Monday, November 16, 2015

We're Four years Old!

The new issue of Christian Women's Voice is now available. What a joy to be a small part of this special offering as God leads Debbie Dillon, found and editor-in-chief, through every step of each issue. You won't want to miss the November/December issue for a jump start to the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.

You can find us here:

God Bless


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Mandy's Turn...The Sun Above the Clouds

Mandy generously agreed to let me share her Facebook post from a few days ago. I've seen this progression in her relationship with her two precious, funny, exasperating-at-times, blessings from God. If it's true that there's a special place in Heaven for mothers of little boys, Mandy will surely be the honored gate keeper welcoming her comrades of giggles, tears, body sounds - that should remain private but rarely do - into their eternal Calgon-infused mansions.
I love you Mandy and no mom/nanny has ever been more proud.  

     "This has turned into a slightly longer post than I intended, but is one that I've been pondering for awhile... I hope it's encouraging! smile emoticon
Brendon and Big Brother Barrick
     I have many parenting fails, but wanted to share a success that was good positive reinforcement for me recently (and there have been more fails since:)...
     A few weeks ago, I had left my favorite coffee mug sitting on the edge of the tub... loved the colors of it, the shape, how it felt in my hand... I bypassed the 25 other coffee mugs we have for this one on a daily basis. Brendon (4) was in the bathroom with me and turned quickly, accidentally knocking the mug over and breaking it on the tile. I said quietly, "Ohhhhh, Brendon... that was my favorite mug!" He was already mortified and his little eyes filled up with tears, and he started crying and saying over and over, "I'm so sorry Mom, I'm so sorry!" For all of his orneriness, he is so very tenderhearted heart emoticon. I made the decision to stay calm and assured him, "Honey, it's okay. You're a lot more important to me than that coffee mug. I'm sure I can find another one like it, or maybe even the same one. It's okay, don't worry about it." He cried and apologized a few more times.
Brendon in his element
     A couple of nights later, it was close to bedtime, and he had set up his cars in a parking lot arrangement of sorts on his and Barrick's bed earlier in the evening. I was straightening up their room and told him two or three times he needed to get the cars cleaned up off of his bed, because it was bedtime, and he could set them up again the next day. He ignored me and kept playing with other cars (so many cars!:) in the floor. So I cleaned the ones off of the bed and put them away. A couple of minutes later he saw that the bed was clear, cars gone, and started to melt down. He really let me have it for a few seconds, very upset with me for moving his cars, then settled himself down and said, "Mom, it's okay... you're more important to me than those cars being on the bed." As many times as I've seen my negative reactions come back full circle when the boys act or talk in a way they've seen me act or talk (convicting!), how rewarding it was to see the positive reaction from the coffee mug incident mimicked and come back full circle as well. Encourages me to try that more often wink emoticon.
     To share a little more of my heart about Brendon to hopefully encourage some of you who have little ones packed full of passion and intensity...
Papa Bud, Barrick, Mandy and Brendon 2015
     Brendon and I had a challenging time with each other from before he was 18 months until he grew closer to 4 years old (he'll be 5 in Dec.). There were some sweet moments, but they were fewer and farther between. It was like the sky was almost always overcast, with the sun shining through in an occasional break in the clouds. From early on, he would bang his head into the tile floor or into the cabinets, or side to side in his carseat, when he was frustrated. He wanted something, but he didn't... but he did... but he didn't. He wanted me, but he didn't... but he did... but he didn't. It was a constant push and pull, a daily tug-of war. I was so often battle weary. His natural instinct was to be contrary, to resist (I've often said, it may save his life as a teenager if he still feels that instinct to not go along with what's being suggested. My less dominant side, the resistant, contrary side, was the dominant part of his personality.
     He was also constantly miserable with allergies, even with medication, and not old enough to just deal with it yet, so when he didn't feel good, he was mad at the world and there was no pleasing him. Before he was two, he would angrily rake at his nose and say, "Nose hurts! Take nose off!" Poor little guy. I was in tears frequently, and often cried with him or out-yelled him in an effort to shut down the fuss. I would cry to Ken and say, "I keep pouring in love, and all that's coming out is fits!" Brendon wanted to keep me engaged, but in an emotional mess kind of way. There were times I just had to disconnect and would turn from him and walk away, and he would be even more upset because he sensed that emotional disconnect in me. There was no winning. I recognized the passion that God had gifted (yes gifted) him with, but what's a mom to do with that in a 2-and 3-year-old? Many times I have said, if he can survive me, we'll see what God has planned for all of that passion.
Barrick's first piano recital with mom/teacher Mandy
     Fast-forward to these last few months as he's gotten further into year 4... The sky is mostly sunny and only occasionally overcast and stormy (hooray!). I've shared all of this to hopefully encourage any other parents out there with small, passionate children. As Brendon has gotten older, I can rationalize with him more in a way that you can't do with a baby or toddler. He doesn't like losing his privileges which helps motivate better choices on his part. The fits are fewer and farther between, instead of the other way around. And all of the love that I kept wearily pouring in during those hard years has been spilling back out the past year. Unsolicited "I love you's" and hugs and kisses. And all of the other gifts God has given Brendon are shining through more and more all the time... So much compassion, friendliness, love, concern, tenderheartedness, and much more.
     So with some thankful tears welling up in my eyes as I finish typing, if you're needing it, please be encouraged that the sun is most definitely brightly shining above the clouds if you have an intense little one and are in those challenging early years. Many of those things that are so hard now will become easier as they get older, simply because they are growing cognitively and learning how to manage things better. Keep pouring in the love even if all that is coming out is fits. It will eventually come pouring back out heart emoticon."

