Thursday, March 31, 2011


Lisa May's photos are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. Her shots of clouds and trees and sunsets are breathtaking.

So today as I was browsing through some of her latest photo posts, a thought occurred to me that I thought might be worth writing about.

Ann Voskamp writes about living life from our knees, both in prayer and in mindset, much like a child. About how viewing life from the perspective of a little one gives us a whole new vantage point.

It was no accident that God said to become like little children.

As I was noting my favorites of Lisa's photos, I noticed that the ones I love most have the sky as the background. Whether clouds or sun or brilliant blue sky, they draw me in, call out to something deep within me. Something in the images make me feel very close to God.

And that's when it hit me. I don't often shoot photographs with the sky as the backdrop. Usually there's just "stuff" behind the subject, whether person or thing, and I never realized how much that can take away from the natural beauty of a scene.

It shouldn't surprise me to realize that the sky is perhaps the most majestic backdrop of all. When I was little I thought that was where God lives. And while I now know God's presence more intimately, I still like thinking of the sky as the place from which He beckons us.

Much of what a child would photograph stands a good chance of having the sky as a backdrop.

I can learn a lot from that.

The heavens declare the glory of God; 
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Psalm 19:1

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

She speaks in dreams.

I read the entry three times. I thought maybe by the third time I wouldn't cry. I was wrong.

Precious three-letter Ann, full of grace and sharing it all with us, reaching out her beautiful, humble hand that has cradled fragile bubbles and mended boo-boos and combed out grief tangles and reached for the moon, expressing a desire to help us all. A desire to help someone like me.

Why did I cry? Because I felt like she had been watching a playback of my life, listening to my dreams, hearing my heart for helping women the world over to speak theirs. She saw it and heard it all, and she wrote those words for me. And the longing of my heart is to do that for someone else. For many someone elses.

Funny story. I used to have this recurring dream of speaking at a conference to thousands of women, something like a Women of Faith conference, or something similar. In my dream I was an author of inspirational books for women. Over time I eventually managed to convince myself that even though that thought jazzed me to the core, things like that don't really happen to people like me.


I mean, the people who speak at those conferences grew up in Christian homes, never had years gobbled up by the locusts of abuse and family dysfunction, always had it all together.

But aren't there women I know, even personally, who have brought the brokenness of their pasts forward and risked it all by laying it out on the table? And I know why they do it, why I want to do it: because someone else needs to know she isn't alone. Someone else needs to know that He restores what the locusts have eaten and then so much more.

It's been my heart for as long as I can remember, this loving on others in Jesus' name. When I was little I always sought out the one person in a room that no one was talking to, sidled up alongside and said hi. Those people rarely rejected my silly-but-sincere friendliness, and many went on to become lifelong friends.

My love for writing has been with me my whole life, and has combined with my love for helping people quite nicely. The result has been more letters, notes, commissioned poetry and dedications, blog entries, and articles than I could begin to number.

It came naturally, like breathing, my passions all converging to form the perfect storm on the page and in conversations and in song, reaching up and out and painting with words the beautiful thing Jesus was making out of the mess that was me.

I know that if He can do it for me, He can do it for you, too.
And if He wants to do it for me, He surely wants to do it for you.

If He loves me this much, ordinary imperfect girl that I am with five kids and two grandkids and one beloved I'm still love-struck crazy for, a deep love for people and a heart full of wild dreams, He must also be crazy for you.

You, lovely one that you are, whatever you've seen, whatever you've done, wherever life has taken you.

You are not alone. And neither am I.

I, and hundreds of others just like me, keep asking God over and over for one thing: the opportunity to make a difference in a life. In just one life, and then another, and then more as He leads. We know that this longing was knit into us by Him at the forming, so all we are really doing is agreeing with Him and being true to our purpose: to love on His people and encourage them to love on Him and on one another.

I am nobody special, just a woman He created, a shadow of the Former who knit into me a deep passion for connecting with others and connecting them with Him. I'm so silly I get tearful every time I even talk about how much joy He has brought into my life just through the women He has given me opportunity to encourage.

I keep praying for more chances, more beautiful daughters of His to find a way to bless and with open hand direct all the glory back to Him. It's a dream too big to let go.

