Monday, December 31, 2012

Reaping What You Sow

Today I wonder about all the things I might sow into my life--and into the lives of others--in 2013. I scatter blessings like little seeds. I plant great hope in my own heart.

I pray and write and think and love. I scatter far and wide and wait to reap.

What will you sow this year?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Strength and Courage You Need

This morning, I note the repetition of God's command to "be strong and courageous" in Joshua 1. Five times in just one chapter! As I think about 2013 and entering into the new things God has in store, I take to heart the need to have strength and courage.

I'm not sure what the new year will bring; nobody can know for certain. I do know, however, that when moving into new territory, we need to be strong and courageous like Joshua and the people of Israel.

Perhaps it's strength and courage to try something new, mend a hurting relationship, teach a new class, parent in a different way, or attempt a new physical, mental, or social challenge. What would we do if we had all the strength and courage we needed?

We do. All the resources of heaven are available to us. Maybe in 2013, We'll really believe it and live like we do.

What would you do in 2013 if you had all the courage and strength you needed?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Loving Delusions and Seeking False Gods

All morning, I think about Psalm 4 and the question, "How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?"

I wonder about all the sources of delusional thinking and all the ways I seek false gods. I think about the ways I worship myself. I think about how delusional thinking begins when we question God's word, His goodness, and His power.

Where am I questioning God's word and choosing to sin? Where in my life am I doubting God's goodness and power?

And how am I really--when it comes right down to it--actually worshipping myself?

Today, I'm thankful that Jesus rescues us, renews our mind, and shows us how to live.

Where am I questioning, doubting, and worshipping false gods?

Friday, December 28, 2012

How Else Will It?

This morning, we talk to our children about the particular beauty of boredom. We find ourselves exhausted by trying to keep them entertained.

(It's harder and harder to impress children these days.) 

"But what should I do?" the youngest one asks over and over again.

"Think of something." 

I remember a psychologist telling me the greatest gift I can give to my children is the gift of boredom. Wonderful and magical things happen when a child is left with nothing to do.  

With nothing to do, the real games begin. That's when the stories are invented, the treasures of nature are discovered, and the small things are observed and delighted in.

That's when thinking happens and imagination flourishes. How else will it?

Living with flair means we allow for boredom. We stop entertaining children and let them make their own fun.

What did you do for fun when you were a child suffering from boredom?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Going the Back Way

When you're driving with folks who really know a town well, they'll always say, "Let's take the back way." This means you journey down country roads. This means you avoid traffic, stop lights, and intersections. You're on an easier--although winding--path towards your destination. You avoid delays, headaches, and noise.

And you get beautiful scenery. 

So today we take the back way home from shopping. I think about how Scripture talks about certain paths; there's a back way of the righteous, known by God and that Proverbs describes as level, gleaming with light, smooth, and joyful.

The path of the wicked--the highway that most travel--in contrast, is full of snares and pitfalls.Certain paths mire us down, delay us, distract us, and detour us.

I'll take the back way. I'll take my directions from the One who knows this town better than I do.

Am I willing to take the winding back way home?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Larger Hearts and Wilder Yearnings

I read a quote from Jens Peter Jacobson (the Danish poet and novelist) this morning. He writes,“Know ye not that. . .people there are who by natural constitution have been given a different nature and disposition than the others; that have a larger heart and a swifter blood, that wish and demand more, have stronger desires and a yearning which is wilder and more ardent than that of the common herd. They are fleet as children over whose birth good fairies have presided; their eyes are opened wider; their senses are more subtle in all their perceptions. The gladness and joy of life, they drink with the roots of their heart, while the others merely grasp them with coarse hands.”

Surely, these artists suffer more, but they also live more fully.

I, too, want to have a larger heart and swifter blood. I want to wish and demand more, with stronger desires and wilder yearnings. I want to live out of the roots of my heart and drink up all the gladness and joy there is to be found right here.

And then, of course, to recount it all to others.
I think this quote helps me understand artists and writers (and myself!) more. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

When Your Candle Won't Light During the Christmas Eve Service

My candle won't light. Everyone leans over to help me; wax falls everywhere, and it's becoming distracting. Every time someone tries to light my little candle, it burns for a moment and then flickers out.

Come on little candle. Come on flame. Shine bright, girl. Do it!


Finally, from out of nowhere, a complete stranger hands me a huge, new candle. There's no hope in yours. Take this one.

I'm standing there with two candles (one hopeless, one Glorious) singing Silent Night. Looking down at that strong, bright flame, I realize that my own candle indeed has no hope. I need Someone Else's.

I need an exchanged life. I need the Light of the World because there's no hope in me.

I take it, Lord!

Merry Christmas: Jesus comes down for the Great Exchange; He takes on our flesh, our sin, our hopelessness, and in return, hands us a new life and a new light.

