Tag Archives: Hephzibah House

The Gift Left Unopened

Today, I am speaking at the Hephzibah House Christmas Tea in Manhattan.  I am blessed to be in New York City with my husband and connecting with many wonderful women of God.  Since ya’ll can’t be with me I decided to share part of my presentation with you via this blog post.  God bless you and thank you for the time you spend at My Daily Bread Body and Soul!

This blog post is dedicated to my friends  Dinah Agnew,  Nancy Reak and my sous-chef dish-washing mom!  Dinah is the one who first told me about the gift she almost left unopened.  From the moment she told me about it I’ve wanted to write this story because I feel the same way about the gift I almost left unopened.   Nancy, another friend who walks closely with God, as you will read has played an integral part in the story of the gift I nearly left unopened.  And last but certainly not least, I would not have started down this path if my mom hadn’t been willing to come along.  Love to all of you!  Thank you, dear Lord, for Dinah, Nancy and Mom,  all tremendous women of faith,  strong and mighty Prayer Warriors and women who truly live out their faith every day.

Can we all agree it is the gift-giving season?  I mean who hasn’t bought a gift recently?  The last few days? Last week? Anytime this month?  And then there are the TV ads, radio jingles, internet pictures of gifts, gifts, and more gifts!

I am writing to tell you I am the world’s worst gift giver.  I can feel my husband and sous-chef dish-washing mom rolling their eyes right now.  However … read on.

My gift-giving wows started a long, long time ago.  I started babysitting when I was 12 years old and from there I worked in fast food, waitressing and finally a radio station – all before I was out of high school.  I always had a little money from working and I was probably around 16 years old when this misadventure took place.

My mom had a very sweet yellow teacup and saucer sitting in a prominent place in our home.  One day I decided to surprise her and have that little teacup delivered to her filled with baby’s breath and petite yellow roses.

I slipped the teacup and saucer out of the house and took off to the local florist.  Yes, they would make a beautiful little bouquet and deliver it the next day, on Saturday, when I knew my mom would be home.  Such a good idea.  What a good daughter I am.

That evening when we gathered for dinner my mom promptly lined my brothers and I up and said: “who broke my teacup and saucer?”  Well, my brothers quickly denied knowing anything about a broken cup and that was true.  I, however, wasn’t about to spoil the big surprise coming and so I quickly said: “I didn’t break it.”  All of this was true.  Mom was mad.  And to make matters worse, somehow, somewhere she found a sliver of glass on the floor and that was PROOF one of us broke her precious teacup and saucer.  AND if that wasn’t enough, now we were lying about it!

We all maintained our innocence and it was a long, awful night.  But I knew the surprise would be worth it.  The next day the doorbell rang, I could hardly breathe as mom opened the door.  There it was … that beautiful teacup filled with the most gorgeous little arrangement.  Immediately my mother started crying.  What? Crying? What is that about?  She sobbed and sobbed.  She couldn’t have said “thank you” no matter how hard she tried.   Boy, that didn’t work out.

Fast forward a few decades. I actually gave these exact same sandals to my husband — two Christmas’ in a row.  No, really I did.

And then there was the birthday gift … My husband’s birthday was approaching and I noticed he had searched out Black Walnut Crackers on Amazon.  We live in the country with a few black walnut trees and cracking those little nuts is challenging at best and impossible at worst.  I determined that a black walnut cracker was exactly what he wanted and no doubt needed for his birthday.

I placed the order and lo’ and behold I was not home the day it was delivered.  But he was home and took the package and placed it in the hallway.  He never said a word to me when I got home but as I walked in the house there it was. Since when did Amazon start marking the contents of the box on the side IN BIG RED LETTERS?  

Okay, are you getting the idea? I have gift-giving issues!  However,   my worst gift-giving catastrophe was still to come!

To date, my worst gifting situation arrived just in time for our 20th wedding anniversary.   My sweet and thoughtful husband had planned a cruise (which we had never been on) to celebrate our anniversary.  As we made the plans he said, “this can be our anniversary gift to each other.”  I probably nodded or said “okay” but in my heart, I knew I wanted to reciprocate with a lovely gift just for him.  A watch — a gold watch.

My sous-chef dish-washing mom and I had appointments in a city about an hour from us and I knew that would be the right time to do a little gift shopping.  At lunch that day I called my hard-working gardener husband who was spending the day mowing grass and weeding our flower beds. It was June and he was happy to be outside!  I just called him to say “hi” and let him know we had arrived in town.

After lunch, I said to mom, “Hey, there is a Jared’s!  Let’s go look for a watch for Lee.”   So we did just that.  The gentlemen who helped us showed us an array of beautiful watches.  After some time and discussion, I chose just the right one, all the time telling him about my husband and how this was going to be a surprise 20th Anniversary wedding gift.

