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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Meet My Brothers and Sisters in Haiti

Today, it is an honor and pleasure to introduce you to my brothers and sisters in Haiti. Fellow human beings. Moms. Dads. Brothers. Sisters. Grandmas. Grandpas. Aunties. Uncles. Children. All of us, all of them, children of God. I am honored, their lives are honored by anyone who takes time to read this whole story. Unique in that it is the only blog post I’ve drafted completely on paper, much like a journal entry, and unique in that it is by far the longest post I’ve written besides the one about my sister. There are some stories I’m simply not willing to water down or skip over details for the sake of a reader-friendly 300-1,000 word blog post. This is one of those stories. In honor of Antonio.

I watched the sun rise over Haiti. It was Tuesday, October 16, 2012.

Our family was cruising on one of Royal Caribbean’s largest ships, Freedom of the Seas, stops at Haiti, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, and Mexico. Haiti, our first stop. Haiti, a port that especially piqued my interest when we booked. I first thought we could visit an orphanage where family friends have two babies they are adopting, only to discover the orphanage is across the island, not to be traveled in a short day. Then I thought we could sponsor a child and make a visit, only to discover that Royal Caribbean owns this private peninsula in Haiti known as Labadee, and doesn’t allow passengers to travel beyond the borders of that space for safety concerns. I’ve devoured blogs about Haiti – Ann Voskamp’s trip with Compassion International in July, this month the Help One Now bloggers in Haiti, Kristen Howerton had a little girl refer to her as “mommy” at an orphanage, a father tried giving his son to Duane Scott, Jen Hatmaker described a little girl sweeping the dirt floor. Those blogs made my heart hurt. I knew more than enough to know there was no way I was going to spend that day on a roller coaster or inflatable water toy in Haiti. We discussed and decided to forgo all shore excursions that day and instead sponsor a child in Haiti through Compassion International, spending all of our dollars at the market, directly in the hands of locals.

We got off the ship as early as we could, some of the first on the peninsula. We went all the way down to the end to the market, people begging us to come and see their items for sale. A hat for me and my daughter, bargained to $30 for the two, way overpriced (the ship sold similar hats yesterday for $10), but not worth further haggling considering what we knew about the need. A handmade sword for our son, and a mini painting, handmade easel and magnet for us. The man next door begging, pleading for us to visit, pointing out #4 on his tag. I told him we’d be back later.

Our two oldest kids’ first visit to another country and first time at the ocean, they were behaving like brats when we got to the beach that morning. I told them I was so sick of hearing them complain, I was going to write down what they said. “I hate this zipper.” “This is too rocky.” “This is the dumbest place ever.” ” Agh! I want to go to the market.” “All you guys do is sit.” “Wow mom.” With all seriousness, I reminded them that there are people on this island that might not have a thing to eat today, and they’re complaining about rocks and zippers.

My husband and I decided this was not working, so we would bring the kids back to the ship so they could partake in the day’s childrens’ activities. First, though, we were going back to the market. At first I thought the market trip might be rewarding bad behavior; now I know it was just what the kids needed.

This time, we went up on the right, past the colorful display of canvas. The first row of vendors, Max came out to greet, introduced himself, invited us in, “No obligation,” he said. “Come see. We are family.” We barely got in, plaques on the right at eye level carved with God Bless This Family and Jesus is My Boss. “You like these? Which one do you want?,” said Max. Sure, we’ll get one of these, I thought. Why not? Although I hadn’t a second to look at anything else. We bought the plaque and met the woman with Max, I can only assume his mother whose name I couldn’t understand, but she was warm and inviting and I gave her a hug and we bought a small square pot from her.

Next there was Margaret. She showed us dolls she sewed herself, oddly similar to ones we noted at Downtown Disney two days prior, only these black and red and white and so much more meaningful and authentic, ALL painstakingly hand stitched I noticed days later. We bought a doll and I took Margaret’s name. Her smile motherly and full of pride and joy over our love for this doll she had crafted.

It took me a while to realize and process that a man had taken our bag with plaque, doll, and pot, and was guiding us to his booth down the row. He offered to carve our name on the plaque we had purchased at Max’s booth. PEDERSON, on the back. He asked if we wanted anything else, showed us his wares. The kids, likely completely overwhelmed, had not a want for anything. “Sword?” said Derby. Already got that when we first arrived. Bracelet, Max had given us one. “Nothing? You don’t want anything?” Derby said. My heart broke. All I could keep thinking was my kids want for nothing, and it is possible this man might need for everything. To want for nothing, unimaginable. I find myself embarrassed for my children, our culture of excess, of everything all around. The look on his face when the kids wanted nothing will be seared on my heart forever. My kids wanting nothing might mean him not eating today, tomorrow. He was not just sad, he was disappointed, a devastated kind of disappointment. I could see it in his eyes. A reason for payment came to my mind – I paid him for carving our name on the plaque, thanked him generously, and left, many others calling. Looking back, I realize this moment was in a complete frenzy, another state, I was barely processing what was happening. We should have stayed longer at Derby’s place.

