Fill Those Buckets (Love Languages for Kids)

Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. I get a small commissions for any purchases made through links, at no extra costs to you.

Gary Chapman & Ross Campbell’s book “The Five Love Languages of Children” (https://amzn.to/34AAs3v) has been one of the greatest helps in my parenting. It has changed the way I communicate with and meet the emotional needs of my children. Each child, like an adult, expresses and receives love through one (or more) of five different communication styles. When you are aware of your child’s love language, behaviors and reactions start making sense. The quality of your relationship improves through new understanding and respect.

Today, I’m sharing a love language take-away that I use when speaking to groups about parenting and helping to meet children’s emotional needs. The chart has practical tips and things to try with your kids as you work to figure out your child’s love language. Please note, this chart is meant as a supplement, not a substitution for reading the book. Full credit goes to Dr. Chapman for the naming and developing of The Five Love Languages. Find out more here: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/

And here are a few other great books about “bucket filling” and kids’ mental health:

“How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids” by Tom Rath https://amzn.to/2VzOKNQ

“Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids” by Carol McCloud https://amzn.to/2wF15I1

“Bucket Filling from A to Z” by Carol McCloud and Caryn Butzke https://amzn.to/34G3fn9

“Courage” by Bernard Waber https://amzn.to/2xuabHW

“What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What-to-Do Guides for Kids)” by Dawn Huebner https://amzn.to/2XFcLp9



Be a Grace Giver…

graceWhat if we turned things upside down today? What if we gave people what they didn’t deserve and didn’t give them what they did deserve? What if our words and actions were so infused with grace, they were able to disarm negativity, counteract conflict, and give courage and boldness to others when received?

Grace is unmerited love and mercy. It’s an undeserving gift and it’s not easy to give. It’s difficult to bite your tongue in response to a bitter comment or biting criticism. It’s hard to think beyond hurt feelings and bruised emotions and offer forgiveness. It’s tough to be a presence of grace with an offensive person. The message of the world says, “Give ’em what they deserve!” ”You deserve better than that!”

I am not promoting we go around acting like feeble, push-overs, or passive, fake happy people throwing grace around like magical, rainbow fairy dust. Giving grace is a bold, brave, intentional choice. It means choosing to respond instead of react. It means pausing, getting our thoughts together, and then speaking truth in a loving, respectful way. There are many situations that need to be further addressed, processed through, and worked on; but grace is the invitation to a pathway of respectful discussions. Grace can be a gateway to a journey of healing and restoration.

As a follow of Christ, we do not have to rely on our power to be a grace-giver. We shouldn’t. We have access to power, life-supporting love and strength through the Holy Spirit. By excepting and receiving God’s grace, we in turn can extend grace to others with God’s help.

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. -1 Corinthians 15:10 NIV 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. -Hebrews 4:16

So today, join with me in the practice of grace giving– and keep in mind, there will be a time when we are in need of grace too. ❤


Love One Another

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“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

We recognize people by their uniforms, identify people by their badges, and classify people by their actions. As followers of Christ, love is our uniform. It’s our badge, our mark of affiliation. Love is the driving force behind our actions, the effectiveness of our skills. Love is our testimony to the world that we belong to Jesus.

Yet, loving others can be difficult! I believe Jesus knew just how difficult it would be. Of all the things He could have said during his last hours on earth, some of his final instructions to his disciples were to believe and to love. Believe and love, two actions with supernatural characteristics, difficult to measure, and cultivated by effort and perseverance.

Four times, Jesus uses the word “love” in these verses. It makes me wonder if He repeated the word so it would make its way from our short-term memories into the long-term memories of our hearts. Love is an expression of the heart and sometimes expressions of love baffle our minds. The depth and cost of Jesus’s love is astonishing. He loved us so much that He sacrificed his life for ours and that is an overwhelming truth. It was the greatest expression of love. A love that redeemed us, restored relationship with God, and granted us freedom that set us free. It is in this love, He calls us to love one another.

On our own, loving others can be difficult. When abide in Him and believe in His trustworthy words, He supernaturally provides what is needed through His Holy Spirit, so others can know and experience forgiveness, grace, and love too.