Mandy Sullivan Kniskern
October, 2015

The Kniskern Clan: Mandy, Brendon, Barrick and Ken


Friday, October 2, 2015

Taste and See

     Has this past summer been like a high speed chase toward fall for you like it has for me? Time 
flies. Before we know it the scare crows and fall flowers that have emerged in anticipation of cooler temperatures and wonderful autumn aromas will soon flow forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas. And we know what THAT means:

     Cookies, cakes, Christmas candies, stuffing, pumpkin pie, hot rolls all wrapped up with family and friends and, hopefully, centered around the true meaning of our special holiday – the birth and life of Jesus Christ. What if we begin now to prepare mentally and emotionally for a new focus, one that might be less centered on over-indulgence and the regret of added pounds once the tinsel and favorite recipes have been packed away?

     Thanksgiving or Christmas without pumpkin pie or Grandma’s special recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies? No whipped cream or Brown Betty fudge? That would never do. We can enjoy those wonderful traditions and still keep them in their proper perspective. Begin now to include exercise in your daily routine to get that metabolism working at optimum efficiency. Learn the discipline of drinking plenty of water during the day. Gather new recipes or healthier versions of favorite ones from the abundant supply online.

     When party season arrives, be prepared. Scope out healthy dishes to prepare and take as your contribution to the festivities. You’ll be doing others a favor as well as protecting your own good intentions.

     Don’t skip meals, rather have a light snack of veggies and/or fruit before leaving for the party. Drinking plenty of water will help take the edge off of your hunger. And NEVER shop hungry!

     It’s so easy to load up that desert plate with a sample of each offering until the flavors really blend together and we lose that particular, delightful texture and taste of our favorite seasonal experience. Take only your very favorite offering and pass on the things that you can live without. Make the gathering more about the people. Engage in conversation – away from the food. Offer to help clear the table and/or wash dishes.

     When planning that special time in your own home, engage your senses with beautiful colors and textures. Make a feast for the eyes rather than the pallet. Fill the room with beautiful music and scents. 

     Keep plenty of calorie-free beverages at hand for yourself and your guests: Iced tea, diet soda, water pitchers filled with cold water and slices of fresh, colorful fruit.

