Month: November 2017

never little

Linus Van Pelt nailed it. When he wrapped his beloved blanket around a frail tree in 1965, he loved. Maybe it just needs a little love. His simple gesture demonstrated love for us to follow.

 Just a little love.

Early this summer, I maneuvered my cart up and down the flower aisles. Displays overflowed with vibrant red geraniums, bright yellow marigolds, and happy-face daisies.

In the clearance section, I stopped in front of a shopping cart filled with discarded hanging baskets.  A flowery mess of drooping petunias and withered impatiens, smashed and thirsty.

They just need a little love. 

The flowers needed someone to love them and provide much-needed water. They will be fine, I told myself, maybe even thrive. I selected two hanging baskets from the discarded pile. At home, my husband surveyed the wilted flowers and questioned my reasoning. They just need a little love.

With the arrival of the holidays, busy days are filled with lists to check, schedules to keep, and lines to endure. But everywhere I go, I see them. They stand behind cash registers, they jockey for parking spaces, and they brush past me in crowded stores. In their faces, I see exhaustion, frustration, and loneliness.

Like forgotten tiny trees and withered flowers, I see people who just need a little love.

Slow me down, Lord. Help me see those in need of a little love.

Help me see and move me to give love. 

Like Linus, I want to see a need and offer a little love. A smile. An opened door. A parking space. An overdue phone call. An encouraging note. A visit. A hug. A drink of water. Maybe even a beloved blue blanket.

A little love yields big results. My clearance flowers bloomed and provided beauty throughout the summer. Each Christmas season, Linus’ scraggly tree is transformed into a beautiful tree laden with decorations. A little love goes a long way.

Because when love is given, it is never little.

It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you…yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand. ~ Mother Teresa




  • Vote
  • Open a checking account
  • Enlist in the military
  • Change your name
  • Get married or divorced
  • Sign legal documents and contracts
  • Buy insurance
  • Apply for a credit card

Weighty privileges accompany 18th birthdays in the United States. On Saturday, our sponsored son in Tanzania celebrates his 18th birthday. How will Bilali spend his special day?

Since the loss of his father, he and his mother shoulder the weight of caring for 5 additional family members. Bilali’s struggles are daily and real. Yet, he writes of hope and thankfulness.

Hope-filled news.

  • My family and I are fine. 
  • I am doing well with my studies. 
  • I am also doing well with my Center studies: spiritual, social, and learning how to keep chickens. 

Thankfulness, too.

  • I thank God because He helps me. 
  • I trust you are praying for me that is why I am succeeding. 

From this soon-to-be-18-year-old, I hear education, health, income-generation, thankfulness, and spiritual maturity. I hear hope.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)

Bilali’s words and life resonate of perseverance, character, and hope. The kind of hope built by the sweat of perseverance and character-building choices from life within a still-developing country. Hope produced from need and sacrifice, not abundance. To claim hope in a world of need is where true hope lives.

I am humbled yet joyful to read of Bilali’s hopefulness in good health, positive grades, God’s faithfulness, and chickens.

On his 18th birthday, Bilali won’t open a checking account, buy insurance, or apply for a credit card. He won’t enjoy a cake piled high with gooey icing with 18 glowing candles. But I believe Bilali will spend his special day tending his chickens under the watchful eye of a faithful Father. Thankful and hopeful.

And with God, hope is enough.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5 (NIV)

Happy 18th Birthday, Bilali.



They are packed and awaiting their long international trip. Some will travel many miles by rafts, canoes, helicopters, bikes, wagons, and feet. Others on camels, oxen, horses, and elephants. Stretched rubber bands contain bulging treasures. Nine red and green boxes ready for smiles and giggles.

Nine boxes for nine little girls.

Nine lives changed through Operation Christmas Child.

Nine stuffed animals (bears and bunnies) for empty arms and snuggles. Nine glittery play necklaces to adorn nine petite necks. Nine notepads for scribbled hopes, dreams, and fears. Nine toy flutes to compose joyful noise.

