Top Five Lines from Downton Abbey – S6;E5

OK, I just had to add this photo because that scenery! Ahhhh!


Did we see what we thought we saw?

Was anyone else this week transported back to an earlier time in Downton history when some crazy stuff went down?

(I’m looking at you, Mary.)

I’m guessing the writers wanted the series to go out with a bang as big as the one they started with.

(Pamuk, anyone?)

Alright, why don’t we just start out with the scene that everyone’s talking about. Let’s just get it all out on the table, shall we?

Oh wait, Robert just did.

(Sorry, couldn’t refuse that one.)

Let me set for you a different scene. Not the one on the screen with everyone sitting around the dinner table with Neville Chamberlain, sipping wine and eating delicate savories.

No, the scene I want you to imagine right now is the scene in my family room where my husband, daughter Kate, and I are sitting around in our sweats watching this genteel family bicker and rage against one another, behaving very badly in my estimation, in front of a Minister of State. We’re enjoying the banter, laughing about Violet and Isobel, and catching innuendoes that are flying across the table, when all of a sudden . . .


Cue screaming and “OH MY WORD!!!” and incredulous laughter.

“Wait! Did that just happen?”

“I need to see that again.”

We rewind the T.V. and watch Robert ralphing blood across the table five times before we actually believe that what we thought we saw was actually what we really had seen.

Crazy stuff, I’m telling you.

And another daughter, who was upstairs doing homework during Downton (I know, she’s the rebellious type), yelled, “What is going on down there?!”

It was raucous, and it took a few minutes to catch our breath before we could go on and watch the rest of the episode.

[How did it go down at your house? I’d love to know.]

But, you know, aside from Robert’s melodramatic confession of love toward Cora while he’s lying on his left side (thank you for that, Dr. Carson), there really weren’t any great lines that came out of that scene.

Probably because everyone was just standing around with shocked looks on their faces saying, “Oh my!” and “Whatever shall we do?!”

Worthless bunch of ninnies.

So, even though Robert’s explosion across the table was one of the top five scenes in Downton Abbey history, it doesn’t make my top five lines list because there really weren’t any great lines there.

So, now that I’ve managed to talk that scene to death, let’s move on to my five favorite lines from Episode 5.

I’ll be honest, I had a hard time narrowing it down. But I say that every week, don’t I? So if I overlook one of your favorites, won’t you leave me a comment and let me know what line you liked best?

Moving on, in no particular order.

1. As long as we’re talking about the Robert incident (The Great Robert Ralph as it shall forever be known), I loved how the servants all stayed up waiting for news of their lord.

It was kind of sweet, really. They’re all sitting around the table, yawning to let us know that it was very late at night, when Carson rushes into the room to declare, “He’s going to be alright. They’ve performed a gastrectomy.”

Thomas, horrified, says, “What’s that?!”

And Carson, always wanting to sound superior, even when he doesn’t know the answer, replies,
“No business of ours.”
Doesn’t that just kind of sum up things for the servants? They see and hear all kinds of things upstairs—unsavory things, rude things, unbelievable things—but it’s not for them to have an opinion or even pretend knowledge about. It’s just not their business.

(For the record, a gastrectomy is either a full or partial removal of the stomach. For Robert’s sake, let’s hope it was a partial.)

2. So much this week was not spoken, but an exchange of looks.

Daisy and Andy

Mr. Mason and Mrs. Patmore (what?!)

Baxter and Mr. Molesley

Denker and Spratt

It’s all downstairs people—they are the ones who get what’s going on but can’t express their emotion (see #1 above), so they do it with a glance or a smile or a raise of the eyebrow.

I guess they do get to express their opinion in more subtle ways.

There were so many lovely looks exchanged this week, but one of my favorites was when Andy came to Mr. Mason’s rescue in front of Tom and Mary, offering to help with the pigs. Daisy looked up, clearly caught off guard by Andy’s chivalrous nature, and smiled a smile so wide that you’d have thought she’d never seen him before.

I have a feeling Andy had noticed Daisy before, though.

And then the looks, veerryy subtle, between Mrs. Patmore and Mr. Mason. How cute was that? Another moment in which I just thought, what?!

I also loved when Mr. Molesley was teasing Miss Baxter in the courthouse, asking if she’d like to see if her criminal friend would like to go change his plea. She also smiled broadly for, oh, about the first time ever. Hopefully Baxter can unwind just a bit, now that her legal troubles seem to be over.

I think the king of the sideways glance and the raised eyebrow, though, is Spratt. This week was no exception as he sat behind his newspaper, thrilled to watch Denker squirm in front of him, eyes raised and humming not-so-silently to himself.


3. Speaking of Denker. I have never liked her character. At. All. I’ve even wondered why they’ve kept her around.

So you could imagine my glee (and then my horror!) when she got herself into trouble this week by speaking her mind to Dr. Clarkson.

(Obviously Denker hasn’t spent much time in the Carson School of Service to Our Betters.)

Violet receives a letter from Dr. Clarkson telling her about Denker’s bad behavior and almost has a heart attack. She immediately sacks Denker, but Denker won’t go down without a fight, talking back and trying to defend herself.

I guess Denker forgets who she works for, because Violet will have nothing of it, telling her, “It is not your place to have opinions about my acquaintance, let alone express them!”

Denker continues, “He can’t claim your friendship now, not when he’s turned against you.”

But Violet gets the last word, and it’s one of the truest words she’s ever spoken:
“If I withdrew my friendship from everyone who’d spoken ill of me, my address book would be empty!” 
4. Let’s go back to the infamous dinner. Neville Chamberlain is the Minister of Health at that point in history, and he’s brought in by Violet to be persuaded to step in and stop the takeover of the hospital.

Now, I knew the name Neville Chamberlain, and I suppose this scene would have meant a lot more to the Brits watching it than to me, a stupid American who can’t remember her pre-WWII history.

(This is a photo I found on the www. I thought it was kind of uncanny that they made the actor look so much like the real Neville Chamberlain. Weird.)

This is where my very smart husband came in handy. He remembered that Chamberlain was actually the Prime Minister at the beginning of WWII, and that he was the one who wanted to play nice with Hitler. He was a conciliatory type, just wanting everyone to be happy.

So here he sits with the bickering Crawleys or Granthams or whatever you call them, and his eyes dart back and forth between Violet and Isobel who, neither of them, won’t back down.

Finally, Chamberlain declares, “Goodness! I thought I was brought here to be lectured by a united group, not to witness a battle royale.”

Violet stops, mid-bicker, to ask, “Oh! Don’t you enjoy a good fight?”

And Chamberlain delivers the most ironic line of the night,

“I’m not sure I do, really.”

Forshadowing. For sure.

5. Finally, how could we forget dear Carson and Hughes? Marital bliss, am I right?

Not so fast.

First of all, it never really occurred to me until this week that Mrs. Hughes wouldn’t know how to cook, but of course she doesn’t. She’s been a working woman all her life, but not in the kitchen. She’s had her meals prepared for her as much as the folks upstairs have had, so when it comes to taking care of her husband, as Mr. Carson would surely expect, Mrs. Hughes doesn’t have a clue.

So Carson wants to have a cozy dinner together in their cottage. Newlywed stuff. So sweet.

Until Carson starts complaining.

“Is this meat done enough? . . .This plate’s cold, Tis a pity. . . . Bubble and squeak as a vegetable with lamb? . . .This knife could do with sharpening.”

The best line in this scene isn’t so much a line, per se, but a look again. As Mrs. Hughes sits down to her own dinner, she takes a spoonful of the delicious bubble and squeak (it is, after all, a vegetable, you know) and forcefully plops it onto her plate, giving her new husband a look that could kill.

But then, the line that just made me guffaw with laughter. Carson thanks Mrs. Patmore for their dinner, then asks her, 
“Another time, I wonder if you might go through the cooking of it with Mrs. Hughes. It’s been a while since she’s played with her patty-pans and she’s got some catching up to do.”

Aaand daggers.

Oh Mr. Carson, you’ve got a lot to learn.

Welcome to married life, Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes!!!


Now tell me, what did I miss? What was YOUR favorite line of this episode? Leave me a comment!

Top Five Lines from Downton Abbey, S6:E4

What’s in a name?

I think that should have been the title of this week’s episode of Downton Abbey.

Did you catch the theme? Name. Reputation. Honor. It was all there.

Interestingly, most of the epiphanies came from Downstairs. Not too surprising, I guess—the Upstairs folks continue to live in their dream worlds, whatever those worlds happen to be.

But the Downstairs folks. They are the ones who get it. The world is moving on. Reputation will get you places. Your name matters.

Take Mrs. . . . C-c-c-c-Carson, for example. Nobody can quite get their tongue around that name (thanks to Violet for that visual), so in the end Mr. Carson proposes that they all just keep calling her Mrs. Hughes.

Mrs. Hughes just smiles and says nothing.

Her name is intact.

And Daisy. The idealistic girl was willing to risk her reputation to get what she thought was “fair” for Mr. Mason (did you not love it when Mrs. Patmore referred to her as Karl Marx?!), and somehow, in the end, she looked like a hero.

Mr. Mason even tells her that it’s her good name that rescues him in the end.

So glad she didn’t actually have a chance to speak up when she tried to accost Lady Grantham in the hallway.

I’d call that a bullet dodged.

And finally, there’s Molesley. The sweetest man Downstairs. The one whose reputation is golden. The one who knows the importance of honor.

And the one who can quote Edmund Burke. (Points to anyone who remembers what he said.)

If I were Miss Baxter I’d thrown down my dishtowel and fall into his arms of rescue. He’s just waiting for that, isn’t he?

And so are we.

Anyway, my reputation will be mud if I don’t “get on” as they say Downstairs. So here we go with my Top Five.

There were so many good lines in this episode. I’m not sure how I’ll choose the best.

