why I love working from home and panera steel cut oats, take 2


Will you please forgive me for my obsession with oatmeal?  You ought to, because I took the time to nail down a more exact duplication of the Panera strawberry steel cut oatmeal recipe that has been so popular here on the blog.  (I first took a stab at duplicating it here.)


Today’s recipe comes to you from my kitchen table.  It’s 9 a.m. on a weekday and I’m still in my pajamas.  What can I say, when I get rolling on something that has me all fired up and excited and I don’t have to take the kids to school (thanks MacDaddy!), even the call from my closet can’t stop me.  That’s one of the things that I love about working from home.  Incidentally, now that the kids have been in school for so long, I have a hard time calling myself a Stay At Home Mom.  Let’s face it.  That title just might be reserved for the preschool and under days.  These days, I’ve been spending a large portion of my time working toward new goals that involve more than being a Home C.E.O. and it has been a blast!  But more on that later…

Panera oats 2

About those oats.  They were an essential part of getting me on track and focused this morning.  Oldest’s car wouldn’t start, so while MacDaddy hastily taught him how to use jumper cables, I wrote an excuse note for his tardiness on paper titled ‘Today is Awesome’.  No sarcasm intended.  As soon as all four of my guys were safely on their way, I took a deep breath and decided to make breakfast.  It suddenly dawned on me that I had strawberries on hand and I knew it was the perfect day to hone my attempt at recreating my favorite oatmeal.

Panera oats 3

Usually I don’t take the time to make steel cut oats in the morning.  If it’s not waiting for us in a crockpot, it’s not happening.  BUT, the stovetop method does yield a firmer bowl of oats than even my most recent overnight version.  The trick this morning was to try to also recreate the crunchy cinnamon sugar topping that comes on Panera’s strawberry oats.  Just as I suspected, using washed raw sugar is the key.  I stirred it up with a little cinnamon and I think we have a winner!

Panera oats 1

I also made a nice, big pot of dark roast coffee.  Can you tell?  I am jazzed!  You should try it.  :)


Panera Strawberry Steel Cut Oats, take 2

Serves 3

4 cups water

1 cup Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal

Washed Raw Sugar


Sliced Strawberries


Bring water to a rapid boil.  Stir in oats.  When they have softened slightly and the mixture is beginning to get smooth and thicken, reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Combine raw sugar with cinnamon (about 2 T. sugar to 1/4 t. cinnamon?).

Spoon cooked oats into a bowl.  I add the tiniest pat of butter for a little richness, then sprinkle with  cinnamon sugar and sliced strawberries.  Enjoy!

Leftover oats will keep in the fridge for a few days.  Reheat in the microwave with a splash of milk, stir, and add your toppings.



This was the quickest post, photos shot with my IPhone because I need to get my DSLR camera serviced.  I hope you give this oatmeal a try because it is mighty tasty!  As for me, I can hear the call from my closet and the rumble of my to-do list getting louder.  Ta-ta for now!



in my kitchen :: brown sugar overnight oats

Now that my kids are getting older and more independent, I spend less time crafting ways to keep us on schedule in the morning.  Our oldest drives himself to school and I drive our seventh and fifth grader.  One of them likes to leave early and the other is a bit of a straggler, so there are days that conflict occurs.  A few weeks ago I overheard our early bird coaching his brother to get his backpack and things ready the night before so that it would be easier to get out the door on time.  In theory, this was a good thing.  In reality, the straggler had no plans to put his brother’s wise counsel into practice.  So I found myself falling back into young mommy mode and making a list of all the things I could be doing to help our morning run more smoothly and efficiently.

brown sugar overnight oats3

Straggler is notorious for dawdling until the last minute to get breakfast.  A friend had shared a loose version of her recipe for crockpot oatmeal and I thought it sounded like a great addition to my problem-solving list.  I have made a very simple version of overnight oats in the past and our kids never really took to it.  The thing MacDaddy and I like about that recipe is that you can doctor it up any way you like.  I think the kids just thought it was too bland and headed straight for the cereal boxes instead.  I decided to give my friend’s version a try.  It’s a great compromise of sweet and savory and although it does contain sugar, it is far better than something you can buy prepackaged.  Plus, it smells wonderful.  Seriously, you can’t beat waking up on a cold winter morning and being lured out from underneath the covers by a warm and inviting breakfast!

brown sugar overnight oats1


Serves 4 – 6



3 cups filtered water

1 cup milk  (Skim is fine.  I bet almond milk would be great, too.)

