Dear Chris,

I’ve been sitting here staring at a blank screen for the last 2 hours. It’s so hard to express in a few paragraphs all that has been seen and felt in the last 2 days.

To try and sum up the truly celebratory service we had on Friday, with one of the most moving moments I’ve ever experienced in life on Saturday is simply impossible.

So, here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna write 2 letters. One to Chris to tell him about Friday. And one to God to thank Him for the sacred and holy moment He gave us on Saturday.


Dear Chris,

The first thing you need to know is WE MISS YOU!! Yes, we cried. I know you wouldn’t want us to, but you can’t always have your way. But you would’ve been so proud…we laughed too! A. LOT!

Of course your life verse set the tone for the whole Celebration. I think we all know it by heart now. John 10:10…. ”The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” I think after Friday, we’re all gonna try even harder to live life more fully. This will honor you best. Thank you for being such a wonderful example to us. So many of our YoungLife kids said at your party “after today, we’re hitting the re-set button to be more present in the moment. To be more active. To be better husbands. Better dads. Better Friends.” You’re still teaching them, Chris.

Chris, Kellie, Caroline, Kip, Hope

Chris, Kellie, Caroline, Kip, Hope

I want you to know your hot brunette was as hot as she always is! She was the picture of strength and grace. She was having a rough morning, but Alex gave her a wonderful gift. He dug up old footage of you from club years ago. I was standing there when she hugged him and said, “thank you for giving me my husband back.” Seeing your silly face on screen comforted her. And even rejuvenated her a bit, as she begins these first steps of this new journey without you. I’m praying specifically that God is merciful to her memory and that slowly the healthy you replaces the images of these last few weeks and months. If God has an expedited folder, would you slip this prayer in there for us? She misses you as her life partner. “Chris & Kellie” rolls off all of our tongues so naturally. I’m not really ready to not say y’alls names together yet. You were each other’s yin and yang. Salt and pepper. Beach and sand. Y’all have done life together for SO long. She loved being your wife. We sat up a long time the other night emphasizing the fact there will never be another you.

Hope and Caroline were strong too. You’ve would’ve been so proud of them! And Kip. Wow. I know you know this already, but Hope chose so well. Everyone was so impressed with Kip. You would’ve been delighted at the way he held up all of your girls. He acknowledged that you would’ve been the one being so strong for all of them. He knows this is now his role, and he willingly accepts it. He also had us laughing! I don’t remember his exact words, but they were something to the affect of how lucky he was to be married to one of YOUR daughters. It’s undeniable. They are beautiful, Chris. Inside and out. I know he will closely and lovingly watch over Caroline and make sure she chooses well also. I’ll never forget us sitting on your bed and you telling us, “It’s not y’all that I’m worried about; y’all will be fine. It’s my girls that I’m concerned for.” With Kip leading the way, we will all surround them and care for them. We promise.

Cynthia honored both you and Jimmy. She is comforted knowing you and Jimmy are now together. But that doesn’t make it hurt any less. She talked about what a great caretaker you were to Jimmy. Both when you were little and through his sickness as well. It’s too much for a sister to have to lose 2 brothers in 10 months. Our hearts are breaking for her, too, and we are holding her closely. Don’t be jealous, but I think Scott and Pete are wanting to both be her brothers now. ☺ Of course, they won’t fill yours and Jimmy’s shoes. She has a Chris and Jimmy sized hole in her heart that only you and Jimmy can fill. But know that we’re gonna keep on loving her. You and Kellie were both blessed with the best brothers and sisters ever.

Jim, Chris, Jimmy, Cynthia

Jim, Chris, Jimmy, Cynthia

Scott told some great, great stories! They were so you! But I think he honored you best when he said this: “Chris lived an Easter Sunday life in a Good Friday world.” None of us were surprised you went home on Easter. We all agree that Easter will be all the more special now. And I can tell you for sure, I’ve never been more grateful that death has been defeated. I didn’t get a chance to tell you this, but Abbey’s best friend Tiffani was baptized on Easter Sunday. Kellie told me right before services that you’d slipped into paradise. So as we stood at the alter with Tiffani on Sunday morning, the thought that ran through my mind was this: “I’m here with one teenage friend who is professing her faith, while my dear friend Chris is perfecting his faith.” I know how much you love teenagers. And how much you wanted them to understand and know the gospel, so this moment was especially meaningful to me on Easter.

