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Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Time I Lost My Head


I stood alone, staring at a display of brightly-painted clay women in that Dominican Republic market. Who knew I’d find myself here? Now. For such a time as this.

Moments earlier, I’d been giddy over a painted canvas I’d purchased from the upper level of hidden gems nobody seemed to have found. But joy eventually subsided, and I found myself drawn to the front of the store, to a dusty row of clay women.

I picked up the figurines, one by one, analyzing for beauty, for message, for heart and soul. Each was unique. Their colors, postures, heights and weights told stories of who the artist thought they might be. Some held flowers, some held clutches, some held bellies, and some stood pristine. Some were royal. Some were plain. All were dusty. And I wondered. When did someone last ponder the purposes of these beauties?

Our minutes in the store were numbered. I was bound and determined to find a figure that matched the state of my soul. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I just knew I’d know her when I found her.

After a while of looking, my heart panicked a bit. They were all so beautiful and many would suffice. But the one was yet to be found.

My fingers were dusty, dirty in fact. The figures weren’t in pristine pretty rows anymore. Dusty glass marked the places they once stood. I kept my favorites to the front, but kept reaching back, further back.

There she was.

Golden. With white and red accents. And long brown hair.

She was clutching her belly just like the figurine I purchased in Haiti and adore on my dresser every morning before I wake. There was something contemplative, ready to be birthed in her.

She was the one.

From the moment I picked her up, I noticed her imperfections. Her dress was chipped at the bottom. Her long brown hair revealed hard clay beneath.

I decided I’d take her anyway. After all, if there was one thing I’d learned, it was that perfection wasn’t getting me anywhere. I might as well take her, imperfections and all. She was beautiful, even so.

$8. A bargain, I thought, for such beauty.

They wrapped her up and our group parted the market within moments. I carried her around the rest of the day, then back to the hotel by my suitcase for our last night in the Dominican.

In the morning, I began packing. I’d carefully set aside miss beauty until the end. I wanted to reserve a specially-padded place for her in my suitcase, or maybe in my carry-on. She was wrapped quite well, but still.

I’d packed nearly everything. She was last to go except a few strays for my purse.

I stepped back, and crunch. I’d broken miss beauty in two.

Apparently, she was too fragile to withstand the blow. I lifted her up, opened the bag and unwrapped her goodness from layers of tissue paper. When I stepped back, I’d literally broken off her head. She’d lost her head. On my account.


I laughed. Yes, I was a little heart broken. But I laughed anyway.

What else could I do?

This beauty I spent 20 minutes selecting the afternoon prior had lost her head already!

Was it a complete waste, or maybe meant to be?

I told my roommate about the accident, and packed that clay beauty right back up in her tissue. I’m quite sure others would have tossed her straight into the trash. After all, she was only worth $8 with her head on! But something told me she was meant to go home just like that. Broken. With her head off once and for all.

You see, I’d been broken that week. I’d completely lost it on that trip. The dream I’d had for four, nearly five years – to write on behalf of children living in extreme poverty, FOR Compassion International – had come true. But my husband had just been diagnosed with eye cancer. And whether I wanted to admit it or not, life was going to be impacted. The trip was going to be impacted. Yes, I’d lost it. I’d lost my head. All the plans, all the purposes I’d ever envisioned, all the ways I’d write every day and everything would flow perfectly just like it had in Haiti? Well, it didn’t happen quite like I envisioned. God, in fact, had a better way in mind. He emptied me, broke me, then filled me with a new kind of grace. It was a humbling place.

Today, miss beauty stands in all her grandeur on my table. She looks perfect just the way she is – with no head.

I know it’s a little weird. (Maybe a lot weird?) I get it. Some of you think I’m a freak for overanalyzing this random figurine with no head. But hear me out for a minute. This is how I think, this is the way I process life. I’m a firm believer that there’s purpose in everything. Every. Thing.


For me? I needed that trip to the Dominican to bring me to a place of surrender. I needed to lose my head. I needed to stop overanalyzing, to stop planning and purposing my life my way. Kris was right, my “five point plan [wasn’t] going to work anymore.” I needed to surrender my life so God could take it and do immeasurably more than I imagined.

So here I am. 2 1/2 months later with a beautiful statue sitting on the table in front of me. Her head is broken off. But she’s still oh so beautiful.

The day I left for my Compassion trip, I told you I was empty. Completely empty. And several days after that, I told you I was broken. Wholly broken.

I’ve never been the same.

I thought Haiti changed me forever. Now I know Dominican changed me forever in a whole new way.

I’m still empty. I’m still broken.

