Category Archives: Holidays

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!


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

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

Come Enjoy 5 Fun Treats at Book Club Monday, 11/27 (“Christmas Playlist” by Alistair Begg)

Friends! Be thinking of who to bring with you to our next Book Club gathering on Monday, November 27th, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. You won’t believe what all is on our agenda!

First up, we have some special guests coming who will serenade us! Yes, the Cincinnati Christmas Carolers are joining us! ( )They will not only get us in the Christmas spirit, they will be the perfect segue way into our book we’ll be discussing, Christmas Playlist—Four Songs that Bring You to the Heart of Christmas by Alistair Begg.

Many of you know of Alistair and have been blessed by his preaching on the radio via Truth for Life. ( )  He’s been the Senior Pastor of Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio since 1983. ( )

I used to listen to Alistair every morning after dropping off the children in carpool.  His Scottish brogue, along with his inspiring message, calmed my frazzled self to enjoy the day.

The second treat we’ll experience is watching a short-but-sweet video message Alistair made just for us! How fun is that?

Thirdly, all the while this is going on, we can taste fun Christmas party appetizers everyone is bringing (how about that Christmas tree-shaped cheese mold?!!!) to share.  Get creative, but please do avoid fruit cake. (Nobody quote me on that, and please do forgive me, I know some of you actually like the stuff.) And relax, no judgment will surface if you blow into Kroger and buy something readymade.  Food is food is food.

Fourthly, we’ll have a lively discussion about the book, your favorite songs, Christmas traditions, you-name-it.  This will be a sure cure for any potential Scrooges to infiltrate your homes.

The four songs Alistair shares with us straight from Scripture will prepare our hearts and minds to embrace the Christmas season. Unlike the innkeeper who said, “Sorry, there’s no room in the inn…”, we will uncover ways to make room for Jesus and celebrate His birthday in the best possible way this Christmas.

Fifthly, and finally, in addition to your Christmas party appetizer, please bring a wrapped ornament for our Ornament Exchange! This was so fun last year and a huge bonus to have a new ornament to take home and hang on your tree. This will be our grande finale to a most outstanding and uplifting meeting.

Make arrangements now to join us, toting friends with you, at our Christmas Book Club gathering, Next Monday, November 27th, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Middletown United Methodist Church.

11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243

Please call Nancy Tinnell to RSVP:  (502) 245-8839.

‘Til next time!



1 Comment

Filed under Book Clubs, 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

Encouragement We Need This Mother’s Day Week…

Friends!  Blessings to you this Mother’s Day Week!  Whether you’re a Mom, or an Aunt, or a Grandmother, or a Mother-like-neighbor, I pray we’ll all be encouraged this week not only for ourselves, but so we may in turn encourage the precious Moms who are in our lives.

Many of us know Mothering is no piece of cake.  It’s the most rewarding experience we can have, and yet it’s one of the most difficult jobs we’ll ever hold. (As in it never ends.  Case in point:  My sweet Mother-in-love, who’s a mere eighty-six years old, is found often worrying about one of her sixty-something daughters who’s battling Parkinson’s.)

I nearly fell out of my chair this morning (for many reasons you’ll soon see) as I was reading a devotional by my good buddy, Debora Coty.  I’ve written about this book before, Too Blessed to Be Stressed—Inspiration for Every Day—365 Devotions for Women, but this particular entry is well worth sharing.  First, here’s the book:

Second, let’s have some fun and encouragement together thanks to Debora’s entry on May 8th, Surviving the Hood.  (“Hood”, of course, referring to Motherhood.   LOL.)

Debora believes our reward awaiting us in Heaven will be “something akin to a twenty-four-year deluxe spa treatment with a Godiva smorgasbord.” I knew as soon as I read that I was all in on this day’s devotion.

Debora dubs her friends who are moms “mom-sisters.”  Let’s just see how some of their quotes affect you:

  • “Giving birth to a child is the beginning of a long good-bye.” (Debora’s friend, Sarah) This is killer.  Don’t even broach this subject with me as our family has just been blessed with our first grandchild…
  • “If you wouldn’t want someone calling you poopy-face, don’t call anyone else poopy-face.” (Deborah’s friend Debbie explaining Matthew 7:12, a/k/a The Golden Rule, to her twins.) This is grand “toddler speak.”

