Lessons from the Help

I finally broke down and did it. I watched the Help. I’d been trying to hold out until I’d had a chance to get my hands on a copy of the book, but that just hadn’t happened yet. The Library copy was always checked out, too. Sunday night we were going to curl up on the couch, eat our dinner just us {special moment — waiting till the kids are in bed to have a quiet meal and not have to simultaneously feed yourself and somebody else!} and watch a movie. Woop!

We trolled through the tons of movies on iTunes, youtube and Hulu, and after much discussion and deliberation, the Hubs finally said, “Why don’t we watch The Help? I mean it’s at least something you want to see — if we’re going to pay for it, let’s watch something we want to see.” I couldn’t argue with that logic, and I was rather pleased with the choice, so I agreed as fast as I could {before he changed his mind.}

I cried.

I for real cried.

I mean to tell you, I paused the movie to go find more tissues cried.


{image via google images}

Afterwards, I thought about all the interesting details, plot lines and unexpected moments, (I almost always ponder a film for at least a week after seeing it) and the next evening, for the first time in our close-to five years of marriage, I cooked fried chicken for dinner.

I think that might somehow be related.

But one interesting lesson the movie immediately brought to heart for me {how similar to the book was it, you friends who’ve read & watched? Did they butcher it?} was drawn from the beautiful relationship Aibileen has with the adorable little toddler she keeps, (and is basically raising) Mae Mobley.

From one of the earliest scenes in the film, you’re introduced to their relationship with Mae Mobley sitting on Aibileen’s lap, repeating these simple sentences:

I is kind.

I is smart.

I is important.

As the story developed and you began to see Mae Mobley’s (nearly non-existent) relationship with her mother, you began to ponder how much thought Aibileen might’ve put into the words she’d chosen to speak over Mae Mobley’s life from such a tender age.

{In case you aren’t familiar with the story, Mae Mobley’s mother, Elizabeth, seems unable to accept her daughter, and it seems that part of the reason is because she does not think she is pretty enough — she is pudgy and it seems her Mama finds her homely. Instead of praising Mae Mobley for her successful potty training, Elizabeth publicly disciplines her for climbing up onto a potty that has been placed on someone’s front yard as a result of a prank. ‘Keeping up appearances’ is consistently more important than relationship — and her child is not helping her ‘keep up appearances,’ so she has to reject her. Aibileen discusses the problematic relationship between Mae Mobley and her mother when she talks about her experiences as a black woman raising white children. (She concludes that Elizabeth should not have babies.)}

The interesting lesson this snippet of the bigger story drew me to think about was first, considering the importance of questioning who tells you who you are, and second, giving great thought to the words you choose to speak over your own children.

As a toddler, I would imagine Mae Mobley could only conclude that her mother’s neglect and disinterest in a relationship with her had to do with her own inadequacy. She wasn’t pretty enough, or smart enough, or basically important enough to warrant being picked up more than once a day or having her diaper changed before ‘the help’ arrived to take care of that chore.

You’d think your own mother would be a good source for information related to what you ought to believe about yourself — who you are and who you have the potential to become. But in this broken world, it’s sometimes the people who are closest to us who speak words to us that give us anything but life. Those words we carry around for decades that tell us we’re not good enough, we’re not smart enough, we’re not capable of succeeding — they often come from the mouths of the people we love the most. Sometimes they’re flippant and thoughtless comments, and sometimes they are intentionally hurtful statements. Either way, they tend to have a profound impact on us — and if we’re not careful, we can carry those words from cradle to grave, letting them tell us our can’s and our can’ts.

I heard the story of a girl who happened to be standing near her pastor at church one Sunday. After the congregation had sung a few worship songs, he turned to her, having never heard her sing before, and said, “You have an absolutely beautiful singing voice!”

She laughed and said, “No I don’t, I’m a terrible singer!”

He quickly asked, “Who told you that?”

“My mother. When I was a little girl, I walked into the kitchen singing one day, and I remember her turning to me and saying, ‘Stop singing! You have the worst singing voice in the world!'”

Perhaps this was just a flippant comment from a dead-on-her-feet mother with the pressures of life crowding her in. But the words planted a seed. The words left a scar. And the world was robbed of enjoying a beautiful voice for many years, because of the seed took root.

The fact that God just spoke the world into existence spurs me not to forget the power of words.

Could there be some words from your past that you need to let go of?

Or does anything you’ve said to someone else come to mind that you want to ask forgiveness for?

