Category: Resources (page 1 of 10)

Cozy Soul Food for Cold Winter Days

Happy Friday!  Hope you all have a terrific weekend and get out to bike if you live where it’s warm, or cross-country ski like I’m going to try to do here in the frozen tundra, or just cuddle up by a fire with a bowl of soup. Enjoy a few things I’ve found this week.

 Bustle is an Instagram feed I like and this made me smile and groan in agreement the other day.fullsizerender-135

But then there’s Obama’s farewell that inspires, and there are videos like this that, in spite of the short days and winter stretching out looooong ahead of us, just give us hope.


I told you last week I was going to try this. Before I share, a couple disclaimers:

  1. I totally butchered the original recipe and basically made it up as I went along. Other than sautéing the onion first, I just threw it all together and let it simmer a long time.

  2. I cut down on the spice, but it was still a tiny bit spicy (we are TOTAL wimps in the spice department). However I liked it enough to pass it along.

Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 1 1/4 lbs Chicken breasts, boneless skinless (I used rotisserie off the bone)
  • 1 (15 oz) can Black beans
  • 1 cup Corn, frozen (I froze a bunch of fresh last summer and used more than a cup)
  • 1 tbsp Garlic
  • 1 Jalapeno, seeded and chopped (1/4 cup) (I omitted)
  • 1 (15 oz) can Pinto beans (I omitted)
  • 1 (15 oz) can Tomatoes with green chilies (I used Mild Rotel)
  • 1 1/2 cup Yellow onion
Canned Goods
  • 1 (32 oz) carton Chicken broth
Baking & Spices
  • 1 tsp Chili powder
  • 1 Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Oils & Vinegars
  • 1 tbsp Canola oil for sautéing the onion
  • 1 cup Cheese
  • 2/3 cup Heavy cream
  • 1 1/3 cups Milk
  • 1/4 cup Sour cream
I cut the cream and milk back, but used more (light) sour cream. I served it with tortilla strips on top and extra cheese and sour cream.
 Got scarves cheap to use instead of placemats for winter theme.
Lastly, I just finished reading A Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White.

Note: This is a beautifully-written, thought-provoking novel, but is graphic in places and not always comfortable to read. It is about the intersection of three outcasts – an old African- american woman, a wealthy 40-something divorcee, and a young gay man, son of a pastor from the south. Most of the book focuses on the young man and I found his nuanced story very compelling.


Some posts on this blog contain Amazon affiliate links – I receive a tiny commission on any purchases you make from links, but I’m not paid to recommend any particular item. I’d never include a link to anything I didn’t own or feel great about endorsing.

The Small, but Important Shifts that Will Make You a More Effective Helper

My sister-in-law Susan, is a young widow of a year and a half.  She is outside trying to stay ahead of the fat, heavy snow that is falling fast and piling up faster. She struggles on her own to shovel her walkway with an injured back, when a neighbor and his young son walk up, with shovels in hand.

“Can we help?” asks the little boy.

The father gently corrects him. “No son, remember, that’s not what we say. We say “We’re here to help!”

What a brilliant shift!

If someone says, “Can we help?” what’s our go-to response?  “Oh no, that’s ok.” Right?

But in the face of an enthusiastic “We’re here to help!” it becomes a community activity.

It’s fascinating to me how little tweaks in what we say can make a big difference. 

Most of us have had someone ask “How are you doing?” in a season when we want to hurl things at them and scream “I’M A HOT MESS OF PAIN HERE AND WANT TO DIE, CAN’T YOU SEE THAT???” However, it’s so natural, we ALL ask the question without thinking about it. When you know people are going through a hard time, consider alternatives like:

  • “I’m so glad to see you (or to hear your voice).” Then stop and just listen.
  • “I can’t imagine how hard this is for you, but I’d like to better understand what you’re going through.”
  • “I love you.”
  • Give them a hug and say, “I’m here. I can’t imagine what this is like for you, but I’d love to take a walk and listen.”
  • “What’s on your plate for today?” Often if you ask people what they’re doing, they’ll tell you how they’re feeling.
  • After someone dies, over the long-haul when others have stopped asking, say “What do you miss most about ________?”

And sometimes it’s not the words, but the silence that matters.

I’ve written before on some other practical suggestions, and if you want a terrific book on this, check out What Grieving People Wish You Knew about what really helps (and what really hurts”).