     Replace those huge disposable ovals with smaller dinner plates and desert bowls. Use smaller serving spoons. Cut the meat into smaller serving sizes. Limit the number of dinner rolls per guest. In the long run, you’ll help prevent their overeating and, probably, have much less wasted food for the disposal. You and your guest will enjoy ending the day satisfied, not stuffed.

     Having containers at hand for packing away or sharing the leftovers could signal that it’s time to move on to non-food socializing. Maybe some planned activities and/or games to draw your guests away from the table will help ward off the continual nibbling simply because the food is so accessible.

     As for your own enjoyment, delay that tasty dessert or treat – set aside a special time (and your very own serving) to indulge and savor every bite. Maybe that quiet moment with your senses could be at the end of the festivities when you’ve traded your apron for your comfy robe and fuzzy slippers. Just you and, well – you fill in the blank. Eat slowly and deliberately, and enjoy. 

     Statistically, we gain an average of ten pounds from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. Is it any wonder that the resolve to "go on a diet" or "lose ten pounds" usually lands at the top of our ever-fading list of resolutions for the year? After losing 60 pounds a couple of years ago, I thought I was bullet proof and decided I could indulge over the holidays and beat the odds. Ummm...NO! I'm still trying to undo that lie! Think ahead of where you want to be on January 2, 2016 and keep your eyes on the prize rather than the pies.

     It will serve each one of us well to remember that the extra calories of the season will result in added pounds that will linger long after the treats, meals, and leftovers have been tasted, served, and scraped into oblivion. At least until next year.  

     Don’t wait for the inevitable New Year’s resolution to shed those holiday pounds that have been adding up over the past few Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. Get a head start, then maintain your success with wise choices and by remaining focused on the real Reason we gather in thankfulness and celebration: God’s wonderful gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

 “O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”
(Psalm 34:8, NASB)

“Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple,
and breaking bread from house to house,
they were taking their meals together
with gladness and sincerity of heart
praising God and having favor with all the people.
and the Lord was adding to their number day by day
those who were being saved.”
(Acts 2:46, NASB)


Monday, September 28, 2015

Soaring or Hooting?

          I live in the owl kingdom. Eyes wide open, sometimes blinking against the worries of a day that ended hours earlier or perhaps anticipating the next day’s struggles, imagined or real. I wrestle against the guilt of not being one of those who are snuggled beneath cozy blankets with their heads resting on fluffy pillows. The eagles are being rewarded for a day’s hard work as they drift through patterns of sleep designed by our Creator, and they will be repaired and prepared to soar through another day.

          Not all of my sleepless hours are spent in a negative way. I love the quietness of my home and enjoy the glow of a small lamp illuminating a few of my favorite things against the wall facing my easy chair. The texture of yarn as it weaves from one knitting needle to the other with a slow, steady rhythm adds to the serenity of the moment.

          These stolen hours of self-indulgence come with a price. My body is losing valuable time of restoration in each area of my life: spiritual, physical, and emotional. God did not just create our bodies with a built-in need for proper rest, He also set the example.

“Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it,
because in it He rested from all His work
which God had created and made.”
(Genesis 2:3, NASB)

          God gave us sacrificial women permission to set life aside for a few precious hours each day. This period of rest affords us the time to cease from being a wife, mom, homemaker, and/or professional for a few precious hours out of each twenty-four. A time of not worrying, or planning, or living out the next day before it even arrives. Why would I make the conscious choice to struggle against such a gift, or for that matter, against the Giver:

 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
(Matthew 11:28, NASB)

          While God uses the eagle as a symbol of strength and majesty, owls are not spoken of in such glowing terms. In the Psalms, a prayer of an afflicted man pouring out his complaint before the Lord likens himself to the wide-eyed of the night:

“I have become like an owl of the waste places. I lie awake,
I have become like a lonely bird on a housetop.”
(Psalm 102:6b,NASB)

          In recent years, the medical community has acknowledged the critical need for rest. Dr. Wayne Scott Anderson is one of the first doctors in the country certified in critical care. In his book, Discovering Your Optimal Health, he states:

          “Only in the last few years have science and medicine begun to understand that without enough high-quality sleep, our health and lives unravel. Poor sleep rivals poor diet and inactivity as a reason that 90 percent of us languish in a state of being non-sick (the state between optimal health and sickness) or have already slid onto the path to disease.”

