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Monthly Archives: September 2015

Africa. When God Says Fly.

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Our timelines rarely coincide with God’s.

We want life to go faster. Or slower.

We wish this would happen. Or that.

We want to press forward. Quicker.

We wish we could go back in time. And do it again.

We dream of better days, longer days, days fuller, days lighter.

We dream, scheme and believe BIG, bold things.

We think maybe, someday.

Maybe.

We have a hunch. Yeah, a hunch. If only, God. If God.

We want to believe those nudges are true. We want to believe it’s the Spirit speaking to our hearts, not earthly, fleshly, egotistical desires.

We just want confirmation that all this living and breathing and dreaming is real. That this life of ours is worth something more, more than mere existence.

We don’t want to simply survive.

We want to thrive.

We want to believe in a God who can do anything. A bigger-than-life God. A God who does things totally unexpected. A God who shows up in places and times least expected. A God who wants to surprise us with His glory, His goodness, His richness, His fullness, His plan for our lives here on planet Earth.

We want to know there’s more. That we’re part of a grander plan. A greater story.

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So when DropBox was simply too slow, when I had to go into church to upload a load of high resolution photographs from an all-church service day, when I “randomly” commented on the Africa photos in the corner of the pastor’s office that June 1st, 2015, then consequently got invited to join a mission trip to Africa, I was shocked.

I thought the dude was crazy. Me? Go on a mission trip to Africa in the fall? Ummm….No?! Not going to happen that quick. Not now. You might work like that, but not me! You don’t know me. I’m a planner. I’m a preparer. I like to do and know things in advance. There’s no way I’d make such a big decision in such a short timeframe. There’s no way I could ever find the money that fast, get child care that fast, get the a-okay from my husband that fast, get a blessing from our parents that fast. You know. There’s no way it’s going to happen that fast for me. Okay?

To be honest, I didn’t think the pastor’s initial invitation to go to Africa was all that serious. I really, desperately wanted to go to Africa in my heart of hearts. Of course, I was interested. As in, yes please? But now wasn’t the time. More like a couple years from now, or give me at least a year to get this thing worked out somehow? But five or six months from now?! Really? Serious? Is this for real?

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I got myself quiet.

And I got thinking about God’s timelines. How maybe we have it all wrong. How maybe I’ve had it all wrong. How maybe my timeline is SO off and SO wrong and SO not God’s. How he’s surprised me before; maybe He’s surprising me again. How I dreamed of traveling to Africa – not to sightsee, but to serve – for longer than I can remember. My Africa dream is so old, I don’t even remember when I started dreaming it. The dream’s just been there. Always. Forever. Then I remembered being invited to Africa by a different party, with a different nonprofit, in May 2014. And how I said NO, I’m already traveling to the Dominican with Compassion. Then I remembered the 2023 trip we visioned to Africa for our 25th anniversary. And I remembered the SINGLE reference to “Africa” on my blog’s Meet Amy page. I thought it was dreamy, but left it there on purpose, without any detail, without any knowing of what that “Africa” might look like. I left it in for hope’s sake. I left it in for the believing in someday, somehow, maybe when I’m much older and wiser and there’s something grand for me to accomplish there.

Is this all mystical-hogwash coincidence, or is this God working His plan?

I began to believe.

I also began to doubt.

I dismissed and diminished the pastor’s invitation to go on the Africa mission trip. I wanted to believe it could be possible. But I didn’t believe it could actually happen.

Reality set in.

I started blogging in July 2012.

Haiti in February 2014.

Expensive new camera in September 2014.

I stopped working as a speech-language therapist in December 2014.

Dominican Republic in January 2015.

Eye cancer diagnosis in January 2015.

Photography business launch in spring and summer 2015.

And now a mission trip to AFRICA in the fall of 2015?

How much more could I ask of my husband?

In my head, I knew it would be much better to discuss this in a year or two. That would be much better timing.

But in my heart, in my spirit, in my soul, I had a hunch this wasn’t about my timing, but more about God’s.

So I left myself open to the slight possibility of going to Africa in the fall of 2015.

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I received the initial invitation on June 1, 2015.

By June 17th, I had a solid and highly justified hunch the trip was NOT going to happen this time.

By July 7th, I’d given my answer in writing. NO.

On July 20th, God performed a BIG miracle.

I ignored that miracle until August 2nd, to be exact. I hadn’t been sure what to do with that miracle, but God knew EXACTLY what to do with it. He took it into His own hands. Clearly, I wasn’t moving this Africa deal forward with enough vigor. He was going to make this happen whether I liked it or not.

And that August 2nd, it was beautiful really. I’ll always remember the way she looked at me with tears in her eyes. (You know who you are, sweet friend.) The moment she knew in her heart of hearts that I was going to Africa.

