Friday, September 30, 2011

10 Reasons I Love Fall


I like all them all . . . but my favorite is FALL.

Ten Reasons I Love FALL.

1. Mums on my back patio.

2. Orange candles.

3. Fresh new mantels.

4. Bringing out the quilts.

5. Autumnal welcomes.

6. Front door decorations.

7. Beautiful plates.

8. Garlands and lights.

9. Pumpkins of all sizes.

10. Trays that reflect the season.

I could probably think of ten more reasons, because I have not even mentioned fall magazines, fall food etc. 


Linking up to my friend Sarah, at Modern Country Style

Thursday, September 29, 2011

IDEAS . . . friend or foe?

Ideas give me energy. Ideas make me more creative.
Ideas make me happy.

But I have learned that everyone is not like me. (really?) For some of my friends, too many ideas make them tired, nervous and overwhelmed.

When I speak I usually give many ideas. I am sure that this does not surprise you, as I also am an idea-girl on my blog. (50 things to do while we await spring, yup 50) It is just the way God made me.

As I began to pay attention when I was speaking, I noticed:

*half of my crowd got energized and sat up straighter. This group wanted to go home and try all my ideas the next day.

*half of the crowd slumped down in their seats. This group wanted to go home and forget they ever met me.

Which group is right? Neither.

Both groups need to do the same thing when they hear new ideas. Choose just one or two ideas and begin there.

My new series, 31 days of Christmas wonder, is going to be full of, you guessed it, ideas. They have taken me 58 years to collect. Take your time . . . choose a few and have fun!

PS. You have my permission as you read my ideas to:

1. Take an idea just as it is and run with it. Enjoy it fully and have fun.

2. Adapt the idea to meet the needs of your family and
have fun.

3. Say "this idea is NOT for me." Toss it in the mental trash can . . . with no guilt and have fun.

How do you feel about ideas?

idea image credit

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

31 Day of Chrstmas Wonder or Christmas in October

Last year, a few of my favorite bloggers came together for a 31 days of blogging series.

I did not get to read them all, as October was my month to pack and prepare for our move to Chicago. We left Seattle on October 31. (Can you believe it . . . almost a year already?) Whenever I needed a break from the craziness of moving . . . I popped over for a few moments of inspiration.

This year, the lovely Dayspring bloggers have invited us to join them. And, I knew right away what I wanted to spend 31 one days exploring.

31 Christmas wonder

Yes, 31 days of Christmas wonder.

My desk is piled with folders of ideas, MOPS talks, magazines and books. I am having fun. (so far) I have never posted for 31 days straight. (yikes) Can I do it? (yes) Will you join me? (please say yes)

Please do not get freaked out that it is only October and we are talking about Christmas. (I hate seeing Christmas things in the stores already.)

This is different. This is better. This is milling and thinking and praying and puttering around a bunch of great Christmas thoughts and ideas. By the time December rolls around . . . we will have a bit of a plan and Christmas will be purposeful and joyful. Are you in?

31 Christmas wonder

Good. Look forward to some fun giveaways, free downloads and lots of easy, practical ideas. See you back here on October 1st.

P.S. I am curious - do ideas motivate you or overwhelm you? Come back tomorrow for a perfect solution . . . either way!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Coffee Lovers' Coffee Cake

Saturday mornings have been pretty special around here. A group of lovely women are joining me each week to study Ann Voskamp's book 1,000 Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

It is fun for me to prepare a little treat for these girls, who have been out in the workplace all week.

Baking is something I really enjoy, but I do not do it as much these days . . . since there are only two of us to eat the goodies. So now, for the next six week, I have a great reason to dig through my cookbooks for some old favorites.

Coffee Lovers' Coffee Cake

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I like Penzey's Vietnamese Cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cups butter, cut in pieces
8 ounces of sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
3/4 cups chopped pecan or walnuts

Combine flour, coffee, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Cut in butter with pastry blender until crumbly. Press half of this mixture into a 9" square pan.

Mix soda into sour cream and add to remaining crumb mixture. Add egg. Stir gently. Pour over crumb mix. Top with nuts.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

This is a nice change from the streusel topped coffee cakes, (which I also enjoy making) , because the surprise on this cake is the coffee flavored shortbread crust on the bottom.

We found the cake and the book . . . both delicious.

