Winter’s Last Kiss

It’s “Poetry Day” in our homeschool, and it is snowing. Again. In April.

So here’s the poem I wrote after sipping what I hope will be my last cup of hot cocoa for a long while.

Winter’s Last Kiss

Winter came back for a kiss good-bye,
Tossing snowflakes in the April sky.
‘Oh my, oh my!’ little children cry!
‘No, not again,’ frowning grown-ups sigh.

But the joyful birds – steadfast to sing,
Tweet, chirp and trill – such sweet songs they bring.
Robin, finch, and blackbird with red wing,
Add voice to the glad chorus of spring.

Let’s send off showers of April snow,
Thankful for a cup of hot cocoa.
Farewell, winter! Far away you go!
Green grass, green leaves – come and grow, grow, grow!

Hunting for 10,000

The frigid November air pierces right through your bones. The forceful, whirling wind blasts on and on with a long, lonesome howl.


The trees, so gloriously ablaze with color just yesterday, now stand bare and thin and gray.


And in the front yard, 10,000 leaves pile up shin-deep, each a sorrowful reminder of how dry and lost this month feels.


November can make life seem dull. It can make your heart feel as cold as the wind and your soul feel as dark and bare as the tree branches. And we must decide: To complain or to be content? To grumble or to be grateful? To reject the entire eleventh month or to receive every moment of it with thanksgiving?


Will our minds and mouths choose to thank God for all His goodness, even when His goodness doesn’t feel warm and green and vibrant? Even when His goodness feels brown and bare and bitter cold?

In his song “10,000 Reasons,” singer and song-writer Matt Redman encourages us to keep singing praises to God – whatever may pass and whatever lies before us – because God has given at least 10,000 reasons for our hearts to find.

So forget the deer. Forget the Black Friday sales. Forget that Pinterest search. What are you really hunting for this November?


Go on an easy hunt for God’s abundant goodness – it is piling up higher and deeper than those 10,000 fallen leaves.


Look around you and see what reminds you of God’s love for you. Is it a steamy cup of hot cocoa that warms your hands?

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An unexpected note from a friend who brightens your afternoon? A glimpse at the setting sun glowing through the clouds?

Whatever makes you smile, whatever is pure, noble, lovely, excellent or praiseworthy, that’s a gift from God. That’s a reason to thank Him.


This Thanksgiving, let’s be truly thankful. Let’s start a hunt for God’s goodness. Let’s find 10,000 reasons, and let’s thank Him like never before.


Thank God for Dirty Laundry?

And so this is the post in which I air some of our family’s dirty laundry. That is, if posting pictures of dirty laundry counts as airing it.


Everybody has dirty laundry, but some of us do have bigger, stinkier piles than others. Just imagine the big, stinky pile of laundry the Pilgrim women faced on their first “wash day” once the Mayflower finally reached land. After several months at sea, and with so much sickness on board, the foul smell must have been unbearable.

I remember my own wash days being especially loathsome when my daughters were very young and nearly every day was wash day. And nearly everything I washed was small, pink and heavily stained in multiple places. Or it was large and wet and demanding my attention in the middle of the night.

Somewhere along the way, these two little girls started helping me sort and fold more and more clothes, and slowly I began to dread the piles less and less. And then somewhere along the way, God gave me the wildest encouragement in regard to dirty laundry.

Be thankful for your dirty laundry.

Thankful? For dirty laundry? Clean laundry, yes. But the message was to be thankful for the dirty laundry. Really?

Yes, really.

This load of wild encouragement was washed brighter with the perspective that not having dirty laundry would mean we have no clothes. Some families we know in Ethiopia are hardly able to clothe their children. It is only by the grace of God that my children, my husband and I have any clothes to wear. It is only by the grace of God we have this pile of dirty clothes that fit our bodies and keep us warm.

Be thankful for your dirty laundry.

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This wild encouragement to thank God for dirty laundry was also rinsed in the perspective that all the moms we know in Nicaragua wash their family’s clothes in a nearby river. It is only by the grace of God that my family has clean, hot water, scented detergent, a washing machine, a dryer and baskets to contain the pile. It is only by the grace of God that I have hands and arms and legs capable of hauling those baskets to and fro, switching those loads in and out, and folding those endless piles of clothes.

Be thankful for your dirty laundry.

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Tumbling around with this wild encouragement was also the thought that half of this laundry keeps getting regularly exchanged for the next size up. Those little arms and legs and feet who wear it are growing. Someday those legs and feet will walk right out the door and move into apartments near laundry mats or even homes of their own, with washers and dryers of their own. The responsibility of scrubbing grass stains out of size 6x Levi’s was only available to me for a limited time, a time that I should treasure. Someday the baskets won’t be nearly so full.

Be thankful for your dirty laundry.

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So yes, as wild and backward as it seems, I’m really thankful for our dirty laundry. And somehow, being grateful for stinky mismatched socks and stained hand towels fraying around the edges makes the mundane task a little more meaningful. The next cycle, then, is to determine what to do with such gratitude for dirty laundry.

Do I neatly fold up my gratitude and try to somehow save it for the next season?

