Family Secrets—Sshh . . . Don’t Tell Anyone

The Apple Pie and Fool-Proof Crust Recipe

I love October because I get to visit family I see only once or twice a year. In early October, we have a family reunion. In late October, we travel to my aunt’s church homecoming and see cousins and other people that make up a Southerner’s extended family. This includes people to whom we’re not actually related but who were grafted in because somebody married into the family line. And despite not being blood kin, we all grew up together and enjoy getting to see each other. We have a lot of fun and it’s never a dull moment with that crowd.

I know this sounds complicated—but if you’re a Southerner, you get it. And did I mention the food at these gatherings? My children have been known to get weepy at the thought of these upcoming feasts. Barbecue—pork and vinegar-based; cornsticks, Brunswick stew; butter-beans—lima beans for the Northern brethren among us; ham biscuits; coconut cake; pineapple cake, etc . . . I’m going to stop now before I break down, too.

Here’s a sure-fire winner of an autumn recipe—from the family I married into.

Fool-Proof Pie Crust
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cups vegetable shortening
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 egg
½ cup water

Mix first 4 ingredients with a fork or pastry blender. In a separate dish, beat the remaining ingredients. Combine the 2 mixtures, stirring until all ingredients are moistened. Shape dough into a ball. Chill at least 15 minutes before rolling into a crust. Dough can be left in the refrigerator up to 3 days or frozen until ready to use. Makes 2 pies—4 top and bottom crusts.

Apple Pie
6-8 apples—I’ve used Rome, Granny Smith and Magnabonum
Juice of half a lemon
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. butter

•Heat oven to 425 degrees. Peel, core and slice apples into ¼” pieces. Place apples (6 cups) into large mixing bowl. Pour lemon juice over apples.
•Add sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg. Toss well. Spoon spiced apples into piecrust and dot with butter.
•Roll out top crust. I like to also cut out piecrust dough ornaments to add to top crust. Cut slits in dough to allow the steam to escape. Brush the top with milk for a glaze.
•Place pie in oven. I put the pie in an aluminum-foiled tray to catch drips. Bake for 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and juices bubble.
•Let the pie cool and slice into wedges. Serve with vanilla ice cream.


Do you have family reunions or church homecomings? What recipes do you look forward to each year? Do you have a family recipe you could share?

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving

When my children were small I would often hand them child scissors, construction paper, glue and a JC Penney catalog to make a Thanksgiving Book on that Wednesday before the holiday. I instructed them to cut out pictures of anything they were thankful for. A codicil—learned the hard way—prohibited them from including pictures of things they didn’t have—preventing this from turning into a Christmas wish list.  I was always immensely flattered at the beautiful, bone skinny models they chose to represent me. As if . . .

My children obviously have a flair for fiction, too. Continue reading

Beyond the Storm—A Review

Have you ever been through a storm?

In light of recent events, Carolyn’s Zane’s Beyond the Storm was a perfectly timed read for me. Living in NC, I’ve experienced tornados and hurricanes as a routine part of life. She captured with great sensory detail what it would be like to be caught in an EF5 tornado.

The first novel in Abingdon’s Quilts of Love series, Zane’s characters are well-drawn and the setting is realistically depicted. I found myself laughing and crying as the book follows the story of a handful of people when a tornado bears down on their small community. The first portion of the book describes their normal life before the storm. Many of the characters are struggling with internal storms before the natural calamity ever hits. The second part of the book describes each character’s experience during the storm itself. The third portion of the book delineates how the characters survive and adjust in the aftermath of total devastation.

The writing is suspenseful as you turn page after page hoping to discover which characters survive. Some do not survive the storm. The survivors have to cope with guilt and anger. One character in particular struggles to reconcile her experiences with the stirrings of her heart toward God. How would you react? What would you do?

The book is about so much more than just dealing with loss—whether physical, material or emotional. It’s about forgiveness and triumphing over setbacks; it’s about faith and becoming more than you thought you could ever be; and it’s ultimately about hope and the sufficiency of God.

Are you in a storm? What’s bearing down on you today? A natural disaster or a relational earthquake? What’s looming on your horizon—a financial hurricane or a medical tsunami?

Where are you in the storm’s path? Do you see a storm coming your way? Are you in eye of the storm? Or are you dealing with the tattered pieces, like the quilt in Beyond the Storm, of the storm’s devastation?

How have you coped thus far? Is that working? In the midst of your storm, have you found the peace, strength and comfort Zane depicts in Beyond the Storm? Or are you in a spiritual firestorm right now?
I’d love to hear your story. For an inspirational read, I encourage you to seek out Beyond the Storm. Let me know what you think.

Praying Godspeed and blessings upon wherever you find yourself today,

Loving Me Some Autumn

It’s October and finally beginning to feel like autumn. Autumn is special–my favorite season—and we shouldn’t let it pass us by without a celebration.

So I’ve ventured to the Farmer’s Market—one of my favorite autumn activities—and decorated the exterior of my house.

