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Monthly Archives: July 2015

Celebrating 3 Years of Blogging

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Today marks my three year blogging anniversary!

Three years is respectable. In fact, my husband says he’s surprised I’ve remained so committed and passionate about writing after all this time. But I have to be honest, sometimes I feel like I’m lagging a bit. I’ve been writing forever and at this point, I’m convinced I was supposed to start blogging a lot sooner than I did. After all, I began writing in diaries in junior high. I felt a strong call to write for someone other than myself all the way back to 2003. I daydreamed about writing until 2010 when I bought a domain and got everything set up, but decided the blog I’d conceived wasn’t quite right. When I could no longer hold in the words, when I could no longer take the agony of paragraphs continually drafting in my head, I launched this blog, Divine in the Daily, on July 30, 2012.

It’s been a long road to get to this place. But the journey is just getting started.

I’ve noticed something in my beautiful circle of writers. Many writers my chronological age of near 40, 40, and just past 40 are far ahead of me. They’re published. They’re speaking. They attend ALL the fabulous writing conferences, are friends with ALL the writers in our niche, and regularly contribute on this site and that. I’m not published. I’m not speaking (heck, just the thought of that scares me). I don’t contribute on any site. I’ve attended one writing conference and will be attending my second this fall. And I have two to three handfuls of writers I would consider friends or becoming friends.

In the days leading up to this blogging anniversary, I’ve been thinking about who I once wanted to be as a writer vs. who I now know myself to be as a writer. It’s useless to compare myself to writers my age. It’s useless to compare myself to writers younger than me. It’s useless to compare myself to anyone for that matter. I’m not Ann or Angie, Jen or Jennie, Sarah B Or Sarah Mae. The beautiful truth is, God’s plan for each one of His creations is unique.

Ann Voskamp

We attended a funeral for a 13-year-old girl this morning. Beautiful. Shy. Fun. Loved home, books and her family. Sweet Olivia. Why would God take His daughter home so soon? Why so young? Why?

As much as I would like to know WHY Olivia’s life had to end so soon, I don’t need to understand WHY. We don’t know WHY. But as the pastor said, it’s our responsibility to LIVE for OLIVIA, to trust that God has a master plan, a master design for each one of us and all of creation.

Perhaps I needed that funeral this morning, on the day that marks my 3rd blogging anniversary. God’s timelines are better than our own. Sometimes we don’t understand His plans at all, sometimes we want things to happen slower or faster, sooner or later than they do. But in the end, everything works together for our good.

So here I am. Faithful to the call.

Writing.

That’s all I need to do. That’s all I need to know.

Now that I’ve gotten all the deep and heavy stuff out of my system, I’d like to celebrate.

3 years of writing.

320 published blog posts.

62 unpublished blog posts.

And YOU, my readers, my lovely, wonderful, caring, loving, understanding, wise and loyal readers. I am so grateful for you. Without readers, a writer’s words fall silent. Without you, none of this blogging business would mean anything. So thank you. Thank you dearly.

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In honor of you who have faithfully read my words, I’d like to share my 10 MOST READ BLOG POSTS. Here they are, in order. Do with them what you may. Read the list, click and refresh your memory, or read them all if you have a bunch of free time on your hands this weekend!

  1. Dear Jamie: A Letter to My Childhood Friend
  2. Dear Denise: A Letter to My College Roommate
  3. Dear Rachel: A Letter to My Former Colleague, Mentor and Friend
  4. Dear Cyndy: A Letter to My Second Mom
  5. Meet Mick
  6. Meet Tiffany and Raegan
  7. In Which I’m Throwing a Belated Retirement Party for My Dad, Mr. Femling!
  8. The Apple of My Eye
  9. Dear Eli: A Letter to My Son’s Swim Instructor
  10. Dear Grandma: A Letter to the One Who Made Her Mark

Amy and grandma

As you can see, my Letters to the Unthanked series has been an incredible hit. I believe in the power of a well-written, heartfelt letter. So much so that I’ve been seriously pondering a long-term “letters” series. I have a couple ideas in mind, but don’t anticipate starting anything until November at the earliest, maybe after New Years.

And now, to conclude this most random of posts, I would like to answer two questions you left for me about writing and blogging!

