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Category Archives: gratitude

Looking Forward With Optimism. A Thankful Heart!

This is a guest post written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared regular guest posts on my blog since February 2015. The purpose of her 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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Being grateful can improve one’s health. As I reflect on the past year, I have so much to be thankful for! I have two kids who I would do anything for, a great support system of professionals, family and friends, the ability to help myself and seeing gains for my efforts. I have found more peace in myself now than I ever have before. To me, Thanksgiving has a new meaning this year. The good, the bad and the rest that doesn’t always make sense. These are all the pieces of my life that I’m thankful for.

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My parents were out of town for over three months due to my dad’s lung transplant, but have been back now for a little over two weeks. My dad is home this Thanksgiving. I am grateful that my parents get to spend the holiday with us. My dad had some lung rejection issues, and he ended up in the hospital for ten days right before they came back home. His team of doctors will be checking his antibodies soon to see if the lung rejection is still happening. If his antibodies are bad, he will have to go back to the hospital for further procedures. The transition to them being back home has not necessarily been easy, but we are working on adjusting to accommodations that work for everyone. We are moving forward with my dad’s health with optimism. We are planning for a great future with him around.

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I’m thankful that Raegan, my six-year-old daughter, is starting to understand my mental health issues. She likes to show her friends and people who stop by clips from when I was in movies, television shows and commercials in my 20s. I was in the movie Four Christmases. Raegan laughs pretty hard when she sees my hands up in the air in the background. She often asks me what happens when I don’t take my pills. I forgot them one morning, and she asked if I could drive alright without them. I told her that I would be fine, as long as I took them soon. Raegan is reading very well and with great expression. She loves math, her class and her teacher. She is very wise and kind as well. She has her temper tantrum moments. Xander, my two-year-old son, is loving life. He is pretty rambunctious and is an explorer. He is full of questions, loves school (Early Childhood Family Education) and is an extremely kind and loving son. He loves exploring so much that it’s difficult for him to sit still during ECFE reading time. During gym time, he’s been running around pretending he’s a dinosaur. The other kids don’t seem to know what to think. He is proud to call the other kids in the class his friends. My experience with Xander at school has been different because I feel more chill and comfortable about everything. I am thankful for my two children. They keep me going, even when I’d rather isolate myself from the world.

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I need a support system to help me discipline and work with my kids. My parents, friends and a team of professionals help me with these issues. I take advice from each and every one of these people to help improve my situation. I am trying to help myself so I can be more independent of some of this help, as I have been over the past few months. I’m working with what I’ve been told, and am starting to figure out a parenting plan that I can do more independently. Now that my parents are home, it’s east to revert to dependence again. But I have gained confidence over the last three months as a parent. I am a parent who can prepare meals, stay organized and help with homework. I am thankful for all that I have been taught about parenting, and I plan on utilizing those skills throughout life.

Overall, I am very satisfied with how far I have come as a single parent. I am grateful for all of the wonderful people in my life, and am happy my mom and dad are now home, at least for now. My kids, support system, my ability to help myself and peoples’ responses to my gains have guided me towards more independence in life and with my children. I hope that over the years I become more confident in my myself and my skills. Every day is a new journey!

Tiffany

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.

greensig

The Last Thank You

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Dear You:

Thank you. What more can I say?

Sure, we’ve crossed paths a few times. But truth be told, I don’t know you all that well. We’re mere strangers in the daily reality called life. Heck, you’re nearly my neighbor, but for some reason, our paths primarily cross online, in this place, my blog.

When you approached and hugged me at the gas station that day, the day before we left for a week of radiation in the hospital, my heart was blessed. Thank you for your hug. Thank you for your warm welcome. Thank you for your sweet smile. Thank you for taking time to stop and see how things were going. Thank you for asking how I was handling it all. Thank you for being you, right then and there at the gas pump.

