2020 Seniors, You Can Do This


I’ve enjoyed looking at everyone’s senior photos from back in the day trending on social media. I also understand that although the intent is to encourage the Class of 2020 amidst the coronavirus quarantine, with a laugh at our expense, it could end up hurting as well as helping. In an effort to help, I’m adding my senior photo to the worldwide yearbook to offer hope for today’s graduating seniors.

Seniors, you can do this. You can graduate (however that looks) and go on to live a full and productive life reaching your goals and realizing your dreams.

Looking at myself in the photo, I don’t even remember my senior year — or 10th or 11th grade. I never attended one high school dance, including prom, due to crippling social anxiety. Pep rallies, extra-curricular activities, field trips, and basically anything outside of structured class time sent my anxiety into a tailspin.

Bucking tradition, I did not attend my high school graduation. Rather, I walked into the school office that summer and picked it up from the secretary who found it tucked away in a file cabinet.

Why did I skip it? I could not emotionally handle hearing classmates’ family and friends clap for them as they walked the stage; or seeing everyone take photos afterwards and enjoy parties for themselves and their friends knowing I didn’t have an audience for me. I was merely trying to find the strength to get out of bed and take a shower every day.

My mom was dying of breast cancer my entire junior year. I spent as much time at the hospital as I did in class. She passed away the summer before senior year, and twice divorced, there was no father in my life.

My grandparents and sister were grieving the loss of my mom as much as I was in their own ways. Frankly, I spent any extra energy apart from daily survival on trying not to fail math.

Years later, I found a letter from the principal congratulating me on my academic success of my senior year. I have zero memory of those days, so seeing I made honor roll was a shock. The letter was addressed and written to “The parents of…”

I was one of those students who fell through the cracks. The school evidently did not realize I had no parents and that my grandparents signed on as legal guardians to keep me out of foster care my senior year since I didn’t turn 18 until August after graduation.

My boyfriend broke up with me to date my best friend during my mom’s illness. Within a week of her death, life began to free fall and all I could do was watch frozen in horror.

As a minor, I had to legally vacate my childhood home and our belongings had to be sold in an estate sale to pay off family debt. I was forced to put down my 13 year-old dog (my 4th birthday present and BFF) because the stress of everything caused her to starve herself. She was emaciated beyond help and having to end her suffering was one of the worst moments of my life. My cat ran away, and the only mentor I had in the whole world announced they were moving out-of-state for a new job. Friends told me my life was a trainwreck and they didn’t know what to do with me.

I totaled my ’74 car (which had been my grandmother’s, then my mom’s, then mine), which meant losing my driver’s license and gaining a probation officer with community service hours to work off — the night before my mom’s funeral.

All of this happened the summer before senior year. I had nothing and no one except Christ, my sister’s hand-me-downs, and ironically, an empty hope chest.

I was devastatingly lonely, had no college fund to rely on, and began to struggle with an eating disorder as a result my mom’s death — with which I still wrestle.

There is always a story behind the smile.

I read a Facebook post regarding ancient senior photos floating around the world wide web which said today’s seniors don’t want to see others’ senior years in tact. *In tact* is a huge assumption.

No life is perfect. Every life has a story. It’s what we do with our story that paves our journey forward.

2020 Seniors, your grief is real. Your feelings are valid. Do not deny yourself working through the loss of your senior year. In your grieving, I encourage you to stay there only as long as necessary to heal.

Use grieving to help you take the next step forward. 

From someone who spent more time wanting to die than live because of trauma upon trauma, with no coping skills or outside help, I can tell you that you get to choose what you do with this senior season.

You can let it destroy you, or you can tap into strength you did not know you have and lean on God in ways you did not think possible.
Not only can you make it through this, but you can emerge stronger, more determined and more focused than you ever imagined on what you want for your next chapter.

Want to know what I chose to do instead of attending my graduation? I got on an airplane with my (then) boyfriend and flew from Florida to New York to meet his family. Four years my senior, he served in the Air Force and his mandated leave time overlapped with my graduation.

I had a choice. I could either attend graduation, which highlighted what I didn’t have while unresolved grief & social anxiety swallowed me alive walking across a silent stage, or forego tradition and take a leap into my future to meet a family who I already knew would be my future family.

He and I celebrated 30 years of marriage last month. My decision then was absolutely the right call and I would make the same decision a million times again. They welcomed me into their family when I was 17 and I married at 19.

