Cooking for Two - Another Delicious Recipe {...from the cookbook "One Pan, Two Plates"...}

The Preacher and I are happy empty nesters.  However, I do confess that going from cooking (pretty much) every night for anywhere between 6 and 12 people, to cooking for only TWO people...

...well let's just say there were lots of leftovers.  For a long time.

Then, I mastered the art of cooking for two.  I don't cook every night, like I used to when the kids were all living at home, but when I do cook - I often use the cookbook One Pan, Two Plates.

The Unstyled Lifestyle {...a house tour for no real reason...}

So, I've never been invited to participate in one of those "Holiday House Tours" at Christmas.  I want to say that "that chaps my hide", just because it's hilarious to say "that chaps my hide".

The Three Inescapable Laws of Art-Making {...any art, of any kind...but only if you want to be truly original...}

{The image of the dandelion has huge significance to me, in terms of the creative process!}

One of my great passions is The Creative Process.  I have the same reverence for the creative process, that I have for the finished product....the "masterpiece", whether that masterpiece be an amazing twist on roasting chicken, or a book about string theory, or a mixed-media painting,  or a Taylor Swift song.  The nuts and bolts of creativity are sacred rudiments.  Even the mechanics are holy.

The Past Couple of Weeks { pictures...}

So, here I sit, still fighting the tail-end of what I can only guess was a flu...which progressed into a bacterial sinus thing...complete with both eyes {cured by the Magic Prescription Drops}...

...but my ears are still completely plugged...

...yet I am determined to go preach at a ladies conference held in North Carolina this weekend.  Those of you who are praying people, I am officially begging   requesting prayer.  Because...minor detail...I still don't have my full voice back.

But all is well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

I wanted to share the last couple of weeks of life here at the cottage with you - in pictures.

I live the life of nine cats, with nine lives per cat, every single month.  According to my math, that comes to a ration of 81 fresh, new lives dispensed at the beginning of each calendar month.  (It makes sense to me...get on my level.)

I live every. single. dang. one of them.  All 81.  In full.

So this is my Preacher and I, a couple of weeks ago, on the beach after our youngest son's graduation from Marine boot camp.  {We had to leave for SC the day after our fourth grandchild - a baby girl -  was born.}

Our baby, The Marine, and his One Tough Mother.  (Um, if you are a confused new reader, that would be yours truly...I'm One Tough Mother.  ::cough::)

My Preacher - pretending to be as tall and as thin as his youngest son.

All that was going on at the same time there was the launch of the online class, "Becoming | The Unfolding of You"...where I am so honored to be one of the presenters.  This class is now headed towards being a gathering of almost 6,000 students from all over the world.  { is never too late to join.}

Yeah.  It was a busy January.

This past Sunday was Susanna Joy's first Sunday back at church.  I was teary-eyed because I was too sick to be there for it.  Does this picture not just slay you?

Deal with the cuteness.  Just deal with it.  I have to deal with it every day, you can deal with it for five minutes.

Yesterday morning, at about 5 AM, our Marine's leave was officially over, and we had to put him on a bus to his next phase of training...

Where will these boots take him?  The Lord knows...and only He knows.

As to be expected, I was a little on the emotional side.  For a lot of reasons I won't even go into here.  But this arrived in the mail, later yesterday morning, and it cheered me up just a little:

My "Mimi's Nest" ring from Melody Joy Designs arrived in the nick of time!  I needed to smile.  I have the hands of a kindergartener, but pay no mind to that.  I can still rock the giant bird's nest.  Each little pearl "egg" represents a grandchild - four here with me on earth, two in heaven {lost to miscarriage}.  I adore this ring.  It garnered several compliments from strangers yesterday, since...

...I GOT OUT OF THE HOUSE!  {That may be the only sentence typed in all caps in the whole history of this blog, which would be since 2008.}  Despite my still being under the weather, my Preacher launched Operation Cheer Up The Wife.

He took me out to a late breakfast, and then once around Cades Cove, in our beloved Smoky Mountains.  This never, ever fails to cheer me up, body and soul.

His photography skills are becoming crazy-good.  We are working on a dream of a joint-venture, where we use his photography and my art on a collaborative project for my art shows and my shop.

