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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Snap That Picture!

The other day on my way home from work I noticed a bank of dark clouds rolling in from the west.  I was thinking that I needed to hurry home to let the dog out before the storm.  She is afraid of storms and at the first rumble of thunder she runs for cover under the bed.  But as I turned the last corner toward home, I noticed how dramatically beautiful the clouds were.  Still thinking about the dog I headed on up the street toward home.  Suddenly I realized that I would never see that same cloud formation again.  I needed to stop and snap that picture.  I didn’t have my “real camera” with me, but I did have my phone and the 8 megapixel camera takes decent pictures.  So I turned my car around and found the perfect place to take that picture.  I’m glad I did because only seconds later, the hole where the sun was peeking through was gone.  If I had not stopped, I would have missed it altogether. 

I have had many opportunities over the course of time when I have said, I should stop and take a picture of “that” someday.  One that stands out in my mind the most is an abandoned farm home on the edge of a town called Quimby in Iowa.  Every time I passed that house, I would wonder whose hands built that house.  I wondered who prepared meals for the farmhands in that kitchen.  I wondered whose laughter could now only be imagined.  I wondered whose tears last fell to the floor as they left this home.  I wondered all these things every time I passed by but never stopped to snap that picture.  One day while driving in the country with my camera in tow, I decided that I was going to go and finally take pictures of this homestead.  As I rounded the edge of town, my heart sank and I felt a pit in my stomach.  The house was gone.  It had finally been torn down and with it the imaginings of a family, a wood-burning stove, the smell of homemade bread from the oven; the image of the American farm family was gone.   

I don't want to wake up someday realizing all that I have missed out on because I didn't listen to the inner voice prompting me to seize opportunity.  I want to live a life that chases after opportunity with a "go for it" mindset. When the biography of my life is written, I want the title to be, "Yes She Did!". 

          Yes she did... 
                      try some things that weren't successful

          Yes she did...
              stop to photograph stormy skies
           Yes she did... 
take time to sing the songs in her heart

And yes, I have been given many opportunities in my life; taking advantage of some and ignoring others.  The regrets are of opportunities not taken, because I can only wonder "what if". 

So today as I think about the next opportunity that I've been given, I am wondering how and when, but I will not look back with regret wondering what could have been "if only".

I'm going to look at today as the day that I decided that every time I get the opportunity, I'm going to stop and snap that picture!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Second Time Around

“I love being married to you”, I often say to my husband. I say this because it’s absolutely true.  I also am known to say, “I love everything about you except (long pause) that one thing (sigh)”.  I don’t know what that “one thing” is just yet, after all, we have only been together for five years.  Our marriage had a great beginning, a tiny rough spot that we worked through, and now we enjoy each day as it comes.  As those who know us suspect, we do laugh a lot at our house. We laugh at each other and we can laugh at our self. Frank Sinatra sang, “Love is better, the second time around…”, which makes me wonder what he was singing the third and fourth times around, but that’s another blog post.  If you have been reading my blog from the beginning, you know that this is my second marriage. I have to say that love is different, the second time around.  My first marriage was not horrible and it was not perfect.  But after being single again for a few years and after a lot of heartache and work on my own hurts and past failings, I began to look back and sift through the good and bad in it all and to learn from it. I learned a whole lot about who I really was and what I really wanted in life.  And although I had come to know and feel that I didn't need a man in my life, I really wanted to share my new-found self with someone very special who would not try to change me or to discount the source of my strength.

I had a friend that lived out of state who was single from divorce.  She and I would share single’s ads from our local newspapers and howl with laughter as we tried to find each other the perfect mate. Knowing that one of my requirements was that my future mate would have all of his teeth, she sent me an ad with a headline that read, “I have all my own teeth”.  I reciprocated with an ad that said, “I’m not looking for marriage, just friendship and a good cook.”  This is the point when I realized that if that second time around was going to happen, the hardest part would be finding that special someone.  I pretty much decided that I wasn’t going to go on a mad search for a man.  If someone came into my life that I could enjoy spending time with, then I would consider a second go at marriage.  I could write volumes about failed dates and a very strange blind-date; thank God I was not blind, but I will spare you the details and time. 