And then that afternoon, when the kids discovered a bag and your card on our front doorstep? Oh, man. What a sweet surprise that was. What a blessing and delight that was. Who does that anymore? Who delivers goodness straight to someone’s doorstep without seeking an ounce of recognition?

Your words. That card. I’ve read it many times already. It’s stored in my Bible to remind me that people do care, that people do love, that people do understand the quiet power of words, prayer, empathy and sympathy in times of need. I love how you wrote it all out, all your thoughts, all your feelings, all your questioning and wondering, all your wishing and praying for me and our entire family as we faced my husband’s eye cancer treatment. Thank you. Thank you for your words.

And that necklace, that powerful display of faith and beauty? Simultaneously broken and beautiful? That’s what life’s all about, isn’t it? Broken and beautiful. We’re all that way, yes? We’re shards of broken glass, our innermost places filled with painful experiences, haunting memories, things we wish never had to happen in the first place. But those broken pieces come together to create us, to form us, to make us into better, more compassionate people. We are broken. And we are beautiful. Yes. God intended it that way. So we are humbled. So we trust more in Him. So we surrender to His plans, His desire for our greater good. Cancer or no cancer.

That second surgery, the one where the gold bottle cap plaque filled with radiation was removed from my husband’s eye? I wore the necklace that day. I knew I needed the extra strength. For the unknown. For what was yet to come. For peace and comfort knowing I was broken, that my husband’s eye was broken, but our lives were still oh so beautiful.

“In surrender, God can use our burdens as an avenue for His grace.”

Surrender. Oh yes, girl. You got it. I have learned to surrender. I am not in control of this life. I do not have the power to heal my husband’s eye cancer, nor do I have the might to fabricate and maintain any sort of perfect life. The weight of the world is not on my shoulders. But surrender. Yes. Surrender. When I surrender, when we surrender, God steps in. His grace abounds. We need not work ourselves to death. We need not worry ourselves to death. We need not fear the worst possible outcome. We need to trust, hand it over to a higher authority. Surrender. Yes. Surrender.

You must know. This is the last thank you. I’ve been holding off on writing your thank you because words haven’t seemed adequate. I’ve been holding off because I wanted to wait until the time seemed right. I’ve been holding off because my thanks seem small compared to the grace and gratitude I felt upon receiving your beautiful gift.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

greensig

 

 

 

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 at divineinthedaily.com.

Tom Baunsgard - Awesome post Amy! Sweet Surrender! We are broken here in this life but will be whole in the next, made perfect in God’s Grace. His Grace is enough! Blessings abound!June 4, 2015 – 2:54 am

Two Years. Four Pivotal People. A Belated Blogaversary Celebration!

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July 30, 2014, marked Divine In The Daily’s two-year blogaversary! The day came and went without any fanfare, but I most certainly did not forget the occasion. After all, how could I forget the day I finally started getting all those words out of my head and onto the screen so they could be useful to someone besides me?!

So today, I want to step back and celebrate this blogaversary by honoring four special people who have been a tremendous blessing to me in regards to this blog – Brenda, Shalon, Monica, and Tom. From day one, these individuals were there to pray, support, encourage, and love. Better yet? They’re still hanging in there today, and I don’t see them hitting the road anytime soon. For that, I am so grateful.

Let me tell you more about each one of these beautiful people, may I?

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BRENDA

I served on a board of directors with Brenda’s husband for three years, so I’d conversed with her on several occasions. We were very familiar with each other and enjoyed one another’s company, but never had that much time to chat at length. I respected and admired her fiercely as a wife, mother, and fellow human being. Let me tell you, Brenda is phenomenal. I will never, ever forget the way she’s blessed me and this blog.

