Surprise, Surprise! I Was Caught by One

Know What to Expect

She is following me.

I take a right into my bedroom. She does, too. I walk into my bathroom. She toddles behind me.

I’m not surprised. When her parents are here, she’s all about holding on to mom and dad.

But they aren’t here this weekend. And when she stays with us, I’m her person. I like that. I’ve come to expect it.

I open the top drawer in my bathroom and pull out the toothpaste. As I brush my teeth, she watches me. But only for a few seconds.

She has other plans.

Unbeknownst to Me

She pulls on the bottom drawer in the bathroom, the one she can reach. It opens easily for her. I keep extras there: emery boards, dental floss, bobby pins.

But what she pulls out is not what I keep there.

Her hands go directly for the two items that don’t belong. A plastic white puzzle piece and a plastic blue puzzle piece.

She grabs them from the drawer, turns around, and walks out. She got what she came for.

I’m left alone to laugh and laugh. She had placed those puzzles pieces there another day, unbeknownst to me.

But she hadn’t forgotten she’d put them there. She remembered.

She has surprised me.

surprise-surprise-caught-by-one

Be Surprised

She’ll continue to surprise me.

If she can surprise me at sixteen-months-old, when I think my youngest granddaughter is predictable, how much more will she surprise me at ten years old? At seventeen? At twenty-four, if I’m still around, Lord willing?

Everyone contains surprises. Just when we think we have someone figured out, they’ll do something unexpected.

And we’ll be surprised.

I love being delighted by God’s surprises. He doles them out when I least expect them. His surprises are good ones, only the best from God. Sometimes they come through coincidences or through nature or through a toddling little grandchild.

And sometimes he even lets us surprise ourselves.

I want to remain open for surprises. 

How will God surprise me today?


How often are you caught by surprise? When’s the last time you surprised yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Related Reading:

sharing with Maryleigh


How Do You Survive an Empty Nest?
—Grace & Truth Linkup

My Nest Felt Full

My nest felt so full back then.

When my daughters were little, were underneath my feet all day, asking for goldfish crackers or fighting for their turn at games on our single desktop computer, it seemed this stage of life would last forever.

It was bittersweet as they aged out of it. First, my oldest, Morgan, moved out and left for college. I was sad. Her empty room mirrored my empty heart.

In no time, the baby, Jenna, also graduated from school. And from home.

It was only Jeff and I left.

how-do-you-survive-an-empty-nest

Empty Nest Syndrome

How did we arrive at this station so soon?

Wasn’t it supposed to take eons before we had an empty nest?

Studies say that almost 25% of empty nesters develop Empty Nest Syndrome. It’s a season of mourning the loss of no children in the house, of changing roles from parent to…whatever comes next.

Nine years have passed since my nest emptied out. Another blink of an eye. While I was fortunate not to suffer long from Empty Nest Syndrome, I know many who have. It can be a difficult transition.

What are we to do with ourselves when the kids are gone, when our nest gets empty?

Leaving Home

What we did next wasn’t what I expected . . .

When our kids left home, Jeff and I left home, too.

We hit the road.

  • We drove back and forth to visit our daughters (although we tried not doing it TOO much, for their sake).
  • I traveled with Jeff on his business trips.
  • I took short trips with girlfriends.

Yet we always returned home. Happily.

Even though the nest contained less people in it, it was still our nest. Still our homebase. Still our refuge.

Is “Empty” the Right Word?

Much, much, much has happened between the beginning days of our empty nest and now. Some hard, but mostly good.

I’ve discovered “empty nest” may be a misnomer.

Yes, most of the time it is just Jeff and I in it.

But in actuality, just because less people live here full time doesn’t mean the nest is empty.

Even an empty nest can be full.

It’s full of memories, yes. And still full of love.

But occasionally, it’s even full of people. Even more people than in the past. A weekend ago every bed was taken, including the toddler bed and the crib.

Because our daughters flew the coop years ago, they fly back in now with company. They bring husbands with them. They bring children. They bring friends.

We’ve survived the empty nest by taking on new roles of mother-in-law and father-in-law, of Granna and Gramps.

We’ve moved into new ministries, traveled to new spaces, explored new aspects of our own relationship with each other, with ourselves, and with God.

Nests Evolve

Has it been easy transitions? Definitely not. Change is hard for me, even when it’s a good change. And harder when it’s a bad change.

There are still days when I look back and wonder: Where has that young mother gone? How did I turn into this middle-aged woman living with a middle-aged man, just two of us in this house?

But no nest is meant to last forever, unchanged, whether full or empty.

New nests are built, fill up, then empty out.

And life with its purpose moves on.

I want to stay flexible to move with it, empty of regrets but full of hope, for wherever God takes me next.

Featured Post

Our featured post this week is by Michele Morin. She is a new empty nester. Read her wise post to see how she is holding on and letting go in this season.

Michele writes,

“While the steps are unfamiliar to me at this point, I’m discovering a certain excitement as I look around me at this empty-ing nest and see the wide open spaces of God’s good plans for the future.”

Read all of Michele’s post here, then link up your own blog posts below.

