Cherish Your People

“When you find people who not only tolerate your quirks but celebrate them with glad cries of “Me too!” be sure to cherish them. Because those weirdos are your tribe.” – A.J. Downey

It is no secret that I am a loner. I LOVE and ADORE being with people, but I also love my alone time. This is very much like my Mother.  I recover and think best in the early morning when no one is awake. I retreat to an empty space during my planning time at school to recharge.  Blame it on the only child thing.

As much as I love these moments alone, it has become increasingly evident that I NEED time with people.  People who are family.  People who are chosen family.  People who remind me of what is important and what is not.  People who tell me how ridiculous I am being about insignificant stuff.  People who will pray for me when I am having a breakdown over raising a teenager.  People who pray for my children and my family even when I don’t know it.  I NEED these people.

Life, sometimes it pulls the rug from under my feet. Suddenly, I find myself broken and unable to get back up. When I think all hope is gone, my people are always there to sweep me off my feet, dust me off, and tell me everything is going to be okay. When everyone else leaves the room, these people are the only ones still cheering and giving me that little piece of hope to carry on.

It takes my breath away sometimes when I spend time with my people and don’t realize how much I truly need to be with them.  These people – they don’t care about the laundry on my kitchen table or my no make-up face, or the broken air conditioning in my house when they come to visit (sorry Liz, Dru, Alex and Natalie).  They forgive the fact that I am horrible about returning phone calls, emails, and texts and they accept me as I am – (I’m really working on this).  They may not see me for months, but when it comes time to finally get together, it feels the exact same or maybe even closer.

Hold tight to your people.   In my opinion, they are our glimpses of God in the flesh.  God uses my people to remind me of how beautiful this world truly is.  The day before mom died, she looked at me and said “you have so many people that will take care of you.” I don’t think she realized the depth of her statement.  As a new school year begins, I pray that each student finds their people who love them unconditionally, point them in the right direction, and begin a creation of their forever families.

My people are way better to me than I am to them, and I am filled with gratitude for having them in my life.  I cherish the memories of this wonderful summer and the time I was able to spend with my people.  Most of them are in my life because of a relationship my Mother fostered with their families.  She STILL gives to me on a daily basis, and I am forever thankful.  Here’s to an incredible beginning of a new school year with some fabulous people in my life.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.” – Mitch Albom

I love birthdays.  My mother did too.  It’s an entire day dedicated to showing someone you love how much they mean to you.  Mom instilled such a strong love for birthdays in me, and I spent every week before February 13 trying to figure out just how I could make her feel as special as she truly was.

This is her 6th birthday in heaven, and I just can’t believe it.  Her absence is so magnified on days like this (the entire month of February is really). However, I decided 6 years ago that I would always allow this day to still belong to her.  Will and I will head to get her favorite coffee drink this morning. There are lilies (her favorite) in my kitchen.  There are cheese biscuits from Fresh Market ready to be snacked on today.  I will wear some of her jewelry.  And hopefully, I will live my life the way she tried to teach me – with grace, class, a servant’s heart, and love for my heavenly father.  Here’s to another year of appreciating and loving the legacy she left to us.  My heavenly birthday letter to her. . .


Happy Birthday Mom!

You always said it should be the first thing someone hears when they wake up and the last thing they hear before they go to sleep.  Daddy reminded me of that this morning when he texted at 12:47am – “Happy Birthday Gigi”!  You taught us well.  I know your birthday in heaven is AMAZING because you made birthdays pretty great while you were here with us.  That makes me so happy.  Of course there are still tears and heartache because we just miss you so much.

The kids are so great.  Your Will-a-bug is so much taller than me!  His love for learning and music inspire me to be a better teacher and musician all the time.  We still talk about our favorite Gigi stories.  He has fond memories and always will. Mom, he is going to be able to drive in 3 months.  Remember how much anxiety that gave you?  Well, I’m exactly there now.  Jesus take the wheel, literally.

