A Few of Our Favorite Holiday Recipes

*Fair Warning: This is THE longest post of all time, but I promise you it’s worth it. Read it in segments if that helps!

Every year around the holidays I get the pleasure of listening to my coworkers discuss their signature recipes for their own family gatherings. I’m continually put to shame because, let’s be real, yours truly doesn’t cook.

(Actually, it’s not that I don’t like cooking, it’s just that I haven’t had many occasion to cook for. Cooking for one is pretty lame and as a single girl, I’m fairly content with a bowl of cereal each night. Don’t be fooled though, when my time comes, I will have no problem asking for the cooking anointing.)

About a week ago Beth came up with this brilliant idea to collect recipes from our co-workers to share with you, our beloved Siestas. While you won’t see one from me (Lindsee) on here, you will get a taste (pun intended) of some of our favorite holiday recipes. Eleven of our fourteen coworkers, including Beth, submitted their favorite family recipes and we are so delighted to share them all with you. (I’m also going to attempt to briefly explain to you what each of them do at LPM, which you may or may not find interesting, because sometimes it’s fun to picture who is serving you.) They are not necessarily all “Christmas Day” recipes, but more so holiday recipes, some you can use all year long, some are fun for New Years Eve, and a few are meant to be eaten on Christmas morning.

They also range from side dishes, to appetizers, to drinks and desserts! What’s not to love? To make it a bit more reader friendly and easy on the eyes, I’ve written out each recipe on a virtual recipe card and if you click on it, you can print out the card itself instead of having to always refer to this blog post. However, now that we all live in the land of smart phones, it is just as easy to bookmark this page in your websites for quick and easy access.

(But seriously, is the card not adorable? I printed them each at a fun website called Skip To My Lou. You should check it out. Adorable.)

The ONLY recipe you won’t find in a card is our Siesta Mama’s. Naturally, she wanted to bless you all with her dressing recipe and unfortunately, it won’t fit on the card. But that’s okay because she even has a visual for you all. If you want to print hers out (at the bottom), simply copy and paste her portion into a word document and you’re good to go!

You’ll see that some recipes have two cards because it requires the main dish and an icing or topping.

Here is a list of categories and titles of our favorite dishes:

Appetizers:
Blue Cheese Balls or Spread

Side Dishes:
Cornbread Muffins
Sweet potato Soufflé (Two recipe cards)
(Roughly) My Nanny’s Cornbread Dressing (This is the only recipe out of order and you’ll see it at the end of this post.)

Main Course:
Christmas Brunch Casserole

Dessert:
Chocolate Drops
Flaky Peanut Butter Brittle
Missy B’s Canadian Sugar Cookies (Two recipe cards)
Best Friend Cookies

Drinks:
Egg Nog

Snacks:
Christmas Mix

Susan is our resident chef at LPM. But aside from being our resident chef, she works in our correspondence department doing general email correspondence. Also, Susan is our resident counselor. Everyone here wants a piece of her wisdom. Grin.

Our beloved Diane heads up our resource department. If you’ve had an issue with a Bible study order, a scratched DVD or just had a general question about a product, you may very likely have spoken to her on the phone. She also loves animals more than anyone I know. We love her!

Sabrina directs what we refer to as Living Proof Ministries. She runs our ministry with godly business sense she gained from her time in the corporate world and keeps things in order. Truthfully, I couldn’t tell you everything she does because I simply do not know, but I know she works hard! We’re grateful for her leadership in so many areas.

Sherry has one of the sweetest hearts and gentle souls you’ll ever meet and we only get to see her two days a week since she’s a busy young mama of two boys. You’re going to laugh when I tell you I THINK she works and helps out in our resource/accounting department. (But I’m going to double check on that. I’d hate to lead you astray.)

If you’ve ever written and sent a letter to our dear Beth at LPM, you’ve most likely heard from the encouraging Nancy Mattingly. She works in our snail mail correspondence department. To know Nancy is to love her. I bet you’d agree if you’ve ever received a letter from her! Not to mention she gives the world’s best back scratches and massages. It’s truly a ministry.

I’m lucky because I get to share an office with Jennifer Hamm twice a week. I’m far from being a mama, but when I grow up I want to parent just like her and Sherry. They bless me so! Jennifer heads up all of our events, not the least of which is Tuesday Night Bible study. No small feat. And she rocks it. She is also the woman behind all things SSMT Celebration, which might bless you!