On July 30, 2012, the day I launched the blog, Brenda called and left a message on my phone at 2:24 p.m. I will always remember the moment I listened to her voice mail, and have it saved on my phone to this day. I was at the beach with my kids, sitting on the sidelines watching them frolic on the shoreline. It was then that I heard Brenda’s words, “Read your blog posts on your new blog and I just had to call you. I am so blown away and impressed. I just wanted to chat with you about that for two or three minutes.” Needless to say, I called her back immediately, right there at the beach. After some conversation about my new blog and her new photography business, Brenda shared that she felt compelled to offer prayer for me and the blog. I obliged, of course. So there on the beach, a phone separating the two of us, we prayed for this blog.

Brenda is a pivotal person because she took a risk and stepped out of her comfort zone to cover this blog in prayer. She most definitely didn’t have to do it, but she did it anyway. And she continues to pop in to the blog to this day to show her ongoing love and support. Thank you, Brenda.

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SHALON

My, oh my. Where should I start with sweet Shalon? In April 2012, I made the decision that I would be launching this blog, Divine In The Daily. The blog I began in January 2010 never really launched, so I knew I wanted to do this blog right from the start. With that in mind, I was certain of a few things. I wanted to hire a custom blog designer. I knew I wanted a ProPhoto Blog so I could have lots of options for beautiful photography on the site. And I needed to find someone whose design style complemented my personal style. Oh yeah, and I knew the designer would have to be patient with my perfectionistic tendencies. Fortunately, after hours of online research, I “met” Shalon!

Shalon is a blog and graphic designer at Pretty Lovely Design. I’ve worked with her for 28 months, and it’s been an incredible ride. Pretty much anything visual you see on my blog? Shalon designed it. Together, we’ve customized everything to my liking.

I was impressed with Shalon’s service from the beginning. She had me complete an extensive background form which detailed everything I wanted in the blog, down to minutia details such as fonts, accent colors, and white space between blog posts. Shalon has been ridiculously patient with me throughout the whole process. In fact, she’s been so patient and gracious with me that I can’t even begin to explain. But here’s one example – I made countless revisions to the blog header before the blog was launched in July 2012, and then in July 2013, she helped me redesign the header to fit the feel of the blog one year in. Shalon’s designed business cards and graphics for me, and has helped problem solve various technical problems on the blog as well.

I’m excited to work with Shalon in upcoming weeks. She’ll be updating my logo and business cards, will be creating Facebook and Twitter covers for the blog, and last but not least, she’ll design my #31Days graphic for 2014!

I’m pleased to call Shalon a pivotal person because she’s not only met my expectations, but has exceeded them in regards to all design aspects of this blog. I couldn’t be more pleased. Thank you, Shalon.

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MONICA

Monica’s been a faithful reader of the blog since day one. She’s also one of twelve individuals on the Divine In The Daily prayer and support team. Words don’t adequately describe how important Monica has been to the life of this blog. May I suggest she’s been one of my blogging lifelines? I’m pretty sure Monica’s read most, if not all of the blog posts I’ve ever written. For that, I’m grateful. Because she knows and cares about my heart.

In the early days, when barely anybody was reading, Monica was there with a Facebook like or sweet comment on the blog. She’s the one that’s sent me Facebook messages and emails letting me know how much various posts have moved her personally. She’s one that’s encouraged me with texts when I’ve been discouraged. She’s the one who reminded me that one thoughtful comment has the potential to turn the blog into a space for rich, meaningful conversation, just the way I’ve always dreamed it could be. She’s the one I’d trust with the biggest and best news this blog’s ever had…before anyone else. She’s the one that knows what this blog means to me and how it fits into my life, and I’m pretty sure she’d do just about anything to show her support.

It’s my pleasure to call Monica a pivotal person in the life of this blog because she’s probably the most grace-filled, loyal and intuitive readers I’ve ever had. She makes me feel like my writing is worthy and worthwhile. Thank you, Monica.

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TOM

Tom has been a faithful reader of my blog from the start. He’s also one of twelve on my prayer and support team. If I ever named a Godfather of this blog, it would most definitely be Tom.