And in the oddest series of events that occurred over the next 2-3 weeks, I’ll always remember the moment that same friend told me she wouldn’t be going to Africa. With the same tears in her eyes.

But I’d said, I’d written…

This wasn’t about getting anyone’s approval anymore. This Africa deal was between me and God, and God had made that abundantly clear.

By Saturday, August 29th, I said YES to Africa.

Things were definitely still in the air. Things were definitely NOT 100% clear. The near three-month journey from June 1st to August 29th had been rough, rocky and incredibly spiritually challenging.

But…

BUT….

I said YES to Africa.

Because God was in on this from day one.

There was no denying it.

I couldn’t shake this feeling I was supposed to go NOW. To Africa. In the fall of 2015. On this particular trip. For such a time as this.

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I’d given an absolute NO on July 7th.

God performed a series of straight up miracles.

And by August 29th, I said YES.

How could I deny what He’d done?

How could I deny His plans, His timelines?

This wasn’t about me. This wasn’t about my timelines or my pretty little plans or my best case scenario anymore. This was all about God. His Spirit nudging me again and again and again. His clearing the way. His making a way, whether any of us liked it or not. His desiring for me TO GO. To Africa. Now. As in. NOW.

Friends and family, I want to acknowledge that my retelling of this incredibly life-changing story has been incredibly vague. Much more vague than anything I’d normally share in this space. But this journey has been incredibly personal. This journey will become part of my life story, my lifelong testimony. I’ve documented it in a couple unpublished blog posts, and I’ve tucked away the details in my heart. I won’t forget. Someday, I’ll tell and it’ll make perfect sense and feel good and right in the context of a long-lived life. For now, the story will stay between me, two people who know all the details, and a few others who know some pieces. Some things are meant to stay sacred secret, between us and God.

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But this, THIS, is all you need to know.

I planned, wanted, and desired to go to Africa for my whole life, as long as I can remember.

I said NO to Africa twice.

God performed miracles.

And then I said YES.

Which means I’m going to Africa. On a mission trip. Soon!

I’m going to dive straight into details, because no surprise, I’m already running long on words.

  • I’m traveling with a team of 10 to Kenya, Africa.
  • We’ll be gone for 10 days, end of November into early December 2015.
  • All my travel mates are from Minnesota. 5 females. 5 males.
  • We’ve already met twice as a group.
  • Random awesome fact: My first cousin once removed is going on the trip and we had NO IDEA until we arrived at the first meeting and saw each other there! Who knew?! (Okay, so I’m not 100% on the blood relationship. Our parents are first cousins. So what does that make us?)
  • We’re traveling with a nonprofit called Love For Kenya.
  • Love For Kenya is one of our church’s 10 global mission partners, so our church’s mission funds will be covering a portion of our trip.
  • We’ll be staying in huts.

While we’re in Kenya, we’ll be working largely with orphans and widows. We’ll also be doing other ministry, outreach and service projects in the community as we feel called and led through listening prayer. Community ministry might look “as small as” providing encouragement, washing feet, feeding people and giving people clothing, or “as big as” building a home, providing mosquito nets and life-saving medications for a couple hundred people, showing the “Jesus film” to a thousand, and exploring uncharted valleys in an effort to reach people who have never been reached before. We’ll also be heading into the slums one day. It’s hard to say what God has in store. But these details, these possibilities, we know for sure.

The trip is structured, but leaves plenty of room for God to work His plan.

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For those of you who are safety minded, our trip will be led by Pastor Randy who’s led 90 mission trips. This will be his 17th mission trip to Kenya. Crazy cool, right? We’ll be 13-16 hours from areas that would be considered unsafe, and will have access to mobile phones. We’ll be together as a group at all times. And local Kenyan friends and partners will be journeying with us once we arrive in Africa.

I’m breathing deep. Sighing. Wondering how this could be true that I’m telling you I’m going to Africa. Now. For such a time as this.

One more important thing…

I will be blogging this trip, just as I did in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. We haven’t discussed details yet as far as what that will look like and when, but I’ll definitely let you know. One way or another, you will be hearing all about this journey to Africa.

And I’m hoping, praying and planning on piloting a photography project I’ve been visioning and dreaming of since January. I’ve already talked to Pastor Randy, our trip leader, about this and he thinks it’s feasible within the structure of our trip.

Keep in mind, I said YES to Africa on August 29th. So we’ve only had 18 days to discuss details.

Speaking of this whole timeline – being invited June 1st, saying NO July 7th, saying YES August 29th, sharing with you all today, and leaving at the end of November – I could use a little help.

You see, I wasn’t planning on Africa.

We weren’t planning on Africa.

I didn’t know God had this in store for me…NOW.

