Monthly Archives: March 2013
I watched every episode of X Factor that year, 2011. A spunky, vivacious girl named Rachel Crow took the stage and stole the hearts of millions of Americans. There was something special about this girl, you could see it in a minute. She was born to perform, born to bring light to lives. She took 5th place in a competition that began with thousands, and her journey had just begun.
For Rachel found herself on tour with Big Time Rush and Cody Simpson the summer of 2012, and our family had the fortune of meeting her face to face! Rachel was kind and as lovely as could be with poise and social graces far beyond her early teenage years.
But after conversation and photographs with Rachel, my attention turned towards a familiar face standing next to the Nickelodeon representative at the door. It was Barbara, Rachel’s mom. I recognized her from X Factor clips! She stood there at the doorway quietly, unassumingly. And as I watched Barbara watch her daughter, I wondered how it would feel to see your daughter go from girl next door to childhood superstar in a year.
I knew I wanted to talk to Barbara, but Rachel was wrapping things up and the moments were fleeting. As I passed Barbara at the doorway on the way to the food line, my heart tugged to stop, but my head wasn’t courageous enough. I knew I just missed my opportunity. Rachel, her mom, and the Nickelodeon representative left to prep for the concert shortly after we returned to the table.
Watching Rachel on stage, I became even more curious about Barbara’s new reality as mom of this budding star. So when Rachel announced she was signing autographs after her performance, I knew it was my second chance to meet Barbara.
But I wasn’t alone! Thousands of teen girls flew to the back of the stadium and up the stairs to get in line for Rachel. In the middle of a seemingly insurmountable crowd, I finally made my way around to the front and asked security if I could just get through to talk to Barbara, but realized quickly that wasn’t going to happen.
So last weekend when Barbara and Rachel entered the Kids’ Choice Awards pre-party just feet in front of me, I knew I had been given yet another chance to meet Barbara!
I knew better than to think on it, so when I saw Barbara sit down at a table and Rachel head for meet and greet, I took the opportunity to approach Barbara right away.
Barbara was oh so gracious, welcoming and warm as I introduced myself as a complete stranger who was simply interested in her role as Rachel Crow’s mom. Barbara could have asked me to leave, called Rachel’s handler to get me out of her space, or had her friend send me away, but she didn’t.
At that moment, we talked mom to mom, like any two moms would chat on any ordinary day.
We talked about Rachel’s adoption as an infant, and how it was to suddenly live life in the spotlight. As I shared about our experience at the concert last summer, Barbara indicated how deeply her daughter loves her fans, detailing Rachel’s going above and beyond to give her fans as much access as possible on tour. We agreed that Rachel possesses a socially effervescent personality, and Barbara was quick to add that Rachel draws energy from her fans. In an effort to protect her daughter, Barbara guards Rachel’s schedule and accompanies her everywhere. Now that Rachel is recognized by so many, Barbara divulged how they managed some privacy and peace on a recent vacation. And last, but not least, we touched on the family’s faith and how that has kept them grounded the past two years.
When Barbara’s friend got up from the table, I became keenly aware that Barbara and I had been talking much longer than I anticipated. As I began my farewells, Rachel approached. I explained to Rachel that I’d like to feature her mom on my blog. Rachel agreed with much excitement and posed for this sweet picture with her mom.
I thanked Barbara kindly, wished her and Rachel all the best, and was on my way.
Mom to mom, we had talked, and I am forever honored and blessed to have experienced this encounter with Barbara (and Rachel, of course)!
Barbara, humble, kind and wise. Rachel, vivacious, lovable, and talented beyond her years. Only God could have orchestrated a union such as this. Years before the world knew Rachel Crow, He planned the beautiful coming together of an infant and a mom, both destined for big roles, together as family.
