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We were college sweethearts, among the first of our friends to get married.

I was just 5 days from 22. He was 24. They say youth is a predictor of divorce, of marriages doomed to fail, but I say the success of marriage has nothing to do with youth and everything to do with faith.

Because today, as we mark 15 years of marriage, it’s not been so much about romantic wedded bliss as it’s been about living out our marriage vows day after day. To have and to hold, to love and to cherish, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, from this day forward, till death do us part.

15 years of to have and to hold means an arm’s around me as I lie awake worrying in the middle of silent night darkness, long embraces after exhausting and pain-filled days, hands squeezed together hard in labor and delivery rooms where the fruit of love becomes real life x3. It means you promise to lead the way, support through change, and assure “I’d love that for you and our family” when God-sized dreams are uttered in quiet moments of speaking truth.

15 years of to love and to cherish means a kiss every morning before work, no matter what. It’s dancing in the hallway when make-up runs and nipples sting from a blocked duct and a toddler dancing to the iPhone in our bed at 7 a.m. It’s committing to change for the sake of the union, making me feel like I’m the one for you, trusting through trials, and believing, really believing till death do us part is possible.

15 years of for better for worse means Mexico and Hawaii and the Caribbean and five vacations to Disney only to realize it’s been six years since we’ve had more than 24 hours alone, just the two of us. 15 years means 15 Christmases, 15 Easters, 15 birthdays, and 15 anniversaries. 15 years of opinions divided, families split, friends divorced, grandmas and grandpas passed away, and letting go of our time to give them more time.

15 years of for richer or for poorer means beautiful dresses for birthdays, apartments and houses, gazebos and decks, once-in-a-lifetime orange carpet experiences, and jobs that provide. Christmas parties with wine and cheese turn to mac and cheese with hot dogs, piled up medical bills after baby’s born, income that’s less because I’m staying home more, and decisions to live with a little less because we’re giving more.

15 years of in sickness and in health means loving and encouraging when the scale says + 5, +10, +15, waking in the middle of the night to puke-filled beds, cleaning up other kids’ puke at birthday parties, and patience when an 8:30 bedtime means it’s been a hard day at work. It’s a treadmill in the basement for you and seven years of gym membership for me, pizza rolls and potato chips, asparagus and grilled chicken, just two Oreos left in the bag and fruit for dessert tonight. It means you watch the kids while I get away for a moment because I can’t do this anymore.

15 years of from this day forward, till death do us part means we refuse to be another statistic. We’re committed, day after day, to making this work. It means we keep our eyes on the prize, which is, God willing, wrinkled hands held with wedding bands thinned, failing eyes fixed, and “I love you” uttered quietly but assuredly while one of us passes from this life to the next. And once we’ve both passed, from this day forward means our children and grandchildren live in peace, assured beyond all doubt that we’re dancing together in heaven.

Yes. That’s what 15 years looks like, that’s what 15 years believes, that’s what 15 years hopes.

Happy 15th Anniversary to my loving husband, Seth.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues,they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  1 Corinthians 13:1-13


In Loving Memory of Charlotte 6/21/12 – 4/27/13

Today, a mama’s 1st birthday wish for her angel baby Charlotte is that we “will continue to follow and share her story.” Charlotte’s mama wants more than anything for us to “Spread the word about Spinal Muscular Atrophy so that other families will be spared the pain of missing their baby on her 1st birthday, and instead will have the gift of watching them blow out their candles.”

Sweet Charlotte was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 1 just three days before she turned six months old. Shortly after Charlotte’s diagnosis, her page popped up in my Facebook stream. I clicked “like,” not having any idea the tremendous blessing that simple “like” would bring. Through a willing heart, the power of photographs, and her gift for words, Charlotte’s mama taught me how to face the most grueling of life’s battles with faith, hope, and love. Although I’ve never met Charlotte’s family, their Facebook page allowed me to catch glimpses of their beautiful baby daughter’s last days on earth and passing to her heavenly home. Tears streamed down my face as mama and daddy sat with Charlotte in the hospital day after day, as mama danced with Charlotte to “Blessed Be The Name” in the living room, and when two big sisters pulled Charlotte on one of her last wagon rides beneath a bright sunshine.