Your Char Char – Mom, she is a hoot!  You would love spending time with her!  She still says your name in her prayers every night, and while I know she was so young when everything happened, she hears so much about you and feels like she truly remembers it.  I REALLY need you a lot when it comes to her.  She tries my patience daily and it reminds me so much of how I did the exact same thing!  For the millionth time, I AM SORRY.

As for me – Mom, I am trying to embrace change.  You know how much I resist it.  God is really showing me that change can make us stronger.  It keeps me on my toes and makes me work harder.  It seems like we have had so many areas of change in our lives this past year.  Oh the times I wished I could call and vent to you!  Change definitely strengthens faith and dependence on God.  We have really had to lean on Him a lot this year.  I am so very thankful for it all.  I promise my bitterness about you not being here no longer exists.  The pain of missing you will always exist, but the longer I am a Mother, the more I realize how fleeting time truly is.  I am so thankful for the 35 years God gave me with you.

Gosh, I miss you so much.  I know I will mention your name a million times today as I do every day.  Please know how thankful I am for the things you taught me and for the love you gave to me.  I am so much better because of it.

I love you my sweet, beautiful Gigi,

Your Amy Lou

Blessings and Gratitude

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

Thanksgiving can be a difficult holiday for many people.  The stress of preparing for the holiday frenzy as well as keeping up with normal daily tasks can be overwhelming.  Add in the emotional component of maybe missing a loved one or dealing with the loss of a job or a scary cancer diagnosis, and it is extremely hard to be thankful.  Your mind is able to rattle off a million things to be thankful for, but your heart is numb and broken – can we still give thanks?

It has been quite a while since I have written a post.  I told my students yesterday, I believe I love my Mother deeper now that I ever have, and she has been gone for 5 years.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss her and realize life would be so much sweeter (and easier) if I had her here.  In those moments, I literally have to choose to be thankful instead of bitter.  There are days I fail miserably at that.  Holidays tend to be some of those days.

I used to think that life was a series of mountain highs and valley lows, but now I actually believe we get both at the same time. In our world so messed up by sin, the good and the bad come together. No matter how good things are in my life, there are always problems I must deal with, and no matter how bad things are in my life, there are always blessings I can be grateful for.

I once read a story about how Itzhak Pearlman broke a string at the start of a Lincoln Center recital. Rather than replacing it, he played the entire concert with a broken violin. At the end he said, “Sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”  I. Love. That!   We are all artists of some form, and it is our task to figure out how we can use what we have to create a beautiful life with much gratitude.  This Thanksgiving, I don’t want to dwell on what is lost, but on what is left, and I have so very much left to be thankful for.  May you find many opportunities for gratitude and blessings this Thanksgiving.

With so much love and gratitude,


A Mother’s Day Letter, Again.

“Life began with waking up and loving my Mother’s face.” – George Eliot

Dearest Mom,

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and I still can’t help but think of what a big deal holidays were to you.  This day would have never been about you though.  You would have somehow made YOUR special day more about me than it ever was about you.  I went shopping alone last night and your absence was painfully with me.  I walked around the mall in a daze trying to focus, but all I could think about was what you would have been saying to me.  It was so weird.  I didn’t cry, but I just felt nauseous.  Some days I miss you so much Mom; I am inconsolable, but then there are other days when I wonder how in the world I could miss you when you’ve never even really left me at all.  Not even death can break that bond we share.

We cleaned a lot in “Gigi’s Garden” last week.  Charlotte and Will washed the furniture, and I pulled weeds.  The breeze was perfect.  The Van Morrison radio station played every perfect song imaginable.  It was such a beautiful night; it practically took my breath away.  It was lovely, simple, and elegant all at the same time.  It reminded me of you, and I was so happy.

I find myself totally understanding you so much now, Mom.  The very things I used to get so mad at with you, I do them too!  Life makes us kind of crazy.  I wish I would have excused your behaviors I didn’t always agree with, more. Life takes its toll on us, and I am so sorry I didn’t always make life easier for you.  I try to replace all of the “didn’ts” and “couldn’ts” and “should haves” with thoughts of all the things we did get to do together, and well, that’s a lot.