Do I carefully hang up my gratitude for a special occasion?

Author Ann Voskamp asks,

How are you changing the world because you are so grateful? What if gratitude always meant a question mark — asking how will you let your gratitude to Christ mark the world for Christ?”

How can I change the world today because I am so grateful?

Maybe I can gather up clothing items for this — The Big Bundle Up — to benefit our neighbors in Wisconsin? Or gather coats for the local coat drive? Or maybe I could make a donation to Forgotten Children, a ministry that collects, packs and ships used children’s clothing overseas to help orphans truly in need of these basic necessities.

How can I wear my gratitude today for the glory of God?

How will you wear your gratitude today?

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” -Colossians 3:12-17


For All His Goodness

Here are 40 more reasons I’ve found to praise God and thank Him for His goodness:

1. the amaryllis bulb the three sweet neighbor boys brought to us yesterday


2. golden sunshine lighting up the trees

3. steaming hot soup

4. Rachel Jankovic’s book, Fit to Burst


5. a cozy room filled with half a dozen homeschool mamas

6. candles on the dinner table

7. graceful exercises at the ballet barre

8. the howling wind that wakes me in the middle of the night

9. a down comforter to snuggle beneath

10. how lovely she plays “Drifting Leaves” from memory

11. nearly half a dozen kids discussing Wendy Lawton’s book Almost Home and sharing what they are most thankful for

12. juncos, chickadees and cardinals at the backyard feeder

13. the scent of banana bread lingering in the kitchen

14. piles and piles of leaves to rake


15. a fun road trip with friends

16. the Hearts at Home Conference

17. how he does dishes and holds down the fort while I sneak away

18. the kind friend who offers me a ride to the evening meeting

19. scotcharoos

20. Philippians 2:1-11

21. the dear friend’s birthday celebration

22. homemade coffee cake on the first snowy morning of the season

23. snow in the tree tops


24. woodpeckers re-appearing in the trees

25. comfy boots, sweaters, and scarves

26. Ephesians 5:16-20


27. the toaster malfunction that didn’t burn down the house and the prompt arrival of a replacement toaster

28. the internet service that’s finally restored

29. how the 10-year-old adores the Adventures in the Northwoods series

30. how the 8-year-old adores the Milly-Molly-Mandy books

31. the orthodontic retainer that still fits her sweet little mouth

32. squirrels leaping from tree to tree

33. mugs of hot chocolate and a plateful of German puff pancake


34. Hebrews 12:28

35. the soothing aloe vera plant that reminds me of my Grandma Lee

36. construction paper pizzas


37. how missionary stories encourage and inspire them

38. the ability to somehow parallel park that Ford F-150 in downtown on the first attempt

39. leftover chimichangas

40. balloon games

Oh, How He Loves Us


Because He loves us, I’m thanking and praising God today for these gifts:

1. His eternal power

2. His divine nature

3. His holy word

4. vibrant colors in the maple tree and hollow oak tree

5. safe travels home from afar

6. the friend who helps with a late-night run to the airport

7. new rakes and big piles of leaves



8. little fingers dancing across the keys on Sunday night

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9. Legos, Legos and more Legos

10. homemade tortilla soup

11. hot cinnamon sunset tea

12. David Crowder’s song, “How He Loves Us”

13. His name, “I AM”

14. Sunday afternoon naps

15. the book we just finished reading about the Mayflower’s Mary Chilton: Almost Home by Wendy Lawton

16. treasures found at a used book sale

17. new slippers and soft warm hats from Hanna

18. Hershey’s miniatures

19. warm grey socks

20. kind new faces at Sunday School

21. BBQ leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch

22. new mugs and soup bowls

23. the roar of the wind

24. the steady rustling of the leaves

25. a full tank of gas

26. an extra hour of sleep

27. homemade strawberry crepes

28. their tie-dye shirts

29. the first three chapters of A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman

30. hot cocoa

Discovering cRaZy jOY: Oct. 29-31

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” -Psalm 100:4

This is the last post of my month-long series Discovering Crazy Joy. I plan to continue counting gifts, and won’t you consider it, too? For further guidance on the hows and whys of keeping a gratitude journal, please read this post at A Holy Experience and then be sure to download the November Joy Calendar for helpful prompts for every day this month.

Monday’s theme: three gifts on time

1. the miraculous collapse of the walls of Jericho (a re-enactment)

2. the monthly meeting of our homeschool moms’ group

3. this helpful post about Halloween at Our Family for His Glory

Tuesday: three gifts overjoyed

1. the girls trying to guess the title of the secret movie

2. the girls picking out polish and extra special treats

3. the three of us, polishing pumpkins and hot-gluing embellishments

Wednesday: three gifts hallowed

1. lifting up the names of God in prayer

2. the faith stories of Martin Luther and Katherine von Bora

3. God’s Word, translated for us common folks who don’t read Latin

Discovering cRaZy jOY: Oct. 26-28

“From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.” John 1:16

Still counting gifts, from the fullness of His grace…

Friday: three gifts extravagant

1. the great love our Father has lavished upon us (1 John 3:1)

