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Kenya mission trip

Our timelines rarely coincide with God’s.

We want life to go faster. Or slower.

We wish this would happen. Or that.

We want to press forward. Quicker.

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

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

We dream, scheme and believe BIG, bold things.

We think maybe, someday.


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

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

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

We don’t want to simply survive.

We want to thrive.

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

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



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

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

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


I got myself quiet.

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

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

I began to believe.

I also began to doubt.

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

Reality set in.

I started blogging in July 2012.

Haiti in February 2014.

Expensive new camera in September 2014.

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

Dominican Republic in January 2015.

Eye cancer diagnosis in January 2015.

Photography business launch in spring and summer 2015.

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

How much more could I ask of my husband?

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

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

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




I received the initial invitation on June 1, 2015.

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

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

On July 20th, God performed a BIG miracle.

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

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

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

But I’d said, I’d written…

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

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

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



I said YES to Africa.

Because God was in on this from day one.

There was no denying it.

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


I’d given an absolute NO on July 7th.

God performed a series of straight up miracles.

And by August 29th, I said YES.

How could I deny what He’d done?

How could I deny His plans, His timelines?

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

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


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

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

I said NO to Africa twice.

God performed miracles.

And then I said YES.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

One more important thing…

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

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

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

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

You see, I wasn’t planning on Africa.

We weren’t planning on Africa.

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

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

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

Our timelines rarely coincide with God’s.


So back to needing a little help.

Here’s what I could use…

A prayer team

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

Financial support

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

Likers & Lovers, Readers & General Supporters 

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

Thank you, friends. Thank you.


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

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





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


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

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

One More Day and We’ll Be On Our Way

The Sweet Song of Shangilia Orphanage

God’s Good, Good Work

Home. A Blessing and Dream Come True.

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

On Earth, As It Is In Heaven

Good Love and Good Bye

Messy. Slummy. Safari Beautiful.

Africa. The Untold Stories.


For 14 1/2 years, I carried a loaded trunk full of toys and materials for speech-language therapy home visits. The rotation was constant. With the exception of family trips to the mall, zoo and grandma and grandpa’s house, the stuff was always there. Neighing horses and beeping timers sounded at every bump.

But now, once and for all, it’s time to unload the trunk. It’s time to bring it back in. It’s time to bid farewell to friends who stood the test of time. The great ones, the loved ones, the classics, the ones that worked for every kid regardless of their disorder or delay. It’s time to say good bye.

Dearest toys and materials, I’ve known you all too well. What works, what doesn’t, the words I’ll need, the response I’ll receive. I’ve loved you, grown fond of you, and relied on you. It’s been a good ride, friends, but it’s time to say good bye. Perhaps later we’ll play. Perhaps later we’ll learn together. Perhaps later we’ll grow together. But for now? You’re heading back to the closet.


Hopping Frogs, you always served me well a minute or two. Hop goes the frog across to the log. Green frog or pink frog, which do you choose? Mom’s turn or Sam’s turn, which will it be?

Stringing fruit (a.k.a. beads disguised as fruit), you’ve seen your days. The frayed edges of your box prove you were well loved. Yes, your fruit shape distinguished you as most clever, most interesting to toddlers and preschoolers. Swooshing down the line to mom or dad, and swaying in the breeze were your specialities.

Oh train. I can’t bear to throw you away. You were tried and true for so many years. Your $10 price tag was long ago worth it. And now, you barely move. New batteries won’t do a thing for you, Mr. Train. I’m so sorry. I’m not sure what to do. So there you go, back in your closet where you’re free to stay a lil’ while longer.

Sweet Nestle Quik boxes, I never really knew your name. Who knew you’d be a hit?! The kids did, that’s for sure. Pull, pull. Up, up. Then shake those eggs and wave those scarves. Your simplicity was golden. Your fray-edged ribbons show your wear. Good bye, dear one. Good bye.

