plans for me are “formed of old, faithful and sure” (Isaiah 25:1). They were written before the world was founded.  

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him… (Ephesians 1:3,4) 

So why bother praying about such things? Well, God’s plan for my life includes prayer. I am commanded to be in fellowship with my Creator. I am called to pray. Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

Prayer is not an option for my life as a follower of Jesus Christ; it is a lifeline. Prayer is a place of sweet communion, established by God, orchestrated by the Holy Spirit, and satisfied through Christ. Prayer changes me. 

As I plead for my fate, I lay down my will and pursue His instead. In other words, I surrender. In a culture that says, “never surrender,” I gladly wave the white flag, understanding my Savior knows best for me. The waving of that flag isn’t passive. No, it’s incredibly active. It’s calloused knees from kneeling and tired bones from a good and faithful fight. Am I stewarding my body well? Am I doing my part to prevent cognitive decline? Fight. Pray. “Lord, spare me this fate.”

It’s a beautiful duet we sing. I work and pray. God ordains and answers. I surrender. He is glorified. This is the very reason for my existence: His glory. “Lord, grant me THIS fate.”

I’m Not Panicked

Every morning when I greet my daughters, they seem to have changed from the night before. Something happens during their sleep. They awaken more matured from their rest. It feels like a magic trick that I cannot figure out or a time warp that I cannot slow down. 

We are one inch from starting college visits. How did this happen? I remember being eight months pregnant and riding home with Patrick after purchasing the baby crib. I mentioned the distant day when the baby would outgrow the bed. This thought hit us so keenly that we both teared up. We hadn’t even met her yet! Well, that graduation to a “big bed” came and went. Twice. 

I know time is fleeting. I’m trying to treasure these days with my girls. I breathe in these moments and strive not to forget them as they pass. I also know that each new stage of life brings exciting adventures and strengthening challenges. And though I pray my guts out for my daughters, I’m not worried about them. I’m not panicked. 

I know now the same comfort and rest I knew then, when I would leave my newborn in that crib each night: my God is sovereign. He is in control. He is their Maker. He is their Owner. And by His good and gracious providence, He blessed me with the humbling task of raising them in Him. How could I ever doubt His plans? How could I not surrender wholeheartedly to whatever He has already chosen? 

Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
For our heart rejoices in Him,
Because we trust in His holy name.
Let Your favor, Lord, be upon us,
Just as we have waited for You. (Psalm 33:20–22)

Thank You, Father, for Liliana Gabriel and Sabrina Raphaelle. My heart rejoices in You because I trust in Your holy name. 

Christ Be Over Me This Day

I’m in the middle of my first teaching of Gratefulness Matters. Fifty-seven precious women are taking this journey with me. I hope to have the full study, with video teaching sessions, available this fall. For now, enjoy this simple rhyme taken from Session #5, in which we ponder what it means to be grateful for our oneness with Christ.

Christ be over me this day, not just in what I do or say
But over my being in the deepest sense, in this war, my one Defense
Christ be poured out through my skin, through each failure, through each win
In every influence I possess, may they see His righteousness
Christ be glorified by my life’s song, if I am loved or I am wronged
May He be seen, may He be known, through my tender, gracious tone
Christ be obvious in me, my only truth, my identity
May His glory be not dimmed, for I have kept my lamp trimmed
Christ be not only my future hope, but here and now in the daily scope
Where my time counts and is ticking away, Yes, Christ, be over me this day

The Light of Night

In the dark of night, when my eyes are open, all the trials of life seem amplified. The heart turns moronic when left to its own devices. I know this is true because I’ve experienced it hundreds, maybe thousands, of times. God’s word confirms that my heart isn’t to be trusted. 

The heart is more deceitful than all else 
And is desperately sick; 
Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9) 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
And do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5) 

Watch over your heart with all diligence, 
For from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23) 

The psalmists often view the night as a time for worship and meditation. Perhaps they also felt the fragility of their own hearts in the dark and understood they needed to seek the Lord to recover stability. 

l will bless the LORD who has advised me; 
Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. (Psalm 16:7)

When I remember You on my bed, 
I meditate on You in the night watches. (Psalm 63:6) 

LORD, I remember Your name in the night, 
And keep Your Law. (Psalm 119:55)

My eyes anticipate the night watches, 
So that I may meditate on Your word. (Psalm 119:148)

Night and day are the same to God. He’s not affected by emotions or fears. He is a constant source of stability, comfort, and strength. His provisions cease not simply because the moon replaces the sun. 

Yours is the day, Yours also is the night; 
You have prepared the light and the sun. (Psalm 74:16) 

If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, 
And the light around me will be night,” 
Even darkness is not dark to You, 
And the night is as bright as the day. 
Darkness and light are alike to You. (Psalm 139:11-12) 

I want to view the night in this way: a time to rest and to be with my King. I love falling asleep whispering His exaltations. And should He stir me for earnest, fervent prayer, may I enter the battle with Him as the warrior He is shaping, not the defeated former self. There is great light in the night when I fight right!

My friend Sandy used to call my nighttime activity “prowling.” We joked that a little man named Prowley ran the nightshift for the gears in my brain. She’d often say, “Put Prowley away, honey, and go schreep.” 

Be gone pestering ponderings. 
Away with you, mental wanderings. 
I sigh but say goodbye to the howling of prowling. 

Because I have better things to do with the night. 

To declare Your goodness in the morning 
And Your faithfulness by night. (Psalm 92:2) 

Come Away

This December has been one for the books. We added some extra things to our plates which we will not be doing again next year! We live and learn. Always. The Lord seems to be teaching us new lessons concerning our priorities. 

This time of year always creates a frantic feeling for our family. But underneath the sirens of stress there is a soft whisper. Peace is mine at any moment—in any scenario—when I come away to the King. The One who knows me best and loves me most is ever ready to meet with me and quiet my noise.

We will debut this new worship arrangement of Away in a Manger at the Highlands Latin School Choir Presentation on December 15 and then sing it again for our Christmas Day Worship Service at Harbour Shores Church. May the truth of these lyrics silence the noise for you this December, reminding you that you too can come away to the King.


Amy Branson Fata © 2022 Portion Music

Away in a manger a baby did lie
In Bethlehem city on one starry night 
The gift of salvation from heaven above 
Fulfillment of ages and promise of love

Away in a stable a Savior was born
The gift of compassion to all those who mourn
His mercy so tender, His wisdom so deep
A Shepherd to guide the poor wandering sheep

Come away, come to the manger
Come away, come to the King

Away in a manger the hope of mankind    
All prophecies answered, each wonder and sign
The promised Messiah incarnate come down
We battered and bruised Him with thorns for a crown 

Away on a hilltop “Let’s crucify Him!”        
The cry of the scoffers and my voice within
My anguish, my darkness, my wretched estate
Are all I could offer as He changed my fate

Come away, come to the hilltop
Come away, come to the King

Lord, let me give more to You than Calv’ry’s weight
I forsake my envy, my groaning, my hate
I run to Your manger, I kneel at Your cross
I bow to Your Lordship no matter the cost

Come away, come to the Savior
Come away, come to the King
Come away, come to the Savior
Come away, come to the King 
Come away
Come away