Archives for December 2012

Obligatory End-Of-Year Post

We are currently on round four of our Christmas / New Year celebrations, and while it’s not typical for us to spread out the merriment to the degree that we have this year, it’s been fun to wrap up 2012 with different branches of our family. We started with D’s side, then huddled on Christmas Day with our little family-o-three, then visited with my parents for a couple of days, and now Sister and Barry are here. My brother, Janie, and their boys are coming to town at the end of the week, and then I expect I will go into some sort of family gathering withdrawal.

That should coincide nicely with my withdrawal from simple carbohydrates.

Suffice it to say that my first goal for 2013 is to PUT DOWN THE BREAD.

It’s been fun to hang out and talk and dig through the Steinmart clearance racks over the last four or five days, and it’s also been fun to reflect a little bit on the last twelve months. So in the spirit of a New Year’s Eve wrap-up, here are some things that I loved (Martha-esque disclaimer: you don’t love things! you love people! of course you love people! but sometimes you do really, really like things a lot!) in 2012.

– queso at Escalante’s with Melanie, Amanda, and Janelle
– a wonderful dinner with friends in Houston that still makes me teary-eyed when I think about it
Downton Abbey
– getting my book contract in the mail when some of my lifelong friends were in town for the weekend


– Christy Nockels’ Into the Glorious album – perfect music at the perfect time
– Fisherman’s Corner in Perdido with my people
– Easter at my parents’ house
– some unexpected new friendships (and some treasured old friendships, too)
– SEC Baseball Tournament with my boy (the fact that the Bulldogs won the tourney was gravy, really)
– a visit from my friend Annie – and watching her totally win over a room full of high school girls
– weekly phone calls from my sister-in-law Rose – she has been unbelievably supportive with the writing stuff
– John Mayer’s Born and Raised album
– a quick, laughter-filled trip to Texas this past summer
– my work – I feel like I had some full circle, a-ha moments this past year, and I was reminded again and again that BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS IS SO VERY WORTH IT
– knowing that I have the freedom to be completely myself when I’m with my fellas – I am never more at home than when I am at home
– going through A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place with my Bible study group – it was deeply meaningful for so many reasons
– a summer sunset that took my breath away


– Mumford & Sons’ Babel album
– road trips with Sister – oh, we do love us some Bulldogs
– watching a certain nine year-old grow and change and laugh and learn
– dotMOM – so much fun with such sweet people
– Birmingham – it’s the South’s best-kept secret, y’all


– seeing some young friends in their late teens / early 20s really start to walk in the center of what God’s calling them to do
– neighbors – we’ve got us some good’uns
– readers / commenters in this little corner of the Internet – we’ve got us some good’uns
– Christmas party at our house – makes me smile whenever I think about it
Parenthood (I’m still watching season three on Netflix, so easy with the spoilers, por favor)
– asparagus – it continues to be my favorite of all the vegetables
– Mrs. Meyer’s Iowa Pine countertop spray
– “Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin”

Happy New Year, everybody.

Praying God’s richest blessings for each one of you in 2013!

All Manner Of Linky Merriment

Well, yesterday we celebrated our first round of Christmas festivities in Mississippi, and we had such a fun time. My sister-in-law Rose is always so great about making things laid-back and easy, and even though we talk on the phone a good bit, it’s always good to see each other in person and visit and laugh and eat some ham.

We really did eat some ham. It was tasty.

We exchanged presents with D’s side of the family since our little family-o-three will be here in Birmingham on Christmas Day, and you’ll be happy to know that I made sure to take a picture of Martha in one of the things that we gave her.

SASSY MCGEE.

I went to the grocery store as soon as we got home today (you may remember that my primary holiday grocery shopping goal is to shop three to four days in advance, mainly so I can avoid the amateurs and sacrificial out-of-town relative errand-runners). Later this afternoon I tried to make some cinnamon rolls but completely messed up my dough (the baking and I really struggle sometimes, what with its “precise measurements” and “need for accuracy”), so I’m going to try again tomorrow.

See? I am filled with Christmas-related optimism and cheer.

But if the dough goes wrong tomorrow, I’m going to resort to the Pillsbury variety that you pop open with a spoon.

ANYWAY, there are a few links that I wanted to be sure to share before next week gets away from me.

– If you need a last-minute Christmas gift for someone you love, may I very humbly suggest that you present said person with a gift card for Melanie’s new book, Sparkly Green Earrings? Because Melanie’s book is funny and tender and wonderful and will make someone very happy when it arrives at their house on the first Tuesday in February.

By the way, I told myself that I was going to try to be low-key about Mel’s book.