That evening as we sat down to dinner my husband-of-almost-20 -years said, “you know we agreed the cruise is our anniversary gift to each other, right?”  Gulp.   Then he went on to say, “besides you know I sure don’t need a new tie!”  I choked and laughed at the same time while trying to say “you don’t even wear ties much anymore.”

Sitting right there at the dinner table I just could not look at my sous-chef dish-washing mom.  I knew if I looked up and saw her face it would be all over but the shoutin’!  And then  he said, “And the very last thing I need is a new watch.”

That was it. I put down my fork, look at my mom and her eyes were as big as saucers.  She was spitting and sputtering trying to say something but nothing was making sense.  I looked him straight in the eye and said, “Okay, what is going on.”

He had such a twinkle in his eye I knew he was enjoying every minute of this.  I, on the other hand, was not.  Then he said, “While you were shopping for my new watch I think your purse called me.  I heard the whole thing!”   Sure enough, he was the last call I made before going into Jared’s.  I must have bumped my phone as I was shopping and redial kicked in and indeed called him.

However, for all the gift-giving troubles I have had,  I am a really good gift receiver!  We all love to receive gifts, don’t we?   But today I want to tell you about a gift I almost left unopened.

Beginning in 2005 my friend Nancy asked me every year for 6 years to join Community Bible Study.  CBS is a worldwide ministry with local Bible studies for men, women, and children in communities throughout the world – AND Shelbyville, Tennesee has a class! The commitment is from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. each Thursday morning, during the school year – 30 weeks out of the year with about 15 to 20 minutes of study and devotion time each day.

What do you suppose I told her year after year?  I am too busy – I couldn’t possibly spend 15 minutes every day reading and answering Bible study questions AND THEN spend 2 hours every Thursday morning too! I just couldn’t.

After all, I had a bed and breakfast to run. I had other obligations.   A short-term Bible study maybe — but ongoing for 9 months there was just no way!

We sold our Bed and Breakfast in 2007 but I still couldn’t find the time.  I did take part in short Bible studies here and there but no big commitments for me!

In July 2011 Nancy and her husband Dick invited us over to dinner.  We had a lovely evening and as we were getting ready to leave Nancy handed me two Community Bible Study applications. One for me and one for my mother.

I said, Nancy, what has possessed you to ask me every year for 6 years to join Community Bible Study?”

She looked me straight in the eye and said, “The Holy Spirit puts it on my heart every summer and I am sure it is YOU He is prompting me to talk to.”

Ah, well – the Holy Spirit – hmmm that’s a different matter.

In 1965 I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, confessing all the sins a 9-year-old could possibly think of.  And now many years later standing before Nancy hearing that the Holy Spirit had put it on her heart to get me to Community Bible Study – I felt a quickening and said to Nancy – “I’ll get these back to you tomorrow.” And I did.

The journey of in-depth Bible Study I have been on since August 2011 has been life-changing. I am a transformed woman because my friend Nancy would not stop when the Holy Spirit prompted her to offer me the gift of a lifetime!

This is a gift I almost left unopened.

God has known all along the plans He had for me, but I wasn’t cooperating.  He had plans to bless me – to give me hope and a future – plans to fulfill my hearts desire to share the good news of the Gospel.  But I wasn’t cooperating. Thank God for the Nancy’s of the world who do not give up when the Holy Spirit prompts them to act!

From the CBS website, “There’s something breathtakingly beautiful that happens when God gets ahold of our hearts and minds and invites us on a journey of discovery. The big questions of “who we are” and “why we’re here” are no longer hopeless wonderings.”

“Instead, these questions are replaced with a deep knowing that God is alive and speaks with love, mercy, and grace.”  Through in-depth study, it’s been my experience that as I grow to know God and love God, the most beautiful stories emerge: stories of healing and friendship, of restoration, of growth and perseverance, of joy in the face of adversity, of triumph.

The study of God’s Word is the essential discipline for spiritual formation. God never intended for us to stay where we are at the moment of saving Grace! According to the dictionary — Grace itself is the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. According to the transformed life – Grace is the free gift God gives us that we do not deserve but He gives us out of His love for us.

Timothy had the privilege of reading, studying and memorizing God’s Word from infancy. He learned firsthand how the Scriptures transform us.

Paul says that God’s Word is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correction, and training in righteousness. It is a guide that helps us live according to God’s will for us!

—  Teaching focuses our mind and shapes our thinking.

—  Rebuking steers our conscience so that we don’t travel the wrong direction.

Correction directs our will so that we see the wisdom of God’s plans

And Training in righteousness shows us how to act more like Christ!

