Holiday Haikus: The Christmas Mug Edition

Dec

10

Posted by on Dec 10, 2017 in Christmas, Personal, Poetry | 0 comments

Holiday Haikus: The Christmas Mug Edition

Tiny things have always made me happy.   Oh, I don’t know the why of it–is it necessary to always dissect the whys of things? I just know that miniatures fascinate me. If they had been around when I was a little, Polly Pockets and My Little Ponies would have littered my bedroom floor six inches deep. I’m sure of it.   I wonder if this explains why I hold such high regard for a well written haiku; the economy of its structure. Seventeen syllables is all you get–five/seven/five, remember?   Last weekend we emptied the attic of  All The Christmas Things. Since we moved to a new home over the summer, it’s necessary to figure out the perfect new spot for each of our decorations to live. And with that little exercise, this might just be the year I decided a) I could be a Christmas decoration hoarder, and/or b) I’m tired of all my stuff.   Or maybe that was just the inconvenient cold draining my sinuses (and the local water supply), combined with the pressure of finishing decorating in time to clean, cook for, and host a small dinner party Tuesday night.   It’s hard to say which.   I finally got to the point where enough was enough, or more accurately, when I was absolutely out of time for decorating, and had to shift into the cleaning and cooking portion of the afternoon. I piled all the remaining decorations into a few boxes, marched them upstairs and sat them in the corner. Done…!   In any event, some of my favorite Christmas things – ones I will never get tired of – are my Christmas mugs. They aren’t fine or fancy, but they’re fantastic little purveyors of whimsy.  Each year I’m excited to rediscover them.   Simple pleasures are the best, aren’t they?     Early Wednesday morning I was sitting at my kitchen table, sipping and savoring my coffee, smiling and satisfied that our home felt cozy and Christmassy. My mug looked happy, too, just sitting there, and in the inexplicable way we all behave now, I had to take a picture of it. Mercy, we’re all cookoo-pants, but we still keep snapping those pictures of everything and anything over and over and over, and we share them like it’s this morning’s news. Which is sort of is in The-Internet-Is-My-Neighbor kind of way.   And wouldn’t you know it–my coffee mug had me waxing poetic. So, I wrote a little ditty, and then lo and behold, I did it again every morning for the next three days. I never quite settled on a name for the series, but it’s something like Holiday Haikus Inspired by Christmas Mugs. Dang, that sounds awful, so feel free to give me your own (better) series titles. Girlfriend’s not shy to ask for help when she needs it.   happy, it makes me most wonderful time of year sweet, simple pleasures     Spirit of Christmas sweet atmosphere of welcome merry hearts draw near treasure of Christmas unimaginable gift Key to the Kingdom   Christmas is promise kept; a King to lead the way brightest morning star   Hmmmm…such a joy to my spirit to pen these little poems. I have an idea for next week–do check in? (feel...

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Christmas Light

Dec

03

Posted by on Dec 3, 2017 in Christmas, Scripture Link, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Christmas Light

  Click the image for the most beautiful Advent calendar I’ve ever seen. ...

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God is Working in the Waiting

Nov

30

Posted by on Nov 30, 2017 in (in)courage, Faith, Personal | 2 comments

God is Working in the Waiting

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:11 I remember it like it was yesterday, when a new-to-me speaker posed a question that burrowed under my skin like a chigger in the heat of summer — “Are you the kind of person who walks into a room and declares, ‘Here I am!’ or do you walk into the room and say, ‘There you are!’?” I wasn’t an “all about me” person, but I’m naturally outgoing and comfortable talking to new people. I can work a room if that’s expected of me. My nerves do rattle on the inside, but they’re energy fueling confidence and conversation. It also wasn’t that I didn’t notice other people; but the question forced me to realize at best I was blissfully unaware, or at worse, I was more concerned about myself than others. Ouch. Over the past ten years through unexpected personal deserts and crazy life, I’ve tried to become a There you are! friend, the one who notices what you’re not saying as much as what you are saying. I’ve challenged myself to notice people in the margins. And trusting the providence of God (mostly in hindsight), I’ve wandered into those places myself, learning by experience what it feels like to be ignored, rejected, forgotten, irrelevant, and sometimes invisible. I’ve hated it. But on the other side of those hard lessons and hurt feelings is what has become a passion of mine: redemptive purpose.  Just as sure as the sun hangs in the sky behind a veil of dark clouds, God is accomplishing His will and His ways even when I can’t see His hand at work.   And when I do gain insight and understanding in the aftermath of pain or heartache? It is an astonishing gift and grace to discover beauty among ashes. Pride and ego were subtle idols of mine. God was kind enough to reveal them to me in a way that would sear an impression on my heart and ultimately change me. ———- It’s been a long, long while since I’ve attended a Beth Moore Bible study. I forgot how she gets to me, how every study I’ve ever taken will somehow speak a word over me so strong it’s undeniable God had her write it just for me. What . . . you, too? 🙂 It was in the fourth week, day three, on her study of James, when a section started doing its thing. Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment. (James 3:1) Beth spoke about “landmines that go with the territory” of teaching: The temptation to teach more than we know. The capacity to mislead. The capacity to be misled. The temptation to use the platform for personal agendas or opinions. And though not exactly in the context of being a teacher, I sensed these landmines speaking to my life as a writer. ———- It would seem that the natural progression for a long-term blogger is to write a book; that is the childhood dream of many in the online world. Those of you who’ve followed (in)courage since its inception know many of our regular contributors have gone on to lovely writing careers. Here’s the thing that’s hard for me to admit:  Please continue reading God is Working in the Waiting at {in}courage. It’s personal but in some ways the story of ALL of...

