finding healing in the blue chair

I’m excited to start this series on inspirational people. As I mentioned in my first post of the new year: “The more I think about sharing stories from these great people, the more excited I get. Their stories look like many of ours: happy, raw, generous, painful, faithful, questioning.” What I find particularly interesting and inspiring about certain people is how they make a difference in the world, one way or another, without trying, without calling attention to themselves, without fanfare. People just ‘doin’ their thing’ and as a result, blessing others in the process.

Without further adieu, as they say, let’s get started!

As many, if not all of us know, sometimes life deals us a blow we didn’t expect. And let’s face it, sometimes those moments are rough. As we walk along on this earth, we all come across hard things. Difficult things. Sad things. It’s part of living. A mix of good and bad moments. What do you do with those rough, life-changing moments? Those experiences that may be harder than you ever imagined. Do we cry? Yes. Do we punch a pillow? Maybe. Do we work out harder than ever? (Not me, but if this is you – bravo!) Do we pray? Do we take our tears, our worries, our insecurities about what’s ahead, and our fears to the One who promises peace and healing? This is where Emily comes in.

Emily is an artist, to say the least. She is a creative soul who quietly and beautifully uses her talents as well as her life story to encourage others and worship God at the same time. Pretty cool, right? Emily is a designer who I found, thankfully, online. Funny how businesses can get started completely online now-a-days. Emily runs a business called “Blue Chair Blessing”. She creates, completely from scratch, a variety of shirts and artwork in sizes ranging from teeny little cards to large prints. The fact that she completely designs her work by hand is something I really respect. No clip art, no copying others’ work, just her own hand-sketches. She engages with her customers by quickly answering inquiries and sharing nuggets of faith and hope when people comment on her designs. Many times, when she posts a design or a scripture verse on facebook, someone will say “I need this right now-thank you!”

What draws me to her work is its simplicity and authenticity. After reading her story, I’m not surprised why I love her stuff. She was dealt a big life-changer that was certain to be painful, uncertain and scary. Walking through something like that is something I walked through myself many years ago. I remember having no idea what was coming next and I was fearful for my kids’ future, like she also shares on her page. She brought her insecurities and hurts about what was coming up in her life to Jesus and guess what? In return, God gave her a piece of scripture. Psalm 147:3. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” A promise for hope, love and healing. So much of her story resonates with mine because they are very similar.

Yes, we walk through some junk. A lot of junk. There’s garbage everywhere. There’s also beauty. A ton of beauty. Thank you, Emily, for sharing that beauty. Thank you for encouraging others and pointing everyone back to God as you do!

P.S. Here’s a quick snap of one of my very favorite shirts. Not only does it fit well, but the design on the front is spot-on. I had no idea how much people need to know this until I started wearing this shirt around. Every time I wear it, someone comments on it. I’m not wearing it to glean compliments, but to share a bit of encouragement. I also bought Blue Chair Blessing’s “LOVED 1 John 4:9” shirt. Actually, I bought four of them. One for me, one for my daughter, and one for each of my besties. ❤

Giving credit where it is due: Thanks to Emily at for letting me share her story as well as for sharing her artistic gifting!


a blank year

I’m sitting right here. We tried a new location for our Christmas tree this year and as hard as it is sometimes to change tradition, this was a great change. It made for a very cozy, comfortably-lit corner. After I plopped down on the floor, opened my laptop, poured a glass of wine, (OK, my hubby poured it – details, details 😉 ), I looked around for a second and realized how nice it was to just sit here for a moment. Yes, there’s crumpled paper under the chair, but I don’t care. The big holiday push is past; we’ve eaten enough for a small city; (regular eating starts this week!), and I hung a completely blank calendar on the side of our fridge.

2018. It’s a blank canvas, a chapter completely unknown to anyone but God. After completing an online yoga class, I thought about what profound bits of wisdom I could share. I came up with nothing. Thinking about what I’ve been appreciating lately, one word did pop into my head. People. Everyone has a story-something great, something awful, something amazing, something hard. There are a plethora of incredible folks out there who inspire me daily. Usually, they inspire without intentionally doing so. Usually these are people who do things quietly and without fanfare. Not because they hope for fame and accolades, but because it’s just “the right thing to do”.