But I’m more sure of God’s Spirit, God’s sovereignty, God’s ability to work it all out than I’ve ever been.





This Blog Is Not All Of Me


It’s 11:49 p.m.

March 27th.

Four days of March 2015 remain.

I published nine blog posts in March prior to this one.

I drafted five additional blog posts in March. All unpublished, including a 1,600 word post from this afternoon.

She told me my blog was brave. She knows these intimate details of my life. She knows I’m pretty introverted, that she probably wouldn’t find out nearly as much about me and my life if we sat down together for coffee.

That may be true. That may not be true at all.

This blog. It’s transparent. It’s real. It’s authentic. I’ve given it my full heart. But it’s not all of me.

Perhaps I’m a hard nut to crack. Perhaps not at all.

I know what I need to be cracked. That’s time. The kind of time we don’t have in America. The kind of time we don’t create in America.

Few have truly cracked me.

Yes, the brave who have gone there have seen glimpses of the real me. Maybe even the real me.

Thank you.

This you must know. This blog is my heart. But it’s not all of me.





Amy - Dear Linda, So glad you stopped by. I hesitated a bit before publishing these words, but I found them all worth it when I saw your message. It is good to know we’re not alone. Even the most minimal words can touch someone. Tonight I’m resting in peace knowing this very short post resonated with a reader – YOU. Your words resonate with me as well. Thank you for sharing, and God bless your (our) journey. :)March 28, 2015 – 10:30 pm

Amy - Thank you so much, Doreen. Your words are sweet, and we are so grateful for your prayers.March 28, 2015 – 10:28 pm

Linda - Amy,
I can honestly “see” exactly where you are in what you’re writing—and I can so identify with every word! I’m also at “this” place in my spiritual life that I don’t even know how to adequately convey “all” of who I am, or think I am at the moment. When you’re in the midst of others’ life turmoils, demands, needs, wants….you don’t always feel so grounded in what it is that makes you, “you.”

(Almost) glad I came on your site today to find out how I feel in this same place as you.

LindaMarch 28, 2015 – 4:12 pm

Doreen - You have stated this blog is your ‘heart’, therefor, it(blog) is infused with the ‘essence’ of who you are and that sweetness permeates all. I truly appreciate snippets/glimpses you have invited us to share with you and Tom and I continue in prayer for you and your family……………hugs……….March 28, 2015 – 12:56 pm

Getting New Glasses

Well, friends! I thought I was on sabbatical from eye cancer posts until late May, but no surprise, the story continues to unfold.

Two nights ago, my husband had his first visit with the optometrist since his surgeries and radiation for choroidal melanoma. The primary purpose of the appointment was a thorough post-op vision exam, but it was also a perfect time to look for new glasses. Seth’s prescription was changing, he needed special polycarbonate lenses, and he hadn’t bought a new pair of glasses for more than five years. If there’s ever a reason to buy new glasses, it’s now.

This whole wearing glasses full-time thing has been quite an adjustment for Seth. He loves contacts and hasn’t worn glasses full-time since junior high. He’s walked through a whole host of emotions, and has finally arrived at a place where he seems to have accepted the fact (for the most part) that he’ll be wearing glasses from here on out. If he has to wear glasses, he’s determined to wear them boldly and make a statement!

With that in mind, Seth really wanted to make sure I was along for the optometrist appointment. He wanted my input and opinion on new glasses. So we decided to bring the whole family. Crazy, I know. Three kids in a quiet optometry waiting room for TWO hours with hundreds of expensive glasses at reach? Yep. Crazy.

But honestly, it worked pretty well. We spent the first hour looking exhaustively at glasses. Seth tried on at least 30 pair, narrowed those to 10, and ultimately narrowed again to six. The kids read, played apps on our phones, and took the opportunity to try on glasses for the first time!





Once Seth had the field narrowed to six, he quickly, but thoroughly evaluated each pair for look and fit. Within minutes, he was down to two pair, a black Jack Spade frame and a tortoise Gucci frame. The technician and I agreed, the Gucci frame was the one. But Seth was clearly drawn to the black Jack Spade frame. After a while of analyzing, overanalyzing, and taking photos to see how he looked in each frame, he finally decided to go up front to ask the office staff for their opinion. Hmmm…surprise! They all agreed the tortoise Gucci frame was “the one!” Our technician asked another technician for her opinion. Tortoise Gucci it was! Out came Seth’s optometrist to get him for the appointment. And her preference? The tortoise Gucci frame as well! At that point, everyone was laughing up a storm. Everyone (except Seth) had independently agreed that the tortoise Gucci frame looked best. Still, Seth wasn’t so sure.

