Have You Ever Experienced a Chocolate Walk?

How far could you walk if you got a bite of chocolate every few yards? My husband and I could walk miles! We know because we participated in our town’s Chocolate Walk last weekend.

What is a Chocolate Walk? It is the cutest small town, hallmark movie-type event I have ever experienced! What a fun thing to do the Saturday before Valentine’s Day!

Our Chocolate Walk Experience

We purchased passports at our town’s Visitor Center last week. The $8.00 cost was a donation to the food bank. Our passports listed a total of 26 participating, locally owned, downtown businesses within walking distance of each other. The promise was that each would have free chocolate for passport holders on Saturday afternoon.

On that sweet day, we woke up to nice weather and my husband’s new hip (replaced only a month ago) was feeling good. We decided to walk the few miles to downtown. Once there, we pulled out our passports and planned our route.

It was a chocolate lover’s dream! We visited the bakery and an espresso spot in our first few stops. One would expect to find yummy treats in such establishments, right? Right! The bakery gave away brownie bites and the espresso spot had charcoal infused mochas. Both were delicious!

Brownie bites
Brownie bites with chocolate ganache from the downtown bakery.

All kinds of businesses got in on the fun. The Outdoor Surplus shop gave away samples of chocolatey energy bars. The library, fashion boutique, art gallery, and bookstore were all stops on our passports.

The Vintage Clothing store staff went the extra mile and dressed up as the characters from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The Mercantile offered freeze dried Snicker Bars. Yum!

Trays of chocolate on a store counter.
The vintage clothing store with its staff in character.
Plates of treats on a store counter
Freeze dried snickers bars!

The tea leaf shop offered sips of specially made cocoa tea with a healthy mushroom and chili pepper infusion. My husband liked that more than I did. We both enjoyed the dark chocolate balsamic vinegar from the olive oil shop.

Tiny cups of tea
Cocoa tea tasters
Small cups of balsamic vinegar
Dark Chocolate infused Balsamic Vinegar!

One of our favorite delicatessens made mini chocolate mousse cups and a local pub offered tiny chocolate milkshakes. We wondered if we were going to feel sick with so many sweet stops, but the tastes were small, and we shared many of them.

A tiny mousse cup
A tiny mousse cup from the local deli has layers of chocolate and white chocolate. The tiny spoon made it even more fun! (My husband’s hand and the passport included for size reference.)

We didn’t eat everything we were given. Many chocolates were individually wrapped, and we took those for later. In fact, we still have several in our candy dish!

Once we had visited all the stops, our last order of business was to note our favorite and turn our completely stamped passports in to the Visitor Center. I hope the winners got something good because there was one passport stop whose offering stood far and above all the others, in our opinion.

The wine bar gave out chef-made caramels infused with Tempranillo and cocoa. It was absolutely the most delicious thing! It was also incredibly unique. I have never tasted anything like it.

Paper wrapped candy and a chalk board.
Our favorite chocolate and our vote for the grand prize winner!

This event was a blast! It gave us a reason to enter and meet the proprietors of many establishments we might not otherwise frequent. There was a spirit of palpable fun in the air; people walking, mingling, enjoying the outdoors, eating chocolate, deferring to, and smiling at each other.

We walked a total of 7.7 miles to, around, and home from downtown. I may have burned even more calories than I ate. And it was so much fun!

This was our town’s 7th Annual Chocolate Walk. I am already looking forward to the 8th. Have you ever experienced anything like a Chocolate Walk?

Celebrations Reflections

This Filthy Heart from God is my Favorite So Far

Last year, I was inspired to start noticing “Hearts from God”. These were objects in nature shaped like hearts. I found rocks, leaves, tree stumps, and all kinds of things, in heart shapes.

I began photographing them and writing the messages God was ministering to my heart and mind when He showed them to me. This filthy heart is my favorite so far.

A heart in the gravel
This nasty ole’ heart

Why would this be my favorite, you wonder? Valid question! I’m glad you asked.

I stumbled upon the heart last summer. It has been the frequent topic of incredibly personal conversations between my Savior and me ever since. It seems appropriate to finally write about it, considering it is Valentine’s Day and all.

This is, by far, the ugliest heart in my phone’s “Hearts from God” photo album. What even is it? (I know that isn’t proper grammar, but it was my exact question when I happened upon it.) A crusty napkin? Smashed and dried feces? It seems like trash on the trail.

Yet God drew my attention to it. And He did so at a time when He had been showing me beautiful hearts in His creation. Click here to look back on some of those.

Stunning Valentines from God – Photo Challenge!
A Gift of Love from God’s Heart is Special Anytime!
Living a Heart-Rock Life in a Proven Hard-Knock World

Along with my initial disgust, came the realization that my heart must look like this to God. Or at least it did before I gave it to Him. He should have regarded it as garbage.

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”

Isaiah 64:6

I heard somewhere that the Greek translation of the words “filthy rags” is akin to menstrual cloths. It doesn’t get much more awful than that. And those are my righteous acts! That is the best I can muster from my sinful heart to give to God.

“People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’”

1 Samuel 16:7b

There was no way for me to make my heart any prettier. And yet, God cherished it. He wanted that hopelessly disgusting heart of mine.

Nothing so filthy could be in His presence, so He died to redeem it. His blood covered my grime. It paved a way for my rottenness to be in His presence.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:8

My relationship with Him is only possible because He took my filth and replaced it with faith. He exchanged my trash for His treasure. He spread His promise over my putridness.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Ezekiel 36:26

It wasn’t automatic. He did it because I repented. I accepted His gift and He gave me a clean heart.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”

Psalm 51:10

As humans, we must take an honest look at the filthy, ragged hearts we carry. It doesn’t matter if ours have fewer stains than someone else’s. God doesn’t compare us to others. Jesus is the standard, and compared to the perfect purity of His heart, ours our reprehensible.