He climbed up into the bed of his pickup with his camera, to enjoy the scenery his way...and I enjoyed the scenery my way.  That man.  That manly man.  A man with the heart of a lion, and a grasp on the doctrines of grace and an ability to preach the gospel of the finished work of Christ that makes me love him more every single day.

And this might just be my favorite picture of him, in the whole history of ever.  Snapped just yesterday.

There was snow on the ground, and snow falling, and in spite of being deaf, with two stopped-up ears, and no voice... was magical.  Just a magical few hours.

One final Sanctified Selfie, and I will let you go.

I look forward to sharing with you the good report of all God plans to do, and will do, in the hearts of the women in Franklin NC this weekend.

I really do covet your prayers.

Ramblings on Grace {in-the-moment musings of a Mother and Grandmother}

(May I introduce you to the latest addition to my nest?  My grand daughter Susanna Joy - my daughter Sarah and her artist-husband Jonathan Howe had their second daughter two weeks ago!
And, if you can stand your cute-ometer pegging all the WAY, deep in the red zone, you can click here)

Can I just tell you?  God is so good, I can't even stand it.  Right now, today, as it looks from behind my eyes, I have two sons who are building their testimonies - I have two daughters who are building their lives.  We homeschooled all our grown kids from birth to graduation, we are in full time ministry - yet two of our children have not, up to this point, walked with God.

In the home education community, that just might make us big fat failures.  It at least makes us slightly unfit failures.  We certainly aren't skinny achievers of the Homeschool Dream.  In grade-speak, if you split the difference, we come away with a C- or a D+.

Our sons never were "Opie Taylor in Mayberry".  They were more like Buckwheat or Butch, from Little Rascals, with a pack of cigarettes in their shirt sleeve, a can of skoal in their back pocket, a blunt hidden away somewhere attitude and a mean streak.

Oh dear.

And I'm glad.  In a way.  Please hear me out.

I say it with fear and trembling.  I.  Am.  Glad.  I tremble, because the reality of what I am telling you has  broken my heart.  It has broken the very heart of my heart.  You know...that place where idols tend to be hidden away.  "Return to your rest, oh my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you!"  and "Before I was afflicted, I went astray..."

I can be glad in the Gospel.  I can be glad because, last time I checked, the Prodigal Son was called the Prodigal SON, not the Prodigal Monster, or the Prodigal Embarrassment, or the Prodigal Foster Child.  And a son is a son is a son.  A daughter is a daughter is a daughter.  I will not hang my head in shame, because Christ is the friend of sinners, and gave His life to bring children into glory.  Like Peter of New Covenant fame, I will not call unclean that which God calls clean.   God said He is married to the backslider.  Doesn't that just mess with you? 

Be glad.  Like me.

The Lord has set me up high, way up high - and given me the panoramic view of Grace, and I can see my sons returning by faith when they are yet a long way off.  Maybe even a really long way off.  Regardless, my heart is free to run towards them, not away.     

Will they be miserable until they surrender wholeheartedly?  Here's the thing:  not at first.  But eventually - the misery will become palpable.

It was palpable for me.  It is palpable for me.  I still find unsurrendered pieces of my heart now and then - and a lack of peace is the barometer.  Anxiety, and being consumed with my own pain is the barometer - and I am glad of it.  I can know when and exactly where I have unsurrendered inner territory.

Oh, I am glad, I am glad, I am glad!  He has made me glad, and filled my heart with joy.  I declare it yet again/again/again, before the outcome can be seen, that grace will accomplish what the law could never do.  Oh, my boast is so in the Lord on this one!

I completely trust in the power of the blood to save.  And sanctify.

Ya'll, I am a jacked up Jesus Freak.  I read the curses of the law one time, as listed in Exodus....that long, long list of scary stuff.  I got so happy in God, I could have shouted and chased traffic, for the sheer joy of the revelation of grace.  None of it can touch me.  On my worst day,  none of it can touch me.  In fact, I receive the opposite blessing.

