Tag Archives: Ann Voskamp

What’s Your ONE WORD or PHRASE for 2015?

Never a minimalist with words (just ask my family), the challenge minister Dave Stone recently issued has confounded me.  (Checkout www.southeastchristian.org   Dave’s sermon was preached 12/28/14.)  Dave cited the book, My One Word: Change Your Life With Just One Word by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen for inspiration.

My One Word

Choosing one word to focus on for 2015 is not a novel idea to my friend and mentor in Phoenix, AZ. Naomi Rhode has chosen a different word, each year, to be her theme.  She has done this faithfully for years.

Once during a Louisville visit, Naomi proceeded to tell us her word for that year was “Believe”.  She delighted and surprised each of us with a lovely gold pin, with the word Believe, and the letter “i” being dotted with a diamond!


Dave reminded us most New Year’s Resolutions we make are us-focused vs. God-focused.  What a difference our year could be if we only focused on a word applicable for our Christian walk.

For example, instead of your New Year’s Resolution being, “I want to lose more weight”, why not choose the word “Discipline”?  Another Dave suggested is “Grow” as in growing your spiritual walk.  (For more on this subject, please click on “A Resolution Worth Your Consideration”…)

Pray about this because it’s an awesome, potentially life-changing concept.  My friend Sherry has chosen “Joy”.  For a number of reasons (!!!), I’m choosing “Obedience”.   I just couldn’t possibly handle “Reduce Chocolate Intake”.  Funny, sorta…Mega sigh…

Valentine Chocolates. Assorted Chocolate Candies. Chocolate Swee

Author Ann Voskamp recently gave us, in lieu of New Year’s Resolutions, SOUL SOLUTIONS.  And not just a handful of ideas, she’s listed and explained with gusto, Twenty-five Soul Solutions.  (click on www.aholyexperience.com from her 1/1/15 post)

Instead of choosing only one word, Ann gives us multiple ideas.  Perhaps one of these will strike a chord in your heart:

I’ll share three of my favorites.  (ALL twenty-five are worth your time.)

#1 of 25 – “First things first:  Word in.  Work out.  Work plan.”

Ann explains:  “Word in:  Get into God’s Word and let it get into you.

Bible With A Burning Candle

Work out:  Even five minutes of moving is better than nothing.  (baby steps!) Together we can do this!!!

Happy Power Walker

Work planWrite out the work plan. And then work the plan.”

Daily Planner Concept

I would add to this:   Ask the Lord to guide you and your steps.  Author Ken Blanchard says before his feet ever hit the floor in the morning he’ll say, “Okay Lord, what are WE going to do today?”

#2 of 25 – “What a heart knows by heart is what a heart knows.

Write your memory verses on a sticky note or an index card.  Because when you are memorizing Scripture, quiet time with the Lord—becomes all the time.  Who doesn’t want that?”

I confess memorizing Scripture has been a perpetual challenge for me that comes and goes.  As in verses mysteriously and frustratingly evaporate from my brain. Woosh

One book I recommend highly, highly, and did I say HIGHLY???… is wonderful to simply read even if you’re stumped to try and memorize.  Rob Morgan, in his book, 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart, coaches us readers, every step of the way.


#25 out of 25:  “Rest so you can have the rest of God.

Sleep is more than your friend—it’s your God-given fuel

Tomorrow always begins with the night before, so turn in early, so tomorrow can turn out well.”

Hotel breakfast and a sleeping woman

(Well, one could certainly fantasize that one’s breakfast be awaiting…)

While it’s still early in the year, let’s vow to either choose a word or a phrase to equip us for 2015.  I believe our world will be better off because of it.

May our lives shine for Christ.

‘Til next time!

P.S. When you commit to a word or phrase, will you let me know it by posting a comment?  I’ve loved learning about some of your words and I know our readers will too.