Baby Charlotte passed away when she was just 10 months old, on April 27, 2013.

It’s hard to understand why God allows such suffering, but perhaps Charlotte’s mama understands best, as she wrote so eloquently in part of her Facebook post from last night, June 20, 2013:

“As the girls and I played with Mr. Potato Head the other day, picking out his various parts and choosing which eyes, nose, and mouth he needed, Grace said to me “I bet this is how God made us…choosing which parts he wanted us to have.” I fought back tears as I told her I agreed; that probably is how God made us. I imagined him picking out Charlotte’s parts…beautiful hazel eyes that were windows to her loving soul with long, curly eyelashes to frame them, a smile like her mommy’s that she would give freely and often, a dimple on her right cheek that would only be noticeable when she was uncharacteristically upset, long legs that her family can now picture her using to run and jump with the angels, and golden hair, almost auburn, that never lays flat and curls backwards at the top of her head…what an angel he made and sent to us; every part of her handpicked by him. Her stinky hands that I now long to smell, her gentle coo that I can close my eyes and hear, and even the SMA he handpicked for her to have. He chose her to carry the burden of this disease and while I many not understand it, I know it was planned. While my human capabilities prevent me from seeing the magnitude of his purpose, I know he has one. I am eased by the belief in a God that doesn’t make mistakes but instead makes miracles. I am forever thankful for my miracle and tomorrow I will celebrate the life of his wonderful, marvelous work, Charlotte.” (written by Charlotte’s mama)

Baby Charlotte, dance free, forever, in your heavenly home. Free of all hindrances, free of all pain, free of all earthly burdens. Dance for your daddy and your mama and your big sisters, too. Dance for the life you lived, dance for the life you live.

This is our birthday celebration, for you, sweet Charlotte. Happy Birthday, baby angel.

You will be beyond blessed by Charlotte’s Facebook page, please follow here. 

Charlotte enjoys SMA-free days in heaven with other angel babies like Benjamin. Read Benjamin’s journey through SMA, shared in a guest post on this blog by his mama Nicole in September 2012 here.

For more information on Spinal Muscular Atrophy, visit the Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy website here.

The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10


*The photograph of Charlotte used in this post is from her Facebook page. There, you will find countless beautiful photographs of Charlotte and her family.

I was folding laundry, a medium load with lime green polka dotted pajamas, Hawaiian print sundresses, and neon pink shorts. My 8-year-old popped in wondering what she could do to pass time. “I don’t know what to do,” she said. Suggesting creativity was in order, I asked her to think outside the box.

Moments later, I walked upstairs and looked right to find her wiping down the toilet. I figured she was up to something, but continued my mission of getting laundry back on hangers and in drawers. Before long, she came into our bedroom, asking “can you get all of this stuff off of your dresser? I want to make this all clean. I’m going to clean our whole house in case my friend comes over later.” I praised her for her initiative, creative effort, and hard work, and a while later she invited me to see all of cleaning she had done.

The entry way was spotless. She removed what she called “a big mess!”

Her bedroom of cotton candy pink and celery green was perfectly picked up. On top of her bed was the cozy fleece blanket she once noted our sponsored child Bethchaida would love.

And as for our dresser? She managed to displace the clutter elsewhere (which also prompted me to fix a ripped board book that had been sitting there for weeks).

The baby was sleeping, so she put all of the baby’s belongings outside of her bedroom door.

Brother wasn’t home and his room was a wreck, so she shut the door so “nobody would see” or “maybe no one would even know there’s a room there.”

As my daughter led me through the tour of our home, now meticulously cleaned for her friend who might come over, my mind jumped to Angie Smith’s blog post from the November 14, 2012, Compassion Bloggers trip to Peru titled “Esperanza.” That post has lingered in my mind since the day I read it:

She is wiping her brow, and her expression tells me our arrival is a surprise.