We worked hard. He worked day, swing, and midshifts full-time with full class loads and I worked two jobs and took day and night classes. We put ourselves through college debt-free with every cent we had plus scholarships and grants we earned. I completed my B.A. four years later. He completed his B.S. the year after.

We bought our first home when I was 21. A tiny foreclosure on a cul-de-sac, our nicotine-drenched, ripped wallpaper, nasty bathrooms, abandoned house needed a lot of love. It was our little nest, and we slowly remodeled it room-by-room while working and going to school.

If someone had told me only four years earlier at 17, when I didn’t know what home address to put on my high school contact card, that I would own my own home — I wouldn’t have believed it.

If someone had told me when I skipped my high school graduation that I would go on to earn my bachelor’s degree and graduate on time — I couldn’t have believed it.

What I knew that night, donning a black silky robe and balancing a mortar board on my head, as I waited to take my turn to walk the university stage with my husband, grandparents, sister and her then boyfriend (now husband) and our best friends cheering for me in the stands, is that God can most certainly redeem what was lost.

The loss may be irreplaceable — as nothing could bring back my mom or replace everyone and everything ripped from my life — but if we stay in a posture of being willing to receive the gifts God has planned for us, and we continue to take a new step forward each day, then our hearts and lives can be genuinely full to overflowing with good things. Soul-filling, goal-accomplishing, dream-realizing things. Things beyond what we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

An awesome, fulfilling and rewarding life is possible after traumatic loss. 

During my junior year of college, someone I highly respected flat out told me that I would never graduate. They genuinely did not believe in me and it broke my heart in ways that silently hemorrhaged for years. I chose to extend forgiveness toward that person, and felt a personal cathartic release proving them wrong, as I shook hands with faculty on the stage that night.

Moving my tassel from right to left was a symbol that I did it. God gave me the strength and work ethic and I used all of it to run through that finish line.

I skipped my high school graduation because I was embarrassed and overwhelmed that I didn’t have a traditional posse cheering for me. One thing I’ve since learned is me cheering for me was enough. Accomplishing a goal is personal. And when I walked the stage to receive my college diploma, I was eternally grateful for those who came to cheer me on, but most of all I looked to heaven and gave thanks to God that he completed a work in me and we did it together. (Phil. 1:6)

Everyone’s journeys looks different. My husband and I were blessed to rear three kids who have grown into amazing adult children whom I highly admire. They have my heart.

One out-of-state move, three houses, multiple jobs, and being blessed to live out our heartbeat for international missions and relief work, I never could have dreamed that God would raise up beauty from ashes in the brokenness of my life. All glory goes to him.

He is absolutely the God of the impossible and only asks we trust him and take the next step that he puts in front of us.

2020 Seniors, I know inconsolable grief. Overwhelming loss. Desperate disappointment. Uncertain futures. Gripping fear. Unquenchable loneliness. Paralyzing hopelessness. Catastrophic helplessness.

I also know that you have the choice to allow how much this surreal season affects your present and future. I know there is purpose for you. I know there is an entire world waiting for you. A world who needs you to do what you were born to do. And I know that you have the power to choose whether this season breaks or benefits you.

If you’re quarantining in your home with those you call family; food in your pantry; an education to continue online or otherwise; and you have one friend who misses you; and a sport, club, volunteering or work that you miss, then you already have everything you need to graduate abundantly blessed.

Embrace what you have. Trust God that he can work for your good if you give it all to him, including your grief. Choose to let this season make you better, not bitter.

Keep looking ahead. Keep stepping forward. Take Bruce Lee’s advice and “Be water, my friend.” You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. (Phil. 4:13) And keep smiling, knowing the best is yet to come.

Easter during a pandemic – WWJD

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When decorating for Easter, we usually focus on the cross, the crown of thorns, the empty tomb…with some cute spring and bunny motif thrown in.
This year, while quarantining through the Easter season, I felt a nudge to accentuate a different moment in Jesus’ final days before crucifixion.

In John 13:1-17, Jesus washed his disciples feet. The humility in his posture toward those he loved. The grace he gave those he loved. The servant-heart he showed those he loved.

To follow the example of our Savior, I forewent the “prettier” Easter decor and set out a bowl filled with tap water and an ordinary dish towel as the centerpiece for our kitchen table.