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Ephesians 1:4-6
Rachel Crow’s website can be found at http://www.rachelcrowofficial.com/. Rachel has signed a deal with Nickelodeon to star in her own musical-comedy pilot. Rachel is also lending her voice in Rio 2, slated to release in 2014! Congratulations Rachel, and may you always remain humble and true to yourself, wherever the path may lead. Many blessings to you and your mom.
Five days have passed since I met sweet Patty. She emerged from the back like an angel, and words won’t adequately describe the way she made me feel that day. But try I must, to put this experience in words, because as I circled the mall after meeting Patty, I felt with all certainty you must hear how she moved me from a black hole of uncertain obsession to the bright light of certain authenticity.
The origins of this story bring me back in time. A special event turned dark in a moment. I felt beautiful, ready, prepared, at my best. I had planned for that day. With a glance and a handful of words, he made this intuitive soul feel little, squelched, like nothing, like I had a dull, invisible cloak all around. In that moment, I was silently shocked, taken aback. I felt so beautiful, just right, yet he so quickly managed to steal every bit of that away from me. And I knew my intuition was right. He thought little of me and for some dumb reason I cared.
So when I discovered our family had an awesome opportunity to join my husband at the Kids’ Choice Awards this weekend (yes, we’re leaving tomorrow!), I was certain this once in a lifetime opportunity would require a once in a lifetime dress! I knew I would want to feel beautiful, completely comfortable, with no regrets and no doubts about the way I experienced this very special event.
Unfortunately, in all my desiring for good, memories brought me straight back to that moment when I felt beautiful and he made me feel like nothing. Only this time, I had grown, matured. Never again would I allow someone to make me feel that way. Never again would I experience that kind of rejection. Never again would I allow someone to project so much negativity straight to my face. This time, I was going to feel beautiful for myself and for my husband who loves me with all abandon.
So the search was on! I toured malls, strip malls, and stand alone stores on a mission to find the just-right dress. Fun, hip, and a little outside my box were the words to describe this elusive dress. Orange (for the Nickelodeon orange carpet) it had to be, or blue or green maybe, but nothing fit the bill for me.
After all the searching and in my first moment of desperation, I entered my favorite store, White House Black Market on a whim. I knew there was no orange, and no blue and no green. But there was lavender they said, and lavender a complement to orange! Two wonderful souls sensed my desperation and brought me straight to the dress I needed. Fun and a little playful, it was beautiful, it really was. The dress fit me perfectly, and I did feel beautiful in that moment. It seemed just right! I brought it home and tried it on again, and my husband said it was wholly Amy. All I needed was jewelry, and I was set for the awards!
But as each day passed, I tried that dress on again and once more. Something was not quite right. Yes, it was perfectly Amy, and yes, it was a dress I’d normally buy. In fact, it was beautiful! But I knew how I wanted to feel, and the feeling wasn’t quite right.
So I tried that last stand alone store, the discount one this time. I found two dresses, both fun and hip and a little outside my box, just what I proclaimed to want. I bought them both, leaving my husband to guide. Maybe he and I would find these better? Maybe these were the solution to the lavender dress that wasn’t quite right? But the striped one was too “hipster,” and the cool hip one with navy and orange was thin and way too short, like a near 40-year-old trying to fit into a 20-year-old’s dress. Although I wanted so badly for one of these to work, it was clear they were headed for return.
You wonder where’s Patty in all this? What does Patty have to do with all this craziness? Hold on, she emerges as my earth angel in a few moments.
In my obsessive nonsense over finding the perfect dress, I just knew there was a solution. So five days ago, I set my sights on the Mall of America for one last chance (yes I have a determined, at times obsessive spirit when I set my mind to something!).
I made my rounds at the Mall of America, and had nearly surrendered. I was going to keep the lavender dress, and I had actually come to terms with it. I was happy. I was content! It was a beautiful dress from my favorite store, and it was very much a dress I would normally buy. It wasn’t quite what I was hoping for at this particular event, but oh well! I’m a perfectionist, and I just needed to get over myself and my crazy idealistic mindset.
