Category: Resources (page 1 of 7)

Soul Food – Gifts for Christmas

It’s almost Thanksgiving. Twinkle lights are starting to appear and Peppermint Mochas are available. I’ve started playing Christmas music and praying about how God might use these posts to bring life and peace this Advent.


One of the huge stressors of the season is the gift giving. Can I get an “AMEN”?!! The financial strain, the time crunch, the emotional stress of trying to find Just The Right Thing. We want it to be delightful and natural and sometimes it is, but others times…

Can I make a few suggestions (especially if you have young kids)? Note: everyone is different! Maybe these aren’t right for you.

  • I know people who like to wait til Christmas Eve to shop, but REALLY??? Oh the madness! If we’re going to have a Christmas focused on Jesus and with margin for quiet and delight and spontaneity we need a PLAN, which is why I’m posting about gifts now, before Thanksgiving
  • Throughout the year we didn’t let our kids watch commercial T.V. They could watch PBS or videos within limits (no more than an hour a day and 2 on weekends). I don’t know how we originally came to this policy, but it was HUGE in heading off the “I’ve gotta have this or that!” mania. Now if your kids already watch commercial t.v. and you want to switch and they’re old enough to understand, couch it as a fun experiment, or TIVO and speed through commercials.
  • We tried to stick to a policy of not going into malls after Thanksgiving. Just the thought of a mall after Thanksgiving with kids in tow makes my eye start twitching, but again, it requires advance planning :)
  • Our tradition, similar to many, is to give three gifts at Christmas to tie into the idea that the wisemen brought three gifts to baby Jesus. Then, of course I try to cram as many gifts as I can into stockings, but whatever…our motives are good.

So, if you’re with me and you’re making a plan for gift-giving, here are a few ideas… 

What if, as a family this year, you let your kids choose 3 gifts to give to those in need?

Check out World Vision’s Gift catalog They even have a Gift Finder Quiz that’s fun!

or International Justice Mission’s giving catalog

I also like Glennon Melton’s suggestion for gift limiting: Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.
And something to light up the world. (see suggestions above).

And THIS from her also! Oh the cuteness! (think Grandparents) Design yours and buy here.


“Something to read”??

Well, THIS looks amazing for kids! In a time when we hear so much about the terrible plight of Syrian refugees, what could be more appropriate to reflect on Mary and Joseph as refugees?  The author, Anne Booth, uses the donkey as narrator, ‘When the last king left, the scent of frankincense lingering in the air, we all slept and the man had a dream. A dream of danger. …

And we set off … under starlight, through empty streets, whilst people were sleeping, hoping for the kindness of strangers. Again.’

I’ve only seen reviews and excerpts, but I just ordered Refuge. Part of the sale of every book will go to the charity War Child.



Also I LOVE Sarah Bessey’s new book, Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith. It’s one of those where I can’t stop underlining and saying “Yes!” and “Oh, me TOO!!!”. Highly recommend!


For “something to wear” check out Their mission: At FASHIONABLE, we believe our role is to INVEST IN A WOMAN.  When a woman is empowered with work to do, whether in the home or in an office, she not only experiences the joy and satisfaction of developing a skill, she also creates change in those around her. FASHIONABLE’s role in this story is working with women, both locally and globally, who have overcome challenges ranging from prostitution to addiction to a lack of opportunity.

Yeah, some of it is quite pricey like this bag.


But there are some more affordable items too. Like this. (And if you have a college age daughter in a sorority… :) )


And another meaningful idea… I got one of these giving keys years ago with the word HOPE etched on it. They are made by ex-convicts to give them employment. The idea is to choose a word you need and then eventually give it to someone else who needs it.  Take a look at how it works on this video.

Lastly, if you’re the type who likes to make gifts to give to friends and hosts, here’s a recipe for homemade granola I gave last year. This can be made ahead and frozen! A Plan!! :)

Mix together in a large bowl:

6 cups oatmeal

1-2 cups sunflower seed nuts

2 cups toasted slivered almonds (Trader Joe’s sells them already toasted!)