I didn’t know He had this in mind for me…NOW.

I thought my Africa dreams were possibly far fetched, likely for later in life when things will be far more settled. For our 25th wedding anniversary? Yes. For an awesome 65th birthday when I join 10 wise writers and photographers on some awesome writing-photography adventure? Sounds amazing. But right now? Not so much. Didn’t plan that.

Our timelines rarely coincide with God’s.

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So back to needing a little help.

Here’s what I could use…

A prayer team

If you’re willing to serve on a prayer team for my trip to Kenya, please leave me a message somewhere, anywhere, along with your email address. I would love some warriors to pray for travels, safety, health and God’s mission to be accomplished while we’re there.

Financial support

When I originally published this post on September 16, 2015, I made a humble request. I needed an additional $550 to fully fund my mission trip to Africa. Thanks to the generous gifts of family, friends and blog readers, the trip is now fully funded! I couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you. (Updated 11/23/15)

Likers & Lovers, Readers & General Supporters 

I need some lovin’ on this, friends. I need some support. Will you encourage me, love me, support me, read the posts I write, lift me up in your thoughts and prayers? Will you encourage me in my photography journey so I’m ready to pilot the project I’ve been dreaming of? Will you be hopeful and expectant? Will you believe there’s a reason God’s sending me to Africa now instead of waiting until my 25th anniversary or 65th birthday? Will you set aside doubt, worry and disbelief for the sake of encouragement? Will you believe in this journey, this mission? Will you will believe with me and for me? I would so greatly appreciate it.

Thank you, friends. Thank you.

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I stayed up until 1:10 a.m. writing this and I’m in for a long day ahead. After the kids left for school this morning, the doorbell rang. It was our 4-year-old neighbor boy. When I opened the door, he looked me in the eye and whispered “Your butterfly is going to fly away now.” It was truly the most miraculous thing ever to me. I ran to grab my camera. The caterpillar my daughter put in a bucket weeks ago and had been keeping on our porch had just broken from its chrysalis. It was on a fern next to the bucket. Our sweet neighbor boy notified me just in time. We watched its first moments free, its first flight. It was amazing. Miraculous. God’s confirmation for me this morning. Fly, dear one. Fly.

All photo credits (except the butterfly) to Love for Kenya.

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Kenya_smallbuttonThis post serves as the landing page for my trip to Kenya, Africa, with the nonprofit organization, Love for Kenya, in 2015. All the posts I write about the trip will be listed and linked here, at the bottom of this blog post. You’ll also find this Kenya graphic displayed on the right sidebar of my blog homepage. Click on the graphic anytime, and you’ll be brought right back here where you’ll find all the blog posts in one place!

 

To read other posts in the series about my trip to Africa, click on the title below:

Africa. When STAY RIGHT BY ME is All God Asks.

One More Day and We’ll Be On Our Way

The Sweet Song of Shangilia Orphanage

God’s Good, Good Work

Home. A Blessing and Dream Come True.

Less Productivity. More Connectivity. The Lesson I Had to Learn in Africa.

On Earth, As It Is In Heaven

Good Love and Good Bye

Messy. Slummy. Safari Beautiful.

Africa. The Untold Stories.

Rachel Arntson - What an amazing trip! Thank you for sharing. It makes me anxious to go back again someday. We will see.December 14, 2015 – 12:33 am

Nicole Bobda - Amy, I’m so so excited for you!! Thank you for sharing this, especially about God’a timing vs our timing. I LOVE Africa, but have never been to Kenya. So excited for you to have this experience. I believe it will be AMAZING!! Really looking forward to seeing your pictures and reading about your trip. God is with you!September 18, 2015 – 5:55 pm

Christy Davis - sooooooooo excited for you! God’s going to blow your socks off and I am so encouraged by your YES! :)September 16, 2015 – 7:45 pm

Amy - Thank you, Kris. Your words are humbling and honoring to my heart, my mind and my soul. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read, and to leave words of encouragement. God bless.September 16, 2015 – 6:12 pm

Kris Neff - Beautiful story from an amazing lady! 100% support you in every way! You filled my eyes with tears at your humble nature and such a spirit of loving all humanity. God only chooses the best for his work Amy, he knows what he is doing. Trust and Obey.

KrisSeptember 16, 2015 – 12:29 pm

School Time

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.

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My daughter, Raegan, started kindergarten yesterday. The process of changing routines was a bag of mixed emotions for both of us. I turned my daughter over to very educated, caring and knowledgeable individuals.