The door is wide open and she is welcoming us in, but her other arm motions to the ground, points to the pile of trash, and ends up on the unmade bed on the far side of the room.

I know what she is saying. I’ve done it many, many times myself.

Come in, please…come in.

I wish I could have made it more beautiful for you.

I begin to shake my head before the translator gets a word out, and as he confirms my suspicions I smile and nod at her, assure her that her home is beautiful and we are grateful to be in it.

She wipes her hands on her shirt, explaining that she was just about to leave for the market. I wonder if they forgot to tell her we were coming, or maybe, like me, she’s just lost track of time.

In any case, it doesn’t look messy to me. It’s dotted with stray posters advertising popsicles and bargain prices. Most of them are in English, and she explains that she doesn’t know the words but she wanted to have color on the walls.

She strikes a match and lights a stick of incense, and immediately the room fills with a musty, perfumed scent. She waves her hands, willing it closer to us as a smile finally drifts across her face.

Her son Anibal is 12, and he has the kind of grin that will no doubt make girls weak in the knees one day. I can tell he has a little mischief in him, which I love. He is undeniably charming, gentle in his mannerisms, and shy enough to make you work for sustained eye contact. In other words: a challenge I accept.

His mother begins talking about his animals, and I decide I won’t make the same mistake I did yesterday, when I urged my girls to look at the precious guinea pigs caged in the backyard, only to then have to explain that they aren’t so much “pets” as they are “ the main course.” (continue reading Angie Smith’s post here)

And later in Angie’s post…

She pushes the window open, and then the door.

She’s still apologizing with her body language, no matter how many times we reassure her. She tells us about her other son, a younger boy, who is also in the Compassion program. He receives special services for what they believe to be severe learning delays, and she tells us she doesn’t know how she would do it without Compassion.

One of the other team members begins to ask about the boy’s sponsors: Where are they from? Do they write? What are their names? Does he save the letters?

She motions to the bunk bed where the three of them sleep. I don’t know how long it has been since their father was there, but years at least. She walks quickly, tapping Anibal on the back and urging him in the direction of the bed.

There are moments where you watch with your eyes and know that later, in the quiet, you will hear with your heart.

Her fingers move swiftly, raise the top mattress, and reach deep underneath. Clenched in her hands come letters, one on top of another, and she smoothes the pile and hands it to her son. (read Angie’s whole post here)

Esperanza, a mama in Peru, embarrassed by the lack-of-cleanliness of her home when unexpected guests arrive. Me, my daughter, tend our house like it really matters how clean other people think it is. There’s something that ties us, binds us together across the miles. We’re human, we’re family.

Esperanza, she posts advertisements of popsicles and bargains on the walls of her one-room home for color. And now that I know, I look twice through the magazine I was about to throw in the recycling just to get it out of the way. What pictures might bless our sponsored child, our correspondent child, their parents? What windows of hope might I provide by sending pictures of colorful bugs, a mountain top, a flower-filled valley?

Esperanza, she has her sons hide their sponsor letters under the mattress so they won’t be stolen. I take note, whole-heartedly, and I get it. For the dreams, the secrets of my own heart are hidden away in spaces no one knows but me. And special letters from loved ones? They’re tucked away in those same places. So when I haven’t written our sponsored child or our correspondent child for a while, I remember how precious that contact really is, and I write.

Later that morning as my daughter and I drove in the car, she rambled on and on about her cleaning adventure. She exclaimed “I would love to clean the whole world! First I would clean the insides and then I would clean the outsides.”

She knows knows I’m saving for a trip to visit our sponsored child, but shares that she, too, wants to save her money to visit our correspondent child. In a debate between saving for a manicure and a trip to visit our correspondent child, she decides she’ll do both. “I already have $2,” she says.

It’s true what they say. Once you’ve heard, once you’ve seen for yourself real need, you can no longer live blindly as if the need doesn’t exist. That need? It permeates your being, it changes the way you see, it changes the way you live your life. Because once you know better, you want to do better.

Follow the Compassion Bloggers June 18-22 as they travel to Nicaragua, online at or on Twitter @Compassion and #CompassionBloggers.