The irony is that the wisest words being spoken over little Mae Mobley’s life were the ones from a woman who didn’t have the privilege of an extended eduction. Don’t let the grammatical errors distract you from the beauty of the message. {Want to scroll back up and read it again?}

Who speaks words of life to you?


Book Review: Heaven is for Real

I‘d heard a bit of the story and for quite some time wanted to get my hands on a copy of Heaven is for Real. When I finally did a couple of weeks ago, I finished the book in a couple of days. It was just that good.

A five days overdue emergency appendectomy nearly took the life of Colton Burpo, a precious little boy just four years old at the time. As the months went by after his recovery, Colton’s parents began to discover that something astounding happened in those heart-wrenching moments when they nearly lost their son: Colton had an experience of heaven.

What would seem like a far-fetched tale was consistently (and incredibly) validated by many facts, including Colton’s knowledge of what was happening in other parts of the hospital while he was on the operating table, as well as events which took place before he was born.

Being a bit academically-wired by nature, this simple story, told from the point of view of Colton’s Pastor-Dad, challenged me to let go of the bother I have for the difficulty of reconciling what heaven could be like inside my finite mind. I sometimes don’t like thinking about heaven because I don’t know what to think. But if we’re willing to believe that heaven is absolutely worth thinking about, dreaming about, and looking forward to with great hope and anticipation, this belief will more accurately frame our understanding of our lives here and now — temporary, finite shadows of that glory which is to come.

{And won’t that change the way we live?}

I just thought I’d take a moment to let you know I loved this book in case you haven’t read it already, (thank you, Alison Dameron for letting me borrow it) and if you’re looking for some good reading and some great inspiration, grab a copy and dig in. {Here’s an Amazon link just in case: Heaven is for Real } I might read it one more time before I return it — it has just given me so much to think about.


How I Bake My Own Bread

When we got back to the States and I saw the cost of a nice loaf of bread, I was more than a little bummed. My awesome health insurance plan in South Africa gave us discounts on healthy food purchases {brilliant idea, American insurers, take this one up!} so we got really nice, healthy bread at a very fair price.

The Hubs bought some cheap bread at the Piggly Wiggly not long after we settled in, not knowing what he was signing up for. When he tried to spread some peanut butter over a slice and the bread tore, we knew we had a problem.

Cheap bread is full of yucky stuff, and cheap in the bad sense. Healthy bread is pricey. Where’s the third option, pray tell?

Shortly after this perpuzzlement, I heard a rave review (by the Nester) about a book called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and I asked my Mom for the book for Christmas. I also got a pizza stone from my Dad for Christmas, and a wood cutting board that has been helpful in the process. But neither of those are an absolutely necessity starting out.

I was hesitant to think it could possibly work out well, and pleasantly surprised when it did.

And when my awesome piano playing, great-cooking, tidy housing, homeschooling awesome awesome photo-taking (yes, I needed to say it twice) friend Hope asked about it, I suddenly realized I needed to share.

And then I got really excited and created a picture with text and if you pin it on pinterest I might wet my pants.



Anywho, about the book.

The premise is that you can mix together a nice heap of dough (the kind made from flour, not the cash) with the book’s very good instructions, and that probably takes ten or fifteen minutes, tops. And you can keep said dough in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to bake a loaf, you grab a chunk of the dough, shape it based on what you’re making, let it rest according to the recipe’s instructions (usually about 20-40 minutes while the oven and your pizza stone are preheating) and then you bake 30ish minutes, depending on the recipe. {That whole process probably takes five minutes of active effort. For me, maybe seven.}

And boo-yow. Yum.

So far I’ve just tried a few variations of the most basic recipe (I wanted to use white wheat flour once and I accidentally bought the wrong type of flour the first time because there was this gentleman at Walmart who used to be a chef and loves to bake and we had a really long conversation about the book, different types of flour, and the fact that I couldn’t find an oven thermometer. He came and found me again later and had an oven thermometer to drop in my cart.

{Thank you, dear Sir.}

I have really, really enjoyed this learning experience, and the fruit of it, so far.

My honest review?


