Masthead header

Monthly Archives: October 2013

Dear Colleen: A Letter to The One Who Cracked My Code {Day 31}

Dear Colleen,

I meant to send you this thank you months ago, but never did. Guess it’s better late than never, right?

Our relationship was natural from the start. You made me comfortable in my own skin, and I had a great sense of who you were. We understood each other without much effort.

We have very similar personalities, and broadly speaking, we’re on similar journeys right now. But the details and technicalities of our lives are vastly different. Perhaps God crossed our paths so we could see ourselves reflected in the other. Perhaps God crossed our paths so we could understand one another. Perhaps God crossed our paths so we could use our unique perspectives to impact and shape each other’s lives in a way that no one else could.

Whatever His reason, I’m REALLY grateful you came into my life, Colleen.

And here’s what I wanted to thank you for last spring, but never did.

You know those times we met for lunch and talked and talked? Those were by far the best conversations I’ve had with a woman for at least 15 years. I’ve not trusted a woman that deeply, been as authentic with a woman to that extent for a LONG, LONG time.

It might be me, it might be circumstances, or it might just be this time of life with little ones. But I’ve been busy, weary, worn down. I’ve felt out of the loop for sure, and at times, I’ve felt misunderstood. I’ve not been good at long distance friendships, and I’m only half-good with ones right in front of my face. I know I can be a little mysterious upon first meetings, and I know it takes a just-right scenario for me to open up and be completely authentic.

So, Colleen. I’m grateful you’re the one that finally cracked my code. You know just how to probe, just how to engage in a way that makes me trust, believe you really care and want to know. And I feel the same for you. It’s an equal friendship, a back and forth, so I don’t feel like I’m doing all the taking or giving.

We haven’t gotten nearly as much time together as I’d like. We’re both in seasons of transition, you more than me at the moment. But I really wanted you to know that you’re dear. I’ve been so blessed by you, and I hope there’s nothing that will separate us for a while. Because I want to keep working this out and moving this friendship forward. You’re an amazing woman, and I’m honored to call you friend.

With all sincerity,

Amy

P.S. Did you like the picture, Colleen?! Brenda shot this one for me incognito!:)

*If you’d like to read more from my #31Days Letters to the Unthanked series, click here for the landing page where all the letters are listed and linked!

Amy - Vicki, I remember you sharing about a new friend when we were chatting at the (in)RL table last spring. Is that the friend you’re referring to? What a blessing you’ve received in her. So glad you found each other!November 4, 2013 – 9:44 pm

Amy - Colleen, so glad you found time to read the post despite your crazy week! Yes, I’m feeling WAY overdue for another lunch conversation. Maybe we can plan one between now and Christmas?! I’ll be in touch. :)November 4, 2013 – 9:32 pm

Vicki - I love this post and can so relate!

I haven’t had “real” friendship for a long time. I had given up on trusting women. Then about a year and a half ago God opened the door for me and I walked through and it has been such a blessing.

Thanks for sharing!November 1, 2013 – 9:48 pm

Colleen Schroeder - Wow Amy! I am so honored! Your expression of our friendship is spot on. I feel the same way about you–no surprise since we are so similar! I miss our lunch conversations and am totally due for another one. Lets plan one soon!October 31, 2013 – 10:53 pm

Monica Anderson Palmer - That’s awesome! Such sweet gifts theLord gives us!October 31, 2013 – 7:03 pm

Dear Sarah: A Letter to the One Who Tends Little Spaces, Hidden Places {Day 30}

Today’s letter is dear to my heart. It’s to Sarah, a woman who has special needs. Sarah works at a local gym I’ve been a member of for years. She’s employed by eQuality, a “community based program that assists adults with developmental disabilities with finding and maintaining competitive and contracted employment.” eQuality’s goal is to “help each individual find meaningful work, grow and develop personally, and participate in their community.”

I originally drafted this post about Sarah in June 2012, one month before my blog launched. I spent the next 16 months jumping through hoops and waiting for the perfect time to publish it (read more after the letter if you’re interested). This past week, I had the opportunity to meet with Sarah’s mom in preparation for publication. She is LOVELY, kind, and intelligent. I enjoyed our time together tremendously, and was blessed by our conversation. I’m certain that you’d adore Sarah’s mom just as much as I did.

