A NaNoWriMo Love Story

english-innIt was the morning of my birthday when Mr. Wonderful walked into our room and asked me if I’d like to sneak away and spend a night at the English Inn.

The English Inn, a lovely and charming bed and breakfast in Eaton Rapids, Michigan has become, throughout the years, one of our very favorites places.

“Are you serious,” I asked, knowing full well that when it comes to matters of sneaking away, Mr. Wonderful is almost always quite serious. (Swoon!)

“Yeah, I’m serious,” he said. “But here’s the thing, some guys just called from Lansing and they need me on a job site first thing Monday morning. I can either get up at 5:00 and drive up from our house or I thought maybe we could check in and stay at the inn Sunday night putting me just a half hour away. I won’t be able to stay with you on Monday, but I thought maybe you could use that time to write until you have to checkout. With your birthday, I thought it just might be perfect. What do you think?”

What do I think??? Let’s bust this joint, Baby…

chaiseQuite honestly, here’s what I think. I think all this was nothing short than God’s birthday gift to me. I know it was and here’s why.

For weeks now I’ve been thinking, daydreaming really, about my secret birthday wish. I’ve been imagining how wonderful it would be to sneak away to the inn either by myself of with Mr. Wonderul for a chance to just sit down and write. No interruptions. No other demands. To be in a place of beauty, a place that inspires me, and place that feels like Jane Austen or some other fairytale creature might just waltz into my room or walk through the woods at any moment. (Not to mention a fireplace and a chaise lounge…squeal!)

For me this is heaven. It’s what I long for… secretly wish for.

But life is busy. It takes time and money to pull that off. It takes babysitters, and planning, and I feel guilty to even ask. So I’ve kept my wish to myself, thinking it just isn’t possible.

But God?

word-swag-english-innGod knows my secrets. He knows my daydreams and the wishes of my heart. And He knows how to surprise and romance me.

This is His way, to delight His beloved with a stunning romance. With a fairytale. A love story.

He knows our hearts! And He delights in granting our wishes.

I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve Him. And yet He is exactly what I’ve been given.

On my birthday…

And everyday. I’ve been blessed with the greatest of gifts…

A husband who loves me. (Thank you so much, Honey)

Parents who’ll watch my babies at the drop of a hat. (Mom and Dad, you are the best!)

And a Savior who woos and romances me.

I am faint with love.

For When You Need a Break from the Same Old, Same Old


IMG_3824“Mama, I think today’s a good day for a date with Papa,” My Blessing said as she licked the last morsel of breakfast from her sticky little fingers. 

I glanced across the table at my dad, deciphering his thoughts on the idea. Rarely do I ever find him NOT in the mood for some time with my girls. He nodded, ‘yes’ leaving the decision up to me.

For a moment I weighed my daughter’s request with all I had planned for the day: homeschooling, laundry, afternoon naps…was there space and time for a lunch date?

I looked at her hopeful face. “I guess a short lunch outing would be okay. We could do Steak N Shake, McDonalds, or…”

 “Or Barnes and Noble?'” she asked, ever my little event planner. It was clear she had the day mapped out.

I checked the clock and smiled. “If we hurry, and if it’s okay with Papa, we can make story time…”

Belle Toes“Did you hear that, Hope?'” She cried to her sister. “We’re going to Barnes & Noble for story time. I’m so excited!”

Just shy of an hour later we were loaded in the van and on our way, my dad, my girls, and I. For the rest of the morning, we enjoyed story time, craft time, and snack time. Dad laughed as the girls designed and executed two funky looking art pieces. I laughed as Dad did his best to help.

Next we huddled around the train table as the girls played and looked at books.

“Ten more minutes,” I called as we closed in on noon. “It’s just about lunch time. Time to head home.”

“Or time for a cookie?” My Blessing piped up, eyes never leaving the long line of cars she carefully pushed up a hill.

Again I glanced at my dad. Rarely do I ever find him NOT in the mood for cookies. Again he nodded, ‘yes.’

Minutes later at B&N cafe I watched as my girls dove into gooey chocolate chip cookies the approximate size of their faces. Not wanting to leave ourselves out Dad and I sipped coffee and enjoyed a treat of our own. We totally spoiled our lunches but for once I didn’t care. 

IMG_5847“This is nice,” I said. “Thanks, Dad.” Then looking at my girl, “And thank you, Blessing, for coming up with the idea.” She smiled a chocolaty smile and beamed, “It was a good idea, wasn’t it?”

It sure was.