It is a reminder to keep a servant’s heart, a me-second attitude, and a grace-filled posture toward our family who we’re now spending 24/7 with in a confined space.

God gave us a little devotion about it – to stay in the attitude of “How can I wash your feet today?” Maybe it’s praying for each other. Maybe it’s unloading the dishwasher or helping with yard work or turning down the tv when someone is trying to work.
Maybe it’s an encouraging word or hug. Or sharing a laugh or a joke to lighten the day.

However, in these stressful times of isolating from a world-wide crisis while juggling work, sick family, fears of the future, and the million things that keep us up at night, perhaps “washing each others’ feet” is NOT saying the irrational, negative, angst-filled words in the moment; NOT taking the stress and fear out on each other; maybe it’s what we DON’T say and do – the hurtful and not helpful – that best demonstrates Jesus’ point in these extraordinary times.

The bowl, water and dish towel sit in full view all day long. Every day. It’s a great visual of what Jesus did, KNOWING he was going to suffer and die, and is a reminder of how we can follow his example as we wait and wonder IF we will suffer and die.

Jesus’ life gave us all the tools we need to navigate this crazy world. Pandemic or otherwise. I might just leave this centerpiece out indefinitely so we never forget to love, serve and give grace to those nearest, our neighbors and the nations. 

John 13:12-17 “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Lessons from Nana…Enjoy the moment

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There are days when Alzheimer’s and Angiosarcoma have the upper hand. Those are really hard days. We think to ourselves, “She didn’t know who we were today. We want to be here, but she didn’t know…”

The thing is, even if she is confused about what’s happening, we come anyway. Nana is still Nana even if she’s confused; even when she is too weak to get out of bed.

We brought our dog with us because Nana loves dogs more than anything in the world; maybe more than her own family, lol. We thought this could cheer her up. And if that didn’t work, maybe the mint chocolate chip milkshake from Cook Out would do the trick. And if that still didn’t help, perhaps the Agatha Christie books (her favorite) we found on eBay.

Was it one of our best visits? No. Not even close. She is suffering in so many ways. It hurts us deeply to see her go through this and not be able to fix anything – just treat symptoms.

But I’m learning, even on the hard days, to enjoy the moment. Nana taught me decades ago that we can handle anything. She often used to say, “I can do anything for ____ amount of time.” If that meant a 3-hour car ride, she’d say, “I can do anything for 3 hours.”

I find myself saying that now in this season with her. Despite the health obstacles she is facing, I catch myself saying her words, “I can do this for this season.” It’s not easy. Making difficult decisions about her future with the family, arranging for help, and the hundreds of details of life that encompass her final lap in life, I lean on the person I know is still in there – Nana the fearless, the strong and strong-willed.

When I’ve cried my eyes out, or have been frustrated with things beyond my control, or disheartened by the terminal illnesses that plague her body, I still hear her in my mind, clear as a bell, saying with confidence, “I can do anything for now!”

If Nana can endure this, then so can we. And part of making this season easier is to lean in to the hard and enjoy the moment. Watching her enjoy a sip of the milkshake; the look of surprise on her face with the books; or the many kisses she gave our dog, these moments – which are so small you’d miss them if you blinked – are priceless beyond measure.

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This photo of her smiling was the only smile she could muster this day through the pain and symptoms of the diseases. I’m so thankful to have captured it because her smile shows her strength, tenacity and determination for life and living.

It makes me wonder what fleeting moments I’m missing in everyday life because I’m distracted – or simply not looking for them. Her smile makes me want to not blink, not miss, not turn my head for a second from life’s hidden treasures.

Her smile was the best part of our visit. We left with hearts broken but hang on to the truth that God’s got her, and she trusts him with her life…so I can trust him, too. We can smile through the hard and enjoy the moment of being together. Simply being together.

I am going to be more intentional looking for the moments in life that make it worth living. A shared smile, a gentle hug, a kiss on the cheek – connections that cannot be stolen by illness and time.

Times when hearts connect, and we are made stronger by leaning on each other’s strength.

Watching Nana love on our dog, I see her true spirit, the person she still is even when her personality is overshadowed by circumstance. She’s still Nana. I’m going to enjoy every moment I can with her until the Lord calls her home. My prayer is for more moments with her, strung together over time like pearls on a necklace, and that I never forget the pricelessness of them – mundane or monumental – they’re all important…because she is.

