Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hope for the Out-of-Tune

Today, the Piano Tuner comes to tune the piano.

We have to be very quiet so he can listen.

I learn that the Piano Tuner makes minute adjustments to the tension of the piano strings. He's listening for how the notes on my particular piano interact and tunes my piano based on its unique features.

The piano will not, on its own, stay in tune.  The whole instrument experiences continual stress from both internal and external sources.  Even slight changes in atmospheric pressure can undo my little piano within just a few weeks.   

So we call the Piano Tuner, and he sets the instrument right.

I listen, watching him work. "Is it hopeless?" I ask, embarrassed for how long it's been.

"Not at all!" 

When he's finished, he plays extraordinary music--warm, beautiful, rich, and resonant--that I didn't realize could come from this piano.

There's hope for the out-of-tune!  There's hope for me yet!  

Lord, come and set me right today.  Make any adjustment you need; apply or undo any tension.  Let music flow out of me that's tuned perfectly to your perfect ear. 

I know how quickly and how thoroughly I go out of tune (not just with my horrible singing voice!) in attitude, ambition, and action. I remember the great hymn and sing out:  "Tune my heart to sing Thy grace."

How does God tune the out-of-tune in you?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Happy Greeting

Last year, I learned the power of the Warm Welcome when folks return home, but last night, our family considered the importance of the Happy Greeting. 

I'm teaching the children (and myself) how to greet another person.   To greet means to show verbal and visible signs of recognition and welcome:

Good morning!  Good afternoon!  Good evening!  I'm so glad to see you!  How are you?  You look lovely today!  I'm so happy you're here! 

We practice greeting each other--by name-- around the dinner table.  We use cheerful voices, and we form big smiles and twinkling bright eyes.  We realize that every person we see today is made in the image of God and endowed with dignity, mystery, wonder, and unfathomable beauty.  Each person we see today matters. 

The Happy Greeting includes saying that person's name to honor that no other person--amid the 6 billion people on the earth--is like that person.   When I think about the unique treasure each soul contains, I'm humbled and awed by that special presence in front of me.

Living with flair means we give a happy greeting today.  I'm so very, very glad to see you!

Who needs a happy greeting today? 

Monday, November 28, 2011

3 Lessons from a Magnificent (But Terrifying) Spider

Today I meet a cross orbweaver spider.

Cross Orbweaver Spider
In the cooler weather, I know these spiders find warmth inside my house.  Spiders terrify me, but I want to give her a chance.  One can't destroy another just because of fear, just because of misunderstanding. 

Orbweaver Spider in the Woods

I learn that this spider rarely bites.  In fact, it's supremely difficult to provoke her.   Inside a home, she'll eat dust mites, fruit flies, and various pests.  Her webs help clean the house. 

I also learn that she eats her web every single night and builds a fresh one every single morning.  She keeps her web free of debris by starting over every single day.

I love that she starts fresh each morning, removing debris from the day before.  I love that she stays calm and unprovoked.  I love that she's helpful. 

I want to be more like her.  Welcome, little spider.

Do you encounter unusual spiders in your home this time of year?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I Didn't Even Know I Was Empty

The original title of this blog was, "In Praise of Big Breakfasts." 

I married into a family of big breakfast eaters.  My mother-in-law, up before the sun, presents platters of bacon, fried eggs, toast, fresh coffee, and jam.  In this world of Southern Living, you wake up to kitchen aromas that beckon you from bed.  You gather at the breakfast table, you bow your head in prayer, and you eat

Early on in my marriage, I realized that most things, according to my sweet mother-in-law, (fatigue, headaches, bad moods, various ailments) might be traced back to one fatal flaw:  you didn't eat breakfast

But I'm the type of girl who spills out the door with just coffee--too rushed and not hungry--to start my day.  Besides, who is ever hungry in the morning? 

I'm told I am hungry, but I just don't know it yet. 

I begin to notice a trend amongst the happy, energetic, fit, and positive folks around me:

They eat breakfast. 

They eat big breakfasts.

So I try it.  Living with flair means you take cues from folks who live like you want to live.  For a whole year, I eat eggs and toast just to see what would happen.