Cook together in a pan on the stovetop:

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup oil

2 TB cinnamon

1/2 cup water

Bring to a boil and stir til thickened a little. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir. Put in a roasting pan and Bake @300 degrees about 1 hour, stirring every 15-20 minutes. Maybe give this in a mason jar with the top decorated :)

So what have you come up with? Have you found meaningful gifts to share with the rest of us? A brilliant plan for taking the stress out of the Christmas season?

Soul Food When You’re Thirsty

This is my favorite Instagram of the week, posted by my son-in-law. It’s possible John may have gotten a similar text from me at some point.


So, what are you thirsty for this weekend?  A prayer walk where you can truly breathe and be present to God? Story reading with kids? A date night? Worship? Conversations with good friends who are refreshing to your soul?

For me, this week has been full of people showing up with delightful “cups of water” I’d love to share with you…

The mailman showed up with this that I’m devouring.


Here’s a quote from the first chapter:

“It’s about the beautiful things we might reclaim and the stuff we may decide to kick to the curb. It’s a book about making peace with unanswered questions and being content to live into the answers as they come. It’s about being comfortable with where we land for now, while holding our hands open for where the Spirit leads us next… Really, it’s a book about not being afraid.” Sarah Bessey

Isn’t that hopeful and lovely? More later on this book…

I posted Wednesday how we got to go to the Catalyst One Day and fill up. I was left thinking about the questions, “What would a great leader do?” and “What would a great wife do?”


But there was more. In one of the talks Andy Stanley did, he reiterated what most of us have read and experienced in the Strengths finder books by  Marcus Buckingham. We waste time trying to shore up the areas where we’re weak. Instead we should lean into our strengths and maximize them. Andy left us with these questions I’m still thinking about that are helpful.


My friend Annalise brought this cake for a potluck dinner we had last week and, Oh. My. Gosh. We all tried not to lick our plates and everyone asked for the recipe.


Note: for those who don’t like pumpkin this does not taste very pumpkinny! Also, Annalise did not put in the spices.
Pumpkin Poke Cake
Adapted from Tortillas and Honey

1 box yellow cake mix
14 oz. canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
Spices in red Optional:

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. dried ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 14 oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. powdered sugar
caramel topping, for drizzling

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9×9 baking dish.

Mix together the cake mix, the pumpkin puree (DO NOT add the other ingredients on the cake mix box), and the spices until a batter forms.

Pour batter into baking dish and then bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely after baking.

Using the bottom of a wooden spoon, poke holes all over the top of the cake. Pour can of the sweetened condensed milk over the cake, aiming to fill the holes. Refrigerate for 60 minutes or until the sweetened condensed milk has soaked into the cake.

In a mixing bowl, beat heavy cream using an electrical mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold in powdered sugar. Spread whipped cream over the top of cake. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight. Keep stored in the refrigerator.

Daughter Katy sent me this story, just because she knows how I love sheep, and it made her smile.


Doesn’t this one look like “Hey! I think I can jump! Let me give it a go!”?


“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me.” John 10:14  He’s the One who is going to refresh us in ways that will last, right?

Have a great weekend!

Soul Food When Everyone is Welcome

When I started doing “Soul Food Friday” I didn’t intend for it to just be focused on what happens around the table, but instead about everything that feeds our souls.

But truly, something very special happens when we show up as we are, and amidst half eaten chili or chicken we celebrate or cry or question.

We gather around a table, and when it’s good it’s messy, and real, and a little island of safety where our stories can be shared and God’s faithfulness recognized.

Everyone is welcome. Nobody’s perfect. Anything can happen.

So, this week…. Continue reading

Soul Food on a Bad Day

Awhile ago I wrote that I read and really liked Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For the Love. Full disclosure, there are a couple of chapters I didn’t care for, but mostly I think Jen’s hysterical and brilliant, and I read anything she writes. So this week when John asked if we could host a working dinner at our house with a consultant from out of town, I said “Sure.” and I decided I’d try THREE new recipes, including Jen’s recipe for Beef Bourguignon included in the book.

