Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

This happened 20 years ago today

Back when I was in high school – or maybe even middle school, I can’t remember the exact year – my uncle told me the grand plans he had for the Christmas gifts he was planning on giving his then-girlfriend. She had a habit of trying to figure out what all of her Christmas presents were before the Big Day. You might remember that I don’t like doing that. At all. Because I don’t like pretending that I’m surprised. Especially on Christmas. But that’s neither here nor there. She really liked figuring out her presents.

So my uncle decided to play a little trick on her. He had several packages of all different sizes wrapped in all different ways. And he had them out waaaay before Christmas. I don’t remember most of the presents. And I don’t remember if he had a “real” present to be revealed after unwrapping all of the other presents. But I do remember one of the diversionary gifts. It was a Hershey’s Kiss that was placed in a ring box and wrapped quite elegantly. Any outsider, including the recipient, who had been inspecting this gift for weeks, would easily think the box contained a ring.

I don’t know how this ruse played out with my not-yet aunt and uncle. They weren’t engaged at the time. They eventually did get engaged. And married. And they still are. So even if he juked her out with that gift, all was eventually right with the world.

Fast forward a few years…

Christy and I were celebrating our first Christmas as a couple. Of course, we had exchanged gifts the previous Christmas but neither one of us was willing to admit that we might have “those” kind of feelings for each other yet (and it took another five to six months for that to actually happen). So Christmas of ’96 was our first Christmas together. I had a few thoughtful gifts for her. But I also had an extra special gift. One that was inspired by my uncle.

So I placed a Hersey Kiss in a ring box and tried to wrap it as nicely as I could. I really didn’t think anyone would really think I was giving her an engagement ring. I mean, we’d only been dating since May. And I was out of town for half of that time. I thought it might have just been a funny little joke and that nobody – especially Christy – would think I was a real ring.

I was wrong.

We look back on it now and laugh. In fact, I started wrapping a Hershey Kiss in a ring box every Christmas after that. But it was no laughing matter when it happened. “That was mean,” she told me.

And it was mean.

OK. Maybe not mean mean. I had no ill-intent or malignant motive. I was just a bit…oh…tone deaf. And maybe even a bit myopic. It was not my finest moment.

Redemption?

On October 23, 1997, revisionist history would say that I redeemed myself. Or maybe revisionist history would say that I had the whole thing planned all along. A revisionist historian would argue that I knew what I was doing when I wrapped that Hershey Kiss in a ring box and made it look like I was going to pop the question that Christmas of 96.

Nope.

I lucked out. Couldn’t find the candy I wanted. Settled for Kisses instead. And thanks to a bag of bread that went along with  my bag of Kisses, we were able to have the perfect engagement on the perfect day with the perfect weather.

And that was 20 years ago today.

 

 

 

Some of my thoughts in the wake of Charlottesville, Virginia

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend have brought to light the deep-seeded hatred that has lurked beneath the surface of our society for generations. It’s been our nation’s dirty little secret. Some say it’s America’s Original Sin.

Many have thought that if we ignored it, it would just go away. If we stopped giving it any credence, it would wither on the vine and die of starvation. Maybe those tiny pockets of crazy KKK folk would eventually disappear due to lack of interest. That’s the easy response. Because admitting we have a societal problem is uncomfortable. It’s embarrassing. And it’s shameful.

But we cannot pretend it isn’t happening anymore. In all honesty, we shouldn’t have been pretending in the first place. But many of us have been. And although it’s been a long time coming, it appears that Charlottesville has served as a wake up call.

I would hope that if you’ve spent any time with me at all or if you’ve read any of my writings at all, it should go without saying that I deplore racism, white supremacy, and any other form of hate-filled rhetoric that these misguided characters might espouse. Let me say it again so there is no doubt in anyone’s mind: I reject racism and I repudiate white supremacy.  This a poison that will only lead to destruction. There is no room for such hatred in our society.  Period.

And there’s even less room for this type of venom in our churches.

