What a blessing it is to have friends. 🙂

Friday I was able to drive down and visit my sweet friend, Sally, who has been an amazing and inspirational mentor to me for many, many years.  I was reminded again, as I always am with her, of how much we need people in our lives who love us and care for us!

Excuse our giggling and silliness.  Periscope sometimes gives us fits, so we’re still working on getting it all “down.” We chatted a bit about how to get through difficult times, and I hope you’ll enjoy it and be encouraged.

And please–go pick up a copy of Sally’s new book here: The Lifegiving Home

I just realized this recipe is NOT HERE.

Which is a shame.  I apologize. Ha!
Let’s fix that, shall we?

chocolate chip cookies

Perfectly Puffy Chocolate Chip Cookies


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1 Tbs vanilla

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

2 cups chocolate chips

1 cup nuts (optional … but why not?)

Preheat oven to 375.  Combine butter and sugars, and cream until fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Combine flour, baking soda, and salt and add to sugar mixture.  *Dough will be stiff!*  Stir in chips and whatever nut you like.

Place tablespoons-ful onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

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It sits on my nightstand, a gift from my sweet mentor and a reminder of what I learned bigger this year:  Why Mary Matters.

Because before, well … Mary, she was for the ones with the beads and crucifixes and stained glass; we Protest-ers, we shrugged her off like so much holy water, maybe even the tiniest bit afraid. We bundled all things we thought were extra and excessive and threw them all right out our proverbial windows, and Mary went with them.

The conundrum of what to do with Mary has been at the back of my mind for years, probably beginning at my first reading of Little Women, as I imagined Amy kneeling in her makeshift prayer closet (the original War Room?) hanging prayer beads the housekeeper had given her (“not sure of their suitability for Protestant prayers”) and gazing at her own picture of the Blessed Mother …

“Esther fitted up the closet with a little table, placed a footstool before it, and over it a picture taken from one of the shut-up rooms.  She thought it was of no great value, but, being appropriate, she borrowed it, well knowing that Madame would never know it, nor care if she did.  It was, however, a very valuable copy of one of the famous pictures of the world, and Amy’s beauty-loving eyes were never tired of looking up at the sweet face of the Divine Mother, while her tender thoughts of her own were busy at her heart…”

This year, advent brought a reading of Elizabeth Foss’s Living the Liturgy as an Advent devotional, and Mary became even dearer to my heart as I pondered her part in the story more than ever before. And then I ran across this picture.

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Beautiful, isn’t it?  It was painted by Sister Grace Remington and is called, Mary Consoles Eve. 

Do you see why?  Look closely.  Eve, with mourning in her eyes, still holding the forbidden fruit with it’s tell-tale bite turned toward her heart, the serpent wrapped around her leg.  Mary, heavy with the Child Eve is reaching out to, drawing her close with hope in her eyes–and the snake’s head underfoot.

Mary matters.

Sometimes, when we throw out the holy water, we throw out an awful lot of important truths right along with it.

Christianity sometimes gets a “bad rap” as being negative toward women.  When we are fooled by such a notion, not having thought it through, we show we’ve missed it: we’ve missed Mary and the truth she’s meant to tell us about the heart of God … how He has honored women in such a profound way.

Eve, she takes the first bite.  And woman is cursed to be ruled over by men.  But look how God is redeeming?  He rescues the nation through Deborah, then Esther.  Jesus’ geneaology includes Rahab, a foreign prostitute who dared believe in God, and Ruth, a widowed foreigner who exercised faithfulness to a bitter mother-in-law; Tamar, a woman tricked who turns to trickery to become impregnated by her father-in-law, Bathsheba, pressed into adultery, whose righteous husband was murdered by a king after God’s own heart.

And then it happens, the biggest turnaround of all: Mary, a young virgin, betrothed, is approached by an angel.

And the first person to hear of the coming of Jesus is a teenage GIRL.

And Jesus? He’s never heard that Judeo-Christianity is supposed to suppress women, apparently, because He does nothing but lift them up.  He teaches the Samaritan woman, alone at the well.  Sends the Pharisees packing by writing in the dirt when they bring a woman to him for censure.  Rebukes the disapproving dinner crowd whispering at the woman weeping at his feet with a broken jar of perfume.

And then.  Then, after the women have wept at the cross and return three days later, He does the unthinkable:

The first person to see Him after His death?  Another woman.  Another Mary.  And once again, a woman carries the gospel message–this time, in it’s conclusive state:

He has risen.

And somehow, in the wonder of the whole story, so have we.

Next time someone tells you Christianity pushes women down, you can tell them they must not know the story very well.

Mary, she responded to God with submission.  With obedience.  With a desire to do as the Creator of the universe would have her do.  She said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word” Luke 1:38. And that’s how we came to see the fulfillment of the Promise hidden in the curse on the serpent: “And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.

