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.

One Thousand Gifts: A New Week

For some reason, every Monday is exciting to me.  It’s a chance to start everything afresh…a chance to start from scratch.  It’s so refreshing to have the opportunity to not waste as much time and be more productive, to live each day for Christ. 

So often, at the end of the week, I find myself wishing I could go back in time.  I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time on Facebook or watching t.v.  I wish I had gotten that chore done I needed to do, or wish I had done a better job with meal planning.  But there’s no going back, only pressing forward.

And that’s why, when Monday rolls around, I’m thankful to be able to start it all over.  I’m hopeful that the end of this week won’t find me regretting the way I spent my time so much.  And yet, I’m learning how meaningless so many things on my “to-do” list are.  I’m learning to take each day as it comes, asking God what He wants me to do in it. 

When you start a week knowing that the last one was chock full of God’s path for you, the new week becomes all the more appealing.

201. Hot chocolate on misty days.
202. Making a meal that makes me say “Mmm”. (That would be homemade stir fry. 🙂 )
203. Omelettes made by my man before I head off to work.
204. Enjoying being young and spontaneous with my best friend.
205. The peace that comes with knowing that God is watching over us.
206. Sweet hugs from kindergartners.
207. A mice-free kitchen…even when we’ve had mice in other parts of the house!
208. A man who takes care of the mice for me at 3 in the morning.
209. A weekend to relax and rejuvenate with my sweet husband.
210. For another week to let God live in me.

One Thousand Gifts: Peace in Winter


The time of year I have struggled with most since moving to Arkansas has always been Winter.  I guess it’s because I’ve always connected my emotions so closely with the changing seasons, with the sky and the green tree.  When I go outside, I am revived.  Not because I feel a connection with “Mother Earth”, but because I never feel closer to God than in His glorious creation. 

It’s so easy to see Him in Spring, Summer, and Fall, when all is green or colorful.  New life comes, lives, then starts to rest.  And there’s so much to look forward to.  Each new bud, each magical firefly, and each falling leave are wonders to me.  And then there’s all that comes with them.  Spring, when being outside once again becomes fun, and when we celebrate Easter together.  Then comes Summer, days at the creek, no school, and Fourth of July.  And then in comes Fall with all it’s wonder, bringing with it apple cider, pumpkin pies, and Thanksgiving, and with it the expectation of the Christmas season.

But then the leaves fall and Christmas passes.  Suddenly I start to notice that the trees are all bare, and that the ground is brown, not like the evergreens where I come from.  The skies here are grey and colorless, and a purple haze hovers above everything.  In Flagstaff, the skies were always bright blue and clear, even in winter.  And then there’s the cold, wet days…the chill sinking to your bones…without much snow to brighten them.  In Flagstaff it was even colder, but not the wet cold we experience here.  And there was almost always snow…lots of it. 

And suddenly I feel my emotions becoming flat, like the grey sky.  What beauty is there to rejoice in at such a time?

My sister wrote this post the other day, about where God was leading her next.  In it, she talked about the seasons.  But she didn’t describe winter as dull and flat.  She described it as a peaceful time…a time for rest and reflection.  A time to let life slow down a bit.

Reading her blog, I was struck by the beauty I miss in winter.  Yes, there is that mysterious purple haze hovering above the Ozarks, a beauty I’ve always seen, but there’s also so much more!  Why can’t I delight in the peace of this time?  Why can’t I embrace the quiet and the solitude that this season brings.  Winter is about so much more than waiting for Spring.  It’s about renewal, rest, and silence.  Just like the trees outside, my soul needs a rest toAnd that’s where Winter comes in.

191. Peaceful winter days to read, pray, and reflect.
192. Letting life slow down just a tad.
193. Cardinals that still bring their beautiful red to my bird feeder…even in winter.
194. Unexpected sunny days that remind me of where I come from.
195. The blessing of seeing our precious baby on the ultrasound.
196. Learning to trust God with the actions and hearts of others.
197. A husband who is also a good man.
198. Game night with other couples
199. A weekend spent with family.
200. Starting to notice the beginnings of a baby bump. 🙂

One Thousand Gifts: A New Year?

