Sauerkraut, soufflé, and the smells of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is next week.

Shocker, I know. (I mean, we haven’t even finished our candy corn yet.)

But speaking of side dishes…

Robbie and I have been married for 33 years. It’s only been in the past decade, though, that he has fully enjoyed Thanksgiving with me. The first 20 years? They were sort of trial-and-error (more error) on the Turkey-Day front. But then, about 10 years ago, I produced my first perfect sauerkraut.

I know, I know. Who eats sauerkraut at Thanksgiving? Nobody normal, if you ask me. But we learned, back when Robbie and I did our pre-marriage counseling, that we’d have to “adjust our expectations” if we wanted our marriage to thrive. And so, even though I expected a house to smell like turkey on Thanksgiving Day (hello?), I adjusted. I started fixing things the way that Robbie’s mom did. Or trying to, anyway.

Which meant…sauerkraut.

And, like I said, it took 20 years. And more than a few apologies to my side of the family, who would come over on Thanksgiving, walk into our house, and do this:

And honestly? My mother-in-law is an amazing woman (and a fabulous cook), but nobody has ever asked me for her sauerkraut recipe.

Folks have, however, asked how I make carrot soufflé. And if you’re looking for an alternative to sweet potatoes, consider putting this one on the menu. In addition to being something the children will eat (it’s basically sugar, with a few carrots thrown in), the dish comes with two other big holiday plusses: 1. You can make it the day before, and 2. It doesn’t have any overpowering smell.

Here you go:

Want that recipe in a printable form? Click here.

And if you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, “Wait. What? Jodie’s not a food blogger…” you’re right. I only divulge about one recipe per year (and, some would say, even that is too much).

I do, however, love to share BIBLE VERSES. And if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to add the “bread of life” to your Thanksgiving table, I hear you. I want that, too. And so every year, I light a few candles, break out the real napkins, and add a serving of Scripture to every place:

If you like this idea and you want to download some ready-made Thanksgiving verses, click here. I must warn you, though. I always include a verse or two that’s designed to extend grace to the cook, and if you’re soufflé falls flat or you accidentally roast the turkey upside down (been there, done that), just point your guests toward Ephesians 5:4.

Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving is filled with laughter and joy, and a big helping of gratitude. As I count my blessings in 2018, Philippians 1:3 comes to mind. I really do pray for you–my real life and my digital friends–and as the Apostle Paul said: I thank my God every time I remember you.

Truly. ❤️

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How Can We Know God’s Heart?

If you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you know how much I love sharing books and other resources to help us grow closer to Christ. This month features a series of powerful little books by Ty Saltzgiver, and we’ll be giving away a different one every week.

Today’s post is from My First Thirty Quiet Times, a day-by-day devotional that has sold more than 600,000 copies. In this excerpt from Day 5, Ty asks some really good questions: How can we know the Father’s heart? How can we be sure that God really is GOOD, and that He truly CARES for us? And how can we be sure we can trust Him?

Here’s Ty:

So often, Christianity is presented to us as a set of beliefs to adhere to and a set of rules (or commands) to obey. In other words, we must believe what is true and do what is right. If we do, then we are a Christian, or to the degree that we do these well, then we are good Christians.

Certainly, there are things to believe and a way God wants us to live, but they are not “in order to be” a Christian. Rather, they are “because of” the reality that we have a relationship with Jesus, where we’ve received His love and invited Him to live in our hearts and trusted Him with our lives.

It is a huge thing to entrust our very lives to God, to give Him the thing most precious to us–our hearts. Therefore, to trust God, we must be convinced His heart is GOOD and that He truly CARES for us. How can we know the Father’s heart?

(That’s a great question. And the answer, Ty says, is not by knowing doctrines or following rules or even seeing God’s beauty in nature. The answer to knowing God’s heart is by looking at Jesus.)

Jesus says essentially, “Let me tell you a story to try and describe for you my Father’s heart.” And then he tells the Prodigal Son parable. He says His Father is always standing on the porch waiting and looking for us who are lost or hurting. Then, when He sees us, He rushes to meet us and showers us with kisses, healing and restoring us.

Jesus represents (and therefore reveals) His Father as the One who pursues and accepts us. Even when there is infidelity or inattention on our part, God’s acceptance is always absolute, no retribution or payback is required. No one could invent a god like this–one who pursues and accepts sinners, one who becomes human and hangs out with us.