When my girls were really small I often read them a book at bedtime titled, What Could be Better Than This by Linda Ashman. One of my favorite verses from the story went like this:

“And when they could listen and move at your pace,

the world held a new sort of grace.

It seemed quite a magical place.”

 As I sat at that cafe table with my girls and my dad these words came to mind. Homeschooling and laundry seemed worlds away and everything before me seemed tented with magic and grace. It was like looking at the world through sunglasses, everything a different hue. The hue of childhood wonder.

As a parent, a mother, a homeschooling teacher it is certainly my job to keep us on track. To dictate our days, stay focused, stay fruitful. But days like this remind me that it’s also my job to teach them how to live, how to enjoy the good things God’s given us, how to chase after wonder on Tuesday mornings.

Belle at BeachFor this I’m hardly a teacher. I try but more times than not I find I am merely the student sitting in THEIR classroom where simple grace and fun are always the topic of study.

Finding yourself longing for a break from the same old, same old? Spend a morning, an afternoon, a day following the plans, the ways, the eyes and heart of a child. There’s no better way to make the world seem new. To wake up to life and living, laughter and joy, magic, enchantment and wonder.

On this Tuesday morning laundry piles waited at home. 

Schoolbooks remained untouched.

Class was in session at Barnes and Noble. And as I listened and moved at their pace I learned it all over again…

How the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 

A Love Story

Wedding DayOnce upon a time there was a young man from Maryland who met a young lady from Mississippi while she was visiting her family for one golden summer.

It was as close to love-at-first-sight as love-at-first-sight can be because when the young man laid eyes on the pretty young girl his gaze never really left.

The young girl, she fell hard and fast with a love that lasted the summer and all the seasons to follow. And sure, well meaning family and friends and older sisters would say, “Well what about him? Or him? Or him?” They’d say, “You’re too young, too naive, too optimistic to give your heart away.”

Martie SavageSappy LoveWendellBut the young girl didn’t care or mind because her cares and mind were fixed. This young man would be her first, her last, her only love.

It was an old-fashioned love from the start. Fashioned after the oldest love that fashioned the dawn of time.

The boy and the girl grew up together and loved one another with miles and states in between. They counted the days between visits that became more treasured than gold. They wrote letters so hot and juicy those letters had to be burned. They waited and plotted and planned for the day when they would be together at school.

College DaysThe boy went to college and the girl soon followed and at the end of four years they had dreams, degrees, and rings on their fingers. They gained jobs, and friends, and furniture. They moved here and there and hoped and prayed for God to give them a family.

Good times came.

Heartache came.

Together they laughed and cried.

They lost jobs and friends. They lost beloved old ones and precious new ones.

At times they lost their like for each other but they never lost their love. They never lost their faith or their commitment to God and each other.

In times of poured out tears, of heartache, hurt, and loss, they looked to the verse stitched into cloth that hung by a thread on the wall:

For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death.” Psalm 48:14

And they remembered the One who hung by nails and poured out love for them.

It was here at the cross and the crossroads that they found love, and hope, and graceful grit that kept them right on going. Right on living with broken but still beating hearts.

And God, He didn’t leave them hanging. He came to the broken but still beating hearts and filled them with His glory.

He filled empty pockets, empty chairs, empty rooms. He filled their empty, aching arms with one baby girl, then two. Laughter, hope, and dreams were born pink, and fresh, and new.

Baby MelBaby MeDad's FavoriteThis boy from Maryland is now 72, and his Mississippi bride is an exquisite 70. And they’ve been wearing those rings on their fingers for 50 golden years.

Those two baby girls, who filled their arms, now fill their hearts, and days, and home with two sons acquired by law and six of the grandest children.

GrandbabiesAnd the girls and the grandkids and the son-in-laws, too, wish they could give this Maryland boy and this Mississippi girl the greatest gift in all the world to celebrate their golden day.

A journey to Europe! A pair of gold watches! A fabulous piece of art!

But the daughters, the grands, and the sons-in-law know the truth. The golden truth that seems unfair: The gift has already been given, not to the honored couple, but to them.

IMG_2760The gift of parents and grandparents who journeyed and struggled and fought through life but chose to stay together, to stay in love, to stay in the grip of His grace.

The golden legacy of vows made and vows kept.

The portrait of a marriage.

The gift of a mom and dad that would rather sleep in a bed too small than not sleep together at all.

The gift of parents who still kiss and touch and whisper secrets, who still laugh and hug and exchange I love you’s each and every day.