A lot of my sadness used to come from feeling sad for you and the fact that you had to suffer so many days alone while we were at work, but honestly, my guess is that Heaven kicks some serious butt and you aren’t thinking twice about cancer or this place. That is a nice relief when I think about it that way.

Three years, Mom.  Three long, short, exhilarating, devastating, empty, blurry, memorable years without you.  How in the world did I get here?  I can’t really explain where I am with that.  Some days I talk about you like those memories just happened yesterday, and other days I feel like I dreamed you up.  It’s all so complicated.  I don’t even recognize myself in the words I wrote as I read through old posts and caringbridge entries.  I went through that?  How did I get through that?  I want to hug that girl.  I want to cut her some serious slack.  I am so much stronger now; I can’t even begin to tell you.  I am channeling my Judy King strength, and it feels so good.  A little scary sometimes, but good.

You know me.  I still have questions.  I still doubt things, and I think the only things I’ve really come to terms with are:

  • God is sovereign, and I am choosing to trust Him. It’s a choice, Mom, and some days I don’t feeeeeel like choosing trust, but I do.
  • My husband needs a wife and my children need a mother who is seeking God and is LIVING (not just surviving) a life that will leave a legacy as strong as you left me. Now THAT is waaaaay harder than it sounds.  How did you make it look so easy?

And those random times I go from laughing to an absolute monumental meltdown; those early mornings when I just can’t sleep anymore and still recall so vividly the way you smelled and your warmth when you hugged me; the way you would call and say “hi Amy Lou”; those days I just have absolutely no idea which road is best for me and would give anything to hear your advice…. Those moments aren’t a sign of weakness; I am choosing to believe that now. Instead, those moments are a very clear and direct reflection of the utterly amazing woman you were and just how IMPOSSIBLE it’s going to be to ever, ever stop missing you.

Happy Mother’s Day in heaven, Mom.  I love you, and I have never been more proud than I am today that I am your daughter.

Your Amy Lou

Out of Hiding

“I can’t see what’s in front of me, still I will trust you.  Though the night is long, there is a calming dawn. The light is breaking.” – Steffany Gretzinger

Judy King raised a very independent daughter.  She did everything in her power to give me the tools to handle life, but she was always there to help me.  When I lost her, I promised myself I would never become dependent on anyone ever again.  I promised myself I would learn to do everything on my own.  Little did I realize that mindset was extremely detrimental to my relationship with God because I am certain I made up my mind I didn’t need to need Him either.  I begged and pleaded with Him for her healing, and he didn’t answer me the way I desired.

Needless to say, there was a huge void in my life when Mom died.  I tried to fill that void with some pretty dumb stuff.  I still struggle daily with filling the void with things other than Him.  Some days I realize exactly what I am doing and other days, I truly don’t even know what I have done until I’m so deep in a pit of sin, and I can’t find my way out.

A precious friend sent me a song this week. I HAVE to share it. I am certain we are able to process life better through music. Little did my friend, a true kindred spirit, know how much I desperately needed to hear every single word of this song.

While listening for the first time, I sat in my office at school and wept.  I wept at the beauty of the lyrics.  I wept at the beauty of the music. I wept for the depth of my sin.  I wept for the depth of my anger, fear, resentment, and lack of trust.  I felt years worth of frustration pouring down my face.  Then the heaviest part of my heart was realized in the midst of my tears.  I realized I was exhausted, not physically exhausted but spiritually and emotionally exhausted from fear, resentment, and anger over losing my Mother.  I have been a slave to fear for as long as I can remember, and the words from my heavenly father spoke so much life into my angry heart.

To encounter the faithfulness of God, I must TRUST Him, and that is a scary thing. In order to have faith, I must acknowledge a need for him.  I have blamed my lack of trust and faith on my circumstances far too long.  I have played “the victim” much too long.  I struggle with fear.  I am fearful of feeling the pain of loss again.  I am fearful of God saying no to an important request I ask of Him.  I am so fearful, but in that small, tender moment in my office last week, God spoke to me in a very tangible way and let me know He longs for me to be with Him when I am fearful.  He is a loving God who has His heart broken daily by me.  So instead of basking in my self pity, I am choosing to trust.