I hope you have a wonderful and very merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Loving Well During the Holidays

Today we remember what it means to love well.  With every person we encounter, we ask God to help us, like Scripture describes in 1 Corinthians 13, to love well.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

When we feel impatient, we pray for patience.
When we want to be unkind, we pray for kindness.
When we feel jealous or proud, we pray for humble hearts that thank God for every blessing.
When we want to dishonor others, we pray we can believe the best about them and spread good reports. 
When we want to think about ourselves, we pray we can be others-focused.
When we are angry, we pray for the ability to forgive. And then we forget. We keep no record of wrongs.

We want to love well, and we can because of Him who first loved us. 

Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Snow Landscape

 We take to the hills; it's a sunny day with just enough snow to sled.

Give a child even a little snow, and they figure out a way to slide on it.

Yes, even here, there's beauty. Winter offers her own kind.  

Even the brittle things rise up against a blue sky and make the landscape beautiful. I love the fields in Winter!


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Out There Alone

On two separate afternoons, I watch my youngest bundle up and go outside to play in the snow alone.

Later, I find that she's examining the snow, looking for animal tracks, and making her own sledding paths.  


She's an extrovert,  yet she has stuff to do out there by herself.

I remember all those days I played alone in my backyard. I remember the white expanse of snow and my small self waving snow angels in it.

When you're alone out there in nature, something happens to you. You connect with yourself, with God, and with nature, and you grow up a little. You think about things and maintain the pure satisfaction that the whole experience was between you and God. Nobody saw what you saw. Nobody felt what you felt or thought your thoughts. You become a you--without anyone's commentary on what you're doing.

Sometimes we need to go out there alone for awhile.

Do you have fond memories of being alone in nature?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mourning With Those Who Mourn in Newtown

A week ago, the world was different for all of us. This morning, I wake up deeply saddened again. I run my hand along my 7 year old's soft cheek, and the same choking burn comes into my throat.

I'm grieving with you, Newtown.

But all week, I've had friends on Facebook and around town tell me how they're not watching the news because they want to forget the pain and move on with their Christmas shopping. They don't want to feel sad, and so they turn away from the tragedy. I understand this.

Every time I teach W.H. Auden's poem, Musée des Beaux Arts, I recall that, like in the poem, we turn away from tragedy because we "had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on." 

In this poem, "everything turns away / Quite leisurely from the disaster." But I don't want to turn away quite leisurely. I don't want to move ahead with Christmas shopping and all the distractions because of God's simple command to "mourn with those who mourn." 

So I'm still watching images and memorial services. Today, when we all observe that moment of silence as school begins, I just want Newtown to know that I'm mourning with them.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Respect Yourself

Today, I volunteer at the 5th grade Colonial Crafts and Tea Party. In between helping children select a tea bag and examining the handmade candles, I notice all the signs put up around the classroom and in the hallway. One sign in particular really makes me think. It says, simply:

Respect Yourself.

I suddenly recall the day I met a teenager who told me she'd never do drugs, sleep around, or harm herself. "I respect myself too much. I just want to tell my friends to stop doing stupid things to themselves. You have to respect yourself!"

I ask my daughter what she thinks the sign means, and she says, "To care for yourself and to not think bad thoughts about yourself or say bad things about yourself."

I remember the simple command in scripture to love your neighbor as yourself. Do I care for myself and think kind things about myself? I wasn't expecting to see a sign asking me to respect myself today.

I think if I really respected myself, I'd change some things about what I eat and what I do.

When did you start respecting yourself?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Your Best Worst Grade

Today I realize how thankful I am that I earned a C+ in a Psycho-biology class at the University of Virginia in 1993.

I wanted to be a doctor so badly. I cried. I thought Someone had made a huge Cosmic Error. I was supposed to be a doctor.

All the grades in any science class--or math for that matter--told me otherwise. Even the most Liberal Arts friendly Physics class called, "How Things Work," challenged me.

I found myself reading more poems than proofs, more stories than science. That C+ was a beacon of light directing me away from one career towards another.

(Besides, my very cute English professor, who gave me A+'s on every assignment, made me think that maybe the English major could be a better path.)

As I post grades and answer emails from disappointed students who really wanted that A so badly, I remember that grades can work as signposts that lead you on in the right direction.

I might have just assigned you your best worst grade.

Do you have a best worst grade?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Because I Was In the Bubble Bath

Right around 4:00 PM, I get the worst tension headache. I'm thinking about too much.

So at 4:01, I stumble into the bathtub and turn on the hot--and I mean hot--water. I pour in whatever I can find: fizzle bath balls that smell like gardenia, tea tree oil, or shampoo I'm hoping will make bubbles.

You just want enough in there to create a whole new world to sink down into.

So I'm in deep inside this aquatic world where, if I immerse myself fully, I can't even hear the dryer beeping or the phone ringing. I'm just in there, and that's my only obligation. I stay still, half-floating, and I sip a nice beverage and watch the flickering flame of a candle.