Linking today to my coffee loving sisters at Jen's place.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sue . . . on remission. Firm Chicks (part 5)

Ok, big-sister brag time. I told you that you would enjoy Sue . . . she is funny, sweet, godly, pretty, courageous, honest and fun. I am very blessed in the sister department. I have two great sisters and six wonderful law. I love them all.

So, I am a little sad that this is the last of this series. Thanks so much, Sue, for sharing some of your cancer story with us. Here is part five.

Sue . . . on remission.

After four months of chemotherapy I was declared “in remission”. I went through two years of maintenance treatment which is supposed to help me stay in remission longer . . .hopefully long enough for a cure to be found. (That is my prayer.)

When I completed my treatment regimen and was declared “in remission” it was easy to dwell on thoughts like “when will it come back?” or “what will we do next to fight it?” or even “will I eventually die from this?” I prayed and asked God to help me leave those questions with Him. I asked God to help me not to waste these great days worrying about what was going to happen to me down the road.

And then the thought came to me . . . You know, I am no different now than I was before I was diagnosed. My days are no less numbered now than they were before I had cancer. I did not know what my future held back then . . . and I do not know what my future holds now.

But what I do know is this:

Proverbs 19:21 says “Many are the plans in a man’s (or woman’s) heart, But it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails."

Psalm 121:1-2 says "I raise my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth."

And Deuteronomy 31:6 says, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified . . . for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you.

So when all is said and done - that is enough for me. God has brought me this far and He is going to take me the rest of the way.

I WILL trust the Lord! He IS trustworthy.

P.S. Thank you for reading my 5 part series. (Thank you, Glenda, for asking me to do it.) I enjoyed reading your comments and was grateful that my experience encouraged some of you. It makes my cancer experience seem to have purpose.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sue . . . on chemo brain. Firm Chicks (part four)

Our extended family likes to laugh, and we found reasons to laugh even during Sue's illness. Sometimes it was her own stories . . . like this one that she shares today.

Here is Sue . . . on chemo brain.

At one of my treatments my oncologist asked me if I had “chemo brain” yet?

“What is chemo brain?” I asked.

"You will know when you have it." was his reply.

One of the benefits of having cancer was people kept giving me stuff—meals, pies and lots of really great gifts.

I had written a bunch of thank you notes and had them all ready to mail. I took them to the mailbox at the church where I work. I got out of the car and went to the mailbox. As I was walking into the church I realized something was tucked under my arm. I looked down and saw all my thank you cards. I remembered opening and closing the mailbox and putting up the red flag. What in the world had I put into the mailbox.

I went back and opened the mailbox…..and there was my Starbucks coffee drink.

THAT is chemo brain!

Linking to Jen and the Soli Sisters.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sue . . . on hair. Firm Chicks (part three)

I am so glad that Sue (my sister) wrote this post, as I think we woman always wonder about the whole chemo/hair falling out thing. (And Sue has gorgeous hair.) So here we go for part three. Sue . . . on hair.

Cancer usually means chemotherapy and chemotherapy often means losing your hair.

I am a typical girl! I like hair! I like to play with my hair! I like my hair dresser! I like hair products!

Not all chemotherapy makes your hair fall out but early on my doctor told me mine would, within about two weeks of my first treatment.

When you go through cancer and chemo there are many things you cannot control. But there are a few things you CAN control, and one of those things is attitude.

I decided early on that my hair, or lack thereof, was NOT going to be the thing that got me down. I knew it would be a temporary condition and there were cute wigs, scarves and hats out there. As much as I liked my hair, I knew I could live without it for awhile.

A few weeks before I began treatment my husband couldn’t sleep so he got up and went into the family room to watch TV. At about 2:00 a.m. he was flipping through channels (like he always does) and he came across an infomercial on wigs. He thought one of the wigs looked like my hairstyle so he ordered one. The next morning he said, “I did something last night and you are gonna kill me. I ordered you a wig...but if you don’t like it we can send it back.”

Sure enough a few days later a box arrived and I put it away for a later day.

My chemo treatment started the end of July. Just like the doctor said, 12 days later my hair began to fall out. My hairdresser had told me I could call her anytime and she would meet me and shave my head, thus avoiding leaving a trail of hair behind me.

So at 8:00 a.m. the next day, one of my best friends and my hairdresser met me at the salon and Missy proceeded to shave my head. We all had huge tears rolling down our faces as my hair fell to the floor and my bald head was the image I saw in the mirror.