So, in utter humility, we must present our worthless hearts to God. Incredibly, He accepts that offering with extreme grace. And He gives us His heart in exchange.

He sends His Holy Spirit to dwell in us and teach us. We learn to comprehend His heart and let it beat within us. And from then on, all He sees pumping through us is the blood of Jesus.

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

1 John 3:2, 3

We are justified, purified, and set apart. We become more like Him. Others start to see Him in us.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16

The memory of this crusty, old heart on the trail is a dose of reality. When I get arrogant, it shuts me down. If I start thinking God is fortunate to have me on His team, this photo puts me in my place.

It reminds me that I bring nothing to the table. All the love, joy, and goodness of any kind which springs from inside of me, comes from the heart of God. And that is why this filthy heart from God is my favorite so far.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 3:18

Today, many of us will give and receive heart-shaped gifts. It is a beautiful thing to exchange tokens of love. My prayer is that you will also take the time to reflect on the heart swap that God offers.

If you haven’t taken Him up on it yet, what better day than today? I guarantee the decision to give Him your filthy heart will be your favorite so far. He will make you new.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

2 Corinthians 5:17

My friends, I pray you all experience the full blessing of your Savior’s sacrificial and unconditional love. You are cherished, pursued, loved, and absolutely to die for. Jesus proved it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Wisdom for the Week February 5, 2023

Click on the card below to enlarge and save:

A photo of mountains with a verse super-imposed.
Love is the greatest commandment.

My New Year’s Handle Verse is One to Be in 2023

Last Year, God gave me my first Handle Verse. It was one to hold onto. It meant the world to me!

Luke 1:45 written in white against the backdrop of blue sky, sand and water
Last year’s Handle Verse was one to hold onto for 2022.

I’m believing God for some promises He’s made which have yet to come to fruition. And this verse declares me blessed right there. But wow! I’ve also been blown away by how God has made good on His word this past year.

One of the promises God fulfilled in 2022 was our move out of California. If you follow the Back Porch, you know all about it. You remember how we found our house, and how God made the impossible possible to get my daughters and their kids set up in their own places.

Do you need assurance that God still works wondrously? Start reading here.

New Year, New Handle Verse

Several weeks ago, I began asking God to give me a Handle Verse for 2023. Faithfully and consistently, He brought me to the idea of His kindness. He put a song on repeat in my head:

“It’s your kindness that leads us
To repentance Oh Lord
Knowing that You love us
No matter what we do
Makes us want to love You too”

Song by Leslie Phillips

The scripture behind these lyrics emerged as my new Handle Verse.

One to be in 2023

“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and restraint and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”

Romans 2:4

What a humbling verse! God doesn’t berate us to repentance. He doesn’t shun us until we do what we ought. He draws us with kindness.

A botanical photo with a Romans 2:4
My New Year’s Handle Verse is one to be in 2023.
I aim to be more kind.

And you know what? We have direct access to God’s kindness, not just to us, but through us. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit, promised to us as we walk with Him.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22, 23 (emphasis mine)

My aim, this year, is to extend God’s kindness so He can draw others to repentance and salvation.

Mama Lava

It is God’s job to bring people to repentance. That isn’t on you or me. We get to demonstrate His kindness.

In context, Romans 2:4 warns us not to misunderstand God’s kindness. It does not mean He overlooks our sin. He sees our actions and knows our judgmental thoughts.

I realize I am judgmental. I also tend toward words. By now, everyone around me knows what I believe and why. It is high time to cease ‘preachiness’ and increase kindness without judgement.

I need only to see someone precious, whom Jesus died to save.

Mama Lava

I need to open my eyes wide to see and address my sin. But with others, I need only to see someone precious, whom Jesus died to save. Their faults are not my business. When it comes to them, I just want to be kind.

God’s unwavering kindness brings me to repentance. It can do the same for those around me, and around you too. If you don’t yet have a handle verse for this year and would like to adopt mine, please do. Its call to kindness makes it one to be in 2023.


Bottom Line: Am I, Are You, A Good Investment?

My gaze rested just outside the window on the gas firepit I purchased last month. My husband, son, and I roasted a dozen s’mores over it before the weather turned cold. Now, it sits under a tarp, covered in snow.

A rectangular item, covered and buried in snow.
Our new firepit, covered by two tarps and buried in snow.

Did I make a good investment?

I wondered if it would be able to withstand the freezing temperatures. Probably, right? It was built for the out of doors. Bottom line, though, was it a good investment?

What if it didn’t work after the thaw? According to my rough calculations, that would put our s’mores at a cost of almost $25 each. Not the return I was hoping for when I bought the firepit.

If the apparatus continues to spark for many years, our average s’more cost would be mere pennies. That was the bottom line benefit I had in mind. And then I wondered…

Did Jesus make a good investment?

What about Jesus’ purchase of me? He paid a mighty high price. Is He getting a good return on His investment?

He didn’t purchase my pardon simply to have me nearby. He has plans for me. Am I working? Am I serving Him well?

Am I some frozen chosen? Has my flame gone out? Am I simply a pricey purchase cowering, covered, succumbing to the elements?

Or am I reliable, a steady old faithful? Am I primed to provide warmth, comfort, and maybe a little sweetness to whomever Jesus sends my way? Is my flame alive, ready to fire up at the Master’s command?

Bottom line…

It’s food for thought today. May we stay ready. May our light always shine. May we serve the purpose for which we were purchased. Bottom line, may we be a good investment for the One who paid to redeemed us with His precious blood.


I Give Thanks to God when I Remember YOU!

Picture with Psalm 9:1 printed over it.
I count your friendship as a wonderful deed God has done for me.
Happy Thanksgiving!