Question #1: Do you care what people think of your writing?

Ummm…yes. I definitely care what people think of my writing. Thank you for asking. Writing this blog has forced me to address my people pleasing tendencies.

I totally want you to like my writing. I totally want you to LOVE my writing. When people “read your heart” and read it often, they begin to understand WHO you are at your core; this puts you in a continuously vulnerable position as the writer. So I love it when you read and relate to what I’m writing. I love it when you comment, when you let me know my writing inspired you or moved you or touched you somehow. I do care what you think about my writing. I want you to like it. I want it to help you. I want my writing to help you realize you’re not alone in whatever you’re facing. I want my writing to impact your life.

But in three years of blogging, I’ve also realized that I can’t please everyone. If I sat and obsessed about your response every time I pressed publish, I’d be paralyzed and would never share a thing. People don’t always think the way I think. People don’t always care about the things I care about. Sometimes I write stuff that’s too crazy deep and sometimes people think I’m sharing too much. Sometimes I just need to write for myself, and sometimes I need to write for a niche audience who needs to hear a particular message. And then there’s the whole busy factor. People are busy. People don’t have a lot of time to read. People have hundreds of posts to choose from as they scroll through Facebook, Twitter and email. Sometimes I wonder what people think when they scroll past my post and choose not to read, but honestly, it’s not worth the obsession.

Whether a post is a huge success or barely anyone reads, I do care. But I can’t care too much. I am learning to trust that the people who NEED to hear my words on any given day will HEAR THEM. That’s all that’s important.

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Question #2: What is your long-term goal for your blog?

This question is BIG! While I’m quite transparent about most things on the blog, I guard the specifics of my writing dreams closely, so I’d like to share the big-picture, long-term goals without going into great detail. Here goes!

  1. Maintain this space as a creative outlet for me to express and share beautiful, relevant and honest writing that comes from my heart. I need a place to write. I enjoy blogging. And I appreciate the dialogue and connection blogging provides. So I might as well write here, right?
  2. Maintain this space as an opportunity to serve others, to reach out to others, to help others realize they’re not alone in whatever it is they’re facing, to engage in important dialogue, and to build authentic relationships with readers. One of my biggest dreams for this space is to use my writing to advocate for those whose voices need to be amplified not only in the USA, but in Haiti, Africa and around the world as I’m called.
  3. Further develop and refine my writing so someday I have the possibility of becoming published. Yes, the answer to this question wouldn’t be complete or honest unless I admitted that I would like to be a published author someday. Perhaps that’s a surprise to some of you, perhaps that’s not a surprise to others. This is obviously a BIG goal and one I’ve spoken very little about on this blog or in real life. I guard the details of this long-term goal closely as it feels incredibly vulnerable, unsure and unknown. But a post is planned for September that will reveal next steps for my writing. So keep an eye out for that!

I do believe that’s more than enough for now, friends! It’s been a delight to share these random insights with you today on this 3 year blogging anniversary. Thank you for reading and for listening. This post has been a work in progress, spanning all summer day long as I’ve been able to write in bits and pieces, 9:00 a.m. all the way until 11:00 p.m. Good night and good morning, friends. Have a great day.

pinksig

Mama

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I bought her from a street vendor in Haiti.

Poverty stricken men begged for our business. They didn’t have to beg me a second for her. I saw her. I wanted her from the minute I laid eyes on her.

I bought her for $12. Didn’t barter a cent. She’s worth far more.

If she were to break, I would freak.

She’s pregnant. Expectant. Waiting on something more.

She doesn’t push or shove her way to delivery. She wants nothing more than to birth when the time is right.

She’s beautiful. Ripe. Swollen with new life.

Moves my heart so.

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She’s been on my dresser for a year and a half. I stare at her nearly every morning before I rise from bed.

Three weeks ago, I brought her to her rightful place. Downstairs. Where we move. Where we live. Where I write and ponder. Where she can be treasured, loved and remembered for who she was, for who is, for who she will be.

Expectant.

Lovely.

Full of promise.

Peaceful.