I pulled the wig out of the box and put it on. This was going to take some getting used to. Missy did a little snipping and shaping but it was her words that made the difference to me. She said, “Sue, how people see your wig depends on how you carry yourself. If you hold your head up high and walk with confidence, people will see you—not a wig.”

The first day back to work I put on the cutest outfit I had and strutted into my office.

My wig really was darling! It really did look like my hairstyle! And, hey….there are benefits! When you do not have to wash and style your hair OR shave your legs, you get an extra hour of sleep each morning!

image credit

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sue . . . on perspective. Firm Chicks (part two)

Thanks for welcoming my sister, Sue, to my blog. Your warm and kind response to her story of having lymphoma is not surprising to me at all. That is the way bloggers are!

A special prayer for those that have mentioned their own battles with cancer, or their loved ones and friends.

Sue has written four more posts (yeah!), sharing her thoughts on



chemo brain, and


So, here is Sue . . . on perspective.

A diagnosis of cancer is definitely life changing news. For me it came while I was at a high school baseball game watching my son. I had been to the doctor because of a minor change I noticed around my collarbone. I was not really worried but I expected my doctor to call with results of some tests I had earlier that day.

When my phone rang I left my lawn chair and walked out behind the bleachers so I could hear my doctor. “There are several ‘red flags’ and they point to non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I am going to set you up next week to see an oncologist.”

So what do you do when you are at a baseball game and find out you have cancer? What I did was go sit back down and watch the rest of the game. (We lost!)

The next few days were very emotional and full of doctor appointments, needles, drinking of thick chalky liquids, phone calls, tears and disbelief.

I am the secretary of a church and I continued to work every day. I came to work a few days after my diagnosis and heard about a mother with five daughters between the ages of 3 and 21. One of her daughters went to say good bye to her mom before leaving for school and found her mom had died in her bed.

The funeral was held at the church where I work. Family and friends filled the sanctuary for the beautiful but extremely sad funeral.

As I sat and thought about this family, left without a mother, all of a sudden I had the strangest thought. "This family would give ANYTHING to have their mother have non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma."
That thought completely changed my perspective on my situation. It took me from feeling sorry for myself to “I am alive and I have options!” It was a pivotal moment in my becoming mentally prepared for what was ahead.

image credit

Monday, September 12, 2011

What to do if you discover you have cancer . . . join the Firm Chicks Club

You would love my sister, Sue. Everyone does. She is sweet, energetic, pretty and very very funny.

My first year in college, Sue was still in Viet Nam (where our parents were missionaries.) We exchanged piles of letters.

And Sue's letters were so intersting to read and funny . . . that my friends in my dorm at Biola would gather around as I read them aloud. I was often asked, "have you heard from Sue lately?"

Sue is positive and fun and she does life well. But even funny people get cancer. I asked Sue if she would share a little of her experience.

In Sue's words . . .

In early April, 2007, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer in the lymph system. Obviously I was devastated. I have always prayed a lot, but when I heard that news, I really started talking to God in earnest. This disease does not have a cure, so I prayed that God would heal me and give me a very long life with my husband, three sons and friends. But I also told Him that I would trust Him with His plan for my life. I asked God to give me the strength to face the unknown.

That year I was going through a devotional book called Streams in the Desert. I started it January 1st and read it almost every day. I also read the verses that went with each devotional section.

On April 19, just a few weeks after finding out I had cancer, I read this verse, “Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. (Exodus 14:13) I immediately was encouraged by those words.

I also read “But even in the worst of times, God would have you be cheerful and courageous, rejoicing in His love and faithfulness.” I really felt like God was talking to me.

I believed without the shadow of doubt that God could heal me instantly if He so desired. But what I felt He was saying to me on April 19th, was that He wanted me to be strong and courageous in whatever happened . . . and He would deliver me. God could have delivered me from cancer treatment, but He allowed me to go through it and He helped me to stand firm; he helped me be cheerful and courageous. He delivered me from fear and anxiety.

I went through four months of chemotherapy and had a PET scan scheduled for December 12, 2007 to see if the cancer was gone. On December 7th I was reading my devotional and, once again, I came across “Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” Once again I felt that was a direct word from God to me. My scan showed no sign of cancer.

I am in remission. I went through two years of quarterly “maintenance treatments” and still have yearly scans. My health has returned. My hair has grown back. Life is good!

In 2009 I was still reading Streams in the Desert, only this year, instead of just reading the few verses that were suggested, I read the whole chapter of whatever verse went with the devotional.

