{ 4th of July Picnic 2019 }


Rain fell

Oh well

Clouds scattered

Families gathered

Prayer lifted

Prizes gifted

Thankful hearted,

Games started:

Three legs raced


Watermelon eaten

Teams beaten

Gunnysacks, balloons

Pudding spooned

Muddy feet,

Let’s eat!

Sun blazed

Nets raised

Volleyball served

(We just observed)

Fireworks glow

Time to go

Last year’s picnic: { Family 4th of July 2018 }


{ Polar Vortex, Wind Chill & Lots of Real Good Sauce}

“Deadly polar vortex blasts Midwest with record-breaking cold, forecasters warn to ‘minimize talking’ outdoors… This is way colder than your typical cold front. The polar vortex has shifted, sending an incredible combo of very low temps and wind chills to the Upper Midwest…” — quote from news headlines today

Last night our washing machine didn’t work — the water had frozen inside the pipes.

We thawed them, but to keep the water flowing well, I planned to:

  • Get up at midnight and do some laundry.
  • Get up once more during the night and do more laundry.

The second nocturnal laundry phase found the water frozen-in-the-pipes again. But I was already wide awake at 3:30 a.m. So I took a hot, cozy shower, made a cup of coffee, and enjoyed the backdrop of a quiet house in which to complete a project.

During the frigid, early morning hours, I snapped this photo of the thermometer outside our window.


Like a true Minnesotan, I will quantify the minus 20 degrees and add: “It was really twice as cold when you add the wind chill factor.”

Out of our four working young adults, none went to work today. This was due to cancellations and cars not starting. It was great to have them home.

Out of necessity (always, it seems, out of necessity) I concocted a hurry-up-and-make-dinner recipe. After tasting, my son said:

“See? This is how I like chicken! Not dry and with lots of real good sauce.

(I will take that as a compliment, and not read into it.)

Today, it was e x t r e m e l y. cold outside.

But I am thankful that it’s warm and happy indoors.

Quick Tandoori Chicken with Lots of Real Good Sauce

4 -6 chicken breasts, cut the way you like them or leave them whole

2 cups full fat plain Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

olive oil

  1. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a 13 x 9 glass pan.
  2. Place chicken pieces in the pan.
  3. Mix spices with the yogurt in a separate bowl.
  4. Spread yogurt evenly over chicken pieces.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for approximately 35 minutes, or until chicken is done.
  6. Serve with Basmati rice.

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Weather map: https://www.foxnews.com/us/deadly-polar-vortex-blasts-midwest-with-record-breaking-cold-forecasters-warn-to-minimize-talking-outdoors

{ 4 Money Savers }

Every afternoon around 3:00 p.m., my 14-year old son pops into the kitchen to nibble up the rest of the sandwiches I served for lunch.  It seems as if one minute I’m re-stocking the refrigerator, then I turn around and it’s time to run out for groceries. With a family of 13, saving money is always on my mind. I consider it a gift to snag extra peppers and zucchini that families share at church and I love finding healthy discounted food.  Here are four of my favorite current ways to save a few pennies…


  1. The Walmart discount bread rack. In our area, Walmart puts out day-old bread varieties every morning.  Like a vulture, I flock to the back of the store at approximately 8:09. As I quickly wheel and walk-run my cart past the end caps and barrel race between stock people, I sense the adrenaline boost. (I hesitate to mention this best-kept-secret, lest everyone hurry back to the bowels of their local Walmart…but, it’s too good not to share.) Breads, cookies, cakes, pitas, loaves and flat breads can all be found on certain days, and they are heavily discounted.  You can often find me unashamedly circling and gathering around the huge rack of bread, possibly with a territorial scowl on my morning face.



  1. The Walmart discount cooler. I was elated to find this treasure trove of discounted sandwiches, vegetables and packaged perishables all grouped together in one section of a cooler. Pre-sliced deli meats, subs, bagged veggies and more are added to my cart, stuffed between all that bread.
  2. Aldi discounted perishables. Aldi slaps discount stickers on meats, non-frozen pizzas and more. (It’s non-expired food that just needs to be moved a little faster.) It’s so fun to find that $1 or $2 off sticker on a package, I usually swing by there first and last before exiting Aldi.


  1. Rainy Day Fund.  I am new at this one, but it seems like a unique way to save a stash of cash. This app incrementally sucks money out of your bank account, securing it in a “rainy day” fund and updating you on your progress.  It might be a cool way for young people to aim toward a savings goal..at least my son thinks so:  digit.co/r/WyhQbEBYVN?aw

Photo credits:

Michael Longmire

Fabian Blank

{ reblog: dear diary – hope. always. forever.}

My daughter Sophia’s Christmas thoughts on her blog inspired me today…


Yesterday at church, I was Mary.  I stood and read those all familiar verses about Mary and for the first time, I realized the enormity of Mary’s need for her own Son.  Like, crazy, right?  That “this Child that [she] delivered would soon deliver [her]”.   Later, I watched the Nativity movie, and Mary held her Son out to a wizened old shepherd man, as if to say, “He’s for you too.  No one escapes the need for this baby. ”

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{ The Quintessence of Life}

“Let’s process some quintessence!” –  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 2013

Our lives are packed with sounds, sights, duties and desires.   If you are like me, each day ends with a sense that something didn’t get done. That something may be accomplished tomorrow, pushed off into next week or forgotten forever.