Seek-n-Find puzzle, you were amazing. Absolutely amazing! You were, without a doubt, a tried and true. Your box is held together with layers of clear packing tape. I put together your edges, corners, and middle pieces countless times. Out of your 24 pieces, only 1 wasn’t optimal for speech and language. That means you’re reliable, Mr. Puzzle. You’re dandy. There’s no way I’m getting rid of you.




Dear picture cards, this is just the beginning of your collection. How many times we flipped through, set up, chose which ones we were going to do. I have a hunch you’re becoming obsolete, but to me, you made life complete. You’re as good as a guarantee to me. Pair you with any game, and we are good to go.

Magnetic ice cream and cutting fruit and veggies, you’re awesome, a wooden delight for all ages. You were so useful, I bought four versions of your Melissa & Doug goodness. Thank you for the days of velcro-ing, cutting, and velcro-ing some more.

Lids ‘n Lizards, Jeepers Peepers, and Grammar Gumballs. Who knew you’d be so popular? Who would’ve ever guessed? Super Duper knew what they were doing when they made you. Your catchy rhyme-y names suggest your creators were speech therapists, proving simple + clever is definitely best.

Oh tried and true board games. You’re my faves. Your boxes are torn, taped and ripped to shreds. Zingo, Don’t Break the Ice, Caribou and Counting Cakes. We’ll never forget you, Bunny Hop. You were the fave of the faves, the best of all, my most prized possession as a speech therapist, the toy that worked for everyone, every time. Those bunnies, they never stopped surprising. Rest in peace for now, dear friends. You played well.

Little bears, oh how I loved and hated you. One thing’s for sure, you made my job a lot easier when it came to following directions. Who knew tiny colored bears would do the trick? But you ticked me off more than once when you fell out of the trunk onto the icy, snowy ground and spilled all over driveways. Oh, how you ticked me off. I knew that was it, once and for all, when that box of yours broke into tiny pieces, strewn all over a driveway on the coldest of winter days. Oh, how I hated you then. I didn’t hold my tongue as well as I should have when I went into that house. “Oh, what a blessing it is for you to come so families don’t have to travel in this cold.” But my mind kept spiraling back to that icy driveway and how naughty you’d been just minutes ago.




You’re a little bruised, too, gears. Your corner broke off when you slipped out of the trunk onto the cold, icy driveway. My use of you waxed and waned, but only because you were so good. I used you so much that I fatigued of you. I simply had to get a break. I didn’t bring you much those final days. Your C batteries were all used up. I intended to refill you for sweet “T’s” play, but never got you back for that one last day.

Oh, Fisher Price Loving Family and Snap ‘n Play babies, dogs and dolls. I bought up every Snap ‘n Play before you left stores. You were so good, oh so good. Every mama and grandma wanted to know where I got you. Who knew you were a great gift, too?! But I was never sure of you, Fisher Price Loving Family. You were hit or miss, never in-between. So you came out and stayed to play, or got put away right away. Good bye friends, I’ll bring you back out for the grandkids.

Random bag of trinkets, nobody told me about you in grad school! Who knew these tiny treasures could entertain for 45 or 60 minutes? I wanted to buy more of you on eBay, but never got to it. I just kept on collecting you, one by one, until you added up to two bags full. I’ll never forget the seconds of fun you brought to the tabletop.



And then there’s you, oh you. Connect 4. Deluxe Version. How many times did we play? You never got old, you never wore thin. Never. Ever. We could’ve played all day. You served as a distraction between bouts of super hard work, a reminder that we’re human, a reminder that kids who have speech and language delays possess certain brilliance beyond measure of standardized tests. Connect 4, you’re perhaps the most memorable, impactful of all games, toys, and materials. Because you showed me that these special kiddos are more than their speech, more than their language. They’re human. They want to win the game of life, too.

He won nearly every time. I had to concentrate hard to win. It was clear he was genius with his hands and just about anything visual-spatial. 

That last day, I lifted Connect 4 out of the bag and sat it on the table along with some picture cards.

We were about to start playing and drilling one last time, but tears welled big in my eyes.

I told him I was proud. He’d worked so hard. He’d come so far. We’d done this together.