Mike and I corresponded through e-mail, spent hours talking on the phone.  Our record breaking phone call was nearly four hours long.  Text messages, dating long distance from Kansas to Iowa and finally meeting his parents, (which was and still is a huge bonus), and I knew that this was the man I wanted to share my love, my life and my laughter with.  Yeah, there have been skeptics along the way because of our difference in spiritual matters, but I shrug my shoulders and consider it a learning experience for them too.

Here we are five years into our marriage and we are still happy.  When people ask me for marriage advice, I usually disappoint them because I don’t have a “how to” guide.  Because we are all so different in how we relate to others, it would be unrealistic to expect that our marriage is a model marriage.  There are some things, though, that I do believe keep our marriage fresh, alive and strong.

  • ·         Love notes written and left in unexpected places at unexpected times
  • ·         Flirting that didn’t stop after the vows were spoken
  • ·         Flowers for no particular reason
  • ·         Listening, listening, listening
  • ·         We allow each other space to learn and grow in our individuality
  • ·         Respecting each other’s passions even though they may not be the same
  • ·         Laughter.  Laugh much, laugh often because marriage is hard work

The past five years of my life have been full of life and love and friendship.  We have been frustrated together and we have laughed together.  We have argued about things and we have learned to respect individuality.  We have been to movies that we were not mutually excited about, but enjoyed the pop-corn and buttery hand-holding that goes with it. We have traveled together and bickered about navigational deficiencies and we have looked with the same wide-eyed wonder at the natural beauty of our country, forgetting about that wrong turn.

I have found someone who accepts my love in its simplicity and does not compare me to another and who sees my quirky self as something unique and to be adored; I have found someone who does not expect me to be more or less than who I am, I have found love. 

So, Frank Sinatra, I hope I never know about three and four, but I think you got it right, love is better the second time around.  We have learned from our mistakes and we have done our best not to repeat them in our second marriages.

I love being married to Mike Potts and I really cannot imagine my life without him. 

August 14th is Mike’s birthday and this year we will be celebrating our 5th anniversary on that same day. (we got married on his birthday so that I would easily remember the date)

Thank you for stopping by and if you got this far....for reading yet another sappy love story.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

It's the Simple Things

This is going to be a short post tonight because I don't have a lot to say.  But what I do have, I think, is important enough to share.

I came into work Monday morning, powered up my computer and checked my e-mail.  As I sorted my in box by priority, I noticed an e-mail from Antoinette, who I once worked closely with.  I opened it and all it said was, "hi Amy".  Now that seems like a simple message and maybe even one that could be ignored.  But, I haven't talked with Antoinette in a long time and so it started my day with a smile. For my whole day I smiled about the fact that someone took time to think of me and to do something about it.  Hi Amy.  That's all it said.  Tonight when I logged into Facebook, I had a message from a former classmate.  The article was about gratitude and that made her think of me!  You see, most every night I try to take time to post one thing that I'm thankful for and I always follow it with the question, "what are you thankful for?" 

So I'm two days into my work-week and I know that people are thinking of me because they are telling me.

My challenge to you, my readers, is that if someone comes to mind throughout the day, tell them.  Send a text message or an e-mail. Stop by their desk if you work with them, call them; do something to let them know that you are thinking of them.  It doesn't have to be a big production.

Sometimes the simplest of expressions can bring light to a dark corner of another person's day.

Thanks for stopping by.....

