Christmas Challenges – Putting on Armor

IMG_0017It’s overcast outside.  Yesterday it rained all day long!  It feels like the weather has been a reflection of the emotions that I’m fighting right now.  Dreariness…discouragement…disappointment…and a bit of disillusionment.  

These are not emotions that I’m proud of…but they are real…and sometimes they are vicious.  They wake me up at night.  They torment me during my quiet moments.  They disturb my conversations.  Somehow, they seem to be at their “best” during the holiday season.

They sit on my shoulder and continually tell me lies.  Lies like…

  • …you are failing.
  • …no one appreciates you.
  • …what you are doing doesn’t really matter…you aren’t making a difference.
  • …your struggles are so much more difficult than everyone else’s.
  • …relationships aren’t worth the struggle and effort.
  • …protect yourself at all costs.
  • …no matter what you do, it will never be good enough.
  • …you are alone.
  • …things have changed, they will never be the same

And I respond with more questions of my own…questions that have lies cleverly disguised within them.

  • …When will life ever get easier?
  • …When will anything I plan go as I planned?
  • …Do others even notice what I do?
  • …Why doesn’t anyone ever say thank you?
  • …Why in the world did I choose to go into ministry?
  • …Why do I always feel like I’m the one left holding the bag?
  • …When will buying Christmas presents NOT be stressful?
  • …Why am I struggling while others appear to be thriving?
  • …Does anyone really know what it’s like?
  • …Why doesn’t anyone even notice that I’m struggling?
  • …Why must I always be the the strong one?
  • …Why does life have to constantly be changing?

The other day I asked a couple of my friends to pray for me…to pray that I could find my armor.  I was struggling…struggling with all the things  I have listed above and feeling like I was struggling with all of them simultaneously.  You know, sometimes to survive life, you need a good suit of armor.  Fortunately, I know where to find that armor.  The problem is that sometimes I just feel too tired to put it on…too tired to even look for it…and sometimes, too tired to even remember that I have been given armor. And yet, the most amazing armor is waiting for me…

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God,so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:10-18

Sometimes I think the battle would be easier if I could *see* the enemy.  But instead, so many times, the enemy is unseen and seems to actually be my own mind and my own thoughts.  It takes putting on the “belt of truth“…telling myself God’s truth and turning away from the lies that I hear in my head. The “sword of the Spirit” contains the truth and when I wield that sword, I can silence the enemy…I can silence my own mind and thoughts.

I know that to be true.  You probably know that too!  But sometimes amidst difficult circumstances, disciplining myself to put on the armor is difficult.  This season is a busy time…a complicated time…a stressful time.  It has a way of magnifying trials and challenges. Before long, I can find myself discouraged, disillusioned and disappointed in myself, in my life, and in those around me.

But I’m really working at it this year…working at disciplining my mind and my heart to focus on God’s truth.  Sometimes I’m more successful than others and sometimes I fail miserably.  One thing that is helping me this year, is to methodically take my thoughts “in hand” when they start veering to the negative…to the self-pity. Instead of cutting myself slack and allowing myself to wallow for even a bit, I’m deliberately and quickly turning my focus on things for which I am thankful and I’ve been verbalizing those things out loud to others.  That probably sounds corny…but it is making a difference…at least for me it is.

Just this afternoon I came home from trying to squeeze the life out of an impossible Christmas budget (I’m sure you are too)…I was discouraged and frustrated on many levels and for many reasons.  When I got home, John asked how I was doing and I had to admit that I was struggling with a root of bitterness.  He took my face in his hands and acknowledged that he has been feeling the same way over the past few days.  But, he also reminded me that even with all the trials and challenges that we have faced the past few years…health, job, finances, major disappointments and more…that he wouldn’t trade our life or our family for anything.  We both ended up laughing.  It was like “seeing through a glass darkly” and then seeing the circumstances face to face…in the light of eternity.

I know I’m not the only one struggling with emotions this time of year.  Maybe we can lift each other up?  Maybe we can help one another put on the armor needed to walk through the season victoriously…to walk through Christmas seeing HIM face to face…

What are the words to that old song?