The more I think about sharing stories from these great people, the more excited I get. Their stories look like many of ours: happy, raw, generous, painful, faithful, questioning. The adjectives can go on and on. But instead of me doing all the talking, I’ll let their stories do that. The first story is in the works and will be up soon. Until then, happy “blank year” to you and yours…God bless!

do you hear what i hear?

I think a ‘good day’ is a day when I’ve learned something new. There’s a nice feeling of   accomplishment that comes with a bit more knowledge. Plus, ya’ never know when some random fact or skill may come in handy. Need to know all the words to the musical “Little Shop of Horrors” or how to clear a drain using baking soda and cream of tartar? I’m your gal.

But this post isn’t about random things I know. It’s about Christmas! Specifically, Christmas music. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how important music is to life in general. It’s good for the soul and for the brain. It is a part of our history, our development and our emotions. Ever hear a song and instantly become flooded with “swooshes” of memories? When I was pregnant, I used to play music to my ever-growing belly. And I can clearly remember the peaceful beauty of the “La La Dee Doo” song from my kids’ international lullaby cd they listened to as a babies.

Christmas songs are no different. What’s your favorite? Do you like the new ones or the traditional ones? Instrumental or vocal? As for me, my favorite is “Do You Hear What I Hear?” I’ve always liked the build-up from its simplistic beginning into the majesty at the end. I like the thought of a ‘little shepherd boy’ whispering an important message to the ‘mighty king’ about another King.

Did you know that many Christmas tunes are worship songs? Of course as we get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus, this makes sense. But did you also know that many Christmas songs are prayers as well? Such is the case for my favorite.

“Do You Hear What I Hear” was written in 1962 by songwriting couple Noel and Gloria Regney. Typically, Noel would write the music and his wife would write the lyrics. But in this case, they reversed their roles. Noel was walking the streets of New York, worrying about the current missile crisis between Russia and the United States. Noel had experienced World War II firsthand and he felt the current despair in the air.

It was the Christmas season and he had been asked to write a Christmas song. But how could he write a song to epitomize the joy of Christmas when all he was feeling was doom and gloom? On his way home, he spotted two mothers with their babies in strollers. The babies were smiling at each other. Noel thought they looked like two little lambs and he was inspired. As soon as he got home, he jotted down his lyrics and Gloria put the poetry to music. She has been quoted as saying, “Noel wrote a beautiful song and I wrote the music. We couldn’t sing it through; it broke us up. We cried. Our little song broke us up.”

Sometimes we sing the lyrics to a song without knowing what we’re really saying. Or maybe we only know the chorus, sing it loud and proud, but mumble the verses. Maybe we’re missing the point if we don’t listen closely. In an interview from 1985, when asked about “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Noel said, “I am amazed that people can think they know the song-and not know it is a prayer for peace. But we are so bombarded by sound and our attention spans are so short that we now listen only to catchy beginnings.”  Indeed.

“Listen to what I say. Pray for peace, people everywhere.”


Giving credit where it is due:

cd: ‘Lullabye: a collection”

a december prayer

real is rare

Recently a friend posted this on facebook and it struck a chord with me as loud as the Hallelujah chorus.

It’s the holidays. Time for happiness, joy, warm-fuzzies and smiles all around. Right?

Um, no.

For me, as soon as November hits, I start feeling ancy. Well, let’s be real. Not ancy, but more like anxious.

I can’t completely explain it and I’ve stopped trying to. I’d like to say I love the holidays and all the pieces that go with it. Time to be real. I love Thanksgiving. I love spending the morning sipping on a killer-strong cup of coffee, watching the parade from the warmth of my couch and jammies, and then feasting with my family and feeling thankful. After all…

“There is so much to be thankful for.”

I know.

“Things could be worse.”

I know.

“You should count your blessings.”

I know. And I do.

Nonetheless, as soon as the world around me kicks full-force into Christmas mode, I struggle. I can’t explain it. It’s not logical. Why in the world would the season for celebrating Christ’s birth make me feel anxious, sad, and seriously lacking in holiday joy?

