Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Isaiah 61:3--"Something Beautiful"

Sorry this "Sunday Dinner" is a midnight snack. I had to make sure everyone had clean underpants, finished homework, groceries for the week, bedtime stories and prayers, and tooth fairy money before I could post something. I knew you'd understand.

I remember when I was a kid, there was a show that would come on our PBS station. It was a guy teaching viewers how to paint. He started with a blank canvas then start painting a beautiful scene. As I'd watch in amazement, there were times I couldn't see what it was going to be and thought this guy was surely in a pickle painting this mess on national television. Then he'd manage with the last few strokes to pull all the random elements together into a masterpiece. I'd mentally let out a sigh of relief that it turned out so beautifully. I'm sure he would have had a good laugh to find out some 8 year old girl was so worried about his artistic ability.

Oh, how often I do that with God. Sometimes I just don't see how He's going to salvage the situation or turn what looks like a mess into something beautiful, yet . . . He does every time.

This week's verse:

"And provides for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor."

Isaiah 61:3, NIV

As I watched my family this weekend, I was awed at how beautifully God has woven us together. I was humbled by how far God has brought us over the years--from a place of brokenness to a place of goodness. My life is certainly a testimony of beauty from ashes, joy from mourning, praise from despair.

I guess that's why I love Need to Breathe's song called "Something Beautiful" (today's dessert). It reminds me of all the times I've taken my tangled mess to my Heavenly Father and asked him to turn it into something beautiful. And He always does. And just like the artist on PBS, His masterpiece always turns out so much better than I ever imagined.

More Than Lots,

Thursday, February 25, 2010

More Than Lots

Hi. My name is Kathie and I'm a sentimental keeper. I didn't realize how bad my addiction was until I had children. I couldn't part with anything--from hospital bracelets to baby shoes. I accumulated a collection of first curls to first teeth that made my memento box look like it was from a forensic lab. (I did not keep the umbilical stumps. Promise.)

But things really started to get out of control when my kids began to make things--precious artwork and macaroni jewelry and prized school papers. Handmade birthday, Mother's Day, and Valentine's Day masterpieces. I soon realized that I had enough treasures to fill the Smithsonian and if I didn't find a way to part with some of it I was destined to be featured on the show "Hoarders."

And so I became painfully selective about what I kept and what I tossed. But to make sure that everything (and everyone) was adequately cherished, I created a life cycle for these items.

Treasured artwork and prized school papers are first praised at the dinner table. After a sufficient number of "oooos and ahhhhs", the item is posted on the fridge for the family's visual enjoyment. After about a week (or when the refrigerator door begins to fall off its hinges due to the weight), I slowly move these items to a special pile on the kitchen counter. There it stays for a 24 hour period and if the item is not missed it would then be oh so ceremoniously placed into our waste receptacle, hidden under other trash.

On a few occasions, the artist formerly known as prince/princess discovered that his/her masterpiece had somehow jumped from the fridge into the trash. I would gasp in horror, reassure the child that I had no idea how that could have happened, and the item would start its life cycle over (dinner table--oooo and ahhh--fridge--counter--trash) until it safely made it to the great compost pile in the sky. (Fortunately my older two are now okay with the tossing.)

For years our system worked. I had significantly cut back on what was kept until . . . we started this adoption. And suddenly there was a new child and my only contact with him for weeks at a time was the treasures we'd get because we sponsored him. We would dance at the mailbox upon discovering a new letter from Daniel. We all would study his penmanship, delight in his artistic ability, and memorize his letters in both Spanish and English.

One letter came at a time that we felt burdened to pray for his safety. His letter simply said, "How much I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my help, my liberty, He is my God. He is my refuge, He is my shield, the power that saves me."

His most precious letter to us was translated as saying, "I love you lots. I love you more than lots. I love you with all my heart and all of me. When I'm with you, I'm happy. When you go, I cry. I can't wait to come home to the USA." That one was certainly a keeper.

Unfortunately, they all are. And since he's come home, I can't seem to part with anything he has made (and he LOVES to do arts and crafts). I've missed so many years of baby teeth, haircuts, photos, turkeys drawn by tracing his hand, bugs made with thumbprints, Christmas ornaments made from Popsicle sticks. How in the world can I toss anything now? (What makes it harder is that most of the items are made for me with "Mama" proudly written somewhere on them.)

But yesterday I saw one of his drawings on the fridge.

It had had a long and happy life. It featured a foam dinosaur, displayed in a 3-D pop-up style, with little brown balls of paper glued on to look like poop. If you look closely you can see it says "To Mom, From Daniel." I took a deep breath. Yes. I think this is one that I can part with. It must start some time. I moved it to the countertop. I know. I'm a woman of great courage.

