Joy Of Every Longing Heart

Yesterday we drove to Mississippi to celebrate an early Christmas with the Hudson side of the family, and we had more fun! Just so much fun! You just can’t believe how much fun!

That was Martha-speak, for those of you who are unfamiliar with my mother-in-law’s preference for saying things in threes.

We made Martha promise that she wouldn’t cook a meal for us while we were there – there’s just no good reason for her to wear herself out trying to pull together a meal for seven people – so we drove straight to her house, picked her up, and after a lengthy debate about whether Outback (“the Outbacks”) or O’Charley’s would be better, we ended up at O’Charley’s because Outback was closed. As you can imagine, it’s much easier to eat at a restaurant that is in fact open for lunch, and if you can’t have Outback’s cheese fries, then O’Charley’s yeast rolls and honey butter are a pretty good alternative.

(Insert tiny sad trombone because NO ROLLS FOR ME.)

(I don’t know if anything makes you question your gluten-free commitment quite like a piping hot yeast roll.)

We’d been at the restaurant about fifteen minutes when we ordered our food. I was getting some sort of Large Salad Product, and when the waitress asked me what dressing I’d like, I said, “I think I’d like Ranch.” And then she looked at me like she had THE WORST news and said, “I’m really sorry, but we haven’t had any Ranch dressing in, like, three days.”


Honestly, I wanted to run over to the Walmart and buy some for her.

Then she said, “And I think we might have Lite Ranch, but it’s probably nasty.”


I opted for blue cheese despite the fact that the Lite Ranch sounded oh-so-tempting, and even though it took about four hours for us to get our food (slight exaggeration) (it really only took two hours) (oh, I kid, it actually took about 45 minutes) (and our server really was as sweet as she could be), we had a good time visiting and catching up and etc. Martha ordered the chicken tenders platter, and when our server put Martha’s food in front of her, David, his brother, Scott, and I all said, “OH MY WORD THE PORTIONS!” And then Martha said, “I’m not the one who said it! I didn’t say it! Did everybody notice that I didn’t say it?”

She was totally thinking it, though. You could tell by how big her eyes got when she saw all of that food.

It was just so much food!

After lunch we went back to Martha’s house, where I took some really subpar pictures of her Christmas decorations.


Seriously. It all looked so pretty, and I love Martha’s Christmas china, which is a gorgeous discontinued pattern. It’s a shame that I really stunk it up on the photography.

I did manage to get a picture of these three people, though.


And I would just like to point out that it was pretty much last year when the young’uns looked like this.

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 11.15.09 PM

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 11.15.19 PM

Sometimes I feel like time is mean.

One of the gifts we gave Martha this year was a faux-suede and shearling sweater coat, and I think it may have been my favorite in terms of Martha’s reaction and her pure delight at how cute it was when she put it on. I always enjoy when Martha chronicles what she can wear with whatever we give her, and this year she immediately launched into what pants would look cute with the jacket.

“I can wear my dark gray pants! Or my light gray pants! Or my even lighter gray pants! Or my navy or my brown or my black! Because you know I have plenty of black pants! And my jeans! You know I have some jeans! Wouldn’t this be perfectly darlin’ with my jeans?!”

We all made sure to affirm all of Martha’s pants / jeans options. It seemed like the right thing to do.

So. We had the best time in Mississippi, and now we’re back here in Birmingham. Which reminds me. Earlier today Alex and I went to the grocery story to get, oh, 492 things, and while we were unloading our cart at the check-out, someone sneezed so loudly – it was more of a holler-sneeze, really – that the entire store got completely quiet for about five seconds. In the middle of the stone cold quiet one of the managers walked by me and whispered, “What WAS that?”

And about the the time that I said, “I think it was a sneeze,” somebody at the front of the store said, “Well, Helen! Bless you! MY GOODNESS, HELEN!” I don’t know if Helen got in some pepper or if she just got caught unawares by the sneeze of a lifetime, but I can tell you for sure that when Alex realized that the loud KA-BOOM-ish noise he’d heard was a sneeze, he laughed for about the next 20 minutes. So did the guy bagging our groceries. So did our cashier. It was like none of us could recover from the shock of it all, so we just giggled uncontrollably.

I don’t even know why I told you that. But I’m pretty sure that “Helen! Bless you!” will be a favorite catchphrase from here on out.

