Sabbatical Sursees :: The Italian Adventure

A note from Sursee Gal

Dear friend,

A good friend recommended that I write a little note to tell you what I will be doing the next month.  I will not be blogging.  Even writing that makes me feel a little anxious.  Am I the real deal if I take time off?

Yes, I think so, and here is what I will be doing.

I will be in Italy with Craig, Sabbatical Dad. AKA Sursee Guy.

We will be:  Living.  Eating. Walking. Praying. Napping.  Being.  Drinking in God’s beauty and goodness.

Taking a break from computers, Instagram, blogging.

I want to try to be present and with Craig.  A good friend emailed me and said,

”Don’t worry about what you are missing,  Celebrate what you are experiencing.”

Ahh, good friends.  They know you. The above is so true for me. There is nothing worse than being one place and wishing you were another place.

She also encouraged me to take less photos with my camera and let my “eyes and heart remember”.  I have already thought about that, and we are going to have a little contest.  I get to take as many pictures as I want to every day, but, at the end of the day, we have to cull through them and delete down to 10 photos…ack. Can I do it?  I think so.  I have even thought of culling down to my top 5!  How many pictures do I really need? How many do you want to really see when I get back.  300? or 150? Hahah.

I am not going to get all twisted and never check email or texts or take an IG photo.  I am going to try to unplug and BE more.  I am bringing a new journal and my favorite pen to write everyday.

I want to blog everyday and let you see all that I am seeing, but I understand that I can’t do that in real time.  Can you wait till November to see and hear all the details?

In October a whole slew of bloggers try a 31Days where they blog everyday on a topic and practice the discipline of writing every, every day. No skipping days.  I have heard that it brings out new stuff you have swirling around in you and is a great experience.  But I am not going to do that this October.

My friend, Jacki at The Jesse Tree Project told me her great idea for 31Days.  She is going to write every day and not post it.  I think that is what I will do.  Then I will have loads of good stuff when I get back.  It will be a good discipline for me to sit and write every, every day. Thanks for the great tip, gal.

Terri over at White Pitchers is writing about the tending of our souls.  If you haven’t read her musings yet, I recommend checking in with her this next month.  She is a beautiful wordsmith and paints gorgeous pictures with her eloquent prose. Please check her out in October as she explores making white space for our souls.

I think that is all.  I am excited to see what the Lord is going to do in our lives.  I will be checking in on IG so follow me over there if you are not already-  @SurseeGal

Ciao and xoxo


Sabbatical Sursees :: The Beginning

Fall flowers Sabbatical Sursees

Long ago when I first learned about blogs, I followed the cutest gal who wrote so beautifully and honestly; I felt like I knew her.   One of her adventures that she wrote about was when she and her husband decided to go live in Italy for a time, to give him a break from the long, long  years of working.  I can’t remember how many years that was, but I am pretty sure it was less than 15.  I can remember reading that to my husband and our response was, “What the heck! You’ve been working way longer than that.  We are the ones that need a Sabbatical.”

Thus the seed was planted for a break, a sabbatical of sorts.

Over the years we sought counsel from good friends and business associates.  We prayed and had many, many conversations on our walks and drives and during meals.  Every year it was a New Year’s Resolution, until one year when we brought it up as this new idea, a dear friend pointed out that we had talked about Craig switching jobs for years.

Uh,oh. Busted.

So this year was different.  We, in earnest, started planning and scheming for our Sabbatical and in August the deal was done and IT began.  Goodbyes were said.  The art from the office walls was taken down and desks cleaned out.  I remember on his last day, after I kissed him on his way out the door, I had a panicky feeling in my gut.  “What are we doing?” I thought.  Then I remembered that The Lord was in control, and we were not doing something rash and foolish.

One issue that popped up though.  We didn’t really know what to call this break of sorts. Craig has not retired. He resigned and is redesigning, taking a break.  We think of our break like a Reset for this second half of our life.  A Sabbatical of Sorts, really for both of us.  I looked up the definition of a Sabbatical and found this:

a period of paid leave granted to a college teacher for study or travel, traditionally every seventh year.

