Category: Parenting

Pray Big Things for Your Little Ones

Friday isn’t my usual day to post, but I’ve been guest posting quite a bit lately.  It’s an honor to write alongside John Piper and other gifted writers at Desiring God.  The links below will lead you to these articles and a few more:

Desiring God:

Pray Big Things for Your Little Ones

God Carried Us with Promises: Five Truths Strong Enough for Any Trial

The Praying Woman:

Five Prayers Every Mother Should Pray for Her Children

Her View from Home:

To the Mother Who Feels Like She Doesn’t Belong

Christian Devotions Ministries:

The Promise for Your Affliction

You Are Cherished

Thanks for reading and sharing!  Have a blessed weekend!

Fifteen Ways to Find Refreshment

 

I take her to the river on a Saturday. Billowy cumulous clouds make promises about what’s to come, and I lean in for the quiet whisper on the wind.  It seems to be an invitation to refresh our souls.

She’s five, but she’s begged me to take her to the woods with a tent for months, and I finally concede. I want to go too.  I want to tell her about the nights on this river with friends and open Bibles.  I want to tell her how I encountered God on these rocks – how I memorized Psalms and felt like new life poured down through the summer rain showers that always caught us unprepared.

I strap fifty pounds to my back: two sleeping bags, two sleeping pads, the tent, water bottles, snacks, extra clothes, a baby doll, playing cards, and more. I push the rest in a double stroller, and she bounces into the woods for three whole miles, overflowing with the excitement of this novel adventure.

We’re two girls in the middle of the woods, and our cares slip away. After erecting the tent, gathering firewood, and hanging the bear bag, we wander to the river.  The water slips past emerald, and she asks if I have my Bible.  We read Psalm 97 and I tell her about the rainy day when I memorized this very Psalm along this very river.

She smiles, thoughtfully, and asks, “Did you bring communion?” She wants to remember him on the river.

We retrieve a small hotdog bun and the bottle of juice I brought for her breakfast, and I break the bread. We eat it in his memory and give thanks for the new covenant.  We pour the juice into metal camping cups and drink, remembering the blood he shed.  It’s a holy moment.

After a song and prayer, she scampers up the riverbank in search of toads, and I think of the words of Job: “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).

Something about this place makes me long to open a Bible and recite beautiful words. It apparently stirs something in my child as well.  But I pray that it won’t end here.  I pray that I’ll treasure these words more than my necessary food, even when we return home with the demands and requirements for daily living.  Do I really treasure these words?

“These are more than just idle words; they are your life” (Deuteronomy 32:47), I read, and I wonder how much I’m really drawing my life from these words. Bekah returns with a snail, and she’s jumping in sheer delight.  We put it into an empty peanut butter jar, and she hurries back to the rock where she found it.

This river feels like it’s refreshing us in the deepest way, but these words in my hand offer even better promises of life and rest. I cling to these promises and rest in them until the sun sinks low.

When the shadows fall long on the water, we go back to the tent, cook dinner on the fire, and talk about dreams and hopes. She sleeps deeply, and I watch her all night, this protective shield rising within me, keeping watch for bears and raccoons.

I also consider what it might practically look like, in this season of life, to stay in a place of refreshment. I turn on the flashlight and scratch words on waterproof notebook paper:

  1. Treasure the written Word of God more than food (Job 23:12)
  2. Get away to quiet places when I can.
  3. Spend time with people who refresh my soul.
  4. Stop striving.
  5. Stop hurrying.
  6. Count blessings.
  7. Look for toads and snails more often.
  8. Give thanks for the work I get to do.
  9. Stay in community.
  10. Speak words that bring life.
  11. Cast my cares on the Lord.
  12. Turn away from perfectionism.
  13. Stop trying to prove something.
  14. Laugh more.
  15. Live vulnerably.