Know what my big dream right now is? To meet you

There is a lovely gathering coming up soon with this dream in mind. The SheSpeaks conference in North Carolina July 22-24, 2011 is being offered by Proverbs 31 Ministries and is a time of learning, fellowship, encouragement, fun, and celebration of the common purpose of connecting the hearts of women with the heart of God the Father. I can't imagine what a blessing this conference is going to be. I'm hoping to find out first hand. 
Would you like an opportunity for a scholarship to this treasure of an atmosphere? Please go HERE to enter. I would love to see you there. Walk in His grace, and perhaps our paths will cross in North Carolina. I would love that.

Monday, March 28, 2011

What Surrender Really Means (205-230)

I was reading chapter three in One Thousand Gifts (again) last night where she quoted Ephesians 5:20.

And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ."

As I was thinking about the weight of this verse, I thought, Hey, wait...if that is Ephesians 5:20, that's the verse right before "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ", and then "Wives, submit to your husbands".

So then I got to thinking how nearly every time I've ever heard teaching on Ephesians 5, it's always been approached (more like attacked) from the "wives submit" angle and it's either used as a bludgeon for wives or it's being pounced upon as an awful, archaic, patriarchal religious practice.

And I got to thinking that if vs. 20 was in place, was being practiced by His people, then the attitudes and behaviors mentioned in the next verses would already be in place.

In other words, if we were already giving thanks to God for everything, we would be living a life of Eucharisteo and we would already be submitting to one another out of reverence for Him.

Eucharisteo precedes the miracle. Thanksgiving precedes submission (which for many is truly a miracle, just saying). All joking aside, submission seems like such a miracle to us because it is the direct opposite of what our world teaches us--in commercials, on billboards, in schools--to set our sights upon.

Can't we see that submission is not a stiff sentence, but soft surrender to the Savior?

He breathed us into being. Surrender to Him is purest joy. All grace, all gift, all joy.

Counting on, toward the first thousand...
205. Teens who act nothing like the teens on TV
206. Little trip back to childhood in the form of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on bread soft and sticking to the roof of the mouth, peanut butter smooth and thick, jam painted on cheeks in a sticky purple grin
207. Coffee with Belgian chocolate toffee creamer
208. Hot cocoa from an adapted hot cocoa mix recipe
209. His sweet mercy in crisis
210. Being loved with an everlasting love
211. Knowing deep that He is always enough
212. Peace that goes beyond feeling
213. Pretty toes (but mostly the daughter who took it upon herself to pamper her mama)
214. Blog readers taking moments to comment thoughts
215. Gravy
216. Reading One Thousand Gifts for the second time, slowly
217. Chatting with a kindred friend
218. Life viewed through the lens of grace is different, changed, new, replete with hope
219. Time to walk away from my desk and think outside the box
220. Stillness for the knowing that He is God, and that if it is meant to be, it will be, according to His will
221. A husband who offers chocolate for the soothing of the melancholy
222. The rediscovering of family from long ago, photographs from a time that makes the heart race with memory's creaking hinges and shadowy images
223. Resolve to silence that preserves the bond of peace
224. An armload of chocolate on my desk
225. Hope between lines of sadness when the moon presses in close and wrings out mama tears
226. People in high places who remember what it felt like to be a little people
227. Memories of a Little People doll house, a mama, and her little girl, playing, laughing, saving up memories for later
228. Rain falling, breeze blowing, heart wording, all on a Monday at the hello of spring
229. Grins shared between us the way they were way back then
230. Rosie and Belle in Mama's rocker on the front porch

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Abba (A Look Back)

April 25, 2003

God is doing a new thing.  A new thing as old as time, actually. 

He is awakening in me a desire to know Him like I've never known Him before.  I decided a year ago I wanted to be a God chaser, and I chased Him.  Some. 

But slowly over this past year and especially through the "Bow the Knee" musical, He has taken that spark and ignited it into a deep hunger that won't be satisfied with a mere taste of His presence. 

No, I know better now.  I feel like I've been with Him, and I know what it feels like.  There is no going back.

It's affecting every thought and action.  My introspection is no longer focused on myself, how I'm doing, if I'm growing, how I feel.

It's on Him.  It's on just how close I can get to Him.  Can I reach out and touch His face without my hand burning up?  Can I look into His eyes and not go blind?