  • The bread is really good. As in, it tastes really good. And I’m still just rocking the basic basic recipe. Pass the oil and balsamic, please.
  • It has just four basic ingredients: flour, yeast, kosher salt (usually) and warm water. (Which seems healthier, methinks, than all those funky ones I can’t pronounce.)
  • It is really an un-time-consuming process that could work for a Mom who gets home at 5 or a Mom who’s home all day. Or a Dad. Or grandma.
  • My Dad and I worked out some rough figures on the math and using a nice unbleached white flour I was probably averaging 40 cents per loaf. Mixing in some unbleached white wheat, I probably knock another 15 cents off. And up the health factor. Ka-chow!
  • One single batch of dough will make four loaves, which will stick around for about a week around here because I don’t make it every day. (You can easily double the recipe if you want more, and I think that’ll maybe add a minute or two to your mixing time.)
  • The book has a ton of recipes in it and I’ve just scratched the surface, trying to get the hang of things before I start getting fancy. {Watch out instagram!}
  • It works as bread for sandwiches — the bátard {appreciate that I looked up that special character just for you} is nice, though a bit holey sometimes. I haven’t tried doing it in a loaf pan yet, but apparently you can do that to. I’m just scared because I’m not sure if the loaf pan I inherited is a proper nonstick.
  • All the boys love this bread. The Hubs, the Bear, Tiger Tank — six thumbs up.


  • The loaves are smaller than I expected. They are, however, a good-sized accompaniment to a meal. A loaf will probably get finished if four adults are at the table. {You might want to just make two loaves and throw them in the oven together if you have a big family.}
  • Because the loaves are small, they go quickly. Baking a loaf of bread has become a part of my morning routine so that we have it for lunch. That may or may not work for you. {It doesn’t last for lunch the next day because we almost ALWAYS eat the rest of the loaf with dinner.} I’m still planning to get a bread maker to do sandwich loaves, but I will also keep doing this type of bread — sometimes for lunches, often as the perfect accompaniment to spaghetti and salad or curry and rice or… I haven’t found a meal it doesn’t play nicely with yet. Pass the oil and balsamic please.
  • It’s a learning process. Your first few loaves might be wonky. One of mine had a booty like J Lo.
  • It’s an investment, though not a ginormous one. The book, $13 used, a pizza stone if you really want to give it a proper go, though you can try it with a baking sheet for the first wee while if you want. They recommend a food grade storage container for keeping the dough in the fridge, but I’ve been using a really big pot with a lid, since it’s not supposed to be airtight anyway. I hope that’s allowed.
  • I feel like I should have more cons but I’m struggling to think of anything else.


So far, really good.

Here’s an early loaf awaiting its destiny:

Image 2

This may have been the one that had a booty. It tasted good anyway.

Image 1

My prettiest loaf so far accidentally flipped over when I was sliding it onto the pizza stone. I tried to flip it back, but it was stuck, so I just wet and slashed the other side. I prayed a little. It came out gorgeous.

Here’s a more recent one:

Image 3

Do you sense the improvement? Are you impressed?

And here’s today’s loaf, a bátard, which started all these shenanigans. {I posted it on instagram, which Facebooked it.}

Image 4

It would feel cheeky and morally wrong {not to mention probably disrespect the laws of copyright} to give you the recipe that these writers/bakers worked countless hours perfecting — and I also think you need all of the surrounding instructions from the book to give it a proper go. And they are thorough, though not too lengthy. I hope that doesn’t bum you out.

The Good News? You can get the book used on Amazon for like $12.58. And for that price, even if you only bake a dozen loaves, you’ll have paid for the book. I love you and I like sharing recipes here, but I don’t want to go to jail.

Think you might give it a whirl? Got any questions? Please fire away in the comments!


The folks who wrote this book don’t know me. But I am an Amazon affiliate. {In case you don’t know, that means that if you click that link up there and then decide to buy the book, I get a tiny percentage of the sale. I might also wet my pants.} But I’m telling the truth and not aiming for the cut. Scout’s honour.

My Five Favourite Reads of 2011

One of my wee personal goals for 2011 was to spend more time reading books {which for me meant spending less time faffing about on Facebook, and also meant I sometimes got into bed earlier to read a real book. Bonus.} I love books. I think they love me, too, but they’ve never said so.


I didn’t exactly make this a “SMART” goal {ya know, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timebound} since I wasn’t too Specific and didn’t really make it Measurable — but I’m pretty sure I exceeded the reading tally for 2010, so I think it’s fair to say I succeeded. Go me. I was doing quite well (by my personal standards) until we started packing up our home and our lives for The Move.

Then things kind of slowed down for a wee while.


Anywho, I thought it mayhaps be of interest to you that I share a few favourites, in case you might like to make reading more a personal goal for your New Year. I recommend doing a better job of making it a SMART goal than I did. That way you’ll really feel like you’ve achieved something next December.