She reversed Eve’s mistake, her foot on the serpent’s head, not caught in his trap, and through that obedience she cooperated with God the Father through God the Spirit to bring God the Son into the world.  The story is impossible without her.  God designed it to be impossible without her–do you see?

Lift up your heads, mamas.  You’re not a second class citizen, not God’s second choice.  You’re an intrinsic, imperative part of creation and redemption, from the beginning of the world to its fantastic hinge.  And in your role as Conductress of the symphony of life in your own home, you continue to bring the life of God to the world.

Sounds pretty important to me.




I’ve had the opportunity to read and listen to many disturbing statistics recently.  Some make me cringe.  Some make me angry.  Many make my mouth literally drop open and say, “That’s not really true, is it?”

Unfortunately, the most disturbing statistics come out when someone has taken measurements of what’s happening in our world as it relates to families.  And really, every statistic is about family somehow, isn’t it?  Every number is someone’s mom, or son, or cousin.  Which means we can’t let the numbers fail to affect us, though we hear many of them.  Each time we read a news story or hear another message, we’ve got to consider our part in the story.

Today, I’m writing at For the Family about the battle we all face.  Join me there?

Here's a set of links I've loved this week! Printables for New Year's, a great podcast, and mama encouragement.

We’re planning a New Year’s Eve party, so there’s a lot of list making going on ’round here.  The fun kind–we need cheese and chocolate for fondue, balloons and glitter for decorations, glowsticks and bells for the kiddos.  I’ve already printed out some 2016 resolutions papers for the kids to fill out–you can find those here: Kids 2016 New Years Sheet  and we’ll print these great questions out and take some time to hear about everyone’s 2015, too. 

It’s time to do some question and answer-ing!

Today, I’m writing at For the Family!


Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.
—Will Rogers
A goal without a plan is just a wish.
–Antoine de Saint-Exupery
We’ve heard it a million times: the reminders that planning is non-negotiable.
The shelves are full to bursting, kiosks set up in the mall for one sole purpose: to provide the perfect tool with which to plan out the new year.
Empty spaces just begging to be filled in, blank cyberspace surrendering to keyboard, pure white paper abandoned to flowing blue ink.  A new year–even grander than Anne Shirley’s “new day, with no mistakes in it yet”–365 of those promising beauties, ripe for the picking.  We may be hesitant or enthusiastic, but either way, plan we must.
Read the rest, here:  A New Year’s Prayer As We Plan.


And a few more of my favorite links from the past week or so …

How to tie lovely Christmas bows! (I know, I know, too late for this year–but there’s always next!

We are still celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas, so … this recipe looks right up my alley.  And so pretty!  Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Such a great article from Sally this week–plus the At Home with Sally Podcast!

A wonderful podcast on the importance of beauty: Why God’s Not Invisible After All

Ever worry that your later-born children don’t get enough … well, just don’t get enough?  Read this for reassurance:  This Is What the Last Child Gets

What does your week-after-Christmas look like??

Some of us look ahead in anticipation, full of plans and hopes and bright thoughts.  We expect to read new books, see new places, make new friends. There are those, however, who look at the empty places on the calendar with weariness. This year drawing to a close has been a hard one, draining hope dry. How can we plan for a new year when we feel stuck in the old?


“Why go I mourning?” (Psalm 42:9).

“Canst thou answer this, believer? Canst thou find any reason why thou art so often mourning instead of rejoicing? Why yield to gloomy anticipations? Who told thee that the night would never end in day? Who told thee that the winter of thy discontent would proceed from frost to frost, from snow and ice, and hail, to deeper snow, and yet more heavy tempest of despair?
Knowest thou not that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer succeed winter? Hope thou then! Hope thou ever! for God fails thee not.”
–C. H. Spurgeon

As the year barrels on toward its end, boxes of ornaments and Christmas plates and ribbon and wrappings packed away to garages and attics ’round the world, we look toward the coming year.  It is even better than Anne concluded–“a new day with no mistakes in it yet”; it’s an entire year with no mistakes in it, yet. Hallelu!

Some of us look ahead in anticipation, full of plans and hopes and bright thoughts.  We expect to read new books, see new places, make new friends.  Or we plan to deepen long-kept relationships, lose some weight, redecorate our houses.  The new year beckons with its empty planner pages, an invitation to hope.

There are those, however, who look at the empty places on the calendar with weariness. This year drawing to a close has been a hard one, draining hope dry.  Perhaps there are relationships that have come to an end, through death literal or figurative.  Perhaps financial burdens have escalated to a point of impossibility.  Dreams of ministry may have fallen flat.  Children may be taking paths that plunge knives deep into a mama’s heart.  And those empty pages mock us with their very emptiness, threatening to stay empty, to empty us.