I close the book and close my eyes. I trust that the One who led us on this journey will protect us from bears and raccoons, and I drift into the deepest sleep I’ve found in months.

~~~

For more thoughts on refreshment and joy, check out this link and receive a free printout: 10 Steps to Greater Joy

 

The High Cost of Disobedience

 

We’re standing by the murky waters of a place we call the frog pond when I tell him. I tell him not to step into the water.  It’s sulfurous black swamp mud, and he’s wearing white socks under his sandals, upon his own insistence.  It has something to do with the cut on his foot that mysteriously appeared in the basement last week.

Maybe it’s because he’s ten feet away and he figures I can’t get over there in time to stop him. Or maybe he simply can’t resist the temptation.  He has a rebellious streak that’s so unlike his sister’s conservative temperament.  I pray every day that I might rein it in.

He doesn’t disobey with a toe in the water and a glance in my direction; he’s an all-in sort of guy, so he literally plunges into the mysterious murky water in a sort of leap. He sinks to his knees before he realizes what happened, and I find myself hurrying to the rescue.  I pull his little body from the muck, and we lose a sandal in the process.

The sobs start as soon as he sees his blackened socks, and I cringe at the thought of the microorganisms burrowing into the laceration on his foot. But there are greater issues to which I must attend: I plunge my arm into the stirred up, stinky water and begin grasping through the mud in search of the missing sandal.

There’s stinking mud under my nails when I pull the tiny shoe from the water, and we walk to the creek to make an effort to clean ourselves. This is a scene that’s played out in my life more than once over the past six years, when I decided to cultivate a passion for catching frogs in the lives of our children.

While Caleb splashes in the much-cleaner water of Wolf Creek, I’m reminded of a passage I read in Scripture not long ago: “‘If we have found favor in your [Moses’] eyes,’ they said, ‘let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.’ Moses said to the Gadites and Reubenites, ‘Should your fellow Israelites go to war while you sit here? Why do you discourage the Israelites from crossing over into the land the Lord has given them?’” (Numbers 32:5-7 NIV)

After forty years of wandering through the wilderness, God’s people have finally reached the waters of the Jordan River – the gateway to the Promised Land. Their inheritance waits on the western side of the river.  They must simply find a way to cross the river and receive the promise.

Not everyone in the crowd is excited about the journey across. A few of the leaders look at the land where they stand, on the eastern side of the river, and they decide this land will be good enough for them.  They’re comfortable.  This spot looks quite welcoming.  They approach Moses, their faithful leader, and convince him to let them stay on the eastern side of the river.

Moses relents. He simply asks that they contribute to the conquests on the western side of the river, and they may then return and settle to the east.

But the happy ending never comes. Jump forward a few books, and we find that those who settled to the east of the Jordan River were attacked and enslaved, and the right eye of every Israelite was gouged out (Samuel 10:27, 2 Kings 10:32). Failing to obey God’s command cost them dearly.

I’m thankful my children are learning to obey. The half-hearted Israelite clans set a good example for us all.  Partial obedience is disobedience, and disobedience has a cost.  We’re called to honor God for our own protection and benefit, not to stifle our fun.

I share these truths with Caleb while we clean his shoes in the semi-clear waters of Wolf Creek.

“No more mud,” he says.

“Right, no more mud,” I affirm.

 

Giving Thanks for the Wearying Workload

 

There’s a pile of luggage at the bottom of the stairwell.  An array of minion-decorated backpacks, colorful duffels, and pink handbags adorned with flowers and fairies.  We’re leaving town for two short nights.  Two nights.  And the pile is taller than our toddler and large enough to fill a small moving van.  I have no idea how we’ll fit it into the hatchback trunk of the CRV.

My mind races through the contents of the bags. There are lists in every room of the house.  There are enough snacks to feed a small family for weeks, enough emergency medical supplies to last our family close to a year, and enough extra diapers for a week.  You just never know.

Trying to remember everything for a short family trip with young children is enough to induced mild chest pains in my anxiety-prone diaphragm. I once decided to compile a master list of needed items, which is a great idea – in theory.  The problem is that the needs of my two-year-old are entirely different than his needs a year ago.  A year ago, he needed jars of runny baby food, the baby chair, multiple bibs, and baby spoons.  This year he’ll eat the same foods as his older sister.  In addition to the changing needs the come with passing years, winter trips are entirely different than summer trips, and the packing also depends entirely upon the destination.

The pile looms in the corner as the sun peaks over the pine trees out the window. I pick a cuticle and open God’s Word for some truth to center my racing mind.  I’m reading in 1 Chronicles these days, and the thin ribbon opens to a page I must have read before.  The black ink is highlighted neon yellow: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples” (1 Chronicles 16:8).

