Monday, January 14, 2019

The Snowy Day

I just discovered a lovely book perfect for this time of year!  Andrea Davis Pinkney is one of our favorite authors, and she wrote "A Poem for Peter", a picture book history of Ezra Jack Keat's "The Snowy Day".  And what better snack to accompany those books than snowflake shortbread?!?

Snowflake Shortbread
(from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook 1989)
serves 16

1 1/4 all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a mixing bowl combine flour and sugar.  Cut in butter till mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling.  Stir pecans into the mixture, then sprinkle with vanilla and mix again.  Press dough into shortbread pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until firm and lightly brown. Let cool slightly, then invert pan on a cutting board and bang hard until it comes out.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Fighting for Joy

"The fight for joy in God, through every bright and dismal circumstance of life, is the essential key in my mission for a life of authentic holiness, and fruitful perseverance, where God gets the glory."  ~John Piper

Almost eleven years ago, early in my blogging journey, I posted Piper's list of ways to fight for joy.  I find myself going back to this list over and over, not because of guilt, but because it is a practical list of ways to be healthy and whole and fight for God's joy in our lives.

Stepping outside to enjoy the sunrise in my own backyard and to marvel at God's creation is a conduit to joy.  Spending time with "God-saturated people" (even if it's only to borrow a science book that I can't find on my own shelf) is a pathway to joy.  Going for a bike ride with my husband is yet another channel to funnel joy into my life.

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.  You know that under pressure, you faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.  So don't try to get out of anything prematurely.  Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."  James 1:2-4 (MSG)

Let's be people who fight for joy, who also encourage each other not to "try to get out of anything prematurely" but to persevere and to endure and to thrive as God does His work in our lives.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Friday Favorite Five

Cue the music!  "Be Still My Soul" by Kari Jobe, or if you prefer, an acapella version by Eclipse 6.  Either way, you can't beat the encouraging words and Sibelius' tune to bring peace into your day.

1)  Sally Clarkson's blog and podcasts.  I love her heartbeat for the home!  Here's just the tip of the iceberg from her blog bio:  "Home is the place where the whispers of God’s love are heard regularly, the touch of His hands is given intentionally throughout the day, the words of His encouragement and affirmation pointed to lay the foundation of loving relationships where the mother conducts the beauty of this life within its walls."

2)  Free grocery pickup.  This service prods me to plan my meals ahead, and it prevents decision fatigue, too!  No longer do I come home with more than the items on my list.  The employees have learned that I like to bring my own reusable bags, so they often take the groceries out of the plastic bags ahead of time.  We've discovered a Steelers fan in one of the employees, too.  It's quick and easy, and I hardly ever have to go inside the store now.

3)  Sarah's new blog.  She's journaling her thoughts and experiences while studying abroad in Uganda this semester, and I'm loving seeing the world through her mature eyes.  It's lovely to watch my kids blossom.

4)  This very fun article on coffee and sports.  Two things that bring smiles into my life and give me a forum to connect with others.

5)  My mop with a washable head.  I use this tool almost every day, and I think I'm going to buy one to take back to the village with me.

Happy Friday!  What are some of your favorite things going into the weekend?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Animal Shelter

Our girls always look forward to Thursdays, because it's the day they volunteer at the local animal shelter.  Nothing like helping out by doing something you love to do!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019


Epiphany this year was quiet and more hidden.  I think that might be our theme for the upcoming year.  We've already returned all of our library books about the Wise Men and Stars.  

Without Sarah here, we chose a simple lemon ginger poundcake (one of our old favorites).  Olivia found baby Jesus in her slice.  As we think about the magi and the gifts they presented, we are grateful for the gifts of playing together as a family and for pound cake and most of all for Jesus.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Mustard greens are in season right now, and WOW are they yummy!  We used Martha Stewart's simple recipe, and the veggies disappeared quickly.

Saturday, January 5, 2019


The anthropologist Ashley Montagu coined the word "psychosclerosis": the hardening of the attitudes.  What a perfect description!  As I get older, I feel this crustiness more easily begin to encroach on my heart. Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott have some suggestions for avoiding this dreaded disease in marriage:

1)  Look for the positive
2)  Refuse to be a victim
3) Give up grudges
4)  Give yourself and your marriage some grace

I would like to add "play together" to this list.  I found these mugs which describe us perfectly AND made us smile.  Having fun together, even planning to play, quickly gets lost in grocery shopping and bill paying and replacing the AC unit and all of the other things that life throws at us.  And that's when "psychosclerosis" sets in most easily.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."  Proverbs 17:22

Friday, January 4, 2019

These are a few of my favorite things...

Working together as "Team Choate" is one of my favorite things.  During the Christmas break, we tackled more of removing Johnny Appleseed from our kitchen walls.  Instead of plain ship lap, we unexpectedly found green paint!  We are definitely NOT home renovators, but something will have to change in this old kitchen before renters will be willing to live here while we are back in the Solomon Islands. 

