Valentine’s Day Tips For Giving And Receiving

When someone gives to me, I yearn to give in return. My heart is still melting into a little pool of mama love over my youngest daughter leaving a letter for me several weeks ago out in the mailbox that borders our property walking trail.

The fragrance of chocolate wafts through the Valentine aisle as I select the perfect little heart box. And what are these? Tiny ceramic type decorations to stake into a potted plant. Mushrooms, squirrels, gnomes. Bright and colorful, except for the squirrel. I know … I’ll place these along the trail. Daughter’s been out walking every day. I’ll surprise her.

The girls are gone. Finally. I race outside, insert the little heart box into the mailbox, sprinkle the ceramic decorations along the trail. It’s time to wait.

I’m not a good waiter. Do you remember that my daughter waited 6 weeks for me to notice her letter? Whatever she has, I don’t.

We return home from church. “You going walking today, daughter?” I try to hide my smile.

“Why?” She sees right through me. Blast.

The door closes, and I can’t wait to hear from her. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

“Did you see anything?” I text her.

She texts back an attachment picture of her hand, holding a broken piece of glass. Oh, my word. Am I going to have to show her?

She texts me back. She found the heart box. “Is this for me?” Yep. She’s walking the trail, but she’s still not opened her eyes to what I’ve left her.

Sometimes one has to search a little deeper for treasure.

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I race out, uniting with younger daughter. Our steps join in the same direction. “Keep your eyes open,” I say. I’m mentally trying to identify just exactly what makes the heart worthy and open to receive from others, to uncover buried treasure.

Find Someone To Love

We come across the little gnome. She smiles while giving me that mom-you-are-ridiculous look.

I laugh, a proud-mama moment.

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My oldest 18-year-old daughter’s words surface in my memory. “Do you remember Evan, Mom?”

“No.”

“I used to buy Evan a Dr. Pepper on Wednesday nights at church.”

The Conditions Need To Be Just Right

Proceeding, the younger and I stumble across the mushrooms that I’d inserted into the soft soil. Both of them. One red. One blue.

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“I touched it earlier. I thought it was real. It felt real.”

We laugh. Another proud-mama moment.

Older daughter’s voice floods my heart again“I’ve worked with Evan at church since he was in kindergarten.”

Don’t Miss The Blessing

We reach the final one …. She searches all around, but she still can’t see it. I bend down and brush my fingertips over the tiny squirrel holding a treasured acorn.

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I recall older daughter’s final words. “Mom, Evan’s in 4th grade now, and every Wednesday, he now buys me a Dr. Pepper. He uses his allowance.” I envision her smile, my smile.

“This one’s a bit camaflouged,” I say to younger. Brown squirrel against brown dirt and nearby leaves. “You have to really be looking to see it.”

Sometimes it seems we have to wait, and sometimes it seems we have to search.

But we are loved.

Love doesn’t always come in a heart-shaped box.

We love because He first loved us—1 John 4:19♥


What tips do you have for giving and receiving? How have you been loved recently in a not-so-heart-shaped-box way? And Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

A Return to Family Devotion


I inch open the door. Two teeners are playing. I’m so happy to see them playing, taking life by the reins. Like they used to. When did life get so serious? 

One’s perched on the other’s back, having turned into some type of cowgirl. The other’s on all fours, and somehow I’m waiting for a “neigh” to bellow out of her mouth. Instead, all contagious laughs, giggles, smiles.



“What?” I nearly fall over laughing.

They jump up, place sweet hands in mine.

It’s bedtime.

“Do y’all want to start reading together through the New-Testament-in-a-year?” I ask the girls, switching gears and interrupting their Lone Ranger and Silver moment. But it’s been weighing heavily on my heart. 

Both nod so eagerly.

Whew! Because I’m going on fumes right now.



And I need to get at least one weight off my heart. Taking something off my shoulders would be nice, too.