I chew on the words and drink down black coffee. Fuel for the day.

Too often, I forget to chew on the words. Too often I take them in like one more task to complete – like dishes that need cleaned or pillowcases that need folded.  He doesn’t want it to be like this.  He wants it to be like a love letter – pondered and memorized and cherished.

I think of how life would be without these two small people bouncing about in need of snacks and dry pants and crayons. I look at the worn blue backpack at the bottom of the pile.  Ten years ago, that backpack was the only luggage needed on every weekend trip.  Ten years ago, I could fit all I needed for five days in that pack.  Things were simpler.  But simpler doesn’t mean better.  There was less work at home, but it wasn’t better.  It’s better now.

I ponder these things and forgive myself for disdaining the work that sometimes comes with parenting. I give thanks.  I call upon his name.  I commit to make his goodness known.  Are opportunities to serve others not opportunities to give thanks for the honor of sharing in Christ’s heart for investing in others?

The work set before me today is stacked higher than the bags on the steps. There is laundry, cooking, and an article assignment that will take at least three hours.  I’m not looking forward to it.  It’s the gritty kind of work that feels more like a college research paper than a soul-satisfying outpouring from my heart.

I give thanks anyway. I thank him for the opportunity to create with my hands and bless others.  I thank him that there are words to write and dishes to wash.  I thank him that though it feels like a heavy weight, it’s more like a minion backpack filled with purpose and blessing.

 

There Are No Small Moments

 

I’m on my knees, camera lens inches from a dwarf ginseng, its tiny snowflake head bobbing in the breeze, when I realize we’re not alone. “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” the khaki-clad elderly gentleman greets, and I’m drawn from my small moment with the ginseng.

“Sure is,” I say, somewhat embarrassed by the black dirt on my knees and elbows.

“Did you see the trout lilies?” he asks, and I notice the camera strapped over his neck. I’m less embarrassed.

We talk for a long while about trillium and bluebells, and he finally meanders off along the path. Returning to my photo shoot with the ginseng, I remember the way I once looked at thirty-somethings with cameras and wildflower books.  At twenty-two, I kept track of miles logged and elevations reached, not dwarf flora, like violets and ginseng.  At twenty-two, I mostly lived for big moments – summit moments, and the thought of bending low for small moments seemed nothing short of condescending.

We walk farther down the trail, kids running ahead in search of toads and moths, and I consider these changing seasons. When did small moments begin to take on such an authentic kind of glory?  It must have been before I dug the wildflower books out of the dusty boxes in the attic of the garage.

I remember when I started taking pictures of tiny mushrooms and sphagnum moss. I believe that was the moment.  The moment I pulled out the camera and committed to capture the miracles I miss every day, when I brush past in all my hurry, with my large-moment focus and my desire to prove something.

What if we could all live like we have nothing to prove? What if we never again needed to prove our worth through demonstrating our intelligence, beauty, humor, and talent?  What if these things were simply gifts with which we blessed others, and we were fully content to live in the midst of our quiet moments in utter contentment?

Have I really learned the secret of being content in any and every situation?

What if there really are no small moments – just quiet moments . . . And what if the quiet moments are worth every bit as much as the loud moments performed before the multitudes?

I think long on it, while the kids build castles along the sandy creek, and I’m sure of it: These quiet moments of walking with children in the woods, baking cornbread, stirring scrambled eggs with a rubber spatula, folding tiny T-shirts, and wiping down dusty furniture are the moments that will make up the bulk of our lives. There may be loud moments, platform moments, and moments that are broadcast before the world, but these big moments won’t make up the majority of our lives.

So what are we doing with our quiet moments? Because the quiet moments are the ones that seem small, but they’re really the ones that comprise the essence of our lives.

Sitting along the water, I commit to live with more gratitude. I commit to recognize the gifts that surround me and magnify God through naming them: dwarf ginseng, blue phlox, garlic mustard, and wild geranium; sandcastles at the creek, lunch on a hilltop, holding hands along the road; the mounds of dirty laundry that remind me of the gift of my family, the meat simmering in the crock-pot, the green crayon on the living room wall.  I won’t write these things off or roll my eyes.  I’ll embrace them and give thanks.

I commit to speak life. I commit to ask direct questions and bite my tongue when I’m in a bad mood.  I remember to tell the kids that I love them just because they’re mine, that their mistakes will never define them, and that they make my world a better place.

