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The Book Thief
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
On Gold Mountain
Bread & Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
City of Tranquil Light: A Novel
The Distant Land of My Father
The Paris Wife
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Fall of Giants
World Without End
A Stolen Life
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
The Pillars of the Earth
Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation
The Road
Trials of the Earth: The Autobiography of Mary Hamilton
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal
Cutting for Stone

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Entries in 1000 gifts (6)



I stood at the sink washing dishes wearing rain-boots when I began to mentally recount the day with my mama. 

We found the rain-boots at Costco hidden behind men’s athletic shoes. I’ve been looking for three years for rain-boots. We bought soap and salmon, steak and raspberries that opened at the check-out and rolled all over the floor.

Before Costco we ordered the exact same spinach salad at 55 South. Then we paraded up and down Main Street in downtown Franklin. We remembered the Christmas parade 23 years ago one of our first outings here. In Avec Moi, I talked her into buying six gorgeous wine glasses. She had bargained with the owner to sell her four. “When do you ever just need four wine glasses?” I said. She acquiesced and I asked the owner for a commission. 

Just another day with Mama.

I am learning that nothing is guaranteed. I have no idea what I will walk into tomorrow. I want to open my arms to today and receive the gifts. 

In June this notion blinded me like a disco light from the 80s. Mama had gone in for a chest xray and wa diagnosed with pneumonia. A SPN - that’s single pulmonary nodule in medical speak - showed up as an “incidental finding.” My sisters, my stepfather, my aunts and a multitude of friends held our collective breath while we waited for results. We got the news days before leaving for the beach that it was BENIGN. 

Never have we danced on lighter feet than that week. Rosemary Beach may never be the same. My sisters and 8 of our children celebrated and milked the most from seven days of togetherness.

Saturday we learned that the nodule is growing. The doctors don’t really know what it is.  They are running more tests. 

And again we wait.

Meanwhile, we fight to enjoy every moment without letting fear and our imaginations get the best of us. I don’t want to take anything for granted. Rain-boots at Costco. Gorgeous new wine glasses. Lengthy conversations about books we are reading. 

Lord, please help me not to let this fear rob from me the present. Amen.

33. a day of play with Mama




twenty one

Twenty one years ago today in the wee hours of the morning, I gave Matt the elbow and woke him up to fatherhood. This is the part he had been preparing for, the drive to the hospital with me in labor. He ran every red light and drove like Mario Andretti. 

Many hours later our first son entered the world, and our lives changed forever.  

The firsttime I saw his face blazes in my memory. Although breathtaking and beautiful, his color was grayish. His first APGAR score was 2. A score below 3 requires medical attention. The nurses and doctors hovered over him for more time than I liked. By 5 minutes his score raised to 7. Miracle. 

They brought him to me. A bundle of blanket and love. Too quickly Matt took him for the famous walk to the nursery through the waiting room of desperate grandparents and even a great grandmother. 

After they sewed me up, they wheeled me through the nursery so I could see him again.  He was in the NICU and my time with him was limited. They put a hallway a mile long between us. The first time I stood up after the cesarean, I cried. But pain was not to keep me from him and I walked that hall so that I could hold him. 

His first word: ball. His first bike ride. His first loose tooth. His first broken heart. 

When he was ten, we moved to Costa Rica. He fell on a nail at the playground after we had been there only six weeks. The nail stuck in his knee, deep. Someone took us to the hospital recommended to us by the language school we attended. The doctor spoke no English. I spoke no Spanish. He came at Matthew’s knee with a needle. And even though I kept yelling, he did not stop. Body language speaks every time and I got between that crazy doctor and the needle. “You don’t do anything before you tell me what you are doing,” I said to deaf ears.

They call it a Mama Bear for a reason.

Mothers fight. Mothers fight for their children. Mothers fight for their children on their knees.

Today he turns 21. He is a man. He is a man I am proud to know. His heart, his character, his sense of humor: all of this I love.

This morning I woke up before anyone else and sat with silence and a full heart. I remembered. Moments packed in a full life. Pearls strung together on a priceless necklace called motherhood. My heart overflows with gratitude and joy streams from my eyes.


31. 21 years of Matthew



Lately I’ve been searching for grace. The Word of God speaks of showering grace upon us. Why is it that I act as if grace is scant?

I was on my knees in our bedroom in Honduras using my hands to gather up the fluid on the white tile floor. I spilled this “anti-aging serum” as I unpacked our bags from a trip back to the States. The magic fluid is not available for purchase in Honduras. Scant and rare, indeed, it promises a fountain of youth. And I needed it. 

This image comes to mind often when I think of my view of grace as scant. Scant is a verb. I scant grace.

I dole it out more like 5 mL of Benadryl before bed. 

Ephesians 2:7-10 says that God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus.

Nothing scant about that. Nope. Plentiful. Abundant. Overflowing in the form of a shower.

So as I have noticed this scanting of grace with others, I realize that I skimp on grace to myself. If I shower in grace, I am more likely to lavish grace on others. That’s what I want to do.

God chose beauty to remind us of grace.

