• Category Archives Encouragement / Inspirational
  • Amanda’s misAdventures

    The Three-Wheeled Cart

    I had a plan, and it was a good one. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always follow the plan, and when one of my plans falls apart, it tends to do so in a rather spectacular way.

    With four young children (ages 11, 8, 5, & 2), an over-worked husband, and a writing career, life is insanely busy. Trying to manage the schedules of all four kids and still making sure everyone gets fed and ends up alive at the end of the day takes a high IQ, a generous portion of God’s grace, and a fleet of angels. This year, my oldest two boys are both playing Little League, and my 5-year-old is playing soccer. Yes, I acknowledge it’s crazy, but when you have three boys who all want to play sports, we just can’t figure out which one we crush and say “no” to! We dive into the insanity and enjoy every second of watching each of them do something they love.

    A few days ago, our 11-year-old had an away game about forty-five minutes away from our town. The 5-year-old had soccer practice in town. The plan was for me to grab sandwiches for everyone before we left. Then my husband was to take the oldest to his baseball game, which he would also umpire, and I was to take the 5-year-old to soccer. Of course, the other two kids would stay with me as well. After soccer practice, I was going to drive the forty-five minutes to the baseball game, figuring that the timing should still allow me to see half the game.

    Everything went perfect until the end of soccer practice. I hauled my utility wagon cart back to the car and decided to put my 2-year-old daughter in her car seat before unloading the cart. That way, she wouldn’t run off in the parking lot. Since we were immediately leaving on a long drive, I knew I needed to change her diaper first. Now my daughter just turned two, and is normally a very happy, easy-going girl, but she did not want her diaper changed. What she really wanted to do was drive the car, and I really think trying to diaper a cat would have been easier than getting her to lie still enough in the front seat of my minivan to strap the contraption on. After a horribly long time and a few tears (mine), I managed to succeed with the only side effect being that my stress level now felt like I’d just had to give a speech in front of a few thousand people. I successfully got her in her car seat, hopped in the car, and made sure the other two kids were in their places. Then I backed out and heard a sickening crunch.

    The wagon. I backed up into my beloved wagon. This is the wagon that hauls everything I need for the four possible seasons involved in a two-hour section of spring in Idaho, along with everything I need to manage three other children “watching” their brother’s practice or game.

     

    Yep, that’s mine, fully loaded down.

    Hopping back out of my minivan, I unloaded the wagon, noted that it didn’t look too bad, and hurriedly folded it and stowed it in the back.

    About an hour later (because kids happen and nothing just takes forty-five minutes), I finally managed to find a parking place near where my oldest was playing baseball. And when I say “near,” I mean that it’s a good quarter mile walk, or more, away.

    Once again, I pulled out my wagon cart, loaded it up with chairs, blankets, balls, sunscreen, waters, our still uneaten sandwiches, sodas, hats, and a baby doll. I got the kids out of the car and, with my daughter in my arms, I yanked the cart to follow along behind me.

    But it wouldn’t budge. Not even a little bit. One of the back wheels had apparently been completely bent when I’d run over it, and the cart was locked up. Unfortunately, there was nowhere for me to unload the cart, except back into the car, and there was no way for me to carry even a fraction of what we would need once we got to the ball field. The only options were to load everything back up and head home or find a way to get the cart to move. After coming this far, I didn’t intend to give up easily.

    I had the 8-year-old keep hold of his sister, and I tipped the cart over, fully loaded. I then stood on the damaged wheel, putting my full weight on it to try to straighten it out. I do think a little of the growling I did also helped. This was all while the 8-year-old reported that our sodas were spilling from the overturned cart and soaking everything. Of course, he was right.

    Hurriedly flipping the cart right side up, I was relieved to find that I could now pull it. Unfortunately, the back wheel still wasn’t turning, and it was extremely difficult to pull. But at least it would now move enough for me to drag.

    I was going to make it to that ball field.

    With one arm keeping hold of my daughter, I dragged the three-wheeled cart over a quarter mile with the other two kids trailing along. Out of breath and with muscles weak, I finally found the field where my son was playing. I pulled three chairs out and set them on the ground. Then I shoved sandwiches into the kids’ hands.