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will go strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.

So I’m going to keep trying to put on the belt of truth and wield that “sword of the Spirit” which is the Word of God.  I want to walk victoriously this Christmas season.  I want to focus on the right things.  I don’t want to waste time or energy on things that would keep me from seeing what is most important during this season.  I have a feeling if I do that I will gain a new perspective on my life and my circumstances.  

What about you?


Ramblings on Storms, Babies, Awe and Gratitude

The sun is just starting to at least cast a glow through the heavy clouds and snow.  I look out the front window and it’s hard to tell how much snow has fallen so far because the wind has been blowing all night.  I can’t see the horses in the corral so I’m assuming they are huddled together in the barn stalls and oh boy, there will be some digging out to do out there so that we can get those doors shut again.  Our best guess is that we have 8-9 new inches on top of the 6 that was left over from the last storm.  They are predicting another 6-10 throughout the day today.  It looks like it is going to be a very white winter here this year.  Not complaining….all this moisture will come in handy during the summer dry season when our state has been so plagued by fires.

I woke up early this morning.  No special reason.  My eyes just opened around 4 a.m.  I tried to go back to sleep but about 4:20, I gave up, walked upstairs and made the coffee and settled in for some quiet moments.  We put up the Christmas tree last night.  It’s stunning.  One of the most beautiful and perfectly shaped trees that I have ever seen.  It was just the three of us putting up the tree.  The numbers keep dwindling.  This year Jordan is living down in Denver and between his schedule and our schedule, I knew we would never get the tree up if we waited on a common day for all four of us.  I wanted to be sure we got it up relatively early since we have a production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe on the 13th and 14th.  But mostly, because I know that at any time, we could get the call from John Michael and Windy telling us that Windy is in labor down in Atlanta and Christmas in Colorado will be over.  Yep, we are going to do our best to beat “Little Lane” arrival.  Should be interesting…and probably stressful….but “stress is a choice right.”

When Jeremy and Jessica had Emma we made it to the hospital in Los Angeles just in time.  As I walked in, Jeremy came out to get me.  I was shocked.  They wanted me and Jessica’s mother in the delivery room. Now I couldn’t have done that in a million years…but I’m OH SO GRATEFUL that they desired that.  I was a bit unsure of myself when I walked in and just quietly watched, listened and helped as each opportunity arose. And when Emma finally arrived, I felt an overwhelming sense of awe and gratitude.  Awe that God had allowed another precious little one to join our family…awe at the miracle of birth…awe that my son was now a daddy….gratitude that momma and baby were both healthy…gratitude that I had been able to be a part of the whole experience.  There weren’t any words for the way I was feeling.  And, I was still quiet…because there were no words.

Birth has always been kind of a quiet experience for me.  It’s such a miracle.  For the momma, it takes alot of concentration and work.  The daddy is quietly giving comfort and reassurance.  At least that was my experience all four times.  I wanted the room and the atmosphere quiet and peaceful.  When our first son was born we had Christmas music playing…Handel’s Messiah to be exact.  He (John Michael) wasn’t due until January 3rd but he arrived on December 20th…on our second wedding anniversary.  John Michael and Windy’s “Little Lane” is due on December 23rd. So excited!  It’s really kind of surreal that that they are having a baby so close to the time when John and I had our first son….who is now going to be the daddy to “Little Lane.”  It’s made me pretty reminiscent…and once again filled with awe and gratitude.  God has surely blessed our family.  We have had our fair share of struggles and trials.  At times, I think both John and I thought we had MORE than our fair share of struggles and trials.  But when I see the family that God has blessed us with…starting with the heritage that comes from my precious mom and John’s amazing mom and dad, to our four boys, to their spouses and now to grandchildren…all I can feel is awe and gratitude.