Last night as I was tucking him in, we prayed together as we always do. And we always pray for his friends back at the children's home that he lived in the past three years. When we finished, he asked why the other kids lived there at the orphanage. I explained that some were there until their parents could afford to care for them. Some were there because their parents had died. And some where there because their parents had hurt them and they needed to be somewhere safe.

I looked at Daniel and he had his little finger pointing to his chest. I asked, "Was that like you?" He nodded. (We were aware of some of his past but were thinking he had blocked it out because he had never talked about it.) Then he proceeded to explain the abuse from his mother--bits and pieces of words fleshed out with motions. Tears poured down his face . . . and then down mine.

I hugged him tightly saying, "I'm your Mama now. I always have been. It just took me a while to find you." I was crying so much that he eventually started to smile at the sight of his mom boo-hooing all kinds of ugly.

After tucking him in I returned to the kitchen. I saw the artwork sitting on the counter awaiting the trash. I realized that I didn't need it. Now that I can hold him, talk with him, laugh with him, cry with him, the artwork that I truly cherish is being written on my heart. I have a child who has had a lifetime without love, who freely loves me "more than lots." Now that is a masterpiece!

I picked up the creation with the dinosaur with bowel issues and put it . . . back on the fridge. For now, I need to hold onto each moment just a bit longer. For I have always been his Mama, it just took me a little while to find him.

More Than Lots,

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sorrow to Joy

One of my favorite bloggy friends is Linny from A Place Called Simplicity . She does something called Memorial Box Monday. It's a weekly feature where she remembers a prayer answered or evidence of God's hand in her life. She puts an item in her Memorial Box that represents the story so that she and her family always have these reminders of God's faithfulness. (She explains it much better on her blog so be sure to click the bloggy button below to read her precious stories.)

I shared my first Memorial Box Monday here, regarding our adoption. (For any new readers, at the time we were still calling him Danilo, but now he goes by Daniel.) Today I'm going to share one about my mom. She's been on my mind and heart a lot lately. Last week (Feb. 18) she would have celebrated her 67th birthday and in a couple of weeks it will be the six year anniversary of her going to be with the Lord.

This story takes place March of 2004. She was in her last days of a six year battle with cancer and we were savoring every minute we had left. We were already at such a place of brokenness because just weeks earlier, we lost a baby boy near the end of my pregnancy (that story can be found here .)

To understand the significance of this story, I must explain that my mom was one of a kind. She made every day seem like a party and could find humor even in the worst situations. For example, she did one more round of chemo with the hope that she would live long enough to meet her grandson (who is now with her for eternity). The treatment burned all of her soft tissues including tastebuds . . . except for one who she affectionately called Bud. She named her car, her piano, even her wheelchair. The term "detail-oriented" was certainly an understatement when describing her. Not only was she creative, she lived poetically. And she wanted her last breath to be on a day that had meaning.

Thus when the calendar flipped to March, she was bummed. There wasn't a day in March worthy of her obituary. She wished she could make it to a day like Palm Sunday or Good Friday or Easter. But she knew her days were few and I could just hear her talking to God under her breath, "March . . . really?"

While my mom was praying for a day of significance, I was praying for a sign of significance--a sign that our storm was almost over. During a nine month period we lost my grandmother, our son, and now my mom. In addition to those losses, we had also faced with some detours and other challenges in our life. I was thinking that God should just cover me with boils and call me Job. I was becoming fearful about what might be next.

The morning my mother died the sadness was overwhelming and I just kept praying for peace. Later that day, I glanced at my calendar and saw a little word typed in the box for that day . . . "Purim." Since I'm not Jewish, I wasn't sure what it was but quickly Googled it. I couldn't believe it when I read about the Feast of Purim, that this is the celebration where sorrow is turned to joy. Never has Wikipedia been so profound. I just wept reading the words "the days of mourning are over"!!!

Apparently the Feast of Purim is observed on a different day each year (according to the Jewish calendar)--anytime from late February to mid-March. But that year Purim just happen to fall on the same day my mother went to be with the Lord. God is amazing.

I picked up the phone to tell my mom about her perfect day--then realized this sweet revelation would be coming from her Father. I'm sure her mouth--with brand new tastebuds--let out a squeal when she found out how beautifully God had numbered her days.

And my prayer had been answered as well. I suddenly had such a peace and calm that this would be the end of our pain and our goodness and mercy would follow. And it has . . . in abundance.