          He goes on to say that we can be who we are. Larks or owls. As long as we get seven hours of sleep each night. Larks (or for the sake of this article, eagles) are morning people and will get more efficient rest by turning in at an earlier hour. Owls may not be able to will themselves to sleep at 9 PM or 10 PM for a wake-up call before dawn. A better bedtime for them (us) may be midnight to 7 AM. The key number here is seven, and isn’t it interesting that, in God’s design, “seven” is also the number for completion?

          More research on sleep disorders and helpful steps one can take to a good night’s sleep are available on the internet and in libraries, but we only need to look into the heart of God when it comes to His desire for our rest and well-being:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.”
(Psalm 23:1-3a,NASB)

          A good, peaceful night’s sleep is part of that restoration. Acknowledging that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit carries the responsibility to be obedient and disciplined in how this temple is maintained. As much as I enjoy those purloined times of tranquility into the early morning hours, I need to, instead, accept the true peace that only comes from assurance in Jesus Christ:

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you;
not as the world gives do I give to you.
Do not let your heart be troubled,
nor let it be fearful.”
(John 14:27,NASB)

           If you are an eagle, I sincerely applaud you. If you suffer from rebellion in this area, as
do I, maybe it’s time we sidestep off of that nightly perch, grab some much-needed zzzz’s (for the seven hours that best fit our untimely schedule), and be ready to soar out of our nests in the morning.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Winning at Losing

          As many of you know, I've experienced exciting improvements in my health through weight loss over the past 3 years, and am now committed to helping others do the same by introducing the program and supporting them (a free health coach) as they embrace the changes for themselves.

          I'm beyond excited to share my experience in this month's issue of Christian Women's Voice. I am a contributor for the magazine, and we would love to have you check out Winning at Losing as well as great articles from Debbie Dillon (Found and Editor-in-chief) and other ladies who enjoy sharing their faith and friendship in each issue.

          Drop by and check us out. (Click on the CWV photo at the right.)  

          If you would like more information about the health program, please email me at

Thanks and God Bless.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bakin' Bacon

May 10, 2015

It's been roughly four years since this post was written, and I find it hard to believe that Mother has been absent with us and present with the Lord for two years and almost three weeks. Mother's Day is bittersweet now. I'm so thankful for her life and her influence that manifests itself in my life more and more as my life speeds so quickly by.

Mother showed us how to live and she showed us how accept the inevitable changes that come, whether we are ready for them or not. And she showed us how to let go when it was time - with courage and hope and peace. I will love you forever, Mom. Heaven is so much sweeter and hope-filled knowing you and Dad and finally "Together Forever."


I must disagree, at least somewhat, with the notion that “you can’t go home again.” For the past month I’ve been living under my mother’s roof, two or three days at a time, as my siblings and I rotate in 24/7 to care for her. Mother’s move to an assisted living facility is approaching, and this special home setting will be gone.

God has given us time with Mother as she meticulously sorts through old Bibles, antique books, pictures, crochet books, and other memorabilia as she secures the things she wants to keep with her. I find myself listening more closely to her advice and helpful household hints. I’m blessed to have the 88-year-old hands of a master craftswoman to patiently show me how to crochet.

The simple housekeeping chores and putting three home-cooked meals on the table at regular intervals feel so natural in her home. The same activities in my home are sporadically wedged in among other priorities that are given much more importance than they deserve.

Mother’s gentle spirit fills each and every room, yet her dogged determination to work at regaining more mobility, inch by inch, is inspirational. She is maintaining her maternal presence as she accepts the major change that is approaching all too quickly. Her calm faith and resolve are keeping the emotions of each one of us intact. Mother’s presence in her new home will only add to the gracious atmosphere of the genteel residents who await her arrival. And, her recipe for cherry cream pie will join the delicacies introduced by new residents.