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Honest Thoughts About #GivingTuesday

Nov

28

Posted by on Nov 28, 2017 in Inspiring, Life Philosophy, Love Gifts, On my soapbox, Personal | 2 comments

Honest Thoughts About #GivingTuesday

I love Holly Hunter. An Academy Award- and Emmy-winning actress, she seems to take any role and make it memorable; she dies to self while her characters come to life. I appreciate her talent, sure, but maybe tipping the scale for my fangirldom is the fact she’s Southern, born just up the road from me in Conyers, Georgia. Her accent makes me happy. Instead of sounding like some illiterate, backwoods miscreant – the way Southerners are too often played in film and television – her voice is comfort food to the ear. As Tammy Hemphill in 1993’s The Firm, she delivers one of my favorite movie lines of all time when convict Ray McDeere tells her he “loves her crooked little mouth.” She quips… It’s not my best feature. Gah–J’adore! (Shout out to my friend Lisa M. who jinxed me with this line!) Anyway, that scene always comes to mind when one of my, say, “lesser qualities” rises to the surface. Like today. Today is known far and wide as Giving Tuesday. My first instinct is cynical. My cynicism is birthed out of priority: Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. Sunday usually equals more of #1 and #2–retailers and e-tailers are smart that way even if Sunday doesn’t have an official name. Cyber Monday. And with whatever you have leftover after all that manic spending, tip your favorite charity on Giving Tuesday. See? Not my best feature. Here’s the thing, though. While my first instinct is cynicism, it’s not where I land. I am a bargain shopper. I understand that this season sometimes offers the most savings of items you plan to buy anyway. More than anything, I believe that giving is good.   And when there’s a global movement encouraging citizens of the world to give to organizations and causes who represent undeniable need, we should respond with great generosity.   #GivingTuesday reminds us giving isn’t only about dollars and cents– …whether it’s some of your time, a donation, gift or the power of your voice in your local community…. but a financial gift is always an easy and immediate way to respond.   There is no dearth of non-profits to support, but three I’d very personally love for you to consider are: CrossPurpose. 2½ years ago, freshly graduated and with a degree in community development, my daughter accepted an urban leadership development fellowship in Denver, CO. On the ground, working to eradicate poverty in their city, CrossPurpose in an incredible organization that teaches people how to fish for a lifetime instead of feeding them for a day. When her fellowship ended, Rachel accepted a full-time position with CrossPurpose. We’ve met those who serve and are served by this visionary organization. Your dollars here change lives, now and forever. Compassion. Eight years ago I traveled to Kolkata (Calcutta) with Compassion International, and it’s still changing my life. Compassion is a world-wide organization that works by investing in local people and projects to do the work of caring for the least of these. I was privileged to observe first-hand what this looks like, and I’m convinced it’s the best, most reputable sponsor program out there.   Salvation Army. Ringing the bell for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Drive has become an annual tradition for me; it was fascinating to learn so much my first year (10 Things Salvation Army Bell...

