I am SHERlocked (and here’s the No.1 reason why)


img_6061I love Sherlock Holmes, but I’m arriving a little late to the party. I never gave the clever consulting detective much thought until a dear friend of mine recommended I check out the BBC television series Sherlock. Minutes into the first episode I knew I was hooked, smitten, irrevocably in love with the characters of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. (And, if you must know, crushing a bit on Benedict Cumberbatch too.)

While awaiting the return of Sherlock I have fed my undying love by reading a few of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories and most recently by trying out another Sherlock TV series, Elementary, this time per my sister’s recommendation. Again I am completely taken with the unfolding story of Sherlock Holmes, and in this case, his crime solving partner Joan Watson.

I wonder, at times, what is it exactly that draws me to these characters, these stories, these shows.

Is it the excellent writing and storytelling? But of course! When I find stuff like this I can’t get enough.

Is it the got-to-find-out-who-killed-who-tension that riddles each Sherlock story? For sure! The curiosity factor alone gets me every time.

Is it the super swoon worthy leading men with their charming accents and turned up collars? Well, I don’t know…maybe… Anyway, moving on.

It’s all of this, to be sure, but more than anything I’ve come to realize it’s the friendship, the relationships, the community portrayed between Sherlock and Watson. More than just a high functioning duo, these guys are friends, allies, brothers.

I love this. So often it seems, this is what pulls me in, what draws me into a story.

 The Lord of the Rings

 Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

 Harry Potter

These are all a few of my very favorites and they are all stories where friendship…true, pure, real deal friendship…lies at the heart and breath and soul of each tale.

Tonight Mr. Wonderful and I watched an episode of Elementary in which Sherlock faced with the decision of leaving his home in New York City to return to his native London. Leaving New York would potentially mean leaving Joan and the support system he had discovered as he recovered from an addiction to heroin. “I have thrived here,” he says to Joan when she asks him what he wants. “Not because of who I am but because of who I have come to know.”

sherlock-quoteI love this quote. It resonated with me in that, Ahhh, that’s so true!…That’s brilliant!… That’s… I’ve got to write that down, sort of way.

When the episode was over I texted the quote to my friend, Jessie. My own version of Watson, Jessie started as my writer friend but grew into so much more. This summer she and her family left their home in Michigan for the wild frontier of Seattle, WA and a brand new ministry there. I miss her desperately. Sometimes so acutely it feels like my arm, or my leg, or some incredibly vital part of me is gone.

This is what you and our writing group have given me, I typed in after the quote. And it’s also what I hope you find in Seattle.

I can see it now ever so clearly. Here in Michigan. In Charlotte, in Virginia. In all the places I’ve lived, in all the places I’ve thrived, friendship, relationships, and community are what made it so. Not me. Never me, but the friends God has brought into my life.

In high school he gave me Mr. Wonderful. He gave me Matt, Jessica, Karly, Mrs. Spalding, Sharon, Brandon, Nikki, Justin, Danny, Brett, Jeff. He gave me Battle Creek Bible Church.

In Charlotte He gave me Sarah. He gave me Beth, Bethany, Cara, Clint, Heather, Hager, Tom, Blues, the Brazelles, the Maugels, the Homans. He gave me our church group, Banyan.

In Virginia he gave me Dave. He gave me Vanessa, Hannah, Jim, Lee, Stacy, Roger. He gave me Evergreen Community Church.

img_6062And in returning home to Michigan, the friendship, the love, it grows and grows. He’s given me Jessie and my writers group and a whole army of writing buddies…so many I can’t even begin to name them all. He’s given me Amanda, Justin, Jeff, Crystal, Barry, Linda, Mike, Jen, Kim, Ashley, and Juli. He’s given us Radiant. He’s given us family.

And I’m thriving like never before because I call these dear ones allies. I call them brothers and sisters. I call them friends.

Each and every one the Watson to my Sherlock.

A Prayer for the Start of School


First Day of SchoolToday is the first day of school here in Michigan. In my house we never really stopped our homeschooling over the summer but even still we’re ready for a new year, a new grade, a fresh start.

For many moms out there, I know today is hard. Many of you have already put your kiddos on the bus, some for the very first time. (Gulp!) Others took big kids to middle school or high school or watched as the child who was just a baby yesterday took their first steps across a college campus. (Even bigger gulp!)