Soul Food for a Holiday Hangover

One of the things I hate about post-Christmas is the disappearance of shiny things. I texted my daughters that I wish twinkle lights were appropriate decor year round. Maggie replied that if I lived in a dorm room they would be.

Since I don’t, I like to try to think of what will cozy up our home after Christmas and not leave it looking so bare.  Candles, soup, snowmen, mittens, fires in the fireplace… I’ve collected plaid scarves on sale to use as a runner down the middle of my table, and cross-wise instead of place mats.img_2203

Tonight I’m trying a recipe for Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup. If I don’t kill anyone I’ll share it next week, but for now…

I didn’t ever try brussels sprouts til a couple years ago, but I adapted a recipe at Thanksgiving and could probably live on it alone all winter. Here you go, and you’re welcome!

Bacon Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

  • 6 Slices Bacon
  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • 1 tbsp Rosemary, fresh
  • 2 shallots chopped
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. On a large baking sheet, season brussels sprouts, bacon, and garlic with salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil and toss until combined.
  2. Bake until brussels are tender and charred, 30 minutes.
  3. Drizzle balsamic glaze over roasted brussels sprouts and serve.

We saw several movies over the holidays, including Lion, based on the true story of a boy in India who gets separated from his family as a 4-year-old. It is intense and slow towards the end, but also very moving and beautiful. Michael Gerson wrote a fantastic article here on the story and its parallels to spiritual homecoming.

I’m trying hard not to buy as many books this year, so one of the eleventh-billion books I got on reserve is Wonder.


Loved this book that is really probably for pre-teens, but is amazing – about a 10 year old boy with a facial deformity. One of my favorite quotes from this book is:

“Everyone deserves a standing ovation once in their life.”

Another book I have on hold at the Library (that I’m still waiting for) is Chip and Joanna Gaines, The Magnolia Story.


I loved this blog post that Chip wrote about living a restoration story!

If I misjudge people and am wrong, I want to be wrong having assumed the best about them. Chip Gaines

I wrote Tuesday (?) about my One Word for 2017. If this is something you’d like to explore further you might take a look at the YouVersion 4 day Bible reading plan around discovering your word for the year.




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A Little Merry for Your Christmas Mess

So this was my update the other day on Instagram.


Since then another bough has fallen down and it’s still too cold to get out and fix. I didn’t mention it, but our tree looks like a hot mess this year (if that’s even possible), and there’s a big snowstorm coming in tonight – the night of our staff party.

Can we all make a pact and say “Let’s laugh and roll with it!”?

So today on the blog, just a little joy and help to make this week easier…

First, the easiest appetizer that is the one everyone always asks for – Cheesy Crab Bites. You can make these wayyyy ahead and have them in your freezer ready for whenever (New Year’s Eve?)



  • 7 oz. of crab
  • 1 stick of butter
  • small jar Kraft Old English cheese
  • 2 TB Hellmans
  • 1/2 ts. Lawrys seasoned salt (I’ve also used garlic powder or garlic salt – you can play with amounts)

I soften the butter and cheese in the micro-wave for about 20 secs then mix everything together and spread on English Muffin Bread. Freeze for about 15 minute and then cut into squares. Freeze til ready to use (can store in freezer bag)

Bake at 350 on baking sheet for about 15 minutes or til as done as you like. I’d do these in small batches cuz they’er best right out of the oven.


Secondly, I came across a brilliant idea this week that I thought I’d pass along – use a lint roller to get up all those stray pine needles that drive you crazy! I think there’s a bigger version of lint roller I’m going to look for, but this works!

img_1888 img_1898

And a little joy for your day…John and I rang bells for the Salvation army this week. We looked nothing like this.

And lastly, when Katy was little, one day she took me by the hand and led me over to the manger scene under the Christmas tree. She sat down and pulled me down next to her. “Sit. Stay. Watch.” she said. This week, I hope you’ll take time to just sit and watch. Look at Jesus, look at your Christmas lights.



Post-election Comfort Food

It’s been a rough week, hasn’t it?  Our country is in shock. This election has exposed deep fault lines that we were either denying or unaware of.

I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch the news since Tuesday.

I posted a few thoughts on Instagram, but mostly I’ve needed silence and solitude.

Wednesday morning I woke early as usual, walking outside in the dark while the stars were still the only light.

My heart was heavy, grieving for the state of our country, the deep divides, the lack of moral compass, the crassness of our rhetoric, the lack of civil discourse, and our future.