We always did pretty good at family devotions when the girls were small. But things shifted somehow. I tried to get them started on Bible Gateway, helping them establish their own routine. No more “we” but God in thee. That went good for a while, but like with all things, discipline tiptoes out the door, and we’re left crumpled on the floor. And that’s a complete disservice to my girls.

I need jumper cables. Um, okay … spurs kicking into my sides.

Because when serious sickness enters your home, even teens can only go on fumes for so long. Anxiety hugs the heart, pinching in the night, demanding conversation.

And one daughter wraps her arms around me. My teetertotter emotions …. “I understand, Mama. Shh. It’s okay.” I adore her motherly way. What gave it away? Hands that I used to hold everywhereonce so tiny with tiny nails that I used to clip with the baby clipperssoothed over my face, wiping away the moisture. Tight hugs. My other daughter gifts me with one, too.

Life has been so busy. Where has my time with them gone?



Is it okay for a mama to admit she’s scared? She’s scared of the present, the past, the future. She’s scared of every day she tried to make it on her own and failed miserably. She’s terrified of the scars etched into her heart from days without holding her Savior’s hand. She’s scared of every reminder, every memory. She wishes for white-out, do-overs, the delete key for her heart. 

What does she yearn for more than anything for her girls? A clean piece of paper, a clean heart. One prepped and ready to type God’s beautiful future, beautiful present on their hearts, to accompany their beautiful pasts.

But we can’t pour out our heart’s desire on that blank page what we aren’t pouring in. The page will be written on, but it won’t be desirous, the Godly way. It’ll never sell.

And when I’m too tired, I’m reminded I’m too tired not to. I’m loading dirty dishes in the dishwaser, and I don’t think I have the stamina to finish, but I will. That’s my disciplined, determined self talking. And I’ll collapse into that bed.

And a brush of wind swirls past me, sweet arms envelope me. “You ready to read our devotion?”

“We better do it now, while I can.” Anxiety only falls away when we fall into the arms of God.

We plop down onto the floor, circle around, maybe hit the couch, maybe climb into my bed …. She takes my phone, hits the Bible Gateway App.



“The verse of the day,” she says, “is Ephesians 4:2‘Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.'” She clicks on “Begin A Reading Plan” and continues right where we left off. “Matthew 20:1-16,” she says. 

Verse 16 ends with, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

We all chuckle. “I used to say that to you when you were small all the time,” I say. “I wanted you to be giving. It feels good to give.” And I didn’t want them to fight. But my version usually came out like“If you want to be first, you have to be last.” And that’s where I might blow a raspberry, if I were that kind of mama.

fishing in the swimming pool … caught a plastic fish each and every time




floaties in the shallow end

They laugh. Then nod.

“I remember, Mama. I say that to all my Sunday school kids,” one daughter admits.

Yes. They haven’t forgotten. Full circle. God is writing on their hearts. The giving has been received. Because when we give, we always receive. An honest servant is always rewarded in time. It might seem like a rough draft, but it’s the real, published deal, where purchases are final. It’s sitting on the heart-shelf, waiting to be taken, to be given to their friends, anyone blessed enough to receive from their hands, maybe their future kids.

We take the limited time in this life together by the reins.