Scott & Chris

Scott & Chris

And speaking of teenagers. You would have LOVED this! At your Celebration, Rob brought us words of comfort YoungLife style! He lost it when he first tried to speak. This has been really hard on him. He’s preached a lot of funerals (I hate that word), but I’m surmising this one has been the most difficult. He did pull it together because he said he could hear you say, “Brother Rob, give ‘em a word.” And not only did he give us a word, he gave us a song and dance too! Yep, you guessed it! He resurrected Danny and Joey! He put the picture of y’all on the screen and even donned the same black, curly wig he wore at the Arbor Green Clubhouse all those years ago! We were rolling! He said he hopes when his time comes, you are standing right behind Jesus ready to greet him to C’mon Ride the Train! Yes, we played a portion of that song at the church, and no, we didn’t get kicked out! I’m sure they’re praying for us, though!

Danny & Joey aka Rob & Chris

Danny & Joey
aka Rob & Chris

We ended your Celebration with Our God and 10,000 Reasons. I remembered your eyes lighting up when we talked about having worship songs at your party. I picked these songs in particular because I can still see your hands worshipfully in the air singing Our God to our Heavenly Father. Both pre and post diagnosis.

10,000 Reasons was a pivotal song for me. I’ve heard it 10,000 times (pun intended), but I heard it for the FIRST time on yours and Kellie’s 29th wedding anniversary. I was at Chris Tomlin’s concert, fresh back from Roswell after Pete and I had flown up to say good-bye to you. I was still struggling with anger and here’s the part of the song that broke me:

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Soon my soul will sing your praise un-ending
10,000 years and then forever more

When I saw these words flash on the screen, I felt the anger leave me, and for the first time in months, I allowed God to comfort me, instead of pushing Him away. 10,000 years is a long time, and when we all get there, we’ll know this life as a vapor, as you now do. One other note on 10,000 Reasons…God being God, continues to take even our selfish decisions and use those too. Kip and Hope both told me after the service how special 10,000 Reasons has been to them. I was thrilled! I’ll let them tell you about the Lazarus thread between their Easter Sunday message and Rob’s message at your Celebration. But for now, let’s just say, I think the message has definitely been punctuated for them. I do love how personal God is with all of us. He takes such care with every detail and knits it all together. Even right down to messages and songs.

one of our last fun days with you! i love this one especially because of the hairnets! and of course, your JOY FM t-shirt.

one of our last fun days with you! i love this one especially because of the hairnets! and of course, your JOY FM t-shirt.

We did have burgers at sunset back at the beach. And yes, everyone had on shorts and flip flops. Well, some of us had on sundresses. Again, you can’t always get everything you want! But we did dress up in our “Friday best”. The Meat Monkeys went ALL OUT! Bill, Ben, Greg, Craig, Brian, Pete and all of your buds were there flipping burgers, baking beans, and doing it up right. They outshine any caterer. But you already know that. They were absolutely honored they got to serve you in this way.

So many folks came to honor you. Your Oakley guys were there! Jim even brought the shorts that he ripped because YOU made him jump off a cliff! Your high school friends, Tampa friends, Bradenton friends, and tons of YoungLife kids from both communities all came to celebrate you. You even made some new friends. The few there that hadn’t had a chance to meet you, were wishing they had!

We’ll probably always have the “WHY” question in the back of our minds. WHY it had to be you, especially when you championed health. But we’re trying to transition from the WHY to the WHO and WHERE. The same WHO that came to give us life, and give it to the full is the same WHO that will comfort Kellie, the girls, Cynthia, Kip and the rest of us who love you so much. Jesus is the WHO that was with you as you closed your eyes here and opened them there. And we know WHERE there is….we know without a shadow of a doubt WHERE you are. And we want to be WHERE you are one day too.

You leaving us at 48 years old has taught us to number our days and to live them fully. “To live like we’re on borrowed time,” as your favorite song goes. And because you were a blogger, and because Scott so eloquently pointed out that you were a fisher of men (btw, he said you weren’t that great of a fisherman, but don’t tell him I told you), I am posting this letter to you. Why? Because I know your greatest desire was for people to know the Giver of Life. You wanted people to know about Jesus. Yes, you’d hate all of this hullabaloo of us celebrating you. You’d be shushing all of us. You’d be pointing heavenward. But you preached your own service on Friday, Christopher John, because of the life you lived. My hope is that if someone stumbles across this letter, they’ll learn from you just as we have.

