A Return to One Thousand Gifts

It’s been a really long time.  Like almost a year.  But, I really want to get back into counting one thousand gifts!  So, I’m jumping back in. This week I’m thankful for:

301. Getting to spend my days with my sweet baby boy (who just so happens to be 7-months-old today!).  I’m seriously obsessed with him.
302. Watching the love my husband has for our son just grow and grow.
303. A man who spoils me rotten.  Like, way too much.
304. Internet at the house.  Finally! (One of the many ways my hubby spoils me.)
305. Each new sign that Spring is right around the corner.
306. Skype.  I love being able to chat with my family half a world away!
307. Earl Grey tea.  Ah, yes.
308. How many sunny days we’ve had this winter.  This Arizona girl is soaking it all up!
309. Having fires in the fireplaces to snuggle up by.
310. Each new day to spend with my two guys.

One Thousand Gifts:

Sometimes I have to do things I don’t really want to do.  Sometimes I have things coming up that I dread.  And yet, I can’t avoid them.  I must press on.  The challenge is in finding the good in these things…embracing them.

Every situation is for a reason.  Through hard or difficult things, or things we just don’t want to do, we learn things.  We grow stronger.  That is a gift in itself.

291. Situations and tasks that make me stronger.
292. The opportunity to find joy in everything.
293. A short break to soak up some Vitamin D, after being stuck in a building all day.
294. A baby boy who’s kicking me night-and-day, and making me smile almost every minute.
295. The most comfy maternity jeans ever.
296. Minimal discomforts from pregnancy…just an achy back!
297. Warm baths to sooth that aching back. 🙂
298. Mango iced tea at Chilis. Yum!
299. Getting to wear the cutest shoes I found at a consignment store…and being pleasantly surprised that they are very comfortable!
300. Having people quickly notice that I’m pregnant.  It’s so fun!

One Thousand Gifts: My Garden

The grey winter days made us ambitious.  Maybe a little too much that way.  We dreamed of a huge garden, with all sorts of vegetables.  We dreamed of canning, drying, and making our own “spice mixes”.  We ordered any seed we thought we might use, and dreamed and designed huge garden plans.

And then reality set in.  We’d need more dirt, more space, and more time.  20’x40’ our first year out?  We were crazy.  But we didn’t give up the dream.

We settled on a nice raised bed, 16’ x 16’.  We were amazed as God provided the perfect amount of top soil, and for a great price.  We prepared and got everything ready, we drew up new plans and scaled back on numbers.  And now, we’ve started to plant. 

There’s still much work to be done.  More planting to do.  Watering and weeding and bug picking to plan out.  And then the comes the gathering and preserving.  Yet, it’s work I love to do.  Yes, I love to feel my fingers in the soil, to watch anxiously as my little plants grow.  To care for them and nourish them…to protect them

What stuns me most is that God cares for us that way…and then some.  He’s a more dedicated, faithful, and loving Gardener than I could ever hope to be.  Yet, somehow, when I see my little seedlings sprout, I understand just a little bit more about the Mystery that He is. 

281. A spot and land to start the garden of my dreams.
282. A husband who works tirelessly to help me achieve those dreams.
283. A small glimpse of God each time I walk in my garden.
284. His provision.
285. Friends who are always encouraging and faithful, and who I can count on with this baby coming.
286. Watching my belly grow more-and-more each day.
287. Feeling my little son kick me night and day.
288. Knowing that in just a few more months, he’ll be in my arms.
289. Consignment sales and new maternity clothes.
290. Ice cream sundaes on warm, Sunday afternoons.

One Thousand Gifts: Being at Peace

Nineteen more weeks.  Some days it seems like an eternity.    Being halfway there doesn’t seem to help. After all that, after seeing my sweet little man kicking on the ultrasound, after knowing what his name will be…I’m still only halfway there?!

There are days I long to hold him in my arms.  To look into his little face, to sing to him, to love on him.  And yet, I know that time has not yet come. 

I don’t hate being pregnant.  In fact, for the most part, I love it.  Lately I haven’t felt extra tired or unable to do things, and there’s nothing like feeling that life kick and move around inside of you.  And yet, sometimes I get impatient.  Sometimes I just want to fast forward the next several months.  But how much would I miss if I could?  I’d miss the wonder of watching my son grow within me.  I’d miss the last sweet months with just my husband and I.  I’d miss getting to buy cute maternity clothes and show off my baby bump.  I’d miss getting to shop for things for Baby Baker.  I’d miss glorious spring and early summer.  And most of all, I’d miss out on all that God has given me to do today…in the here and now.

