If You Want to Know What Someone Else is Thinking

Maybe it’s a tad dramatic to say I dreaded the conversation. But it did kind of put my stomach in knots and make me want to look at the ceiling and take a few deep breaths. 

It’s just… I was so sure I knew how she’d respond. And I didn’t like thinking about that.

You see, when everything went upside-down and I had a kiddo in the ICU, a very dear, very sweet, very qualified friend of mine took over a responsibility that I had committed to in our homeschool community. And not a small responsibility either… weekly tutoring a language, grammar and writing class that required preparation and planning and time.

Once the fog began to settle and our whole family was under the same roof again, I slowly, carefully tiptoed back to the dear homeschool community that supported our family, cared for our children and loved us in a million ways, big and small, through our difficult journey. It was hard to figure out what moving forward looked like.

We felt so welcomed and loved. When I asked the other Moms to sort of prepare their kiddos and maybe try not to overwhelm Blake, they heard and responded. Blake was so gently and lovingly cared for. What a relief!

Eventually, the question came up: When might you start back? When might you start tutoring that class?

And suddenly, my heart felt like a really heavy rock. Like the rock they tied to Aladdin when they wanted him to sink to the bottom of the river. Sink-to-the-bottom heavy.

At home, I began processing the idea. And “yes, I guess maybe I should ” floated through my mind. And “perhaps after Christmas break.” And, “I did commit to it, I should follow through.”

But with each of those thoughts, the rock just felt heavier and heavier. Thinking about it for too long made me want to cry. Can I do that and still focus on the kiddos at home? And keep learning how to help Blake continue to make progress?

So I needed to talk to my sweet friend and ask: How is it going? Is it awful? Are you dying for me to come back so you can stop carrying that responsibility?

I thought perhaps she was avoiding the conversation because she didn’t want to put any pressure on me to start back, even though she was SO ready to be done.

And I felt like I could already answer for her:Yes, I’m tired and I don’t want to be doing this job right now, and please, when are you starting back?

A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water,

But a man of understanding draws it out.

{Proverbs 20:5}

Here’s something I should’ve learned by now but obviously haven’t:
You cannot know for sure what another person
is thinking or feeling until you ask.

The things going on in a person’s heart? They’re like deep waters. It takes time to dive down and see what’s there.

In a moment that seemed like happenstance, but was clearly the goodness of the Lord, we had the perfect opportunity to have a conversation about how things were going.

I have a feeling you know what I found out.

She was NOT dying for me to come back. She was enjoying the class. She was having fun. She was willing to help for the whole year, knowing what our family has been through and that it would take time to recover. She was even looking ahead to next semester and wanting to begin preparing for one of the fun events towards the end of the school year, but (GET THIS!!) she was worried that I might be feeling like she was trying to control everything!

Can you even? 

I’m at one end of the line, biting my nails over a conversation I don’t want to have because I’m completely sure she feels like this, (and I’m way off) and she is at the other end, yes, trying to be careful not to make me feel any pressure, but also secretly worried that she’s caused offense!

I was so grateful God brought us together for that conversation — and suddenly the very heavy rock inside my chest miraculously disappeared. And I cried anyway.

So here’s a question that holds a lesson for all of us.

Are you convincing yourself that someone thinks this or feels thatwithout anything but the evidence you’re compiling in your own brain based on what you are thinking they’re thinking?

Are you perhaps having conversations (maybe even arguments) in your head? And you’re thinking what you’ll say, how the other person will respond, what you’ll say next in response to that?

A wise friend of mine once counseled me before Mark and I married:

Don’t have a fight in your head, because it’s not a fair fight.

Instead, we have to do ourselves a favor and ask questions. They can’t be leading questions, either. We have to ask honest questions that give the other person a chance to say how they honestly feel without being told a) how we think they feel or b) how we think they should feel. 

When we make assumptions about what other people think or how they feel, we can be angry with them for a fight that never happened — because it just happened in our heads. Or we can feel hurt for something we think they believe about us or about something that matters to us — but once again, they haven’t said that and we’re only basing our hurt on our own perceptions of reality.

When we build a notion on our assumptions about someone else’s thoughts or heart, we are building sand castles too close to the water, or stepping onto a tight rope above shaky ground. The best way to find out what someone else is thinking is to ask questions that don’t lead or push or corral someone toward one camp or another. Then we can move forward with making plans or finding solutions, standing on solid ground.

This funny little surprise interaction with my friend was a fantastic reminder of a bigger life principle that I want to nestle into my heart and hold onto: 

Start a real, good old-fashioned face-to-face conversation. That’s the absolute best way to know for sure what someone else is thinking.

xCC

****

 I hope you’re encouraged today, friend.
If so, I’d love to welcome you to 
subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

Update on Blake

This evening we read our Christmas devotional as a family. The title was “Surprise Gifts” and the story was about Joseph, his famous colorful coat, his mistreatment by his brothers, and his eventual realization that what had been intended for evil, God worked together for good. As Blake brought me his carefully colored ornament, he said, “It is like the story. The devil meant my eyesight problems and what happened in my brain for evil, but God worked it out for good.” {I later discovered he and his Dad had had a little conversation about how God worked out his brain surgery for good.} He followed that up with a comment about how he didn’t need to color around the edges of his picture in order to see the whole thing. And lo and behold, the picture was colored, all the way to the left, all the way to the right and all in between. 

Blake continues to show signs of physical improvement, but I sometimes wonder if the most important things aren’t perhaps happening in the unseen places of the heart. Blake’s heart, our hearts, and the other hearts who’ve been touched by his story, too. He is taking his Math lessons one problem at a time and he is managing to process and retain information with more and more precision and accuracy. (A friend at church taught him “Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers” and he memorized and repeated back the whole tongue twister almost perfectly in one sitting!) 