Prior to placing the kids in kindergarten classes, testing was done on each child. The kids were placed in rooms evenly, based on their current abilities. While Raegan was being tested, I sat with other parents and filled out paperwork. I had a difficult time concentrating on what needed to be filled out. I noticed my mind drifting at times. Questions needed to be answered, such as “What calms your child?” I was overthinking, including focusing on my grip. I wondered if I seemed out of place. During this process, I was also going through medication changes, so my self doubt was high. I have since started a new medication for ADHD, and am feeling calm.

During the testing, I was attempting to figure out how Raegan was going to get to and from school. I have decided that most days I will be delivering her and picking her up. One of the teachers in the room said to me, “This is Kindergarten, no worries. Everything works out.”

The day arrived when we would meet Raegan’s teacher and classmates. Raegan picked out a pink, black and white dress to wear with one of her favorite sweaters. My mom suggested that she wear her new black boots with the outfit. I did not want to tell my mom that I hadn’t seen the boots around for days. I searched and searched for the black boots and could not find them, so I put some tennis shoes on her and they worked. But my mind was focused on the black boots. They were eventually found at the neighbor’s place.

We left for the night with plenty of time to spare. We arrived at the meet the teacher event, and Raegan went running in front of me. I could sense her excitement and confidence. We arrived too early, so we decided to play outside. A former classmate of mine and his son were playing in the same area. Raegan begged me to play with her. I told her no. She needed to know that I am not always going to be able to walk beside her, holding her hand. Raegan soon yelled, “Hello, I need someone to play with.” The boy on the playground came right over. I was happy she had the confidence to speak her mind. Raegan will fit in just fine.

We proceeded inside and looked at the class lists. We also participated in a scavenger hunt, getting to know the school. We met some of the other kids in her classroom. The little boy she was playing with outside happened to be in her class and sits next to her as well.

There was a letter to open the night before the first day of kindergarten. I decided to let Raegan open the letter on Sunday morning while my brother was in town for the weekend. Inside, there was a letter from the teacher and sprinkles to put under her pillow for a good night’s rest. Raegan placed a few sprinkles under her pillow. Still to be determined what will happen with the rest of the sprinkles.

All preparations for the first day of school.

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Raegan and Tiffany

The first day of school arrived. I set my alarm early so I could get ready before the kids woke up. When I woke Raegan up, she started screaming. She wanted to sleep longer. I’m hoping that school wears her out. We had a wrestling match getting her clothes on for the day.

Then we stopped over to my parents’ place to relax and take some pictures. I left my son, Xander, with my parents and Raegan and I were off to school.

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Raegan and friends eating breakfast

I did not really feel sad, because as I stated earlier, Raegan is being well taken care of. I feel she is ready for this new venture?! We sat with a couple neighbor girls and their moms for breakfast at school. I brought Raegan to her room and said, “See you later.” She was more concentrated on school than saying anything to me.

All the preparations for this big day, my firstborn’s first day of kindergarten, were worth it. Overall, I felt completely comfortable with the day. Raegan seemed to adjust to her new life, and got to be a line leader for having good listening skills. I’m learning the ropes of having a child in school, but still need to conquer the listening skills at home. I anticipate a wonderful year for Raegan. Thanks for reading!

Tiffany

Peggy Lynn Groenwold - Great post, Tiff!September 16, 2015 – 1:06 am

Linda Wenzel - Dang new phone kindergarten and Reagans 1st day. I still remember yours!September 15, 2015 – 11:33 pm

Linda Wenzel - Wonderful post aboutSeptember 15, 2015 – 11:30 pm

Rachel Arntson - Thank you sharing. One never knows how that first day will go.September 15, 2015 – 7:05 pm

A Letter to My Baby Before You Begin Preschool

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Dear Maisie,

Today when I was getting you a fork for your mandarin oranges, you kindly reminded me you’re not a baby anymore.

“I don’t need a little fork. I’m big. Babies need little forks.”

You slid that baby fork with rounded, metal prongs and a pink, plastic handle across the counter quick. I gave you an all-metal, big girl fork instead.

How silly of me.

I have to admit, I did find baby spoons in the silverware drawer yesterday and wondered why I’d kept them there all this time. You haven’t used those baby spoons for at least 2 1/2 years now. Maybe I was saving them for some other baby. Either way, it’s probably time for those baby utensils to go in the garage sale pile.

This isn’t new to me. I’ve been in denial for months now. Okay, let’s be real. I’ve been in denial for at least a couple years. For goodness sakes, you’re closer to four than you are three, now. You’re most certainly NOT a baby anymore.