He put both frames on the table for later debate, and went in for his appointment.

To our pleasant surprise, the doctor changed the prescription for his glasses “a bit, but not much.” There was reportedly “even a little improvement in his left eye” (the non-cancerous eye). The doctor indicated that the left eye was likely compensating for the cancerous right eye. When corrected with his new glasses, he’ll see 20/20, even in the right eye.

When Seth returned from the optometry appointment, he was fairly sure he’d had a change of heart. He decided on the tortoise Gucci frame. But he tried both pair a few more times for size and style, and we analyzed more pictures. Because you know, we all want to look good in pictures!

There we were. The decision had been made. Tortoise Gucci it was!


But wait…

Seth just purchased high-end sunglasses last summer, but now that he can’t wear contacts anymore and we need to do everything we can to protect his eyes, we realized we were also going to need to buy a pair of prescription sunglasses. Fortunately, he’d tried on a few sunglasses early in the visit and had his sights on a pair that looked awesome right off the bat. He tried those on again and there wasn’t much to debate. We’d found the sunglasses!


It was 7:00 p.m. We’d been there since 5:00 p.m. and the kids were getting a little antsy. The technician offered to send us a quote via email so we could move forward with the glasses and sunglasses purchases at our leisure.

We thanked everyone for their help and they wished Seth well. Off we went to Dairy Queen to pick up the dilly bars and cones we’d promised the kids for being patient for two hours in the waiting room.

Another day, another dollar, and two new pair of glasses.

Yes, we’re grateful for sight.

The journey continues.

Until next time, friends. Signing off ’til May.

This blog post is part of a series I’m writing about our journey through my husband’s eye cancer. If you’d like to read the rest of the posts in the series, click here and you’ll be connected to the first post I published about our journey. All posts in the eye cancer series are listed and linked at the bottom of that post for your convenience. You can also access the series anytime by clicking the apple picture on the right sidebar of my blog’s home page,





Peggy Lynn Groenwold - Hollywood!!March 27, 2015 – 12:45 am

Doreen Auger - Such a handsome guy and those glasses are so fashion forward!!!!! BTW, the rest of the ‘fam’ ain’t bad either!!! LOL! Continuing in prayer daily for your healing!!!!!!!!!!! Hugs………………..March 26, 2015 – 5:04 pm

Michelle Johnson - Both the sunglasses and eye glasses look great- good choices!March 26, 2015 – 3:36 am

Rachel Arntson - I think he looks awesome.March 26, 2015 – 2:35 am

Who I’m Not

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My brother and I hit a deer on the way to our parents’ house a few weeks ago. Our car has been in the shop for repairs for nine days. It might be in the shop for another three. As a result, I’ve driven my husband to work seven days in a row. And I’ve picked him up from work seven days in a row.

Some days, he’s ready to go when I pull up.

Some days, he’s not.

On the days I’ve had to wait for my husband in the vehicle, I’ve taken the moment to peer deeper into those corporate headquarters. It’s the end of a long workday. People flow out. I watch one woman on her phone. I wonder if she’s single or whether she’s headed to daycare to pick up her kids. I observe another woman who’s wearing a long peacoat and tall boots. Does she dress that way everyday, or just for work? I watch another woman with short, tidy hair walk confidently through the hall. I imagine the position she holds, the dollars that flowed through her hands that day, the power she so eloquently displayed in the board room. And I think about all the other women about to leave the building for the day. Who are they? What drives them? What do they love?

The truth of it all stares me in the face.

I’m not like these women.

I’ve faced this reality time and time again through the years. This comparing myself to the women with whom my husband spends his work days. This comparing, this feeling like I should be like them? It weighs on me. A lot.

These are the things I’ve said to myself in the quiet…

I’m not driven enough. Not competitive enough. Not extroverted enough. Not powerful enough. Not creative enough. Not outspoken enough. Not compelled to work full-time and climb the corporate ladder enough. Not secure in my intellect enough to spend a multi-million dollar budget. Not confident enough to do any of that. Not interesting enough. Not super excited about everything enough. Not providing for my family like them. Not modeling habits of a professional working mom like them. Not awesome at engaging in conversation like them. Not fancy necklace wearing, pencil skirt wearing, extra tall boot wearing like them. Not bringing in income that supports a full-fledged dual-income inner-ring $500,000.00+ home. Like them.

This causes me pause.

This brings me sadness.

This makes me feel less than.

This makes me feel like I’m not enough.

This makes me feel defeated.