By Golly!  It works.  This morning, I up the ante:  Greek yogurt, fruit, egg and toast.  I fill up. 

There's something about breakfast.  Living with flair means you eat it.  Imagine the truth of it:  I am hungry even if I don't feel like I am.  I wonder what else I need physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, that doesn't register yet. What am I missing? 

I finish my yogurt and move into the day.  I'll filled, and I didn't even know I was empty.  

What do you eat for breakfast?  Tell us about your big breakfast!   

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Your Own Mulling Spices

I put a tablespoon of mulling spices in a pot of water and allow them to simmer. These mulling spices include dried orange peel, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon.  Sometimes I add ginger or vanilla.

The simmering mulling spices fragrance and humidify the dry winter air. 

I'm standing over the simmering pot, and I think about this particular blend of spices mulling.  I love that the verb mull also means to think about something deeply and at length.

I want to mull over the right kinds of things.  

When we mull over beautiful things; when we mull over hope and possibility; when we mull over our blessings, this simmering sends up the kind of aroma that softens and fragrances a whole home.  I imagine I'm throwing various spices into my heart that generate peace and predictable cheerfulness.

What will I mull over today and what will it produce in this little heart, these little children, this little home?

What's a good thing you like to mull over? 

Friday, November 25, 2011

How to Write a Great Holiday Letter

After years of trying to write good Christmas letters, I realize that my own letters fall into one of three categories. 

1. Too Much Information
2. Too Much "We're Awesome"
3. Truly Inspirational and Insightful

Too Much Information means I'm telling readers what I ate at every Mexican restaurant on my trip.  Too Much We're Awesome means I use the letter as a catalog of all my children's (and pets') accomplishments.  

I want to inspire and teach, not brag and exhaust. 

Truly Inspirational and Insightful Holiday Letters teach us something.  They inspire us--and even make us laugh--with the insight we've gained this year. When these letters (I'm thinking of some of my favorite over the years) arrive, my husband literally sits down with a cup of coffee to enjoy the humor and insight that he knows the letter will offer.

With this goal in mind, we can eliminate any extraneous information that doesn't offer insight.  With this goal in mind, we can ask ourselves if we've designed a paragraph intended to evoke jealousy or prove our worth.  With this goal in mind, we can purify our motivation to love our reader.

If the sentence doesn't match these goals, chop it out.

As a devotional practice, I use the Holiday Letter task as a way to reflect on my year.  What did I learn?  How did our family change?  What did we overcome?  What wisdom can we offer now? 

These holiday letters inspire.  These holiday letters are worth sending.  And sometimes a great holiday letter will matter more than the cute photo of my children in matching sweaters by the tree. 

You can use the "Flair Checklist" below to help with your writing style.  Enjoy! And here's a link to the Italian Mama's sample Holiday Letter.

(How to Write with Flair:  Strong verbs, cool punctuation marks, varied sentence lengths and openings, some garnish, and appeals to your audience.  Order the book here:

Flair Checklist

1.   Do I use vivid verbs?
2.   Are my verbs in their strongest form (cutting board test)?
3.   Do I juggle some secret ingredients throughout my writing (semicolons, dashes, commas, parentheses, and colons)?
4.   Do I “stir the pot” with varied sentence structures and lengths?
5.   Have I embellished my writing with garnish in some form?
6.   Have I analyzed my audience? Do I know them?
7.   Do I attempt to build rapport with my readers?
8.   Does my diction match my intent and my audience?
9.   Have I shown my audience that I understand them and have listened to them?
10. Would my audience feel cared for by me? Do I put in some love?
11.  Do I appeal to emotion in this writing (pathos)?
12.  Do I seem trustworthy (ethos)?
13.  Do I engage the reader’s reasoning skills (logos)?
14.  Do I make use of good transition sentences?
15.  Have I demonstrated the importance of my topic? Do I tell my readers why this writing matters?
16.  Was I able to form an analogy to advance my point?
17.  Did I enjoy the process of writing this? What can I do differently to celebrate the writing task?
18.  Do I offer a unique contribution to the conversation surrounding my topic?
19.  Do I avoid cliché in my writing?
20.  Is this writing memorable?