Hope is a beautiful thing, and I have written about it many times since Mom died.  However, hope is something that is wished for.  I desperately need my hope to turn into faith.  I have to stop resisting how much I truly need Him.

There are so many seasons God allows us to enter.  There are seasons of brokenness, seasons of heartache, celebration, disappointment, growth, life, death, and the list goes on and on. During each season of life (the good and the bad), I have to learn how to process through my own stuff, and THAT’S ON ME.  That responsibility doesn’t belong to my parents, my husband, my pastor, my friends, or anyone else in my life. I have to make the choice to trust, no matter the circumstances.

I have never been more thankful for good worship music and friends who are willing to share their messy stories.  I believe the greatest music and the greatest testimonies are from people who are willing to embrace their messed up lives and share how God is working in the midst of it. And while we are embracing whatever season we are in, there is true beauty.  Life is truly beautiful when we worship and CHOOSE to trust in a God who so desperately wants the best for us.  And on those days when I do not feel like trusting, I will choose to worship in the midst of whatever season I am in. There is a reason for this crazy journey.  I am just so very thankful God is willing to gift me with the grace and mercy I need to make it through.

Those who are closest to me know when I pull away and go into “hiding”.  This song is so perfect for those crazy times in my life.  Please listen (at least once) and TRUST that God wants to meet us in our darkest hours.

Healing Is In Your Hands

“Prayer is not a machine. It is not magic. It is not advice offered to God. Our act, when we pray, must not, any more than all our other acts, be separated from the continuous act of God Himself, in which alone all finite causes operate.” – C.S. Lewis

It has almost been 2 years since my Mother lost her battle with cancer, and I still remember those last few days with such great detail.  The way the month of March feels brings many memories. I remember the medicine charts, the doctor visits, the phone calls, the ache in my heart, and I remember her sweet, sweet voice. When I look back on those days, I am certain we are all stronger in some ways.  However, it has definitely not been a walk in the park going through life without her and still wondering why my prayers for healing were not answered.

The week after Mother died, our church choir sang “Healing is in Your Hands”.  It was a tough realization for me.  Like some sort of robot, I played the piano while hearing words about healing knowing I did not get the kind of healing that I had so earnestly prayed for.  It is still very hard to hear that song and not be taken back to that Sunday when my heart was in a million pieces.

We sang that same song again in church last week, and it was as if God spoke directly to my cold heart and gave me a very different perspective of the song. The healing the song speaks of does not have to be about physical healing.   Maybe the healing that I need to be concerned about at this point is healing in my heart.

Growing up in church my entire life, I have learned how much we love to celebrate the healing of others.  People tell their stories with happy endings, and we love to hear about the healing and miracles in their lives. We hear about spared lives in car crashes, cancer spots that disappeared, stories of miraculous healings and how God healed because people believed and prayed.

But what about a lesser story?  What about the story where there is no physical healing even when you’ve prayed so earnestly for it?  What about the story that does not end with a miracle?  Maybe I grew up (ignorantly) thinking I would always get whatever I prayed for if I prayed hard enough.  Not only did I not get what I prayed for, but I am extremely weary from the journey of asking why for the past 2 years as well.

So here’s my story.  My Mother was diagnosed with cancer.  I prayed for her healing.  Others prayed for her healing. I begged God. I pleaded with God, and yet I lost my Mother to cancer.  I’ve cried.  I’ve screamed.  I’ve thrown God size hissy fits.  I’ve questioned over and over, and I still don’t have the answers even 2 years later.

But here is what I do know…..

There has to be a bigger picture I just can’t see.  Maybe there is no happy ending yet because we are not yet at the end.  Maybe I am just sitting in the middle of my story, and God is teaching me through all of it.  The lack of resolution is so painful some days, but it has taught me to sit in the messy middle of my story and know God is not finished with me yet. Sitting in the messy middle of my story has taught me that I am NO WHERE NEAR who I need to be as a child of God, and yet, here is the best part. . . .

