Category Archives: Family

Love and Chocolate Treats for February (Part 2 of 4)When You’re STUNNED about your Valentine’s Day Gift…

Friends! Happy Belated Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day! Please enjoy two wild tales…

FLASHBACK:  Valentine’s Day 1993…

“No babysitter for Valentine’s Day???” I whined, coupled with a proficient pout…

“Now honey…” my way-too-practical hubby began…”You know restaurants jack up their prices on Valentine’s Day, and the boys are too little to take out…”

Translation:  “Why don’t you just cook us up somethin’?

Silent thought while heaving an extra loud sigh for future Oscar potential:  “Oh boy, grocery shopping with three boys is such a trip…literally….”

Determined to create fun and education for our Valentine meal, I hunted down ingredients for everything RED:  cherry cool-aid, red spaghetti sauce, cherry jello,  red sprinkles to go on the ice cream with the not-so-red-but-filled-with-a-boatload-of-chocolate brownies.

Spreading out papers for the boys to color, my scary cooking commenced…


Quickly into our “project”, something was not quite right.  I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Our oldest son, John Jr., was way too excited about helping with his brothers. They were coloring at lightening speed, wanting more and more “Valentines” to make for Daddy.

Dinner pulled together, Hubster now home and seated,  John Jr. and Gordy seated, Woody in his high-chair, the following proclamation ensued:

“Mommy!  We have a huge surprise for you! Daddy’s gotten a babysitter and everything!”

Visions of an escape to a hotel sans les enfants rolled thru’ my head….


Fantasy interrupted, my mischievous husband said, “John Jr., why don’t you tell Mommy about her Valentine’s Day gift?”

“Mommy”, John Jr. continued with wildly excited eyes, “Daddy and I got a babysitter for Woody…

so that the four of us can go to…..

…the Truck and Tractor Pull!!!”…

Taken from Photos by Scott Henson

Taken from Photos by Scott Henson

“The what?”  I managed to ask…feigning interest…

“THE TRUCK AND TRACTOR PULL!!!” John Jr.  repeated, now standing, voice at high decibels.

Fabulous hotel fantasy comes to a screeching halt.

Pivotal moment in Mother/Wife Career:

Enter a God moment…”You’d better put on a sense of humor while raising these boys, being a Godly, cheery, loving  wife and mom, or you’ll never make it.” (Guessing The Lord didn’t say “or you’ll never make it”, that’s just my translation.)


Bidding adieu to my very-sheltered-only-child background, it was time to buck up.  Riding a perpetual roller coaster comes to mind. Nevertheless, I will still praise you, Lord.

That year was a turning point for me.  Ups and downs, yes, but with a sense of humor.  Which segues beautifully into one of the funniest books on marriage I’ve read lately.

Allow me to share snippets of The Antelope in the Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life  by Melanie Shankle.


You’ve probably heard of Melanie.  She’s one in the same who wrote Sparkly Green Earrings: Catching the Light at Every Turn. She reports receiving countless pairs of earrings after the book published.  (There’s an idea!  She said she really wanted her next book to be Louis Vuitton Purse with Matching Wallet!!!  I’m thinkin’ A Caribbean Villa…could be swell.) Check out her way popular blog at

With killer humor, Melanie shares good times and not-so-good ones with her husband, Perry.  Melanie and Perry define opposites attract.  She puts it like this:  “Perry loves the outdoors and I love air-conditioning.”

She says,  “There are days filled with laughter and compromise.  And then there are days filled with silence and anger.  But at the end of it all, you’re two people God has joined to journey through life together

… For  better or for worse.  In hunting season and in health.”


My  wild-n-adventurous husband, John, used to ride motorcycles.  Shouts of praise he’s not riding anymore.  (At least for today.)  I poked fun at all the “accessories” a bike could have, not to mention the “gear”.  They make that in leather???

But guess what Melanie’s husband’s hobby is?  In addition to hunting, he makes homemade ammunition. You go, Perry.

In addition to humor, Melanie includes the importance of their faith.  She alludes to not following God and making bad choices prior to meeting Perry.

She and Perry met at a Bible study at Texas A &  M.  She said, “There was something about Perry that intrigued me.  He was different from other guys I’d met.  And he had a heart for God I hadn’t seen in many other guys.”

