Ivy’s Cookies

Candy Abbott, Executive Director of Mothers With a Mission

Candy Abbott, Executive Director of Mothers With a Mission


Candy Abbott

The clank of the metal door and the echo of their footsteps rang in the ears of Ivy and Joanne as they walked down the dingy corridor behind the prison guard toward the “big room.” The aroma of Ivy’s homemade chocolate chip cookies wasn’t enough to override the stench of ammonia from the recently mopped floor or the bitterness and anger that hung in the air. Women’s Correctional Institute was not the kind of place where seventeen-year-olds go for an outing, but Ivy had a mission.

She was a new believer, and the Scripture, “When have you visited me in prison?” grabbed her heart. She didn’t know what she was getting into, but she had to try. With trembling fingers, she had dialed the number for an appointment at the prison. Warden Baylor was receptive to Ivy’s desire to visit and referred her to Joanne, another teen who had expressed interest.

“How do we do this?” Ivy asked.

“Who knows? Maybe homemade cookies would break the ice,” Joanne suggested.

So they baked their cookies and here they were, bearing gifts to strangers.

“I put almonds in these,” Ivy rambled nervously as they moved along. “The dough was gummier than usual . . .”

“Don’t chatter,” the guard snapped. “It gets the prisoners riled.”

The harsh words made Ivy jump and her heart pound. She walked the rest of the distance in silence.

“Okay. Here we are,” the guard grunted, keys rattling. “You go in. I’ll lock the door behind you. Be careful what you say. They have a way of using your words against you. You have fifteen minutes. Holler if you have any trouble.” Ivy noted the prisoners’ orange jumpsuits and felt overdressed. Maybe we shouldn’t have worn heels, she thought. They probably think we’re snobs.

Remembering the guard’s admonition, the girls put the cookies on the table next to plastic cups of juice without a word. Some prisoners leaned against the wall; others stood around. Watching. Studying. Thinking. Staring. Nobody talked. Ivy smiled at one of the women, and she scowled back. From then on, she avoided eye contact. After five minutes of strained silence, Joanne whispered, “Let’s move away from the table. Maybe they’ll come over.”

As they stepped back, one of the prisoners blurted out, “I’m gettin’ a cookie.” The others followed and began helping themselves. Soon they heard the rattle of keys. Time was up.

“What a relief to get outta there,” Joanne sighed as a gust of fresh air caressed their perspiring faces.

“Yeah,” Ivy agreed. “But there’s a tug inside me that we’re not done. Would you be willing to go back?”

Joanne nodded with a half-smile. “How about Thursday after school?”

Week after week they came. And week after week the prisoners ate the cookies, drank the juice, and stood around in silence. Gradually, antagonistic looks were replaced by an occasional smile. Still, Ivy couldn’t bring herself to speak—not a word.

Then one Thursday, just before Christmas, an evangelist walked in. Her step was sure, her chin was high, and she glowed with the love of God. But she meant business. “I’ve come to pray with you,” she announced. “Let’s make a circle.”

Ivy was awed by the inmates’ compliance. Only a few resisted. The others, although murmuring, inched their way toward the middle of the room and formed a lopsided circle, looking suspiciously at one another.

“Join hands,” the evangelist instructed. “It’s not gonna hurt ya, and it’ll mean more if you do.” Slowly they clasped hands, some grasping hard, others barely touching. “Now, bow your heads.” Except for the orange outfits, it could have been a church meeting.

“Okay. We’re gonna pray,” she continued, “and prayer is just like talking, only to God. I want to hear you tell the Lord one thing you’re thankful for. Just speak it out. Don’t hold back.”

Ivy’s palms were sweaty. I can’t pray out loud, Lord. I can’t even talk to these women. Guess I should set an example, but they probably don’t even like me—think I’m better than them ‘cause of my clothes.

The words of an inmate jolted her from her thoughts.

“I’m thankful, God, for Miss Ivy bringing us cookies every week.”