All other gods despise sinners, condemn them, and withhold blessings from them.

Not Jesus’ Father. Not our Heavenly Father.

Of course, Jesus’ death on the cross tells us more about the Father’s heart than anything else. Can you imagine the Father’s agony over His Son’s suffering and death, all so we could be in a relationship with Him? When someone dies for you, you no longer question if that person cares for you, or if you matter to them.

You can trust their heart with yours.

❤️

Heavenly Father,

No one has ever seen you, but Jesus–your one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with You, has made you known. (John 1:18)

Thank you for sending Jesus to not only be the way to You but also to show us who You are. Help me to know You more and trust You more.

Amen

 

P.S. (and book giveaway scoop):

Salt Resources

Ty Saltzgiver (above) spent over 40 years with Young Life, and he’s particularly gifted at making complex spiritual issues easy to grasp. My First Thirty Quiet Times comes with short scripture readings, thoughtful application steps, and a prayer every day. The book is designed for a new Christian, but I’ve picked up it up countless times over the years when I want straightforward answers on topics ranging from sin and forgiveness, to what to do when doubt comes, to knowing God’s will for my life.

If you’d like a free copy, post a comment here or on Instagram (@Jodie_Berndt) or Facebook (@JodieBerndtWrites) for your chance to win. Or, since the books cost just $1.99, go ahead and order one–or ten!–and share this great resource with someone you love!

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Don’t Let Anyone Call You “Big Tina”

I’ll admit it. I laughed out loud when I opened the paper and saw Dilbert this week:

Big Tina. That’s funny.

At least it was at first. But then I got to thinking. Nobody (well, at least nobody I know—no girl, anyway) wants to be called “Big Tina.” No woman wants to be called Big anything.

Case in point: When I called my college pal, Annesley, to ask if I could borrow her name for our newborn daughter, she readily agreed–as long as I didn’t start calling her “Big Annesley.” Or even “Old Annesley.”

(We went with “Original Annesley,” which is perfect. On so many levels.)

I don’t, as a rule, find deep spiritual lessons in Dilbert. But when I considered Big Tina’s apparent reluctance to be saddled with that moniker, I thought: You go, Girl! Don’t let anybody call you something you don’t want to be called. Do not receive that!

Because we do that, don’t we? Whether it’s a label someone else gives us, or an accusation that comes from inside our own heads, all too often we accept the name and start wearing it–even if it’s a name we don’t want. A name like Unworthy. Or Ashamed.

Not good enough. Forgotten.

Unloved.

But…that’s not who God says we are. He knows us better than anyone–he knows exactly how we are formed–and he calls us his “masterpiece.”

He says we are precious and honored in his sight. And that, as we look to him, our faces are never covered with shame. And that he will never leave us.

He calls us “Beloved.”

Why? It’s not because of anything we’ve done. It’s just because we are his.

Which, for me, can sometimes be hard to wrap my head around. Like, on the days when I blow it, does God still love me as much as on the days (well, the day) when I get things mostly right? Does he really want to be with me, even when I don’t want to be with myself? Is there something I could do, some gold-star behavior, that would make God love me more?

The answers, for those who don’t like rhetorical questions, are: Yes, yes, and no. There is nothing I could do–nothing any of us could do–to make God love us any more (or any less) than he already does.

I was reminded of God’s love–and how he feels about us–a month or so ago, when I visited a friend in Atlanta. Her eldest daughter is all grown up and married, so I got to sleep in her old room. And when I got up in the morning, I was greeted with this:

Pardon the PJs, but honestly? I can’t think of a better way to start the day than by heading into the bathroom and seeing these reminders of who we are in Christ! We don’t even have to brush our teeth before God says he’s “enthralled by our beauty.” And if we’re worried about something (like, say, we can already tell that it’s not a good hair day) we see evidence of his love: “Cast all your anxiety on him,” the card reads, “because he cares for you.” (That’s 2 Peter 5:7 if you can’t make it out in the pic.)

If you like this idea (of if you think your kids might), I’ve pulled nine “identity markers” out of the Bible and put them in printable form for you here. These cards aren’t fancy (you’ll have to cut ’em up by yourself, and add your own flower-power stickers, or whatever), but they offer a window into who we really are, in God’s eyes:

And please note. These verses are not like those faux-motivating things you put on your fridge–like the pic of the skinny girl in the bikini–to make you think “This could be you!” The words on these cards are already fulfilled. And they will always be true (even if you do eat that last piece of cheesecake).