God still loves me.

I don’t have it all together.  I still question.  I still wonder why. I have made some pretty ridiculous choices.  I try to live this crazy life without any help from God, and every time I try it alone, it always becomes messier.    The best part of the song, the part that really hit me hard says:

No mountain, no valley, no gain or loss we know, can keep us from your love.

No sickness, no secret, no chain is strong enough to keep us from your love.

No cancer, no question, no crazy choice, no loss of a Mother, no anger, no chain, NOTHING can keep us from God’s love.  Do you know how thankful I am for that today?

So today I am celebrating in the messy middle of my story.  I am celebrating the fact that God will never stop loving me, even when I don’t have it all together.  Have I always known this in my head?  Absolutely.  Today, I know it in my heart, my heart that has been healed in many new ways.

There’s a Crack in Everything

“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohan

cracked iphone

If you are female, you understand the difficulty in finding a place for your phone in your wardrobe if you don’t want to carry a purse.  I’ll spare you the creative places women choose to put their phones, but when we do this, phones must be compact.

I love a trendy new iphone case just like the next girl, and believe me, I have accumulated quite a few, but just recently, I decided to live on the edge and not cover my phone.  I liked the way it fit so perfectly in my hand when uncovered.  I liked the way it would just hide so discreetly anywhere I put it, and to be honest, I couldn’t figure out why everyone was walking around with all of these cracked phones.  I dropped it numerous times and possessed no cracks.  Were these people dancing on their phones?

Then it happened.  I was in a hurry to head out shopping this weekend, and I dropped my phone on the wood floor.  Hard.  It shattered, and it shattered pretty intensely.  Will ran in from the next room because he heard it.  His words still make me laugh…… he just said “Mommy, this just breaks my heart” I couldn’t be upset because deep down, I knew it was my own fault.

I just looked at my phone and could not help but think of how it was art imitating life.  That shattered phone looked just like me.  It was so shattered, the back was almost broken in half.  It continued to shatter each time I touched it.  Some days I feel so much like that phone; I knew God was pleading with me to wake up.  Every crack was reminiscent of some life event, bad choice, wrong direction, unkind word, or just awful mistake I had made in my life. 

Then I looked at my phone and thought about how much good it had done for me.  I thought about how attached I was to it.  I thought about the memories the phone had captured with me.  (I know I’m giving my phone a little too much personification here. You get the point).  I immediately covered my phone and promised myself I would never leave it uncovered again.

God wants to cover us.  He wants to protect us.  The great thing is He still thinks we are beautiful when we aren’t perfect.  He loves our “cracked screens”. He loves us when we are broken.  He wants to be our cover, our shelter, our protection, and I truly think He wants us to remember our shattered lives so we remember how much we need him.

This isn’t about my phone really. It’s about redefining flaws and seeing beauty in what the world sees as ugly or destroyed.  Yes I need a phone cover, but I have decided I want a clear one, one that shows the cracks.  I believe what makes us shine is our struggle, our story, our scars, and if we try to cover that up or protect it in some way, we are not being, we are trying to be.  Maybe if we were all real and authentic about our “broken phones” and “cracked screens”, we would all be a little more authentic about our broken lives.

God loves us and wants to protect us.  The broken us.  The cracked us.  The scarred us.  Everything.  He would have never given so much to protect us if we had the capability of never being able to be broken.  So today I am on a mission to find a very clear phone cover.  And what would my Mother have to say about all of this?  “Let’s go shopping!”


She’s Got A Way

 Your mother gives birth to you twice—once when  you’re born and once when she dies. – Rufus Wainwright

I would be remiss if I did not put some sort of ramblings about the past year in a blog post, so here goes…

This blog has always been centered around my Mother.  I created it to recall things she taught and shared with me, and it sometimes seems that my life imitates this blog as well.  My Mother has been gone from this world almost 2 years, and yet there are days I feel like she is alive and with me now, more than ever.  One of my fears when she first passed away was that I would forget things. I was fearful my children would forget her.  Over the course of this past year, I have realized this is impossible.  We talk about her daily.  The children still thank God for her every night in their prayers, and memories are recalled through pictures, stories, songs, places we visit, and even the mundane schedules we keep every day.

