A Noble Woman

Super exciting update: My friend Pat Layton has been chosen as a finalist for the She is Noble contest. And I am thrilled. Praying she gets the $10,000 for her ministry. Congrats Pat!

Just last week a friend sent me a preview for a new movie called Noble.  The movie tells the story of a passionate and noble woman who just happens to be named Christina Noble. Christina overcame a terrible childhood in Ireland – homelessness, the death of her mother, an alcoholic father – and traveled a nontraditional path to South Asia, where she was inspired to take up the cause for hundreds of abandoned and orphaned children.

The movie has already won five awards, a best foreign film award and two audience awards. Noble is good story and a story for good–and I love movies like that. So I am jumping on the bandwagon. The movie producers are doing something noble and want it to be a celebration of noble woman everywhere who are making a positive difference in the world. They are asking women to nominate noble women to be featured (they are going to video some of them) and entered to win $10,000 for their charity.  

So today, I am nominating a woman I am honored to call my friend, Pat Layton. She started her ministry about the time my husband, Mark, and I started Family First. We have spent over 2 decades together pursuing our callings, comparing notes and encouraging one another. We all need friends like Pat–she inspires me and she is noble.

Pat’s journey to changing lives began almost 30 years ago after she had an abortion. The burden of guilt and sorrow she felt could have left her bitter and hopeless, but she found another way.

“When I had cried all that I could cry, I handed my heart to God.”

With her focus on the healing power of faith, Pat has done amazing things to change lives and save lives.

She founded A Woman’s Place 25 years ago to guide thousands of women facing unplanned pregnancies. Through her Life Impact Network more than 50,000 women and their families have been offered adoption resources. Many more thousands where offered help with post-abortion recovery via the 2500 leaders trained through the program Pat began. Thousands more lives have been changed through the books and studies she has written. 

And behind each of those numbers is a life — a woman who decides not to abort her baby; a child who gets to live; a woman who has a place to turn to deal with the guilt of abortion.

And behind those changed lives is the life of dedication and sacrifice of my friend, Pat Layton. She is noble.

Do you know a noble woman? Tell me about her below.  Or better yet enter her to win!



Posted On: March 04, 2015     cat-folder Be Encouraged 2 Comments


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The Perfect Company Dinner: Schwag

perfect company dinner schwag

This past weekend I spent with a dear friend. On her farm. A real farm with goats and pigs and cows—oh my! And babies—lots of babies. I really wanted to hold them all, but the moms got mad at me. Don’t they know I am a mom and crave little warm fuzzies? It was so fun.

Becky is amazing and thinks nothing of whipping up dinner for 3, 5 or 15 people at a time. This dinner she calls, “Schwag!” It came from a cousin of hers who was actually a real chef. When he came home from work, he would throw whatever he happened to have in a white sauce and bake it. So, this makes the perfect company dinner. 

Becky has become an expert schwagger! And what I love about this schwaggy way of cooking is that you can take the meat and vegetables and swap them for whatever you have in the fridge. If you make Schwag enough, you will find your favorite combinations. 

Conversation Starters

1. Would you rather swim with dolphins or dance with tame bears?

2. Would you rather be a pro sports player or a professional chef?

3. What do you think is your best quality or strength?

Main Dish

Schwag Casserole
  1. 4 mild or spicy Italian sausage grilled
  2. ½ pound of grilled shrimp (olive oil) OR chicken
  3. 1 package of frozen peas
  4. 1 pint baby portabella mushrooms
  5. 2 tomatoes, diced
  6. Or anything else you have in your fridge
Alfredo Sauce
  1. ½ stick of butter
  2. 4 cloves of garlic
  3. ½ cup of flour
  4. 1/3 pint of heavy cream
  5. 1 pint of Half and Half
  6. 2 cups Parmesan cheese
  7. Pinch of nutmeg
  1. Grill the sausage on a griddle or an actual grill.
  2. Depending on whether you are using shrimp or chicken, grill either with some olive oil, salt and pepper.
  3. While you are waiting for your meat to grill, make the Alfredo sauce.
  4. In a saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the garlic until fragrant. Add your flour and stir constantly for one to two minutes until flour is a light golden color. Whisk in the heavy cream and Half and Half making sure to eliminate any flour lumps. Then, whisk in your Parmesan cheese and a pinch of nutmeg. If needed, thin the sauce out with milk. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Cook your pasta just short of al dente.
  6. Mix all ingredients in a baking dish and top with Parmesan cheese.
  7. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
Susan Merrill http://www.susanme.com/
Posted On: March 26, 2015     cat-folder Sunday Suppers Leave a comment


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Steak Fajitas Dinner

steak fajitas

Picture yourself wrapped in a colorful blanket leaning up against a cactus. (Wait! On second thought, the cactus part is not the best idea.) The tumbleweed is rolling by. And you are wondering what you can rustle up for dinner by the campfire (or grill). Feeling like Southwestern fare yet?