Autumn is my excuse for buying mums, pumpkins, chai tea, apples and apple cider. Farmers from the Blue Ridge and Great Smokies come to Raleigh and sell from their mountain orchards a variety of apples, perfect for applesauce or pie.

When my girls were small, every autumn we planned a long weekend to a different corner of NC and camped. Okay, my version of camping—renting a cabin with electricity, indoor plumbing and preferably close to a larger lodge to which to walk for all meals.

But we had a fireplace, made s’mores and I lugged some of my favorite autumnal children’s books with me to read aloud to them in front of the fire and after the s’mores. Books like Miss Suzy by Miriam Young from my own childhood; Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey; and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen—which we re-enacted all over the cabin.

These weekends included hikes to lacy, cascading waterfalls and picking our own bushel of apples from a local orchard. We tried to do something for everyone so for mom that included visits to mountain quilt shops.

But with busy, social butterfly teenage girls, my mountain vacation has been reduced for now to a stay-cation involving a stolen afternoon with the girls and a trip to the Farmer’s Market. This year, we bought Magna-bonum’s (ranked as one of the ten greatest Southern apples) and here’s the apple pie that resulted.

How do you celebrate the arrival of autumn? I’d love for you to share your memories and what traditions you built with your families.

If you’d like a list of my favorite autumnal children’s books to share with your children and grandchildren or to try my Foolproof Piecrust and apple pie recipe, email me at

Harnessing Your Inner Olympian Part 2

Journey of the Heart—Olympic Moments from the Word

I Corinthians 9:25-27

Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way as not without aim; I box in such a way as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

One quality that Olympic athletes have in common is focus. They run, they box, they ride horses and they swim to win a perishable medal of metal.

Another quality that Olympic athletes have in common is their ability to control or discipline their bodies, minds and desires in light of higher goals. Every morning before the crack of dawn—since childhood—they’ve left the comforts of their beds and homes to swim long, lonely laps in chilly pools; to work out at the gym; or fit in one more vault before school or work. Many of them have worked at menial jobs so they could pay the bills and continue to practice, practice and perfect their skills until the coming of the Games.

Unlike them, I am undisciplined in a lot of ways. I lack self-control in regards to food. I work too much. I exercise too little. And in spiritual matters, I don’t pray or study my Bible enough.

In other words, I don’t like to sweat or consume the right kind of fuel . . .

How about you? (Or are you really going to leave me hanging out here in True Confession land all by myself?)

And I, as a believer, should live and move and have my being for an imperishable crown of glory.

But too often, I live without “aim.” Without self-control, my best intentions result only in a “beating of the air.” Lest I be “disqualified” from the prize, I, like the athletes, need to learn to live like I mean it.

Here’s a game plan for me:

Crack of dawn walks combined with prayer? Okay, maybe 7 a.m.
Portion control? The chocolate is for medicinal purposes only . . . .
Shutting off the television and putting down a good book (Hey—we all have our own vices.) for the best Book of all?

What would living like you mean it look like in your life? What’s your game plan for pursuing higher goals?

Harnessing Your Inner Olympian

Journey of the Heart—Olympic Moments From the Word

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” I Corinthians 9:24

The Apostle Paul was an avid sports fan like many Americans glued to their televisions watching the 30th Olympiad during the opening ceremony. How about that new Bond girl?

In listening to athletes from all over the globe relate their stories of personal sacrifice and what it took to bring them to this moment—the hope for fame and glory—I am struck by one quality no matter nationality that they share in common with each other.

Their focus. An intense, what-they-are-living-for focus.

And as a believer, I am left to ask myself the same question—What am I living for? Today? This week? This year? This God-given lifetime?

Where have I placed my focus, my energy, my priorities?
How about you? What are you living for? What is the focus of your life? Is it eternal? Is your focus set on “things above“? Colossians 3:1-3

I should live no less intensely “in Christ, the hope of glory“? Colossians 1:27

Real hope. Real glory. Everlasting glory.

How can I renew my focus?
Will you join with me this week as I share a few Olympic-sized thoughts from the Word?
Time to put my Word-based, Game face on.

“For this purpose I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” Colossians 1:29

What about you?

And Your Children Thought They Had It Bad . . .

A few Mother’s Day thoughts from my children:

You know your mother is a writer when . . .

1. She won’t stop typing words into those PRETEND PEOPLE’S mouths to fix dinner.

2. You have to remind her when she adds “Laney” to her Christmas list that Laney isn’t A REAL PERSON.

3. She’s tired and grumpy because those PRETEND PEOPLE talking in her head kept her awake all night.

4. You enter her office to find her sobbing because one of her PRETEND PEOPLE died.

5. You’ve spent the last ten minutes explaining about your best friend’s tragic social life with her first boyfriend and how that relationship has come to an end—Your mom’s head pops up, her Mac-focused eyes bleary—because you only managed to snag her attention on the words, THE END.

Feel free to share this sad tale with your children when they complain about you or your job or how you are the most unfair mother on earth.

Because it could be worse. They could be the children of a writer . . .

This has been a public service announcement from the children of writer mothers everywhere.

So sit back. Enjoy the flowers. And the dinner. The hugs and the love. You deserve it, moms.