The gift of seeing Psalm 48:14 as more than a fancy cross-stitch on the wall but as truth, and testimony, and family tradition.

This is the gift and it is theirs and all they can really give in return are ten beating hearts full of thanks.

They can take the journey, the golden legacy, the portrait painted before them and fashion their own love stories after this love story, after the love story. After their parents, their grandparents, their God.

One love story molded from and by all the loves that went before, for all generations to follow.

Mom and Dad SappyRingsMom and Dad GoldenBecause this kind of love lasts forever. Rooted not in the soil of earth but the streets of golden eternity. Centered not on the love of man and wife but the love of a Savior and His beloved.

This is the gift of fifty years.

Forged in the Refiners fire, the gift more precious than gold.

~ Happy 50th Mom and Dad (Nannie and Papa)!

With Love From, Melanie, Jennifer, Landon, Chris, Conner, Madeline, Garrett, Aletheia, Tenley, and Cabellea ~

A Sweet Little Tale on Inviting God In (And the Story Behind the Name)

Cabellea SignSo there once was this couple and long before they wed, long before they had any right to think about having kids they dreamed and laughed and envisioned what one-day might be.

They pictured tiny little cowboys running wild in boots. They pictured pretty little girls twirling dainty in sun-splashed dresses.

Each little boy, each little girl had a name, a dream attached.

So the man, he loved to fish, he loved to hunt. He loved a certain huntin’ store and thought the name of that store a pretty one for a someday little girl. And the woman, she loved the man and she loved the dream and even though it seemed a tiny bit crazy, she thought it a pretty name too.

So years passed by and the couple said their vows but before the babies with names and dreams a four-legged creature was first to fill their nest.

Now, had that couple known that someday down the road they would welcome not one, not two, but three little girls into their tiny home in Michigan, perhaps they would have named the four-legged creature differently. But they didn’t know. How could they know? And that name, of the huntin’ store, seemed to fit the creature just right.

The couple lived on happily as their house filled up with pink. Filled right to the roof with laughter and dolls and dancing feet. And the man, he didn’t get the wrestling team he’d sort of always dreamed of but what he did get seemed even better.

Twelve years into happily ever after the woman turned to the man and smiled, “Ready for one more?”

“Of course,” came his reply.

Belle's FeetFor twenty weeks they waited and wondered. Maybe? This time? A cowboy in boots? But the cowboy names and the cowboy dreams would have to wait a few more years because the black and white TV screen showed another little girl.

So the couple that had a list of boy names as long as a lasso, scratched their heads and wondered how’d they ever come up with another perfect name for another perfect girl.

September? No.

Avenlea? No.

Remington? NO! NO! NO!

Colt? Hmm… Maybe?

Nothing seemed quite right.

Now, this couple had a tradition, a secret weapon of sorts. For each little girl they prayed. From beginning to end they prayed. For health and happiness and hope in a Savior they prayed for the hearts of their girls. And they asked that Savior if He’d shed some light. If He’d, please, give them a message to speak over each little girl. A special message from God, just for her, to be spoken over her by her father.

The first little girl became God’s Blessing.

The second God’s Message of Hope.

Six months into the nine-month wait the man turned to the woman and smiled, “God spoke to me,” he said. “She’s God’s Promise.”

With tears in her eyes, the woman replied, “That’s what He’s been telling me too.”

Baby Belle CheeksThey had their precious, perfect little girl curling ‘round their hearts. Curling all around her mama’s belly. And they had His words to speak over their precious, perfect girl.

But the name? That stubborn name refused come.

“We could name her Cabela,” the man said one day.

“Could we?” The woman asked as joy turned in her heart. As a nameless gift of God turned happy in her belly. “We’ve always loved that name…”

“We could call her Belle, for short.”

“I love that. Belle.”

Together the couple continued to pray. They prayed and asked for a name. They invited God in, they asked Him, please, to affirm the name they chose.

They knew they loved that name. That name they’d always dreamt of. But that huntin’ store? And that four-legged creature, now long gone?

They wanted to be sure.

Only God could make them sure.

Belle's HandThanksgiving, family, and friends came ‘round, and hearing the couple’s plight, one friend piped up and asked, “Have you Googled names that mean God’s promise?”

The couple turned to each other and smiled, “Why haven’t we Googled names that mean God’s promise?”

The man, he got his computer and filled the search field with hope. With curious joy at what might follow.

And wouldn’t you know? How could anyone know? That God glory can show up on Google? Can show up in a list of names.

In a list of names that mean God’s promise. And at the very top of the list…


Belle, Bella, Carabelle…which seemed awful close to that long-loved name.