Here is why:  He (Christ) became sin for me.  His obedience and righteousness are credited to me, and the curse of the law is broken over my life.  It is broken, because I do not in any measure depend on my own obedience to the law.  Cursed is everyone....oh, hear me!...everyone who does not fully obey the law and everything contained in it. (Deut. 27:26)

If you depend, even in the smallest way, on keeping the law in order to be blessed, I have bad news:  you haven't kept the law in the past, and you won't keep it next week.  The only way to get out from under the curse is to be in Christ Jesus.  Crucified with Him, buried with Him in baptism, raised with Him as a new creature.

I'm glad.  I'm simply glad.  God is so good, I can't even stand it.  And I don't need perfect children or a certain timing or a certain outcome to know, down to the marrow of my bones, that I am blessed and highly favored.      

Thank You for Grace {...I am I pulled this from the archives...}

{Trying to rest and get better.  So.  A little long, but hopefully worth your time, this is a dip into the archives - it was one of the posts from my 31 Days Project}  

Your middle is as ordained a season in your life as your beginning was, and as ordained as the day of your end.  God births your beginnings, and He sets the time of your completions.  But He sings over your middle!

"The Lord thy God in your middle is mighty;  He will save, He will rejoice over you with joy;  He will rest in His love, He will joy over you with singing!"  (Zephaniah 3:17)

How can He do that?  How can He sing over our middle?  Has He looked at your middle lately?  Has He noticed mine?  (It's a hot, hot mess...)

Here's how:  He is confident in His great love for you.  He rests in it.

It reminds me of my teacup poodle Rambo.  Bear with me, I promise this will make sense, maybe.

I've heard some incredible Bible teachers and preachers in my short time on this planet. I've heard them use majestic metaphor and substantive simile. I love the depth that has been illustrated for me, time and again, by solid thinkers in The Faith - some are well-known, some, like my own husband, little-known.

Try as I may, my mind won't work majestically. I sigh and I try, and therein lies the problem.

When I tune into my life as it really is, in all its quotidian acedia (oh, do look the words up - they are delicious to say, but bitter to live) the revelation of grace can come honestly. Like the revelations to be found in puppies and cookies.

It is no secret that I adore my puppy. He is a teacup poodle named Rambo, and he is aptly named.

In fact, my puppy sometimes acts appallingly, and I still smile. I delight in this little dog no matter what.

A few years ago, I examined this anomaly. You see, I was known, back then,  to be ever-working to improve myself, and therefore took unbridled delight in almost nothing. But I took disturbing delight in my poodle...everyone found it disturbing, because his misbehavior had almost no affect on me whatsoever.

I decided this was because I had no fear for this animal's future. God bless all those who believe that puppies have eternal souls: I do not. Therefore, no amount of spoiling on my part will send Rambo's soul to the Lake of Fire. This dog is "eternally secure".

In a sense, his future is fully known to me: he will live in the lap of luxury and love, and one day die. That will be that (and yes, I will grieve terribly). Nothing in terms of Rambo's ultimate eternal destiny is up in the air. He can't misbehave his way into Canine Judgement. He can't bite hard enough to hurt a toddler.

I am utterly free to delight in my dog.

When I stop to consider these majestic metaphors, I realize: the Lord delights in me! He knows the plans He has for me. He has forever settled my ultimate destiny. (Yes, only because I have trusted Him for my righteousness!)

No amount of "misbehavior" on my part can shake Him from His great love for me, in Christ Jesus. Far from being antinomianism, (and unlike Rambo) this kind of good news actually makes me want to heel - to follow close by my Owner's side forever.

Poodles and antinomianism and eternal security aside (after all, a mind can only take so much splendor) I also sometimes wonder why baking cookies for grown-up kids isn't so much fun anymore.

Used to be, a batch of cookies was a day-maker. Making a couple of sheets of home made chocolate chip cookies had the potential to bring inner healing to four children who, on some days, were fraught with naughtiness and discord.

Ah, but now they are All Grown Up. They are adults, all of them, with jobs and net spendable income. Two of them are married, with babies of their own.  They can buy these treats for themselves, anytime they want. They can work for them.  Cookies from mom don't mean what they used to.  Now, they are just a nice gesture.

