A Warm Shout of Thanks And Love To Ann! {A Testimony of 1,000 Gifts}

In cold February when I first heard of Ann, it was through the trailer to her book–they showed the video at my little church. I only heard her voice and her poetry, and that was all I needed to hear. I was floored by her words, them digging up my soul from the grave and screaming, “Awaken!” They moved me, the think, muddy waters of me, and they soaked the parched ground of my spirit. And something else began to trickle–love.

My heart began to bleed and I began to weep tears and it began to stream into rivers of life.

At the time I was in school full-time online, while being a mommy to four and a wife to one amazing man. I had suffered with post-partum depression, anxiety and migraines after the birth of my fourth child. Being in school compounded this, and stress took over my body.

I began having fibromyalgia symptoms (a stress disorder) and the illness took an ugly turn, getting worse and worse. The insomnia worsened and I began to have paranoia. The anxiety episodes came to the point I could no longer attend church.

I was not able to take care of my children the way I desperately wanted to mother them, just desperately wanting to cradle them, to read to them, bake with them, to read devotions to them. The illness has at times had me isolated and closed off to my family–even to my sweet baby, for which I felt awfully guilty. I had to quit school because the stress and the illness came to the point that I was having severe pain and could not continue.

This was around the time I began reading Ann’s blog, A Holy ExperienceI was on a path of my own and God showed me I was headed the wrong direction. He showed me that my desires to raise my girls were placed there by Him, and that I did not have to give that up in order to pursue school and a career so that my family would not starve. He showed me that I was pursuing things out of fear and that I had to trust Him for His will for me and my family–even though I thought that I was pursuing these things for the love of my family and to help my husband.

My heart had hardened to my family and all the dreams of motherhood I really longed for–I had to bury all of these hopes and dreams in pursuit of a career–it is not so easy to switch paths–it takes a softening and pounding of the heart, a tenderizing of tough, calloused meat. So now, here I am. I began reading One Thousand Gifts and bathed myself in and drank in the words of deep communion and gratefulness to God.

This book changed my heart and life forever!

I continued reading the words on her blog. The first post I ever read was about a horn she hung on a wall to remind herself to be happy and to share joy with others.

Her joy intrigued me–I wanted to know more–the Farmer she called him, outside in the yard and her in the house, him laughing and her smiling, him honking at her from the truck. Yes, I wanted this joy.

I also read the one about when the Farmer came to put gas in her van on the snow-packed country road, and it impacted me, the way she didn’t expect him to do these things, but she humbly recognized them as gifts. I needed this.

And she wrote this: “…he’s drawn it all close, and smiled when she’s created and nodded for her to go and said no to any performing and yes to just being.” I knew this was the way my Husband loved me too, and I knew we were headed down this Christ-love marriage road and I saw hope on the horizon.

I read the post called How To Fall In Love All Over Again In 4 Minutes A Day–a profound post–the intimacy between them–the way he tells her to believe him when he tells her she is beautiful–like Christ and the church–I had to know more.

These posts touched me deeply. There have been times that Husband and I have read together, tears streaming down faces. It is because of Ann’s writing–because of her family and the way they live–that we now read the bible at supper each night. This is a remarkable, sweet, sweet change for our family–oh the mercies and grace of God!

As these writings began to bring not only lasting change to my heart, but to my family’s as well, I also began counting my own gifts. I began naming them. You can see my first list here.

This naming, there was a mystery to it–a naming of gifts given that otherwise would go completely unnoticed, unaccounted for, and without having given thanks for.

It was in this continual giving of thanks everyday–not only in counting the beautiful gifts, but in counting the hard eucharisteos–eucharisteo meaning hard thanks, the kind of thanks to God that comes in hard trials and circumstances that we didn’t want to come our way–that my heart really began to change.

The book opened up new doors for me to go through that I had never thought of before, never known they existed. But the habit of writing down my thanks to God for gifts made the walking through doors possible. And the more I write it down, the easier it is to walk through the doors of freedom into joy.