BelleAnd the couple knew within their hearts what this little girl’s name would be. God was in it, the name, the dream, the wish their hearts made all those years ago.

God had been in it all along but it wasn’t until they invited Him in that the thread began to unravel.

The couple had learned it again and again. Over broken friendships and lost jobs. Over big disappointments and small inconveniences. The simple act of inviting God in to the twisted, the mangled, the knotted, the tangled would always, eventually, unravel Glory. Unravel a tapestry that could only be crafted by His unfailing hands.

“People will laugh, and joke, and tease.”

“They’ll look at us funny.”

“Let them,” the couple agreed.

For nothing could steal their joy.

Nothing and no one in the whole wild world could steal God’s Promise away.

Could steal their long-loved little girl, Cabellea Wren…

Their precious, perfect Belle.

Today Was A Fairy Tale

JournalOnce upon a time there was a witch and a toad…

…Lightning flashed in the princess’ eyes as the prince thundered down the hall. Every room in the castle seemed to vibrate with the tension and anger between them…

Fairy tale or a typical Saturday morning after a long and weary week?

All couples have their moments. Moments when stress, fatigue, misunderstanding and frustration cripple an otherwise happy marriage. Nagging and bickering elbow out hugs and kisses. Peace and closeness fall under attack. The cycle spins like a wicked spell, and the distance that forms between man and wife can feel like anything but a fairy tale.

I know it firsthand. After a recent stent of on and off squabbling between me and my prince, I went to the oasis of a trusted friend for advice. “What do I do when I feel like I’m not being heard? When I feel hurt and accused? How do we put an end to the fighting and distance between us?”

With the look of a fairy godmother, and thirty-four years of marriage shimmering in her eyes, my friend smiled a knowing smile and spoke an answer that was simple and true, “You lean into God, and you lean into each other, and you don’t let anything destroy the closeness.”

With these words in mind I pictured myself over the last few weeks. The selfish things I’d said. The harsh things I’d thought. The prickly shell I grew around me.

I considered the assumptions I’d made.

The grace I’d withheld.

The fingers I’d pointed in his direction.

None of it was helping. None of it did one good thing to restore the peace in our castle. In my eyes he’d become a toad and, let’s be honest, a few warts short of a witch might be the best way to describe me. 

Remember The Sweet ThingsSeveral years ago I read an article written by Ellen Greene, author of Remember the Sweet Things. In her powerful narrative, Greene wrote about her decision to keep a written list of all the things she loved about her husband and the way it revolutionized their marriage.

Moved to begin a list of my own I bought a fancy leather journal for my prince’s thirtieth birthday and started filling line after line with all the things I noticed, appreciated, and acknowledged about him and his love.  

Journal PageYou spent your Barnes and Noble gift card on books we both enjoy.

You built shelves for the basement.

You stayed home from work to be with me when Uncle Ron died.

You dried the dishes for me while I cooked dinner.

I kept with it for a while but I’m sad to say I eventually let months, even years, go by without a single entry. Inspired by Ann Voskamp and her book One Thousand Gifts, my list, over time, evolved into an ongoing journal of things I am thankful for, a record of God and His gifts.

One Thousand GiftsIt’s a different sort of list but the idea is the same. Both lists keep track. Both lists recognize what could easily be missed. Both lists revolve around my ability to see, and choose, and dwell on love, thanksgiving, and the gifts I’ve been given.

In fairy tale stories the princess must kiss the toad to turn him into a prince. Why should life with my beloved be any different? When my prince starts to look like a toad, when I start to act like a witch, the answer, the cure, the only way to break the spell is always and only through love.

To lean into God. To lean into each other. To let nothing destroy the closeness.

Keeping a list of things I love about my husband changes my eyes to see a prince instead of a toad, his love instead of his faults. It changes my heart to feel soft instead of prickly, thankful instead of hard. It changes my focus to that which is good, and right, and lovely between us, instead of all the little things that pry our hearts apart.

On days when my prince is a prince I see, I choose, I scribble down lines. On days when my prince resembles a toad, I read the lines, the notes on love, so I can see, so I can choose, so I can break the spell with love.

This list…it is the act of love… it is the kiss that transforms. (And for the record…real kisses work too.)

Brave Prince, Lovely Princess, may you wake up this day to the fairy tale found in a list of love, of gifts, of thanksgiving. When lightning strikes in her eyes, when he thunders down the hall, may you lean into God, may you lean into each other, may you always fight for closeness and break the spell with love.