Big. Mistake.

I was also trying to squeeze in making soup for a friend with sick kids.

No, I’m not the brightest bulb on the string.

Add to this the fact that I’ve been sick and the number of guests John said were coming kept changing. I set the table three different times.

Let’s just say I was not my usual delightful self on Tuesday.

And then John showed up with these from my FAVORITE flower shop that I’ve ruthlessly trained him to go to gently hinted that I like. :)


A picture of GRACE!!!  Soul food, sister!

And then a call from daughter #1 in D.C. at the exact moment I couldn’t do anything more. Grace upon Grace! More soul food that filled me up with joy.

These graces made me want to be gracier towards others too. Especially cranky pants who might be having a bad day. The next day I read this in Mark Batterson’s IF:

Goethe said, “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can be and should be, and he will become as he can be and should be.” 

No one modeled that better than Jesus.

The Pharisees treated people as they were. Jesus treated people as they could be.

Anyway, in addition to sharing some pictures of grace I want to share a couple of other things. That Beef Bourguignon from Jen? Well, in addition to being impossible to spell, it was a BUCKETLOAD of work and I really didn’t think it was worth it. I actually think my go-to 4 Hour Stew recipe is better and soooooo much easier! So in case you don’t have it, here you go and you’re welcome!

In a large baking dish (preferably with a tight lid) put:

2 lb. beef stew meat cut in chunks

1 medium onion in chunks

1 stalk celery sliced

6 carrots cubed

Blend together: 1 t. salt, 2 Tb. sugar, 2 Tb. tapioca

Sprinkle this over your meat and veggies.

Add 1 can of peas and spread on can of tomato soup over all.

Cover and bake @250 for 4 hours. Serve over biscuits or potatoes or whatever you want. Ta da! Serves 6

While you’re enjoying your stew, here’s some more soul food for when it seems like peace is elusive and you want to be hopeful, but also honest about your feelings…After hearing them in D.C. last week I downloaded The Brilliance new album, Brother which I love, love, love. The title track, Brother, is powerful, but this is my favorite.

Lastly, one more picture of soul food or grace or whatever you want to call it…Several years ago we got a puppy that we loved, but had to give away because of our travel schedule. The great thing is that she went to an awesome family who asks us to take care of her when they are out of town – WIN-WIN!!


The joy of her this week made me think of an old video that most of you have probably seen, but if you haven’t you need to.  Happy Friday! :)

Soul Food in Small Bites

If you’ve been reading this blog for long you know my delight with Zechariah 4:10 that cautions  “do not  despise the day of small things.” so this week I thought I’d share some “small things” that have inspired or delighted me.

Twice in the past two weeks we’ve spent time in D.C. and every time I’m here I’m distressed by the many homeless people on the street. I bring a supply of McDonald’s gift cards to give to those in need, but it’s such a small thing for such a big problem.

  1. I was inspired to see this story about someone else doing a small act of kindness that is so thoughtful.


2. Can you tell what this is?


It may sound crazy but it is the trail of a worm who made it from one end of a clay tennis court to the other. I absolutely marveled at the courage and resolve of this little guy.  

Did he get lonely? Discouraged? Scared? Did he consider that his efforts might end in failure or death? I know, I know…it’s a worm. But still!

This small picture of bravery made me think of small, but powerful efforts to resist violence in the Middle East.

This week John and I have been privileged to attend a leadership gathering hosted by The Telos Group, a remarkable organization committed to being pro Israeli, pro Palestinian, and pro peace. They have drawn together many of my heroes.

  • Robi Damelin, and Israeli mom who lost her son to a Palestinian sniper, working side by side with Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian whose 10-year-old daughter was gunned down by an Israeli soldier.
  • Daoud Nassar, a Palestinian Christian farmer surrounded by Israeli settlements and subjected to repeated persecution whose message is “We refuse to be enemies” and continues to respond to oppression with love.
  • Roni Keidar, a British Israeli living on the border to the Gaza strip, building bridges between people of all different faiths and political leanings.

