The Overflow! where souls are filled and faith is spilled

Because Life is Made to Be Savored

Hi, friends. I’m so glad you’re here.

I know there are many places you could be today, and I’m thankful you’ve chosen to spend a few minutes with me. Whether you’re an old friend or a new one, I pray that you’ll be blessed as you linger in this place where faith is spilled and souls are filled

Over at Encouragement for Today, I’m sharing a candid tale about a caterpillar, a preschooler, and a mom who has no margin for miracles. If you haven’t read it, I hope you’ll jump check it out and be inspired, but before you go…


I hope you’ll take a moment to look around a bit.  If you like what you find here, don’t hesitate to sign up on the sidebar for your free subscription to The Overflow so you won’t miss a single post. Or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter so we can get to know each other better.  And speaking of getting to know you, I’d love to meet you face to face this year. I’m  scheduling speaking engagements for the 2015-2016 school year. I’d be delighted to meet you at your next ministry event!


     The first wedding gift we opened after returning from our island honeymoon was a small shiny package the size of a simple shoe box. I’d shaken it carefully, my eyes fixed on my handsome husband, and we’d guessed what might be tucked beneath the silver folds.

Hand towels monogrammed with a fancy B? 

A shiny new set of silverware? A casserole dish? A frame?

The possibilities were endless, so I’d finally just  ripped off the shimmering gift wrap and lifted the rectangular lid.

And there, beneath a wad of crunchy white tissue paper, we spied a splash of brilliant color.

This was no casserole dish; it was a hammock built for two.


I lifted those rainbow ropes out of the shoe box and let the hammock dangle to the ground.

My sister had chosen a gift that captured her dream for the life my groom and I would share.

And on a tiny square of parchment paper, my only sibling had written this wish in bubbly scrawl…

Here’s to many years of swaying to the rhythm of love.

My man had cast me a giddy grin, and I’d returned it with a wink.

Then, as I’d carefully folded up our new hammock, I’d entertained visions of how we’d use it in the years to come…

I’d pictured the two of us cocooned between those colorful ropes on lazy Sunday afternoons.

I’d imagined a relaxed-me dangling between two trees with my favorite book on a sultry summer’s eve.

And before I’d slipped the lid on that ordinary shoe box, I’d envisioned a someday-me swaying with a tiny baby beneath a bright blue sky.

My sister’s wedding gift stirred an expectancy in my soul.

It made me hungry for a life we could sip slowly and savor gratefully.


But what I didn’t realize at the tender age of twenty-one is that time has a way of rushing fast and furious, and life often unfolds in choking waves rather than dreamy drops.  And if we’re not careful, rainbow hammocks and starry-eyed dreams can get swept up in the ever-churning current of the daily grind.

We moved into our first little apartment warmed by the embers of newlywed love, and we unpacked the casserole dishes and the country blue placemats, the second-hand sofa and the shiny new silverware. We hung  cross-stitch plaques on the walls and monogrammed bath towels on the hook on the bathroom door. But there were no trees for hanging hammocks on the courtyard green. So we left our favorite wedding gift in the box and dreamed of the day we’d sway and snuggle to the rhythm of love.

That little box is where the hammock stayed while we finished our college degrees and secured our first jobs, while we wandered the Alps and taught students in a little yellow school house. It’s where those colorful cords lingered while we laughed and cried and learned how to pray boldly and how to fight fair.

Those rainbow strings sat shrouded in storage-room darkness while we stumbled through graduate school and paced the hallway with colicky babies; while we manned mortgages and made grocery lists; changed diapers and tried to figure out how to pay the bills.

My sister’s wish sat silent while we tamed toddler tantrums and played with preschoolers, while we learned how to  build a family and how to tear down walls of pride; how to shepherd our children’s hearts and how to keep our marriage from toppling over like a Lego tower in the madness of it all.

For fourteen years that special wedding gift stayed tucked out of sight, until one sunny spring day, when we moved four kids, one dog, and hundreds of boxes to a house on a hill with a yard of green and a sweet splattering of leafy trees.

And as I unpacked baby socks and board games, casserole dishes and serving spoons, I discovered a simple shoebox with an old wedding wish inside….

I laughed like a young bride as I unfolded those rainbow ropes for a second time, and the kids clapped and squealed when my husband strung that hammock in our backyard between a sturdy tree trunk and the wooden post of our small deck.

And for a moment, that old gift that felt brand new.


But life kept rushing on, and I never once crawled into that hammock to savor the shifting seasons, never snuggled with my groom in the rainbow folds or cuddled my growing baby in the cocoon of quiet.

There was always laundry to fold or toenails to clip, groceries to get or carpools to run.

And by the time summer came again, all that was left of our beautiful hammock was a jumble of frayed ropes and tangle of tattered strings, a scar on the tree trunk and a rusty hook on the side of the deck.