We continue to pray (and hope you will join us) for Blake’s eyesight to improve, his memory to continue to strengthen (and how glorious it is to see those prayers are being answered!) and for the complete disappearance of his AVM. What a joy it is to say Hallelujah! We are so grateful at the Collie house these days — with four children coloring ornaments at the coffee table and four stockings hanging by the chimney. God has been so good to us!

Did you catch this post with some of our family’s favorite children’s books this year? {If you’re thinking of putting books under the tree, it might help!}

Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!

If (Like Me) You Want to Learn to Take It As It Comes

I never knew two thick and lovely slices of black cardstock paper could solve problems that seemed insurmountable. I also never realized what a hard time I have with making decisions until someone else articulated those words for me.

When our eight-year-old came home from his forty-eight days in the hospital, he was his old self in many ways, but also different in several. Unlike before, he seems to mention the grandfathers that have already passed away much more often than he ever did before, with a simple sigh and the comment that he misses them. He seems to laugh with his whole soul these days, and relishes in every slice of humor that crosses his path.

He also struggles with Math in a way he never did before. A worksheet that might have taken ten or fifteen minutes three months ago can now take a solid forty-five, with a lot of coaching and assistance. He can still read the problems, and he still seems to understand most of the concepts, but his short term memory deficits make it difficult for him to hold a number in his head while considering how subtracting a second number from it will change it. 

After a couple of visits to neuro-opthalmologist specialists, we came home armed with some ideas to try, some worksheets to copy and repeat, and, much to my surprise, a couple of sheets of black cardstock paper.

At the therapist’s recommendation, I used the cardstock to block out everything on Blake’s Math worksheet, except the one problem that he needed to focus on. It wasn’t a completely miraculous difference — he wasn’t back to finishing fifteen problems in five minutes, but there was a very discernible difference in how he faced the challenge of Math. And his speed and accuracy absolutely improved. 

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own. {Matt. 6:34}

Today, as I adjusted the margins and helped him, I realized how much sense it all made:

He just needed to focus on one problem at a time.

In life, I tend to get ridiculously overwhelmed by decisions. I don’t want to make wrong decisions. I want to do the things that are at the forefront of my own heart, but I also fear how my choices will impact the people around me for better or worse. 

In the book, Let Me Be a Woman, Elisabeth Elliot wrote to her daughter about the challenges of the days when she had an infant on her hip, she was newly widowed and she had a jungle mission station to run. She spoke of feeling overwhelmed and said:

“Well, I’ve felt that way a good many times in my life, and I go back over and over again to an old Saxon legend, which I’m told is carved in an old English parson somewhere by the sea. I don’t know where this is. But this is a poem which was written about that legend. […]

“Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
leave all resultings, do the next thing.”  

I held onto those verses for quite some time. What a gift it is to be reminded that we don’t have to have all the answers! We don’t have to have an answer for every question on our Math worksheet. We don’t have to have an answer for every question regarding our future. What choice will we make when it comes time to decide about this thing or that? Perhaps the best thing we can do is live right here, right now, and do the thing right in front of us that it the next right thing to do.

I came across that poem again, just last week, reading a wonderful book called The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman. She shared it in its entirety, and I was so blessed to read the whole poem — I didn’t know there was more! So struck by it, I felt I should probably be framing it and placing it on a wall in my home. Now you know what to get me for Christmas. Here’s the beautiful full version: {Often listed online as “Author Unknown,” Emily attributes it to Mrs. George A. Paull.}

From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from heaven;
And through the hours the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: “Do the next thing.”

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King;
Trust them with Jesus: Do the next thing.

Oh! He would have thee daily more free,
Knowing the might of thy royal degree,
Ever in waiting, glad for His call,
Tranquil in chastening, trusting through all.
Comings and goings no turmoil need bring;
His, all the future: do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who hath placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ’neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, be thy demeanor!
In the shade of His presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance live out thy psalm;
Strong in His faithfulness, praise Him and sing.
Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing.

–By Mrs. George A. Paull 

I hope you’ll read those words through a few times today, friend. Maybe come back to them when life starts to loom large in front of you and you feel daunted. Be encouraged that you do not need to know it all or have it all figured out to move forward. You and I can learn something from Blake, taking the Math work one problem at a time. 

Strong in His faithfulness, praise Him and sing.
Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing.

xCC

*** 

I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If so, I’d love to welcome you to 
subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

 And! If you’re like me and struggle with decision fatigue and choice-making, Emily P. Freeman’s book, The Next Right Thing, really is worth your time.

Still reading? Did you catch this post with some of our family’s favorite books this year? {We also love KiwiCo’s Tinker Crate!}

Oh! I know what you’re waiting for…

An Update on Blake

Blake continues to improve and to thrive at home and at therapy! His left side keeps gaining strength: he snapped the fingers on his left hand yesterday and was very proud. (I can’t even do that!) His physical therapist also observed, crazy enough, his left foot had a better range of motion than his right last week. Perhaps all the prayers are making his left side his strong side! He has the balance to ride a scooter (while his Mama watches nervously) and the strength to come home from a few hours of therapy and still walk the neighborhood.

He is also doing better with regard to his memory — recent events and answers to questions are coming to him more quickly and easily. This is helping him ‘slot in’ in playing with his sisters and brother more and more. At first, it seemed like he felt a bit lost and struggled to join in their play, but now he is running around the house or crowding around the coffee table with the rest of the musketeers. What a precious sight for Mark and me!

Blake’s eyesight is something we continue to ask for prayer for. With helpful cues, he is finding his way to the left side of a page or the left side of a room, but he will tend to eat the food on the right side of his plate first, color the right side of a picture first (and maybe stop before the left is fully done) and so on. There is a definite difference there. 

