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In October, I’ll be participating in one of the largest blog link-ups that exists, 31 Days hosted by The Nester. This year, in 31 Day’s 5th year, over 1,500 bloggers are participating! The challenge is to choose a topic and write about it for 31 days straight. All of the bloggers who participate link-up their series on The Nester’s site where you can click on various topics and read until your heart’s content.

Any time I thought about topics I’d be able to write about for 31 days, Letters to the Unthanked was one of only two that kept coming to mind. When I finally decided to participate, I had no doubt that would be the title of my series.

From a young age, my mom taught me the importance of writing thank you notes when I received gifts from friends and family. Thank you notes weren’t an option in our house, they were a requirement! As I’ve grown older, I’ve kept that tradition alive. Yes, there have been occasions when time has escaped me and I’ve neglected to send a thank you, but every time I forget, I feel like I missed a step.

It’s fairly easy to thank people for thingsThank you for the pajamas you gave me for my birthday! Thank you for the books you gave me for Christmas! Thank you for the beautiful necklace you gave me for Mother’s Day. These are the first lines of thank you notes I’ve spent a lifetime writing.

But it’s not as easy to be purposeful about thanking people for things they’ve done. I can’t thank you enough for being my mentor. Thanks for showing me what it really means to be a friend. Thank you for the time you made me laugh harder than I’d laughed for years. These are the first lines of thank you notes I’ve spent a lifetime writing in my heart.

Over the course of one day’s worth of nap times and bed times, I flipped through 37 years of photo albums, generated 58 unthanked individuals, and narrowed that further to 31. Think there’s room for a follow-up series, More Letters to the Unthanked? I believe so!

This month, I’ll write a blog post every day for a total of 31 Letters to the Unthanked. In each post, I’ll thank an individual or group of individuals for the significant and unique ways they contributed to my life. Some posts are heart-warming and inspiring, some will stir you emotionally, and a couple are just outright comedic!

All 31 posts will be published on my blog home page as usual, but this post will serve as my series landing page. Below are links to ALL 31 posts in the Letters to the Unthanked series. It’s simple…find a letter you’d like to read, click on it, and the letter will pop right up!

Day 1: Dear Cyndy: A Letter to My Second Mom

Day 2: Dear Tammy: A Letter to My Grandparents’ Dog

Day 3: Dear Jamie: A Letter to My Childhood Friend

Day 4: Dear Florence: A Letter to My Day Care Provider

Day 5: Dear Grandma: A Letter to the One Who Made Her Mark

Day 6: Dear Nativity Director: A Letter to the One Who Chose Me As Mary

Day 7: Dear Mr. Steblay: A Letter to My Tennis Coach

Day 8: Dear Sonja: A Letter to my Flute Teacher

Day 9: Dear Denise: A Letter to my College Roommate

Day 10: Dear Quinn & LeeAnn: A Letter to My Awesome College Friends

Day 11: Dear Delts & Delt Girls: A Letter to the Only Ones Who Knew Me As Party Girl

Day 12: Dear Jen & John: A Letter to My Wind Ensemble Friends

Day 13: Dear Tim: A Letter to the Pastor Who Chose Me

Day 14: Dear Jenny: A Letter to the One Who Spoke of God’s Voice

Day 15: Dear Dr. Gierut: A Letter to My Graduate School Professor

Day 16: Dear Brittany: A Letter to My Sweet Grad School Friend

Day 17: Dear Rachel: A Letter to My Former Colleague, Mentor and Friend

Day 18: Dear Selmer & Anita: A Letter to My Husband’s Grandparents

Day 19: Dear Patti: A Letter to My Baby Boy’s First Daycare Provider

Day 20: Dear Anonymous Disney Employee: A Letter to the One Who Made My Day Magical

Day 21: Dear Dr. Busch: A Letter to My Childrens’ Pediatrician

Day 22: Dear Children: A Letter to the Two Who Made Messes

Day 23: Dear Eli: A Letter to My Son’s Swim Instructor

Day 24: Dear Ladies: A Letter to the Ones Who Got Me Out of the House

Day 25: Dear Fairy Godmother: A Letter to the One Who Reminded Me Miracles Are Possible

Day 26: Dear Briana: A Letter to My Sister’s Friend

Day 27: Dear Stepsister: A Letter to the One Who Stepped Out of Character

Day 28: Dear Jennifer: A Letter to the One Who Made Beauty

Day 29: Dear Nikki: A Letter to the Online Friend I Met (in) Real Life 

Day 30: Dear Sarah: A Letter to the One Who Tends Little Spaces, Hidden Places

Day 31: Dear Colleen: A Letter to the One Who Cracked My Code

31 Lessons From #31Days

I placed the series graphic on the right sidebar of my blog ——–> so you can click it anytime, and it will bring you back here where all 31 letters are listed and linked.