Sarah’s mom provided a brief medical history so you have a little context before you read the letter…

Prior to Sarah’s 4th birthday, she started having seizures. A neurologist conducted a CT scan and discovered a large low grade tumor in her brain. Sarah’s family got her in for surgery to remove the tumor immediately. After surgery, the oncologist recommended that Sarah receive radiation. Because of surgery and radiation, Sarah developed right side weakness, acquired a hearing impairment, had some vocal fold paralysis, permanently lost hair in certain areas, and developed a short stature because the radiation hit her pituitary gland. A neuropsychologist indicated that she also had frontal lobe brain damage. Sarah lost her ability to walk, but because she “perseverated” on everything so much, she kept trying – she learned to walk again and learned to ride a bike! Sarah’s mom indicated that Sarah was in special education from the age of 4 or 5-years-old.

Sarah has a great sense of humor, is stubborn, and generous to a fault. Sarah’s mom knows her daughter from every which angle, and clearly loves her very much. She is blessed with a wonderful family who love and support her. Sarah was fortunate to have a great social worker who found her a place to live independent of her parents and helped her secure meaningful work through eQuality.

It’s a true honor to be able to share this letter with you today.

Dear Sarah,

You move down the row cleaning bikes and treadmills, one by one.

Wipe each seat not once, but twice.

Make each lever, each handle clean again.

Wheels and base, you don’t forget those either.

Up on the treadmill, wipe, wipe. Swish, swoosh. Up, down. Over, across.

Souls step off the treadmill when it’s a little high, a little hard. You reset inclines back to zero. Some require adjustment more than others.

Up and down, down and up again. Each treadmill is tended.

You never flinch, never complain, never show signs of distress. You complete the task set before you, to make all things new.

Window sills and vents, your job is to dust. Swipe, swipe, right to left, left to right. Next, next. Dust and dirt barely perceivable to the naked eye, but you know, He knows. The dust is there, worthy of great care.

And when you’re done, you take your rag, take your bucket, and walk away.

You’ve been ever present in the quiet, cleaning dust out of the smallest spaces. Unseen by most, but necessary, beautiful.

I’m blessed those days, in the precious moments of quiet observation. Your presence reminds me of God who humbles Himself to lowly us. He moves in the quiet sometimes, unassuming, without us even aware. He brings our incline back to zero after we’ve thrown in the towel. We start fresh, anew, every single day. It’s a holy wiping out, a cleaning out of little spaces, hidden places.

So thank you Sarah, for blessing and gracing me with your presence. If there was ever an angel in disguise, it would certainly be you.

Amy

*If you’d like to read more from my #31Days Letters to the Unthanked series, click here for the landing page where all the letters are listed and linked!

SPECIAL NOTES ABOUT THIS POST

I’ve jumped through MANY hoops to share this story with you today, the most hoops I’ve jumped through to publish a post on the blog to date. But I’ve been persistent, because I believe Sarah’s story is worth telling.

JUNE 2012: One month before my blog launched, I drafted Sarah’s post in Evernote while I was walking on the treadmill. I’d been watching Sarah work for months, and was moved so many times that one day I composed a blog post right there, on the spot at the gym on my iPhone.

FALL 2012: I approached Sarah’s job coach to see if I could be put in contact with her family. I hoped to speak with them and obtain permission to share Sarah’s photograph and story on my blog. My request was forwarded to Sarah’s case manager who shared that they provide their associates with the utmost levels of privacy, therefore, the family’s identity and contact information could not be shared with me. I was in tears, but let it go and decided there’d eventually be a way if it was meant to be.

APRIL 2013: Something came over me. I decided to move Sarah’s draft from Evernote into my WordPress blog. I spent 45 minutes editing the post, and the next day sent an email to Sarah’s case manager with the blog post attached. I kindly asked if he would forward the post to Sarah’s family. I wanted them to at least see the post, and perhaps they’d consider giving me permission to post it on the blog once they’d read it. Sarah’s parents contacted me via phone a couple days later. They loved and were honored by the post, and were open to sharing it as long as Sarah’s privacy was maintained.

JUNE 2013: I sent an email to Sarah’s case manager indicating Sarah’s parents had given permission to publish the post, but needed to find a way to take Sarah’s picture at the gym. I didn’t hear back and didn’t follow up because I’d found myself in summer craziness with three kids at home.:)

OCTOBER 2013: Sarah’s post was still on my mind. I knew it would fit perfectly in my “Letters to the Unthanked” #31days series, so I contacted Sarah’s mother who gave me permission to include it!

I share these details with you today because I believe if God wants a story to be told, He will make a way. We just need to be patient and wait for His perfect timing. A huge thank you to Sarah’s family for allowing me to share her story here today.