A return to family devotion.

~~~


Do you have a family devotion? Have you had to take life by the reins recently? 


I Guess I’d Follow My Daughter Anywhere


“I wish he would quiet down,” said someone … I can’t remember who. “Boy, that’s annoying.”

Ever since we let Azzie, our cat, out of the house for a few moments while we hung up the Christmas lights, he’s been completely discontent. We never let the cats out much because … this right here. The cat balks louder and louder, over and over. And not to mention the summer fleas, the many critters excluding the fleas that would eat him alive. And boy, what if he ran under the deck? 

And right now, it’s cold. It’s snowing. It’s actually snowing (it snowed one day, a week ago … you get the idea). A novelty in these parts of Texas. And the wind is whipping around something fierce.

My snow-girl. Her New Year’s resolutions are to become well-rounded and to get in shape.


My daughter goes to her room and places on her winter gear. She puts the collar and leash on Azzie. He’s really balking now. 


My daughter. I’m not surprised. She’ll go the extra mile for anyone, especially those she loves. Every Sunday, during “shake-a-hand” moment, she walks all the way across the church to hug and talk to our realtor, the first person we met when we moved here and the very one to invite us to her church, our church. Yes, she ventures all the way there because she loves Ms. Frances. I love her, too, but I’m not so great at going the extra mile. I wave across the way. 

But that’s my daughter. She’ll walk the extra mile. She’ll brave the new ice cream flavor, while I stick to the safe mint chocolate chip. But she lets me try the new. She’d give her last dime. Her last bite. Her coat. She loves the lovely and unlovely. She doesn’t meet a stranger these days. My shy, quiet daughter is coming into her own God-given gifts. A friend to all. A giver.

The wind rattles the house, along with the windows.

My daughter picks up the cat, opens the front door, steps her new boots out into the snow. 

I throw on my winter gear, grab my camera because when it’s all said and done, I guess I’d follow her anywhere. And I want to love like she loves. And I want to capture her love on camera. 



She sets Azzie down into the snow. He leaves a trail of paw prints.

And in no time, we’re all outside.



And almost lying prostrate for a good photo, I think about the prints I’m leaving on this world, on my girls, on my friends …

I want to leave the kind of heart-prints my daughter has left on me. I want to throw open the door, brave the wind and cold, the unknown, and step out in love … to love. And I know if I ever step out, I’ll never be content to stay inside.














What moves you to action? Others’ words or actions? 

A 16-Year-Old’s Guide For A Happy New Year


“Do you want to walk the trail with me?” I asked my dear friend.

“Yes!”



I wanted to hold her hand and skip down the lane. Could my heart contain the happiness inside? Or would it burst from joy? I hadn’t seen my dear friend in over 20 years. We’d moved to Spokane, Washington, in my mid 20s with the air force. We bought a home in the country and immediately formed a tight bond with a farming community. My friend, a farmer’s wife, welcomed me into her home, church, heart. We loved each other like sisters from the start and only had a short time together before we returned to Texas. 

She and her family came to Texas to vacation last week (I want to think I influenced her a bit), and they spent New Year’s Eve with us.

We headed to the back property, released the sheep, and made our way around the trail. I couldn’t take the smile off my face, the definition of happy.

“Is that a mailbox?” my friend asked. “What’s that doing out here?”



It’s an acceptable question that I find myself explaining to everyone. We didn’t want to leave it behind, so we brought it with us when we moved. It was a truck, but it began to deteriorate over time, so we took off parts here and there, keeping the bare necessity. Now, it looks like a set of bulging yellow eyes staring at you. It’s planted right across from the swing. 



“We write letters to each other … or at least, we used to. Like love notes. Now, it mostly holds used popsicle sticks, spider webs.”

The red flag stood tall. My husband pulled the handle down, revealing mail. Mail? Mail!

Three letters. One was addressed to: Mom (that’s me)



I opened it … from my Katelyn. 

I teared up a tiny bit. I read it out loud to my friend, unable to share it fast enough. It was just one of those proud mama moments … raw, tender … for someone else to see the love your child really does have for you as a parent. Three paragraphs, three points, that pave the way for my 2017. And I’ll be glad to loan them to you, too. 

1. Apologize

To Mom:

I love you, Mom. Sorry for acting horrible when you guys want to watch something. I don’t know what’s got me agitated recently …

2. Encourage

Mom, you need to keep writing. You are great at that (and everything else. You are the best mother someone could ask for). I love all the books you write.

3. Love

You are the best thing anyone could ask for. Keep doing what you’re doing. I love you so, so much.

–Katelyn

That’s my Katelyn. She doesn’t like watching TV much, she reads everything I write, and when she loves, she really loves. 

I gave her a big hug when I got inside. “Katelyn, I loved my letter. When did you write it?”

“Six weeks ago.” She chuckled. “I thought you’d never find it.”

It took me six weeks to discover her love, her voice, her heart … 

That’s not acceptable. But what beautiful timing. God-timing. 

Father, take me down your path … the path … for me … for this 2017. Let me apologize more, encourage more, and love more. Keep my eyes open. Don’t let me miss opportunities. Don’t let me deteriorate. Father … 

I want to go where you go.

Karalee (kid lover), me (Word lover), and Katelyn (animal lover) from earlier in the year



And y’all, life has been so crazy that I wasn’t sure I’d get a blog post written. I’d cherish your continued prayers for a close family member. And … Katelyn gave me her permission to use the letter. *Grin*

What other ingredients can you add for a happy new year?


When A Broken Heart Yearns For A Break


From my heart to yours this Thanksgiving



My daughter’s normal morning 3-day-a-week school routine begins.

“You awake?” I text to her from downstairs, under the covers, snug as a bug in a rug.

“Yup,” she texts back.

One foot slips out from under the covers, then the other. Un-snug as a bug out of a rug. Leaning over the bathroom counter, I get partially ready for the day, make-up and hair, then I’m off to scan the living room and kitchen to see if my daughter has left any school work there that she might need for the day. I grab a bottled water out of the garage fridge and a granola bar from the pantry for her.

My heart yearns for her success.

The door to her stairs/bedroom billows open and the rush begins. I open the garage door, hug and kiss her goodbye, shoving the water and granola bar into her backpack. She backs the car out, careful not to hit a tree. I wave goodbye and blow kisses to her … she stalls the car to wave and return my kisses. We realize it’s our last gaze at each other. 

That little black car zooms off down our driveway, kicking up leaves, beginning that 35-minute commute by busy, 18-wheeler interstate.



And I pray, like every dayLord, watch over her, protect her, get her home to me.

My heart yearns for her safety.

But this particular day, after some 5 minutes have passed, my phone buzzes with a call. It’s her.

“Hey.”

“Hey, Mom.” Her tone is urgent. “I left my driver’s license in your car. I’ll be home in two minutes. Will you get it for me?”

I run out to the car. There it is. I open the garage again.

My mind starts going wild. Will she be late for school now? Will she drive too fast to get there on time? She’s almost home … she said 2 minutes. I’ll save her time.

My heart yearns for every good and perfect thing for her.

With barely a moment’s thought, I take off down my long, wet driveway, barefoot, in my pajamas. I’ll meet here there at the end of the road. Lord, please don’t let me step on a stick or an acorn. As I near the end, I see her car between trees. 



She pulls into the driveway. She sees me running. Her expression? Priceless.

My heart yearns to make her smile.

“I can’t back out, Mom.”

“Yes, you can. I’ll help you.” I walk out into the middle of our county road in my pajamas, guiding her, motioning to her which way to turn her wheels. She does it. I knew she could do it. 

My heart yearns for her to be confident.

She zooms off again. My prayer goes up once again.

At the end of the day, she barrels through the door, crying. Wrapping her arms around me, she spills her precious heart. She barely missed being in an auto accident. I sink in despair over the details her precious eyes witnessed. My fractured heart looks heavenward, and my prayer shoots upthank you, Lord, for bringing her home to me.

My heart yearns for peace. 

For her. For me.

Every week, I hear her near misses or what she’s witnessed on the road. My heart can barely take it. 

My right eyelid’s been flickering like a fluorescent light for days now.

It’s all worry, y’all.

My daughter’s first semester of college has been the hardest change for me. If there is one downside to homeschooling that I’ve discovered, it’s that a mama’s heart is too sheltered. It’s the mama’s heart that’s cause for concern. And the heart stays invested regardless of your child’s age.

But she loves it. She loves every single thing about itthe school, her classes, the commute, time in her car, lunch out with friendswhich is all that matters. And I’m so thankful. 