You can follow me on Twitter at where I’ll tweet links to all 31 posts using hashtag #31 days, or on my blogging Facebook page at

Thanks for visiting and happy reading!


September is Blog Month at Compassion International, and this year’s goal is 3,160 children sponsored by September 30, 2013. As of September 17th, 1,747 children had been sponsored during blog month. Way to go! We’re well on our way to meeting the goal! As a Compassion Blogger, my goal is to share my heart for children in poverty and encourage others to change lives through child sponsorship. If you’ve ever felt called to sponsor a child, I strongly encourage you to take a leap of faith and check out all of the children waiting for a sponsor on the Compassion International website.

When you find yourself stuck, confined and defined by walls on all sides, trapped in places never meant to be your final destination, hope’s the only thing you really have. Hope’s the only thing you really need.

But sometimes you’re in so deep, so all alone, there’s no way you can do it on your own.

You’re desperate. Please notice, I’m barely treading water. Please notice, I’m not going to make it much longer. Please notice, I’m running really, really short on hope in here. Please notice, I need help!

And then…hope comes.

You realize hope’s not so much about being found as it is in actually being released, redeemed from this prison of hopelessness.

Hope picks you up. It carries you places you’d never have gone on your own. It tips you and turns you, and gently frees you to be who you’ve always meant to be. Hope reminds you that your temporary home is just that, temporary. And hope offers a promise greater than any other. Hope saves your life.

And so it goes for children living in extreme poverty. Hope’s long gone, barely detectable at best. Families, children barely treading the waters of life – clothes in threads, food a treasure sought daily, shelter a storm away from disaster, education a luxury, and just surviving’s a battle to be won.

Hope’s long overdue, but hope shows up.

It’s Compassion International who hears and answers battle cries of poverty around the globe. Their one and only duty, to provide a message of hope and a future for children and families living in extreme poverty. (And they do it well through their Child Survival, Child Sponsorship, and Leadership Development Programs.)

After the paperwork’s been filled, the photograph’s been shot, and months, often more than a year of waiting, hope shows up in the blessing of a sponsor.

A sponsor communicates hope through words scratched, paragraphs typed, paper gifts hand-selected.

I chose you.

You’re beautiful, precious in God’s sight.

Fly high.

Dig deep.

Dream big.

You can do anything.

If God made these awesome bugs, it’s a sure thing he got every detail right when he created you.

I can’t fix your hurts, but these bandaids might make them feel a little better.

I love you.

God loves you, and He has wonderful plans for your life.


It comes through child sponsorship.

Hope’s power, it’s undeniable, life changing.

Child sponsorship through Compassion International has the power to set a child free from extreme poverty. For a lifetime.

I urge you to consider sponsoring a child, today. Visit the Compassion International website and check out all of the children waiting for a sponsor. You’ll be shocked at the number of children who’ve been waiting for a sponsor for a year or more. Once you see their sweet faces, you’ll want to lavish on them the hope they so deserve.

 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:23


September is Blog Month at Compassion International, and this year’s goal is 3,160 children sponsored by September 30, 2013! As a Compassion Blogger, my goal is to share my heart for children in poverty and encourage others to change lives through child sponsorship. If you’ve ever felt called to sponsor a child, I strongly encourage you to take a leap of faith and check out all of the children waiting for a sponsor on the Compassion International website!

Sweet girl.

You just turned two, all cute and cuddly in that Daisy California Fruit box. Grandma’s been canning cherries in mason jars, and you don’t know it now, but you’ll never forget those rows of canned goods in her basement.

But don’t get too cozy in that box.

You see, for a while, in fact, for way too long – life seems best in that box.

You do as you’re told. You do what’s best. You obey and you listen and you stay right in that box on the straight and narrow path.

You’re a good girl.

But after a while, sweetheart? Staying in that box, doing what you’re told, doing what’s best becomes a game of people pleasing. And you’ll never win.

You’ll find yourself stuck in that box, and you’ll want to break free. You’ll want to tear it to shreds or cut it up into tiny pieces or just throw the whole thing out the door. And you won’t be smiling anymore either, little one.

The voices will tell you –

Do what’s right.

Do what’s best.

Do what everyone wants you to do.

Do what you think everyone wants you to do.

Stay in. the. box.

Whatever you do. Do not get out of the box.

