Sure-to-Please Gift Ideas for Valentine’s


EnterPhoto by Jess Watters on Unsplash a caption

It’s February! Let the season of chocolates, roses and romance unfold!

Are you ready for Valentine’s Day? I just returned from our neighborhood store (Dollar Tree) with a fist full of affordable cards to send to people I love. I’m preparing gift bags for my grandchildren and wondering how to best love my husband when the holiday arrives.

Valentine’s brings some of the gift-giving stress we feel at Christmas. We try to discern what people want, how much to spend, whether to go serious or silly, practical or romantic.

The most romantic of all Valentine gifts is probably the engagement ring. As many as six million couples will commit on February 14th this year, costing guys an average of $7000 for a ring to flash with the question.

Some Valentine gifts are just outside the box. You can surprise your sweetie with a Salami Bouquet (Valentine Edition) available from Olympia Provisions for only $85.

If you like “too cute” consider serving heart-shaped eggs on Valentine’s morning using the silicone egg shaper offered by Mastrad for $8.99. You can dress your whole family in matching Valentine pajamas created by Sugar Stitch Designs for $18 a pair.

Some of us enjoy a simple message written in a pretty card. Last week I tried to purge the over-stuffed drawers where I keep family pictures and cards received. I sighed in defeat as most of the cards went back in the drawer because I couldn’t toss the loving hand-written messages they contained.

Love always works. Everyone wants love. I like flowers and chocolate (hint, hint Charlie) but above all I want love. God tells us to treat others the way we want to be treated (Lk 6:31) so we need to provide love.

No matter what item you make or purchase for a loved one this Valentine’s Day, make sure you also give your love. Even extravagant gifts given without love go over like a clanging symbol (1 Cor 13:1). You might as well save your money and give something simple like the “You’re So Lucky to Have Me” mug offered by AvonnieStudio for $18.

Here’s a list of sure-to-please ways you can love on Valentine’s and every day this year.

Gifts of Love for God

God wants love. He desires our:

  • affection (vs. neglect or resistance)
  • time (in His word, with His people, in prayer)
  • attention (discerning His will in our lives)
  • gratitude for blessings
  • dedication to His purposes (love, truth and grace)

Gifts of Love for Others

Love builds people up (1 Thess 5:11). Love gifts everyone wants include:

  • time and attention (“hear and see me”)
  • acceptance and affirmation
  • appropriate touch
  • prayer (with and for)
  • help with material needs (food, clothing, transportation, money, labor)
  • forgiveness
  • shared control

Love gifts people don’t always want but sometimes need include:

  • consequences
  • boundaries
  • truth spoken in love

Gifts of Love for You

It’s okay to love yourself. The Bible says so (Matt 22:39)! Here are some healthy ways to treat yourself like the precious Valentine you are:

  • take care of your body (good diet, exercise, rest, medical attention)
  • think on things good and true (Phil 4:8)
  • validate your emotions (they’re not right or wrong but they have a message)
  • connect with others (loneliness kills)
  • keep a balanced schedule
  • leave the past behind (Phil 3:13)
  • captain your own ship
  • accept mistakes as normal and learn from them (reject toxic shame)


I hope you’re planning a wonderful Valentine’s celebration. Even if your special someone doesn’t like your salami bouquet or cheesy pajamas, even if they say “no” to your proposal you’ll never really bomb if you offer the most coveted gift of all – real, authentic, personal love (1 Cor 13:13; 1 Pet 4:8).

Do you know someone who needs your love today? Could you step up? What love gift might you offer?

Thanks for connecting with me here. It makes me feel loved!

Happy Valentines Day!


Posted in Relationships, Wellness | 3 Comments

10 Life Lessons from a 90-Year-Old Who Jumped Out of an Airplane

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Carl Lancaster

It’s my pleasure to know a special 90-year old man named Carl. We go to the same church and everyone I know who’s met him loves and admires Carl.  He decided to follow Jesus as a  very young man and spent his life loving God and others well.

Last November Carl marked his 90th birthday by jumping out of an airplane. I watched him reach this milestone and wondered what  I could learn from his experience so I recently sat down with him to ask some questions.

Carl’s answers were full of wisdom. Here are 10 things I learned from him:

10 Life Lessons from Carl:

Lesson 1: Grab life by the tail

Me:  “Why did you jump out of an airplane on your birthday?”

Carl: “Turning 90 is a real achievement and jumping out of an airplane is the most exciting way I could think of to celebrate.”

Lesson 2: Find a Purpose

Me:  “What choices helped you live a long healthy life?”

Carl:  “The sense of mission I’ve had since I was about 12 helped me stay active. God blessed me with good health so I try to exercise and eat healthy foods. I want to stay strong to live out my mission.”