Holding On, Letting Go, and Doing the Work of Loving Your Empty Nest


Grace and Truth_Rules

1. Share 1 or 2 of your most recent CHRISTIAN LIVING posts. (No DIY, crafts, recipes, or inappropriate articles.) All links are randomly sorted.

2. Comment on 1 or 2 other links. Grace & Truth linkup encourages community.   

3. Every host features one entry from the previous week. To be featured, include this button or link back here on your post (mandatory to be featured, but not to participate).

Grace Truth_Button

Grace and Truth_Meet Hosts

We encourage you to follow our hosts on their blogs or social media.

MAREE DEE – Embracing the Unexpected
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

HEATHER HART & VALERIE RIESE – Candidly Christian
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

LAUREN SPARKS
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

LISA BURGESS – Lisa notes
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Now Let’s Link Up!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Do you have an empty nest? How does it feel? Share your thoughts in the comments.

sharing with Anita, April


Racism Hurts Everybody, Not Just Its Victims
—Book Review of "The Sum of Us"

Rather than have Blacks swim in their public swimming pool, the city of Montgomery, WV, hired city contractors to pour cement into the pool over 50 years ago.

Racism is costly to everyone. Not only to the people on the receiving end of it. It’s also costly to those on the giving side; they just don’t always recognize the price they pay to cause harm.

“Did white people win? No, for the most part they lost right along with the rest of us. Racism got in the way of all of us having nice things.”
– Heather McGhee

The Sum of Us is a detailed look at how racism costs everyone, and includes the fuller story about the public swimming pools.

“Public goods, in other words, are only for the public we perceive to be good.”

the-sum-of-us-racism-costs-everyone

The author Heather McGhee digs down to the core of our public problems, and finds racism there.

If you’re into data, McGhee offers plenty of it in The Sum of Us. But she also provides individual stories of people she met who are living through these issues.

“Some white people even believe that Black people get to go to college for free—when the reality is, Black students on average wind up paying more for college through interest-bearing student loans over their lifetimes because they don’t have the passed-down wealth that even poorer white students often have. And in selective college admissions, any given white person is far more likely to be competing with another white person than with one of the underrepresented people of color in the applicant pool.”

McGhee says on our self-destructive path of racism, we take down both people of color and white people, too.

“The narrative that white people should see the well-being of people of color as a threat to their own is one of the most powerful subterranean stories in America. Until we destroy the idea, opponents of progress can always unearth it and use it to block any collective action that benefits us all.”

And when we cooperate instead?

McGhee says,

“The civil rights victories that were so bitterly opposed in the South ended up being a boon for the region, resulting in stronger local economies and more investments in infrastructure and education. The old zero-sum paradigm is not just counterproductive; it’s a lie.”

What’s the alternative to a zero-sum game? The Solidarity Dividend. It’s McGhee’s label for the gains we all reap when we unite, instead of divide.

The Sum of Us shows us we’re not in competition against each other. Your wins don’t come at my expense, nor vice versa. We’re all in this together.

“We are so much more when the ‘We’ in ‘We the People’ is not some of us, but all of us. We are greater than, and greater for, the sum of us.”


Share your thoughts in the comments.

My thanks to NetGalley and Random
House for the review copy of this book

sharing with Grace & Truth


6 Loving Mantras to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say

6-mantras-to-say-when-you-dont-know-what-to-say

Sometimes we just don’t know what to say.

Situations may call for words. We want to give them. We want to speak love.

But we’re empty.

Here are six mantras I learned from Thich Nhat Hanh that we can repeat to others so they’ll know we love them.

1. “I am here for you.”

Just showing up is often the bulk of the work. Your presence is a marvelous present.

But tag the gift of your presence by saying the words “I am here for you.” It imprints upon others that you really do care.

2. “I know you are there, and I am very happy.”

But what about when someone shows up for you? That often leaves us at a loss for words, too. How can you let them know how much it means to you that they showed up?

Keep it simple. Tell others you see them and how it makes you feel. That’s another way to show love.

3. “I know you suffer, and that is why I am here for you.”

When you notice a friend is in pain, say so.

It’s an extra layer of love on top of the first mantra. Not only are you here for them, but you see their hurt. Acknowledging the pain of others can go a long way in helping heal it.

4. “I suffer, please help.”

This one may be the hardest to say. And even harder if the person you’re talking to is the one causing your suffering.

Your pride may prompt you to say the opposite—“I’m totally fine; I don’t need your help.” But acknowledging that you need help often prompts others to become the help you need. It’s an exchange of love.

5. “This is a happy moment.”

When you experience victories, these words come easily.

But when your friend experiences victories, celebrate with them, too, as an act of love. Even in ordinary moments, find reasons to be grateful for the here and now, together.

6. “You are partly right.”

When you are praised, say this to remind yourself not to take the compliment too seriously (maybe out loud, maybe silently).

Likewise, also say this when you are criticized (at least say it internally). By accepting your common humanity, you won’t become “a victim of a prideful illusion” nor will you condemn yourself for a weakness.

When we improve our communication, we improve our relationships. Using our intention to listen deeply and using our words to love profoundly, we understand more and are understood more, one person at a time.