Amy Lynn

Sunday, May 26, 2013

I Wish I Had Been Warned

We took a trip to the west coast a few weeks ago.  We had previously seen the greenest of green in the mountains of Oregon and enjoyed the deep blue waters of the coast.  This time we spent time in Northern California.  The giant trees of Humboldt County left us awestruck and the sound of the ocean waves were often deafening, reactions that we expected.  Nobody warned us about the city.  Nobody warned us about San Francisco.  It is a city that took us both by surprise.  Admittedly I was not looking forward to the city part of our vacation as much as I was looking forward to communing with nature.  People had told us that San Francisco is not like any other city.  But they hadn’t warned us about it being a city that truly has something for every personality, every race and every religion.  We weren’t warned that in the midst of all the hustle and bustle, it is easy to find natural sanctuaries of trees and flowers, quiet places.  We also weren’t warned about how friendly the people of San Francisco are.  The cab driver who shared the Reader’s Digest version of his life in 10 minutes and his love for the city; the people who helped us get pointed in the right direction on the public transportation.  These were some of the many of the things that people didn’t warn us about. 

There was a sense of sadness when we left that city to come home.  In conversations about our vacation, I have expressed my desire to live there.  I have talked about it with more enthusiasm than some people are interested in and I can see the boredom in their eyes.  Those who have visited the city and loved it, enjoy hearing about it once more.  It brings back memories for them and they share in the excitement once more.  There are also people who listened intently to my vacation ramblings and feel it necessary to warn me about the sins of the city.  I want you to experience with me some of these questions:

Person A: “You do know there are a lot of gays there, right?” 
Me: Yes

Person B: “Do you think you would be alright living in a city with so many gays?”
Me: Unless this is contagious, yes.

Person C: “Aren’t there a lot of gays there?”
Me: Yes, but there are also tourists.

I have been warned of the perils or rather, the one peril of San Francisco.  The things I wish someone would have warned me about?

…the homeless woman swimming in the cold ocean waters in the evening to bathe
…the homeless man sitting against a wall behind a bush shooting up
…the homeless man walking ahead of us with all his belongings in a bag and 
the thin layer of sandals on his blackened ankles and feet.
…the homeless woman sitting against a wall crying and talking to herself

So, did I see any gay people?  Perhaps, and if I did… what I saw were two people who deserve to love and be loved.  I would much rather have that imaged stamped on my mind than an image of people who for whatever reason have no place to lay their heads and no one willing to embrace them.

I wish I had been warned….  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

Mother’s Day is a weird day for me.  I don’t have children and really never had a passionate desire to be a mom.  That sets me apart from most women in my circle of friends.  When I was in my 20’s people assumed that I had not “tried hard enough”.  I’ve never been too sure of what that meant, exactly.  I was not using any form of birth control and I was sexually active.  I just wasn’t getting pregnant.  When I entered my 30’s people would try to reassure me that it wasn’t too late to start a family and proceeded to tell me the many ways in which I could make it happen.  Now I’m at the far end of my 40’s and you would think that everyone would have given up hope in my becoming a mother.  No, now they tell me that adoption is a great option for “people my age” and that I would make a great mother.  It seems to me that people just can’t imagine a woman not wanting to have children. 

There was a short, but valuable, time in my life where children were very important to me.  I worked at a drug and alcohol treatment center for women.  This center was unique because the women who were being treated for their addiction, had opportunity to bring their children with them. Addiction is a disease that, after all, affects the entire family.  I had worked as a receptionist in the outpatient center for a couple years and was one day told that I would be transferred to the Women and Children’s Center.  I would be working as addiction technician, interacting with the moms and their children.  I was scared to death at the thought of caring for infants, toddlers and school aged children.  I wasn’t a mom, I didn’t think I knew the first thing about being a mom and I certainly couldn’t imagine myself mentoring and teaching women how to care for their children.  All of it seemed, at the time, as if my employer was trying to force me to quit.  I transferred to the inpatient facility to begin my work.  I remember walking in the doors and hearing the children in the daycare area.  I felt so afraid that I would somehow be more harm then good for those already hurting children.  But something inside me, that has been with me my entire life, spoke loud and clear.  I would make the most of this situation and that’s exactly what I did. 