I liked the idea that a Sabbatical was for study or travel, both of which we hope to do.

Fall Hollyhocks

Another definition is:

any extended period of leave from one’s customary work especially for rest, to acquire new skills or training, etc.

Yes, we are taking an extended leave from Craig working full time to rest and reset.  I love this word picture of acquiring new skills or training.  

One more entry in the dictionary included the reference to Leviticus 25:2-7:

a year during which the land was to be left uncultivated, debts annulled, etc, supposed to be observed every seventh year by the ancient Israelites.  

Or this reference found in Exodus 23:10:

 they were told to let the land in the seventh year rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave, the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.

So we decided to call this time period our Sabbatical; it will be a time where we reset our lives and spend some time resting.  We will let some fields lie fallow.  Acquire some new skills. Travel! Learn.

As we face the second half of our life, we wanted to really look at all we are doing and make sure we are doing what God has called us to do.

We are letting go of the security of a paycheck and wanting to rely on the Lord’s provision.  We are wanting to trust God in the big and small things, together.

We are on an adventure. A new twist to our lives.  We are asking God to lead us, to guide us and are listening to hear His direction. What do we need to let go of, release?  What to hold onto?

We are rethinking everything.  Everything is on the table.  Do we keep our newspaper subscription?   We are cleaning out our house and garage.  Using up, saying no, not buying, choosing wisely in all areas.  It has been exciting, scary and an adventure all rolled into one.  Ye Olde Budget is back in play and it is good to see where the money goes.  What do I really need?  What do I think I need?

We bought a ginormous white board and scribble our planning sessions on it.  It is super helpful to us to see all the possibilities written out big and then see the connections.  We brainstorm and eliminate and elaborate- then take action.

Fall road

Simple.  That is one word we keep coming back to during this Sabbatical Season.  A simple plan.  A simple vacation. A simple wardrobe, garage, meal.

Sweet.  Another word I would use to describe this time with Craig.  Like being newlyweds, really.  To slow down and rest together is sweet.

Intentional.  Thinking through this next half of life and resetting what we think it should look like.

Join me on this adventure?  I will be writing about it on and off,  from my Sabbatical Haircut to our Italian Adventure- Sursees Galore!  I hope it inspires you to do a reset in your life wherever you are.  Isn’t that what God is calling us all to when He says:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30



Sursee Gal’s Cure for Burns :: Pass the Mustard, Please!

Mustard bottles

Here is a super great tip that you are not going to want to forget.  Well, if you are like me and sometimes burn yourself when you are cooking, you will not want to forget this!

The other day I was cooking and cooking and pulled a hot cookie tray out of the oven, and when I put it on the stove top, I knocked over my olive oil.  As I reached for the olive oil, the pan jostled, the hot pad fell out of my hand and my now bare hand gripped the pan full on and yEEOWWWW!   I burned my finger and palm as I gripped the pan full on.

I immediately grabbed a piece of ice and then remembered that is not the correct remedy so I googled what do you do when you burn your hand?  So love the internet at times like these. I scanned the first few entries and spied the mustard cure.

What? Mustard? Plain ‘ol yellow mustard? Yes. Yes. Yes.

I squeezed a large blop of it on my very sore and blistered hand and felt some relief.  As it soaked in and a few minutes passed, the pain started to fade.  Reading further, the article suggested placing a gauze bandage and tape over the mustard poultice which I did for the afternoon.  I removed it after about 3 hours and washed it.  The burn hurt a little as I showered and the hot water hit it, but not as bad as I expected.

That night at my dinner party, my hand felt a tad sore, but not like usual when I have a burn.  The next morning was the clincher for this remedy.  No big giant blister and I could bend my fingers with no pain.

mustard cure1

A miracle I say!

Go out and buy yourself a jug of that French’s mustard and be ready for your next burn…Sursee Gal over and out.

4 Great Podcasts to Follow



podcast pic

Listening to podcasts is fun for me.  I listen while I put on my makeup or drive in the car or fold laundry or iron…you get the picture.  Have you ever listened to a PodCast?  It is not hard to download through the Podcast App on  your iPhone or on your computer. I subscribe to a few and listen to them while I work or walk or drive.