Oh, KMac. We have two Kimberly’s on staff, which is how this Kimberly adopted the name KMac. KMac is Beth’s personal assistant and the best of the best. One of the most efficient and humble people I’ve ever had the chance to meet. Plus, her laugh is loud and contagious. (And not the obnoxious loud, but the good loud.)

You may have heard a few Johnnie stories in the past because she and Beth raised their children together. Also, she is hilarious! Johnnie also works in our correspondence department, but more specifically, she answers your questions about certain books or Bible studies and she also would be the one to send you replies or the commissioning from the LPL conferences. For this recipe card, instead of listing the ingredients in one section and the process in another section, it is listed out by steps (Step 1, Step 2, and Step 3), so your best bet is to follow the steps. I hope it’s not too confusing!

You see Evangeline, but we refer to her as Vangie, or, our resident diva. And we’ve never loved anybody more than we’ve love Vangie. Not to mention she can pray the house down, and I mean it when I say it. She is a gift and a warrior! Vangie works in our resource department heading up our volunteers and packaging. So if you’ve ever received a product from LPM wrapped in pink tissue paper, you have Vangie to thank!

Kimberly Meyer is everyone’s best friend. You may be grinning, but I’m not kidding. She could talk to a tree (and I mean that in the most endearing way possible), which is why she is our LPM admin and properties manager. Kimberly answers our phones and speaks to every single person that calls…all day long. She is also our prayer chaplain. My favorite thing about Kimberly is that after talking with a lady for a solid 20 minutes and praying over them, she’ll explain to them that we really can’t give counseling here at LPM but she’s so happy to give them a number of another ministry that they could call for further assistance. Oh, and if LPM needed a cheerleader, she’s our girl. Most likely, if you’ve ever called LPM, you’ve heard sweet Kimberly’s voice. We’re grateful for her joyful spirit! It’s contagious.

And lastly but certainly not least, a recipe and a note from Beth herself, which is far better than any introduction I could give you. But just in case you’re unaware, Beth is our resident Bible study teacher, fearless leader, brilliant author and amazing boss. Needless to say, we love her so, so much.

(Roughly) My Nanny’s Cornbread Dressing

I say roughly, Sisters, because none of the women in my family have ever wanted anyone else in the kitchen. My sisters and I were not taught to cook at our mother or grandmother’s knee like some of you were. We were told to play outside or someone was “gonna to cut a switch.” I write these words with delight, not spite. If I’d had five children under one roof, I would have threatened the same thing. My brothers and sisters and I have each figured out our cornbread dressing recipes based on taste. Below is the closest I’ve come in my kitchen to my mother, Aletha’s, and grandmother, Minnie Ola’s, recipes. The only reason I’m braving this recipe is because young cooks ask constantly for dressing recipes and hardly anyone coughs one up because no one has it written down. So, please, at least give me an “B+” for effort here because your blog mama loves you and she’s willing to give it a happy shot. I don’t stuff my turkey with this. I bake it separately but you can certainly use this for stuffing. Just Google the variance in preparation. This recipe will make far more than you can stuff into a turkey. If you have a smaller family, half it and you’ll have plenty.

Ingredients:
4 pieces of bacon, fried crispy for the bacon grease alone. Eat the bacon while no one is looking and save the fat for this recipe.

Two batches of baked cornbread

4 baked biscuits. I do not know why. Because my grandmother used them and so did my mom. That’s why. The cheap Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits in the can work great. That’s what I use every time.

3 pieces of plain white toast

1 cup of butter

2 chopped onions

½ cup or so of chopped celery (To your taste. I use a bit more because I like celery.)

Salt, pepper, and sage to taste

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

2 eggs

Instructions:
*Fry bacon in an iron skillet if you have one and remove the bacon. If you fry them in a regular pan, just pour the drippings into your baking dish.

*Mix up a double batch of cornbread according to the recipe on the back of any bag of cornmeal. (I always substitute the vegetable oil in a cornbread recipe for an equal amount of Crisco shortening because the shortening makes it so much lighter and fluffier.) We want it light and fluffy!!

*Pour the batter into a nice, hot skillet with the bacon grease in it and bake until it is done all the way in the middle. (I’m feeling compulsive like I need to say stuff like, “Don’t let your grease catch on fire!” But I am going to assume many of you have some basic kitchen experience.) You’ll know it’s done when a sharp knife should come out clean from the center. (Don’t cut yourself on the knife. Stop it, Beth.)