Then, after we played, after we drilled, after we worked hard all over again…

Back in the bag you went, back in the trunk, then back in the closet. 

I packed you all nice and tight. I’m closing the closet. For now, good night.


With gratitude and love,






To All the Dads, Mamas, Siblings & Special Ones:

You’re on my heart this week. You’re on my mind. 

For 14 1/2 years, I’ve visited your homes, entered your sacred spaces, assessed and treated your special little ones. My days as a speech-language therapist are coming to an end. At least for now, maybe forever. Only God knows.

But you, you will never leave my heart.

You’ve made a lasting impression. You’ve changed who I am. You’ve molded me into a better person. You’ve altered my heart for humanity in a way no one else could.

You see, you are special. You are like no other.

Special dads, I’ve seen you. All the varieties of you. The worker dad. The business dad. The hands on, loves like a mama dad. The dad who’s not sure what to think. The dad who’s not sure what to do. The dad who knows exactly what to do. The dad whose eyes tell it all. The dad who knows his son, his daughter’s like no other. The dad who looks his child in the face and sees it all. And loves anyway. Even when it’s hard. Even when being a dad’s nothing like you expected it to be. I see you longing to do something, anything to help. I see you doing all you can, everything you can. I see you working hard for your family, with your family, providing stability and hope, even when the needs seem endless. I’ve seen you, dear dad, you’re a light, a strong presence in your household. Your child needs you. Your child thrives on your presence. You might not think so, but you know just what to do with that special child of yours. You are man, yes man. Still man, even though life’s thrown you a curve ball. Man, even more so. Man, because you stay, you stick with it, you do what’s right and honorable. And you love your family quietly, humbly. Because you know life’s course can change in an instant. Yes, you are a special dad. I see you. Thank you for who you are.

So much love

Special mamas, I’ve seen you. Take heart, mama. Take heart. You’re unique. You’re extraordinary. There’s no one quite like you, mama. What a lover you are. You love to no end. You fix boo boos and kiss cheeks, burp and clean spilled milk, pack lunches, transport and balance work and home life like any other mama. But you manage much more, mama. Therapies and visual schedules, meds and IEPs, evaluation reports and flash cards, you’ve seen it all now, haven’t you mama? You never knew motherhood would be quite like this. You wonder when your mama bear heart will be at peace, at ease with this special one’s needs you’ve been entrusted. Mama, you’re so good, you don’t even know how good you are. You’ve cried tears and held them back. You’ve worked like a dog. You’ve pushed and pulled back. You’ve prodded and been patient. You’ve known when hugs are today’s prescription. And you’ve known when hugs are an escape from the work ahead. Mama, you’ve done everything you can. Mama, you’re doing great. Mama, you are awesome, irreplaceable. Take care, mama. Make sure you’re doing something for you. Take care, mama, for you’re the cornerstone of your family’s heart and soul. Mama, you’re special. I see you. Thank you for who you are.


Special siblings, I’ve seen you. Oh, how I’ve seen you. I’ve seen you in the corner, on the side, by the wayside. I’ve seen you waiting, wishing to enter in. I’ve seen you play, and I’ve seen you disappear. I’ve seen you ask and be turned away. I’ve seen your brilliance and your beauty. I’ve seen every bit of your potential flash before me. Don’t forget you’re special, too, dear one. I’ve seen your heart shine bright on the darkest of days. I’ve seen you help and teach and reach out and love unconditionally, like only a sibling of a special knows how to do. I know your heart, special sibling. I understand your position. Who are you? What’s unique about you? What makes you tick and light up? What causes you to keep on keeping on when everything feels impossible and forever? Cling to those truths, dear sibling. The years may be long, or they may be short. Whatever your truth ends up being, shine your light, special sibling. Your life is precious. Your life has purpose. There’s no mistake about your place. There’s a reason you’re there, right there, with that family of yours. Let your voice be heard, special sibling, let your place and your purpose be known. And don’t forget, you’re not alone. Yes, most definitely yes, you’re special. I see you siblings. Thank you for who you are.