Someone said in class a few nights ago that we are too familiar with God.  That our 'ease' with Him makes us disrespectful.  I can't swallow that one.  The non-confrontational side of me wants to fudge and say, "Oh, well I can understand what you mean..." but the truth is, I can't.

I can't believe God wants to hold me at arms' length.  Don't get me wrong, I don't want to saunter up to the Almighty and quip, "Yo, big daddy, whussup?"  I don't mean the kind of familiarity that loses sight of Who He is.

I mean the kind a child has with a parent who loves beyond all reason.  The kind that grows out of a love that sent His only Son to die so I could run up to Him and cry Abba, Father! and jump into His arms.

He showed up tonight.  I knew He would.  He returned my song as I lifted it up to Him and He smiled at me.  I asked Him to be there and He came.

He came.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Waking Up (Five Minute Friday)

I wake up numerous times in the night. Most of those times I feel uneasy, like I'm inwardly afraid something is wrong, or something is going to happen. I was hoping these nights were behind me.

Since I picked up One Thousand Gifts, life has been different. The moments have been lighter, more hopeful. I've been enjoying the feeling of peace that has infused my waking hours. It's been good not to feel the Enemy breathing down my neck.

But he isn't finished with me yet.

For me, it will be a matter of finding the most efficient way to keep myself reminded that I do not belong to him, that my life and my moments belong to the One who knit me together, the One who is enough. The one who makes it true how perfect love casts out all fear.

I want to wake up singing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Do you read me?

Can being completely overwhelmed bring about something great? If not, don't tell me. I almost have myself convinced it will, so don't mess it up.

Maybe I should explain. I feel like I'm going through this metamorphosis (why is that word so difficult to type?) of sorts with regard to my blogging, and just my writing in general. I've been blogging for somewhere around ten years. That's a lot of years, right? You'd think ten years would be plenty of time to find your niche, yes?

Confession: I've started to wonder what is wrong with me.

The big problem is that there is just too much swimming around in this gourd at once. I want to write about everything! About having a lovely marriage even after nearly 31 years, and being madly in love with being a mama for 30 years (and a Mimi for more than 10), and about the highs and lows and all-in-between of homeschooling after walking the home education road for 23 years, and encouraging women--I mean, I've been one my whole life! And then there is friendship and mentoring and...well, see what I mean? Just too much. There is no focus, no little cubbyhole to sink nicely into and just fit!

Am I serious, or funny, or artistic? Is it possible to be all of the above? What does that even look like? What is going on that I suddenly find myself shrieking like a madwoman, "I want to write about that! And that! Oh, yes, and that!" I want to photograph everything in my world and share it (well, maybe not the kitchen floor right now), to capture in somewhat poetic wording this beauty, this craze, this wild and wooly and wonderful life--and all in a way that will draw and intrigue and encourage readers all over the globe.

I don't want much, do I?

I mean, it isn't like millions of us wouldn't adore doing that, right? I envision those poor unfortunate souls who happened across this entry today thinking, "Wow, lady. So you want to be a famous writer. Don't we all?"

And it isn't really even that I want to be famous (although I would be okay with that). It's more that I want to know that my words matter. To somebody. To anybody. That something I say impacts someone, makes a difference, brings a smile or a tear, makes a day brighter, challenges someone to think more deeply or share more openly or trust more willingly or guard a heart more carefully or live more gratefully.

So here I sit, pecking away at the keyboard and wondering if anyone will see this and if it will resound with another person somewhere on this big orb and form a connection, even a tiny one.

I'm thinking I might need to give up the dream of the email that pops into my inbox with, "Hey, we'd like you to write for us!" But I do know that I will never be able to give up the dream of being a writer. Because a writer, I am, because I write. Whether anyone ever reads it or not is really secondary to doing what God has called me to do, what He knit into my fabric at the forming.

And I suppose that as long as I'm going what He says to do, I can't go wrong. Right?

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. I Thess. 5:11

Monday, March 21, 2011

Accounting (188-204)

I smiled today as I wrote gift #203 in my One Thousand Gifts journal, seeing as how I'm one-fifth from the (first) 1,000 and have only used a few scant pages of the journal. So many more pages to fill, and I will. And then another journal and another after that. Hopefully there will be many more to fill in the remaining number of my days.