This has been healing to me, has brought me through and I can finally see the other side–all this light to dance in like crazy!

Starting today, I will be tweeting my three gifts a day as a part of the Joy Dare. I have been taking part in the Joy Dare, but am behind in doing it everyday, so I would like to tweet it everyday to keep me accountable to keeping up with it. I believe this will be another turning point for me. To follow my Joy-Dare tweets, just click on the little link in the side-bar!

Would you like to take part in the JOY DARE? Click HERE to read about it with gorgeous free printable from Ann!

3 gifts that were surprises…unexpected grace!…
#563 red Valentine heart full of chocolates from my Sweetheart
#564 a phone call from a very close friend and the prayer that changed everything–healing!
#565 Granny and Granddaddy bringing pizza, drinks and ice cream for everyone–such givers

3 times you heard laughter today…
#566 my older girls being silly, and the way she puts her hand to her mouth and giggles, eyes lighting up like jewels
#567 when she shared her life with me as we ran and we laughed freely
#568 Husband and I laughing together at silly things–commercials, our own antics and movie-quoting

3 gifts found in working…
#569 the beauty of the yard when it’s cleaned up and raked
#570 that home really can be a safe haven of peace and this is the reward of my efforts
#571 a breeze blowing in through kitchen window I had a hard time raising

3 hard eucharisteos…
#572 waiting so long for our vehicle, cooped up all winter, not able to attend any homeschooling outings, knowing God is working the finances out for the right timing
#573 the hard work of relationships–the beauty that unfolds in my toiling and giving and in others for me
#574 losing friendships that once had their moment of shining brilliance, lost as to why this has to be, and so thankful for the ones who are loyal to me through all of my flaws

3 gifts found behind a door today…
#575 Granny and Granddaddy driving out for a visit because they miss their great-grandbabies and watching them for just a couple hours while Daddy and Mama get out for a little breather–the bond that can’t keep family away
#576 when I’m typing, little one peeking around the door every so slowly, her inquisitive two-year old eyes
#577 a door opening for my Father in the form of a job with the state, teaching, after 30+ years of self-employment–the first time in his life he will have insurance and retirement–comfort for his aging body

3 ways I feel the love of God…
#578 Husband’s tireless taking care of me and the girls everyday. His endless giving.
#579 A friend shining beautiful for Jesus calling to tell me that God said I am to write a book–I whisper this thanks hesitantly
#580 A friend only just met online offering schooling books for us to use for free! Extravagant grace! Thanks through tears!

a gift in losing something, in finding something, in making something…
#581 losing my pride, taking a love-risk and reaching out when I’ve been hurt
#582 finding the cover to my camera lens–Praise God!–this is the way I love to record my gifts!
#583 making Valentine’s treats with the girls–oh delightful fun!

**All of us passing illness around here…using tissue like it was air and sipping hot tea. I will do my best to answer your kind comments and hopefully I will be able to write more later this week. If not, I will see you, friends, next week! Getting sick, though I never get sick, maybe God’s way of slowing me down?

If you enjoyed this post at all, and think someone else might as well, would you consider sharing in one of the ways below? {two ways to do this–at the top of the comment section and here:}

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Join me at Ann’s for a Joy Dare, and counting our gifts and graces from God?

To All Homes Trying To Stay AFloat–A Call To Love {Ideas for The Weekend}

To all  homes trying to stay afloat, to all lonely, worn and frazzled mothers looking for a lifeline, and the floundering ones like us who search for how to do what’s really important with our time, looking for the lighthouse that guides the way home, this is a call to love, a cry for joy in pursuit of Him… 

Around here it’s Saturday morning breakfast around the table and it’s little hands grabbing cinnamon rolls and laughter.

Around here we do weekends of everyone helping out in the yard and the sun and working hard is what gets the energy flowing…

In this sacred place we watch kids in rainboots jump and splash in water puddles and it’s picnics under the shade tree….