Lesson 3: Trust God

Me: What is your mission?

Carl: “To become as much like Jesus as I can. The more I attempt to do that the more satisfaction I feel and the more help I can be to others. It’s more fun to give and serve than to get and have others serve you. Living like Jesus leads to the best life here and beyond the grave!”

*Note::Carl served 45 years as pastor then pastor and professional counselor. He still provides pastoral counseling services and has gone on 50 foreign mission trips to 9 different countries (most since retiring at age 65!).

Lesson 4: Happiness is a choice.

Me: “How do you stay happy?”

Carl: “It’s not easy with the challenges of age. I try to focus on what I enjoy each day, keep my sense of purpose and stay involved with other people.

Life is too short to make ourselves. miserable with anger, jealousy and hatred.

Lesson 5: Joy comes from love and work

Me:  “What gave you the greatest satisfaction over the course of your life?”

Carl: “Although we had struggles, my good marriage of more than 60 years. I look at young people raising their families today and think they’re the luckiest people in the world. My work as a pastor and counselor also gave me tremendous satisfaction.”

Lesson 6: Take time to enjoy life.

Me: “What do you know now that was hard to understand when you were younger?”

Carl: “Earlier I think I focused too much on what I wanted to achieve instead of taking time to enjoy my journey, It’s good to smell the roses and enjoy day-to-day life.”

Lesson 7: Parents, teachers and church workers make a difference.


Carl loves kids

Me: “What person influenced you most? “

Carl: “Perhaps my parents. My father taught us to do our best at everything we undertook. My mother was compassionate and gave me a heart for the underdog. There are so many others: the Christian school teacher I had for the first 7 years of my education who walked 2 ½ miles early each morning to start the stove to heat our school room, people I met in several congregations. Their lives are what impacted me.”

Lesson 8: God makes a way through hardships

Me:   “How did you overcome the worst thing(s) that ever happened to you?”

Carl: “One sad event was when my wife developed dementia and suffered 9 years before she died. It helped that my grief got spread out over that time and that she was out of our home for the last two years. The support of friends and family helped tremendously.

Another hard event was the depression I suffered when I was 40. It helped to go to therapy and look at everything in my life. That prompted me to go to graduate school and become a counselor which has been my work ever since.”

Lesson 9: Keep a big-picture perspective

Me: “What have you learned about getting through life’s rough spots?”

Carl: “It may sound like I’ve lived a story book life but that’s definitely not the case. My answers may not have been so positive in earlier times. At one point I took a fresh look at the Bible and rejected some positions taken by our church. I got criticized and even rejected by some friends and acquaintances. It really hurt at the time but now it’s just a bump in the road.

Even tough times don’t last forever. Eventually things get better or we learn to adapt and make the best of life.”

Lesson 10:  Choose an optimistic model

Me: “What Bible personality do you most look forward to meeting in Heaven?”

Carl:. “Besides Jesus, Paul. He devoted himself so fully to the Lord’s work, endured so much suffering and persecution yet maintained an optimistic attitude. What a person to learn from!”

I really appreciate Carl’s answers. They helped me and I’m glad I took the time to learn from him.


I hope you learned something by reading Carl’s comments.  Which lesson had meaning for you? Please let me and others know by responding in the comment section below.

IMG_1857Interviewing Carl reminded me of a cast-iron trivet that hung on the wall in my childhood home. It said Ve Get Too Soon Oldt Undt Too Late Schmart.

If you know someone who’s lived a lot of life consider taking them to lunch to glean their life lessons. Doing so could help you get smart before you get old!


Posted in Personal Growth, Resilience, Wellness | 8 Comments

How One Word Can Make 2018 Better for You


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My cousin married a wonderful woman who serves others with boundless energy and thinks deeply at the same time. For years we’ve enjoyed searching conversations that challenge both of us to move beyond our comfort zones. Continue reading

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5 New Year’s Resolutions You Don’t Want to Make for 2018


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Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I like making them because I know the surest way to accomplish nothing is to aim for it. I’ve resolved to spend more time writing in 2018. Continue reading

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The Priceless Gift that Won’t Cost You a Dime


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Have you overspent your Christmas budget this year? One survey found 46% of Americans feel pressure to spend more than they can afford during the holidays (up from 24% in 2014).

We need gift ideas that won’t break the bank. Continue reading

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How Lighting a Christmas Tree Will Brighten Your Life

Americans love Christmas trees. We see them everywhere now that Thanksgiving is over – on cars, in homes, yards, stores, offices and lobbies.             