Filed under Book Reviews, Friends, Life Lessons

Drop and Give Me Twenty!!! (Growing Grateful and Staying There for Thanksgiving – Part 1 of 2)

Getting bused to a brand new school is no fun. Our little neighborhood in Lexington, KY, just because it was on one side of a certain road, suddenly became a part of a different school district, busing us to an unfamiliar high school.  Of course now, Henry Clay High School is near and dear to my heart.


Knowing very few students there, a friend of mine and I signed up for summer school to meet some new friends, thus making the transition less painful.

Confession for vanity’s sake: We signed up for P.E., so we wouldn’t have to be groty (as we used to say back then) during regular school hours. Who cared during the summer?

Much of the summer P.E. class involved swimming. I’d been swimming for years. Piece-of-cake, right?

Ready swimming pool

Yes, until….we met the teacher. Turns out Mrs. Rentz was a former coach. Think of the toughest type of coach you’ve ever known and he/she would be a veritable wimp compared to Mrs. Renz.

The first morning of class, Mrs. Rentz had us arrive super early at a local public pool. Early and teenagers don’t mix.

“Let’s warm up with twenty laps!” She barked.

Man swimmer swimming crawl in blue water. Portrait of an athleti

“Oh, nooooooooo.” We’d groan.

“WHO just groaned?” She screamed.

“Ummmmm, we did…” Several of us sheepishly replied.

“This class will not tolerate complainers!!! DROP AND GIVE ME TWENTY!” She spewed.

Instructor with group of fitness class doing push ups in the par

As in twenty push-ups. Like girls can do that….come on. Well, some of you can. I can from my knees. But that was unheard of in the 70’s.

Somehow we survived that summer. We did more than our fair share of push-ups, too. Looking back, Mrs. Rentz taught us more than swimming. She taught us respect. Respect for our teacher. Respect for our classmates. Thankfully, her bark was worse than her bite.

While “Drop and give me twenty” has one connotation, I’d like to offer you a newer, and nicer phrase, thanks to Lisa Harper. Her most recent book is:

Overextended and Loving Most of It: The Unexpected Joy of Being Harried, Heartbroken, and Hurling Oneself Off Cliffs. It’s one you don’t want to miss.


We’ll be hitting highlights for part of a series coming in December on “Surviving the Season of Christmas”. Truthfully, this book is excellent for any season you may be in.

I’ve been blessed to hear Lisa Harper speak on several occasions. One of her many God-given gifts is teaching the Bible. Reading this book is a blast because she writes like she talks. You’ll howl one minute and cry the next.

One part in particular will help us as we prepare to be grateful Thanksgiving hostesses, wives, Moms, Mother-in-laws, sisters, sister-in-laws, daughters, daughter-in-laws, etc. (I’m often tempted to pose the question, “Is ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ an oxymoron?” Shhh, don’t tell!!!)

Lisa tells us she and her road manager, Sharon, have come up with a simple game when they’re traveling. She says, “It’s for when one of us notices that the other is especially grumpy or negative. We call it the ‘Stop and Give Me Ten’ game.”

Good news? It has nothing to do with push-ups!!!

Lisa explains: “The ‘ten’ in the title refers to all the fingers on two hands’ worth of things we’re grateful for.”

Recently when Lisa and Sharon were traveling to a speaking engagement, everything that could go wrong did, and then some. After listening to Lisa whine one too many times, Sharon “commanded in her best impression of A Master Army Sergeant: ‘STOP AND GIVE ME TEN!”

Mature Soldier Shouting Through Megaphone

Lisa said, “…then I submitted, held my hands up, and raised all ten fingers and stated in quick succession:


(I’ll give you my favorite five of her ten, but you’ll get the idea…)

“I’m thankful our flights were only delayed and not canceled.

I’m thankful we’re in a car instead of on foot.

I’m thankful I get to see women launch themselves into the arms of Jesus for the first time almost every weekend.

I’m thankful God is so strong when I’m being such a weenie baby.

I’m thankful He’s slow to anger and rich in compassion.”