2013 was a year filled with dance lessons, piano recitals, time spent with friends and family, laughter, tears, surgeries (reminding us our bodies are not getting any younger), new pets, BB guns, talks of girls with Will (gasp!) talks of boyfriends with Charlotte (triple gasp!), new teachers, new experiences, etc, etc, etc, etc.  And even though my Mother was not physically here to experience these things with us or on the other side of the phone with me laughing (or crying), she was still with me.

Since her physical death, she’s almost more present than she ever was before. I see her in everything. I see everything as so fleeting and so beautiful and so magical and  so unbelievably heartwrenching all at the same time.  Yes, this tends to bring the tears a little more often.  Yes, the people in my house love pointing that out, but I feel more alive now than I ever have, and just like so many things in my life, I attribute that to my Mother.

One of our favorite things to do over the Christmas break is watch the Kennedy Center Honors Performance.  It is typically a few days after Christmas when we need an emotional lift from the chaos of the holiday.  I loved all of the performances this year, but this particular one was my favorite, and of course, it was because it made me think of my Mother. Judy King will always have that way about her. . .

FRAGILE: Handle With Care

My husband and I were at a local restaurant last night and could not help but notice the family across the room from us.  It was very obvious the man at the table was a slave to some sort of drug and even at the moment, high from it.  All physical signs we are taught to look for as teachers pointed to drug abuse. I could not feel anything but sadness as I watched this man.  I just kept wondering what led him to his first “high” (assuming it was drug abuse).  The longer I live, the more I realize how broken WE ALL are.  My brokenness is no different than that man at the restaurant.  My brokenness just manifests itself in a different way. My brokenness may be easier to hide, but it is still there.

We are all fragile.  We are vulnerable.  ALL OF US.  We all suffer from broken hearts, dreams, and hopes at some point in our lives.  Hopefully, we are able to push ourselves again and be willing to hurt, heal, and then do it all over again.  When I am unable to push myself, I have been so fortunate to be guided by strong family members, teachers, church leaders, and friends.  I realize not everyone is as fortunate as I am.

As we begin another school year, I am certain I will face students who come from backgrounds so fragile, if I was placed in their situation, I would break in an instant.  My prayer is that judgment would never enter my mind.  My prayer is that everyone, especially myself, realizes that if we push each other, maybe we will break a little less with each struggle and become much stronger from the process.

This video using the song “Breakable” portrays broken images in an almost beautiful form.  I am so broken some days; I can hardly look at myself.  I wonder if God sees my brokenness as beauty.  I am certain He wants to heal our brokenness.  I am certain He uses others to aid in that process.  I am thankful for the people God has placed in my life to help my brokenness.  We are all fragile.  We are all broken.  Lord, please help us to remember our fragileness as we begin a new school year.

The Sweetest Seat

One of the sweetest rewards of being a teacher is having your students teach you things in return. This blog post was written by one of my former students. I don’t even know how I stumbled upon it, but when I did, I realized she wrote it just for me! The wisdom in her words is powerful, and I am in awe of how she is being used at such a young age. I feel these words were just for me, but I also have a feeling more than just this 37 year old wife, mother, teacher, friend, etc. will need these words too. You are an inspiration, Emily. Thank you for letting me re-blog. – Amy

Simply Overflow

Dear reader,

Hello, my name is Emily (if we’ve never met before) and I’m overjoyed to be able to share this time with you. I’m going to ask two things of you before I start to write and you read this entire blog, 1. get comfortable 2. take your time. I ask those things because, like me, many of you will rush through reading this and miss the point of the entire blog. So, let’s take a few minutes and enjoy this time we have together!

“Wherever you are, be all there.” – Jim Elliot

The quote above has been my lock screen wallpaper on my iPhone for a few months until yesterday. There’s no significance to me changing it yesterday except for the fact I’m going to write about it today.

If you are like me, you will read something like that and think “yeah, well duh I am…

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