It’s remembering weekends of horse-riding with Daddy as a little girl and Papa taking my little girls and teaching them to ride.

On this holy ground we play tag, all six of us and it’s bonfires and late nights watching movies…

Around here we do pizza night and Husband paints on canvas and it’s little girls listening as Daddy teaches art…

Here it’s church on Sunday morning, clothes laid out the night before, and a Southern homemade lunch at Granny’s, and sometimes it’s staying home to just do Sabbath rest …

Around here it’s moving past lost time and broken opportunities and it’s accepting the gift of now and the grace of the unfolding of each new day’s promise…

I pray your weekend is full of gifts and His grace…

If you enjoyed this post at all, and think someone else might as well, would you consider sharing in one of the ways below? {two ways to do this–at the top of the comment section and here:}

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Grit {Five Minute Friday}

For Five Minute Fridays, we link up with Gypsy Mama, Lisa-Jo, and write for only five minutes, just for the fun of it, no tedious editing or over-thinking!


                            {thanks to my sister, @ Tri Junkie, for sending the picture} 

It takes grit to do what I do, to be a Mama to four, to rise above my circumstances, my past, my illness and stay strong.

It takes a grit that comes from my grandmother and my father. He says I’m just like my grandmother, but I never knew her. I wish I had.

I would have had a lot of questions for her, like where did she get her grit? How did she stay strong through the beatings and raise three sons, watching one die in her arms, just three? How did she get through that?

What kind of grit did it take for her to rise each morning with a song? How did she find the courage to wake her boys early every single day and say, “Up and at ’em!”

I want that kind of grit.

I have an idea what she might say.

I get the feeling in my gut, because her and I think so much alike, that she would have said she got her grit from God.

She was an evangelist, a very good one. Her bible was worn, her hymnal music sheets tattered from loving use. I’m sure her knees were too.

That’s the kind of grit I’m talking about.


Join me over at Lisa-Jo’s for more “writing like we can fly”………this is going to be FUN!

Maybe An Epic Fast Fail Is Really Doing It’s Most Important Work? {What To Do When We Fall Short}

I don’t eat anything at lunch except a pulsed, whirled-together berry and banana juice–nothing added. I speak a couple prayers out loud to God for friends sick and in need. The afternoon stetches out long, and as I’m getting ready to go run, the stomach churns.

I raise my voice at my daughter, exasperated at all that needs to be done and what little time and I can’t even eat anything. My head pounds and I go to the cupboard–medicine? But knowing what the headache craves I head toward the fridge, pull out a yogurt, and leave it sitting on the counter and decide on nothing for the slamming pain.

Maybe fasting is not doing it’s job–it is so obvious to me that I’m not very holy.

Quickly brushing Husband’s lips when he walks in the door, my kiss half lands on air and half lands on him in my great rush. He leans towards me for a hug and I dart in and back out, and dash into the laundry for my shirt.

I cannot be late.

As I run around the house, throwing on tennis shoes, flinging on a hoodie, words snap harsh at Husband and the air weighs heavy. “Love you!” I call, but the words seem to fall dead. I run to the door with a quick, “Bye!”

Then Ivy jumps up off the couch and runs over to me, “Mama!” She lands into me with one of her special hugs, so soft, slowing me down.

I tilt her chin, look into her eyes, and tell her, “Mama is sorry for fussing at you, ok? I’m sorry I got angry. But I need you to obey me, alright?”

She nods, her face full of emotion, and it strikes me that she looks up at me with full submission, her body leaning into me vulnerable, the way I should look to God. “I love you, baby.” I squeeze her again.

I jump in my husband’s red car, and as I pull out the drive and head down the road, then make the right onto the highway, and whir past the brick houses, past the daffodils happily fencing in yards, I feel a little like I’m trying to catch up with myself–a little dizzy.

