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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Divine In The Daily Reader Survey

I felt a call to write nine years before I actually started writing.

The call began in 2003 and continued to unfold year after year for nine years straight.

All those years I kept the call a secret, mostly to myself. To be completely honest, I didn’t even know if it was a call, so why share with anyone else? I thought I was imagining things, making believe things I wanted to do, to be. I thought maybe I was just dreaming, my ideas far flung, crazy, unrealistic, unattainable.

In 2010, I purchased a domain name and set up a blog titled “Perfectly Unbalanced Supermom.” I never wrote a single post on that blog. After letting it sit empty for two years, I let the domain expire.

In 2012, I realized I could no longer keep the content I’d been composing in my head to myself.

Someone wise counseled me – “It’s time to stop wondering if it’s a call and start figuring out what you’re going to do about it.” I’ll be forever grateful for that individual and their willingness to speak truth to me when I needed it most.

In July 2012, I launched my blog.

I made it clear to my husband that the intention of my blog was NOT to share cute updates about our family with friends and relatives. I didn’t want to just share sweet photos of my kids at the zoo and how we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the picnic table at the park. I didn’t want to just tell you we celebrated our daughter’s birthday. I didn’t want to just tell you that my husband and I went on a cruise and stopped at St. Thomas and Martinique and Cozumel. I wanted it to be more than that, much more than that.

I was clear about something else before I started. If, after one year of blogging, the only people that were reading my blog were my mom and my aunt, then I would NOT have achieved my goal. While I LOVE when my mom reads the blog, and I’d be honored if my aunts would pop in and read once in a while, I wanted to reach a larger audience. I wanted to move people beyond my immediate family. I wanted to make a difference in the life of someone who was just an acquaintance, someone I’d never met in real life at all.

16 months into blogging, I can tell you with confidence that I’ve met the goals I set for my first year! I’m allowing myself to dream, and I’m dreaming bigger and with greater clarity than ever. It’s a faith journey, and if I meet any of the long-term goals for my blog, it would be God’s doing, not my own. Because this path has no guarantees.

So I’m on my way, but I’m not finished yet. In fact, I’ve only just begun.

I come to you, my readers, for your wisdom, for your knowledge, for your insight. I want to know who you are, I want to know what you think, I want to know how I can help you best, I want to know what you think about my writing.

Because as much as I needed this blog for me, my long-term vision has much more to do with you.

So today, I’m launching my first Divine In The Daily Reader Survey! If all goes well, as planned, I’d like to survey my readers once a year, around this time right before Thanksgiving.

I’d be SO grateful if you’d take a few moments to click on the link and complete the reader survey. I’ve included a variety of questions to accommodate all of your different personalities. For the open-ended questions, feel free to write as little or as much as you’d like, or even leave a question blank if it doesn’t suit your style or mood today.

And rest assured, the survey is completely anonymous! 

To complete the Divine In The Daily Reader Survey, click here.

Thank you in advance for your time and thoughtful responses. Your feedback will help me move forward with even greater clarity, and for that I am appreciative.

Amy

Gretchen Wendt O'Donnell - :-) I’m so glad you’re enjoying your blogging journey!November 26, 2013 – 1:30 am

When You Just Need To Have a Little Fun

After we folded and set out a couple hundred place cards in preparation for the wedding, Jerry, father of the bride, overheard my son ask me for money from the ATM. My son had seen all the video games upstairs and wanted money to play them at the reception later that night. I explained we were going to have to find an ATM that was affiliated with our bank because there was no way I was paying all those ATM fees!

Great uncle Jerry came to the rescue.

He pulled two $10 bills out of his wallet, one for my son and one for my daughter. They could use the money for video games if they promised one thing – that they’d never smoke tobacco. Jerry extended the deal – if they haven’t smoked AT ALL by the time they’re 21 years old, he will pay them $100 each.

So the kids took their $10 and looked forward with anticipation to the night ahead.

But here’s what Jerry didn’t know – that $10 offering of his extended joy to more than just my son and daughter.

You see, my son? He’s not much of a social butterfly. Mingling, conversation? It’s not his gig. So those dollars were actually pretty crucial to him having an enjoyable evening at the reception, crucial to getting him engaged with others in a way that made him most comfortable.

We changed that $10 bill in for $1 bills, changed those $1 bills into quarters, and played bubble hockey most of the night.