Yes, I wait in anticipation for the day I can hold my little one in my arms.  But I’m at peace with right now.  Never again will I be able to have him so close, and keep him so precious to me. 

Pregnancy is a time of waiting…but it’s also a time of feeling God pour out His glorious peace.

271. The gift of experiencing my child growing within my womb.
272. The joy of wondering what my little son will be like.
273. Feeling his kicks almost constantly now.
274. Getting emails from my husband with links to things he wants to get our little man…like a little Carhartt jacket or a Carhartt diaper bag.
275. Getting to experience pregnancy with a growing number of friends and family members.
276. Deals on diapers…it’s never too early to stock up, right?
277. Getting to go to a baby consignment sale this week…and possibly maternity clothes shopping!
278. The satisfied feeling after accomplishing some spring cleaning and organizing.
279. The sweetest man ever who literally spoils me rotten. 
280. Knowing that God has an incredible plan for this season of life.

One Thousand Gifts: The Plum Tree


Spring is in full swing here in the Ozarks.  It seems like everybody keeps holding their breathe for one last winter storm, but each day gets a little warmer, and each day winter seems more and more like a thing of the past. 

A couple of weeks ago, our plum tree started blooming.  Last spring I was enthralled with all of the blooming trees and flowers springing up everywhere you looked.  Spring in the Ozarks truly is a magical time.  But last spring, I didn’t have the plum tree.  In wonder I watched as the buds began to form, and then started to open into the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen.  And oh, how they smelled sweet!

Each morning I would sit at my kitchen table, gazing out at that plum tree.  It was like a fairy tree revealing all its mysterious glory.  I couldn’t help but thank God every time I saw that tree.  After all, what does it reveal about Him, that He would craft something so entirely captivating? 

The blooms are starting to fall and the leaves are branching out.  The enchanted look of the tree has now faded into the background.  My gaze is onto the next thing to spring up or bloom.  Yet, in my memory I hold the image of that lovely tree…and the promise of what each spring will hold.
261. Spring, the time when I see His handiwork most clearly here in the Ozarks.
262. Getting to gaze out my window at plum trees and flowers blooming, instead of concrete and cars.
263. The magical effect of daffodils springing up along every ditch.
264. The earthy smell that pervades our yard after rain.
265. True friends and fellowship.
266. Joining hands with brothers and sisters in Christ to serve the Lord by cleaning up yards for people who need it.
267. Another good report about baby…just one more week and we get to find out if Baby Baker is a him or a her!
268. Feeling Baby Baker move all the time now…and Andy being able to feel it too!
269. Another sweet cousin for our own baby, due in October.  Congrats to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law!
270. Another week to spend living the life God has given me.

One Thousand Gifts: Seth

Last Monday was President’s Day.  I actually almost forgot.  The schools around here weren’t closed, and neither was the ironworks plant.  Except for not getting any mail, it seemed like business as usual.  Only, it wasn’t.

Late in the day, as I started supper, I suddenly remembered.  It hit me like a brick.  You see, I don’t know if a President’s Day can pass without me thinking of him.  After all, every time we drive through Harrison, on the way to visit my BIL or go up to the Fayetteville area, I see the sign for “SKD Motors” and everything comes back in a surging wave.  Even little things stir up old memories: Great Danes, four wheelers, sand dunes.  But President’s Day especially is when it all comes back in force. 

How long ago is it now?  I can’t even remember.  I know I was fifteen.  Seth was barely sixteen.  We’d grown up together really.  Lived in the same neighborhood, were in the same class in school, even went to the same church.  Our moms went to Bible study together.  Driving through the neighborhood, we’d see his mom frequently, walking their enormous, loping Great Dane.  Over the past several years we’d lost touch.  We’d gone to different schools and even moved churches, but I still saw him from time-to-time, and barely a day went by when we didn’t see his mom walking their dog. 

And then came President’s Day.  For me, it seemed like any other day.  We were homeschooling at the time, and my mom probably made us do a little bit of school before we were released.  We might even have gone to a movie.  Really, though, I don’t remember. 

It wasn’t until the next morning when I opened up the newspaper that that particular President’s Day suddenly became burned in my memory.  There, staring at me, was a picture of smiling Seth…and an obituary.