Thank you again so much for your care and concern and for lifting Blake up in prayer. He is absolutely doing miraculously well and we pray the improvements will continue. Please join us in praying his AVM will disappear, his eyesight and memory will be fully restored, and he will grow up to be the man of character and integrity he was created to be! Thank you for joining us in giving thanks for all the Lord has done! Hallelujah!!

Psst. Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!

Find Peace and Joy: How to Bloom through the Holiday Hustle

A slender bud, no bigger than my pinky finger lay on the floor in the dining room. I’d never noticed before how the petals made a perfect spiral, swirling upward toward a sharp point, but when I stooped to pick it up and ask a child to join me in marveling, it really was a marvelous specimen to behold.

In preparation for frost, we hauled a number of plants indoors. Ones we managed to keep alive through the summer that have a fighting chance of surviving to stretch their limbs in the great outdoors again next spring. They crowded the dining room and observed our meals for days on end, until we finally planned their new situations around the house, where they can enjoy the winter in a temperate climate.

As the Hero Hubs lifted a giant pot to transfer it to the living room, I scurried ahead with the base for it to sit on. When I returned to sweep the leaves that had fallen, that bud caught my eye.

The lovely pink mandevilla it fell from is still happily blooming indoors, the bright pink flowers lend a strangely tropical contrast to the Christmas decor making its way down from the attic. But that slender little bud had a chance at blooming, too, if only it had managed to stay connected instead of dropping off — if only it had managed to abide in the vine.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

{John 15:1-5} 

As I spread my palm wide to allow the little girl nearby to admire it, I thought about how I hope she will abide in the vine, and blossom into the person she was created to be.

And what a struggle I have these days, when I am tired and don’t want to rise early and find my way to the Word, find my way to the Vine! How I get flustered instead of finding peace! How I worry instead of learning to hope and wait!

The hustle-bustle fast pace of the holiday season quickly approaches. With it, I’d love to make a simple suggestion that might help you find the peace and the joy that giving thanks and celebrating the Saviour ought to bring.

Set aside the time to stay connected to the vine. Set that alarm clock just fifteen minutes earlier. Or turn that screen off just twenty minutes sooner. Find your way to the vine. Find your way to the source of life and hope, peace and joy. 

You can bloom in this season. You can be a blessing, you can be a gift, you can bring life and beauty and joy to the world around you. You will best fulfill your potential and live your fullest into each day if you allow the good life that comes from the One True Vine to flow into you. Often.

Drop off the plant and you’ll dry up. Stay connected to the Vine, and you’ll truly come to life.

xCC

 I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If so, I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

***

Update on Blake :: We Raised a Hallelujah!

I cannot help but smile as I reflect on the joy that it was to gather and celebrate this weekend! Some 120+ folks gathered together with us, simply to worship and give thanks and Raise a Hallelujah to the God Who has delivered, does deliver and will deliver our sweet Blake! We sang songs that had so much meaning for us — ones that we sang over our precious boy when he was still in a coma and we had no idea what the outcome would be. How sweet it is to have something you declared by faith become a reality, like the words, “You take what the enemy meant for evil, and You turn it for good.” Hallelujah! That is what our God does and has done!

Blake thoroughly enjoyed the celebration, as did all our children. My dear friend Kat and several wonderful helpers put on an incredible mini-carnival that was above and beyond what I’d hoped for and made it such a lively and fun CELEBRATION in every way. 

Last week Blake had two neuro-opthalmology appointments, and while the first was more discouraging, the second was much more encouraging. Doctors initially observed that Blake was not seeing anything in his left field of vision. (If you can imagine putting tape down the left half of each lens on a pair of eyeglasses, that is about what his view is like. But, his brain has a way of stitching things together, which means he is not really aware that he is not seeing the whole picture.) Wednesday’s doctor’s appointment concluded that there was structural damage and that the vision loss was “not likely to regenerate” (meaning permanent.) However, at Friday’s appointment, different tests were run which indicated that Blake’s left eye is seeing the whole picture, but right now his brain is “neglecting” that information. This is WONDERFUL news.

If Blake’s brain regains an awareness of that information, with the right view from the right eye and the full view from the left eye, he will basically have a full field of vision again. We are praying that that will be the case, and even more, that his eyes will both heal and he will have 100% complete vision again. We would be so grateful if you would join us in praying for Blake’s vision, the disappearance of his AVM, and the restoration of his short term memory. God has answered so many prayers for us, and as Mark declared at the celebration Saturday evening, “This was a miracle and I believe God is not finished yet.”

We look forward to continuing to share Blake’s story with you. Thank you for your prayers and for joining us in Raising Hallelujahs to our good, good Father! 

***

Did you miss this post? I shared a list of my family’s favorite children’s books for this year! If you’re hoping to put a good book or two into a Christmas stocking, click here for some inspiration!

Great Children’s Books Gift List 2019

Squnching together with my kiddos curled up with a book? I feel like there is no better use of my time than that. We have connected and laughed and cried (yes, I’m mostly the one crying) and learned so much just by sharing great books with great stories. While Blake was in the hospital, sitting beside him on the hospital bed to read a book, or reading with the other three kids on the couch at home made life feel normal again, if even for a moment.

I decided to try to make some mental (and on paper) notes this year to share some of our family’s favorite stories in hopes that they can bless yours in the year to come. At Christmas, we often try to give our children “something they want, something they need, something to play with and something to read.” And we usually try to make the thing they want the thing they play with, too… 😉 If a good book or two is something you’d like to put under the tree this year, I’ve done my best to organize some favorites below!