1. Let’s start with Violet, shall we? She had a couple of good zingers that made me laugh, so I have to include them.

First, over tea with her friend, Lady Shackleton, Violet presses her to take her side in the dreaded hospital debate. (Honestly, I don’t know where this story line is going. It’s baffled me from the beginning.)

Anyway, Lady S. asks Violet, “How can I present myself as an expert when I don’t know the facts?”

To which Violet responds, 

“Well it’s never stopped me!”

Later, as Violet and Isobel argue about the hospital for the umpteenth time over dinner, Edith tries to come to the rescue. “I suppose Cousin Isobel is entitled to put up an argument.”

To which Violet storms back:

“Well of course she is, but she’s not entitled to win it!”

I think Violet is running out of ammunition.

2. Let’s talk about the situation with Gwen for a minute. Again, it’s about the name.

Cora didn’t remember her. At all. Name forgotten.

Rosamund is enamored with the reputation of Mr. Harding, Gwen’s husband, giving Gwen an “in” with the Downton crowd. Reputation by association (or, in this case, marriage).

And then there’s Thomas (we’ll talk about his reputation in a moment) who exposes Gwen, thinking this will disparage her name, but his plan backfires. Remember? He brings up her former employment in the house in an attempt to embarrass Gwen, but Gwen is rescued by her own grace and charm.

And Sybil.

Gwen notes how Sybil helped her get her first job with the telephone company, which led to her meeting her husband. It’s a bit of a long story, but as everyone sits listening, they smile as they think of the best among them who was taken too soon.

Gwen tells the family,

“I’ll never forget her. Her kindness saved my life.”

It makes you wonder what would have happened to the family had Sybil lived.

Back to Thomas. No matter how hard he tries (not that hard, actually), his reputation seems to denigrate. Even Robert gave him a dressing down after the "Gwen incident" telling him he doesn't like to see such things.

Oh, Thomas.

3. Back up a minute to when the family was meeting Mr. and Mrs. Harding for the first time. Sorry, things are out of order today, but this one was too funny to pass up.

They are talking about education for women, the women’s college that they are all involved with now, and Isobel is preening over women’s issues the way she does.

Yea, women!

They ask to hear Gwen’s story, and she tells them that she didn’t have any higher education.

To which Mary replied, 

“Who did? All we were taught was French, prejudice, and dance steps.”

So clever, Mary! Just think of how charming you’d be if you actually HAD had an education.

4. Mary had some wonderful quips in this episode. As well as some jabs.

I’m not sure which category this quote falls into, but I loved it so I have to include it.

First, you’ll remember handsome Henry Talbot, Lady Shackleton’s nephew. He’s mysterious. He’s from London, the son of a Parliamentarian. He’s oh-so-handsome. And he’s a racecar driver!

He offers her his card when they meet at Downton, and he tells her he hopes they can meet for lunch . . . or something . . . when she’s next in London.

Mary’s practically foaming at the mouth, but she’s playing it cool.

Flirting is her strong suit.

The two beautiful people do meet up for dinner in London (nevermind the fact that Anna is having a serious medical crisis—Mary’s going to have fun!) in a posh restaurant favored by car lovers. I smell a fling if there ever was one.

Mary glances coyly at the menu and says, 

I hope this means you’re boiling up to make a pass before we’re done.”

Talbot replies, “Probably. But will you accept?”

Mary, with a slight raise of an eyebrow says, 

“No. But I shall enjoy the process enormously.”

I think Henry Talbot actually blushed!!

I know I blushed earlier in the episode when Violet was talking to Robert about Mary and said, 

“Mary needs more than a handsome smile . . . and a hand on the gearstick.”

Honestly, Granny!

5. I hate only having to choose five lines because this week there were so many good ones. But alas, I must choose.

And this, I think, was my favorite of the entire episode.

Daisy and Mrs. Patmore are sitting in the kitchen together, gossiping as usual. Daisy says, “I wonder what Mrs. Hughes is up to.”

Mrs. Patmore, resting her chin in her hand, sighs. 

“Ah, she knows the mystery of life by now . . . unlike me.”

Poor Mrs. Patmore. Don’t you just want to see her find her one true love?


And with that I’ll leave you to go out and make a name for yourself.

For the record, Edmund Burke once famously said, “All that’s needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

A good reminder to all of us.


Like what you read here? Why not sign up for email updates? You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter—I’d sure love it if you did!

Top Five Lines from Downton Abbey :: S6:E3

Well now, Episode 3 was a happy episode, wasn’t it? Even the foreshadowing was happy.

Daisy studying for her exams with Mr. Molesley helping her.

Anna smiling like the Cheshire Cat.

Edith taking charge of the magazine. And her mysterious helper staying up all night to get the magazine out. (Who was that guy again? And why is he helping her? Does he have editing experience? Is he looking for a job? What on earth?!)

Anyway . . .

Even though the foreshadowing was fun, the actual episode was also happy and marvelous and lovely.

WE HAD A WEDDING, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!! And weddings are always wonderful.

But at Downton, every wedding must come with a little drama.

1. And so we begin with wedding drama. Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore head upstairs to the servants’ bedrooms where Mrs. Hughes is “showing off” her pathetic brown day dress that she chose to get married in.

As they climb the stairs, Mrs. P. tries to get her BFF excited about the wedding, but Mrs. Hughes will have nothing of it. She’s still complaining about the reception being in the Big House.

“I wanted a big wedding breakfast with all of us set at groaning tables having a jolly time.”

Mrs. Patmore asks, “Why can’t you have that?”

And Mrs. Hughes delivers a line I won’t soon forget:

Because it’s not how posh people do it. They stand around with nibbly bits gettin’ stuck in their teeth and that’s what we have to do.”

You know, I was at a party with some pretty posh people a couple of weeks ago and I didn’t see any nibbly bits caught in anybody’s teeth. I’ll have to be on the lookout for that in the future.

[Note: Several of you last week thought I was being kind of unfair to Mrs. H. for complaining about the wedding being held in the Big House. I get it—she should have the wedding she wants—but I still think she was acting rather like a spoiled child over it. And apparently it worked!]

2. Violet always pleases, doesn’t she? This week was no exception since she gets two spots on my list.

Her first great line came rather early on as she visits the Abbey to talk to Robert about this infernal hospital situation. She’s worried that Robert is actually thinking about the merits of Isobel’s side of things.

Robert admits that he’s been talking to Cora about it, to which Violet responds, “Well that is a mistake.”

Robert pushes back: “You can’t expect me to avoid talking to my own wife.”

Violet, without even blinking:

Why not? I know several couples who are perfectly happy. Haven’t spoken in years.”

3. And then there was the hospital meeting in Dr. Clarkson’s office. Isobel is in rare form up on that high horse of hers, insulting Dr. Clarkson about his soon-to-be-diminished authority around HER hospital.

As she blabs on and on, Isobel comes off as brazen and proud and rude, as usual, even calling Clarkson just “one more local doctor.”

Everyone around the circle just sits there with their mouths hanging open. 

Finally, breaking the tension, Violet cocks her head and sarcastically asks Isobel:

Did you . . . drink at luncheon?”

I don’t know why, but something about the way she asked that question had me laughing so hard.

And Isobel didn’t even get the joke.

4. Now on to the good stuff—the wedding. So many great lines that I’ll have to pick just a few.

First, how about when Baxter and Anna come in with that troublesome wedding jacket in their hands?

“We’ve come to dress the Bride!”

To which Mrs. Hughes says,

“Well now, there’s a sentence I thought I’d never hear.”

And then there was the actual wedding ceremony itself. So simple. So understated. They didn’t even show much of the ceremony—I guess Carson and Hughes wanted to keep it private.

But they did show Carson putting the ring on her finger while stating his vows, which I absolutely loved.

“With this ring; I thee wed.
With my body, I thee worship.
And with all my worldly goods I thee endow.”


Why don’t we say vows like that anymore? They are so beautiful, so poetic. And they carry so much weight.

*sigh again*

And finally, how about that toast? Carson with just the right words again. The man knows how to make a statement, doesn’t he?

“I will not be prolix, but it must be right that I mark that I am the happiest and luckiest of men. That a woman of such grace and charm would entrust her life’s happiness to my unworthy charge passeth all understanding.”

So sweet.

5. And then. The happiest surprise of them all (although, for the record, I called this one during the first episode)! Tom!

(Oh yeah, and Sibbie! Daaahling!)

I had to go back and watch this scene again just to capture the looks of surprise and joy on everyone’s faces. I’m sure mine looked just as thrilled.

I’M SO GLAD TOM’S BACK!!!! And I’m pretty sure he’s back for good.

And I’m pretty sure there will be another wedding down the road.

And no I haven’t watched ahead.

I loved how Tom summed up his time in America and his reason for coming back:

“It’s quite simple. I had to go to Boston to figure something out. I learned that Downton is my home and you are my family.”

Oh yes you are, Grantham clan. You’re in it with the chauffeur forever it looks like to me.

And thank goodness for that, amiright?

Till next week. . . .


Facebook. InstagramTwitter. I'm all over it, and you should be too. Won't you join me? 

Four Books for Your New Year

Part of what makes blogging fun for me is the chance to preview new books or books that haven’t even hit the shelves yet. Today I’m sharing some of these new books with you. The quiet of January seems to be a perfect time to catch up on some reading—maybe one or two of these would be just right for you.

Choose Joy by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver

Get your Kleenex ready for this one. My real-life friend, Mary Carver, has compiled several blog posts that tell about the life, illness, and death of Sara Frankl, and I couldn’t be prouder of Mary’s accomplishment here.

A little background: Sara suffered from a rare genetic disorder (brought about by a car accident when she was in college of all things!) that became so severe that she could not leave her home. As a young, homebound woman, Sara found an outlet and a connection to the outside world through her blog, Gitzen Girl. The wisdom, kindness, and generosity of spirit that Sara shared with her readers were qualities of a woman far beyond her 30- some years. In this book, Mary shares Sara’s life and background along with some of her more poignant posts.