And if you’re ready to make a difference in the life of a child in poverty, sponsor a child through Compassion International by clicking here.


As a mother of a tween boy, I often wonder what my son needs to know if he becomes a father one day.

It’s simple, really.

No need to overanalyze.

Show up. Step up to the plate. And be there.

So Fathers? Let’s do this.

Because mothers need you. Children need you. The health of our nation depends on you.

And if you have the privilege of becoming a grandfather someday? Do it all over again.


It’s been in her a while now, this yearning to break free.

She’s spent a lifetime doing just what she should. But should brings with it a heavy weight of expectations, and when you live under a burden as heavy as that, eventually you have to get out from under. Because expectations filled with should never satisfy.

She’s always known what she should do.

That path she should take? She’s been on it.

The decision that would be most responsible, most noble? She’s right on it.

The next step that would make sense and be best for everyone? She understands it.

But at some point along the path of should, she found herself in a place that wasn’t her own. The good girl veil of obedience and doing everything she should became heavy and it was hard to see through. She knew her true life’s path was still good, likely even great, but different. And not that of others’ choosing, but of God’s choosing and her own.

She began to struggle, she sat in the pain. Hints, glimpses of another path were there, but she was so unsure.

She wrote in desperation. There must be a way to write out of this, to reason out of this, to make sense of this. She scratched and sketched in those books for years. On and off, they were her solace, her place to express things no one else understood. The questions, the unknown paths, the wanting to be free of should, she wrote it all there.

As she wrote, she birthed new lives. And with each new life came a little more clarity about how to get off this path of should. She began to make wishes and dream big dreams. In-between the pages of pain were pages birthing hope. She dreamed big, really big. The pages were free, open spaces for her to be who she wanted to be. The burdens of should had no place.

She wrote just as she needed, and the years added up. She didn’t write because she should, she wrote because she could.

After a while, it was hard to deny. The far-flung wishes she had scratched on pages were becoming the daydreams of her heart. In-between doing all she should, she dreamed of all she could. And it set her free, if only in her dreams.

She sought wise counsel from one who knew there was a different path to choose. And for the first time, she was freed to follow the call of could rather than the burden of should.

She followed the call, without inhibition. It was wonderful and glorious, and she felt right in this place.

But after a while, she found herself straddling two paths, the path of should and the path of could. She felt a bit desperate, stuck. She wanted to jump out of the should right into the could, but the forest was thick and dense between the two. It didn’t seem there was a way.

Quiet moments led her to pages she scratched in those books all the way back to 2000. She saw with fresh eyes God’s master plan embedded within the pain-filled pages of should. On one page, confusion and a wanting out. The next, His master plan, in detail. She knew clarity came only because she read the books in their entirety. The significance of each page would have been lessened if not read in the context of the next page, and the next, and the next.

And on that day, in the midst of her confusion and near desperation, she discovered even greater detail that helped her trust God’s master plan is in place, even when it’s hard to believe.

She found this, scratched little on one page of 30 brainstormed visions from March 2007 – No more supermom. 

It was April 2013, and she had just written this, Turning Capes Into Gowns. 

And she found this, also scratched as vision in March 2007 – Special moms.

It was April 2013, and she was about to launch a month-long Special Mamas series on her blog. Her wish became a dream come true thanks to the willing hearts of Jennifer and Tamara and Jessica and MNAutismMom and Jennifer and Lisa.

And she found this, a detail she had not recalled from conversation with one who affirmed her vision and dreams – Walk and follow the lily pads of grace. One by one God will place them for you if this is His call.

She knew she needed to trust. She must proceed with abandon towards the path of could. Because the expectations of what should be always disappoint, while the possibilities of what could be provide hope.

So she’ll make wishes, she’ll keep dreaming, and she’ll keep following the lily pads of grace. And maybe one day, she’ll discover all of the scratches and sketches came true.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11


  1. Vicki Thunstrom says:

    This is lovely Amy! Here is to a new journey!

  2. Tom Baunsgard says:

    What’s that old saying? Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda! Amy… you did!

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