There was a night, shortly after I began my work there, when a young woman came into the facility with two young boys, whose names and faces I can still see.  One of the boys was scared of his mother and without hesitation, jumped into my lap and clung to me as if I were his long lost safety net.  His mom was crying and frustrated, his older brother sat in the corner of the room with a book and a blanket.  My job was to stay in that room until they were all settled.  I read to the older boy while he held tight to his blanket and the younger boy would not leave my lap.  Their mom was scared and hurting as she was coming down off her last drug high and she was angry about her circumstances.  I stayed in their room until everyone had drifted off to sleep and was required to check on them often throughout the evening.  That was the first time that I had ever in my life been the one to provide safety and nurturing to children who were scared, confused and probably feeling lost.  Today I still think about this family and wonder where they are and if they ever found peace as a family.  I wonder if the mom went back to the streets.  I wonder if the boys grew up in a safe environment. I want for this family all the things a mother would want for their children; love, safety and security.

My experience working in that capacity allowed me to see that the nurturing of a child is hard work.  Sometimes, through no fault of their own, mothers can’t provide all that their children need.  Whether physical, mental or geographical limitations, children sometimes are made to look outside the biological family to get the supplemental support and love that they need.

It is a natural instinct for women to rise to the occasion when we see someone who is in need of nurturing.  It is a God given instinct, if you will. 

Today as many celebrate Mother’s day, there are some who feel as if they can’t honor their mothers for many reasons.  Maybe you were abused, or maybe you never knew your mother.  Mother’s day can be anything but reason to celebrate for many people.  To you, I would say first of all, I am so sorry for you pain and for your loss.  Secondly I would ask you to think of the women along the way who have given you glimpses of love and understanding and patience; ultimately they have nurtured you.  When you think of those women, give thanks for them and thank them for all they have done for you.

Happy Mother’s Day to all who have loved and nurtured children.

And….thanks for stopping by to read this post today,

Amy Lynn Michael 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

God's Gift

You come in the dark of the night or by day. 
Damned by some, loved by others you gently you make your way to us. 
Sometimes there is only a hint of your presence. 
Sometimes you are altogether unseen. 
The sun lights up the morning sky and erases any sign that you were near. 
Where you are not expected, there is an unusual calm
and the world seems to stop as we try to figure out what to do. 
You are an unexpected and perhaps unwelcomed guest. 
You make newspaper headlines.
The media world is ablaze with pictures of the havoc that followed your visit. 
There are  others who publish pictures of your beauty.
If you were to come just one at a time, you would be unnoticed by most. 
Flake upon shimmering flake you fall from the sky. 
You join with the wind to make us stop, wait and listen. 
One little flake is not like any other that falls from the sky. 
When you join forces, you hold so much power over our busy lives.
You are beautiful and terrifying all at once.
Yet no matter how we see you at that moment of surprise,
Your departure leaves a permanent mark on our dry earth. 
From your nourishment come the flowers of spring. 
You are gentle.  You are powerful.
You are frustrating.  You are beautiful. 
You just might be…God’s gift.

Amy Lynn Michael

Thursday, February 14, 2013

You Are Beloved

I imagine a woman on Valentine’s Day in 1964 giving birth to her sixth child with the sudden realization that it was a girl.  This was more than she could handle after having five boys.  She was confused, she was worried and postpartum depression set in and it was strong.  She gave birth to a little girl and in the midst of confusion, chaos and depression she gave her a name that means “beloved”.

When I was a little girl I thought that the name Amy was a little girl’s name.  I couldn’t imagine growing up with that name.  It bothered me so much that I cried to my dad explaining that I would be made fun of with this name.  It was some time later that we were sitting outside, as we often did in our little rural town, and we watched a woman ride by on her horse.  My dad said, “Do you see that grown-up woman? Her name is Amy”.  My dad knew two things about me; I loved horses and I was still scared about growing up with this name.  Was he telling the truth that day?  I don’t know because I hadn’t seen that woman before that day and I don’t know that we ever met.  All I know is that suddenly I was ok with my name. 

Beloved; my mom and dad gave me a name that means beloved.  There have been variations of this simple name over the years.  If someone refers to me as Amo, then I know it’s a friend from Iowa who has known me a long, long time.  If I hear someone say Amy Lynn, it is most likely my favorite, and yes kids my only, husband.  No matter how it’s said, I know that I am loved.