As I sit here in my little corner of Michigan, in my classroom for two with the comforts of home, my heart is with you, friends! I’d like to give you a great big hug or pass a tissue or two. I’d like to tell you it will be okay, that they will be okay.

I’d like to cheer with you and celebrate or sit at the table in your unusually quiet kitchen for a grown up conversation and a hot cup of coffee.

Unfortunately I can’t, at least not really. But I can pray. And mamas…I am! I’m praying big time for you today. And I thought maybe, just maybe, we could grab a collective cup of coffee and take a few minutes to pray for each other. 

Because whether you’re a homeschooling mama, a preschool mama, an elementary, middle or high school mama, a college mama. A special needs mama, first day of kindergarten mama, an empty nest mama. A working mama, a stay at home mama, a single mama. A grandmama, an auntie mama or a hope to someday be mama.  We all need prayer. We need the support and love and encouragement only a fellow mama can bring. 

So will you take your mama’s heart and come before the Father with me?

 This is my prayer for you. A prayer for the first day of school and all the days thereafter… 

Dear Father, 

 Thank you for this day. Thank you for your love and your grace. Thank you especially for the fresh grace you gave us this morning as our children went back to school. 

 Please, come now and be with us. Meet us in our hearts. Bring us your peace, your comfort, your courage. Be with all the mixed emotions we’re feeling. The sadness, the fear, the doubt. The happiness, the excitement, the joy. Be with us when we think of all the things we could have done or should have done. Be with us in all the things that fill our hearts with pride. Meet us in our desires and help our ultimate desire to be found ultimately in you.

 Lord, take all these thoughts, these feelings, and cover them with your presence, your wisdom, your grace. 

 Be with our children today. Help us release them to you. Take all our hopes and dreams for them, Lord, and help us remember your way, your timing, and your will is perfect. Remind us, Lord, that our precious children were yours long before they were ours and that your heart for them and for us is good, that you love them and us more than we’ll ever know. 

 Protect them, Lord. Draw them to you. Let them walk in relationship with you all the days of their lives and use them, Lord, for your kingdom. 

 Lord, help us to claim, today, the truth that you’ve got this! You’ve got them and you’ve got us, and help us to rest in this fact. 

 Give us strength, Lord. Give us joy. Help us as we mother. Today, tomorrow, and always. Find us faithful to our families and faithful to you, Lord Jesus. 

 In your beautiful, powerful, and precious name we pray. Amen!

See you again tomorrow? I’ll be here, friends, praying for you!

If there’s anyway I can pray specifically for you please feel free to leave a comment below. And also check be sure to check out the giveaway I’m hosting here for your chance to win a copy of Balance, Busyness, and Not Doing it All by Brenda L. Yoder, the perfect resource for busy moms.

Happy first day of school, Mamas! May each day to follow be blessed!

When You Need to Know that Friendships Last

Pooh PlaqueIt all started with my Aunt Michelle, this brilliant string of unexpected visits.

Then came our friends from Virginia, the Blum Family. Our visit with the Blums was short but oh, so sweet. For not quite 24 hours we talked, and laughed, and enjoyed a Michigan summer afternoon at a nearby park. We feasted on Oberon brats and strawberry cake with frozen custard. Vanilla coke ran cold and plentiful as we picked up where we left off in that sacred way only old friends do.

These visits would have been enough to make my summer but, wait, there’s more!

Just days before the Blums arrived I received the following text from one of our North Carolina friends:

Rachel Text

Am I okay with that??? Oh my goodness, YES!!! The fact that this brave woman would willingly tack on an extra seven hours driving time with four children in the car (which let’s face it means an extra ten hours at least!) to come and see me makes me feel so, so loved. I haven’t seen this sister-of-the-heart friend in almost four years and to have her here with me, to see our kiddos playing together, to actually feel our words and hugs and laughter exchanged in the flesh fills me with so much joy.

And really, these visits from family and friends aren’t just bright spots in my summer line-up; they are encouragement for my soul.

Throughout my life the end of close relationships has left me wondering, time and again, do friendships ever last? Is there such a thing as a forever friend?

