girltalk Blog

Dec 11

How Not To Be The Charlie Browniest

2017 at 8:32 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Homemaking | Holidays

“I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus,” Charlie Brown confesses to his friend in A Charlie Brown Christmas. “Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.”

“Charlie Brown,” chides Linus, “you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy is right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.”

There may be only one Charlie Brown, but many of us can relate to his problem: It’s Christmas, but we don’t feel the way we are supposed to feel.

We’re anxious. Will the children like their presents? Is the family going to get along? If life is extra hard, we feel bitter and resentful of Christmas cheer. Disappointment litters the holiday season. Your son didn’t come home for Christmas. Your party was a flop. Envy rears its ugly head. You were reasonably content until your cousin spent an hour telling you all about her amazing life. We feel stressed about all the work we have to do, and irritable because no one is helping us do it. Grief presses down with oppressive force.

Charlie Brown got one thing right: there is something wrong with us. Sin has corrupted our experiences and corroded our emotions. We feel the devastating effects of sin all around us and to our very core, sometimes—perhaps especially—at Christmas.

But the message of Christmas doesn’t come up short of our emotions. In fact, have you noticed that the angel’s astonishing announcement was aimed straight at the shepherd’s emotions and ours as well?: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11, emphasis mine).

The good news of Christmas is that God sent his Son, born of a virgin, to live a perfect life, to die and take the penalty for our sins and redeem us completely: body, mind, and emotions. Now we can feel the way that we are supposed to feel—not some vague, sentimental happy holiday feeling, but true, Christ-like, emotions of genuine love, deep joy, godly grief, and solid hope. Because of Christmas, we can feel the way we are supposed to feel: we can feel what God wants us to feel.

How are we supposed to feel at Christmastime? Quite simply, we are to have emotions that line up with God’s Word. This may be grief and sadness over sin and suffering, but it will also mean joy and hope in the “good news of great joy” that is the gospel. If our goal is to have God-glorifying emotions, then the good news is that we can feel the way we are supposed to feel at Christmastime. Here are three R’s for our Christmas emotions:

Revise your emotional expectations. So often, we think that holiday emotions should be unusually pleasant, but instead, we feel unusually tempted which throws us into further confusion and despair. But we shouldn’t be surprised by emotional temptation during the holidays. It’s to be expected (1 Cor. 10:13). We are busier than any other time of year, interacting with people we only see once a year (relatives, office parties, etc), and often wrongly invest in more earthly hopes than any other time of year. Is it any wonder we experience more emotional temptation? But temptation doesn’t have the last word. Instead, we need to see the Christmas season as an opportunity to grow in godly emotions. It’s a chance to see the ugly sins in our heart that may have been hiding the other eleven months of the year; but more than that, it’s an opportunity to repent and experience the Holy Spirit’s sweet grace for change.

Read and pray more. It never fails to astonish me how much there is to do at Christmastime. Most years, I’ve punted to a good advent book and shortened quiet times to get me through the season. Not so this year. It might sound cliche, but I’m so busy that I need to read more Scripture and engage in more prayer in December. I’m actually doubling up on my Bible reading so I can finish out my plan by the end of the year (I got a little behind!). And I’m not skipping over my prayer times. Nothing goes to work on our emotions more than God’s Word and his Holy Spirit working through prayer. Consider: what could you read and pray about if you got up only fifteen minutes earlier each day? Maybe you could read through the gospel of Luke or a Psalm a day. If you want to feel like you are supposed to feel this Christmas, there nothing better you can do.

“Run into” your emotions. When I was little, my parents often made me “run into” my fears. They meant that I needed to charge at my fears like a running back “runs into” the hulking linebackers in order to get to the end-zone. My parents knew that by the act of doing something I was afraid to do, my emotions of fear would greatly diminish. So this Christmas, let’s charge at our sinful emotions and push them away. In other words, as I now tell my kids, do the opposite of what you feel like doing. If you feel lonely, get out and serve someone. If you feel annoyed at a relative, take an active interest in them instead. If you feel irritable, smile. If you feel envious, give thanks to God for his good gifts to you. Far from being falsely festive, you may be surprised at how quickly your emotions will change when—instead of giving into them—you run into them, and past them toward the goal.