The kids had turned our gift into a launching pad and a space shuttle, a pirate’s ship and a princess’ tower.  They’d wrapped it and wrung it, flapped it and flung it, and eventually they’d ripped the whole thing from middle to edge and from top to bottom.

I’d felt a sad, sick lump of disappointment rising in my throat on the day I hacked down what was left of those colorful strings with a pair of dull pruning shears.

And when I tossed the twisted threads into the garbage can in the garage, I  was surprised by the unexpected tears that zigzagged from my eyelids to my lips as I  bid farewell to the wedding gift I’d never used…

I couldn’t redeem the colorful cords, but I could do something to ensure that my sister’s gift had not been given in vain.

Teach me how sway to the rhythm of love, Lord, I prayedwith or without the rainbow ropes.

It’s been eight years since I tossed out that hammock, but that special wedding gift came to mind when my littlest boy raced into the kitchen last night.

His face was smudged with dirt from a long day of play, and his green eyes were alight with wonder.

“Mommy, mommy, can you hear the frogs? They’re singing so loud tonight. It’s like a rock-concert in the woods!”

He tugged at my hand and beckoned, “Come on, let’s go listen!”

I glanced at the clock pushing hard toward bedtime and felt my stomach flop tired as I eyeballed the the tower of dirty dishes teetering tall on the kitchen counter.

I really just wanted to finish my dinner duties and call it a night, to scribble out my grocery list and take out the trash, to fold the last batch of laundry and curl up in my bed with a good book before the midnight hour.

But my son bounced on one leg in wordless anticipation, and I pictured a wad of rainbow ropes hanging hapless from a tree limb.

So, I took a deep breath and gave my son a subtle nod; then I twined my fingers around his, and we walked toward the woods, the sky ablaze with orange streaks from the setting sun.

We sat on an old stump, just the two of us, my son’s soft brown hair tickling my chin as he rested his head on my chest.

I slowed my soul to drink deep of his little boy scent of mud and sweat and juicy fruit gum, and I reminded myself that little boys don’t stay little forever.

And the best of life is made to be sipped, not guzzled.

Then as the frogs sang up the moon with their noisy bellows, I breathed a prayer of thanks.


Because I’m discovering that every day is filled with sacred hammock moments if only we will slow our feet and open our eyes.

And it’s never to late to learn to sway to rhythm of love. 


Are you longing for time to seize more hammock moments? 

Do you feel like your life is a constant spin?

My friend, Glynnis Whitwer has written a book that will help you tame your to-do list so you can savor what matters most each day.

For your chance to win a free copy of this book, just leave me a comment telling me about the best gift you’ve ever received in a shoebox.




28 thoughts on “Because Life is Made to Be Savored

  1. Linda

    The best gift I’ve ever received was not in a shoebox because it was too big for a box. We have been renting a cottage at the beach the last few years and this past summer my husband agreed to having us rent it for 6 glorious weeks. The beach is a place where I find time to truly slow down and savor my wonderful life.

    October 5, 2015 at 10:08 am
  2. Donna Burchfield

    My best gift in the past 15 years didn’t fit in a box. I am single with no kids and my mother is home with her Lord. I do have several toy poodles who are my 4 legged children. And I have a wonderful extended family. One year my cousin gave small pendants to her siblings and mother and aunt. I was so disappointed she didn’t include me. What she gave me was a gift of love and a sacrifice of her time. She professionally groomed my favorite poodle. I didn’t appreciate the value of that gift for many years … always focused on the disappointment of not getting a pendant. Now I thank God for her love and that most special gift she gave to me.

    October 5, 2015 at 10:10 am
  3. Rita Stephens

    I have 2 busy daughter-in laws and 1 daughter. They’re busy moms with toddlers. I would love to share this book with them . This reminded me of a present , never used still sitting in my closet. It’s a picnic basket. I need to get it out and use it while letting my soul breathe!

    October 5, 2015 at 10:14 am
  4. Gretchen Scoleri

    My best gift was two free airline tickets to Europe that my husband won at our ministry’s christmas banquet. Living on a ministry salary, there is little left over for vacations. Little did we know that the Liord knew we needed it for our marriage. The next 7 years were full of loss and marital friction. Since then we have learned a lot but the main thing we are learning is to continue working on taking time for each other in he midst of our teenage kids busy schedules.

    October 5, 2015 at 10:58 am
  5. Slow down and search out those “hammock moments”. I am participating in the OBS Taming the To-Do List and, boy oh boy, I am sure glad to know I am not alone in my struggles with my to-do list makeover! I am unfortunately rather normal after all. Praising God for showing me that I am still a work in progress. I CAN do ALL things… All the things My Father wants me to do… I just need to ask Him to Teach me to number my days and stop trying to manage it on my own. And thank Him for showing me those “hammock moments”.