Another voice compounded the shock, “God, thanks for bringing a black lady to see us, not just Quakers and Presbyterians.”

Ivy’s eyes brimmed with tears as she heard, “Thank you, God, for these two ladies givin’ their time every week even though we can’t do nothin’ to pay ‘em back.”

One by one, every inmate in the circle thanked God for Ivy and Joanne. Then Joanne managed to utter a prayer of gratitude for the prisoners’ words. But when it came Ivy’s turn, she was too choked up to speak. Her eyes burned in humble remorse over how wrong she’d been about these women. She wished she could blow her nose, but the inmates were squeezing her hands so tightly, she resorted to loud sniffles and an occasional drip.

The following week, Ivy and Joanne returned, bright-eyed, to find the prisoners talkative.

“Why do you bring us cookies every week?” a husky voice inquired from the corner of the room. When Ivy explained, she inched a few steps closer. “Can you get me a Bible?” she asked. Others wanted to know more about the Jesus who inspires teenagers to visit prisoners.

A ministry was born from Ivy’s cookies. What started as a silent act of kindness and obedience turned into a weekly Bible study at the prison which eventually grew so big it split into several groups that continue to this day. After Joanne married and moved away, Ivy continued to minister to the inmates alone for years. Eventually, Prison Fellowship picked up the baton.

Ivy is a Grandmom now. Her radiance has increased with age, and she brightens any room she enters. But last Thursday afternoon she indulged herself in a good cry. Curled up on the couch, wrapped in the afghan her daughter had made, she wept. Deep sobs wracked her body as she remembered it had been one year since her daughter died of asthma. She ached over the loss and felt, for the first time, the full weight of her words, “The kids can live with me.” The baby was asleep in his crib and the two girls were in school when the doorbell rang.

There stood a young woman, probably 17, with a plate of homemade cookies.

“Are you Ivy Jones?” she asked.

“Yes,” she answered, dabbing her eyes with a wadded tissue.

“These are for you,” the girl said as she handed the cookies to her with a shy, sad smile, turning to leave without another word.

“Thank you,” Ivy whispered in a daze. The girl was halfway down the sidewalk when Ivy called out, “But why?”

“My grandmother gave me her Bible before she died last week, and her last words were, ‘Find Ivy Jones and take her some homemade cookies.’”

As the girl walked away, a wave of precious memories, uncertainties and younger days flooded Ivy’s soul. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she choked back a sob and headed toward the phone. It’s been a long time since I talked with Joanne.


“Ivy’s Cookies” has been previously published in: Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Christian Woman’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christian Teen Talk, Stories for a Woman’s Heart, Stories for a Teen’s Heart 2, Small Acts of Grace, and Christmas Presence

Back-To-School Checklist for Homeschool Moms

I’m excited! I’m back home from our summer of fishing in Alaska and I’m sorting through all my materials for the school year, which officially starts on Monday for us.

Every year is different, and this one will offer new challenges as I learn to balance our home-based business with my blogging hobby and the flurry of activity that homeschooling brings. But one thing that never changes is our passion for homeschooling and our determination to make each year the best ever.

I’ve found that the most fulfilling and successful year starts with the right attitude, a little planning, and a lot of flexibility.

So, if you’re reading this and you are about to embark on or continue your homeschool journey, I hope my back-to-school checklist will help you get prepared, stay on track, and look forward to an incredible journey with your one-of-a-kind kiddos.

Chances are, you’ve already done a lot of these things, so enjoy being able to scratch something off the list (one of my greatest enjoyments)!



Pray. I don’t even start without seeking direction greater than my own.

Write out your goals (and ask your children for their input)—academically, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I hope you don’t skip this step. It is critical to clarify what it is you want to accomplish.


Choose your curriculum based on your homeschool style, as well as the personalities of you and your children.

Make a list of curriculum and supplemental material used for each child. Order now if you haven’t already.