There are those, however, who look at the empty places on the calendar with weariness. This year drawing to a close has been a hard one, draining hope dry. Sweet one, can I ask you to look away from despair for a moment? Or maybe you wouldn't characterize your feeling as being nearly that dark; in that case, may I call you from even your weariness, the exhaustion that comes with simply living a poured-out-life well?

The enemy, he has a plan for your life, too.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy …” John 10:10 (NASB)

Sweet one, can I ask you to look away from despair for a moment?  Or maybe you wouldn’t characterize your feeling as being nearly that dark; in that case, may I call you from even your weariness, the exhaustion that comes with simply living a poured-out-life well?

” … I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” John 10:10.

Jesus came–Christmas, Himself!–so that you might have life.

Who told you that “the night would never end in day,” indeed? Such dire, hopeless thoughts could only originate in one place, and it’s certainly not the heart of God.

Look up.  Remind your soul that Jesus is Life, Himself.  He is Light.  He is abundance and peace and joy and hope, and He will carry you through all you can’t see ahead.  Take a deep breath and remind yourself of the lessons of the very world around us …

“Knowest thou not that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer succeed winter? Hope thou then! Hope thou ever! for God fails thee not.”

God fails thee not.  He has come to bring abundant life.  It’s a promise you can bring to a new calendar, write it out over all the empty days like a plan, because it’s the one He is writing even now for you …

Abundant life.


Sally Clarkson has great reminders today about how it’s necessary to slow and even stop before we can move forward. For more great questions to ask yourself as you’re considering New Year’s resolutions, see Tsh Oxenreiders’ article. 

How are you planning for abundant life in the new year?  I’d love to hear about it!

We invited friends over for a simple luncheon and I wanted to share these favorite recipes with you–one new favorite and one old!

Spinach Bacon Mushroom Quiche

1 deep dish pie crust

4 strips bacon

1 cup chopped mushrooms

1 cup baby spinach

1 cup shredded cheese; monterey jack, cheddar, or any combination you like!

kosher salt to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp)

black pepper (I used about 1/4 tsp)

8 eggs

1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375.

Fry bacon and set aside, reserving drippings.  Saute mushrooms in drippings.
Lay spinach in bottom of pie crust. Add cheese, mushrooms, and bacon (crumbled).  Add salt and pepper.
Beat eggs in a seperate bowl together with milk, then pour mixture over the other ingredients already in the crust.


That’s it!  Now place in oven to bake for around 35 minutes.  It’s done when no longer jiggly; I’ve also read a recommendation for an inner temp of 165 to indicate doneness!

Next up: 2 versions of Christmas Salads!

This is a family favorite, which came from my Grandma Flo’s recipe collection.

Christmas Eve Salad

Combine 1/4 cp chopped almonds with 1 Tbs plus 1 tsp sugar, toast together in skillet.

In large bowl combine 1 Gala apple, thinly sliced, with 1 kiwi, thinly sliced.  Add 3 c torn iceburg lettuce, 1 small head romaine,2 stalks thinly sliced celery.  Add 1 11 oz can drained mandarin oranges and 1 cup sliced strawberries.

Whisk together 1/4 cp vegetable oil, 2 Tbs white vinegar, 1 Tbs chopped parsley, 2 Tbs sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and pour over. Top with croutons if desired.

I couldn’t locate my grandmother’s recipe yesterday so I made a simpler, similar version:

Holiday Salad

Combine in a large bowl:

6-8 cups baby spinach (add red-leaf lettuce for more color!)

1 quart strawberries, sliced

4 or 5 clementine oranges, peeled and segmented (or use a can of mandarins!)

1/2 cup sliced green onion

1 cup candied pecans

Combine and whisk dressing:  1/2 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup canola oil, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 2 Tb sugar, 1 tsp. grated orange peel

Christmas Salad



The little boys had hurried themselves loudly out the door, bundled up like snowmen, anxious to jump deep in the sparkling new-fallen snow with all the neighborhood children giddy over a snow day.  A few moments of quiet tempted me to the old piano in our foyer.  Pulling out the cheery, bright-red-covered book, I sat down on the bench, hoping to sneak in a smidge of practice while I knew no ears would be offended by the sure-to-be-sour notes. Turning past vintage illustrations of forest animals dancing and singing around a tree bedecked in popcorn and cranberries, gaily illustrated old recipes, and family craft ideas, I finally found it: sheet music for Joy To the World.

Tentatively, I found the first notes, recited “every good boy deserves fudge” in my head, let my hands search out keys one at a time.  Eventually–slowly!–one chord followed another as the song came to life under unskilled fingers.  My youngest daughter came in and sat close by, anxious to be nearer the music swirling its way round the room.  About the third time through, the song was finally (mostly!) recognizable and we both enjoyed its familiar tune, anticipating an upcoming night of caroling, and hoping talented big brother might treat us to some real piano-playing when he comes to visit!  Click to read the rest of the story at The Better Mom.