Jocelun led us to his place. He said in reference to my son “He is my friend. I like him.” and touched my son on the shoulder, all wrapped up in his cruise ship towel. Before I knew it, Jocelun had a necklace on my son, blue and white. Yes, we would buy. I asked for his name, I could not understand so he wrote. He scratched JOCELUN on my tablet. He said again to my son “I like you. You are my friend.” Tears streamed, overwhelmed. Jocelun wanted me to take another look. I told him I had promised a man down the row we would come back to visit. Only $2 left, I wanted it to go to this man and keep my promise. Jocelun realized I was serious and said “he’s a nice man, go” as he led me to the booth.

Wilfred was his name. Friendly man. Pots 2 for $5 he said. $2 accepted for 1 when I told him that’s all we had left. I took his name, shook his hand, big smile, clearly a warm and gentle heart.

Then, the floodgates opened. A crowd of Haitian vendors behind us, around us. One had somehow gotten my daughter’s small pot and carved her name on it with hearts. “I want you to remember me too. You come back and you see me.” Josias, the name he wrote on my tablet. I snapped a photo.

Another man approached, wanted to write his name on this tablet of mine. Leiys, I believe it was, barely intelligible. At this point, I realized I had stumbled upon something. These people were not only willing to share their names, they were eager. It meant something to them, more than I could grasp. They saw me writing their names on the little tablet of paper I brought in my bag and they wanted a place on that space. To be recognized, to be known, to be called by name. Isn’t that what we all want?

My husband, family, Royal Caribbean, and future cruise-goers will also be glad to know it was at this time I realized a security guard was close by, monitoring our interactions with the vendors, although I didn’t feel in danger, not even for a second. If I had felt in danger, we certainly wouldn’t have been there or stayed.

We went back to the woman with Max to find out her name. Between the two of them, they struggled to know each letter, silent glances to each other before each letter to verify that was truly the right way to spell her name, Almagor.

Returning to our spot on the beach, my husband took the kids so I could take a break. Stood for a while. This is no place to sit on the beach. Finally I sat. Looked down. I had forgotten the bag I packed at home to give to a local at this market. I looked through the photos I had taken of the vendors we just met at the market. Was the bag for one of these? Derby. The sadness in his eyes struck me. I processed the disappointment I sensed when the kids wanted for nothing at his booth. The bag was for him, his family.

Venturing back to the market by myself, I entered by Max. Max and Margaret and Almagor approached, others swarmed around. I explained I forgot I had this bag of clothes and was bringing it for Derby, 4 booths down. A man spoke definitively “I have a baby ma’am.” I had brought two receiving blankets and gave them to him. Margaret and Almagor hovering, nearly reaching in my bag, one of them said “I need something.” My hands could do nothing but take out each item and give to those who were asking. A dress for one woman, a dress for another, a shirt and skirt for Margaret, two bananas for a man. Margaret gladly took the bag, “I need this.” If I had only known, I would have brought another bag full, or two or three.

Then, more I didn’t anticipate. The others, swarming around to see if they could get just a piece from this bag that had been emptied and now was gone, started to tell me their names, their vendor numbers, what they needed. Too many to count, too many to even be able to notice, to process. I started writing.

Alfred, #22, clothes for a 7-year-old and 10-year-old.

Antonio, clothes for his 2-year-old son. I didn’t get his number. I wish I would have.

Jackson, #19A, he pulled me aside a bit to ensure I heard his need. Men’s pants, jeans, shirts, “anything.”

Reno, I had seen him earlier. He approached now again. “Remember me, Reno.” I wrote his name.

And Max. “Remember me. I’m the one that showed you here.”

Empty handed. Said I would do my best, but can’t promise. I remembered stories of Americans who promised they’d come back but never did. I didn’t want to be that person.

Before I left, those to whom I had given lavished me with smiles and gifts and gratitude. Bracelets, a hand painted shell, a small pot, and many “God bless you.”

Back to the beach. Husband and kids still gone. Looked up. Looked around. Still no time to sit. Walked the beach a bit. A mom rushing on the shore and so mad at her kids, a man’s fat belly, sunbathing, buffet being set. Did they know the need just beyond the arches in the market, beyond the fence that bound us in and them out? A Haitian man raked a patch of sand back to perfection.