Part of it for me is the weather. I know this and can’t do anything about it. I’m sad in the winter. I hate feeling cold. I need sun and bright light. I’ve asked my doctor if he could write me a prescription for a trip to Florida every winter, but that was a no-go.

There’s a lot to do at Christmas time. I mean a ton. Let’s be real again. Making the season bright takes a lot of work and it only comes around once a year. So ya’ get one chance to do it right. No pressure there. Don’t get me wrong, I cherish our traditions and appreciate deeply that my family enjoys them too. But sometimes it just feels like a lot. And then guilt sets in, making me feel crummy again. Not a lovely cycle. More reality here: Every December my poor mom gets a phone call from me. It’s my traditional Christmas breakdown phone call. It makes no sense. In the grand scheme of things, I shouldn’t be complaining. But bless her heart. She never says that. Instead the line of communication is completely open and she lets me vent, cry, freak out and then laugh at myself for my regularity of a holiday freak-out session. She gives me a hug through the phone line and every year tells me it’s gonna be ok. And every year, it is.

So when I read my friend’s post saying “Real is Rare”. I had to prioritize this because it’s so true. Life is not a Norman Rockwell painting or a sappy holiday movie where issues are resolved before the closing credits. Although I like looking at difficult situations through rose-colored glasses, sometimes you just gotta get real and say today was rough.

When thoughts like this pop up, the best place to go is to God. He knows where we’re at and is ready with open arms to listen and extend peace. With that in mind, here is a prayer for December…

Dear God,

Christmas time is when we celebrate how incredibly generous you are. As we prepare to celebrate your Son’s birth, please help me to keep my focus on the right things.

When it’s time to decorate, help me to not be so picky. In the grand scheme of things, no one will die if one light bulb is out or if all the ornaments aren’t straight.

When it’s time to bake, help me to make the favorites my family loves and know that it’s enough. Making every recipe in my book does not make me a superhero.

For those of us with crafty blood pumping in our veins, help us to not bite off more than we can chew. Choosing to sew an entire blanket starting in late December will make us crabby instead of cheery.

Please help me to embrace the sparkle. The sparkle of old, handmade treasures covered in glitter that falls off just a little bit more each year. The sparkle in a child’s eyes when they tell you how excited they are for Christmas. The sparkle in house lights, whether or not they are all twinkling. The sparkle in new-fallen snow.

And while we’re on the topic of snow, please help me not to squelch others’ enthusiasm for this chilly loveliness.

Even though I would prefer my toes sticking into a sandy beach instead of my wool socks, I can be thankful that I have wool socks to keep me warm. (Who am I kidding? I have an entire drawer-full that I will be wearing until mid-April!)

Thank you, God, for my memories of Christmas times gone by. Instead of feeling sad that those times aren’t in the present, help me to be thankful that they happened at all and embrace what’s current and new.

Help me to breathe deeply and fill my heart and soul with your peace. Your love is more than I could ever completely soak in, so help me to share it with others. Guide me in random acts of kindness that will shine Your light – the brightest one of Christmas.


chicken soup with love

It’s fun to have a collection. Snow globes, thimbles, fridge magnets, charms, fun socks, aprons, whatever! In addition to quickly becoming a yarn-hoarder, I have a nice collection of recipes. Admittedly, not all of them have been tried, but I own them for a reason. Some are from friends, scribbled on a piece of scrap paper. Some are cute little cards in a box. Some are tried-and-true family favorites, (see “Mr. Tony Mac-n-Cheese“). Others are pages I ripped out of magazines with good intentions. Many pages of my cookbooks have stains where I slopped an ingredient or two. Speaking of cookbooks, I own three copies of “Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook”. Yes. three copies. It’s the coolest thing: one is originally mine; one was my mom’s and one was her mom’s. See? Told you it was cool! 📚🍽

I know pinterest has quickly turned into an incredible place to seek and store recipes, and I enjoy it. A lot. But, my pile of recipes is still one of my cherished possessions and I totally appreciate it when someone is willing to share one of their own with me.