Tom is the most loyal male reader of my blog besides my husband. Yes, as much as I want this blog to be for men as it is for women, my readership continues to be about 80% female. So having Tom’s predictable male presence is greatly appreciated and never, ever taken for granted.

Tom plays a similar role to Monica on this blog, only he’s male and is probably closer to my dad’s age than my age! As you might be able to tell, Tom and Monica have pretty much covered the bases for the life of this blog in regards to support, love and encouragement. When the blog was fresh and new, and only a handful of people were reading, Tom was there with his Facebook likes and encouraging comments. When I need a little humor, when I need a dose of reality, when I need encouragement, fact checking or history buffing, Tom’s my man. When I sent out an email to the prayer and support team with prayer requests last spring, Tom responded with insight and a prayer I needed more than anything. I’m not sure how he identified the most pressing prayer request of my life without me ever saying it, but he did. Not many people REALLY get me. Tom does. And I’ve only met him once.

For Tom and his unwavering presence, I am beyond grateful. I respect Tom immensely and pray he’ll never leave this place I call my own. Thank you, Tom. You have most definitely been a pivotal person in the life of this blog.

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the love today. Love’s all around. It’s my greatest desire for you to feel welcomed and known in this place. So please, make yourself comfortable here. Take off your shoes and stay for a while. Make this place yours as much as it is mine.

But before I go, there’s one more thing I want you to know…

There are so many more who I could’ve honored today. Heck, I could write a week’s worth of posts on all of you who have been supportive these past two years. Whether you’ve been around since week one or just discovered my blog last month, I’m happy and blessed to have you here. There’s one thing for sure. I wouldn’t be much of a writer without readers. So thank you for reading, thank you for responding, and thank you for engaging in this place. Your love and support has been tremendous. Your willingness to have fun, go deep, and be vulnerable has been incredible.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

With a grateful heart for the two years that have passed, let’s kick off year three! It’s going to be grand.

greensig

 

Tom Baunsgard - Amy, Thanks for the wonderful comments. We have only met in person once but through your blog I came to know you much better. I was surprised an honored to when you asked me to be a part of the prayer team for you and the blog. I really enjoy reading and absorbing each blog entry you post… I don’t understand it all of the time, but I’m a man and maybe i’m not supposed to always “get it”. Mostly you provide us all with some very thought provoking subject matter that really touches both the mind and the heart. With God’s grace I will continue to provide meaningful comment, prayer, and a little humor too. August 7, 2014 – 2:05 pm

Linda - Amy,
Coming from a non-wordsmith, I’m always impressed with how your thoughts just flow for us readers. Brenda nailed it, you are “vulnerable, relevant, and honest” and I enjoy your writings. I’ve been encouraged to begin a blog but honestly it overwhelms me personally, so kudos to you for accomplishing your goal! ((hugs))August 7, 2014 – 9:03 am

Brenda Howe - I remember that day well Amy. I was hesitant to call because I didn’t know you well, but felt so strongly led to pray for you and your blog. I am learning to obey the Holy Spirit’s nudges, and glad I did in this case :) Your blog is important. You are vulnerable, relevant and honest, and SO MANY of us can relate to the content. I feel honored to have been even a very small part of this! You are an inspiration to many including me.August 7, 2014 – 12:52 am

Monica Anderson Palmer - I am beyond humbled by your words! You are a gift to me! Once again I am amazed at how careful you are to show me, those around you, how precious each & every interaction they have with you is etched on your very own heart! I’m beyond excited for what God is doing here at your blog but even more excited to see the Lord moving in your heart and life! August 6, 2014 – 9:59 pm

What I Learned From My Dad’s Retirement Party Post

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The fact that my dad’s lifelong career as band director was never celebrated properly bothered me for eight years straight. So one week ago, I took a leap of faith and wrote a post I hoped would rectify that wrong. When I hit publish, I had no idea what the outcome would be, but I did it anyway.