  Why all girls? 

 Words from the Director at a Compassion Center in Kenya remind me. In this 21st century, he battles the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation. Girls begin life, disadvantaged, simply for being whom God created them to be. They are forgotten, unwanted, and too often abused.

Nine boxes for nine little girls.

Nine paint sets to paint brighter futures where they discover value and worth. Nine inflatable globes to encourage big dreams. Nine foam crosses to point them to their loving Heavenly Father.

Nine toothbrushes to brighten smiles. Nine packs of crayons, markers, colored pencils to create beauty.  Nine wash cloths to scrub away dirt and reveal their loveliness.

Nine boxes for nine little girls.

Inside, heart-felt words for 9 precious little girls…

You are loved.



Children are a gift from God; they are his reward.  Psalm 127:3 (TLB)

(Top Photo:  Courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse)




It dangled from a peg with the displayed Christmas ornaments. The miniature, rainbow-colored xylophone with its tiny mallet caught my eye. I smiled as I pictured my eight-month old grandson, Cam, banging on his toy xylophone. He creates music only a grandparent can love. 

This Christmas, I decided to continue a tradition my mother began 30 years ago. Each year, she chose and dated an ornament for my daughters. When we decorated our tree, we unwrapped the ornaments and remembered. Seventeen years ago, my mother entered her Heavenly home. Now, the box of ornaments represents precious memories of her and Christmases together.

In Lima, Peru, 3,600 miles away, a nine-year old boy creates music with his xylophone. My husband and I sponsor Israel through Compassion International. Israel’s recent letter shared the news of his musical adventure with a xylophone. I smiled. There is something special about boys and xylophones.

I held the mini xylophone ornament in my hand and considered my choices. For $15.95, it could adorn my grandson’s first Christmas tree. But images of Israel and other children in need around the world came to mind.

The choice became clear; a new tradition born.

My husband and I explored Compassion’s Christmas gift catalog. For less than $15.95, a baby and mother can eat for a month, a child can be protected from parasites, or receive an age-appropriate Bible. All life-giving. All giving back gifts.

On the tree this year, amongst the cherished ornaments, will be one representing the choice to bless others. A dated note to Cam explaining his first ornament: a mother and her baby ate for a month.

Our tradition will remind Cam Christmas is about giving back not getting more. As he gets older, he will choose how to bless others.

There will be no mini xylophone on Cam’s tree this year. One day, we will share with Cam the $15.95 difference he made. A giving-back tradition.

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40 (NIV)



The handwriting on the wall means the grandchildren found the crayons. ~Author Unknown

Periwinkle, aquamarine, bittersweet, sepia, and cornflower. As a child, I discovered  new and exotic names in my box of 64 crayons. The mixture of colors invited me to create, design, and break from typical color-choice rules. Carnation pink elephants drank from mahogany water beneath burnt orange clouds. 

But one rule I refused to break: coloring outside the lines. To produce the picture I desired, I always colored within the lines. I respected the lines; they were necessary to create my finished product. I enjoyed freedom within the lines as I mixed and matched my 64 choices.

Last week, I encountered a blank canvas in Walmart’s parking lot. Recently paved,     but missing white lines. The black sea of asphalt without lines caused confusion. Some vehicles explored their line-less freedom and parked willy nilly. I circled several times. Where should I park? How close do I park beside someone? Is it even safe to park here? No lines; no order. I missed my lines.

God knew life without lines would be confusing and hard.

So He wrote love-lines in His Holy Word. Lines and boundaries written from God’s great Love to us. Love-lines to help us live the  life He intended: freedom within His lines and boundaries.

Life is hard. I want lines; I want to know where to park. I need lines. Lines guide me; they keep me safe. Life within lines provides me the freedom to color my world in goldenrod, orchid, or raw sienna.

Several days later, I pulled my car between two white lines in Walmart’s parking lot and rejoiced in the freedom I found there.

God’s boundary lines show us where it’s safe to go and set our hearts free. ~ Renee Swope