The Ones We Laughed At…

  1. Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis features insects speaking a made-up language and building a fort in a flower. It is a very simple story but there are tiny little things of interest on each page, like stories within the story. We see something new every time we read it… and we apparently cannot stop checking it out from the library!
  2. Creepy Pair of Underwear by Aaron Reynolds (and Peter Brown the illustrator is a favorite!) is just so so adorable. Jasper Rabbit is a big bunny and shouldn’t be afraid of his underwear… but he is! This is a sort of sequel to Creepy Carrots, which is equally delightful and hilarious, and Blake’s favorite book.
  3. Elephants Cannot Dance or basically any Piggie and Gerald book by Mo Willems. These would make great “stocking stuffer” books! Or you could grab an Elephant and Piggie Biggie and get five of these magical books in one. I have been reading these books to my kiddos for at least six years now and they have not gotten old!! There’s a Bird on Your Head, I Broke My Trunk, Should I Share My Ice Cream, Pigs Make Me Sneeze… y’all, they’re all so good.
  4. Runny Babbit and Runny Babbit Returns by Shel Silverstein (posthumously published). Every bit as magical as his classics Where The Sidewalk Ends and a Light in the Attic, but twice as funny, these collections of poems will introduce you to Runny Babbit and his Funny Bamily, Toe Jurtle, Ploppy Sig, and Even a Dire-breathing Fragon that might fart your stire for you. Yes… the language is totally mixed up and my kids totally love it, and then ask me to read the poem over again “In English!” I read these books to Blake in the hospital not knowing if he’d wake up and remember anything — but gosh they made me sit and laugh even in those dire circumstances. What a gift laughter is!
  5. My Teacher is a Monster (No, I am Not!) by Peter Brown. This is another book that is engaging and good fun, with illustrations that make you notice something new each time. Give the teacher a posh British accent to bump this one up a notch at read-aloud time. {I also love Brown’s Mr. Tiger Goes Wild!}
  6. Read the Book, Lemmings! by Ame Dyckman: These little lemmings are adorably funny and you will laugh at this amusing story with engaging illustrations — another one I don’t mind reading again!

The Pictures, the Text, the Children’s Book Magic

  1. Goldfish on Vacation by Sally Lloyd-Jones (illus. Leo Espinosa). I might have a special affinity for this book because I saw an interview of Sally Lloyd-Jones and loved her thoughts on this based-on-a-true story picture book. Sweet, lovely and engaging.
  2. Tabby McTat, the Musical Cat by Julia Donaldson (illus. Axel Sheffler) This one has been out for a bit. The rhyming never misses a beat, it is such a charming and adorable story, and the illustrations are the kind that you can look at for ages. (And if you’ve ever been to Edinburgh, you might feel as if you’ve been whisked back for a visit!) Donaldson and Sheffler are the team behind some of our all-time favorite books like The Gruffalo and The Scarecrow’s Wedding. So fun, so charming, so good!!
  3. Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick (illus. Sophie Blackall). Every once in a while, you come across a story that is so fantastically unique and special, you’re sure it just has to be true. This is one of those too-good-to-not-be-true stories. It weaves together family history and the story of a REAL bear cub who made her way across the Atlantic along with Canadian troops during World War I. The origin of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin… and so much more, tied together in this remarkable story. We LOVE it! {Caldecott Medal Winner}

The Ones That Really Meant Something… (Yes, I Cried.)

  1. Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story From the Border by Mitali Perkins: You might find you have different thoughts about issues like immigration when you view the issues through the eyes of your children. If you’re hoping to spark some deep conversations, about the world outside your neighborhood, what a great starter this will be. {If you specifically want to discuss immigration with your children, Lubna and Pebble is another deep, beautiful meaningful immigration story. Yes, I cried at both.}
  2. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney : This one is a classic that has so much to communicate to a new generation. It might challenge your children (and you) to think about what simple things they could do to create more beauty in the world around them. Conversation opportunity: What does it mean to leave a legacy?
  3. Otis and the Kittens by Loren Long : Our tenderhearted Blake adores Otis. Otis, Otis and the Puppy, and Otis and the Tornado, are all simple stories that hold deeper layers of truth. They engage ideas about empathy, fear, welcoming ‘the other,’ and courage… and Otis and the Kittens far and above has a theme of bravery and self-sacrifice, with illustrations that truly made me teary-eyed, even at a child’s picture book. Can books teach care, compassion and empathy? Yes. Especially books like this one.
  4. Fiona’s Lace by Patricia Polacco: MANY of Patricia Polacco’s books bring tears to my eyes, but this one perhaps the most. It’s a beautiful story of hardship and overcoming and an illustration of how no matter what your family may face, when you face it together, you’re “home.” Polacco’s text is much more lengthy than a typical picture book, so I don’t recommend her books to very young readers.

Chapter Books To Read Aloud

While picture books are my happy place, Mark is kind enough to be the regular reader during our evening story time, where we often have kids doodling on blank sheets of paper and listening to a story. We typically reserve chapter books for special bedtime stories.

  1. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book I: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood :: The humor in this book is fantastic. It is dry and witty and well paced and your kids are likely to howl for another chapter. (And good news, if they like it, there are six books in the series.)
  2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis :: Clearly I treasure the classics and the Chronicles of Narnia should be on every child’s bookshelf. Enough said.
  3. The Mercy Watson Series by Kate DiCamillo, illus. by Chris Van Dusen :: Oh, how we love the Porcine Wonder that is Mercy Watson!!! These books are early reader chapter books that can be finished in one sitting or broken up into two of three, but they are hilariously funny with absolutely fantastic illustrations and we laugh and laugh at these books. I do my best to give each character a unique voice, but there are so many good and interesting ones often interacting with one another, it’s a bit of a workout. I truly LOVE these books!
  4. Tales from Deckawoo Drive (also Kate DiCamillo/Chris Van Dusen) This spinoff of the Mercy Watson series has longer books and “fuller” chapters, but is still laugh-out-loud-funny with the clever and witty writing and hilarious illustrations that complement the stories so well. You might discover you sat down to read a couple of chapters with a kiddo, an hour has passed and you’ve finished the whole book! So far we’ve enjoyed Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? but I’m hoping more of these books will find their way under our Christmas tree.