Back in May, before the big kids finished school, I forced myself to un-baby your bedroom. At least a little bit. I took off the changing pad you hadn’t used in months. I put away all the baby books. I cleaned out the baby clothes I had sitting on the side of your dresser, and put half in a Rubbermaid and half in the garage sale pile. I put your beautiful, handmade burp cloths in your memorabilia box. (They didn’t get burped on that much, right?) And I finally turned off the baby monitor and receiver I’d been OVER-using for years. Daddy had been annoyed by that thing forever and a day, and asked me to shut it down a hundred times. I just couldn’t. So that day, I finally turned them off. But they’re still sitting on your nightstand and mine, you know. Just in case. Someday. We haven’t had it in the budget to get you a big girl bed, so you’ll stay in the toddler bed for now. It’s okay with me as long as you don’t grow too big before spring.

You start preschool tomorrow. Preschool.

Half days, I think you’re still a baby.

But half days, I know you’re a big girl. You’re bored. You’re ready. You wish and want for something more.

I’ve seen you since school started for the big ones. Longing for 3 and 4-year-old companionship, you run, at least once a day to the neighbors’ houses to see if your tiny friends are home to play. But they aren’t home. They’re gone. To daycare. To grandma’s house. To school. You’re not so hot on me anymore. You’d rather be with them.

This is a sign.

A sign you’re ready for preschool.

A sign you’re not a baby anymore.

A sign you’ve grown beyond 24/7, mama/baby cuddle time.

It’s been a journey, that’s for sure. We weren’t sure if we were going to have you. Meaning, we weren’t sure if we were going to have a third child. For years and years, we pondered, worried and waited. What if? What then? But when your daddy and I were growing in years and realized I’d be 35, near 36, and he’d be 38, we knew it was time to decide. One last baby now. Or nevermore.

So we prayed on you. We prayed over you. Separately. Individually. God said yes to both of us. Yes. It’s time for a third.

Your birth changed everything for me. Everything.

In many senses, your birth meant I was no longer free. No longer free to do what I wished five days a week during the school year. No longer free to run errands anywhere, anytime while dad watched two big (and fairly easy) kids. No longer free to workout at my leisure. No longer free of daycare costs. No longer free to clean the house and work whenever and however much I wanted. No longer free of diapers, wipes and breast pumps. No longer free of baby costs, preschool costs, and still-to-come big kid costs. No longer free of baby seats, car seats and strollers.

But in so many other more important senses, your birth freed me. Freed me to realize God has grace, gifts and good things in store if only we trust. Freed me to start my blog. Freed me to pursue things I love and always wanted to do. Freed me to become myself. Freed me to laugh and love more than I thought I could. Freed me to chill out a bit. Freed me to use those diapers and wipes, breast pumps and strollers one more time. Freed me of the burden I’d carried for years, wondering if we should have one more child. Freed me to try full-time stay-at-home motherhood, even if it was for one, last kid. Freed me to feel much more complete with my family, myself and my life.

In other words, you’re worth it. We’re glad we had you, Maisie.

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I’ve battled a bit between wanting you to stay a baby forever, and wanting you to grow up so I could have my mom-of-big-kids freedoms back. I’ve held you like a baby, tickled you, laughed and stared into your sparkly eyes far too long. And I’ve encouraged nap times so I could have a moment to myself, to do what I want and need to do. I’ve despised when older moms tell me to “enjoy every moment,” because I don’t think that’s realistic. And I’ve enjoyed every moment because I know you’re my last.

My last baby.

My last baby to lift and hold in one fell swoop. My last baby to read books to by the toddler bed. My last baby who can’t brush her own teeth yet. My last baby who still likes applesauce in cups. My last baby who thinks McDonald’s toys are the bomb. My last baby who calls me “mama.” My last baby whose week’s worth of clothes, blankets and shoes can fit in one tiny duffle bag. My last baby who’ll squeal in delight when we go on the Dumbo ride next month at Walt Disney World. My last baby who’ll have her first airplane ride. My last baby who needs help cutting her pizza and meat. My last baby who needs me at the playground. My last baby who cries when I drop her off at Sunday school. My last baby who’s going to preschool.

Bye, baby. You’re a big girl now.

You’re going to preschool tomorrow.

I’m so excited for you. And I’m so excited for me.

It’s a new journey.

Time to move on to what’s next.

Time to move on to what God has in store for you, for me, for our whole family.

You’re not a baby anymore.

But you’ll always be my baby.

Love,

Mama

This letter to my 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Maisie, is last of a three-part letters series I’m writing to my children as we’re entering major transitions for each of them. I wanted to capture my thoughts and feelings before the moment passed. If you want to read my letter to my near 13-year old son, Cooper, click here. If you want to read my letter to my 10-year-old daughter, Elsa, click here

Carol Femling - You’ll always be our baby, Maisie!! I’m so glad your mamas daddy decided to have one more baby because we got YOU!!
Wonderful, sweet, loving YOU!! I love it when you shout out my ne “Grandma” and come running to me!! That is so special and I Love You the same!!! Mark was our baby and I always said that he was “the frosting on the cake”. You are the beautiful frosting on the cake!! Love you sweet one!! XOXO ❤️September 14, 2015 – 10:13 pm

A Letter to My Daughter as You Enter Middle School

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Dear Elsa,

You started middle school this week. 5th grade to be exact. I’m not sure where the years went, but here we are. You’re 10 1/2 and minutes away from completing your first week of 5th grade.

