Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Celebrating Our Uniqueness Tea - Invite the Neighbors!

by Cathy Baker 

Searching for a way to connect with other women in your neighborhood? What could be more inviting than conversation over a cup of tea?

With the Celebrating Our Uniqueness Tea, each woman brings her favorite teacup or mug to the gathering. It's a casual way to learn more about those around our table—how God wired them, our commonalities, as well as our differences.

This particular tea gathering is a new one for me. I created it out of a desire to stretch myself beyond the borders of comfort. As a long-standing introvert I admit that inviting people I know only in passing isn't a comfortable place to be, but rarely is comfort the catalyst for anything eternal bound.  

Stacks of books and fertile dust bunnies have often dictated when God's home could be used for His glory. I'm learning, however, that the captivating aroma of Christ can only be released to its fullest potential when I'm willing to open my imperfect home to the perfect Host. 

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2 

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. - See more at:

Monday, April 14, 2014

What Happens When the Fragrance of Christ Mixes With Metal

Having the likes of Edie Melson and Marcia Moston in our local writer's group Cross N Pens is a tremendous boon for those of us striving to hone our skills.

Over the weekend, our group enjoyed a mini-workshop featuring both of these talented women. Below are just a few tidbits from their talks. 

Marcia Moston, author of Call of a Coward, spoke on Creative Non-fiction (the 4th genre!) In addition to creative writing prompts, Marcia shared wisdom from her own experience, as well as quotes, all of which will stick with me:
  • Every story has a human face. Draw it well and put it on display, for to readers it is a magnet. -Francis Flaherty, editor The New York Times
  • When writing memoirs, we need to remember it's not about us. We're like the Disney cart on a ride. We're simply the vehicle to a bigger picture.
  • Marcia shared pages of information on crafting true stories. Let's just say I'm a new fan of Rick Bragg's.

Edie Melson, author of Fighting Fear and Co-Director of Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer's Conference spoke on what it means to support our writing through writing. It didn't hurt that she handed out two pages of markets willing to pay for our work. (Thanks Edie!) Her advice, however, far surpassed the value found on any piece of paper. Below are a few of Edie's takeaways:
  • Stay out of our comfort zones! Take chances. If we're not willing to do so, we're not seen as marketable. 
  • The key to a good query letter is a good story. 
  • What does the word deadline actually mean? Writing when you don't feel like it. 
Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with so many gifted writers spurred me on to become even more serious about my craft. Wisdom and godly conviction crossed paths that morning and I was grateful to be smack dab in the middle of this intersection.
Let's just say, the fragrance of Christ had a hint of metal to it as it rose upwards this past Saturday morning!

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why I Almost Didn't Register for Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer's Conference

by Cathy Baker

While traveling home from the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian's Conference last year, I sensed very clearly that "play time" was over. Not that I'd viewed it as such but I'd wasted spent a lot of time debating with myself if writing was where God wanted me to spend His time. Through a series of confirmations at BRMCWC, I left feeling confident I was exactly where He wanted me to be.

Within weeks of returning from the conference, my husband and I began discussing selling our home. The result was a seven-month pilgrimage that, in the end, played out more like a devilish detour. During that time, I shifted almost everything else—writing, meeting with friends, attending writing group—to the sidelines of life. 

When 2014 rolled around, I spotted Register for BRMCWC on my calendar, but ignored it. I didn't feel I'd earned it. This past year was to be different. It wasn’t. I was going to write every single day—but I didn't. Despite having my poetry published in two books last year, I felt like a total failure. The thought of facing conference mentors who’d spurred me on last May was, well...downright embarrassing. 

Then it happened. On a rare snowy South Carolinian day, I sat upstairs gazing out the big window in the front of our house. I soaked in every detail for a possible poem. One particular car kept driving by, when suddenly the man pulled off the street and hopped out of his car with a fancified camera pointed in my direction. He motioned for me to meet him on my front porch. I'd barely opened the door when he asked what I was doing up there. He scribbled a few lines on his pad and jumped back in his car. A few weeks later, I opened our local paper to see my picture with the tag line Inspired by a Snowy Day...Poet at work: Cathy Baker from her Curtis St. window. 

While taken back by his choice of wording, I couldn't help but feel it was a divine wink to keep moving forward. The wink escalated to a nudge when my amazing hubster insisted I register for BRMCWC. 

So, Lord willing, I will enter the lovely Lifeway campus this May looking ahead, not behind.

Past regrets will not rob God's unfolding plan for my future. 

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13, 14

Are you sensing a divine wink or nudge? I'd love to see you at Blue Ridge this May! We'll already have something in common. :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Two Favorite Tea Recipes by Patsy Clairmont

by Cathy Baker

One of my favorite tea books is Tea with Patsy Clairmont, which is why I'm sharing two of her recipes with you today. Friends ask for this Devonshire Cream recipe long after the tea party is over. Yes, it's that good!

Devonshire Cream

1- 3 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 T. sifted powdered sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1/3 - 1/2 c. whipping cream

Beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Gradually beat in enough whipping cream to form a mixture of spreadable consistency. Do not over-beat. Cover and chill 2 to 24 hours. Makes 1 cup. 