I commit to live intentionally.  We role play the whole way home from the creek, and Bekah thinks of responses to every playground dilemma I can conjure up.  We read Bible stories before Caleb naps, and I pray specific prayers over each of them before he sleeps.  We turn off the TV and dive into imaginary play on the carpet with our assortment of mini characters.  I make some calls and send some cards.

When the sun sinks low that evening, Bekah and I put together a pocket guide of wildflowers from our sanctuary at the Wolf Creek Narrows Natural Area. We find Latin names and study the history of each plant.  It all feels a bit small, but when she looks at me with dancing blue eyes, filled wild with life and passion, I know for sure that none of this day was small at all.

To check out our pamphlet, just click the link below. You’ll be asked to give your email address, and it will come to your inbox.  This is actually a terrific resource for anyone up for an outdoor adventure this month!

Western Pennsylvanian Spring Wildflower Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons from the Flowers in My Pocket

 

I reach into my pocket for a tissue and pull out a handful of wilted yellow flowers. They’re coltsfoot blossoms – a gift from my son on a warm spring afternoon. Withering and wilted, they look pathetic in my pocket, and I make sure he doesn’t see me slip them into the garbage can. But before I can release the crumpled symbols of his love for me, something stops me.

I examine them closely in my hand, then walk to the china cabinet in search of a suitable vase. Throwing them into the garbage can simply isn’t an option today. Someday I’ll confess to my children that I’ve quietly discarded art projects, spelling tests, and pet rocks, but for today, I’m keeping the flowers.

Staring at the pathetic vase on the dining room table, the flowers from my pocket remind me of several important lessons about life:

Small miracles always surround us

For close to thirty years, I quit noticing coltsfoot flowers along the roadside. I quit appreciating the first color to burst forth from the bleak winter landscape. For a long decade, I became so focused on my career, my goals, and my schedule that I overlooked the thousands of tiny miracles in my midst. I stopped catching snowflakes on my tongue, smelling roses, and making wildflower bouquets.

I’m thankful for the students and children who have reminded me what it means to appreciate the small miracles in my midst. Geese overhead bring awe, freshly fallen snow on a winter morning is a reason to cheer, and sunsets warrant a cessation of all activity. I’m slowly becoming less focused on the tasks of the day and growing in gratitude for the small miracles all around.

What some people call weeds, others call treasure

There’s a beautiful housing development about a half-mile from our house. We live on the outskirts of the development, literally the last house between town and the endless fields of rural farm country. The houses in the development manage to completely eradicate small yellow flowers from their lawns with chemicals and special treatments.

Meanwhile, my son refuses to walk past a colorful flower without picking it for me. Refuses. It’s a battle to keep daffodils in our landscaping, because he insists on bringing them inside for his mom. Not a dandelion endures the onslaught of his voracious desire for more treasures. He reminds me that embracing the imperfection of a flower-spotted yard might just be a gateway to greater joy. Similarly, embracing the imperfection of a less-than-perfect life, might just free me to live more abundantly.

The season of darkness always ends

The coltsfoot plants emerge on the cusp of spring. The days are just starting to linger longer. Raging blizzards have mostly passed, and warm sunny days alternate with blustery days of flurries and winter hats. The coltsfoot reminds me that the darkness of winter really will end, and warm days of basking in the sun await.

The dark seasons of our lives generally don’t last forever either. Even for those of us who endure darkness and trouble throughout much of our lives on earth, there is a greater promise awaiting. There is a promise of life without tears, pain, or suffering. I’m quite certain it will also be a life of rolling hills of coltsfoot and glistening yards of dandelions. This darkness won’t last forever.

 

The Art of Embracing Interruptions

 

The wind’s screaming through the poplar tree out the window, and the curtains flutter from the draft. I roll over and pray the light pouring through the blinds is just my imagination, but I’m pretty sure it’s the dawn of a new day. I went to bed late, thinking of writing projects and the poster Bekah and I need to make for her school project next week and what I’m going to send for snack day. My mind raced for hours, and now that dawn is here, I have no desire to race into anything.

My to-do list is long today, and I think of Ann Voskamp’s words about changing our to-do lists into to-love lists. Could scrubbing the toilets really be an act of love? Could getting down on all fours to work on the sticky dining room floor really be an act of worshipful service?

I brush my teeth thoughtlessly, and the impending nature of my list weighs me down. I need to write two articles this weekend to top it all off. The good news is that I’m the first one awake, and the stillness of the morning feels like an invitation to productivity.

I race through my daily routine of Bible reading, coffee, and dry cereal without so much as a single prayer. Little footsteps stir before I’m done checking the weather forecast, and it seems I’m racing time. I’m racing to accomplish, produce, and achieve.

