10 {Meaningful} Valentine Gifts Money Can’t Buy

Gifts Money Can't Buy

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, it’s the perfect time to gift those you love with something far more meaningful than flowers or candy. Or books. Wait, what?

No doubt the Beatles were onto something with the lyrics “Can’t Buy Me Love”. Love⎯real love⎯cannot be purchased or persuaded. This kind of love cannot be bound by a date circled in red on our daily calendar. It deserves to be wooed year-round and is not limited to spouses. The ideas below can also be gifted to others, including singles and widows in your life who could use a little extra love this Valentine’s Day.

So here are ten no-bow-required ideas for Valentine’s  Any Day.

Priceless Valentine Day Gifts

TEN PRICELESS GIFTS TO GIVE ANOTHER
A Road Trip

Okay, so there’s gas money involved but you get the idea. Take your spouse to a place nearby that holds a special meaning for you both. For us, it’s Applebees and we still celebrate our first date in 1990 by eating dinner there every January 6th. Don’t have such a place? It’s time you create one. Or visit the place where you gave your life to Christ. Once in a blue moon, I still drive by the brick duplex where my condemnation kneeled in the presence of unconditional love.

A Bloody Lip

The gift is biting your lip, not bloodying the lip of another.  One of the best gifts we can give to another is to speak less and listen more. {At least that’s what I’ve been told *wink*}. Seriously, there are times I have to pray to be more aware of what I’m blurting out – like in the car. I’m not a great passenger. Most of us know what pushes the buttons of those closest to us and it’s our responsibility to not only be aware of those buttons but to also be proactive in promoting peace. Even if it means biting your lip once in awhile.

A Skill

Are you a whiz at saving money at the grocery store? Offer these skills to a new wife or mom trying to make ends meet. Mad skills in the kitchen? Offer your help to a new college grad setting up their own place. Like to clean? {You are my hero} Offer a final clean up job for someone moving. Like to piddle with cars? A single mom would love your help. The list goes on.

Forgiveness

People who have trouble forgiving others have yet to grasp the depth of their own sin. There it is. It probably hurts as much to read that statement as it was to write it. But the truth is when I struggle to forgive I need only look in the mirror to be reminded of how much God has forgiven me. And the crusty layer of bitterness attempting to form around my heart is divinely pummeled to pieces. Forgiveness is not only a gift we give to others. It’s also one we give to ourselves.

A Sticky Note

Or a dozen. Nothing says “I love you” like sticky notes proclaiming the specific reasons you {and/or God} love another plastered all over the house. Add a Hershey’s kiss to each one? Boom!

A Prayer

I would rather the prayers of one person who I’m confident will pray than ten dozen people promising to pray. Follow up a time of prayer for a person with a note letting them know how you prayed specifically on their behalf. Or if you’re with the person, pray with them on the spot.

Serve

This is intended to be a tad different from sharing a skill in that you don’t require any skills to simply serve someone else. Deliver a meal. Serve a meal. Welcome someone new at church. Babysit for a single mom. Cut grass for the elderly person down the street. Visit a nursing home. Again, the list goes on.

Your Time

It’s our most precious commodity so to give it away to another is a gift no bow can wrap itself around. Take a walk together, plan a hike, go out for coffee even though you have a Keurig at home (no distractions). Sit around a campfire with a marshmallow in hand (along with a Hershey bar…and graham cracker, of course). Or set aside a specific time each week with the sole purpose of catching up with one another.

Write A Poem

Yes, a poem. You don’t have to be Mary Oliver or Robert Frost to pen your feelings in a melodic way. Need help getting started? Here’s a link on how to write a poem for Valentines Day.

Write A Love Letter

If writing poetry intimidates you, turn to a letter. Spilling your heart onto the pages are priceless gifts that are sure to be tucked away for further reading in the future. Could it possibly serve as a tangible reminder for the generations that may one day plunder through their family’s possessions? We never know. I’ve discovered priceless letters to loved ones in my family homes and they are treasured.

Now let’s go love on others with the indescribable love of Christ!