This Easter weekend, how can we love others well? How can we live out love like Jesus? And how can we wear love as our a uniform, as a badge, so that others would know we belong to Him?


Five Things to Do This Valentine’s Day-That Fills Everyone’s Love Tank!

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Love is essential for emotional health and well-being and to feel loved is a primary human emotional need. According to Gary Chapman, author of “The Five Love Languages,”  love can be expressed and experienced in five ways:

-quality time

-words of affirmation

-physical touch

-receiving gifts

-acts of service

We have natural preferences and tendencies to give and receive love in one or two of the five ways listed.

Dr. Ross Campbell, a psychiatrist of children and adolescents, suggests each person has an “emotional tank” that needs to be kept full for optimal health and well-being. When our “love tank” is empty, we do not feel loved, perspective on life seems darker, we may feel irritable, and act out. “A lot of misbehavior in marriage grows out of an empty love tank,” said Dr. Gary Chapman.

Our children have their own love languages and love tanks too. Although, their primary languages will not be established until they are older, it’s important to keep their “love tanks” full by loving them in all five ways. Knowing your own and your family members’ love languages can improve relationships and help see interactions in a new way. Your can discover your love language here.

This Valentine’s Day be intentional with how you love and work to keep love tanks full. Below are a few ideas that reaches each type of love language.

Cooking: (quality time, acts of service, gifts)

For Younger Kids: Valentine’s Day Sparkle Playdough

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Sparkle Playdough Recipe adapted from https://www.iheartnaptime.net/

Ingredients:

-2 cups flour

-3/4 cup salt

-4 teaspoons of cream of tarter

-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

-red food coloring

-red and silver glitter

-quart size plastic bags

Directions: 

1.) Add flour, salt, and cream of tarter to a large pot. Stir.

2.) Add water, oil, and food coloring.

3.) Over medium heat, stir mixture constantly until dough has thickened.

4.) Separate dough into two bags quart size plastic bags and add silver and red glitter.

5.) Knead the dough in the bag until glitter and food coloring is incorporated and combined.

6.) Have fun!

The playdough can be packaged with a heart cookie cutter and given as a cute Valentine’s Day gift.

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For Older Kids and Adults: 

Try a new recipe and learn a new technique. Here’s a scrumptious recipe for truffles by my friend Stacey. They make a beautiful, thoughtful gift!

 https://www.inthekitchenwithstacey.com/chocolate-truffles/

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Crafts:  (quality time, receiving and giving gifts)

Younger, Older Kids and Adults: Pull out the craft supplies and lots of glitter and make Valentine’s cards.

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Older Kids and Adults: Sewing and Embroidery

We did a simple sewing project this week with muslin and embroidery floss. With a pencil, I stenciled a heart on the fabric and embroidered around the traced shape. They added heart after heart in different colors. The end result was so cute, we framed them.

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Appreciate Love and Others : (words of affirmation, quality time)

Grab a deck of cards and some paper. Write 52 things you love about a person or what you love about being a family. Cut and paste one thing to each card. Hole punch cards and tie together. (This makes a great gift! I gave this set to my husband about five years ago.)

52 Reasons Why I love You
Create a gratitude board with the  100 Things I Love activity. We did this at MOPS a few of years ago as a practice in gratitude. It was a great reminder of all the big and little blessings that make my life richer and more enjoyable. This activity could be done together or separately.

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Dance Lessons (physical touch, quality time)

Lego Birthday Party - Box Step Feet Dance Steps DiagramGrab a partner and learn a new dance with these fun dance cards from Step Calvert Art.

 

You can get printable dance cards like the one above at this link: https://stephcalvertart.com/lego-birthday-party-dance-dancing/

Here’s an example: Rhumba

Reading Books: (quality time, physical touch)

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One of my favorite parts of the day is when we are all snuggled on the couch with a cozy blanket and a good book. No matter what the book it is, it’s the time spent together, the amazing places you “go”, and the interesting characters you “meet” that makes it such a special time. I also love the great conversations that follow the readings.

Take time to slow down and enjoy your loves today.  Have a very happy Valentine’s Day!