As I thought and moved about, I was especially concerned about this man, Antonio, who needed clothes for his 2-year-old son. I knew I had none. I’d have to leave him empty handed, hopes dashed, or search and make a plea to some random mom. We were at the beach, a distance from the ship; a mom would have to give the clothes off of her son’s back or go all the way back to the ship to suitcases. This was my journey that day, not some other mom’s journey, or was it? I was confused, torn. Search for a mom with a  2-year-old  boy (there weren’t that many) and ask them to surrender part of their day vacationing with their family to meet the needs of a man I had met at the market? I couldn’t bring myself to ask even one, but kept thinking of the moms at home and how they’d all give the shirts off their sons’ backs for this toddler in need. Kept thinking of the boxes of clothes I had sitting in our basement. I didn’t even ask one mom. Two worlds collided. The reality I saw on one side, the reality I saw on the other. Could the two connect today? Was I telling myself truth that people wouldn’t want to know or didn’t care or just wanted to enjoy the beach? I think, I hope, my beliefs were flawed that day.

I do knot know. I still do not know. Not asking a mom still one of my regrets 10 days later. Why was I afraid to open eyes and hearts on that beach? Why not just one? Has a distrust of human kind grown in my heart? Why do I believe strangers want to sit on the beach in oblivion more than they want to meet someone’s most basic of needs? What does it say about my character that I assume such things about others and I didn’t even ask one? Didn’t Jesus say that whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me? Was I only partially fulfilling this command rather than wholly by my unwillingness to ask on behalf of someone in need?

Husband and children returned, I explained what I had done, listed the needs, my uncertainty about the 2-year-old clothing. My husband supported the kids and I going back to the ship where we had more. Somewhat close, but not a quick trip. Tram, lines, security, and a long, hot pier.

A pile of clothes for Alfred, a men’s outfit for Jackson, a pile of fruit for Antonio, the very least we could do in lieu of clothes for his son. (I have notable regrets about not getting more on that ship. We should have come back all hands loaded, bags and bags overflowing. Again, some of this was mere lack of time to process it all.) Security noticed all that fruit at the bottom of the bag and made us drop it in a plastic bin before we deboarded. Almost in tears, knowing I would now return empty handed to Antonio, no clothes, no fruit, nothing, I obeyed. A woman standing by said “you never know if you’re doing the right thing, do you?” Little did she know. Even my daughter knew this was bad.

We headed straight for the market. The buffet had been served while we were gone, and my husband was sitting at the beach. I was feeling a tear between these two worlds, again. Wanting, needing to help these people, knowing there was much to be done, yet also cognizant of the fact I was on vacation, precious hours together as a family, now ticking away, only a couple hours before we had to be back on the ship.

We approached. They swarmed immediately. I don’t even know how many, just swarms. So much, so fast, so overwhelming, so difficult to process it all. Alfred, Antonio, Jackson, Max, Reno and all the others were there. Alfred pulled me aside to his booth. I gave him the bag of kids clothes, he smiled, seemed satisfied.

Then Reno was there – I had seen him twice now, he told  me his name and then said “remember me,” but I became keenly aware  at that moment that “remember me” meant something much different to Reno than me. I remembered Reno, I noticed him and would remember him beyond this place, but he wanted me to remember him because he needed to be seen, he needed something and needed that to be remembered, wholly acknowledged, tended to, acted on. I hadn’t brought anything for Reno. All I could do was give him the shirt I brought for Jackson. After all, something would be better than nothing. I gave it to him, apologizing that’s all I had. He took and said “God bless you.”

Then Antonio – oh Antonio. “You remember me, I need clothes for my son.” I explained we had no clothes small enough and we tried to bring a lot of fruit for him, but security wouldn’t let us bring it off the ship. “I’m so sorry,” I said.

I felt so disregarding to Antonio’s unmet needs when I was pulled away by Jackson. He wanted to know what I had for him. Shirt to Reno, now all I had was a pair of shorts. They looked big for Jackson. I asked if he had a belt, he did. It will work.

And there was Max. “You have anything for me? I told you to remember me too.” Yes, of course I would always remember him, but I did not know he too intended me to remember him with something, anything tangible that he needed. “I have a son,” he said. He glanced at my backpack, I took it off and looked in. My husband’s shorts and a belt he was wearing that day, my son’s shorts and  refillable bottle of Pepsi leaking out. My son’s shorts – I had asked him on the ship if I could give those to the children in need. “No,” he said, “they’re my favorite.” “And the shirt,” I asked?” He was wearing both today, both his favorites. Two worlds collided, again. To honor my son and keep our trust, or take the the clothes off my son’s back and teach him our call to give to those in need? Could my son really process that he was giving up his favorite shirt and shorts, the ones he was wearing today, for a child he couldn’t see? Doubtful, but I was still unsure. Max clearly wanted the shorts and I even began lifting them out of the bag for him, but a man overheard and said to Max “don’t push too far, it’s not good,” clarifying for Max those were the shorts my son was wearing today. This was humbling. It felt so wrong but a little right all at the same time. Right we were honoring my son and not taking the shorts right from under him, wrong another child’s need was going unmet. I honored the elder figure who urged Max not to push and closed my bag reluctantly. It all seemed so selfish. I could have, should have just handed over the whole bag. We would have done without for a couple hours.