    Feeling satisfied that I had made it and was going to get to finally see some of the game, I grabbed my own sandwich and was just getting ready to sit down when my 5-year-old made the familiar announcement. “I need to go to the bathroom.” Sure enough, his words were said with the accompanying potty dance, so I knew this was serious.

    “Do you know where the nearest restrooms are?” I asked some of the people near me.

    “Over by the flag pole,” someone pointed.

    Of course, the flag was over two baseball fields away back the other direction. With my daughter on my hip, I hurriedly blazed the way to the porta potty. With business taken care of, I then walked the two baseball fields back just in time to hear my son’s team say, “Good game!”

    The game was over. All that work, and I didn’t get to see even a single play. My son’s team had been ahead by so much that they hadn’t played the standard six innings. They’d only played four and ended the game forty minutes before schedule.

    I finally ate my sandwich on the forty-five-minute drive home, after lugging my disabled cart the quarter mile back to the car.

    Though I fully recognize that I utterly failed in my goal, I actually wasn’t that upset that I had gone to such tremendous effort and difficulty to get to the game, only to miss the entire thing. Instead, I was actually rather proud. Not everyone can fail so spectacularly. I mean, after everything I’d been through, I arrived right as the game ended. That takes a certain amount of flair.

    So, why am I sharing all of this? I want to let all my mom peers, as well as my other fellow humans, know that you are not alone. Sometimes you try with everything you have in you and you still don’t meet your goal. Most of the time, it’s not even the big stuff. After all, everyone ended the day healthy, and we didn’t need to make any ER visits. But even the little stuff hurts and is extremely frustrating, especially when it’s on top of the exhaustion of trying to make it through the day.

    Social media and outward appearances are misleading. Even if you think someone has everything together, they don’t. Most of us are dragging a three-wheeled cart to a game that is already over.

    Things don’t go according to plan, especially when kids are involved. When you fail spectacularly, please know that, chances are, it isn’t really a fail at all. It’s just a different result than you intended. What you don’t realize at the time, and sometimes even never realize, is that your goal isn’t God’s goal. I didn’t know that the purpose behind me dragging that cart wasn’t so that I could watch my son’s game.

    When we got home, my 11-year-old overheard me giving the report to my husband of what had happened. Before he climbed into his bunk bed for the night, my sweet boy came up to me, wrapped his arms around me, and laid his head on my shoulder.

    “Mom, thank you for trying to come to my game. I know it was hard.”

    I hugged him back, thoroughly savoring the moment, and tucked him in bed. Before I left, I told him something that completely shocked him. I said, “Even with everything that happened, I would do it all over again, just for the chance to see you play.”

    To him, that was unbelievable.

    My plan failed spectacularly. But that night, my son realized in a concrete way how very much I love him. I love him the three-wheeled cart kind of way. That’s the kind of success you can never plan for.

    Likewise, may God end your failed plans and three-wheeled cart misadventures with that kind of success.

    Please note that there were no carts that died in the making of

    this misAdventure.

    The injured wagon was fixed and fully restored to hauling my load on

    all four wheels again the next day. Good little wagon.

     

    ***Please note: Links used in this post are likely affiliate links. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to click and buy, but I get a small commission.

     

     


  • Flower Shop Talk

    I’ve always loved flowers. When I was a child, my mom and grandma jokingly called me their “flower child” because I always kept them supplied with a fresh bouquet of flowers for their dining room tables.

    As a teen, flowers sort of represented an elusive dream that was never mine. On Valentine’s Day, it seemed like every other girl in the school would receive flowers from someone, but there was never a delivery for me. Keep in mind, I was painfully shy and never actually voiced the desire to have flowers. But, if you have to say you want them, that steals away part of the magic of receiving them, doesn’t it?

    Maybe that background and love for flowers is what has made a few flower deliveries extra special to me.

    When I was in college, I competed in scholarship pageants. In one pageant, I completely screwed up the talent portion. Think about your worst public humiliation nightmare, and that’s pretty much what happened. When I was on stage in front of everyone, I lost where I was in my violin piece. It was an epic failure, and I never did manage to find my place in the music. If I hadn’t screwed up so badly, I would have won the competition.