*Bake about 4 biscuits according to directions. The cheap Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits in the can are perfect. (I do not know why. Because my Nanny did and my mother did, that’s why.) It’s awkward to just bake 4 so go ahead and bake the whole can and eat what’s left with your bacon.

*Toast about 3 pieces of white bread.

(A friend of mine uses the equivalent of crumbled white French bread instead of biscuits and toast. It’s the same general idea: cornbread dressing usually includes some regular bread.)

*Crumble up the cooled cornbread, baked biscuits, and toast together.

Note: I do all the above on the evening before if I’m doing a noon meal or too many dishes are competing for oven space.

If you are roasting a turkey (which is optimum for great dressing), reserve a cup of the drippings for the dressing and the rest, of course, for your gravy. (Make sure the turkey is completely done before you remove drippings.) I put my drippings in a gravy separator cup like this so that the drippings will separate from the fat.

If you can’t find a measuring cup with a low spout like this, put a regular measuring cup of drippings in the refrigerator and the top layer of fat will congeal as it gets cold. You can then spoon it or scrape it off. Keep all turkey drippings in the refrigerator if you are not using them right away.

*Saute 2 chopped onions and a ½ cup (or more, to taste) chopped celery in a cup of butter. (This is not the recipe for heart health. You can eat the rest of your celery for the rest of the week if you have to.) Pour the mixture into a very large bowl with all the crumbled breads in it.

This is where you start doing it by feel and taste:
*Add salt and pepper and sage. Remember that the sage is the primary flavor that makes cornbread dressing distinct but it can certainly be overdone. Start with a tablespoon, taste the mixture and add from there to suit your taste. Add 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning. Add 4 cups of canned chicken broth and the cup of reserved turkey drippings. If needed, keep adding more chicken broth little by little until the mixture is just a bit wetter than you like your dressing. It will dry out some as it bakes but, if you get it too soupy, the dressing will turn out too wet. You want the consistency to be fairly dense without being dry.

*After the above mixture suits your taste, stir in 2 beaten raw eggs. (Don’t taste it after the raw eggs are added unless you are really brave.)

*Put in a large greased baking dish and bake for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. After an hour, I start touching the top of mine with my fingertips and when it’s pretty solid, I consider it done. Don’t let it get too brown on top or it will be too brickish.

I like to put a tablespoonful of baked dressing into my gravy as I make it but that’s just me. I’m not a giblet person so I give the gravy a little added texture with this little addition.

Serve with lots of cranberry sauce and, if it’s good, talk about it a lot during the meal because you earned the affirmation even if you have to give it to yourself.

Good grief, I love y’all.

And with that, we’ll call it a post and hit publish.

Be filled and be blessed!

P.S. I meant to say earlier, but by all means, if there is a recipe you’re dying to share, feel free to do so in the comments!

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A Brief Monday Catch-Up!

* P.S. I have some fun news! If you’re wondering why the LPM blog looks a little different, it’s because we got a makeover and it went live today! Don’t you love it? We sure do! Sometimes we all just need a little makeover to change our attitude, agreed? I feel like the blog did just that today! Woohoo! Thank you so much to our friends at AdWhite for all your help and expertise! We’re so grateful!

 

Good Monday morning to you, ladies! I don’t know about you, but I had a whirlwind of a weekend. When my alarm went off this morning the only coherent thought I had was, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…get out of bed. Not only did my eyes struggle to see the morning hour, but I was so warm that the thought of peeking my toes outside of my covers with the chill in the air made me want to cry. But I did it! I had no choice; becauase after all, being an adult requires responsibility and well, work. And I hope to keep my job. Grin.

Anyway, I made it here and happy and now I’m even happier to announce our Stocking Stuffer Giveaway Winners!

I’ve never desired to leave you guys in such suspense, but part of my weekend excitement was that my little brother graduated from Texas A&M (Gig ‘Em!) and by the time I got home late Friday night, I had no brain power left to even look at my computer. (In fact, I felt slightly inadequate to keep writing anything after reading through the dissertation titles of the PHD students graduating. Whoa. I’m still thinking about how smart some people are and how I’ll never understand certain sentences or words.) Mind you, that was all AFTER our LPM Christmas party on Thursday that sucks every ounce of energy out of every staff member. So, here we are! Hey, the longer the wait the sweeter the gift, right?