I wish I had kept that page of my calendar to put in my Memorial Box. Instead I tucked a copy of the verse from the beautiful book of Esther that records the first observance of Purim.

Feast of Purim
"The time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration." Esther 9:22

The book of Esther is the only book in the Bible that doesn't mention God, yet His mighty hand is seen throughout the story. And as we celebrate the anniversary of my mother's passing, we don't remember that day with sadness, but stand in awe of a great God of great love who cares about every little detail. I'm so grateful that His mighty hand can be seen throughout the story of my life.

Humbly His,

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Ecclesiastes 3--"Every Season"

Sorry I haven't posted much this week. I have much on my heart that I'll eventually share, but this week started unraveling on Monday and I'm busy trying to sew life back together (or at least cover the holes with duct tape).

But the highlights of the week were celebrating a homecoming of friends with their newly adopted son from Guatemala and celebrating a "homegoing" of another friend. (This is the friend I mentioned in my last post.) But no matter how crazy life gets, I like to post a Sunday Dinner. The idea behind it is explained here.

My last post talked about winters in our lives. When I wrote it, it was cold and yucky outside. Although it is still technically winter, God gave us beautiful springtime weather this weekend as we gathered for our friend's funeral yesterday. It was a beautiful reminder that spring always follows life's winters.

We enjoyed the warm temps again today . . . Daniel was especially grateful to run around without needing to be bundled up. The other day we were looking at some photos taken of our house last summer. Daniel exclaimed, "Mama, the grass is green!!! It's so beautiful. How can we make it green again?" My answer was, "God will make it green again. Don't you worry."

I laughed at his observation. It never occurred to me that the grass has been dormant since coming home. (We have Bermuda in our yard which has provided an outdoor carpeting the color of a manila folder.) I'm sure there will be many sweet surprises as we experience the first year of seasons with Daniel. So that brings me to this week's scripture.

It's a passage that most know well (thanks to a 60's song by The Byrds) so I've only highlighted some of the verses:

" 1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven,

2 A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, . . .

4 A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, . . .

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. . . .

14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing can be taken from it. God does it so men will revere him."

Ecclesiastes 3:1,2,4,11,14, NIV

So as I ponder these verses, I remember my promise to Daniel that God will make the grass green again. I don't make promises to my children unless I am certain that I can keep them. But unless we have some unfortunate fungus or disaster on our lawn (which is highly possible), I know I can promise Daniel that God will paint the world green in the coming months. And yet, there have been winters in my life that I was so broken, I wasn't sure if spring would ever come. But it did . . . because God is faithful.

The song for today wasn't originally the one I had planned. I had picked another song by Nichole Nordeman and pulled it up last night to listen to it again and select a scripture. And then I saw the song titled "Every Season." I had heard it before, but at a time that apparently my heart wasn't as thirsty for the words. The lyrics so beautifully said what I had been thinking last week and I hope they touch you as well. (Before you watch the video, pause the playlist at the bottom of my blog so you won't hear both music at the same time.)

Whatever season you find yourself in right now, remember that "He has made everything beautiful in its time." The earth will thaw, the grass will green. Mourning will end, joy will return. And this . . . I can promise.

Gratefully His,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Beauty of Winter

Out of the four seasons, winter is my least favorite . . . . by a lot. Once Christmas is over, I'm ready for spring. The fun of New Year's and Valentine's Day help me tolerate a few more weeks of winter, but by mid-February I'm ready to shoot a groundhog.

For me, winter represents the end. The end of flowers blooming and birds singing. The air is cold, the sky is gray, the trees are bare, the world is dormant. But lately I've learned to appreciate the winters in our lives--a lesson taught to me by a little boy named Daniel and a grown man named Tom.

You see, we adopted a son whose life had been divided into only two seasons (literally and figuratively)--rainy and not rainy. Living in Guatemala, they don't have the changes in seasons like we do. Daniel has never seen the first flower of spring announce that winter is over. Or rolled on freshly cut grass on a hot summer day. Or witnessed autumn leaves turn the color of precious jewels. Or watched winter winds lull nature to sleep.

He has had nine years of rain--precipitation of longing and loneliness. Not that he has never known sunshine--he has told us about happy memories from his time at the orphanage, but the clouds were always there because his heart longed for a family.

Thus, we have sunshine living in our home. (He has been nicknamed "Sunny-D"--like the juice--by his siblings.) It's hard to complain about winter blahs when you've got a kid experiencing the first springtime of his life in 30 degree temps. A child that was dormant is now sprouting new life. And there are so many buds on this little tree that when he is in full bloom, it will be a sight to behold.