I soon found out that it had been an ATV accident.  Seth and his family had been camping at the dunes in California for President’s Day weekend.  They were packing up to leave when Seth had asked his dad if he could go for one more run.  One run was all it took.  He collided with a dune buggy or something, suffering severe head injuries.  He’d died in his brother’s arms before the paramedics could even get there. 

I don’t remember every detail of how I reacted, just snippets of emotions.  Death really had never touched my life.  Great-grandmother’s had died when I was little, but I didn’t remember much.  The worst loss I’d experienced up until that point had been our beloved dog.  But suddenly, death was very real and very cold.  And, worse, it had touched someone so young.

I dealt with my grief quietly, privately.  I didn’t even go to Seth’s funeral, too afraid to even face it.  But I cried for him.  And I mourned with a heavy heart. 

Somehow, through it all, I learned that everyone’s life is in God’s hands, and that we don’t know when our time on earth will be done.  All we can do is wholeheartedly work at the tasks God has given us for now.

Seth died knowing our Loving Savior, and I have no doubt where he is today.  Seth’s passing proved to be more influential for Christ than his life, and many of the friend’s we had grown up with turned to Christ because of it.  Even today, I still see Seth’s life at work.  All over my hometown, you’ll see bumper stickers bearing the initials “SKD”.  And people still talk about him.   

Sadly, Seth was not the last of the kids I grew up with to pass young.  Many of them, unfortunately, did not know the Lord as Seth did.  Every time President’s Day comes around, I think of this.  I think of how fleeting life is.  I think of all the people who don’t know Him, and my heart is burdened and renewed to seek and save the lost. 

Lord, may I be as much a testament and an shining light pointing to You in life as Seth was in death.      

251. Knowing that God has a plan and a purpose for my life.
252. For the opportunity to be used of God to bring others to Him.
253. For the people God has placed in my life who don’t know Him, but whom He’s called me to reach.
254. Being able to leave my burdens and grief at the feet of a loving, merciful Savior.
255. For music that speaks and ministers to my heart when I need it most.
256. For good times with good friends.
257. For a sunny, Sunday afternoon drive exploring with my husband.
258. For getting to feel little kicks in my belly for the first time!
259. For all the babies due to arrive this spring, summer, and fall!
260. For a life full of memories and events that God has used to shape my life.

One Thousand Gifts: A Weekend Away

This past weekend my husband and I took a weekend getaway as a late Valentine’s Day.  Thanks to an amazing deal on Priceline, we were able to get two nights at a nicer hotel in Little Rock on the riverfront for a great price.  We didn’t know how many trips we would be able to get in before the baby comes, so we took this break.

It was well worth it. 

Pictures and more to come, but suffice it to say, we needed the break.  It was so great to just have a weekend for the two of us.  Sometimes, when life is busy and crazy, you just need that time away.


241. Being able to find a great deal on Priceline.
242. Spending two whole days with my best friend.
243. Not having to worry about anything “back home”.
244. Planning for Baby Baker together.
245. Meeting up with friends for some yummy food and frozen yogurt.
246. An absolutely gorgeous, clear Sunday…after a long time of grey.
247. Bright red cardinals in my bird feeder, adding color to dreary days.
248. God’s resolving problems better than we could imagine.
249. Being able to trust Him always.
250. Getting back into the “swing of things” after a time of rest and renewal.

One Thousand Gifts: Valentine’s Day

I know a lot of people who hate Valentine’s Day.  Either they’re cynical about love or they don’t believe that buying expensive flowers and chocolates one day of the year can strengthen a relationship.  In a lot of ways, they’re right.

The first people have seen marriages based in “love” crumble and fall apart.  They might have even experienced it themselves.  The truth is, love and marriage is hard.  It takes a lot of work and sometimes can be downright messy.  And it’s worth it.

As for the second people, they’re right too.  A marriage that’s dying cannot be saved by boxes of chocolates on Valentine’s Day.  Instead, it takes daily work and self-sacrifice.  It takes giving everything you have and showing your love for your spouse in a million different ways.  But that doesn’t make Valentine’s Day an less important.

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love.  It’s a day to enjoy having a “sweetheart” and make the extra effort to be romantic.  While it can’t be the foundation to a marriage, it’s nonetheless important to celebrate together.  What a great opportunity to just stop the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life and reflect on your marriage and your love?

231. Another Valentine’s Day with my soulmate.
232. Little seedlings in my “window garden”…I couldn’t wait any longer!
233. An abundance of south facing windows to let the sun in on my growing number of house plants.
234. Finding joy in the here-and-now.
235. Another good doctor’s visit.
236. Getting to hear my sweet baby’s heartbeat again!
237. Looking forward to learning the gender is just five short weeks.
238. Hearing God speak to me in the smallest, everyday things.
239.Learning to trust God through everything.
240. Having so many people who love me in my life.