Those that don’t know me very well see the “work” that I do with Artios…and I love what I do believe me.  But honestly, all I ever wanted was a husband that loved me unconditionally, who would raise our children to love God and to want to live to glorify Him, and children who would seek after God with all their heart, all their soul and all their mind. As I watch that reality, I am filled with awe and gratitude.  As I’ve grown older, my dream expanded to include spouses for my boys…spouses who would also love God with all their heart, all their soul and all their mind and then, who would love my boys with everything inside of them…who would complete them.  As I watch that reality, I am filled with awe and gratitude.  Now, as God is blessing us with grandchildren, my dream expands yet again.  I want for them the greatest gift of all…a personal relationship with the God of the Universe.  I pray for that even now!

I am filled with awe and gratitude because I know from whence I came…I know the mistakes I’ve made, the sins I’ve committed…and I know how GREAT God’s grace is to have saved me, set my feet upon a rock and directed my path even when I didn’t even know He was there.  I am filled with awe and gratitude because I know that there is nothing I could do to deserve that grace…

and that’s why they call it grace…it is unmerited.  

Awe and Gratitude!  Yep…that pretty  much sums it up.

A Pumpkin Pie Emergency


(not mine…but mine looks this good!)

One HUGE trip to the grocery store…followed by one EXTRA-LARGE trip to the same store, and I still came home with out 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk for the very important pumpkin pies.

Now I could certainly go without pumpkin pie.  I literally hate the texture of pumpkin pie…BUT, I have one son whose Thanksgiving is not complete without pumpkin pie and A LOT of it.

Realizing I didn’t have the sweetened condensed milk, we began searching all the cupboards for evaporated milk.  The recipe did say that I could use evaporated milk IF I added 1 to 1 1/2 cups of sugar to it.  After searching the pantry downstairs and ALL the cupboards upstairs.  We came up with one can of evaporated milk that had expired in 2009 and one can that had expired in the middle of September 2013.  I threw out the can from 2009 but decided to take my chances with the can from September of 2013.

This left me one can short.

So, what may seem like common sense to you seemed like a risk to me but I went ahead and filled up 2/3 of the empty evaporated milk can with regular milk, poured it into the mixing bowl and added 1 and 2/3 cup of sugar…crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

In the past, given that we live at 9450 feet above sea level, up in the Rocky Mountains, I’ve had some trouble with pumpkin pies setting properly.  But I am THRILLED to tell you, that despite the makeshift ingredients, these two pumpkin pies are the best pumpkin pies I have ever made and they set perfectly.

Whew…one Thanksgiving Day cooking miracle down…and, well, I hope that’s the only cooking miracle I need today! : )

Perfect Roast Turkey

When we first got married, I was petrified of cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.  My experiences with turkey had not been all that positive.  I used to call it the “meat made my teeth squeak”…meaning for whatever reason, I perceived that turkey was dry.  Now grant it, this was MY perception and none of my other family members remember it being that way.  Nevertheless, my past left me terrified of cooking turkey.

THEN, the heavens opened, and this recipe fell into my lap and not only have I never had a bad turkey experience but I also have at least one person each year contact me for the recipe.  So, I thought I would share it with you.

It comes from a little paperback recipe book that I found years ago titled, Holiday Meals, by Sue Gregg.  I must admit that I omit her stuffing suggestion and I add the pepper and garlic powder…but for the most part, I have stayed true to her original recipe.

Perfect Roast Turkey

AMOUNT:  Allow 3/4 to 1 lb. per serving for turkey under 12 lbs. or 1/2 to 3/4 lb. per serving for turkey over 12 lbs.


  • 300 degrees preheated, Roast 1 hour, uncovered
  • 180 to 185 degrees, Roast 45-60 minutes per lb.


1.  Wash turkey thoroughly, including cavities (remove neck and giblets) and pat dry with paper towels.

2.  Rub the entire turkey with olive oil.

3.  Salt, pepper, and sprinkle garlic powder all over the turkey including the cavities.

4.  Place turkey BREAST SIDE DOWN on rack in roasting pan.

5.  Place meat thermometer in meaty portion of bird, not touching bone.

6.  Place in oven preheated to 300 degrees.   This is very important in order to kill bacteria.  Roast 1 hour at 300 degrees.

7.  Reduce heat to 180-185 degrees, roast 45-60 minutes per lb.  (three times the standard time per lb.)  Larger birds will require the longer cooking time per lb.