2/3 cup Steel Cut Oats

1/4 cup brown sugar, not packed

Splash of pure vanilla extract

1/4 t. ground cinnamon

pat of butter




Stir it all in a small crockpot.  Heat on low overnight.

I get mine started at around 10 p.m. and make sure it is turned off or to warm by 7:00 a.m.




The original recipe called for up to 1/2 cup of brown sugar.  We are trying to limit our sugar intake, so I figured a little more could be added upon serving.  (This is where my boys can’t be trusted to act independently!)  I like to set out slices of apple and a banana, as well as chopped sliced almonds or walnuts for extra sweetness and crunch.  A little drizzle of maple syrup is another nice option.

brown sugar overnight oats2


My goal is to raise our boys knowing the truth that prior preparation makes life so much easier.  The more opportunities they have to experience both positive and negative consequences of that truth, the more prepared they will be to succeed in life.  As parents, it’s our job to seek to creatively and purposefully teach them these life lessons.  What a privilege it is!

Here’s to a hearty breakfast and a peaceful morning!


alive again

I’m pretty sure that one of the best ways to combat the winter blues is with live greenery.


Maybe it’s the barren trees, or the dirty slush that seems to stay in parking lots and on roads longer than it should after snowfall, or just the knowledge that those of us in colder climates won’t be playing in the grass for months, but when the air gets really cold I want to surround myself with signs of life.  To feel alive again.  As much as I love the snuggled in, peaceful moments of winter, I long for signs of spring.


Last week I was having one of those weeks.  You know the ones?  Maybe nothing is really wrong, but you just feel unenthused.  It seems to me such a disappointment to our Heavenly Father, who blesses us abundantly, when we sort of mope through our days. I’m not one to stay in that ho-hum place for long, though.  Life is too short not to live it fully alive.


Seeing these signs of life around my house every day makes me so happy.  Puts a smile on my face – a smile that I can share with others.  Ties me over until I’m back outside again, hearing the birds chirp, feeling the warmer air on my skin, rejoicing with all things new. It’s amazing how one small investment can pay such big dividends.

I wonder… What inspires you and makes you feel alive?  Whatever it is, I encourage you to make it a part of your every day.  Share it below.  You never know when your idea might spark an idea in another, spreading joy far and wide.

Live alive today!



in my kitchen :: roasted tomato, bean and arugula salad

Ever since I slow roasted cherry tomatoes for this hearty kale salad, I’ve been obsessed with their tart, sweet flavor.  Tomatoes can be such a let down when they are not in season – mealy, mushy and flavorless.  Slow roasting the little guys brings their flavor right back to life, and then some!

roasted tomato bean salad

Like many of you, I’ve been diligently trying to eat less meat in favor of vegetables, beans and unprocessed whole grains.  One obvious way to do this is to eat a salad at lunch most days.  In order to keep from getting bored and resorting to my usual carbohydrates, I’ve been trying new combinations of flavors and textures.  If you don’t get ridiculously jazzed about playing with your food and finding new combinations like I do, but still want to eat well and be a little adventurous in the kitchen, you’ve come to the right place!