But this mama thought she knew how to lean on God. This mama’s heart is learning to lean, lean on my Savior, more and more. 

After Thanksgiving, my daughter will only have about two weeks left of school, before she has a month break. I’m so grateful because

My broken heart yearns for a break. 



What has you concerned lately? And can you imagine our Father’s love over us?

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Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. And many thanks to all who entered the magazine subscription giveaway from the last post. Thank you for playing. I’m blowing kisses your way. I cherish you. 

And the winners are …

Cindy Hasko and Norma Brumbaugh Wieland

Woohoo! I pray you are blessed by the magazine all year long.



Struggling With More and The One Safe Addiction


Standing over the kitchen sink, I run cleansing water over the dirty dishes. My daughter brings more porcelain to be cleaned. Lipstick smeared glasses, greasy pans. More and more. Cleaning the dirty. Will it ever end? 

My daughter’s sweet hand scrapes across the dish. I envision her tiny hands, like the cherished day was just yesterday. Chubby thumbs pressed determinedly to all four tiny fingers, fingertips on hands bumping together repeatedly, requesting more. Quiet souls needing more and letting it be known. Teaching my girls that sweet sign language word had to be the smartest thing I ever did. I wish I could take credit, but I’ll forever love that wise friend. 

Sitting at a table full of children who were crying and screaming to receive something desired, my daughter would look around at the chaos and quietly and gently press her tiny gathered fingers together, signaling “more” … more Cheerios, more apple juice, more.

Her tender, quiet spirit blessed my heart.



O Soul, you’ve always had a problem with more. You know you have. An uncontrolled chuckle spurts out. Undeniable. “Give her an inch, and she’ll take a mile.” Guilty.

I could never stop at planting one flower. Nope. I’ll know every flower name. I no longer put my hands down to work a garden.

One framed cross-stitch led to a house full. They’ve all been dismantled and rest in my closet.

I could never stop at one cookie. I just can’t keep them in the house.

I can’t stop with one Pringle. I’ll snack on them all day.

I could never stop at using one coupon. My whole family thanks me for giving up that venture.

I could never stop making Mickey Mouse pancakes. When a desire for pancakes was revealed, I made pancakes every day until I was begged to stop.





I could never stop with taking one picture. Don’t place the camera in my hands, please.

I could never stop with one trip to Disney World. The girls have been every year since they were six and eight.

I could never stop at writing. One blog post led to three manuscripts down, and one in the works.

If I find a song I love, I will play it over and over.

O Soul, you know how to drive something in the ground. Don’t you? You know how to make everyone around you cry for relief. 

I rinse off a dish and place it in the dishwasher. A smile spreads over my face, thinking over my secret new missionbeing accepted on the launch team for Beth Moore’s new Bible study, Entrusted. 



O Soul, you found the one thing that you can never tire ofstudying God’s Word. You can never have too much. You can never study too much. You can never have more than enough. 

The one who breathed life into you can’t be run into the ground.

At only 29, my first Beth Moore study gave me a deep love to study and soak in God’s truths. God’s truths are life for me, teaching me that I can survive in this world, that I’m okay. She made God’s Word come alive for me. I saw a lady who genuinely loved God so much, that I said to myself

I want to love God that much. 

My daughter’s precious 16-year-old hand passes the last dish to wash. More. Father, let her see more of you in me. Let her see something that she can’t get enough of. Let this walk with you, as weak as it often is, be just enough to cause her to want more and more of you.



Father, thank you for entrusting my daughter in my hands. I’ve gotten so much wrong. But you are my right. My right for more. I keep bringing you more and more, the dirt in my life is endless. And you never tire of me. You keep cleansing me and making me new.

In the midst of this world’s chaos, with all the outcries and screams, you have taken us to the banquet hall. Your love over us is breath-taking. 

Father, be our desire, the very thing we desperately need. Our one stronghold. Our greatest love. Be our addiction, the one thing we quietly cry for in the secret room of our heart. Be our cry for relief. Be our ever-waking desire, our first and last thought of the day. The thing we can’t outdo. The thing we can’t overdo. 