He invited me first. I was a little reluctant as I was enjoying myself already in adult conversation with people I hadn’t seen in a long time. But when this little boy invites you to do something, you better do it. So I took him up on his offer and played my first ever round of bubble hockey!

Then he invited daddy and uncle Steve to play. I’m not sure daddy had ever played either, but uncle Steve? He’s a pro at these kind of things. Everyone had fun, and it was a perfect way to engage in something other than conversation.

Later, after dinner, he invited me to play again, not once but twice. At that point, it was a jaunt because we ate downstairs and the games were upstairs. But hey, the special time with my son was well worth the walk. When he took off his coat and wanted to try the foosball table, too, I knew this was serious business.

This business of seeing, of hearing the voice in the crowd that needs something different to be at ease, to feel better about their day – it’s what I love. And this business of playing, it’s something I really need to do more of.

So thank you, son, for inviting me to play.

And thank you, Jerry, for providing the $10 that allowed us to do so. The way you noticed my son’s need did not go unnoticed by me.

(Now let’s hope they claim their $100 deals!)

Amy

Tom Baunsgard - Dear Amy,
Wow, this one really struck a cord. It took me back 34 years to when my late son Michael was Cooper’s age. He LOVED video games! and he was very good at them too… so good that he would rack up extra games at the video arcade and sell them to his friends. What was problematic is that he would have to sneak to bowling alley where the video arcade was. This was forbidden territory… The bowling alley was off limits to my kids because there was a bar there… Looking back in regret, I wish that I had taken time with my oldest son to go with him there and to enjoy just watching him and cheering him on. You and Seth are doing a wonderful job and taking time and making time for your kids. God bless you both. Thanks for sharing this with us all. (and thanks to Uncle Jerry for setting such a wonderful goal!)NOVEMBER 22, 2013 – 5:08 PMNovember 25, 2013 – 7:17 pm

Tiffany Femling - Good deal! Good kids! November 22, 2013 – 5:25 pm

Monica Anderson Palmer - that’s awesome!
November 22, 2013 – 5:21 pm

Tom Baunsgard - Dear Amy,
Wow, this one really struck a cord. It took me back 34 years to when my late son Michael was Cooper’s age. He LOVED video games! and he was very good at them too… so good that he would rack up extra games at the video arcade and sell them to his friends. What was problematic is that he would have to sneak to bowling alley where the video arcade was. This was forbidden territory… The bowling alley was off limits to my kids because there was a bar there… Looking back in regret, I wish that I had taken time with my oldest son to go with him there and to enjoy just watching him and cheering him on. You and Seth are doing a wonderful job and taking time and making time for your kids. God bless you both. Thanks for sharing this with us all. (and thanks to Uncle Jerry for setting such a wonderful goal!)November 22, 2013 – 5:08 pm

When It Occurs to You That Your Mom Is Human

I still don’t know how she did it.

She was a mom of three and she worked full-time our entire lives. She never tried a part-time gig, never took years off to stay at home while the kids were little, and I don’t remember a single time she complained about having to work AND raise kids. She did what she did, she did it well, and it’s all she knew.

It’s quite likely that I idolized my mom when I was a kid. Her work was only a block from our house, so she’d literally RUN home from work to get dinner made and on time bake in the oven. (If you know my mom, you know I’m not exaggerating about the “literally RUN” part!) We had casseroles, whole chickens with mashed potatoes and pan-roasted gravy, pot roasts with carrots, and homemade pizzas to name just a few. Mom would complete the meal with sides and desserts and all the proper fixings. I know we had grilled cheese and tomato soup and tuna sandwiches, but let’s just say those nights were the rare occasion. And my mom would NEVER dream of serving us Hamburger Helper, Rice-A-Roni or any such thing.

In my subconscious, there are probably many days I still idolize the way my mom did “it all.”

When I’m overwhelmed with my part-time job, when I can’t keep the house clean like mom always seemed to, when I don’t serve my in-laws three square meals a day when they come visit like mom did for her in-laws, I believe I’ve fallen short.

When I throw Tyson chicken nuggets in the oven and warm up some frozen store brand peas, lies creep in that I’m not a good enough mom.

When I toss a baked potato in the oven, my son asks “why can’t you make mashed potatoes like grandma,” and he goes over to whip them up for himself, lies creep in that I’ve fallen short.

And even when my daughter comes home and says her friend’s mom “cooks different” than I do, “she makes everything homemade,” truth sets in that I’m definitely NOT doing “it all.”