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Princess of Pies

Nov

09

Posted by on Nov 9, 2017 in Food and Drink, Home, Hospitality, Inspiring, Personal, Recipes, Uncategorized |

Princess of Pies

A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness. Elsa Schiaparelli   My mother-in-love is one of the best cooks on the planet. I learned that the first time I met her. Then, a college student sustained mostly by starchy, mysterious, dining hall fare, I devoured everything she put on the table; even squash casserole, a subversive compliment to her. I remember her telling me she was glad I was the kind of girl who would eat instead of picking around her plate. I suppose in its own way, that was a compliment, too, but I blushed, worried I must’ve eaten like a hog. Those glorious calories shoved in my mouth were worth the red cheeks. Sarah was known far and wide for her cooking, and if she knew your favorite thing, she’d be sure to include it if you were coming for dinner. I’m not sure I could choose one favorite dish of hers, but her Cowboy Cookies were magical, and try as I might, I couldn’t come close to her fried chicken. Plenty of her recipes found their way into my kitchen, though, and she delighted in my phone calls when I needed to clarify a process–like making sure if one cup flour, sifted is the same thing as one cup of sifted flour (it’s not). She also insisted that it made a different to “start with flour and end with flour” when adding ingredients for her famed pound cake–I have never put it to the test, though. I think it’s best to trust the cook. Sarah’s desserts were legendary, and everyone had their favorite (mine was her Italian Cream Cake. sigh…). A diplomat and pleaser at heart, she made sure to rotate whose favorites showed up for holiday meals when our family gathered together. But then… * * *   Oooooh, please DO keep reading over at Grace Table table today! Queen of the Kitchen, Princess of the Pie, and YOU is delicious reading...

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Have You Ever Wondered What Your Faith Would Look Like If You Didn’t Have a Bible?

Oct

31

Posted by on Oct 31, 2017 in Faith, Uncategorized |

Have You Ever Wondered What Your Faith Would Look Like If You Didn’t Have a Bible?

  Recently, our pastor led a sermon series that caught me by surprise, six messages celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation (which happens to be today, October 31, 2017). It would have been almost expected in the former denomination we attended (Presbyterian (PCA)), but not what I’d predict from a Southern Baptist church. I like surprises. I owe Pastor McCoy a debt of gratitude for inspiring my thoughts at {in}courage today, and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read and comment. His sermons also pointed me in the direction of some helpful resources (and a few quotes that found their way into my post). Learning about Church history strengthens my own faith, understanding the price so many paid that I might have the luxury of reading my own Bible, and worship without fear. On this day in 1517, history – or maybe, more so, tradition – tells us Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle Church, thereby ushering in a faith movement that led to the formation of the Protestant Church. Originally titled “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” but more commonly known as the 95 Theses, Luther raised questions related to authority and salvation. One of his major points of contention centered on the practice of indulgences where people could basically buy their way out of sin. Please read “Jesus Loves Me This I Know…” over at {in}courage to learn why Luther’s work matters to all of us, and I’d challenge you to ponder what your faith might look like if you didn’t have access to a Bible you could read on your own. Really–linger in the ramifications of that question; I’d genuinely love to hear your thoughtful responses (either in comments, if you’d like to share publicly, or via email). Last, if you love learning, below are links to Dr. McCoy’s sermons and to the resources he used in his research (thank you, Dr. McCoy!): The Unfinished Reformation by Greg Allison and Chris Castaldo Theology of the Reformers by Timothy George The Smalcald Articles by Martin Luther The Bible Translation That Rocked the World, Christian History, Issue 34 by Henry Zecher The Babylonian Captivity of the Church by Martin Luther Find audio files and pdf guides here for Pastor McCoy’s sermon series The 500th Anniversary of the Reformation beginning September 24, 2017 and ending on October 29th. Sermon 1, How Well Do You Know Your Story? Sermon 2, What Does the Bible Say? Sola Scriptura and Following Christ Today Sermon 3, All of Grace: Sola Gratia and the Way of Salvation Sermon 4, Sola Fide: Abraham, Luther, and Justification by Faith Sermon 5, Jesus Paid It All: Solus Christus and the Way of Salvation Sermon 6, Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone Related content: http://www.history.com/topics/martin-luther-and-the-95-theses Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk by Michelle DeRusha   Note: my affiliate links are included for books listed above....