On June 4th, which just happens to be my birthday, the recommended verse was Exodus 14:20 so I read the whole chapter of Exodus 14. And there it was ... “Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” (Exodus 14:13) I was so excited to run into that verse again, two years after it really helped me get through that very difficult time in my life.

I decided I needed to start a club called “Firm Chicks”. So far I am the only member!

Thanks so much, Sue.

Friday, September 9, 2011

30 things to do when you are in a "rough patch" (part three)

It is already Friday, so welcome to part three of 30 things to do when you are in a "rough patch." Today we will make it all the way to thirty.

21. Really . . . go to church. I have been asking the Lord each Sunday to help me receive all that He has for me. By nature I can be very controlling, so picturing my hands open and ready to receive is the opposite of what my hands (and heart) would normally want to do.

22. Unplug for a day. (scary, I know!) Fast for a day from any communication device that has a plug-in. (Yes, we can still use our tea kettle.) Really, if you have to, go buy a puzzle.

23. Learn to say no and learn to say yes. My adorable mom, Hallie, used to say, "when you say no to something, you say yes to something else, and when you say yes to something you say no to something else." When I find myself in a season of exhaustion, boredom or stuckness . . . it helps me to ask myself, "have I been saying yes and no to the right things?"
(Invite the Holy Spirit into this process, for sure.)

24. Mix it up. I like my routines . . . a lot. But sometimes a surprising switch will bring me a little lift in my spirit. Have breakfast for dinner, have your quiet time at night, (gasp) eat dinner outside, get up and take a long shower and then put your pajamas back on for the rest of the day, etc.

25. Live in the moment. Last week living in the moment was allowing myself  space to pay attention to my feelings about Christy moving to England, and genuinely grieve. This week, living in the moment has been allowing the joy of three sweet young nephews and one adorable young niece to permeate our home. (that was easy!)

26. Drink lots of water. I love a tall slim glass, filled with ice and filtered water. Once you begin drinking water, you will realize that you were dehydrated.

27. Take the time you need to grow up and really deal with your issues. And get help if you need it. This can be hard work and at first will not feel great. But later you will reap the rewards. My desire for spiritual health can often be blocked by my emotional unhealth. (A favorite book on the subject is Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero.)

28. Eat fresh. Stay away from processed food and eat lots of fruits and veggies. (and a little delicious ice cream)

29. Watch a favorite movie. I love to cozy up at home and enjoy a favorite movie. (Little Women, Secret Life of Bees, While You were Sleeping, You've Got Mail, Nell, Cranford, The Holiday, etc. My husband tried to add -Live Free and Die Hard to this list . . . the sneak.)

30. Begin a gratitude journal. I am inviting a group of women into my home for the next six Saturdays to discuss Ann Voskamp's book, 1,000 Gifts. Together we will be paying attention to what God is doing around us and making our own lists of gifts. (wanna come?)

Thanks so much for all the great comments on this series. I hope you are reading them. There are a lot of great ideas there.

One of my favorites was from Sarah, of Modern Country Style. Sarah has a prechosen "happy outfit" on hand for any days that she is feeling sad. I also liked the ideas of Jeanette, of On Wings of Mirth and Worth. She "prays, drinks coffee and tea and watches a funny movie."

What do you do?

image credit

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

30 things to do when you are in a "rough patch" (part two)

Welcome to my series ~ 30 things to do when you are in a "rough patch."  Today is part two, so here we go with ideas, numbers 11 - 20.

11. Plan something special for someone who is hurting. Take a meal to someone who just had a baby, bake cookies for a new family in your neighborhood, send a surprise package to a friend who is scheduled for surgery, etc. Sometimes a thoughtful deed for someone else, is just the ticket for my own refreshment, too.

12.  Re-read a favorite book. When I want to add some joy to my life, Jan Karon's, The Mitford Series, is one of my favorites. I also love to re-read the four part autobiography by Madeleine L'Engle, The Crosswicks Journals. Or Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner. (I had best stop now . . . or I could go on all night.)

13. Simplify your meals for a week. Last week was a busy and emotional week for me. So Monday, Dave grilled a weeks worth of meat that I used in different ways. I also roasted a big pan of veggies that became a side dish, omelets and pizza. Super easy.

14. Spend an afternoon alone with the Lord. Have an extra long quiet time, review your journal to notice patterns of what God has been saying to you, listen, write out your prayer concerns, etc.

15. Practice hospitality. Keep it simple and enjoy a wonderful evening with friends, a new family in your neighborhood, your pastor, your kids' college roommates, etc.