Making a list of husband qualities, Melanie realized, “What you really need is someone you’d want to be in battle next to you, someone who can make you laugh even in the tough times, someone who will encourage you to be the best  you can be…” (Sounds just like our “Balcony People” from a couple of weeks ago.  My friend Trish says her husband looks at her with “husband eyes”.  Same concept.)

Since surgery seems to be in the air at our house (we’ll go there later), I cried from laughing so hard over an incident when Perry had yet another surgery for his back.  After a night in the hospital, Melanie got Perry secured in the car for the drive home.  Spying a Chik-fil-A and craving one of their chicken biscuits, Melanie pulled into the drive-thru’ only to be informed they were no longer serving breakfast.

Seven minutes past the breakfast hour caused her to jump the curb to get out of the drive-thru’ lane.  Never mind Perry was in the passenger seat, barely twenty-four hours post-op from back surgery.  This is only the beginning…

Melanie gets Perry home and situated on the couch, somewhat still sedated.  She reports: “According to Perry, the Clemson Tigers band marched thru’ our living room to dispense his pain medication at some point that afternoon.  Which is weird, because we’re not even Clemson fans, not to mention that South Carolina is a pretty good haul from Texas.  So I took this as an indication that maybe it was time to cut back on the meds just a tad.”


So for a guy who creates his own ammunition, hearing him suggest they try “radiant barrier paint” one day doesn’t seem so far fetched.  When Melanie asked him what he was talking about, he explained:  “It’s paint that makes a surface heat resistant.  They use it on the space shuttle, and I’m thinking about buyin’ some.”

Melanie replies, “Well, of course you are.  I’ve always said that if it’s good enough for the space shuttle, then it’s good enough for us.” 


John and I aren’t the only ones having fun with this book!  Guess who else was caught laughing out loud reading this?  Ann Voskamp’s husband!  “The Farmer”, as she often calls him, got side-tracked while paying bills, and read some from The Antelope in the Living Room.  Picture Ann and the Farmer  howling, all the way up in Canada.

Melanie also sprinkles in a few stories about their daughter, Caroline.  She discusses leaving a legacy for Caroline and her future children.  A prayer she prays continually comes from Deuteronomy 30:6—“that the Lord would circumcise our hearts and the hearts of our descendants so that we will love God with all our heart and with all our souls.”

“That’s the legacy that’s worth working thru’ the hard times to leave for our daughter.”   She adds, “In this world that sometimes treats marriage like it’s a disposable commodity we can throw away when it no longer seems to serve our purposes, a world that whispers to us that the grass might be greener on the other side, that’s something worth keeping in mind…”  Oh, someone please shout hallelujah over that one!  May we press on…

Finally, soak in this visual:  In one particular scenario, Perry offered Melanie some inexplicable kind of grace.  She said,    “…even tho’ I thought I understood what grace looked like, I really had no idea how deep and wide the mercy of Christ is.  That he looks at us when we lay ourselves bare before him, with all our ugly truths and realities, and says, ‘And?’”

“In Psalm 103 we are told that God redeems our lives from the pit.  Verses 11-12 proclaim, ‘As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’”

Melanie adds, “I once heard someone say that those words (of Psalm 103) represent the beams of the cross—reaching all the way up to the heavens with his love and stretching out to remove our sins as far as from where the sun rises to where it sets.”  Grasping the picture???  Beautiful!!!


I pray you’re encouraged and enlightened by these glimpses of The Antelope in the Living Room.  There’s twenty-four lovely chapters to keep you that way!!!  And don’t forget this Valentine’s week:  Marriage is fueled by fun and forgiveness.

‘Til next time!

Our chocolate treat this week comes from another Kentucky cookbook called “Splendor in the  Bluegrass” by the Junior League of Louisville.  Its’ Chocolate Chess Bars on p. 245 are not to be missed!


Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Life Lessons

Three Last Minute Gift Ideas and One Killer Question…(Part 4 of 4)

Friends! I pray this post finds you skipping and singing, altho’ by the looks of some shoppers at the mall yesterday, several Scrooges were spotted.  Sigh…

Good news is if you need a couple of last minute things, I’ve got three ideas for you.  One devotional for, say teens to centenarians, another for wee ones, plus a very cool way to help you and your friends get your face in the Word every day. (And in a perfect world, perhaps memorize a Scripture or two. Hey, no groaning now, it’s Christmas time!)