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I’m Mad And I Want You To Know Why

Oct

30

Posted by on Oct 30, 2017 in Advice, Cancer is NOT okay!, Family, Health, Mothers and daughters, Personal, Uncategorized | 8 comments

I’m Mad And I Want You To Know Why

Long ago and far away, or so it seems now, we lived in South Carolina. A few years after we landed there, a young couple moved to town, life-friends of my younger brother-in-law. We welcomed them with open arms; friends of family are friends of ours. They were barely out of newlyweddom when baby Dylan arrived. Stephanie and Trey loved him fiercely and completely, the way we all marvel at those firstborn, or let’s face it, every child we call our own. Breastfeeding was a priority to Stephanie, and like any new mom, she expected to have questions along the way. When she complained to her doctor about a knotty sore place, she readily accepted his plausible explanation: a blocked milk duct (I massaged my way through a few of those painful devils). It was good news that satisfied her questions and concern, but this is what I would categorize as hearing what you want to hear (which is rarely a good thing). Six months later Stephanie was dead, leaving behind a grieving husband and a son who would have no memory of her. She was 23. Cruelly, cancer cut her life short–six months from diagnosis to death. My mother was 34 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer; she died at 38. Her mother died when she was 22, cancer again robbing a baby of knowing her mama. My sister is a survivor, creeping up on almost 20 years (thank you, Jesus). I’ve lived under the Dark Cloud of Cancer Possibility my entire life (or at least as long as I remember). But as aware as I am for myself, taking all the preventive and proactive action I can for early detection and best health, I am even more aware for my daughter. She is 25 and has lived three years longer than her great-grandmother. Medical opinions vary about when women with family histories of breast cancer should have their first mammogram; one popular suggestion is ten years prior to the diagnosis of first-degree relatives. While my daughter has no first-degree connection to breast cancer, her grandmother and great-grandmother died young, and her aunt endured aggressive treatment for DCIS and a malignant lump. There are several methods to predict or evaluate your risk (for example, here or here). But I’m of the strong opinion it can serve you well to get a baseline early for future reference.  Here’s the thing: no one wants to have a mammogram. They aren’t exactly painful, but they’re incredibly awkward and contort and smash your body into positions you didn’t know were possible. Know what I say to that? So what? Get over your fear or dread or excuses. Early detection could save your life.   Continuing a streak of awesome adulting, my daughter recently decided to schedule her first mammogram (she’s a plane-ride away from me so if it’s going to happen, she has to make the effort without me dragging her kicking and screaming). She questioned me about anything she might need to know before she called a local provider, and I explained to her since it’s preventive (and given our family history), it’s covered under her insurance. Well. The office she called told her she did not need to have a mammogram yet, that she was too young and it wasn’t necessary. Of course, Rachel was thrilled and felt like she was off the hook for now. It was...

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Cowboy Cookies (a recipe that comes with a warning….)

Oct

10

Posted by on Oct 10, 2017 in Favorite things, Personal, Recipes, Uncategorized | 4 comments

Cowboy Cookies (a recipe that comes with a warning….)

  If every politician had a home-baked batch of Cowboy Cookies – my favorite cookie in the world – we might just be able to achieve world peace.   It’s hard to remain at odds when you’re devouring these jokers. Bonus? They use oatmeal, which means they’re probably healthy. Who am I to argue the merits of whole grain? It’s been so long since I made a batch I had forgotten how delicious they are. HOW COULD I HAVE FORGOTTEN? They’re magical. Anyway, my sweet mother-in-love shared the recipe ages ago, and it’s no-fail if you can follow instructions. I’ve added notes below the recipe, so be sure to read them before whipping up a batch. Then, email me a thank you note with pictures, please. It’s ancient wisdom that when you take pictures, the cookies last longer.   Cowboy Cookies ~ Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies ~ Preheat oven to 350°F Ingredients 1 cup sugar 1 cup light brown sugar ½ cup Crisco Shortening (NOT oil) ½ cup softened butter (1 whole stick) 2 eggs 2 cups sifted all purpose flour 1 teaspoon soda ½ teaspoon baking powder ½ teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 cups oats* 1 cup pecans* (optional, which is nuts to this Southern gal) 1 small package semi-sweet chocolate chips Sift flour, soda, baking powder and salt together. Set aside. With a mixer, combine sugar, brown sugar, Crisco, butter, two eggs and vanilla. Once incorporated, add dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, and pecans until well blended (I do this part by hand, not with a mixer). Drop by rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until desired doneness.   IMPORTANT Baking Notes:   My original recipe called for one cup of Crisco, but I like butter, so I amended the recipe to ½ cup of shortening, ½ cup of butter. The results are spectacular. Never use margarine. Because WHY WOULD  YOU when butter is an option? This recipe can be halved or doubled. Let the butter sit at room temperature to soften. Do NOT melt it! Soft = good. Melted = bad. (Cookies will be flat.) If you’re a house divided like ours, you have permission to make half a batch with pecans, half without. I totally judge people who don’t include nuts (including my otherwise amazing husband and children). Pecans are pronounced puh-kahn, not pee in a can. \ pi-?kän<– right way    wrong way –> ?p?-?kan \ We’re also a house divided about how to pronounce pecan. I use Old Fashioned Quaker Oats; I’ve tried the quick-cooking version before and did not like that cardboard-esque result. You won’t like it, either. The first time you try this recipe, check them at 10, then 11 minutes in. I don’t know how hot your oven bakes, and you do not want to overcook these babies.  Undercooked > Overcooked These are Whole30 compliant. The previous statement was a lie wishful thinking. Enjoy!      BAKER BEWARE: if you decide to make these cookies – and I hope you do – you (and whomever you share them with) might just turn into a monster like this guy…   I’d say it’s worth the risk....