Charlie Brown may be the Charlie Browniest, but Christians should be the happiest. We can feel the way we are supposed to feel at Christmastime—and anytime—because the good news of great joy has come to us.

Jul 26

Summer is for Salad Dressing

2017 at 6:58 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Homemaking | Recipes

A little-known fact about me is that I actually like salad. In fact, I make salads all summer long. Now, I may be a teeny-weeny bit picky about veggie toppings. I don’t eat tomatoes or asparagus. I only eat carrots if they are NOT cooked and broccoli if it IS cooked. I won’t touch cauliflower with a ten-foot pole, but give me cucumbers and peppers all day long. However, if we are being honest here, the main reason salads dominate my dinner menu every summer is for the dressing. And the bacon. And the cheese and the homemade croutons. But back to dressing. We girltalkers have a few go-to salad dressing recipes that are too good to keep to ourselves. I’ve become such a homemade dressing snob that I can’t eat store bought dressing anymore. Take a look at these yummy recipes and join me in my summer of salad eating. You’re welcome!

Thousand Island Dressing:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon white vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish

1 teaspoon white onion, finely minced

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 dash black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Stir well.

Place dressing in a covered container and refrigerate for several hours, stirring occasionally, so that the sugar dissolves and the flavors blend.

Greek Salad Dressing:

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano

2 tablespoon peperoncini juice

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup good olive oil

Whisk together all dressing ingredients. Chill in fridge for a couple of hours before using to blend flavors.

Spinach Salad Dressing:

½ of small-med onion

½ cup cider vinegar

½ cup sugar

1/3 cup catsup

1 cup oil

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

In blender place the onion, vinegar and sugar. Blend until the onion is pulverized. Add the remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly. Refrigerate.

Greg’s Special Dressing

1 qt. mayonnaise

3 t. lemon juice

4 T. cracked black pepper

2/3 c. water

1 t. A-1 sauce

10 drops L & P Worcestershire

5 drops Tabasco sauce

½ t. dry mustard

1 T. garlic powder

½ c. Parmesan cheese

2 T. granulated sugar

2 T. chopped parsley

Mix together all dressing ingredients. Chill in fridge for a few hours before using to blend flavors.

Morton’s Blue Cheese Dressing:

2 cups mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons sour cream

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon Durkee’s sauce (sold in the condiment aisle or with the dressings)

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

7 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (about 1.5 C)

salt and pepper

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and sour cream. Add the buttermilk, Durkee sauce, and seasoned salt. Whisk until well mixed. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and whisk again. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the blue cheese. Transfer to a storage container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for at least a day and up to four days.

Dec 14

Ten Ideas for Helping Children Fight Greed at Christmastime

2015 at 2:22 pm   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Homemaking | Holidays | Motherhood

Christmas puts parents in a tough spot. We love our children. We want to give them good gifts. We enjoy their eager anticipation and exuberant gift opening on Christmas morning. And yet as Christian parents, we know there is a dark side to gift giving: greed. All of the presents can seem little more than brightly wrapped packages of temptation. There are temptations to selfish delight or despair, depending on whether or not our children got what they wanted. Greed can take hold, turning what we intend as a blessing into what feels like a setback in our parenting.

So how do we give generously and squash greed at the same time? We girltalkers did some brainstorming and idea sharing and came up with ten ideas to get us all started.

1. Be Intentional. Greed won’t go away on its own; we’re gonna have to apply some parental elbow grease to this one. And it’s not a one-time thing, like “Do you remember the year we got rid of Christmas greed?” We’re going to be dealing with it for a while, so we have to resist the temptation to get angry or discouraged if it doesn’t seem like our efforts are bearing fruit right away.

2. Talk a Lot. Deuteronomy 6 is a great Christmas passage. We need to talk to our children about greed and gratefulness and what it means to glorify God at Christmas. It’s tempting to give up, because our instruction often seems to go in one ear and out the other, but we are called to be faithful.