Bekah’s up first, and for this I’m thankful. Once Caleb hits the ground, quiet moments cease at all levels. She smiles at me sleepily, then settles into Minecraft on the Kindle and sucks down chocolate milk. My heart smiles watching her, for just an instant, and then it’s back to the to-do list. I’m thinking of Ann again and trying to reframe my perspective as I wipe sticky handprints from the sliding glass door for the thirty-fourth time this week.

The morning progresses at the same pace, and by quarter til ten, I’m half way through writing my first article. The kids are lost in piles of dump trucks, plastic action heroes, Legos, and stuffed animals on the living room floor when Caleb comes to me eagerly. “Creek today?” he asks, and I smile. A trip to the creek wasn’t on my to-do list.

I’m not good at embracing interruptions. A surprise knock on the door when I’m in the mist of cooking dinner isn’t a welcomed opportunity – even when it’s someone from a different religious denomination coming to the door to talk about God. Too many times, I’ve overlooked opportunities to embrace people who literally come to me and want to discuss God. I wish my kids were never interruptions, but sadly, I tend to focus on tasks more easily than less tangible necessities. And spending time with my kids is a necessity.

It takes three interruptions from Caleb and one from Bekah to convince me to save my to-do list for tomorrow and go to the creek. We go, and they love every minute. We bring nets, search for frogs, and build sandcastles. We laugh, take turns sharing what we like about each other, and throw huge stones into the water. I am fully refreshed, and memories are made.

Returning home, Caleb naps, and Bekah and I embrace an hour of quiet time. In one short hour, I write more words with a refreshed soul than I would have written in four hours earlier in the day. I’m surprised the interruption fueled me.

I think of Jesus walking from town to town. I think of his destination and the reality that nearly every interaction along the road was an interruption. Again and again, he was interrupted for the purpose of bringing glory to God through his interactions with others. He wasn’t put off or disgruntled by interruptions. He lived in the midst of interruptions and embraced them.

As I finish typing, a six-year-old stands at my side with a coloring book. Time to embrace another beautiful interruption.

 

 

 

 

Five Reasons I Take My Daughter on Dates

I realize it’s not my normal day to post, but every now and then, I’ll be sharing articles I’ve written for different publications on random days.  Today is an article for Biblewaymagazine.com.  Click here to join me!

Embracing the Mundane

The yard is muddied with footprints and tire tracks, and I’m thankful for the early thaw. The neighbor lays black mulch along her hedgerow, and I wish our miniature junipers would grow. This is my life. It’s ordinary, and I’m sometimes disappointed with the lack of landscaping out my window – sometimes disappointed with the ordinariness of it all. But I’m learning to live with joy in the mundane, and it’s changing everything.

Staring at the muddy footprints, I decide to live fully today. There are curtain rods to hang, sheets to wash, and hamburgers to cook, but I’m stepping into the world and embracing it today. Caleb agrees. He’s two – pretty much my right hand man in everything from brushing my teeth to shoveling the sidewalk.

Our muddied clothes are adorned in thirteen short minutes, a fraction of the time it takes to walk Bekah to the school bus at the crack of dawn each morning. He misses her and tells me he wants to go to kindergarten too. But for now, the world is ours to conquer. I strap him into the weathered, torn, and rusted stroller, and we ignore stares from elderly neighbors passing by in old Buicks, clearly concerned that this morning is too cold for a stroller walk. Forty-degrees is a heat wave for us, and we’re embracing it.

“Hot dire today?” he asks. (He replaces the letter f with the letter d pretty consistently.)

“I brought the matches. Do you want a fire today?” I ask him like he’s thirty-five, not two.

“Yeah.”

The trees are bare, and I’m surprised by the starkness of their grey arms reaching to the blue sky. I thank God for the blue sky and the warmth of sunlight on my face. I thank him we’re healthy enough for a walk, that no one has a cold, that I’m not stuck in bed with the forty-week nausea.

“Marshmallows?” Caleb interrupts my daydream.

“Yeah, bud. I brought the marshmallows,” I affirm. He’s good at remembering things.

“Matches?”

“Yep. Got ‘em,” I assure him.

I remember my days of teaching in the classroom – all 1,295 of them. I remember how it felt to be in a building when I so desperately craved the open sky. I remember the joy of teaching teens with special needs to read, count money and cook, but I remember the hard moments too – managing it all and feeling stressed almost constantly. By the end of my teaching career, I was so ready to be a mom and spend my days investing in my own kids.

Being outside with my son under blue skies on a brisk winter day isn’t an obligation. It’s a gift. My heart overflows with gratitude as I ponder the gift.

We build our fire, cook our marshmallows, and watch a woodpecker pound a leaning cherry tree. It’s an afternoon of sheer joy in the simple act of living.

I think of it now, and I’m reminded to keep my eyes on the joy. There is always something to be thankful for, and in giving thanks, we live filled. In giving thanks, there is joy in the mundane.