And remind them—sweetly—that as long as they hand over the chocolate, nobody has to get hurt.

Happy Mother’s Day, ya’ll.

Encouraging Words—How Do You Know?

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Job 19:25

Twelve years ago this week, my husband and I learned that our unborn, second child had died. We were able to see the baby on the ultrasound, perfectly formed but still and motionless. For eight weeks and one day we had made plans and dreamed dreams for this child.

And that is what we grieved for— the hugs and kisses lost, the birthday parties, the smiles and laughter, the life with this child that would never be. We spent the next few days realizing we would not see this child again on this side of eternity.

That February 4, 1998 I cried myself to sleep in the wee hours of the lonely night, begging God to make our baby live, to change His mind. At five a.m., a robin’s sweet call pierced through the early morning darkness and awakened me. And I knew the answer to my prayer.

The answer, God’s answer, was a gentle and final no. But as light illuminated the blue velvet sky, peace, not despair, enveloped me and I knew despite my sadness, I wouldn’t walk this path alone.

Many of you have suffered your own personal griefs. One dear, elderly lady shared with me something that has often helped me walk in faith ever since, even in the times of brokenness when hope and trust battle against bitterness and anger. She said, “Life is not easy. Life hurts. But God is good. Know that He knows and He loves you devotedly.”

There have been other times when His answer was wait. That may be the hardest answer of all. Perhaps you’ve been here, too, with finances, health issues, or relationship problems.

And in the land of waiting, I’ve had to tie a knot in the end of my rope of faith and just hang on to what I knew in my head—until my heart could catch up.

But sometimes God says yes. On February 4, 1999 once again at five a.m. I sat in the darkness and a robin’s sweet call pierced the stillness of the night. Streaks of light illumined the sky, but this time I rocked our new baby, our third child, in my arms.

With a sudden clarity at the sound of the bird’s bittersweet ecstasy, I recalled another dark night exactly one year prior. How far my family and I had traveled in the space of one short year. How beautiful and timely God had added this grace note to my life.

That week a mommy friend sent me a note congratulating us on our baby’s birth. She had grieved with me along that journey of pain. Her card simply read, “God is so good.”

He was good that day as I rocked my new baby. God was also good during that previous year of pain, too. My Redeemer, my Rock, my Shepherd, my Peace.

How did I know my Redeemer did, indeed, live? In His Word he promised to comfort, strengthen and guide through the good and the bad times. And He was faithful.

He met me in my hour of dark uncertainty. I know—because the grave is empty and He holds me, all my children, you and yours, in the nail-scarred palms of His hands.

Do you have your own personal experience of God’s goodness, that your Redeemer lives?

How do you know?

An Encouraging Word: One Word—Restoration

Journey of the Heart

Recently, I asked my Precepts class share one word that God had put into their lives for 2012. Here are some of the results:
Do any of these words resonate with you in 2012?

In the middle of writing Aloha Rose for publication in 2013, one word that keeps cropping up in my characters’ lives is restoration. All of us with our disabilities and dysfunctions—physical, emotional, relational or spiritual—can find restoration when we come to Jesus. We bring to Him the decay of love, the root of bitterness, our pain at moral failure or the sorrow of loneliness.

Like the story of the man with the withered hand in Mark 3, we must first come. And our attitude must be one of expectancy. Our response must be one of obedience as Jesus told the man to, “Stretch out your hand.” Mark 3:5 And he stretched it out and his hand was restored.

The man with the withered hand had an aching need for God to do something, anything to make him whole. And there in our disability and dysfunction, in the midst of our personal baggage and sin issues, we find His divine ability. He comes to us with grace and healing.

Guilt meets His forgiveness. Confusion meets His peace. Loneliness meets His companionship. The lost find His direction.

What is withered in your life? What is hurt and wounded? Is there a need for restoration in your life this year?

What one word would God speak into your life for 2012?

An Encouraging Word

Journey of the Heart

I sent my two daughters off to school today. Middle and high school—tough crowds. Where not having the right shoes, the right clothing, the right lunch box can doom you to outcast status. The world and people are brilliant at tearing us down, making us feel small and ‘not enough.’

I remember bursting into tears as a teenager getting ready for school one morning because my hair and the curling iron wouldn’t cooperate and form a partnership. Hence, my adult preference for what God actually gave me—straight hair. Hair = acceptance, popularity, all that was bright and beautiful in the world.

And this is true for all of us, not just the hormonally challenged although at my age . . .

So I’ve made it a habit to give my girls an encouraging word before they head out the door each morning.

“That color looks great on you, Corinne.”

“I like what you’ve done to your hair, Kathryn.”

This habit has done wonders for their self-esteem, their ability to face an often hostile and critical world. I love the way Aiblileen, in The Help, tells Mae Mobley every day, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

We, I, could use an encouraging word every day. How about you?

So here goes—You are loved. You are so important to Jesus that He died so He could spend all the time in the world and beyond with you.

You are abso-flipping gorgeous, baby.

So, get out there. Have at it. Pass it on. Have a marvelously wonderful day.

Ephesians 4:29 “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”