I am a learner and I find listening to a variety of podcasts is stimulating to my creativity-kind of like going to an art museum or being outside in nature feeds me.   Another perk of podcasts is you can listen with your older kids.  Sitting side by side in the car listening to a podcast is great for teens.  They need loads of creativity at this stage of life to spark their imaginations, and it is important for them to hear about all the jobs and possibilities that are out there.

So check out my favs below.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

Such a fun listen.  Gretchen and her sister Elizabeth talk about all kinds of ways to live and work: like new creative habits to try, or suggesting ideas for how not to procrastinate, to giving you permission to stop reading a book.  What?

I like the Try it at Home Tips she gives.  I have read her Happiness Project book and the sequel and gleaned so many fun, creative SURSEES from her.  When I listen to Gretch and Elizabeth, I feel like I am sitting with my gal pals sharing and connecting.  You will be encouraged.  The link above leads to her site and also gives the deets about her podcast.  I would love to hear what you think about her Gold Stars.  Fun to listen with your kids and discuss or try some of her ideas.

The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry

This guy is just plain interesting and also talks with all kinds of intriguing people.  One of my favorite episodes was when he talked about Your Collective  about the relationships we should surround ourself with to help us do our best work.  Fascinating.  I would go back and listen to it again. Love his tagline at the end- “Don’t be a cover band.  Cover bands don’t change the world.” Yeah, baby!  Good for teens.

God Centered Mom by Heather MacFadyen

Back to the gals.  Heather is an awesome podcaster over at The God Centered Mom and talks with so many different people.   She encourages no matter what life stage you are in.  I am often forwarding her podcasts to other women; Heather is a great resource.  From talking about movies you can watch with your kids to learning new ideas about discipline, to trusting God in the hard times,  her interviews are always helpful and succinct and make you want to know and love more.  Love Heather!  Listen to Heather and I talk here.

Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn

Pat Flynn is all over the place talking to entrepreneurs, bloggers, business owners.  I found an amazing Banana Cream Pie recipe after I listened to this gal from The Woodland Bakery and heard how she grew her business and blog through an online presence and videos.  Her pies are Amazing! Craig and I have also listened to a few and have had some interesting discussions afterward about career and life.  A great place to be inspired.  Also a good listen with your teenagers.

Tell me what you think about these podcasts and also share what podcasts you are digging.  I am always surprised when people say they don’t listen to podcasts or haven’t heard about the ones I like.  So do tell in the comments and help us all get smarter!







Words for the End of the School Year :: Dear Middle School Mom,

Tips for May transitionsHere it is May again, and I always feel busy during this month and I don’t even have kids at home!  A friend told me once, “Never schedule anything for May.  No doctor appointments, no lunches with friends, no nothing.”  I think she is right.  There is enough crazy without me scheduling in more.

May is the end of the school year and the time of graduations and moving on.  Even with grown kids, I find May to be a month of transition.  So I looked back in the files of Sursee Gal and found this Letter to Middle School Moms, and I bring it back to you because I think it might be just the encouragement you need right now. Even if your child isn’t about to enter high school, I think there are some truths here to get you looking down the path with hope.   I am praying that as you face this time of transition and endings and beginnings  you will see the Lord in the middle of it all and that you don’t have to go it alone.  So read on dear friend and be encouraged.

Could you pass this on to a mom who might be struggling with this time of year?  That would be an awesome Sursee!
Dear Middle School Mom,