I’ll never forget our last words as you hugged me. “I love you sister. Take care of my hot brunette.” I promised you that I would and I will.

Tomorrow, I will write a letter to God to thank Him for the sacred and holy moment He gave us on Saturday. We all laughed on the boat on Saturday when Scott had to dive in the water for the anchor. We could hear you telling God, “yep, those are my peeps.”

One last request…as our diplomat, when you see us coming, will you please ride your bike to the gate and just make sure there are no “issues”? Thanks!

Your sister in Christ.
and Lucy to your Ethel.

PS…I’m posting the video of you, Chris, because I want everyone to know you the way we did. And also because Alex did a phenomenal job of capturing all sides of you! I know you’d want me to brag on him too!

Celebrating Chris from The Morning Cruise on Vimeo.

Celebrating Chris


Chris’s Celebration of LifeChrisBookMarkPROOF

Friday, April 12th at 2 p.m.

Bayside Community Church
East Bradenton Campus
15800 SR 64 East
Bradenton, FL

Chris’s Party:
Immediately following the Celebration of Life:
102 48th Street
Holmes Beach, FL

Dress Code:
Now that you have the date, time, and location, I need to share with you the most important detail of the day….the DRESS CODE!

Direct quote from Christopher John:

“I want y’all to have a party with burgers, at sunset on the beach. I want everyone to wear shorts and flip flops.”

So, to honor Chris, this IS the attire for his Celebration of Life and Sunset Beach Party immediately following. If you show up in a suit and tie at the service or party, we’ll have big burley YoungLife kids on-hand to escort you out for being overdressed. Kidding! Sort of.

Kellie did, however, make one caveat: The women can wear a sundress if they prefer, but only with flip flops! Now before you say, “that’s not what Chris wanted,” let’s be honest, if the hot brunette (Chris’s affectionate name for Kellie) wanted to wear a sundress, Chris would’ve been totally OK with that! The point being….Chris was the most down to earth, casual, easy-to-be-around, low key guy. He loved the outdoors, and if he wasn’t in workout or biking clothes, he was in shorts and flip flops. He wouldn’t want us showing up in anything else!

In lieu of flowers a donation can be made to:
6469 Parkland Drive
Sarasota, FL 34243
Or online at
Please note on check or online: In honor of Chris Hughes

We hope you’ll join us to celebrate Chris next Friday. He was a loving husband to Kellie. A devoted dad to Hope and Caroline. A fantastic father-in-law to Kip. A faithful brother to Cynthia and Jimmy. A cherished son to his parents. He was an uncle, a brother-in-law and a loyal friend to many. But most importantly, He was a child of God. It’s been such a gift to Kellie to hear so many of you share with her how Chris not only impacted your life in a real tangible way, but in eternal ways too. Chris loved kids! He loved people!! And he loved Jesus. We will celebrate all of this next Friday. Kellie and the family look forward to seeing you.

The Meat Monkeys at St. James will be providing the burgers and condiments.
If you would like to help with a side dish, please contact:
Pam Dickinson at

If you’d like to send Kellie a card you can mail to:

Kellie Hughes
c/o The JOY FM
6469 Parkland Drive
Sarasota, FL 34243


Christopher John Hughes


Christopher John HughesJune 8, 1964 - March 31, 2013

Christopher John Hughes
June 8, 1964 – March 31, 2013

Today is Easter Sunday. Today is also the day that Christopher John’s faith has become his sight. He is now in paradise. As hard as it is, how fitting that it be on Easter Sunday. Kellie feels so much peace that God called him home on this day. We’re pretty sure he’s already on his bike cruising the streets of gold!  Without question, all of us are so heartbroken, but we are incredibly grateful that we can grieve – and are grieving – with HOPE.  Thank you, Jesus for this gift. We’re clinging to it.  Please hold Kellie, Hope, Caroline, Cynthia, and Chris’ parents tightly in your prayers these next few days and weeks to come.

Kellie has asked me to communicate a few things to everyone. And I thought this might be a good place, in addition to Facebook. The outpouring of love and support is overwhelming to her. She told me several times today she literally can feel your prayers in an inexplicable, supernatural way.

