To be quite honest, at first, I felt very little worry or fear concerning the most recent Coronavirus outbreak. As news continued to spread, I blamed the overreactive media and reminded myself that it was miles away and unlikely to affect me. But once it hit Mississippi soil, that changed things “real fast”.

If you struggle with anxiety, then you know what I mean—the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that leaves you compulsively searching for those “it’s all hype” articles to make you feel better. Last night, I found myself perusing the internet for several hours just to see what the different experts have to say on the matter. And along the way, I was also privy to the opinions of the non-experts along with a wide variety of extreme reactions.

Then the questions started coming. “Should I really go buy several cans of corn and green beans since that’s the only canned vegetables Silas will eat?” “What if we get stuck here without allergy-friendly food for him?” “Should we cancel planned parties?” All the way to “Should we buy our own oxygen machine in case the hospitals are full and Silas (who has asthma) gets sick and doesn’t have access to oxygen?” I even googled “How to make your own liquid soap out of bar soap” and in fact ordered a supply of re-usable “unpaper” toilet paper.

So it’s safe to say that as a normally calm and level-headed psychotherapist, I went a bit over the edge last night! Then I woke up thinking of my clients. “If I had a restless night of questions and concerns, they must be in torment!”

Anxiety is a disorder that is provoked by ongoing stress and the tendency to go into “fight or flight” mode at every perceived emergency—real or imagined. A person with anxiety and panic disorder can feel fine one minute and the next have a sudden rush of physical feelings of fear—heart racing, tightness in chest, upset stomach, etc. All of these feelings then snowball because they are fed by fear of the feelings themselves. “Why am I feeling this way?” “When will this feeling stop?” “Will this ever go away?” It’s like throwing fuel on a fire to get caught up in such bewilderment and worry. All that to say—anxiety and panic are very real and often triggered by an overactive sympathetic nervous system that perceives danger or an emergency— even when there is no real danger or emergency.

So whether you have diagnosable anxiety or panic disorder or you simply have been finding yourself with that rush of ANY “fight or flight” feelings (heart racing, stomach upset, shaking, sweating, heart sinking feeling, shortness of breath, etc.) every time you watch the news or see a friend post the latest Coronavirus update, take heart and heed this advice.


Just turn it off. Call it a fast or call it self care- whatever you must do. Stop right now. “But what if I miss important information?” Or “What if I turn it back on and find that things are much worse than before and that scares me even more?” you may ask. This leads to tip number two…


Find two or three trusted friends who know your tendency toward worry and fear and ask them to filter information for you and trust them to be your resources. Talk to each of them and explain that you’re taking a break from the news and ask them to tell you anything you absolutely MUST KNOW regarding Covid-19/Coronavirus.


I could get on a soapbox here about our over-exposure to everyone else’s trauma and how our neurotransmitters respond to each event as if it is our own. Our brains have difficulty deciphering between our own emergencies and the emergencies of others. As a generation, we’ve seen more live horrific events than any ever before because of technology and now social media. I watched on TV as an enemy-manned plane literally hit the second tower and then watched it crumble in real time. We all experience some level of trauma by not only simply hearing the news but by seeing it happen. Our brains and bodies were made to handle what WE encounter on our life journey— yet we scroll through social media voraciously taking in everyone else’s stuff. It’s a hotbed for trauma and emergencies. I’ve even had clients come in in tears over articles they’ve read about people suffering—people they don’t even know. This leads me to number four…


Of course, certainly pray for others. Be aware and mindful. Be willing to help when you’re gifted and equipped to help. But for now, hunker down with your crew and enjoy the calm and beauty you are experiencing right in front of you right now. If your friends and family and children are all ok right now, soak it in and weigh down these good times by naming them and resting in them right now. And speaking of right now…