We got a real snowfall last weekend--about 3 to 4 inches! I know this is merely dandruff to you Northerners, but this kind of snow is a big deal in Georgia.

My kids danced in it till their heads looked like snow cones.

They tasted it,

rode downhill on it,

built a snowman,

and savored every minute of the iced manna from heaven. They were certainly good PR for winter's bad reputation.

A few weeks ago we found out that a dear friend from our church had cancer. His prognosis went from bad to devastating . . . we were heartbroken to learn he only had weeks to live. Those who love him were surely feeling like our friend had had pages ripped out of the calendar of his life. I thought, "It's not time for this season of his life. What happened to autumn? How can it be winter already?!!"

Friday night my heart was heavy about our friend Tom. I looked out the window at our yard in the moonlight. A fresh delivery of snow had erased little footprints and it was a perfect blanket of white. Pure. Breathtaking. Awe-inspiring. It reminded me that there can be great beauty in the midst of winter.

If you've ever had the privilege of being with a loved one as they prepare to meet their Creator, you understand. It's a snowfall of faith, courage, peace and surrender. And just like it only snows in the coldest of temperatures, this level of intimacy with God seems to happen when their spirit is within reach of their Savior.

We visited our friend Tom on Sunday. I have witnessed enough winters with loved ones to recognize that Tom's winter was in full glory. He wrote in his CaringBridge journal with such wisdom and eloquence. We sat at his bedside and joked about different things, but I could tell he had gotten a glimpse of heaven's travel brochure and the things of this world were quickly becoming unimportant. He was blanketed with God's perfect peace. And just like the snow, the view was breathtaking.

Brad called me yesterday afternoon and let me know that Tom was now at the feet of Jesus. And I acted like my nine year old daughter when she woke to find her winter wonderland had melted. I cried.

Just like Ava knew the snow wouldn't last forever, I knew our time with Tom was limited. But I still wished for more. I wished I had taken more photos. I wished he could have come to church one more time. I wished I had cherished my time with him when we were teaching Sunday school together or painting dorms on mission trips. But as I learned with the passing of my mother and grandmother, if God had granted me 10 more years with them, I'd still ache for one more day.

As Ava wept last weekend that the snow was "gone, gone forever" (she's a bit dramatic . . . hmmm, I wonder where she gets it), I showed her the green tips of the daffodils peeking through the soil . . . that one gift of beauty was being exchanged for another. Just like the loss of a loved one is replaced with the legacy of their lives.

So today, I'm not impatiently awaiting spring. I'm celebrating winter. And I'm rejoicing in the life of my mural-painting, wise-cracking, preschool-teaching, facilities-organizing, creative-cartooning, people-caring, Christ-serving friend.

This photo is of Tom sketching out his plans to paint a mural of a castle.

And this is the finished masterpiece on the wall of a little girls' dorm at a children's home in Guatemala.

And yesterday the masterpiece known as Tom Carpenter was completed. And the Artist who sketched out the beautiful plan for his life surely said, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

With Love,

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day/Sunday Dinner: John 3:16--"So In Love"

We've had a wonderful Valentine's Day weekend and I hope you all have as well. It was so special because it was Daniel's first Valentine's Day at home and he loved every heart-shaped pancake and every silly decoration we have around here. He was so super excited about today that I kept reminding him that this wasn't Christmas (although the stores seem to indicate otherwise). I did have a little bag of goodies for each child and he was so appreciative as always.

The kids spent a long time making Valentine's for each other. I was exiled from the kitchen as the kids worked on their "top secret" creations. Daniel came to my room to tell me I could come back downstairs and said, "I worked the most on your card, Mama. I hope you like it very much." I was just overwhelmed with his love for me (and my love for him) and hugged him right there and with tears said, "Thank you, God, for giving us Daniel!" Oh, I'm still so grateful that he is finally home. I can't imagine life without him.

I have many sweet pics from our day, but the kiddos went to bed before I had a chance to get them approved. (I promised my family that I wouldn't post pics without their permission first.)
But I know Daniel won't mind this one of the two of us with one of his cards to me.

And Ava won't mind this one with me holding a huge heart that all the kids worked on together.

Regarding Sunday dinner, perhaps the world's best love note ever written is:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16

Dessert for the day is "So In Love" by Jeremy Camp. It's a sweet song that gives thanks and praise to the One who loves us so. If there was a Heavenly Father section at Hallmark, I'd probably purchase a card with these lyrics to give to God.

I wrote a post a few months ago called "Loved to Pieces." For those of you who may not have read it . . . it's a different kind of love story. May it remind you just how much you are loved.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Funny Valentine

I have a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day. And considering this is a day set aside for expressing love, I’m sorry to admit that many years have been heavy on the hate.