I’d make more whole chickens and mashed potatoes with pan-roasted gravy and all the fixings…if only…

So I’m grateful for the moment it occurred to me, just today, that my mom is human.

The kids came grocery shopping with me last night. They wanted to buy Banquet TV dinners, specifically the $1 turkey dinner variety. I let them buy these dinners once every 3-6 months and they think it’s a treat. While I think turkey dinner is one of the most tolerable of TV dinners, they’re still not the best, so I grabbed 2 Banquet pot pies instead.

The kids ate their TV dinners for breakfast this morning (true story!), so my baby daughter and I ate pot pies for lunch.

As I took those pot pies out of the oven, flipped them over on the plate, and cut them up just the way I did when I was a little girl, I realized something.

These are Banquet. Pot. Pies.

$1. Banquet. Pot. Pies.

While they might not be the most nutritionally sound food in the world, and any foodie mom would die that I was serving Banquet Pot Pies to myself AND my child, the reason I wanted to get those pot pies last night is because I had fond memories of eating them as a child.

As obvious as it might be to you, I had to come to my own realization.

These are Banquet. Pot. Pies.

$1. Banquet. Pot. Pies.

My mom served these Banquet. Pot. Pies. To us.

That moment it occurs to you that your mom is human? It’s a beautiful thing.

So thank you mom, for serving enough Banquet Pot Pies that they formed a lasting memory in my brain. The gravy, the vegetables, the meat, the way my fork cut through that crust? All proof my memory might have failed me…just a bit.

Amy

Carol Femling - As for me, Amy’s mom, I am VERY human! Thanks, Amy, for thinking that I was the food godess :) –so nice of you—, but truth is that I didn’t do everything perfect when you were a child at all! I did try VERY HARD to be a “good” mom to my three beautiful children and a “good” wife to my husband by being a good homemaker.Why did I think that was important? It wasn’t always easy and I was tired a lot, but now that I’m much older I know the truth. Homemade food and a clean house really don’t matter in life. In fact, they don’t matter at all in the end! Just keep being the fantastic loving mom you are and don’t worry about the small things. Love you just the way you are, Amy, and I know your kids and Seth do too. :) November 20, 2013 – 3:51 am

Jennifer Westrom Peterson - You are amazing!! Your not falling short!! ((Hugs)) love yaNovember 19, 2013 – 4:00 am

Kelly Jo Zellmann - Amy ~ this is beautiful! And, you are certainly NOT falling short! I have many nights that I feel like I’m the best dietitian mom for not serving more homemade suppers too but we do the best we can! You are doing awesome and these are the great memories enjoyed from your childhood now to pass on to your kids! Confession – I actually make pot pies using frozen pie crusts and cook up frozen veggies mix in cut up cooked chicken and gravy… our kids love them and I know they are not the healthiest!:( Hmm… maybe I’ll have to try a Banquet pot pie soon:)November 19, 2013 – 1:09 am

Why I’m Confident God’s at the Gym

After untangling the cord, I place one white earbud in each ear. A first generation iPod Nano loaded with thousands of songs goes in my right hand, an iPhone in my left. I push playlist, then Amy’s workout, searching for the song that matches my mood. Sometimes the day dictates secular, sometimes worship, sometimes a mix of both.

I turn up the music, loud. I can’t hear anything else. The world as I know it is drowned out. I thank God and know this will be good. It’s always good. Because somehow, that drowning out of the world through exercise and music is a filter. It helps me feel and see life more clearly than ever before.

I begin. I let my body take the lead. I walk and run as I feel moved. I’ll worry about the numbers again someday, but for now, I go with the flow. Most days, my body knows what it needs. Just minutes in, I can tell it’s going to be a mostly walking day or a mostly running day. And so goes for the music – secular, worship, or mix. Intuitively, I know what I need.

But whether I’m walking or running, listening to secular music, worship music, or both, one thing remains true. My desire is to see as God sees. I open my eyes, prepare my heart, and listen.

A man with a cane makes laps. He walks with a limp, but he’s as steady and as strong as he can be. As I pass not once, but twice, three times and more, I envision a day when he’ll throw his cane and run free.

It’s a school day and mom has two kids in tow. She teaches them down dogs, they exercise their hamstrings with big balls and shoot hoops on the court. She has no qualms that she’s the only mom with school-aged kids at the gym on a Monday at 9:30 a.m. She’s in her element, that’s clear. Living your dream, living your purpose always feels right, even when it’s out of the ordinary.