One enthusiast in Massachusetts got pulled over by state police for transporting a tree almost big enough to hide his car. Larry Spiekermeier considered his chance to drive a 79′ Montana fir 3500 miles to our nation’s Capitol Building the capstone of his career.

We have Christmas tree mania! Why do we love Christmas trees? Should we? They require time, money and work. Some religious purists trace Christmas trees to pagan practices and reject the tradition. Not me. I’m a Christmas tree fan. They light up lives.

Let’s face it. The Christmas season can bring tough moments. We pine for lost loved ones. We grieve lost jobs and changed health. Fatigue and extra family togetherness cause simmering problems to surface in painful ways. That happened in Nick’s family.

Some years ago, Nick came home from college for the holidays. His sister was divorcing and his parents were upset. Nick’s defense of his older sister led to an intense argument with his father. Harsh words flew both ways.

Nick retreated to his room guessing the horrible fight meant he’d have to drop out of college and get a job. He felt surprised after a few minutes to hear his father knock on his door and say, “Want to go get a Christmas tree?” Nick’s wise father used the Christmas tree tradition to rally family solidarity.

Christmas trees bring comfort and joy. Here’s how:

5 Ways Christmas Trees Brighten Life

1.     Christmas trees turn our eyes toward God.

Evergreen trees represent the eternal life offered by Christ. Tree lights symbolize the light of God’s love in a dark world. Presents beneath a tree reflect God’s gift of Jesus. Christmas trees lift spirits by turning our thoughts to the good news of Christmas.

2.     Christmas trees affirm hope.

Putting up a tree no matter how we feel makes a positive statement. Conflict, grief and depression urge us to skip celebrating Christmas, but refusing to celebrate gives voice (and power) to hopelessness. Acting on the truth we know rather than the pain we feel helps us feel better.

3.     Christmas trees delight children who delight us.

Little ones don’t understand the deeper meaning of the Christmas tree. They just sense that Christmas is about something good. They marvel at lights and ornaments. Happy children spread cheer.

4.     Christmas trees summon cherished memories

Most of us hold cherished childhood memories of magical Christmas moments. We  prize memories of Christmas celebrations with loved ones now gone. Christmas trees and special ornaments conjure up memories that warm our hearts.

5.      Christmas trees attract people

Like a siren, Christmas trees lure fathers from garages and teens from bedrooms. They encourage guests to linger longer and everyone to put down phones. People love to gather around a Christmas tree.  Hot cider and cocoa enhance the effect.

Every heart needs a Christmas tree. Christmas trees brighten life.


If you don’t celebrate Jesus’ birth, I hope these thoughts help you understand the Christmas tree mania around you.

If you’re a tree enthusiast – go forth with a noble sense of purpose. Your work matters.

If you’re on the fence about Christmas trees, remember the 5 ways they brighten life. They even help at-risk families and marriages stay together.

I hope Christmas trees bring you comfort and joy this season. I’m going to quit typing now and go work on my own tree.



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Congratulations                 Ashley Atnip

Photo Invite and Give Away

My tree

Meanwhile, send a picture of your tree to by Dec 12. I’ll post a few on my website and enter your name in a drawing to receive a Tree-shaped box of Russell Stover chocolates and a copy of The Empty Chair (helpful reading for you or anyone grieving this season).


Posted in Depression, Home, Personal Growth, Relationships, Resilience, Wellness | 2 Comments

The Amazingly Simple Prayer that Will Leave You Thankful and Peaceful this Season

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The holidays usher in a wonderful time of celebration and togetherness. They also bring extra work, worry and strong emotions. We need ways to stay focused on what’s right and keep inner peace.

It can help to take in simple pleasures. One simple pleasure my husband Charlie and I enjoy is Continue reading

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How to Make Peace with Someone You Care about before the Holidays Begin


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Holidays are joyful, right? Not always. We enjoy gathering, giving and celebrating but there’s another side to the story. Continue reading

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How to Build an Enjoyable Marriage That Lasts

dreamstime_xs_30596270Do you enjoy your marriage? I hope so. I still remember hearing my friend’s grandmother say when I was young, “There’s nothing better than a good marriage and nothing worse than a bad one.”

Kansas resident Lawrence Ripple apparently agreed. He robbed a bank in hopes of going to jail just to escape his bad marriage. His plan backfired when Continue reading

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The Smartest Way to Respond when Trouble Strikes

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Life is hard and dangerous. Reports of devastating hurricanes and now mass murder break our hearts. Disasters dominate national news while private catastrophes unfold around us.

A steady diet of bad news and trouble causes discouragement. Compassion fatigue desensitizes us to other’s pain. Even worse, we can start to feel helpless. Helplessness gives trouble the last word. Continue reading

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