People still swarming all around and we were on our way out of that row, hands empty again except for the backpack. Antonio made his way forward again. “You don’t have anything for me? I have a 2-year-old. I need clothes for my 2-year-old.” I couldn’t help but think later – Who imagines themselves begging a stranger for clothes for their child? What a horrible reality. I had to tell him again we don’t have little ones (pointing to my bigger children) and how we had fruit but it was taken away. He clearly needed those clothes so bad. I told Antonio we had to leave soon, “I’m SO sorry.” NO words would suffice. “Good bye,” I said apologetically. “Good bye.” “I’m so sorry.” They wanted to know if I would be back. I said back to Haiti, probably not Labadee. “God Bless,” “Thank you,” is what I remember.

We returned to the beach. All were eating the buffet. My husband had been waiting, “perfect timing” he said. We talked about the people, what we gave, Antonio’s need for his son. My husband reminded the children that we can’t possibly help everyone, but we can hep some, and that is what we had done today. We ate, I almost became sick looking at the food, contemplated not even taking any, thinking of all the people so near in so much need. I took a burger, some fruit, an extra hot dog and two extra bananas. The hot dog I passed to a man in a band playing by the eating area, bananas later to a man lingering behind a bar near the pier, quiet desperation, waiting on survival.

I took a moment to quiet myself after lunch and enjoy the remaining moments for what they were. The beach was already clearing.

I kept thinking of Antonio still in need and how I dashed his hopes, Max, Derby too. I wanted to go back, but I was needed here now, and anything but clothes for their children would be such a consolation prize.

My children made a sand castle. A circle of castles, one in the center. I didn’t notice its beauty and symbolism until it was complete. Two clearly imperfect, my son pointed out to my daughter “those are horrible.” My daughter tore them down plus two more. Frustrated she could not fix them and make them perfect, I said quietly “Try. It won’t be perfect. Just try.” She remade all four and the creation was better than it was before. Better, not perfect.

None of this makes perfect sense to me, but as I watched the sun rise on the ship days later, still overwhelmed and tearful about the unmet needs, I realized God is in control, God has a design in mind, a bigger plan. And I want to be part of it. This? This solidified in me the desire to come back to Haiti. To do God’s work here. I have unfinished business here. My mind has already been working, dreaming up ideas, and something very specific already blazed its way to the front of my mind a day after we returned. I did notice, and I will remember.

Some day I hope to meet all of these sisters and brothers in heaven, and I will tell them I wanted to do more that day, and we will dance, and all will be well and all the injustice will be wiped clear.

And to the critics online that say the vendors in Labadee “virtually attack,” are “aggressive,” “hovering,” and “pushy.” I wish they could experience even an inkling of truth about the people of Haiti so they would realize that “aggressive” means I really desperately need something. “Hovering” means I want you to notice. “Pushy” means I really, really need something now. Please. “Virtually attack” means I am so desperate I just need you to see me, remember me, I am a person just like you and I need so much and you have no idea how bad it is.

As for my children…they were transformed after that second visit to the market. We never brought them back to the ship for childrens’ activities. They stayed with us all day and were delightful, never again complaining. Maybe it is service that heals selfishness? After the market visit, from my daughter “Mommy, Haiti’s a nice place.” Then later she had another realization “Mom, after this we turned good. It feels good when you’re nice to others.” And hours later, “This is going to be a big remembery for us, isn’t it?” Yes it is. Yes it is.

Our family took the path less traveled back to the ship. A little platform overlooked the ocean. The ship, man-made beauty. The ocean, God’s beauty. A small boat filled with market vendors and other employees from Haiti on their way back to the village placed it all in perfect perspective. My husband noted, the boat was named “Thank God.”