Compassion sign with a beautiful day on background

Lisa concludes, “It’s amazing how just thirty-six seconds of practicing gratitude totally changed my mood. I went from Eeyore to Tigger in less than a minute!” She says this works even when you’re in ultra difficult circumstances.

She adds, “…extending past the pain of life to reach for the joy God promises is so very, very worth it.”

Footnote: Ann Voskamp further expounds on this concept of counting your blessings in her book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

One Thousand Gifts

Finally, Lisa concludes with an awesome visual and Scripture:

“Thankfully, the Holy Spirit motors around in a big four-wheel drive truck with a winch. After He pulls me out, He leaves notes like this on my windshield:

Notebook page2

Stop and give me ten!!! Try it….you’ll like it.

May we grow grateful and stay grateful as our Thanksgiving Day quickly approaches.

Next week, we’ll hear another grand idea to help with Thanksgiving from none other than Max Lucado.

‘Til next time!



Filed under Book Reviews, Friends, Life Lessons

Book Club Resumes next Monday, the 22nd! Come Join Us! (We’ll be discussing Kisses from Katie—A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption)

Grab a friend and head over to Middletown United Methodist Church (MUMC) next Monday night, September 22nd!!! Branches Book Club is resuming and you won’t want to miss the first gathering! The meeting will be from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.  MUMC is located at 11902 Old Shelbyville Road.

September’s meeting will focus on an incredible book: Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie J. Davis and Beth Clark. Even if you’ve not read this book yet, please do come join us– because you will want to read it, especially after you hear the discussion!


I was blessed to read Katie’s book in conjunction with another fascinating book, The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation by Thom S. and Jess Rainer. Thom is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.


I about fell out of my chair when Rainer mentioned Katie Davis and what a perfect example of a millennial she is! The fact that she left a very safe, affluent lifestyle in Nashville, TN, not to mention her family, nice house, nice car, etc. to up and move to Uganda was astonishing. (Keep in mind she was fresh out of high school!)

Once in Uganda, she had a 10-month commitment to teach preschool. Immediately her eyes were opened to the conditions in which these children lived. She realized she could not go home. Not only did she ultimately make a lifetime commitment, but one by one, she adopted thirteen children!!! Thirteen daughters!!! Can you imagine???

Katie Davis

Equally stunned by Katie’s only-God-could-pull-this-off story, Author Ann Voskamp took her daughter, Hope, and flew to Uganda in July of 2013, thanks to an invitation from Compassion Canada.

Ann and Hope had the opportunity to spend three days with Katie, then 24 years old, and her 13 children. Ann says they made six pans of lasagna one night, serving 22 people. Random people drop in, some healthy, some sick.

After experiencing this, Ann remarked, “Our actual theology is best expressed in our actual hospitality….Hospitality isn’t for the good housekeepers—it’s the grid of life for anyone keeping company with Christ.” I hope all you perfectionists out there are hearing this….Trust me, I’m preachin’ to the choir…

“Hospitality means if there is room in the heart—there is always room in the house.” Bigger ouch.

The Old Oak Door

Read all of Hope’s and Ann’s experiences with Katie and look at Ann’s photographs. They’ll take your breath away. (Ann’s website is: www.aholyexperience.com and you can read about their experiences by clicking here.)

So, in addition to joining us next Monday night for some great conversation about Kisses from Katie, checkout the organization Katie founded which helps feed these children, many of whom are orphans. The organization’s funding helps keep the children in school, getting them three meals a day, which in effect, is their only lifeline to success. www.amizma.org

Ann observed from Katie: “Katie takes Jesus at His Word: Real life is lived on your knees.”

Blue Waters Cross

Come and bring a friend!!! Monday, September 22nd, from 6:30 – 8:00 at Middletown United Methodist Church! Please RSVP to Nancy Tinnell at (502) 245-8839 or NTinnell@Middletownumc.org.


Mark your calendars, save the date, and tell all your friends about Monday, October 27th, when author and pastor Robert J. Morgan will be joining us! We’ll be discussing one of his many amazing books, The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times.