    October 5, 2015 at 11:02 am
  6. Melissa

    I recently turned 42. My longtime, childhood friend has moved back to town and had us over for dinner and had a gift for me. Much to my delight and surprise I opened up my gift to see “the box” we had starting using in middle school to give each other our birthday gifts in. It had been many years since I had seen “the box” and wasn’t sure who had it last. Yes, the gift inside was wonderful, but the real gift was reading all the sweet messages we had written to one another on the outside of the box for 30 years:).

    October 5, 2015 at 11:31 am
  7. Janet

    I walk for work as a personnal food shopper at a supermarket. My husband knows my feet are tired at the end of my day. We went to the mall and he thought about me before I could think about myself. He led me to a shoe store and to the sneaker section where he bought me a comfortable pair.

    October 5, 2015 at 11:34 am
  8. Vicki cheek

    My favorite gift was a simple piece of paper in a box…an overnight stay for my husband and I from our children. We got busy and time rushed by and it was 4 months before I said “we must not wait, we must take the time. What we could never anticipate was my husband having a stroke the very next weekend, changing our lives forever. It will be a precious gift I will chericlsh always.

    October 5, 2015 at 11:36 am
  9. Ashley Ford

    The best thing I received in a shoebox was some hand-stitched snowman pillowcases from my aging aunt after my dad passed away. She had worked tirelessly to finish them by Christmas though her sight was failing. She wanted me to know she loved me and was there for me in my time of grieving. It was a simple gift but means so much to me even today.

    October 5, 2015 at 11:40 am
  10. Risa

    A small pink grundgy teddy bear that my six year old daughter wrapped up of hers for my birthday! 🙂

    October 5, 2015 at 11:52 am
  11. Cara

    My mom used to send me care packages when I was away at university about 15 years ago, and I treasured everything she sent!

    October 5, 2015 at 12:25 pm
  12. Jeanna

    My Granny was a remarkable woman. She believed in God with all her heart and it showed it the way that she loved her family. Not a day goes by that I do not think of her. We lost her in 2012 to an unexpected fall in the bathroom. After an emergency flight to a bigger hospital, three days of the family gathered round and her written instructions followed by the medical staff, the family said their goodbyes and she walked away with the Lord. I didn’t get to say my goodbyes to her that last day, I was not there. When they called me to let me know what had happened I couldn’t force myself to make the 6 hour drive to the hospital. Why not? That’s what most of my family asked me and I couldn’t explain it to them. I had just seen and visited with her and Grandpa less than a month before her fall. She had fixed my favorite dish, the one she always made whenever I visited….her mouth watering chicken and dumplings. We talked that evening as she worked on just “one” of her many of thousands of sewing projects over the years and Grandpa watched his TV.
    I remember that visit very vividly and I believe it’s one of the reasons that I just could not see her in the hospital. I had and still have this image in my head of what my Granny was and what she looked like and I didn’t want that image replaced. She knew how much I loved her and even with her being unconscious the entire time, I know with all my heart that she knew I was there with her in spirit. I did attend the funeral though and even as peaceful as she looked, and even though I knew she was with our Father in Heaven….I broke down hard. I lost a piece of my heart that day.
    After losing Grandpa the following year came the process of going through the old house we had grown up in.
    The gift she left me: An actual “Easy Spirit” shoe box filled with newspaper clippings she had saved from all of my accomplishments, her red pin cushion with the strawberry on top that actually looked like a small strawberry and reminded me of those days when we picked them in the fields, several other assorted small mementos and finally the Christmas Angel that had been passed down in her family for ages. The Angel that I handled for so many years as Grandpa lifted me high so I could put on top of the Christmas tree because I was the eldest grandchild.
    That box of memories and my Granny’s love is the best gift I have ever received.

    October 5, 2015 at 1:13 pm
  13. The best gift I received in a shoe box was from my father. After my mom passed away, he gave me a shoebox filled with letters my maternal grandpa had written my mom in a 30 year span. My mom had kept every single letter in those 30 years. My dad found them some time later and gifted me with them placed ever-so neatly in this giant shoebox. Oh what a joy it has been to read them and understand what a great man my grandfather was. And to truly know it’s where my mom got all her greatness from. 🙂

    October 5, 2015 at 1:48 pm
  14. Janice

    The best gift I have received in a shoe box was a box of letters my husband and I had written each other when he was away at college before we got married. My husband had put them in a shoe box and we had gone out for an evening when we were having some martial problems and we spent the night reading them and it was very special. It reminded us of our first love, and brought back sweet memories…..

    October 5, 2015 at 2:38 pm
  15. Michelle

    The best gift I received was from my husband. I quit my job to go back to nursing school at the age of 44. He bought me a gift of my surgical scissors. He included a card that said “I believe in You”. This touched me so much. Not only did he support me quitting my job which reduced our household income from two to one, but he believed in me becoming a nurse so late in life. This was amazing since we had only been married three years.