  • “I’m a parenting survivor!” (Deborah’s friend Carol at her son’s high school graduation.) This is brilliant  and empowering given the popularity of Survivor on TV. Yes! Let’s say that together, “I am a survivor!”…

Take a moment to pour over these little numbers.  I still can’t believe this:

  • “Think you’re busy? According to Guinness World Records, the greatest number of children born to one mother is sixty-nine children (an 18th century Russian peasant)…

She had twenty-seven pregnancies:

 16 sets of twins,

7 sets of triplets, and

4  sets of quads.

 I’m betting her tombstone said, ‘Rest in Peace. Finally.’”  I know.  Mercy sakes’ alive…

And, I love this…Here’s what happens when your kids finally get a glimpse of what you’ve been thru’:

  • “When my friend Eddie asked her son, married one year, when he planned to have kids, he answered, ‘I’m not ready to share my fries like you always did, Mom.’” I confess I didn’t always want to share my fries or cookies or…

Finally Debora leaves us a jewel of a Scripture to encourage us to “continue to diligently pray for our children and grandchildren”:

If you’d like to learn more about Debora’s devotional, here’s the link to my recent review.  All of Debora’s books are wonderful with her hysterical humor and heartfelt devotion to our Lord, whom she calls “Papa God.” Checkout her website:

Happy Mother’s Day!  And many thanks to my dear Floridian friend and mentor, Debora Coty, who continues to bless me every day.

Next week you’re in for another treat with some astonishing stories proving God pursues us even as young children…

‘Til next time!

P.S. It’s our distinct, overwhelming pleasure to announce the birth of our first grandchild, Claire Elizabeth Hoagland.  Born May 9th at 9:17 a.m.  Mamma Diana, Papa John Jr.  and Baby Claire are well. Huge answer to prayer! We praise you, Lord.  Claire weighed 7 lbs., 15 oz., and is 20 inches long. Here we go on our new adventure!!! Needless to say we’re ALL smitten. =)

Here is the girls’ side of the table at Our Last Supper before Baby Claire’s arrival. Left to right:  Yours truly, LT, Lauren, and Diana (9+ mos. pregnant!) This was at one of our favorite hangouts, Noosh Nosh.


Here are the new proud parents, Diana and John Jr with Baby Claire.

Have you ever seen any bigger ear-to-ear grins on new grandparents?  We hope to be called Lolly and Poppy, but I’m told whatever the grand darlin’s call us is what we’re called.  So be it for the little angel.

Here, unbelievably, are our three grown sons with Claire.  Left to right, Proud new father John Jr., Uncle Woody in the center with Claire, and Uncle Gordy (maybe Uncle “G”) on the right.

Amen and Amen.


Filed under Book Reviews, Holidays, Scripture

Let’s Prepare Our Hearts for Easter With Help from Liz Curtis Higgs and Her New Book: The Women of Easter—Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene

Friends!  Greetings this lovely Lenten Season!

I confess I haven’t proclaimed what I’m giving up yet even tho’ Ash Wednesday was March 1st…usually it’s chocolate and I manage to fail at keeping the promise.  Deep, I know…

My freshman year of college I gave up the elevator and walked the four flights of stairs to my room.  Deeper…

I love what my friend, Nancy Sleeth from , suggests:

Consider what you might ADD during this season to draw closer to God?”

Nancy offers the following ideas:

All  great ideas, thanks Nancy!

I have another stellar idea for you that our Tuesday Bible study group, a/k/a “Blessings on Burlington” is about to embark on to help us appreciate Easter more.  We’ll be reading Liz Curtis Higgs’ newest book, The Women of Easter—Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene.

Before I even opened the book, I need to own up to the fact I wasn’t certain who all these Marys were.  Once I dove in, I realized “Mary of Bethany” is none other than the chill-child-Mary vs. the nervous-Nellie-Martha…you know, that Mary and Martha duo.