Rob is driving in from Nashville where he pastors Donelson Fellowship Church. If you’re ever in Nashville, his church is only about five minutes from Opryland. John and I’ve been blessed to hear him preach several times. (www.donelson.org)

Men are also welcome at our October meeting. You do NOT want to miss this opportunity!!!

‘Til next time!!!

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Filed under Book Clubs, Book Reviews

Wander with Wonder…(Managing your Margin: Part 3 of 4)

Close your eyes….

Now open them.

Wide Eye See anything different?

“Are you crazy?” you may be asking…Please hang with me for a minute…

This week we’ll focus on another element of margin:

The spiritual discipline of simply opening your eyes afresh, looking for a miracle or blessing, every day. Dr. Matthew Sleeth says, “I can tell you from experience that if you don’t look, you will not find them. And if you don’t jot them down, you will forget them.”

In Blessed Earth’s most recent newsletter (www.blessedearth.org ), Matthew discusses Spring’s arrival, bringing with it “dogwoods singing out with their living Celtic crosses, all served up on a plate of viridian green. It’s easy to spot miracles when the entire hemisphere comes to life—but really they are everywhere, and all the time.”

gardens at Chateau Kierwan

This beautiful “window” into a garden was a surprise find to us one night at Chateau Kierwan, near Pauillac, France where we had dinner. Magnificent discovery!

Matthew recommends an experiment to try for just one month: “Every day take note of (or a photo of) just one miracle. On Sunday, spend a little time reviewing the list. Then thank God…We do not need more wonders—just a greater sense of wonderment.” Wander with Wonder.

Matthew is an expert on Sabbath keeping, learning about it the hard way just as Mark Buchanan did. His book, 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life is a must-read. (I wrote about it last year: Get Over the Guilt and Grab a Nap—Beating Busyness: Part 4 of 4)

24-6 Sleeth

Ann Voskamp is another advocate of looking for blessings and writing them down. Her book is also a must-read: One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. She maintains writing down your blessings, small or large, creates contentment many times we’d otherwise forget.

One Thousand Gifts

Gratitude, giving thanks, along with a vocabulary “full of grace” fulfills our soul and multiplies joy. John Piper offers, “There are eyes in pencils and in pens.” Friends, let’s open our eyes! Wander with wonder!

My favorite quote from Ann addresses “the cure against thanklessness’s bite: The remedy is in the retina. How we behold determines if we hold joy. Behold glory and be held by God.”

William Shakespeare said, “Thou art alive still—While thy booke doth live and we have wits to read and praise to give.”

Quote and pic of Shakespear

Walking across a bridge over the Seine River in Paris, near the magnificent Notre Dame, John and I happily landed in front of Shakespeare and Company Bookstore. Now that would go down in one’s gratitude journal if one were a book lover like yours truly! Books are in every nook and cranny in this charming bookstore. Wander with wonder.

umbrella in front of shakespear

Note the brand-new umbrella adorned with Eiffel Towers (Can you say, “tourist”???) we snagged for a mere seven Euros. Ah, but it kept us dry and better able to keep our eyes ready for more wonderment.

Let’s return to Mark Buchanan’s book The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. Mark touches on our subject of wandering with wonder when he says, “I don’t want to just carry on. I want to learn more and more to practice, here, now, always, the quality of awareness that I knew…I want to learn to pass through a day without passing it by.”

The Rest of God

Mark says, “The essence of Sabbath is paying attention. It is being fully present, wholly awake, in each moment. “

You won’t believe this from Chapter 3: “Louis Aggasiz, Harvard’s renowned biologist, returned one September to his classroom and announced to his students that he had spent the summer traveling. He had managed, he said, to get halfway across his backyard. To those with eyes to see, that’s enough. Everywhere we turn, wonders never cease.” Wander with wonder.

field of rapeseed

Aboard the fast TGV enroute to Paris from Bordeaux, John and I saw field, after field, after field of rapeseed. While this was a cloudy day and we took this picture thru’ the window of the train, you can get an idea of the brilliant yellow hues that stood out like sunshine in the countryside.