Cindy L Meester - I know Sarah and her parents. I worked with them all through Sarah’s elementary years. I loved every minute even the “stubborn” ones. What a great tribute to Sarah. October 30, 2013 – 10:26 pm

Amy - Thank you Vicki. This post and story has been dear to my heart for a long time. Glad you had time to read it! :)October 30, 2013 – 7:48 pm

Vicki - Amy, thank you for sharing this letter and Sarah’s story.

It is precious and a lesson to us all. <3October 30, 2013 – 2:36 pm

Dear Nikki: A Letter to the Online Friend I Met (in) Real Life {Day 29}

Dear Nikki,

I’ll admit. I felt like a bit of a nerd.

I got all ready, drove 45 minutes one way, picked up some cupcakes I special ordered for the event, and drove to the parking lot where I sat and gathered myself in the car for a few minutes before I was supposed to meet a bunch of strangers.

But not everyone was a stranger. We had developed a sweet relationship online, so I was really looking forward meeting you and a couple other women that day!

For the entire month of April, this (in) Real Life conference was the talk of the town among our community on Twitter. 6,000 women from more than 20 countries were meeting up in real life instead of where they usually meet up, online. I felt the nudge to attend our local meet up, and knew it would be good for me to step out of my safe little box.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I prepared myself for anything.

The room was quite full when I arrived. I looked around to see if I recognized anyone’s real life face from the tiny avatar I was accustomed to seeing on Twitter. When I found you at a table close to the entrance, I thanked God, made a beeline to the table, and took a seat next to you. You don’t have any idea how comforted I was by the fact I found you so quickly!

Our Minnesota (in)RL group was one of the largest in the country, if not the largest, so there were several tables of women. We were fortunate to have a bunch of wonderful ladies at our table. I’ll always remember the lovely pastor’s wife who sat across from us. She was motherly and warm and gathered us all in like her own. And Vicki, she was great. I sensed there was a lot more to her than she had time to reveal that day – such a kind soul, and she’s blessed me online since meeting that day. There were others too, but one woman in particular captured my attention, made me realize my instincts were trustworthy, spot on. That’s you, Nikki!

You see, over the course of almost three years on Twitter, I’d begun to develop some relationships online. You are one among a great community of online friends. When we tweet and read blog posts, it’s my belief that we’re seeing straight into souls. Real life facades and masks are stripped away in the Twitter and blogging communities I’m a part of.

So I had a feeling about you, girl. I knew in my heart you were going to be the real deal. I knew I was going to love you. I knew you were someone I’d be friends with in real life.

And I was right!

The truths I had stored up about you in my heart came to fruition that day. You were an amazingly sweet woman with a heart of gold, someone I’d be honored to call friend, just as great in real life as you were online.

So I want to thank you, Nikki, for being a real live example of why we can trust our instincts about relationships we’ve developed online.

I know in my heart that some of the women I’ve met online would be the most awesome of friends in real life. Our souls speak the same language. The only problem is that they live in California, Tennessee, Alabama and other far off places. But after meting you, I can trust that when I engage with my close circle of online friends, it’s the real deal. I can rest easy knowing they’re not baring their souls just for the fun of it. They’re speaking from  their heart. They’re speaking their truth. It’s who they are.

I’m so glad you were there that day, Nikki. I’m blessed to have met you and can’t wait to meet up again, maybe this time for a more intimate lunch or coffee date with kids in tow.:)

Here’s to forging ahead in relationship, believing truth and beauty are constantly being revealed online and (in) Real Life.

Amy

*If you’d like to read more from my #31Days Letters to the Unthanked series, click here for the landing page where all the letters are listed and linked!

Amy - Thank you, Jennifer. That means a lot. So grateful for who you are. :)November 4, 2013 – 9:41 pm

Vicki - I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe God put us all at that table together. That day changed me. It freed me and has opened a door to an amazing community that I would never have believed could exist.

Thank you for writing this Amy! YOU are a blessing and your heart shines!November 1, 2013 – 9:59 pm

Jennifer - “When we tweet and read blog posts, it’s my belief that we’re seeing straight into souls. Real life facades and masks are stripped away in the Twitter and blogging communities I’m a part of.” Yes! Love this so much, Amy. You have the most beautiful heart.November 1, 2013 – 9:34 pm

Amy - Anna, I’m a little late to respond to your comment, but I’m so glad this post made your day. We didn’t get to connect much in person that day (you had your hands more than full!), but I’m confident we’d get along really well. Since we’re all fairly close, we’ll have to meet up again someday. I think I’ve told you this before, but I’ll always remember that cute vlog your hubby did about you and the community you’ve developed through blogging/Twitter. Perhaps it was about a year ago before Allume? Anyway, it was so sweet to hear from a man’s perspective. I could tell he was really sold on what this community has done for you. :)October 30, 2013 – 7:47 pm