I was a faithful reader of Gitzen Girl, following Sara’s trials until her death in 2011, and I, like Mary, was deeply affected by Sara’s life and words. I think you will appreciate Sara’s wisdom and thoughts about life in this beautiful book as much as I did.

Again, I’ve read Kristen’s blog, We Are THAT Family, since it began, and I have loved her heart, her wisdom, and her parenting style. In this book, Kristen lays out how she and her husband have raised their kids in a counter-cultural way. So much of what Kristen says here resonates with me, and I highly recommend this book. I’m sure many parents who read this will be challenged to think carefully about their families, about society, and about how we raise kids to be world-changers.

Yes, there is much in the book about teaching gratitude, as the title suggests, but as I read the book I couldn’t help thinking that a few of the chapters weren’t so much about teaching kids to be thankful as they were about how Kristen and her husband parent their children. The title was a little confusing to me.

I also noted several ways in which their parenting style and ours are different—we all parent just a little differently from each other anyway, don’t we? But I still found several chapters challenging, convicting, and helpful for young parents.

Hope for the Weary Mom Devotional by Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin.

More real-life friends here! Stacey, who started Mothers ofDaughters (where I contribute monthly) and Brooke, who started the MOB Society (for moms of boys), first linked writing arms to bring us Hope for the Weary Mom. In their most recent book they share 40-days of devotional thoughts aimed specifically for those of us who struggle to feel seen, loved, and understood along our journey of motherhood.

I loved this book because the devotionals are short, scriptural, and point us to the heart of God for moms. I could relate so well to those early days of motherhood, feeling alone and pretty much a mess and wondering if anyone knew how hard it all was for me. Brooke and Stacey reassure us that God sees, He knows, and He cares deeply about moms.

If you have young children, or if you’re a mom whose looking for a sound, scriptural devotional, I recommend this book.

Hoodwinked by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk.

This books was a surprise to me. I honestly didn’t think I was going to like it because, like most people, I do judge a book by its cover. And, in my opinion, this cover isn’t the best.

But when I dug into the heart of the book, I found that I really enjoyed it. In fact, on almost every page I found myself thinking, “That’s me! I did that! I thought that!”

Hoodwinked is a book about debunking the myths of motherhood and replacing the lies we all sometimes believe with Scriptural truths. For me, the chapter titled “Myth #2: The Way I Mother is the Right (and Only) Way,” was worth the price of the book alone! And also? I loved the phrase “Mommier-than-thou” that they used to describe some of our more judgmental mommy moments. Had me laughing out loud.

In each chapter the authors somehow manage to be convicting about the myths we hold on to and grace-filled about the ways we have felt judged as moms. Filled with biblical truth and practical knowledge, this is a great book for moms who need to push a reset button in their thinking. As I said, I was surprised about how much I liked this book.

So mamas, are you looking for some wintertime reading? Why not check out one or two of these books. You might find yourself laughing or crying, but they might also help make those long, dreary days of winter go just a little bit faster. 

Top Five Lines from Downton Abbey – S6; E2

You all know why I love writing these Downton post, don’t you? It’s because I get to go back and watch the episode a second (and sometimes third) time. And when I watch the episode by myself, I catch so many more great lines than just the ones that my family and I laughed at (or swooned at) the night before.

Which is also why some of my favorite lines might be a little obscure to you.

A couple of you mentioned that you fully expected to see the “wigs on the green” line here this week. While funny, I suppose, Isobel was just being her self-righteous self and that doesn’t always appeal to me. So that won’t be showing up. (Although I guess it just did.)

And since cooking is one of my favorite things, Mrs. Patmore’s line, ““I know it’s cheating, but I might have to buy a jar of horseradish,” totally cracked me up and should have made my list this week. But, alas, I didn’t have room for it. (Except I did. *wink wink*)

And then there was the line I loved this week that wasn’t so much a line as a look. Remember when Mr. Finch, the livestock man, wanted to talk to someone in charge about the Fat Stock Show in Molton? Mary told him that she was replacing Mr. Branson as the estate agent, and poor Mr. Finch looked like he had swallowed . . . well . . . a finch.

So many great moments in Episode 2.

But I must get on to my top five lines.

1. This episode opens with Mary and Edith sniping at each other . . . again. Over breakfast. Poor Robert can’t even eat his eggs in silence.

They read their letters, and Mary speculates that Rose must be pregnant. Edith asks Mary why she thinks that, and Mary says it’s because Rose says she might not be able to travel in the summer.


Edith gets the last word, however, when she says,

“As usual you add two and two to make 53.”

I’ll be using that one.

2. Anna confides in Mary (way too much, if you ask me) about her problem maintaining a pregnancy, and immediately Mary insists on helping her. She decides to take Anna to her doctor in London.

Anna rebuffs Mary’s offer of help—it will cost too much. She’s probably worried that Mary will get her into this mess and then neglect to actually pay for it. But Mary is adamant.

“Don’t be silly! You’ve earned it fair and square keeping my secrets. Hiding that fearful Dutch thingamajig and carrying poor Mr. Pamuk down the gallery at the dead of night.”

The two giggle like schoolgirls just thinking about the Pamuk episode.

And so do we.

Later, Anna tells Bates that she and Mary will be headed to London for a quick overnight trip.

Bates doesn’t even question the trip because those poor servants had no say in the matter. When the mistress of the house wants to go to London, you drop everything and go.

(What if Anna had her bunco group coming over that night? She’d totally have to cancel her plans.)

Anyway, Bates sees this as an opportunity for Anna to get some rest after her most recent miscarriage.

“Well, be sure to put your feet up.”

Anna replies,

“Yes, I’ll be . . . putting my feet up.”

Anyone else catch that bit of irony?

3. I guess I can’t avoid talking about the hospital takeover, although I wish I could. That storyline is already boring me to tears.

(BUT SERIOUSLY, HOW ABOUT CORA’S HAT IN THE HOSPITAL SCENE?!—the one with the pheasant feathers. Oh my gorgeousness. I am loving all of the clothes so far this season.)

So Cora goes to the hospital for a tour (as if she’s never been there before, right?) with Violet and Dr. Clarkson (Team Vi). While they are there, who shows up but Isobel, whom Cora thinks is right about the whole takeover thing (Team I).

Eventually Cora decides to leave, but not before Isobel can get in one last lick:

“I’ll come with you. We must give them time to gnash their teeth alone.”

Which is exactly what Dr. Clarkson and Violet do.

“I can’t deny it,” Clarkson admits, “Lady Downton would have made a powerful ally.”

Violet, shooting daggers at him says,

I hope you’re not implying that she would be more powerful than I.”

Oh never, Violet. Never!

4. Could we have a moment of silence for the tenant farmers?




Who knew that they lived under such fear of losing their homes and their livelihoods pretty much every single day? I sure didn’t. But it’s starting to make sense to me, especially after Daisy’s rant in Episode 1.

And Poor Mr. Drewe. (Cue Cora’s pseudo-sympathetic tone.)

The man has his hands full, you’ve gotta admit. What with the pigs and Mary as his new boss and his four kids and his crazy-a** wife to deal with.

His family had been at Yew Tree Farm for over a hundred years for goodness sake!!

Didn’t matter.

I really almost lost it during the scene between Mr. Drewe and Robert at the end. There was no loud discussion. No pleading. Nobody claiming injustice.

Everyone just knew that Mrs. Drewe had screwed up royally and something needed to be done. Someone would have to pay and it sure wasn’t going to be the Granthams.

But Mr. Drewe took it like a man and said he’d start looking for a new tenancy in the morning. Adding this killer:

“We made a plan, lady Edith and I. But we forgot about emotion. And emotion’s what will trip you up every time.”

Sure is, Mr. Drewe. Sure is.

And then Robert has to go and show his human side!

“God bless you, Drewe. God bless you and your family.”

Pass the tissues.

And hand the key to Mr. Mason on your way out.

5. I think I’ve saved the best for last. Carson and Hughes.

(Sounds like a comedy team from the ‘40s.)

I think they had their first fight in this episode. Last time they were just discussing The Unmentionable, but this time it was all out war over their wedding venue.

The Great Hall of Downton Abbey is unsuitable for the wedding, according to Mrs. Hughes, but Carson can’t seem to tell the family “Thanks but no thanks.”

Now, could we just stop and think about that for a moment? The Great Hall. Of Downton Abbey. Unsuitable?

Just who does Mrs. Hughes think she is??

I’d give anything to have a wedding in a place like that. And these days you’d pay a pretty penny to have a wedding in the Great Hall of Downton Abbey, if, indeed, such a place existed.

So seriously, who is Mrs. Hughes to thumb her nose at such a generous offer?

She might need a little time out to think about her actions.

But Mrs. Hughes has a point to make (as does Julian Fellowes), and make it she does.

“I want my own wedding to be done in my own way, is that so outlandish?”

You gotta give it to Carson. He tries. He really does.

“It’s my wedding too.”

(I think I’ve heard that one before, too.)

But Mrs. Hughes holds her ground and delivers my favorite line from this episode.

“I am the bride. We’ll be doing it your way for the next 30 years, I know that well enough, but the wedding day is mine.”

Enough said.


Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. I'm all over it, and you should be too. Won't you join me? 

Top Five Lines from Downton Abbey, S6:E1

Alright, folks. Here’s the deal. I wasn’t going to blog about Downton Abbey this year. I’m supposed to be a “serious” writer this year. I’m supposed to write about big stuff, important stuff, life-changing stuff, so that I can build my platform.

Yeah. That.

But here’s the deal. I actually love writing about Downton Abbey (not that I don’t love writing about serious stuff too—obviously I do), and it seems some of you actually like reading my DA posts.

I also think writing should be fun. And helpful. And, at times, entertaining.


So, with all that in mind, I’ve made a momentous decision (cue the trumpets)—I will still be blogging about Downton Abbey this year.

I know. Your world has now been set right on its axis. You’re welcome.

I hope I can do justice to your expectations this year (kind of like British justice, as Robert said, “The envy of the world.”). Maybe then my platform will skyrocket.