But if you listen to those voices? If you let them rule you, guide you? God’s call on your life will be drowned out. You won’t be able to separate His voice from theirs.

So little one, step out. It’s ok. It really is.

Take my hand. Take His hand. Let Him guide you, and forget the rest.

Because His plans, His purpose for your life is out of the box, off the beaten path.

Your heart will beat louder, your smile will beam longer, your days will be brighter – if you trust, and step right out.

Millions of children around the world find themselves in the box of extreme poverty. Bound, constricted, limited – because of their circumstances. Seemingly stuck for a lifetime.

Wondering where the next meal is going to come from.

Sleeping on dirt floors with nothing more than a tattered blanket and flattened box for a bed.

Drinking dirty water, diseased, plagued with diarrhea and malnutrition, no medical care in sight.

Education a luxury, expensive, inaccessible.

And hope? Some days, it’s barely detectable.

But all it takes to help ONE child step out of the box of extreme poverty is ONE open heart. ONE individual, ready, willing to take a leap of faith and say YES to child sponsorship. By sponsoring a child through Compassion International, you help ONE child leap into the promise of hope waiting for him, for her.

Thousands of children are still waiting for a sponsor. Let’s rally around Compassion International’s goal and get 3,160 children sponsored this month!

And one little reminder – you don’t have to sponsor all 3,160 children.

You’re called to sponsor ONE. Or maybe ONE more.

So sponsor a child today. I promise you won’t regret it. The blessing you’ll receive will far outweigh any monthly cost, and you’ll rest easy knowing you offered your hand to a child in need.

But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18: 16


I’ve held one belief close for years.

{{Moms, lean in, this is for you.}}

We’re far too isolated in America.

Few have heard me mention my ideal alternative as if I’m joking, but truth is, I’m not joking at all.

On my worst of days, my most stressful days as an American mom, this is my desire. I’d like to be transported to another time, another civilization, where modern day expectations are blown to shreds, where I can live a simple life and it’s never questioned, not once. I’d like my husband to wake up and head out for a long day with the tribesmen. They hunt and gather, and as the day draws to an end, they come back with dinner in hand. While the men are gone, the women gather – weaving and braiding, cooking and preparing household things – together. We wear babes on cloth slings and the kids play all day. There’s no fighting, no comparing and no tattle-tale word slinging, just playing and running, singing and dancing. We gather over women as they labor, sing and love on them when they’ve lost their way. And we’re all dirty, like dirty beyond anything you ever see in America, and we don’t even care. Grandpas and grandmas, great aunts and great uncles, they’re wise constant-present council, and there aren’t cliques but community. There’s no comparing mini-mansions and mobile homes because we all live in huts so it really doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, there’s a fire where stories of old are told, the passing of one generation’s best to the next.

But I’m bound to my American life, and let’s be honest moms. This other world civilization isn’t happening anytime soon, unless, that is, we’re willing to sell everything, move to a deserted island and start our own tribe.

In the meantime, I’ve opened my eyes to this isolated American mom phenomenon…

Young mom, I saw her at Taco Bell. It was early for lunch, anyone would admit, but hey, when you’re mom it’s never too early for lunch and I had my three there too. She had two tinies in tow, a toddler and preschooler, and I couldn’t get over how angry she looked. While tinies babbled and chatted, she sat, fist balled up under her chin, looking out the window, eating her taco. Truth be told, it seemed she just wanted them out of the way. She just wanted to get this meal thing done, she was passing time. Her mind was somewhere else, and wherever that angry place was, it never let her go.

Then there was mom after swimming lessons. I saw a bag on the ground, just outside the exit to the parking lot, and wondered whose it was. A moment later, I heard this mom yelling “3-2-1 if you don’t pick up your stuff and come I’m gunna leave and go to the car.” Her anger escalated quickly, and I’m talking very quickly. I listened in discreetly as I walked with the kids to the car and got them in their seat belts. Mom managed to get her kid to the car, but by that time, she was beyond angry, at her wits end, raging. Kid was crying, mom yelled “If you don’t stop crying, I swear to God I’m gunna spank you.” And all of this in a parking lot. She was beyond caring what anyone thought.

Last was mom in Office Max. I was next in line behind her, she was hard to ignore. Mom questioned the $91 charge that remained after her $10 coupon. She was arguing with the cashier, but something was off, she was despondent, far off. Her responses were delayed, the cashier did a double take because mom wasn’t responding the way she should. Baby was in the cart calling “mama mama mama mama” repeatedly while the other three stood, waiting politely. I thought she might smile as she bid the cashier farewell, or maybe she’d even crack a smile when she realized her baby was still calling “mama mama mama” But no. She remained emotionless. She picked up her tiny bag, turned away, and abruptly told her children “go, go.” I smiled gently and looked into her eyes as she passed, but still, no response.