I’m also pretty sure Alex is going to re-tell that whole sneeze experience one or fourteen times this week. We’ll have family with us until the weekend, and after that I am going into hibernation for the next two weeks while I hopefully wrap up book #3.

I wouldn’t turn down prayers for that last thing, by the way.

I hope y’all have a wonderful Christmas with the people you love most. And if you’re dealing with something difficult this Christmas – and I would imagine that many of us are – then I really do pray that you feel the Lord’s peace and comfort so near to you throughout the holidays. I mentioned this on the podcast, but this year I’ve sung “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” and thought about the expectancy surrounding Jesus’ birth – and I’ve also felt such a deep longing for His return as our triumphant Savior King.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

“But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” – Malachi 4:2

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  1. Well, this is just wonderful, just wonderful plus-a Martha sighting and story! An early Christmas gift to us all!

    Blessings to you and yours this holy season, Sophie. May you, too, know the closeness of Jesus in a special way at Christmas and in the new year.

  2. Oh bless poor Helen’s heart!

    A is growing up entirely too fast. It was just last Christmas when he was a toddler, and now here he is in the grips of the puberty.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, and to Sister and her family as well.

    Love and hugs,


  3. I woke up this Christmas Eve Eve at 5 am for no. good. stinkin. reason. And as I sit drinking my coffee and reading this post, the laughter from Helen’s sneeze was about the best gift one could get at 5 am on an almost national holiday. Just thank you so much for sharing that. Praying for you as you wrap up your book!! CANNOT WAIT TO READ IT. I know it’s going to be a huge blessing to many. Merry Christmas!

  4. Well, after “napping” from 10:30 pm to 3 am – grrrr by the way – oh those pesky hormones! Your sneezing story woke me up but good from the laughter. Oh my did it tickle me too! It’s going to be one of those things I think of and will just make me chuckle. Unfortunately I don’t have your story telling gift, so won’t be able to make others appreciate the humor in its’ retelling. Seasons blessings to you and yours.

  5. Merry Christmas to you and your family!
    Many blessings to you all, especially to Helen!!!

  6. Thanks so much for sharing your delightful stories! What a pleasure they are to read. I wish you all the best as you finish your book! Merry Christmas to you and your family!!!

  7. Sallie Baker says:

    Still chuckling over Helen, bless her heart! I have boys, and yes, that story would live on!!
    Also Martha’s OH THE PORTIONS! I knew what you were fixing to say before I read it!
    My mother did the same thing. Remind me never to do that someday!
    Merry Christmas!!

  8. How can they not have Ranch dressing for 3 days!?! There is a story there.

    Was listening to the podcast, and the Chex mix comment really spoke to me–so much that I wrote “no one controls your Chex mix” on a post it and put it up. Now my family is looking at me oddly.

    Have a blessed Christmas!

  9. Merry Christmas, dear girl. Just reflecting on how much good the laughter from this precious corner of the internets has done me this year. Thank you for the encouragement, the music, the scriptures and the sense of belonging you create.

  10. Sophie-
    What a gift you are to me! I needed the laughter from the Helen story and the wonderful reminder of the last paragraph. He is our Prince of Peace.

  11. This post is why I follow you. Merry Christmas!

  12. Merry Christmas Sophie. I’m so glad to have found you. You’ve blessed me through your books, podcast, and blogs. I so love your sense of humor and your sweet heart. Bless you

  13. I love that you can make me laugh out loud and then tear up all in the same post! You are such a gift. Merry Christmas!

  14. Right in the middle of a crazy moment, I decided to pause and read your words just now, knowing they would bring a familiar familial reprieve. Thank you for sharing your thoughts from the cuff of your heart. Blessings to you and yours, my sister, and Merry Christmas!

  15. Sophie, I adore you! Merry Christmas!

  16. Merry Christmas Sophie!

    Thank you so much for your blog and podcast. I was baking cookies for my husband’s coworkers while listening to it. I also am planning on making mix of Chex for the family get together because I cannot stop thinking about it.
    I am rereading Home is Where My People Are. I live in Los Angeles but family and friends are the same all over. I love your writing. I am sitting here getting teary-eyed because my son is about to turn 15, my mom is doing great but it has been a year and well other stuff. Your writing and storytelling touches a place in my soul.
    So…. all that to say Merry Christmas and may you have a wonderful New Year!
    Much love to you and your sweet family!