Have you ever baked bacon? It’s one of those wonderful helpful hints of Mother’s: Place the bacon strips in a loaf pan equipped with a drip pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Your house will smell wonderful and there are no greasy splatters. The bacon is tender and absolutely delicious. Believe me, the end results are worth the extra time.

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future.

She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children rise up and bless her;

Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31:10, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 31 (NASB).

Thank you, Lord, for blessing my life with this Jewel of Encouragement I call “Mom.”

Re-posted from Nancy K. Sullivan at
Nancy K. Sullivan

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Dad celebrating his 21st year in Heaven today. To say I still miss him would be like sharing that the sky is blue.

Marion Walter McCall ("Mac")was a quiet, yet strong presence in our home. Hardworking and so steady. We could set the clock by the time he arrived home from work each and every day. His word was the final say. Mother may have coached him in some of his decisions, but any attempt to change his mind would have been useless, probably because of his strong character and his sense of conviction when it came to the protection and rearing of his four children.

Dad quit school during the depression so he could work to help my grandfather support their family and other relatives who managed to find their way to my grandparents’ tiny home in Oklahoma City.

When WWII broke out, Dad enlisted in the Army. A young husband and father of two would be on a ship, with many other soldiers who left their loved ones behind. While they were en route to Japan, and being chased by a submarine, the war ended. But Dad would still spend 11 months away from home, first in the Philippines where he drove a truck and dodged snipers for three months, then back to Japan for occupational duty guarding prisoners of war put to the task of rebuilding war-torn roads. Those first three months must have seemed like an eternity for him because there were 103 letters waiting for him when he finally reached Japan.

Dad was a self-taught musician. He learned a few chords from his dad and, in the early years of getting to know my mom, he sat on his front porch and played his guitar. Mom sat on her front porch --- next door --- and listened. Guess they were both a little shy. That subtle courtship led to almost 54 years of marriage, four children, nine grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

Music was such a strong connection with Dad. It was so natural to see him sitting in the living room, guitar perched on his knee as he played and either whistled or hummed songs like “Blue Skies,” “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?” or my favorite, ”Little Coquette.” He loved the more jazzy sounds of “Kansas City Blues” and many others that I never knew had a name.

We have precious few pictures of these moments in time. Photographing him playing the guitar would have been like taking a snapshot of someone brushing his teeth or eating dinner. He made the decision early on to choose family over seeking the world of entertainment, though he surely would have had great success with his talent. Sunday lunch was prepared to the strains of “Amazing Grace,” “Just a Closer Walk” and any other requests spoken by the busy kitchen brigade. Sometimes my sister and I managed to slip away from our assigned jobs and into the living room to sing with him.

The photo below is of the band Dad played with on a local radio show in Oklahoma City. He is standing, second from the left.

His “real” career began as a delivery boy for Veazy’s Drug stores. He delivered prescriptions, first on a bicycle and later on a Harley. That job, briefly interrupted by the war, eventually led to managing shipping and receiving departments for two similar chains. The constant lifting of heavy boxes kept his muscled shoulders strong until they were ravaged by the lung cancer that would end his life three months before his 74th birthday.

Along with music, Dad’s legacy was his faith and love for his family. He was a deacon, Sunday School teacher and, in his later years, a choir member. Mom remained his sweetheart until the day he died. He required very little for himself --- an occasional new guitar, his favorite TV westerns, a couple of Studebakers (and later Fords) and lots of bowling. Those strong shoulders were meant for that sport.
Marion and Goldie McCall
50th Wedding Anniversary
August 22, 1990
I thought I would stop breathing at the same time as Dad. But God just gives us the strength to carry on and the hope that makes us long for our eternal home with each of our loved ones.

Love you, Dad
See you soon.

"How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night
He will be like a tree planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.”
(Psalm 1:1-3, NASB)

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