Christmas came early this year

I have never peeked at my gifts. Ever. Growing up, I knew where my mom hid them, but dared not look. As a wife, my husband and I have our own hiding spots in the house for each other. I stay far away from his.

Why? I’ll answer that question with a short story…

Once upon a time I had a conversation with my mother-in-law I’ll never forget. We were on this very topic, and she unashamedly confided in me that she always peeked at her gifts. She said she was a master at taking a pair of scissors and slicing the Scotch tape, carefully unwrapping the gifts, then taping them back up. No one was the wiser.

By the time she was finished telling me, my jaw hung agape with eyes wide and mind perplexed. I responded, “How could you do that? All the effort someone went to! Haven’t you ever felt guilty?”

Oh boy. There’s the g-word – and my reason why I don’t peek.

As curious as I might be as to what is hidden under colored paper, bows and ribbons, I can’t bear to ruin the surprise factor for the giver. Even though, of course, I know where my husband stashes my gifts, I would never ever peek. I still wonder who is more right – the one who peeks and fakes acting surprised, or the one who doesn’t peek out of sheer guilt.

For the first time, my husband suggested yesterday that we get separate Amazon accounts. Ha! I had to look up an order history for something I ordered recently and all of a sudden an item appeared that looked exactly like what I had hinted to needing (not just wanting). As fast as I could, I closed the window tab and got back to my work. We laughed about it later, but I think he has a point about separate accounts.

This year, however, some Christmas gifts came early. They weren’t delivered by USPS, UPS, FedEx or drone. They weren’t wrapped, hidden or accidentally sent to my email to download and redeem.

Like opening advent calendar windows, a gift here and there has surprised me amid this bustling Christmas season. I’d like to share them in hopes other people have received something similar. I have to admit, in a season of giving (which we love) I have abundantly enjoyed receiving these personal presents –


This soup starter was made by a 2nd grader named Katy. It was given to our widow friend, Ms. Betty. My husband and I took Ms. Betty to our church’s annual widow’s Christmas luncheon. It’s always a great time. I get a real kick out of these ladies. This year, I came with a heavy heart. I feel like my heart has been turned inside out, stepped on and wrung dry these last months. As I sat at a table adorned with a crisp white tablecloth, evergreen and candles, I looked around the room at women whose silver hair complimented the gold glow of the candles. I thought about all they’ve endured. I thought about their loss and legacy. I asked one woman if her friend sitting with us had any children or grandchildren nearby. Her response surprised me, “I’m not sure. We ladies mostly rely on each other. For most of us, each other is all we have.”

I love our seniors and believe they have rich experience and wisdom to share – if we’re listening. Usually they keep me laughing, but on this widow’s annual Christmas luncheon, I sat teary-eyed and speechless. I thought to myself that if they can get up every morning so can I. I’m sure many of these women know this familiar pain in my heart. I’m sure they’ve seen more than me. Yet, they continue to find purpose and meaning in each day. They match their shoes to their purse, smell of sweet perfume, and wear a smile that seems to say, “Yes, but I keep on going.” I admire these ladies so much. They are my inspiration. They gave me the gift of hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11) that day. A hope I cling to.

On our way home, our lovely Ms. Betty insisted we take the soup starter home. She said, “You have a family to feed. Me? It’s just me. Take it. I insist.” The gift that keeps on giving. A precious 2nd grader named Katy gifted Ms. Betty and Ms. Betty gifted us. I almost don’t want to use it. Every day, I see it in our pantry and thank God for both ladies, who may be at opposite ends of life’s spectrum, but share the same generous, loving heart.


Another early Christmas gift was from two different people, and neither of them knew. We were having an extraordinary week of demands and I was trying unsuccessfully to keep the threads of life from unraveling. My mother-in-law was visiting. She’s gluten free. Typically, I like to take on new culinary challenges and treat her to what she may not make for herself. Salmon and broccoli always make the list, but this time I couldn’t even think about meal preparation.

Out of the blue, I received a text from one of my dearest friends saying she had made too much lasagna and would like to bring us the other half. I was so thankful for her random act of kindness to feed 3 teenagers, I quickly accepted. However, my mother-in-law couldn’t eat it. I didn’t know what I was going to do.