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  Matthew 25:35-40

Amy

The Stitching Of Souls » Divine in the Daily - […] overdue follow-up post from our day in Haiti while on a Royal Caribbean cruise in October 2012. Click here to read my original post about our day in […]July 31, 2013 – 7:01 am

A Gift In Honor of Antonio » Divine in the Daily - […] Tuesday, October 16, 2012. Our one day in Haiti, the day that changed me forever. (Read full post here.) […]December 17, 2012 – 12:09 pm

Rachel Arntson - To Tanzania to a girl’s school there. Then on a couple of safari’s and to Zanzibar on the way home.October 27, 2012 – 10:45 am

Stephanie Gossard - Where in Africa are you going?October 27, 2012 – 1:01 am

Tom Baunsgard - Amazing how simple it is to do the right things when you put them into the proper perspective, God’s Perspective. Thanks for sharing this very moving reality Amy, and the wonderful experience you allowed your children to partake of.October 26, 2012 – 9:55 pm

Rachel Arntson - What a touching story. I’m sure I will feel much like this in my trip to Africa in January. Thank you for reminding me of many things.October 26, 2012 – 9:13 pm

Tiffany Femling - Amy! Yet again, I was moved to tears. Nice job being the generous and loving you!October 26, 2012 – 3:14 pm

Meet Jessica

It is my pleasure to introduce you to my friend and our family photographer, Jessica! Be prepared, this post is loaded with family photographs and full of love and admiration for Jessica.

I LOVE photographs. I’ve been behind the camera since I received my first as a gift in fifth grade. Taking pictures is the ONE interest I developed in childhood that carried through all the years into adulthood. Others are empty handed in moments I wouldn’t think of being without a camera. Others wax and wane with pictures, years missing from the photo album, or just a few strays here and there. I’m the obsessed one, the one with camera in hand capturing every moment. I frame up pictures in my mind when I’m empty handed, and my day is thrown off if I show up to an important event and discover I have a dead battery. I keep albums for our family and each of our children, and my negatives, discs and memory cards are the only possession I’d grab in a fire (family an obvious first!). Writing and photography two careers I’ve always aspired to, but for years never thought realistic. This space, a welcomed outlet for developing both.

There are just a few things that remain of us when we pass from this world…

Our legacy.

Our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren if we’re lucky to live long enough.

And photographs.

Sure there are rings and heirlooms, and a rare few have published books and composed and performed songs that live for generations, but ultimately any given life is narrowed to a legacy and some photographs. With that reality in mind, I value and prioritize professional family photographs.

So you can only imagine how elated I was to discover Jessica was a photographer when we first met five years ago! Today, I honor Jessica for taking those photographs, capturing those beautiful moments in time, for me, and for my family.

For the freedom I experience every time I look at this picture from my daughter’s 4-year photo shoot, thank you Jessica.

For walking with us into the deep, capturing a photo that was one of my favorites from the second I saw it, thank you Jessica.

For a special pregnancy shoot with my sister and the picture that brought me to tears, the one in which I saw hope amidst so much uncertainty and fear, thank you Jessica.

For setting up great family photos – this will always be one of my favorites, thank you Jessica.

For taking the only picture everyone on Twitter has known me by for two years, thank you Jessica.

For a photograph that signified a fresh start after six+ years of trauma and chaos, thank you Jessica.

For this bittersweet photo, my last pregnancy and the last photograph of us as a family of four, thank you Jessica.

For this absolutely beautiful photograph of our newborn baby, the photo session gone awry and I thought we’d leave empty handed, thank you for your patience and dedication Jessica. We did it!
For another timeless photo of our baby girl, thank you Jessica. I love how you weren’t phased that her belly was showing. Your willingness to capture bits of real life makes you so relatable.
For the first professional photograph of us as a family of five (sorry, we decided to withhold that one until Christmas!), and for putting me at ease in front of the camera long enough to take a new photo for Twitter and my blog, thank you Jessica.

Today I’m grateful for you Jessica, the woman behind the camera in every one of these photographs, the woman responsible for capturing moments that will last a lifetime and beyond, the woman who has the courage to do what she loves. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Amy

I asked Jessica to share a few words about her love of photography and she greatly exceeded my expectations with this. From Jessica, in her own words, with much heart…

I’ve always been a true extrovert, a REAL people person. I’ve always had a knack for talking and talking to anyone. What I didn’t know until maybe five years ago is that I also have a knack for photography. What started as a love for others’ work has turned into my career.

I feel so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to capture and document the lives of my friends and family. I say “friends” because of how close I feel to a family after spending just a session with them. I know all their faces, their laugh lines, their kids’ eye sparkles, giggles, who hides behind daddy’s legs, and who is a complete ham in front of the camera. I see “my families” (that’s what I call my clients) through my lens while smiling at them. Capturing their moments warms my heart. I’ve had the opportunity to spend the day with so many different families bouncing from one feel to the next. Crazy, spunky, spirited families, to soft, gentile, emotional families. Children that LOVE the camera and those that I have to work with, sing songs to, tickle, and play peek-a-boo.

Photography has spoken to me over the years and has become something I am so proud of. It’s been a blessing for my family. I get to stay home with my boys, but when I go to work my kids know that mommy LOVES what she does. My boys peek over my shoulder while I’m editing and say “I didn’t know you took Cooper’s pictures today,” or “Wow mom, that’s a good one.”