Do you have another idea to add? Or is there one above you plan to try this year? Please share in the comment section.

 

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Love is Guarding Your Mind from the Muck

What the World Needs Now is Love
Love. If there’s anything the world needs now it’s love, sweet love. {cue music}

Words, heavy and dense like thunderclouds, roll across TV screens, Facebook feeds, and well, my own mind. I’m convinced that whoever originated the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” lived in a hobbit house tucked away inside an isolated hill far, far away.

A broken arm heals in a matter of weeks. Hurtful words can linger a lifetime.

Listening to friends and other voices around me, I sense I’m not alone in having allowed some of the recent muck being voiced today to penetrate places in my mind and heart it ought not. Like, feeling tinges of bitterness toward a women’s movement that clearly does not represent my thoughts, my “rights”, and certainly not my beliefs.

But it’s not just that.

It’s about a friend across the US that is hurting, wounded by a friend. Not because of her friend’s words to her during a difficult time, but the lack thereof. Not one word, in fact.

But it’s not just that.

It’s about a couple behind me in the self-checkout line at the local Ingles. He berates her in a crowd, not only embarrassing himself but those around him, and especially her. Kind of makes you wonder how he speaks to her in the quietness of their home.

But it’s not just that.

It’s about a beautiful twelve-year-old girl I had the pleasure of knowing who took her own life because of the words from a bully at school.

It’s true, isn’t it? The tongue really does hold the power of life and death. (Proverbs 18:21)

Our words and their tone, whether spoken or written, do one of two things the moment they leave our lips or fingertips: They extend life to another or kill it, sometimes literally.

Rarely, if ever, do words fall idle.

If I’m not careful, I won’t only wade through the muck of misguided, misspoken, or even non-spoken words, I’ll track them inside, leaving their sticky imprint on my thoughts, and eventually my own words, revealing my heart. (Proverbs 4:23) But we’re not left defenseless.

So how do we keep the muck from tracking into our minds and over our hearts? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Here are a few of mine:

Checking Our Words at the Door

How to Check Incoming Words at the Door
  • Know where the responsibility lies. We can’t control words that come to us, much like an unexpected guest at our doorstep. But we can control who—and what, in this case—we let in.
  • Consider the motivation. At times, there are words that are hard to hear but are said for right reasons. Allowing only the words we want to hear inside the door of our mind can lead to shallow thinking and unwise living. At times, we need to invite the hard words, escorted with the right motivation, into the entry hall. They don’t necessarily need to make themselves at home in our minds at this point, but we at least need to consider the words, the person, and their motivation.
  • Continue the interrogation. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take every thought captive, much like our brave men and women who take our enemies captive. They interrogate the enemy asking where they came from, who sent them, and what their mission is⎯and our interrogation of suspicious words and thoughts should be no less.*
  • Rest and surround yourself in truth. Jeremiah 15:16 is one of my favorite verses. “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.” Nothing stabilizes, nourishes, or guards the doorway of our minds like scripture.

What the world needs is Jesus. He is the definition of love. A love by any other name is fleeting. Until He returns, we are to be wise stewards of words — those we share and those we receive.

Is there a specific way you guard against the muck leaving its imprint on your heart and mind? Please share!

*While snowed in one Sunday morning, I watched Steven Furtick from Elevation Church for the first time. (He and our oldest son are college friends.) He was speaking on 2 Corinthians 10:5 from a sermon entitled, “Hold That Thought”. I couldn’t take notes fast enough. You’re the blessed recipient of these jotted notes under “Continue the Interrogation.” You’re welcome. {smile}

 

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3 Books I’m Reading this Winter {And Why You’ll Want to Read Them Too}

Winter read
I love reading year-round but especially so in winter.

Everything about the season woos even the nonchalant reader into its web. Frigid breezes, barren branches, and darker days all invite us to come in, bundle up, light the logs, and pour a cup of tea. What better way to answer the invite than with a book in hand?

 

3 Favorite Books This Winter
The three books I’m reading this winter are above average, one in particular. Let’s begin there.