I remember the silver necklace I exchanged with my best friend at the end of sixth grade. A tiny heart with a jagged cut down the middle. She kept one half and I kept the other. One side reading, “Friends,” the other side, “Forever.”

IMG_2036Two months later my family packed a moving van to the brim and rolled away to another state. What turned out to be forever was 800 miles between us. It was the first real lost I ever felt.

Since then friends have walked in and out of my life. They moved, I moved. Hearts, beliefs, and loyalties changed. Some relationships fell to pieces in a burst of hurt and misunderstanding, and some simply faded in natural ways. Always there was this question that lingered in their wake: How could these friendships that I thought would last forever suddenly be gone?

But there’s also this lingering proof, this evidence that friendship can last. There’s these friends that brave miles, and hours, and long distance phone calls, texts, and messages. They use Skype and FaceTime and yearly visits to prove there is such a thing as forever friends.

And I am thankful. I’m thankful to have these friends in my life, and I’m thankful for the chance to be that sort of friend in return.

A few days ago I came across a tiny silver necklace of two birds sitting side by side on the limb of a tree. It made me think of the relationship I share with a friend here in town that has become so dear to me. My husband and I are facing the possibility of a move and our friendship may be forced into the long distance category.

But this friend, she’s of the forever variety. I know this in my heart. No matter what happens to the amount of miles between us, the two of us will remain as close as the birds on that silvery branch.

I bought that necklace and gave it to her over lunch and tears and fears of the future. I guess it was my way of showing her what our recent visits from family and friends have shown me this summer.

“There’s one thing we don’t have to fear,” I told her, “this friendship we share…no matter what…”

Because the message that lies between the hearts of two friends never really changes. Birds of a feather really do flock together…

 Forever and for always.

How a Group of Friends Changed History

Jessie & Me

A few of my besties: (Jessie, my friend & co-founder of our awesome writing group)

I recently caught a few minutes of a TV program about castle mysteries and in this particular episode they told a story about Martin Luther.

According to this program, Martin Luther was on his way to face trial for translating and proclaiming the Gospel in ways that went against the grain of the Catholic Church. If convicted he would likely be put to death. On the way to his trial, a group of men dressed as guards captured Luther and took him to a remote castle on top of a mountain.

It was at first believed that this group of guards was sent by the Pope to seize Martin Luther, but instead this group was comprised of Luther’s friends who had come to his rescue.


(Sarah, the first friend I made when we moved to Charlotte, NC)

Upon capturing him, these friends secured Luther within the walls of the castle where he could be free to write in safety. It was here that Luther completed his translation of the Bible into German and made a way for common man to access and read the scriptures for themselves for the very first time.

And it was all because of this rescue.

As I sat and watched this story unfold, I thought to myself, Wow! What if? What if those friends hadn’t been brave or daring enough to stage such a rescue? What if they hadn’t believed in Luther enough to risk their lives for his work, his mission? What would or would not have happened? How might history have changed?

(I also thought, Wow! I wish I had a group of friends to come rescue me and lock me in a castle where all I could do is write…but that’s another story…)

Or is it?


(Beth, like a sister to both Chris and me)

In all reality, I do have a group of friends very much like this one. I have a writing group, and while they’ve never rescued me and locked me in a castle in order to save my life what they do for me is not much different.

They believe in me and my writing. They give of themselves and resources time and again to help me, encourage me, and spur me on. And our bi-weekly meetings, which come in the midst of daily life and heartfelt struggles, are their own sort of rescue.

Friends like these, and Martin Luther’s are priceless, and I think they are what God has in mind when it comes to friendship.

The Bible tells us “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13 NIV)


(The Blum Family from our days in Virginia)

And while we often think of God as our Heavenly Father or our Great Shepard, I think we sometimes forget to consider that He is also our friend. By laying down His life for us on the cross Jesus modeled the greatest love. He modeled the greatest friendship.

And in order to experience this kind of friendship we must start by being this kind of friend.

Consider your closest friend. What is her dream, what is his passion? What is their vision and how can you play a part in helping it come true? How can you aid, support, and rescue?

Mel & Me

(Melanie, my sister and friend since the day I was born)

Consider the people God has put in your life? How can you lay your own life down to show them the love of Christ? How can you give your time, your energy, your resources to further His work, to enhance His kingdom, to show up as Christ with skin on and make a difference in the lives of others?