Might you take a minute to pray for these hidden heroes who are doing small but courageous acts of love in hard places?

3. I’ve been reading a book with a small word for a title. 

Mark Batterson wrote IF to unpack Romans 8, the chapter about God’s unshakeable love, verse by verse.  I’ve been reading this devotionally, one chapter a day. Mark is inspiring and challenging as always. This is a book about possibilities!


4. A small dessert – Mini Caramel Apple Cheesecakes, a recipe I pinned from Cooking Classy. Check it out!


Soul Food for a New Month

It’s October, and I’m with Anne, reveling in a world of good gifts. Wispy clouds across the moon, the smell of cinnamon and wood smoke, crunchy leaves and vibrant color that needs no filter to enhance its beauty.


You may have noticed that I didn’t post on Wednesday like usual. It was hard for me to let it go, but it’s been an overfull week and when I prayed about it I sensed God whispering “It’s ok. It’s all Grace.” So I didn’t stress over it, and the world didn’t end. I’m learning that the discipline of mini-Sabbaths is an important one.

As a “do-er” prayer is another hard discipline, but this week we put together a prayer gathering that created environments for people to engage with God in a variety of ways.


In one of the prayer corners we had a fountain running.

For with You is the fountain of life, in Your light we see light. Psalm 36:5

We said: Listen to the sound of the water and think of God’s love washing over you.

Then take a blank rock and write something or someone you’re thankful for and place it in the fountain.

Lastly take a rock with an attribute of God written on it that you need to be reminded of.

FullSizeRender-35Maybe this is an exercise you can do on your own.

This was a reminder from another corner of the room.


Next, if you’ve been overwhelmed by all the bad news this week, take a look at 13 Inspiring Stories of Refugees Being Welcomed from Around the World.

And lastly, a couple of October recipes. The first one I tried last night and we loved it – it can be adapted in a bunch of ways.

Crab and Corn Chowder

6 bacon slices

2 celery ribs diced

1 green pepper diced

1 medium onion diced

1 32 oz. can/box Chicken broth

3 TB flour

3 cups fresh corn kernels (6 ears) If you don’t have some frozen from summer a yellow and white Birds Eye frozen mix works

1 lb fresh crab meat (I used 2 cans of lump crab meat, but you could also substitute chicken or shrimp, or leave out the meat)

1 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I didn’t have this :( )

1/2 ts. salt

1/4 ts. pepper

fresh cilantro for garnish

Cook bacon in Dutch oven over medium heat 8-10 minutes til crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper towel. RESERVE 2 TB drippings. Sauté celery, onion, and green pepper in drippings til tender (5-6 min)

Whisk together flour and broth til smooth. Add to celery mixture. Stir in corn. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Gently stir in crab meat and rest of ingredients. Cook 4-5 minutes or til thoroughly heated. Makes 10 cups.


Zucchini Bread/Muffins

Mix 3 eggs

1 cup oil (yes, one cup :) )

3 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup milk

Separately mix 2 cups sugar,

3 cups flour,

1 ts. salt,

1 ts. baking SODA,

1/4 ts. baking POWDER,

1 ts. each: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves.

Blend wet and dry ingredients together and then fold in 2 cups shredded zucchini.

If making bread, it goes in 2 greased 8″ or 9″ loaf pans and you bake for about 45 minutes at 350.

If making muffins, cut the time to about 25 minutes.


Soul Food Cornucopia

How’s your week been? For me it’s been a delightfully cornucopia-full-type week of time with family and friends, and open doors to new ministry opportunities. But always along with fun “asks” comes the need for hard choices.

Saying “yes” to the best things, requires some “no’s” to some good things. When I say “best” I don’t think that necessarily means the most exciting or easiest things, but those that click with our gifts, passions, and season of life. I’ve heard from a bunch of you who are feeling stressed now, when everything is starting up and everyone seems to want or need something from you. Here’s an article I’ve been passing along that might be helpful – How to Say “No” When You Feel Pressured to say “Yes”

Aaaaannnd, if you need a little encouragement, check out this amazing video :) (sorry I couldn’t embed it in the post but it’s so worth a click!)