First up, allow me to give you a glimpse of a gorgeous coffee table book that’s also a lovely devotional.  Artist and author Ruth Chou Simons’ book, Gracelaced—Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart will bless the socks off you and anyone else you happen to give it to.

From its’ beautiful cover and on into the book, you’ll be met with splendid artwork and photographs divided into the four seasons of the year.  Each season has eight words/entries for you to pour over, including extra Scriptures to look up to help you “delve deeper” as well as a section at the end with questions to help you consider how you’ll respond once you’ve read it.

For example, in the Winter section, Ruth shows us what resting in God’s character looks like, “reminding us that true rest comes when we rest in Him.” The next eight entries help us:

“Rest in God our Refuge,
Rest in God’s Faithfulness,(two different times)
Rest in Christ’s Sufficient Grace,
Rest in God’s Nearness,
Rest in God’s Wisdom,
Rest in God’s Mercy, and
Rest in God’s Power.”

I was stunned to discover Ruth and her husband, Troy, have quite the full quiver:  SIX BOYS. After raising three, I can only imagine TWO three-ring circuses!!!

Ruth’s down to earth writing style is relatable and she tells on herself more than once.  She gifts readers with the courage to press on.

Don’t miss her website.  She includes opportunities to order her artwork in the form of printables, notecards, journals, along with some fun recipes. Go to her Shoppe and see what’s available!

Second idea is a devotional for wee ones entitled Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones.  My friend, Aletia, gifted me with this when our first granddaughter, Claire, was born. While it’s for children, I’m enjoying reading it before Claire’s old enough to understand it!

There are 101 thoughts on faith which include spiritual truths straight out of the Bible. One of many favorites is “Bless You!”. Sally teaches, “When God promises to bless you, He is saying,’I’m going to make you into everything I ever meant for you to be!’ It means God is taking every day and every single thing that happens in it—good or bad—to make you stronger, to mend  whatever is broken inside, to change you into the person you were always meant to be.”

Tim Keller wrote the Foreword saying this book “may be the best, first introduction for children to have their own time with Jesus which has long been a missing piece that has direct effect on whether a child grows up with a balanced spiritual life or one that is dangerously one sided.”

Many of you know Sally from her infamous Jesus Storybook Bible.  Jago did the illustrations for both of these books. I learned of this book from our middle son, Gordy, when he was in college. Campus Outreach leaders introduced the kids to it. When he asked for a copy I bought one for us too. Kathy Keller, Tim’s wife, says she gives college students and many visitors to their church copies as it’s so easy to understand.

Sally has also written other numerous children’s books, my favorite being Skip to the Loo, My Darling! Grand for potty training your kiddos and it’s illustrated by Anita Jeram who also illustrated Guess How Much I Love You.  The book is beyond clever. Whether you’re successful at potty training or not, you’ll find yourself howling.

I’ve caught Sally on the Eric Metaxas show several times.  They’re good friends and are hilarious in each of the interviews they’ve done.  Many times she’ll read one of her children’s books which is delightful getting to hear her British accent. (

Checkout Sally’s website to see all the books she’s written:

The third gift idea was discovered at a store here in Louisville called Lulubelle’s in Norton Commons, thanks to our daughter-in-love, LT.  It’s called “Small Squares with Mighty Words…” I bought all they had(!!!), but LT tells me they’re getting more in.  I gave these to my friends at our Favorite Things party, plus got more for stocking stuffers, and well, figured I could use one too.

I found two of a few color options in these little square boxes.  You get 50 multi-colored cards with Scripture verses on the front and back. (You math geniuses have already figured out you’ll get to read 100 verses.)

The white box includes a clear acrylic stand, with Scripture cards in muted, pastel colors, packaged as “Small Squares with Mighty Words of Love.” The brown box includes a brown, wooden stand with primary colored cards.

I’ve placed mine on my bathroom vanity where I’ll see it every morning.  Others have put theirs in their kitchen window or by the kitchen sink.