Mama.

pinksig

Testing Day

This is a guest post written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Once a month, Tiffany documents a single day in her life. The purpose of these posts is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m also hoping the posts will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the posts I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the guest posts she’s shared on this blog, check out the mental health page. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.

testingTwo weeks ago, I traveled to a bigger city to have intense neuropsychological testing done. I had the same testing done nine years ago when I spent seven weeks in the state hospital after a prescription drug overdose. Doctors are going to compare past and present test results to see how my brain is functioning. This testing helps nail down my mental illness diagnosis and to get additional help in other areas if needed.

A neuropsychological evaluation is a comprehensive assessment of cognitive and behavioral functions using a set of standardized tests and procedures. A variety of mental functions are systematically tested. A neuropsychological evaluation is critical for understanding which brain functions are impaired and which remain intact.

My dad drove me to my appointment. He asked me if I was nervous about the testing, and I told him that I was more nervous about leaving the kids behind for the day. My dad and I talked about music and his time in the service. We seemed to have a very relaxing drive.

We arrived to the testing early. There was a Perkins nearby, so I decided to eat breakfast and drink some needed coffee. After that, my dad dropped me off at the testing site. I was early, so I went for a walk outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather. I felt free in that moment. I was in a bigger and new city. I went back in to prepare for the testing. I skimmed through a bit of a gossip magazine and waited for the doctor to call me back. My dad was eating at Red Lobster during this time.

The doctor called me back to his office and told me to make myself comfortable. I sat in a chair directly across from him. He asked me a series of questions. I was being analyzed. I asked him in the middle of the session if I could take a couple pictures for the blog post I was going to write. He told me no, these tests are confidential. If people were to see pictures, they may try to duplicate the testing or figure out answers prior to taking the test. He asked me a few questions and sent me out to the waiting area. I asked him how I did, with a smile, before leaving his office. I don’t remember his response? Being questioned made me kinda nervous.

A few minutes later, I was called back for more testing. I know that I excelled in certain areas because I felt as though I was playing a fun game. Other parts of the testing were very difficult. I felt frustrated and kind of sad.

After over an hour of testing, I needed a break. I told the lady who was testing me that I needed a five minute break. I may have taken longer? I went into the waiting area and was happy to see my dad sitting there. I told him how difficult the testing was. I was thinking of posting a status update on Facebook, but I did not feel the time was right. Why would people care anyways? So I proceeded to step outside, took a few deep breaths, closed my eyes and lifted my hands to the sky. I probably said a little prayer too. I raced back in because I told her five minutes, not fifteen. I was kinda excited to return to the testing because every new test was a surprise.

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When I went back inside, testing continued for a couple hours. I am going to tell you vaguely about the testing without giving away details. The tester started by asking me general questions. Then I had to say words backwards and subtract backwards. She told me a list of words, and I was haunted by the list throughout the procedure. She kept telling me to say the words I remembered; I just heard a list of monotone sounds that I was not interested in, names of people who had no faces. Maybe if she would have let me look at the list, I would have done better remembering? I realized my short term memory lacks. We played a fun game where small keys fit into holes on a pegboard. I felt I mastered that, along with repeating visual images. Then came math. Even if I had a calculator, I would not have done well with that part. Sometimes I would just say, “Sorry, I’m done. I give up on that. I just cannot complete that part.” We ended the session with computer testing, which was around 350 questions.

The results from the testing should be back soon. I look forward to seeing the results. I am having the report sent to my psychiatrist who recommended the testing. I am also having a copy sent to me. My sister, who is a speech pathologist, is going to help me analyze the results. No matter what the results say about me, I am going to continue to live life and take care of business. Having a mental illness and possible cognitive impairments are just a part of me. They do not define who I am as a person.

Tiffany

David Carol Cave - I love love love your attitude Tiffany. The test results DO NOT define you! Hand in their sweet girl!July 27, 2015 – 8:37 pm

Christa Nelson Miller - Very interesting report, TIff!July 27, 2015 – 8:22 pm

Washing Dishes with Ginny Owens

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He has made everything beautiful in its time. He set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11 

God knows our hearts intimately.

He created us, made us, fashioned us fine.

He knows what makes us tick, knows what makes us cry.

He knows all of us, every part of us, the beautiful, upside down, inside out bits of us.