Maybe it’s because of society-imposed expectations of what this day represents and how it should be celebrated. In a world that often seems divided into the Haves and Have-nots, on February 14 it can seem these categories have been renamed Loved and Unloved. But I was lucky to learn an important Valentine’s lesson early in life.

I must preface my story by letting you know that as a ninth grader I was two feet taller than any boy in my class and weighed less than a small domestic dog--and most of those pounds belonged to my hair. (It was the 80’s and I grew up in a city known for its humidity--you do the math.) I had taken terms like “awkward phase,” “really bad perm,” and “self-esteem issues” to new levels. That was the year someone suggested that by spray-painting myself green, I could trick-or-treat as a stalk of broccoli. But it wasn’t until that fateful February day that I felt like a character from a Judy Blume novel.

The student government at my high school had an annual fundraiser. They would take orders for carnations in white, pink, and red and on V-day deliver them to the fortunate recipients during morning classes. I didn’t think much of it when the first flowers arrived and ignored the giggles of the girls reading the attached construction paper cards from their prince charmings and “best buds 4 ever.” But soon I realized that I was the only girl in the class who hadn’t gotten a flower. (Even some boys had gotten them!)

Like listening to kernels of popcorn in a microwave, I knew that as the flurry of flower delivery slowed down they had almost finished distribution. In ten minutes the bell would ring and I would have to navigate the halls of flower laden girls empty-handed.

But then the classroom door opened and a delivery girl walked in. It seemed she was coming toward me, although I wasn’t sure because--thanks to the hair--I had very little peripheral vision. My heart raced as inside I was praying, “Please, God, let it be for me.” And then . . . prayers were answered, angels sang, and all was right with the world as she tapped my shoulder and handed me the most beautiful pink carnation a dollar ever bought.

I slowly looked down at the attached card--dying to know who had sent it--yet not wanting to look like I cared. And then I read simple words that I’ve carried with me for the rest of my life: “Thanks for being my little sister. I love you.”

It was quite a shock, because the sentiment usually coming from my sister’s mouth was along the lines of, “Get out of my room!” She was a senior that year and perhaps she remembered what it was like to be a freshman of my make and model. But I doubt when she wrote that card she knew how much those words would make me feel valued or how “I love you” could erase insecurity. And it wasn’t because I had joined the ranks of those who had flowers, but because I had joined the ranks of those she loved. And I must say that my dear big sis is one of God's greatest blessings in my life today.

So what’s the moral of the story? That flowers have always been overpriced or that a woman nearing 40 should really let go of things that happened in high school? Although, yes, these are valid answers, I think the real lesson is that sweethearts come in a number of varieties and that Valentine’s Day not only celebrates love between lovers, but also love between friends.

Over the years I’ve tasted a Whitman’s Sampler of Valentine’s Days. Thanks to my husband, I’ve had my share of candlelit dinners, sweet-smelling bouquets, and love letters that make me forget I was ever in the ninth grade. And, thanks to my children, I’ve gotten handmade cards, sticky hugs and kisses and living examples of unconditional love. But, thanks to family and friends, I’ve learned that the love of a friend can get you through the semi-sweet years and make the good years even sweeter.

So this year if you find yourself the “older sister” to a little girl with big hair (or a big boy who is losing his), send a card, make a phone call, or give a hug and say, “Thanks for being my . . . sister, brother, mother, father, grandchild, daughter, son, neighbor, friend. I love you.” Because on Valentine’s Day there should be only one category of people. And that is Loved.

With Love,

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cute Shirts/Great Cause


Okay, a daughter with a 7th grade science fair project kind of derailed my plans to post a "love" story today, but I do have a minute to let you know about this great new tee from the gals at Wild Olive Tees to benefit the people of Haiti. You can get a peek of the new Hope tee here and read the details of a giveaway they are doing to get the word out.

Can you tell I love Wild Olive tees? (Half my side bar has their bloggy buttons.)In a world full of t-shirts with obnoxious slogans, I loved finding a site featuring shirts with scripture (and they are really beautifully designed)! Click the button above or on my sidebar to visit their website and see the great shirts they have for women and children.

The Hope tee goes on sale on the 13th and all proceeds will benefit the people of Haiti. My heart is heavy reading about this next wave of devastation from sickness and starvation. Prayer and support are needed more than ever for this country in crisis. Anyway, just thought I'd share about this cute shirt for a great cause.

