Date night conversation starters

I am aware that for every one of you who said “refreshing” on my last post, there were probably three or four who thought “alarming.” So thank you for being gentle. I’m not brewing up any more of it at the moment, and I wasn’t saying that doubt is a thing to be glorified or sought out. It comes, that’s all. And Jesus is still good.

Confession: After you’ve been married a few years, it’s easy to go on dates and talk about nothing but issues. You know. What are we going to do about this, how could we fix that, what about the kids.

This time The Boss and I planned ahead to just enjoy each other, not dive into decision making, problem solving, or task scheduling. I put some questions in a jar for us to draw from, to get our thinking going. There’s still so much to learn and to love about this boy I married.

What are a few things you would enjoy being asked to do?

What do you fear happening to our family?

Do you wish I would ____________?

What are you praying for?

What’s a story of something you did in childhood with a sibling – a story I haven’t heard yet?

What are your favorite things about us?

If you had a chance to do one piece of your life over, what would it be?

What’s the most ridiculous thing you did as a teenager?

Who are your closest friends? What friendship would you like to grow?

What’s your earliest memory?

Can you describe each of our children in three words?

If this was our last night together, what would you really want me to know?

We had our date last evening, since that’s what worked for us. Tonight is a fancy shrimp dinner with our kiddos, complete with goblets and place cards. I might recycle some of the questions and see what they would answer. A little dangerous, I know, especially “What’s a story of something you did in childhood with a sibling – a story I haven’t heard yet?” Do I even want that information?

I’m not a person who gushes about the people dearest to me. But I love this man more than anything else in the world, and considering how I feel about chocolate and children, that’s saying a lot.

And – Since I can’t share Ferrero Rocher online, here’s a readable gift for each of you. I think it’s the sweetest love story I’ve ever read, and I want to be just like them when I grow up. {From the Washington Post: A 73-Year Union}

Happy Valentine’s Day!

{Here’s a printable version if you want it – Date Night Questions.}


Confession: One of the reasons I can get away with tweaking my man so much on this site is that he has a great appreciation for sarcasm and humor. And the other is that I secretly adore him.

Though I am bold in telling others to pursue it, love itself is to me a deeply personal thing, savored with one man and not spoken of easily to others. He is the sun, moon, and stars to me, and he knows it. That is all.

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It turned out that he did most of the Valentine planning himself: a date night swap with friends. (Would you keep our kids one night so we can go out, and we’ll keep yours the next?) We talked our way through a delicious dinner, and then came home to roses and chocolate, cheese and crackers, and a Zook party of two.

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Sometimes at night I dream that I am Unchosen, and I wake to gratitude that I get to begin and end each day with someone I love, until death do us part. There is much to be said for this—no matter how flawed I am, or he is. We are together: and I bless Jesus.

Some of you have not known this love (yet), and some of you have known it to turn false. This is a hurt beneath my joy, and one of the reasons I do not often speak of it.

You have never been Unchosen. Don’t say that lie to yourself or let others wave it over you. You are beloved in Christ, chosen by Him, celebrated, cherished, never alone. Let your sorrow soften you. You don’t have to be brave all the time, but oh, I know how often you are… the conscious choice you make to cheer for a friend who celebrates new love, the pain you do not show the world. You are loved. Write it in soap on your bathroom mirror. Say it to yourself when you go to bed, when you wake in the night, when you rise up in the morning. You are loved, you are loved, you are loved.

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And to those who are married?


I am sure of one thing: love is what will heal us and the broken places in our world. We must soak ourselves in it, and drink great draughts of it, and hand it in tall glasses to friends and strangers. Love is often a waiting, when we wish for something stronger to kick us and the world into action. Love seeps into the quiet places and changes hearts, heals old wounds, offers hope for a new day.

We survive this world, change this world, taste this world, outlive this world, redeem this world by loving, our best love a little current inside the great ocean of His.


Valentine ideas needed: gifts for guys

Confession: It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, and once again I am coming up short on ideas for a gift for The Boss.


Birthdays and Christmas, I’ve found ways to shop that bring great joy to both of us. (Best of all is to poke his buddies for suggestions on fire gear or tech gadgets, and pull off a surprisingly savvy gift in a field I know little about.) But on Valentine’s Day I don’t plan to spend a lot of money; I just want to get him something small and sweet. Is there a masculine equivalent for flowers and chocolate??

[Oh right. Lingerie.]

I could buy him a bottle of cologne.

I could bake him a meltingly wonderful pie.

I could ditch the traditional gift route and go with the love language route: time or words or acts of service.

But none of these feel quite right for 2015. I’ve done them before.

What are you doing for your sweetheart this year? If you don’t have a sweetheart but have a good idea, share that too. I could use all the creativity you have.


Aside to The Boss: No comment reading until after February 14, please. On the honor system.

Weekend of love


Here are my frosting toadstools.
The perfect rose in the front was made by my friend Sherry, who worked in a bakery for 13 years.
She has an unfair advantage, right? I thought so.
Doesn’t keep me from being stinkin jealous.

All the flower shops and chocolate factories are heaving a collective sigh of relief and counting up the dough. We made it.

One of my favorite things about Valentine’s Day is watching men with bouquets ducking sheepishly around in stores. They look lovely and fragile and full of hope.