Today she discovered something amazing

Special ones, I’ve seen you. Oh yes, I’ve seen you. Consider your position an honor. You teach us how to be gentler, kinder, more respectful and honoring of diversity in a world that feels monotone at times. You teach us how to be patient and tender, loving beyond measure. You know what it’s like to be poked and prodded, tested, drilled and worked hard. You’re constantly striving to live up to the measuring stick of “normal,” “typical” and “neurotypical,” but truth be told, you’re anything but typical. There’s no need to measure up, special ones. You’re you. Work hard, yes. Do what you can, yes. Exceed their expectations, yes. Listen to your dads and mamas, your special siblings and teachers, your therapists and your doctors, but know this, special ones. God sent you, created you just as you are, to reveal love, to show grace, to bestow blessing. You’re an angel on earth, here for reasons most can’t fathom. You’re more than a number, score or position on any standardized chart. You’re a treasure, a gem, one to be remembered for all the ages. Forgive us if we neglect your humanity. Forgive us if we ignore your limits. Forgive us if we don’t know, if we don’t quite understand what it is you need. You are accepted, as you are. You’re loved, whether you progress or don’t progress at all. Whether you eventually achieve scores “within normal limits” or continue presenting with “significant delays,” you’re deemed worthy. Because you are worthy. Yes, you are special. I see you. Thank you for who you are.


Dear special family, I’ve seen you. We’ve worked hard together, we’ve loved together, we’ve faced trials and tribulations. We’ve sat in silence, laughed and cried with joy, wondered and wandered a time or two. We’ve known and we’ve not known at all. We’ve succeeded and we’ve missed the mark. We’ve fought for what’s best, for what’s right, for what’s needed and necessary. We’ve made calls, referrals and investigations into the causes of these needs. We’ve drilled and done the same things over and over and over again. It’s a fight worth fighting. It’s a cause worthy of care. It’s a life worth living. Every bit of our work together has been worth it.

But now, yes now, it’s time to say good bye. It’s time to set your family free to someone else who will do the therapy.

I may return, I may not. But this you must know. My decision’s not been easy. My decision’s not been light. My heart’s heavy and light all at once this week. For I’m leaving you, but following the call God has on my life to write, photograph, live, love and be an advocate for the voiceless of this world.

This, I promise. I will not leave you. I will not forsake you. I will not forget you and your special family. I will be a voice for you. I will help the world see your beauty for what it is – pure, raw, lovely, extravagantly and exquisitely unique.

What God has in store for the days ahead, I’m not exactly sure. But I know one thing for sure. I will continue to be your advocate. From this day forward. You can count on me to see you, to remember you, to acknowledge you and constantly remark that you are created beautiful, wholly unique, special like no other.

Thank you, special family.

Your place in my heart is permanent and prominent. Your story, it’s a beautiful treasure I honor like no other.





NOTE: The two beautiful photographs of the girl who has down syndrome are courtesy of Andrea’s Photography on Flickr’s Creative Commons.


God began calling me to write all the way back to 2003. But I didn’t launch my blog until July 2012.

I wasn’t blind and deaf to the call at all. I was busy working as a speech therapist, buying houses, taking vacations, and having babies with my college sweetheart. I was busy living the American Dream.

The call to write continued. It was quiet. Nobody knew but me. But God was persistent.

After many years of feeling called, I began to wonder if I was imagining things, if I was daydreaming crazy visions out of thin air. To remind myself of the events I considered signs of the call, I combed through old journals and pieced together proof through the years. It was obvious. A story had unfolded. So I put it together tidy and titled it the only way I knew how.

A Possible Calling.

I’ve debated this calling. I’ve doubted it. Believe me. It’s been a journey.

I’ve sought wise counsel. I’ve prayed. I’ve thought, then thought some more. And bless his soul, I’ve talked to my husband about it hundreds of times.

I have a tendency to be a people pleaser, to do what’s “right” and “good” by all-American girl-next-door standards, so ultimately, I had to step away from all the voices, be still, and sit with God.