As I look back over my 11 years at our school, I remember what it was like to have a middle school student just beginning here. For those of you who don’t know me, I have four sons and my youngest is about to graduate in a few short weeks.
Gretchen Rubin author of The Happiness Project, says, “The days are long, but the years are short.”  And I am here to tell you, that is true!
So here, at the end of these years,  as I am rounding the corner and heading toward the finish line, I wanted to encourage you with some truths I have learned along the way.
First, I want you to know it has been a good ride.  And, yes, the work was worth it !
I want to exhort you as a mom to not be afraid.  No fear!   God is in control of all the details of your life and your child’s life. Your child will go to college somewhere when it is time. I promise.
Mom, No comparing.  It robs you of all joy.   No one else can be you with your gifts and talents.  No one else has the same child you do.  So, No comparing, friend.
Embrace life and all the ups and downs of mothering.  When we say yes and embrace wherever God has us, we are saying, “I trust You Lord, and  I believe You are in control.”
Middle school is the pitts.  It just is.  It was when you were in middle school. And it still is.  But, Your child’s class will survive. Your child will survive. And I promise, YOU will survive. The mean girls will get nice and the goofy boys will grow up. So encourage your child that this is true, and teach them how to extend grace.
Pray for the kids in your child’s class. Get to know the kids in your child’s class. God is using them to shape and mold your child.  The small classes here are like  your family, you don’t get to choose your family, and  yet, you love them and accept them. Show your child how to love those who are not like them. And in the end, when they graduate, you will be amazed how your class jelled and came together.
It is not too hard for them up here.  It is work, but it is not too hard.  Learning and being engaged is demanding and it requires discipline, but it is not too hard.  It is a new way to study.  A new way to think.  It is worth it.  There are no shortcuts.
Latin is one of the most important subjects your child can take.  Have them take as many years of it as possible.
Read. Read the books your child is reading.  Read the school newsletter.  Life works better when you are in the know.  Read your emails from your Class Mom. In fact, be the class mom one year.
Join up and join in. Our school works best when you participate. Serve on a committee.  Come to the parent meetings.  Head up something.  You might meet a new friend. Attend Moms in Touch.  Pursue friendships with other moms up here.  You will be thankful you have others to walk through these years with you.
Believe in the professors.  Get to know them.  Pray for them. Speak words of life to them. And, speak well about them to your child.
Make breakfast for your child.  It really is the most important meal of the day.
Go to events that involve the older students at your school.  See the finished product.  It will encourage you.  It will give you hope and fuel you to inspire your child through the years. Go to Declamation.  Attend the Ladies Tea.  Send your son to the Men’s Cook-out every year. Sit front row and center for the plays.   When you see the seniors and older students at these events, you will see what the target is and so will your child.
Attend all the different sporting events.  Lots of conversations and life happens there.  On that note, get your student involved in sports here. Character work goes on here that you don’t want them to miss.  Plus, it will be some of their favorite memories.  And yours.
Drive a carpool to a school event.  You learn so much.  Enough said.
Go to bed.  Teach your child to go to bed.  A good night sleep cures almost everything and things always look better in the morning.
Kiss and hug.  A lot.  Before they go to school and when they get home. Even when they are a senior.  Even when they are a boy.
Use less words with your kids and Believe in them.  They know the right thing to do.
So Middle school mom, this school isn’t a perfect place, but it is a great place.  And, it really is worth it.

Sursee Saturday :: A Word Picture for The Netherlands

Psalm 6512


Loved my trip to the Netherlands…even just love that name- The Nether Lands– sounds so much like a C. S. Lewis adventure novel.

In my Chronological Bible reading today, I read these verses and they pictured to me what I was feeling and seeing as we drove around.  Just wanted to share this little Sursee with you, my friend.


9 You care for the land and water it;

    you enrich it abundantly.

holland gardens

The streams of God are filled with water

    to provide the people with grain,
    for so you have ordained it.
10 You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
    you soften it with showers and bless its crops.


tulip fields

11 You crown the year with your bounty,
    and your carts overflow with abundance.


tulip fields orange


12The grasslands of the wilderness overflow;
    the hills are clothed with gladness.

13 The meadows are covered with flocks
    and the valleys are mantled with grain;
    they shout for joy and sing.

Psalm 65:9-13



Mentoring Moment :: What Did You Do When Your Kids Compared or Used Unkind Words?

Mentoring Moments What Did you do when your kids talked unkindly or compared

What did you do when your kids compared or used unkind words with one another?