My goal with every family is to document the real moments. The way those parents looked when they were “parenting” their children. Mom’s big smile, her soft hands, squinty glimpses, the way she looks at her babies with such love. Dad’s muscular arms, big shoes, his tight embrace while he throws his little boy in the air and catches him, and his scruffy face. One day all we will be left with is the memories of our parents. Our minds can only hold so much without a visual reminder. Photography gives us what we are missing in our memories, it fills the void, fills our walls with the smiles of our children, it fills up social media sights with what we are most fond of, and photography literally fills my heart with happiness.

Jessica

*NOTE: If you live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and would like to hire Jessica, please send me an email or message and I will forward you Jessica’s contact information. Jessica has not paid me to speak kindly of her photography business, and we have compensated Jessica in full for every photo session you see in this post.

Meet Tamara: Special Mama of Seven » Divine in the Daily - […] guest post was NOT in order for this special mama! I teamed with my favorite photographer Jessica (previously featured in this post) who generously offered the family a complimentary family photo session, and asked Tamara’s […]May 8, 2013 – 7:16 am

Nicole Marie Newfield - Such wonderful photos, each one! They are treasures!October 18, 2012 – 3:04 pm

Carol Femling - I love all of the pictures that Jessica took here in your Blog! Brings back memories. :) I also love the new photo of you, Amy! Once again, Jessica did an awesome job! I can hardly wait to see your new Christmas family photo.October 15, 2012 – 1:41 pm

Carol Femling - I LOVE the new picture Jessica took of you by yourself, Amy! :)October 15, 2012 – 1:36 pm

Tiffany - I was brought to tears looking back at the photographs that Jessica has taken. I guess that is what we are all looking for… true emotion. Thanks to Jessica for capturing such truth!October 10, 2012 – 7:06 pm

Meet Me At This Moment

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another Meet Me At This Moment for Five Minute Friday post! I spend the last hour of Thursday chatting it up with a group of authentic and inspiring Five Minute Friday bloggers on Twitter (#FiveMinuteFriday #fmfparty). One minute past midnight EST Friday, Lisa-Jo Baker gives us a single word prompt and we all write a blog post centered around that word. We write for five minutes, and five minutes only! In the words of Lisa, this is “unscripted. unedited. real.” You meet me at this moment in time…my thoughts and opinions, my joys and sorrows, my dilemmas and dreams. And I receive one of the greatest gifts ever…a regular outlet for processing and expressing my thoughts without constantly editing myself. This is my life, my perspective, unfiltered.

The word of the week is WELCOME

Ready. Set. GO!

My daughter dances. We’re at a new studio, so I’m still getting acclimated. Each week I meet and greet the few people I know, and find my secret place to watch through the windows. All in that secret space – my daughter’s class, the class across the way with middle school girls, and the class across the other way with high school dancers. The high school girls move me. The sassy song playing repeatedly, dancers in the dark, twirling and swirling, down on the floor, arms up, down, and all around. These girls are awesome, and I want to dance like them.

When I was a girl, I wanted to be a ballerina. In my adult years, I’ve daydreamed of being a back-up dancer for a singer. Fierce and powerful, without hesitating a single step. I want to be like that. Maybe it’s a mixture of beautiful ballerina and fierce backup dancer that I want to be?

These girls dancing. I watch them every week. The little ones behind me, the big ones in front of me.

This week, the high school girls came out in the hall, out of the normal routine. Alone with their phones for a bit, then talking.

My baby on the floor took one of their water bottles and started playing. They gathered around, in fact, hovered around. A girl I noticed had been quiet prior was now close by the baby. She told me she nannied for four children this past summer. Quiet girl with much behind those eyes, I had identified earlier as maybe being like myself, and now this love for the baby so evident, bright and shining. Then all the girls, loving on the baby. Just as they were. Just as I was. Just as the baby was. All quietly giggling, watching, admiring this baby, those sweet toes, those precious little hands pushing on the bottle making snapping and crackling noises and baby smiling up at the girls. I felt so welcome among these girls 20 years younger than me. Minimal words necessary. We were one. There is hope in this generation, camaraderie. Welcome.

Stop.

