Building a Relationship…With Love

Sometimes, even after 36 years of marriage, I forget that my husband and I express love differently. I show it verbally. Rick creates things with his hands.

In February, our daughter Katie married and became a stepmom to a beautiful little girl named Rilynn who turned four this month. In April, Rick offered to build her a dollhouse for her birthday.

Katie and Rilynn picked this one from Hobby Lobby’s website.

After putting it together, Rick stained the shingles and glued them in place one a time. 

He painted the toothpick-sized banisters the same way–one by one. 

“Can’t you dump just everything into a bucket and paint it all at once?” I said, late one night.


“Aren’t you tired?”

“Nope. I like doing this.”

For days he deliberated about what color to paint the steps. Finally, he decided on pink and purple and made another trip to Home Depot for an itty-bitty can of pink paint.

He even installed hardwoods.

I couldn’t identify with his steady determination, but I was fascinated. 

This past Saturday, we had a small birthday party for Rilynn.

She loves Frozen and anything princess related.

And purple. 🙂

Saturday morning, Rick added the finishing touches and covered the dollhouse with a sheet.

Later, after cake and ice cream,

Long drum roll ..……………

He slowly unveiled his gift.


Rilynn twirled around and clapped her hands. Bending close to miniature front porch, she carefully touched the window panes.

“Let her have fun with it,” Rick said. “If she breaks anything, I’ll fix it.”

Smiling, she ran her finger along the railing.

(Her daddy and my mom are on the left.)

Then I had quite a moment.

Rilynn walked her little fingers up the steps and started setting up her new home.

Just like me. 

Almost 12 years ago, Rick led me up the stairs of the log house that he’d built for us. Pausing on the top step, he said, “Open your eyes.”

He made me a writing loft.

With his own hands.

Thank You, Father. What love!

“Your hands have made me and fashioned me” Psalm 119:73  ESV.

How do you express love?

(For more about Katie’s story, click here.)






  1. Patricia Martin says:

    Oh Julie! I have always wanted a Victorian dollhouse!((: I love looking at Michaels and Joanns online websites because they sell Victorian dollhouses. Rick reminds me of Michaelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel and like Rick, Michaelangelo needed lots of patience. This must be so fun for you both to able to do “little girl” things for your daughter and step grandduaghter. I still say you could say Rilynn is your late in life baby.(): I am so glad– our new neighbors moved in on Friday and one of them received the civic kindness award a while back–wow! Congrats on 12 years of your beautiful home.(((: did the furry family members like the cake?

    • Patricia, as soon as he gets home tonight, I’m showing him your precious comment. Ohhhhhh, what sweet words. Wish he could build one for you……. Can’t believe you’ve always wanted one!!

      Yes, we’re having so much fun! Hahaha, my late baby in life.

      Wow–the civic kindness award–what an honor. Bet they’ll be great neighbors.

      If I’d have offered the cake to the furry family members, they’d have gobbled it up–in a hurry!

      Your comment meant so much this morning. I saw it come through and it made me so very happy!!

      So much love, my friend. Have you started back to college? Thomas starts this Thursday night.

  2. Cathy Mayfield says:

    Oh my, Julie, the memories this brought back! Our family shows love creatively, just like your husband, making most of the gifts we give. We crochet and quilt, paint and build, sing and dance! But that darling dollhouse! How precious to create such a bond between grandfather and granddaughter…forevermore!

    My husband and I made dollhouses for each of our three daughters, with the oldest two getting in on the fun for the youngest. While Kevin assembled Faith’s from the kit, Sarah (our woodworker) built extra rooms and a patio. We used fusible webbing to attach fun-print material to the walls, as wallpaper, and painted red accents. Holly and I made furry rugs, braided mats, linens, and more. The furniture and dishware came from the older girls’ own store, as well as a few pieces kept for her from mine and my mother’s. Oh, the fun of searching until we found a miniature Raggedy Ann and Andy, Faith’s favorites, to make it complete! What joy to work together and, as you said, show our love to our daughter and their sister!

    But one other thought struck me as I read the part of your story where you described Rilynn walking her fingers “up the stairway” and setting up her “home” and your husband “leading” you up the steps of the house he’d made for you. I saw the hands of Jesus, reaching out for ours, drawing us step-by-step up a golden stairway, through a misty veil, and to the most majestic home we’ve ever seen, a home He fashioned for us by His blood, His tears, His sacrifice. Oh my, it takes my breath away just to think of it! What a bond created between us and our Savior…forevermore!

    • Ohhhh, Cathy….what a beautiful response. You know….I had the same thought–how He tells us that He’s preparing a place for us–if it were not so, He’d have told us. And I wondered what our places might look like. I’m thinking they match the deepest desires of our hearts.

      Thank you. Would love to see your daughters dollhouses. What love-gifts!!