It’s not until I pull onto the interstate that I realize the need to phone Husband to say I’m sorry.

On his end, it’s obvious in his voice, he is tired, having come home from work, our little ones hanging on him. He says he’s sorry too. But I can feel the weight in his voice, the weight of what I’ve done.

My friend and I run and she talks to me and I tell her I will pray, that I’m by her side. We run in the night and I tell her that I’m not going anywhere, no matter what she decides. In the darkness we hug. I feel like a hypocrite. I yearn to get home to them.

In the dark, I walk up the concrete side-door steps and let out a coming home exhale. Opening the door after a grueling 4 mile run on hilly terrain, the smell of roast and vegetables that I cooked in the crockpot earlier in the afternoon hits my senses full and my stomach lurches, my mouth winces sour.

I know what the articles on running say: always eat protein right away so that the muscles can repair themselves and have full functionality.

But I choose the spiritual benefits–at least for now. I let Husband fix the plates and stay away. He laughs at my pained expression, my determination. He shoos me away so I’m not tempted.

I allow myself an apple and hot tea at bedtime and I still get in bed with stomach aching and body shaky. I lie there thinking I know how I messed up today, not eating any protein, being snappy and yelling at my family.

I ache in so many ways, a hollow ache not just from lack of real sustenance, but this is a different kind of dulling pain–the pang of feeling deeply all I lack, how I create waves of throbbing hurt in the wake of my thrashing.

The deprivation of physical food is glaring at me my need for spiritual food. I didn’t realize I was starving.

I cuddle up to Husband and I tell him I’m sorry I was so awful, that I love him, and he exhales and sleepily says “I love you,” and this calms me. I try to settle my body and go to sleep, but my sugar level does loopy things, the body rattles head to toe, and the mind races and as the clock silently ticks closer and closer to midnight, I finally decide that sleep is more important than anything at this point, {my children need their Mama to get sleep, trust me!}.

In the kitchen, where I give into my flesh and satisfy it, I feel guilty–guilty for needing food so badly.

So, I have failed at fasting–completely and utterly failed.

In the dark, always the dark, I lie there, stomach satisfied and wonder if God can help me, sin-filled me, craving-this world-me.

I ask myself which I crave more, the physical things that satisfy or God.

Ashamedly, I come to Him, face lifted up, submissive, my body wholly leaning into Him vulnerable. I can’t do any of it without You. 

The next morning I wake and have a text from my friend reminding me that she needs prayer. This makes me smile–maybe all is not lost.

Tuned a little more acutely to God now, my heart asks how I can follow Him today, how I can worship best today, serve my family ’til the edges are worn soft, pray for friends and family with sincerity as if it were me going through their trial.

I give all my guilt and shame and failure to Him. He accepts me with open arms, and I fall into His grace, the only thing that rescues.

Maybe, just maybe, the most important work has truly been done.

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to your from the forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. ” 1 Peter 1:13-19, emphasis added

“But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgement followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:15-17, emphasis added

A few quotes by Piper on grace and our need to drink in God…

“Grace is the pleasure of God to magnify the worth of God by giving sinners the right and power to delight in God without obscuring the glory of God.”

― John Piper

“If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”

― John Piper, A Hunger For God

“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night.”

― John Piper, Hunger for God

 “The only answer in these modern times, as in all other times, is the blood of Christ. When our conscience rises up and condemns us, where will we turn? We turn to Christ. We turn to the suffering and death of Christ—the blood of Christ. This is the only cleansing agent in the universe that can give the conscience relief in life and peace in death.”

 ― John Piper, Passion of Jesus Christ 

Very convicting and nourishing to my soul, friends. What about you? Do you struggle with spiritual disciplines? Have you ever fasted and if so, what was your experience? I’d like to hear your thoughts!

