Husband John was leaving for Afghanistan in a few weeks and would be gone for a year. I busied my mind, which is prone to excessive worry, with making sure he had all that he would need while he was at the US Embassy in Kabul. I ordered flannel lined jeans for the winter and a rope survival bracelet for unforeseen circumstances. His baggage allotment for the move was small, so items had to be considered carefully. I wanted to send something with him that spoke of home, but would also have a practical purpose.

I had seen a cool lamp made from a medium sized tree trunk and I decided to make John one as a surprise. Inspiration came when a storm downed a limb from a birch tree near our creek and I know that John just loves that gorgeous birch bark. I cut about a 22 inch length from an interesting part of the branch. The chainsaw work was a bit scary and son Brett helped there.

With the section cut, I planned for the carving of our initials. I used a pocket knife to cut deep into the bark to make the outline of a 5-6 inch heart. Inside the heart, I carved our initials: ,JJK +RPK.

To wire the lamp, I went to a friend’s workshop and used a 24 inch drill bit(!) to hollow out a ½ inch hole through the length of the wood. I bought a lamp kit at the hardware store for less than $10 and wired it myself. I had a bit of a wobble where the socket entered the wood and had to use some washers to take up the small space. Lamp wired, I went to Target for the lampshade.

When the movers came to take John’s shipment that was bound for Kabul, I slipped the lamp into a box that was being packed. I am not a great secret keeper when it comes to gifts, but I was completely mum when it came to my homemade birch lamp.

As John unpacked in Afghanistan several weeks later, he could not believe the lamp with our initials in it. He loved it! It even smelled like home in Virginia. The lamp made it to his embassy office desk where he used it every day during his posting. It was practical and it definitely was something that reminded him of home…and a fun way for me to say, “I love you to pieces!”