Fight hard to avoid the “what if’s”. We weren’t made to handle what “may happen” in the future—whether it’s two weeks or two years from now. But we have been given or will be given everything we need to handle today. The person you will be in three weeks is different from who you are today. “I can’t imagine what I would do if this or that happens…” The good news is that between now and that imaginary future event, you’ll be changing and growing and gathering resources. And you will have everything you need in that moment—difficult as it may be—to handle what you experience. But worrying about it now doesn’t do much to prepare you. Worry is a trickster. We think that worry can either A. Prevent the dreaded event from happening or B. Somehow prepare us for it if we mentally rehearse enough. These things just aren’t true. Worry steals our joy in the moment. Do not borrow trouble from tomorrow. Also don’t borrow it from other people…


When you hear of stories of people with Coronavirus, do not extrapolate and apply their situations to your own. Even if a healthy, fit 40 year old dies in Montana, it does not mean that if you catch it you will certainly face impending doom. We can not live in the realm of “it could happen”. We must choose to live in what is likely and rational. You can even tell yourself “it is not likely that I will die from this”. Fight to live in a settled and sober mind by dwelling on what is real, likely, rational and positive.


I’m going to be completely honest with you. I think we have some God-given coping mechanisms that get a bad rap—one of which is denial. Denial can indeed be unhelpful and even dangerous at times. But it’s also a marvelous tool in other times such as public panic and hysteria. For example— a little bit of “that will never happen to me” can go a long way to helping you fall asleep at night and put your mind at rest. It’s just another way to choose to put off worrying about the “what if’s”. Another helpful tool is using a “wheel of awareness” to bring back all the thoughts and awareness of everything that is good and beautiful in your present life. Draw a wheel with points on the spokes of all the things happening in your life— making sure to note the positive things. It could also be helpful to journal or make a gratitude list. Choosing to think on things that are lovely and good and true while capturing and combatting negative thoughts and fears can be pretty powerful. Sometimes it may be helpful to tell yourself “nothing has changed in my personal living situation” to remind yourself this is a global issue and not currently a personal issue. Live in the present. Deal with what is real. Of course, take the advice of professionals to flatten this curve and protect yourself and others, but urgent actions do not have to be paired with an unsettled spirit. We can be urgent and intentional, serious and concerned, but anxiety and panic and fear don’t get to wreck and rule us.


Take care of your physical, mental and emotional health as always by exercising, eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, drinking lots of water, getting plenty of sleep, getting plenty of sleep, and getting plenty of sleep. Sleep and rest allow our brains to recover. Anxiety is a sleep-stealer. So set yourself up for a good night’s sleep by limiting caffeine later in the day, avoiding suspenseful or heart-stopping television shows or movies, setting the tone for bed-time by limiting overhead lights and blue-light exposure from screens, and doing some relaxation techniques like breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or imagery. If you find your mind going to the worry or fear of the current pandemic, try to picture yourself safe and relaxed on a sunset beach somewhere as you drift off to sleep. “Going to another place” may be a temporary but nonetheless useful tool to get your mind and body to relax. There are some handy relaxation apps like “Calm” available that lead you through guided relaxation. Don’t hesitate to use them if sleep evades you.


The space you once filled with watching the news or scrolling social media will be vacant. Fill it with a new hobby or interest. For example, instead of reading yahoo news articles, get on Pinterest and research recipes or crafting or homesteading. Or learn how to play golf. Buy one club and a pack of balls and go to a driving range. If you’ve ever thought of learning how to play the guitar or the piano or to make preserves or raise honeybees, now is a good time to start! Get into that kind of research, and simply…


Cook and eat good food and tell jokes and read good books and ride your motorcycle or your minivan with the windows down and music loud. Buy some fresh flowers, lift some weights, plant some bulbs, build a bookshelf if you’re handy, play board games with your kids or your friends, throw the ball in the yard. Light up the grill, breathe in fresh air, work hard, be kind and mindful of others, and keep on living. Keep a balance of discipline, joy, rest, and connection. We have not been promised ease or comfort in this life, but most of us have had an abundance of it. With God’s help, we can do hard things. We can make it through this. Let this make you all the more thankful for the ones you love, for good health you may have always had, and for your current life situation. And just keep on living.