As I perused the freezer hoping something would magically appear…something did! We had been at my brother-in-law’s home for Thanksgiving and my sister-in-law packed our cooler with some of the Feast’s leftovers for us to take. Among the turkey, Watergate salad and mashed potatoes was an aluminum pan that didn’t look familiar. The label read, “Pasta.” I texted my sister-in-law to ask her about it, thinking she’d made a mistake and gave me something that should’ve stay at their home. She replied that she meant to because she made it gluten free and thought we could use it.

We went from whatever-you-can-find-to-eat-for-dinner (again) to homemade pasta for everyone from two women whose hearts are richer than their recipes. What a gift!

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Attending our youngest’s band concerts is always fun. I love seeing everyone all dressed up holding their shiny instruments. I feel their nervousness and study their faces of deep concentration reading sheet music, with constant, frantic glances at the band teacher, their maestro, for direction.

In addition to seeing our boy bond with his band friends, we love to watch him play with all his might. One particular piece had his bow tie in a knot. It was a difficult piece in which he led the rest of the band in rhythm. Not only did he play fabulously, my favorite part of the song was when all the music stopped. The song ended and our boy broke out into a huge smile! He was beaming! He is often hard on himself, perfectionist that he is, but even he knew he did a great job on that song. He smiled and smiled and smiled. It was contagious to his mama. My eyes were fixed on our young man who struggles to see what he does right. This was a win for him and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. So thankful God urged me to put down my camera and just enjoy the concert. That was a gift in and of itself.


Every year our family hosts a charity bake sale (more on that in another post). The sale was over and it was time to count the money. I glanced over at the moneybox and suddenly, as if I were given eyes to see for the first time, I noticed it sat right next to my Bible. Immediately, Matthew 6:24 came to mind, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

I sat and gazed at the two. I thought about the past 10 years we’ve held this bake sale, and how faithful God has been in it. It was a sweet moment of reflection to know that after all these years, the purpose of the sale hasn’t changed. It’s all for His Kingdom work.

It was also a good reminder going into the Christmas season that what we buy for others isn’t nearly as important as Who paid for our ransom from our sin.


In the middle of an extremely busy day, I whizzed by the doorway to our music room (which in a normal house would be a dining room, but we’re not normal 😉 ). I stopped in my tracks and noticed our little dog. This is the pic I silently snapped. Every day she waits in this chair for the kids to come home from school. How does she know when they are coming? It’s like she can read the sun (or a clock, which is less likely). This is her routine about 15 minutes before they arrive… every day. It’s just so tender to watch. She teaches me patience and that good things are indeed worth the wait. I am thankful God tapped me on the shoulder mid-stride and gave me eyes to see. I need this message at this point in life. Good things are worth the wait.


Speaking of patience and waiting, as I mentioned before, this has been a heart-testing season. Brutal. Raw. Most days I feel this season will never end. A random Friday had a unique gift in store for me. My girl and I went for pizza and on the counter were free Our Daily Bread devotionals. I took one, and sitting down at our table I flipped it open to try to find that day’s date.

The booklet opened to January 16th.  Is there something special about that day? Nope. However, again with eyes to see, it was like God sent me a message saying, “This season you’re in won’t last forever. Each day feels like an eternity, but it’s not. There will be days past this. There will be January 16th’s, March 29ths, and July 12ths.” Even if not literally, as we are not promised tomorrow, (James 4:13-15) it still speaks to my heart that there is an after, after this season. The ominousness of heartache is all-enveloping. Like a gloomy sky of gray clouds hiding the sun. But, there is still a sun shining above those clouds. It’s still there. Keep looking toward the future. Look past the gray todays. Look for the sun. There is always hope for a better day.


On a cool Sunday night, we stopped everything, jumped into jammies, snuggled under a blanket and watched the first colorized version of I Love Lucy. Fire crackling. Fuzzy socks. Awesome night. This was the gift of family time. It warms the soul.


Every Christmas we enjoy baking for neighbors and friends. And just as much as this is a tradition, so is the inevitable question from my family, “Do we get to keep anything?” Many years the answer is no, I guess because I feel like I can make treats anytime – but seldom do thanks to watching our waistlines. This year, I surprised my crew and made a batch of buckeyes just for us. To keep things fair, and to avoid bloodshed, I bagged and labeled an even number of each so everyone can do with their 5 confections as they wish. They were beyond excited and their faces were worth every effort. I wanted to gift them, but they wound up gifting me with their gratitude.