    Fast forward six months to another competition. This time, however, it was a larger competition with many more contestants. I nailed the talent portion, and at the end of the night, they gave me flowers. I won. Not only did I win, but I won a great deal more scholarship money than if I had won that other pageant. That year, the pageant I won was rated one of the top local pageants in the country in terms of scholarship money, and also came with many more perks and help than I would have had otherwise.

    On that night, and in my memory, that gorgeous bouquet of red roses meant so much more than the fact that I had won a pageant. It meant that, even if I failed, I could get back up and succeed. It meant that even when things turn nightmarish and I completely embarrass myself, God can still have a plan that is even better than I can imagine. Even now, when I screw something up or am facing something difficult, I can remember those flowers and hope for another bouquet just beyond my sight.

    Now, just so you don’t feel bad for me about not receiving Valentine’s Day flowers in high school, I have another story to tell. For the Valentine’s Day following my senior year of college, I, once again, did not receive flowers, not even from my boyfriend, Brian. Not wanting to be cliche, Brian waited until the following day to give me roses, along with an engagement ring and a beautiful proposal.

    And I said yes. Again, the flowers were more than mere flowers. They were a promise that I’d found a Prince Charming who would supply me with flowers when I needed them and when I didn’t. When there was a reason, and when there wasn’t. Through ups and downs he would love me, and I’d never have to ask.

    Fast forward over ten years and three children later. I received flowers on April 12. Why do I so specifically remember that date? Because that was my due date of when my fourth baby was supposed to have been born. I unexpectedly miscarried at 12 weeks, and there are no words to describe how difficult that was both physically and emotionally.

    Busy life went on. I had three children to care for, and we ended up selling our house and moving in the time between. Then on April 12, we were moving into our new house, and a bouquet of flowers was delivered from my parents and siblings. The card simply said that they were remembering me on this day. I honestly still can’t think about it without tearing up. Those flowers gave me permission to grieve. They let me know that I wasn’t alone and that other people cared and remembered both me and my baby.

    Three vastly different experiences, but all with the same result. I received flowers that touched my heart and made a difference to me.

    When thinking about an idea for a book, I often start with an emotion that I want to capture. The “Out of the Blue Bouquet” was at least partially inspired by my experiences and a desire to capture a bit of that magic that happens when you receive flowers. There are many different reasons one might get flowers, and many more ways those flowers could impact a life. For me, flowers have both thrilled and comforted me, representing accomplishment, validating grief, and symbolizing the love of my Prince Charming.

    The five stories in the “Out of the Blue Bouquet” hopefully capture some of those emotions associated with flowers. My book is the last in the set and ties everything together by telling the story of how all of the characters in the other books got their accidental flower deliveries.

    Wanting to stay true to the flower magic of my original idea, I thought it would be fun to open a “virtual flower shop” to go along with the book. The shop contains images that can be downloaded and sent to others, as if they were real flowers. Some of the flower messages are funny, and others are serious or romantic. Everyone likes to know someone is thinking of them, and maybe sending someone virtual flowers will give them a hint of the thrill of real ones!

    So visit the “Out of the Blue Bouquet” Flower Shop and pick a few flowers to brighten someone’s day. And then, if you haven’t yet, read the “Out of the Blue Bouquet” collection!

    So what about you? When have flowers been special to you in your life? Have you ever had any “out of the blue bouquets?”

     

    Flower shop

    “Out of The Blue Bouquet” on Amazon

    Please note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.


  • A Few of My Favorite Things

     

    There are certain things in life that I love. I’m not talking about the big things or the typical things. I love my children. I love their faces, the way their dimples pop out when they smile, and the sound of their laughter. I love going on a special date night with my husband. So, yes, those are some of my favorite things, but what I’m really referring to is the quirky little things that, even on a really bad day, give me a little squirt of joy just because.

    So I already know they are unique. For sure they would fit in very well with Julie Andrews’ list of favorite things in “The Sound of Music.” Maybe they are a little weird. But here is a list of a few of my favorite things:

     

    * Trees that overhang the streets *

    I especially like if the leaves meet overhead as if in an embrace. I get a little thrill when my car drives through the shady tunnel. It’s so pretty and something about it makes me feel as if the world of storybooks and fantasy may just be at the end of the street.