I felt a deep need for prayer, for silence, for beauty, and for worship music.

In the dark I looked up and was reminded of one of my favorite verses – Isaiah 40:26

Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars,

Behold the One who leads for their host by number,

He calls them all by name;

Because of the greatness of His might, and the strength of His power,

Not one of them is missing.

We…people…can feel so powerful…And there is power in the choices God has given us, but His power is always greater. He calls each star that He hung, by name!

We’re reminded, “Many are the plans in a human heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs

He’s still doing His job, and we need to do ours – to love others well and cling to Him.

Take the time you need to regather, but then we need to brush ourselves off, get up, and be the church.

To reach across walls,

to walk across a room,

to welcome those different from us,

to listen longer than is comfortable,

to reassure those who are afraid, that we will stand with them.

As we do, this song may help.


Lastly, I deeply appreciated these thoughts from Josh DuBois. Maybe you will too.




Soul Food Friday for Father’s Day

My small group sat around the other night sharing horror stories about teens and sexual assault, young men who don’t have role models and don’t have high ideals, don’t respect women…It can be discouraging as we see a lack of honorable young men, but there ARE inspiring stories out there! I want to share some this Father’s Day weekend.


And last…my favorite Tweet from @XplodingUnicorn


Happy Father’s Day!

Soul Food for Memorial Day Weekend

We started Memorial Day weekend off a little early last night with a spur of the moment dinner out, soaking up the beauty of our town. So full of gratitude!


Whenever you start it, I hope you all have a delightful weekend, perhaps sharing the sentiment of one of my favorite Instagram posts:


And if it’s been a bad week, just shake it off!


I want to spend every minute I can outdoors, but our forecast has a bunch of rain in it so I may get into some of the books I want to read…


Unfortunately, my friend Michelle won’t be getting outside. I went to see her in the hospital today where she’s on bed rest waiting for her 3rd baby to arrive.  She’s longing to be outside this weekend, but is doing the important work of growing a baby!

As hard as it is to be patient, she shared encouragement she got from the Lord on a hard day (she’s already been in for 3 weeks!). They did an ultrasound and not only did it show this clear, tiny foot…


but God brought to mind Proverbs 16:9 which she wrote on the back of the picture.

In their heart, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

What a great reminder for anyone waiting for anything this weekend!

Summer’s almost here and that means salads, so here’s a new recipe I like…  I found the original on Pinterest.
  • 1 bag spring salad mix
  • 1 bag romaine
  • I made my own bacon bits but burned them so ended up using a 3 oz bag of Hormel real applewood smoked bacon bits
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1 large granny smith apple, chopped
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans or almonds
  • 5 oz  Gorgonzola or blue cheese crumbled

Clean lettuce, place in large bowl and top with ingredients – toss.


  • You can add more or less of each ingredient – do what you prefer.
  • Chop the apple right before serving to prevent it from browning.
  • This salad is great with grilled chicken tossed on top for a meal.
  • I’m thinking I might try a variation and replace the fruit with blueberries and add red onion

    Mary’s Sweet Balsamic Dressing


    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or canola
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 3 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
    • 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard (or a little squeeze of Grey Poupon mustard)
    • Few twists of fresh cracked pepper Or use 1/8 tsp of reg ground pepper

That’s a little bit of what has delighted me this this week. What about you?

Soul Food Friday

Sharing some “soul food” that brought me joy this week…

First, a little Instagram delight for all you mamas limping to the finish line of the school year.


Oh my gosh, we all need some good news and uplifting stories these days, right? This first video was sent to me by daughter Maggie and brought tears to my eyes. Such a beautiful picture of community and caring.

And this one…Wow, what a Jesus-like picture.

I read Secrets of a Charmed Life this week and loved it! It takes place during World War 2 in London and is totally engrossing. I couldn’t put it down as the author weaves the stories of two half sisters and their unmarried mother through the Blitz and beyond. Such a great story that keeps you guessing to the end.


I took dinner to a new mama this week and had small group dinner too, so it was a great excuse to try out this new recipe. Holy buckets! Definitely a winner! (I’m not very good at cutting or food styling, but trust me…yum!)