(I always double this recipe. After all, who could ever resist a second helping of scones, Devonshire cream, and raspberry jam? No one I know!)

Cream Scones

2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/3 c. cold butter, cut into pieces
1 c. whipping cream
2 T. whipping cream or 1 egg white
1 t. orange zest
1/2 c. currants, dried cherries, dried cranberries (optional)
1/2 c. chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt with a pastry blender until the consistency is course and crumbly. Add 1 c. whipping cream, stirring just until moistened. Option: Add 1/2 currants, dried cherries, dried cranberries, chopped pecans or chopped walnuts as you stir in the whipping cream. 

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, knead 5 or 6 times. Roll until 1/2" thick. Cut with a round biscuit cutter and place each scone about 2 inches apart on a nonstick baking sheet. 

Brush the tops of the scones with the remaining 2 tablespoons whipping cream or egg white. Sprinkle the tops with sugar. 

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Yield: 1 dozen. Serve scones warm with Devonshire cream, jam, and lemon curd. 

Tea and Thee

Graceful china cup
Sterling silver spoon
Devotions set apart
My heart to His attune

Time in His presence
Sips of English tea
Moments to remember
His great love for me. 
- Patsy Clairmont

Oh, the sweet aroma! 

Monday, April 7, 2014

When Words Puddle on Paper

by Cathy Baker

Words hold power.

I can testify to this truth after recently having led a Writing to Heal workshop at a retreat for mothers who've lost children of any age. 

Our goal during each session was simple: Take what's on the inside and put it on paper.

The handout provided a list of writing prompts, such as:

I am...
I wonder...
I hear...
I see...

The prompts were simple—filling it out was anything but for these moms. 

The grieving process differs for everyone. Yet, the commonality represented around the table was palpable as raw emotions puddled on the paper of those sharing their completed prompts. I sat in awe of these courageous women as I listened to their stories of unspeakable loss, and unshakeable faith. 

It was a privilege to witness how God used ordinary writing prompts to stir conversation and put 2 Corinthians 1:4 into action. Simple words and faith-filled sorrow mingled to become an act of worship that arose swiftly and sweetly before the Lord.

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Cor. 1:4
Jan, thank you for inviting me to participate in this ministry. It's a day I won't soon forget. God bless you all. 
Also, a special thanks to Lisa from Lory's Place in St. Joseph, Michigan. She was incredibly generous with her time, expertise, and handouts. You were a Godsend, my friend!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

You're Invited: An Easter Tea Celebration

by Cathy Baker

With Easter just around the corner, I thought this might be the perfect week to share some ideas for an Easter Tea Celebration! Although we have the privilege of celebrating our NEW life in Christ every day, I can't imagine a better season to slow down, savor the depth of its meaning, and rejoice with others over a cup of tea.

It wasn't until recently that I realized Christ never asked His followers to celebrate His birth. Instead, He asked or commanded His followers to celebrate His death.

“..And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me. Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you (Luke 22: 19-20).”

The Easter Tea doesn't include elements of the Lord's Supper, but Jesus is our focus. You won't find the "Easter Bunny" on this guest list! The sweet aroma of Christ is sure to stir meaningful conversation and memories that won't soon be forgotten. To God be the glory!

To view the Easter Tea Celebration, please click here.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Would you consider taking just a moment to share one of your favorite Easter traditions or memories with us?

Monday, March 31, 2014

When Love is Nailed to A Wall

by Cathy Baker

Growing up, one of my favorite things to do at MaMa's (my dad's mother) house was to sneak into her walk-in pantry, reach up as far as my tippy toes would take me and snatch a cherry lollipop from the Lollipops For Good Little Boys and Girls box nailed on the wall. Lime pops were always tossed back, of course.

MaMa, to hear my dad and uncles tell it, was a strict disciplinarian when they were growing up. No wonder! Four boys and a husband who worked 12 hour days could make for a bit of tension. As a grandmother, however, while feisty and a bit headstrong, her love was evident up until her dying day in 2010. MaMa often mentioned how she could see "Bob" (her son, my dad) in me. I believe it's one of the reasons her face lit up every time I visited, especially in her latter years.

Now, as a grandmother, I understand her delight. When I look at my grandchildren, I see their fathers, my sons. 

Colossians 3:3 says, "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."

As Christ followers, we are called His children (John 1:12) Because Jesus chose to be nailed to a cross on our behalf, God no longer sees our imperfections; He sees the righteousness of Jesus, His Son, instead. (2 Cor. 5:21) When God sees you and me, he sees his Son. 

You and I can't do anything to make God love us more, nor can we do anything to make God love us less. Thank You Jesus!

Thankfully, my ability to emerge from MaMa's pantry with cherry laced lips was never dependent on whether I deserved it or not. Her For Good Little Boys and Girls lollipop box was nailed to the wall simply because she loved her grandchildren.

And it's for this very reason it hangs on my kitchen wall today.  

You are significant and utterly cherished. Not because you are ‘good,’ but because you are Mine. ~Jennifer Dukes Lee, Love Idol