When we step out in faith, He reveals His purpose, His best, His grand design for our lives on earth and into eternity, too.

This, I learned on one trip to Haiti, one trip to the Dominican Republic, and one Ginny Owens acoustic house show.

When you know, you just know – this moment is a gift from God, this opportunity is a gift from God, this place and this time is a gift from the only One who could give it.

So when we received confirmation that Ginny and two band members would, indeed, be spending the night at our home, I knew it was a gift. Sent from heaven alone.

God knows whose writing and singing heart matches mine most closely. Ann VoskampSara Groves. And Ginny Owens. So He sent one, the only one I needed now. Ginny Owens. To perform in our home, to be present, to give me a taste of heaven.

When everyone cleared the concert, she asked how she could help. A beautiful servant heart, indeed.

She loves washing dishes, so we stood side by side. She washed. I dried. It was simple, really. Whole. Lovely. Pure.

The concert was amazing. But this washing dishes together was the greatest gift, the quietest, most heavenly gift.

Depth of conversation came the next morn around the breakfast table. But this washing dishes together was one human heart plus one human heart doing life together.

Wash. Dry.

Wash. Dry.

Wash. Dry.

We chatted. Milk spilled and puddled around Ginny’s boots and I checked her dress for milk spots. Band members, Dave and Andrew, ate late night pizza at our kitchen table. I brought the kids to bed and came back down again.

Ginny and I washed and dried everything but the awkward glass beverage containers, then called it a night.

It was slow.

Good.

Simple.

Rich.

One of the greatest gifts I’ve received.

God says…I know you. I know both of you. I brought you together for such a time as this.

This washing and drying, this living side by side, this being God’s beautiful, holy creations complementing one another? This is a taste of heaven. Taste. Believe. Receive the gift. For it is given most kindly, most affectionately, most intimately.

Eternity.

It’s set in our hearts.

He speaks when the time is right, reminds us of the beauty before us.

Know.

No one can fathom the goodness.

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She Called Me Fun

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Nearly all the guests had left. Just a few remained, mingling and chatting quietly in our kitchen and living room.

The evening was much more than the pipe dream I thought it was when I applied to host two months prior. It was God’s dream, God’s gift to us. Singer/songwriter, Ginny Owens, in our house performing an acoustic concert for an audience of 43.

Who would have guessed?

Who would have known this was possible?

Who would have believed such a thing to be true?

Ginny shared mentoring words with young and wise singer/songwriter, Jessica Joy, on our living room couch. Before I knew it, we were all gathered for a group picture in remembrance of the night Ginny Owens and Jessica Joy performed at our house.

I honestly can’t remember how it all went down or what the conversational context was, but shortly after we dispersed from the photo, Ginny said these words to me – totally unprompted, mind you.

“You’re so fun.”

I promptly called her on her word choice. “Funny you say that because FUN is the last word I would use to describe myself. In fact, I wrote a post about that just a couple weeks ago, how I’m so NOT fun.

Ginny disagreed, “You are SO fun! You opened up your home to all these people and let us perform!”

Hmmm…

The conversation moved on. I didn’t have much more to say about that, but deep down Ginny’s words struck me like gold.

I’m fun? Really?

She sees me as fun? Really?

There’s no way it’s true.

I’m so NOT fun. I’m one of the most serious people I know. I take everything to heart and have been told hundreds of times to have more fun and be more excited about life.

What is this talk of me being FUN?

The night wrapped and a couple hours later I found myself in bed, unable to sleep. I was wired, like a maniac, like the night before I left for the Dominican Republic with Compassion International and didn’t get a wink of sleep.

I didn’t fall asleep until 1:30 a.m.

I woke up again at 3:00 a.m. and was up wide awake until 4:30 a.m.

Seems there was a battle in the middle of that night. A battle between good vs. evil, a battle between doubt and belief, a battle between the night being an amazing miracle and the night being pretty good with a few mishaps here and there, a battle of wondering why I was mostly serious and if I was even just a little bit fun.

I hope everyone had an amazing night.

I didn’t get to say good bye to LeeAnn & Ed.

I hope so and so felt welcome.

I feel bad that three people from Aaron’s party weren’t able to make it to the concert.