If you live in Louisville, head to Lulubelle’s ( If you live out of town, visit the manufacturer’s website:

Finally, while I’ve talked about gifts all month, the fact is we’re fast approaching Christmas and the birth of our Savior… Here’s your killer question to keep you focused in the midst of the mayhem (I heard this on the radio and it stopped me in my tracks.):

What are YOU giving YOUR KING this year for His birthday? (Share your answer with friends and family.)

May you and your family and friends have a most blessed Merry Christmas as you savor the season and have a lovely, healthy, Happy New Year as well!


‘Til next time!

FYI:  This computer and its’ operator (Moi) are shutting down for a couple of weeks…on purpose.  We’ll do a fun series come the second week of January on starting the New Year off slowly. No stress allowed!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Holidays

More Christmas Gift Ideas! New devo’ by Liz Curtis Higgs and Beautiful Custom-Made Mirrors! (Part 2 of 4)

Friends! Oh, each week leading up to Christmas gets better and this week I’ve got TWO gift ideas just for you!

Liz Curtis Higgs’ newest book, 31 Proverbs to Light Your Path would make a spectacular gift for your friends or family.  The book’s jacket gives us a teaser saying it’s “A daily devotional and small group Bible study gift book brimming with encouragement.” You can take that to the bank a la Lizzie…

Each of Liz’s thirty-seven books, upon launch, is my current favorite du jour, but this one, call me crazy, is really, really, special—in a bizarre-o way. Most of you know Liz was diagnosed with cancer this past summer. She had completed the manuscript for this book prior to her diagnosis.

When you read 31 Verses, it is uncanny how the Lord went before Liz, as if preparing her for what was ahead.  Each chapter gives me chills, especially “Tomorrow, Tomorrow.”

In true Lizzie fashion, Liz dissects these verses, word by word and phrase by phrase, showing us different translations of the Bible which are eye-opening. I’ve highlighted and dog-eared many a page.

The verse in this chapter?

Liz reminds us, “A thousand years after Solomon wrote this verse in Proverbs, Jesus offed the same wisdom:

While statistics can scare us silly, Liz, a lovely ambassador for hope, tells us point blank, “I am not a woman without hope.” In the wake of chemo’ and radiation, Liz will be boldly speaking about “Endless Hope” in her talks for Prison Fellowship events, pointing us to the One who promises hope:

Each chapter concludes with a fun little activity called, “One Minute, One Step.”  It’s a suggestion to help you grab onto the concept of the Scripture verse Liz has just written about.  These are easy and make you say, “Huh, why haven’t I thought of that before?”

At the end of the book are 2-3 Bible study questions per chapter which you can do on your own, or with your Bible study group or Small Group.  They’re thought provoking and rich with application.

I could never choose a favorite chapter, but I can give you one more peek into one more chapter because I have yet another special gift idea for you which relates directly to this verse!

This comes from the chapter called “Looking Glass” and the verse Liz helps us with is Proverbs 27:19,

Each chapter also concludes with a prayer and the one from this chapter is the perfect lead in to our next gift idea:


So, while we’re talking about our appearance, allow me to introduce you to a darling, young entrepreneur by the name of Nicole Tarpoff. She is creating custom designed mirrors in all sizes and colors.

For an early Christmas gift, Gordy, Lauren and Lauren’s Mom, Pam, presented John Jr., and Diana with a gift during Thanksgiving.  They’d given Nicole a picture of our granddaughter (Well, ok, their niece, too. LOL), Claire Elizabeth. Nicole prayed for Claire while she made this mirror and included a personal prayer especially for her on the back of the mirror.

Nicole started her ministry by saying, “An object that the enemy once used for destruction in my life is the very same object that the Lord is using to birth a ministry.”

She adds, “Every mirror is prayerfully designed to be a piece that shifts the atmosphere in the room. These pieces are to serve as a reminder we’re called to reflect Him. We were made for love, we were created to serve, and we were designed to bring Him glory. But it starts here. It starts by us boldly claiming who we are in Him, declaring over ourselves the very truths that He has spoken over us from the beginning. This is more than mirrors, it’s a movement.” AMEN

Here’s our little Claire when she received her mirror:

Here’s a snippet of the prayer Nicole wrote out for Claire (…and may I add there were several tears flowing down all of our cheeks during the reading.)