Without further ado here are our lucky 12 (and random) winners thanks to random.org…

Stocking Winners

1) Michele
2) Melissa Holgate
3) Barbara Mackey-Zeigler
4) Sharon
5) Kim Morgan
6) Carol Comey
7) Sarah Tolson
8) Beverly Toney
9) Ginger Golembiewski
10) Courtney Beth Burnside

Cookbook Winners

1) Christiana Billingsly
2) Tiffany Fling
3) Toni Rahm

Congrats, ladies! You should be receiving an email from me (Lindsee) ASAP so I can retrieve your mailing address!

And just for fun, I’ll leave you with this one special picture from our Volunteer Brunch on Thursday morning. Needless to say, we had a few laughs. (For the record, sometimes you let a picture speak for itself, which is exactly what I’m going to to do here.)

Oh, and here is Sabrina and Beth, they happened to be matchy-matchy at our Christmas party and it was cute! We attempted a staff picture, but as Melissa put it so kindly, it will die with us.

We love y’all so much! Be expecting some super fun things on the blog this week. Hopefully as soon as tomorrow (Tuesday), but for sure Wednesday!

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2013 Siesta Scripture Memory Team: Verse 24!

 

 

 

 

I AM SO PROUD OF YOU I COULD DO TEN CARTWHEELS!!!!!

 

LET YOURSELF FEEL THE HOLY NOD OF GOD THIS WONDERFUL DAY, MY BELOVED SISTER.

YOU HAVE DONE SOMETHING THAT HE ESTEEMS AS TREASURE BEYOND PRICE.

HE HAS LISTENED INTENTLY EVERY TIME YOU’VE SAID A VERSE OUT LOUD AND RECOGNIZED THE SOUND OF YOUR VOICE WITH DEEP AFFECTION.

HE HAS BEHELD YOUR RADIANT FACE, DAUGHTER OF GOD, AND FOUND YOU SO LOVELY.

LET YOURSELF HEAR HIS COMMENDATION THIS DAY.

LET HIM SAY “WELL DONE” TO YOU.

 

Oh, Jesus was so worthy of all this work, wasn’t He, Sister???

 

You have been a stellar group and you’ve kept to the exact instructions with every single entry, limiting them to the verse alone. This time when you leave your verse, you get to leave a comment with it. Testify! Boast in the Lord! Tell us a specific way God used this year of Scripture memory in your priceless life.

THEN, click this!

Hallelujah Chorus

 

Beth, Houston. Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2b-3 ESV

I love you so much I could cry. Thank you for the privilege to serve you. 

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A Stocking Stuffed of Our Favorite Things

*Ladies! You make Christmas stockings all the more enjoyable! We have now closed comments and will post our 13 winners as soon as possible. (P.S. I’m out of the office today so this time you might have to be a bit more patient. Grin.) We love y’all. Happy Friday!

About 30 minutes ago I returned to my office laughing to myself after a birthday lunch for one of my co-workers. Lunches are a big deal around LPM in general, but throw a birthday lunch in there and you’ll never want to work anywhere ever again. Besides the food, the main event at any gathering is the words. Oh my, y’all, the words. We can easily toss around 20,000 words between 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM on any given day. It is both fun and overwhelming at times. Me, the sanguine, is actually fairly quiet, believe it or not.

I’m tickled though because, I don’t know if you’ve ever worked with 14 women, but we like to play copycat. For instance, one of us could fall in love with a certain moisturizer overnight and by the next week, we’re all using the same moisturizer and the same eyeliner. I guess you might say we trust each other’s opinions. Today was one of those days; except we talked extensively about television series we all need to watch. Riveting, you guys.

I’m sharing all of this with you because of what we’ve planned for today! It happens to fall along the lines of things we love and never shut up about.

Because today, we’re giving away our staff favorite things! The things we go on and on about and claim it’s the best things we ever discovered! We get a little partial and enthusiastic about our worldly goods every now and then. (Well, maybe a lot.)

(If you’ve ever seen an episode of Oprah’s Favorite Things back in the day, imagine that and then scale it down by 100. Unfortunately, we won’t be giving away any cars today, but who would turn down a few stocking stuffers?)

Admit it, we all love giveaways around here, but there’s something about giving away objects you love. Hence why sometimes we give away food or books. So, I surveyed the staff here at LPM and told them all to send me a favorite thing, something they either use or think about on a daily basis. After I collected the emails and studied them, I took myself shopping, and with much glee, I might add to purchase every item for you, our dear Siestas.

Today, TEN of you will win a stocking stuffed full of LPM’s very favorite things! Y’all, I’ll unashamedly admit that I want this stocking for myself. It is just so fun!

The beauty of this post is that it will double as an idea post for stocking stuffers you may be looking for yourself.