We WILL be throwing a party for Chris! He gave us very explicit instructions, right down to the dress code. {More on that when we confirm all the details.} But, when you hear what he wants, you’ll nod your head and say, “yep, that’s Chris!”

For planning purposes:

Chris’ Memorial Service/Party will be in Bradenton. Kellie has a date in mind, but I need to call the church tomorrow to confirm availability. It will be in a week or so.

Chris requested that in lieu of flowers, he wants folks to make a donation to The JOY FM. The address is 6469 Parkland Drive, Sarasota, FL 34243.  Of course this sounds suspicious coming from me, but I promise you it is true! Chris listened all the time, and via his app when they moved. Kellie said she really doesn’t want people spending money on flowers. She’ll be leaving Atlanta in a few days headed this way.

If you have a favorite picture of you and Chris, please email the pic to

As soon as we confirm all the details in the next few days, I will post ASAP, so you can make travel plans.

Kellie sends her love and gratitude to each of you. She feels your love and support.



one month.


One month down. Eleven to go. Today’s March 27th, which marks one month that I’m “shopping-free.”  On February 27, I decided to not buy anything for a year. I had 3 categories….clothes, purses and costume jewelry. You can scroll back and read the full post.

Today on the show, I brought up that it’s been a month. I’ve been to the mall maybe twice. I did go to Loft to exchange a pair of jeans I’d bought in January. Colored jeans are in, and I had bought a mint green pair, but the more I tried them on the more I realized the color is too pale for my legs. Darker denim is much more flattering on me. So, I exchanged them for a periwinkle color. Other than exchanging those jeans, I’ve not shopped. But before I give myself a gold star, 3 weeks of March was pretty much consumed with a trip to Atlanta and 2 weeks worth of FriendRaiser. At the moment, I’ll just acknowledge I’m off to a good start.

But now the journey has taken a twist.

7, an experimental mutiny against excess

7, an experimental mutiny against excess

In the course of the conversation today on the show – and because most times I do NOT think before I speak – we (me, Dave, Bill) are now doing a “7 Clothes” challenge for the month of April. In Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7, an experimental mutiny against excess, Jen identifies 7 different areas of excess in her life: clothes. shopping. waste. food. possessions. media. stress. In Chapter 1, she eats only seven different foods for a solid month. In Chapter 2, she identifies seven different clothing items that she’ll wear for a month.

But back to today’s show.

After reading several different excerpts from Jen’s book, The Morning Cruise (TMC) are choosing seven clothing items tonight, to bring to the show tomorrow. At 7:07 (get it?), we’re going to show what 7 garments we will wear from April 1 – 30. Dave didn’t even have to think about it. He was in for the challenge, not stressed, and is ready to start. One listener kidded that he’d probably have to go buy a few pieces just to get to 7. Dave is a minimalist and he prefers and chooses to be this way. On the opposite end of the spectrum resides Bill and me. And I’m not sure who is struggling with it more. No, actually I do know. It’s Bill.

You will find this hard to believe, but Bill packs a bigger suitcase than me. And when we go out of town as a show, he brings more shoes than I do. And no, I am not kidding! If you don’t believe me, ask Dave. True story.

Dave did give us a couple of caveats.

Mine: I am on a panel at a Women in Radio Summit on April 19. I get a free pass that day, and can wear anything I want.

Bill’s: He leads worship on Sundays, so Sunday becomes his “feast” day. He can wear something different each Sunday for the month of April.


1) Shoes are one category, but we are choosing only 2 pairs.
2) undergarments don’t count.
3) workout clothes don’t count.
4) pajamas don’t count.
5) coats don’t count.
6) we have a handful of station events in April. Staff shirts don’t count. But we are choosing 1 black shirt.

These are a couple of variations from how Jen did it in her book, but the spirit of this experiment isn’t to do exactly what Jen did, or to be super legalistic. The spirit of this experiment is to choose intentional reduction, and to recognize we can live on – and with – less. We are a consumption society. We are an instant gratification society. We are a wasteful society. We are a spoiled society. And please don’t hear this as me on a soapbox or making indictments against anybody. I’m not here to judge. Nor will I.

What I am here to do is open myself up to allow God to work out some entitlement tendencies in my own heart. I let the words “I need” roll off my tongue as if I’m telling someone what the weather is gonna be like today. And no, it’s not needs. It’s wants! I’ve become so desensitized to wants vs. real needs.

