by Leslee Stewart

Looking for Valentine gift ideas that won’t break your heart (or bank account)? Try a few of these and your special someone will be saying, “I Heart You!”

  1. Breakfast in Bed – Surprise your sweetie with heart-shaped pancakes! Buy a box of pancake mix and make according to directions. Using heart-shaped cookie cutters, cut hearts in various sizes from pancakes. Spread Nutella (a chocolate hazelnut spread – you can find it in the peanut butter aisle) or their favorite jam over the warm pancakes and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve with fruit and coffee or milk.

  2. Drive-Out Movie – Load one of your honey bunny’s favorite movies (or a romantic one you both like) on to a laptop or iPad. Fill a basket with snacks (popcorn, drinks, candies, fruit), grab a blanket and head to your favorite sunset watching spot. Maybe it’s the beach, a park or the top deck of the airport parking garage. Wherever you go, be sure to take time to enjoy the movie, the view and each other.
  3. Be Mine, Valentine – Remember the Valentine boxes you used to make in grade school? Now bring that idea home! A couple of days before Valentine’s Day, have everyone in your family decorate their own paper lunch sack with hearts, stickers and markers. Then give them whatever tools they’ll need to make Valentine’s for everyone. On the morning of Valentine’s Day, deposit the mail in everyone’s sacks and enjoy reading the notes together over breakfast.

  4. I’m a Poet, Don’t You Know It – Nothing says Valentine’s Day like poetry. Even if you aren’t Longfellow, you can still pen a lovely little ditty for your schnookims. Or maybe make an acrostic out of their name. Whatever you do, just remember….Roses are Red. Violets are blue. Write your cupcake a poem and they’ll thank you.
  5. Mix it Up – If you were a child of the 80s then you know the power of the mix tape. Back in the day, many a teen spent hours in their rooms copying the perfect mix of songs onto a cassette tape to gift to their first love. And nothing says love quite like a compilation of songs about, well, love. Thanks to geniuses like Steve Jobs, iTunes makes creating a mix CD a breeze. Load up a playlist with all the songs that make you think of your sweet pea, and burn baby burn.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Leslee Stewart oversees communications for GFC Beautiful. She is a wife, stay-at-home mom of two boys and former communications executive. She openly admits she owns too many throw pillows, loves junky old furniture and can sing all the parts of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Today, A Beautiful Blog continues our month-long series on “Love & Money” with a story about how improving your attitude can improve your marriage.

by Misty Umholtz

I spent the first few years or more of my marriage praying that God would change my husband so we could have an amazing partnership.  I also spent countless hours explaining to my husband what he should be doing to meet my needs. I became so emotionally weary, I felt as though I were beating my head against a brick wall. I can’t imagine what it made him feel like!

I have had a couple of awesome women mentors enter my life. I saw them living the marriages I want to have 20-30 years from now.  I asked them how they got there and I started emulating their example of a Godly wife. Now there are countless books out there on this subject and I have read a lot of them! But what I learned was that it is in the little ways every day that I can give preference to my husband over myself. I started praying, God change me and make me into the best wife for my husband to adore and help me respect him for the rest of my life.

I now choose a spirit of joy and a warm smile to greet him when he wakes up each morning, every time he leaves the house and every evening when he comes home. I also made some minor adjustments to the kids and my schedule so we can better accommodate his schedule and do more together as a family. I make sure I look nice when he comes home and I change into attractive pajamas after the kids go to bed. I also choose to keep my mouth shut when I want to say something negative and I sit by him at night for 15-30 minutes and don’t say anything at all! He loves that one! I ask him what he wants to do on the weekends and I ask his opinion on any topic at hand.

There are days, sometimes weeks, that I fail miserably and think I am too tired or he is not acting right towards me!  I am still in the process of breaking old bad habits and making good new ones. There are times I just don’t feel like putting forth the extra effort and energy. But it is well worth it when I choose to do so. The funny thing is, when I am pre-occupied with my own issues that need improvement, I don’t have time to focus on any of his flaws. In fact, he is so pleased with my kindness that he is treating me exactly the way I wanted him to treat me all along!

I have found that it is the little things we do every day that add up to one big happy marriage.

Misty Umholtz loves being a wife and mom of two small children. She enjoys ministry and she also likes football, which should win her an award for “dream wife.” But on the other hand, her love for shopping might disqualify her from that possibility. You can read more about Misty on her blog, Finding Meaning in the Mayhem.

All month long, A Beautiful Blog will feature stories about “Love & Money.” Today’s story is a review of an autobiography about an amazing young woman who is proving how encompassing God’s love is for each and every person.

by Taylor Dobson

When I was handed the book, “Kisses from Katie” at the beginning of this week, I was excited to begin reading. I had no idea what I would gain from this story – a story that is still being written today. It begins with Katie herself explaining that she is no special person, just someone who said yes to a special plan. Katie currently lives in Uganda in a small town called Jinja. She is feeding over 500 children in her village every week, sending all of them to school with the help of sponsors all over the world, and she herself in the last 2 years has adopted 14 orphaned girls. By the way, Katie is only 21 years old.

What I love about this book is that Katie takes you through her life and heart. She merges her everyday happenings – life with her daughters –with what God is teaching her and how she is walking out her relationship with Christ. She shares the heartache of the poverty stricken and physically sick community in which she serves, and the struggles of having 14 adopted children. Katie is very real and honest. And because of that, when she is rejoicing and excited, you know it is true joy. Her ministry and non-profit organization began in Uganda and it is amazing how God has, and is, continuing to grow it.

When you read a book like this or hear about people who are doing something of this magnitude, the temptation is to either sell everything you own and move to the bush, or look at your own life and think, “I’m not doing anything to that level so I must not be doing anything.” Katie speaks to the heart of this when she writes in her journal one day. “Jesus fed the 5,000, but eventually they were hungry again. He healed the sick and blind, but maybe they got sick again. Lazarus eventually passed away. But Jesus wasn’t trying to fix people for good. Only by knowing and loving God can you be fixed for good. Jesus was trying to meet their need right there. To love with reckless abandon is to understand that you may have to come back and meet that same need again and again. But that is the true love of Jesus Christ. He is always ready to love.”

This book will inspire you to dream big and say yes to God in the everyday ordinary. Katie’s story will cause you to laugh, cry and learn more about the God of the universe whose first command is to Love. Read her story and let yourself sit in the awe of how big our God is.

Kisses from Katie is available in the GFC bookstore, The Source. For more information about Katie and her ministry, visit her blog, Kisses From Katie