It’s true, I’ll admit it: I’m not ready for Christmas.

Oh, I’ve done all the baking, the caroling and shopping, the tree trimming and wrapping, the reading and snuggling and even the waiting and watching.

I’ve sat here through dark mornings and read Scripture by the lights of the tree (all 2,000 of them!) for all of Advent (and then some!).  I’ve “prepared Him room.”  But I’m still finding myself digging heels in, willing the season to slow, to give me a little more time in the anticipation.  And then it hits me …

It’s not the coming of Christmas I’m not ready for … it’s the going of it.

These weeks since Thanksgiving, they’ve been full of so much light. I spend most of the year feeling out of step with the rest of the world, rowing desperately against a current of immorality and the heedless clemency that attaches tolerance to everything and true value to nothing, which glorifies darkness and mocks any attempt to resist its all-encompassing whirl.

Ah, but Christmastime!


It’s as if everyone else suddenly wakes up and remembers what’s important.  Children.  Music.  Charity.  Light.  Beautiful things.  Gifts.  Wonderful food. It’s all everywhere, inescapable, from store aisles to commercials to our kitchens.

Comfort and joy.

At Christmas, somehow, it feels like the current of culture is diverted from its hell-bent path, if only for a moment–as if aftershocks from some long-ago earthquake rumble just below the surface, redirecting the flow just a bit, and people everywhere turn their faces toward beauty and light.

For a season.  A season of light, Christmas is, and they’re singing about Jesus over the cheesy airwaves at WalMart and ringing Him on the corners and nearly every bar in town boasts a Christmas tree in the front window.  And that tree is trying to tell us a story, to remind us of the important things, boughs ever-green, laden with light, covered in red and pointing heavenward, like arms reaching to draw everyone right in, calling you close.


Come here, come near! Come, look and see.  See the lights!  See the gifts!  See the star! 

For just a little while, it’s like everyone can hear it; heaven and nature singing.

So I’m not in a hurry for Christmas to come as I’m not in a hurry for it to go.  I’ll enjoy every moment and refuse to let it slip through my fingers.  I’ll smile big driving past the blues and reds and purples and yellows blinking under snow, smile at the mamas and daddys with carts piled high with toys, smile at the bell-ringer and the butcher and the baker and the one selling trees on the corner, smile at everyone from the Rockettes to Linus telling the Greatest Story Ever Told.


And I’ll smile at my own sweet ones and pull them close and point it out–

How in this season, everything joins the chorus of heaven and earth, and maybe, just maybe, we’re not so alone, after all.



Dodging icy spots, I hurried into the store for a few more things for the third time that day.  The snow, having fallen a few days before, wasn’t so pretty in the parking lot, and what sparkled in pristine white was now packed, browned from salt and pressed with the tread of so many tires.

Passing the bundled elderly woman picking her way over the treacherous piles, the tired ringer at the door, the temptation of the coffee bar, I headed toward candy canes and chocolate chips, while a longer list played through my mind.  Still need to order that gift, scrub that floor before company comes, decide whether or not a trip south is in order.


We’ve checked a lot off my list this season.  Yet … There’s so much left to be done, Christmas now only days away.  9, if I’d read the cutesy Christmas app correctly that morning.  Only a few days to finish all the preparation, do all the things that needed to be done.  The weight of Christmas can weigh hard on a woman.

And that’s when it hit me, somewhere between the bell ringing and the carol dimly heard over the din of the grocery store …

Ready or not, here He comes!

Silly, isn’t it?  But true.

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Advent.  This season slips in like a lamb, and if we’re not careful we’re swept up in the pace of a lion as expectations and our own wants and wishes for the perfect Christmas loom large.  We must have the perfect tree, the matching paper, the perfect gift for everyone under our roof (and a few other roofs, too.)  We want to sing all the songs and light all the candles and read all the books to our children.  And it’s all beautiful–but we can let the weight of Advent become something it was certainly never meant to be.  Our preparations could become the very thing separating us from what Jesus wants to do this Advent … to come.

And yet …

Ready or not, here He comes.

That’s the thing about Advent.


Lovely as it all can be, heart-filling and memory-making as our traditions are–

Advent is not all about me.  It’s all about Him.  And it’s not dependent upon me.  It’s dependent upon Him.  And the Lamb of God will come–has come–is coming.

Whether I wrap one more gift, bake one more cookie, sing one more song, or not–

Seven days from now (six … five … four … three … )

Jesus is coming.

I’ll keep decking the halls and scrubbing the deck and preparing my heart best I can.  But the best news about Advent is in those words right there, friends.

Ready or not, here He comes.