    * Crinkled potato chips *

    I have no idea if anyone else in the world (besides my sister) has this affinity, but I only like to eat the crinkled potato chips. I know that technically they taste no different, but I will sit with a bag and pick out the crinkled ones. If I find a super big, super ugly crinkled mess of a potato chip? That makes me extra happy.

    *** Please note: The chips in the above picture are not potato chips. They are tortilla chips. I searched my lone bag of barbecue potato chips to find that there were none that were crinkled. I’d already eaten them all. So I put that bag down and searched the tortilla chips, which I also like. I took a picture of some lovely crinkled ones, which tasted delicious.

     

    * Twilight *

    There is a moment before the sun dips past the horizon. It isn’t really sunset because sunset can last a lot longer than this moment. But when the sun reaches this point, the world is filled with a unique, filtered light. Often here, it’s a pinkish glow that bathes the foothills. This moment doesn’t happen every night. Maybe that’s why I love it so. When I was a teenager, I would take off on my bike around sunset, hoping to catch that moment where the world seems wrapped in a brief stillness, and we hold our breath to savor the beauty of a extra0ordinary moment that fades into ordinary before you can be sure it was there.

    * Christmas stories *

    A couple years ago, when I was on bed-rest when expecting my daughter, I went through every Christmas romance movie Netflix had. I guess I never realized how much I love them. Sure, some of them were so very cheesy that they make you cringe, but I still watched and enjoyed them. Maybe it’s the magic of romance combined with the magical time of year. Add a great message, and I love it extra.

     

    This one is really what got me started on this blog series. One of my books, “The Christmas Card,” is part of a Christmas in July sale. Every Christmas Romance book on this list is currently 99 cents, but won’t be for long. Snag a few for now and a few for later. And if you haven’t read “The Christmas Card,” now is your chance. I’m hoping the sequel will be out before Christmas. Maybe you’ll read it, love it, and be able to add it to your own favorite things list!

    To check out the sale, click on the image directly above or check out the link HERE.

     

    When I thought of this post, I didn’t know that I was about to have some very difficult things happen that would leave me with feelings of grief, confusion, and frustration. But even on my worst days, I can encounter one of my favorite little things and know that while life can be difficult, God can give us enough of the simple joys to know that He is still there even when we can’t see other evidence of His presence. Some days I may be upset, but I can still be thankful and happy for a nicely crinkled potato chip.

    I originally thought this post would be a relatively short one, but then I found it to be way too long, so why not do a few days of my favorite things? You can also let me know a few of your unique favorite things, and maybe I’ll include them in a post as well!

    Check back tomorrow for what is next on my favorite things list. Also, please share some of the unique things you love! You can comment below, send me an email, or message me on Facebook!

    Are your favorite things as strange as mine???

     

     

     


  • And The Fish Died

    veiltail-11458_1920

    When my oldest son, Caleb, was 3, he won a goldfish at a local fair in our town. This wasn’t one of the “quality” aquatic creatures, but a simple feeder goldfish.

    Now, the life of a feeder goldfish usually has one of two paths. One, he is bought and fulfils the destiny his name suggests and becomes food for another animal. Or two, he is given to a child. In most cases, it really is a draw as to which destiny gives the fish the longest life span.

    Caleb was oh-so-proud when he won his goldfish in the goldfish races and didn’t seem to notice that every other child also got to keep their free racing fish, whether they won or loss. He won a goldfish to take home, and that’s all that mattered. When we got to the car, Caleb asked me how we were going to cook him. Yes, he wanted to eat his little goldfish. This boy was a fisherman, still is, and to him getting a fish apparently meant a meal, not a pet.

    After I explained the difference, he warmed up to the idea of a pet, so we brought the fish home and stuck him in a bowl. I was not a novice at the fish-keeping business. I know the drill. You get a fish for free. You are prepared to be a good pet owner, so you buy all the equipment. Two days later, said fish dies and you are left with a bunch of boring equipment.

    So I waited to buy any equipment. I think the first day, Caleb named him Nemo, but to my knowledge, he has never been referred to as Nemo again. We have always just referred to him as “the fish.” Surprisingly, several days later, the fish was still alive, and I went ahead and coughed up the money for a small aquarium. I wasn’t going to buy a huge one when I was sure the little thing was just waiting for me to spend money on it.