I just received a question like this, and as I was emailing this sweet mom back, I thought that maybe there might be others who would be encouraged if they heard this.  We need each other.  We need to talk about things like this. Here is the answer I gave her:

Hey gal,

  • You are the Best Mom for your kids

One thought to remember is you are the best mom for those precious kids the Lord gave you! I didn’t say perfect- but you are the best.  God picked you to be their mom and will give you wisdom and direction when you need it.  I think I always was second guessing myself and wondering if I had what it takes…you do! You have what it takes and More- you have Jesus!

  • Safe Place
One thing we tried to do is make our home a safe place for everyone, and we would  talk about that.  I would say,  “I want everyone to feel safe here and loved because God created each of you in  a special way.”   I would try to guard that- not letting unkindness or mean things go on and on.  Discipline when needed.  Separate when needed.  Always remembering if they were too tired or too hungry to obey.  It does make a difference.
  • Big Muscles

Kids need to use their big muscles every day, especially boys.  I would make sure they were active every day.  That meant I had to go out with them in the back yard and just chill or watch them play or read.  Whatever.  But I needed to be out there, too.  I wrote more on that here.

I think when they are using their big muscles and being physical for some parts of the day, some of the other issues disappear.

  • Rest Time is a Must

I also made them have a Rest Time every day.  It is hard to be kind and slow to anger all day long.  It is for you and me, and it is for them. They need separation and time to be by themselves.  Everyday.   At Rest Time, they didn’t have to go to sleep, but they had to be by themselves…reading on their bed.  No talking to me or to others during that time.  “This is what the Johnsons do,” is what I would tell them.

  • Verses that Teach

Now on to some verses.  A good verse I remember is this one.

Proverbs 12:18

 The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
    but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

We would talk about how their words could be like swords or  they could bring healing.  Great imagery.
Another great group of verses that popped into my head were these:
Ephesians 4:29-32
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
I would talk about the ability for their words to build up their brother.  And I would say, “Hey, we want our words to be building words not tearing down words.  That sounded like you were tearing down your brother. Let’s try that again.”  Or I would just prompt with the word “building” and not give a big lecture.
Or I would use verse 32 and say, “Hey- we need to be kind and compassionate to each other….what does that look like?  Can we practice that right now?”
  • Night Time Prayers
One big thing I did a bunch is pray through these verses at night when I tucked them in.  In the dark I would talk about things that I had seen that day and remind them of God’s truth.  A lot of the time I would just pray what I wanted them to do out loud- ha! 
“God, Help _____ to remember he is the older brother and he needs to build _______ up, even when ______ makes him mad.
 Help______ to be kind when _______ is driving him nuts.”  
Especially as they get older, at night in the dark, is a great time of sharing.
I hope this helps.  I did not do this perfectly.  I wish now that I would have memorized more verses. But God is faithful, and He will fill in the cracks.  Talk about about a Sursee!
Readers, do you have a special verse that you use with your kids when they compare or are unkind?  Do share, please.

Accepting a Compliment Is An Art Form

accepting a compliment is an art form

Dear friends,

A good friend sent this to me the other day, and I  just had to share.  What do you do when someone compliments you? How do you respond? I love this answer below, and I hope that it helps you the next time you are complimented.  A Sursee for you. Actually, this is the way to give the most awesome Sursee of a completed loop.  See below for  the scoop.

Learn to accept compliments graciously and authentically. Most of us are awful at it! I call this “Narcissism Phobia.” Narcissism phobia occurs when you are uncomfortable when someone notices your success, your courage or your kindness. You might not enjoy being in the spotlight. Or you may be concerned that someone will think you have a big head. Or you simply may not think the affirmation is true about you (“If they knew the real me”). So you dismiss (“aw shucks”), deflect (“it was the team, it wasn’t just me) or divert (“anyway, so how have you been?”). But here’s the problem. You aren’t allowing someone the benefit of feeling appreciated for your compliment. It’s a disconnect for them. Think how you feel when someone does the “aw shucks” with you, after you have gone to the trouble to tell them how much you like what they did? I’ll bet if left you feeling a bit empty. So you aren’t being selfish when you say, “Thanks, I appreciate it, yes, it felt great to see the results of the project.” You are closing the loop of gratitude. Take it and let it feel good for both of you, and connect the two of you together. Get cured of narcissism phobia.                            John Townsend


May you close the loop of gratitude today and give someone a Sursee.