I recently heard Andy Stanley talking about when people do something nice for your children (or grandchildren in this case)…You discover it brings you honor and you never forget it.  It blesses your socks off and warms your heart. It’s the BEST. Who are you thinking about who could be blessed by one of these mirrors?

If you’d like to contact Nicole about making a mirror for your daughter or granddaughter or niece, her email is:  She’s also on Instagram under her name and you may direct message her @nicoletarpoff.

May you and your families savor the wonder of this Christmas season.

‘Til next time!



Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Friends, Grandchildren, Holidays

Let’s Add a Side of Grace for Thanksgiving… (With help from Kyle Idleman – Part 1 of 2)

Friends!  Readying for Turkey Day? Are you cooking or dining out?  What kind of attitude are you sportin’ to go with that?

For years and years and years, our wee family traveled to Owensboro, Kentucky, where my Aunt whom I’m named for, produced the largest Thanksgiving feast I can recall.  Cousins traveled from afar and we mimicked the children’s book, The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant.

Years later, my cousins in Florida hosted Thanksgiving. Those were some wonderful memory making years of traveling with the boys, Woody eating sand during his first trip to the beach, John Jr. saying we’d better stop for gas when he’d slept the entire night, and Gordy waking but not crying, going right back to sleep provided he could hold a ball of any kind. We could pack a station wagon better than the Beverly Hillbillies.

A few more years rolled by and we found ourselves hosting Thanksgiving in Louisville.  Can’t say I had the best attitude…Juggling teenagers and multiple houseguests wasn’t my strong suit.  One afternoon John came out into the hallway and proclaimed, “We’re running a hotel.”  Had I written a sequel to Cynthia’s book, it would’ve been, The Relatives Came and Stayed and Stayed…

One funny memory after the other accumulated. Our lesson in that season was a novel idea:  BE THANKFUL DURING THANKSGIVING

Best quote ever came from my Uncle Bruno, God rest his soul.  Upon his departure, he’d say, “You worry, I’ll be back!”

So, as Thanksgiving is upon us, (Praise the Lord my in-laws have been hosting Thanksgiving the past few years, so we just show up!) let’s look at a couple of excellent authors’ books on grace, one per week to help us add a side of grace to our Thanksgiving meal.

First up, is a fab book by Kyle Idleman called Grace is Greater—God’s Plan to Overcome Your Past, Redeem Your Pain, and Rewrite Your Story.

Kyle writes just like he talks in a fun, easy way, making you feel like you’re sitting down to a cup of coffee with him.  His humor dotted throughout the book will keep you laughing while his teaching points will move you. (Killer funny footnotes!)

This book was inspired from a Scripture that one day hit Kyle between the eyes:

Kyle shows us that “when we miss grace, things become toxic.”

He says, “My prayer is that you won’t miss grace but rather will powerfully experience the grace effect in your life—and no matter what you’ve done, no matter what’s been done to you, you will personally experience the truth that grace is greater…”

The book’s divided into three parts:  Grace is greater than your mistakes, your hurts, and your circumstances.  Kyle covers any possible scenario you may be experiencing.  If you’re thinking, “Yeah, but you don’t understand my life right now.”  Maybe so, but God does and Kyle will prove it to you.

He explores all the uglies:

Guilt (my challenge du jour),
Weakness and

Quite the shopping list!

Kyle’s honesty is refreshing and reassuring, reminding us none of us are perfect.  He shows us example after example of grace, opening our eyes to see people as Jesus sees them. He says, “I’ll say it in a way that might make you more uncomfortable: the litmus test for the reality of grace you’ve received from God is the extent to which you give grace and offer forgiveness to the person who’s hurt you the most and deserves it the least.”  OUCH!  We’d better re-read that for a minute…

Another way to look at this comes from Kyle’s friend, pastor Pete Wilson.  He says, “What you inhale is what you will exhale…If you’re intentional to inhale God’s grace and forgiveness, you will also exhale it in your relationships. But if you’re breathing in anger and rage, you’re going to breathe it out in your relationships.”