Anxiety Related Scripture References

Philippians 4:6-8

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Luke 12:22-34

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life. 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

2 Corinthians 10:5

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Colossians 3:15

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Psalm 42:5

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

Psalm 103:1-4

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

Psalm 4:8

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Friend Day Friday- Featuring a New Friend I Met by Saying “I Bet I Could Learn Some Things From You”

This is so fun! I’ve decided from time to time to feature new friends that I meet. I’ve been intentionally making new friends each week and asking them deeper questions than I normally would. I love it! Once when a group of friends were talking about traveling and wanting to see all the places in the world, I sat quietly for a minute thinking “I just want to meet all the people.” I get to meet them and get to know them so deeply in my counseling office, but to get to know people from all over the world–the way I know my clients–that would be my dream. So I’ve set out to really get to know the beautiful people God has made. All so different, all so unique, all so wonderful!

So for my first featured new friend, let’s call her “Ms. Janie.” I want to protect her identity for now because she was so vulnerable with me and frankly, I am in the business of secret-keeping. So, even though she gave me permission to write about her on my blog, I’d like to give her a different name. Just in case in reading, her words feel too exposing.

I’d just finished up running my mile around the track at the Y when I noticed Ms. Janie walking her laps. I kept feeling pulled to talk to her, but I made a loop or two first. Finally, I walked up beside her, found her pace and said outright,

“I bet I could learn some things from you.”

She grinned the prettiest grin. “Yes, child, I bet you could.” And I began to ask, without even getting her name,

What is the best decision you’ve ever made?

She had no hesitation about that one. She was excited to tell me

Oh following the Lord, Jesus. I don’t know how anybody can make it without Him!

I agreed and we talked about the Lord and her love for Him and my dependence on Him. Then I asked about another decision she made that maybe changed her path and she was thankful she chose it. She told me that marrying the man she married over 40 years ago was the second best decision she’d ever made. “Me too!” I said. I had just recently answered the same question for Kelli Bethea, our dear friend and babysitter who has inspired me in asking deeper questions and truly learning from the people around us. Kelli had made me really think back on my life’s decisions, and there is no doubt that marrying Kaleb Deese is the second best one I’ve made next to accepting Christ.

Ms. Janie went on to tell me her struggles with infertility, uterine cancer, and having no children of her own. But she helped to raise her husband’s six children and loved them like her own. They have been good to her, and oh how she loves them. She lost her husband within the past few years, and her affection for him and their family was evident in her warmth as she spoke of them. She mentioned that sometimes things aren’t what they seem at first. Imagine signing up for raising six children when you marry your husband! And now they have been the greatest blessing to her.

What would you say is your biggest regret? Something you would go back and change if you could?

She thought for a bit, and she replied that she regrets ever focusing on material things or financial gain. Working overtime just to make a little more money–it’s not worth it, she said. She wishes she had spent more time investing in relationships and people, spending time with them instead of striving for material things.

No matter how much you get. You’re always going to want more. You get one thing, you want another.

She said those hours that she worked extra, she wishes she had spent with her loved ones.

Ms. Janie loved her family well. She learned, through that love, acceptance of her circumstances, contentment and joy in her role as a wife and mother, and the value of investing in people. She was such a delight to meet, and I have frequently thought of her advice.

I wish I could tell it to all the young people. They all could benefit from what I have learned.

Time with people has much richer returns than working for more material gain. It reminded me that this life and all this “stuff” is so fleeting. I’ve tried to tune in and be present even more. Kiss more cheeks, scratch more backs. And I’ve found myself thinking less about getting a bigger house or adding on to this one and thinking more about what I want to teach these children.

It also made me think of a book I had been reading with our neighborhood book club–another place I’ve gone deeper with new friends recently. I’m so thankful for my neighbors Jess and Ashley who started it. So let me pause to say,

If you have neighbors and want to get to know them, start a book club. Serve some biscuits or ice cream sandwiches, and they will come!

