Amy is a 30-something, Christian, homeschooling mom to three amazing little men who, after more than four years of being a single parent, was wed to her best friend Ryan Bayliss in September of 2007. She is a self-proclaimed canister collecting and appliance junkie, and she says a side effect of her ADD creativity gene is that she gets bored frequently with her hairstyles and must experiment with new ones…
It is pretty much the same with her blog layout. She is a self-taught graphic designer, writer, and entrepreneur. Amy often hits home with her thought provoking, eye opening, and sometimes emotional way of writing to capture the hearts and hand of her readers. She has a desire to see the hand of God in everything, to always be aware of His presence, and to love and live life to the fullest. Amy believes that it is possible to have it all, and you she’s only required to pursue one thing–a true, deep, and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Her longing is to learn from and help other Christian women as we all take this journey together.
I see that you’ve answered the call to online ministry–big time. Can you tell us a bit about the online ministries that you are involved in?
You know Darlene; I had no idea what I was getting into when this whole online thing started. Sometimes, like Abraham and Paul, God just tells me to “GO” and I do (quite often there is resistance involved). I don’t know about you, but although God doesn’t always tell me exactly where to go He does tell me when I’m going the wrong way! I tried a couple of different online ministries prior to where I am now and I knew that those ideas (though they were good) were not the way for me to go. The ministries I am involved in now are where He has led me and where I feel peace. I know that His hand is upon them.
My own personal blog, In Pursuit of Proverbs 31, started in March of 2007 and it was meant to simply be a way for me to journal my thoughts but then I realized that people actually read it and that was awesome!
I started receiving emails from ladies about how my testimonies had given them hope because they were in similar situations. I started to realize that although our relationship with God is meant to be personal, most of it is not meant to be private. So many times He said in his word, “Go and tell them what I’ve done for you!” (refer to paragraph one –“Go”). So, I’m going!
Heart of the Matter Online was a ministry that I co-founded with Amy S., a friend and fellow homeschool mom from Ohio. Our intention when we started was simply to provide a resource–via blogging and an online magazine–for homeschooling parents, and to offer encouragement when the days got long and tough. Our perspective is to be real and relevant. Anyone can teach someone else how to do something through an article but to read the posts through the blog you get to see how they live it, whether they fail or succeed.
I have you to thank for the opportunity of owning and operating Internet Café Devotions! [CWO’s sister site and team blog] Thank you, Darlene, for trusting lil’ ol me with something that I know was so dear to your heart!
You’re doing an awesome job, Amy–just like I knew you would! 🙂 And I’m so glad to see Lori MacMath partnering with you. The two of you make an awesome team.
Prior to taking over the Café in May, I had been praying to God that He’d give me the opportunity to minister to other women in a greater capacity, so when I got an email from Lori saying that she was interested in partnering with me on this project, I clearly knew that this was what God wanted. We spent some time in prayer and decided to make a few changes, add some things, and spice it up a bit. We get emails and comments weekly from women who are being drawn back to God simply because they happened to land on that site and are now subscribing to the daily devotions. Some women may never step foot in a church but they will surf the web. Internet Café Devotions gives us a vehicle to reach them and the team of writers we have over there are phenomenal. We also started a weekly meme with the help of Kim Uden and that gives women a chance to express themselves through thought provoking questions of the heart. We have many other things coming up to get women connected and I cannot wait to see what else God has in store. This is so where my heart is at!
Is there any reason you lean toward women’s ministry in particular?
I have always struggled in my relationships with other women. My relationship with my mother was a truly negative one. I was hurt by her many times and that lead to my distrust of other women. I was also betrayed by a woman from my previous church that I had ministered to. I found out that she had had an affair with my former spouse. Then, of course, I dealt with all of the gossip that comes with a marriage that is failing. The women I was closest to are the ones who betrayed me the most. It hurt and it has been a long road to recovery, but it is happening. Through all of this, my one true friend and shining example of God’s love and service has been my sister, Andrea. She has been by my side through everything and I can only hope to be like her when I grow up! (She’s my little sister!)
I now attend the most amazing church. Last year our women’s conference, Healing Place’s Live the Dream, was a launching pad for my recovery. They spoke of friendships with other women and how they are important to our walk with Christ and our ability to minister. I immediately sensed God nudging me to forgive and rekindle the friendships with some of the women that had hurt me in the past. He restored my relationship with my mom. He also set my heart on fire to minster to other women who may be caught in that same struggle, as well as other struggles that I have faced. I simply have a gut wrenching compassion for hurting women. I want so much to see them overcome and celebrate life to the fullest.