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Oh Happy (#AMomentToBreathe Book Release) Day!

Oct

03

Posted by on Oct 3, 2017 in (in)courage, Books, Encouragement, Faith, Favorite things, Inspiring, Personal | 2 comments

Oh Happy (#AMomentToBreathe Book Release) Day!

If you aren’t yet a subscriber, how about today?   Our world is reeling these days, isn’t it? Collectively, we feel the tragic news out of Las Vegas, horrified that one man could rob so many of so much; for too many, their lives.  I can only imagine that those who are directly affected wonder how anyone can go on in a world gone mad? There’s no reconciling the absurd. There are times when faith comes easy. This isn’t one of them for a lot of folks. I know all the Christian platitudes, the things we say at times like this. But I can’t bring myself to say any of those things out loud – even if they are true – because sometimes the loudest lament is silence.   God hears the cry of the broken ones, and he alone offers hope during obsidian days.   So, we mourn with those who mourn. We ask a lot of questions. Yes, we want answers, but the truth is we’ll never be able to make sense of it. This world we find ourselves in is still spinning, sun and moon nudging us into the next day and the one after that.   And, here’s the important thing to remember: even in the darkness there are beacons.   We need light to guide us to where we are going, yes? We need light to show us the way. Months ago (a year ago?) the date was set for A Moment to Breathe to release. No one could have anticipated the timing, that this collection of “365 devotions to meet you in your everyday mess” would launch right after the deadliest mass shooting in our nation’s history.  Eighty authors, inspired by scripture and for the glory of God, poured their hearts and lives into its pages, hoping it would bring light into the lives of those hopeful or desperate to find a beacon.     I’m proud of this book, thrilled and honored to have seven devotions included. There’s a part of me that feels guilty for being happy when so many of our neighbors have suffered unimaginable loss – before Las Vegas, the multiple earthquakes in Mexico, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and those awful west coast wildfires. Unresolved racial tensions and political discord add to our collective grief. And beyond these national tragedies and disasters are countless more personal tragedies and disasters. Every day our neighbors are facing financial ruin, infidelity, addiction, illness, difficulty with children, debilitating accident, death…. Maybe you are the neighbor. Here’s the beautiful, liberating thing: humans are a complex and multi-dimensional creation, capable of simultaneous, opposing emotions. (Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.) In other words, the “guilt” I’m feeling is a false guilt, the kind the enemy of my heart loves because it has the potential to defeat, paralyze, or confuse me (sometimes all three). False guilt materializes in a thousand different ways, and often it’s rooted in comparison; for me, at least.     With all tenderness for those who are suffering, I can still celebrate the happy and good things happening in my world (if you need permission, I’m extending it to you, too, because sometimes we just need someone else to tell us so). It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It’s essential to have compassion for those in pain, to pray for, help and...

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The Next Best Thing to Live and In-Person

Sep

29

Posted by on Sep 29, 2017 in (in)courage, Conferences, Friends, friendship | 3 comments

The Next Best Thing to Live and In-Person

  In case you missed the Facebook Live about friendship complexities and the (in) Real Life: FRIENDED event I mentioned yesterday (because I am AWESOME at giving advance notice!), the magical wizards at Facebook make it possible to watch on replay. You probably need to watch just TO LEARN FROM MY EXPERIENCE that lumberjacks in your back yard (thanks to Irma) are distracting, and you can’t help but be who you are. I remember saying I hoped (in)courage/DaySpring/Lifeway wouldn’t fire me, but for the life of me now I can’t remember why…. I’m a little horrified to think about how many bunny trails I streaked. Anyways…. Thanks to texts from Saynor, Paige, and Frank during the event (I saw ’em and tried to ignore ’em), and for prayer minions who made a difference. It is not your fault I SQUIRREL! at All The Things. Last, remember two copies of A Moment to Breathe are up for grabs (for commenters from the FB comment thread & my original post about the broadcast). (Also? What’s up my expression on the freeze-frame? I AM NOT FORLORN!)...

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