Sarah, an employee with disabilities, makes her way down the stairs. An elderly woman stops Sarah half way down and helps her tie her shoes.

Most days, a petite woman with a blonde pony tail spends her time with a personal trainer. She’s strong, she’s a fighter, an encourager to those around her. Her body language says – I’m fighting, I refuse to give up, I will give it my all.

And then there’s the elderly couple. They’re bent over together as they walk the track. It’s phenomenal, a once in a lifetime testimony I wish everyone could see. They’re not just bent over, they’re bent over to the same degree, walking side by side at the same pace. If you look at them from across the track it’s as if they’re one. Others can’t help but notice. Some engage, others smile quietly to themselves as the elderly couple passes. I’m dying to know their story, but I’ve been afraid to ask.

The ladies training below look like robots. They cross the gym the same way every time. One leg up, one leg down, all the way across and back again. Their personalities are completely lost in the robotic movement. They don’t fight, they don’t resist, they just keep moving on.

The man with Down Syndrome stacks the steps. Slowly, but surely, puts each one in place. They’re squared, stacked at the same height. It’s a quiet area. He does his work without complaining, at his own pace. It’s a hidden beauty I can’t help but wonder if anyone sees too.

That woman on the treadmill, she gets me every time. She runs like the wind, throws punches in the air, fire is deep in her bones. She’s strong, fierce. I’m convinced she’s overcome, convinced there’s worship music blasting loud in her earbuds.

The old guys, they’re wearing jeans, leather belts and boat shoes. They walk in groups, at their own pace. They don’t give a damn about how fast or slow anyone else is going. They do it their way. There’s community with those guys. They’ve seen it all, done it all. They’ve paid their dues. They show up day after day, and I love them for it.

He looks over as I pass, attempts to engage in conversation with questions and comments. “You work at the grocery store? You look just like a cashier there.” “It’s been a week and a half since hunting and nobody’s shot themselves.” I remove my earbuds with just enough time to listen and respond – “That’s a good thing, right?!” Some might call him a little creepy. I think he’s quirky, sweet, well intentioned.

Moms wait in hoards for the prime time group fitness classes. They’re dressed in Lululemon, Athleta, Under Armour. There’s pressure to be thin, really thin – fit, really fit – your best, perfect. I spent five years in those rooms. I understand the pressure, I know how it feels. I know the need, the drive, the longing, the striving to be good, better, best, perfect. It’s too much for me these days. I can’t keep up. I take my own path now, but I get it. Believe me, I get it.

She’s thin, sickly thin. Her hair is sparse, thin too. Skin covers her bones, there’s nothing between. The thickest part of her upper thigh is barely bigger than my arm. I wonder what she’s battled, the demons she’s faced, the wars she’s waged. She’s not just thin, she’s hollowed out.

ONE obese man frequents the treadmill on the far side of the gym where the man with Down Syndrome stacks steps. It’s quiet there. Perhaps he thinks nobody will notice him. One day he’s absent. I notice an obese woman hop on the elliptical just two down from the treadmill the obese man uses. Goose bumps run up and down my body. She’s the only obese woman I’ve seen at the gym, he’s the only obese man I’ve seen at the gym. Both choose the same safe hiding place. Slow and steady, they won’t give up. This battle is theirs and they’re here to fight.

I pass her on the track. She’s short and she’s hiding. Her hands are in her pocket and her head is down, way down. Her plight, unknown, but she’s here to walk through it, work through it.

As I sit to stretch, a little girl comes running around the track wild and free. Mom follows close behind. Both with big smiles.

The baby says “hi” and “five” as we prepare to leave. She knows, our buddy’s up ahead. He’s there, every day, washing windows. He has Down Syndrome, but that doesn’t keep him from making a difference. She grabs my hand, wants me to give high five first. All three of us smile at each other, I tell her “It’s your turn, give your buddy high five!” She inches slowly but surely to her buddy, gives him high five. He smiles and waves bye. And as we walk away, I turn to look back and I’m blessed with the greatest gift of all, a gift that can’t be replicated or done justice with mere words. There he is, kneeling down behind the window. He’s looking out at my baby, beaming, bursting full of joy, watching her walk away. She brought him joy as much as he brought us joy.

Yes, thank you God, is the only appropriate response.

It’s all in His hands.

All this, just a glimpse of the way God sees. His love language is music. It’s loud and His song is always right – for you. He knows your heart, He knows your tribulations and your triumphs, and He loves all of us the same. He’s with you every step of the way. His heart is beating fast – for me, for you, for them.