A song that captivates me, reminds me of God’s love…maybe you need reminding, too?…

If you enjoyed this post at all, and think someone else might as well, would you consider sharing in one of the ways below? {two ways to do this–at the top of the comment section and here:}

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Join me at Ann’s for more reflections on fasting, what it looks like and how it moves us toward God?….

In the Middle of A Winter Season…

In the middle of winter’s bleak grayness and dark, the sun withholding, snuggling on the couch with my girls trying to stay warm, bundled up with hand-crotched quilts made with love, I day dream of escape.

As they run around and around the house screaming, me trying to keep them calm and failing, the world outside too dreary for them to enjoy and my head suffering the consequences, I look at pictures of places warm and carefree and I wish desperately.

I’m caught up in this negative frame of mind that says it will never get better, I’ll never have a moment’s peace, these children here since the day we got married–this sleepless chaos all I know.

I am in deep love with all my babies, but with each new baby, came more responsibility, more weight on our marriage, nights sitting up feeding and rocking, nights and nights of Mama not sleeping for years on end, and with noone to keep them, a small break to refresh myself rarely possible.

With each new little one came more depression and more anxiety, and though those around me said they were amazed at how I held up, I must have hid it well because what they couldn’t see was that I was breaking down inside little by little.

On the outside, I was brave and smiling, but on the inside I was a broken, hollow shell, cracked and afraid of failure.

With it all came more grating of myself and less and less chance of breaking free in flight, of pursuing the solitude that I wantingly crave, of getting normal sleep and feeling sane.

The days became like sandpaper against my selfish desires and dreams and my wishing on stars, hoping for the mountain air, reaching for beaches white and seas of sparkling jade became just candles blown out with the secret longing, only curls of smoke left in the wake of duty.

There have been times I thought that my flesh would get so torn with exhaustion and the fight to keep going that my body would go down to the deep. I have longed for Heaven and it’s wiping of tears, of sorrows and toiling no more.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this God began to whisper to my heart…”My dear child, you are not alone. I suffered too. Now you suffer with me, you drink of my cup, and this is how you know me deeply.”

                                         {old pictures of the girls playing in the snow}

And the more time that eroded self, the more their screaming demands washed down the dirt-packed high expectations of my needs, and did a cleansing of the heart and soul, running down and pooling at His feet, at the base of the cross, the louder I could hear Him uttering,

“I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”–Jesus, John 6:53-58

So in the middle of this unceasingly busy world of mine without rest and little comfort, if the cup and the bread are symbolic of my suffering with Christ, of my proclaiming His death, then everyday I am drinking down and I am partaking of the bread of suffering.

Every day that I stay here and I don’t escape and I bend low, this serving-place becomes hallowed, and the edges of me are scraped and sanded raw and I bleed and I gape open, arms stretched out, hands pierced just as my Christ was holed straight through, the obvious scars I can’t deny.

I am in deepest fellowship with Him, when I know Him intimately in His suffering.

And I know that I won’t do it perfect–I will forget, and my tongue will lash out at little ones when I am bone-tired and my mind can’t keep up with the whirl-wind.

But I press on, and moment by moment, I let Him teach me how to suffer with Him. I keep my heart soft and I remember to drink down fully of His cup and to ravish the bread of His body, because this is the only way to die to this flesh that I’m in. 

My little one comes up to me and I bend low and I stretch out arms and take her in, the edges of me becoming softer, my love for her bleeding out.

Some quotes to meditate on if you have time to read–they are very rich and stimulating to thought:

          “Suffering is getting what you do not want while wanting what you do not get.”–JI Packer

“There is no university for a Christian, like that of sorrow and trial”–CH Spurgeon

“All the children of God are destined to be conformed to Christ. The more we are afflicted with adversity, the surer we are made of our fellowship with Christ: Philippians 3:10 – 10 ‘I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5 – 4Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. 5All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.’ “–John Calvin

“He who does not know Christ does not know God hidden in suffering. Therefore, he prefers works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly. For they hate the cross and suffering and love works and the glory of works. Thus they call the good of the cross, evil and the evil of a deed, good. God can only be found in suffering and the cross.”–Martin Luther