Father, be our more. Our cleansing more.



I Ripped My Pink Panther: When Your Kid’s Attitude Calls For A Tickle and Talk Session


“Yeah, one day I’ll be able to tell you all the issues I have with you, Mom.” My daughter chuckles. “I can’t tell you now because I have to live with you.” She sinks into the couch, laughing herself silly.

“Get over here right now.” I giggle, moving to the edge of my cushioned seat and pointing my finger to the hardwood floors in front of me. “Right now.”

No movement from daughter. Just more giggles.

I jump up, run to her, and tickle her till she cries.

She gasps for breath, still chuckling. “I’m just pulling your leg,” sputters out through more giggles.




Uh-huh. Oh, I know, Daughter. I know exactly what you mean. Because I felt those very things as a young girl. The only difference—unlike you, I voiced many of my thoughts aloud.

The whirlwind of my parents’ divorce left me tied in knots, feeling pulled apart. One arm held by my daddy, the other held by my mother. My grandmother held firmly to my leg. I didn’t know how to feel about everything or anything. I didn’t know how to express myself. I didn’t know what was normal, what was right. I felt crucified, tormented.

And there was my mama.

I didn’t love everything about my life. I just wanted my mama and my daddy back under the same roof, tucking me in bed at night and reading nightly devotions to me. Bitterness, in the awful form of anger and what felt like hatred at times, welled up inside and drizzled out.

On life’s fragile edge, I grabbed my Pink Panther stuffed animal that I’d gotten at Six Flags, that I adored. Taking its right arm in one hand, its left arm in my other hand, I pulled. Its little insides oozed out. So much misery. I injured the very thing I loved.

I felt so ripped to pieces. So I’ll rip this to pieces.

 

 

 


I loved my daddy. But I was in this city, and he was in that city. I was in this house, and he was in that house. I lived with my mama, and she took the brunt of all my painful trying-to-figure-out-this-situation.

Sitting in my room, I mourned my hate-filled words to my mother. My heart mourned that I’d injured the very one I loved.  Because I loved my mama. I hated the situation. But I was only ten. What did I know then?

And just look what I did to my Pink Panther. I cried.

Grown-up stuff is too hard to contain inside a child. It will spill.

My pillow—the catcher of all my tears. God—the storer of all my tears. And I gave God a tremendous amount of tears to handle. Like rain.

 

 

Life is hard. Life is hard to understand. So we trust. Trust God. It’s all we have, Daughter. And it’s more than enough, Daughter.

At only ten, I reached over and took hold of the Bible that I’d been given by my Sunday school teacher. Given just in the nick of time. Given just when I’d needed it. And God showed me that He could be my all. He should be my all. He would be my all. I couldn’t place my faith and trust in my mother or my daddy—I could only love them. I had to heap all my faith and trust in God, my heavenly Father, the only one who could be the perfect parent.

God—the restorer of my life. The one who takes all our confused and broken pieces and makes us His restoration project. The one who stitches together our torn pieces now. The one we can spill our insides to now. The one we can entrust with everything now. The one we don’t have to be fragile with now or ever. The one who takes every tear and stores it now.

When we want to ask all the questions that so often go unanswered

Why?



Your pillow’s stuffing will hold your tears until God can gather them, one by one, in His safe-keeping. Your tears haven’t dried, they’ve just been collected, sweet one.

Because I know you have more questions than you’re asking, Daughter. Questions only God knows the answers to, and that seems so unfair. I know. Questions I’ll never be able to pull out of you because maybe you think you’ll injure me. Maybe you think I’m fragile. Maybe I am, but I won’t break. I’ve already been broken, baby. This mama is tougher than you might think.  



Because when you want to take this side of life in one hand, take the other side of life in the other hand, and pull

Remember that in between lies the body of Christ—the one broken for you.

And comprises that beautiful Body of Christ—someone will remind you of that Scripture just in time. Someone will text you encouragement just in time. When you forget, someone will point you to Jesus just in time

 

His one arm stretched across one side. A nail pounded. His other arm stretched across the other side. A nail pounded. Take His hands. Pull and pour your heart out on His hands.

Because mercy and grace pooled and spilled out, trickling down on you … the crimson turning the darkness of pain and confusion all white, all pure. All for you.