What advice would you offer for writing great Holiday Letters? 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Feast on the Empty

We're walking in the woods this Thanksgiving Day, and autumn has starved the whole landscape of color.  

When I look up, I see tree branches stretched toward heaven like coral against a blue sea. 

Tree Branches Like Coral
The branches tangle up in currents of blue and white

Tangled in the Sky

We're all down here, swimming in a great blue sea.  I'm miniature against an enormous coral reef.  I see it in my mind, and the whole story unfolds in color. 

The emptiness invites the poetry.

When life seems stark, you get to make the beauty yourself.  You feast on the empty. 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cutest Turkey Vegetable Platter

I find this adorable vegetable platter made to look like a turkey (thank you, Amy Locurto at "Living Locurto" for the great idea), and I can't resist.  After the Boo Platter tradition began, I learned that even my simplest attempts to create whimsical traditions don't go unnoticed or forgotten. 

We arrange bok choy and spinach, then carrots, and then sliced peppers of alternating colors for beautiful feathers.  We use cucumbers and then half a green pepper as the face.  We improvise with olives and a pepper slice to finish the turkey's expression.  Finally, we use celery for feet. 

Turkey Vegetable Platter

I actually have to force my children to stop eating the vegetables so I can take a photo.   Welcome, Turkey Veggie Platter, to our Thanksgiving traditions. 

Isn't it funny how children will eat vegetables made to look like something else? 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

If You Know How to Use It

I read this morning a fascinating quote from E.Stanley Jones:

"A young army officer said this, 'Weather, in war, is always favorable, if you know how to use it.' That is the point--if you know how to use it.  The fact is that everything that comes to you in life is favorable--if you know how to use it." 

I look at the day before me and grimace over the tasks, but then I wonder, Is everything favorable if I know how to use it?

I look out at the icy rain and frown over the weather, but then I ask myself:  How can I use this? 

Beautiful things are coming; I'm already choosing joy.  Over these last 600 blog entries, I'm learning to use whatever comes in order to learn, grow, and find beauty. That's God promise, and I find that He keeps it. 

Do you know how to use whatever you're going through?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Invest in Future Happiness

Emptying the dishwasher late at night does not make me very happy.  I'm tired.  But I do it, night after night, because when I wake up to a clean kitchen and an empty dishwasher, I feel so happy. 

"I'm investing in future happiness!" I call out to the family.  I'm picking up toys, straightening pillows, and organizing for the next day. 

I realize that when I don't want to do something (exercise, cleaning), it's because the payoff often comes later and not right now.  But right now isn't always the most important thing. 

I have to remember that living with flair means we learn to invest in future happiness too. 

How do you invest in future happiness?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Little Thing

I'm sitting by a woman, and we start talking about creativity and how God uses our creativity.

She tells me she's been baking. 

She enrolled in a cake decorating class with her family in order to make "occasion cakes" for children and teens who don't have anyone to make a cake for them.  For birthdays or graduations, local shelters and juvenile detention centers alert my friend about any cake needs. 

She'll bake and decorate a cake and then deliver it to a teenage who never once had somebody make a cake for them.  Never once had this teen been celebrated with something so simple as a birthday cake. 

I start to imagine all the recipients of my friend's cakes.  I see the looks on their faces as the beautiful birthday cakes arrive with their names on them.  I start to imagine how--for this one moment--they feel something start to bubble up inside.  Maybe, just maybe, I'm loved.  Maybe, just maybe, somebody sees me and cares

It's a little thing: a birthday cake decorated for someone who never had one before. 

Living with flair means using creativity to bless someone who needs it. 

What can you make for someone who needs a blessing?   

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Your Mad List

My daughter stomps around the room and throws her sweater on the ground.

"You seem mad," I say, trying to recall all those parenting books that teach you how to be a good mom.  I have no idea what I'm doing.

"I am so mad," she says.

My attempts to soothe her, distract her, punish her, or insist she display only positive emotions all fail.

So instead, I get out a pen and paper and cry out, with my finger in the air, "We are making a list!  We are making a Mad List of all the horrible and terrible things!"

