I can list on one hand the Christmas and birthday presents I remember receiving as a child. Polly Pockets rated pretty high, along with the orange-and-white striped stuffed animal cat that I begged for relentlessly after spying it at Reed Drug. But equally important in my birthday memories are the way my Mom would make beef stroganoff and strawberry cake, even though strawberries weren’t in season at the end of October.

I was reminded that it’s just as important to recognize and celebrate life in the little things, too. Even as we dream big dreams, may we not forget that our everyday acts of loving, speaking, nurturing, encouraging – matter just as much as the “big” things.

I remember how, rather than an alarm clock, I would wake up to my Dad scratching my back in the morning. I remember two friends who spent hours just hanging out with me the summer I broke two vertebrates in my back in a car accident. I remember the boyfriend who cried for the first time since he was 13 on the day my sister died. I remember the pudding parfaits, six months of chicken and rice for dinner, and all-day movie marathons with my husband during the first year of our marriage.

And when you really think about it, and sit and remember, it’s those little things – those seemingly “meaningless” moments – that add up to a life well-lived.

One day, my husband and I stumbled on the Minnesota Adoption Resource Network. And as we read the profiles of children waiting to be adopted in our state — most of them teenagers — it was humbling to realize that what these children craved in an adoptive family wasn’t a miracle-maker who would make sweeping changes in their lives. It was someone who would do the quiet things, the little things, with them – the things that tell someone

You matter.

You matter because you are you.

Reading through the biographical information, interests, and hopes for an adoptive family, one spurred us to tears: A teenage boy who was quick to note that, at 17, he didn’t need much and was “pretty self-sufficient at this point.”

His wish? A dad who liked to hang out in the garage, tinkering with things.

So today, here’s my hope for you: that as you go about your day and battle the winter weather; as you hug your children when they sidle close to cling to your legs or pass you with nary a glance, ubiquitous cell phone in hand; as you wash dishes and wipe noses and make yet another peanut butter and jelly sandwich; as you drive to school or attend school, or teach it yourself; as you wash faces or listen to Dora and Boots’ latest adventure; as you coordinate with co-workers and bosses —

Take a moment, and a deep breath, and remember that everything you do — every encouraging word, every kindness, every unselfish act, every loving gesture — matters.

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” Romans 12:1 (MSG)