Day 6 of Holiday Traditions // Mary Lisa McCarthy

A Time for Secret Surprises

Throughout our 22 years of marriage, my husband Billy and I have created and shared many traditions together. From the early years of reading the Sunday paper in bed, to most recently, baking chocolate chip muffins to go with our coffee every Saturday morning. Some traditions have come and gone, but one has remained a constant. And it has help shaped the way our kids look at Christmas.

Christmas Eve, 1994:

Billy and I were coming home from a midnight Christmas Eve service when we were both struck with the bug. The bug that calls for cheese, eggs, grits, and a waffle. Fortunately, there was a Waffle House nearby. On this particular Christmas Eve, the Waffle House was more than half full. Some appeared to be college kids catching up at the break, some were like us, dressed for church and needing to fill a void. But there was one young man who caught our attention. A UPS driver. Sitting alone, and likely eating his first full meal of a very busy day. From the number of plates on the table, he clearly caught the same bug we had. Throughout our dinner, we spoke of what it must be like to spend Christmas Eve without family. Mercifully, a situation foreign to both of us, but one all too common for many. Since joining him was not possible (as there was no room in the inn), we did what we thought to be the next best thing. We asked his server to bring us his check. She did so, and we anonymously paid for his meal. Knowing that young man wouldn’t have to pay for his Christmas dinner was as good a gift as we could have received that year.

For the last 18 years:

We introduced this tradition to the kids, and it’s now become their favorite part of the season. Each year, they fight for the right to pick the family. We’ve had old and young, large and small families. A few years ago, the kids decided on an elderly couple who had the server running this way and that – all night long. In a surprise move, the kids suggested we give the money to the couple’s server figuring she had certainly earned it. So we did. Blessings for those in need and for those who serve. I liked the adaptation. They’ve made it their own. And so it grows.

What started as a midnight Waffle House run for two newlyweds has turned into a family tradition where four young men search for someone, anyone, to anonymously bless. They lead the process, make the decision, and contribute to the cost. They’re all in. And everyone leaves the table satisfied.  

  • How are you modeling the spirit of giving referenced in Proverbs 11: 24-25, and how can you leverage the gains for the next generation of your family?
  • It’s amazing how much a small amount of compassion can feed the soul. Where have you seen this within your family?

Please share your response in the comments section below or join the conversation with our Facebook Community Group. #undividedwomen

// Mary Lisa

Chocolate Chip Cake (even better than the muffins)

This recipe is for a traditional chocolate birthday cake for the McCarthy children. During Thanksgiving, the McCarthy family makes four cakes. The boys each pick someone they are grateful for and deliver the cakes to them. Charles Henry has chosen to take his cake to police headquarters this year. Callahan chose Bobby and Rhoda Boone and I'm still waiting on the other 2 to give me their choices!

1 package Devil's Food Cake Mix
2 packages instant chocolate pudding
4 eggs
1 cup water
¼ cup oil
1 bag mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix first 5 ingredients together with a mixer. Mix in ½ the bag of chocolate chips with a spoon. Pour into a greased bundt pan and top with cake batter with the other ½ bag of chocolate chips. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes (check carefully before removing from oven as my oven takes an hour).

Mary Lisa McCarthy was born in Atlanta, Georgia, one of five children. She taught elementary school and was on staff at Northpoint Church in Marietta, Georgia for three years. Mary Lisa and her husband, Billy, moved to Dothan in 2004 as Billy helped launch Wiregrass Church with Troy Fountain and Powell Grisham. The McCarthys later moved to Franklin, Tennessee to start another church for North Point. The McCarthys returned to Dothan five years ago. Mary Lisa now works at Wiregrass Church as Coordinator of Guest Services and Billy currently serves as Director of Business Development for CapSouth Partners, a wealth management firm here in Dothan. They have been married for 23 years and have four children, all boys: Nicholas - age 18, William - age 13, Callahan - 10, and Charles Henry - age 8. In what little spare time she has, Mary Lisa Ioves painting/crafts, baking/cooking, exercising, spending time with family and kayaking (with family!) in Helen, Georgia. The McCarthys attend Wiregrass Church.