 

Jesus in the Beanstalk…Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life, by Lori Roeleveld.

 

Jesus in the BeanstalkDon’t let the clever fairy-tale inspired title fool you. This book isn’t for fluff-seekers. It’s for those who, like me, have grown weary of living in a land of giants. Yes, our culture offers a plethora of its own giants but I’m convinced giant slaying begins at home. Every giant-slayer first requires the Word, as Lori points out, but this book is the second thing I read during my time with the Lord. Sometimes it’s a full chapter, other times just a paragraph. It’s not a book to gulp down but to savor. Her questions at the end of each chapter often marinate in my mind throughout the day. Add Lori’s sense of humor to the mix, and you hold a book that will motivate you to pick up a nearby rock and slip out your sling. I can’t say enough about this book and its impact on my life.

One fave quote: “It’s important for Christians not just to believe in God but also to believe God, trust what he says enough to obey him. The enemy has been clever to convince us that what God offers is dry and boring–and it is if we allow the truth to remain on the surface. But if we bury it deep in the soil of our souls and expose it to the light and the living water of Jesus Christ, we find ourselves clinging to the true Vine, Jesus Christ (John 15). We discover that we, too, are giant-killers.”

 

The Story of With…A Better Way to Live, Love, & Create, by Allen Arnold

 

The Story of WithThe Story of With may have never crossed my radar except for Lynn Blackburn’s excellent review on Edie Melson’s, The Write Conversation. {Thank you, Lynn}

The first and last part of the book is non-fiction. He unfolds a story illustrating his points in between, which I admit to skipping. I’m sorry. I’m a shoot-it-to-me kind of girl. When I want a novel I’ll read Lynn’s or Edie’s. A quick flip to the back proved to be gold. So many relevant nuggets. For me, the main takeaway is that we often rush off to do God’s work instead of inviting the Holy Spirit into the creative process.

One fave quote: “You can experience a sense of expectancy in the midst of interruptions, knowing the unplanned can lead to something better than anything you could have planned. Imagine stepping into your relationships and creativity with a power that isn’t limited to your solutions or strength?”

 

 

Fierce On The Page…Become the Writer You Were Meant To Be and Succeed On Your Own Terms,
by Sage Cohen

 

Fierce on the PageMy first introduction to author and poet Sage Cohen was her book, “Writing the Life Poetic”. It remains a staple on my shelf. So imagine my delight when I learned of her latest release, Fierce on the Page. The book was still warm when it arrived in my mailbox. Yep, it was hot off the press. With 75 brief but brilliant chapters on using ferocity to transform your craft, there is something for every writer.

One fave quote: “Writing can teach us who we are and what we are called to say. You become the person who could write the poems, as Stanley Kunitz advises, through the writing of the poems–and the stories and articles and essays. Doing what is true for you is the path to becoming your own best expert.”

 

 

I’d love to hear your process when reading more than one book at a time. For me, I use Lori’s book most days during my time with the Lord and on other days, I pepper my time with Allen’s. I carry Sage’s book in my purse, snatching extra moments as they come my way.

What are you reading this winter? And I have to ask: Coffee or tea?

**The Story of With is only $2.99 on Kindle right now!

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Silence in the Snow and Why We All Need It

Our Former House on the City Street

Our Former House on the City Street

In our former house on a city street, snow was the only hope for silence.

Every other day was filled with sounds of cars and trucks whizzing by, occasionally hitting the telephone pole that sat only inches away from the road. Across the street was the police department and catty-corner to the old home place was the fire department. No time was sacred — the blaring horn and flashing lights swooped by our house day and night. I’m thankful for their service but having a fire department for a neighbor doesn’t make for a quiet home.

But when the snow fell, there was a glorious mingling of silence and awe.

Craving more silence than a bi-yearly snow event (if we were lucky!) my heart began yearning for a quieter space — not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually. I wanted a place where my words could settle before being dampened by a siren. When our grandchildren moved 45 minutes north of the city that only fueled the desire to move even more.