Just one week from the event and my last outing by myself, I knew this was my last chance. I stepped foot in the White House Black Market store one more time.
I don’t believe in magic, I don’t believe things make people happy, and I don’t believe at the end of life it will matter much what I wore, but I do believe clothes can make your best self shine, clothes can make you feel completely comfortable and beautiful in your own skin. And White House Black Market is the place that makes that happen for me. Just right, every time, like their clothes are designed for me. When my obsessive self has reached an end and I think there are no other options, I enter that door and White House Black Market pulls through.
And let me tell you, White House Black Market has the most wonderful employees I’ve met.
But Patty at this Mall of America store? She was the most special I’ve met. She emerged from the back of that White House Black Market like an angel sent for me.
Her quiet but sincere compliment about the purple shirt that was barely peeking out of my coat started it off just right. I told her “thanks, I’m not much of a purple person, but my mom bought it for me and I get compliments on it all the time!” Patty assured me it looked great, and asked how she could help.
I was quick to explain I already had this lavender dress here in the back, but it hadn’t felt quite right as I tried it on this week. Our eyes set almost simultaneously at the wall on the left where a white dress with flowers hung. I hadn’t seen it before and knew it might be the one! In fact, the only dress I had seen was the lavender one, so the whole world was at my fingertips at that moment. As Patty and I pulled dresses for the fitting room, she said quietly with all conviction, “we’re going to find you something.” As silly as it sounds, all this fuss about a dress, my heart was at ease.
Seven dresses hung in the dressing room plus the lavender one at home for comparison. A feast for my eyes, I knew one of these was going to work!
Patty let me be. She had impeccable timing. The white dress with flowers was first. It was perfect! Just what I was looking for – fun yet sophisticated, and classic Amy style. Patty brought in a shrug, and the lavender shoes were much better than the nude ones she “lost me” in.
That dress was the one, and we both knew it. She brought me out of the dressing room, all put together just right. Into the black space with mirrors all around, a couple of employees passed with sincere compliments abound.
But Patty, and here’s where words aren’t adequate…
Patty, she affirmed me like no other.
The way she looked at me in that open space with mirrors was something special. Her smile, her beautiful eyes, her sincere, warm presence in that moment brings tears to my eyes five days later. She said more, but all I remember was “You. Look. Stunning.” And she looked into my eyes with all the sincerity of her heart, and I felt it and my eyes welled with tears. It wasn’t so much I felt beautiful because Patty’s comments made me feel beautiful, but Patty helped me see and believe the truth about myself. I looked beautiful, I felt beautiful, I am beautiful, inside and out. My inside matched my outside, and I felt assurance in that.
And in that moment, I saw a reflection of myself in Patty. The necklace and belt she wore were in my closet at home, but it was more than that. Patty reflects the woman I want to be, the way I want to make others feel. She made me feel so sure, so confident about myself, and she was so authentic in her presence I can’t put words to it. I have no hesitancy in my heart that she meant what she was saying, and I felt it as well. Patty wasn’t about the sale in that moment, she was about affirming me as a human being, affirming me as I presented my best self, my most authentic self to the world in this dress.
A long and ridiculous search had led me back to this store, White House Black Market, an earthly place I can call my own. It had happened before in this store, but this time was something more. I found joy, peace, and assurance in who I am.
And the interesting thing was that even in our assurance we had found “the dress,” Patty didn’t stop me at that. She let me flounder as I continued to try on all the other dresses for size and style. The one that didn’t do anything for me, the one that was just ok, the one that was 100% Amy on the hanger but not right when I put it on, two that were beautiful but not quite right for the occasion, one that was sophisticated and fit like a glove but was best for a wedding, and the one that was sexy but totally not me. She let me try them all.
At the end? We returned to the white dress with flowers.