The bouquets do too.

One of my friends got engaged this Valentine’s Day; her feet haven’t touched the ground yet.

I like the philosophy of another friend, who firmly tells her teenage daughters “Valentine’s Day is for lovers.” True that. But this year it seemed to be about many people, from the radiant fiancée to the quiet shut-in, from kiddos smeared in pink frosting to the Lord Jesus himself.

I liked the excuse to make chocolate cupcakes and a New York cheesecake. Today I got hit in the arm by a flying cupcake at fellowship meal. That was kind of fun.

And anyway the frosting had already been licked off.

I liked getting words from my man. He doesn’t write much and when he does it’s really precious.

I liked singing love songs in church…

 “Jesus loves me, this I know—for the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong; they are weak but he is strong.”

“For God so loved us He sent the Savior,
For God so loved us and loves me too.
Love so unending! I’ll sing thy praises:
God loves his children, loves even me.”

 “O Jesus my Savior, with you I am blessed
My life and salvation, my joy and my rest:
Your name be my theme and your love be my song;
Your grace shall inspire me and keep my heart strong.”

“Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.”

I liked listening to my church people pray aloud the things they really love about Jesus.

Jesus, I love that you never change, even though my circumstances do.

I like that you invite us to walk in relationship with you.

You give me hope.

I love that you are so smart.

I like that you are perfectly righteous, yet you never give up on me.

You are so faithful.

I love that you became human.

I love that you can redeem all my faults and mistakes.

It’s a good time of year to be alive. Winter is softening. Love is beating in many hearts.


How did you feel most loved this weekend? How did you love? Share an idea for the rest of us to tuck away till next year… a tip? a gift suggestion? a recipe?

Be brave, little Piglet. You are loved.

This stage of life and love

Confession: This post is exactly two weeks overdue.

At Valentine’s Day, I gathered some perspectives on love from women at three different stages of life: a newlywed, a seasoned wife, and a single lady. I did some homework, asked for input on my questions… and then spent Valentine’s Day burying my grandpa.

But love is never out of season. And anyway, what’s two weeks? I want to share with you today the advice these three women gave me.

Please meet The Newbie, Jeanie… a spunky, practical miss who left her home community to marry Daryn just over a year ago. Jeanie is always game: flexible, easy-going, and competent.

Please meet The Stalemate, Amy… which is a joke between her and her husband and I and my husband. “Tell us about young love… ours is stale.” Laughter. Amy has been married 22 years, and is mother to five children ages 2-19. She’s taught me a lot about gracious femininity.

Please meet The Unattached, Sharon… an insightful, courageous lady who lives in a little white house of her very own. Here you may read her blog or order her book, To Have and to Hold.

Says Jeanie:

  1. At this stage of life & love, I try to remember that…  We probably won’t have this much flexibility again (to spend this much time together, doing whatever we want whenever we want) till we’re old grandparents and lonely for the grandkids to come over. So live it up! and just enjoy each moment.  (Monday night I surprised him with a picnic supper and we went to Woodcock dam, just for something different. Variety is the spice of life!)
  2. I wish someone had told me… I would be so temperamental after I got married. 🙂 And that the best way to resolve any hard feelings is to talk to my husband about them ASAP instead of trying to fix it myself.
  3. The best part about our relationship is… It gets better every day! (I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true and I don’t know how else to say it.) The more we get to know each other, the better it gets.  The deep connection that we have is sooo priceless!  I think my favorite aspect of marriage is the companionship–somebody there all the time to live life with you!
  4. We celebrate Valentine’s Day by… He gets me flowers (which I LOVE!), we exchange cards, and then we go out to eat or watch a good movie. Just have a fun, candlelit evening! (That’s if I have sufficiently hinted to the husband that Valentine’s Day is coming up. 🙂 ) Marriage is great!

Says Amy:

  1. At this stage of life & love, I try to remember that… our differences complement each other. I DO NOT want a husband like me.
  2. I wish someone had told me… that the giddy, heady feelings of a dating romance do not continue, no matter how much married couples try to say they do.
  3. The best part about our relationship is… we have had the years and opportunity to get way down deep in each other’s souls.
  4. We celebrate Valentine’s Day by… remembering what the other person did or was that created the giddy, heady feelings during dating. And realizing that they still do and are those things, in so many ways.

And says Sharon:

I wish someone had told me…

  • …that a single lady’s Valentine’s Day will produce wildly varied experiences.
  • …that some February 14 journal entries will bemoan my single status, others will be strangely blank, and still others will be bursting with joy.
  • …not to frequent a restaurant on Valentine’s night.
  • …that single school teachers will have young admirers who generously shower their “valentine” with flowers, candy, notes and cards.
  • …that Valentine’s Day can make a single feel as awkward as a gangly teenager.
  • …that singles can find safer places to celebrate Valentine’s Day than at a couples’ banquet (even when a singles’ table was prepared as a thoughtful gesture).
  • …to accept that I am not a “couple,” but neither am I confined to the joys of a couple.
  • …to start a tradition of eating chocolate-covered strawberries!
  • …that many simple pleasures can fill my cup on this red calendar date.


What advice would you offer from your own experience of love?

Do you have any questions to ask these three women?