8.  Roast until meat thermometer registers 190 degrees.

(Here is a little hint from me!  As you near the time the bird it to be done, I raise the temp on the oven back to 300 degrees to get a golden skin on the bird and to be doubly sure that I reach the 190 degree mark.)

And there you have it.  It is so easy that people can’t believe it.  I actually start the bird the night before Thanksgiving and once I’ve completed the one hour at 300 degrees, I turn it down to 185 and go to bed.  The smell of delicious roast turkey wakes me up the next morning.  (depending on the size of the bird of course)

Nothing like having the “main event” complete itself overnight.

Try it and let me know how it works!







Catching Up With Thankfulness

I am a big proponent of writing things down in a journal.  That principle applies to Scripture that touches my heart, goals that I have, things to pray about, things I have to do, and yes, things I am thankful for.  As usual, I’ve fallen behind this month in documenting those things that I’m thankful for…but I have definitely been pondering it.  Sometimes when you read lists like this, from the outside looking in, the list can appear trite.  But, I assure you…these are all things for which I am eternally grateful.  I did Days 1-3 in the last post…so, I’ll begin with Day 4.

Day Four – I am thankful and amazed that God reached down and saved me…saved me when I had nothing to offer and nothing good to bring before Him.

Day Five – I am thankful that God made each of my sons so unique and different from one another because He had unique and different callings and purposes for each of them.

Day Six – I am thankful that I am getting “older”….(notice I didn’t say “old)…because with growing “older” comes the ability to look back and definitively see God’s hand at work…orchestrating each and every event in my life.

Day Seven – I am thankful that I have the ability to work in ministry/business with my family.

Day Eight – I am thankful that my children love their God and are seeking His face.

Day Nine – I am thankful that God has allowed me to live in the state of Colorado…the state that brings me the most peace and contentment…and that I can be surrounded by such incredible evidence of God’s creativity each and every day.

Day Ten – I am thankful that we finally have a church in our area that we can attend knowing that God’s word will be preached each and every Sunday.

Day Eleven – I am VERY grateful that our third son, after struggling with illness for several years, appears to be on the upswing.

Day Twelve – I am SO grateful for my mom and the sacrifices that she made so that I could have such an incredible educational experience and training growing up.

Day Thirteen – I am thankful that I have a piano in my home on which I can practice and through which I can communicate with some of my deepest emotions.

Day Fourteen – I am thankful for the team of people that God has put together in the ministry of Artios Academies.

Day Fifteen – I am thankful that God brought Windy to my son John.  She is his perfect completer…and a wonderful addition to our family.

Day Sixteen – I am thankful that God brought Jessica to my son Jeremy.  She is his loving helpmeet…and such a joy to watch as a wife and mother.

Day Seventeen – I am thankful for our granddaughter Emma…and for the joy she brings to each of us as we experience life anew through her eyes.

Day Eighteen – I am thankful for the new grandbaby that will join us in December…I would tell you her name…but it’s a secret! : )

Day Nineteen – I am thankful for the new grandbaby that will join us in March.

Day Twenty – I am thankful for John Michael and the way he has allowed God to use him in the lives of young people as a positive influence and role model….and the way God has used him in our lives as an encourager and a colleague.

Day Twenty-one – I am thankful for Jeremy…for his desire to do the right thing and for his strong and determined spirit to be what he needs to be to his wife and children…and the way God has used Jeremy in our lives to inspire and challenge.

Day Twenty-two – I am thankful for Jordan…for his teachability and his strong desire to follow God’s leading in his life no matter what the cost…and for the way he has been willing to walk alongside us through good times and bad…and for him being such a great big brother to Jared.

Day Twenty-three – I am thankful for Jared…for his constant joy in every area of life…for his excitement and enthusiasm…and for the way he desires to study Scripture in depth and on his own at such an early age.

Day Twenty-four – I am thankful for my “in-laws” and the way they have welcomed me into their family unconditionally…and for their friendship and guidance over the years.

Day Twenty-five – I am thankful that God supplied an office space for us to have outside of our home so that we could have the work space we needed without it invading our tiny house.