~~~

If you’re a regular visitor to my blog, you’ll notice I updated some aspects of my page.  We’ll call it spring cleaning.  I also added a “Parenting” page to the top navigation bar.  If you’re interested in checking out some online articles I’ve written on raising kids, feel free to check it out!

 

 

The Power of Celebration

Snow falls heavily on the hundredth day of school, and someone made a snowman on the bridge below our house. Just standing there posed on the rusting guardrail, he reminds me to celebrate the small moments. He reminds me to pause and enjoy my life.

I need this reminder a thousand times a day, when laundry piles high and I find myself on my knees – wiping the sixteenth mess off laminate floor and not thinking of pausing to pray, not in the least.

I wonder who built the snowman on the bridge, and I wish we could have a conversation about celebration – about what would slow a person down enough to even consider such a carefree act. I wonder who decided to count the days of the school year and throw a party on the hundredth. Certainly there are thousands of reasons for celebration all around us, and we’re too busy living life to stop and throw a party.

When Bekah was younger, one of her favorite activities was throwing birthday parties for her dolls. She convinced me to help her bake a cake for each party, and sometimes we even splurged on ice cream for the special event. Decorations adorned the walls, and we broke out the party hats. Her celebratory spirit was contagious, and the whole family benefitted.

I wonder if this is how the Israelites felt every seventh year. During their meeting on Mount Sinai, God commanded Moses to establish a year of Jubilee every seven years. Here are his instructions:  “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the Lord.  Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard” (Leviticus 25:2-4).

Allowing the land to rest, slaves to go free, and vineyards to remain untouched was restorative to the land and the people. It was a year lived at a different pace, and it was a deep reminder that our rest and joy come from the Lord.

In a similar way, restoring a spirit of celebration in our lives reminds us that every good and perfect gift comes from God. And when we find joy in the simple parts of our lives, God is pleased. Here are a few suggestions for adding a spirit of celebration to your February:

Find a reason to have a party

Whether it’s a party with friends or a party with your immediate family, nothing breaks the monotony of winter like a reason to celebrate. Bekah’s party-throwing spirit eventually rubbed off on the rest of the family, and we have at least one party per month. There was a party when Bekah learned to read, a party when the guinea pig turned three months old, and a party for the new year. We’re planning a party for when the kids log 100 miles on the bike path, not to mention the possibilities that come now that Groundhog Day is upon us. There’s always something to celebrate.

Be intentional about getting outside

Whether it’s taking a walk, building a snowman, a fire in the woods, or a drive to a local state park, getting outside, just for the simple act of celebrating nature is refreshing and revitalizing. There’s always something to celebrate when we look at what God has created.

Celebrate the people you cherish

I’m not a fan of the commercialism that comes with Valentine’s Day. It reminds me of being in eighth grade and receiving chocolate from the awkward boy who followed me around in gym class. But there is beauty beneath all the fanfare. God is love, and a holiday about love holds tremendous power to bless others and provide tangible encounters with God’s love. Find a way to celebrate someone you cherish this month: a card, a visit to the nursing home, a dinner on the doorstep, or a plate of cookies might make someone’s month. It might make yours too.