All that to say, we had been reading Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry, a book I’d read before and that I had recommended (see my book review below if you’re interested). We had just finished it when I met Ms. Janie, and after talking with her, I just knew she’d love it. It’s a story of a woman who grows from a girl and into a wise old lady throughout her journey through death and loss, redemption, and the blessings of people, community, and a sense of belonging. Ms. Janie reminds me of Hannah– how she loved, how she lost, how she kept on loving, and how she learned the value of investing in the people closest to her.

So the next morning, I left my copy of Hannah Coulter, dog-eared and underlined and all, at the front desk of the Y for Ms. Janie to pick up and read. Later in the week, I got a call from her that she’d gotten it and had started it. How I hope it encourages her as much as it has me–and as much as SHE has encouraged me. What a delight to meet my new friend. What an inspiration she was! And might I also encourage you to find someone this week and go a little deeper. It seems my first words to her were indeed true. “I bet I could learn some things from you.”

My Personal Review of Hannah Coulter the Book

Hannah Coulter is a beautiful first-person telling of the life of a woman who grew to love the people and place of Port William- a farming community that radiated beauty and love, fellowship and “membership”. Wendell Berry has a voice in writing that is almost poetic, and every page contains wisdom and inspiration about such deep things as how to live through loss and death and how to move forward and fully live and love again. The images are serene and clear, the message is deep and enduring, and the story is settling even when Hannah experiences the trials of her life. It’s the kind of feeling you get after reading the Psalms of David. If you let it, it can strengthen your resolve, make you love your husband and children more, be intentional to work hard, make memories and cultivate love with those close by and the place you’re planted.

I am growing as I read. Learning. Being changed and encouraged. I am loving it. I hope you do too!

Stopping Time

Clocks have a way of taunting and antagonizing us. Right there in front of us, minutes pass before our very eyes, as if to say “You’re running out…better hurry!” Perhaps that’s part of why until recently we’ve only had one working clock in our house, and that’s on the kitchen stove. Even that one is set for a few minutes fast as if I can somehow outsmart those glowing green numbers or trick myself into being on time. I have trouble with it. Being on time that is. So of all people, I’d love to have the superpower of stopping time.

My husband says it sounds a bit ridiculous for me to say “I try to be on time.”

It’s like saying “I strive to wear shoes. I see other people wearing shoes. I make up my mind to wear shoes. But then…I just find myself with no shoes on!”

—Kaleb Deese

Touché. His point is that being on time is not an unachievable concept. It’s something people do every day. So I have now completely edited my paragraph about my striving hard after the discipline of punctuality. And I’ll spare him, my darling husband, the verbal homage to the value of being on time. He called my bluff. But maybe JUST MAYBE my chronic running lateness has something to do with the fact that most of our clocks are stuck somewhere in time.

This picture was taken sometime in the afternoon. Not 8:35. Definitely not 8:35.

For years, we have joked that we leave our living room clock where it ran out of “juice”—At 8:35–so that our company would never leave. “Awe…don’t go…it’s just now 8:30,” we would laugh.” At least a few times, our people stayed longer.

And that’s all we want really isn’t it? We want our people to stay longer. We want the laughter to never stop. We want the good times to linger and our babies to never grow up. Hence the popular hashtag #timeslowdown.

Yet another frozen clock in our house. Not 3:20 at all.

What if we COULD slow down time? What if we could freeze our children right where they are— smack in the middle of their cutest ages—mine with all their blonde curls and snaggle teeth. I think I might just do it! The older I get, the faster time flies and paradoxically the nearer my long-ago memories seem. It’s frightening at times—jarring. Almost as if we’re on some type of decline and the further we move into time, the steeper the downward slope becomes.

What speeds it up? Is it really our age? OR our distractions and preoccupations—not being fully present because we are more spread thin than ever—mentally and spiritually?

Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.

—Bilbo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings

As the mental load increases, our ability to settle in and soak up moments subsequently decreases and we lose any sense of wonder. As children, we didn’t have the mental load—we only had wonder. Deep, radiating awe about the little things. We chased fireflies and watched them glow—really watched them. We caught lizards and watched their “goozles” (as we called them) blow up like a balloon and deflate…over and over. In wonder. And time moved sooooo slooooowly. Beautifully, magically, wonderfully slowly.