"Yes!  Yes!" she smiles and curls up beside me as we sit on the bed with our notebook.

"Tell me all the Mad Things," I calmly direct.

"OK," she says, "But you are going to need more paper."  We start numbering, and soon we have 7 things she's holding deep inside of her.  Playground hurts from last year.  A sister's tease from last month.  A disappointment.  A fear.  A lie someone told.

"Keep going," she says when I stop to rest my hand.

Soon, we have a whole page full of Mad.

"Now what?" We stop and look at the list together.  I search my mind, recalling every parenting tip, every seminar, and every wiser mother's wisdom.  Then I find the answer:

Jesus says not to let the sun go down on our anger.  So I start wondering how in the world to get rid of all this Mad.  We open the scriptures because we need to clean our heart.  We find this in Colossians 3:

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Bear with one another and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues, put on love. . . And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts."

"This is too hard for me," she says. 

"I know.  It's too hard for everyone.  God has to do it in us because we can't do it ourselves." 

Lord save us!  We can't let the Mad rule.  We forgive.  We seek to bless.  We move down our list, and we ask God to help us forgive, to help us love.  She starts to feel clean inside.  She starts to let go of the Mad.

I retreat to my own heart and compile my Mad List.  I start to forgive.  I seek to bless.  I want the Peace, not the Mad, to rule my heart.   

Do you just need to make one big Mad List and get it all out?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Just In Case

When my youngest daughter even thinks we might leave for a long outing, she gathers essentials just in case. 

She compiles all her jewels just in case a spontaneous fancy party invite comes her way.  She folds several sets of pajamas just in case an extended pajama party occurs.  As I try to put things away, she simply gathers more things just in case she meets new friends and needs to share stuffed animals or toys. 

I love the hopes and dreams of a child awaiting adventure.  She anticipates joy and prepares herself for it.

I want to prepare for joy.

Let's gather some essentials just in case.

I'll brew extra coffee.  I'll clear the afternoon schedule.  What does it take to prepare for joy?  My Bible, my journal, my new pen?  Your sweet face across the table from me? 

How do you prepare for joy?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Permission to Take a Break

I'm driving by news vans and reporters, and in the midst of more frenzy, this town feels so tired.   

My students slump over their notebooks, eyes dark and heavy.  They tell me they can't wait to just go home.  We talk about their favorite Thanksgiving dishes and their family traditions, and we find ourselves smiling for the first time in days.  Go home. Take a break, I tell them.  Sleep well; eat well.

We can't move on from the scandal around us, but we can rest and refresh for the battle ahead.

It feels wrong to enjoy a light-hearted moment today. As I think about my conflicting emotions, I consider how important it is to refresh during crisis and suffering.

We have permission to take a break.  

I recall Psalm 23 and another Dark Valley.  I notice the importance of resting--of lying down--and refreshing in order to stay strong for the work ahead. 

 1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
 3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
   for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
   through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
   for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.
 5 You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Living with flair means you let yourself be led to green pastures and quiet waters when you're in a Dark Valley. I'm so thankful that God will prepare a good table.

How do you find the "green pastures" when you are in Dark Valley?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Weeping Cherry Speaks

My husband calls me over to the Weeping Cherry because a bright red cardinal hides within its branches.  He flies away before I see him.

The gloom settles on the tree; it too chokes and freezes with each news release surrounding Penn State.

This isn't going away.  It shouldn't.

I observe that little tree and notice the black bare center.  Stripped down to the core, the tree offers nothing but its own naked shame.

You can't wish the season away or ignore it.  You can't imagine your way out of it.

But you can hope.

I stand by the Weeping Cherry, and I think of all the ways shame turns glorious.  We aren't who we thought we were!  The glorious revelation that we can't ignore stands:  sin is real.  The ancient story stands!

We've fallen short of glory in a million ways: Those who tease Penn State students have failed in their mockery.  Those who detach from the pain have failed in their denial. Those who move on have failed in their lack of compassion for victims who never, never move on.  Those who insist they would have acted differently have failed in their self-righteousness. 