      • Cathy Mayfield says:

        Unfortunately, the two older girls’ houses were destroyed in the first flood we had here in this house, about 11 years ago. Faith’s is still around, but in disrepair. It was damaged – warped – in the same flood, before we put it all together. All the pieces were on our basement floor and some boxes, waiting for the paint to dry, when four feet of water flooded the basement. What a heartbreak to open the door to the stairwell and see them floating on the muddy water! Many tears, lots of glue, and stacks of heavy books later, most of the warping flattened, but it didn’t like staying together. But…we got it done and ready for her birthday that year, and she got to enjoy it for a few years. Someday, we hope to repair it and she can give it to her little one (when she has one)!

        • Booooo-hoooooooooooo! I’m so sorry, Cathy. 🙁 🙁 🙁

          • Cathy Mayfield says:

            They still have lots of other things we’ve made them through the years! Let’s see – plastic canvas Barbie-sized furniture and real-sized kitchen gadgets and foods; dolls, one a year while they were growing up (Holly – Barbies w/crocheted clothes from around the world, Sarah – Barbies w/American girl dresses and one with the dress Scarlett O’Hara wore to the picnic, which I crocheted in the hospital, one-hour per row of all that lace!; Faith – angel Barbies and singing dolls.) Love to make things for them and can’t wait to make them for our grandchild! 🙂

        • Good to know, Cathy! Great descriptions. 🙂

  3. Julie Gilleand says:

    Oh what a sweet doll house! Anyone can go to the store a buy an already-made, probably plastic, doll house and any little girl would love that too, but to have one made especially for you by someone who loves you, well it doesn’t get more special than that! My great-grandpa was a wood-worker and built my mom, his only grandchild, a doll-house when she was little. I got to play with it too when I was little as it was still kept on a table at my grandma’s house. So many hours and fun I had with that lovely doll house. My daughter-in-law is big on the book about the 5 love languages. I’ve not read it and don’t know all the descriptions well, but from what she has shared about it I have learned to recognize those differences in people around me. I know my husband expresses love differently than I do. For him it is buying things for people. Giving gifts. My dad was the same way. He wasn’t big on hugs or heart-to-heart talks and I don’t know that I ever heard him say “I love you” to me, but he said it in so many other ways, like how he liked to play with my brothers and me. He’d play games with us, go out and toss a baseball with us, and he loved to buy us toys. He’d always say he really bought us things so he could play with them too because he grew up poor and never had those things. I think he really did enjoy playing with our toys with us but I know he even more enjoyed being able to give us things he never had and seeing the smiles on our faces. That was his love for us. All those toys are gone now, but it is the love behind the gifts that are my treasures now. My memories.

    I love the moment you had, connecting your granddaughter’s climbing the steps of her new doll house with her fingers, with the day you climbed the steps of your new log cabin your husband built for you and seeing the writing loft. My husband and I had a moment last night. Nothing on a scale such as that, but when he came home from work, he was surprised to see 3 boxes of Cracker Jacks on the table. I told him they were for him. I’d picked him up a treat while at the store. No big deal, but he liked it. Then he said he also had something for me and handed me a Starbucks gift card. Just something his boss gave him, but he doesn’t care for Starbucks so he passed it along to me. Neither of these things were intentional or costly, but it was just that we thought of each other and had wanted to bless each other in some simple way and on the same day, even! To me, that was love.

    Thanks for sharing your doll house story Julie. What a treasure — the house AND the story 🙂

    Other Leafy Julie

    • Leafy, THAT’S what I’m talking about–those quiet gifts we give to each other straight from our heart. (And I’d have loved the SB gift too!) And the boxes of Cracker Jacks. Isn’t that the sweetest thing?! I love it.

      Your words were so descriptive–I could just see you being a little girl and playing. 🙂

      Thank you, my dear friend. Almost our favorite time of the year, isn’t it!! Can’t wait. I gotta change the wreath on my door pretty soon…..


  4. That’s so sweet. What love! I think I express love with words.

    And isn’t Rilynn’s hair just gorgeous? She needed that doll house. I’m so glad your husband made it for her. Every little girls needs one. 🙂

    • Thank you, Shelli. I know–her hair….my girls didn’t have much hair at her age. It’s absolutely gorgeous.

      I read on a blog or FB (can’t remember) that you’re going to the ACFW conference this year! Have fun!!! I’ve been three times (I think?) Wish I were going this year, but there’s another conference I’m going to attend this fall.


  5. Such a beautiful dollhouse! Love can be spoken in many ways with hugs, laughter and also something made with our own hands. Rick definitely shows his by creating things with his own hands. I am sure Katie will remember this act of love for the rest of her life. How thoughtful of Rick to build you a writing loft too. You are blessed, Julie!

    I express love by crocheting or knitting things for others. xxoo

    • Ohhh, Eileen….so you’re a lot like my husband. Your gifts come from your heart and hands. That’s wonderful!!