I want to intentionally reduce. Reduce the stuff. Reduce the clutter. Reduce the noise. And REPLACE it with gratitude. Replace it with more time with Jesus. More space for Jesus. When I’m aggravated I only have 7 things to wear this month, I want to stop and count the blessings I do have. I want to pray that God helps me with my critical spirit. I want to pray that He helps me with my cynicism. I want to surrender my ability (and tendency) to rationalize when I want something to go my way. I want to be less selfish. I want to think of others more. I want to be more tolerant. I want to remember that slavery still exists in this country. In this world. I want to remember the ones that truly only have 7 clothing items, and wouldn’t need a challenge to succeed at our challenge, if you get what I’m saying. Oh, I could name a hundred more things…but, as you can see, God has a lot of work to do in me still.

I get this may seem silly/radical/legalistic/fill-in-the-blank to some, but for me, it’s about losing the blurred lines between wants vs. needs. To live gratefully. To live more simply. And with a more healthy perspective.

This scripture passage jumped off the page at me:

1 John 2: 15-17 NLT

15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

And here’s The Message version:

Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.

Alrighty, I’m off to pick my 7 items. I’ve talked a good game above. Now let’s see if I can walk my really good talk. No doubt this is gonna be rough. Anybody wanna join us?


Chris & Kellie.


Lots of times in life we don’t realize we’re living a “moment in time” until after we’ve lived it. And then – every once in a great while – there are days like today, when you are fully aware of the “moment” you’re living.

This was the opening line of my journal entry from last week. The day before, I had gotten the dreaded phone call from Kellie. The one that said, “The doctors have told me it’s time to call hospice.”

No. No. NO!

Our minds (or maybe more appropriately, our hearts) are very weird. Even when we know, short of a miracle, something is coming, it’s still so very hard to hear. Or accept.

Feeling helpless and not knowing what else to do, I flew to Atlanta.

When I got to the cancer center in Newnan last week, I wasn’t ready to see Chris’ physical appearance. The last time I saw him was in November. He was thinner, but he still looked like “Chris.” Now, he looks like he has cancer. He’s frail, and very very thin. Well, all except his belly. This iron man/tri-athlete who has never had anything less than a six pack, now has this protruding belly, one that we all tease – Chris included – makes him look like he’s about to deliver. Because humor gets us through, and because we are all pretty irreverent, I said to Chris: “Are we in a cancer hospital or the maternity ward?” Of course he laughed as best he could. It didn’t take long for him to shoot one back at me… “You know I’m going on ahead as a diplomat, right? To make sure you and Kellie get in.” lololol. Tears. Laughs. Tears.

If I had to name someone in which to compare Chris, I would tell you “think Tony Dungy.” Chris has that same quiet strength. He’s not loud or flashy. He’s a man of integrity and character. He’s silly. He’s an instigator! He’s a good listener. He’s not judgmental. He’s always, always positive. He’s a good friend. And a good man. His family is everything to him. Other than worrying about his girls (all 3 of them), he is ready. He loves and trusts God with a blind faith that leaves me wanting to sit at his bedside and ask him to speak wisdom into my life.

We sat for a bit and talked about what kind of service and music he wants. His words: “I want a party!” I told him we wouldn’t be much in the partying mood. He did tell me the songs he would want played. He even pulled up a YouTube video of one of ‘em on his phone to show me. He did have one mandate: “No sad songs!” I asked him if he was at peace. He said “yes, God’s been preparing me for this, for a while.”  I told him, “Chris, you are SO LOVED. I hope you know how much everybody loves you.” I think he does.

Pete flew up a day later and we were able to spend a few days together. It was a beautiful visit. We did such normal things. Pete & Chris watched the Gator basketball game in between naps (Pete napping too!). Kellie and I went for a walk. Pete treated me and Kel to pedis and manis. All so normal. Yet so abnormal. Chris is in his 40’s. It’s surreal knowing what you’re really doing is saying goodbye. On the positive side, we are so grateful for the gift of being able to leave nothing unsaid. Not everybody gets that. It’s a gift we are holding tightly.

My emotions are still all over the place. I’m tender. I’m raw. I’m disappointed. I’m sad. And I’m mad. All normal, I suppose. The scripture I keep repeating to myself…”even when we are faithless, You remain faithful.” Thank you, Lord; I’m clinging to this promise.