“If the first mark of a true and living church is love, the second is suffering. The one is naturally consequent on the other. A willingness to suffer proves the genuineness of love.” –John Stott What Christ Thinks of the Church: An Exposition of Revelation 1 – 3 (Grand Rapids, Baker: 2003) 35

“I’ve never heard anyone say the really deep lessons of life have come in times of ease and comfort. But, I have heard many saints say every significant advance I’ve ever made in grasping in the depth of God’s love and growing deep with Him, have come through suffering.” –John Piper

“None of us can come to the highest maturity witout enduring the summer heat of trials:
As the sycamore fig does not ripen unless it is bruised
As the corn does not leave the husk without threshing
As the wheat makes no fine flour unless it is ground
so we are of little use until we are afflicted!” –Kimber Kauffman, pastor College Park Baptist Church, Indpls IN

“Programs, systems and methods sit well in the ivory towers of monasteries or in the wooden arms of icons. Head knowledge comes from the pages of a theology text. But the invitation to know God – truly know Him – is always an invitation to suffer. Not to suffer alone, but to suffer with Him.” –Joni Eareckson Tada

Gratitude: {since I’ve been out of the blogging community, a culmination of the past few weeks}….

a gift found at 11:30, 2:30 p, at 6:30 p…

#535 hearing my father preaching for the first time in many years
#536 all of us eating chips and dip, cookies for Sunday lunch and curling up on the couch
#537 Husband putting the children in bed while I’m lying on the couch with a migraine, him quietly telling them to leave Mama alone

#538 Lorna blending berries for my juice fast

#539 girls running around the house, squealing with delight and the thrill of their Daddy hiding and jumping out to catch them

3 gifts overheard today, all gifts…

#540 Lorna talking to her horse as she leads her to the pasture, “You should be ashamed of yourself that you step in your own poop.”
#541 Ivy’s synopsis: “Mama, don’t think of it as a green swamp; just think of it as a candyland!” –on my green juice
#542 Lorna’s “I can’t tell you, Mama, because it’s a surprise.” and her running off excited in her planning.

3 gifts found in writing…

#543 this scripture: “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring–not only to those who are of the law, but to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.” Rom. 4:16
#544 this gift listed a while back: “husband’s forgiveness in my failings reflecting God’s goodness”…yes
#545 just this post–oh the beautiful and poignant poetry Ann pulls out of her heart here!

#546 Bella’s excited announcement: “Mama, when I told Lilly ‘That’s a rag,’ she said, ‘Oh’!”

#547 When I go to pick up Lilly to change her, Bella’s four-year-old observation, “I think she smells like poopy!”

#548 When I start changing Lilly, how Bella tells me confidently, “I can do the buttons.” then “See? I can do it.” Her need to be seen as a respected individual.

#549 light from lampost rippling across the lake at night

#550 running in silence, the stillness all around me, the dark falling down, taking in deep breaths that I didn’t even realize I needed

3 gifts found when bent down…

#551 my baby’s sugary-soft cheeks
#552 beautiful white and yellow daffodils peeking out at me from deadend grass, radiant in winter

#553 heavenly laughter that makes me soar as i am bent over my baby, bodies close in taking care of her,  tickles and kisses

one gift stitched, one hammered, one woven…

#554 beautiful hand-stitched quilt of Sunbonnet Sue handed down
#555 Husband’s canvases nailed up high on wood, him painting away, happy
#556 the way our family days all weave together, tightly, God holding us together, all the messy and all the beautiful, securely held in grace

3 gifts found outside…

#557 me taking pictures of daffodils on a warm day…signs of spring coming…while Lilly runs atop stones and Husband and I laugh at her determination and tiny cuteness

#558 girls bringing me vase of miniature daffodils they picked in woods for Valentine’s Day
#559 proud blue jay flitting across the yard in his splendor

a gift broken, a gift fixed, a gift thrifted…

#560 my heart, broken and contrite before God, going on faith and out on a limb, and loving with wild abandon
#561 putting fears aside and loving, in spite of possible rejection, and a woman teary-eyed telling me she loves me–this repaired relationship and how this brought long-awaited healing for me in the body of Christ–extravagant grace!
#562 running shoes loaned to me by a friend

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Join me at Ann’s for a beautiful story on stress and more thank-you’s to God?…..