This makes me feel like I should be someone else, like I should work hard to learn their ways, like I should emulate their behaviors so I can become more. Like them.

But I know. In my heart of hearts. That I’m not them.

I’m me.


I’m not a corporate woman. I’m not a business woman. I’m not a board room woman. And I’m not a million-dollar budget spending kind of woman. And if you’d ask me how to sell cereal to the nations, I wouldn’t have a clue.

I struggle with this feeling like I need to be someone else.

I struggle with this feeling like I need to be more like that corporate woman and less like “the mom,” the part-time small business owner, the blogger who likes to write, take pictures and advocate for the least of these, but gets paid nothing.

WHY struggle? WHY doubt? WHY worry about any of this, you say?

WHY the comparison?

It’s about security.

Security in my identity.

Feeling confident I’ll be loved no matter who I am, no matter what I do.

Resting in peace, knowing God created me specifically, uniquely.

Maybe I’m not made for board rooms. Maybe I’m not designed to manage million-dollar budgets. Maybe I need to give up the comparing and worrying I’m not enough…and accept who I am once and for all.

Move beyond this.

Move beyond this, says God.

Go. Be who you are.

SPECIAL NOTE TO READERS: Recently, I’ve been in the mood to pull posts out of my unpublished archives. There’s something about bringing thoughts and words to light that’s powerful. I originally drafted this post on September 16, 2014. While the post is not as timely as it once was, I still struggle with comparing myself to the corporate woman with whom my husband works on a daily basis. I recognize the need to break free from this comparison trap once and for all, but also believe I’m not alone in the battle. Hoping someone relates to these words today. 






Kaye Scovil - It’s like you reached into my heart and pulled out all these emotions I have been storing there. My kids are leaving the nest…one will graduate from college this year, one is a college sophomore, and my baby is a sophomore in high school…my “job” is being phased out. I have been blessed to stay home, and am proud of the life I have created alongside my husband, but the voice inside that says “I am not enough”, still speaks to me. Thank you for sharing this….it has touched my heart today.March 23, 2015 – 10:01 pm

Robyn Krause Sitarz - I also struggle from time to time. Thankfully, to balance out the struggle, I’m often reminded that I have the best job in the world…for me. I might not help with the bottom line financially, but I’ve helped raise some great kids and been allowed to donate my time and energy to others. It doesn’t always chase away the struggle but at the end of the day, I’m doing what I love and do best.March 23, 2015 – 9:51 pm

Amy - So glad you could relate, Beth. I’ve found that looking side to side is a good word picture in this regard. I really need to stay focused on where God has called me, how He made me, where He wants me to be focusing my energy at any given time. It’s easy to get sidetracked and totally off the path if we look here, there and everywhere at what everyone else is doing.March 23, 2015 – 9:29 pm

Gretchen Wendt O'Donnell - I get it. But mostly I’m ok being who I am these days. It helps living in a small town!March 23, 2015 – 8:19 pm

Beth Delvaille - Oh, yes, I can relate! I need to continually remind myself to look straight ahead to where God wants ME to go, instead of side to side looking at everyone else. Thanks for the post!March 23, 2015 – 4:30 pm

Drowning in Stuff


For six or seven years, I’ve been significantly burdened by all the STUFF we own. Everywhere I look, there’s clutter, STUFF we don’t need or use. I have no problem stating the brutally honest truth about all that STUFF.

I can’t stand it.

It’s exhausting to manage and suffocating to my soul.

I don’t need anymore STUFF.

One of the tasks I’m bound and determined to get a grip on between now and the end of the school year is decluttering our house. The past two and a half weeks, I’ve begun to dig out. I realized from the start that it’s going to be a huge job. In fact, I’ve just begun to scratch the surface with a partial clean-out of one side of our master bedroom, a partial clean-out of our master bathroom, a partial clean-out of our baby’s bedroom, and a pre-Easter dump of seasonal goods we don’t use anymore.

I’ve sorted through old t-shirts and barely-worn lingerie stuffed in dresser drawers, jewelry from junior high, over-the-counter medicines already expired, gross smelling lotions only partly used, and hand-me-down toddler clothes that didn’t get used nearly enough. I donated several pair of pants that didn’t fit anymore, sweaters that have gone out of style, necklaces and bracelets I once thought were real gold but discovered were all fake when I brought them to the Gold Guys in hopes of cash. Books that no longer resonate have been tossed in a donation bag along with the free, but ugly hair clips that came with the hair dryer we bought in December. And I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve saved boxes for a year now. You know why? Because I want to sell a bunch of valuable STUFF on eBay, but putting all that STUFF up for auction takes so much time, I haven’t even gotten to it. So there sit the boxes.