This brings me to Nancy. Nancy and her husband Joe are friends of ours from church. They recently celebrated a big milestone anniversary and they are great role models for what couples could look like. There is a sense of peace, confidence and respect about them, especially when they talk about each other. Specifically, when Joe talks about Nancy. Joe is the first to tell you what an amazing cook his lovely bride is. It’s true. Nancy is a great cook. There’s something different about her food. Joe says cooking and baking are most definitely giftings of Nancy’s. Joe knows without a doubt that Nancy is a top-notch cook.

And Nancy knows that Joe knows. (Are ya’ still with me?) It’s a great back-and-forth relationship filled with equal appreciation for each other. Nancy posts photos on social media of dishes she cooks for her husband and you can just tell that it’s gonna be good! So when she posted a photo of a big bowl of fresh, homemade (of course!), chicken noodle soup, I had to know. I love making soup and just had to know if Nancy had a secret ingredient. More importantly, was she willing to share it with me?

She gave me the recipe and guess what? There is a secret ingredient. When I think about it, it’s truly no secret. It’s what makes everything better. And to be honest, I wasn’t surprised to see that it’s actually a legit part of her recipe. And sure enough, the soup tasted wonderful. But, of course, everything made with love usually does.

Giving credit where it is due: Recipe shared by Nancy Sniesak. When you want to put together a bowl of warm, amazing home-made deliciousness, click here for the recipe.

Who loves ya’ baby?

Your child. Your sweetie. Your little one. A parent’s love for their children is almost indescribable. We love with nurturing kindness. We encourage with heartfelt enthusiasm. We comfort with a gentle touch. Our kisses heal boo-boos. Our songs bring on sleep. Although we are gentle at times, we also protect with the ferocity and strength of a lion and provide with everything we have.

Isn’t it amazing how much you can know about your children? When they are babies we know their smell (clean and otherwise)! As toddlers, we truly understand their jibber-jabber, or at least we make a grand attempt at deciphering. “Did he say poo-poo or boo-tiful?” We recognize backwards E’s and wobbly writing as our youngster’s handwriting develops. We can spot our own child’s call in a crowded park. We take pride in their smeary finger painting and hang their artwork on the fridge. Their smooches melt our hearts. We understand the looks on their faces. Their love fills us with joy. We can’t imagine anyone loving our sweetie more than we do.

Wrap your mind around this: there is someone. Our Heavenly Father, the Ultimate Father, loves your child more than you do.

When I first tried to fathom and understand this, I was worrying about a visit my children were having away from home. A dear friend reminded me that God protects our sweeties more than we ever possibly could. “Do you think you can worry more than God can handle?” she asked me. Now I don’t know about you, but I can worry with the best of them. I worry about finances. I worry about food, (too much and too little). I worry about weight and hair. I worry about educating my children. I worry about their safety and their spirituality. Any of these sound familiar? But worry is fear. Worried fear is not from God. It isn’t. He wants us to trust Him, especially in situations where we are separated from our children. God loves them and promises their protection. In faith, trust Him. Pray to Him when it gets hard. He knows. He understands our hearts when we drop off our children somewhere. He dropped off His child too.

God loves your children and guess what? You are His child too. Just like you know and love your kids, He knows and loves you! “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matthew 10:30) He understands your wants and needs. He recognizes your work, just like the wobbly lettering. He hears your calls just like in the crowded park. He takes pride in your accomplishments and your love also fills Him with joy.

Isn’t it cool to think about what a fabulous parent God is? God comforts us with warm sunshine on our face. He heals with grace and the promise of a fresh day. His songs bring peaceful slumber. “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:2-3) He protects us and provides for us. Who loves ya’ baby? Rejoice! God does! ❤

what to do with all those apples? (apple bread)

Remember that scene in the movie ‘Forrest Gump’ when Bubba lists all the ways shrimp can be prepared? “Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it…pan-fried, deep-fried, stir-fried…pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp…”.

Mmm, now I’m hungry for shrimp. But wait, I digress. It’s apple season. 🍎🍏

🍂 Fall can be quite beautiful and tasty. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with cider mills, then you also have access to a traditional fall treat, the cider mill donut! Warm and amazingly delicious. Whether you prefer plain or cinnamon-sugar coated, they smell incredible and taste even better. And how could you have the donut without some cider? Another amazing fall flavor. Nothing is quite like apple cider, either cold or warmed up. Mmmm… Delicious? Yes! Healthy? No! This is where apple picking comes in. After eating all that deliciousness, you can pick apples and work it off. Boom! You’re welcome.