When is the last time you lingered in wonder? Do you find yourself distracted by all that’s swirling about? What is all this distraction stealing from us? Not just beautiful moments, I’d contend, but also the ability to settle into the moments and savor them.

Morning glories in my front yard. They have no clock, yet they know when it’s time to bloom. And look how they glow with the morning sun!

In her book, One Thousand Gifts, author Ann Voskamp proposes that we can find more joy and live more abundant lives when we slow down moments and weigh down time by being thankful. It’s through gratitude that we stop and observe, look deeply at the beauty of our experiences and surroundings, and that we can really soak it all in and ultimately slow down time. By stopping—really pausing to be in awe and wonder—we defy the steepening incline and dive deep into a buttercup’s pistol and stamen or close our eyes and feel salty ocean air on our cheeks.

From Scripture to spiritual books to secular articles I’ve read in Psychology Today, there is a universal agreement upon the powerful impact of gratitude, awe, and counting our moments and days. Teach us, Oh Lord, to count our days. Let us no longer be blinded by the blurring day to day mental traffic whizzing by our minds’ eyes.

In his book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis uses the characters Screwtape and his nephew Wormwood to represent the ongoing attack on humans to draw them away from God and His ways- to distract and blind them. In this excerpt, the senior demon, Screwtape, is trying to help his nephew in his agenda to make a new Christian slide away from his faith. (Remember that “The Enemy” Screwtape is referring to is God, since Screwtape wants only to lead Christians away from God.)

As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations. As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you
will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked”. The Christians describe the Enemy as one “without whom Nothing is strong”. And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.
You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,

Your affectionate uncle,

So if in fact our enemy is out to destroy us (which he is), and if in fact our separation from God is the enemy’s end goal (which it is), then how is this enemy using our chaotic running to and fro to lull us into an unawareness and complete distraction from God and His Glory all around us? The stupor induced by our smartphones and mindless scrolling. The autopilot drives to and from work. The meaningless nods we give neighbors as we pass instead of stopping for a long porch visit or a prayer. All these things…they push us further down that steep, time-robbing slope.

So stop to visit. Linger longer. Hold the hands of your little people and look into their eyes as you talk to them instead of over the top of your iPhone. Stare at the shapes in clouds and let your mind be in awe. Smell your babies’ hair and watch it grow. Be warmed by the sunlight falling white on your kitchen sink, smell the crackling fire and let the smoke scent soak into your bones. Get soaked up in wonder and worship. Really worship. This… This is the closest we can come to stopping time.

A Giving Ear

This little garden gift brightened my day one morning when I walked into my office to be surprised by such cheer. My friend and colleague, with a true “giving ear”, grew the zinnias as well as the herbs used to make the homemade pesto. How she hears and knows me so well. (Photo by Whitney Caves)

We all long to be understood, to be known. It’s a common human trait and underlying drive. We want people to “get us”–really get us. And so I like to GIVE based on that simple truth as well–to show the ones I love that I have been tuned in and that I get them. 

I suppose my theory would be that in order to be a good gift giver, you must first be a good listener–an observer. Pick up on cues, ask good questions, and really listen–all year long–to what your loved ones are saying and what they enjoy. Then pick creative ways to help them feel loved.

One Christmas, it hit home when a friend opened a gift I picked for him and immediately said “Ahh! You listened to me!” This same friend, who is characterized by his gratitude and cheerfulness, every year at our Christmas gift exchange says “It’s just so good to be known.”

It’s not all that difficult really. We had been together at a store only a few weeks before. He picked up an item–a shower speaker to be exact–and said “Hmmmm. I might like one of these. I think I’ll tell my mom to put that in my stocking.” Then he thought a minute, I presume analyzing the frivolousness of such a request, and said, “Nah… I don’t really need it.”

You better believe that when a Groupon popped up for shower speakers, I was on it! And he loved it. He loved that I heard him– that I listened.