Who hasn't--when laid bare before a Holy God--failed?

The Weeping Cherry will stay in the stark reality of failure for all the time it takes.  And, at just the right time, the sun will pierce through and send it blooming.

How glorious it will be!

Journal:  How has Penn State's scandal affected you?   

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Broken Umbrella

I'm sloshing through this rainy Tuesday in my yellow boots.  I carry an enormous blue and white umbrella--big enough to cover at least 5 people.  One side of my umbrella dangles awkwardly, broken from years of abuse from high winds.

I look on with envy at folks who have very small, tightly domed umbrellas that fit securely over their heads and fall just above their purses or backpacks:  unbroken, private, and effective in keeping one person protected.

Why would I want a big, broken umbrella when I could have a perfect, made-for-one version that covers me fully?  That's the way to stay safe in this storm.   

Isolated!  Secure!  Proud!

It only appears beneficial.  As I think more about that perfect umbrella, I think of the loneliness that security brings.  I don't want to be alone in that perfect umbrella; I want you here with me under this broken one.

Let's walk in this storm together and stay vulnerable.  We'll have to cling tightly. We'll have to feel the rain.  But we're together and more safe than we could imagine. 

 Isn't community a beautiful thing?

Monday, November 14, 2011

We Are. . . Family

I'm packing a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child to send to a child I'll never see and never meet.  I tell my daughters to imagine that child is family

Suddenly, we realize the difference it makes when you see someone as family.  She's our daughter!  He's our brother!

What would change? 
Packing that shoebox helped me realize why we hurt so badly here at Penn State. Happy Valley grieves so collectively and so deeply because we function as a family, and we see keenly where we have failed to love as a family.  The victims are part of our family; the shame we feel as a group stems from realizing people that were part of our family committed horrific crimes.    

This is how we should feel.  I wish I felt this way about the whole world.  We belong to one another. 

Today, the students come together as family with a new hope, and this video below gives you a sense of what's happening here:


Living with flair means we expand our definition of family.  When a child suffers, we all suffer.  When one person sins, it affects all of us.  But when even one of us acts with courage and love, we all benefit.

We belong to each other. 


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Scatter the Darkness

This morning, my youngest announces that enormous dark birds cover the front lawn.  That shroud of winged darkness descends to greedily feed, cracking open whatever fruit it finds. 

I've not even had my coffee yet, but she's running outside to stomp her tiny foot in the middle of that flock. 

The birds scatter in terror. 

I remember our power against evil--that Defeated Foe--who falls to feed.  I stomp my foot against it, and it has no choice but to flee. 

I love that image of a flock of birds scattering at the stomp of a child's foot.  Why is it so hard to remember that Satan is a defeated foe? 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Turning the Page at Penn State

I watch with my own eyes how two rival teams come together midfield, kneel, and pray for several minutes while fans watch on in tears.

"Is this normal?" I ask my husband since I don't know everything about football.

"No, this isn't normal," he says, as we watch grown, powerful men bow before God in prayer. 

For once, the media silences themselves before a holy moment. 

If critics have said Penn State is a microcosm for everything that's wrong with the world today, I suggest that Penn State moving forward is a microcosm for what hope and healing look like:  You come together; you get on your knees in humility, and you pray.

Something beautiful just happened in this little town.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Torn Apart, Water Flows

I'm volunteering in my daughter's classroom today. 

Surrounded by flowers, magnifying glasses, and scissors, I'm told I should let the children observe, draw, and then tear the flowers apart for scientific purposes. 

"There's juice in here!" One boy cries and squeezes out the insides of the flower's stem.   "There's lots of juice in here, but it smells like asparagus."  He passes the stem around to let the others share in his discovery. 

"Did you know," another boy claims, "that if you cut a cactus in half, you could drink all the juice inside and live for days in the desert? Did you know that?" 

"I'm so relieved!" I say.  "We wouldn't die out there.  We'd find a cactus and slurp all the juice." 

"We'd be OK," the children say, comforted by the thought of it.

We would.  I look at flowers and stems cut to pieces around me.  At that point of destruction, water flows.  We keep tearing, and I think, "Even in the desert, we'd survive."