Early in the history of the world after the flood, God placed a bow of colors in the sky to remind Himself of His covenant with earth. A covenant to choose grace. He will never destroy earth again by means of a flood. Instead, He will flood grace.

The rainbow appears in Scripture several more times. Ezekiel struggles to find words to describe his vision of Heaven and God on the throne. He says, “Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown.” Ezekiel 1:28

The radiance of God is like a rainbow. 

The representation of the shower of His grace looks like a rainbow. And when I see it, I have to fall to my knees and receive. I open my hands and let the abundance weight them down.

18. rainbow of grace

Grace is a woman with tender touch and strong, sinewy arms. She is a warrior for righteousness. Grace is not lithe and fragile, nor is she abrupt or crude, and at the moment of reception, her presence is fiercely kind. She receives us, but without negotiation and with no inclination to put us on comfortable footing. Instead, she takes utter charge of our being by throwing her arms around us in delight at our homecoming. Dan Allender


zealous play

Celebration is in the air. Graduates are flinging their caps. Schools are shutting their doors. Lifeguards are grabbing their whistles as throngs of kids sprint toward the water.

One moment frozen in time by the above photograph captures my heart. Some dozen boys took the “stage” at the 5th grade picnic and danced with all their might.  One mother approached me and asked how Joshua learned those moves. “He’s outdancing the girls,” she gasped. She pointed out how it would take hours and hours to learn all the steps to Party Rock Anthem. 

Yep. That and YouTube will set you right up.

You also need a little zeal. Little zeal is an oxymoron. These boys had zeal defined as great energy or enthusiasm. Feeding off one another and singing the lyrics (how’d they learn all those words?), they sang and danced with all the vigor of Bieber if not the finesse. 

I watched on the sidelines and listened to the chatter of parents enthralled. We recognized a rare moment caught between childhood and adolescence. A moment unstained by self-consciousness. A moment of children letting all that they are surface and interact with fun and tunes. Unhindered. Transcendent. Inviting.

Something called out to us. Something grabbed at our hearts. Something tugged our inner children to come out and dance and play.

“Play begets greater good. And the fruit of playfulness is always meant to invite others to the generous bounty of the party,” says Dan Allender in How Children Raise Parents.

In our stuffed-shirt, self-important world, we adults forget to play. Thank God our children remind us every so often. My children continue to change me for the better. Perhaps they really are raising me.

“You can’t have children without being transformed. You can’t let them play with your life without becoming an entirely different person, who then proceeds to become another entirely different person as you allow your children to mess with you. Every day that you get up and help your children dress, eat breakfast, and send them off, you enter a realm of prodigal play that is more serious than life itself.” Allender, p. 208.

Later that afternoon as I went about the serious business of exercise, I danced the entire four miles and improved my pace per mile by 1 minute and 30 seconds. My soul stepped on the clouds and my hands would not remain by my sides. Even with cars passing by and lawn-men gawking, my hands lifted skyward in praise of a God so wild as to let children instruct me.


13. Some dozen adolescent boys dancing with all their might and reminding me to play.


well hello cynic

In digging around for gratitude, I have been introduced to the cynic within. 

After the first dramatic entry in my gratitude journal, I had a hard time finding the second entry. 

Something surprising showed up. The cynic. Now few people would label me a cynic including myself. So this shocked me. And instructed me. 

Insomnia heralded the cynic. After an hour in the bed checking the clock at 4 minute intervals, I finally gave up and got up. It was 2:30 a.m. I wrote the post about 1000 gifts #1 being underwear, folded clothes, read some blogs. At 4:00 a.m. the birds started singing. Normally this would indicate the dawn of a new day and new mercies but to the red-eyed and bedraggled, the birds spotlighted the fact that sleep had eluded me.

I uttered: #2. the birds singing at 4:00 a.m. I suppose it was the sarcastic tone that gave up the cynic, undetectable in these black and white words. Nonetheless, gratitude did not live in the text. 

The cynic looks like Randall from Monster’s Inc. A chameleon, he shows up dressed in camouflage wherever hope may flicker. He’s a fast-talker, sell you some dirt in the Mississippi Delta-type. He’s a survivor. We all have a little cynic in us. It’s one way we make life work apart from a grace banquet.

Cynicism works on hope much like the fly zapper. Like the fly, hope meets a quick and certain death. Gruesome even. The electric current of the cynic nukes hope before it has a chance to bloom. Why? Because hope is a scary thing to the cynic. Hope has often been met by disappointment. The cynic chooses to remain safe and lifeless instead of reaching for hope.

When several other “entries” showed up in this sarcastic cynical voice, I started to pay attention. The grateful words did not drip from my pen like I thought they would. I honestly searched for my own voice and not Vosskamp’s sometimes syrupy “bands of garnet, cobalt, flowing luminous” aka a soap bubble. 

And so it is with honesty that I will proceed in the hunt for 1000 gifts. And with courage that I will tame and parent the cynic.

9. Sam’s indomitable smirk after he zapped a fly at 6:55 a.m.

(Note: Vosskamp identifies her own “Pollyanna” language and takes us deeper into her heart. Her journey inspires mine.)