Also sharing with L.L….

On In Around button

Laura @ Playdates With God…

and Jenn….

Choosing To Belong In Love {a day-after-Valentines celebration of marriage and family}

It is evening and we’ve had an argument…I have been crying on his chest…showing the weakness that I hate to show,

but it is the weakness that, in spite of me, softens him.

I am weary from life, and all that seeks to destroy me, wear me down, and take me under. We are moving around, speaking to one another, trudging forward through the thick mud around our feet, desperately needing a change, but knowing that this is what change feels like–it is the uncomfortableness of moving forward when it is really hard.

Then he comes and tells me while I’m in the shower, that my eldest daughter has asked that I wear my black special occasion dress, and that she is preparing something for us. I ask, “Why?” He says, “I’m not sure what is going on, but she says she is doing something for us, and she wants us to get dressed.”

This takes me out of my comfort zone–I don’t feel like getting dressed up in my fancy black dress–I feel like resting–it’s been a rough day–when Husband and I don’t get along, my world just slides right off-kilter. I want to hide, because it is hard to feel that I belong.

But I summon the courage to get dressed up and go to the dining room.

She roar-whispers to her Daddy, “Don’t forget what you are supposed to do, Daddy.” He pulls out the chair for me, and I sit down. I feel like I am in an alternate universe, not really sure what is happening.

I hear Nora Jones’ soft, bluesy voice wafting in from the kitchen. I smile, knowing what she is up to, but there is no way that I could be prepared for what is to come.

They come in, little angels, bringing our dinner plates, and serving us–she has even dressed her sisters up for the occasion. I am in awe and a little speechless. And when she sets down the very humble little meal she has prepared in front of me, I do my best to let her see that I appreciate it.

My children are daily teaching me lessons that no sermon could ever teach.

And then the dessert–such a wild, imaginative thing that only a child could dream up. I know that she has been watching some cooking shows, and trying her hand with creativity, and I am amazed that she soaks everthing around her up like a sponge. Noone has told her yet that she “can’t”.

As she sets the plate in front of me, I know that it is just the plastic plate belonging to her little sister–not normally a plate fit for a dining table, but it doesn’t matter:

I try to stay in the moment and feel this queenliness that she wants to make me feel.

But I am not a queen. I am so humbled, and it is though at the moment my paradigm is shifting, and everything seems to be sliding. And I know that I am having to try too hard…what a wretch I am, that I can’t feel the happiness in this moment.

There is a wall of guilt around my heart making the blood like quicksand, and there is a mountain in front of me called fear, paralyzing me, holding me back, making it hard for me to engage, making it hard for me to love.

Sadness looms heavy and ballooning, sucking the air and the courage right out of me and I don’t know how to climb over.

And then she says, “Okay, are you finished with your plates?” and clears them away. “Now”, she says, “it is time for the dance”, eyeing her Father.

So he takes my hand and leads me to the kitchen.

My head is spinning–I am not sure what to think. It has been years since this…dancing, closeness, this intimacy, and it is hard…I feel the air closing in around me.

I feel the bittersweetness and insecurity of a new pattern that is not normal to our relationship.

And I know he feels it too. I hear him say, “Been a long time since we’ve done this, huh? I can hardly find my voice, but when I do, I think I sound like a croaky, silly adolescent, unsure of myself and not wanting to let myself fully into the desire of the thing. I answer and stumble around, “Yes, it’s been..um..10 years.”