For this salad, I made a quick and simple vinaigrette, tossed in some beans, arugula, and slow roasted tomatoes that I had left over from another recipe and voila!  A satisfying lunch was on the table in minutes.  The recipe that inspired this salad called for roasted potatoes tossed with the other ingredients while still warm, thereby wilting the arugula slightly.  I didn’t have potatoes on hand, so I decided to warm cannellini beans for a similar affect.  This simple step elevated the salad from the usual toss-and-go to a light, yet satisfying meal fit for a winter day.  Since I didn’t use all the beans, leftovers will be useful in a repeat performance … or maybe reinvented in a totally new way.  I used dried herbs because I didn’t want to complicate matters with a special trip to the grocery store for fresh herbs.  If you happen to have them on hand, fresh is usually best.

roasted tomato bean salad2



Serves 2

For the dressing:


3 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Juice of one lemon

1 garlic clove, mixed

1/8 t. sea salt

1 t. dried thyme

For the salad:


Pint of cherry tomatoes, halved from top to bottom


1 can of cannellini beans

Avocado, cubed



  1. To roast the tomatoes, preheat your oven to 250 degrees.  Halve cherry tomatoes and toss in olive oil with a hearty pinch of salt.  Spread on a roasting sheet with seed sides up.  Roast for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. (I’ve also seen a quick method in which you use a toaster oven at 225 for 1/2 hour.)

  2. Meanwhile, combine dressing ingredients in a bowl.  Toss in cannellini beans.  It’s fine to do this earlier in the day, allowing the flavors to marinate the beans.  (Leftovers are especially delicious!)

  3. When the tomatoes are ready, warm the beans (including the dressing) slightly in the microwave. Toss the beans and tomatoes with arugula and avocado.



One can of beans tossed in dressing lasted me three lunches, leaving no excuse for unhealthy “convenience” foods when midday hunger strikes.  The beans make this salad especially satisfying and I find that they keep me from craving bread alongside my salad. Cannellini beans are high in fiber and low on the glycemic index — something I definitely can’t say about my old friend French Bread. Goodbye afternoon slump and sugar craving!  You will not be missed!

Do you have any tips for quick and easy, yet healthy lunches?  We’d love to hear!  Leave a message in the comments.  And in the immortal words of the sweet cashier lady at Walgreens,

Be well,


berry banana spinach smoothie

Good Monday morning!  I’ve got (yet another) smoothie recipe for you today.  I know, I know, they are everywhere … but don’t let the color fool you, this one is good!  And can’t we all use a nice little boost to get it started on a Monday?

blueberry banana spinach smoothie

Lately I have been an impromptu recipe machine!  Whenever one of my kids asks for a smoothie (which is almost always at bedtime, when the day is done and in my book, the kitchen is closed), we fall back on this popular Mango Kale Smoothie.  In fact, it has been a top hit here on the blog since the start of this year.  It’s pretty obvious that you all are on a health kick for the new year.  And why not?  It just plain feels good!

Saturday night the request for a bedtime smoothie came.  No mangoes on hand.  What to do?  Impromptu!

blueberry spinach smoothie

Here’s what we came up with, complete with super specific measuring methods. ; )



Makes one serving


2 heaping handfuls baby spinach

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Nearly 1/2 of a medium-sized spotted banana

1 soup spoon chia seeds

2 heaping soup spoons of plain goat milk yogurt


Add it all to a powerful blender in that order.  Blend until completely smooth.




Honestly, a lot of times that I do a freestyle attempt at a tasty smoothie the results are not good. The flavor is a bit off.  Overpowering banana… not sweet enough… flavorless and bland… eh!  This time we took one sip and knew the recipe needed to be written.  I keep thinking about the little smoothie glasses served in the lobby of boutique hotels or nestled in a tray of shaved ice on their breakfast buffet.  If you came to my house, I’d have to serve one to you just like that, to let you know you are welcome and cared for.

Yep.  You need to try it.

banana blueberry spinach smoothie 2

I was first turned on to goat milk yogurt when I watched an episode of Spain – On the Road Again.  Have you seen it?  It’s a foodie treat to watch!  In the episode, which you can view in part here, Gwyneth Paltrow had goat milk yogurt.  She had often called any dairy that came from a cow something that I won’t repeat here. It stuck with me and I now think twice about consuming cow dairy.  Ah, the power of suggestion… Anyway, if you haven’t tried goat milk yogurt and like the tanginess of goat cheese, I highly recommend it.  In my grocery store, it is in the natural food section.  In this smoothie, I think the tartness perfectly balances the higher sugar content of a ripe banana.  If you aren’t game for goat milk yogurt, feel free to try another yogurt in this smoothie.  I make no claim on the results, but you know what they say … you can’t win if you don’t play.  ;)