I’ll give another example from a recent Christmas. My mother-in-law serves people in her kitchen nearly every single day. She works hard harvesting and cleaning vegetables, chopping, mixing, stirring, baking, then cleaning and starting all over again. On a previous trip to her house, I noticed the sprayer in her sink was shot. I thought of how often I use my sprayer, and I cringed at the thought of going without. And this is a lady who uses her dishwasher only as a drying rack (or to “hide” things she might say). She loves to hand-wash those dishes! So I set out to lobby and shop for a new faucet and sprayer for her. She was delighted! And all it took was tuning in–having a giving ear.

I often tell my clients that they should each seek to understand before seeking to be understood. (My dear husband taught me that).

If we seek to understand rather than to be understood, it’s likely we’ll end up with both.

Many conflicts I see in my office as a therapist can be boiled down to one or both spouses feeling misunderstood in some way. One will look at me and say “See. He doesn’t get it”. So I hang in there with them, teaching them to not give up on one another, until they both feel understood. And the goal is for each of them to grasp the magnitude of always seeking to understand. I could expound on this for days in a a future blogpost, but what it comes down to is this:

Let the ones you love know that you care by really listening and tuning in. One way to do that is through using a “giving ear”.  

Gift giving is one of the languages of love that author Gary Chapman notes in his book The Five Love LanguagesWe gift-givers (yes–I’m one of them) are cut from the same cloth. We cry when we open a thoughtful gift and feel like our hearts may explode, and we feel overwhelmed with joy when we come across the “perfect gift” for someone we love. We feel most loved when someone takes time to note our likes and longings and wraps it all up and tops it with a bow.

So from someone who gives and receives love through gifts, allow me to offer a few

Tips on Using a Giving Ear:

  1. Begin by observing your loved one when you’re out and about. At the mall, at the antique store, at the dollar store- it doesn’t matter. Notice what she is drawn to- what does she pick up then put down? What does she smell of, comment on, pick up to read?
  2. Ask “dream” questions every now and then. “If you could do anything. . .?” “If you could go anywhere. . .” “If you could have anything. . .”
  3. Here’s a simple one. Observe his activities and interests. My husband is a beekeeper and a Tolkien fan. He likes chess and anything handmade, especially if it’s wooden.  He likes trees and nature and all things California or Yosemite. He plays basketball and likes to read and hike, and he’s a handyman. See! There’s a whole slew of gift options for such a person
  4. Ask outright. Who says we can’t do this? “What would you like for your birthday?” You may be surprised at how well this question is received. If your significant other wants you to be a mind-reader (and there are times you should be) then best of luck with the other 6 strategies. But don’t assume.
  5. Take mental notes. Repeat repeat repeat. This is the most important step. You may think of a great gift when you hear your loved one make a comment. Take it a step further and don’t forget it! Repeat the idea to your self a few times at least until you can get to a place to. . .
  6. Write it down. Keep a running list of gift ideas for people in your life. Save it in your notes on your phone or keep a file. You’ll be glad you did when it’s birthday or Christmas time
  7. Keep it simple. Don’t think “extravagant” or “expensive”. Think “meaningful”. For our 10th anniversary, one of the gifts my husband gave me was a wooden jewelry box. “Oh this is cute,” I thought and offered my thanks. Then. .  . I opened it.  (Let me preface: One of my favorite movies is The Sound of Music and one of my favorite songs is “Edelweiss”. It was in our wedding, I have sung it to all of our children as I rocked them. My husband learned it on the guitar–one of his first songs–for me to sing along to. It’s just special.) So you can imagine when I opened the little box and it played “Edelweiss” I nearly crumbled. “You win!” I said with tears. He “Got me.”

So go and give the gift of listening. There’s more to this story. There’s more to it than the art of gift giving. It’s truly a way of showing love. And for your people who speak and receive love through gifts, you might just be speaking their language in a way you never have before.

(PS…click the link to get your own copy of The Five Love Languages. You’ll be so glad you did!)