Ann writes of her days being numbered, and how the accounting hearts are the ones that keep track. I frown to think of how much I dislike math, and I'm pretty sure it hates me back.

Is that why I feel so bewildered today? Not depressed, exactly, just...down. Is it hormones, or a streak of sadness that this is the second birthday boy in two weeks I can't see on his day? Or is it a simple lack of accounting, and does this mean I need to learn to like math?

If I can count past one thousand, is that enough?

And the list grows and grows...

188. Beautiful friend held in God's arms, healed and whole and Home
189. Church bells ringing, carried on a March breeze to my bedroom window
190. Words of appreciation from a daughter's heart
191. Loving personal messages from Ann, full of grace
192. Ann's and the OTG community's sweet promise of prayer
193. Moon, beautiful moon, so very close
194. Creative-minded daughter redesigning her swimsuit
195. Clothes to mend (since I've got the sewing stuff out anyway...)
196. Moments to tell our whole church at once about One Thousand Gifts--a gift that continues to build into lives and turn eyes and hearts to Him
197. Waking in the night snuggled up to a beautiful girl-baby, little chest rising and falling in sweet rhythm, hair soft and wispy. Being a Mimi is moon-big joy.
198. An evening of hot chocolate and words woven and time spent with my beloved
199. Delighting in being faithful with the little things, just loving on the people along my path
200. The lyrics to "Take My Life and Let It Be"
201. Texting love notes back and forth with my husband
202. Pork in the crock pot simmering for a pulled-pork supper
203. Telling God He is good even when what's happening isn't
204. Middle child, cherished child, twenty today


One of the biggest hurdles in blogging for me can be narrowing down what I want to write about in a single entry. Most of the time there is so much dashing around in my head it's hard to sort it all out. This would be one of those times.

I continue to be amazed at how God brings clarity and confirmation. Sometimes He brings the same verse or passage from different sources. Sometimes He brings a similar (or even identical) message from different people. Sometimes something I read matches a strong feeling I've had for a while; this has happened a lot since I discovered several amazing blogs through the study of One Thousand Gifts. I am grateful, too, for this discovery that has enriched my life in numerous ways.

Between gas prices and dance competitions, yesterday was the first time we were able to go to Element in about a month. I love the way God brought so many things together within the hour or so we were there. Bobby is an epic teacher, and the worship songs we did were spot on for messages that flowed perfectly with things God has been putting on my heart over the past several weeks.

This is the part where I stop for a minute and yank myself out of editorially correct mode and give some thought to writer's voice. I'm probably not supposed to actually include this, but whatever. Hopefully as time goes on I will get better at mixing the creative with the corrective and these public service announcements will be a thing of the past. It could happen.

I'm reading One Thousand Gifts again, this time more slowly and with no set pace. I enjoyed keeping pace with the Bloom Book Club discussion and videos, but now I'm going back to savor and dig deeper and see what I may have missed the first time through. I'm about halfway through chapter two, and I'm already finding things I want to underline (not surprising, since I didn't snap and start underlining the first time through until chapter four). I plan to do a bit more blogging during this second reading at Every Moment Fully Alive.


He's 20 today, our third son, middle child, fulcrum of the family.

Mothering him is joy.

He decided to be a home birth, and almost didn't even wait for the midwife.
I was delighted that he was here, and safe, and beautiful.

I won't ever forget the sweetness in his little-boy smile.

He gave his all to everything he did, always.

And then grinned really big when it paid off.

He has always looked for, and found, ways to serve.
When he felt God's calling on his life toward music ministry, he grabbed on and never looked back.

We've all learned much from him, all been blessed by his love and wisdom.
We praise our God for the day he was born.

Watching him grow into such a Godly young man has been a present straight from God's hand.

And I can't even imagine what amazing things God has in store for his life.
But we do know that whatever he does, 
he will be serving God and praising Him with every breath.

Thank you, God for our Moose, my Sam,
our Trevor (prudence) Joel (God will be willing).

(however that "prudence" might look at any given moment...
with him, you can never tell)

No matter what, we know that God will always be willing
to use this boy for His glory.

Happy 20th birthday, my sweet boy.

Love, Mama

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pointless Rambling

One of my favorite things about Ann Voskamp's writing is that she makes me think. She puts thoughts out there that refuse to leave you comfortable and content. She challenges. In turn we take the challenge and then turn and challenge others, and it spreads out like ripples and the world is changed. I guess we really can change the world, if only one ripple at a time.