Somehow along the way, people have tried to connect the Church with racist, white supremacist views. I assume some of this goes back to the time leading up to the Civil War, when church leaders who were sympathetic to the cause of slavery desperately needed some proof texts from Scripture to prove that the enslavement of an entire race was somehow divinely appointed. So they ripped verses out of context, twisted the meanings of different verses, and did the little song and dance that many of us do when we try to make the Bible say what we want it to say instead of what it really says.

If you’ve come here thinking that Jesus encouraged and supported some kind of hate-driven agenda, you can go ahead and put away your proof texts and your mental gymnastics because I want to take a few minutes to remind you* of what Jesus has to say on this matter:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. – John 13:34 (emphasis mine)

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.‘ There is no command greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31 (emphasis mine)

You’ve probably heard the story of the Good Samaritan. If you haven’t, you should read it. Right now. Go ahead. Read it. I’ll wait. If you don’t want to read it, you can watch this video. Jesus makes it pretty clear who our neighbors are. He makes it pretty clear how to show love. And he made it very clear what we’re supposed to do in response to this story.

“Go and do likewise.”

And just in case you haven’t gotten the hint yet, let’s look at what the Apostle Paul and see what he has to say.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28 (emphasis mine)

You think one race is cursed while another is elevated? You think one is inferior while another is superior? No way. Not in God’s community. There is no distinction. We should all be united. That’s our call. It’s what we’re meant to be when the love of Christ transforms us. Love your neighbor. Show mercy. Love one another.

And that’s the same thing that John tells us in his first letter to believers.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. – 1 John 4:8

You might as well go ahead and read the rest of that chapter. Shoot, read the whole letter. If you have any doubt about how we should live in a world full of hate, 1 John has the answer. Spoiler alert: It ain’t hate.

It’s that simple.

And it’s that difficult. Holy cow, it’s hard.

Because when I see images of people gathering to spewing  hate and breathing violent threats, my first reaction is to respond with hate. In fact, I want to punch them in the throat.

Indiana Jones punching a Nazi, much like many people want to do after Charlottesville
Image via Nazis Gettin’ Punched

That’s what I want to do. But that’s not what I’m supposed to do. “Love your neighbor,” remember? One could argue that a white supremacist Nazi type of person is hardly a neighbor. So maybe it’s all OK to simply respond to hate with hate.

Wrong.

(Jesus said:) “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44

Jesus wasn’t merely talking in theory. While we were still sinners, while we had set up residence in the Enemy’s camp, Jesus put “love your enemies” into practice when he spread out his arms and died for all of humanity – even the ones who beat him, hurled insults at him, and executed him.

If I’m being honest, that’s a pretty tough example to follow. And I also have no idea how to put that into practice. Because I’m outraged at the fact that people think it’s OK to treat other people like they’re less than human. I will not let their trash gain legitimacy in our society. And I will not allow them to hijack my faith.

But where is the line between responding in holy anger (yes, there is such a thing) and responding in hate? I don’t know. But I do know this: I know in the end even after everything else has passed away, only love will remain.

And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest, the most excellent way is love.

It’s all about love. It will always be about love. Love will remain. That’s the answer to the ugliness that was displayed in Charlottesville. It is the answer to any ugliness we encounter, honestly. That’s what it boils down to.

Love.

So I’m learning how to choose love in the midst of hate. I’m learning how to stare Satan’s minions in the face and respond in love. Because these all of us desperately need Jesus.

I know what the answer is. But I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know what it looks like in real life. How do we flesh this out? I don’t have all the answers, but I know where to start.

So I’m learning to stand with love. That should be my default setting: love. But since we’re being honest here, I can tell you that it isn’t my “go-to” response most of the time. But I’m doing my best. I’m learning to love the way Jesus loves me.

I hope you’ll learn with me.

*Do I really think that sharing these verses is going to change the mind of a devoted white supremacist? No. I don’t think they really care about the words of Jesus. Or Paul. Or John. I doubt they really care about anything other than statements that promote their own twisted, hate-filled, repugnant views. This post is really for people who might be on the fence, although I don’t see how you can be on the fence. It’s also for people who are looking at these white folks, connecting the dots, and thinking that this is what the American church is all about.  