I know friendships aren’t easy. Friendship of this caliber is hard to come by and even harder to hold onto but it is possible. More than possible it’s the very essence of what Christ has designed for us to experience in relationship and community.

After all, in laying down our lives for our friends there is more than love built between us. There are bonds.

Bonds that mirror the Greatest Love. Bonds that can rescue and save a life.

Bonds that just might change the very course of history.

When You Want to Feed More Than Stomachs (Plus Recipe)

I love the chance to bless the socks off of someone I love. And while I’m not a baker or an expert chef, I love to bless with food.

A few weeks ago my neighbor and friend left for a two-week vacation with her family. While she was away I happily agreed to water her flowers, pick up her mail, and keep an eye on their house while they were gone.

About a week into their vacation she sent me a text saying their plans had changed. Her husband’s father had been scheduled for surgery to treat a cancerous tumor that had been found in his brain.

Feeling deeply for my friend and her family I wanted to do more than water plants and pick up their mail so I started to consider other ways we could bless our friends in their time of need.

Before my friend left for their trip she mentioned to me that she was trying her best not to go to the grocery store so food wouldn’t spoil while they were away. With this in mind I knew they were coming home to an empty fridge and pantry.

The last thing I want to do after being away from home is head for the grocery store. And I didn’t want my friend to have to do this either.

As I did my own grocery shopping I picked up a few basics to get them started upon their return. Milk, eggs, bread, fruit, and juice for their kids went into my shopping basket and home to my kitchen to await their return.

Still I wanted to do more. I knew they had been through two hard weeks. Having a long awaited vacation interrupted by a serious family emergency is trying on so many levels and all I wanted was to show them we care.

On the day before their expected arrival my husband mowed their lawn and I baked zucchini bread. I added a fresh loaf to the grocery pile and planned a supper to take over to their house for their first night home.

As I boiled pasta, chopped veggies, and sliced up bread for their supper I thought about food and how it so often seems like the most natural way to comfort the people we love.

When babies are born, when friends are sick, when loved ones pass away food may be the number one way we show our support and care.

A meal taken to friend seems to say far more than even the best Hallmark card. Essentially it says, “I can’t fix this, but I can fix a meal. I can bring you food that nourishes something basic, something core to who you are. I can show you, in a fundamental way, that you are loved, and cared for, and taken care of.”

The gift of food is also amazing because it nurtures not just the receiver but also the one doing the cooking, the baking, the taking of the meal. As I cooked for my friends I felt drawn to God as if I were taking on a part of Him, a part of who He is, a part of what He does by nourishing far more than physical needs. While I cooked I also prayed that through these groceries, that through this meal, my friends would be drawn to Him as well, that their stomachs and hearts would be filled.

When the groceries and food were delivered my friend’s reaction was priceless. As I fussed over whether or not I got their preferred type of milk, and how I should have thought to bring cereal, or how I forgot to grab their mail, my friend stopped me and said, “Jen, we feel so loved. Everything you did was perfect.”

These are words I’ll always cherish, not as a pat on my back or boost to my own ego, but as evidence we accomplished our goal. We made them feel loved. In the midst of a crisis we saw a need and met it. We became Christ with pasta and brownies.

I love the chance to bless the socks off someone I love because, really, it blesses my socks off too.

The Perfect Take-Over Meal

This recipe is one of my favorites when it comes to a meal that is easy to prepare and easy to transport. It is delicious, perfect for a new mom, kid-friendly, and has become a favorite amongst my family and friends. I love to round out the meal with a tossed salad, a loaf of Italian bread, and brownies for dessert.

Creamy Pesto Chicken


2-3 Boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (Cooked)

16 oz. (1 box) Rotini pasta

1/3 c Basil pesto sauce

1 jar Alfredo sauce

Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Oven Temp: 350 degrees

While chicken is cooking, boil and drain pasta. When chicken is fully cooked remove from the oven and cut into bite size pieces. Mix cooked pasta in large bowl with Alfredo sauce, basil pesto, and chicken.

Pour mixture into a 9×13 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until hot. Top with shredded parmesan.