I've been so long away. I emerge and reenter my life.

I look at the clock, and it says 4:07. 

Living with flair means you take your six minutes--however you want them, however you need them--and you immerse yourself fully so you can come back refreshed.

Do you love baths? They seem extravagant and wasteful, but I love them!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Little Toes

Every time I look at my 7 year old, I feel my throat tighten and my eyes fill up. Yesterday, it was when I felt her little, warm toes that smell terrible after she takes her socks off.

And I mean terrible.

Those little toes! This morning, I'm thinking about all those parents who would give anything to wiggle and even smell warm little toes. I hold my little girl so tightly, and I'm praying about all those broken hearts.

We told our children about the shooting, and the oldest doesn't want to go to school. She cried at bedtime. The world has changed for her. It's changed for me.

How are you coping with this tragedy?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Build Your Life Around It

I'm reading Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, and I love his advice about writing. He writes this:

"Ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple "I must," then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it."

So I write.

Today marks the 1000 daily blog entry at Live with Flair! Living with flair means you know what you must do, and you build your life around that necessity. You write, even in the most indifferent and slightest hour.

Your life becomes a sign and a testimony to what God made you to do.

Do you feel you must write? Where and what are you writing right now?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

On This Terrible Morning, We Are Grieving With You

All night, I woke up imagining the shooting in that kindergarten classroom. I woke up imagining the parents hearing the news at the firehouse that they wouldn't be reunited with their precious children.

This is a terrible morning. We are grieving with you.

This is a terrible morning, and evil is real.

One day, it won't be this way.

But today, there is unimaginable pain. We go into it with you, as best we can--in any way we know how--and we grieve with you.


Friday, December 14, 2012

"Your Path is Following You"

I'm reading an advice column from E. Jean, and a reader asks her, "How can I find my passion?"

E. Jean responds, "Here's the way: Run down as many paths--straight, winding, high, wide, narrow--as you can. Get going, my girl! Run! Fly! Try them all! Take them all! One day, you'll look down and see that your path is following you."

I'm reminded of that simple truth in scripture in Isaiah that promises this: "Whether you turn to the left or the right, you'll find a voice behind you saying, 'this is the way; walk in it'." There's something so true about the voice behind us, the path that follows us--whispering the way and reminding us what we're made for.

There's also the great advice to get going: Run! Fly! Try! 

No matter what I do, God leaves those little breadcrumbs that, like in the fairytale, always lead home.

Did you find that your path followed you? I feel this way about writing and teaching.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fret and Fret

This morning, my friend shows me Psalm 37 and reminds me: "Do not fret."

I think about the word. Fretting includes a threefold experience of worry, annoyance, and discontentment about something.

Another use of the verb includes the expression fret away, as in to corrode, gnaw at, or wear down.

My fretting frets away my peace. Do not fret. Since I know that God never makes a command He doesn't also give us the power to obey, I know that I can ask for that peace that passes understanding. I do not fret. I stay at peace, soothed,  and content.

The holidays often give reason to fret, so I'm thankful for this simple reminder: Do not fret!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The One You Run to Greet

This week, I watch as friends find each other before school. One little girl claps her hands, jumps up and down, and runs to greet her friend. She's waving her hands and calling out the name of her friend.

It's a lovely greeting. Who wouldn't want to start the day with at least one person so obviously glad to see you?

Children withhold nothing. They aren't self-conscious or controlled when it comes to matters of friendship.

Not enough of us clap our hands, jump up and down, and run to greet folks. We aren't waving hands, calling out names, and showing the kind of lovely greeting that could change someone's day.

Someone needs a lovely greeting today. Someone needs to know you are so obviously glad to see him or her.

Is there someone who needs to know you are so obviously glad to see him or her?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Always a Portal

The Local Artist (the one who does the hoping for me) and I stand under a darkening sky this afternoon. We notice a pinhole of blue sky that looks like a portal. There's even a little lamppost beneath it to remind me of Narnia.

"Take a picture with your phone!" I say (and she does because she knows it's some kind of Flair Moment).

It just seems like a message in the clouds: There's always a way out or in. No matter what we're going through, there's a way out. No matter what we're wanting, there's a way in.

Portals have everything to do with faith and imagination and hope and whimsy. Look up and find that little blue tunnel, that lamppost, that rabbit hole, that closet, that train platform, that moving staircase. There's a parallel world, and we might enter if we choose.

I've always loved portals in literature because they remind me of spiritual realities. There's a physical world and a spiritual one all happening at once!

Monday, December 10, 2012

I Always Forget

It only takes a few thoughts to fall into a pit of delusional thinking. It happens so quickly: Suddenly, we feel like everything depends on our ability to think the right thoughts, do the right things, and be the right kind of people. 

