Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
A New Perspective on Goal Setting
I don’t know about you, but by today, January 31st, I have usually obliterated all my New Years resolutions. Raise your hand if that’s you.
Oh, we mean well, don’t we? Every year I spend a few days putting together the action plans of My Book Therapy and Susan May Warren Fiction – what do I want to accomplish, how do I hope to touch lives? I usually pick one word the Lord is leading me toward (this year it is Expectancy!) and a verse that is guiding me.
But let’s admit that sometimes New Year planning feels a little we’re loading up our year with a pile of to-dos akin to Robert DeNiro’s character hauling around his load of penance weapons in The Mission. (Do you remember that 1986 movie? If not, it’s worth seeing again!)
It’s been ten years since my first book, Happily Ever After came out, and I’ve discovered something that helps me put my projects into perspective…none of it matters unless my books dig deep, touch lives – change lives.
And maybe that should be the point of goal-making.
So, that’s why, with my New Years Resolutions obliterated, I’m diving in with a NEW way to discover my focus for 2015. I’m going to plan from the inside-out, with a different perspective:
Not your typical planning list, I know, but perhaps, if you’re like me and a little tired of the SMART goals, and the Action Plan lists and feeling like you’ve failed before you begun, I give you February 1- a NEW month to dive in and make 2015 a different year.
A year where you cut off the baggage and find yourself set free.
If you’re interested in stories about FRESH STARTS, my newest book is on the market, Always On My Mind. And thank you for reading my books, passing them along and sharing with me how they’ve changed and blessed you. THAT is why I write!
We sit poised on the top of a cliff, a near drop off before us, gullying down to a rushing river. In the middle of the river, a bridge of snow and ice hints at our destination. My husband guns the snowmobile engine. “Ready?”
Ready? What? — for a face plant into a tree, maybe reconstructive surgery? To feel my stomach ripped from my body as we plummet down the mountain? To let every mitochondria scream and unleash the snow from the low-hanging evergreens?
Let’s do it!
We live on five acres of woods in northern Minnesota that butts up to a national forest area. Hence, our backyard is about a hundred thousand acres. Aside from harboring deer, lynx, fox, cougar and bear, it also makes excellent snowmobile terrain. And this year, Mrs. Claus gave her Santa a snowmobile for two.
I love snowmobiling. Flying over the snow, catching air over drifts. I love to drive, to be at the helm of the beast as I weave around trees and over hill and dale, my husband sitting behind me. I also love riding behind my husband as he drives, feeling those powerful arms as he’s muscling the snowmobile into the wilds. We follow unknown trails, driven by a Magellan spirit, hoping that we have enough gas to get us back to civilization. I love hanging on, simply trusting him as we drive deeper into the forest, knowing that wherever he’s taking me, he’s going first.
But there are times, when I see where he’s taking me, and I just have to bury my head in his back. Like straight down a cliff.
However, my heart cheers, despite its terror as we gun it down the hill, over the river, up the opposite side. And, if we hadn’t let ourselves go, we would have never discovered the beauty of a winter river, a hidden jewel buried deep in the forest. Nor the exhilaration of facing the challenge together.
Further on, we find an enchanted forest of towering white pine. Catch a view of Lake Superior, discover an old cabin in the woods.
It occurs to me that snowmobiling is much like my spiritual life. Occasionally, I drive, and it’s me setting our course, weaving through the trees, getting us hopelessly lost. But when God takes the
Thanks for spending the month with me! If you’d like to read more about my family and our life running a resort on the North Shore of MN, read any of Susan May Warren’s Christiansen Family series – and check our Winter Novella: Evergreen! “wheel”, and I hang on, I see the scenery, and I trust Him for the speed and destination. I trust him to keep me safe. I trust him to bring me home, where there is an eternal supply of hot chocolate.
Have a blessed Holiday season!
Jer: 29:11: For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, say the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace, and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.
Thank you to Jo Jo Byrd Sutiss for this beautiful pin!
Thank you for stopping by!
From Ingrid’s Cookbook
It’s our youngest two children who seem to be our most headstrong and independent. Owen started walking (away) at the age of 9 months. Amelia was our dreamer, building forts in the yard, as of on exotic adventures. And, being our most independent, they were also the two who squabbled the most.
Especially when armed with cut-out Sugar Cookies. They loved to create snowmen, decorate them, then wage battle.
As our children grew, we decided instead of allowing them to destroy the cookies with their own private battle, we’d allow each child to cut out their own unique shape, decorate it, then wage a Christmas Cookie Contest. (This was an idea I grabbed from my favorite author, Susan May Warren, who also does this with her family every Christmas.)
It became, of course, an epic battle, and we’ve upgraded to a travelling trophy for the most creative. We make up the dough, cut out the cookies, bake, then decorate them on Christmas Eve Day. Then we upload the pictures and email them to family scattered across the world. Each family votes on their favorite design (the designs are anonymous), and emails the results back. The winner is announced Christmas Morning.
Then, the cookies are eaten.
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 c. margarine, softened
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 egg, unbeaten
- 1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 2 c. flour
- 1/2 tsp soda
- Heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cream margarine and sugar.
- Add next 5 ingredients and mix thoroughly.
- Add flour and soda.
- Roll dough out on floured cutting board and cut out with form (or a sharp knife).
- Transfer to greased baking sheet.
- Bake 10 mins (not too long if you don't want fragile cookies).
- Be careful when transferring to a plate for decorating. We've often cooked these on parchment to aid with the transfer. Frost with buttercream or store-bought icing (I know, cheating, but we're all about simplifying!)
Thanks for reading,
From Ingrid’s Journal
Proverbs 20:27 “The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man, it searches out his inmost being.”