But that’s not gonna happen. Because as it turns out, I feel more like a stage mama who wears a t-shirt with her daughter’s name airbrushed on the front.

So it’s a safe bet that you’ll be hearing lots more about Melanie’s book from me.

– I meant to link to this video about a month ago, but I got sidetracked by football season or Thanksgiving or Real Housewives or something.

Better late than never, I reckon.

Shoot Christians Say

(I give it a 98 on a 100-point scale.)

(I deducted two points for not using the phrase “Christ-follower.”)

(And careful if you have little ears in the room.)

(But oh my. HILARIOUS.)

– A couple of weeks ago my friend Jennifer sent me a link to a website that she thought I’d like.

And OH, MY. DO I EVER.

Old Try: A Southern Print Shop

They’re closed on Sunday, by the way. Which in my opinion is just one more reason to love them forever.

All righty. I think that’s it. I hope y’all have a wonderful Christmas – I am so grateful for each one of you!

How We Love

I didn’t sleep so great Sunday night.

I was up way too late (I blame Lisa Whelchel and the Survivor finale, at least in part), then felt way too wound up, and by the time I finally thought I might doze off, it was close to 1. But then I started to think about how I was only going to get X hours of sleep before the alarm beeped Monday morning, so I pretty much stressed myself right out of any opportunity for being rested.

Those are some first world problems, aren’t they?

But at some point in all my fitful sleep, I had a little snippet of a dream that I have not been able to quit thinking about for the last couple of days.

(By the way, I realize that the whole “let me tell you about my dream” approach rarely results in enthusiastic readers and/or listeners.)

(In fact, I’m pretty sure that it’s right up there with “can you look at this sore on my face and tell me what you think it is?”)

(But just bear with me.)

In my dream, I was standing in our foyer, and when I looked out one of the sidelights, I saw our dog standing still as a stone in the driveway and barking her head off. That whole barking her head off thing got my attention, even in my dream, mainly because our dog is approximately 109 years old and hasn’t barked since 2007.

I walked outside, wondering what in the world was going on, and as soon as I got close to our dog, I was immediately aware of a feeling – a force, even – that I can only describe as utter darkness. It was palpable, the evil, and it was inching closer and closer to our house like a low-level, rumbling cloud. I felt cold chills run from the top of my shoulders down to my fingertips, and as I realized what was in front of me, fear took over. I immediately started walking backwards, trying to find my way back to the house so that I could slam the front door and lock myself inside.

But the dog wouldn’t come with me. She just kept barking. And as I stood inside the door and tried to call her away from the darkness, to convince her to come back inside where it was safe, I realized that my front door was a screen door – with part of the screen torn off in one of the corners. So I stood there, and I stared, and after a few seconds it dawned on me:

There’s no way to keep out the darkness. I’m in my house – where I should be safe – and I can’t keep out the darkness.

That’s the last I remember about my dream, but that feeling? That awareness that no matter where I go, I can’t escape the darkness?

That pretty much sums up the last few days for me.

And I think it’s safe to say that I’m not the only one.

*****

There have been times, I guess, when tragedies have made me proactive, when I have walked around with a lot of plans to do a lot of things, when I have gone into action mode and just flat-out worked my way through my grief.

Not this one, though.

Not this time.

Not Newtown.

Because the slaughter of innocent children – the violent disregard for those sweet little lives – it’s almost unthinkable, isn’t it? I still haven’t completely wrapped my mind around what happened in Connecticut this past Friday, and I suspect I never will. Honestly, it seems beyond comprehension that an elementary school would be subjected to that level of terror and fear. We’re talking about kids who still can’t say their “th” sound, who lisp adorably when they say the word “Christmas.” We’re talking about little ones who start off the day by hugging their beloved teachers. We’re talking about precious sons and daughters who sip juice boxes and eat Goldfish and skin their knees on the playground.

Even still, a dark, low-level cloud of evil rolled into their school last Friday.

And despite their very heroic efforts, the administrators and teachers still couldn’t lock it out.

Neither can we, you know.

But I’ll tell you one thing: we can fight it.

*****

I don’t have the gift of prophecy. Well, I mean, there was one time on The Real Housewives of Atlanta when I told Melanie that I really thought such-and-such was going to happen, and LO AND BEHOLD, IT DID. But besides that and the occasional ability to discern that there’s a Popeye’s in my immediate vicinity (in college I minored in Popeye’s chicken) (it’s a little known field of study), I’ve never really been one for reading too much into my dreams and whatnot. I just figure that Sunday night’s dream was a case where my subconscious was trying to process the thoughts that had been running through my head since last Friday afternoon.

But whether I’m awake or asleep, here’s what I can’t quit thinking about:

This world just seems to get darker. And darker. And darker.