Kellie & Chris

Kellie & Chris…so beautiful! and so handsome!

Today is hard, too…today is Chris & Kellie’s 29th wedding anniversary.  I can’t stop thinking about them. It feels odd to call and say “Happy Anniversary!”  I know she is grateful for the 29 years God has given her with Chris. But I also know she would eagerly sign up for 29 more. I simply can’t imagine there being a time when there’s a Kellie “without a Chris.”  I think about the vows they took all those years ago. When you promise “in sickness and in health,” you really aren’t picturing this. But it’s life, and it’s what we enthusiastically promise. I can’t tell you what a wonderful caregiver she is being to her husband. She’s amazing. I know people go through this every day. And I know she isn’t exempt.  We, as believers, aren’t exempt. I know we aren’t immune to pain. And I know God said, “In this world you WILL have trouble; not IF you have trouble.”  I know God doesn’t owe us any explanations. I know His ways are higher. I know He loves us more than we can imagine. I know He has prepared a place for us. I know we are just passing through. I know this isn’t our home.  I know, I know, I know….

But still.

Spending these last few days with Chris have left me feeling really dwarfed by the magnitude of God; we truly operate in nothing more than an “illusion of control.” But even though I’ve felt really small, I’ve also felt His nearness. I know He sees us. I know He hears us. And I know He catches every single tear. I watched a sermon by Britt Merrick the other day called “When Sparrows Fall.” Britt is a pastor who recently lost his daughter to cancer. He said this: In times like these, we ask the wrong question. The question isn’t “Why?” But rather, “Who?”  It’s not, “God, why is this happening?” But rather, “Who will carry us through?”

I know God will carry Kellie, Hope, Caroline, Cynthia and the rest of Chris’ family through this. I also know their darkest days are still ahead of them. As family and friends, we’re transitioning from praying for a miracle to praying that he not suffer long. And of course, trying to figure out how to say goodbye.


Dave’s Mom’s Biscuits


Blondie's biscuits

Blondie’s biscuits

OH. MY. WORD! I’ve not had biscuits like my Maw-Maw Brown used to make since she passed away. Well, not until today!!! Dave’s mom, Blondie, shared her family’s biscuit recipe with Dave and he is now sharing it with us!! He and Emilie made these for us last night, and Bill and I are feasting on them this morning!! My record is 17 biscuits in one weekend (not kidding! I had 9 on Saturday and 8 on Sunday when I was 12 and spent the weekend with Maw-Maw & Paw-Paw Brown!) If I didn’t have to share with Bill, I could totally finish off the platter by myself!!

Blondie’s Biscuits:

Pioneer Original or Buttermilk Biscuit & Baking Mix

3 cup Pioneer Original or Buttermilk Biscuit & Baking Mix
1 cup Whole milk (or buttermilk)

Preparation Instructions:

1. Heat oven to 450°F.

2. Mix ingredients just until a dough forms. Do not overmix.

3. Turn dough onto floured surface; shape into a ball. Knead 3 to 4 times.

4. Roll 1/2-inch thick. Hand form biscuits (should be 2 to 3 inches).

5. Place with sides touching on lightly oiled baking sheet. Brush the top of each biscuit with oil

6. Bake 11 to 13 minutes.

7. Brush with melted butter


Aunt Judy’s Chicken Pilau

Just the way Aunt Judy made it!

Just the way Aunt Judy made it!


Well, this is Bill’s Aunt Judy, not mine! But I’m excited about his family recipe. It’s a simple Southern comfort food dish. It’s super inexpensive too!

Get the recipe here.



My Dad’s Chili Recipe


I recently taught my daughter, Abbey how to make my dad’s chili. This sparked a conversation between Dave, Bill & me. This week on TMC, I’m making my dad’s chili, Bill’s making a chicken dish of his aunt’s, and Dave is making his mom’s biscuits.

