And Winter Approaches

We wake to an unexpected first snow that makes the Winterberry bush stand out, red and eager, against the landscape. Soon, the Northern Cardinals will return to backyard from wherever they’ve traveled. My husband will place fresh seed in the feeders for all our winter backyard birds.

I walk around the neighborhood as I navigate slick, icy streets. It’s too cold for snowmelt, so I gingerly make my way through snow-capped leaf piles. It’s windy and so cold I burrow into my puffy jacket and pull my hat down around my face. I think about all the lotion and chapstick I’ve learned to use as the seasons change.

The wind nearly blows me over.

I like the sting of it. It’s a fresh, clear, cold autumn wind that announces winter’s approach.

It’s a day for chili in the crockpot, cozy slippers, and blankets that we pull tightly around us as the wind howls outside. The cats curl close to gather all the heat they can.



A Simple Verse That’s Everything

With so much confusion in my heart and sadness over our nation and more terrible news—mass shootings, wildfires, political controversies—I read the book of Isaiah for perspective. I read these simple words under the section called, “Invitation to the Thirsty” (Isaiah 55:6-7).

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

I pray that the whole world seeks the Lord, calls on Him, forsakes sin, and turns to the Lord.

That’s what I pray we do: we seek, call, forsake, and turn.

What greater verbs apply to our lives? What better things might we do than these simple behaviors that mean everything?

And God? What action will He take?

God allows Himself to be found. He shows us mercy and freely pardons us. This is a God who removed the punishment for our sin in a single day through Jesus. And now, this promise stands true for all who receive Jesus as their Savior:

The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest (Isaiah 32:17-18).

Oh, that we would experience God’s mercy and pardon in widespread ways across our whole planet.


Return to the Refuge

On days when I’m overwhelmed by despair about news reports, suffering, or the sin in my own heart, I remember that the Lord is my refuge. In Psalm 94:22 we read this:

But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.

He is a fortress of peace, power, hope, wisdom, righteousness, and joy. He is a refuge of comfort, discernment, truth, mercy, and, most of all, a refuge of the abiding presence of Jesus.

We run to our refuge each new day.

For those of you reading Guarded by Christ: Knowing the God Who Rescues and Keeps Us, you know what it means to return to the fortress as the day unfolds. Today, I need Jesus as my fortress of hope most of all. He holds the world in His hands and controls all things. We do not need to live in fear, confusion, or despair.

From this place of refuge, we now become agents of hope to the hopeless around us.



Monday Night: Our New Favorite Dinner

Tonight we’re having Orecchiette with Rappi and Meatless Sausage. Don’t worry! It’s not as strange as you’re thinking. (After trying this recipe just once, my family insists we now serve it every Monday night. The girls will take any leftovers for lunch tomorrow.)

First, some definitions:

Orecchiette: Italian for “little ears.” It’s a kind of pasta. I recommend the Italian De Cecco brand.

Rappi: Related to the turnip, it has broccoli-like buds and bitter leaves that when chopped and blanched tasted so delicious. You might find rappi also called broccoli raberappini, or broccoli di rappa.

Meatless sausage: Find the brand called “Don’t Be a Piggy Meatless Sausage Crumbles.” You will love the flavor! It’s vegan and made with soy, but don’t be afraid!

You’ll love this recipe! It’s flavorful, easy, and healthy. Enjoy!


Scented Holiday Pinecones

I walk past the scented pinecones in the grocery and craft stores, and I think about how I might make them myself. Sure enough, I find a recipe for Holiday Scented Pinecones that I cannot wait to try.

I enter the forest and find the trail of pine trees.

I gather my collection as the sun begins to set, and I head home. I’ll soak these for an hour, bake them at a low temperature so they open up, and then drip my favorite essential oils on them. Once they absorb the scent of cinnamon and clove (sealed in a bag for 1-2 weeks), they’ll make a perfect centerpiece. They’ll release that wonderful fragrance all season.


Perhaps the Best Hospitality

Last night, I stayed at a complete stranger’s home.

A family from the church that brought me in to speak agreed to host me instead of placing me in a hotel.

I didn’t even know the name of the family. I just knew I’d sleep in a bedroom, and that I needed to “be OK with large dogs.”