Amy - Thank you, Nikki. You are the sweetest. From the second I met you in real life, I knew you were exactly the person I thought you were online. It was such an encouragement, and I’m grateful I decided to go that day because of that. Glad I made your day a little brighter. :) Hope you are doing well, and I’ll DM you on Twitter with the days/location that would work best for me!October 29, 2013 – 9:26 pm

anna {girlwithblog.com} - I LOVE THIS. I love that you speak to my own heart about community, and that you’ve found what I’ve found in social media – it cuts thru the small talk, as we’ve shared our tiny moments that build up our real lives. Thank you for sharing this – it made my day.October 29, 2013 – 1:55 pm

Nikki - Girl, my boy would like to know what’s wrong with me as I sit here a blubbery mess! 😉 YOU, friend, are the real deal. You’re someone I’d want by my side and know you’d be there for me. I’m so lucky to have met you inRL and am completely blessed to hold you close in my heart.

{I chalk up you sitting next to me at that large even as a God moment. truly. Everyone at that table was there for me I’m certain}

YES! We do need to get together again soon;) Let’s make it happen, kids or no kids! I’ll tweet ya;)

Love you, Amy. And am loving what I’m learning about you through this series!October 29, 2013 – 9:45 am

Dear Jennifer: A Letter to the One Who Made Beauty {Day 28}

Dear Jennifer,

I can’t thank you enough for the gorgeous picture frames you made for me almost two years ago!

I admit, I love beautiful things. I tend to be perfectionistic. And I’m convinced I’m a southern girl at heart who’s living in one of the most northern states you could find, Minnesota.

Take my love of beautiful things, add my perfectionistic tendencies, add my desire for something that just doesn’t exist in Minnesota, then add hormones and nesting that came with a third pregnancy – and you might have found me a little obsessed over a picture frame project two years ago.

You see, this was my third baby, so I knew exactly what to expect. This time around, I had made lists of all the things I wanted to get done before baby arrived. YES, definitely a little obsessive, but I even typed them up! All in all, I completed 160 items from my cycling to-do lists in the months leading to her birth.

On those lists were important things, like get the crib out of storage and set it up. On that list were also not-so-important things, like turn our older daughter’s dresser from a junk collecting area to a beautiful display area.

I knew I wanted picture frames for the top shelf of her dresser, so I began the search in an effort to check the task off of my to-do list. Easier said than done. If I know exactly what I want, I can occasionally become obsessive about continuing the search until I find it. I know an item exists if I look hard enough, long enough. And in this case, I KNEW there were gorgeous picture frames to be found. I just wasn’t finding them!

I looked everywhere. I was even creative about where I looked. But these elusive frames just didn’t exist.

After a while, I knew I had become obsessed and needed to bring an end to this, so I decided to turn to Etsy. Thank goodness, I found you and your gorgeous picture frames there! My search was finally over!

But of course, in all my nesting obsessing, I couldn’t just order what you had and leave it at that. I noticed you did custom orders, and really wanted the frames to coordinate with my daughter’s bedroom. So I engaged you with an email to see how I would go about placing a custom order.

There set forth a series of emails between the two of us. And ya, I won’t even go there. Amy obsessiveness at it’s worst (or best?). Remember I sent you detailed ideas about each frame? Colors, sizes, designs and patterns, bows and no bows, embellishments or no embellishments? You ensured me you were more than happy to do this custom work, but I was certain I was being more annoying than any other customer you’d ever had.

You shipped the picture frames to me just 10 days before our little girl was born. I couldn’t WAIT to open the box! Before I opened it, I looked at the return address. Arkansas. Yep, more proof there’s something about that Southern living, those Southern girls that makes me want to be one. I knew these frames were going to be awesome before I even saw them.

And they were.

The picture frames were absolutely GORGEOUS, more beautiful than I’ve ever seen. They matched my daughter’s bedroom and fit on her dresser perfectly.

For almost two years now, the frames have graced my daughter’s room with their beauty. While the two bottom shelves of her dresser have been stuffed with children’s books, trinkets, random memorabilia, kid jewelry, and hair pieces, the top shelf has been reserved solely for the frames.

Simple, classy, elegant, beautiful. Made by you with love, care and attention to detail.

Thank you for exceeding my expectations, thank you for making my vision come to life, and thank you for using your amazing gifts to bring beauty into the lives of others.

Amy

*If you’d like to read more from my #31Days Letters to the Unthanked series, click here for the landing page where all the letters are listed and linked!