Love,

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Embrace Interruptions and Interactions

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Many of us are readying our homes and our tables for gatherings. Others of us are readying our suitcases for a journey home. Some of us are readying ourselves for the first holiday season without a loved one or the visit of bittersweet memories that come with this time of year. The holidays season comes with a lot of readying. A preparation for the mingling of interruptions and interactions that can leave us refreshed, exhausted, or a combination of both.

Most of us have ideas and expectations of what the holidays will be like. Agendas and schedules of places to go and people to see. Sometimes, the places and people can feel more like obligations. Obligations we check off on our holiday to-do lists rather than a genuine experience we enjoy. We often get caught up in the busyness and can lose sight of people and how our attitudes, influence, and interactions can leave a long lasting impressions on those around us. In all our preparing, we may forget to prepare and ready one of the most important things- our hearts.

To ready our hearts takes some intention. It takes practice and effort. It involves looking beyond ourselves, sacrificing our own agendas and viewing our obligations in a different light to be able to embrace interruptions and interactions with a heart ready to love.

In Acts 16, we find examples of how interruptions and interactions led to changed lives and hopeful futures. Paul and his companions were at the start of their second missionary journey and they had made a plan to go back to check on the churches they had previously planted.(Acts 15:36). But God had other plans for group (sound familiar?) and the Holy Spirit would not allow the men to enter places where they tried to go. Through dreams, visions, ships, and many miles of journey, they found themselves on the shore of Philippi.

While in Philippi, Paul and his friends were interrupted many times and had many different interactions with many different people. They met Lydia, an interaction God had planned in advance, a woman whose heart God had been preparing to hear Paul’s message. Not only did she end up believing in God but her whole household did too. (Acts 16:15)  Lydia became the first Christian convert in Europe.

Shortly after the encounter with Lydia, Paul is interrupted several days by a slave who was possessed by a spirit. In his annoyance, he cast the spirit out of her (Acts 16:18.) This leads to this woman’s freedom but causes Paul and Silas to be bound by prison chains causing a chain reaction of encounters and interactions with prisoners and a jailer. After a powerful display of God’s power and the Lord’s word spoken, the jailer and his household  came to believe in God. So many unplanned events, so many lives impressed upon, changed, and influenced by the time Paul and his companions spent with them.

I want to challenge us to be ready for interruptions and interactions in this season. What are people taking away from their interactions with us? What impressions does our lives leave on people? Our neighbors? Co-Workers? The checkout clerk at the store- a waitress?

As followers of Christ, we have a great opportunity to be different this season. To be a light for Jesus, to portray our Lord and Savior well. This is an opportunity to slow down, take time to be with people, to reflect love, hope, and kindness through our actions and responses. We want people to wonder and question where our light and love comes from. We want to be magnetic, drawing people to our tables and into our presence.

Here are a few things I will be working on to ready my heart for the interruptions and interactions of this season. 

I will try to:

  • QUIET myself and LISTEN (I will make rest and quiet time a priority, even if it is for short periods of time. I will turn my ears toward the Lord and listen to what God is putting on my heart.)
  • GIVE UP my agenda (I will try to be realistic with my time and not overbook my family’s schedule. I will be ready for and expect interruptions. I will accept the fact that I will not be perfect but expect the blessings will far outweigh what I think I need to accomplish.)
  • SPEND time with people 
  • TRUST the Lord has gone before and prepared hearts (This is so freeing!)
  • OFFER hospitality in our presence and in our homes (Our presence can provide a place of emotional and spiritual renewal and hope. Ask the Lord for help in this area.)

With a ready heart, we can embrace the interruptions and interactions that lead to beautiful things which encourage a ripple effect of love and kindness. Unplanned events and interactions can leave lasting impression on other people and only the Lord knows where things can go from there.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Where Is the Love?

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Where is the love? Where is the grace?

Two years ago, I helped manage a book signing line for a well-known and very popular Christian author at a leadership conference. This author had collected a large following of “fangirls” who started lining up for her meet and greet about two hours in advance of her arrival time.