But do what you want.

Here are my Five Favourite Reads of 2011 {complete with affiliate links to Amazon}

1. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. How I came across this wonderful book, I’m not exactly sure. But I wrote a bit about how it rocked my socks off right here so I won’t attempt to rehash it here. Simply put, Lewis’ words, though partially a dialogue about grief, have infinitely greater wisdom to offer.

This is a 76 page gem.

2. The Unbearable Lightness of Scones by Alexander McCall Smith. This book is dang funny. Sadly, I have to make an important disclaimer about it. A tad bit, nay, quite possibly 30 percent of its delightful humour could be lost on a reader who has not experienced much of Edinburgh, and Scottish culture. However, I’m sure that the overwhelming majority of its humour cannot be lost in translation, at least for native speakers of English and folks who have a good grasp of it.

Like us Americans, ya know.

Seriously, Smith’s writing is a treat — I read this from cover to cover very quickly, and just did not want it to end.

You’ll laugh, you’ll laugh, you’ll laugh and laugh.

3. Blue Like Jazz by Don Miller. Funny enough, though I’m a few years late on arriving at the Blue Like Jazz party, this book came across my path in perfect timing. It confirmed some of the sentiments I gained during my expatriate experience and challenged some of my notions of what Church means. Miller’s genuineness, his humble honesty and his fantastic stories inspired my faith.

Worth it. Very worth it.

4. Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson. Though Dobson might be at a different end of the spectrum from Miller, his insight in Bringing Up Boys brought some practical and very valuable parenting advice to the table for the Hubs and me. As a woman, it gave me some quality insight into “boydom” and manhood that I am sure I’ll find useful in the days ahead. (And already have, a bit with the Bear!)

Impressively well researched, Dobson painted a concerning picture of the challenges that face boys growing up right now, along with the significant challenges that face men and especially fathers in our time. A consistent reminder of the legacy we’re writing that will go beyond our days was woven thoughout. Teach us to number our days…

Even if you’re a mentor or a teacher or a pastor of boys, and not a parent of ’em, this will still prove an insightful read.

5. Lioness Arising by Lisa Bevere. I needed to read so much of what this book had to say — partially because I needed to be reminded that women can and do have a place in the Church that is not just in the kitchen or with the kids. Bevere’s writing style was very personal and generally enjoyable, and this book is a call to action for women who might feel they can’t because they aren’t someone else. It’s a challenge to wake up an make a difference for the Kingdom.

{I must add that Bevere occasionally lost me on the lioness illustrations because her interpretations of lion behaviour were different from what I learned in the South African bush. So to my friends in SA, I apologize if you read this and that aspect of it annoys you. There is still SO much valuable wisdom here.}

My favourite line from Lioness Arising: God did not save you to tame you.

A Few Honourable Mentions on the 2011 Book List:

Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman. This would be way up the list, but I’m reading it slowly with a book club, so I haven’t finished it yet. But the subtitle — Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life — says it all. I am learning to let go of some things I’ve held onto and understood as a part of Christianity, which were actually standards I created and tried to put Jesus’ Name onto. This. Book. Is. Good. Please read it. {Girls, especially, guys, I think it could help you understand us even better.} Mentioned here.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Yes, this is a children’s book. And yes I do love it. And the Bear does too. And the sequel, The Gruffalo’s Child, is equally delightful. {I was even more delighted to learn the author is British, but sad she wasn’t Scottish.}

The Cool Nguni by Maryanne Bester, Illustrated by Shayle Bester. Also a delightful book, of which the Bear has an autographed copy. {Thank you, Auntie Lyn.} If you’d like to introduce your kids to some delightful children’s books from another country, the Bester sisters (from South Africa!) can kick off a lekker collection. Their Three Friends and a Taxi is also a very cute little treat, and The Long Trousers might actually be my favourite. Gaps the Nguni calf (Nguni is a type of cattle, very hearty and suited for the hot and dry conditions of southern Africa, by the by) will win your heart. {There’s one more called Mealies and Beans which I’m especially fond of, but I couldn’t find it on Amazon. Sowwy.}

And finally,

On Writing by Stephen King. If you are interested in delving deeper into the craft of writing, and you can handle an occasional potty-mouth, this might be right up your alley. As I spoke about it here, King took the time to articulate his gift, his methods and process, and the insight was very valuable. Two Thumbs Up.