So this year I planned to make applesauce in the crockpot. It’s easy-peasy and makes my house smell homey, cozy and amazing. I planned the same thing last year, but we ate all the apples. Not necessarily a bad thing. This year, I wanted to have enough for recipes, so we picked more. Many, many more. My daughter immediately requested apple crisp, which I happily made. Same result as applesauce, filling the house with incredible aroma. Then my son came home from college and requested it. I made it again. This time adding vanilla ice cream before eating. Serious yum.

Then I remembered a recipe I collected a couple years ago. One of my cousins posted online that she was making her mom’s “famous apple bread”. Wait a minute? Our family has a famous apple bread recipe? Why did I not have this? She shared it with me and now it’s in my box of goodies. It’s a cool recipe because it makes two standard-size loaves or six mini-loaves. They freeze well, if you can make them last that long. 😉

So, even though I dread what comes after fall, I will enjoy the next few weeks of fall colors and flavors. “There is a time for everything, and a season for everything under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 There are still quite a few apples left in my fridge. I might get around to making applesauce after all.

Giving credit where it is due: If you’d like to try my Aunt Beanie’s apple bread recipe, click here.

time to rest

Many years ago, (more years than I care to mention), my little ones saw me crying in frustration one evening. I didn’t mean to let it all go like that, but I couldn’t hold in my feelings any longer. My sensitive daughter asked me what was wrong and I said that Mommy was having a rough day and I was just feeling sad. My son wiped my eye and tenderly said, “It’s ok, Mommy.” The wisdom of children. They aren’t trying to be wise, but in their simplicity, they can speak God’s truth.

Did you know God runs the world without your assistance? I know it’s a comical point to make, but sometimes I think we need to know. Sometimes, (alright, many, many times!), we try to do everything. If you are a parent, I bet this rings true for you. If there was a reality job description for parenting, I imagine it would read a little something like this:

“WANTED: kind and nurturing adult to raise beautiful, but not always attentive children. Such responsibilities include bathing, feeding, coordinating clothing, protecting, loving, hugging and disciplining. You will be provided with a home that you will also be responsible for maintaining. Be prepared to cut, fertilize and water grass, plant an attractive landscape and shovel snow. You will also need to complete all home repairs and decorate seasonally. Children will need help with homework and chauffeuring. Plan to be in your car often and well-prepared with nutritious snacks, entertainment and referee skills. There will be no monetary salary for your efforts, but we are sure you will manage somehow.”

Are. You. Crazy? No one in their right mind would sign up for this. And yet we do.

Parenting or not, our days can be overwhelming and exhausting. At the end of the day, who can relax? Our minds race with thoughts. We run down our mental to-do list and move whatever didn’t get done over to the next day’s list. Then we plan. We plan menus. We plan outfits. We plan schedules. Whew! We plan everything under the sun. Or should I say, ‘under the Son’? Slow down. Did you know God has everything under control? An old favorite mug of mine said “Good morning, this is God. I will be handling al your problems today. I will not need your help, so have a good day. I love you.” Ahhh…let that soak in.

That’s right. All those things we plan and worry about are all in God’s hands. Let God take care of it. “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalms 46:10) I love this verse. Be still. In other words, chill out. We are not God. We can only manage so much and we should let go of the rest. Our Father can, and will, run the universe without our assistance. Let yourself relax. Allow yourself to let go and let God. Sleep peacefully, knowing that the world is in good care while you snooze and snore. The sun will rise tomorrow just like it is supposed to without your help.

Take refuge in Jesus’ promise: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:2) Take a deep breath. His arms are wide open and waiting for you. Give your stress to Jesus and know that it’s ok.

Giving credit where it is due: Gorgeous art in the photo custom-created by @taylorjacobscc It hangs in our sunroom, my favorite room in the house.❤️

five and under (buffalo cauliflower)

Are you tired of searching for easy, tasty recipes? Sometimes I’m all about lots of creativity and ingredients, but other times, all I want to do is dump a few things together in a pot and call it a day.