What’s for Supper :: A Few Ideas to Share with Your College Kids


Easy recipes  college kids will use

So all the boys are in college right now or out of college and need a little encouragement for what to cook tonight.  Wait, don’t we all?

I think that is one of the main reasons I like watching cooking shows.  They talk in soft voices telling me how wonderful this tastes and how amazing that dish in the bowl is, and I believe them.  I also get great ideas for what to cook.  Sometimes even what to cook for dinner that night.

Over Christmas I wrote down some easy recipes for the boys and some meal plans for how to use them.  Easy.  I thought you might like to see what it was I shared with them.  Nothing fancy.  Just some easy go-to recipes that you might want to share with the college kids in your life.  Or maybe you might want to use for yourself tonight!

One thing I try to teach the boys is how to roast a chicken breast.

Line a baking pan with foil.  Drizzle the chicken breast with olive oil. Salt and Pepper it.  Bake in a 375 degree oven till no pink in the middle. Done.

Now you have the fixings for so many meals.  I gave them a list on a recipe card showing all the ways they could use the chicken breast meat.  Or they could buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and use for the following:

Chicken Quesadillas

Caesar Salad with Chicken

Slice and use for a sandwich

Serve the chicken breast with a green salad and veggies

Roll up into a fajita.

Sometimes you need a little jump start when you are standing there and don’t know what to fix for supper.

I know I need a jump start sometimes.  This little card gives them that.

I also wrote down how to make a smoothie.

How to scramble an egg.

How to make a breakfast taco.

I also write down a list of easy meals to make with not very many ingredients.  It will hopefully be a little kick start for them when they are standing at the frig, looking in, wondering what to eat.

When the kids are home for breaks during the summer or over Christmas, I have them cook with me and practice some of these recipes.  Or I tell them they to pick out recipes from a cookbook, and we cook it together.  Hopefully they will remember some of this when they head back off on their own and feel more confident to cook.

I also send them recipes that I have tried and liked.  Like a new crockpot recipe.  Or this amazing Chicken Lettuce Wraps.  These lettuce wraps are easy to make and super yummy and make me feel like I am at Pei Wei.

The Pioneer Woman is a great resource, too, as her recipes have those great step by step photos that document how to chop something or what something looks like when it is finished browning.  She is one of my favorite cooking shows to watch.  She can be a good friend to your college student.  I know she is to me!

If all else fails- teach ’em how to make Pigs in a Blanket!  An easy go-to that is a crowd pleaser.

It is not fancy, but it is yummy. I think you know the recipe.  Just wanted to remind you that easy is not always bad. And that comfort food is always good.

Easy Recipe for college kids

What are your easy, go-to recipes that you have shared with your college kids or that you make yourself? Do share the Sursee with us. xoxo






Saturday Sursee :: Thank You Note Sursee

Just wanted to share with you this darling card that a gal made for me recently.  She works at the Dry Cleaner I use, and we chat and visit when I come in to drop off shirts.  I had given her a little Sursee and Christmas card this past year.  The first time I came in in January with my big bag of shirts, she handed me this precious card with a big smile and slight bow.

I opened it up and found the most darling thank you note that she had hand-made for me.

Thank you note Sursees

Love it.  So Creative. Thoughtful.  A Sursee thank you.  I was so honored that she had taken the time to make me this darling origami note.  I plan on framing it and displaying it in my home.

Made me think of all the thank you notes I made my boys write or that I have written.  Did those brighten the day of someone?  Did they save it?  Was it their Sursee that day?

When I write the notes, they don’t seem  like much at the time, but when the recipient opens it, I guarantee that it brightens their day.  It might be the only Sursee they receive that day.

I am not saying you have to go fold paper into an amazing thank you.  I am asking you to consider writing a thank you to someone in your life today.  Think through the people who have loved you well or served you well and maybe pop a note into the mail for them.  It is a Sursee that won’t go unnoticed.  And also a Sursee that will bless you as you write it.