Patty reaffirmed me “that’s the one,” and with all my heart, I knew it to be true. It was. just right. So she brought it out, with the shoes and the shrug and I stood at the counter with no hesitancy.
Because this time, I felt an assurance that ran deeper than any man could squelch in just a moment. For my assurance rests in who I am. Woman, child of God created in the image of God, perfectly unique, Amy.
I feel beautiful. I am beautiful.
And so are you.
Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, I will go to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of incense. You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you. Song of Songs 4:6-7
Mara. Sweet Mara.
I’d heard her name many times more than once. I took note this little girl was in need. Prayers were lifted from the pulpit and there were requests for even more prayer. Her name showed up in email newsletters, and there was a benefit too. For years, these opportunities to cross paths with Mara sat at my doorstep.
But friends, I have to be honest, my eyes were not wide open to little Mara’s reality until three days ago.
For in my own pain, I could not see. Our stories had overlapped on the timeline, and I was not able to open my heart to a set of circumstances remotely similar to what I was enduring, what I had endured. In those unknown years of overlap, my own heart had been broken and was spilling out wide from six years of trauma and chaos and pain from my own sister’s illnesses. Illnesses much different than those Mara faces, but in light of God’s bigger-picture story, similar enough.
So it was not until now, just three days ago, that my heart was ready to hear who Mara really was, who Mara really is. To hear Mara’s story, to open my heart and let a flow of compassion spill out for her, is necessary now.
The story of a daughter, a sister facing a battle, facing pain that has lasted for years. A roller-coaster story of ups and downs. And let me tell you, Miss Mara has endured some big rides. From her Caring Bridge site:
Mara was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease called MPS VI in 2006. After several years of complicated ERT (treatment to help slow the progression of her disease) failed to work for her, she underwent her first BMT in 2008 in which lead to engraftment failure. After a few years later of trial and error therapy, and lengthy ICU hospitalizations the decisions was made to undergo a 2nd bone marrow transplant at the U of MN. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy to prepare her bone marrow to receive her “new cells” on Feb. 7th 2013.
A moving video of Mara’s second bone marrow transplant on February 7, 2013, can be viewed here: http://mollyshieldsphotography.myshowit.com/maranorton
Today marks Day +27 since Mara’s second bone marrow transplant, and the best news yet came yesterday when Mara’s mom shared that “Mara is 100% grafted with donor cells!”
But friends, while this is the best news ever, this daughter, this sister, little Mara, is not out of the woods yet. For she is still in the hospital, and there is belly pain and nausea, chills and blood pressure to control. Her “adenovirus blood test from Monday came back 5x higher, and her CMV doubled again,” she is on antiviral IV medications in hopes they “will start kicking in soon, the IVIG infusions help her IGG go up to help fight, and her T cells start growing to help too.”
All the abbreviations make my head spin, and families shouldn’t have to know what BMT and CMV and IVIG and IGG mean. But Mara’s health? That’s what’s important. For the God of the Universe designed the inner-workings of all those abbreviations and all of those numbers and readings, and we can rest in confidence knowing He has Mara in His hands. For Mara is God’s story. He sent His son for us, in our suffering and in our pain, in our chronic diseased state, and He redeems, He heals, He restores. And Mara is in His hands.
But even in that glorious truth, we must not forget. Mara is not alone.
Daddy Christian and Mama Tina, Older Sister Catherine and Younger Brother Landin? These are the people that have been by Mara’s side. Her family. Mara, a sweet child of tender age, reliant on her family for care, for stability. I’ve never met Mara, nor have I met Daddy or Mama or Older Sister or Younger Brother, but let me tell you, they’re brilliant, they’re brave, they’re bold and courageous and they’ve fought a battle that’s been hard won. People can’t really grasp the breadth, the depth of little Mara’s health issues, the struggles she faces, the struggles they’ve faced, but the pit in Daddy Christian’s stomach has turned to a ray of sunshine in a matter of minutes more than once. Mama Tina has seen “glimmers of better,” and Older Sister and Younger Brother’s lives have been changed. forever.