I’ve coined a phrase for my job every Christmas…I am the Christmas Keeper. Always have been. As a child, I did much of the decorating in our home. I never understood why this was often a solo job. It was very sad, but also very special. From the ceramic Christmas tree that held little plastic bulbs, to fake spray snow (a mess to clean!), to the small brass candle holder with angels and a fan so when the candles were lit the fan spun the angels in a circle, to angel hair (which was basically strands of thin glass and gave me paper cuts every time) used as snow, to our nativity, my favorite. I absolutely loved setting up the nativity every year. It is a mystery as to how I wound up with ours. Once Mom died when I was 16, everything in our home was sold. I can count on one hand what I have left from my childhood, literally. This nativity is a such a gift even though the supporting cast has dwindled over the years. Breaks, chips and missing pieces have left us with just a few figurines. I can’t bear to buy replacements. It wouldn’t be the same.

Each morning/night I turn on/off the nativity. It’s my quiet moment to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. Perhaps if I had company setting everything up when I was little I wouldn’t appreciate the richness of the task. I am our family’s Christmas Keeper. However, it has been such a joy to see our youngest embrace the special purpose of this task, as he has become the one to set up the nativity. He loves this job. I could help him (not that he’d need it, just for the company), but somewhere down in my heart I am hoping he’ll make his own memories of experiencing the richness of what Christmas is all about on his own, just like I did.

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Friends are a gift anytime of year, and I do NOT take my wonderful girlfriends for granted for a second. They are my heroes, the sprinkles on life’s cake. I have no idea what I’d do without these amazing women who are strong, fearless, tender and compassionate. I count myself exceedingly wealthy in this life because I have the best girlfriends anyone could ask for. We laugh, we cry, we talk, we sit, we walk, we celebrate, we help, we push when needed, we back off when we should, we pray, we endure, we play and we serve together. I love love love them. They are priceless treasures in my heart. Irreplaceable. Incredible. Beautiful inside and out. They have been my lifeline, my prayer line, my patience, my encouragement, and my comic relief. Only with real, true friends can we laugh and cry at the same time. Only with real, true friends can we be ourselves – the good, the bad and the ugly. Their texts, calls, emails, drop-ins and ventures out with me have been my saving grace through the most difficult season of my life. I thank God a million times for them. They are a gift all year round, but especially remembered at Christmas – the season for hope and giving. They are one of my biggest joys and I. Am. Grateful.


Eight minutes. This was a gift I gave myself. I came to a point one afternoon where I just needed to take a deep breath. Plates were spinning, but in that moment I had nothing more to give the day. So I found a quiet spot, alone, and sat. I sat for eight minutes and did nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was marvelous and gave my body the feeling as though I had taken a restful nap. Too many times everything else takes center stage in my days. Many people can relate. We’re left physically exhausted, mentally frustrated and emotionally spent. I may not get it right often, but for that day those eight minutes were divine.

This is a gift I hope to not only learn for myself, but to pass on to my children. Following the airplane oxygen mask metaphor, I want to teach our children that in the middle of considering others more highly than themselves (Philippians 2:3-4), they are no less important than anyone else.


This may sound silly to some, but another early gift was breakfast the other day. I am always grateful to have a meal, and am constantly cognizant of those who regularly go without nourishment. This meal was a gift because of what it was. Our daughter made chili the night before for dinner. Pared with sourdough bread and it was a savory meal for a cold night. Sourdough happens to be my favorite type of bread. The next morning, I found myself passing on the fruit and egg whites and staring at the leftover bread. An idea came to me! We had everything needed to make my favorite breakfast. Call me crazy, but a perfect breakfast is: sourdough toast with strawberry jam and chocolate milk. Chocolate milk is the one thing I hope is in heaven. 🙂 But for now in this life, I don’t afford myself these pleasures because this isn’t exactly a breakfast of champions. In fact, I only splurge twice a year with this meal – my birthday and Mother’s Day (when it’s brought to me in bed!).