Cheers to the new year!



in my kitchen :: use what you’ve got to hit the spot

Flashback to last weekend when we were wrapping up our winter break.  We spent the better part of break in full-on vacation mode, which was utterly delightful. That meant I was off my rhythm of grocery shopping and meal planning.  Making do with what we had on hand in the kitchen was my motive as I took full advantage of my kids’ vacation and made myself comfy at home.

progressoverperfection egg bake

For me, winter vacation has to include at least one late morning cozy family breakfast.  I had leftover mild italian sausage cooked and stored in the fridge, as well as some veggies that needed to be used up. With a fresh pot of coffee just inches away, I decided it was the perfect morning to make an egg bake.  The kids were reading classic novels playing video games, MacDaddy* was catching up on the news on his IPad, and I was in the mood to put together a satisfying dish that would hit the spot for our lazy, sunny morning.  In case you find yourself in a similar mindset, I thought I would share my creation with you.  I personally come back to the recipes I post here all the time, so this one’s being published as a reminder to take it easy every once in awhile.


I love a good strata, but many recipes call for bread cubes and assembly the night prior to baking them.  The great thing about this recipe is that it uses potatoes instead, which allows you to throw it together on a whim.  No planning necessary.


Serves 6-8

Ingredient suggestions:


 2 cups frozen diced potatoes (I used Mr. Dell’s Southern Style Hash brown Diced Potatoes)

1 small shallot, diced

Cherry tomatoes, halved

¼ cup chopped cremini mushrooms

Mild Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled

Shredded cheese (I used a combination of sharp cheddar and Mexican cheese)

5 eggs

¼ cup half and half

¼ cup skim milk

Salt and pepper




  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Coat the bottom of a skillet with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook potatoes, shallot, tomatoes and mushrooms over medium heat until potatoes are beginning to brown, seasoning with a small amount of salt and pepper to taste.

  3. Spray a pie plate or square glass dish with cooking spray. Layer potato mixture, sausage and cheese.

  4. Whisk eggs and milk/half and half together with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. I find that whisking until light and slightly frothy yields a better final result. You want your eggs to puff up slightly when you bake them.

  5. Pour the egg mixture over the top meat/veggies/cheese.

  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until eggs are set and puffy.



This recipe is meant to be followed very loosely.  Use whatever vegetables, cheese and meat you have that sound good.  Clean out your crisper, your meat drawer, your freezer . . . it’s all good!  Who says eggs are just for breakfast? Add an arugula salad dressed in a light lemon vinaigrette and garnished with curls of parmesan, pour a glass of Pinot Grigio, put on your pajamas and leave the busyness of the week behind you on a Friday night. Feed your kids pancakes, put them to bed, put a fire in your fireplace and have a date night. The possibilities are endless!

Every woman needs a slew of recipes in her arsenal that are versatile and oh-so-easy to get on the table.  I’m hoping to share more of what’s cooking in my kitchen.  You know what they say… variety is the spice of life and no one wants to suffer in a slump when there are so many fantastic flavors to explore with the ones you love, gathered around the table.  Sometimes slumps happen, but not to worry. I’ve got your back!


* In case you were wondering, MacDaddy is the blog name my husband came up with for himself.  And no, he doesn’t beatbox for a living.  I just decided “Husband” was a really lame name for him.  Blame the new year for a desire to make some changes on the blog. There will be more where that came from … stay tuned!

treat yourself well



It seems like everywhere I turn lately people are focusing on their new year’s resolutions.  My excitement for 2015 is not waning, and I happen to love taking advantage of a time of reflection and a fresh start in the new year.  No doubt many are posting their ideas about healthy eating and exercise and the like, but have you stopped to consider the power of your subconscious mind lately?  I have. :) Being aware of what is going on in your subconscious mind is key to treating yourself well. . . and that’s a resolution I plan to stick with!