Happy Wednesday,

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tips on Tuesday: Making Loved Ones Feel Loved

Thanks so much to those of you who took the time to share your great ideas!!! I just love hearing what other people are doing to make those around them feel loved.

Sorry I'm posting so late in the day. We have a "no screens till noon" policy for the boys so they will focus on their schoolwork without distraction. Unfortunately they like to see me keep the same rule by keeping the computer and TV off, too. Sometimes I sneak a quick look at my e-mails but it doesn't give me much time to post. So perhaps this should be called Tips on Tuesday Night After Homework, Dinner, and Bathtime.

The following idea is from a mom with one young son who also cares for a girl and her siblings(who live with their grandmother) that she met through the big brothers/big sisters program.
"We have some kids that we minister to each week who seem like part of our family. We met them through the big brothers/big sisters program. We are matched with Hannah and have since fallen in love with all four of the kids. Hannah spends a few nights each week at our house and we feel like she is just one of our family. For Hannah what we have done in the past is the night before Valentine's Day, we make cookies or cupcakes together that are love themed. Then we eat them while we write out her valentines cards for school. Then the morning of, we leave the sweetheart candies with messages on the stairs for her to find when she comes down that morning and then we have a little v-day stuffed animal waiting for her and we eat heart shaped pancakes for breakfast with strawberries on top.

She often gets left out of things at school that the other kids have parents for and a lot of parents send things to be delivered to the class so I always surprise her by taking a gift bag with little candies and a card and some sort of cheap necklace or something special to be delivered to her room. Her teachers have said that she just lights up and soaks up the chance to "show off" what her family did for her like the other kids get to. That night we always spend as a family and she LOVES to hear us "tell our story" of how my husband and I fell in love. This year we will incorporate our son into all of this now since he is finally old enough to kind of understand.

My husband and I also do a scavenger hunt with each other. He always has little love notes hidden around the house with some sort of clues and then I find them and there is always a sweet love letter he has written me." Teri from Florida, at The Delucca Family (a precious blog about a sweet family with a lot of love)

This tip was shared by a writer of a cute blog that makes me miss being 20-something and a newlywed (*sigh*):
"For me, heartfelt words can go much further than anything else. My husband and I still write 'love notes' to one another, and these never fail to put a smile on my face. I'd rather have a genuine note from my husband than flowers and chocolate any day!" Meg at My So-Called Blog

The following was shared by a blogger who had a recent post full of ideas called 100 Ways to Make Your Husband Feel Loved. I share a few of my favorites below but check out the whole post for many more:
"Warm a towel for him while he’s in the shower, so a hot towel is waiting for him instead of a cold bathroom.

Play footsie – dinner time can often be crowd control from opposite sides of the table. If you can’t play footsie, maybe sit next to each other if that is usual for you.

Pick a book that interests both of you and take turns reading to each other.

Give him a long foot rub.

Play 'your song' or other sappy songs that remind you of your early days together.

Take a 'kissy' picture together! Our pictures are from our wedding, we need new 'together' ones!"
From Quirky Mama at Quirky Momma--Activities for Kids, Tips for Moms

"Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays. Even though my kids are grown, I still give them a Valentine, usually something little that I know they really like and Chuck will get his fav dessert made, rice pudding. I always send my mom a Valentines card and I always make cutout Valentine's cookies. I've been seeing some GREAT ideas on these blogs. I will be making my grandson a Valentines Ginger bread train and hopefully will take a picture to I'd better get busy baking." Karen at Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and the Things that Make Up Days

We do some things that I'm sure many of the rest of you also do. We have "Daddy/Mommy Dates" where one of us will take one child somewhere of their choosing for one-on-one time. Sometimes it's breakfast with Dad, horseback riding with Mom, swimming at an indoor pool with Dad, pottery making with Mom. You get the idea. Of all the things we do with our kids, I think perhaps these "dates" will be what our children remember the most. Brad and I also try to have a date night with each other on a regular basis.

Like others mentioned above, we also write notes to each other. I hide them in places from lunchboxes to pillowcases, in their basket of clean-folded laundry or in their school lockers. Be creative with your little "love note" deliveries. I've even hidden them in shoes, in drawers, in coat pockets, in school books, under dinner plates. I buy cute stationary and notepads when I find them. I'm going to stock up on Valentine's cards after V-Day for the boys and use them throughout the year by scratching out the word "Valentine" and replacing with "Superson" Day. (They won't mind the editing because they will be too excited to see Spiderman.)

Our winner of our Valentine goodie drawing is Teri. (Teri, can you e-mail your address and I'll send it to you.) Happy Valentine's week to all of you!