  17. Merry Christmas to you and your family! I love your posts. :-)

  18. Merry Christmas Sophie! Thank you for the blogs and podcasts that entertain and inform me of things I’m so interested in. Highlight of my year was meeting you , I’m so thankful! And that scripture you posted….YES AND AMEN. Can’t wait for your new book!

  19. Thank you, and Merry Christmas.

  20. I can always count on you for a good laugh. Thanks!!! Merry Christmas to you & yours.

  21. I have that very Christmas pattern! It’s St Nick by Fitz and Floyd, and oh my word do I feel special now. I am sorely lacking in the suede and faux shearling jacket department, however, and I haz a little sad over it, but not really, because SAME CHRISTMAS CHINA PATTERN as Miss Martha!

    Merry Christmas to you and your sweet family, Sophie!

  22. I’m sitting at my desk laughing and trying to explain to my co-worker about Helen and how I immediately in my head heard Tiny Tim Cratchet say, “And God bless us everyone. Especially Helen.” Merry Christmas!

  23. Love that you shared the sneeze story, i did laugh out loud!

  24. Merry Christmas, Sophie! Thanks for the laugh today about the sneeze story. Loved the song too. I’m right there with you this holiday – longing and waiting for the return of our Savior!

  25. Martha is lovely. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Sophie.

  26. Kathleen G says:

    Funny, Family and Faith is why I have been reading your blog for years. Like Bigmama, I found you through The Pioneer Woman blog. My first three blogs and through the test of time, I’m continuing to keep on reading.
    Merry Merry Christmas!
    Kathleen in Az

  27. That’s the same Christmas china my grandmother had! Although I don’t ever remember her using it- we ate hot dogs on paper plates at Christmas. (With delicious sauerkraut!)

  28. Merry Christmas to you and your family Sophie!! Thank you for the double gift this morning!! I treasure a Martha story and poor Helen’s sneeze will have me giggling all day!!

  29. One of my FB friends posted a similar sneezing incident that I have to share with you:

    I do HATE to shop. But last Friday I went to Walmart about 9 am looking for something and thinking I would beat the crowds. I was walking past the jewelry counter and there was a man and woman behind me , WAY behind me. He sneezed and scared the pudding out of me. ! He was 50-60 feet away. I turned around and put both thumbs up and yelled. “On the Olympic scale. ….I give that a ten !!!! ”
    Everyone was already looking at him and his wife had slapped his arm. !!!!! Another man in checkout lane clapped his hands. The old sneezer looked at me and said. “Did you hear that ? “. I said “. “Did I ? Not only did I hear it but the back of my hair. Fluffed up a little “. He giggled and then he. said “I think someone back in electronics just peed their self !!! “. Merry Christmas and bless you ! And bless him.

  30. Merry Christmas to you and yours! My husband was JUST telling me about his sneezing fit at work the other day. He said he sneezed “a hundred” times in a row; so much so that someone several cubicles away who he doesn’t know (he just moved into the building), yelled, “Bless you! (Whoever you are!)”

    It was probably Helen’s friend….

  31. Jeannette says:

    Are you alright? I see a tornado just hit Birmingham

  32. My husband tells me I’m the loudest sneezer he knows. I’m sitting in my dad’s hospice room this Christmas and it startles him when I sneeze. So we made a signal… I say “Ding, ding, ding”, like I’m ringing a bell before I sneeze, to warn him. :) Finding the joy and laughter in little things this year. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  33. God bless you for your gluten free commitment. Sadly I’m gf (NOT because I want to be!) and few things make me sadder than not being able to eat hot bread at restaurants. And pizza. pizza. And pasta. And oreos. The list goes on. Rudi’s brand makes relativity good bagels and bread that taste similar to real bread. If you’re into pasta, Tinkyada (probably not the correct spelling) is also good.

  34. Oh Sophie! I took a break from the computer while I was off work and so I’m just catching up on my blogs this morning. What a treat! A Martha story and the hilarious Helen sneeze!

    Happy New Year to you and your family. Praying for you as you are finishing the book. I know it will be such a blessing – cannot wait to read it!