How about you? Have a few favourites from 2011 you’d like to tell us about? Mayhaps I can put them on my 2012 list!


C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed and Our Iconoclastic God

Last night I finished the brief writings C.S. Lewis penned after the loss of his wife, Joy. How I ended up checking this particular book out at the local library is a story for another day. Packed inside the brief 76 pages there is more wisdom than I have probably successfully communicated in the 633 posts that make up this little website to date.

If I this had been my own copy of the book, I might’ve underlined the entire manuscript from start to finish. And there would’ve been no less than thirty-seven stars in the margins.

Originally published under the pseudonym of N.W. Klerk, within the four brief chapters Lewis very honestly writes his heart onto the pages as he works through the grief of the loss of his wife, and considers how the new life he must live on the other side of hers affects his understanding of God.


Although I expect many of the profound lessons in these brief pages will come up in conversations here at a later date, I wanted to share one specific thought that meant a great deal to me.

Lewis discusses how he initially was very angry that he couldn’t find any photographs of his wife that properly captured her likeness. It was a great trouble to his mind that he might remember her the way his mind wanted to remember her, rather than the way she really was.

Later he says, “It doesn’t matter that all the photographs of H. are bad. It doesn’t matter–not much–if my memory of her is imperfect. Images, whether on paper or in the mind, are not important for themselves. Merely links. Take a parallel from an infinitely higher sphere. Tomorrow morning a priest will give me a little round, thin, cold, tasteless wafer. Is it a disadvantage–is it not in some ways an advantage–that it can’t pretend the least resemblance to that with which it unites me?

I need Christ, not something that resembles Him. I want H., not something that is like her. A really good photograph might become in the end a snare, a horror, and an obstacle.” (p. 65)

He draws from this new understanding a lesson that I had to read and re-read:

“My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast.”

{Note to reader, just in case: Iconoclasm is the deliberate rejection or destruction of religious symbols as heretical. An iconoclast is a person who destroys those symbols (often statues or images).}

The text continues:

“Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins.” (p. 66)

Isn’t it such an impressive and confuzzling paradox that the very God that we worship is the one who shatters our previous images of Him? Our finite minds simply cannot contain the significant other-ness of God. Whenever we think we’ve got Him pinned, there He goes, telling the one who is without sin to cast the first stone, asking Zacchaeus to come down from the tree, telling me to go drink a beer with an old friend.

Has God shattered an image you had of Him lately? If He wanted to would you let Him?

Thank you, C.S. Lewis, for choosing to write your way through grief. What a gift to me, and to many.



  • I’m planning to share an example of a shattering tomorrow, if you’d like a little practical evidence of what I’m talking about.
  • You can probably pick up a copy of A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis at your local library. It is also available at Amazon: A Grief Observed. {So ya know: Clicking that link should take you to the book at Amazon. Buying the Book should send me a tiny kickback.}

The Best of 2010

I was asked a few days ago (or maybe a few weeks ago…life seems ablur at the moment) what my favourite posts from 2010, or this space in general were. When I first think about it, the ones that stand out are stories like Mr. Potato Head’s Roaming or Being Fed-Exed a Brick.

Taking a good moment to think a little harder, ones like Where You Live Should Not Decide and Staying the Course or Fweaking Out stand out as moments where I think some of you were encouraged and inspired, and I was blessed to be a part of that process.

After a little more thought, I decided instead of posting what I liked best from this year, it would be nice to hear from you. What were some of your favourite posts from 2010? If you are a blogger and want to share a post from your site, please link it up in the Linky below. If you want to take a moment to think of a post from my site that meant a lot to you, I’d love for you to link that up, too. I’m not expecting a server crash, so link up all you want! The category dropdown and the search engine to the right might help you find what you’re looking for (if it’s a post you read around here) or if you want to just leave a comment and I’ll try to find the link for you, I’ll be glad to.

It has been a blessing to write from the heart here, and to sense that I occasionally have the privilege of hitting the nail on the head and sharing something on God’s heart, that has been meant for some of you at specific moments and for specific reasons that I knew nothing about. What a joy and a privilege, I just have to use that word twice!

Thank you for joining me here. Thank you for encouraging me by dropping in, even if you don’t say a word.

I am confident that 2011 is going to be a year full of change, full of growth, and full of life. And my hope is that for me, and for you, for this space and many others, the best is yet to come. Happy New Year!


P.S. Please do take a moment to share a link below. I love hearing from you and knowing what content keeps you coming back!