If so, try our Steak Fajitas Dinner courtesy of my sister, Kathie. And serve in warm torillas with the garnish or two of your choice: cheese, sour cream, onions, peppers, salsa, etc.

Conversation Starters:

1. What fun activity do you dream about doing?

2. What talent do you dream about having?

3. What person do you dream about marrying?

Main Dish

Steak Fajitas Marinade
  1. 2 – 3 lbs skirt steak
  2. 1/3 cup olive or vegetable oil
  3. 2 to 3 limes, juiced
  4. 3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  5. 1 Tablespoon cumin
  6. 1 teaspoon salt
  7. ½ teaspoon black pepper
  8. 2 teaspoons chili powder
  9. 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  10. ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  11. 3 cloves chopped garlic
  1. Put all ingredients in a plastic bag, seal the bag and give it a good shake. Cut flank steaks in half and place them in the bag, seal it removing all the air, and knead the bag to distribute the marinade over all the meat. Refrigerate for 2 hours turning and kneading the bag every half hour. Grill until the center of the steak is cooked to your liking.
  2. Cut the meat against the grain. Wrap it up in a tortilla and garnish with cheese, sour cream, onions, peppers, salsa, etc.
Susan Merrill http://www.susanme.com/
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Posted On: March 19, 2015     cat-folder Sunday Suppers Leave a comment


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Worth Far More than Rubies: Marlene Nikolich

Have you ever known somebody so delightful, so precious, so kind, so loving that just the image of their face brings you a pang of joy? That is a noble woman. That is a woman who has loved well, served well, lived well. I want to be that kind of woman.

To think that the image of my face might give someone joy–not because of how I look or because I am their mother–but because the way I loved them was a blessing. Ahh, I have some work to do.

I want to be for others what this face represents to me:

marlene nikolich

Just look at that face! Just the image speaks volumes of love to me. This is a noble face. And Marlene Nikolich is my nomination for a Noble woman. I really hope she wins and this is why:

First. For being such a passionate wife that she desired for every wife to love as she does.

So what did she do? Volunteered thousands of hours for Worldwide Marriage Encounters….actually, for 15 years.

The Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekend is a positive and personal experience offering married couples an opportunity to learn a technique of loving communication that they can use for the rest of their lives. It is a chance to look deeply into their relationship with each other and with God. It is truly a marriage enrichment program. And Marlene and her husband, Michael, invested not only their time, but their finances so that married couples (and engaged couples) would have the foundation they needed to “become one flesh.” (Mark 10:8 NIV)

And second. For being such a passionate mom that she desired for every child to know the love of a mom and dad.

So what did she do? She adopted two sons, Michael and Matthew. And left her corporate job and went to work for Family First, more specifically for my husband, Mark. She has faithfully assisted my husband for 22 years! If you asked her what she does for Family First, she would probably say, “I care for people.” And that is the truth!

Marlene (our “Mar”) interfaces with everyone that Mark does and they love her best. We all do. Every employee here at Family First (the parent organization of iMOM, All Pro Dad, and the Family Minute with Mark Merrill) would tell you that Mar is their favorite. Not because she is the funniest or smartest or coolest–no, they would tell you it’s because she cares for them…and truly loves them.

So how did she get like this and what can I do to be like her? I asked her what had been her guide to becoming such a loving person. And this is what she said:

“Susan, I have lived by the words Michael (her husband) taught me…“Once you know your limitations, you are unlimited.”

 Combined with this verse:  “Life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s mighty kindness and love.” (Acts 20:24 TLB)

I have been blessed to be unlimited in my corner of the world.”

I have been blessed to have Marlene in my corner of the world!

Do you know a noble woman? Enter her here to win


Posted On: March 14, 2015     cat-folder Be Encouraged 4 Comments


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