    October 5, 2015 at 3:17 pm
  16. Ashley

    My best present ever that was in a shoebox was my first set of cookbooks given to me by my sister. It was her gift to me as I was entering a new era in my life of starting to get very serious with a man whom I am now married to. The gift made me feel the new independence and responsibility of being a wife and eventually having a family that depended on me.

    October 5, 2015 at 3:26 pm
  17. LeahR

    I think my best gift in a shoebox was a paper my daughter drew for me. It was a drawing of her, smiling and in traditional 4 year-old fashion, with her arms and legs coming out of her dress, no neck, and big scribbles for eyes. But it reminded me that she is her own special person, with a heart that feels so much. I need to remember to take a breath, and try to see what she sees; hear what she hears. I want to get into that habit!

    October 5, 2015 at 8:06 pm
  18. Ohhhh this is beautiful. And I was going to leave a comment even before I read about the giveaway… so what’s my best gift in a shoebox? Probably shoes. Or a collection of folded paper notes from my daughter, which wasn’t really a gift for me so much as a “treasure box” that I found one day while cleaning her room. Beautiful thoughts as always, my friend. Thank you for writing!

    October 5, 2015 at 8:44 pm
  19. Lucretia

    The best gift in a shoe box was a set of pottery mugs with my husband and my names on each, respectively. They were a wedding gift to be used when we need time to slow down and talk. A cherished gift we have not had time to use, in over 15 years. I desperately want to slow down, and enjoy our lives and children before they leave home. I would love to read Glynis’ book.

    October 5, 2015 at 8:52 pm
  20. Carolyn Rogers

    I don’t know about “in a shoebox” but the Prov 31 devotionals and First 5 are the best gifts I receive each day that focus me / remind me of the “real” reality, the truth of life with our God.

    October 5, 2015 at 8:55 pm
  21. Bobbi

    It was a number of years ago, when I finally found the strength to clean my recently deceased 5yr old son’s room, I was amazed to find a small yellow plastic box hidden under his mattress. What could be so precious that he kept these treasures hidden so? I was almost afraid to open it. When I did, I was amazed to find all sorts of candy (Easter, Halloween, Christmas). You see, I had always been careful about letting him eat too many sweets so I guess he was just holding out on me! It’s been 20 years, and I still have that box. …and I ALWAYS have a full candy dish just waiting for someone to dig in!

    October 5, 2015 at 9:28 pm
  22. Beatrice

    When I was with my granddaughter while we were shopping last Friday. She is eighteen years of age. It meant the world to me. I’ll say something like, you know you will always have a bed at my house, she says I know. The fact that she knows how much I love without saying a word, means the world to me. I also remind if she ever want to talk I am here.

    October 5, 2015 at 11:43 pm
  23. Steph Vander Molen

    Shoe boxes are staple gift giving boxes at our house! The most precious gift I have received out of a shoe box is pottery-hand-made pottery by one of my children at Art Center. We still display the pottery in our living room. I love gifts that were made from the heart. I am so glad to know the story behind the hammock that my children played in with yours. 🙂


    October 6, 2015 at 1:38 am
  24. Barb

    What beautiful shoe box stories of life. It all goes by so fast and I am at that point in life that it is going by faster and faster. My shoe box has been full with words that have been unsaid at times. Open arms and shut mouth to keep peace within the family and friends. The special words of advice were given to me by a dear friend when I became a mother-in-law.

    October 6, 2015 at 11:10 am
  25. Dede

    Lord help me to slow down and enjoy the life you have given me. Though my kids are grown help me to remember its not too late to enjoy them.

    October 6, 2015 at 2:18 pm
  26. gingrr m.

    A baby bunny my son rescued shortly after my dad passed away. I had such an emptiness after he passed…no one to take care of and that bunny helped me. I had something to take care of and love.

    October 6, 2015 at 2:21 pm
  27. Many years ago I bought my wonderful husband a double hammock for his birthday. My husband builds log homes for a living and with his birthday falling in June I thought it would be a great gift. During his busiest season maybe he could take out a few minutes to rest and relax and swing under some lovely trees and decompress from the busyness of his work. We had an old hammock that I had picked up at a yard sale and that one got well used . My husband used to like to crank the worship music and swing back and forth in his hammock, arms raised in praise to the King of kings. Maybe it’s time for me to find some sturdy hooks and hang up the new hammock now thst the biting bugs are finally finished for the year. That way … even if we don’t use it too much this autumn the hooks will be situated for placing out the hammock early next spring before the mosquitoes and blackflies arrive.

    October 6, 2015 at 3:14 pm
  28. Stephanie Copeland

    Would like the Overflow blog posts

    December 11, 2015 at 3:55 pm

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