One Thousand Gifts: My Sister

As many of you know, I have been blessed with three wonderful sisters.  Whether by blood or adoption, they are all my beloved sisters…a tie that only God can knit.  Today, I’d like to share with you about one of them.

Hilary and I have always been best friends.  We are less than two years apart, and so we found ourselves doing everything together growing up.  Even in high school, we played the violin in orchestras together, and made it to All-State together.  We pretty much had the same friends too. 

When I graduated from high school and went to college, things changed a little, but not much.  I still lived at home, so despite our differing activities, we still did a lot together.  When she entered college, she decided to major in Elementary Education…same as me.  Lest you think she was copying me, Hilary has always been her own person.  She’s independent and strong.  The fact was that it seemed like God was leading us on the same paths. But some days, it seemed like she would never be able to carve her own differing path.

And then I met Andy.  Unfortunately, as anyone who remembers their friends and sisters meeting someone, other relationships change.  Hilary and I were still best friends, but there was someone else in my life now.  And that someone happened to steal me away halfway across the country.  For the first time, Hilary was alone.

Over the past year and a half since I got married, I have proudly watched as Hilary struck her own path and became a woman.  No, it was not the same path as mine, and it’s had lots of bumps and holes along the way.  But she’s shown herself strong and incredibly grounded.  She’s gotten to do things I never did.  She’s taken a mission trip to Ireland, became a leader in various college groups, led worship at church, organized a whole VBS, became a wonderful nanny, became a prestigious Rodel scholar, and, in December, graduated with her Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education.  Oh, and did I mention she’s only twenty?

It’s amazing for me to watch Hilary’s walk with God.  She’s so in love with Him…so hungry for Him.  As she sought out God’s will for this next phase of life, she faced many tough decisions.  Should she teach?  Pursue a masters in Biblical Studies?  Attend a Bible college?  Go on a long-term mission?  Ultimately, she made the decision to follow God’s will. 

Starting today, she begins a two-year program at Calvary Chapel Bible College in California.  I’m so excited for her as she enters this new phase in life and seeks a deeper relationship with Christ.  I don’t know where God will lead, but I do know that she is right in the center of His will. And I couldn’t be prouder.

221. For three wonderful sisters to share life with.
222. Watching God lead every one of us on His own unique path.
223. Having fun becoming aunts together.
224. For all the wonderful “almost sisters” in my life.
225. Getting to spend time with friends and family.
226. Spending time teaching young minds.
227. Another baby appointment today.
228. Much prayed-for blessings coming true.
229. The wonderful gift of a bright sunny day.
230. Getting to watch my sisters become amazing women of God.

One Thousand Gifts: Little Lives

I got to sub several times last week, in a variety of classrooms.  It’s always refreshing and renewing to get to pour into these young lives.  So many of these students have less-than-ideal home lives, many go without, and others live with their grandparents or relatives.  Some of them might not know what it’s like for someone to genuinely care about them.  How I want to just take these kids home with me!  But all I get are a few short hours from time-to-time…a few short hours that could make a world of difference.

As my belly starts to swell and I’m reminded more-and-more of the life growing inside of me, I think about these kids.  I think about how I will raise my own children…and I think about how different the lives of many children are from what I would wish upon them.

And then I think of my sweet little nieces and the gift that they are.  Jennifer finally got to come home on Saturday, so that means the girls are reunited once again.  They are so tiny and so precious…and already God has a plan for their life.

It’s at these times that I learn to remember that God is in control of each life, no matter how small.  He created each one of these children unique and special, just like He is forming the child in my womb.  And even when they may think nobody loves them…He does.  He has them in His hands, and that’s the best place to be.

Marie (left) and Jennifer (right) at home on Saturday

211. For the gift of hugs and sweet words from precious little children.
212. Nieces that are both finally home.
213. A swelling abdomen that is growing more each day…a sign of the baby within me.
214. A much-needed date night with my man after missing out for a couple of months.
215. Bright sunny days, even in January.
216. Working on our house and making it a home.
217. Homemade peanut butter granola bars (I’m trying to eat healthy even as my appetite grows.)
218. Planning out our garden and dreaming of what will be.
219. Thinking up fun things to do for Valentine’s Day.
220. The promise of Spring right around the corner.