Through the gift of God’s Word and His freely given Grace, there is nowhere I’d rather be than in the Word!

Through the study of God’s Word doors have been opened and God has been so gracious to allow me to participate in furthering His Kingdom on earth.

What gift is it that you have left on the table?

Is God calling you deeper into His Word and into a personal, daily walk with Him?

Is God nudging you to bring home your prodigal son or daughter?

Is the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation still lying unopened on a tear-stained pillow at night?

Do you know that God want’s the absolute very best for your relationships with your children, your friends — for your marriage – he wants ABUNDANCE for all of us in every part of our life. Work – love – relationships – all of it covered in His grace with abundance.

“I am leaving you with a gift-peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
John 14:27

What is the gift God is calling you to open today?  Please, don’t let another day go by without opening the gift He has for you.

~ Blessings, Catherine

A Family Recipe for Beef Stroganoff

Catherine and Catherine
Catherine and Catherine

This is the Verse of the Day from BibleGateway.com. It is one of my favorite verses and a perfect way to begin a Saturday, don’t you think?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.Philippians 4:8 NIV

My Chief Culinary Consultant flew to New York City this week to help our friends, Russ and Catherine at Hephzibah House.  They will be leaving the House to attend a conference on prayer and my sweet Lee agreed to stay at Hephzibath House and help the staff while Russ and Catherine are away.  I miss him already.

Catherine and Russ Supper
Earlier this month Russ and Catherine were driving between Indiana and Nashville when a snowy winter storm blew them southward to our home.  They needed a place to land for a couple of days so they could wait out the storm and then fly back to New York City!

It happened during a of couple days that I had set aside to work on a teaching lecture for Community Bible Study.  Catherine and Russ totally blessed us by showing up with armloads of groceries and announcing that for the next two days they would take care of us!  As I retreated to my workroom to study and write, they filled the house with laughter and lots of cooking!

Alice and Catherine
Catherine shared her mother’s Beef Stroganoff with us and it was truly divine.  A gift from God to have them with us and a culinary gift as well!

She agreed to share the recipe with you!  I have made it since then and shared with our neighbors.   I added a touch of  Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning because I have trouble leaving well enough alone!  I sure hope the Russians and the Greeks don’t mind! 🙂

Bon Appétit and have a blessed weekend,


A Family Recipe for Beef Stroganoff
A family favorite shared by Catherine McCullum. Quick and easy but loaded with flavor and nicely filling.
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 Tablespoon HUNGARIAN paprika (or to taste)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cans cream if mushroom soup
  • 1 jar of mushrooms (size to taste)
  • ½ cup Sour cream
  • 1 Teaspoon All-purpose Seasoning* Optional
  1. Saute' onion in small amount of oil until onions are transparent.
  2. Add beef and brown. Drain off grease.
  3. Add paprika, mushrooms and any favorite seasoning.
  4. Add 2 cans cream if mushroom soup and simmer 25 minutes, stirring regularly.
  5. About 10 minutes before serving add sour cream, keep heat low until ready to serve.
  6. Serve over egg noodles which you can start boiling water for when you start to cook the stroganoff, timing works out well!
  7. Mix the two together if you have a large group, but otherwise you can keep noodles separate and put stroganoff on top.
  8. I usually Serve a pineapple salad and rolls with this as a meal.
  9. Bon Apetite!
* Cavendar's Greek Seasoning is a nice addition.
HUNGARIAN Paprika makes a difference as well.





Hephzibah: Giving Glory To God

HHoutside R
One year ago I was a part of a small group of people who were praying for God’s direction in the life of our friends, Catherine and Russ McCullum.  As 2013 draws quickly to a close I am reflecting on the mighty and awesome God we serve!  Before I tell you about the prayer being raised to the heavens just one year ago I fondly reminisce about how I met Catherine and Russ.

Remember how I have written about the bed and breakfast my husband and I owned in Shelbyville, Tennessee?  It was in 2005 when Russ had just returned from serving in Iraq and Catherine’s business brought her to Shelbyville.  She needed a place to stay for part of every month.  Staying at a bed and breakfast afforded her a home-like atmosphere and through a quick phone call and a visit to our home our friendship began. For over a year Catherine and Russ stayed in our home for one week out of every month. Our businesses brought us together but the four of us quickly become personal friends.  The love we share for Jesus Christ became the foundation our friendship was built on and continues to this day.

Serving Catherine and Russ
Serving Breakfast to Catherine and Russ at Walnut Grove Bed and Breakfast

During the time they were staying with us they experienced the personal loss of the twin babies Catherine was carrying. To this day, this experience holds great emotion for them and for us. Through this tragedy we saw first hand their incredibly strong faith and reliance on the Lord.  Walking with them required us to call upon our own faith and reliance on the Lord as well.