Did you forget Valentine’s Day?

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I know. It happens to the best of us sometimes. You really didn’t “forget” Valentine’s Day. You really planned on getting something amazing. And you started looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day gift a month ago. Couldn’t find anything. So you decided to wait and keep looking.

And now it’s the day before Valentine’s Day and you never found that perfect gift. So you’re kind of stuck. The great but not quite great enough gifts that you saw in the stores last month are all gone. And the rest of the gifts at your local store are all picked over, leaving you a choice between a cheesy gift and a corny one.

Believe me. I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there. While I’ve always had grand plans for Valentine’s Day, and think I’m planning ahead, I’ve found myself stuck in this exact position on a few occasions. Maybe you’re like me. You have some great ideas but you’re lacking in the execution department.

If that’s you, have no fear. I have some last-minute ideas that should help rescue your Valentine’s Day this year. You could start off with some love notes. Not sure what to say? No worries. Here are some suggestions.

I also put together a few suggestions for some sweet, simple gifts for Sweetest Day. You could easily adapt them for Valentine’s Day. And these items won’t be picked over because you won’t find them in the Valentine’s Day section of your local store.

I get it, though. That might not be enough. You want to do the chocolates and the flowers and the whole shebang. But you definitely don’t have time to hit the stores today and shopping on Valentine’s Day is out of the question. Fortunately, the answer is right at your fingertips.

Here are some last-minute Valentine’s Day gifts you can order right now.

Roses from flowersfast.com

FlowersFast.com offers flowers delivered the very next day! This is a great resource to have for many occasions, but it’s especially great when it’s the day before Valentine’s Day and you don’t have any flowers in hand.  This beautiful My Heart to Yours bouquet  includes between 7 and 14 roses, depending on the size you choose.

According to the page, “Same-day florist delivery is available for this item, for orders placed before Noon in the recipient’s timezone.” Just be sure to check out their delivery policy first.

Shari’s Berries Chocolate Dipped Be Still My Heart Valentines Strawberries via flowersfast.com

Chocolate dipped strawberries and Valentine’s Day go together like…well, they go together like strawberries and chocolate. Am I right?

Of course I am. That’s why Shari’s Berries are so popular this time of year. And there’s still time to order them today.

You can’t wait, though. Same day delivery is not available. But why would you want to wait, anyway? Go ahead and order these.

You’ll thank me later.

Footed PJs from PajamaMania.com

Baby, it’s still cold outside!

Footed PJs are a fun gift that will help keep her warm during the cold nights that are still bound to come our way.

Of course, if footed PJs aren’t her thing, they have plenty of other styles available.

You have to hurry, though. I think next-day shipment has to be ordered by 1 p.m.

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends! I hope you have a memorable day celebrating this crazy little thing called love.

Chocolate covered peaches, Coca-Cola, and a Date-iversary

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and The Coca-Cola Company. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareMemories #CollectiveBias

Happy Date-iversary #ShareMemories #ad

Music. It has such a powerful connection in our lives. As a recovering Band Geek, I really shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve known this since high school. Music is powerful. When you hear a few words or a couple of notes from a song and you’re instantly transported to another time, another place. It evokes strong memories. Some songs can make you cry. Others can make you dance like nobody’s watching. This Summer, Coca-Cola™ has tapped into the almost mystical connection we have with music by adding song lyrics to their bottles, inviting all of us to “Share a Coke and a Song.”

Share a Song Bottles #ShareMemories #ad

Twenty years ago this month, I was smitten. I’m still smitten, but everything was all brand-new in May of 1996. After an entire school year of pursuing her, I finally gathered up enough nerve to ask Christy out on a date. I don’t know what I was nervous about. For all practical purposes, we’d really been dating for the past several months. But nothing was ever “official.” So when the time came to actually ask her out, my heart skipped about three or four beats, my forehead gathered tiny drops of sweat, and my hands shook like they’d never shaken before. I was nervous.