Studies show that one negative thought that happens in the subconscious can trigger stress hormones that take their toll on your body for up to 40 minutes.  40 minutes!  That’s a decent chunk of the day to be reeling from stress.  I’ve been working with a doctor for chronic back pain issues and she has shared some really helpful information with me that is drastically changing the way I live.  I’ve been pressing in and paying attention to my thought life and how my thoughts direct how my body feels.  When I feel overwhelmed or tense, I’ve found it really helpful to intentionally take a few moments to break the adrenaline rush and stress response.

Here’s how:

1.)  Take a deep breath.  I remove myself from the situation if necessary and take 4 slow breaths from deep in my abdomen.  Count three counts in, and four or five counts out, letting your shoulders and body relax completely by the end of the exhale.  This usually works wonders to interrupt tension and help me redirect my thoughts.

2.)  Laugh it off.  Do you ever catch yourself beating yourself up for making a mistake?  It’s a natural human response to react to this way, but it doesn’t take a psychologist to tell you that being hard on yourself is not the most beneficial response.  Studies show that those who learn to laugh in response to stress are healthier and experience less pain.  No wicked sarcasm in your laughter is allowed, either.  Be kind to yourself.

3.)  Follow the golden rule.  Do unto yourself as you would do unto others.  Would you speak harshly to a friend or a child if they made a mistake?  Of course not!  What makes you think you deserve anything less than the gentle response you would counsel a dear friend with?

4.)  Self soothe.  Listen to music that makes you happy.  Wrap yourself up in your favorite blanket and enjoy a warm mug of tea.  Do a physical activity that brings you joy.  Whatever you do, don’t turn to self-sabotaging behavior like binge eating or drinking.  Again, treat yourself kindly and your body with respect.

If you are experiencing aches and pains that could be associated with tension, take time to pay careful attention to your thought life.  Don’t underestimate the power you have to heal by simply tending to the voice inside your head.  Nothing I have shared here with you is probably new to you, but the idea is to simply encourage you to become aware.  There’s much more to it than this, of course, and I hope to unpack what I’m learning with you more in the future.  After all, why should we keep healing secrets to ourselves if they can help others?

What are some things that YOU would add to the list?


image source

kale salad

By now you are probably aware that kale is one of the healthiest foods you can add to your culinary repertoire.  If you are a food nerd like me, you will want to read up on the good stuff this pretty green is doing for your inners on Health Ambition here.   Health Ambition recently reached out to me to see if I would spread the good news about kale (it’s so much more than a great potted fall decoration, friends!) and I was happy to oblige.  I’ve been wanting to find a kale salad that our whole family would eat.  In all honesty, I’d be happy if 3/5 of my family would eat it.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to dig in and make that happen!


Kale salad has been listed as one of the top trendiest things to eat for 2014.  Of course, I know the truth – that is, if something is this good for you on a cellular level, it’s not just a trend, it’s a classic.  And I love a good classic!  So I set off to find a few recipes that would make the cut and become classics in my personal recipe binder.

For New Year’s Eve dinner I made a savory salad to go with soup and homemade bread and it was a big hit with everyone who came to dinner.  This one could easily stand alone for a satisfying lunch.  I may have jumped on last year’s trend right under the wire, but I am hereby declaring kale salad the top trendiest food of January 2015.  Help me spread the word, ok?


This salad was inspired by a friend and fellow foodie, Susan.  I find that the best recipes come attached to fond memories.  She is a great hostess and made this for a party she had a few months ago.  I kept thinking about it and finally hit her up for her recipe.  One of the things that I love about it is that it develops in stages, beginning with roasting tomatoes and potatoes.  You can do large batches of both and use them in several recipes.  Slow roasted tomatoes are like candy for the cook… you’ll want a few extras!  Both will store in the refrigerator for several days, making future meals just that much easier.  Make these on a lazy Sunday afternoon and you’ll feel ahead of the game as your week goes on!