*plants tongue firmly in cheek*

Now, as those of you who closely follow Downton already realize, we’re starting off with a bit of a problem: I’m a week behind. I haven’t blogged Episode 1 yet, but Episode 2 has already aired here in America (forget the Brits—they’ve seen it all already).

What are we to do?

We’re going to do what any good Downton character would do.

(Photo Credit: Paula Wilding)

We’re going to recap Episode 1 today and follow it up with Episode 2 tomorrow. Then we’ll be all caught up and you can come back here on Tuesdays for your latest DA Top Five from here on out.

Ready? Here we go!


Season Six starts in epic Downton fashion—with a hunt. Nothing says Downton Abbey better than men in top hats, red jackets with gold buttons, white jodhpurs, and shiny black boots.

And then there are Dogs! Horses! Drinks in silver cups!

(Oh, and don’t forget the creepy woman shooting daggers at Lady Mary.)

I think that pretty much sets the tone.

It’s 1925. (For some reason they are taking great pains to remind us of that this year.)

Of course, life at Downton isn’t all riding and hunting. It wouldn’t be Downton if we didn’t have a little drama, and the drama starts early this season with Mrs. Hughes, who, you will remember, is betrothed to Mr. Carson.

Yet, for a couple that is supposedly betrothed, they sure haven’t talked about much yet.

Of course, it is 1925. Remember?

1. Anyway, early on we get one of my favorite lines from this episode. A line that might just go down as one of my all-time favorite lines from all six seasons of Downton Abbey.

You remember, surely.

Mrs. Hughes calls Mrs. Patmore into her room to discuss something juicy because all the juicy gossip happens upstairs in the servants’ bedrooms. She closes the door and discloses to Mrs. Patmore that she’s just not sure if, after they are married, Mr. Carson will want her “as I am now.”

To which Mrs. Patmore, who by this time has made it perfectly clear that she’s no expert in marital matters, replies:

“Perhaps you can keep the lights off.”

I’m giggling just thinking about it.

2. Later, Mrs. Patmore (side note: why is she called MRS. Patmore if she’s never been married?) enters the kitchen, visibly upset because she’s agreed to do the dirty work for Mrs. Hughes and talk to Mr. Carson. Daisy picks up on this and asks Mrs. P. what’s wrong, using what I assume is an old English platitude, but one I had never heard before:

“A problem shared is a problem halved.”

I thought that was lovely.

3. Violet and Isobel are back to their old antics this season. I have a feeling Julian Fellowes is going to make the most of these two this time around because they have already shared some fantastic jabs.

One of my favorites was when the two were discussing the unfortunate decline in status of one of their neighbors who was forced to sell his estate at auction.

(The disgrace!)

Violet thinks it’s unseemly to have to sell everything, especially in front of all of those people, to which Isobel quickly retorts, “Well, you and I differ when it comes to the importance of things.”

Violet verbally slaps her:

“Does it ever get cold on the moral high ground?”

4. Anna learns in Episode 1 that she is no longer a suspect in Mr. Green’s murder—someone has conveniently come forward to confess to the crime. (I have a confession of my own: I didn’t even remember that storyline.)

Anna’s response to the policeman who brought the news was beautiful:

“Give her a message for me. Say I forgive her and wish her luck.”

5. You knew I’d get back to Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson, right? 

How could I not? Their story was so good this week! 

First we have Mr. Carson and Mrs. Patmore trying for a second time to have The Most Uncomfortable Conversation Ever. The light bulb finally goes off for Carson—what a great facial expression that was!—and Mrs. P. lets out a sigh of relief.

(It would have just been so much easier if they could have just said the word “s. e. x.” wouldn’t it?)

Anyway, they have come to an understanding. Both are relieved, yet they both aren’t quite sure what to do next. What should Mrs. Patmore tell Mrs. Hughes?

(It’s like junior high all over again!)

Mr. Carson then delivers the line that any woman of any generation in any place on earth would love to hear from her man: 

I love her, Mrs. Patmore. I am happy and tickled and bursting with pride that she would agree to be my wife. And I want us to live as closely as two people can for the time that remains to us on earth.”


Truthfully, every time I read that line I get tears in my eyes.

Later, Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson are alone in his office, finally talking about what they should have been talking about all along. They agree that they will have a “real marriage,” as Mr. Carson calls it.


(Yes, I'm in junior high.)

Mrs. Hughes, still a little uncertain, says, “Well then, if you’re sure you still want me . . .” to which Mr. Carson replies, 

“I have never been so sure of anything.”


And then he kisses her tenderly.

Fade to black and all’s right with the world.

Until tomorrow.


Gratuitous platform-building exercise: Want to get your weekly Downton Abbey fix delivered straight to your inbox? Why not sign up for email updates from me (just over there on the right)? I’d also love it if you’d follow me on Facebook or Instagram.

Some Thoughts on Christian Identity

This week (January 8) marks the 60th anniversary of the martyrdom of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Roger Youdarian, missionaries to a remote tribe in Equador. I’ve been thinking and reading about these men, their families, and their sacrifice this week, wondering what it all means in our world today, a world that looks very different from the world of 1956.

Certainly mission work is done very differently today, perhaps as a result of this martyrdom. Nevertheless, the work of these men and the sacrifices of their families cannot be discounted. In fact, two years after their deaths, the wife of Jim Elliot, Elisabeth, along with Nate Saint’s sister, returned to Equador to live among the Auca people—the very people who had killed their husband, father, and brother. Elisabeth Elliot and Rachel Saint loved these people, and today, many Aucas now follow Christ.

This week I read a moving account of some of their life and ministry among the Aucas in a talk given by Elisabeth Elliot in 1983. (You can read it yourself here and her.) In this same talk, Elisabeth encourages college students to really think about their lives and to decide ahead of time what their lives will stand for. Will it be Christ? Or something else?

Lately I’ve been thinking about our identity in Christ. What does this mean? What should it mean? What difference does it make in my life? Because the day may be coming when I will have to decide where my identity truly lies.

For Jim Elliot, identity with Christ meant everything. It meant delaying marriage until he knew God was calling him to it. It meant loving a people enough to give up a comfortable life in order to bring them the Good News of Jesus Christ. And, ultimately, it meant obedience to the call of God that would bring him to his death at the age of 29.

Was Jim Elliot a fool? Some might say he was. But the Aucas who now know Christ might have a different answer. And the thousands, if not millions, who have been since affected by his and Elisabeth’s story might also answer differently.

Jim Elliot laid everything on the line for the cause of Jesus Christ.

Did he go to Equador to identify with the Auca people? That wasn’t his purpose. Did he change his clothes and wear their ceremonial headgear as a sign of solidarity with them? No. Did he take on an Auca identity? No. Because he knew that doing so would be like saying, “You’re O.K. the way you are. You just need a little Jesus band-aid to make your life better.”

Jim Elliot knew that a Jesus band-aid would not solve the salvation problem of a people. He knew that a complete life transformation would be necessary, so he stepped in to show them that a full life with Jesus was what they needed. What we all need.

Some might ask whether these missionaries truly cared about these people or whether they were simply trying to gain conversion notches in their belts. I’d say that anyone who would be willing to sacrifice life and family in order to share Jesus with them must absolutely have love in his heart toward these people. History shows that not only did the five men enjoy a banquet with the tribe when they arrived, but also that Jim Elliot had a gun in his pocket on the day he was speared to death. He didn’t use it because all five of these men had decided ahead of time that they would not kill another person, even if their own lives were in danger.

Jim Elliot knew his purpose and he knew his identity.

When the apostle Paul encountered Christ on the Damascus road—a road on which he was travelling so that he could find and persecute Christians—his whole life changed and he was never the same after that. Scripture tells us that Paul was a completely different person, both in thought and in demeanor, after he met Jesus. He no longer persecuted anyone—he loved. He said, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Throughout his letters Paul tells his readers that an identity with Christ means that everything is different. Our way doesn’t matter anymore—only Christ’s way matters. Our rights don’t matter either—we give up our rights to follow Christ. Our dignity doesn’t count for anything—as Paul said, it’s all dung (or garbage) compared to knowing Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:8).

Paul makes it clear that our identity is gone, vanished, when we take up the cause of Christ. And Jesus is worth it. Just ask Elisabeth Elliot, now rejoicing in heaven with her savior.

You’re probably wondering why I’m wrestling with all this. Why am I writing such a long post on a topic on which most Christians would agree with me?

Here’s why. And here’s what has been rolling around in my head for the past couple of months—an Instagram post that said this: “The day a Muslim is required to register as a Muslim in this country is the day I register as a Muslim.” Now I’m not going to argue the politics of this statement; what struck me about this statement was something not political at all.

What struck me about this statement was how quickly and how flippantly this person was willing to cast aside their identity as a Christian (they do claim to be a Christian) and to identify with another religion entirely.

You see, to me (and I’d say to Jim Elliot and to the apostle Paul as well), being a Christian means identifying with Jesus and all that goes along with it. It means being willing to accept ridicule, suffering, even death, if that’s what God calls me to. It means changing my way of thinking as well as my way of living. And it’s not something I can easily cast aside.

Because what I have been thinking about is is it worth it? Is Jesus really worth it? Is the sacrifice that Jesus made when he left his heavenly home, came to earth, lived among sinful people, and died a martyr’s death—is all of that worth it to me?

It is.

He is worth it.

But when I see flippant statements of people willing to identify so cavalierly with something other than Christ, I feel an unease in my soul. Like it’s an affront to all that the gospel stands for and an affront to the suffering of Christ on the cross. Jesus didn’t call us to identify with others to make them feel better about their choices. In fact, Jesus didn’t care much about the choices of others. He cared about the truth and he spoke it with boldness.

Yes, He loved and we are called to love. For sure.

We are also called to speak truth, and the truth is that there is no other way to live apart from Christ. The truth is that if we have identified with Christ, we cannot put our identity elsewhere. The truth is that we lessen the meaning of the cross when we put a Jesus band-aid on another person’s religion.