Besides this, the media is shouting at us to focus on the priorities of the current culture. As we consider, we are barraged with more noise.  With all the racket, it’s often easier to escape into our own world of Pinterest or gaming or…?

Have you ever wondered:

  • “Why do I feel like I’m busy all the time, pulled in ten different directions, but I still feel guilty that I’m not getting enough done?”
  • “What is the central, most important thing that I must do?”
  • “Why do I feel empty?”
  • “What is the quintessence* of life?”

I stayed home from church today– on purpose.  At my request, my family left me in an empty house (this is rare) so I could rest and think.  I picked up a Bible and found myself reading these verses:

But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word. Isaiah 66:2b

Which made me look up a similar passage:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

Reading these verses reminded me to focus on some quintessential essentials:

  • Be humble before God and others.
  • Be contrite in spirit, seeking forgiveness and giving grace to others.
  • Read God’s word and just do it.
  • Let God judge people’s hearts and motives, He doesn’t need my help with this.
  • Be kind, especially when it doesn’t feel natural.
  • And one more time: Be humble before God and others.

If you are a Bible believer and Christ follower, it is easy to get encumbered by extras.  We forget the basics about love and being like Jesus because we clutter it up with fancy works and human additives. We add unnecessary fluff to faith-living, borrowing stuff from others because it looks good on them.

If you are not a Christ-follower, it’s possible that you feel pulled here and there by good things but are not really sure what is the best thing.

Nobody can do even the basic things above by their own grit —  for long.  And doing the things mentioned above don’t make me a Christian, don’t save me and don’t get me to heaven. Only through God’s saving, enabling, restoring power can I do anything spiritually worthwhile.

Tomorrow, I will still wake up and make breakfast.  I will teach school, check off my to-do list and meet family needs.  But it helps to have these words fresh in my heart, reminding me to stay focused on things that matter to God.  It’s a reminder to always return to the quintessence of life by searching for it regularly in God’s Word.

Word Prompt of the Day: Quintessence

*Quintessence: the refined essence or extract of a substance.

The Blueprint for Being Born Again

© Lisa M. Luciano





{ You Can’t Cover Junior High Pain With Lip Gloss. }

fruit punch

It was the 1980’s and I was in Junior High.

Wearing a jumbo Bonne Bell Lip Smacker around my neck,  I tucked bubble gum Kissing Potion into the back pocket of my Gloria Vanderbilt jeans.

kissing potion

If you peeked into my purple LeSac purse, you’d most likely find a tin of green apple Lip Licker balm as well.

village lip lickers


Everyone has their personal struggles at that age.  One of my grievances was that I had embarrassingly large lips in a decade when thin lips were “in.”

When my sister and I would whine about our inflated-tire-styled lips, my mom would say, “You have beautiful, rosebud lips.”

What we didn’t know then: our big lips were 20 years ahead of trendy.

So in history class, I sat –hunched and quiet– behind popular Beth, who had perfect hair and a coveted, slim lipline.

She also wore teeny-tiny gold hoop earrings to match her teeny-thin body.

Note: I was not allowed to wear hoop earrings. 

After history class, I’d skulk over to my locker while smearing on an ounce or two of Bonne Bell. Mr. Marc’s writing class was next; an oasis in a desert of adolescent angst. Mr. Marc was a cool, kind and energetic teacher. On weekends he played in a 50’s band and he always wielded a dashing sense of humor.

I had a crush on him of course.

When the bell rang, students herded along the hallways, smelling like fruit (all that lip gloss) and hairspray. (The hairspray also smelled like fruit.)

There was a constant social stream ominously buzzing past, as I darted in and out of classes.

School lunchtime offered awkward social interaction, as well as limp rectangles of pizza. I walked slowly to gym class. Junior High co-ed swimming should be outlawed. Like everyone else, I was required to wear a school-issued drab green swimsuit. Mine had seen its share of chlorine over the years. The swimming segment of physical education lasted two weeks.  Sometimes I’d forget to hang up the swimsuit, and it would stay balled up overnight in a smelly locker.

The next day, putting the wet swimsuit back on was like squeezing into a cold, wet plastic bag.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Even though I now call it “lip balm”, I am never without a tube or two in my purse. And I now wear hoop earrings every single day.

Does this fact have its roots in junior-high-hoop-deprivation? Am I still trying to make up for junior high pain with my ever-present tube of lip balm?  And, fruity-fragranced personal care products give me headaches.

Food for thought…but don’t think too deep…:)

village lip lickers

(Thanks, Sara for the Lip Lickers photo, which inspired this post)

{ Summer Thoughts & Quotes }

Summer, in essence, is gone and it was packed with whimsy, struggle and adventure.