Today, I’m happy to announce that my hopes and dreams for that post came true. The response was greater than I imagined. The outpouring of support? Tremendous, amazing, absolutely incredible.

As of this afternoon…

7,200 people saw the post in their Facebook feed

615 people read the post on the blog

41 people “liked” the post on Facebook

38 people left a personal message for my dad on the blog

27 people shared the post on their personal Facebook page

and…

1 person (my dad, aka Mr. Femling) left a note of thanks for all who made the week so special for him:

“Your comments have raised my spirits immeasurably! It’s easy to get down when you have pulmonary fibrosis and can’t play the trumpet like you used to. I wear oxygen tanks all of the time now so I can still get around and play golf. I always wanted to die directing the band when everything was clicking, as it did many times with you guys, or playing golf. I almost got my wish when I had a heart attack on hole #3 at the [golf course] about 6 weeks ago. As depression started to set in your comments lifted me up and made me want to fight on! The “wall of sound” you created gave me the “chills” many times as do the memories of those times do now. Thanks to my daughter Amy for this great retirement party and to all of my fantastic band students. [Mr. Femling]  JUNE 18, 2014 – 8:07 PM”

I have to admit, I’ve learned some lessons this week. Publishing that post and seeing the positive outcomes was eye opening for sure.

So what have I learned?

1) Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. Sometimes there’s just no getting around it. When I published that post, I had NO idea what the response would be. I had no idea how it would “perform.” I had no proof, no evidence to suggest the post would be a success. For all I knew, the post could’ve died flat on its face. But something told me that wasn’t going to happen. I just had a feeling, a suspicion that it had the potential to produce the outcomes I desired for my dad. So I took a leap of faith. And it worked. Sometimes, in order to get the outcomes we desire, in order for God to produce the outcomes in our lives that He desires for us, we need to take leaps of faith.

2) People really can be amazing. And once in a while? They’ll not only meet, but greatly exceed all of your expectations. If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you’ve heard me talk about expectations. About four years ago, I became very aware of a fault I’ve carried for a lifetime. The expectations I have for myself and the expectations I have of others are simply way too high. Well, let me just say that all of my expectations were met and exceeded with this blog post for my dad! People showed up. They spent time leaving messages that were detailed, heartfelt, and kind. They acted when they could’ve sat idle. They cared when they could’ve chosen to care less. It was a true honor for me, my dad, and my entire family to read the messages people left on the blog. The outpouring of love and support was amazing, each and every perspective unique, and all together an honoring, perfect picture of my dad’s character and career as band director.

3) Words are powerful. I love words. And I take them seriously, probably more seriously than most. In fact, I’d say that when it boils down to it, words might just be the point of my life. Words can lift up, and words can tear down. We choose our words. Yes, we choose our words. We choose how and when to use them, and with whom to share them. If you go in to that blog post for my dad, dig deep in the comments, read each word, and ponder the true meaning of it all, you’ll be astounded, overwhelmed by the content that was communicated in that space. Words have immense power. Why are we careless with words, throwing them around as if they don’t mean anything, joking as if it won’t hurt anyone, blaming when maybe it’s nobody’s fault at all. Why do we withhold words when they have the power to heal, bring peace, joy, encouragement? Why don’t we love, lift each other up, tend to one another with words more often? Why don’t we consider the holy weight of words, every one important, every one filled with possibility?

Yes, these are just a few of the things I learned from the post I published in honor of my dad’s career as a band director. So today, I rest in peace, acknowledging publicly that the post was a success.

Together, we provided a little joy, a little hope, a little reassurance and blessing for my dad, Mr. Femling, in the midst of times that have been tough.

Words of gratitude are extended generously to those of you who read, responded, and replied to the post. You recognized and restored dignity to a man who deserved it.

Amy

**If you haven’t read the post I wrote in honor of my dad’s career as band director, I strongly encourage you to do so! You’ll find it here, at In Which I’m Throwing a Retirement Party for My Dad, Mr. Femling!