And what about that sort-of-awkward moment when I might’ve dove far too deep into someone else’s most serious conversation?

Why didn’t I get a picture of me and Monica with Ginny? I should have publicly thanked Monica for encouraging me to host the concert.

I feel bad that I broke up Ginny’s awesome mentoring conversation with Jessica Joy.

I didn’t thank Jim and Dianne enough for all of their help today and they stayed far too long and late. 

Oh man.

The enemy came crashing into this middle-of-the-night adrenaline rush party of mine. His intention was to steal, destroy and kill all the joy and peace I ever felt about the Ginny Owens concert that had just happened in my house. But God wasn’t having any of that.

Sometime during my 3:00-4:30 waking, I remembered Ginny’s words.

“You’re so fun.”

What was that?

Why did she say I was fun?

What made her say and believe so quickly and easily that I was FUN?

I was all in for Ginny’s song about God “Call[ing] Me Beautiful.” But “Call Me Fun?” Not so much.

That’s when I remembered. In the middle of the pitch black room all by myself. Overdosed on adrenaline.

I remembered the 10-year-old 1986 self from home videos. The video where I rode my sky blue bike with a sky blue, orange and white striped banana seat. I was proud and true. I wasn’t afraid of what the camera thought or anyone else for that matter. I spoke my mind. I wore my homemade red backpack and striped polo shirt and stood straight and tall. I was clearly a FUN girl.

Tears came to my eyes. I felt the Spirit rush over me, reminding me that while God made me mostly serious, contemplative and thoughtful, a true INFJ at heart, He also made me FUN.

Ginny’s words had opened my eyes.

Ginny spoke what she perceived and believed to be true. She perceived and believed that I was FUN. The absolute LAST word I would use to describe myself. But God knew I needed to hear it.

He whispered it in the dark of night as I lay in bed unable to sleep. While I might not be aware of it, while I might not acknowledge it, God made a part of me to be FUN.

Sure, I tapped into that 10-year-old “fun” self in 9th grade when Jenny taught me how to swear. Sure, I must have tapped into that 10-year-old fun self in high school when I seemed to be friends with everyone and was voted homecoming queen. And surely, I tapped into my “fun” self in college with all that partying those first couple of years. But there’s more fun to be had, a different sort of fun, the kind of fun God designed me for that’s barely been tapped.

Yes, this was eye opening.

I’d go so far to say that this is what ultimately brought me peace and helped me fall back asleep that night. The realization that God created me with MORE in mind, that part of that MORE might be more FUN.

Wow.

How about that?

Thank you, Ginny. I do believe God spoke truth through you that I really needed to hear for some reason.

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So I’ve been wondering how this works for you, friends.

What part of you have you been holding back? What are the unknown, unexplored parts of you? Are there facets to your personality that you’ve never acknowledged, never embraced? What have you hidden from the world? What is it for you?

Perhaps you’re more adventurous than you know.

Perhaps you have an edgy side you’ve never explored.

Perhaps you need to let loose.

Perhaps you’re far more confident than you’ve let on.

Perhaps you need to initiate and believe you can do any and all things through Christ who strengthens you.

Perhaps you really ARE gracious and hospitable.

Perhaps your spirit is dying to be free.

Perhaps “just okay” is good enough.

Perhaps you don’t know and understand everything. Perhaps you don’t need to know and understand everything.

Perhaps you’re much more sensitive and tender-hearted than you’ve ever allowed yourself to be.

Perhaps you’re a dancer, a painter, a teacher, a counselor, a lover, a high flier, a farmer at heart. And you don’t even know it.

Perhaps you’re living large and you’re meant to live small.

Perhaps you’ve been living small and you’re meant to live large.

Perhaps you’ve pressed and pushed down half your real self your whole life long.

Is there anyone in the house for that?

I do believe there is.

Perhaps you know yourself oh so very well, but there’s a teeny tiny part of yourself waiting, longing to be expressed. What is that? Where is that? Why is that?

Ask yourself today.

Think about it.

Maybe you’re fun.

Maybe I’m fun.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s something else for you.

What’s the last word you’d use to describe yourself? Does something come to mind? Perhaps, just maybe, God put a little bit of that in you, too.

What is it, friend? What is it?

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