Yes, it was then that I knew. This is what God has planned for my life. This is what He wants me to do. This isn’t the American Dream, it’s a God-Sized Dream. All was good between me and God. He’d called me to write, and now, I would write even more. The dream was ready to take flight.

But making dreams reality hasn’t been a walk in the breeze. I could have given up by now, I could have given in. I could’ve said forget it, because all this wonder and worry isn’t worth it a bit. There’s no degree, no guarantee, no paved path, no pay for this way, at least for today.

When in doubt, I returned to the peace I experienced between me and God. I couldn’t ignore that. I couldn’t pretend those pieces of proof didn’t exist. I couldn’t disregard every pull of my heart for the last 12 years. I couldn’t deny this feeling I was supposed to transform my work life completely.

I knew very clearly, all the way back to August 2012, that changes were coming. My husband and I began discussing options. But it wasn’t until August 22, 2014, that we made our final decision.

My last day of work as speech-language pathologist will be December 18, 2014. 

I realize that statement is dramatic, feels permanent, and might concern people who believe I’m wasting my master’s degree and 14 1/2 years of on-the-job experience. Here’s what I want you to know. I’ve pondered each word of this post carefully. My husband and I have thought through this decision extensively and exhaustively. Rest assured. There’s always a chance I’ll return to speech therapy in the future. This may end up being a sabbatical. Or it may end up being permanent, an early retirement from speech therapy. Time will tell.

Here’s what I know for sure.

I’ve been working as a speech therapist for 14 1/2 years. I strongly believe that my work as a speech therapist has been training grounds for what’s to come. Nothing has been wasted. I’ve served my patients and families well, to the best of my ability. I’ve given them my 100%. We’ve worked hard together, we’ve loved together, we’ve been patient together, and we’ve made progress together. I’m grateful beyond measure. And I’ve learned oh so many things.

Who’s to say I won’t be called back to speech therapy someday?

But now, it’s time to take what I’ve learned and apply it elsewhere.

This is my life. Part two.



I’ve never considered myself a full-time stay-at-home mom type. I’ve worked the whole range of 1-5 days per week since we had our first child 12 years ago. But now, I’ll be dedicating more time to our home and family. I’d like to declutter and get life in order. I need whitespace to breath, be and create. I want to live more freely and love more deeply. I want hot homemade dinners, chocolate chip cookies after school, and summers free to roam with the kids while they’re still somewhat small. I want to hear my husband out when he comes home from work instead of tuning everything out because I’m so stressed out from the day. It’s time to inch my way through the ridiculously high stacks of books in our bedroom, and maybe I’ll finally have time to check out the women’s bible study I pass every Thursday morning on my way to work. I’d like to keep an even closer eye on our family finances. And I’d love to invest in friendship because it’s been on the back burner far too long.



In early June, it occurred to me that I’ve LOVED taking pictures my whole life, but constantly stuffed the dream of becoming a photographer down deep. So I’m pursuing this passion to the next level. I purchased my dream camera in September. Its capabilities are beyond my current abilities, people. And that’s a good thing. That’s what I wanted. I wanted a camera I can grow into. So I’m going to EXPLORE special needs photography. I’d like to use the skills I’ve gained in 14 1/2 years of speech therapy and take them to the next level. Instead of focusing on fixing deficits, I’d like to focus on the inherent beauty of special needs. I’m skilled at developing rapport quickly, and I’m comfortable in just about any family’s home. So I’d like to give this a whirl. My short-term goal is to give away a bunch of FREE special needs photo shoots so I can gain experience, build a portfolio of work, and determine if a part-time business is viable.



Writing will become my primary work focus. I’m currently publishing blog posts at a rate of 2x/week. My publishing frequency will likely increase to 3x/week by early to mid-2015. In September, I launched a new long-term vision for my blog. I’ll be writing content even tighter within that vision. I’d like to connect deeper with other writers, and I’d like to attend more local and national writing conferences as finances and schedules allow. I’ve been asked to lead and join writing groups locally and online, I’ve been encouraged to write books, and I’ve crossed paths with a few people who have indicated interest in partnering for special projects. Ultimately, I’d like to use my gift of writing to advocate for people whose voices need to be heard more loudly, and to encourage others to live out their purpose.