So the next time the Father of Lies comes along and tries to call you Big Tina (or worse), set him straight.

Look him straight in the eye and tell him your name is Beloved.

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Grad Tip for Parents: Let God Pick Your Kid’s Career

 

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.

It’s graduation season, and I can’t think of a more encouraging verse than Psalm 32:8. Whether our kids are headed to college, to new jobs, or into the great unknown, the whole “What’s next?” thing can be daunting! And as parents, our hearts can feel like a tangled mess of emotions:  pride of accomplishment, sadness over the chapter that’s closing, or even (particularly when we don’t know what the future holds) uncertainty, with maybe a little worry mixed in.

The pride and the sadness are both beautiful things; why else would 97% of all high school yearbooks and 29% of commencement speeches give the nod to Dr. Suess:  Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened?

The uncertainty thing, though, is not so much fun. And if that’s where you are (like, if your child needs a job), I’ve got three things that might help.

The first is something Virginia (who was a college senior at the time) told me, as we discussed her (still hazy) future. “Mom,” she said, “Research shows that 72% of college students don’t have a job lined up before graduation.”

I don’t know whether Virginia was right or not. A point in her favor is that she actually worked in U.Va.’s Career Services office, where she would have had access to numbers like that, but you have to stack that against the fact that she is her mother’s daughter, and statistics (like that bit about yearbooks and speeches) sometimes get made up on the spot. Either way, though, the data made me feel better. And if it helps you to repeat this 72% claim, you can say that you read it in a blog.

The second thing that can help is prayer. It’s not just that you get a “peaceful, easy feeling” when you pray for your child; it’s more that when we bring our sons and daughters before God, we really are making a difference. As Paul told the Corinthians“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” (Paul and his pals weren’t looking for work; they were more concerned with facing “deadly peril,” but the principle is the same. Our prayers matter.)

And finally, it can be good to remember the plan. We might not know what it is, but after praying (and yes, worrying) three kids through the job-hunting process, I’m finally coming to realize that God does. He knows exactly how our children are wired (Psalm 139:13-16); he’s already lined up good work for them to do (Ephesians 2:10); and he promises to instruct and counsel them in the way they should go (Psalm 32:8). Our job isn’t to worry or nag; our job–if we want to get on board with God’s plan–is simply to trust him.

So there you go: Repeat iffy statistics, pray for your kids, and trust God. And if you want help with tip #2, the folks at FaithGateway surprised me a few weeks ago when they sent word that they’d pulled a collection of prayers from the Adult Children book and created a beautiful “Praying for Your Graduate” resource for parents (click here to download):The guide includes 21 prayers, all neatly divided by seven so that you can pray one every day for three weeks.

Which, research shows, is about how long it takes for the average college grad to land his first job. 🙂

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A Printable Mother’s Day Present–for YOU!

Mother’s Day is on Sunday. I’ve spent the past few weeks noodling over what sort of present I wanted to give to the moms who follow this blog, and I’m super grateful to the folks at Yellow Leaf Marketing for helping me pull together a series of printable prayer calendars: One for CHILDREN, one for TEENS, and one for ADULTS!

(And heads up: If you don’t have kids of your own, you can download the files and start praying them for yourself, your friends, your spouse, or even–if you read last week’s post on returning blessings for insults–for the people you don’t really like! 😉)

I’ve said it before: There’s not a need we will face in parenting—or, for that matter, in life—that God has not already anticipated, and provided for, in his word.

Which is, for me, good news and bad.

The good news is that, no matter what we desire or need—wisdom, friendships, safety, courage, patience, or anything else—he has us covered. There is a verse (or 20!) that applies!

The bad news is that these calendars cover just 31 days. I had a tough time picking which of God’s promises to tap into and pray. You’ll find a lot of my favorites, but if you’ve got a concern you don’t see in this collection, you know what to do.

Grab your Bible, and just start mining the gold for yourself.

And as you lift up your family, please know that I’m praying for you. Moms (and Dads): May you be steadfast and immovable, always giving yourselves fully to the work of the Lord (like praying for your kids!), because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Happy Mother’s Day!

🌹

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What do College Kids Need? Good Friends!

(This post originally appeared earlier this week on the Theological Horizons blog. Theological Horizons is an organization headquartered at U.Va., and if you click on that link, you’ll find the post, plus some great resources for young women going through sorority rush. Super helpful insights on things like identity, acceptance, and more.)