16. Listen to some favorite music. Our friends, Gordon and Rita do this regularly. They call it "cd night." They light candles, prepare a simple snack or drink and sit together while listening to an entire cd of beautiful music.

17.  Slightly rearrange the furniture. This is wierd, but just a simple switch of a few things in my home, really gives me energy. (Not the big knock-down-drag-out furniture switch.)

18.  Clean the house. I love cleaning my house. I always have. And my favorite way is to clean when no one is home, have loud music, candles, the windows all open and use organic cleaning supplies. (Method from Target is my favorite.) I like to think and process and pray, while I clean. (If cleaning your house stresses you out, you might change this idea to . . . hire someone to clean your house.)

19.  Gather ideas. Ideas give me energy. Read a few favorite blogs, window shop, visit pinterest, peruse a favorite catalog or magazine, talk to a friend who is creative etc. (Because of our daughter's recent move to England, I am really enjoying British catalogues. . . Boden, Toast, Persephone and Cath Kidson . . . all arrive free in the mail.)

20. Invite some children over. Devin (age five) and Cole (age two) are coming over Sunday and I can hardly wait. Seeing their joy and wonder, holding hands while we walk to the park, laughing at their jokes, teaching them something new . . . right now my soul needs a great big dose of these darling kids that our family adores.

See you Friday, for the last installment.

Happily linking today to Jen and the soli sisters.

image credit

Monday, September 5, 2011

30 things to do when you are in a "rough patch" (part one)

Our family has had a pretty crazy last nine months. And now as fall approaches, Dave and I are feeling more settled since our move from Seattle to Chicago. Jenny is enjoying some fun changes in her life and has just created a beautiful art studio in her apartment, and Christy is off to new adventures and ministry in England.

But we all did a lot of hard work . . . emotionally, spiritually and physically, and while we are excited about all that God is doing, we are a bit weary, too.

What do you and your family do when you are feeling a little tired, stressed, bored or stuck?

Here are 30 things I like to do when I am in a rough patch:

1. Re-establish basic routines. Have I been staying up too late? eating too much take out? skipping my morning quiet time? ignoring my growing laundry pile? It always helps me to get back to my basic proven routines.

2. Do something creative. Whenever I need a burst of energy, anything creative does it for me. (a project, a good book, a creative conversation etc.)

3. Change the pace of life. Last week we were crazy busy helping Christy pack for her move to England and helping Jenny rearrange her apartment. This weekend I am reading The Help. The perfect change of pace.

4. Go for a long walk with someone you love. Dave and I have been taking a lot of walks. Sometimes we talk the whole time. Other times, we just enjoy the scenery.

5. Enjoy a cup of tea. A cup of tea always refreshes me and I enjoy it in a favorite mug. Even the shape and color of the mug nourishes me. And I am spoiled, I have a husband who often makes the tea for me.

6. Pray aloud with a friend. I have been missing Carol, my Seattle prayer partner. We met every other week to pray for our concerns. So encouraging. But even if I have just met someone, and I have the opportunity to pray together with them, there is a deep connect for me that brings great joy to my soul.

7. Get outside. We were spoiled to live on a beautiful lake for almost three years. Sitting on the dock, watching and listening to the water was always restoring. I also enjoy an hour sitting outside on my back porch here in Chicago, overlooking the garages and alley.

8. Get an extra hour of sleep. Going to bed an hour earlier or sleeping in an extra hour feels so luxurious. 
Even a 15 minute nap this afternoon was wonderful.

9. Putter. I first learned this phrase from Alexandra Stoddard in Living a Beautiful Life. I also call it "sprucing," as in, I am going to spruce up my house. This is done at a leisurely pace (unload the dishwasher, throw out the junk mail, dead-head the petunias etc.) Puttering is relaxing and frees up space in my head to pay attention to what matters to me.

10. Tackle that one hard thing that has been hanging over your head. Make that hard phone call, return the stack of library books that has taken over the counter, figure out how to fix the under cabinet light fixtures, make the dreaded dentist appointment . . . just do it.

See you on Wednesday for the next ten.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Spotless and Quiet

Our house is spotless and quiet . . . but certainly not as fun as last week, when Tim and Holly (my brother and along with George, Henry, Harvey and Violet were here.

Here we are at the Field Museum (hand stamp) . . . just one of the many wonderful Chicago sites that we visited.

Ah, having family around is so delicious.
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