Without further ado, (in my best sing song voice) these are a few of our favorite things…

1. Bath and Body Works Fresh Balsam Fragrance Bulbs (plug in) from Diane
The best part about a plug-in is that once you’ve exhausted a certain smell, you can buy a new one, and they’re a lot cheaper than buying a new candle each time.

2. L’oreal Voluminous Mascara from KMac
Yes, we are serious about mascara around here. Well, most of us anyway. I’m looking forward to trying this myself.

3. Tazo Green Tea (with Lemongrass and Spearmint) from Kimberly
Have no fear, we are mainly coffee guzzlers around here, but some delicious hot tea is good for the soul.

4. Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer in Peony from Jennifer
If you’re looking for a chap stick with a little hint of color, this is your best friend.

5. Trader Joe’s Nourish All in One Facial Cleanser from Linda
If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, beg the Lord to show favor on your city to build one. It’s a treasure, to say the least. But, do not be anxious if you’re not near one, you can find a ton of stuff online. Thank you, Internet.

6. Trader Joes Kitchen Soap from Sabrina
Shall I repeat myself? Pray yourself a Trader Joe’s near you.

7. Daily Light Devotional by Anne Grahm Lotz from Nancy
I’ve yet to use this devotional, but all of my coworkers sing its praises. I’ll be purchasing my own asap. As our beloved teacher tells us all the time, it’s good to study under other authors and teachers. Be wise, but be free!

8. See’s Chocolate Covered Almond Clusters from Evangeline
Who would say no to See’s candy? I can’t help you if you do. Grin.

9. Philosophy Hands of Hope Hand and Cuticle Cream from Sherry
Philosophy has an entire line-up of wonderfully named products, from skin care to bubble bath. Purity, Amazing Grace, Miracle Worker. It’s all very fancy and nice, but is so worth every penny, if you’re into that kind of thing.

10. Essie Nail Polish from Lindsee
I think I may be repeating myself here, but for a girl who loves to paint her fingers and toes, I favor Essie polish. My current favorite winter color is, Ladylike. The name alone sold me.

11. Boot Socks from Beth
Just today Beth wore the cutest pair of boot socks you’ve ever seen. If I’d of had half a mind, I would have taken a picture for you. But for you who wear boots, this is the trend right now. Plus, they keep your legs and feet warm. Score!

And for a bonus, THREE grand prize winners will receive one:

12. Barefoot Contessa Cookbook from Susan
For a New York Time’s best seller, I have no doubt you might fall in love with your kitchen all over again.

Ladies, the fun is all yours now! Just make sure when you comment to leave your first and last name, as that will help us out when we announce the winners. Also in your comment, consider sharing your favorite thing with us. The more the merrier! We’ll leave the post up for at least 24 hours and post the winners this weekend. Okay, y’all, fire away!

Just a brief look at the winnings. (They’re not the prettiest giveaway pictures we’ve posted, but you get the idea. I had to spend more time shopping than photographing!)

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His Love Never Quits

For you who need to hear that no matter what, His love never quits. It knows no end. It is relentless. Receive it today, Sister. You are dearly loved.

1-3 Thank God! He deserves your thanks.
  His love never quits.
Thank the God of all gods,
  His love never quits.
Thank the Lord of all lords.
  His love never quits.

4-22 Thank the miracle-working God,
  His love never quits.
The God whose skill formed the cosmos,
  His love never quits.
The God who laid out earth on ocean foundations,
  His love never quits.
The God who filled the skies with light,
  His love never quits.
The sun to watch over the day,
  His love never quits.
Moon and stars as guardians of the night,
  His love never quits.
The God who struck down the Egyptian firstborn,
  His love never quits.
And rescued Israel from Egypt’s oppression,
  His love never quits.
Took Israel in hand with his powerful hand,
  His love never quits.
Split the Red Sea right in half,
  His love never quits.
Led Israel right through the middle,
  His love never quits.
Dumped Pharaoh and his army in the sea,
  His love never quits.
The God who marched his people through the desert,
  His love never quits.
Smashed huge kingdoms right and left,
  His love never quits.
Struck down the famous kings,
  His love never quits.
Struck Sihon the Amorite king,
  His love never quits.
Struck Og the Bashanite king,
  His love never quits.
Then distributed their land as booty,
  His love never quits.
Handed the land over to Israel.
  His love never quits.

23-26 God remembered us when we were down,
  His love never quits.
Rescued us from the trampling boot,
  His love never quits.
Takes care of everyone in time of need.
  His love never quits.
Thank God, who did it all!
  His love never quits!