I remember the high school counselor asking Robbie and me what we were looking for in a college for Hillary, our eldest. He expected, I guess, for us to say something like “affordable tuition” or “strong academic reputation” or even something lofty, like “opportunities to pursue bio-medical research.” I think the guy was a little stunned when I gave him my answer:  I wanted my daughter to go someplace where she would make good friends and enjoy strong Christian fellowship.

Fellowship is a tricky word. Author John Ortberg says it is “churchy,” and that it “suggests basements and red punch and awkward conversations.” I get that. But I also understand what Ortberg means when he says that fellowship is something we can’t live without. And when the time came to send Hillary—and then later, her siblings—off to college, my first prayers were for them to find life-giving friendships, the kind marked by things like loyalty, joy, and a vibrant commitment to Christ.

God answered those prayers, but the road to connectedness has not always been easy, or quick. I remember dropping Hillary off at U.Va. on Move-In Weekend. Someone had chalked a cheery greeting on the sidewalk steps:

The words held such promise! But, two months later, as the newness wore off and homesickness set in, they seemed almost hollow…. (read more)

(I don’t mean to leave you hanging, but that “read more” link takes you straight to the Theological Horizons site, where you’ll find the whole blog. And you have UNTIL MIDNIGHT TONIGHT to enter the drawing for a free copy of Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children. Whoop!)

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Red Roses for Empty Nesters

Not long ago, I talked with a gal who told me that when each of her children turned 21, she sent her husband a dozen red roses. “Nobody was in jail, nobody had gotten pregnant, and nobody had killed anyone,” she said. “I figured that we were done, that we’d made it–and I was ready to celebrate!”

But then her kids’ grown-up lives began, bringing with them a whole new set of issues and concerns, and this sweet mama discovered what generations of moms and dads who’ve gone before know:

You never stop being a parent.

Looking back, my friend laughs at her naiveté. Honestly, though? I think she was onto something. Sure, our grown-up kids will face complex and sometimes life-shaping challenges (“little people, little problems; big people, big problems” and all that), but the promise in Psalm 127:3–that children are a reward from God–doesn’t stop being true when they reach adulthood. And if we wait to celebrate the milestones in our children’s lives until they are tied up with a bow, all pretty and neat, we risk missing out on this gift!

If you’ve read even one or two chapters in Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Childrenyou know that most of the folks whose stories appear in the book are still praying about the outcomes in their kids’ lives. They’ve all seen God’s faithfulness at work, and yet none of them would say that the process is “finished.” They are all–we are all–still counting on God’s mercy and his grace.

And we are counting on each other. Truly.

It can be hard, when you hit the empty nest years, to maintain close contact with other parents (I know, for instance, how much I miss the easy, organic connections with friends I made at school fundraisers, or on the sidelines of our kids’ sporting events). That’s one of the reasons I wrote a Study Guide for the book: I wanted moms and dads to be able to understand and apply God’s promises, and I wanted us to have a launching pad to discuss (and to pray) these things–both for our own children, and for other young adults who “belong” to us through the blessing of friendship.

 

(The Study Guide is free; click here to download it from the “Resources” page on my website.)

Let’s not wait to celebrate. Prayer is God’s invitation to us to partner with him in accomplishing his good and redemptive purposes, and he knows exactly what we need (and what our kids need!), even before we ask him (Matthew 6:8). So let’s go ahead and slip our hand into God’s, tethering our prayers to his promises.

And with or without the red roses, let’s come alongside other parents who are in our same season, slipping our hands into theirs with mutual encouragement, friendship, and love. Let’s lift up all of our kids, celebrating the fact that even if their bows are not all the way tied (or if, a-hem, they look swaddled in duct tape, like some of the gifts we opened this Christmas), God thinks they are beautiful.

And he is still writing their stories.

🌹

P.S. Speaking of duct tape… I apologize for the delay in this blog (I like to post on Fridays), but it took me a little while to stick the pieces of my heart back together after U.Va.’s performance in the Military Bowl. Really, the only bright spot (apart from the glittering first 12 seconds of the game), was that we lost to Navy. It’s hard to be sore about losing to a bunch of guys who love our country so much.

Congratulations, Midshipmen. And if you can deal with the bad guys half as well as you dealt with the Cavaliers, we’ll all rest easy at night.

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