Most Requested: Stories of Faith

Last, but not least! I so often get asked for recommendations about sharing your faith with your children, and I think books are so powerful in this regard. They do not have to be children’s Bibles to communicate Biblical truth. (Hello, Narnia!) I love to remind friends (and myself) about that thought — so many books (like Otis and Goldfish on Vacation) have a person who makes a big (or small) sacrifice or shows up and changes things for the better. Remember to be on the lookout for any theme that can help you think about goodness, beauty and truth. But here are some ‘overtly’ faith-based books that I think will be a gift to your family.

  1. Unwrapping the Greatest Gift (Ann Voskamp) Yes, I share about this book every year. It has become so central to the Christmas experience for our family, and I’m always excited when December 1st arrives and we start reading this together and coloring the corresponding ornaments which you can print from Ann’s website! This will be our fifth year enjoying this Christmas devotional. {I’ve reviewed this book and shared more details about it here.}
  2. Love Letters from God (Glenys Nellist) Arabella was just given this book for her birthday and I already adore it! It contains a selection of Bible stories told in new and different ways. Along with each story, there is a corresponding verse of encouragement and a fold-open love letter from God. You can write your child’s name so that the letter reads “Dear Arabella…” Each of those letters relates to some aspect of the story and brings a new perspective to God’s love for His children. It’s a beautifully done, lovely book and would be a very special gift!
  3. Tiny Bear’s Bible (Sally Lloyd-Jones) This sweet and simple little Bible is for the youngest of readers. It has a sweet, teeny little collection of Bible stories told in the form of poems. A great jumping off point for beginning to share God’s love with little ones.
  4. The Jesus Storybook Bible (also Sally Lloyd-Jones, illus. by Jago) When Sally Lloyd-Jones set out to write a Bible for children, she had no idea what an impact it would also have for adults around the world. She retells Bible stories in ways that help us think about things we may not have considered before. Every story really does help connect the threads of God’s love, and that from the beginning, the plan was always our rescue. The plan was always Jesus.

There are so many more favorites I’m sure I’ll slap my palm against my forehead that I forgot to mention them here, but I hope this list gives you some great ideas and introduces at least a few books this might be a blessing to your family! When those forgotten books do pop to the surface, I plan to share them on Facebook, right here. So if you have any questions about any of the books I’ve mentioned that you might like to ask before you buy them, please don’t hesitate to comment on Facebook and ask away!

I pray this Christmas season will be full of God’s goodness, that His Presence will trump all the presents… and that it will be a time to for your family to remember: The Plan was always Jesus.

xCC

Could you use a weekly pick-me-up? If so, you can subscribe to receive weekly Love, From Here and never miss a post by clicking right here I’ll do a happy dance, and you’ll get encouraging words in your inbox every week! Definitely a win/win!

Psst! Some posts on my site contain affiliate links. Like this one. When you click on those links to make purchases, I receive compensation at no extra cost to you. I love it when you do that! Thank you for supporting With Love!

Why My Son’s New Math Book Made Me Cry (A Little)

It was a wet, cold and rainy Monday that mostly seemed like just another school day. The only difference was that it was time to pull the plastic off my sixth grader’s new Math curriculum.

I’ve been inspired by some great teachers on this homeschooling journey to remember that it’s better for us to plod our way carefully and thoroughly through a curriculum until we understand it all, than to rush our way to the final lesson by the end of the school year so that we can jump into the next year’s curriculum on the first day of school.

We started this beautiful curriculum (RightStart Math) when Asher was a bright and happy little five year old. We put numbers in front of teddy bears and matched the cards that would add up to ten. We build pyramids from tiny centimeter cubes. We played games to help us remember our multiplication facts and compare fractions with percentages. 

We even talked about how finding the right answer in Math is a lot like looking for truth: two different answers can’t both be true, and the truth matters.

We’ve definitely cried a few tears. Turned some erasers into nubs. Thought about balling up a worksheet or two to file it in the trashcan. But we’ve persevered. 

So I finally pulled the plastic off Level G (we started at A), and began looking over the first lesson in preparation for a new year of school. 

I was in for a big surprise.

The notes I normally start by reading at the beginning of that lesson were addressed NOT to me… but to my student. He has transitioned to a year where he will be guiding himself through his Math curriculum.

There have been review lessons where I get to hand Asher a worksheet and let him get down to business and show me what he’s learned, but 95% of the time, Math has been me, sitting beside him, asking the questions, discussing the lesson, guiding and leading.

I didn’t know whether to cheer or cry. Or both. (I chose both.)

So teach us to number our days,

That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
{Psalm 90:12}

I immediately wondered: if I had known that last lesson was the last lesson, would I have done anything differently? And I remembered that for the first time I’d filled out the little paper certificate that comes at the end of each year’s curriculum, filled it out, and written a note of encouragement on the back, commending Asher for his hard work and how well he’d done through the year.

I was grateful I’d taken the time to do that… but if I’d known that last lesson was the last lesson I’d have to really sit down and “teach” him… what might I have done differently?

I wonder how much of our lives we would live differently if we knew? If we knew “this is the last chance I will have to speak to this person on the phone.” Or this is the last time I’ll shampoo this child’s hair, she is going to take showers now. 

The truth is, most of the time we don’t know. We don’t know we’re saying goodbye for the last time. We don’t know we’re coaching the last game, attending the last meeting, having the last conversation. 

But what would we change if we acted like it might be?

I think we’d say a lot more of the things we’re glad we decided to say, and maybe we’d say fewer of the things we afterwards tend to regret.

I think we’d be more enthusiastic. Less distracted. More present.