Amy

When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.  Proverbs 4:12

Amy - Thank you so much, Carrie, for taking time to share these kind words with me. One of the many goals for the blog that I have is to help people see in a new light. I needed and need to see in this new light as well, so it’s as much of a journey for me as it is you. I just checked out your blog for the first time. Love your sweet stories about your kiddos. :) The Disney pics were so cute. Awesome you got pics with some of the characters! And by the way, give yourself permission to write in whatever way you need, whenever you need. For the most part, I’ve settled on my writing style…it’s fairly serious with deep undertones, I write the way I see the world. I’d love to be more fun, simple, everyday, but it’s just not my natural style. Be who you are and that will be most fulfilling to you. Thanks again, Carrie, for leaving the note. Blessings to you!November 21, 2013 – 1:31 pm

Carre Campbell - Amy.I love your posts. I love reading them, because you are helping ME open MY eyes to things around me, and I thank you!
As one working mom to another, one who loves the “underdog stories” (me), I thank you.
You inspire ME to want to write like you do.
So far, I’m back at it in brief spurts, and I rarely do the type that you do, but I want to again someday. I need to give myself permission to do that.

XONovember 18, 2013 – 2:47 pm

Nicole Marie Newfield - So beautiful- love your stories!November 15, 2013 – 11:09 pm

The Story Is Still Being Written

The story is still being written.

It’s the sentence that’s been ringing true in my heart for months.

It’s true, you know.

My story? It’s still being written.

Your story? It’s still being written.

I want answers. I want clarity. I want direction. I want to know what’s next. I want to go this way or that. I don’t want the in-between. Whatever it is, it would be awfully nice to have it now. I don’t want to think, overanalyze or wonder what if. There are moments I don’t even want to believe. Because sometimes believing leaves me feeling like I’m grasping onto pieces of dandelions I just blew off in a wide open field. I just want to know. Forget the wishing. Forget the story between here and there, God. Couldn’t you make it clearer, faster, easier? Couldn’t you just get to the best part of my story and leave it at that?

And you. You want to give up, throw in the towel. It’s just too much. You’ve been through enough, had enough of this, done enough of that. It seems there’s no hope. Really, it truly does. Things couldn’t get much worse. You’ve done it all and it all’s left you with nothing. Rock bottom defines you. Heck, it’s defined you for weeks, months, maybe years. Everyone else’s “what in the world was she thinking,” “why in the world would he do thats” take hold of your heart. The weight of hopelessness settles in. There’s nowhere to go but down. Or at best, stay the same. Forever. In a moment of raw honesty between you and God, you ask – are you for real? After all this, is there any chance my life will have a happy chapter again?

But the God I know? He’s not done, He’s not finished with you yet.

Because the story is still being written.

My story is still being written.

Your story is still being written.

This, I know for sure.

If you’re a believer, if you’re not a believer, whether you’ve turned away from God or never known Him at all, whether you’ve felt or denied His presence in your life – it doesn’t matter.

Because the story is still being written.

We’re made in the image of God. His fingerprints are all over us. So He’ll keep fighting and He’ll keep writing till the end!

Trust the sound mind you’ve been given.

Trust the beat of your heart, your soul.

Have faith strong enough to withstand ALL doubt, ALL fear.

BELIEVE that God can enter your story at any second and BLOW you away – just when you think the story’s already been written, just when you think the story’s at a dead standstill, just when you think it’s going to have to be this way forever.

With His truth, His power, His presence, He’ll blow you away, just like that.

He’ll take my story, he’ll take your story, and when you’re least expecting it, he’ll show up. You’ll wake up and realize He’s creating a turning point for you, right now. You’ll wake from your deep slumber and realize He’s performing the miracle you never expected. And suddenly you’ll see there’s a lot more hope today than there was yesterday.

So believe it. It’s true.

My story is still being written.

Your story is still being written.

Because the God of the universe is still working on you. He always has hope, He knows there’s always a way, and He wants to light your way. If you’ll let him.

Amy

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  Psalm 139:16

Holly Solomon Barrett - Love this post, Amy! So glad that He is not finished with my story yet!December 3, 2013 – 1:13 pm

Tom Baunsgard - Yes Amy, the story is still being written. God moves in Mysterious way, His wonders to behold… Having been in the middle of some terrible storms, I’m witness to His Grace and Love. Great is his faithfulness, we are blessed by his unfailing love.November 12, 2013 – 6:09 am