I am amazed at how much you accomplish, with being in ministry, running a design business, and homeschooling your kids. When did you start homeschooling, and what prompted that decision?
Um, God prompted it! It wasn’t my idea. I was quite set against it. In fact, I had tried to talk others out of homeschooling! I was happy, or so I thought, with being “free” during the day and able to work in peace and quiet. That wasn’t God’s plan for us though and the truth is my children were suffering. Although they had problems in school, I knew that God wanted me to homeschool to improve my relationship with them. It is amazing to see the difference in them now. I can honestly say that I love having my boys home with me; and being able to spend quality time with them whenever I want is something that I cherish. For now, this is God’s plan for our lives and I am happy to oblige!
That is definitely a great way to enrich your relationship with them! And speaking of relationships–congratulations on your recent marriage! What has it been like blending your existing family with your new marital relationship?
This year has been a whirlwind of change. Prior to my marriage to Ryan, I didn’t have a great relationship with my former spouse, Mark (the boys’ dad), so I anticipated that being a problem in my new marriage.
Oh, how I underestimated the power of God and the influence of love! My husband has a gift to love others even when they aren’t loveable, and he loved on Mark as though they had been friends for years. He treated him with the utmost respect, even when he didn’t think he deserved it. That alone spoke to my heart so loudly that I began to follow his example–then a miracle began to take place… We started having birthday parties together. We began to eat meals together. We began to invite Mark over on family night so he could take part in playing board games and visiting with the kids.
Now, we all parent together. Things are far from perfect and the miracle is still in progress, but I can see God’s hand so evident in this that it is hard for even Mark to deny. He even asked Ryan and I to pray for him in front of his friends! Hecalled on Father’s Day to wish Ryan a Happy Father’s Day–isn’t God awesome? Much progress, my friend! Much!
Sounds like a busy house, full of love! Would you like to have more children?
Well I am having so much fun with that little one of ours that I don’t know if we should ruin it! Brennan is the most joyful and fun loving kid anybody could ever want and although I want him to stay a baby forever (he’s 7–go ahead and laugh) we are actually trying to conceive now! Prayerfully soon we will have at least one more little muchkin to add to the family and give Brennan someone else to tickle!
Oh, I’m laughing, because I just celebrated my “baby’s” seventh birthday last month, and I’m feeling’ ya, girl. They grow up too fast!
I hadn’t realized that we both had “babies” the same age. We have a lot in common with faith, writing and web design, don’t we? So that’s why I like you so much! From one designer to another, I’d love to know…does this creativity of yours spill out beyond the web?
Well, I’ll tell you, my husband often jokes that he never knows what house he is going to walk into or what woman he will wake up to next! I love to rearrange and redesign my house and I love to add some color style to my hair. Anything to do with color and texture makes me happy. I love the beauty and depth in the combinations of hues and textures. Scrapbooking, interior design, web design, graphics, fashion, hair dyeing… I love it all! My favorite of all of these, is designing blogs over at Split Decisionz and magazine layouts. I love designing and doing the layout of the magazine for Heart of the Matter month after month. It just makes me happy!
We do have a lot in common! My husband says that our yard is the standing joke of the neighbourhood (in a good way). Everytime they come home, our garden is larger or changed in some way. If only they saw the inside! Are you moving to my area anytime soon–we could decorate and dye together til the wee hours of the night.
And let’s not forget writing! You first caught my attention and that of CWO’s when you won a writing contest we held in Spring 2007. Your article “Celebration of Life” touched my heart and had me balling like a baby.
In that article you wrote, “they had discovered that my son had a form of dwarfism. I was 20 years old and crushed. I had a vision of a perfect baby and that was shattered instantly. I mourned. I cried. A part of me died.”
For those readers who aren’t familiar with your story, can you tell us a bit about that time and how God brought you through?
I think every little girl not only dreams of the day she will get married, but also the day she will give birth to and raise a child of her own. I had often dreamed of this child and how I would paint and decorate his nursery and what little clothes I would have for his layette. Would he look like me? Would he act like him? Will he play football? Will he study to become a doctor?
“And God just please let him be healthy and happy” is what I prayed from the time I found out I was pregnant.
Those were the prayers and thoughts that I was consumed with until the day I found out about Gevan’s condition. For some reason I thought that this diagnosis changed everything. One thing I had to do was mourn the death of my dreams and I am so glad that I did. I have a dominant personality, and had this not been an issue I hesitate to wonder what his life, or the life of my other children, might have been like. Would I have allowed him to just be him, or would I have pushed him to fit into my mold? In more ways than one his condition has made me a better person. It was in my state of grief that I gave my life to Christ. It is through His eyes that I began to appreciate the world through a new perspective. It is through His perseverance and determination that I get inspired to keep going and know that I can overcome. I cannot tell you how much that little man challenges me to be a better person. I wish the world could know him like I do.