Christ is everything.

May I live it boldly.

May I proclaim it with my life.

May I love others well because of it. 

2015 - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Hey there! Where've you been?

Just kidding. I know I've been AWOL for a while now. As my dad reminded me at Christmas, we're still looking at Butternut Squash Soup.

Sorry, Dad. Here's something new to chew on. (Get it?!)

Anyway, there are lots of reasons that I haven't been around--most of them have to do with travel and none of them are really good excuses at all. It's a new year, though, and a new chance to share life with all of you.

Today I thought I'd share a bit about my 2015. I realize I haven't been consistent about writing (which is something I'd like to correct in 2016), but I've tried to focus on quality over quantity in my blog posts. I hope that's something I've achieved just a little bit in 2015.

So here we go with a bit of a review. Some might be redundant and some might be news to you, but hopefully all will point to the faithfulness of a loving Father. He has been so good to me.

The Good
As I looked back through my Instagram feed, I realized that I logged a lot of miles in 2015. I've traveled a ton, which is so cool because it's one thing I absolutely LOVE to do. I've traveled from New York to Austin, TX to Arizona to San Antonio to Eagle River, WI to Scotland to Italy to California to Dallas (with a side trip to Magnolia in Waco!) to Europe (again) and back to Dallas.

I'm tired just thinking about it.

And the funny thing is, I didn't even realize I had gone to so many places until I scrolled through Instagram!

It's time to stay home for a while now.

Anyway, in addition to travel, we had guests in our home--another thing that I LOVE. People from all over the world, people we love and care about, even strangers-who-became-friends have all stayed in our home this year. We've loved every minute of it.

We hope for more visitors in 2016.

The other really GOOD thing has been time with family, which accounts for part of the travel and part of the guests in our home. I'm grateful that our parents are still in good health and able to come see us. And I'm grateful for times together that have enriched all of our lives this year.

Finally, our kids are also GOOD. Caroline graduated from college this spring, which was a GREAT thing, and our two oldest are both employed full time in jobs that they love. Julia got accepted to her top (and only!) choice for college and will start there in the fall. Big stuff.

The Bad
With so much GOOD, it's hard to imagine that there could have been any BAD in our year, but unfortunately there was. The main thing that sticks out to me is that I attended three funerals of men who died much too young. It's been a heartbreaking year as dear friends of ours lost a son and two colleagues of mine from Wheaton died within a week of each other.

These have been hard to think about and pray through, let alone write about, but God has shown his steadfast love through it all. And I know that my sadness over these losses does not even come close to the grief that their families are feeling. (Your prayers for these families would mean a lot, I know.)

The Ugly
If I'm really honest, I'd have to say that I've had some personal defeats this year that have been hard on me.

A student whom I had mentored for three years left school suddenly in the spring. That was probably the single biggest disappointment that I have had to deal with this year (so deep I just couldn't write about it). I've cried many tears and prayed many prayers over the nine months or so that this dear girl has been gone, and I still miss her. I'm holding on to the knowledge that God knows her, loves her, and is pursuing her like crazy.

I left my teaching position at Wheaton College at the end of spring semester (my choice), and this has proven to be harder than I thought it would be. I've missed being with students and feeling like I had something to contribute there. I've missed the classroom and the preparation. I've missed my colleagues and friends. (I have NOT, for one second, missed grading papers!)

But still, I know God has called me to new adventures and new opportunities, so I trust Him to open the right doors. And to help me deal with change in my life--I really hate change!

As I look back on my year, here's what I know: that despite some difficulties and despite deep sorrow, God is still good. He is still faithful to me. He is still walking right beside me. And He loves me, no matter what my circumstances may be.

Friends, as we move into 2016, let's remember these things: God is good. He is faithful. He is always with us.

And no matter what, He loves you.

Here's to a great year ahead!

Fabulous Friday Food :: Butternut Squash Soup

Is it just me, or did Thanksgiving creep up behind us, tap us on the shoulder, and surprise the heck out of us? I felt bowled over on Monday when Julia told me this was her last week of school before Thanksgiving.


Of course, Thanksgiving is easy to miss since Christmas decorations have already been up since before Halloween. Again, is it just me? Or is this just WAY TOO EARLY?!

I hate to roll my eyes at Christmas--it's not Christmas's fault--but Thanksgiving is pretty special in my book. So, if it's all the same to you, I'm going to relish this last week before all the crazy. I'm going to plan my Thanksgiving menu and linger over time with my family this week. I'm going to eat every single traditional food in my repertoire and binge on carbs.

And for one more week (hopefully more), I'm going to focus on what I'm thankful for without the loud music and shiny decorations and irritated shoppers getting in my way.

See, this is why I love Thanksgiving. It's quiet. It's reflective. It's delicious (!). It's family time.

Minus all the hoopla.

So let's talk about the Thanksgiving meal. I usually do all the traditional foods--turkey, stuffing (my mom's recipe with sage, apples, and raisins), mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato casserole, cranberries, pumpkin AND pecan pies . . . and anything else I feel like making.

This year there will be something new on our table. It's a little recipe I've been working on this fall, and I think I've finally gotten it where I want it.

(A little back story. A couple of months ago B and I went into the city to see a play, and we had dinner at a little Italian place near the theater. That night I had the most delicious butternut squash soup that made me so happy, and I realized that I could probably go home and replicate it. I read a bunch of recipes--who knew there were so many ways to make one kind of soup?--and put together the elements that I liked best to come up with this. So that's my inspiration for this recipe.)

So here we go with Butternut Squash Soup for your (and my!) Thanksgiving meal.

Start with a good sized butternut squash. (If you get the pre-cubed squash from the grocery store, buy two packages because you'll need a lot.) Cut it into cubes and set aside.

Now chop an onion and an apple. That's right--an apple. Any old apple will do, as long as you take the skin off first.

Melt three tablespoons of butter (you could substitute olive oil if you want) in the bottom of a dutch oven, then add the squash, onion, and apple.

(OK, sorry about the low-quality pictures. I was in a hurry and grabbed my phone. Grrr.)

Spend about 10 minutes caramelizing the vegetables. (I KNOW an apple is a fruit. It's just easier to say one thing instead of two).

Once you have a nice, golden brown color on everything, pour 3-4 cups of chicken broth over, just until you reach the top of the mixture. (Don't go any higher or your soup will be runny. Trust me on this one. You can add more broth later if you think you need it.) Throw in a couple sprigs of thyme.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Allow the vegetables to simmer in the broth for 30-45 minutes until the squash is very tender.

(True confessions: In this batch I used a little too much broth and the soup turned out a little thin. In the next batch I just covered the vegetables and it turned out thicker. Learn from my mistakes, people.)

When all the veggies are cooked, turn off the heat and get out your handy-dandy immersion blender that your sweet daughter gave you for Christmas last year (I love this tool!). You could also use a regular blender, but it's a little messier process. Anyway, blend everything together until it's very smooth.

Now add the nutmeg, paprika, salt and pepper, cream, and butter. Mmmmmm.

Stir over low heat for another few minutes and you're done!

I like to sprinkle a few toasted pumpkin seeds over the top, but you could also use some homemade croutons, which would be yummy.

This will be on my Thanksgiving table this year. How about yours?

Leave me a comment and let me know what your favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal is. I'd love to hear from you!

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Like what you see here? Why not sign up for regular updates to your email box? You can sign up right over there -->. You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, too.

Also, check out my Recipes page for lots more family-friendly, easy to make meal ideas. Enjoy!

Talking to Your Kids About Paris at Mothers of Daughters

Hi there!

Today I'm writing over at the Mothers of Daughters blog about something really important: talking to your kids about Paris. Here's the beginning of the article, but hop on over to Mothers of Daughters to read the rest.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was busy getting my three girls ready for the day. Two were in elementary school; my youngest was only three. My husband called to tell me that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center, and suddenly I was faced with a huge parenting dilemma.
How do I begin to explain this to my girls?
I’m sure some of you have daughters (and sons) who are at a vulnerable age—old enough to hear the news and to know some of what happened in Paris over the weekend, yet young enough to not quite understand terrorism or the implications of the weekend’s events.
It’s tricky, being a parent sometimes. We want to shield our kids from the ugliness of the world, and yet we know we can’t. How, as believers, do we handle the gruesome reality of our day? How do we instill hope in our kids in a world that seems hopeless?
In all honesty, I don’t know all of the answers. I just don’t. I don’t know how to handle difficult situations perfectly. And that’s why I need Jesus so much. I need His help and His guidance every day as I raise my daughters.
Click here to read four tips to help talk to your kids about Paris.

Like what you read here? Why not get regular updates every time I post? You can sign up to receive posts by email just over there -->. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. I'd love to see you there!

Letter to My Daughters :: On Red Cups, Enemies, and Taking Offense

Dear Daughters,

I’ve been out of town for a few days, as you know. And, as you also know, when I’m out of town I don’t always keep up with the current trends in culture or in the news. So when I resurfaced from my trip yesterday I started reading all kinds of posts about red cups and how somebody, supposedly a Christian, got offended by them because they don’t say “Merry Christmas” or something like that and how somehow because something was left off of a red cup all of a sudden it’s an affront to Christians everywhere.

That was one thing.

But what I saw more than that were posts—lots of them—from other Christians bashing these supposed ticked off Christians for getting offended about the red cups.

And, after resurfacing from a few days away and trying to piece this story together, I felt a sudden and pronounced disconnect: how could I not find anything from this supposed “bad guy” whom everyone assumed got upset over a red cup? And how could I be reading more and more posts from the self-acclaimed “good guys” who were offended by the “bad guy” being offended?

I didn’t get it. I felt like I was missing something.

Girls, I mean this with all sincerity: don’t get involved in stuff like that. Don’t be a part of the problem, pointing fingers at other Christians for what they may or may not have done. Don’t get embroiled in name-calling. Don’t get so easily offended, especially by other believers.