***SPECIAL NOTE: Jennifer reported to me in an email this week that she “retired” from making picture frames almost a year ago. She moved and the distance between her and her twin sister Stephanie made it too difficult for them to work together. Stephanie still maintains and operates the Etsy Shop at Two Sisters Designsshe no longer sells the frames, but does sell a variety of VERY CUTE monogramed items! The shop is closed this week, but will reopen soon. Click here to check it out! 

Dear Stepsister: A Letter to the One Who Stepped Out of Character {Day 27}

Dear Stepsister,

We made a reservation for four at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, 1900 Park Fare. We’d been there the year prior for the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast and it was wonderful, so we came back, this time for Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner.

We were very excited to dine and meet Cinderella, Prince Charming, Cinderella’s Evil Stepmother, and the three Stepsisters, one of them you! Our reservation was late and the dining room was running behind, so we were among the last to be seated for the evening.

Shortly after we were seated, a dad, mom, and young preschool-aged child arrived and sat at the table next to us. I glanced at their table and made some quick observations when I overheard the parents engaging with the wait staff: 1) The child had very short, blonde curly hair and was wearing a blue shirt. 2) The child had some notable facial pigments or breakouts. 3) The parents were talking to the wait staff about their child’s food allergies.

As dinner progressed, Cinderella came to our table for a visit, as did the Evil Stepmother and Prince Charming. Next came the Stepsisters, one by one. You were the one in pink. ALL three Stepsisters were in full character, but you were really playing it up! When you came to our table, you embodied the Stepsister character completely. Note your “smile” for the picture with my children, and you were even crabby and feisty as you interacted with them at the table! Since we were among the last in the dining room, we were the recipients of some extra special treatment – you and two other characters engaged in dialogue with our children at our table, completely in character! It was definitely an intimate and “magical” Disney experience.

After you engaged with our children, you proceeded to the table next to us where the mom, dad and young child were seated. Up until this time, I had thought the child was a boy, but as you approached their table and I looked closer, I realized the child was a girl. She had put on a crown and was wearing a blue Cinderella t-shirt.

The little girl LOVED you and was clearly intrigued by your character. What caught my attention was that she kept giving you hugs, and she wouldn’t stop. It was as if this little girl was in desperate need of hugs, hugs, and more hugs. They weren’t just quick one-stop hugs you’d give any Disney character. They were long embraces, embraces that signaled I need your presence and comfort right now, Stepsister. I need more of that, Stepsister. You obliged and hugged her sweetly, as many times as she needed.

After a while, you were called away from the little girl’s table, as there were still a few other families who had not met you yet. We continued to eat our meal, as did the little girl and her parents next to us.

You and and the other characters wrapped up your time with the other families in the dining room, and by then, the room was REALLY clearing.

Then, I looked up and realized you were on your way to visit the little girl at the table next to us – again.

While you were still Stepsister, I could tell the little girl had captured your heart and there was something about the way you approached that signaled to me you had stepped out of character a bit. The little girl, of course, welcomed you with a huge smile and open arms, ready for more HUGS. You, of course, obliged.

You lingered at their table. And it was beautiful. The little girl I once thought was a boy, who had allergies and notable breakouts or pigments on her face, was being specially noted, cared for, and loved. You could have remained in full Stepsister character, been completely rude and passed right by after a first brief meeting. But no, you turned your interaction with this little girl into an art form, adapting and crafting your response so that child’s unique needs were met.

It was the spring of 2011. I had been feeling a call to write on and off since the spring of 2003. And it was another full year beyond our family’s encounter with you that I finally decided to start a blog.

But I want you to know – I’m certain I was supposed to meet you in that dining room that particular day, at that particular time. I’m certain I was supposed to see you interact with that little girl. I’m certain God knew I would be moved by your response to her. And I’m certain He wanted to use you and that little girl to call my attention to stories that needed to be told.

This story, your story, was one of a few that led me to believe that God had given me eyes to see stories unfold, stories that might otherwise go untold.

Today, I’m telling your story. A woman who gave it all – to a little girl who needed it all. One night, in a Disney dining room.

It’s not rocket science and it’s not mind-blowing headline news, but it’s precious, it’s meaningful, it’s a story that should be told.

So thank you – for your hugs, your character, your warmth and sincerity for a little girl, and for your inspiration,

Amy

*If you’d like to read more from my #31Days Letters to the Unthanked series, click here for the landing page where all the letters are listed and linked!

Jennifer Westrom Peterson - Oh wow, I have chills, beautiful and amazing!! I have no doubt that you were supposed to see that, God used that to touch you deeply!!October 28, 2013 – 9:26 pm