God helped me to realize that Gevan had been short-statured and stocky from the moment he was conceived. He was the same baby I knew and loved before I found out about his condition. Nothing changed except my expectations. Well, that and the fact that he never has worn all of the clothes from his layette. He just moved up to a 4t and that is at nearly 12 years old. So yes, I mourned the death of my vision of a perfect child, but I celebrated the reality of life with the perfect child… for me.
God met me right where I was in this situation, which ironically, was the bathtub. I cried out to him and He saved me and baptized me right there. I felt the longing to become part of a church so I sought one out. God has always been there for me, right where I was in life. I get chills just thinking about it and I can’t wait to see where He takes us next!
You’ve told me that after almost losing a child, you suffered from parent-child detachment. What is that, and how did you overcome it?
Jacob’s story is heart breaking. He is my second born but third pregnancy. I had miscarried just weeks prior to his conception and so he was quite a bit of a surprise. At first, we weren’t sure if the test results were just a result of the previous pregnancy or if I really was indeed pregnant again. Then the delivery was a rough one. He was born with the cord around his neck and that gave us our first big scare. Then, at 2 months, 5 months, and 7 months he was hospitalized for serious illnesses. First the rotavirus, then RSV, and then the third hospitalization was a result of too much antibiotics in his system and the bad antibodies mutated with them and started attacking Jacob’s little body. Then, just a couple of years later Jacob accidentally hung himself on the swing set outside. Unbeknownst to us, some neighborhood kids had tied deep sea fishing line to it and while I went in to make juice cups for them he climbed up to the rope and his neck got caught in it somehow. He was dead. I don’t know any other way to say it. He was the darkest shade of blue I’d ever seen. Every blood vessel in his face and eyes had burst. He was twitching and he was not breathing at all. After his dad did a couple of reps of CPR on him and Jacob was finally taking shallow breaths, he was so lethargic and non-responsive that I just prayed to God that he would live. The whole way to the hospital he had seizures and I just watched as his little eyes rolled to the back of his head. The hardest part was when the doctor came out and said we were either the luckiest people alive or somebody “up there” was looking out for us because Jacob should be dead. He said at the very least the deep sea fishing line should have severed his head off completely. It was the worst part because in my mind I began to ponder the “What ifs”.
I became so distraught over the question: “What if he had died?” that I truly did accept his death, though it wasn’t a reality, to protect myself from the pain of losing him. And with that I became completely detached from him emotionally. My connection, my bond with him, was gone. It isn’t that I didn’t love him. I would have done anything in the world for him. It is just that because of all we had been though with him I was so scared of losing him that I put up a wall between us. I felt no emotion about it whatsoever. We simply co-existed together as mother and son. It wasn’t that he wasn’t lovable because he was the cutest and most joyful kid you’ve ever seen. It was that I was scared of losing him.
When God revealed my heart to me and I realized what I had done I was devastated. It took months of prayer, reading 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 over and over, and acting on the love I knew I had to get to the point where I felt emotion towards him. God’s response was so powerful. Jacob was so welcoming and I felt so undeserving of him. God has continued to restore our relationship to the point that now I look at him and immediately I feel love just oozing out of me towards him. He is just one of the loves of my life and I am so glad that I can finally show him that. Almost three years after he was revived on that hospital bed, God revived him in my heart. Since then God has shown me that Jacob is the one who will inherit my gifts and talents. It is to him that my mantle will be passed. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. He is such an amazing little boy.
When I shared this story on the Internet Café a few months back I got more emails than I ever have about any other post. I heard from women who were going through the same thing due to multiple miscarriages and then getting pregnant or babies who were born with medical conditions or placed in the NICU right after birth. They found themselves feeling the same way about their children but could never figure out why and they never spoke about it because they were so ashamed. I believe that truly loving your child is a problem that many women face, and because of the guilt involved there is no ministry available to help them. That is why I am trying to speak so freely about it and continue to write about what it truly means to be a parent and to love your child. I can’t imagine going through this without God. I don’t want anyone else to suffer like Jacob and I did. Our kids deserve so much more than that.
Jacob’s Story can be viewed here: When Your Child Doesn’t Die & Proof That Prayer Does Move Mountains
Amy, thank you for being so open with us. You have such a gifted way of sharing your heart. I pray that God will continue to use you in ministry to women. And may God’s hand of protection continue to rest on your family.