Seeing the Instagram post below from daughter Katy, prompted me to make my own batch of one of our favorite fall treats.


Here’s the recipe :)

PumpkinChocolate Chip Muffins

1/2 cup almond slivers toasted (can leave these out if you don’t like nuts)

1 2/3 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1 TB pumpkin pie spice

1 ts. baking soda

1/4 ts. baking powder

1/4 ts. salt

2 eggs

1 cup plain pumpkin (I accidentally used the whole can last year and they turned out great – just more moist. And what do you do with half a can of leftover pumpkin anyway?)

1 cup chocolate chips

1 stick butter melted (ARGH! I forgot this when I made them last week, but the world didn’t end)

Mix flour, sugar, and all dry ingredients.

Break eggs in another bowl. Whisk and add butter (cooled a little) and pumpkin. Pour over dry ingredients.

Mix in Chocolate chips. Pour in greased muffin tins. Bake 20-25 minutes (less if doing mini muffins). Store in plastic container.

YUM! And you’re welcome!

While enjoying a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin, here’s a delightful book I’ve been reading, by the same author who wrote Dear Mr. Knightly. It’s about two estranged sisters – one a chef, and the other fighting cancer, and a man who is a love interest. If you’re a foodie, or like Jane Austen references, or just want a good read, try Lizzy and Jane. by Katherine Reay.


And when this was my view as I was writing this morning, I thought of a C.S. Lewis quote John shared with me last night.

“Miracles…are a retelling in small letters the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some to see.”


What’s been some “soul food” you’ve enjoyed this week?

Soul Food from a Full Week

It’s been a full week. In the best sense of the word.

It’s been full of moments when God just seems so present, and people are authentic, and joy is in the air like the woodsmoke from Autumn fires. Out of that fullness I want to share a few morsels of soul food that have been life-giving.

The other day when I wrote about Holy Drones, I referred to the (almost impossible for me) practice of being still before the Lord. Just silent and still…to become aware of His loving presence, closer than our breath.  I thought I’d share an app that has helped me. Note: you can set the amount of time for silence and I set mine for 3 minutes. That’s truly the most I can manage. I’m clearly not a natural contemplative!


I love, love, love good stories like this especially when it is men stepping up!


And lastly, some hospitality inspiration…

We went to a couples wedding shower this weekend and I absolutely LOVED this is idea! The Bible was given to the couple at the end of the party, full of love.


Then Wednesday night I had a bunch of young women over for a get-together and I was blown away by their vulnerability and present-ness. I made a little favor for them to take with them because I really wanted these young women who are in a stressful season of life to feel special.

However, 2 DISCLAIMERS regarding the following idea:

  1. I TOTALLY stole the idea from my friend, Mo, and tweaked it a bit for my get-together. She did something like this for a wedding shower with “She picked him.” on the tag instead. Thanks, Mo!
  2.  I like doing this, and in my season I have more margin, BUT making this kind of crafty gifty thing isn’t for everyone or for every season and THAT’S OK! We all have different gifts (My house was dusty and weeds have overtaken my gardens). More important to be present and welcoming than have a gift! Also, I did homemade caramel, but you could do store-bought if you want to make it easier. IMG_1568IMG_1563



What about you? Any soul food to share with the rest of us? What inspired you this week?

Soul Food When all the News Seems Bad

Most mornings John says I’m annoyingly Tigger-like, bounding out of bed excited to seize the day. Many days recently though, I really just want to be more possum than Tigger and burrow into the soft comfiness of down pillows and warm blankets, keeping my eyes closed to the news of bad guys, hard hearts, pictures of desperate refugees fleeing Syria and the lifeless body of a precious little boy on a beach in Turkey.

Instead, today, I want to join people around the world who are choosing life. I want to say, “We see you. You are not alone and we’re going to do our best to help.”

First, what others are doing – where we can see God’s fingerprints – and then what we can do.