God provided a rather timely opportunity this morning at Element. The question was posed and the floor opened up to any who wanted to share what God had been doing in our lives over the past six weeks or so. It was last call, and before I could stop it, my hand went up and Bobby nodded. I stood up and did my best to condense the joy and impact and change that One Thousand Gifts has brought. It was hard to keep it brief, and I honestly can't even remember all of what I said (only that there was so much more I wanted to say but there wasn't time). I had to smile when I sat back down and Bobby grinned and said I had led perfectly into his message as though we had planned it that way. We didn't, but Someone did.

His wife shared with me a little later that she hadn't had an opportunity to pick up a copy of the book since I had told her about it a few weeks back, and when she opened her birthday present from her mom-in-law this past week, she gasped to find the book in the wrapping. Stumbling over her words, she tried to express how she had wanted this book badly, and how excited she was to receive it. I can't wait for her to get into it.

This feels like a rather aimless blog entry, but who knows? maybe God will do something with it.

Steve and I are alone tonight, sipping hot chocolate and sitting back-to-back at our computers here in the office. Matt is working five days this week, so he was off to Jeff's again after church. It's the end of Spring Break week, but there's another day off from school for Rosie's dance friends tomorrow, so that means one last beach trip. She redesigned one of her swimsuits this afternoon and I helped her sew it and then she was off, silky hair bouncing against her back on her way to the door. She is beautiful.

There are moments lately when I feel really overwhelmed. Not that being overwhelmed is anything new to me, really. Andrea's passing has had me pensive. She was really young to now be gone. What a legacy she left, praising God every moment without faltering. There's a lot to be learned, both from the way she lived and the way she died. I've asked myself internally over and over in the past four days if I could be so gracious in those shoes. I want to believe I could. I don't want to find out, but I know one day I will.

Tomorrow's blogging should have more purpose, more direction. I actually have some notes I made today for tomorrow's entry. Thankfully they aren't all as pointless as this one.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Five Minute Friday: On Waiting

Topic: On Waiting

Funny how I sit here waiting for words to come and nothing immediately pops into my head, so I start typing and hoping something will, kind of a literary fake-it-till-you-make-it. I've never cared much for waiting, but God has really done some rearranging in my heart in that area and I have found it's a little easier knowing that good things generally do come to those who wait. I did read once that the follow-up to that saying, though, is "...but only what's left behind by those who hustle", which I admit also has merit. Waiting to exhale...lady-in-waiting...waiting room...what are we waiting for? I've been asked that with regard to the book I'm supposed to be working on. I'm waiting on God. That sounds totally nose-in-the-clouds, but I assure you it is anything but. I keep hoping He will give me some kind of undeniable sign of exactly the pathway, a picture of the road sign, maybe, of the approach for this thing. And still I wait. And pray. And wait.

Time's up. (Shew!)

Adventures in Randomonium

I'm learning that it's okay to let life be infused with randomness. Fun, even.

For example, in my email this evening I received a daily writing prompt that said, "You are in the back seat of a taxi..." To which I immediately responded, "Oh, no I am not! I saw 'The Bone Collector', and this girl will so not be catching a cab!" Then I laughed out loud at myself. It's good to laugh at oneself from time to time, and out loud is even better.

So it didn't offend me at all when someone commented to me, "You are unusually random this evening!" It actually made me smile.

Not all of my thoughts are random, however. Indeed, I am currently in talks with God about literary direction. In normal language, that means I'm trying to get His precise direction on writing the book that is swimming around in my head and has been for some time but in so many diverse directions at once I've been more nauseous than creatively productive. Wait, where was I? Oh, yes, direction. So I'm praying and listening and fleshing some things out.

Steve asked me if I was journaling all the jumbled-up-ness. I love that man.

I've always fought structure and form, particularly in writing. I know I will have to face that squarely as I come closer to laying out this book since I will probably need an--shudder--outline. Oh, dear. Just the thought.

Why is it that I love writing poetry in provided forms but hate the thought of outlining an article or essay or (especially) book? I've always loved just seeing where the writing took me. Which is lovely for journals and blog entries but not so great for books that hope to see anyone's shelf but my own.

Outlines me no likey.