Kale Salad with Roasted Potatoes and Tomatoes

for the dressing:


2 T. minced anchovies (from a small tin, packed in olive oil)

1 T. chopped garlic (about 2 large cloves)

1 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/3 c. Red Wine Vinegar

a nice pinch of black pepper, to taste

Blend all ingredients in a blender or small food processor until emulsified.

     This is a slight adaptation of the original, which called for more anchovies.  I’m told it is great on bitter greens, roasted pepper, potatoes and cooked seafood, or for the classic salad Nicoise.  Since it makes plenty, you will be set up for a second meal later in the week.



for the salad:


      3 pints cherry tomatoes, halved (drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with a generous pinch of kosher salt and slow roast at 250 degrees for 2 1/2 hours)

      small red potatoes, quartered or fingerling potatoes, halved (drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and roast at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes)

a generous amount of kale*

pecorino romano or 3 cheese salad blend shavings

shelled pistachios

half a lemon


      Toss the kale, tomatoes and some of the potatoes very lightly with dressing earlier in the day so that the kale has a chance to soften.  Cover and refrigerate.  Leftovers will keep for the next few days.  Just before serving, finish with extra potatoes and tomatoes, cheese, pistachios, and another drizzle of dressing.  Squeeze half a lemon over the top and toss.


      * I used a large container of tender baby kale from Organic Girl.  If you use kale on the stem, just be sure to remove the stem before chopping the kale as it is tough and bitter.  My grocery store has recently begun selling kale mixed with other greens, which could be a nice alternative for people who have not yet come to love this healthy green.



You can find a few more recipes using kale here.  I noticed that Health Ambition also has several articles about the dangers of coffee consumption.  Lalalalalalalala!  Progress, not perfection people!  I’m not even going to link those articles.  Google them if you are a stronger person than I am!

Love, peace and kale!


monday moment :: an open door

With 2014 coming to a close, I’ve got my sights set on the new year and pondering what possibilities might present themselves over the coming months.  What do I want to make happen?  So it may come as no surprise that this open door recently caught my eye.

open door 1

I have to confess.  I’m that woman who prefers to take her Christmas decorations down soon after December 25th because I’m often just so anxious for a clean slate and eager to turn my thoughts wholeheartedly to the new year.  This is not to take anything away from Christ. On the contrary, my thoughts are all about what He and I will do together in the coming year.  To me, that anticipation is one of the greatest gifts of my entire year, and I love that it comes right on the heels of an entire season focused on celebrating the birth of our Savior!  I was feeling like what is just on the other side of that figuratively open door to the new year was not quite in focus, so I’ve been praying for it to become clear.  I want 2015 to be a year that I march through open doors with confidence.  If I’m being honest, I’ve been holding back a lOt this year.  And that’s okay, because I’m learning about myself and the things that hold me back in the process. God’s timing and temperance are impeccable.

open door 2

I have to say, I am so excited for the months ahead!  I’ve got a few big hairy audacious ideas that, quite frankly, are really outside of my comfort zone and are not at all my normal way of thinking about my life and how I spend my time.  BUT, they are tied closely to my passions and my strengths, so I’m taking the courage to set my sights way higher for 2015 than I have ever set them before.  It is exhilarating to think about stepping into a new life and frightening all at the same time.  I’ve got boulders to move and a major need for focus and determination if I’m going to make the things that are on my heart happen.  With God, all things are possible.  That’s a promise that I’m anxious to experience for myself!

On the other side of the coin, there are areas of my life that will require me to go back to the starting block, so-to-speak.  I wrote myself a letter this time last year and addressed it, “Dear 2014 Nicole”.  It’s a great letter!  In it, I wrote about all the things I hoped to accomplish in 2014 as though they were a done deal.  Good things like how I was going to use my time more wisely and take better care of myself.  Pre-visualization, if you will.  I wish I could tell you that I made those things happen the way I planned to, but I can’t. Not yet. I’m not being hard on myself, either!  Rather, I’m pleased that my goals are solid enough that they haven’t changed.  My life is full of blessings, but in some very important areas I feel like God is bringing me back to the starting block.  Calling me to a back-to-basics, grassroots approach to how I live my life.  Berating me to pay special attention to my internal belief system and how my beliefs affect my actions (or hold me back, as the case may be).  If I’m being honest, this need to go to basic training in certain areas is not new, and I’ve fought God on it, ignored Him, blown the whole thing off … and kept myself stuck in a pit for a mighty long time.  Maybe this resonates with you?  Maybe you, too, have areas of your life that you need to give your full attention and focused determination so that you can break free and live to your potential.  If so, would you stick around and take this journey with me?  It’s time.  It really is time.