Because here’s what I know: The world is not our enemy. The world is lost. That’s all. The world loves darkness more than it loves the light, and in scripture, Jesus took pity on people like that. He wasn’t afraid of them—He just loved them because they didn’t know the truth.

Here’s another thing I know: Other Christians are not our enemy either. Oh, we see lots of backbiting and fighting among Christians today. It’s like we’ve lost sight of the true battle, the real enemy. This is nothing new—even in the Bible the Pharisees and the disciples argued among each other (a lot!), but Jesus told them to just stop it (see John 6:43).

What I also know is this: The enemy is our enemy. And right now I see the enemy working overtime to get Christians to destroy each other. All he has to do is sit back and watch, laughing at our harsh words, daggers, thrown at each other over something so trivial, so inane, that the rest of the world shakes its head and walks away. The enemy wants us to eat each other up (or, in this case, drink each other down) over semantics and rumors and flat out lies so that the world will have just one more excuse to not see Jesus.

This isn’t about red cups or coffee or even Christmas. It’s not about who got offended by what or by whom. Truthfully, this whole ridiculous thing that will be gone in a week makes my head hurt.

And that’s partly my point.

Getting caught up in name calling, especially in name calling against other believers, is a tactic that the enemy uses over and over again. It makes Christians look small, like we have nothing better to talk about (or fight over).

But you and I know the truth—there are so many more important things to talk about. Like children sniffing glue underneath a highway in Sao Paulo. Or Christians being beheaded in orange jumpsuits on a beach in Egypt. Or children being abandoned right here in our very own city.

Bad stuff happens every day. Big stuff. Important stuff that is worth our time and attention.

Stuff that is an affront to our Lord and should be an affront to us.

Yet another difficult truth is this: we can’t solve all of the big problems in the world It’s all too much, too big. In John 6, the disciples told Jesus that they really wanted to follow Him, but they thought they had to DO something, to FIX something, to FEED someone. They thought that following Him meant work.

But Jesus answered them with words that make me stop every time I read them. He said, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29). That’s it. Just believe.

Because when we truly believe, everything else falls into place. We know our calling, we know our job, and, most importantly, we know our enemy.

Red cups? Enemies? Taking offense? You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with you.

Here’s what I want you to hear today, dear daughters: there are so many things in this world that you could choose to get upset about. Getting your feelings hurt isn’t one of them.

Keep believing.




Monday was a surprise.

Just a normal Monday. Nothing on the calendar (except, of course, "The Voice").

Nothing much for dinner (except for homemade Butternut Squash Soup and some salad).

Really, nothing going on at all (except for the usual homework/laundry/Monday stuff).

Until Daughter #1 bursts through my front door all smiles (as usual) and a huge, “Hello!”

Suddenly my day was no longer just . . . usual.

She plops down on a stool at the counter and begins to recount her really terrible, awful, horrible, no good, very bad day. (It really was.)

This kid. Even though her day had cost her some serious money (hello, new brakes!) and a doctor visit, she still burst through the door as she always does—with an effervescent “Hello!”

She reminds me that I am blessed.

Daughter #1 leaves for a dinner appointment, and daughter #2 calls: “I’m coming for dinner.”

Yes you are, sweet girl. Even though it’s just soup and salad and an ordinary Monday night, you are always welcome to drop in and eat with us.

Suddenly my day is getting even better.

I quickly shout to Daughter #3 who's upstairs: “Hey, Caroline’s coming for dinner and it’s her half birthday today! Would you please run to the store to get a cake?”

All hands on deck now. Julia whisks away with her keys and my debit card.

Suddenly we’re having a party.

B comes home, the girls walk in, and just as the four of us are making our way to the table, Kate glides back in the door having just finished her appointment.

Suddenly, the five of us are standing around the kitchen island, each one talking over the other (I swear we should have been Greek, or at the very least Italian) and I have an out-of-body moment. Everyone is shouting to be heard, the noise level is just about at peak capacity--even the dog is excited!--and I realize that we are here


All five of us. 

Completely unexpected.

And I smile because I know, in that brief moment, how very blessed I am.


We have a joke in our house about the #blessed thing on Instagram. We’re nothing if not a little bit snarky and the “blessed” hashtag really brings out the full-on snark sometimes.

Got an A on a paper? #blessed

No traffic today? #blessed

Hey! Some mom on Facebook got her kid to use the big potty! #blessed

My Christmas shopping is done before Halloween! #blessed

(And also? #ihateyou)

Sometimes I feel like telling people like the guy in The Princess Bride did: “Idonotthinkthatmeanswhatyouthinkitmeans.”

But these people standing around my kitchen island all talking over each other, competing for each other’s attention, telling about our days?

That’s a stop-in-mid-sentence-and-hover-over-this-one-for-a-while moment.

I know I am blessed in so many ways, but I don’t equate blessing with material goods or my behavior or even the behavior of my kids. In fact, the idea of #blessing is sometimes confusing to me, elusive even. I’m not sure I fully get it.

I know I don’t always see it. (My sarcasm assures me of that.)

But every once in a while I am able to step out of myself and realize the greatest blessings are right in front of me—a wonderfully impromptu family gathering on a random and very usual Monday night with the four most important people in the world to me.

It makes me want to cry I am so #blessed.


Here’s something else I thought about later that night after all of my people had gone back to their respective homes and bedrooms: you mamas who don’t feel so #blessed right now.

Those of you who are scrambling to come up with Halloween costumes two days before the event. (Just one of the 1,656 reasons I hate Halloween.)

Those of you who just cannot get your three-year-old to use that big potty.

Those of you whose husbands put in long hours at work and come home tired and maybe a little bit cranky and who just might need a night off from putting the kids to bed so you step in and try your best to be cheerful about it.

Those of you who tried to scrape together something resembling “dinner” when you are two days away from payday and not much left in the pantry or in the bank account.

I get it all.

How many mamas are going to bed worn out, depleted, wondering if anyone will ever notice all the work you do or if these kids will always be so draining or if you’ll ever get a good night’s sleep?

Can I just whisper some encouragement in your ear?

They do notice, whether they tell you or not.

They won’t always drain you. In fact, some day they will thank you.

You will sleep again.

And one day, when you least expect it, on a random Monday night, your beloved ones (who are, by now, potty trained) will light up your kitchen and you’ll have an out of body experience and you’ll realize that your entire life has been one very huge, totally amazing, incredibly undeserved #blessing.


I love sharing stories and I love that you read them. I'd so appreciate it if you'd sign up for email updates (you can do that on the right hand side over there), follow me on Facebook or Instagram, or leave me a comment below. I'm so glad you're here! 

I'm Telling Stories at Mothers of Daughters Today!

We’ve had trouble with trees.
When my middle daughter was just four years old, she, her older sister, and I got caught in a tornado. As we ran for shelter, Caroline was nearly crushed underneath a huge maple tree that uprooted itself just three seconds after she ran past it. (I’m not even exaggerating!)
God spared her life right in front of my eyes.
Then, just three summers ago, another huge storm caught my husband by surprise as he drove home from church one Sunday morning. He pulled into our driveway and suddenly a tree came crashing through his windshield, just barely missing his head. As glass shattered around him and the storm raged outside, my husband was trapped inside his car.
But he was safe. Not a scratch on him!
Both of these instances have caused our family some consternation, but also a lot of rejoicing because they have made us aware of God’s protection over our family.
* * * * *
Both of those stories are true! I'm over at Mothers of Daughters today talking about how our family stories shape us. Won't you join me there for the rest of the story

Fab Friday Food: The BEST Grilled Cheese

Never thought you'd see another food post, right? Well, it's fall, and it's the time of year when I feel like cooking and sharing great recipes. I don't know why, but something about fall motivates me. I love the crisp days and cool nights, the leaves turning red and orange and yellow, the pumpkins. All of it.

Fall is my jam.

So today, because it's fall (or autumn, depending on where you live), I decided to dust off the Fabulous Friday Food series here on the old blog and tell you about the very best grilled cheese sandwich I've ever had.

Settle in. This may take a while.


A few weeks ago my friend Kim and I headed into the city to meet our daughters for lunch. Kim's daughter is a couple of months away from having her first baby--woot!--and it was fun to catch up with her. Kate, of course, lives in the city and has repeatedly told me about this spot called The Allis where she sometimes goes to work or to meet friends.

I've been wanting to try The Allis, which is located in the Soho House Chicago, so that's where we decided to meet for lunch.

Let me just say right now that I'm surprised that they didn't just shoo us out the door the minute we walked in because that place is WAY TOO COOL for the likes of me. With its industrial decor and hipster vibe, I felt slightly out of place . . . but not enough to make me run. (I'm always up for a challenge.)

Besides, I LOVED the atmosphere, and as long as they didn't mind us old ladies sitting in their lobby munching on lunch (we did, after all, have our very cool daughters with us), I didn't mind the hipsters walking back and forth carrying their portfolios and working on their laptops.

We sat on an overstuffed sofa and soft, retro armchairs around an antique glass coffee table. Chic. We ordered lunch, and very soon I forgot about feeling out of place because suddenly I was in heaven. I had ordered the short rib grilled cheese sandwich (because I like to watch my calories, you know), and I was transported into another realm. The realm of the divine grilled cheese.

This was, without a doubt, the most innovative and delicious grilled cheese sandwich I had ever tasted. And I've tasted a few.

When I got home I could not stop thinking about that silly sandwich. It was a mix of amazing cheeses, caramelized onions, and short rib meat. All on brioche bread.


About a week later I made a pot roast (I used Ree's recipe, I think) and had a little left over in the fridge. The next day my mind started to wander back to the amazing grilled cheese from The Allis and it hit me--leftover pot roast is similar to short rib meat, so I could recreate that sandwich right in my own kitchen.

Of course, we'd have to eat it at home rather than at the hipster joint known as the Soho House, but we put on our thick glasses and knit caps and did our best to recreate the experience.

Anyway, here's how I did it.