Alas, I may have to shake some of the randomness and get down to business with this outlining thing. I'm not quite there yet, though. There are still some things God and I have to work out first. It will come. It has to.

Doesn't it?

The Open Hands of Giving Hearts

There's just something about finding something amazing, something that makes an impact, something that splits your sky and throws open your eyes to beauty and propels you forward in relationship with God, and that something, that desire to share, makes it a natural response to immediately long to pass it along so others can enjoy it, too.

I feel this way about my marriage. I wish every woman in the world could know this kind of love, this level of being cherished, this feeling of knowing beyond a doubt that love is forever and can be trusted. I do know a few women who have love like this in their lives. I wish I knew more. I'd like to believe that as time goes on, I will know more.

I have this same feeling about our family. One of my favorite things in the world is to have someone come to us and say how they want family relationships like ours, want their children to love one another fiercely like ours do, want to have the fun we have and go at life with the same sense of adventure and joy. If we could bottle this, we wouldn't sell it. We would give it away, wherever we are, all the time. I'd like to think that in some way, we do.

I've shared One Thousand Gifts with so many people now I've lost count. Thus far, nearly everyone I've talked to about it has bought the book, and most have made it a point to tell me that it has made a mark in their lives. I shared it again today, and once again, she wrote down title and author with that excited gleam in her eye that I've seen several other times. Yes, she will get it soon, I can tell. And she will never be the same.

When something blesses, you want to share it, pass it on, keep the giving going on and on. I am grateful for grace that keeps my hands and heart open to receiving His good gifts and then allowing them to flutter their wings and catch a breeze to the next stop, another heart just like mine.

Our hearts long for His gifts, like breathing in the sweet scent of honeysuckles in summer. Sharing them is the exhaling of the joy of giving that was knit into us by the Giver of all good and perfect gifts.

To give is to receive joy twice.

Freely you have received; freely give.  Matthew 10:8

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How Joy Comes

It's amazing what gets noticed when one starts noticing the little things.

I know what happened to me. I am slower to speak. I think about what I'm going to say, and the vast majority of the time now, if it's negative it doesn't get said. What's more, I find over time there are fewer and fewer negative thoughts to reject at the speech gate.

Which has been an interesting transition, looking back.

My heart was torn
My speech abated
My thoughts were altered
My spirit calmed

I notice how silly things sounded, things I said and wrote before.

I go back and look at old photos I've taken, but with new eyes. There is such beauty there. It was always there but I didn't see it. Not the way I see it now.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Prov. 17:22

"The mouth speaks what the heart is full of." Matt. 12:34

So this circular thing, this cycle of internal healing, seems something God brought about for me and for many others throughout this big wide world through One Thousand Gifts and Ann's lovely words at A Holy Experience. All grace, and Ann is true to her name.

I wonder how many of us were living in spirit shells made of dried up bones before the opening of the eyes, the running for the moon, the Eucharisteo, the Paris promise, the counting of a thousand gifts and beyond, the noticing of the details of our lives and how God has written His name on each and every one, love notes that go straight to the soul and pierce it with the kind of I love you that can be counted on to be perfect and true and forever. All gifts. All grace. All gratefulness.

This is joy. To live every moment fully, completely, gratefully.

" celebrate with great joy, because they now understood
the words that had been made known to them."
Nehemiah 8:13

Monday, March 14, 2011

Counting Continues (156-187)

The counting of gifts continues, never stops.

I finished the reading of One Thousand Gifts today. Well, I should say I finished the first reading. I will be going back to re-read it, likely again and again. Two more of my friends and a cousin bought a copy this week. I recommended it to another two or three who will be getting it soon. Sharing grace that was so lovingly shared with me.