Mark gives an analogy, that, while laugh-out-loud funny, slightly stings: “One day is as good as another for practicing this kind of attentiveness. We all know people so self-absorbed and obtuse that they would miss the apocalypse if it happened in their living rooms.” Been there. Sigh…

And, here are just a few of Mark’s killer questions I promised you last week:

“Does the path I’m walking lead to a place I want to go?

If I keep heading this way, will I like where I arrive?

How much do I care about the things I care about?

And how have I grown content…?”

May we do as 2 Corinthians 10:5 which says, “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Watching for miracles, blessings, and wandering with wonder is the best way to do that.

Mark recommends, “Consider your ways. That’s a wise Sabbath Liturgy. And let me make it more specific: consider your thoughts and attitudes.” 

Mark shares a wonderful scene from The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,  part of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles. “The children Peter, Edmond, Susan and Lucy all find themselves in Narnia after a long absence from Aslan, the great king and lion.” Lucy is who finds him first with great emotion and relief:


Aslan says, “Welcome, child.”

“Aslan,” says Lucy, “you’re bigger.”

“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.

“Not because you are?”

“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

Mark says, “That’s a perfect description of those who train themselves in God’s goodness and sovereignty: Every year you grow, you find him bigger. The best way I know to embody this Godward orientation is thankfulness.”

Saint Sulpice Church Service

After visiting the Luxembourg Gardens, John and I  happened upon St. Sulpice Church. They were in the middle of a church service. The hush over the crowd in the candlelit cavernous altar was awe-inspiring.

Attendees didn’t just genuflect, they fully, deliberately knelt prior to finding a spot on a pew which made our visit amazingly worshipful. Prayers, songs and a message in French was beyond beautiful. This was one of many gifts we found along our walk that day.

In Front of Saint Sulplice

Here’s the outside of the church. It’s modeled after St. Paul’s in London…Wonder-filled architectural details.

May we all wander in the wonder.

‘Til next time!



Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Margin, Travel

Let’s Learn More about Heaven and Angels…(To Heaven and Back by Mary C. Neal, MD will fascinate you and give you hope!) -Part 2 of 2-

Welcome back! If you were with us last week, we discussed wild white-water rafting, including Dr. Mary Neal’s frightening kayak accident. It includes an astonishing trip to Heaven and back, a faith journey you do not want to miss. (See Part One…)

Her book? To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story. (You’ll also see, at the end of this post, more fascinating books on Heaven, one of which is being made into a movie!)


This week we’ll wrap up with a peek into Mary’s encounters and conversations with Angels. They are all full of hope!

Mary realized “Angels often expose us to, or push us into, a situation that will force our redirection…The acceptance that change rarely comes without difficulty and challenge can truly free a person to ‘rejoice always.’ It also allows us to live daily with a grateful heart and ‘give thanks in all circumstances.”

One favorite point Mary makes is three-fold:

“No matter what the circumstances, we can be grateful that:

1 – God fulfills His promises,

2 – That our Faith is sufficient to sustain us, and

3 – That our eternal life is assured.” More hope!


Ten years following Mary’s recovery, unbelievably, her family suffered another tragedy. Mary and Bill’s oldest son, Willie, was killed in a skiing accident. The Scripture Mary uses in the beginning of the Chapter, “The Longest Day of the Year”, (Willie died on June 21st) is Matthew 28:20 “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” 

Mary and her family’s source of comfort and strength came from the Lord and His presence. Willie’s legacy, by God’s grace, lives on. (You can learn more about Willie from Mary’s website: www.DrMaryNeal.com or from Willie’s website: www.wnealenvirofund.org )

Willie Neal

Mary tells us while writing this book, she was “freshly filled with the remembrance and acknowledgement of God’s continuing and active presence in my life, His absolute grace, His pure love, and His promises for the future.” MORE precious hope!