I have some things I’d like to discuss with you before you get any bigger, before you go any further in life. These things I want to talk about are important. Really important. They’ll impact your life potentially forever, so it’s best we address them now. (I know, I’m such a mom.)

First off, you started talking about being the “middle child” last spring. Enough of that. Okay? Can we be done with all that “middle child” talk before it goes any further? I want you to know with all of my heart, with every ounce of my being, that we were 1,000% aware of this so-called “middle child syndrome” before we decided to have a third child. We knew that having a third child would mean you’d be in the middle. But we reread the birth order book and asked the experts, and according to them, any gap between the second and third child that’s more than 5 years messes up the whole birth order business. Do you remember there’s almost 7 years between you and your baby sister? That means that we see YOU as our first baby girl. And while your sister is the third child (the baby of the family) she also acts as a functional only child because of the large gap between the two of you. We never, ever want you to feel like a slighted, less than, overlooked “middle child.” A parent never intends that for their child, and we certainly thought and overthought that a million ways before we had you. So please, before we go any deeper with these “middle child” references, can we just stop? If it’s our favorite “The Middle” TV show that’s influenced you wrongly, please don’t let them talk you into this “middle child” business. Your place in our family is unique. We thought of you most extensively before we brought your baby sister into the world. And we love you as our daughter. You are your own person with your own set of beautiful gifts and talents. So please rest assured in who you are, your unique place in our family, and your unique place in this world. There’s only one you.

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On a similar note, I noticed that a deadly word started creeping into your vocabulary this summer. Perfect. Ugh. You know how much I hate that word. You must know now. There is no such thing as perfect. No human being, no circumstance, no place or thing is perfect. You’ve referenced the fact that you like your clothes to be perfect, that you want to make sure your hair is perfect. I just want you to know that seeking perfect, that striving for perfect will get you nowhere fast. Your longing for perfection will only be found in heaven. I’ve called you on your perfect references, and I’ve explained why it’s not a goal I want you striving for. Let me tell you something. I’ve been there done that. Perfect? It’s been my goal, the thing I’ve been striving for, the thing I’ve been longing to be, the thing I’ve been trying for so long, the thing I’m dying a slow death over. SO done with that. SO not attainable. I’m still working it out at 39+ years old. So sweetie, just let go of perfect now. Okay? Right now. Before its snares grab ahold of you tighter. Let it go. Let go of any and all notions of perfection.

I have some more things to say, if you don’t mind. This is sounding more like a preaching session, so before I go any further, please accept my apologies and acknowledgement that I am being sort of preachy. I want what’s best for you and I do believe these items are critical for a girl in middle school who will soon be a young lady.

Now let’s move on to some things that are amazing about you!

I love that you’re SO confident in your skin. Body image isn’t a concern of yours one bit. I’m so grateful. I’m so glad. I’m elated beyond words. Can we keep it that way? Because as far as I’m concerned, the more years we can squeak by with you feeling completely confident in your own skin, in your own body, the better! Odds are, there’ll come a time when you’ll wake up to the world of fashion models and movie stars and how you’re “supposed to look” and you’ll turn that ugly corner. But for now, I’m LOVING that you’re LOVING yourself and that body of yours. Don’t let your friends, boys, TV or YouTube videos sway your opinion about yourself. Be confident. Rest assured that you are awesome! You are cute! You are beautiful. You are sweet, smart, social and hard working.

Keep being yourself. You have a crazy-good, fierce blend of my sensitivity and your dad’s extroversion. That’s a powerful blend for you, girl. You’re going places. You love people. You love socializing. You love being in the center of the action. You love to know what’s happening and where it’s happening and how long before we can get there and go there. Am I right, or what?! You love fashion, and you love style. You love styling hair, and you love doing nails. (Where in the world did that come from? I hate painting my nails!) You’re sensitive. Empathetic. So much so that you cry when I cry. Maybe it’s a curse. Maybe it’s a blessing. It’s all good. You’re a sweet soul. Keep being who you are. I’m not here to stop you. Sure, I don’t like socializing or hair or nails nearly as much as you, but I’m in. I’m fully in to whoever you are, whoever you want to be, wherever you are. I’m in. All in. So go, girl. Be yourself. Do your thing.