Family Recipe #1:

Carmen’s Dad Chili Recipe


2 lbs Ground round
1 medium yellow onion
McCormick ORIGINAL chili packet
1 large can (31 oz) Van Camps Pork & Beans
2 cans (16 oz) Bush’s Pinto Beans
1 can (16 oz) Bush’s Dark Red Kidney Beans
1 can (16 oz) Bush’s Light Red Kidney Beans
1 large can (28 oz) Hunt’s Whole (Peeled) Tomatoes
1 bottle (2.5 oz) McCormick Chili Powder


Brown the ground round. Drain and rinse with hot water. Set aside.
Chop onion into frying pan. Add the McCormick chili packet, then fill empty packet with water and add.
Brown onions in the seasoning mix.
Add cooked ground round and heat.
Drain all cans of beans; remove pork fat from Pork & Beans
In a large crock pot, stir:
Van Camps Pork & Beans
Bush’s Pinto Beans
Bush’s Dark Red Kidney Beans
Bush’s Light Red Kidney Beans
Hand-crush Hunts Whole Tomatoes into medium-sized chunks, add to crock pot.
Add browned meat and onions.
Add ½ bottle (or to taste) McCormick Chili Powder

Cook all day.

Serve with sour cream and melted cheese.




Today’s my 42nd birthday. I’m sitting outside of a Starbucks waiting for my Genius Bar appointment to check on the battery life of my iPhone. It’s ironic that I’m sitting in a mall right now, given the decision I’m making today.  This has actually been on my mind and heart to do for the last several years, but for this reason or that reason, I’ve not yet done it.

But today is the day.

As of today, February 27, 2013, I am not shopping for anything new for an entire year. Nope. I cannot buy one stitch of clothing, a purse, or costume jewelry for myself until February 27, 2014.

You may be thinking…”Carmen, are you confessing to being a shopoholic?” Nope. I’m not. Because it’s not that at all. The reason is simple…

I have enough.

A few things have brought me to this decision.

The first was the 4 mission trips I’ve been on the last 5 years. Once you’ve visited a foreign county, you realize just what a consumption society we are.  This isn’t an indictment against anyone, our country, or standing in protest. I’m all about supporting our economy! And I will continue to do so. I just won’t do it by purchasing clothing, purses, jewelry (and maybe) shoes. I’ve not decided about this one yet. Shoes aren’t my weakness; purses are.

The second is that every time my birthday rolls around, Pete, the girls, and my mom ask me what I want for my birthday. I honestly can never tell them one single thing. Can anybody relate?  As a family, we’ve really transformed our Christmases the last couple of years. We were having the same conversation year after year, “Girls, what do you want for Christmas?” // “I don’t know, Mom, let me think about it.” End scene. // Frantically, I’d end up at the mall, walking around for hours, hurrying to buy more of what they didn’t need, for more money than I should’ve spent, and wasting lots of hours I’d never get back. It was madness. So the last few years, we’ve not done gifts, and have spent quality time together, making a memory instead. At this point, I do feel the need to say emphatically … BY NO MEANS am I saying it’s not good to buy Christmas gifts for the ones you love! I still buy my girls small stocking stuffer type gifts. I do buy them birthday gifts. I do still buy gifts for lots of people! I love buying gifts. Gifts are my love language. But I buy gifts now because I want to; not because I have to.

But I digress regarding Christmas. Probably because Christmas has been another indicator that we have enough. More than enough.

Lastly, I’ve been reading a book called “7, An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” by Jen Hatmaker.

7, an experimental mutiny against excess

7, an experimental mutiny against excess

I’m only on Chapter 3, but I love where it’s going. Long story short, Jen and her family took in another family during a hurricane. When their guests arrived at their home, a little boy ran inside and said, “Look dad, they’re rich!” Jen lives in a normal, middle class neighborhood. But to this child (and accurately so) she was rich!

I’ve been to Peru. I’ve been to Guatemala. I’ve been to Honduras. Trust me, we are rich. I live in a 2100 square foot, 2 bath, 2 car garage home. And I am rich.

I’ve got more clothes in my closet than I can wear. Heck, I’ve got a whole wardrobe in 3 sizes!! I’ve got more purses than I can carry. I have so much fun jewelry I sometimes forget what I have. I don’t need a thing. If I invited you into my closet, I would be embarrassed. (Anyone wanna join me in a closet confession?)

So the year experiment begins today. This isn’t to say you won’t see me in a mall. You will. Admittedly, one of my favorite things to do is to get my girls and meet my mom at the mall. We like to grab a Starbucks, walk around and browse (usually this is when the “buying things I don’t need” transactions take place), and then we’ll have a late lunch at California Pizza Kitchen (btw, the hummus appetizer and roasted vegetable salad are my favorites!) But I digress again.