I think I would have taken even more time, and moved more slowly through the previous year’s curriculum, enjoying all the lessons where we were just supposed to play card games and strengthen our skills, instead of rushing along to try to reach the end.

With all the things you and I tend to do, and all the change that tends to take place over the course of a lifetime, tomorrow probably holds at least some small last chance for all of us. To smile at a neighbor or send a card or make that one phone call. Or pop some popcorn and have a party to celebrate finishing a year of Math. 

The wisdom that comes from numbering our days might also be the perspective that can only come from remembering how, way leads on to way, as Robert Frost put it in The Road Not Taken:

“And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.”

It does so often seem that way leads on to way. Remember you won’t come back to today, dear friends, so perhaps every chance you get? Savor the moment. Share the kindness. Choose the road that looks most like love.

xCC

 I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If so, I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

***

Update on Blake :: Thank You So Much For Your Love + Prayers!!

Saturday night, I stood in the entranceway to our living room watching four Collie children crowded around the coffee table playing together, and I wept. It is such a joy to have our kids together, and the reminder that these moments are gifts is still very, very fresh! Blake continues to do so, so well. He is sleeping in his own room, in his own bed on the bottom bunk, and sleeping well. His left arm and hand continue to improve and when he notices himself doing something difficult with his left hand, and turns to show me, his face lights up. (And, it is hard not to giggle: because of his short term memory deficits, he sometimes has that same “I’m doing this for the first time!” celebration feeling more than a few times!)

Our entire family is so excited about the party Saturday and Blake is very enthusiastically looking forward to it! We are planning to enjoy singing and giving thanks with a talented band who are dear friends, and then another dear friend of mine has some fun activities planned for the kiddos to make this party a great celebration! Please plan to come, bring a lawn chair, maybe a picnic, or an extra lawn game… pray for beautiful weather and join us in the celebration!!! 

Blake asked some more questions this week about his aneurism — specifically what would happen if it started bleeding again. I explained that he’d get another headache and we would take him to the hospital again and they would stop the bleeding again. I was amazed at how he took this information — as easily as if it was nothing to fear. A shrug of the shoulders and he was onto the next subject while I was trying to calm my own heart rate. Please continue to pray for our sweet and brave boy — that the gamma radiation and our many prayers would be successful and the AVM would indeed disappear, that Blake’s first neuro-opthalmology appointment would go very well on Wednesday, for the complete healing of his vision and wounds, and for the strengthening and recovery of his short term memory. He is remembering better and better and more and more — you can sometimes see a difference from one day to the next! 

God has been good to us! We look forward to Raising a Hallelujah for His goodness on Saturday!! Please join us!!

I’ve Read This Book Over and Over and I Can’t Find a Mistake

It was just a post-it note with cursive lettering and less than twenty words, but it somehow felt like a sucker punch to the gut when I read it.

I was checking my eight-year old in to the Emergency Room and these words whispered the strangest mixture of hope and fear into my heart:

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. {James 1:2, KJV}

My immediate question was: what trial have I just fallen into? Am I about to lose my son? I’m not ready for that trial. I don’t want that trial. I’m falling into a trial and I should consider it …. joy?

I thought that was asking an awful lot of this Mama sitting, trembling on the wrong side of the desk.

The words flashed into my mind again on the helicopter ride to the next town over. I wrestled and furrowed my brows and closed my eyes until I could finally open my palms and lay them face up on my lap. I was trying to say, “Lord, I trust You. And Lord, I am holding onto You.”

Palms up. I am Yours. Palms open. Blake is Yours.

But, Lord… please.

I revisited that verse again in the days that followed and found it was an abbreviation of a full and beautiful promise:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. {James 1:2}

We found in ourselves a kind of steadfastness — powered by prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit — that walked us through, day after day. Night after night as we traded places, walking the halls of the hospital or putting the rest of our children to bed at home, we found we could keep putting one foot in front of the other. We could. We did.

And the funniest thing happened, just two nights before our sweet Blake came home.

Our sweet six year old, Arabella, had a clementine (a “Cutie”) from the fridge in the afternoon, and afterwards told me, “It was squishy and tasted funny.” Having spent 46 days traveling back and forth to the hospital, I really had no idea how long those little orange balls of goodness had graced our fridge, so I suggested she perhaps not eat a Cutie if it tastes funny or feels squishy next time.

Around midnight, the Cutie made a not-so-cute reappearance, all over her bed, and the three dozen stuffed animals she sleeps who are her nighttime companions.

Six years, ago, the hubs was on a trip, out of town, and I was home with two little fellas, when one of them decided his dinner didn’t agree with him, and made its way to the carpet and bed and floor.

While he sat in the tub and a dear friend visiting sat with his baby brother, I scrubbed the carpet and found myself praying these three words, through tears: Teach Me, Jesus.

Yes, I sat and cried over the spaghetti and juicy juice, feeling sorry for myself that the Hubs was out of town and I was cleaning up vomit.

Fast forward six years, loads more parenting, and a fast track to steadfastness, also known as kid-in-the-ICU. Once again, the vomit is here and the hubs is not. I follow the girl who’s been sick in her bed back up to her room, settle her into bed in another room, remove sheets, throw those sheets and three dozen stuffed animals into the washer and hope for the best, and laugh as I scrub her mattress. 

This too will pass. I am okay. It will be okay. 

The next morning, I had to delight in conversation with the Creator, remembering my tears and my Teach Me, Jesus moment. Maybe I am learning!

I wrote, “Six years later, I got up, worked to solve the problem and didn’t let self-pity overcome me. Maybe just MAYBE, thanks to Your goodness, I have more steadfastness now than I did before. This trial has birthed good things.”

I can’t tell you exactly how many times I’ve read the Bible, but I can tell you I’ve been through it again and again from Genesis to Revelation, slowly and carefully, a few chapters at a time.