Future Ahead Concept

When her family was filled with despair over Willie, Mary said, “I did believe that God, if asked, would not only carry us, but also would protect our souls during this emotionally vulnerable time.”

Mary’s conclusions in the book about her accident and Willie’s death are beautiful. Especially if you’ve lost loved ones, you don’t want to miss the divinely appointed details.

The last Scripture Mary gifts us with is: Hebrews 11:1 – “Faith is being sure of what we hoped for and certain of what we do not see.” Martin Luther King, Jr. “translated this into the world of action when he stated: ‘Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.’”


Mary adds, “It is this faith that sets us free. It allows us to fully embrace life, dissolves fear, and replaces worry with hope. Faith allows us to confidently walk with God into a future filled with joy; one that can become an extraordinary and amazing adventure.”

Mary’s closing words are words to live by:

God created us, knows us, loves us, and guides us. With love and grace, He commands us to:

–         Rejoice in this knowledge always.

–         Live a life of prayer, giving glory to God and continually listening for His guidance.

–         Life a life of gratitude, giving thanks in all circumstances.”

A helpful resource for these commands is Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

One Thousand Gifts

Let’s pray we all embrace our next adventure awaiting us….

Keep the hope!

‘Til next time!

Footnote: If you’re intrigued by books on Heaven as many of us are, two others will broaden your perspective.

90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life by Don Piper

90 minutes in heaven

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Bumpo

Heaven is for real

All three of these are page-turners.


Fun fact: Heaven is for Real is being made into a movie and is due to be released right before Easter, on April 16th, 2014. Watch this trailer and watch the hair on the back of your neck stand up!!!




Filed under Book Reviews, Life Lessons

When God Puts a Priest in Your Path…

The blasted alarm blares….Didn’t we just go to sleep???

Still dark, nobody moves….

A not-so-darling diatribe ensues:

“Gotta get up.

Gotta make some eggs.

Gotta iron some shirts.

Gotta get to the doc by 8:45.”

Beat-the-clock:  Round 4,222…

FYI:  Proverbs 31 Woman I am not

Y’all heard me whinin’ recently over our middle son, Gordy, requiring surgery to repair his ACL. (See end of post from When You’re Stunned about your Valentine’s Day Gift…) Surgery successful, therapy begun, Gordy merely had to return ten days post-op to Louisville to get his stitches out.

However, getting ready in the morning, with Gordy still on two crutches, requires extra time and extra, extra, e-x-t-r-a patience.  He’s a good sport.  I’m the Nervous Nellie Mother.  (It was our oldest son, John Jr., who pointed out that only one letter makes a world of difference:  i.e. Mother and Smother….)  Alrighty then.

John and I got Gordy all packed up, car loaded, and off he went for his doctor’s appointment.  Still clad in pj’s, I dashed upstairs to get ready, now realizing I’d be a just a tad tardy meeting him there.

Never mind he got right in and wound up having to wait on me because I had his clothes for work. Stress!!!

More stress: Gordy couldn’t change clothes there as they were cleaning the bathroom and the floor was wet.  Wet floors and crutches don’t mix.

We caravanned over to Thornton’s to fill up his car.  By this time, we were both completely frazzled.

First bright spot:  We spied a Starbucks next door.  We opted to “sit a spell” to detox and restart our morning in a calmer manner.

Starbucks Coffee

Second bright spot:  As we walked in, we noticed a long wooden table, occupied by only one man.  This man looked up the minute we walked in.  It was as if he was waiting for us.

I burst out laughing at God’s goodness.  Don’t you know the one man, sitting at that long table, was none other than our long-time friend,  Father Nick Rice?

When I introduced Gordy, he immediately recognized his name as John and I talk of Father Nick often, always with fondness.  Gordy and I both realized Nick was precisely the sole soul we needed. 

Gordy later said, “How good is the Lord, Mom, to put us with Father Nick?” That made me think of I John 3:1, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.”