I ‘m not gonna get super legalistic about this. I know me. As soon as I tell myself I can’t do something (or eat something), I want it all the more. It’s truly not about keeping the rules. It’s about transformation, downsizing, and getting rid of the excess. I will still buy makeup (not lip gloss, tho! I have 12 tubes). I will still buy things for my girls. I will still buy gifts for my friends. But for myself, I want to enjoy and be OK with what I already own. If a craving hits (and it most likely will), I want to satisfy it on behalf of someone who needs it more than me.

And finally, PLEASE don’t hear this as me being super spiritual. I am so NOT. Trust me! God is working some things out in me that need to be worked out. This is a personal acknowledgement (and repentance in some ways) to the Lord. A step towards true gratitude (likewise, sometimes I wonder if I even know real hunger).  This is a step towards knowing the difference between wants vs. real needs. This is a step towards contentment with what I have, breaking the habit of buying, and pleasing God with every dollar I spend.

Perhaps it’s best summed up best this way:

Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. So for my 42nd year of life, I’m not.



14 things.

I LOVE this. I found it at Here’s the link!

But I’ve copied & pasted for you here.

14 things YOU can do….

To bring awareness to the injustices of human trafficking and sexual assault and help equip Christian leaders and churches in making a difference, we wanted to provide 14 things you can do today to fight human trafficking and help victims. Whatever you do, shine a light on these dark injustices and be a voice on behalf of those who cannot be heard.

Being informed is the pavement you walk on. Get informed and be aware of the prevalence of the sex trade in your hometown, state, country, and world. You can find a comprehensive reading list on human trafficking on Resurgence.

Did you know that one in four women and one in six men are or will be victims of sexual assault? Prepare yourself to recognize the signs and lovingly help those who are victims.

Share the gospel with victims: Hope and healing are found solely in the person and work of Jesus Christ. If you’re not sure how to do this, we highly recommend reading Justin Holcomb’s Rid of My Disgrace.

If you believe you have witnessed human trafficking, or have been a victim, you can report a tip over the phone or online to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC).

Inform your family and friends about the pervasiveness of human trafficking. Bring awareness through your social media. Unfortunately, the upcoming Super Bowl is a time you can highlight the prevalence of human trafficking. Whatever you do, shine a light on these dark injustices and be a voice on behalf of those who cannot be heard.

Multiply your efforts by joining with others on your campus. Together you can create a larger platform to help create awareness and make a difference in your community.

Don’t feel like you have to know all of the answers. There are a ton of resources available online. You can create awareness by simply inviting people over to watch a video, listen to an audio message, or just read the articles and discuss them afterward.

Did you know that you might be inadvertently supporting human trafficking with what you buy? Learn to be a careful consumer by learning more about your favorite brands and how they relate to human trafficking.

There are a number of great organizations that are currently fighting human trafficking and providing hope and healing for victims. {Carmen’s note here: Of course, Abolition International is very close to my heart!!}

You can get involved through your church or a local anti-human trafficking group.

Raise financial support for organizations by hosting a fundraiser. Consider having a garage or yard sale, or a sell some things online. Whatever you earn, donate it to one of the anti-human trafficking organizations listed above.

{Carmen’s note here: If you’d like to support TEAM FREEDOM, click here!!
We’l be lacing up in 21 days to run 13.1 miles!}

With a call from your phone, a letter sent through the snail mail, or email, you can simply contact your state and congressional representatives to express your concern about human trafficking. During this time you can even ask them if they have any plans to help combat it.

If you like to write, you can write an op-ed for you school or local paper to bring awareness to human trafficking.

Is your church currently taking action? If not, schedule some time with the leaders of your church to help bring awareness to human trafficking and lead them to action. If this is the case and you have a desire to make a difference, perhaps you are being called by God to spearhead these efforts? It’s something to pray about—at the very least.

Thank you for taking the time to read this! This injustice has become very close to my heart! And I truly believe together, we can make a difference. I believe God will multiply our efforts! I want us to “not merely say that we love each other, let’s show the truth by our actions!” -1 John 3:18.

And lastly, I’m sincerely asking you to pray for me (the battle that is in my head!) and for Team Freedom.

Thank you!

let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. -John 3:18

let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. -1 John 3:18

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