I think about Lorna, and why she is doing this for us. Does she feel the tension, the stress?

As he holds me close, I begin to melt and everything all wound up tight begins to unravel, in a very, very good way–the way that only he can make things unravel for me.

This is where my peace is–I have had to be away from him before, and I know that there is no peace in that. This is where I belong. And should I apologize for saying this and not giving God credit for my peace?

I don’t think so–I believe that He ordained that I would feel only truly whole when I give myself over to another–completely giving and allowing myself to be vulnerable enough to feel complete in another’s arms.

Here is where and how I come to God.

The more we dance, the looser and freer we are.

The more free we are, the more the joy deep inside wells up. I stop worrying about Lorna. One day she will have to know about the stresses and arguments, down days and sadness of life. All I can do, being human, is to show her how to deal with those things when they come.

Maybe if I’m looking at Him, whom I belong to, while she is looking at me, then everything will be alright.

And then my little girl takes me back twenty-something years ago to when I was a little girl, dancing on Daddy’s feet. And it makes me smile pure joy.

And right here in this sweet, sacred moment, the air full of glory around us,

I’m so glad that I had the courage to break free and love, and BE loved,

and we are all caught up in belonging–to one another in love and to Him, our Creator–we belong in all it’s fullness and completeness, we are held, in Him who is over all things and in Him who is in all things.

Here I am loved.

Here I love.

an edited post from archives

If you are interested in checking out our dreamy Valentines Day together…much crafting and baking beauty to behold…and a sweet list of “Love Is…”, click here

Join me at Ann’s for more thoughts on how we love in difficult places, how we live out the greatest of commandments?….

What Is Love? {A Belated Valentines Post}

Love is…a smile between lovers at their baby playing cute in the middle of an argument

Love is…letting Husband have the best piece of salmon (or cake)

Love is…a father saddling up all of the horses for his daughter and granddaughters, working his way from horse to horse with passion and lightening speed–all for an hour ride

Love is…reading a book to them anyway when I’m dead tired

Love is…Husband coming in the door with a beautiful blender for my juice fast after some heartbreaking news from the doctor

Love is…Husband going into town for wine on Valentine’s Day…his idea

Love is…staying is all of us being at home togther on Valentine’s Day, crafting, baking, making home happy, just being

Love is…hearing someone’s point and validating their feelings even when you think they are wrong

Love is…reaching out for that connecting hug anyway when things are really difficult between you and someone

Love is…putting down my camera to take a little one with an infection to the bathroom when she asks for help, her brow furrowed, pleading with her eyes

Love is…apologizing to my girls when I slip up, when I sin against them

Love is…cupping someone’s face, looking into their eyes to tell them you love them, to make sure they believe it

Love is…looking over an offense, forgiving the unforgiveable

Love is…believing the best in people, refusing to believe a lie

Love is…fellowshipping with friends that wounded you, only through grace, no record-keeping

Love is…desiring to see others happy, even when things aren’t going well for me

Love is…making little of myself and thinking more of my neighbor

Love is…Sunday after Sunday, working at getting past the surface smiles and really getting to know my brothers and sisters, really seeing them

Love is…a man hanging on a tree, the One Man who took all God’s wrath for us, the all-time ultimate illuminary display of love

Love is…make up your own?…..

Valentine Heart Streamer Window Treatment

Source: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/02/weekends-are-for-love-books-on-marriage/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HolyExperience+%28Holy+Experience%29

                                Bella and Lilly watching Winnie The Pooh while the older girls help


White Chocolate and Cherry Shortbread Cookies {our white chocolate didn’t melt, so it didn’t make it onto our cookies}
Source: Loveandoliveoil.com via Ann Voskamp

Valentine twig arrows…the girls had a lot of fun making these…even Lilly helped!
Source: carolynshomework.blogspot.com via Kellie on Pinterest

Valentine Confetti
Source: Nest of Posies