Begin a portfolio for each child, especially if your state requires it. I prefer a binder with divisions for curriculum lists, book lists, field trips, extra-curricular activities like sports and co-ops, and samples of best work (especially writing samples), but you can include anything that gives an accurate picture of learning.

Roughly plan your yearly calendar, marking breaks throughout the year.

Make a daily schedule and have your teens make their own, coordinating it with yours of course :-). I know not everyone plans everything like I do, so this can be as detailed or loose as you like, but without it, there’s no real direction for the day. Don’t forget naptimes if you have toddlers and work around their basic needs. Also a must is to build in flexibility for the unexpected. And don’t forget to include blocks of time for family fun. Every day can’t be about just hitting the books or you’ll have a mutiny in no time.

Make a chore schedule for you and your children. This will absolutely fall apart at some point, but it is one of the greatest organizational tools in my home. My kids know what is expected of them every day, so I don’t have to constantly look over their shoulders which frees me up considerably.

Create your supplies list and take the kiddos shopping.

Prepare your space. Whether you use the dining room table or a schoolroom, you will need to ensure each child has a place for their books and supplies that they can get to themselves. And you will need your own space where you keep necessary records, teacher supplies, and curriculum. Spend a bit of time now to ensure you don’t waste time each day hunting down pencils and paper.

Pray again for good measure ;-).


Re-visit any one of the above planning steps at any time. Without a doubt, life will hit and throw you off course. It’s okay. Just re-assess, course correct, and jump back in. It won’t be perfect. You’ll likely swap out curriculum or re-work schedules along the way, but the beauty is, you can.

So, let’s get started shall we? Next week, you’ll likely find me on the couch sipping tea and reading a Dear America book with my girls and loving every minute of it.

I hope this helps a bit. Let me know, will ya?

Generations of Virtue

Generations of Virtue

Transforming Culture — One Family at a Time

Generations of Virtue is a ministry committed to: teaching sexual wholeness and integrity, building family relationships, and equipping families to transform culture. Generations of Virtue travels the globe helping people – families, educators, leaders, and individuals – by providing resources and ministering worldwide. Their dedicated full-time volunteer staff has a passion to empower nations with the message of holiness and freedom.



How to Discipline

Candy Abbott, Executive Director of Mothers With a Mission

Candy Abbott, Executive Director of Mothers With a Mission

Dr. Ed Young’s broadcast this morning (The Winning Walk) was on How to Discipline, which you can VIEW HERE. His insight really resonated with me, and I thought it might with you, too. Dr. Young says that he has designed all his resources (on parenting, family, marriage, overcoming problems, etc.) to be appropriate for home Bible study and fellowship groups.

I have ordered the Parental Guidance CD series for our Mothers With a Mission library and will have it available for loan. Here is the description of the series:

While most anyone can become a parent, successful parenting eludes many, as evidenced by the ongoing moral erosion of our society and nation. Even Christian families find themselves spiraling out of control as their children fall victim to drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity, and even suicide.

That’s why Dr. Ed Young has prepared a life changing, yet easy-to-follow 3-message CD series, Parental Guidance. In this straightforward guide, Dr. Young reveals proven truth that every mother, father, and grandparent can immediately embrace in order to build and strengthen their family. Dr. Young draws from his own experience as a father of three, demonstrating how you can retool your thinking and actions to influence even the youngest of children with the words, attitudes, habits, and responses that will guide them through a hostile world.

Contains 3 messages + Bonus

Family Values
The Secret to a Healthy Family
How to Discipline
Bonus: My Three Son’s (Interview with Dr. Young’s 3 sons)

Righteousness Exalts a Nation

Candy Abbott, Executive Director of Mothers With a Mission

Candy Abbott, Executive Director of MWM

This audio sermon was given on July 5, 2015, by Rev. Dave Bergstrom at Kemblesville Church, a United Methodist congregation. It is for those who have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to America. May you be blessed and challenged to dig into the Word of God.