So these are my dreams.

This is my life. Part two.

From here on out, I’m leaving a lot more room for God to work. There’s no specific path I can take that will ensure success at home, with my family, in writing or photography. There’s nothing I can do to make any of these things happen the way I’ve envisioned. All I can do is trust God’s leading me in the right direction, use my gifts to the best of my ability, wait, and trust that in the end, it will all piece together into a beautiful life story.

This is the biggest leap of faith I’ve ever taken, by a landslide.

I’m living with the end in mind. So while part of me is scared to death because this is not perfect or certainexpected or known, a bigger part of me is excited and humbled beyond belief. Because I know I won’t regret this. I know it’s going to grow my faith by leaps and bounds. And I know God’s going to prove He’s greater than any dream I ever imagined.

So here I am. On the edge of something new. My part two.




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It sounds dramatic.

But it’s true.

I had to fly away to find myself.

Nearly nine months ago, I found myself alone in a hotel room in Miami, Florida. I’d spent several hours on a flight from Minneapolis, so when I arrived at the hotel, all I wanted to do was get out for a walk in the “warm” February weather and grab some dinner at a nearby Chick-Fil-A. I took my chicken strips with honey roasted barbecue sauce, waffle fries and Diet Coke back to my room and ate quietly on the bed, then turned on the television, slipped into my pajamas, and watched Blackfish. You know, the unforgettable documentary about orcas at SeaWorld? Yep. I was intrigued. I got completely lost in the story. And I stayed up extra late to finish watching it even though I really needed to get to bed. Because I was flying to Haiti the next day to visit our two sponsored children through Compassion International.

When Blackfish was over, when the unexpected flurry of beeps in response to my #Blackfish tweets finally slowed, when I’d decided to call it a night and turn out those lights, that’s when the heart pain kicked in.

I’d been having ever-so-slight heart pains for weeks leading up to my trip to Haiti. So it was no surprise that I had them again that night when I was alone in the dark, Miami hotel. I’ll tell you the truth. I started to freak out just a little. I wondered if I was going to have a heart attack while I was in Haiti. I wondered if I’d been ignoring all the signs of an impending attack. What if I was about to find myself stranded in a Haitian hospital and have to forgo my trip because of these stupid heart pains?!

I started to feel alone and a bit scared for my life. In all the months of planning and preparing for this moment, for this trip to Haiti, this was the first time reality had really set in.

I’m in Miami, Florida. In a dark hotel room by myself. I’m going to Haiti tomorrow. With a bunch of people I’ve never met. What in the world am I doing?!

Through all these thoughts, my heart continued to ache little aches. I ignored them, though. Because those little aches weren’t about to stop me from going to the airport and getting on that plane to Haiti.

Oh, I’m so glad I didn’t let those little aches stop me.

Haiti collageThe trip to Haiti was marvelous, wonderful, better beyond anything I ever expected. The children, parents and staff we met at the Compassion centers filled my heart to the brim. I felt completely at home making those home visits. And having an entire day with our two sponsored children was the most amazing, blessed gift I could have ever received.

I felt fully myself.

I was fully myself.

Back home, life had been well. I had pretty much everything I needed and most everything I wanted. And everyone who loved and cared for me was there.

Something was missing, though. That is, until Haiti.

Until Haiti, I’m not sure I knew what it felt like to be fully me, fully authentic Amy.

Let me explain.

Haiti helped me realize there’s a difference between who I’ve been and who God created me to be. When I was there, I experienced what it was like to live in the center of His will. I was fully, fully alive. I was fully, fully me. If I could ever pinpoint a moment in time where I felt 100% comfortable in my own skin, it was then.

How did I know?