How many times have we all said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things…” (Luke 10:41) Liz calls Martha the “first century Martha Stewart”. She kills me.

Mary of Nazareth was Jesus’ Mother and Mary Magdalene was the demon-possessed woman who Jesus healed and who became a devout follower of our Lord.  The numerous details Liz reveals within each chapter on these Marys is fascinating.

Liz tells us readers, “We’ll meet three women of Easter who poured our their lives for their beloved Teacher. .. Mary of Bethany prepared the Lord for burial by anointing Him with a priceless perfume. Mary of Nazareth, who’d watched Jesus draw His first breath, bravely watched Him breathe His last. Mary Magdalene witnessed His resurrection and proclaimed the good news to His disciples.”

Liz walks us thru’ several parts of the Bible, teaching us along the way via various translations, making us feel as if we’re right in every scene.  When Jesus raises Lazarus from the grave, you experience not only His affection for Lazarus, but the palpable grief from the sisters, Mary and Martha.

She explains what’s happening in certain passages, drawing a teaching point for us to think about, showing us how we can apply it to our life.  She also builds the tension toward what we know is coming:  the crucifixion…

Blissfully dotting the pages with her humor, we readers find this to be a relief from some of the very tough subject matter.  For example, when Liz is talking about the disciples deserting Jesus and fleeing (Matthew 26:56), she says, “It’s heartening to realize that Scripture has no parallel stories of women betraying Jesus, denying Jesus, or abandoning Jesus.”

Frederick Dale Bruner said, “They’re not like the disciple-defectors.” (!!!) Lizzie calls Jesus’ female followers “loyal from start to finish.”

Good luck getting thru’ Chapter Seven without hunting down a Kleenex or two, or ten.  Liz’ description of what Jesus endured as well as the women looking on will take your breath away.

Liz reminds us, “Lent is a time of remembering, of revisiting the familiar scenes in Scripture and discovering what God wants us to learn this year. We are not the same women we were twelve months ago. Our lives have changed and our perspectives have shifted. …His love for us has not changed, and our need for Him has not diminished.”

May we STOP… and consider what we’ve learned this past year as we refocus on the cross and the miraculous resurrection this Easter.  Liz’ book is akin to a guided tour toward the cross…and yet, praises we sing,  with an empowering ending.  Let’s celebrate!


If you live anywhere near Louisville and are nearby next Wednesday, March 22nd, don’t miss the opportunity to hear Liz speak at St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church at 6:00 p.m.  She’s one of their Lenten Series speakers and will be talking about this excellent book. She’s the third of five speakers each Wednesday before Easter. For more information, visit

‘Til next time!


Filed under Book Clubs, Book Reviews, Holidays

New Gig in Town: CYCLE BAR, Will Transform You in 5+ Ways…(Part 2 of 4 on Fitness)

Friends! Happy Valentine’s Week!

Hope you’re parked by a chunk of chocolate…

Chocolate candies heart

Wait ‘til you hear about a new exercise option we Louisvillians have. Before you say, “Not interested”, please allow me to present my case…  Because trust me, if I can do this anybody can do this.

As if last December could be any busier with all the Christmas shoppers wreaking havoc on the road, our kids excitedly discovered a new cycling/spinning class that just opened.  It’s name? CycleBar. (It’s near Trader Joe’s in the Shelbyville Road Plaza.)

The plot thickened when these same kiddos told us for the first two weeks CycleBar was open, classes were free. They jumped at the opportunity.  One by one, they began telling us how much they liked the classes…

Didn’t take long for Hubster (my better half) to try a class. He’s an avid cyclist while I practically still need training wheels. Honestly, the more he told me about it, how you get  to have your name up on the board and see how you compare with the rest of the class (gulp), I quickly blurted out, “This is not for me.”

Half a second later, he said, “Well, you may want to retract that statement as I believe some certain Santa may have purchased a package of classes for you for Christmas.” Alrighty then.