156.Prayers lifted with childlike hands for His precious three-letter, thousand-gifts Ann
157. Studying in PJs
158. The doctors working on Bowen's heart
159. The finding of a friend after a 25-year search
160. Bowen's precious little heart beats strong
161. Becoming a great-aunt today
162. A message, that leads to a conviction, that spurs a plan of action, for simplifying materially
163. Dance competition checklists and growing excitement
164. A day of peace, a peaceful life
165. Tonight, after nearly six years, I meet one of my best friends in person for the first time.
166. Time with the Ortas
167. Goodie bags in guest rooms
168. Goats and horses and sour oranges in mine fields
169. Sharing truth with one who really understands
170. Homemade dark chocolate cupcakes with mocha frosting, reminding me of two of my favorite bakers, Katrina and Alexandra Orta
171. Warm coffee to soothe a scratchy throat
172. Heart-shaped pizzas for beloved daughters after dance class
173. Hour-long phone conversations with beloved granddaughters sharing riddles, book recommendations, thoughts on God, musings about friendship, get-well wishes, and the victorious conquering of writing tests
174. The healing comfort of sinking into a giant pillow-top canopy bed
175. The blessing of a selfless husband
176. A daughter and a daddy and their dance
177. To so seldom be sick, and to know the joy of feeling His love and comfort when I am
178. Tissues with lotion, bestowed by a husband who cares that my nose is sore
179. Warm cocoa
180. Naps on his side of the bed because I miss him
181. Music peaceful as rain, playing on my blog in the background all day long
182. Herb Ciabatta baked in a cast iron skillet, warm from the oven
183. Good friend becoming Nana today
184. Hershey Kisses, gift of love from a friend
185. I can bless God. I can bless GOD! I can caress Him with thanks. I can make every moment love to Him.
186. Midnight reaches 'neath covers for that warm hand to hold to be sure of him

and one of my favorites in my journey of gratitude thus far

187. Ann's personal note today, a blessing that brought me to tears, and a lesson: if Ann's words mean so very much to me, how much more should His Word mean?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


While we try to teach our children
all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.

~Angela Schwindt
Our youngest son is 18 today, and I've been filled with an odd mix of emotions all day. Memories gush forth from the halls of his childhood, tumbling over one another like water droplets from an Adventure Island tube slide. I must say, mothering this boy has been a delight. 
He was truly one of the most beautiful babies I've ever seen, 
 with a smile that could win the heart in an instant.


No one understood how a toddler could be such a mature comedian.
But he was.

He was a moody little critter,
but no matter how he might sometimes scowl, 

there was always a smile just 'round the bend.
And when he was little, he didn't mind so much
having that smile captured in photos.
That would not be the case for long.
He liked baseball, but wasn't enamored with it
like his older brothers had been.
Sometimes I wonder if he just played to humor the rest
of the family.
He's like that. 

Now, football, he LOVED.

And he loves the outdoors. A lot. 

By the time he was 10 or so, he wasn't so fond of the camera being pointed in his direction.
But he still tolerated it for my sake.

He has always adored his family. 

Even when he got cool. 

His love for weaponry started very early on,
which made gift-giving from brothers pretty easy. 

Chili's was his favorite restaurant,
so that's where we went on our Mama-Son date. 

And he just kept getting cooler and cooler. 

When he showed an interest in playing the bass,
I gave him my 1977 Music Man Stingray. 

He always studied hard and learned quickly.

And he turned out to be quite the natural at the bass.

He's always been comfortable alone.
He jokes that he just plain doesn't like people,
but we know that isn't true. 
He's just comfortable in his own company.

In the teen years, once in a while I could get him to smile for me even with the camera in my hand.

Sometimes his thinly veiled tolerance showed through
just a teeny bit,
which only made him more handsome (and like my brother).
He was not fond of his "big hair". I was.

Alas, the big hair was not to be. 

  His love for football continued into his teen years,
and he even got a chance to play a little high school football.
His sister loved cheering him on
(as did we all, but we didn't have cute uniforms).

Occasionally he just wasn't in the mood for pictures.
Kind of tough on a mom who is a photographer.

He has never liked being the center of attention,
although if anyone deserves it, he does.

One thing is for certain: he loves his little niece, Baby Belle.

As the youngest member of Despite Distance,
he is known as the Thunder. 
(Still thumpin' that Music Man.)

He is more amazing than words can describe, our Mattie.
I don't think I could ever do enough for him to show him
how much he means to me.
There aren't enough backrubs.
There aren't enough plates of chicken fettuccine Alfredo.
There aren't enough awesomely cool guns or knives
or Zippo lighters or pocket-watches.
There aren't enough hugs.
But I will never stop hugging
and trying to express how much I love him.
And how grateful I am to be his mama.

Time will keep marching on, but nothing will ever fade this love of a mama for her baby boy.

And he will always, always be my baby boy.