Throwing caution and calories to the wind, I made my favorite breakfast and enjoyed it all by myself. This wouldn’t count as an early Christmas gift to some, but to rule-followers, and “C’s” like myself (on the DISC scale) breaking my own rules isn’t easy. But, it’s something I’m actually working on in many areas of life. More and more, God is showing me that many of the things that drag me down are self-imposed. I’m not at all saying there shouldn’t be boundaries and a strong moral compass set by the Bible. I’m talking about rules and regulations that I unknowingly adapted and adopted over the years which has only led me into a self-made prison of sorts. A box that tempts me with guilt and shame if I push on its sides. So in the name of calories I limit myself to this meal to two times per year. Doing this for myself this time was indeed a real treat – not solely because of what it was, but because of the freedom I allowed myself, guilt-free.


Definitely a real treat this month has been baking with our teenage daughter. One day, we spent 12 hours in the kitchen concocting confections for our neighbors and friends. She is an excellent baker and cook. We work well in the kitchen together. We scoured our family cookbook, trying out a few newer recipes as well as sticking with some old favorites. We shopped together – she had her list and I had mine. The best gift in this day was spending the day with my girl. The second best gift was that she offered to cook dinner! So while I was mixing and stirring and measuring she did all of that in addition to cooking dinner from scratch. It was SO wonderful to sit at the table, with aching back and feet, and be served a hot meal. Oh wait! There was a third best part of the day – she also cleaned up the entire disastrous mess we had made that day. A triple blessing!


I’ll admit, this one is a favorite gift to me throughout the school year, not just in December. Before school, our middle schooler and I often take time to read Jesus Calling over breakfast. Well, I read while he eats. It’s only a couple of minutes, but that is precious time spent with my boy that connects our hearts for the day. We read. We chat. We ponder. Then we bolt out the door! But, for those few minutes life stops. Hearts connect. A prayer is offered. And I can send our boy off to middle school knowing God is with him. I love this gift.


I had a precious moment recently…our oldest came home from work for a lunch break on Saturday. I was alone doing many household chores. I immediately saw this as a lunch date opportunity with me and my firstborn. Stopping everything, I heated him up some chili and we sat at the kitchen counter and chatted about the day. When we went to leave, he said, “Man, what a great day! It’s grey and drizzly, which I love. I had a hot meal and got to spend it with one of my favorite people in the world.” (she blushes) I will never forget that my 18 yr old son said I am one of his favorites and that he values spending time with me. There is no greater gift he could give me.


Hands down, one of my very favorite early Christmas presents was a date at Starbucks with my man. On a Friday night, thick in December when many people attend parties, there we were slunk in Starbucks’ comfy chairs talking. Other than us, there was a man at the counter nursing his coffee with briefcase in tow; another man tucked deep in the corner in his sweats working on his laptop; and one other couple with chairs turned for privacy. There we all were. No Friday plans or holiday parties. My man and I loved it. We were able to cover more topics of discussion that had been on hold all week in that evening that would normally take the entire week to dig through.

It reminded me of a time years ago when we had rsvp’d to a Christmas party. The kids were little and sitters broke our bank, thus we didn’t go out much -at all. We left our home that night for the party, but somewhere along the road we got talking about how seldom we actually went on a date. The next thing we know we’re at the movie theater! We totally ditched the party (a large, corproate event) and went to the movies. Our thought was, if we’re going to get all dressed up and pay a sitter, we would rather spend time with each other – coveted time that was badly needed – than attend a party, though we were flattered to be invited (no offense).

Funny part is, on our way out of the theater, we ran into friends who knew we were supposed to be at the party! Embarrassing!! We did what any couple would do – we dodged that bullet with a quick hello and kept walking. We may have been caught, but we weren’t going to confess. Looking back on that stressful time of life with three small children, demanding work and endless other factors of life, I still don’t regret that decision. That spontaneous date night was cool water to a thirsty marriage. And, no one ever even asked us why we didn’t make it to the party so I’m pretty sure we weren’t missed. Ha!

None of these gifts could have been wrapped. They are intangible gifts birthed from an overflowing heart from our Heavenly Father. Moments and experiences that money can’t buy. They are little things that make a big difference, and big things that make a big difference. This gift list could also be called a grateful list. Either way, I am thankful that God made sure I haven’t missed one single blessing that these December days have brought me.

Timeless treasures. Priceless presents. Glorious gifts of love and care.

Never underestimate the power of an unlikely gift, or the purpose for which it is given. It reminds me of a certain child born among livestock who exchanged His crown for flesh, which He voluntarily sacrificed for you and me, so that one day we will share in His glory.

Merry Christmas!