Psalm 136 (The Message)

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A 12th Month That Redeems a Year

Hey Sisters! Grab a Bible before tuning in if you have one close by!

A 12th Month That Redeems a Year from LPV on Vimeo.

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A Christmas Journey through LPM

Happy Wednesday, fine ladies!

Here at LPM we celebrate Christmas enthusiastically. That means that right before we head out for the Thanksgiving holidays, we dedicate one afternoon to decorating our office for Christmas. When you put ten or so hands to work, things go pretty quickly. This old house-turned-office is magical this time of year, so we thought it would be fun to give you a little tour.

Welcome to Living Proof Ministries, we’re so happy to show you around.

Our office is pretty no matter what time of day…

But at night it glows.

Come inside…

Our entryway. I personally don’t think this picture does it justice. It’s too pretty to capture. (The first floor is where all things resources take place. If you glance back in that hallway through those doors, that’s where everything is wrapped, packaged and shipped out.)

This table usually sits where our Christmas tree goes.

The Boardroom

And the stockings were hung by the chimney with care. (By the way, mantels are my most favorite thing to at Christmas. They’re magical.)

O Holy Night (courtesy of Lindsay Letters)

A Nativity Set in the entryway.

Welcome to the second floor, where everything admin happens. Do you like the way we swagged Kimberly’s desk? Also, if you’ll enlarge this picture, you can see our other Kimberly (whom we refer to as KMac) waiving at you guys. My coworkers really didn’t want to be in any of the pictures. I tried my hardest!

This is where we hang all of our Christmas cards. It’s still pretty early, but soon this will be full of many smiling faces!

A wreath on the door to a room we call the “Red Room”. You’ll notice on all of our wreaths the word Joy! This is appropriate since that is our word of the month and theme for December. But no, it was not planned, just something that stuck out to me as I was taking pictures.

We use this table to break at and enjoy lunch every now and then.

A jingle bell Christmas tree.

A Willow Tree Nativity Set

This is the mantel and fire place in our director, Sabrina’s, office. You can’t see them very well but she has twinkle lights on it!

Another wreath. Another joy.

Another wreath leading into Beth’s office.

A miniature Christmas tree at her entryway.

A little sleigh with scented pinecones and a fun Christmas CD. Wink, wink.

An angel. (The first picture I took of her made her look like a ghost because the light was way too bright and washed her out. So that was cool.)

Some table decorations in a side room upstairs.

Santa? Or Saint Nicholas? Grin.

Some sparkly garland above Beth’s bookshelves.

And for good measure, one more wreath in her office with a little joy on it. Grin.

Merry Christmas pillow.

The fireplace all decorated in Beth’s office.

Merry Christmas from us to you! We hope you enjoyed the tour!

 

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The Foxes in the Vineyard

Every so often I come across a song that ministers to me deeply. I don’t know what the Lord uses to speak to you intimately, but besides His Word, for me, it’s music. It is very easy for me to recall songs from different seasons that carried me, and more often than not, they were actually words from scripture put to song. I like that a lot.

I remember being really into Shane and Shane’s Psalm CD my first year of college without realizing the songs were all actual Psalms. I know, label me flakey. Anyway, it wasn’t rare that I would come across a Psalm and suddenly realize I already had the whole thing memorized because I’d been singing it for years. Things like that make me so happy.

A couple months ago Audrey Assad came out with a new CD that I immediately fell in love with. (If you’ve not heard any of her music, you’re missing out on an angelic blessing.) Two songs in particular I played over and over and over again and, to this day haven’t grown weary of them. In fact, the more I listen to them the more they make my heart swell. It’s these two songs that I’ve listened to in some dark and lonely moments that have brought me back to the goodness of who God is.

The first song I heard off of that CD and clung to for dear life was Good To Me.

I’ll pause and give you a minute to go download it on iTunes. (I promise you won’t be disappointed. And if you are, let me know and I’ll pay you back that 0.99 cents.)

Side note: I just realized you are able to listen and download the song here. You’re welcome. (And that’s straight from Audrey’s website, in case you are skeptical of that.)

And if you needed any more convincing, here are the lyrics. Let them soak into your soul.