And I have yet to find a mistake.

Those words in the Emergency Room, the careful cursive on that post it note? It was Truth I had to live to understand. 

Yes, we endured this trial with a kid in the hospital and life on hold and fear on our shoulder every waking moment. But also? We found this crazy joy. We found out what it feels like to have a whole community wrap you up in their arms. With meals and gifts and care and love. With prayers that wrap up you and your whole family. With blankets of prayer that you can literally cover you with prayers from head to toe.

With watching your eight-year-old walk up a flight of stairs, and witnessing a miracle.

It was true after all — when we met this trial God had joy in mind. And He cultivated a steadfastness, proven in midnight hours with sick kids. Proven in hard places when the enemy whispers fears that rattle the soul.

Don’t make it a hobby alongside gardening or surfing or decoupage. 

Let it be the treasure that you hide in your heart. Let it speak to every part of your story, from struggle to triumph and back again. It won’t return void. It won’t lie. 

God’s Word is the Book you can read forever, and you will always, only ever find truth. Search it and hold onto it and find it, friends. When things fall apart, it will hold you together.

xCC

I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If so, I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

***

Update on Blake:
What a joy to say it is to say our Blake came through last week’s CTA and arteriogram and Gamma Radiation very well. On Saturday it was hard to believe he’d had such significant procedures done just the day before. He radiates joy, is cuddly and loving, and is just such a precious gift to our family. We are so grateful.

We would be grateful for your prayers — his AVM still poses a potential risk of re-bleed until it is obliterated, and the Gamma Radiation will take time to do just that. Please pray his AVM would disappear very quickly and there would be no complications on the road to its disappearance. An MRI in about 12 months will let us know how that process is going, but it could take two to two and a half years. While Blake is improving leaps and bounds physically (he basically just has the slightest deficit in his left hand and a bit of a limp), he is otherwise doing so incredibly well and continues to amaze us. However, his vision is an issue as he continues to seem to see nothing on the left side of his field of vision. We will visit a neuro-ophthalmologist on November 20th and hope some progress will begin then, if not sooner. His short term memory also needs a great deal of strengthening, and we continue with exercise and prayer to trust that, like a muscle, it will return to full strength with time. We’d be grateful if you’d pray for Blake about these things — his AVM, his vision and his short term memory.

Thank you for your prayers and support. And PLEASE if you are nearby and would like to join us, we would LOVE to have you at our celebration on November 23rd at 3:30 pm in downtown Washington at Festival Park, where we will Raise a Hallelujah of thanksgiving and praise to God for what He has done for us. And perhaps enjoy some fun together and watch the sun set on the Pamlico! Please join us!

How to Tell You’re Not Following

I scurried across the room during our homeschool community’s morning assembly at the request of the sweet lady in the doorway. One of those ladies who knew my Mama by her maiden name, bearing a gift for Blake. We chatted for a few minutes and she talked about how she’d been praying for Blake:

“I think I’ve told you before, I like to pray, ‘Lord, Your will be done, but let me tell you how you need to do it.'”

We giggled together at that.

I returned to the meeting with the bright and thoughtful package, and some food for thought at the same time.

One evening while Blake was in the hospital, I was praying and asking the Lord to help me rest in Him, and follow Him, and walk with Him as Blake’s journey continued. And I was so struck by a thought, I had to scribble it down immediately, where I found it in my prayer journal this evening.

If one of Your followers tried to walk ahead of You, he would no longer be ‘following’ and would not know the way to go. Let me be covered with the dust of Your feet as You lead me, Rabbi Jesus.

We love to go for walks and hikes with our children, and the Hero Hubs and I are often frustrated by their desire to run ahead and lead the way… when they have no idea where they are going.

Skipping and picking up pine cones and stopping to examine interesting artifacts, I often wonder where they might lead us if we decided to let them just go ahead and blaze the trail. We frequently have to reel them back in, and Mark often makes the declaration: Walk beside me or behind me, please!

And yet I imagine we so frequently want to blaze a trail ahead of Jesus. I picture an eager disciple on a dusty road from one village to another, lifting his tunic a bit to stride on ahead and prepare the way, only to discover Jesus headed in a different direction and he will have to backtrack and catch up.

The momentum of our sweet boy’s recovery has been incredible, and we are eager to do our part to keep things moving. But there is a difference between walking alongside the Rabbi — where you are close enough to hear Him teach — and forging ahead of the Rabbi, hoping you’re plowing your way forward in the direction He intended to go. 

So if we can’t make this therapy session or that appointment happen with a phone call or five, perhaps we need to make sure we are not trying to run ahead of the pace, and we must trust that the Author of Blake’s healing, and Blake’s story, has this in His hands, too.

Lord, show us, your sometimes over-eager children, how to be faithful.

How is it in your life right now, friend? Are you perhaps unwittingly praying some “Your will be done, but here’s how You need to do it” prayers?

Soak in these words again for a moment:

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday. {Psalm 37:3-6}

Trust requires relinquishing control. Committing your way to Him means You’ll follow Him down the trail.

We’ve enjoyed some long walks by still waters, and we’ve endured some steep climbs and tough trails together. But we’ve led our kids to places where they’ve seen waterfalls and sunsets and beauty they would never have seen if they weren’t willing to follow us on the trail.

God can do beautiful things. Trust in the Lord. They take place in His beautiful timing. He can bring it to pass.

The best choice you can make is always?

Follow.

xCC

 I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If so, I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

***

Update on Blake:
We hope and pray that this Friday will mark the end of a season of adventures at Vidant Medical Center for Blake. He is scheduled for a CT Scan (to reexamine the state of his AVM) and an arteriogram (to get imagery of the AVM’s exact status and location) and possibly, if necessary, he will also have Gamma Knife Radiation to “zap” the AVM away. {If you need a reminder, “AVM” is an arteriovenous malformation — the little cluster of vessels in his brain that were formed improperly and caused the aneurism on September 1st.} If the AVM has completely disappeared (which is what we are praying!) the Gamma Radiation will not be necessary.