Of course, she said yes. And so we went on our first official date twenty years ago this month. We didn’t have smartphones back then, so we don’t really have any photos to document the event. But I promise you, it was a memorable evening. We did the traditional date night: dinner and a movie. I honestly don’t remember what we ate, but I remember talking to Christy with such ease and comfort that it already felt like we’d known each other for years. It was an amazing dinner. Then we went to the movie. It was the animated one about a boy and a big-huge peach. It was…

well… Continue reading Chocolate covered peaches, Coca-Cola, and a Date-iversary

Love notes. They're not as tough as you think they are.

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How Do I Love Thee

Cards and love notes. Those are a big deal. Right? Well, they might not be a big deal for you, but they’re a pretty big deal for us. It all goes back to when we started dating almost 20 years ago. And while we don’t really give as many love notes to each other as we have in the past (after all, I’m no Casanova – remember?), I’ve discovered a few cool ways to share that you care through the written word.

I think the thing that keeps many people from sharing notes with each other is the misconception that you have to write some type of long sonnet similar to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. You really don’t have to write anything long. Or even profound. Sometimes the effort is the most important thing. It could be just as simple as one of my favorite poems:

The gift of a getawayRoses are red
Violets are blue.
Some poems rhyme
Some don’t.

Try it. Write your own. It might be more fun than you think.

Of course, you don’t have to try your hand at poetry. And you don’t have to write some long piece of prose that will sweep her off her feet. Sometimes, the simplest of notes will do. You can grab them from a a book of quotes about love. Or the Internet. Or the Bible. Or a combination of the three.

What if you can’t wait and want to give it a try right now? Well, you’re in luck. Here are a few quotes that would be perfectly suitable for a little love note. You can put it in a card. Or on some fancy stationery. Or on a sticky-note (or on a bunch of sticky-notes). Or you can text it sometime in the middle of the day. Or you can write it on a mirror.

No. Really. Get a dry erase marker and write something on the mirror. It wipes right off. And then you could write another note the following day. And the day after that. And the day after that. And I think you know what I mean.

And what is a kiss when all is done? A rosy dot over the “i” of loving. – Edmund Rostand

Love conquers all things: let us, too, give in to love. – Virgil

‘Tis you alone that sweetens life… – John Hervey

Look at you! You are beautiful, my true love. Look at you! You are so beautiful. Your eyes behind your veil are like doves. – Song of Solomon 4:1 (God’s WORD Translation)

Or you could copy Ms. Barrett Browning’s well-known love poem, Sonnet 43. It would probably take up the whole mirror if you decide to go that route.

These are just a few suggestions. I’m sure you can come up with your own. So what are you waiting for? Valentine’s Day? Well, that’s a good idea. I’m sure you can come up with some pretty spectacular notes for that special day. But why limit love notes to only one day a year?

This is what love feels like

Tobymac concert 2015

I think this is my favorite song on Tobymac’s newest album. Because of the reunion of dc Talk on What Love Feels Like, it already made me feel kind of warm and fuzzy all over. But then I heard Mister Mac’s (or should it still be Mister Tobymac’s?) intro to the song at his concert in Indy a few months ago. Tobymac concert 2015

He shared that he wrote the song in the wake of his father’s passing. CCM.com has a great writeup on the song. You should just go over there and read it. Go ahead. It won’t take you very long. I’ll wait.

Powerful stuff. Right?

I have loved this song since the first time I heard it. Its sound kind of echoes dc Talk’s style from a decade ago. I’m sure that’s an intentional nod to the beautiful music Toby, Kevin, and Michael made together.

But the more I hear this song, the more I think it describes our adoption adventure. There have been times where the process has been frustrating – especially when it has come to waiting. And there have been some days where we’ve felt disheartened and maybe even a little defeated.