I put all my hope in the truth of Your promise
And I steady my heart on the ground of Your goodness
When I’m bowed down with sorrow I will lift up Your name
And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy

Because You are good to me, good to me

I lift up my eyes to the hills where my help is found
Your voice fills the night – raise my head up to hear the sound
Though fires burn all around me I will praise You, my God
And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy

Because You are good to me, good to me

Your goodness and mercy shall follow me
All my life
I will trust in Your promise

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that it took me one listen to fall completely in love with this song, but I’ll readily admit that although I could pinpoint the obvious scripture references, I was confused by the foxes in the vineyard stealing my joy.

Some of you might immediately recall that reference, but me? Not so much. If you’re anything like me, you appreciate song lyrics, but more than that, you want to know what they mean and what you’re singing, so I looked it up.

And that’s when I came across this word picture:

“Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes, that ruin the vineyards–for our vineyard is in bloom.” Song of Songs 2:15 (NET)

Since Song of Songs isn’t my go-to book these days, it’s no surprise that I found that reference hidden in there. I don’t pretend to be a scholar and am certain I’ll never be labeled as one, but I have to believe that although I’m not married, because this is found in scriptures, it applies to me just as much as it would apply to anyone.

Because those foxes? They represent all the little hindrances and obstacles that threaten to sabotage my relationship with Christ. They restrain, restrict and put up barriers between Jesus and me. I can only imagine the foxes that sneak up on marriages. Or relationships.  Or families.  Or neighborhoods.  Or churches, for heaven’s sake!

Jealousy, envy, discord, anger, bitterness, insecurity, anxiety, lust, discouragement, hatred and the list could go on and on.

If we don’t continually nip them in the bud, the foxes will seek to spoil the growing fruitful vineyards.

What are your foxes? Last week I sat down, and besides the obvious circumstances I can’t control that threaten to steal my joy (and oftentimes they do), I listed out each of the foxes I’ve let in my vineyard. The things I do have control over because of Christ in me. It was amazing the difference it made in my week. Declaring out loud those ugly flaws. I dare us to ask the Lord to deliver us from them, ask the Lord to catch them before they can ruin one grape. Before they can pounce on you at the first sign of any good fruit.

Deliver us, Lord. Let not one fox steal our joy, because YOU, God are so good to us.

In the words of a very wise Bible study teacher, Joy Cometh!

Amen.

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2013 Siesta Scripture Memory Team: Verse 23!

My Border Collie, Queen Esther, is just about as handy as a GPS if she’s been to the destination at least once. The closer we get to where we’re going, the more hyper she becomes. The backseat of my car may as well be a treadmill. In fact, if I’m on the phone, I usually have to hang up because the person on the other line becomes too distracted to talk.

What is that?

My dog. Sorry. She’s a little over excited.

Is she hurt?

No. She’s happy.

What does she want?

Out!

She jumps from window to window and commences – not to bark exactly – but to yelp. I constantly insist to Keith that I have the gift of interpretation for the tongue Queen Esther speaks and, when we’re coming up on our destination, I am absolutely sure of what she’s saying: Let me out of this car so I can run the rest of the way!

Right about now, you’re the Queen – the real kind and not the canine variety – and it’s the perfect time to start your happiest yelping. You can see from the view out of your window that we are almost to our destination and, after a whole lot of hard work, I hope everything in you is hyping up and hollering, Let me out so I can run the rest of the way!

Good grief, you’ve been fantastic. I cannot recall ever having a higher percentage finish out the year. I’d have to check past years to confirm that but I don’t remember ever having a more active group from start to finish. I wish you were sitting right here with me in my chilly den in front of this fire and we could talk face to face instead of line to line.

Our heater is out and it is just about as cold in Houston as it gets most winters. We’ve already had the repairman out for hours but he’s been unable to fix it and advised us to call our builder. He thinks it’s a malfunction in the unit. You have to write an email request to the builder for a repair and we haven’t heard back from them yet so it could be a frosty few days. I just worked out on my elliptical with a jacket on if that tells you anything. I don’t mind so much though, as long as it’s fixed pretty soon. It’s gorgeous outside and I love sitting by a fire anyway. The part I don’t like is that Jackson and Annabeth’s room at my house is like ice and they really can’t even play in it right now when they come over. No worries, though. I expect it to be repaired surely by the first few days of this week.

If you were here, I’d also serve you up some cinnamon rolls in about an hour. I made homemade rolls for our Thanksgiving feast and I almost always roll out cinnamon rolls with the leftover dough several days later. They’re rising right now under some lights in the only warm end of my house.