As the author walked to her meet and greet spot and picked up her Sharpie markers, women went C-R-A-Z-Y. The best way I can describe the scene was something similar to the Beatles arriving in the 60s or a scene from a 1990s New Kids on the Block concert. There was pushing and shoving and squealing. There may have been crying and fainting (okay, maybe not fainting, but you get the point….)

As the line moved, I tried to keep up with the book purchases but I was mesmerized by the women and their praises, compliments, and stories of how their lives were changed by the author and reading her books. You might have thought Jesus Christ himself was standing there. (And when we get to heaven we better have way MORE enthusiasm, praises, and compliments of how our lives were changed because of OUR Lord Jesus…just saying.)

With every woman, the author was gracious and welcoming and smiley…very smiley. I wondered if her cheeks hurt from all the smiling and I wondered what was going through her mind as she listened and listened. Was she tired? Did you she need a Starbucks? Did she want to go back to her hotel room and watch reruns of Gilmore Girls? Did she think this was a lot to do about nothing? Did she hope these women could see her as a just another woman trying to walk out her faith and live her life?

When the time came for this beloved author to leave, women still stood filed in line with anxious faces and praying for a miracle to meet their word-wielding hero. Women had to be turned away. Sad, disappointed women reluctantly left the line sulky and teary-eyed with their unsigned books clutched in their hand. I packed up the unpurchased books, tried to process all that had happened, all that I witnessed, and all I could think of was “for the love.”

Fast forward to this week, the same author, and her fans. Things are different. Some of the women who have loved, adored and been devoted to this author, are now crucifying her for comments and HER opinions published in recent articles. These women (and some men) are questioning her faith, her integrity, her intentions, and her abilities as a Christian leader.

Let me make sure we get this straight. These women and men are not Muslims, Jews, or atheists they are Christians against other Christians. Comments have been flying through cyber space and landing hotly in notification boxes. Our very own sisters and brothers taken up in arms against each other. If you think the world is not watching, you are wrong. If you think the Devil is not having a hay day, kicking back with a martini, legs stretched out, smiling as he is watching this situation turn into a train-wreck like a bad reality TV show….you are wrong!

While I fully believe there needs to be accountability and responsibility if you are in a place of leadership, and especially if you have been entrusted with a very large sphere of influence, I also believe that there are right and wrong ways to go about disagreeing. I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions. I believe we are all on a journey of faith and it is healthy to wrestle with God and each other over questions of faith. I believe those in leadership should have mentors and advisers to talk things out and pray through tough issues.

Disagreements are going to happen BUT there is a proper place and certain time to work them out. Public arenas with millions of eyes watching and ears listening lead to greater separation and move us further away from the unity God designed for His people. People who are not Christians (or even Christians that have stepped away from their faith) are watching and listening. And some Christians are on holy crusades of righteousness using Pharisaical phrases and speech, throwing darts and fiery opinions out from behind the safety of a computer screen.

All the while, the world is rotting away. People are starving from hunger. Some are thirsty from lack of clean water. There are prisoners of addiction and self-sabotaging ways.  Lost and lonely people have been wandering for far too long. People are without hope and we have a gift to share. If our arguments, our very public arguments are distracting people and drawing attention to ourselves instead of drawing attention to the One, the gospel, the only One who can bring satisfaction, light, life,  freedom, and peace, then shame on us!

I can only imagine what it might feel like to be the author this week. The real live person behind the interviews and articles. A human who claims to love Jesus and others and has shown it through many good works, written words and the thoughts she has shared.  Keep her in your prayers!

Let this is also be a reminder why we must not put each other on pedestals and remember people are just that….people, imperfect people. As God extends His grace to us, we must extend grace to others especially our sisters and brothers. That includes grace in our words, our social media postings, and even in our thoughts. It also means addressing disagreements in a Biblical way.

There is enough chatter and noise in the world. In fact, I am adding more to it by writing this blog post. I would like to encourage you, if you are a follower of Jesus, to be wise to distractions and splits, consider using some self-control with your opinions, and immediately run to Jesus in prayer and read your Bible. In the meantime, I am going to shut my mouth and go put my words into action. Pray, love well and live faithfully!