They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord — the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more. Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. I will satisfy the priests with abundance, and my people will be filled with my bounty,” declares the Lord.  Jeremiah 31: 12-14

Amy

Ginny Gafford - Yes, I am on Twitter. @ginnygafford is my name.October 8, 2012 – 1:58 pm

Amy B. Pederson - Thanks Ginny! Are you on Twitter? If not, we should get connected there as well! I’ll have to check out your blog again and see if you have Twitter link. Thanks for stopping by, and YES, I’m glad I had the opportunity to connect with the younger generation. It’s a rarity given our lifestyles are so different. Maybe I’ll catch you again next Friday?! October 8, 2012 – 3:01 am

Wendy - Love that these girls made you feel welcome by loving on your baby. I see that same thing in my small group girls. Their desire to love on little ones. So sweet. Thanks for sharing. Blessings.October 6, 2012 – 11:52 pm

Ginny Gafford - Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my “welcome” post!
I loved reading yours too. It’s hard to connect with the younger generations but there are little moments like the one you described above where we can. Thanks for sharing that story.October 6, 2012 – 1:57 pm

Amy - Pattie, I wish I was as coordinated and as skilled as these dancers too! I just love watching them dance and think they’re fabulous. Enjoy those dancers of yours. :)October 5, 2012 – 1:33 pm

Amy - Thanks Nikki! I love your perspective…”no lost causes.” That’s right. I always feel blessed when I take a moment to really see those around me. So grateful to be connected to you. I’m planning on popping over to a bunch of the #fmfparty posts later tonight. Have a great weekend.October 5, 2012 – 1:30 pm

Amy - Thanks Susan for reading. I was bummed I didn’t have a photo to go with this post, but I’m grateful the text alone provided you enough to be able to create a beautiful and precious image in your mind. Have a great weekend!October 5, 2012 – 1:27 pm

Pattie - Awesome post! My girls are the middle- and high-school dancers. I am still amazed I birthed them, as uncoordinated as I tend to be!October 5, 2012 – 12:51 pm

Nikki - There is hope, isn’t there…no lost causes.
What a wonderful moment!

thank you for allowing those girls to reveal themselves. what joy!

and always a joy to chat with you at #FMFParty :)October 5, 2012 – 10:34 am

susan - How precious. I love the image of those young ladies pausing to love on your baby. What a beautiful thing that was!October 5, 2012 – 10:00 am

Meet Elsa & Hannah

It is my pleasure to introduce you to my daughter Elsa and her friend Hannah, two girls that represent the next generation of moms! I have had this post on my heart for months, so I am happy to be able to finally share it with you today.

Months ago, Elsa had her friend Hannah over to play. I was changing my daughter’s diaper on the floor, and Hannah and Elsa were watching me. Out of the blue, Elsa said to Hannah “Are you going to be a good mom when you get bigger?” Taken aback by this question, I responded immediately with an adamant “You girls are going to be AWESOME moms!”

I don’t remember what else I said that day, but it doesn’t even matter. The fact is that I was shocked that my six-year-old was asking her friend IF she was going to be a “good mom” someday! I couldn’t help but wonder how it was she got to this place. How is it that in our American culture, a six-year-old has been exposed to so many messages about mothering, subtly and not so subtly, that she is already questioning a friend about her future mothering abilities? And what does that say about my own daughter’s confidence in her future mothering abilities? If she’s asking her friend “Are you going to be a good mom when you get bigger?” then she is likely asking that of herself.

Whether we innately want to be “good moms,” or this message is passed through our culture, or both, I have come to despise the phrase “good mom.” And the fact that my daughter already has a sense or fear about this “good mom” concept makes me want to stand up for all the girls of the next generation and say with all clarity and conviction – let’s eliminate the notion of “good mom” once and for all!

I was a “good girl.” I can’t say exactly what constitutes a “good girl,” but I know I was one. I didn’t do much wrong and I didn’t cause much trouble, and that’s just who I was.

So when I became a mother, I naturally wanted to be a “good mom.” The only problem was that I was never exactly sure what a “good mom” was, nor am I 10 years after becoming a mother. We all have a sense of a “good mom” when we see one, and there seems to be a lot of pressure to be a “good mom.” Even before I became a mom, I had people tell me I was going to be a “good mom,” but funny thing is once you become a mom and have some real experience behind you, nobody goes around telling you if you’re actually a “good mom” or not, so you’re never quite sure how you’re doing. Yes, your instinct tells you when you’ve done something right, and you’ll certainly find out when you’ve done something wrong as a mom, but there is no concrete definition of “good mom” we can use to verify YES, I’m doing this right, or NO, I’m doing that wrong.

“Good mom.” This nebulous”good mom.”

Does a “good mom” give birth naturally, medication free? Is she a “good mom” if she has an epidural? (3,680,000 results on Google search)? What if she has a c-section? (59,100,000 results on Google search)

Does a “good mom” breast feed until the recommended one-year of age? Is she still a “good mom” if she nurses until three months and then formula feeds (6,190,000 results on Google search)? What if she only formula feeds?