Some of you are observant enough to ask me if I pulled two of them off the one pan and ate them raw because of those 2 circles of flour. No, I didn’t – though I was tempted – but I did peel them off and put them on the second cookie sheet because the 3 rolls that wouldn’t fit on the first pan looked so lonely over there. My cold house is going to smell like heaven in a little while. Sometimes I make a thick butter icing but, really, I prefer a thinner glaze made of powdered sugar, vanilla and a tiny bit of half and half. Too much icing takes away from the homemade flavor of the rolls in my opinion.

The inevitable question I get at a time like this is, “Do you always eat like that?”

Lord have mercy, no. But, Girlfriend, it’s a holiday.

I could make you hot tea or coffee to go with yours, depending upon your preference, and we’d chat a while and then we’d trade our 23rd verses.

My selection came up in my devotional this morning and catapulted me into prayer. I’m actually memorizing the 2nd chapter of Colossians right now but sometimes the section I’m working on next is too awkward out of context to post as an SSMT verse. For instance, if Colossians 2:21 were next, imagine this as my SSMT selection: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” See? Awkward. So, if I’m in the middle of a long portion, I usually go off road for SSMT and select a verse that is more user friendly so that women who are drawing a blank on their choices can go with me on mine if they wish. Here goes:

 

Beth, Houston. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8 ESV

The second half of it drew me into intercession. It does not say that the reason the Son of God appeared was to deny the works of the devil. It does not say that the Son of God appeared to downplay the works of the devil. It does not say that the Son of God appeared to decrease the works of the devil. It says He appeared to DESTROY the works of the devil.

So I started pinpointing some areas around my life and the lives of my family members and loved ones where the enemy is rearing up his ugly head. And with great joy and a sense of victory in my chest, I thanked Jesus for coming to destroy his works and asked Him to demonstrate that destruction right before our eyes in those areas. We know that “the ancient serpent, who is the devil” will not be completely bound until the Kingdom of the living Christ comes in its fullness and His throne is established right here on earth. At that time, the prayer we’ve prayed more than any other will finally be fulfilled: Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

But, until then, we are meant to experience stunning victories where we see living, breathing evidences that the enemy has been overcome. We’re meant to give the devil a taste of what he will experience in the Kingdom when he is bound for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:2)

Let’s not let him off the hook. Let’s remind our enemy every single day that he is not only defeated. His works are destroyed in Jesus’ great Name.

You, my dear sister, are a great privilege to serve. Walk strong with your God, young lady. Ask for a fiery faith to believe Him and for eyes to see His works manifested right here on this ailing planet. Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4) 

Let’s toast to that.

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My Soul Knows

Hey, my beloved sisters! I have you on my mind right now, wondering how you are and what God is presently sowing into your path. I’ve been writing to you steadily through Children of the Day but today I found myself longing for real-time interaction. I’ve been thinking about a verse that I’ve known and loved a very long time. I like it in almost any version but it’s by far the most gorgeous in the King James.

 

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    Marvelous are Your works,
    And that my soul knows very well.

     Psalm 139:14 NKJV

It’s the last line that I love so much. Life is hard and all our unanswered questions and unsolvable mysteries can make us feel like we’re getting sucked further and further into a black hole. We can come to the conclusion that there is really very little that we can know and, for the most part, we earthlings are victims of gravity, the soles of our feet stuck to the dirt and growing more callous by the day. Depression runs particularly rampant this time of year and darkness can be even darker for children of light. We know it’s not where we belong but we don’t always know how to crack the door to the sunshine.

We’re going to give that a shot today.

My challenge to you in the midst of all our questions is to behold what we each – individually, not corporately – really do know all the way into the dark folds of our souls. Here’s the 2-part assignment:

 

1. Complete this sentence: Right now I don’t have any idea… (pick only one thing, the thing that you find most confusing right now or most removed from your knowledgeable reach).

 

2. But these things my soul knows very well: (Write 5 things you know – really, really know – even in the black of night, even when you don’t feel well, even amid your thousands of other questions. Don’t just come up with 5 things by rote because you know they’re the right things to say and they’d be the top 5 priority pieces of information for people of our faith. What 5 things make the most difference to you right now in your circumstances?? What does your soul know very well? 5 things, Sweet Things. Don’t copy anybody else’s answers. Don’t even read anyone else’s list until you leave your comment. This is not about their relationship with your God. This is about yours. In a world of wondering, what do you know, Sister? Resist being predictable. Think about it. Don’t say it if you don’t know it to your core. For instance, don’t say, “I know God loves me” if the truth is that you doubt it every single day. Say what you know.

 

And those things will bridge your faith over to what you don’t.

 

I love you so much.

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