We're all nodding together as water seeps onto our magnifying glasses, our fingers, and even our desks. 

We will survive.  No matter what the drought, we will.  Torn apart, water flows. 

Penn State needs continued prayer.  Thank you. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Deep in the Heart of Man

This morning, the neighborhood children call me over to a huge, gaping hole in the earth.  Construction workers have dug down so deep, you can see sewage lines exposed.  With this rare vantage point, we peer into the secret inner workings of our town.  Even under the most beautiful lawns and gardens, excrement flows. 

It's not very pretty.

I think about sewage in the human heart as I remember the truth in Ecclesiastes 7:20:  "Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins." 

I can't escape the reality of sin today.  On this day, I cry on the bus with others who sit in complete silence as they think about innocent boys abused; as they think about authority figures they mistrust; as they think about a beloved coach who said he wished he'd done more; as they think about their own angered response in rioting.  

I go back and peer inside the hole with my daughter beside me.  This is the truth about our hearts.  This is why we so desperately need a Savior

Thank you for praying for our community today.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bring More Mothers

This morning, my daughters walk to school holding the hands of another mother.  They want to talk to her about everything ranging from new earrings to loose teeth.

I'm walking alone behind them, watching how their little faces look up into this other mother's face. I shove my hands in my pocket. I'm tempted to run up and interfere, take my daughters back into my own hands, and direct their sharing back to me

But I don't.  There's something beautiful and right about my children connecting deeply with other women.  The more mothers around, the better.  The more folks who love them, listen to their stories, care about their earrings, and witness their growing, the better. 

I love being in a community of women who know we're all in this together.  The more mothers, the better.  May there be countless children who say, "She was like a mother to me." 

Do I care for other children like a parent?  Do I let other mothers into the lives of my children? 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Talking to Penn State Students about the Scandal

Campus feels heavy, quiet, and ashamed.

What a strange contrast to the beauty and warmth of this fall day in Happy Valley.  It's as if an undercurrent of sadness and confusion carries us to our classrooms beneath the shadow of that grand football stadium.

For once, nobody cares about the big game on Saturday. 

I ask the freshman how they feel, and they say that they "don't want this terrible news to be what our school is remembered for."  College students from other schools tease them on Facebook and on twitter and make jokes about their great university.  Their hearts are broken for the children harmed.  They feel humiliated.  They feel deceived.

How will we move forward?  

Penn State students reply: "The actions of the few don't reflect the character of us all." 

My students tell me how hard it is to feel let down by adults.  How have you recovered from that kind of disillusionment?

Monday, November 7, 2011

One Strange Parenting Tip from the Italian Mama (It Works!)

My daughter granted permission to relate the following story:

I'm having dinner with the Italian Mama, and I explain how my daughter currently seems to enjoy disobeying me with emotional tantrums about everything.  

"You need to compliment her for what's really happening in that tantrum.  Find something good about what she's doing in that moment of frustration, and then redirect it."

What?  You want me to reward the tantrum by praising my daughter while she's exploding at me? Won't this enable her?  Doesn't this go against every parenting book?  Doesn't this contradict all the parenting techniques about punishment and my authority?

But it's the Italian Mama speaking.  I trust this woman. 

The next morning, my daughter just screams at me.  Instead of punishing her or sending her to her room, I say, "You know, you are really good at alerting me with a very loud voice when you want something.  That could come in handy if the house is on fire or if you fall out of a tree or if someone were in danger.  You actually have a fabulous screaming voice."

She tilts her head, wide-eyed, and stares at me.

She hasn't screamed or talked-back to me in 3 days.  In fact, at breakfast, she leans over and whispers to her sister, "Mom told me I have the best alert scream, and I could save the family one day."

Have you ever found something good within a tantrum?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

There's a Child In There

My daughters help rake the leaves into huge piles on the lawn.  They use the tree swing to launch up and across the yard, releasing themselves like summer swimmers into a lake of golden water.

If you want to experience the season, burrow into the leaves with the children.  

They hide deep within the piles, and even though it's decades later, I still recall the burnt spiced smell of leaf piles.  I feel their scratch and crinkle on my face.