Today is my birthday and it is also Valentine’s day.  I had a co-worker who once referred to this day as “single’s awareness day”.  He may have been joking but I heard disappointment in his voice as he proclaimed it.  He was single and was feeling the sting of not having a “sweetheart” on this day.  I remember the years between marriages when all of my friends at work would get flowers on this day from their spouses and I would go year after year with no flowers on this day that was not only a “lover’s holiday” but it was my birthday.  Each year I would find a way to laugh it off during the day and then would go home at night and cry.  I could never find a lunch or dinner partner on my birthday because everyone was out with their special someone on that day.  I hated my birthday, I hated Valentine’s Day because it is a “couple’s day”.  There was a couple in my life, however, who knew that this was a hard day for me and would invite me over to their house for dinner and cake.  Paul and Kathy had both been single for a long time before they met and they knew the sting of holidays like this for people like me.  They always made sure they included their single friends in their parties and while I was with them I didn’t feel “single”.  I felt beloved.  I felt like it didn’t matter who I was married to, it mattered simply that I was loved. 

Today I am again married and I enjoy my life with Mike.  The way he says Amy Lynn makes my little heart melt.  Often I will say to him, I wish that all of my friends could know the love of another human the way that I now know love.  I’m not talking about a romantic love.  I simply wish that everyone could know that they are loved.

Whatever your name is and whatever the circumstance, you are beloved this day and if nobody else tells you that today, I hope that you can at least imagine that someone in Kansas cares and sincerely wants you to feel loved this day.

My challenge for all of my friends is that you would reach out to someone today who may feel less than loved and tell them they are beloved. 

Happy Valentine’s Day with love,

Amy Lynn Michael

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Get Up!

John 5: 2-9
The Message

Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches.  Crowds of sick people – blind, lame or paralyzed – lay on the porches.  One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him and knew how long he had been ill, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”  “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred up. 
While I am trying to get there, someone else always gets in ahead of me.” 
Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your sleeping mat, and walk!” 
Instantly, the man was healed!  He rolled up the mat and began walking! 

I had a hard time sleeping last night for some reason.  I laid there thinking about how far I’ve come and how far I have to go.  I thought about other people and how I wish I could do something to help them along in their own painful journeys.  I couldn’t put my mind fully at rest because of these thoughts.  This scripture came to mind because it profoundly came alive to me several years back when I was in my darkest moment. 

The man in scripture had been sick for 38 years.  He was a paralytic, from what I can gather in this portion of reading.  I know that this scripture has been used in many sermons over the years and I am by no means a theologian so I won’t attempt to shed deep theological light on it.  I will only relate to you what my thoughts are.  Jesus knew that the man had been ill for 38 years.  He knew.  Jesus had the power and the knowledge to take this man’s affliction from him years ago and yet he remained by the pool waiting for what he thought would be his opportunity to receive his healing.  He thought that he would be healed in the same manner in which the others were being healed; by stepping into the stirred waters.  When Jesus questioned him about his desire to get well, the man was quick to say, “I can’t…no one will help me…someone always gets ahead of me.”  And so the dialogue goes.  I am sure that if we could have been there we would have heard much more conversation than what is noted, but what God wanted at least me to see is that pivotal question, “Do you want to get well?”  I notice here probably more of what Jesus doesn’t say in this passage.  He doesn’t say, “Hey, you guys step aside and let this guy get in the pool”.  He doesn’t say, “Will someone come and help this man to his feet”.  He doesn’t say, “I am Jesus, I will walk for you”.  No.  He says to the broken man, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Out of a desire to do anything to receive healing the man did exactly that.  He got up and he “began” walking.  Scripture doesn’t tell us that he went out and climbed mountains or ran marathons.  Maybe the point of it was to know that he simply began.  Maybe when we are desperate for healing or to hear the answer to that illusive question of why, we need to take a step out on our own toward that healing or answer.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that for many years I felt paralyzed; paralyzed by fear, loneliness and depression.  There came a day when I decided to “get up”.  I took one step and then two and eventually the spring was even back in my step. 