As it is with the free Gift of Grace. It is precisely when we think we have matured our way "past" it, that the gift begins to lose its luster. The fun is taken right out of living in it. The truth that used to make our day and heal our hurts, now is something we can earn for ourselves. And we "get blessed" for our efforts.

Well.  Whatever we can earn for ourselves must be pretty common and obtainable. Thus, when God offers grace to us, His grace is reduced (in our minds) to merely The Nice Gesture.

A Nice Gesture is entirely unable to change us. 

Hear me - hear me well! Don't rob God (and yourself) of the delight and fragrance that should characterize piping hot, fresh-from-the-heart-of-God, sweet grace. You will never be able to work for it, you cannot obtain it on your own, all ideas of any righteousness of your own are a dangerous illusion.

This is where the metaphor breaks down, as it isn't a dangerous illusion at all for my children to buy their own cookies. See why I sigh? My metaphors aren't majestic enough.

Oh well. It is what it is. Puppies and cookies and grace.

"LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me..."     ~Psalm 131:1

3 Keys To Creating a Crazy-Good Day {...they aren't what you might expect...}

Three Keys To Creating A Fun, Crazy-Good Day

I've been studying God-kissed days for many years. You know...those golden days, when you end up satisfied to the core. I'm convinced there are three very simple keys - each one unlocks a large room, full of more grace yet to be explored.

1. Do something for someone, and in no way tell anyone. No hints, no alluding, nothing. Ever. Never, ever. This builds a largeness of soul that nothing can imitate. You can't fake this sort of lifestyle. The more you drop hints about what you do with someone or for someone else, the more I know you are unaccustomed to doing such things.

I realize we live in the age of social media - and I totally understand that seeing women like Ann Voskamp go to a poor South American country and share Christ with the children there is so inspiring.  I'm glad she shares her stories, past and future,  and her pictures... I am not speaking to those of us who have been given a platform of whatever size, and are indeed called to live out loud and share a little bit about what we are up to.

But there needs to be a hundred deeds done in secret, for every one deed that is shared with the hope of inspiring someone else.  By all means, share.  I'm not against it.  To be a well-rounded woman, though, be sure that 95% of the best parts of your life are yours to savor and yours alone - and that most of it never finds the light of day in social media.  I post to social media every single day - I am a small business owner - and a small creative business owner, at that!  I would be terribly unwise not to share what I am about in that way.  Every.  Single.  Day.  (side note:  you young women who want to start your own creative business...where are you?  Heads up!  You have to talk about your business in a way that is authentic and inspiring!)

So yeah.  For a creative business owner, it isn't ego, it is business.

But I give you my word...what you see in my social media outlets?  That little snap-shot of my day or my work?  It took two minutes...I do it as I go along.  There are hundreds of thousands of my minutes and moments no one knows a thing about.

I like it that way.

2. Do something you do not like doing. Seems counter-intuitive, but I promise, this is huge in creating a fun, crazy-good day. Science even proves it!  See, you get this awesome shot of dopamine to the brain - a feel-good chemical - dopamine is released every single time you tackle something you don't want to do, and you do it anyway.  This one action will give you such confidence, and relieve a great deal of petty stress.

Now for number three.  The last key.  You are expecting something at least a little profound...after all, this is the last of only three keys. You want me to tell you "create something every day"...or "pray"...or anything but what I am about to say:

3.  Dress the part.

Every day. least most days.

Come on, look cute! What you wear is about the only thing in life you have any control over, so work it, girlfriend!

That's it. Dress well and appropriately, and with personality. There is an art to dressing after age forty. The simpler the look, the fresher and better and more well-put-together you appear - and the more wonderful you look the more wonderful you feel. I do get asked for here are a few:

No mom jeans, wear more skirts, mix "high" and "low", tailored and bohemian.  For the most part, dress your age, but add one "young" an awesome boot.   Lose the black as much as possible, unless you are French.  Add one unexpected element - a fabric flower pin, or unusual belt buckle, or a cute shoe.  And always, always remember that matching is for amateurs.

And for the best tips ever on dressing yourself on a Goodwill budget, join the FREE class "Becoming | The Unfolding of You", and see Shannan Martin's videos in week 2.  

Three keys. Go have the best day, ever!