I took a beautiful loaf of brioche bread and cut it into thick slices.

Then I caramelized some onions slowly in a little olive oil and butter with about a teaspoon of fresh thyme. (There's just something about adding fresh thyme to caramelized onions. Thank you, Ina for that hint!)

I shredded some of the pot roast with two forks and warmed it just briefly in the microwave to take the edge off the coldness from the fridge.

I shredded some cheese--white cheddar and gruyere, I think. Fontina might also be a nice addition.

Then I assembled.

Bread (buttered, of course).


Cheese. Lots.


And then I pressed the whole thing in a panini press until it was golden brown and melty.

Oh my!

You know what? A fancy grilled cheese, even though it's easy to make, feels like such an indulgence on a chilly evening. Serve it with some soup and you've got a great meal.

Go ahead, give it a try! You won't regret it at all.

So tell me, what are you cooking this weekend? Leave me a comment and let's talk food!

I love sharing stories and I love that you read them. I'd so appreciate it if you'd sign up for email updates (you can do that on the right hand side over there), follow me on Facebook or Instagram, or leave me a comment below. I'm so glad you're here! 

You also know that I have a Recipes page, right? Just click on "Recipes" above and you'll find lots of inspiration for the week ahead. 

Why I'm Hosting an IF:Local

I sat in the darkened theater surrounded by 2,498 strangers. I knew only one person in the room—my friend, Rebecca, with whom I had traveled to Austin, TX.

I fidgeted in my seat, self-conscious and nervous as I always am in a large group of women (I have issues), waiting for the event to begin. Lights dimmed. Sparse stage. Heightened sense of anticipation.

The music began and 2,500 women rose to their feet in worship.

And suddenly I was among friends.

Twenty-five hundred friends all asking the same question: “If God is real, then what?”

In other words, what kind of difference can we make in our world if we truly believed that God is real, that He is FOR us, and that He has good work for us to do for Him?

Important questions in this day and age. Questions of life and death, really.

Over the past year I have thought often of the words I wrote down in my notebook last February.

“We are at war and the prize is faith, and we let Satan have it all. the. time.”

“The story is not about us. It is about a God who can do anything.”

“In every transition in life, Satan will bring a spirit of fear.” 

“You cannot hold on to the past and take hold of the future. It’s time to move on.”

“Jesus is very precious about his church.”

“God has put purpose and potential within you, but it is all for His kingdom. You have to lay down your life.”

The IF:Gathering changed me. It challenged me. It caused me to look at things in my life in a new way and to be renewed in my calling to pursue Christ and the work He has for me.

When the weekend was over, Rebecca and I looked at each other and said, “We need to bring this home.” We returned to our little tree-lined neighborhood excited about IF and wanted to share that excitement with women right here in our own community.

Over the past several months I have prayed about what God would have me do with all of this. I’ve had conversations with my husband, with friends, with pastors. And I’ve prayed some more.

In the end, I’ve felt led to bring an IF:Local gathering here, to Wheaton. I’m taking small steps of faith and obedience in this every day. I have no idea how God is going to pull this off—it feels kind of big—but I know without a doubt that He will show up in a big way and that women who come to the event will leave changed.

A small group of amazing women who share this vision have come alongside me and we’re making strides and decisions and we’re dreaming big dreams for our community.

So if you’re in Wheaton, IL on February 5 and 6, 2016, you are more than welcome to join us. We’ll make sure we have plenty of room.

And if you’re in the area and interested in being involved, please let me know. (You can find my email address on my “About” page or you can just leave me a comment below.) Even better, if you attend an area church and want to help spread the word—everyone’s invited!—please let me know that as well.

This isn't about a church or a person or a movement. It's about women who want more--more of this abundant life that Jesus promises to us. More of HIM.

God has big plans for us, friends. I know this. He wants to be involved in our lives. He wants us to be brave. He wants us to live to the glory of His name.

Won’t you join me?


You can find out more about the IF:Gathering here. Registration for both the Austin and Local gatherings opens next week, so get ready!

The Most Beautiful View

This summer I had the incredible opportunity to spend a day in one of the most beautiful places on earth—the island of Capri, just off the Amalfi Coast in Italy. This tiny island is both rugged and sophisticated at the same time. Its beauty is utterly captivating.

B and I, along with our daughter, Kate, had just come off what was, for me, a harrowing chair lift experience (long story that you can find on Instagram) and decided it was time to find some lunch, so we stopped in the first restaurant we found. Turns out, it was a good choice—the pizza was amazing and the views of the Mediterranean Sea were spectacular.

We were seated in the middle of the room because all of the tables next to the windows were taken by tourists enjoying the view. Everyone, that is, except for the table next to ours, which was occupied by an American family—Mom, Dad, and two teenage-ish daughters.

On their phones.

All four of them.

Heads down. Thumbs scrolling.

I watched them, stunned that this was even happening. (Don’t worry. There was no chance that they’d even notice me staring at them.)

Did they not realize that the spectacularly blue Mediterranean Sea was about a thousand feet straight below them? Did they not see the picturesque whitewashed houses with their bougainvillea vines blossoming red? Did they not appreciate the stunning atmosphere of Capritown with its cobblestone streets and ritzy shops that smelled of expensive leather?

What on Facebook could be so important that this family would barely even glance out the window?

Their food came and I thought surely they would put the phones away—doesn’t everybody do that? But nope, there they sat, eating and scrolling and not talking.

(Except for one sister to say to the other, “Oh, hey, did you hear that Tiffany bought a prom dress already?”)

I seriously wanted to send all four of them packing! They didn’t deserve to be there, in the most beautiful place on Earth eating some of the freshest tomatoes on the most delicious homemade pasta they will ever taste.

If it hadn’t been for my daughter kicking me under the table, I probably would have leaned over and said something to them.

More than being annoyed (although I was this, too), I felt sorry for them. Here was a family that had probably long ago given up trying to talk to each other. Here were parents who were relieved that their daughters had found something to do. Here were girls who were glad to not have to interact. It was all kind of sad to me.

Recently a friend mentioned that in their house they have “No Phone Zones,” and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that. This friend said that the kitchen table was one of their most sacred No Phone Zones because that is where all the important work got done. The family work. The work of talking to and learning from each other. The work of acceptance. The work of communication.

Sacred work.

The view at the kitchen table is a holy view—the eyes of children and parents looking into one another’s and finding love and restoration. Here is where we look past the blue and green and brown to look into the hurts or joys of the day. Here is where we check in to see if everything is all right.

Here is where we look deeply, intently, purposefully at the most beautiful view on Earth.

Do me a favor today, will you? Establish your table as a No Phone Zone. Take a few minutes to look one another in the eye, for this is where love begins and ends. Spend a few minutes checking in, taking account of each other’s day.

And then spend a few more minutes, lingering over the view.

I love telling stories and I love that you read them. I'd so appreciate it if you'd sign up for email updates (you can do that on the right hand side over there), follow me on Facebook or Instagram, or leave me a comment below. I'm so glad you're here!

When the President's Struggles Look Very Much Like Mine

Earlier this summer the New York Times ran an article about President Obama’s recent show of emotion in which he admitted to unexpected tears over his soon-to-be empty nest.

The Times reported, “Mr. Obama has admitted that he has been blindsided recently by fits of sadness, many of them prompted by the thought of his daughters — 14-year-old Sasha, who graduated this month from middle school, and 16-year-old Malia, who will go to college next year — growing up.”

I get it, Mr. Obama. I really get it. Funny how they do that, isn’t it? Grow up?

And how we parents have no say in the matter. It’s really unfair.

And yet . . . our kids will grow up and leave us one of these days. It’s just a simple fact of life that not only they, but we also, have to get used to. Even the President isn't pardoned from this one.

It seems that in my stage of life many of my friends are going through the same thing. We’re bracing ourselves for the inevitable, almost like bracing yourself for a head-on collision or a plane crash, which is exactly what this feels like sometimes. We’re just holding on for dear life.

I received an email recently from a friend who is struggling with many of the same emotions that President Obama has confessed. Her oldest left for college a few weeks ago, and she realized that her family would not look the same again, not even be under the same roof again, for a long time.

My friend said that she’s just not sure how she’s going to do it, how she’s going to be O.K. amidst all the change going on in her family, because, as she honestly admitted, “I don’t feel O.K. right now.”

Oh boy, do I ever get that. I really do.


Sometime about halfway through my motherhood journey I recognized this little habit I had developed. I realized that periodically throughout each day I did a mental check of where each of my children were, physically. I’m a visual person anyway, and picturing where each of them was at any given moment gave me a sense of stability, like the ground underneath me was still firm.

It was much easier to conduct my mental geographical checks when the girls were younger. Their elementary school was right around the corner from our home; I even knew where they sat in each classroom. Middle school and high school got a little trickier because I didn’t know where, specifically, they were throughout the day, but at least I knew the halls they were roaming.

In college, the mental checks became even more difficult—I knew they were at school and not somewhere else in the country—but the geographical checking in started to loosen its hold on me, even though my kids were never far from my thoughts.

The fact of the matter is I don't know where my kids are all the time. I can't possibly. 

I fool myself into thinking that by mentally checking in I have some small bit of control. The truth is, I don’t have any control. None. And I never really have.

And that’s exactly when the ground shifts beneath our feet, doesn't it? When we realize we don’t know exactly where our kids are every minute of the day. Or when we begin to recognize that they have formed opinions different from our own. Or when we send them off to foreign countries and they choose to stay.

We glance around at our family landscape and we see that this tribe that we have grown, watered, and nourished for the past 18 years will never look exactly the same again. It’s like the ground was never really firm beneath us, only made of sand that is now wet and slowly moving underneath our feet, morphing into a new shape.

Our kids grow up. They grow out. They grow away.

My job is to prepare, to love, and to loosen my grip.


I've read lots and lots of posts lately from sad parents sending their kids off to college. Some, especially the first timers, sound almost despairing:

I just dropped my baby off at college and cried for the entire 15 hour drive home.