Because I experienced the fullest range of emotions I’ve ever experienced. My guards were down, all the way down. I cried, a lot. Not because I was sad, but because I was so full of joy. I felt a little stupid, because, well, I seemed to cry like a baby every time it was my time to share at the end of the day. I said stupid stuff, like “this trip means a lot to me.” And after sweet baby boy said he wanted me to be his mama, I pressed my hands up against the windows on the van and sobbed my eyes out and put my hands on my heart and didn’t even care that someone was sitting between the window and me watching it all go down. Yet, I was filled with joy. Some of the purest, truest joy I’ve ever felt. And I knew, there’s beauty, great beauty in the place where joy and sadness meet. That’s God space, God’s place. He was there. In me, through me, behind me, ahead of me. Everywhere. Everywhere.

So yeah. That’s how I knew I was most fully myself.

Then it was time to leave.

I wasn’t sad to be going home. Because my husband was right, home is where everyone knows and loves me, home is the beautiful everyday God has created for me.

But I was really sad to leave Haiti. Because there, I’d learned to be me, without borders. I didn’t want to fly away from the beautiful everything God created me to be.

I thought the story was done. Back home, life returned to normal. Or not so normal. Nothing was the same.

I took a blogging break for 3 weeks.

I dreamed.

I made some decisions.

I decided I really wanted to go to a writing conference in the fall.

My husband said yes.

So eight months after I got back from that trip to Haiti, I found myself on a plane to a writing conference.

I’d been connecting with this group of writers for four years. I’d wanted to attend the conference for two years. But when push came to shove? I had no idea what I was doing when I got on that plane. I had no. idea. what. I was doing.

But let me tell you. In some odd, totally unexpected turn of events, God showed me, once again, who He created me to be. I came fully alive, again. I felt fully alive, again. I knew what it felt like to be me. Really, me.

AllumecollageI found my people. I felt free. I took risks. Little risks and great big risks. I roomed with someone I didn’t know at all. But in the end, it felt like we’d known each other forever. I got to meet nearly everyone I wanted to and then some. I was me, just me. I wasn’t less than or more than myself, I just was myself. When I sat myself at random tables, I knew there’d be a place for me, because everywhere I went, I felt comfortable as me.

I ugly cried with Jill who pursued and loved me like mad. I got vulnerable and prayed with Christy and Jaimie. I humbly welcomed the love from sweet Darlene when she introduced me to friends and called me “angel.” I felt all the exhaustion when I plopped, hunched and got real on the couch with Jessica, Heidi, Alia & Shelly. I felt God’s divine power pour down when Anna and I had the opportunity to speak at length with Mama Bear Liz. And I hoped and prayed I was meeting friends-to-be when I hugged and chatted with Crystal, and complimented Annie on her way of making me laugh and cry in one hour. I felt like an idiot when I’d completely lost it in that dark, dark room when Judah & The Lion played music that matched the core of my heart. And when I realized someone witnessed me losing all composure? I didn’t even care.

I went all day, and I didn’t want to stop.

I couldn’t get to sleep at night because my mind was racing, my heart was full.

And when I called my husband to tell him how awesome the trip was, I felt the same way I did when I called him from Haiti. I felt full. I felt like me. I wished he was there. To see the real me, the best of me in action. He said he was proud of me, that I deserved this. I don’t feel like I deserve anything, but I was happy he got to hear the real me, the best me.

Before I knew it, I was on my way back home with Traci. God knew I needed her bubbly extroversion to balance what would’ve otherwise been my sadness.

And when I got home, what waited on top of the mail pile?

A blue box. With a Compassion International sticker on top. Inside? The details of our trip to the Dominican Republic two months from now.

I had to fly away to find myself.

And God’s willed. Pure grace.

I’ll be flying. Again.

Perhaps those heart pains weren’t pains at all, but a heart ready to burst open wide.





*Photo at top of post taken by Allume photographer, Kim DeLoach.

  1. Jaimie West Bowman says:

    I love how God gives us moments like this to remind us of who He created us to be. I’m SO happy that you felt free on your trips (and I felt the same way ) 🙂

  2. Anna Rendell says:

    You are so special, Amy, and I treasure that hour with you and Liz!!

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