Last, but most certainly, not least. Don’t stop asking questions. Like “Why do the clouds get dark when it’s going to rain?” “Why do I have everything I need and want, and they don’t have anything?” about children living in extreme poverty. And “Are God and Jesus the same?” It’s good to have questions. It’s good to ask questions. You will continue to have questions as you grow up. Keep asking. As human beings, we must keep asking the hard questions. We must keep allowing ourselves to wonder WHY. Don’t stop asking. Keep that curiosity. Keep that open mind. Keep questioning status quo. Keep wondering why and how and why not? Those questions will bring you far. Those questions will set you apart from those who choose to look away, from those who choose to stop asking, from those who just don’t care to ask anymore. Those questions will help you see things others don’t see. And eventually, those questions will make you wise beyond your years.

With those deep thoughts in mind, I guess that’s about all I have to say today.

I’m proud of you. You’re awesome. You’re a sweet surprise. And a beautiful delight.

Keep being you, just as you are.

We love you,

Mom

This letter to my 10-year-old daughter, Elsa, is second of a three-part letters series I’m writing to my children as we’re entering major transitions for each of them. I wanted to capture my thoughts and feelings before the moment passed. If you want to read my letter to my near 13-year old son, Cooper, click here. If you want to read my letter to my 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Maisie, click here.

Kate Morgan Perry - Awesome.September 14, 2015 – 8:44 pm

A Letter to My Son Before You Become a Man

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Dear Cooper,

As August 3rd changed to August 4th, I woke from a deep sleep.

I wake often in the middle of the night. Perhaps I have some sort of undiagnosed sleep disorder. Or perhaps I have an unusually busy mind that just won’t shut off, even in the deepest of sleep. Most often when I wake in the mid of night, I think of all the things I need to do, worry about all the things left undone, worry about you and your sisters and knock myself over the head for how I did this wrong and that wrong and everything in my life wrong. Night can be dark, you know.

But this night, this 3:00 a.m. waking, you and you alone came to mind. I don’t know why. I’m not sure why. But it was all about you, son.

Tears welled and fell from my eyes the second I started thinking about you, the second I really started thinking about you.

Here’s why.

I’m no dummy.

Half your best friends are half-men already. I’ve seen it happen for months now, this changing from boy to man. I didn’t expect to go through this. I didn’t want to go through this. I didn’t realize that being a parent meant I’d have to watch my baby boy turn into a MAN. Seriously. What is this? I always wanted children for the adults they’d become, but I guess I was clueless about how that transformation was going to happen. Maybe I thought my kids would skip right over that boy to man and girl to woman phase?

But ready or not, it’s happening. Boys have been turning into men right in front of my eyes for months now. Your friends, for goodness sakes! The ones you played t-ball with and Saturday morning basketball with and went bowling with for your 6th and 9th birthday parties! Connor. Logan. Levi. Ryan. Cole. All your friends! They’re all turning into men! Can you please stop it?! Because I’m not ready. I’m not ready for Connor and Logan, Levi and Ryan and Cole to turn into men. I’m not ready for Ben or Mike or Dillon or any of those dudes to turn into men. And I’m most certainly not ready for YOU to turn into a man.

Boy, oh boy.

Man, oh man.

So yeah. I could barely stand it, that night I woke in the middle of the night. The tears wouldn’t stop streaming. I couldn’t get over the fact that any day now, you’re going to turn into a man before my eyes. And I’ll never, ever get that boy back. You will forever be a man after that.

Okay. I know you’re SUPER rolling your eyes at me right now. You’re saying “Mom! You’re so weird!! Stop!” You’re pulling away. You’re far too big for this, right?

But I’m serious, son.

You’ll be a man any day now.

That day you got braces, August 25th, was much worse for me than I ever would have guessed, much more emotionally charged. I thought this was going to be standard operating procedure. Get braces on. Two weeks later, start seventh grade. Perfect timing. But it wasn’t quite as easy as that, at least for me.

In the weeks between that sleepless August 3rd to August 4th night, all the way up until you got those braces on August 25th, all I could keep thinking about was how my baby boy was going to turn into a man any day now, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.

Those braces?

They proved my point.

They solidified the deal.

There’s no turning back.

Two days before braces, I took pictures of you. Boy you. Cooper. My boy. I wanted to remember what you looked like as a boy, before braces, before you became a man.

I might never forget the day we walked into the orthodontist office to get those braces put on. I looked at you one last time, then walked behind you all the way into the waiting room. When they brought you back, I knew this was the last time, the last time I’d see you without braces in a long, long time, the last time I’d see you as a boy. When they take those braces off 24 months from now, you’ll be a full-fledged MAN. And that’s just sad and weird and crazy good and so hard to comprehend.

Those braces. They signaled manhood. They signaled me saying bye to my boy.

