Image by Nicole Pierce via Flickr
It was five years ago that I invited my dear hubby on a date.  

To his slight dismay at the time, our date included dinner followed by coffee at a coffee shop and a "State-of-the-Household" meeting. 

Yep, it's as bad as it sounds. I took my sweetheart out for coffee and a year-end review of our family's progress, just like the yearly speeches given by the President, the Governor, and the Mayor.

Happy Monday! Thanks for being here for Make A Difference Monday, a place to get intentional about starting our week focused on the positive and dream up ways we can make a difference in the world. Kendra, Julie, and I are excited to continue co-hosting MADM for the next few weeks, and hope you'll join us!

As the final days of December wind down, we wanted to take a look back at this year's Advent Acts of Kindness. We hope you were able to follow along with us via Facebook or Twitter and join in the fun!

"The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" is one of my all-time favorite movies. I love how he starts out so cold and bitter about Christmas, is a bit mischievous in his attempts to foil Christmas for Whoville, and then, once he realizes the true meaning of Christmas, has his heart grow three times. That’s a simplistic synopsis of the movie, but I’ve realized how much like the Grinch I can become.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all that goes on around the world. The coldness, and even the ugliness, is effortless to find. It’s enough to make me want to tuck my head down and walk hurriedly through life, attending to my needs and my family's needs, building walls around our hearts and shutting the world out.

And it’s in this place that I can often find myself at the beginning of each December. Ready to dive in to the Christmas season by focusing on family and gifts, goodies and parties -- yet Advent Acts forces us to stop, to notice strangers, and to offer kindness to others.

And as each day passes, I’ve noticed that just like the Grinch, MY heart has begun to grow.

Muscle shirts, athletic pants and picture day. 
On the morning of Picture Day, I found myself standing over my son as he lay sprawled across the carpet in utter despair.

You see, I had suggested he wear his blue checked button down shirt with the coordinating puffy vest. He looks so very dapper, so handsome, so like a mini-model from JCrew in that outfit -- except he didn't agree with my assessment, at least not that morning.

In between sobs, he informed me that he had already picked out his outfit.

My eyes narrowed as I carefully weighed my strategy.

Knowing that I already had some beautiful photos of him from an afternoon this fall and that I had purchased the very smallest package of school photos possible, I decided this was a battle I need not fight and squatted next to him on the living room carpet.

"What outfit would make you feel the most handsome today, Jon?" I asked gently. In between hiccuping breaths, I heard the whispered words that made me cringe slightly inside: "My pocketless pants and my sleeveless shirt."

Happy Monday! Thanks for being here for Make A Difference Mondays, a place to get intentional about starting our weeks focused on the positive and put our heads together to dream up ways we can make a difference in this world!


That word is no stranger to my husband and I.

We know full well the fear, the anxiety, the arduous  journey represented by that word I hate with all of my heart.

Our family's experience with cancer is filled with tears and anger and mourning.  But it is also filled with memories of God's provision during the darkest moments and with answered prayers - small and large. Despite the dark road, it is filled with faith, courage, and love.

Our family's experience with cancer is also filled with the kindness and love of complete strangers, people who went out of their way in that fleeting moment of connection to encourage and to love our loved ones.  

You would think that after several years of marriage, the luster would wear a bit thin on love.

And if I’m honest, there are days when it does. 

My sweet family -- living proof that Love Wins
Days when we’ve stepped on one too many tiaras in the living room or Noelle is waving scissors suspiciously close to Elise’s eyes or both girls have seemingly forgotten how to do anything but whine piteously. Days like this past Friday, when we’re scrambling to rid the Hoarders-like mess from our mudroom in preparation for a party and Tim tells me, “That’s it! No more online shopping! We have TOO MUCH MAIL!”

But in a lot of ways, I’m more comfortable at 31 than I ever was at 22, the age I was when Tim and I first met. 

Image by Lori Joan via Flicker
Peering into the mailbox, my eyes sought out the object that was wedged just a little too tightly to slide out without a serious tug.

A children's book. As I wriggled it free, my eyes teared up. It was the last book my newly-minted five-year-old would receive from the United Way's Imagination Library program. He received his first book this month five years ago and had continued to receive a book every month thereafter.

And here I stood, holding The Last Book in my hands. Tears glistened as I faced yet another "last" during his birthday week.