Blake is doing incredibly well at home. He is enjoying his siblings and able to play with them inside and outside. His balance continues to improve and going up OR down stairs seems to be just about “no sweat” for him. His left arm and hand aren’t 100% yet, but we continue to see such wonderful improvements we feel so sure they will recover completely! He is not sleeping particularly well, but we are seeing improvement in that regard. Our main concerns at the moment are his vision issues and his short term memory loss. We continue to pray and hope we can do our part to help him recover. He is a laughing, giggling, joking, reading, walking, talking, jumping, running miracle!

Please pray for our sweet boy’s 100% recovery! We look forward to sharing the good news of his progress again next week! And please mark your calendar for November 23rd. We plan to Raise a Hallelujah in downtown Washington that afternoon to give thanks for God’s goodness to our family! Please join us!

Blind Spots and How to Find Them

As he held onto a little clicker, I watched the flashing lights and I could see from across the room that he was completely missing what was right in front of him. We thought our sweet boy, roughly eight weeks post major brain aneurism, was having trouble seeing, and this fun little test at the optometrist’s office was confirming it right in front of me. 

Outside this weekend with his Daddy in the backyard, I found him in tears because he’d walked into the little toddler basketball hoop he and his brother used to play with. He just plain didn’t see it. 

He was skipping the first few words on a page. Missing the food on the left side of his plate. Turning his head to try to see things at a distance. The brain is a marvelously miraculous but incredibly funny thing. It will somehow fill in the gaps until you truly don’t know what you’re missing. 

Blake’s blind spots have meant he can’t see the turtle walking by out the window, only six feet away. They’ve also meant he has walked into a few door frames. And every time, he is startled and surprised: he still really doesn’t know he’s missing anything. 

His blind spots have made me start wondering what blind spots I might have in my own life. Yeah, I think I still have 20/20 vision, but how well is my soul seeing? 

Am I aware of the pride I struggle with — because all of us humans have pride that shows up in different ways? It’s at the root of every sin and around the corner at every turn. Because we think we know better, right? What pride hiding in my blind spot?

And…What else might be there? Am I allowing fear to direct my steps instead of faith? Am I going to shadow this second son of mine into his twenties, or gradually, carefully learn to let go again because I trust that God brought him through this and His plan is better than mine?

I imagine sometimes we have to walk into our own walls to realize we are missing something. When we bump into something that hurts or challenges us, we have an opportunity to realize we need to tilt our head a different way, maybe even pause and squint, and see something we’ve been missing. What could God be showing us?

What don’t we realize about us… or Him… that we really need to know?

Prayer is a beautiful place for blind spots to become places where we see more clearly. Digging deep into Scripture and reflecting on what God might want to say to you? Might turn a blind spot into a spot where you’re seeing in 8K — the superior quality, see the speck on the speck kind of resolution we probably need to help us realize 1) how much we don’t see and how sinful we truly are and 2) how gloriously full-color incredibly beautiful God’s Love is for you and me anyway. 

One beautiful technicolor promise of God is that the Truth brings freedom—indeed Jesus said Truth could quite literally set you free. So I’d love to encourage you today to fearlessly press forward in faith and ask, “What blind spot would you like me to see today, Lord?” 

I imagine having Him gently and graciously letting you see what you’re missing will be so much better than walking straight into the little basketball hoop in your backyard. 

xCC

***

I hope you’re encouraged today, friend. If you’re new to this little corner of the web (or not) I’d love to welcome you to subscribe here for a weekly dose of encouragement.

***

The Latest on Blake

We are AMAZED at how well Blake is doing! His left arm and hand are constantly improving, closer and closer to seeming like there was never an issue! He is walking without assistance, running and even jumping with so little struggle. Taking stairs going up like a champ, and improving daily on the strength to come down without much concern. His short term memory is an area of concern we continue to pray for: it is hard for him to remember he has just said something or done something, and I think that leaves us all frustrated at time. We are doing best to encourage and strengthen this ‘muscle’ in different ways, and we are seeing encouraging improvement.

Blake will have what will, we pray, be the final procedure related to this AVM for a very long time — perhaps ever — soon. On November 8th, he’ll have a CTA scan, follow by an angiogram, and — only if necessary — that will be followed by Gamma Knife Radiation treatment. We pray that last step will not be necessary, and also give thanks that, either way, at the end of the day he will NOT be spending another night in the hospital but will get to come home to us when the procedures are all through.

We have confirmed our concerns about Blake’s vision with an optometrist and he is not seeing, in fact very much missing, so much in his left field of vision. We pray that as his brain continues to heal and all swelling reduces this will no longer be an issue, but we are also going to follow up with a neuro-opthalmologist to find out what steps might be necessary to help this specific part of Blake’s recovery.

And last piece of news, but by far the most amazing — after repeatedly being told we were not likely to be eligible for Medicaid, Blake has been assigned Medicaid coverage effective September 1st — meaning his medical bills are completely covered. We are flabbergasted, and just so extremely grateful. God has provided for our family in every way possible and worked things together for good in ways we could never have foreseen when everything was just so hard and scary on the first of September! We have contacted GoFundMe to begin sending refunds to the generous friends who wanted to bless us in this trial, and have been overwhelmed with friends telling us not to refund them, knowing Mark was not working and we have expenses ahead as the therapy and recovery process continues.

We plan to Raise a Hallelujah in downtown Washington to celebrate what God has done on November 23rd and would love to welcome you to join us. Details to follow… Thank you for your prayers, your love, your support and encouragement… God is worthy of more Hallelujahs than we could ever give, and we are so grateful.