IMG_4516 IMG_4519

SNICKERDOODLE CHEESECAKE BARS (original recipe here I always change them)



  • 1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 12 full size grahams)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted


  • 2 packages (8oz each) cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon


  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon


  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon


  1. Spray Pam on a 13×9 baking dishPreheat oven for 350 degrees.
  2. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers with sugar until fine crumbs. Add in melted butter and pulse until combined.
  3. Press crumbs into bottom of prepared baking dish. Using palm of your hand (or bottom of a cup) press crumbs firmly until they are pressed into the bottom of the pan.
  4. For the cheesecake filling, beat cream cheese with sugar, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer. Beat until fluffy and smooth (about 3-4 minutes). Pour over graham crust.
  5. For the cookie dough, beat butter with sugar for 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat thoroughly. Add in baking powder, salt, flour and cinnamon and beat until fully combined.  Scoop dough by large spoonfuls onto the top of the cheesecake layer. Try to use your fingertips to spread gently until cheesecake layer is fully covered.
  6. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon topping. Sprinkle generously over the cookie dough layer.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, middle may still “jiggle.” That’s okay. You want the cookie layer to be completely cooked and browned. Remove from oven and cool completely. Once cooled, cover with foil and refrigerate for 4 hours, or overnight. Cut into squares and enjoy. Keep leftover bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  8. yield: 24 LARGE BARS
 Happy, happy weekend friends!

Soul Food to Celebrate Life

If you’re a mama or if you’re not, this is a great weekend to celebrate Life in every expression! Here are a few things that were life-giving to me this week.

Our daughter Katy works as liaison between USAID (humanitarian aid) and Capitol Hill. She sent us this video that made us all cry. Powerful stuff!

If that one made you cry, this video will bring a smile. During a season when there’s so much focus on what divides us, this is a reminder of the things that we can celebrate together.

Favorite Instagram. Nuf said.


A beautifully written book I read this week was Purple Hibiscus. This amazing book is written in the voice of a 15-year-old girl living a life of privilege and abuse in Nigeria. It brings to life all the sights and smells of the culture and all the intricacies of family dynamics.


This Sunday is Mother’s Day, but it would also have been my brother David’s birthday.


He had the gift of hospitality, always drawing people together and welcoming them in. He was also the Grillmaster. So in honor of David I’m sharing our favorite turkey rub recipe from one of our friends. We call it Turkey ala Bob. It’s awesome!

1 clove minced garlic ++

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup coarse sea salt

2 TB minced onion (I use the dried kind)

2 ts. crushed red pepper flakes (I cut this way back cuz we don’t like spicy hot)

2 ts. coarse ground black pepper

1/2 ts. EACH cloves and allspice

Pat turkey with oil. Rub in marinade. Double bag for 2 days.

To grill use a aluminum drip pan and grill for 11-13 minutes a pound. Let it stand for 15 minutes. Read more here.

And lastly…

Happy happy weekend!

Soul Food Funny, Yummy, and Engaging

It’s Soul Food Friday! Congratulations! You’re dancing across the finish line into the weekend! Here are a few of the things from my week that I think you might like…

Daughter Katy shared this Buzzfeed article with us it and it has brought so much joy into my Twitter feed! Check out some of the posts from Exploding Unicorn.

FullSizeRender-92 FullSizeRender-93


And my new happy Instagram feed – Scary Mommy




And…Who doesn’t love Fixer Upper and want to be best friends with Chip and Joanna?? This week Joanna posted a recipe for a lemon pie and I just happened to have (most of) the ingredients so I made it for my small group dinner.

Yum! It was definitely a keeper, and since I only had one can of sweetened condensed milk instead of the THREE in the recipe, I could call it a Lo Cal version. So Score! It just made a thinner layer of filling.

FullSizeRender-94 IMG_4329

Lastly, I’ve read two fascinating books this week. 

I got the precious gift of having lunch with my friend Sharol while we were in D.C. She lost her husband to cancer just 4 months before we lost my brother David and is such a wise and godly friend. She also is doing her D.Min focused on how the church can help people die better. She suggested the book When Breath Becomes Air which John and I immediately got on our Kindle.


It’s a memoir written by a neurosurgeon who chronicles his journey with cancer, mortality, and quality of life. It may not be for everyone, but I found it engrossing, perhaps because it paralleled much of our experience with my brother David.

IMG_4331The other book is also a memoir by a woman who has struggle with deep depression – Still Life.

About now you may be thinking, “Boy Debbie Downer, do YOU know how to choose books!” But, I found this book also super engaging and helpful to me as someone trying to understand what others may be going through. I definitely recommend it.

That’s it for me! Have a joy-filled weekend, and let me know what’s making your heart sing!

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