The fact is, none of us would understand unless we stepped right into Daddy Christian and Mama Tina and Older Sister Catherine and Younger Brother Landin’s shoes. And since we can’t step into their shoes, we must, we must. also pray for Daddy Christian and Mama Tina and Older Sister Catherine and Younger Brother Landin. For these special beings have been placed in Mara’s life to care and support, to love and to nurture, and they need our assurance, His assurance, as well. For the days are hard and the road is long, but all five must know we care.
So today, thanks to Ms. Liz and Pastor Dan, and God who opened my heart at the perfect time, I fast and pray with hundreds others, in honor of Little Miss Mara and her dear Daddy Christian, Mama Tina, Older Sister Catherine, and Younger Brother Landin.
May they be healed, may they be restored. May these days seem short in light of life ahead.
Will you join us? It’s never too late. For we’re all on God’s timeline, and though we may be momentarily blinded to others’ pain because of our own, God is always ready to open our hearts at a moment’s notice, so we may lift others to His glory.
“Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” Joel 2.12
Mara’s Caring Bridge site can be viewed and followed at: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/norton. The family is grateful for prayer partners along the way.
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 (#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 ORDINARY.
I’m quieted. I’m silenced in all your extraordinaire.
I’m momentarily paralyzed by your God-sized dreams, your god-sized living on the computer screen. But I am not you, and you are not me, for God has a plan that is unique and special, only for me.
And I begin comparing and thinking this God-sized dream I’m not willing to share is just too big. That it’s not worth dreaming. That it might be so God-sized it’s not even possible. And that leaves me in a place of defeat before I’ve barely begun.
For if I compare myself to you, you seem bigger. You seem better. You have it all together. You know where you’re going. You’re on your way.
And I sit in this silence.
For although He made me quiet, my heart beats loud and I have much to say. Things to say that you, and you, and you can’t possibly say.
For this path? It’s mine. And the God-sized dream, between me and God.
My heart wants to believe it true, but my mind? It tells me no way. That brain that over-processes and wonders if this mystery will ever be unfolded? No way, just no way. The world? It tells me no way, that’s ridiculous, far off daydreaming. My overpacked life? No way I can ever make it happen. And the Twitter stream? No way, nothing but a face in the sea of success.
But my God? In the quiet, He says yes. In the quiet, it’s ok. Between you and Me, we’ll keep it this way. I’ll lead. You follow. Sit and be near. For you see the worlds’ works, but My way is better. This journey is for you. For you are not ordinary. You are extraordinary.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30
SPECIAL NOTE BEYOND THE FIVE MINUTES: Holley Gerth, author of You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream, is leading a group of women that are publicly acknowledging and pursuing their God-Sized dreams. I follow Holley’s blog quietly, and admire her very much. The day Holley’s God-Sized blog series launched, I stayed up really late reading everybody’s posts, and I was stunned, but inspired by their willingness to share such big and bold dreams with the world. Although I know with clarity my own God-Sized dream, I am not bold enough nor confident enough to share it publicly. I pray I will be bold and courageous as I continue down the path to my God-Sized dream, that I will follow Him each step despite my human fears and doubts, and that I will rest in peace knowing His plans are to give me hope and a future.
ANOTHER SPECIAL NOTE JUST PRIOR TO LINKING-UP! I published this post, went to link-up at Lisa-Jo’s site, and read that Holley’s book is released TODAY!!!! I have some serious goose bumps knowing I wrote this post and did not realize today was her big book release day! A big congratulations to Holley, and I’m knowing God has His arms wrapped around all these God-Sized dreams more than any of us can fathom. Truly, this has been a God moment for me today. Thank you Lisa-Jo Baker for the prompt, thank you Holley Gerth for the book, and thank you all for joining in this stream of consciousness.