With Love,

Monday, February 8, 2010

Surrounded with Sweetness

This was our candy candle a week ago.

And this is it now.

Hmmm. I think some little hands have been sampling the decor.

I've got some "love " stories to share this week as we celebrate Valentine's Day, but first I need your ideas for making those who are special to you feel loved. Do you have a special tradition or idea for showing how much you cherish others? Do you have something special you do at the dinner table or at bedtime, something fun that you do for birthdays or Valentine's Day or any day? If so, comment below or e-mail your ideas at Your name will be entered into a drawing for a Valentine goodie for each idea given. Ideas will be shared tomorrow on Tips on Tuesday.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Psalm 36:5-7--"Your Love Oh Lord"

We just got in from a special evening with dear friends. It wasn't a typical setting for a Super Bowl party--it was in the lobby of a hospital. Our dear friend Tom is in the hospital due to complications from advanced cancer. The hospital staff graciously moved his bed to a private lobby area and a large gathering of folks brought food and love. We love you, Tom, and we're praying for you!

Since this is Valentine's week I thought I'd share one of my favorite scriptures on love.

"Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.

Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O Lord, you preserve both man and beast.

How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings."

Psalm 36:5-7

The other day I was looking through some photos of the first time I met Daniel. I wished that I could travel back in time and relive that day again. You see, when I met him he was a stranger. I didn't know how funny he would be, how compassionate he is, what joy he would add to our lives, how much I would love him. I wish I could meet him again for the first time, but this time fully knowing who he is. And I'd like to rewind life to meet my other three for the first time again, too. When they were born they were tiny strangers. I had no idea what their personalities would be like, what talents they would develop, what a gift they would be in our lives. And I'm sure when they are grown, I'll wish I could relive these younger days even more than I do know. It would be fun to see all four as little sprouts knowing what the flower in full bloom would someday be.

I guess that's why it's neat to think that our Creator has loved us from our very first heartbeat already knowing who we are at our very last breath. In three different verses in Psalms, David mentions how God's love for us reaches to the heavens. Although I feel that I can describe my love for my children as "reaching to the heavens", I know that's probably still but a fraction of the love God has for us. It's a humbling thought. How grateful I am for His love for us.

Tonight's song is simply Psalm 36:5-7 put to music. It's Third Day's beautiful "Your Love Oh Lord." An oldie but goodie. (I've also moved up on my playlist a two favorite songs about love that I posted a while back.) In the coming week, may you remember just how much you're loved by your Creator.

Gratefully His,

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Trusting the Gift-Giver: Lessons from the Suitcase

Sunday's post was about prayer. Today I thought I'd share a little story that made me think differently about the things I pray for and how God answers. (This goes under the "Lessons from the . . ." series.) By the way, the photo above was taken this morning. Brad just returned from a business trip and the bedhead brothers were playing in his suitcase. They're too cute together.

I must preface this story by sharing that my dear sister last week said I gave her "emotional whiplash" because first she read Monday's funny post, then Sunday's sentimental post. She politely asked for some kind of warning in the future so I wouldn't leave her a hysterical mess as she started her day. Thus, I'll try to give a heads up if Kleenex is needed.

This post comes with a different warning. It may be too "female" for some male readers. My husband personally prefers to live in oblivion when it comes to female stuff which made for great fun in the delivery room and is quite entertaining to watch as his daughters go through puberty. Anyway, if any information is too much information, you might want to skip this one.

Quick background. We visited Daniel in Guatemala A LOT over our two and a half year adoption. (I think 16 times was our total.) Each time we had suitcases packed with goodies for him and other children at his orphanage. Usually I'd bring my personal belongings in my carry-on so I could take as much as possible to the kids. But when I arrived in Guatemala the day after Thanksgiving, I knew I might be there a while trying to finish our adoption and actually packed some of my own things in the Sampsonite treasure chest.

When we got to our hotel, Daniel excitedly opened the suitcases looking for treats. Unfortunately I had packed some feminine products that to my embarrassment he found before I had a chance to stash them. He saw the box of goodies beautifully wrapped in individual packaging and just knew it was something yummy. He begged for one. I told him that they were mine. He whined and pouted and begged some more. "Please!!!! Can I at least have one after dinner?"

I wasn't sure how to handle this. I could explain what these items were and scar him for life and he'd end up like his dad afraid to catch an accidental glimpse of his daughter's open purse or come within 10 feet of her bathroom.

I looked him in the eyes and as sincerely as I could muster said, "Daniel, sometimes I'm going to have to tell you no. And sometimes you're not going to understand why. At those times I need you to trust me that I know what's best. This is one of those times."