2. a steamy cup full of hot chocolate and Creme de Menthe topped with whipped cream

3. a house full of dear friends smiling and encouraging each other’s efforts in Scripture memory

Saturday: a gift humbling, honoring, happy

1. humbling: the full cup of chicken parmesan soup emptied onto the lap of my youngest daughter

2. honoring: a vase full of flowers honoring the memory of my mama, who died 20 years ago

3. happy: the husband happily laboring over a slow cooker full of chili

Sunday: three gifts in Christ – in Whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1:19)

1. peace with God (Romans 5:1-5)

2. every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places and adoption as God’s children (Ephesians 1:3-6)

3. redemption through His blood, forgiveness of our trespasses — according to the riches of His lavish grace — and a truly divine inheritance (Ephesians 1:7-14)

Each day’s theme is plucked from the Joy Dare calendar at A Holy Experience.

Discovering cRaZy jOY: Oct. 23-25

Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” And that’s just the aim of this month-long endeavour of discovering crazy joy by counting gifts, thanking and praising God, and by encouraging you to thank and praise Him, too.

Tuesday’s theme: three gifts begun

1. her newest composition on the piano

2. first plans and practices for the church’s Christmas program

3. laundry loads and house cleaning for another round of showings

Wednesday’s theme: three gifts accomplished

1. laundry loads and house cleaning for another round of showings

2. the day’s schoolwork with 1st grader and 4th grader tucked into a mostly quiet room at the public library

3. the 7-year-old’s stellar swimming feats that move her up two class levels

Today’s theme: three gifts enjoying

1. listening to her play “Swiss Music Box” in the highest G position

2. the season’s first snow falling, steaming hot cinnamon plum tea in my cup, a new grey flannel shirt and the lovely new multi-colored scarf my 9-year-old crocheted just for me

3. Bible study on spiritual maturity in Deepening Your Roots in God’s Family

In case you haven’t heard already, the theme for each day’s gifts comes from the Joy Dare calendar at Ann Voskamp’s blog: A Holy Experience. Don’t miss this post, which includes the trailer for Ann’s newest release: One Thousand Gifts Small Group DVD Study. It was filmed at her family farm in Canada!

Discovering cRaZy jOY: Oct. 19-22

In this month-long series of praising God and counting gifts, I cannot neglect to include one of my favorite passages: Psalm 100.

Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth!

Worship the LORD with gladness.

Come before Him, singing with joy.

Acknowledge that the LORD is God!

He made us, and we are His.

We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving;

go into His courts with praise.

Give thanks to Him and praise His name.

For the LORD is good.

His unfailing love continues forever,

and His faithfulness continues to each generation.

Friday’s theme: three unexpected gifts

1. a high school football story that brings tears:

2. a dear friend’s voice on the other end of the phone line

3. the invitation to a first birthday party

Saturday’s theme: three unconventional gifts

1. a Saturday morning field trip to the horse barn

2. learning to ride Chevy while she trots and canters

3. watching my children shovel horse manure

Sunday’s theme: three undervalued gifts

1. a lazy afternoon spent with friends

2. long talks around the kitchen table

3. playtime for strategy games like Pente and Gobblet Gobblers

Today’s theme: a gift silent, a gift still and a gift strong

1. silent: 45 minutes in the afternoon

2. still: the 7-year-old reading on the couch

3. strong: the determination of my almost-10-year-old as she adjusts to the challenge of talking with a mouthful of new retainers

The theme for each day’s gifts comes from the Joy Dare calendar at A Holy Experience.

Discovering cRaZy jOY: Oct. 16-18

“…this world, though fallen, is filled with delights and experiences and marriage and food and sunshine and beauty. And none of it is the permanent possession of the ungodly. These experiences and delights were invented by God and distributed to us by Him with the original intent of blessing His children and stirring our hearts toward thankfulness.

If that is true now in our daily lives, how much more will the new creation be our experience of God’s ceaseless outpouring of gracious gifts, given to us as we thank and worship Him forever!”

-John Piper

What’s stirring your heart toward thankfulness today? I’m still counting gifts, and praise God, He’s still sending them!

Tuesday’s theme was three gifts burning:

1. the warm autumn sun

2. the fiery orange maple leaves

3. the rubber on the soles of my Keen hiking shoes as I flee from yet another garter snake sunning itself in the grass

Wednesday’s theme was three gifts ugly-beautiful:

1. a Boxelder bug creeping on the wall

2. the story of the Exodus

3. the process of cleaning out the refrigerator and pantry

Thursday’s challenge was a gift shared, a gift saved, a gift surrendered.

1. shared: the stick of birthday bubble gum kindly shared by the youngest daughter

2. saved: her creative writing assignment nearly lost forever in the deleted abyss of Microsoft Word

3. surrendered: the school newsletter surrendered to the hands of the helpful print shop lady

Each day’s theme comes from the Joy Dare calendar at A Holy Experience, which is a lovely site overflowing with thought-provoking words about pursuing joy. Don’t miss the latest post, “Why the Battle for Joy is Really Worth It.”