What will my life be without my child here?

Who will I become if I don't have to do his laundry?

Come home, little bird! Come home!

I will never say it is easy, this letting go. Plenty of moments I have to stop, take a deep breath, and give myself a little pep talk that goes something like this: “You’ve done well. Your kids are prepared. This is what you’ve raised them for, so step back and watch them fly.” 

(And a whole lot of other back and forth that I won’t go into now lest you think I am a complete lunatic.)

Sometimes the pep talk works; sometimes it doesn’t.

When the pep talk fails, I go back to playing the "where are they?" game. Ridiculous.

Parents, our grown up kids don't need us to keep track of them every minute of the day. They don't need us to visit them at school during the first month (hear me, mama?). They really don't need us to call them every day (I once had a student whose mom called him five times a day!). And they certainly don't need us to show up and do their laundry (they should know how to do that by now).

You know what our kids really need? More than anything, our kids need our prayers. Because here's what I know, what is more sure than my daughters' location on this earth, more comforting that thinking I have done anything to keep them "safe." God hears me. He hears every mournful sigh I breathe. He hears every plea on their behalf. And he answers. I've seen it.

Another thing I know, more certain than the sun coming up each morning: He knows my kids. He knows their dreams. He knows what they yearn for. He knows what their strengths are. And He loves them so much more than I ever could, so I can be confident He will do what's best for them. 

To President Obama and my dear friend, here’s what I would tell you about your kids: You have loved them well. They are prepared. This is what you’ve raised them for. Now step back, let go, and watch them fly.

They are going to be just fine.

And so are you.

What I Learned at an Alan Jackson Concert

My husband and I went to a concert with some friends last night. For us, the evening meant the last concert of the summer and a chance to enjoy a perfect night, a yummy picnic, and Alan Jackson.

Yes, we do still live in the ‘80s.

(Here’s how old we are: AJ didn’t have his first hit until we had been married five years. Yikes!)

Anyway, after our picnic we headed to our seats, anticipating all sorts of toe-tapping and two-stepping.

(Well, maybe not the two-stepping. B isn’t much for dancing.)

We settled in. Great seats. Happy campers.

Until a guy sat down in front of B. A very tall guy with even taller hair, and my husband, who isn’t short himself and doesn’t usually have trouble seeing over the tops of people’s heads, leaned over and said, “I can’t see a thing.”

Sorry, honey, I’m not trading seats with you because the woman in front of me was probably about four feet tall, I’m not even exaggerating.

I looked at the guy in front of us, and the first thing I noticed was that he and his wife were smiling. Huge. They were laughing like kids and saying things like, “These are really good seats!” and “I’m so excited! This is going to be great!” They seemed almost giddy to be there.

I took notice because who is really like that?

The concert started and that’s when the fun really began. You would think this guy had won the lottery for life. He was clapping, jumping up out of his seat, nodding his head, sometimes lost in his own little world of music. And his wife was the same—pure, unadulterated joy at being at just that place at just that time.

They got up and danced—a lot—which then made us get out of our seats and do something that sort of looked like moving to the rhythm but might not be called dancing. Only because B couldn’t see through the guy and if you can’t beat ‘em (or see over them) you might as well join ‘em.

But you know what? That made the concert more fun. And soon all the people around us were dancing and singing to lyrics we haven’t sung in YEARS.

And it made me realize that pure, unadulterated joy is missing from my life. Oh sure, I am joyful. I’ve got the joy, joy, joy.

But that childlike bliss. That’s something different.

It’s like the kind you used to feel when you were a kid and your mom let you go outside on a rainy day and splash in the puddles in your pajamas and rain boots with no umbrella. You’d jump and jump and make all kinds of ruckus just because you could. And finally you’d be wet to the skin, laughing so hard because you just did that wonderful thing in your pajamas with the rain coming down.

That kind of joy.

I sensed that this guy, whoever he was, lived like this every day. That every day is a new experience to be had. That every experience was an opportunity for wonder. That every moment a chance to be filled with a glorious expression of awe at even being able to be a part of it all.

This man’s sense of joy and wonder was contagious. His friends seemed genuinely happy to be there. We actually got up out of our seats and danced. The people around us did too.

All because this guy—a grownup, adult man—was just. so. happy.

Can you imagine how he approaches his work each day? Yea! I get to go sit in a cubicle and crunch numbers for eight hours without talking to another human being. But I get to take a 15 minute break and a 30 minute lunch, which will be awesome. I will get to solve problems and handle difficult employees, too. And then tomorrow I get to do it all over again! What a fantastic life!

And, of course, it got me to thinking. What if I lived like that? What if I approached my day with that kind of attitude? Like, this is going to be so awesome, man!

I wonder if it would make the bigger obstacles seem just a little smaller and the small problems seems tiny. I wonder if every negative thought could be reduced by even a small percentage just because I approached life with a sense of wonder, awe, excitement even.

Because here’s the thing: as Christians, we have everything to be amazed about, everything to be thrilled about, everything to be downright giddy about. We are free to get up and dance and to live these lives we’ve been given with unabashed glee. Of all people, we should be rockin’ that jukebox (sorry, Alan) and throwing caution to the wind.

So today (and hopefully longer) I’ll be thinking about the Alan Jackson-loving man, giddy with excitement and thrilled to be in the moment.

And maybe, just a little more often, I’ll try to live my life like I’m jumping the heck out of the puddles.

When You're Trying to Remember Who God Is

“Remind me who God is.”

These words keep ringing in my ears, a mandate from a grieving friend.

“Remind me who God is.”

She was desperate, hungry, despairing as we stood near the casket of her 26-year-old son. We hugged hard and she grabbed my shoulders, looking me square in the eyes and repeated her edict.

“Remind me who God is.”

That was two weeks ago, and her words keep ringing in my ears, my mind, my heart.

They say nobody should have to bury their child, but as I learned at a very young age the “shoulds” don’t mean much when reality is your only experience. Sure, nobody should have to bury their child, but they do. All the time. My friends just did, and my parents did too.

I’ve been short on words these past couple of weeks. My knees have felt weak. I haven’t slept well. I just keep thinking about the nightmare that our friends are living right now.

And I'm trying so hard to remember for myself who God really is.

Who is God when reality sets in? When real life comes knocking with a blow so forceful that you can’t stand against it? Who is God when everything you’ve planned for and dreamed of is altered, not just slightly but forever?

Death. Divorce. Illness.

Life has changed; it will never look, feel, taste the same as it did before.

And who is God through it all?

It’s OK to wonder—I know this. It’s OK to question and to doubt—examples abound throughout the Bible of people who really wondered about God. I mean, where would we be if we didn’t actually wonder about God? We’d be lemmings running for the edge of a cliff.

Wonder is OK. Wonder may even be good for us.

This morning I came as close as I could to feeling my way toward an answer. An answer that I can live with for now. And it may not even say as much about God as it does about me.

I read the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the book of Daniel. These were Daniel’s buddies who refused to bow down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue. The story in Daniel 3 tells us that the king gives them one more chance to “do the right thing” and bow before his shiny likeness, but still the three refuse.

Here’s their rationale: “The God whom we serve is able to save us.”

That’s it. They believe that their God can do anything, even rescue them from a blazing furnace. It’s simple. It’s direct. It’s pure faith.

“The God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.”

But that’s not even the end of it. They go on: “But even if he doesn’t we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

“But even if he doesn’t . . .”

These words, strangely, give me so much hope. They have strengthened my faith in the past and they help today as I process the death of a too-young man.

You see, these words tell me that God can do anything—ANYTHING—but he also sometimes doesn’t intervene. This has to be OK because He is God. A powerful, mighty, all-knowing God who sometimes allows his children to suffer. 

What it also tells me is that we don’t always know why. Sometimes we can’t know, and sometimes we won’t know until a long way down the road, but God always knows His purposes. And while I don’t get it just now, I can trust that He’s got this.

The other good thing I know from this story in Daniel 3 is that God will never take us through that suffering alone. Remember the rest of the story? King N. throws Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the furnace—he’s cruel that way—but he watches from a distance (also cruel if not creepy). What he sees when he looks into the fire is not three men walking around, but four.

He is certain he only threw three men into the fire, so why are there four men walking around unharmed? Because God had provided a rescuer. Some believe that Jesus himself walked through the fire with the three men; others believe it’s an angel. Whatever or Whoever it is, the point is that God did not leave Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He provided a comforter, a rescuer, a way out.

Here’s the thing about grief: it sometimes feels like there will never be a way out of it. Sometimes it feels like a furnace, an actual blazing furnace, and that you will indeed die before you see the other side of it. It feels never-ending.

But here’s what I know about God: He has not left your side. He is there, walking right beside you, weeping with you, feeling the intensity of your pain, mourning your loss. He grieves with you. He does. Because He loves you.

“Remind me who God is.” Words I’ll be pondering for a long time.

Today I’m just beginning to remember.

Guest Posting at (in)Courage Today: Meeting God at the Post Office

The line in front of me was three deep, and only one man was working behind the counter.
Ugh. Why is it always like this at the post office? I glanced at my watch and wondered how long this would take.
It seems like I’m always in a hurry, and this day was no exception. My errand at the post office was an invitation to irritation because what I needed was so small — just a little additional postage for a square envelope that needed to be mailed that day. It should have taken only a few seconds, except for that line in front of me.
I heaved a sigh and took my place at the end of the line. Be patient, Shelly. Just slow down and be patient.
I glanced at the man behind the counter, chatting it up with his customer, a woman with a stroller. They seemed to be having a good time, laughing about this and that. Finally, she finished and the next woman stepped up to the counter. Same thing. Lively banter. Lots of smiles. Their cheerful conversation took maybe an extra minute or two.
Next up, the older gentleman in front of me. Now we’re getting somewhere, I thought. He probably won’t be much for small talk. . . .
Today I am honored to be guest posting at (in)Courage. Join me over there to read the rest of the story.