Eight years have passed.  We sold our bed and breakfast, Catherine and Russ settled in a beautiful new home in Brentwood Tennessee and life went on.  Both Catherine and Russ climbed the corporate ladder in their respective jobs.  They served their church, went on a mission trip to Mongolia, and lived a very busy and fulfilling life.  They introduced us to their friends, who became our friends.  We introduced them to my mother, who quickly became “mom” to them.  Even when weeks or months passed in between our visits we still stayed close.  When we needed prayer, they prayed.  When they needed prayer, we prayed.  God blesses us all in this friendship.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2012. Catherine tells me she and Russ are going to New York City to visit a long-time family friend, Lois, who is the director of Hephzibah House.  “What is Hephzibah House” I asked.  Catherine told me about this historic brownstone house, sitting just off Central Park, that serves as a guest house (and so much more) for anyone in full-time ministry visiting New York City and needs an affordable place to stay.   She and Russ were going to help their friend and the staff, prepare and serve some 75+ international students a Thanksgiving meal!

We spoke on the phone while they were in New York and they were having a fabulous time.  They had seen the Macy’s Day parade, which literally starts just at the end of the block from Hephzibah House. They LOVED the ministry and serving the International Students, and the wonderful time with this wise woman, Lois.

However, when she arrived back in Tennessee she called and said “ we need to pray.”  She shared with me that while having breakfast with Lois one morning, Lois confided that she had a long-standing prayer that God would bring a married couple to replace her.  Lois and her husband had come to Hephzibah House some 40 years earlier, serving the ministry, raising their children, and striving to make a difference in the lives of many in NYC including international students, prisoners, and neighbors. Lois is 82 years old, her husband has passed away. So she has continued to serve alone for the last 9 years. She is ready, Lord willing, to pass on the baton of this glorious ministry to the couple the Lord chooses. Would they consider this ministry?

Christmas Tea and Installation Ceremony With Friends From Nashville
Christmas Tea and Installation Ceremony With Friends From Nashville

Emotionally, Catherine tells me that when Lois spoke she felt a significant stirring in her heart.  But she felt a strong leading by the Holy Spirit not to speak. So, she pondered this and then that evening, her husband “out of the blue” asked, what she thought about what Lois talked about at breakfast? Wanting to make sure she didn’t speak out of turn, she asked Russ, “What are you talking about?” Russ then said he’d been thinking about what Lois had shared, and how they had sought how to serve the Lord, and well, maybe they should consider Hephzibah House and Ministries as the Lord’s answer to that question. Catherine could only respond with great emotion and they took the next several weeks to seek the Lord in prayer about this life altering decision.

Christmas Tea with the International Students
Christmas Tea with the International Students

After much petition to the Lord, speaking with  us as trusted friends, and their families and church family, they decided to step out in faith and leave life as they knew it and serve the Lord full-time at Hephzibah House and Ministries in NYC.

This required leaving 2 careers, and Russ retiring from the US Army Reserves (after 27 years of service) and the sale of one of their homes, and the renting out of their other home, and downsizing from 2 homes to go live in 2 rooms as they now serve that beautiful ministry.

Intern Ghislain with International Students
Intern Ghislain with International Students

Every report from them since their move in mid-November 2013 has been full of joy and praise to God, who finally led them to His plan for their lives. To Hephzibah House in NYC where they serve alongside two interns who live at the house with them, and the staff of 7, who are there to take care of the guest house (reservations and housecleaning.) I am in awe how the Lord has given them a family to care for and mentor and a ministry all in one!

Intern Katie
Intern Katie

As they over-see this 120 year old work that the Lord started, will you join with me and keep them in your prayers?

Will you also let anyone you know that serves in full-time ministry (paid or volunteer), of this wonderful and affordable guest house in the desirable area between Central Park West & Columbus Avenue where they could stay in a home-like setting and see the city?  Guests may stay whether in New York on business or pleasure!

Hephzibah House 51 W. 75th Street New York, NY 10023 (212) 787-6150

“You shall be called Hephzibah…for the Lord delights in you.”   Isaiah 62:4

Website: www.HHOUSE.ORG

History of Hephzibah House

Established in 1866, Incorporated in 1893 * Initially a Training school for woman missionaries * Now run as a guest house for people in (or retired from) full-time ministry to have affordable temporary lodging while visiting the City * Outreach to Internationals (students, nannies, immigrants) with ESL & Bible studies * A very long/strong Prison ministry with a Discipleship program at Sing Sing Prison * Work being started in the Theatre community * Ministering to Veterans in the NYC area

For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”   Esther 4:14