6-loving-mantras-to-say


Which saying can you use today? Which one would you like to hear? Please share in the comments.

updated from the archives

sharing with Grace & Truth,
Joanne, Patsy, Jeanne, Jen


When Hope Refuses to Stay Down
—Grace & Truth Linkup

hope-refuses-to-stay-down

We all have days when things go right. Everything we touch is golden.

But we also have days when things go wrong. It’s in those days that it’s easy to lose hope.

If you’re reading this on April 2, Good Friday, you’ll remember on the very first Good Friday two thousand years ago it seemed all hope was erased forever.

With Jesus captured, beaten, and left for dead on a cross, the plan seemed to have gone terribly awry.

But hope doesn’t like to stay down. 

As Karen says in our featured post this week, “Hope was always coming. And God knew.”

We can know, too. Maybe the exact situation we’re hoping to change won’t be changed. Or the job we’re hoping for won’t be the one we’re offered. Or the problem we want solved won’t suddenly become solvable.

But somehow, someway, God can and will return us again to victory.

In the story of Jesus, it was three days later that Hope rose from the dead. He walked out of the tomb, and never went back in.

May we keep Hope alive in our hearts too. Even on those dead days, resurrection is only a corner away.

Read all of Karen’s post at her blog, then link up your own blog posts below.

Hope Was Always Coming and God Knew


Grace and Truth_Rules

1. Share 1 or 2 of your most recent CHRISTIAN LIVING posts. (No DIY, crafts, recipes, or inappropriate articles.) All links are randomly sorted.

2. Comment on 1 or 2 other links. Grace & Truth linkup encourages community.   

3. Every host features one entry from the previous week. To be featured, include this button or link back here on your post (mandatory to be featured, but not to participate).

Grace Truth_Button

Grace and Truth_Meet Hosts

We encourage you to follow our hosts on their blogs or social media.

MAREE DEE – Embracing the Unexpected
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

HEATHER HART & VALERIE RIESE – Candidly Christian
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

LAUREN SPARKS
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

LISA BURGESS – Lisa notes
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Now Let’s Link Up!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

When have you felt hopeless? What restored your hope? Share your thoughts in the comments.


7 Books I Recommend—March 2021
+ My 1-Minute Video Book Review

A peasant that reads is a prince in waiting.
– Walter Mosley

Below are 7 books I recommend from those I finished reading in March + a 1-minute video review. 

[See previously recommended books here]

books-i-recommend-march-2021

Nonfiction

1. Caste
The Origins of Our Discontents
by Isabel Wilkerson

Caste is a must-read for those who want to better understand the divisions in America. I highly recommend it. Even if you’ve read other books you think are similar, read this one anyway. 

Here’s my 1-minute book review of Caste.

2. Journey to the Cross
A 40-Day Lenten Devotional
by Paul David Tripp

journey-to-the-cross

I’ve been reading these 40 devotionals during Lent. They’re short enough to be read daily, but long enough to be meaningful. I’ll keep the book to read again in a few years.

3. Irresistible
Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World
by Andy Stanley

irresistible-andy-stanley

Why was Christianity so irresistible to many in the first century, and yet so repellant to many in our century? Andy Stanley suggests we need to return to the roots of Jesus. Jesus is the real draw. I appreciate Stanley’s message. 

4. Faith after Doubt
Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do about It
by Brian D. McLaren

faith-after-doubt

Read this book for a four-stage model of faith development that you may be experiencing yourself and seeing around you. Brian McLaren walks you through each stage from Simplicity to Harmony. This isn’t a book for everyone, but for those willing to question their old beliefs, this book is refreshing.

5. Chatter
The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It
by Ethan Kross

Chatter-The Voice in Our Head

We talk to ourselves all day long. Are we saying the right things? This book helps us have a better conversation with our inner voices. I really found it helpful.

6. The Power of Writing It Down
A Simple Habit to Unlock Your Brain and Reimagine Your Life
by Allison Fallon  

power-of-writing-it-down

This book helps you see the importance of having a personal, daily writing practice, not so you can publish a book, but so you can understand your life.  It motivated me to start again. 

Fiction

7. Meet Me at the Museum
by Anne Youngson

meet-me-at-the-museum

I enjoyed this novel written as a series of letters between farm-dwelling Tina in England and Professor Anders from a Danish museum. I alternated between reading the ebook and listening to the audiobook (depending on if I was at home or driving). I recommend both versions.

Reading Now

  • The Sum of Us
    What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together
    by Heather McGhee
  • Freeing Jesus
    Rediscovering Jesus as Friend, Teacher, Savior, Lord, Way, and Presence
    by Diana Butler Bass
  • Salt to the Sea
    by Rita Sepetys
  • Effortless
    Make It Easy to Get the Right Things Done
    by Greg McKeown
  • Storyworthy
    Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life through the Power of Storytelling
    by Matthew Dicks
  • Time Management Ninja
    21 Rules for More Time and Less Stress in Your Life
    by Craig Jarrow

What good book are YOU reading this month? Please share in the comments.

My books on Goodreads
More books I recommend

sharing with Richella, Crystal, Debbie,
Tina, Nicole, Joanne, Patricia