(If you are still reading….enjoy this video…think about the words… be inspired….and keep praying and living out your faith. )


More and Less

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I have a very good habit of thinking of the perfect thing to say after the fact. This was the case as I drove home from the radio station on Thursday morning. I had been asked to be a guest on the “Samaritan Truth” segment of the show “In It Together with Lori Lynn Green.” This was a first for me and I walked up the steps to the second floor studio with my stomach twisted in a knot of excitement and anxious nerves.

Speaking on the radio is very different than delivering a prepared message. I enjoy getting up in front of people. It’s fun to interact with those listening. And although, I might not always follow my speaking notes to the letter, I like having my notes available as a dependable, helpful guide to remind me of the key points I want to make.

On the radio, you cannot see who is listening. There is limited audience interaction. Radio shows provide on-the-spot questions and answers and the conversation can change direction quickly all of which can be challenging.

I was nervous during the first segment but did my best to hide my anxiety. However, by the end of the second segment, I felt more comfortable, had found my confidence, and sharing became easy. Before I knew it the third segment was over and the hour had gone by. Lori Lynne wrapped up the show and our wonderful discussion on finding purpose and loving our neighbors. I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to share about MOPS and was honored to be asked to be on the show. It was a great experience and I was so glad to be part of it.

On the way home from the show, it didn’t take long for my thoughts to drift to what I said, or didn’t say. What I could have said and what I should have said. Ugh?? Why does that happen? (Does this happen to other people too?) Truth is, I was very happy with what I said. I did not regret anything. I only wished I had thought of more to add. The miles until I reached home decreased but the conversation going on in my head increased. Enough!! I shut down my self-talk.

Here’s the thing, there can always be more. More thoughts, more words, more regrets, more action, more skills, more, more, and more. Unless we are talking about love and Jesus, which we always need more of, I am kind of sick of more and I want less. Less stuff, less divisions, less lies, less violence, less hurt, less pain.

While I realize that it may not possible to live in one extreme or the other. I hope life can be a better balance of more and less. More love AND less hate. More forgiveness AND less division. More embrace AND less rejection. More hope AND less fear.

It all begins with an awareness, a little healthy self-evaluation and shift in perspective. We focus on and reflect the things we see and hear. Will our eyes reflect hope and light? Will our mouth speak of restoration and kindness to ourselves and others? When will we stop trying to control situations and outcomes and allow the One who created all things to weave our imperfect words and stories into His, the greatest story of all?

My short time on the radio station allowed me to meet some new people, work on a new skill set, and spread some awareness about things I am passionate about. I pray it was an encouragement to those who listened and I am praying for you too.

Yes, you, the one who is reading this blog post right now. If you beating yourself up over should-have-beens or could-have-beens, please stop. If there is something you tried that did not work out the way you thought, please try again. If you are you holding on to something that you should let go, please release it. If you are not being kind and patient with yourself, please start now. There is One who is more patient, kind and loving than you could ever know and He wants you to know that you are loved.

You do not have to be perfect and you are enough. Keep moving forward. Keep trying new things, learning, and shifting your perspective. I will be praying for you. Take heart and be encouraged!
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You can listen to our conversation here: http://www.lorilynngreene.com/loving-god-and-loving-people-2/  Please excuse my “ummms” in the first segment…I corrected myself in the second and third segments. What a great experience.

PS If you listen to talk radio, please call in or send an email. People hosting the show LOVE it!
 

 


Kindness ROCKS

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Keep your eyes open and you might find one! Love, peace, joy, or a smile! The kids and I have been inspired to spread kindness in the shape of rocks. Following the example of the following four organizations, I bought five bags of black river rocks (at the dollar store.) We painted hearts, rainbows, crosses, smiley faces, and other things that might make one smile and we have been hiding them all over our town.

Our hope is that each rock is found at the perfect moment and it will bring a smile to the finder’s face. If you do find one, we would love to hear about it! We would love to know what happened to the rocks after we left it somewhere.

Check out these beautiful stories of others who are spreading joy and kindness one rock at a time.

Love Rocks  (A beautiful, courageous story of how one family is overcoming loss and grief with love and joy!)