In reading the many wonderful endorsements of Kyle’s book, I laughed at one gal who said she was at first skeptical about another book on grace.  I was with her there.  In fact, my all-time favorite book on grace is by my dear friend, Liz Curtis Higgs:  Embrace Grace—Welcome to the Forgiven Life.

But wait for this:  Liz happens to be one of Kyle’s endorsers! She says, “…Grace is Greater is practical and inspirational, providing a clear path to freedom through God’s amazing gift of grace. I loved it!”  Friends, this is HUGE not only coming from Liz, but I maintain grace is one of the most difficult subjects to articulate.

Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore and snag a copy of Grace is Greater before Thanksgiving and before those relatives roll in!  Bravo to Kyle.

‘Til next time~!



Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Holidays

What Every Grandmother Needs…

Friends!  Whether you’re already a grandmother or have a friend who’s a grandmother, I’ve got just the book for you and/or for you to give to a friend.

I discovered this book thanks to my sis-in-love, Margee, who gifted me with it when our little Claire Elizabeth was born. The book?  A Grandmother’s Prayers—60 Days of Devotions and Prayer by Kay Swatkowski.

Not only was the book new to me, so was the author, Kay Swatkowski.  I’m already a huge fan of her ideas and creative writing, plus I discovered her blog: which also offers a wide variety of information.

The book includes sixty devotions.  Each is short, including five parts:

1 – Kay opens with a story which illustrates the point of that day’s devotion.

2 – “Let us pray that…” This part offers points to pray about related to the story along with a Scripture to bring that point home.

3 – A prayer to help us apply this idea into our lives with our grandchildren.

4 – “Think and Do”:  This part includes questions to get us thinking about how to incorporate the devotion’s idea into our lives, sometimes a Scripture to look up and sometimes a children’s book is recommended.  (I grinned after Kay recommended children’s books by Max Lucado on more than one day.  This is yet another reason she and I could be big buddies. Bigger smile.)

I’ve made quite a list of books purely from Kay’s recommendations to look into for reading to Claire and our future grands, Lord willing. (This may be a bit of an investment!)  Kay gives a brief snippet of each book she recommends for younger and older children.

Here are just a few:


Bedtime Blessings by John Trent

Just in Case You Ever Wonder, The Crippled Lamb, and The Christmas Child by Max Lucado

God is With You by Larry Libby

My Friend Jesus by Kathryn Slattery

Too Small to Ignore by Wes Stafford

The Lord’s Prayer by Rick Warren

A Child’s Look at the 23rd Psalm by W. Phillip Keller

A children’s adaptation of Les Miserables by Monica Kulling

The Priest with Dirty Clothes by R.C. Sproul

She also recommends reading missionary stories of Gladys Aylward, Mary Slessor, Hudson Taylor, and Jim Elliot.

5Each devotion closes with several Scriptures to reinforce its’ focus.  Each entry is empowering and encouraging for us grandparents to boldly press on praying for our precious grandchildren.

Kay opens the book with a charge of sorts:

“Research reveals that the love and care of the older generation has a positive impact on children in many ways.

One study found a definite link between grandparent involvement and adolescent well-being.

Grandparents provide  not only affection and support, but also wisdom, problem-solving, and stability during times of family crisis…



As God would orchestrate, when our whole family was at the beach in South Carolina in July, I opened Kay’s book to “Day Thirty:  The Sea.”  There I was, on a deck overlooking the ocean while Kay talks about us  being drawn to the sea.

All I have to do is see the sea and my soul begins to stir.  I recharge by the sea better than any other place on this earth.

Kay reminds us, “Our God is a Sea of limitless love and forgiveness. He is a Sea of acceptance and mercy. He is a Sea of strength and comfort…”

When the tide was out, walks on the beach allowed us to tote Claire along in her stroller.

Even this poor guy, having lost an eye and a claw, strolled the beach!

This particular morning, Diana and I started out with Claire in her Baby Bjorn.  It was so hot, Claire immediately fell asleep.  We decided to ditch the walk and grab an iced coffee in the air-conditioned shops.  Certain the whipped cream smothering that coffee was walked off from our other beach walks???

This year’s family vacation not only included the beach, but our new little beach baby.  Please note the wee bit of attention Baby Claire received from all of us:

In the devotional’s closing on the sea, Kay gives several Scriptures to pray, my favorite of which is:

“Let us pray that our children will have the delight of leading their children to an understanding of the deep love of God and of becoming part of one endless line of faith until Christ returns.” (3 John 1:4)

Amen and Amen.