To my relief he put the "treats" down and said, "Okay."

After he went to bed that night, I reflected on what had happened. I wondered if God was trying to teach me something. You see, I had gone to Guatemala with one purpose . . . bringing Daniel home. And in my determination, I wasn't factoring the possibility that perhaps God had a different plan. Sitting before me was a gift that was perfectly packaged--a precious little boy coming home for his first Christmas. Why on earth would God not grant me that gift? But then I remembered "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" (Isaiah 55:8, NIV).

Although I am instructed to "make my requests known" and "pray fervently", I also rest in knowing that if God tells me no, I must trust that His plan is perfect. As I chewed on those thoughts I got an e-mail from my attorney letting me know that there was an error on our certifications that would delay things a week. It was the first of many setbacks and roadblocks that we would encounter over the next six weeks. I needed the reminder that day to surrender to whatever God had planned--without whining, pouting, or questioning.

You know that the ending of this story and the answer to that prayer was to have Daniel home on Christmas Eve, but there have been times that I've prayed and begged and pleaded with God for something and the answer was no. I prayed for my mother to be healed of her cancer. I saw this gift with perfect packaging and thought of how much glory it would bring to God if he spared her life. I prayed for God to spare our Baby Luke's life. To breathe new life into our baby in the womb and bring others to understanding God's power. But God simply said, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9, NIV).

So on that day last November, I replayed my words to Daniel, "Sometimes I'm going to have to tell you no. And sometimes you're not going to understand why. At those times I need you to trust that I know what's best. This is one of those times." And I realized I needed to lay my perfectly packaged wants on the altar and just say, "Okay."

Some day I'll tell Daniel the story of the forbidden goodies and he will turn all shades of red and laugh at how badly he wanted those feminine products. And some day I'll get to heaven and I'll feel foolish for wanting something so badly when God had a plan that was so much better.

From One Imperfectly Packaged Feminine Product,

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Taming of the Do

Sometimes I feel I get too serious on my blog so I'm going to try to add more "just for fun" posts to lighten things up. At Once Upon a Miracle they do something called True Story Tuesday. So I decided to join their fun by telling a true (yet humbling) story. Click the bloggy button below and enjoy some other true tales.

To the untrained eye, it looked like I had an easy day ahead. It was a Saturday morning and I was out on good behavior. (Translation: my husband was watching the kids so I could get a haircut.)

“Haircut” sounds innocent so it’s important that you understand why these periodic groomings are less about personal beautification and more for public service. I have that kind of hair that elicits questions like, “Were you in an accident?” And, regardless of the price of the haircut (and I’m always billed by the hour), my hair only does one style--the Bride of Frankenstein. Thus considering the discomfort and humiliation that comes with getting my hair done, I’d rather get my pampering at the gynecologist.

But that day I had a new stylist not yet hardened by the reality of unmanageable hair. She worked feverishly cutting, blowing, ironing and spraying. And then she spun the chair around for me to behold her work and for the first time in my life my hair didn’t look nervous and confused.

I knew my hairy godmother had waved her magic straightening wand and at the stroke of midnight (or when I attempted to style it myself) I would once again look like I had been electrocuted. This hair was too pretty to waste on cleaning the shower, so I decided to run some errands on the way home.

I visited the dry cleaners, the grocery store, a gift shop . . . every possible stop except the gas station (because with all the hair products I was highly flammable). But instead of the usual smiles and hellos, clerks and customers were staring and children were pointing. I figured they were surprised to see me on a humid day when my mane wasn’t eclipsing the sun. But when I got back in my car and glanced into my rearview mirror, I discovered why being near-sighted and brunette is a lethal combination.

Apparently during my Extreme Hair Makeover, I had grown a full beard. Yes, my stylist had accidentally polyurethaned to my face the two inch hair remnants that usually end up on the salon floor. And I’m not talking about a light dusting. I had enough unusual facial hair to be one of the Backstreet Boys.

It’s during these adventures in Humiliation Land that you have a few choices: laugh, cry, or move far, far away. As I sat alone in my mom-mobile, I laughed until I was doubled over and tickling my knees with the hair on my chinny-chin-chin.

Blackbeard the Mommy returned home to Dad worn out from six games of Pretty Pretty Princess and a Fisher Price doctor’s exam that would horrify the medical community. I was greated with "thank God you're home" and a chorus of "mommy!" Hubs and cherubs told me that my hair looked beautiful and my face looked, ummm, fluffy. Although “post-animal shelter” was not the look I was going for, I was grateful to be home surrounded by people who love me--whiskers and all.

Wearing a Baseball Cap,