Off we went. (By the way, you do not have to have your name up on the board if you don’t want to.  Hallelujah. You’ll receive an email immediately after class with your stats.)

Upon arrival, CycleBar’s gracious staff greeted us. One gal made sure I could find my shoes (They provide them for you if you don’t have any as everyone must clip in), helped us sign in, etc.  There are lockers for your belongings, huge water bottles you can fill, and lovely, clean, fluffy towels awaiting you on your bike.

Riders of all ages, shapes, and sizes attend. Check your pride and insecurity at the door: Judgment is non-existent. A huge plus!


If you need help adjusting your bike or clipping in, the staff and/or the class’ teacher is happy to help. Being pampered is just another benefit.

I’m generally not a fan of group exercise, but, our kids, and now John, reassured me the classroom, a/k/a CycleTheater containing fifty bikes, is nice and cool and dark. Only YOU can see your bike’s screen with your time, your speed, your gear, and “IT IS YOUR OWN RIDE” as the teachers reiterate.

What’s so awesome about this little fact is I can happily tool along next to John while his bike is practically smokin’. He usually doubles my miles, but who cares? We’re both getting a workout and it’s something we can do together. Had we been out on the street on bikes, he’d have long left me in the dust.

Before I share a few more benefits of this experience with you, I want to introduce you to my new friend, Katie Kanapell Ryser. Katie’s the Owner of CycleBar St. Matthews.


We grabbed a Starbucks last week as I was interested in learning how someone so young (she’s only 37 years old!) could pull off bringing such a huge endeavor to town. You’ll see it was no simple journey getting here either…

Clip in, ‘cuz we’re going for a ride….


Katie and her husband, Fred, lived in New York City for several years. They had their two children while living there who are now almost five (Freddie) and three (Carolina). Katie’s parents live here and are beyond thrilled they’ve moved to Louisville!

Before we got into how CycleBar came about, Katie candidly shared her past with me because she believes if it can help anyone else out there who’s struggling, all the better. She’s a beautiful vision of making her former misery her ministry.

Early into their marriage, Katie realized she was drinking too much. She needed help, and good news is, she got it.  Greater news is she’ll celebrate her seventh anniversary of sobriety in May. We praise you, Lord.

While in New York, Katie tried several spinning classes via Soul Cycle and Fly Wheel. Something led her to research spinning classes in Louisville should they move here. Nothing turned up like what she was looking for… She firmly believed we needed a high-end fitness class offering a strong cardio’ workout.

Further research helped her discover CycleBar, headquartered in Cincinnati. How Katie was able to get the rights to open one here, is nothing short of a miracle.  Katie is one determined young lady.

Happy to report she’ll be opening two more CycleBars in Louisville: Springhurst, opening after Labor Day this year, and one in the Highlands, opening next year. Here’s her St. Matthews’ boutique:


If you don’t live in Louisville and want to see if CycleBar is in your town or closeby, go to the main website, and click on “studios”.  Last I checked there are over one hundred and eleven locations.

Prior to opening in St. Matthews, thanks to friends and a boatload of networking, Katie interviewed over one hundred peopleShe was able to staff her store as well as hire eleven teachers.

She brought in a professional spin trainer for the teachers. These eleven brave souls were baptized by fire in a one-week boot camp for….nine hours a day. Gutsy!

John and I’ve met several of the teachers. They are all wonderful. One fun connection we have is with Jady Koch.  He not only teaches classes at CycleBar, he just so happens to be the lead pastor/rector at St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church, preaching powerful sermons.   (Sweet Sidebar:  Jady performed the marriage of our youngest son, Woody to his wife, LT.)

I’m convinced Jady must’ve loved the game King of the Hill growing up, because he takes us on forty-seven hills during our fifty-minute class. (Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration.)

Jady says he has a newfound appreciation for all the coaches and fitness teachers he’s had in the past, never realizing how much advance work goes into coordinating a class.  He said “Teaching has been a great way to meet a cross section of the community and a wonderful way to encourage people in their (our) daily quest for a healthy and fun lifestyle.”