And move is exactly what we did. In the past, our house was the deciding factor, not the land or lot. But this time we flipped the normal pattern. We wanted a few acres, away from any busy roads, and if possible, a mountain view. God blessed us with all three. The house is slowing becoming a home — our home — thanks to Brian’s mad house-spiffing up skills. {I plan to share some before and after pics in the coming weeks!}

This past weekend, snow fell to the tune of 4+ inches at our “new” home near the mountains. Although silence is now the norm {except for a nearby rooster crowing and hunting dogs howling}, snow is still a welcomed guest. It reminds me how vital silence is to my walk and well-being. Thankfully, we can all experience silence of the significant sort regardless of where we live. But for those like me who are uber sensitive to surrounding sounds, it’s helpful to live somewhere other than a busy city street.

Barn in the Snow

Our Barn on the Hill

So why is it vital that we seek out silence (confident that it won’t go in search of us)?

  • Silence is good for our health. According to this study, children living near the Munich airport had significantly higher blood pressure than children in quieter neighborhoods, putting them at risk for heart problems later in life.
  • Periodic silence breeds creativity. Our minds are bombarded with texts, emails, calls, alerts, etc. Just like paper needs whitespace in order for our words to breathe, so our mind needs silent space.
  • Most importantly, silence invites the voice of God to speak and it inclines our ears to hear. This virtue of silence is prized among all others as it alone has the power to usher in the only voice that brings change from the inside out. You know, the lasting type. Silence offers us the privilege and opportunity of “hearing” from the One who gives hope to the hopeless, joy to those struggling to make it through another day, peace in the midst of chaos. And as we receive it, we also give it — through our lives, the stories we write, and the songs we sing.

So, how do we incorporate more periodic silence into our daily lives? Nothing new here but it bears repeating based on the above:

  • Choose it. No one else can do it for us. If silence doesn’t come easy for you, start out with one-minute intervals throughout your day. Have no agenda other than to remain silent. Speaking of which…
  • Lose it. The ringer, that is. Turn off your phone and shut the laptop when practicing a time of silence.
  • Refuse it. Turn off your radio when you’re in the car. I know, it’s hard for me too as I love music and the voices of Chuck Swindoll, James MacDonald, and Chip Ingram, but refuse to allow the sounds of the world {even the good sounds} to rob us from the best sound of all…silence.
The View From Our Front Porch

The View From Our Front Porch

Before you go, in celebration of the first snow that fell at our new home and maybe yours too, savor these words from one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver. Her poem, First Snow:

The snow
began here
this morning and all day
continued, its white
rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
the meaning; such
an oracular fever! flowing
past windows, an energy it seemed
would never ebb, never settle
less than lovely! and only now,
deep into night,
it has finally ended.
The silence
is immense,
and the heavens still hold
a million candles, nowhere
the familiar things:
stars, the moon,
the darkness we expect
and nightly turn from. Trees
glitter like castles
of ribbons, the broad fields
smolder with light, a passing
creekbed lies
heaped with shining hills;
and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain — not a single
answer has been found —
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.

How do you incorporate periodic silence into your life? Do you find silence to be a friend or foe? Please share in the comment section!

 

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Research Links:
iheartintelligence.com

Marcia Moston: A Glimpse Into Her Quiet Time

by Cathy Baker

I
don’t know about you, but when I’m struggling to grow in a
particular area of my life I consider scripture first, and then, if
needed, I also seek out wisdom from those whom I observe have a godly
grasp on that particular struggle. 

It’s
for this reason I’ve asked three such women to share their personal
experiences with us this month in relation to their time with God because I always consider myself a WIP (work in progress)…maybe you do as well. 

Today I’m delighted to share with you the thoughts of Marcia Moston, a woman whom I respect immensely. I met Marcia years ago at our local writer’s group. Her vibrant relationship with the Lord is evident, and it’s a privilege to call her friend. 

Thank you, Marcia, for graciously allowing us a glimpse into your quiet time with the Lord.

Tiny House on the Hill

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