And since that’s the case:

We’re gonna need a lot more light, y’all.

*****

The interesting thing about watching any tragedy play out on social media is that after about fifteen minutes of collective grief and sympathy, the disagreements start. Newtown was no exception. And if you think that people weren’t airing their theological differences in the wake of 26 horrific deaths, then perhaps I should introduce you to the Twitter.

And as strange as this next sentence may sound, I’m going to say it anyway. As heavy as my heart is for Newtown, my heart is also heavy for the Church. I get that there is great diversity in the Body, and with that diversity come all sorts of doctrinal issues, all sorts of places where we can disagree. But when a lost and hurting and dark world is crying out for answers and for hope, that seems like an excellent time to call a time-out on the theological boxing matches that are so prevalent in social media these days. I’m not saying that the Arminians have to start planting churches with the Reformed folks, for heaven’s sake. The Pentecostals and the Lutherans don’t have to reach an agreement on election or baptism or anything else.

But I pray that we’ll do a better job of loving each other. Caring for each other. Looking out for one another. We have to do that within the Church so that we can be effective outside of it. I’m betting that some of you have been praying for the same thing. Because when the world hurts (which, by the way, is always), I think it’s good to remember that we’re not called to act like spoiled children who are more concerned with protecting our corner of the theological (or political) playground than we are with showing the love of Jesus to people who are desperate for Good News.

As believers, we have so many opportunities to love people well. To show them the grace and mercy of a loving, living God.

And I can tell you from experience what has never ministered to me, not even one single time in my whole life ever: watching Christians point fingers and fight among themselves.

The devastated people of Newtown, Connecticut deserve better than that. The victims of any tragedy deserve better than that. In fact, any person who is hurting or struggling for any reason whatsoever deserves better than that.

This world just seems to get darker. And darker. And darker.

We’re gonna need a lot more light.

*****

I’ve mentioned before that my favorite Christmas hymn is Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus. In the past it’s always made me think of the Christ child, a baby who is the Word incarnate, the Hope of the world, the fulfillment of what God promised His people.

But as Melanie wrote so beautifully earlier this week, “Jesus came in the form of a helpless baby, but he won’t come back that way. He’ll come as a conqueror.” And as I’ve listened to my favorite Christmas hymn this week, I haven’t thought about the baby in the manger as much as I’ve thought about our Conqueror King, the One who can – and will – vanquish that low-level cloud of evil as He ushers in a world that is completely free from sin, from evil, from darkness, from despair.

We don’t just have hope.

We have Hope.

And oh have mercy – I can’t think of a better time to share it.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Well, Y’all Just Outdid Yourselves

So, the comments? On my last post?

HILARIOUS.

Oh my goodness. I laughed my head off. Especially whenever someone felt very passionately about 1) not eating meat off the bone 2) not eating eggs in any form and 3) staying far, far away from mayonnaise.

Just so you know, I’m cooking some boneless pork tenderloin tomorrow night in honor of all you boneless meat people. I’ll join you in pretending, as Sarah said, that the meat just showed up at the grocery store like a box of Ritz.

Also, I feel like I need to clarify where I stand on pizza. I don’t hate it. If I went to your house and you were serving it, I would eat a slice. I even make homemade pizza sometimes because there are two people in this house who love it. But by and large I feel like I just don’t get it. I’ve even tried a couple of places here in Birmingham that are supposed to have the best pizza ever, but I haven’t loved it. And if you told me that I could never, ever have it again, I think I’d mostly be relieved.

I almost feel like I need to apologize for my pizza-related ambivalence.

However. In the interest of turning my food frown upside-down, here are my all-time favorites.

Fried chicken – My guess is that approximately nobody is surprised by that fact. It’s the gold standard. The best I’ve ever had was at The King’s Kitchen in Charlotte, NC.

Chips and queso – I never get tired of it. Probably my favorite queso was at a Mexican place in Houston – and I can’t remember the name of the restaurant to save my life. But it was delicious. And the company was even better.

Roasted asparagus – I have no idea why I love it so much. Maybe I have an iron deficiency. Who knows. But I could eat roasted asparagus every single day. I ADORE IT and sometimes have to talk myself out of buying it at the grocery store because I know my fellas have to be sick of it. IT’S THE BEST VEGETABLE.

Fried okra – I’m gonna tell you something. Somebody needs to figure out a way to sell fried okra in movie theatres like popcorn. There’s not much on this earth that’s better. I mean, I’m not necessarily proud of it, but if you give me a plate of fried okra with some creamed potatoes, I will near ’bout embarrass myself. Something about those two textures together is perfection.