Here’s a pic of my Valentine with Jady before class…as in no sweat yet!

Another teacher we’ve enjoyed getting to know is Paige. We’ve taken her early class a couple of times.  Last time her husband was in there with us, as her student.  He’s from Germany and they met at Southern Seminary where they’re students.  They’ve been married for a year.  Don’t you love a love story?  Hey, it’s Valentine’s Week!

One addition to the cycling part of class is each bike has a weighted bar across the top. A little over halfway thru’ the class, the teacher will show you how to lift it, working all the muscles in your arms as well as your core.  While the bars are only four or six pounds (I hear there are eight pounders coming soon), with enough reps, they feel more like four hundred pounds!

Finally, here are just a few more benefits to encourage you to give this a try:

5+ Benefits of Spinning/Cycling:

1 – The Bible tells us we’re to take care of our bodies. Exercise is an excellent way to do that.



2- Believe it or not, sweating is a benefit, because it’s so cleansing for your body to get rid of all those impurities, detoxifying you during your workout.

When you try a class (and I know you will!), you may wish to tote along an extra shirt because the one you ride in becomes a bit damp. We take the euphemism, “Horses Sweat, Men Perspire, But Women Merely Glow” to a whole new level. (Showers are also available if you’re going to work or to another function from there.)

3 –A cardio’ workout of this caliber will kick your metabolism into gear. (Translation:  potential weight loss!) It also strengthens your heart, your lungs, and increases your bone density, hugely beneficial for all ages.

Katie tells me there’s a guy who’s been coming to CycleBar who’s lost forty pounds and is determined to lose sixty more for a total of 100 pounds! He keeps her updated weekly. Amazing!

4 – Fellow cyclists report having more energy, and less stress, improving their mental disposition. 

Recently two co-workers whose department was undergoing an inordinate amount of stress randomly showed up in the same noon-time CycleBar class.   When they saw each other, they burst out laughing, knowing they were both there for the exact same reason…to de-stress.

Another gal who’s been attending CycleBar classes has a condition that leaves her exhausted and often depressed. After taking several classes, she’s lost fifteen pounds, feels amazingly better, and her depression is gone.  Wonderful!

5 – Spinning inside is SAFE.  It keeps you off the road.

John and I have several friends who’ve had terrible bicycle accidents. Some, more than once.  We live near River Road and my worry-meter rises significantly when John takes off from our house on his bike. Like I said earlier, the fact that we can ride together, inside at Cycle Bar is yet another benefit.

The music the teachers select is another fun facet to CycleBar, offering a wide variety of songs and styles.  Occasionally the teacher will ask you to bend down or press down on the handlebars to the beat of the music, while riding.  (Here’s where I could be Steve Martin’s understudy in The Jerk.)  Oh, but it’s FUN!

Beyond enduring technical issues, and an occasional maintenance issue with the bikes, Katie said they’re coming up for air on the learning curve. Her attention to detail and passion for the product is what makes it function so well.

CycleBar further spoils its’ customers by always having fresh bananas and oranges for you after class, gum to grab on the go before or after class, and lip balm…come on now!


CycleBar is always offering specials.  They now allow couples to share packages which John and I are doing as are our oldest son, John Jr. with his wife, Diana. (They were the two elves who gave us the packages for Christmas.)

Here’s what’s available right now:


Why don’t you and your Valentine or friend or co-worker try a class? CycleBar offers several classes per day with Intro’ classes for beginners.  Checkout their website:

Y’all keep Katie, and her sweet family, and this new business-for-fitness in your prayers.

You’ll be thrilled to know next week we have a break from fitness to talk about Book Club, followed by part 3 of our 4 fitness landing us on the back of… a Harley. Huh?

‘Til next time!

FYI: Don’t miss Ken Davis’ must-read, Fully Alive. It’s for anyone considering a fitness/lifestyle change.  He takes you along his highly intense journey and amazing transformation.  You will laugh and cry ‘til you’ve bruised a rib. Here’s the link for more information.

Fully Alive


Filed under Friends, Holidays, Life Lessons