I have all the hope and excitement and anticipation for the year ahead that a petite blonde suburbanite housewife can muster! ;)  I’ve also got some fun things planned to share with you here on the blog that I can hardly wait to roll out!  Stick around while we roll up our sleeves and get to work.  It might get messy, but it’s gonna be good . . .


All that and an open door.  Dear 2015, I’m ready.

Are you?

Let’s go after it together, friends!




my Christmas isn’t perfect. and I want to be ok with that.

I hit publish on the last post and immediately thought, that’s not the post I wanted to write.  It didn’t feel right.

It’s funny, we had that celebration I described to you in the last post this past weekend.  Oldest had a basketball game right during the middle of the party, so my hubby and I left for a couple of hours to cheer on our guy and his team.  While we were gone, the adults opened their presents and had the Jesus cake.  We missed it.

The family didn’t open presents without us to be rude.  They all have younger kids that had to be put to bed at a reasonable hour.  Our stages in life necessitated a disjointed family gathering.  If I’m being honest, it was a letdown.  The feeling was a tiny bit like the scene in Father of the Bride when George misses seeing Annie off after her reception.  But it is what it is and we’re grateful for the time we did get to spend together.

We missed it.  Those three words trouble me this time of year.


Early this morning I read this post on the blog Bravehearted Beauty titled “Come As You Are”.  In response, I wrote, “Come as you are. I love that, Linsey. This week always feels like the final push to “do Christmas right” with my family. Rather than trying to figure out what that looks like, it’s time to lay it down and ask the Lord to convict me in the things that feel unsettled.”

Almost immediately an unsettled situation presented itself in a loved one who is experiencing a very busy time of life.  Right away I knew what I needed to lay down.  Christmas isn’t about all the trimmings.  It’s not defined by how much of the effervescent “Christmas spirit” we feel bubble up in us like a sparkling glass of champagne.

The song We Need A Little Christmas has been stuck in my head.

Haul out the holly!  Put up the tree before my spirit falls again! Fill up the stocking!  I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again nowwww!  For we need a little Christmas!  Right this very minute!  yada-yada-yada yadadadadadadeeda


I need to sing a new song.  Christmas isn’t a season.  Christmas is a Savior.  Christmas came so that we could see needs and with the love of Christ, meet them.  Jesus came not to be served, but to serve.  And we are to follow in His footsteps.

So, this year – for the next week – I am seeking not to be served by the so-called “Christmas spirit,” but to serve others in love.  This year, that doesn’t mean making sure that I plan a Norman Rockwell inspired Christmas morning (I’m guilty of trying  — every. single. year.) to serve my loved ones.  It means being a blessing in other ways that God will reveal to me on a day-by-day basis.  It means being observant of another’s needs.

I’ll go through this same feeling next year at this time, I can almost guarantee it.  The feeling that I’m not doing the right things, not doing enough to make the most of Christmas.  And you know what?  I probably won’t be doing the right things if my heart and attitude get shaped by the usual Christmas trappings of perfection and Norman Rockwell and decorations and presents and perfection and all that jazz!  If you feel like I do (did) – unsettled and that you are missing IT this holiday season, know that He sees you.  He knows you and He knows those around you intimately.  He knows what the needs are and He will provide a way out.  If you ask Him in honesty and in faith, He WILL show you what you are really missing.  But you have to be willing to be observant if you are going to receive the gift He has waiting to show you.

I’m off to do some things about the gift He has given me in the conviction to lay down my desire for the perfect finish to this holiday season in order to serve another in love.  Have a very merry Christmas, friends!