Road construction started on the very first day of swimming lessons on the very road we needed to take to get there.  We reached our destination through other dusty byways.  We met a family, made new friends and the young swimmers learned how not to sink in deep water.

Our power went out only once.

My older son discovered fishing and it became his new addiction hobby.

We didn’t go to the State Fair.

We were poor this summer and it was good. We found cheap food and visited the library, where you can always feel rich.

God sent work.  And He sent helpers, like people we know from college that are now employed in an appliance store and they are willing to give you free advice and discounted parts to fix your 10-year-old dryer so you don’t have to hire a handyman.

Gifts like these were real and we were grateful.

A daily summer job meant the boys made their own lunches every night, left in the early morning and sometimes forgot to tell Mama they had plans for the evening.  Dinner sat smoldering and so did Mama’s countenance as we plowed through these and other minor challenges.

We talked, we compared calendars, we conquered.

The growing of adults and the path to maturity doesn’t happen in one, exhilarating swoop. It happens in all the teeny tiny day-to-day ways.

It helps to have the attitude of love and patience toward one another. When I look back over my lifetime, I hope I will see a steady — if sometimes detoured — path of growth, maturity and the stripping away of petty, unimportant expectations of others.

As a parent, I can’t make everyone do right all the time.

But I can, by God’s grace, make it a goal to be a good example and ask forgiveness when I’m not one.

Beyond that, I just need to pray for my growing ones. As God poured patience on me in my young adulthood, so He will with my young adult progeny, who are pilgrims on their own pathway.

A few quotes from Summer 2018:


“I like to smell the runners as they go by.”

– Jonny said it at the August 2018 half-marathon in St. Paul


corn field

“All this corn everywhere….it’s so depressing.”

– Gino said it on a late summer drive through Wisconsin



Hanna, my vegan daughter, said: “Where’s my other tofu?  I know I bought two.”

I said:  “Keep looking – it’s there.  Nobody would snitch that.”


Photo Credits:

Runners:Mārtiņš Zemlickis



{ Fork in Road & Forgiveness }

Have you ever disappointed someone when you changed your mind?

Have you ever known the shame of a damaged reputation?

If so, you have something in common with John Mark – the bringer of good news; the writer of the gospel of Mark.

John Mark traveled as an assistant to Paul and Barnabas, when they embarked on their missionary journey.  Halfway through, he opted out and returned home before they were officially finished.  No one knows exactly why:

  • Sickness?
  • Fear?
  • Exhaustion?
  • Spiritual failure?

Whatever the reason, John Mark’s abrupt exit bothered Paul.  It caused a rift between Paul and Barnabas.

Later, Barnabas (whose name means “son of encouragement”) wanted to give John Mark a second chance.

Paul wouldn’t have it.

So, Barnabas took John Mark one way, and Paul went another way with Silas.

In later years, Paul accepted John Mark as a worthy helper; he not only forgave him but praised him in the pages of scripture.

I would love to know what happened between the volatile rift and the complete forgiveness.

  • What’s the rest of the story?
  • Did John Mark have to prove himself?
  • What role did Barnabas the encourager play?

I think God used Barnabas to turn things around for John Mark with his encouraging:

 You still have worth! I believe in you!  Let’s go!

His support must have been life-changing — without it, John Mark would have just returned home.

With that encouragement, John Mark is down in history as being:

  • “Like a son” to Peter (1 Peter 5:13)
  • “Useful in ministry” to Paul (2 Timothy 4:11)
  • Author of the efficiently written gospel of Mark


Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 

Correction does much, but encouragement does more. ~ Goethe

In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity. ~ Albert Einstein

Photo credit:Jens Lelie

{ What is an Adventure? }

lime donuts

What is an adventure?

An adventure is a little trip that twists unexpectedly, making life more intriguing or educational than just staying home.

It’s like heading to Hinckley because someone on Craigslist wants to buy your antique chair.  Along the way, you run into tangled traffic and a surprising amount of snow.  And when you are almost there, the chair customer calls and says she is not interested after all.

So, the tears and loud expressions of regret you yell aloud in an empty car make you realize that you are still pretty rough around the edges and God has more work to do on you.

Life is an adventure that is filled with mini adventures.  Just when you think you are going to the store for potatoes, you run out of gas and meet an angel on County Road #1. And when you arrive home without the forgotten potatoes, you are faced with the truth you should have known all along:  everyone wanted pancakes, anyway.

An adventure is a journey of corners. As you peek around each one, you may find a nest of  naked, newborn field mice, or a key lime donut with chocolate sprinkles.  You never know. A true adventure is usually not 100% bad or 100% good – it’s a little of both.

Unplanned, unexpected and possibly unwelcome, an adventure makes you richer because, after all the field mice and donuts, you have a true and unique story to tell.


“Adventures are never fun while you’re having them.”

~ C.S. Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader


© Lisa M. Luciano