The Kindness Rocks Project

Word Rocks

The Rainbow Rock Project (A story that tells you are never to young to make a difference!)

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WONDER-FULL Wednesday-The Valley of Grief

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The two people who would have gotten the biggest kick out of this summer hiking adventure are not around for me to tell it to. They were two of my biggest cheerleaders. They always had time for me and loved me with the type of love that instills courage, dreams and confidence.

My grandfather, Baba, was one of the most gentlest, kindliest, intelligent people that I had the privileged to know. He was a chemist, teacher and inventor. His thirst for knowledge was quenched at the library where he was found on a daily basis. And if he couldn’t make it to the library in person, he reached them by phone. He was always researching something and had a questions for the reference desk. Baba was adventurous and fun.  He took us on family mystery rides, taught us all the words to “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch Coconuts”, and watched Cindafella more times that I can remember. I think he passed on his love of PBS to me and whenever I watch Masterpiece Theater, I pretend that he is sitting right next to me with a big bowl of air popped popcorn.(Sorry Baba, I put a lot of salt AND butter on mine.) My grandfather had a country-western DJ company, was the president of his writing club, and was always on the look out for a new project. He approached failure as a challenge to succeed. He left a legacy of education, perseverance, gentle and kind words, mystery and adventure.

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My aunt was beautiful inside and out. She was creative and loved art, poetry and books. Like my grandfather, she was a teacher. Auntie had her degree in education and was a personal trainer. In the 90s, she made a few exercise videos rocking colorful,spandex exercise clothing. She dabbled in modeling too. Auntie was fun and had a great sense of humor. She loved Seinfeld and Toy Story. I can still hear her laugh and see her smile. She was one of those people who came alongside you. Celebrated with you, cried with you, laughed with you, encouraged you. Oh, she was such an encourager! And a leader! People loved to be with her. My aunt was also a courageous fighter. She fought cancer for many years. At the end of her life, she kept her wit, humor and grace until she could no longer speak or write. She never complained to me and always managed to give me a smile.

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Tomorrow marks a day of remembrance. Ten years have passed since Auntie’s passing and some days my grief is as raw and real as it was then. I think grief is like that. No right or wrong way to work through it. It pulls me back through memories. There are moments when I still expect to see my aunt walk through the door or hear her voice as she sings my name -“Shanny-Jean.” So many times, I have wanted to pick up the phone and tell her the latest news or hear her excitement over this hiking trip. I am sure she would have me on some sort of personal training routine for strengthening my glutes and core muscles (complete with the perfectly drawn stick-figures.)

I can no longer hear what my grandfather’s voice sounds like. We have recorded tapes with his voice but if I am being honest, it would make me even more sad to listen to them. He would have loved this hiking trip. Researching all he could about the mountains I will climb and helping me purchase the correct gear. He might have invented some sort of gadget for me to take. Or create freezed-dried humus-his homemade humus was the best.

Even though I can’t have them here on Earth, I carry them with me each day. I see them in butterflies, glass beakers, and in books. What they invested in me has outlasted their breath. They gave me adventure, courage, love of learning, and unconditional love.  I pour those things into my children hoping to leave them a similar legacy that out last my last breath.

They are coming with me on my hike. I am taking this picture in my pack because this is how I think of my grandfather and aunt in heaven. Auntie with her tour book in hand. Baba taking it all in, thinking about the next new thing to jump into. Smiling and laughing. Free of pain and in peace.

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The Long Road Home

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Our journey began at 3:00 am. The house was still and quiet in all rooms except one. In our room, the silence was interrupted by my husband who was gathering the last of our belongings and bringing them down the stairs. Sleepy-eyed and weary, I looked over to my children. They were sleeping peacefully. Their innocent faces looked as though they were dreaming of carefree, happy things. It had been a long time since I had stopped to watch them sleep.  A flood of memories washed over me, bringing me back to when they were helpless infants. Nostalgia brought a bittersweet bite. Time was going by too quickly, the kids were getting older and growing into beautiful young people who no longer fit in my rocking arms or depended on me for their every need. This quiet moment was a gift. I breathed it in and captured it in my heart.