World Vision is doing more than any other humanitarian organization on the ground to help Syrian refugees. Take a look at some good news and then donate here as a way of choosing life today.

And lastly, we serve a God who always makes room at the table. You can help by signing this petition to make room for those in need.

This was part of my reading yesterday. Sometimes God is about as subtle as a mack truck, eh? :)


Soul Food For When Loss Threatens to Overwhelm & You Want to Hold onto Summer

I don’t know about you, but it’s been a tough week here. A bunch of loss and a boatload of things coming to an end as the season changes. I keep thinking of that commercial with the fair rides slowly grinding to a halt and the lights going out. I see the leaves starting to turn and I want to say “NOOOOOOOO!! Stop the madness!”

I’ve needed to remind myself this week…


Anyway, this Friday I thought I’d start by sharing some literal food first, and then we’ll move to the spiritual and emotional.

  1. My friend Heather is a health coach. She brought this delicious appetizer spread to a cookout recently. Because it’s from her, I’m sure it must include magical anti-aging properties and a cure for cancer. I don’t know the name of it, but let’s call it Heather’s Hodgepodge.

All you do is go to Trader Joe’s and buy:

1 container of lentils from the refrigerator section

1 container of bruschetta

1 container of feta cheese

IMG_1413Mix them all together and serve with crackers (Gluten free of whatever!). I don’t even like lentils and I’m not crazy about feta, but I wanted to wrap my arms around this nectar of the gods and eat. the. whole. thing. Amazing!

2. Under the category of Stone Soup type recipes I thought I’d share this salad I created last week out of necessity because I didn’t have all the ingredients for any one recipe and my small group was coming over. It was delicious if I do say so myself :)  – fresh and healthy. Never mind that it was kind of an “accident”. I think I’m going to call it Laura’s Salad of Awesomeness :) Because it was an “accident” you can play with amounts.

  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (cuz that’s all I had – you could use a cup if you want)
  • about 3 ears fresh corn off the cob
  • 1/2 red onion finely diced
  • about a cup of those sweet cherry tomatoes halved (I had Nature Sweet Cherubs)
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans rinsed
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • frozen cooked jumbo shrimp cut into half inch pieces (I had bags of shrimp I had gotten on sale in the freezer, but you can omit this if you just want to use this as a side dish and not a dinner salad)

Dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, juice of one lemon (1/4 c.), 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t. black pepper, 1/2 t. garlic powder, 1/2 t. cumin, 1 t. honey. Again, I give you full permission to play with these amounts. I did. You’re welcome.

I added a little garlic salt to the salad just because who doesn’t love more garlic, right?  Also, I like dressing it early to let it soak up the flavor.

The moral of this story? Lack may lead to innovation may lead to deliciousness!

3. Next… A little spiritual soul food.

So many people around me are in pits of disappointment, despair, or darkness. This message by Max Lucado from last year, guest preaching at NCC, is called You’re Gonna Get Through This (I think it’s hysterical that I can identify my friend, Heather’s laugh throughout this recording :) ). This is so encouraging!  If you really can’t listen the whole thing, watch from 24 minutes on.

One of my favorite lines is “Don’t equate the presence of God with a good mood.”

4. Lastly, a little mojo picker-upper.  A book to make you laugh and say, “Oh, you too?”  I just finished reading For the Love by Jen Hatmaker.  You may remember my small group got started around Jen’s book, 7, so she has a good track record in these parts.

In her new book she is funny, and feisty, sarcastic and self-deprecating as we’ve come to expect. The book isn’t so much overtly about grace as it is a series of essays on all things of interest to Jen in which the aroma of grace permeates like popcorn at the movies. It ranges from the fun and frivolous (like Fashion Concerns) to the pointed and important (Dear Church and Dear Christians). And it has a few recipes I can’t wait to try, so there’s that!

A couple of favorite quotes:

  • “If you can make a pot of chili and use a cell phone, then you can create community.”
  •  “Anytime the rich and poor combine, we should listen to whoever has the least power.”


What about you? What soul food are you feasting on this week?

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