Do I share these stories because I like to hyper-analyze, criticize fellow moms, and point out their worst moments? Not so much.

You see, I’m no different.**

In my over-busy, beyond-stressed and way-too-isolated American life, I’ve had my own fair share of moments. Not exactly like hers nor exactly like yours, but uniquely mine.

Catch me any given day, and you might just find me stressed out. I’m talking the house is a mess and daddy left for work kind of Saturday. The sink is piled high with dishes, the TV’s on loud, and all I know is the kids need to eat something for breakfast. I break out the “good mom breakfast” of eggs, whole wheat toast, and milk, and the sink’s just piling higher. Kids are complaining that I’m taking too long, and the piled-high stack of mail and to-dos by the stove reminds me I’m inadequate to keep up with it all. One doesn’t have enough toast, the other needs more eggs, and the third’s got her sippy cup tipped over and she’s watching it drip all over the floor. By the time they all finish, I wipe baby’s hands, and sit down to my own breakfast, it’s time for more mess. Baby’s next to me on the floor, finger painting with the milk she dumped during breakfast.

Before I know it, they’re all three loving on each other in the chair. I breathe and I feel blessed, I’m grateful.

But then baby’s screaming, and they’re all over her, and she’s screaming even more.

And in that moment, I wish grandma or great auntie was upstairs or next door, I wish mamas were all around to wash up the mess so I could just eat, or maybe we could be transported to the hut with the dirt floor where the mess could just disappear deeper into the dirt.

I don’t have any great single solution to the isolation, anger, frustration, despondency, sadness, stress, or anxiety we sometimes face as moms, but here’s what I know.

This other-world community I long for has nothing to do with little, big or clean houses. It has nothing to do with being a stay-at-home mom or working mom. It’s not about doing life just right all on my own, and it’s not about proving I have it all together at all times.

It’s about community, it’s about grace, it’s about knowing beyond a doubt that this quote is true…

Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Let’s stand together as moms, for moms. Tend to others. Offer a helping hand. Give grace freely. Smile. Bend down low. Have faith that God’s in control and works all things together for your good. And breathe.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30



**I do not approve of nor condone the behaviors of mothers I observed in this post. Mothering is hard business, and I do my very best to reserve judgement unless I know another woman’s situation intimately. I am simply observing and suggesting that mothers are far too isolated in our culture. Further, I am not suggesting the American mothering experience is all negative. There are, of course, many reasons why the positive aspects of parenting outweigh the negative. I am simply offering a glimpse of the other side of mothering that often goes ignored.

  1. Carol Femling says:

    BE KIND. ” Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” The truth–for sure!! So glad you realize all I’ve tried to teach you! Yes, kindness for another mom or for any person is something that matters, as we never know what battle is being fought behind the scenes of everyday life. I smiled to myself and even laughed outloud at times as I read this, because I’ve felt the exact same way as you many times through the years. I always thought I’d like being a mom in the “Little House on the Prairie” times. I also would’ve loved growing up or raising my family with an abundance of extended family. I am blessed to have a daughter like you !! Love your blogs–thank you! Love you! 🙂 Mom

  2. Stacey Deutsch-Thornton says:

    A time when there was no competition. When no one cared who had the best, the most, or how much it cost. When people helped just to help. Without expecting something in return…if you find it, I’ll live there with you 🙂 Amy Bartos Pedersen, you took the words out of my mouth!

  3. Colleen Leaver says:

    Love this Amy, so very true!! You are an inspiration to so many, thank you for being you and sharing :))

  4. Amy Bartos Pedersen says:

    WOW! Simply amazing. I sometimes feel the same way you do. God has given you such an amazing talent. You are so true and genuine. I feel truly blessed to know you.

  5. Jessica Revak Milkes says:

    Amy, this post comes at a much needed time for me!! I thank you for posting it & for letting me drift off in your words for a moment while my wild three run a muck in my house… Now, to go clean up their mess 🙂

  6. Monica Anderson Palmer says:

    This is beautiful! Thank you Amy for being willing to open your heart and share this….you are right, It’s about community, it’s about grace, it’s about knowing beyond a doubt that this quote is true….
    “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

  7. Tom Baunsgard says:

    From the male perspective… Mom’s and Grandmas aren’t thanked enough for all you do! As a male, I thank you Moms and Grandmas for all you do! We males are so blessed to have you in our lives!

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