Thanks to the Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, Mount Pleasant and Charleston, South Carolina for a week of fun for our entire family…What a blessing!

Til next time!




Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Grandchildren, Travel

More on Gathering Around a Table with Help from Shauna Niequist’s book: BREAD AND WINE

Friends!  The past few weeks we’ve been looking around with mission-minded eyes from our back yards to our front yards, perhaps plopping down turquoise picnic tables in them.

This week we’re going to mosey on inside, and try a few recipes in the kitchen, making some unsuspecting guests at our table very, very happy.

Even if you’re challenged in the cooking department like me, you’ll be so inspired to try what author Shauna Niequist suggests in her super fun book, Bread and Wine—A Love Letter to Life Around the Table (with recipes).

Shauna’s honest, no-nonsense style and wit make this book a page-turner.  Divided into three parts, most chapters, which are lovely vignettes, include a recipe.

All her chocolate recipes call for my favorite ingredient:  dark chocolate. The one I most desperately wish to try ASAP is her three-ingredient “Simplest Dark Chocolate Mousse”.  I know…  She dubs it “cheater mousse”.  LOL.

Sensing some of her readers may be cooking impaired, Shauna offers entertaining tips, a list for what to stock your pantry with, and menu ideas.  It’s the best!  Plus, for those of you who need to eat gluten free, she either shows you how to make the dish GF, or it already is GF.

You’ll become acquainted with Shauna and her husband, Aaron, their two boys, Henry and Mac and many of their unique friends. Her Supper Club sounds like a blast.

Her extended family makes cameos as well and you’ll get a feel for how real they are. In reality, I’m sure it’s tough to escape from under the microscope of her Dad’s mega church, Willow Creek.  ( )

Also an accomplished author, Shauna’s Dad, Bill Hybels, clearly loves his family.  Getting a peek into their family is so sweet.  Their devotion to one another is beautiful.

I love how Shauna calls her Mother, Lynne, “a global soul: a poet, an activist, a woman of creativity and conviction and vision, a woman I aspire to be like in a million ways.” Lynne is also a fantastic author.

Just as author Kristin Schell showed us easy ways to be hospitable via a turquoise table, Shauna does the very same at her dining room table.  She proclaims, “Fuss not!”, blissfully chucking perfectionism out the window.

This is how she puts her foot down:  “You can decide that every time you open your door, it’s an act of love, not performance or competition or striving. You can decide that every time people gather around your table, your goal is nourishment, not neurotic proving…” I need to make that quote into a sign and hang it in our kitchen!

Here, Shauna’s readying to prepare a meal…

My Mother was a long-suffering perfectionist.  When John and I would go home to Lexington for dinner, she’d spend the entire afternoon in the kitchen.  We’d serve our plates and she insisted we “go on and eat.”  We complied, but by the time she fixed her plate and came in to eat, we were all nearly done. There we sat.

One petite example:  Jelly was never served in a jelly jar, it was presented in a crystal bowl, silver spoon at the ready.  To this day, I still laugh when I whip out the ketchup and barbecue sauce bottles, salad dressing bottles, etc. and set them on the counter for everyone to self-serve.  (Mother would be horrified. Shauna would say, “Yes!  You can do this!”)

Above and beyond striving for simplicity, Shauna and I could be buddies on many levels. In addition to being a mom of boys, I adore her love for bread.  I’d go one step further and confess my love for bread and butter. (Any of you Whole 30 advocates out there are cringing.)

Shauna explains her title beautifully:  “…I am a bread-and-wine person. By that I mean I’m a Christian, a person of the body and blood, a person of the bread and wine…The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and earth, the divine and the daily.” To me, that makes communion that much more special.

Another of many favorite quotes in the book is: “Many of the most sacred moments in my life, the ones in which I feel God’s presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, take place around the table.

Something extraordinary happens when we…

Slow down,

Open our homes,

Look into one another’s faces, and

Listen to one another’s stories around the table.”

We also learn early on Shauna bravely put herself in a culinary boot camp.  I applaud her effort. Her experience filters throughout the book in an encouraging if-I-can-do-this-you-can-do-this way.