My husband likes to have little Q&A sessions with the kids and throw in a ridiculous answer to make it memorable (broccoli often makes an appearance in these little conversations). Thus our Christmas Catechism sounds something like this:

Q. What is better than Getting?

A. Giving is better than Getting

Q. Why is it better than Getting?

A. Because that’s what Jesus did.

Q. What is better than Getting? (raise volume here)

A. Giving is better than Getting

3. Make Christmas Memories. Christmas traditions help direct a child’s anticipation toward activities and memory making and not only gift getting. This is one reason we love to celebrate Advent: it is a daily reminder that we are waiting for more than presents under the tree. Cookie baking, Christmas light viewing, and story reading all serve a similar purpose.

4. Make Christmas Giving Lists. In addition to Christmas lists for Mimi we have our kids make lists for what they want to give to family members. Then we let them loose in the Target dollar section to buy presents for their siblings and Daddy and Mommy. This is one of their favorite Christmas traditions, and it is fun to see their excitement channeled toward giving and away from getting.

5. Read Christmas Giving Stories. A great addition to Christmas story time: books that highlight the joy giving such as Little Women, The Gift of the Magi, If You’re Missing Baby Jesus,Christmas Day in the Morning and many more. Powerful stories can help awaken children’s imaginations to the magic of giving.

6. Give to People in Need. Involve your children in giving gifts to those who are in need or who are suffering at Christmastime. We enjoy buying presents for newly adopted children or contributing to a family’s adoption, but there are countless opportunities at Christmastime to give locally and around the world. Giving to others helps children take their eyes off themselves and understand how much they have to be grateful for.

7. Give the Gift of Experience. Along with toys, you can include gifts of experience under the tree: books, magazine subscriptions, memberships to a local museum, tickets to a special event, lessons for art or music, or (my favorite) a family trip or outing. Over time your children may come to anticipate these gifts most of all.

8. Minimize Temptation. In other words, hide the Christmas catalogs. Avoid spending long hours in the toy section at Target with your child. Limit exposure to holiday commercials. Redirect conversations that begin, “Do you know what I want for Christmas?” But don’t mess with the grandparents. Do the hard work of parenting so that Grandma and Grandpa can have the joy of being as generous as they desire.

9. Develop a Gift Opening Strategy. We like to open gifts slowly, one person, one gift at a time. This takes a while, but the slow pace helps restrain greed and promote gratefulness. We are training our children to pay attention when someone else is opening a gift and enter into their joy. And we also insist that our children give hugs and kisses and “big thank you’s” after opening each present. Having a strategy for gift giving that encourages patience, gratefulness, and a focus on others can counteract the greed that wants to own the day.

10. Cultivate Christ-like Character. We may have outgrown a childish greed for presents, but we as parents are still tempted to approach Christmas selfishly, for our own comfort or gratification. We need God’s grace to help us serve selflessly, give generously, parent patiently, and grow in passion for our Savior at Christmastime. As we grow to be more like Christ who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28) we will encourage our children to do the same.

Dec 10

Christmas Expectations and Emotions

2015 at 8:38 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Gospel | Homemaking | Holidays

Christmas is about expectations. “Come thou long expected Jesus” was the prayer of God’s chosen people as they waited for the Messiah. In celebrating Advent, we enter into those expectations and rejoice in their fulfillment.

Sadly, we often load Christmas down with all kinds of other expectations. When people or presents don’t meet those expectations, we feel disappointed. Unrealistic expectations lead to unhappy emotions.

What should our expectations be this Christmas?

First, we should expect nothing. If we go into the holidays with zero expectations of how our husband will shop for us or how our children will behave or how our sister will treat us, our emotions will be unruffled by other people.

In other words, the best way to prepare our emotions for Christmas is to repent from idolatry. Remember, as John Calvin warned us, the evil of our desires is not so much in what we desire, but that we desire it too much. We often call these desires “expectations.” And where you have “disappointed expectations,” more often than not, you’ll find an idol lurking nearby.

When we do away with selfish expectations–or as the Bible likes to call them, “worthless idols”–we can expect joyful emotions this Christmas.

Secondly, we should expect trouble. For the Christian, trouble around the holidays should not be unexpected. Our Lord has promised that, “in this world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33); and, to paraphrase my dad, “Sin doesn’t take a holiday.”