For some reason, my husband has been dousing his food in either bbq sauce or an assortment of spice blends. While I could take that as a hint that my cooking is boring and bland, I choose not to interpret it that way. (Probably safer for all involved, anyway!) We have been eating a lot more veggies now that both kids are away and in college, (#emptynesterseatingmoreveggies), but I was getting sick of vegetable soup, steamed veggies and stir fry. There must be something more interesting.

Enter cauliflower. Have you noticed cauliflower recipes are everywhere lately? Reminds me of the kale-kick from last year. Kale in smoothies. Kale in salads. Kale chips that cost an arm and a leg. Lots of kale. I enjoy kale. It’s cheap, good for you and the way I make it, turns out crunchy like chips. Yummy! (Click here if you want to try it.)

Cauliflower has made its way into my fridge as a regular staple. I remember buying it with my mom at farm stands when I was a kid. Oddly enough, I liked it. I didn’t like a lot of vegetables, but cauliflower, I liked. It’s pretty and crunchy and doesn’t need a lot of embellishment to make it taste good.

I stumbled upon this recipe when looking for something spicy to cook up that would require only stuff I already had on hand. Five ingredients. (Well, actually six if you count salt and pepper as two separate things.) I thought it’d be fun to collect recipes that are ‘five and under’…five ingredients or less. If you like spicy, give this one a try. You may even already have everything you need: cauliflower, hot sauce, butter, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

What’s your go-to ‘five and under’ recipe? Feel free to comment here or on the Prayer Stew facebook page. Thanks a bunch and I’m looking forward to seeing what y’all come up with! Bon’ appetit!

Giving credit where it’s due: Thank you to for allowing me to share your recipe. I’ve made it a lot and it turns out great every time!

Bonus: Another cauliflower fav at my house is ‘Cauliflower Rice’. Nothing against regular rice, but sometimes I just feel a bit more ‘veggie-ish’. This is easy peasy to make and only takes three ingredients! (Well, actually four if we’re still counting salt and pepper separately.) For this recipe, click here.

ice cream for dinner

It’s been awhile.
I know I’m not the only one who has done it.
Years ago it was popcorn. Cheap, filling and tasty.

My original plan was to blog today about a great veggie recipe I recently discovered and made twice so far. It’s delicious, easy, filling, economical and nutritious. Yay! A win all the way around! Then I had a conversation and things changed.

A dear friend with a heart of gold and passion for connecting with people asked me this afternoon what many people ask each other: “How are you?”. Of course I quickly replied, “Good! I’m good.” Which I actually was, on the surface. In the grand scheme of things, everything is good. Health is good. Work is good. Home is good. Family is good. Yep, good, good, good, good.

I’m not sure what this person saw but I know they have a knack for digging deeper. Not because they’re trying to mess with you, but because when they ask “How are you?” They truly want to know. We started talking about kids and came to the part about my husband and I stepping into the zone of “empty nesters”. My children are in college and although we keep in touch a lot, it’s ‘different’.

I knew it was coming. The days when Legos are packed up; piles of artwork on the counter put away; requests for tuck-ins stowed away in my mind’s drawer of precious memories. I knew someday the carpooling, packed calendar days, and laundry all over the floor would be ‘things of the past’, as they say.

Those days are now.

We spend less at the grocery store. I hardly have any laundry. My house is clean, tidy and quiet. (For those of you wanting to throw things at me right now, I’m sorry! I understand!) And it’s quiet. Too, too quiet.

I miss it all. A lot. Honestly I feel a bit lost and distracted. And then I feel sad. And because another friend knew they were my favorites and gave me some, I had original Good Humor Toasted Almond ice cream for dinner. They were saved in my freezer for someday when I needed it. Today was that day.

Comfort eating is not good for you. I know this and fight it when I feel sad. But some days…

So today it was ice cream for dinner. Tomorrow brings a fresh start to another day and I will eat better tomorrow. “Weeping may last through the night but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5. No worries. God’s grace provides the ‘do-over’ and I’ll try again.

I promise to make that healthy blog post next time!