As I sit here in the airport, waiting to board my flight to Ethiopia, I m must say that I’m pretty spent. I’m physically exhausted. My nerves are a bit raw. And last night I felt like I was on the verge of a meltdown while helping a guest in the middle of the store. Not a temper tantrum type of meltdown. More like the way you feel when you cry so much that you’ve kind of melted into the floor. Yes. That kind. Anyone else ever feel that way?

I’m completely spent.

I’m empty.

And that’s where I really love this song. Because empty never felt so full.
Tobymac concert 2015
Poured out.
Used up.
Spent.
Exhausted.
But ready to fight tooth and nail for this boy I’ve never met.

Just like I will fight for the rest of my kids. Because in my heart and in my soul, this child is mine. I hope the judge in Ethiopia agrees.

Love, heartbreak, and our humanity.

Love, Heartbreak, and our Humanity

Senior Year. High School. Creative Writing Class.

I walked hand-in-hand with my girlfriend as I headed for class. My Creative Writing teacher looked on as we said our goodbyes as we went our separate ways, already counting down the minutes until we’d see each other again during the next passing period. The bell rang and I sat down at my desk. There were seven of us in the class. To say we were an eclectic bunch would be an understatement.

Mr. Hughes (of the Great Celebrate the Lord Love Debate) completed his hall monitoring duties and began class.

“Was that your girlfriend?” he asked. At least, I think that was what he said. To be honest, I didn’t really think he was talking to me so I wasn’t really paying much attention because it felt like I was eavesdropping. But he was talking to me.

“She’ll break your heart, you know.” Thanks for the vote of confidence there, I thought. Then he clarified, “Because all relationships end in heartbreak.” And then he went about his business, opening up some kind of discussion about writing or storytelling or something along those lines.

I was really bothered by that statement. It felt so…dark. So…defeatist. Continue reading Love, heartbreak, and our humanity.

B is for Birthday Girls

B is for Birthday Girls - A to Z Challenge

This week is always a fun week at our house. Two of my three favorite girls celebrate birthdays this week. The other one’s birthday is in October.

You might think of this as a cop-out, but that’s OK. I’m still going to keep this post short because there’s a whole lot of celebrating to be had.

Aly and ChristyHappy birthdays, Christy and Aly!

Christy, I can’t believe we get to share our lives together. I love you more today than I did yesterday. And I’ll love you even more tomorrow than I do today. I don’t know how that’s possible, but it is. I’m so thankful that you said “yes” all those years ago and gave me the opportunity to take this lifetime to show you how much I love you.

Aly, I am so proud of you. I love you with all my heart. You captured my heart when I held you in my arms for the first time and I continue to be amazed each and every day by your creativity, spunk, and compassion.

**I’m participating in the April A to Z Challenge. This post is part of that endeavor. A lot of people are doing the same thing. You should check out some of their posts!**

 

Let’s talk about flowers and Valentine’s Day

Let's talk about flowers and Valentine's Day

Purchasing flowers for Valentine’s Day has always a struggle for me. Don’t get me wrong. I think flowers are a nice gift. They can brighten up a room and can make a loved one’s day better. I get that. I agree with that. Flowers are a good thing. Especially on Valentine’s Day.

I’ve always had trouble buying flowers for Valentine’s Day. You can’t get them too early or they will wilt by the time Valentine’s Day gets there. So I’ve had a tendency to wait and try to get some flowers from a nearby Big Box Store. They’re relatively cheap. And they’ll last a couple of days. But if you wait until the night before Valentine’s Day, personal experience has told me that you’re going to find some slim pickings, at best.

Unless we’re able to visit the Big Box Store during the magic time where flowers that will last through Valentine’s Day are still in stock, I’m thinking it might be time for us to come up with a better strategy. Why not consider working a little ahead of time and doing something like this?

Make your own flowers

You remember making flowers out of tissue paper when you were in school. Right? Why not make a colorful bouquet of tissue flowers and surprise her on Valentine’s Day? You never know. She might think it’s cute and be impressed with your creativity.

I think you would only be able to pull this off once, though. Unless you decided to follow up with some balloon flowers.