Does a “good mom” make her baby’s food from scratch, boiling organic food and then milling it by hand? Is she still a “good mom” if she just buys the old fashioned jars of Gerber baby food? (173,000,000 results on Google search)

Does a “good mom” stay home full-time to care for her children? Is she still a “good mom” if she chooses to work part-time or full-time, or if she has to work full-time or nights or weekends to make ends meet (132,000,000 results on Google search)?

Does a “good mom” send her kids to public school or private school, or does she homeschool? (2,290,000 results on Google search)?

Does a “good mom” hover over her children, supervising them every moment, making sure they are behaving properly, not getting in harm’s way? Is she still a “good mom” if she sends them outside to play and only checks on them once in a while? Or does a “good mom” play with her children and engage them during all waking hours so they can achieve optimal development? (24,600,000 results on Google search)?

Does a “good mom” prepare a homemade meal every night and include all the food groups? Is she still a “good mom” if she gets a basic meal on the table most nights and brings her kids out for fast food here and there? (2,140,000 results on Google search)?

Or how about some even more nebulous ones…

Is she a “good mom” if she gets called by her child’s principal because her child misbehaved in school? Is she still a “good mom” if she gets called two or three times?

Is she a “good mom” if she brought her child to school one day too soon after the lice treatments, and even after all the work she did, it’s discovered that the lice weren’t gone yet and have now spread to other children in the classroom? (I’m sure it’s happened thousands of times.)

Is she a “good mom” if her teen hates church when faith is the most important thing in the world to her?

Can she feel confident she is a “good mom” when her child has autism, a learning disability, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, attachment disorder, some vague undetermined “not otherwise specified” or “developmental delay” or any number of diagnoses where the cause is unknown, not fully understood, and/or partially genetic, and she has therapists and doctors and psychologists reminding her of all the different ways she needs to parent her child? (Let me be clear on this one, the answer is YES.)

Listen folks. I could go on and on. This makes my head swim and seeing those Google stats makes me realize why moms have a hard time feeling confident.

The fact remains true. The definition of a “good mom” is nebulous and therefore unattainable.

Perhaps we should reframe our notion of “good mom” into something like “doing her best as a mom” or “loves her children with wild abandon even though she’s not a perfect mom.”

Give yourself some grace as a mom, extend another mom grace for her journey, and fully accept the grace God offers you every single day. I will never feel sufficient or proficient to carry out the task of mothering on my own, but I am not alone. For God says in 1 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Although we are not perfect human beings, nor perfect moms, and maybe not always “good moms,” we can rest in peace knowing there is a God that offers grace. And there are millions of moms, dads, grandparents, and others to provide support when we need help along the way.

So on that note, let’s ditch that old-fashioned notion of “good mom” for all the moms of the next generation.

For Hannah.

 For Lucy.

For Ingrid.

For Raegan.

For Eva.

For Annika.

For Riese.

For Haylee.

For Briana.

For Lexi.

For Ava.

For Emma.

For Julia & Lucy.

For Hanna.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 1 Corinthians 12:9

Amy

*A special thanks to all the moms that gave me permission to use their daughters’ pictures in this post.

Lisa V. - Amen, Amy! Thanks for sharing your heart…your thoughts are so encouraging to me. Thank you! Love…LVJanuary 7, 2013 – 1:21 pm

Amy - Jen – I am just seeing this comment now. I am SO, SO grateful that you read the post on a day where it fit perfectly in your life as a mom. My hopes as a new blogger have been fulfilled by a comment like this….to give someone hope, to encourage, to let them know we are not alone on the journey. And the kids are just fine even though popcorn is all it was that night, right? :) Thanks for reading. AmyOctober 26, 2012 – 11:18 am

Jennifer 'Wiltfang' Good - Amy,
Funny that I read this tonight. I was just pondering if I’m doing a “good enough” job as I put the kids to bed this evening. I was running through a list of “should do’s” and inadequacies I feel in my head. Thank you for reminding me that I’m probably doing a fine job, even if they did eat only popcorn for dinner tonight :)October 8, 2012 – 3:31 am

Amy B. Pederson - Thanks for reading Jennifer. I’m glad you connected with the post. I agree that the parenting books need a little dose of reality so we don’t feel so inadequate and/or ill-prepared for motherhood. There also needs to be continued dialogue among moms so we stop judging one another for this and that. October 3, 2012 – 5:01 pm

Jennifer Sussman Kreamer - That’s perfect. Wish all those parenting book authors would read this!October 3, 2012 – 1:21 pm

Nicole Marie Newfield - Yes, so well said! I will be telling moms I work with about this post!October 3, 2012 – 2:47 am

Amy Pederson - Thank you Rachel.October 2, 2012 – 3:50 am

Rachel Arntson - Oh how I LOVE what you write. There’s so much kindness, acceptance, warmth, and grace in what you say. Thank you.October 2, 2012 – 2:55 am