Seriously, where has the time gone?

I should have known that I wouldn’t have time for blogging and keeping up the house during the Christmas season.  I just thought I would.  But obviously I didn’t.

After being gone for the better part of two weeks, first spending Christmas in Arizona and California, and then  taking our college group to Passion 2012 in Atlanta, I can definitely say it’s glad to be home.  Now comes the “re-entry”, as my MIL calls it, into life.

And yet, I don’t want to go back to the same-old, same-old.  After all that’s happened, I want to be different…changed.

Lord, may you lead us as we get back to life.  Show us what we need to cut out and what we need to add.  And most of all, let us not be the same.

181. Getting to be home in our own cozy bed…for the first time in awhile.
182. The lasting memories of spending Christmas with my family.
183. The beginnings of healing.
184. Learning that being like Jesus is not being religious.
185. Spending four wonderful days getting fed…and leaving changed.
186. Getting to have my sister here for a visit…knowing that the next may be awhile away.
187. A baby sister who turned eighteen on Saturday.  Can this be true?
188. Knowing that there is a miraculous life within me.
189. Not caring about the “inconveniences” that pregnancy brings, but instead being happy to take them on for the sake of my growing babe.
190. Having a husband who I can follow, no matter what…and who doesn’t want to live the same old way either.

And lest you ask for pictures and updates on baby, more is coming…soon.  I have so much to share with you about our time out west and back east!  So stay tuned! Baby Baker is nine weeks along now and my first doctors appointment is tomorrow, so I expect you’ll be hearing more in the next few days.

God bless in this upcoming week, and as you enter this new year.

One Thousand Gifts: For What Could Have Been

As many of you know, Andy and I own a sweet little beagle named Sam.  Sam is our little buddy.  She’s sweet to everyone and is always happy.  She’s not our “baby”, but she’s definitely a part of the family.

Last night we got home from Missouri (which was great…more to come!) to find Sam missing…with her tie out.  It was ten o’clock at night, dark, and our sweet Sam was nowhere to be found.  We called and called, and Andy even drove around for awhile with the four wheeler, but still no sign of her.

I resigned myself to go to bed, knowing that God knew where she was and would take care of her.

I realized we left our toothbrushes in the car and went out to get them.  I decided to call one last time.  This time, I heard a very faint whine.  I knew it was Sam.  Only, it wasn’t coming from the field behind our house like I thought…it was coming from across the street.

I rushed inside to get Andy, who got the four wheeler out again.  Poor guy, I was kind of freaking out a little.  I think I woke up all our neighbors when I realized our cat was trying to follow us across the street in front of cars.  But I digress.

Andy found her behind the manufacturing building across from us.  Her tie out was badly tangled in big pieces of lumber…so much so that Andy left it…but she was okay.  I was so thankful, and I knew God had planned my going back to get the toothbrushes.  I never would have heard her cries had I not been out front, where I didn’t expect to find her.

Anyway, Andy was very sweet about it and got our little buddy all tucked in for the night.  I don’t think anymore tie outs are in her future…apparently she’s just a little Houdini.

171. For God showing us where our little friend was stuck.
172. For Sam being totally fine…just a little scared. (No telling how long she’d been there!)
173. For a wonderful weekend with family in Missouri.
174. For the chance to sleep in two days in a row.
175. For delicious treats and Christmas goodies.
176. For the excitement of seeing my family this next weekend.
177. For looking forward to a New Year, and many new things to come.
178. For finding an ornament that summed up our year perfectly…and half off too!
179. For a husband who goes out in the middle of the night looking for our dog.
180. For sweet buddies who make our life a little big brighter (I’m so thankful for Sam and Elsa!)