“Alright, let’s go,” my husband said when he reentered the room. I dragged myself out of bed and forced myself to get dressed. My shirt and sneakers felt cold and intrusive. We had a 12+ hour drive to conquer. My husband was anxious to get on the road. He was hopeful that our early departure would help us miss the traffic as we traveled back home.

I woke and dressed the kids as quietly as I could. We tiptoed down the stairs, gently closed the door behind us, and settled ourselves in the van. As we pulled out of my brother’s long, rocky driveway, the shadows of the dark VA woods whispered and waved goodbye. My heart was heavy.

We were leaving my family again. It had been two years since we all had been together. In those two years, there had been babies born, traveling done, and personal growth of all kinds. The several days together were filled with cooking, laughter, silliness, heart-felt conversations, admissions of regrets, and shared hope for the future. My heart swelled when I had held my baby nephew and watched my children laugh and play with their cousins. The happy chaos and noise of 15 people under one roof, was familiar and comforting. It was home.

On the road, I drifted in and out of sleep, thinking of the time with my family and how things have changed.  I woke up just in time to see the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial as sped through DC. Two hours later, I was awoken again by a beautiful sunrise. The light blue sky were decorated by rosy-pink, fluffy clouds and a blazing red, round sun. The day was filled with new hope.

Somewhere around CT, it started. I knew it was more than just exhaustion. My stomach rumbled and cramped. This was not a good time to get sick.  My husband took over the driving but I knew that I would have to drive another leg of the trip. He looked exhausted. I did all I could to push past the sickness.  We had two more hours to go. I prayed and dug into supernatural strength and fierce mom determination.  All I wanted to do was get home.

The highway rolled along and I started to see signs of towns and cities familiar to me. We were getting closer. One last toll booth to go. I slowed the car down and rolled down the window. The toll booth worker was a pleasant looking man with a bristly, white beard, a New England Patriots hat, and a florescent yellow safety vest.

He greeted me with a thick New England accent and said, “Those glasses look great on you!”  For a second, I had a hard time registering his words. Was this man talking to me? I looked like death. My skin was pale as a ghost. Dark circles defined my eyes. My hair was disheveled and shaped similar to a messy bird’s nest. And if he only could see what my insides felt like…

I glanced up at him in a confused state. His easy smile eased my sickness. “Where’ya heading?”

“Home,” I said. “We have been driving since 3:00 this morning.” I hoped that my words would serve as some sort of excuse for my ghastly-appearance that he seemed to care nothing about.

“Where’s home?” he pleasantly asked. There were cars lined up behind us but this toll booth worker seemed to pay no attention to that fact. His smile and focus was on me. I told him where home was.

“Well, you’re almost there then. WELCOME HOME!” The words gave my spirit a surprising lift. I thanked him and he sent me off with another smile and twinkle in his eye.

Two little words,”Welcome Home,” hit me with so much power. Those two little words  gave me what I needed to complete the drive home. Maybe he was an angel. Maybe I was delirious. But that one pleasant person, who chose to spend a few extra moments with a stranger and offered kind words, changed my day.

When we got home, I collapsed in bed and have been here since. The terrible sickness is working its way through our family. Not the fun way to end a vacation.  But the upside to being in bed is the time that I have had to think. Those words of the toll booth worker have been haunting me in a good way. “Where’s home?” “WELCOME HOME.”

Is “home” in the heart of memories brought back by the faces of your sleeping children? Is “home” among the laughter, tears and time spent with family members who you long to see more often? Or is “home” a geographical location? Is is possible that “home” is in all these things?

I think so. I think that home is where love resides. Where memories take hold in your heart. Where people are kind and love you no matter what you look like or what the depths of you hold. I think home is the land you love and the fresh air that you breath. The comfort of a sunset and the hope of a sunrise.

Until, I am among the glory of the LORD and enter my final, heavenly home, I will have many homes here on Earth. Each one bringing a unique sense of comfort of its own. I still miss my family and the days that have passed. But I will rest and enjoy being where I am now. Hopefully, back to the routine of every day life soon. Surrounded by a wonderful husband, children, friends, and a church family who love me and make this “home” a place that I love to be.

“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.