We also found fragments of the very fragile original ivy covered wall paper from when the house was built in 1939.  One of the kids said it felt like watching the History Channel (which we've never had access to, so I'm not sure how our kids would know!) to peel off the layers.

We work together really well because our strengths and weaknesses complement each other, but we play together well, too!  Now that my college kids have been gone a few days, I'm extra grateful for the laughter we shared as a family of six.

Seafarers of Catan was a Christmas present from my mom, and we played it several times over Christmas break.

But by far my favorite thing to do as a family is sing.  One of the sweetest memories I have is listening to all four of our kids sing out of Sarah's Christmas carol book she copied in Marulaon Village.  Song after song in Lavukaleve spilled from their lips.  I know we are music nerds, but another favorite thing we did was to sight read our way through a new-to-us hymnbook that we are borrowing.  On New Year's Eve we sang this one together:

"Great God, we sing that mighty hand
By which supported still we stand;
The opening year thy mercy shows,
That mercy crowns it till it close."

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Yarnell Christmas

You can tell this crew is related.  Aaron's mom has left her beautiful mark on each of her grandkids (especially her granddaughters).  I'm so thankful that our families are willing to be flexible and celebrate before, during, and after Christmas so we can maximize our time with all of the people we love.

With Aaron's nephew home on leave from the military, and Aaron's uncle (whom I hadn't seen for years), this smaller side of the family had an even dozen to fill the house with laughter and banter as we caught up on each other's lives.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Choate Family Christmas

This last Christmas as a family of six looked a little bit different than usual.  Fewer gifts, more time together.  More soaking up each other's company knowing that this is it.  Sarah is in Uganda studying abroad this semester, and Benjamin is on his way back to JBU already.  So time was the best gift.  And time together helped us to really focus on the sweet gift of Jesus.

On Christmas Day, we realized that the whipping cream I had bought to top our traditional gingerbread waffles had accidentally all gone into Benjamin's birthday gingerbread ice cream.  So we ate leftover ice cream on top of our waffles.  Delicious!  The day was unusually sunny and warm, so we tackled the easy trails at Cadron Settlement Park on the beautiful Arkansas River to make a new family tradition.

Advent Sunday
by Christina Rossetti

Behold, the Bridegroom cometh: go ye out
With lighted lamps and garlands round about
To meet him in a rapture with a shout.

It may be at the midnight, black as pitch,
Earth shall cast up her poor, cast up her rich.

It may be at the crowing of the cock
Earth shall upheave her depth, uproot her rock.

For lo, the Bridegroom fetcheth home the Bride:
His Hands are Hands she knows, she knows His side.

Like pure Rebekah at the appointed place,
Veiled, she unveils her face to meet His Face.

Like great Queen Esther in her triumphing, 
She triumphs in the Presence of her King.

His Eyes are as a Dove's, and she's Dove-eyed;
He knows his lovely mirror, sister, Bride.

He speaks with Dove voice of exceeding love,
And she with love-voice of an answering Dove.

Behold, the Bridegroom cometh:  go we out
With lighted lamps and garlands round about
To meet him in a rapture with a shout.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Williams Christmas

"God knows intimately the shape of our own family tree, the crooked bends in our very own branches, and so He sends us a rescuer from a gnarled and mighty tree of His own design."  ~Kris Camealy, "Come Lord Jesus"

 I love having a large extended family, even when everybody can't come "home" for Christmas.

I love crazy aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and siblings 

all rolled up into a big, chaotic bundle of joy.

Four generations of gifts and games

food and fun.

"At the epicenter of our foolishness is a street-level denial of God -- not philosophical atheism, 

but a denial of our need for God and a belief that we can live life on our own."  

I'm so grateful I don't have to live life on my own and that God provides some pretty amazing people to share life with me.

Monday, December 31, 2018

"I suggest we are better givers than getters, not because we are generous people but because we are proud, arrogant people.  The Christmas story -- the one according to Luke not Dickens -- is not about how blessed it is to be givers but about how essential it is to see ourselves as receivers.  We prefer to think of ourselves as givers -- powerful, competent, self-sufficient, capable people whose goodness motivates us to employ some of our power, competence and gifts to benefit the less fortunate.  Which is a direct contradiction of the biblical account of the first Christmas.  There we are portrayed not as the givers we wish we were but as the receivers we are.  Luke and Matthew go to great lengths to demonstrate that we -- with our power, generosity, competence and capabilities -- had little to do with God's work in Jesus."  ~Williams Willimon

We're beginning to catch our collective breath after a whirlwind week of celebrating Christmas.  Listening to Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" while we travel is a Christmas tradition in our family.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Christmas Caroling

Sweet times last night as we filled our bellies with hot soup then sang around our neighborhood and proclaimed Christ's birth with one of my orchestra colleagues and his family.  This may be my favorite Advent tag.  I know I say that with almost every tag we turn over.

Lentil and Chicken Sausage Stew

32 ounces chicken broth
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
3 fully cooked spicy chicken sausage links (2 ounces each), cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced (I usually double the garlic)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

In a 4 or 5 quart slow cooker, combine all ingredients.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours  or until lentils are tender.