Expect that your children may be ungrateful or unruly or that your uncle may criticize your Christian convictions. Expect trouble this Christmas and you will be better prepared to handle it emotionally.

Our secular culture tries to ignore the reality of trouble around the holidays, covering their eyes with sentimentality:

“Have yourself a Merry little Christmas,

May your heart be light

From now on our troubles will be out of sight…

From now on our troubles will be miles away…”

For the Christian, our troubles will be miles away and out of sight—one day. But that is the promise of heaven, not Christmas. Unless the Lord returns or calls us home, trouble is an ever-present reality, sometimes especially so at Christmastime.

Christmas is about celebrating the fulfilled expectation of Christ come to earth, even as we wait in expectation of his glorious return. As we celebrate the “already” we must also expect the “not yet.”

But our expectations shouldn’t end in despair. Because of Christmas, we can also expect grace. Christ has come! God is with us! Hebrews 2 highlights our spectacular Christmas expectations, made possible because of Jesus Christ:

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

He is able to help! He is able to help us respond graciously and courageously to our antagonistic uncle. He is able to help us train our children. He is able to help us put off worthless idols and find our joy in Him. In our Christmas troubles and temptations, we can expect the help of the incarnate God. God is with us and God is with us to help. He has made propitiation for every sin. He is able to help us to resist every emotional temptation. His presence is our comfort in every trouble.

When we set our Christmas expectations on Christ, we will be full of joy unspeakable.

Dec 3

CJ Mahaney’s Christmas Book List 2015

2015 at 5:54 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Resource Recommendations | Homemaking | Holidays

Today our dad, CJ Mahaney, gives us his much anticipated, tenth annual Christmas shopping list for the reader in your life.

1944: FDR and the Year that Changed History

by Jay Winik

The Cost of Courage

by Charles Kaiser

Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family’s Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris

by Alex Kershaw


Men of War: The American Soldier in Combat at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima

by Alexander Rose

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

by Daniel James Brown


Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush

by Jon Meacham


When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II

by Molly Guptill Manning

The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters

by James M. McPherson

The Secret Game

by Scott Ellsworth

The Wright Brothers

by David McCullough

Dead Wake

by Erik Larson

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey

by Candice Millard

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

by Hampton Sides

The Secret of Golf

by Joe Posnanski


Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

by Alfred Lansing

Nov 24

Children’s Reading for Advent

2015 at 6:14 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Homemaking | Holidays | Motherhood

A couple of years ago we shared this reading list for Advent. We continue to add to it, and this year we look forward to trying two new books: Prepare Him Room by Marty Machowski and The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung.

Whitacre Family Story Time Readings for Advent

Each morning in December we light the appropriate Advent candles and my husband leads our children in Scripture reading and discussion from one of The Good Book Company’s Advent devotionals. The kids meanwhile munch on a piece of chocolate (for breakfast!) from the Advent Calendar house that Mom-Mom bought us a few years ago

Then every evening we light the candles again after dinner and read a Christmas story together. Over the years I’ve collected our favorite stories and developed a schedule of readings. Here it is below in case you want to follow or adapt. I’m looking forward to the Advent Season where we anticipate the celebration of our Savior’s birth!

December 1

“A Kind of Christmas Tale” by John Piper

December 2

Jed & Roy McCoy by Andrew McDonough

December 3

“He’s Here” from The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

December 4

If You’re Missing Baby Jesus by Jean Gietzen

December 5

The Donkey Who Carried a King by R.C. Sproul

December 6

Chpt. 1 & 2 of Keeping Holiday by Starr Meade

December 7

Chpt. 3 & 4 of Keeping Holiday by Starr Meade

December 8

Chpt. 5 of Keeping Holiday by Starr Meade

December 9

Chpt. 6 of Keeping Holiday by Starr Meade

December 10

Chpt. 7 of Keeping Holiday by Starr Meade

December 11

Chpt. 8 of Keeping Holiday by Starr Meade

December 12

Chpt. 9 of Keeping Holiday by Starr Meade

December 13

Chpt. 10 & 11 of Keeping Holiday by Starr Meade

December 14

Chpt. 12 & 13 of Keeping Holiday by Starr Meade

December 15

“The King of Kings” from The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