Go local

You probably can’t get much more fresh than from your local florist. Plus, you’ll be helping out a neighbor. And you’ll save on delivery fees if you go in and pick them up. I’d call ahead of time, though. Don’t just assume they’ll have a huge selection for you when you show up at closing  time on Valentine’s Day. That’s no better than waiting until the last minute at the Big Box Stores.

Set it and forget it

You could order online from a retailer like KaBloom. Then you can just place the order and not worry about it anymore. This gives you more time and energy to focus on making the rest of Valentine’s Day so amazing and memorable. As an added bonus, you’ll be helping our adoption efforts because these links to KaBloom and Amazon are affiliate-type links. That means that when you buy something via the links on this post, I get a very small percentage of the purchase. And that money is going towards our adoption expenses.

So you’ll be happy. I’ll be happy. Our son will be happy. Everyone will be happy. It’s a great way to spread the love!

Do you have more ideas? Please share them!

I’m no Casanova. But we can do better, fellas.

Hearts

You might remember the series of  guest posts that I published a year or so ago. They were written in response to this question: “What’s the most romantic thing someone has done for you?” You, Dear Reader, responded . Some pretty awesome posts were written. Here they are, in case you’ve forgotten…

 

See? Pretty awesome stuff.

You know what wasn’t so awesome? The amount of times I was told, “I don’t think I can write thing. [Insert Name Here] isn’t into doing anything romantic. I’m lucky if I get a card for Valentine’s Day.”

Unfortunately, there have been several seasons in our relationship where Christy would say that about me. I have had a lot of great ideas for romantic gestures. I just…well…I haven’t been very good at following through and carrying them out.

I have always struggled with forgetfulness. And I’ve had a perpetual inability to follow through on things throughout my life. That kinda comes with the ADD territory.

Case in point:
2015-01-14_04-31-22

That book in the photo? I bought it for Christy as part of a “12 Days of Christmas” series of gifts that I gave her last year. My thinking was that I’d fill in a page each day for the next 50 days (because there’s 50 pages in the book). Pretty neat idea. Right?

It’s still blank.

Not because I can’t think of anything to write. I can think of tons of things to write. I can come up with countless words to talk about what I love about my wife. She’s pretty amazing. But I still haven’t sat down and filled in the blank spaces on that book.

I need to fix that.

I’ve managed to discover all kinds of tips, tricks, and methods to help manage my ADD and get things accomplished. I’ll probably share some of those at a later date.

Things like this book and dozens of date nights I’ve conjured up in my head? They still suffer from poor execution. Throw in our busy schedules, three kids, and a limited budget, date nights and other romantic efforts have been put on the back burner. It’s easy to do. Unfortunately.

I’m not making excuses here. I’m merely sharing my struggle. Because there really isn’t any excuse. So I’m preaching to myself as much as anyone when I say this. There’s a reason hotels come up with a Man Proof Package  where everything’s taken care of and a guy just simply can’t screw it up. There’s a reason a co-worker of mine, who used to work at a pharmacy, has already reminded me that Valentine’s Day is approximately one month away (she was always amazed at how many guys were in a panic searching for last-minute gifts on Valentine’s Day evening). There’s this stereotype that is floating around that most guys wouldn’t know romance if it slapped them in the face. Unfortunately, many of us have unintentionally reinforced that preconceived notion.

We can do better, fellas.

Simple Date Night IdeasLet’s do better. Let’s start working at making this stereotype obsolete. We can’t wait until the evening of Valentine’s Day to start dating our spouses. Because practice makes better.

As you know, I’m no Casanova, but I’ve recently come to realize that it doesn’t require a giant production with enough candles to burn the house down and enough roses to awaken the entire neighborhood’s allergies to have a memorable time with your significant other.  I’ve also discovered some simple date night suggestions that I’d like to share on this blog.  And I hope to share some fun ways to say “I love you” along the way, too.

I’d like to build a nice resource here. One that will be helpful throughout the year. So keep checking back as we work to shatter this stereotype.