      And you know, you’re right. I actually hadn’t connected how this gift will stay in Katie’s heart forever. I was thinking about Rilynn. So true, my friend. So true!!

      Thank you! I love how my friends see beauty in things I overlook. 🙂

  6. Wow! What an amazing gift! To read the story behind the building of your log home was great!

    • Thank you, Elizabeth–and I’m loving watching your new home come together! I know you’re thrilled!!


  7. marci says:

    What a wonderful story. How special to give the gift of Self. Rick taking such joy in making the doll house, and his talent. Easy to see a lot of love went into it. I can even ‘see’ her keeping it through her life and perhaps passing it on to her own daughter one day and telling the story of how she got it and who made it for her.

    And when he made your loft! What a treasure. To know your heart so well and to give you such a wonderful gift.

    I always wonder how your blog is going to touch me and what part of my life will have the lesson.
    Chas is also a builder, and I know I am so blessed in that. The things he has made. Your blog was a reminder to me to not take that for granted, and to appreciate that it is the way he expresses love.
    So even if I don’t often hear him tell me “I love you” with words, I can hear him say it with the things he does.

    I do understand, though I like saying the words, I also truly enjoy giving gifts I have made, especially crochet. Looking at the other comments, It seems we are not alone in that.

    Speaking of little hand made things– When I got the new, Sept. Country Living I noticed they had a couple of pages that had canning jars, and some had the little cloth tops on them! Since that had just been mentioned when you wrote about your Pickles, I took that as a little God Wink and found it interesting.

    It is so nice to see that so many of the ones here also give by what they make with their hands.
    What ever the gift/ talent is that the Lord gave us,.. Whatever the passion is that He placed in us, I have came to see that a lot of the gift we give– be it writing, listening to some one who is needing an ear, or building with wood, or even making with yarn– it is all– the gift of Time, our time we are giving.. Just a thought that came to me while reading here.

    God Bless you dear Julie.

  8. Marci’a….wow–do my bloggy friends grow my understanding. You’re absolutely right. It was a gift of Self. I hadn’t seen it that way. And I hadn’t thought about how Rilynn might pass it on to her own daughter…..goosebumps.

    The beautiful point you’re making about Chas–I know exactly what you mean. I’m finally recognizing this gift in my husband and even appreciating that he’s not my identical twin. He’s not going to write poetry for me. Or want to sit for hours and chat–that might be something a girlfriend would do. 🙂

    Love your Godwink Country Living canning point!! Yes! Yes! And I took Country Living years ago. Beautiful magazine. Sounds like you and I have the same tastes.

    May God continue to bless the work of your hands–your beautiful love-creations. I’m so grateful for how you shared the work of your hands with little ole me!


  9. You are so right that men express with their hands. They express by creating something concrete…something that can be touched. Women tend more to express through feelings…a warm hug, a smile, tears. Listening and loving go deep in a woman’s heart. They go deep in a man’s heart too, it’s just that we often don’t see it until it comes out in something created. This is beautiful, Julie.

    • You’re describing me to a T, B.J. And this is you too.

      You’re one wise lady. And friend!

      Thank you. Love you.

  10. When I read this post, I keep on saying “Oh!”. This is so heartwarming, Julie! You’re so lucky to have Ricky. At home, we prayed together, eat together, and share our jokes during mealtime. That’s how we express love. =)

    • Thank you so much, Heart!!! Love reading your thoughts–and what’s more important that exactly what you described!

      Thanks for reaching out and saying hi!!


  11. Oh. My. Goodness. TOO precious–all of you! (But especially Rilynn and Rick. 🙂 )

  12. I’ve always loved the book- “The 5 Love Languages” and this reminds me of that. If “love is in the details,” then Rick just showed Rilynn a whole lot of love! My goodness- love the dedication and determination he put into making that for her. I have to think that was a beautifully crafted memory she won’t soon forget!

    I did not grow up in an environment where we verbally expressed love- but I always seemed to know it was there. With my own boys, I express it in as many ways as I can- and with all those around me now. I pray they won’t have to give a second thought to expressing their love, or feeling mine to them 🙂 Love to you!

    • Me too, Vicky! I love that book.

      Isn’t it like God that even though you didn’t grow up with words being a love language, your heart understood?

      With our only son Thomas, his love language is definitely not spoken with words. I love hearing about mamas who are able to pass that along to their sons!!


  13. Made me cry J…the beautiful doll house and the fantastic log cabin that Rick built for you…the way he shows love and the way you show love…all of it. Do you know what a treasure you have – you recognize all that love in Ricky…some people don’t see it until it’s too late. sending both of you love xo

    • I know, Robin. It took so many years to figure this out–and to see how much he loves. It’s just in a different shape and color than mine.

      I thought you might like this post. 🙂 Ohhh, how you and Ricky care about the tiniest details. Melts my heart.


  1. […] (He also built her a dollhouse for her fourth birthday.) […]

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