Was this the cure all?  No, not really.  Life continues and so do its maladies.  I often return to this portion of scripture and I continue to get up and take forward steps; sometimes very slow steps but deliberate.  There were some who were critical of my healing process because it wasn’t what they wanted for me at the time.  They wanted to see me go to an altar and be instantly healed in my mind of all depression, sadness and anything else that seemed to plague me. If that is what it took to get them to lift up a prayer for me, then I am thankful for their prayers.   It has been the prayers of many and a fierce determination to rise above it all that keeps me walking forward.

I know that God won’t walk for me.  I know that He will walk with me.  I believe that sometimes He just sits back and watches me take each step like a proud parent watches a child. 

I got up and began walking…and I’m so glad I did

Thanks for stopping by,

Amy Lynn Michael

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I'm Provoked

In 2011 my husband was running the “Marathon to Marathon” in my homeland of Iowa.  He ran 26.2 miles from the town of Storm Lake to the little town of Marathon.  He and the other runners wound their way through the beautiful Iowa landscape on county roads passing farm homes, corn fields and an occasional cattle yard.  He saw the best part of Buena Vista County, which by the way, if you don’t pronounce it as “Byoo-na” we will know you’re not a native Iowegian.  When Mike runs marathons I do my best to encourage him.  I drop him off at the start line and watch him take off with the sea of people.  Then I begin to drive ahead on the course finding different intervals, like three miles out, then seven and so on. I do this so that when I see him coming down the street I can slap his hand, tell him I love him and how proud I am.  I do this at different points until it’s time to head for the finish line to watch him cross that line of accomplishment. 

While Mike was running this country race, I was waiting at the 22 mile mark with a small group of spectators. (yes, this is a spectator sport)  One of the spectators was a man who was agitated and pacing.  He was waiting for his wife to come through and kept looking at his watch. I asked him if he was a runner and he said no, I’d rather ride my motorcycle.  Finally a young beautiful woman with a body to be envied, came into sight and as she neared the corner where we were standing, he yelled, “I didn’t pay five thousand dollars to a personal trainer for you to be this far behind”!  Did I mention this was at the TWENTY TWO MILE mark?!  Did I mention that he himself was not a picture of health and fitness?  Needless to say, I was shocked at his outburst and embarrassed for him.  It wouldn't matter to me if it took all day for my beloved to finish the race.  It doesn't really matter if he finishes at all.  What matters is that he is committed and passionate about running.  Even though I’m not a runner, I want to be part of the thing that centers him and helps him to be a better person.  Because the same dedication and passion that he puts into running, he puts into life, friendships, family and our marriage. 

Last night Mike said, "if people really knew the details of your life and how much pain you've been through, they would be amazed at who you are today".  I suppose he’s right.  The painful memories are never far from my thoughts and there are still moments when they stop me in my tracks.  But in those moments I am given a choice: I can allow the anger to move me to revengeful actions or I can feel the pain for a moment and thank God for helping me through it. 

Today as Mike and I listened to the pastor talk about how Christians should “provoke one another to do good”, I smiled inside and out.  I smiled because my husband is the kind of person who provokes me to do good things and to be a better person.  He helps me cry when I need to reminisce and talk about the past.  He listens to me talk about my dreams of becoming a professional photographer and leading seminars to encourage people who have been through what I have been through.  He does all of this humbly and asking nothing in return.  He does it because it is part of who he is. 

Mike is in training mode for his next marathon and I'm already thinking of ways to encourage him as he trains and on race day.  At some point I will look at the race course and plan the stops on the course where I will cheer him and the other runners on.  When I ask my beloved to drive me across the city on a Sunday afternoon, he waits patiently while I try to find that perfect camera angle and encourages my creativity.  We provoke one another to pursue our dreams and passions. We provoke one do good.

Are you provoked?

Thanks for stopping by....

Amy Lynn Michael

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