Living in the north plays games with a gal’s psyche. Darkness falls around 4pm, the wind howls, the world frigid outside, and I dream of summer as the snow piles against my door.
And it brings me back to that summer the resort burned to the ground (I know my author Susan May Warren used her own experience watching her garage burn, and a summer of homelessness to write my feelings of despair in darkness.) I wondered how we might survive.
I sit on the front porch steps of our resort, listening to a choir of crickets sing to the sunset. I cradle a cup of tea in my hands, but it has long ago grown cold. All I can think about is our starving checking account, smell the creosote of the burned cabins that once provided our livelihood.
The memories, now in ash. Our home survived, but with our family scattered, perhaps this is the end of Evergreen resort. The end of a legacy.
The sun is gone, and I admit that with it falls my hope. Grayness settles over the lake. Suddenly I spy tiny lights flickering here and there. First dozens, then thousands. Fireflies! They dance in the velvet darkness, momentary explosions on a twilight canvass. I watch with delight, amazed at God’s brilliance and creativity.
Fireflies–bursts of light in the darkness. They flicker on and off as if tiny flashlights searching the fields. All at once, I hear the Lord whispering to me. He says He is searching for my faith. I realize that faith is like a firefly: a spurt of hope in a nighttime of discouragement.
Of course! Fireflies are always present, but they can be seen best at night, when the darkness surrounds them. Faith is a part of my every day existence, but it is most vivid, to myself and others, when life looks bleak. Do I have faith that radiates in the dark hour of worry, sorrow and disappointment? Will the Lord find in me a firefly faith?
I watch the show until pitch settles upon the fields. It seems the fireflies have gone to bed, and so must I. Before I leave the porch for the padding of a pillow, I pray and ask the Lord to make my faith swell and completely expunge the darkness of despair.
I ask the Keeper of the Light to keep me shining, to fill up my spirit with His power, by His grace.
“People are like stained glass windows; they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light within.” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
Simplify and Savor: Keep a journal this season – write it in your “Firefly moments” – current and past, as a testimony and reminder of God’s faith. Read it aloud to your family, or just yourself when life feels overwhelming!
Have you ever been encouraged by the faith you see in others? Encourage us with your story!
Thanks for reading!
Ingrid Christiansen and her amazing family are featured in Susan May Warren’s award-winning, best-selling series, The Christiansen Family. Her newest book, Evergreen: A Winter Novella is available now as an ebook or in Hardcover (which would make an excellent Christmas gift!)
Thank you to my friend Emily Ann Peterson for this beautiful pin!
Thank you for stopping by!
Ingrid’s Insights to Christmas Gifts
No, this is not a list of 100 things you can give for less than $50.
It’s not a list of cool pinterest craft gifts.
It’s not an encouragement to pick gifts from the Samaritan’s Purse catalogue and give a goat to the needy (although you can if you want).
I want to talk about WHY you give a gift.
My favorite moment is when one of my children opens their gifts, and sees something unexpected, something amazing.
Something that delights their heart. Something that gives them peace, or joy. Comfort and delight.
My children love it too – in fact, their goal at Christmas is to make me cry. The one who gives me the best gift, apparently, wins.
The best gift? Something of themselves. Something that shows me how much they love me. Like a photograph of our family, edited and framed. Or a card with their favorite memories written on it.
We spend so much money every year on stuff…what if gave something more expensive. What if we gave ourselves?
What if I gave an hour of game time every week to my son. Or a “Girls-Only” weekend to my daughter? What if I game my mother a daily telephone call, and my husband a weekly date night (that I planned?)
This season, I challenge you to think outside the box with your gift-giving.
Start with understanding the love language of your giftee – words of affirmation, affection, quality time, acts of service, and gifts.
What “gift” speaks to that love language?
Add in, what sacrifice can you make that enhances that gift?
How does your gift bring delight, joy, peace…comfort?
This is the substance of the gift of Christmas, the example set by our Savior.
Stop stressing. Start simplifying.
What unique gifts can you give this year? We welcome ideas!
Thanks for reading!
From Ingrid’s Cookbook
Casper is our middle child – which means he’s the peace maker. When I first decided to allow our children to pick their cookie, Casper first picked Darek’s Chocolate Chip Cookies. Seeing they were taken, he then chose Eden and Grace’s Lucky Kiss Peanut Butter Cookies. Alas, too late. He then spent a few days trying to decide between Owen and Amelia’s Sugar Cookies or his mother’s favorite, Chewy Ginger Snaps. This recipe also came from Grandma Christiansen’s worn Minnesota cookbook, Recipes from Minnesota with Love.
Because I didn’t pick a favorite to bake, Casper sidled up to me one morning before December’s baking began and announced that he wanted me to have my favorite too – so he’d pick the spicy snap that I thought might be doomed to extinction. Casper, saving the day, again.
To delight him, I always let Casper press the tiny red-hot in the center of the cookie, like the crown jewel.
- 1/2 c. butter
- 1/4 margarine
- 1 c. light brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 4 Tbsp molasses
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 2 cup flour
- dash salt
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp ginger
- 2 tsp baking soda
- bowl of sugar for dipping
- Cream butter and margarine.
- Beat in sugar.
- Add egg and molasses, beat well.
- Stir in remaining ingredients.
- Chill 30 mins.
- Roll in 1 inch balls, dip/coat with sugar.
- Place on lightly greased baking sheet.
- Press a red-hot in the center of the ginger snap!
- Bake 350 for 8 mins.
Simply and Savor Tip: Eat this with a yummy mug of hot cocoa. Luckily, these are rather rich, so you’ll be happy with just one or two. (Maybe!)
Thanks for reading,