Father Nick could tell Gordy was still becoming acquainted with his crutches…or from a “fresh” injury.  They chatted while I got us some much-needed caffeine and a lovely, mega blueberry streusel muffin.

Do the math:  Stellar Starbucks, plus killer comfort food, plus a priest, equals some Huge Slice of Heaven.

Homemade Blueberry Muffin

Gordy and I all but threw up all over Father Nick….not physically (now there’s a visual!!!) , but we suddenly found ourselves majorly dumping our days’ woes, hardly coming up for air to breathe…God bless Nick, he was probably questioning his calling at this point.

One of Nick’s many gifts is he’s quickly able to put things into perspective.  Talking us off the ledge, Father Nick showed us God’s love, he effortlessly doled out God’s wisdom, and he equipped us with stamina and strength to restart our day.

All too quickly, it was time for Gordy to drive back to Lexington.  How grateful we are God put a priest in our path.

 In John 1:14 and 16, the Amplified Bible tells us, …”We (actually) saw His glory…For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received (all had a share and we were all supplied with) one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift (heaped) upon gift.”


In her book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, Ann Voskamp says, “That’s the mystery map to the deep seeing!  We saw His glory…because…we have all received one grace after another.  We have all received one grace after another, but we only recognize the glory of God in this moment when we wake to the one grace after another.

One Thousand Gifts

John Piper says, “If you want to be really alert to seeing Jesus’ divine beauty, his glory…then make sure you tune your senses to see his grace.”

 Thankfully, Gordy and I recognized and are forever grateful for this divine appointment.

Friends, be alert, for our God is in the details.

 ‘Til next time!

(This week’s post, oh bet you can guess, is dedicated to Father Nick Rice.  Precious Priest, Dear Friend, and Golfer Extraordinaire.  Thanks for the divine therapy, Father Nick.  Hope to see you again soon!!!)

"Fun photo taken in Phoenix, Arizona, from left to right are: Dear friends Mark and Michelle Wheeler, Father Nick, and Yours Truly with my handsome hubster, John."

Fun photo taken in Phoenix, Arizona, from left to right are: Dear friends Mark and Michelle Wheeler, Father Nick, and Yours Truly with my handsome hubster, John.


Filed under Family, Friends, Life Lessons

When You’re STUNNED about your Valentine’s Day Gift…(A Comical Glimpse of Marriage: The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle)

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, and 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 www.farmmachineryshow.org Photos by Scott Henson

Taken from http://www.farmmachineryshow.org 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 Holy Spirit 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 www.thebigmamablog.com.

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.   Go to: www.aholyexperience.com and see if I’m not tellin’ the truth!!! (See February 8th entry.)

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!

P.S.  My allusion to surgery earlier happens this very week.  Our middle son, Gordy, recently started a basketball league at his church in Lexington.  The very first game of the season, Gordy came crashing down on his knee.  Our good buddy, Dr. Scott Kuiper, who I recently wrote about (see “When You Think You May Faint”….) , whose retirement we’re now seemingly funding(!!!), confirmed a torn ACL.  Please pray for Scott and Gordy and for a good, speedy recovery.

Meanwhile, this year’s Valentine’s Day “gift”, will be a rip-roarin’ good time right here at home, welcoming Gordy home from the hospital.  His fiancée, Lauren, will also be with us, so back to the recipe boards we go for a “red” meal.

Love and hugs to my sweet Valentine, John, who like Perry, offers numerous grace cards when they’re highly undeserved.

Thus, a double dedication is in order: to Gordy and Lauren (getting a dose of “in sickness and health” before your wedding!) and to my John.  Love y’all!

engagement photo

P.S. ONE MORE TIME (‘Tis the blog that won’t end….)  IF, you are particularly enamored with Championship Tractor Pulls, THIS IS YOUR LUCKY DAY….They’re in town at Freedom Hall this very week!  2/10-15.  Go to:  www.farmmachineryshow.org and snag a ticket.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Life Lessons