When Love Lands in Unexpected Places

by Cathy Baker @cathysbaker
“Trying to figure out God is like trying to catch a fish in the Pacific Ocean with an inch of dental floss.” -Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel

I thought I had it all figured out.

As I assembled my Valentine Promise Jars last week, I sensed I should leave one tag without a name. This didn’t make sense. I’d made “the” list and now the only thing left to do was to assemble the gifts and fill out a tag for each recipient. But on the morning before Valentine’s Day, there sat one lone jar of promises on my farm table. I prayed that God would lay on my heart the name of the person He intended it for.

Valentine Promise Jar

Almost immediately, a dear friend in our church came to mind. Because I’d made the jars with singles in mind, I was surprised. This friend is married with four beautiful {inside and out} children. However, when I handed it to her on Sunday morning there was no denying it was meant for her.

When we’re willing to release our intended outcomes, we are inviting God to do what only He can do.
On that same Sunday, our church learned that a business we had planned to bless with gift bags filled with goodies could not be accepted. Of course, that simply means God wants His love to land elsewhere. Praise God! On a human level, it was a little frustrating, but when we focus on God’s sovereignty instead of our best intentions, He is glorified in ways we could never imagine.
Has there been a time in your life when You’ve seen love land in unexpected places thanks to God’s sovereignty? Please share in the comment section!
“Were He to snatch away, who could restrain Him? Who could say to Him, ‘What are you doing?'” Job 9:12

When Photography and Poetry Mingle

Poetry by Mary Oliver + Photography + Snow = Love.

Okay, not the real kind, but it is a type of joy that causes me to look upwards and thank God for the little things in life.

When snow fell ever so lightly a couple weeks ago I grabbed my camera and headed outdoors to savor my favorite weather event.

{Camera + snow = loving!}

Without a doubt, Mary Oliver is my favorite contemporary poet. Her love of nature is evident in most everything she writes. The fluidity of her words smooths even the most ruffled of feathers.


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
creek bed 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.

–Mary Oliver ©

Wouldn’t you agree that it’s often the simple things in life that brings us tidbits of joy throughout our days? What’s one simple thing you’re thankful for today? 

3 Simple Ways to Love Your Neighbors this Valentine’s Day

When I think of biblical community done well, the Rhodes family immediately comes to mind.

I had the pleasure of getting to know them through a former church, and I’ve enjoyed staying updated with the many adventures God has taken them on over the years. I marvel at the openness of their hearts, hands, and homes.

Today, I’ve asked Kim Rhodes to share about some of the things they’ve done to extend the love of Christ on Valentine’s Day. {Thank you, Kim!}

The Rhodes Family

“We have been a part of many neighborhoods over the past 18 years of married life and with each place we have tried to get to know those that live around us. It always shocks me to find out that people living just a few doors down have never taken the time to meet or engage with each other.

“Sometimes the greatest influence you can have is to the lives of those that live in closest proximity to you.”

We value the unique advantage and connection we have with people that live specifically on our street or around us. One of my personal core values is “Open Home”⎯that everything we have is a missional tool that needs to be used. And so we truly believe in the power of an open home, always making space to invite people in through our front doors, not into our perfect life but into our messy, lived, and present life.

I remember at one dessert gathering we had after we moved into one of our new neighborhoods…two families engaged in conversation. Each of them had lived on the same street a few houses down for over 9 years and had never met each other. They engaged for the first time in our home.

Just recently we moved to a new city and state. And as I met our neighbor living next door, she was sharing about the families that surrounded us. She wasn’t quite sure of who lived in the house behind her because of the 15 years they had lived in their home they had never had a conversation with them. And this is not abnormal. This is shockingly normal for most streets and neighborhoods across the country. Somehow we have lost the value of opening up our homes, as well as our lives, to those around us.

One of the ways our family tries to engage our neighbors is to use holidays as times to go knock on their doors. We normally give them a gift or treat and then it’s always attached to a future invite of something happening in our home. We have found this to be something very low pressure. It allows us to engage others through an offering of a gift, and an invitation to a future time of connection. It’s that simple. There is no pressure. The worst scenario is we are able to say hello and offer a gift. The best scenario is that we get the opportunity to invite them into our home and they actually show up!

The past few Valentines Days we have used different gifts. We’ll be hitting up our new neighbors this Valentines Day with a single rose and and invite to a coffee and cobbler night at our home at a specific date in March. We’ve used Valentines day to give candy and invite people over to our “Jolly” Rancher and we’ve used Valentines Day to offer a single rose to our neighbors and just let them know they are “Loved” and that we would “Love” to have them over for dessert sometime soon.

Whether you live in an apartment or a large castle, everyone has the opportunity to open up their home and lives. My husband and I are both introverts and we’ve found it very easy to gather large groups of people engaged in conversation with little or no effort. We have found our biggest gift is giving space for those that come into our home to be able to find each other in their own stories and build a connection. In some ways our open home is a place of connection for people. And the connection and stories and life engagement that comes from those times are always beautiful and abundant.”

Thank you so much for sharing, Kim. Both you and Dave have impacted our lives and countless others. You’ve definitely inspired this introvert!

If you’ve been encouraged to think outside the box for the sake of the gospel, I’d LOVE for you to share about it in the comment section. 🙂 Thanks! 

Coming up this Saturday, Edie Melson will give us a glimpse into her one-on-one time with the Lord. And on Monday, I’ll share a simple but meaningful way to show L-O-V-E to the singles in your life on Valentine’s Day!

NEW February Series – All Things Love and Who Won the Journal?

by Cathy Baker  @cathysbaker

Welcome! This month we’re talking about all things love.

Last week, our area experienced a dusting of snow. Enough to brighten the spirit but not enough to make snow cream. Still, it made for an interesting backdrop for an idea I’d had since purchasing this heart-shaped chalkboard at Target a few weeks ago.

In a snap, I handed Brian chalk for writing the series title on the board while I grabbed my sweater, scarf, and brand new camera (thanks to my awesome hubster!)

After returning from our photo excursion we couldn’t wait to upload the pics. Being the perfectionists that we are, the first thing we noticed was the erasure mark around the top of the “L”. For a moment, we considered pulling out the sweaters and camera to run outdoors for a redo… but something within whispered,

“Isn’t that the real meaning of love? Embracing our imperfections and those of others?

Funny how that works. I have no problem admiring blue Mason jars with crusty lids or drinking tea from a cup with a few tea stains dappled here and there. Yet, sometimes I miss the beauty found in loving those, who like myself, have crusty edges if something doesn’t go as expected. Or those who’ve been stained by past choices, circumstances, fears and such. {Yes, we are clean in Christ, but consequences can often linger a little longer. Sometimes, a lifetime. Trust me.}

I don’t know about you but I was raised not to focus on myself — to put others first. I’m thankful for it, but when it comes to love⎯real love⎯we must look at ourselves first because if we’re confident in God’s love despite our own crusty edges and permeated stains, then we are empowered by a Love greater than we comprehend to extend that same real love to others…even when it gets messy.


This month we’ll focus on the subject of love in all kinds of ways. Beginning with this Wednesday’s post. When I thought of ways we could love our neighbors and community well with the love of Christ, Kim Steele Rhodes immediately came to mind. Join us as she shares how her family celebrates Val Day. You do not want to miss this!

Before we close out, congrats to Lori! You won the Dayspring journal that I secretly wanted to keep. Please message me via Facebook with your mailing address.  


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