Bacon – I can’t fathom that an explanation is required.

So there’s my list. I just realized that there’s not anything sweet on there, so if I had to pick one sweet something, it would be the white chocolate bread pudding at Bellini’s here in Birmingham. Well, that and my Mamaw Davis’ chocolate pudding. I know I’ve mentioned it before; it is the ultimate in comfort food.

What are your favorites?

I don’t know about y’all, but just as soon as I finish reading and laughing at these comments, I’m gonna scroll back through them and do a little menu planning. Two birds, one stone, amen.

Happy Weekend!

Food Fight

The other night on Twitter Kelly mentioned that she’d never tried chicken fried steak because she didn’t think she’d like it. But lo and behold, she finally tried it – and loved it.

HOWEVER.

She went on to confess that she doesn’t like grits, and all I could do was sit slack-jawed on my couch and try to make sense of it all. I mean, it’s fine that Kelly doesn’t like grits, but I have to say that her distaste for grits has forced me to re-evaluate the very foundation of our friendship. I’m certain that we can survive this grits-related revelation, but we may need to see a counselor or at the very least a life coach to move past it.

I’m totally kidding, of course.

But still – GRITS? WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?

(And please realize that the watered-down, unsalted, cheese-less concoction that most restaurants try to pass off as grits hardly qualifies. Really good grits need a little chicken stock and salt and butter and cheddar cheese. Maybe even some cream cheese.)

Anyway, Kelly’s tweet got me thinking about the foods that I always feel like I’m supposed to like more than I do. I’m good on most of the traditional Southern stuff, but there are other American favorites that leave me a little on the “meh” side.

For example.

Cherry pie – Blech cherries yuck terrible awful cherries blech.

Coconut anything – The irony here is that I like to make coconut cake (my daddy LOVES coconut, so the coconut cake is almost always for him). However, I do not enjoy the coconut at all. Something about the texture gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Enchiladas – I’m not a huge fan of corn tortillas. And when you combine corn tortillas with a red sauce, you have a terribly underwhelming combination (in my very irrelevant opinion).

Spaghetti – I don’t get it. Noodles and tomato sauce / meat sauce. Leaves me underwhelmed.

Pizza – The homemade version seems like a whole lot of trouble for the end result – and the kind that you order always reminds me of college.

Any sort of Alfredo sauce – Rich and heavy and way too much.

Okay. So maybe what I’m establishing here is that I really don’t care for Italian food and then three other things.

All righty. What about you? What traditional food favorites make you think, “Hey. Does anybody have some crackers?”

I hope beyond all hope that nobody says fried chicken.

That just might turn my whole world upside down.

It Is A Delight, I Tell You. A DELIGHT.

It was a little over a year ago, I think, when I read the first few chapters of Melanie’s book about motherhood, Sparkly Green Earrings. At the time I was trying to put together a book proposal of my own, and seeing that Melanie was making big progress on a real-live book gave me all manner of hope. I couldn’t wait to read more.

A couple of months later I read a rough draft of the nearly-completed manuscript, and I’ll have you know that I sat in a chair in my bedroom for three hours straight and read the whole thing in one sitting.

THE WHOLE THING.

COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN.

And please keep in mind that I already knew most of the stories. Six years of talking on the phone almost every day enables you to cover some significant conversational ground.

But no kidding: I was completely captivated by how the deep-down parts of Melanie’s personality come through in her book. It’s so warm, so relatable – and oh my word, I laughed. my. stinkin’. head. off. Clapped my hands. Wiped away a few tears, even.

It’s a book I wish I’d been able to read when I was sitting up in the middle of the night with a baby who had no interest in sleeping. It’s a book for those days when you’re trying so hard but finally snap and say something along the lines of “Y’ALL BE QUIET – MAMA IS TRYING TO HAVE HER QUIET TIME!” It’s a book that reminds us that there’s so much joy smack dab in the middle of serving our families and raising our young’uns and figuring out how to juggle it all.

It’s a book you’ll want to read out loud to your friends – because you know they’ll get it, too.

So this is all my very long-winded way of telling you that Sparkly Green Earrings is available for pre-order. It releases at the beginning of February, so if you’d like to give it to someone as a Christmas gift (AND WHY WOULDN’T YOU?), there is an adorable card you can print out over at Melanie’s blog. I used that same gift-giving method with my sister-in-law Rose last Christmas, and when the book finally arrived in March, it was like Christmas all over again. Because she’d totally forgotten that the book she was so excited about was due to arrive.

WIN-WIN, my friends.

There’s not a doubt in my mind that y’all are going to absolutely love this book. I’m so proud of Melanie for writing it.

And I can’t wait for you to read it!