One statement from the Intro’ seems to be a goal of the book. We readers get to see it in action in each of the meals Shauna serves.  I see it in three parts:

What makes me feel alive and connected to God’s voice and spirit in this world is creating opportunities for the people I love to

(1) Rest and

(2) Connect and

(3) Be fed at my table.” (I added the numbers.)

Dash  to your local bookstore.  Find this book and flip thru’ it.  My guess is you’ll see enough recipes you’ll want to try, especially when you learn the stories behind them…even better!  Bread and Wine would make a great gift as well.

‘Til next time!


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Big Excitement from Sally Lloyd Jones’ Jesus Storybook Bible—10th Anniversary! And more!

Friends!  Blessings to you this week.  I’ve got some fun news for you about more than one book by one of my favorite children’s authors, Sally Lloyd-Jones. (We adults enjoy her books as much as our children and grandchildren do.)

I first learned about Sally Lloyd-Jones one weekend when our middle son, Gordy, was home from college several years ago.  He asked me if I’d take him out and buy him a book.  Friends, now this kind of request rarely happens from a boy who’s in college.

This wasn’t a book he needed for classes.  This was a book he heard about from some kids involved with the ministry of  Campus Outreach. All the kids were talking about and reading a children’s Bible.  The Bible?  The Jesus Storybook Bible—Every Story Whispers His Name.

Yes, well, I don’t know about you, but if your child asks you for any Bible, wouldn’t you be thrilled?  Gordy and I marched out and bought a copy for him and a copy for John and me.

The staffers at Campus Outreach were smart.  They were showing college students all about the Bible via Jago’s cool illustrations and Sally Lloyd-Jones’ storytelling skills based on the Bible. Sally’s creation has not only reached and touched college students’  lives, now in its’ tenth year, it’s been translated into thirty-three languages all over the world. Ponder that for a minute…

Here’s a pic of the new gift edition:

Sally begins by reassuring us readers, “You see, the best thing about this Story is—it’s true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.”

I love what she says in the section on Adam and Eve, “You see no matter what, in spite of everything, God would love his children—with a

Never Stopping,

Never Giving Up,


Always and

Forever Love.”

(These five types of love are repeated throughout her book.)

Another favorite part is found in Paul’s transformation when he says to the people, “It’s not about keeping rules! You don’t have to be good at being good for God to love you. You just have to believe what Jesus has done and follow him. Because it’s not about trying, it’s about trusting. It’s not about rules, It’s about Grace: God’s free gift—that cost him everything.”

I just love how she explains the Gospel.  This book really is for everyone, not  just children!

I discovered another book by Sally at a shower given for me to “Stock the Grandmother’s Library” my cousin Bonnie hosted.  Talk about book heaven! Baby’s Hug-A-Bible is an adorable book, and one where the child can literally hug the fleece-covered book.  It includes ten favorite Bible stories in rhyme.  It would be a great way to introduce your child or grandchild to God’s Word.

For the toddlers who are being potty trained, don’t miss another one of Sally’s books with the best title ever:  Skip to the Loo, My Darling! A Potty Book.  The illustrations and rhyming words are just too terrific.  Beyond clever.

I heard Sally interviewed about this book on the Eric Metaxas Show.  They are long-time friends. You’ll find their back and forth banter priceless.

She was also recently on his show talking about the 10th Anniversary edition of The Jesus Storybook Bible as well as the Stories and Songs Tour she would be doing with Amy Grant and Ellie Holcomb.  (It ran from March 19-May 13.)

Sally was born in Uganda.  She reveals while she was only nine years of age, at a boarding school no less, she experienced God speaking into her life about her future. It’s an irrefutable God-incident!

Sally’s newest children’s book, Found:  Psalm 23 sounds strangely familiar to her own story.  It’s her paraphrase of Psalm 23 from The Jesus Storybook Bible.

The books we’ve talked about this week are just a sampling of many, many wonderful offerings Sally’s written.  Pop over to her website and check them out. ( ) I can’t begin to say which is my favorite, but I’m on a mission to “research” them all, one by one, and soon will be reading them to our little Claire, Lord willing.

‘Til next time!



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