As you can see from the photo, I was OK with large dogs.

My host family–including this bloodhound, Garth–made me feel exceptionally comfortable and welcome. So I took note of my new host family’s true gift of hospitality.

I noticed all the little things: My host had lunch prepared for my arrival (light salads with beverages), and then she showed me to my room that not only featured a gift bag of treats (a journal, fancy nuts, and all kinds of toiletries I might need), but the room also came with an essential oil diffuser. She invited me to pick my scent (I chose lavender) for my room. The room itself came with two heavy blankets to add to the bedding in case I grew cold in the night.

In the bathroom, an enormous basket of autumn themed goodies awaited me: face masks, more toiletries, pumpkin soap, pumpkin fragrance, and pumpkin lotion. She included more toiletries I might have forgotten including a curling iron, cotton balls, and hairspray.

She thought of everything.

The hostess also provided an opportunity to take a brisk afternoon walk–much needed after a day of travel.

Once in my room to prepare myself for the evening talk, I heard a knock on my door. The daughter held in her hands water bottles and a bag of mixed nuts, seeds, and dried fruits to refresh me.

When would the attention to my comfort end?

She asked about breakfast; since I told her I loved oatmeal for breakfast, she prepared everything I’d need, right down to the almond milk, cinnamon, and frozen blueberries she picked herself and froze for the winter. She also put out green tea.

Besides all of the attention to tangible, physical needs, the host provided wonderful fellowship. She posed great questions, asked if she could pray for me, and spoke so many encouraging words to me. She shared her own journey with the Lord and invited me into her life.

It was a lovely weekend with strangers who became wonderful friends.

I took note and added to my knowledge of exceptional hospitality. I think about providing a few extravagant items of comfort, the opportunity to exercise, and fellowship. To invite someone into your home means you bless by food, physical comfort, and spiritual nourishment.

And, as you can tell below, I enjoyed the event so much after experiencing such comfort and relaxation.


Hospitality means you open your home and your heart, and last night, my host did both.


Traveling: My Top 10 Tips

I’m an expert traveler now! For those of you beginning your travel life or for those wanting to prepare for a new season of travel, here are my favorite travel tips:

  • Wear a scarf or sweater for chilly planes.
  • Use a drop of lavender or cinnamon oil on your scarf or sweater to calm you and allow you to enjoy wonderful scents. You’ll use these same scents in your hotel room and on your pillow in the hotel.
  • Carry a ziplock bag with assorted nuts and bags of your favorite tea.
  • Bring a pair of warm socks for a long plane ride and a chilly hotel room.
  • Try, as hard as you can, to never check a bag.
  • Hydrate! Instead of coffee all day long, drink water that you buy once you’ve made it through security.
  • Go ahead and apply for the TSA pre-check option. This will save you so much time.
  • Always bring a book.
  • Use the bathroom before you board the plane.
  • Be cheerful and helpful to those around you in airports. Be on the lookout for folks who might need assistance.

Enjoy your travels!



“You are a delight.”

In honor of my birthday today (43!!), I think about how wonderful it feels to have others delight in you. Perhaps it’s such a treasured experience because it reflects something beautiful and often overlooked about God: He delights in us. 

Consider Deuteronomy 30:5 and God’s declaration that He will delight in His people, or Psalm 18 and how God rescues us because He delights in us. Consider, too, how God delights to show us mercy (Micah 7:18). Finally, I think about this today from Zephaniah 3:17.

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Yesterday in our professor Bible study, we talked about how one way we might represent the love of God to our students and colleagues is to delight in them. What would it mean to live the kind of life that celebrates others, that declares to them how happy they make us, and to honor their lives? We might say, like a mentor once told me, “You are a delight.”

(This kind of statement buoys the heart. It fills up the discouraged, defeated soul who forgets she is a delight. I remember those words.)

Imagine running around this ordinary day and delighting in everyone you see. What a different day this now becomes!

I’ll take you by the hand, look into your beautiful face, and I’ll declare the truth: You are a delight.

Maybe someone needs to hear this today. Maybe someone in your life never had anyone delight in them. And now, you’re that someone who reflects the Someone who delights in us.