December 16

The Plan: How God Got the World Ready for Jesus by Sinclair Ferguson

December 17

“The Light of the Whole World” from The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

December 18

Chapter 1&2 of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

December 19

Chapter 3 of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

December 20

Chapter 4 of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

December 21

Chapter 5 of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

December 22

Chapter 6&7 of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

December 23

Not What I Deserve by Annette B. Gulick

December 24

kidtalk Christmas by Mike Bradshaw

May 28

Grace and the Family Vacation

2015 at 10:02 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Gospel | Homemaking | Family Fun

“It is a bad policy to forego the regular vacation” wrote the wise and witty Charles Spurgeon, and with that quote my dad, CJ Mahaney, kicks off a series of articles on the family vacation. No one is better at leading a family to enjoy being together to the glory of God and I hope you’ll be inspired by this series. Writing to fathers, he reminds us all:

[T]here is no vacation from the gospel. No successful family vacation is possible without the gospel and being reminded of its implications. Our joy, gratefulness, generosity, and service are all informed and inspired by the gospel.

Vacations provide unhurried periods of time where in the shadow of the cross a husband/father realizes afresh that he is doing much better than he deserves. Instead of wrath and hell God has been merciful and kind, pouring out his wrath on his Son so that sinners like you and me could experience forgiveness, justification, redemption, reconciliation, and adoption.

And because of the cross, evidences of grace abound in our lives, beginning in our families. We should be specifically grateful to God for each member of our family and express his gratefulness to them. Vacations are opportunities to discern and celebrate these unique gifts from God that we don’t deserve.

Read Leadership + Family Vacations Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

Dec 17

What to Expect at Christmas

2014 at 4:38 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Homemaking | Holidays

Christmas is about expectations. “Come thou long expected Jesus” was the prayer of God’s chosen people as they waited for the Messiah. In celebrating Advent, we enter into those expectations and rejoice in their fulfillment.

This side of the incarnation, we often load Christmas down with other expectations. I could give examples, but it is probably whatever you are thinking about right now. And when people or presents don’t meet our holiday expectations it leads to all kinds of emotional turmoil.

Unrealistic Expectations = Unruly Emotions

What should we expect this Christmas?

First, we should expect nothing. If we go into the holidays with zero expectations of how our husband will shop for us or how our children will behave or how our sister will treat us, our emotions will be unruffled by other people.

In other words, the best way to prepare our emotions for Christmas is to repent from idolatry. Remember, as John Calvin warned us, the evil of our desires is not so much in what we desire, but that we desire it too much. We often call these desires “expectations.” And where you have “disappointed expectations,” more often than not, you’ll find an idol lurking nearby.

When we do away with selfish expectations–or as the Bible likes to call them, “worthless idols”–we can expect peaceful emotions this Christmas.

Secondly, we should expect trouble. For the Christian, trouble around the holidays should not be unexpected. Our Lord has promised that, “in this world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33); and, to paraphrase my dad, “Sin doesn’t take a holiday.”

Expect that your children will be ungrateful or that your uncle will be rude. Expect trouble this Christmas and you will be better prepared to handle it emotionally.

Our secular culture tries to ignore the reality of trouble around the holidays, covering their eyes with sentimentality:

“Have yourself a Merry little Christmas,

May your heart be light

From now on our troubles will be out of sight…

From now on our troubles will be miles away…”

For the Christian, our troubles will be miles away and out of sight—one day. But that is the promise of heaven, not Christmas. Unless the Lord returns or calls us home, trouble is an ever-present reality, sometimes especially so at Christmas.

Christmas is about celebrating the fulfilled expectation of Christ come to earth, even as we wait in expectation of his glorious return. As we celebrate the “already” we must expect the “not yet.”

Not only must we expect trouble, but because of Christmas, we can also expect grace. Christ has come! God is with us! Hebrews 2 highlights the grace we can expect, because of the incarnation:

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

In our Christmas troubles and temptations, we can expect the help of God-incarnate. God is with us and God is with us to help. He has made propitiation for every sin, and he is able to help us resist every emotional temptation.

When we set our Christmas expectations on Christ, we will not be disappointed.