    So I got the little aquarium set up. And I waited. But the fish still didn’t die.

    He didn’t die when Caleb was 4 years old either. Or 5. Or 6.

    No dead fish at age 7.

    8 was a good year too.

    Caleb is 9 now.

    And the fish died.

    For six years I have cleaned his little tank. Bought his food and tank filters. Made sure he was cared for whenever we had to leave for a few days.

    I was the one to feed him. I tried to have the kids help, but the entire jar of food would end up in the aquarium every time, so instead, it became my job. The fish grew big, and didn’t really fit in his little aquarium any more. His long beautiful tail filled the tank nicely as he’d sashay around.  But I never bought a larger aquarium because I just knew he was going to go belly up any day. He then made the move from our old house to the new house, and I managed not to spill him out as he sat beside me on the car ride over. And he still lived, his box aquarium parked on our counter.

    For six years, I waited for the fish to die.

    But then, I didn’t want him to.

    I have bad guilt. I may have forgotten to feed him a couple of times. My head knows the fish didn’t starve to death. After all, he’d been sick for a few days and stopped eating. In terms of being a feeder fish, he lived an exceptionally long time. But I still have the guilt. Poor little fish with no name!

    Then I got to wondering why the death of our little nameless fish was bothering me so much. The reality is that I’ve been in a pretty bad mood about it and definitely channeling attitudes from Eeyore and Grumpy the dwarf.

    I guess I feel sentimental because we had him for so long. I never really wanted a fish, and I don’t want another. Our little fish tank will not be getting a new occupant. Like I said, I’ve been waiting for him to die for six years. But I’m still sad to see him go.

    But my bad mood is more than that.

    It’s the exhaustion from caring for a baby and three other young children.

    It’s the stress of trying to remember everything for everyone.

    It’s the worry that I’m not doing enough.

    And the fish died.

    It’s the fact that I have a million things on my to-do list and no time.

    That I rarely get to mark anything off the to-do list.

    It’s looking around my house and seeing the mess of three tornados and no hope of fixing it.

    It’s the hundred things I’d like to put on my husband’s to do list if he actually had time to do any of them.

    And the fish died.

    It’s the books I have floating in my head, pestering me to be written and no time to do it.

    It’s the best sellers that have come to visit my brain and left before I could capture them on paper.

    It’s everything that others say need to be done in order to be successful.

    It’s the driving need to push myself and do what I love and feel called to do.

    It’s the worry that it will all disappear before I can write the next book or put the time into my career I need.

    And the fish died.

    It’s the frustration of a ministry my husband and I have felt called to do yet have been in the waiting mode for several years.

    It’s the confusion of not understanding what God is up to.

    It’s the fear that somehow we will or have screwed things up.

    It’s the constant worry that I’m not good enough.

    And the fish died.

    Headaches. Kids fighting. Concern for my extended family.

    Caleb is playing tackle football, and I am TERRIFIED!

    Am I good mom? Am I a good Christian?

    What am I missing? What am I making for dinner?

    Did the 3 year-old get his teeth brushed this morning? What about yesterday? A week ago? What smells so bad? Oh, it’s me.

    What am I forgetting?

    And the fish died.

    In short, it’s life.

    As I thought of all of these real reasons behind my attitude, I felt my agitation increase. And then, before the worry could completely consume me, two beautiful thoughts popped into my head.

    1. The minutes of a day is like chocolate. There is never enough. I shouldn’t be wasting so much chocolate (I mean minutes) worrying about things that I really can’t change.

    Instead, I should turn them all over to the only One who really can change them.

    1. I should take all those worries plaguing me and count them out to God like counting dollar bills into his hand. And then… I shouldn’t accept any refunds.

    Giving my worries to God is difficult because I like to take them back. It’s something I need God’s help on. And while God is still working on me, I’m going to try to focus more on the little things. Life. Enjoying the moments that include free fish with no names and being thankful that the rest of us made it through another day relatively intact.

    Eventually, I won’t feel so sad that the fish died. Life will go on. I’ll figure out what to make for dinner (McDonalds?), and today’s worries will be paid off by the One who owns them. And I will be thankful that for six years, we had a fish that lived.