It’s a burden.

Whether we know it or not, whether we’ve had time to sort through it or not, whether we’ve had time to realize how much we’ve collected or not, it’s a burden to our souls.

We collect, purchase, acquire, buy and borrow hoping all these things will fill the holes in our hearts, this longing for something more. But STUFF doesn’t fill holes in hearts. STUFF fills our houses, fogs our brains, clogs the free-flowing life waiting for us on the other side.

We’re drowning in STUFF.

Me, you, our whole culture.

More is better. Or is it?

What if less is truly more?

What if we stopped believing the lie that STUFF will make us happier?

What if we stopped expecting STUFF to fill the holes in our hearts?

What if we decluttered once and for all?

What if we realized that a life worth living has nothing to do with the acquisition of more STUFF?

What if we released the STUFF and opened our hearts to the possibility that freedom’s waiting on the other side of STUFF?

What if we need clean places, wide open spaces so our hearts and souls can breathe and just be for once?

What if?




Amy - Totally agree with you on the desert space, Stephanie. That’s exactly where I’m coming out of. LOVE your words…”God gives us space between what was and what will be, space to remember who we are, think about what we will become, and let go of all the trappings that hold us back from both those journeys.” So good. Thank you for sharing that great wisdom and truth.March 31, 2015 – 10:59 pm

Tracy Sather Nelson - Wow Amy! I seriously felt like you were speaking about me also!!! So true!March 27, 2015 – 12:49 am

Susan Baunsgard - Glad to see you are donating what you don’t need. I used to do this type “cleaning” every year after Christmas. I used this time to reorganize the boys bedrooms including getting rid of seldom used clothing and or toys.March 21, 2015 – 3:33 am

Missy Shemick - Thank you Amy. It’s not easy but I can see the wisdom of your words of only keeping things my daughter may appreciate someday. It feels wrong to donate, throw away, or sell these things…but I’m sure my parents would rather I free my soul from this clutter….March 20, 2015 – 6:14 am

Tom Baunsgard - It’s simple… Less is more.March 20, 2015 – 6:10 am

Carol Femling - I’ve waded through STUFF for so many years that I’ve just had it with STUFF!! Through the years I’ve tried to clean out and get rid of STUFF every year. We’ve moved several times…in and out of extra apartments, in and out of houses, in and out of storage units and I’ve had garage sales every year to get rid of the STUFF. Now that we’re in a much smaller place, we are way down on STUFF, but I still see plenty of STUFF that can go that’s in our garage. UH!! Amy….. Keep on plugging away at getting rid of the STUFF! It feels good!! Like the magnet on my fridge says, THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE AREN’T THINGS or “stuff”!! SO true!! :)March 20, 2015 – 1:57 am

Missy Shemick - I have alot of my parents things…hard to part with…but still clutter nonetheless. Any help with this?March 20, 2015 – 12:21 am

Silvana Xhelilaj - Could not agree more Amy!
It’s a problem more than you think in our society. I went through this process last year and could not feel any better!
Not that the stuff does not keep coming with all the birthdays but i try hard not to let it in. Gave it most of it away for free, and yes i did think of selling it..
It feels so liberating to be free of the junk and focus on the things that you would really need in life, like spending time with the kids, focusing on your family and your relationships. That you will take with you forever. .March 20, 2015 – 12:15 am

Sandra Heska King - You’re talking my language, girlfriend. I’ve been working on this forever. Clutter morphs. The thing I love most about traveling is the simplicity of a room away from home. I’ll know I’ve solved the problem when I’m glad to get home. :)March 19, 2015 – 10:14 pm

Cathie 'Hardy' Pearson - Fantastic post, Amy! So much honesty & truth!!March 19, 2015 – 9:55 pm

Missy Larson Udstrand - Love your post, so trueMarch 19, 2015 – 8:10 pm

Colleen Chastek Leaver - Best post ever :-))!!March 19, 2015 – 7:25 pm

Stephanie Spencer - I think this is my first comment here! I put you in my reader a few months ago :)

I just wanted to say yes to the need for sapce: both physically and spiritually. We need it, and we don’t have nearly enough of it.

I think this is actually what the desert experiences are in the Scriptures- God gives us space between what was and what will be, space to remember who we are, think about what we will become, and let go of all the trappings that hold us back from both those journeys.

Good luck. Wading through stuff is hard. Much harder than it seems.March 19, 2015 – 4:15 pm