A Child Hides in the Leaf Pile
I see the afternoon sun filtered through a million brown leaves.  I hear that particular muffled silence that changes the whole world for a moment.  I taste the leaves' earthen powder on my lips. 

My daughter surfaces, smiling. 

She's in there.

Living with flair means we burrow deep, experiencing it. 

Do you have leaf pile memories?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Crock-Pot Recipe that Reminds Me to Wait it Out

The whole house smells of seasoned broth from a crock-pot of vegetables, chicken, and spices.

A crock-pot represents that glorious Unseen Hand that takes all the bits and pieces you can hardly stand separately and simmers them together into something nourishing.

I glance at my old crock-pot and think about all my life's fragments and frayed ends that--by God's grace and timing--simmer down and build this perfect recipe that makes sense.

Normally, I have no patience for things that take all day.  But crock-pots not only make it a joy to wait, but there's this strange, cozy comfort in knowing that they sit there on the kitchen counter, working.  

In this crock-pot of the heart, you wait it out and know that, at just the right time, He'll have made something of it all.  There's a warmth and a fragrance in this beautiful waiting. 

Crock-Pot Chicken and Pasta Soup
1.  After breakfast, add frozen peas, carrots, and corn to a crock-pot.
2.  Add one chopped onion and one chopped red pepper.
3.  Add 3 frozen chicken breasts and season with salt, pepper, and anything you love. Add 3 cups of water.
4.  Cook on high half of the day.  Then, shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Stir the pot and continue cooking all day.
5.  An hour before dinner, add your favorite kind of pasta and cook until tender.  Enjoy as a soup, or add less liquid for a hearty pasta dish. 

Don't you love that feeling of having dinner made by breakfast?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Your Glorious Descent

 It's time.

One Leaf Takes Flight

You lift off, send yourself into the glorious unknown, and let God carry you.

Autumn Leaf Mid-Flight

My children twirl about in this dance of falling leaves. 

We'll crunch them underfoot and crush them in our hands.  They'll go on to nourish the soil and let another generation of leaves rise up.  As I think about getting older, about surrendering, about giving my life away to others, I realize it's a glorious descent. 

I feel like that beautiful leaf against the brightest blue sky.  My daughter reaches up and grabs it in her hand, delighted.  In motherhood, you let go, die to yourself every single day, and fall into the ancient pattern.

But that's the only way to dance in the wind.  It's the only way to be free.

Have you felt free when you die to yourself?

PS:  Taking photos of falling leaves is really hard. I just wanted to mention that!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Coconut Overload

The word has spread about my love of all things coconut.  Children have kindly donated their coconut candy from Trick-or-Treating to the worthy cause of My Coconut Addiction. 

I have more Almond Joy candy bars in my pantry than any woman should.  This morning, another child offers up her coconut candy bars to me.  Apparently, most children do not like coconut. 

So I'm on coconut overload.  I never thought I'd say that.  

Living with flair means you realize you can indeed have too much of a good thing. 

Have you had too much candy today? 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

When You're Doing Things You Don't Want to Be Doing

I'm driving to the Department of Motor Vehicles, and I realize this is the last thing I want to be doing.  But when you live in Central Pennsylvania, at least you can look out the window into the wilderness while doing things you don't want to be doing.

I look out the window and briefly consider running off into the wilderness just to see what sort of adventure I might find (anything to avoid the driver's license photo).  

What's out there, anyway?  What would happen if I walked deep into these woods and climbed up that mountain?  What if my family just built a little cabin right here?  What kind of woman might I be out there? 

I like thinking about it.  I like that this line I'm waiting in gives me time to consider a new idea.  Maybe all adventures begin in the mind while you're doing the thing you don't want to be doing. 

Thank God for long lines in the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Journal:  What do you think about when you're doing things you don't want to do? 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Jackie Kennedy Costume

Well, I tried.

Personally, I would like to bring back the white gloves.  I learn that Jackie Kennedy wore the white gloves in part because of her horrible nail biting habit. 

Living with flair means you turn a bad habit into a fashion statement.