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You’re in 7th grade now.

A couple days before school started you told me you were ready, that you’d adjusted to your braces and were ready to manage them at school. I agree. You’re ready. And capable. Of being and becoming a man.

Nothing about our journey as mom and son has been expected. I was absolutely clueless about motherhood before you. You broke the mold, son. And you broke it good. You continue to shock me everyday with your ways, with who you were and who you are and who you’re still becoming. Most of the time, I don’t understand you at all. Once in a while, I totally get you.

These are my prayers, son.

These are my wishes.

These are my hopes and dreams and words of wisdom for you in these last days before you become a MAN.

Be humble.

Be brave.

Don’t play too many video games.

Say thank you.

Don’t expect anything.

You don’t deserve anything.

Give your mom a hug. A nice long one.

And give your grandmas and sisters a hug, too.

Don’t worry about the ladies too soon.

They’ll fall all over you soon enough.

When it is time for the ladies? Honor. Respect. Love. And Care. Always.

Learn to be still.

Love.

Let faith work itself out in you. Please.

Wonder.

Wander a bit.

Do what you love.

Don’t do too much crazy stuff. Okay?

Don’t do stupid, dumb stuff either.

Will you please drive safe?

Discover your purpose.

Find your place.

Know your boundaries and keep them firm.

Sit.

Listen.

Watch the world around you.

Step outside of yourself.

Learn from those who have gone before you.

Play hard.

And rest well.

Give. Even if you don’t want to.

Serve. Even if you hate it.

Love and chill out when you’d rather lash out.

You can be anything you want to be and live anywhere you want to live when you grow up and move on out. As long as you’re safe and happy, developing and utilizing your God-given smarts and gifts to contribute to the betterment of people and this earth, I’ll be happy, I’ll be content.

But you must use your gifts. Don’t sit on your gifts.

And, yeah. In case I didn’t mention. Let faith work itself out in you, son.

Grow in wisdom.

But be open minded.

Don’t let money sway you.

Don’t let money entice.

Don’t let money come between you and yours.

Live simply so others can simply live.

Guard your heart.

And above all, son, believe. Believe there’s always a way. Believe there’s always hope. No matter what trials you face. No matter what turn the road takes.

Life is hard.

I won’t pretend it’s easy.

But it’s beautiful, son.

Take it in. Take it all in. SEE beyond the here and now.

So I’ll take it in. Take it all in. Then I’ll see beyond the moment, beyond the here and now, beyond the boy you’ve been. I’ll tuck all of you in my heart. All those memories – good, very good, bad, very bad. They make up you, all God created you to be, all God intends you to be.

I don’t know who you’ll be as a man.

But I do know who you’ve been as a boy.

I’m your mom.

I’ll forever be, whether you like it or not.

I was chosen to be the mom to shepherd you and care for you and love you all the blessed, long-way through. I honestly don’t know why me. Why me? For you? Only God knows.

Lord, help me raise you from the boy you’ve been, to the man you’re going to be.

For now, you’re still my boy. Your back and your cheeks are soft. Your voice is familiar. You don’t have too many hairs anywhere. And I still feel like a boy mom.

Soon, I’ll be a man-boy mom. Then, I’ll be a man mom.

Whatever.

I’m cool like that.

I always wanted to be a man mom anyway.

You were crabs as a baby anyway.

It’s all good.

Love,

Mom

This letter to my near 13-year-old son, Cooper, is first of a three-part letters series I’m writing to my children as we’re entering major transitions for each of them. I wanted to capture my thoughts and feelings before the moment passed. If you want to read my letter to my 10-year-old daughter, Elsa, click here. If you want to read my letter to my 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Maisie, click here.

Saturday Salutes - […] Amy wrote A Letter to My Son Before You Become a Man. […]February 6, 2017 – 9:51 pm

Tom Baunsgard - Amy, Also remember that kids don’t come with instruction manuals. As for parenting. We automatically sign up for that when we are blessed with procreation or in my case fall in love with someone who already had children. Blessings abound!September 11, 2015 – 7:02 pm

Tom Baunsgard - Great guiding words Amy! Cooper is Blessed to have these words and you and Seth as guides thru the tenuous year of developing into a man. All kids grow up… some do it better than others. I measure success like a rocket launch… A successful Launch is of the utmost importance! Cooper will do well!September 11, 2015 – 5:40 am

Amie Reynolds - I ❤️ this Amy and can relate on SO many levels! I am watching this transformation take place right before my eyes and it is both terrifying and rewarding at the same time. There is a whole range of emotions that I am experiencing with this next phase of parenting that I was not at all prepared for. With a little faith, some perspective and a lot of patience we WILL get through it though, right? We totally got this!September 11, 2015 – 4:41 am