That catches me up…but I assure you…I could easily write more.  God has been faithful to me…even when I have not been faithful to me….and for that…I am also grateful.

No Cooking with Grandma this Week


This week there won’t be a “Cooking with Grandma” post as I’m traveling and interacting with 140 kids from the various Artios campuses while we are all attending the High School Fine Arts Competition in Greenville, SC.  But, hopefully, I’ll be back up on that series two weeks from today when I’m back home and in my own kitchen again.

In the meantime, I wanted to publicly do what I’m privately doing during the month of November and that is to each day focus specifically on different things that I am thankful for. It has been said that one can’t be worried or anxious if one is focused on having a heart of gratitude and thankfulness.  I have been trying this consistently over the past couple of years, and although I am far from perfect at doing it, I do know that when I put the principle into practice, it does prove itself to be true.

The following are in no particular order.  Once again, I’m writing in “stream of consciousness” style.

Day One – I am grateful for the balcony people in my life.  These are those people that instead of negatively criticizing or complaining about me consistently inspire and cheer me on.  It’s like being on the “playing field” and looking up in the stands and seeing a group of people specifically cheering and encouraging you.  That means SO much!

Day Two – I am grateful for a husband that has been and continues to be my number one “balcony person.”  It takes a strong man to lead a strong woman.  So thankful that God provided me with a man that has what it takes to lead me and while leading to also be an encouragement to me.  Over the years, I’ve seen alot of examples of men that were looked at as “strong leaders” simply because they had strong and sometimes even overbearing personalities but i I never saw them demonstrate servant leadership or the type of leadership in the home described in Scripture as “loving your wife more than your own body.”  So very thankful to have a husband who is a strong man who wasn’t scared off by a strong woman.  He has raised sons that are demonstrating that same type of leadership in their own homes and lives…which makes me doubly grateful.

Day Three – I am thankful that God gave me a passion to work with and around young people and that every day of my life, I am given the opportunity to use that passion.

I probably won’t post every day this month…but will try and post from time to time and share with you the things I am thankful for as we lead up to Thanksgiving.

Faith and Courage, Lori

Cooking with My Grandma: Apple Brown Betty


Since I’m new to this whole “hobby” thing, I think that my posting on the site in the area of “Cooking with My Grandma” will probably only be once a week.  With life being so fast paced, travel for Artios, and two grandbabies coming, I think once a week is something I can be consistent in.

SO today, I’m baking Apple Brown Betty.  It looked easy, quick and had ingredients that almost everyone has on time all the time.  I hadn’t really heard of this dessert before seeing it in my great-grandmother’s handwriting on a piece of paper.  So, I looked up a bit of history of the dish  on Although the history was still a big vague, the recipe appears to have been around for quite some time.

All I needed for ingredients were:


5 Granny Smith or Gala Apples

4 cups of dried bread crumbs/cubes (I chopped up white sandwich bread into small cubes)

1 cup of brown sugar

1/2 cup butter – melted

1/2 cup lukewarm water

1 tsp. cinnamon (I always add more than listed)

1/2 tsp. salt


First thing I did was chop up the bread so that it could dry out some while I was doing the rest of the dish. Here in Colorado, things dry out quickly so I didn’t have to wait long.


I then used my apple corer to core and slice the apples and then chopped and diced them up with the peel on. This recipe said to leave the peels on, so I did!


I melted a stick of butter in the microwave for about 40 seconds and then poured it over the bread crumbs that I had drying in a bowl.

I also added the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon to the apples that I had sitting in a separate bowl and mixed all of them together.

In a 2 quart baking dish, I put a layer of apple mixture, followed by a layer of bread crumbs and repeated this until the dish was full.  Then, I poured the 1/2 cup of lukewarm water over the entire dish.



Then I slid it into a 350 degree preheated oven and set the timer for 40 minutes.

It was easy, inexpensive.  I have a feeling my great-grandmother probably did made this recipe quite often given how frugal it is.

Apple Brn Betty EAO1Apple Brn Betty EAO2_0001