But it's only God in us.

I always forget this.

I always forget that this is what Christianity is: Christ in us, the hope of glory--transforming us, renewing us, and making us new creations.

I always forget that all my efforts to improve myself aren't really improvements at all.  When I rely on God to accomplish what He wants in my life--when I cooperate with that movement of His Spirit--real change happens.

It feels very weak. I love that the Lord says to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Aren't you tired of self-effort?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

3 Gifts That Change Everything

This morning in church, I begin to think about what a great gift it would be if we extended the following attitudes towards the people in our lives. I begin to imagine what would happen if we:

1. Stop punishing people for ways they have failed us. I wonder how many marriages, family relationships, and friendships might be mended if we work towards future connecting rather than living in the past.

2. Believe the very best about people. Imagine that every person you meet reflects the glory of God. Underneath whatever terrible external shell--narcissism, selfishness, anger, immaturity--exists an astonishingly beautiful creation.

3. Seek to be a blessing rather than wanting to be blessed.

Stop punishing people in our hearts. Believe the best about them. Bless them.

Those are three Christmas gifts I want to extend this season. These attitudes change everything, and with God's power, I pray I can live out these Biblical principles.

Have you ever decided to stop punishing someone for failing you? Isn't it freeing?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Less Is More (In Sprinkles and in Life)

It's time for Christmas Cookies, and the youngest goes wild with the sprinkles.

"Less is more! Less is more!" I cry out.

It's really true, too. Although it's fun to layer more and more and more stuff on that delicious cookie, less is more. With less, you enjoy the light almond flavor of the frosting and the buttery flakiness of the cookie.

Too much, and you lose something.

I'm remembering this as I thinking about the too-muchness of holiday shopping!

Have you made a batch of holiday cookies yet? We use this recipe for amazing cookies.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Ready to Drip Diamonds

We wake up to early morning icy rain. The Winterberry Bush and Weeping Cherry look adorned with dangles of diamonds and crystals.

All that bleak autumn dreariness was worth it. The stripping down, the emptiness, the stark reality of it become the canvas for a glorious display.

It's all fine-cut crystal now. The empty season that brings on this new thing--that's required to showcase it--shows me how when God strips away, empties us out, and brings on something stark and dreary, it's because He's getting ready to drip diamonds.

Winter's finally here! Do you feel like God's about to do something new?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Stop. Come Together. (My Favorite Christmas YouTube Video This Week)

If you haven't seen this one yet, I recommend it!

I love that folks stop and come together for a few moments. Rushing, rushing, rushing, we forget to stop and come together.

We forget the why of it all.

Enjoy your Thursday! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Through My Being With You

Today I read in Philippians 2:25 Paul reason's for continuing in ministry even though he just wanted to depart to be with Jesus. He writes, "I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me."

His words turn into the prayer of my heart; I want to be the kind of woman who causes your joy in Christ Jesus to overflow.


I fear this isn't always the case. Lord, make it so that--on account of me--joy in Christ Jesus overflows.  I wonder about the kind of person about which this statement could be true. Does this person display weakness so God's power is obvious in her? Does this person rejoice and proclaim with her mouth about God's wonders?

I'm thinking about this. I'm praying about being the kind of person who enables others' joy in Christ Jesus to overflow.

Do you know people like this?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Unparalleled, Unique, and Exclusive

I'm teaching characterization this week, so we're talking all about vivid, unique descriptions. We want characters so unique in our writing that they cannot be interchanged with anyone else. And we want descriptions that avoid any type of cliche.

Tomorrow, we'll write down a description of ourselves and see if everyone else can match the descriptions to their owners. The quirkier the better; we're all so completely individual.

I love thinking about the uniqueness of people. It's simply amazing that we aren't like anyone else on the planet. We are unparalleled, unique, and exclusive.

By the way, my favorite character description of all time is J.K.Rowling's Hagrid. She writes:

If the motorcycle was huge, it was nothing to the man sitting astride it. He was twice as tall as a normal man and at least five times as wide. He looked simply too big to be allowed, and so wild--long tangles of bushy black hair and beard hid most of his face, he had hand the size of trash can lids, and his feet in their leather boots were like baby dolphins.

Living with flair means we embrace everything unique and quirky about us.

Do you have a favorite character description in literature?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Small Things in Forgotten Places

This morning on the walk to school, we find that someone--an elf?--has begun to decorate the ignored, forgotten, and miserable little pine tree that grows in the woods.

We've seen the misshapen Christmas tree every morning for six years. But today, we find it cared for and decorated.

It's a very little thing, but we're filled with Christmas cheer. Tomorrow, we'll find more ornaments have come in the night.

Small, unexpected things found in forgotten and miserable places: Christmas cheer!

Have a great Monday filled with small, unexpected things!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Considering Himself Nothing

This morning, I realize that the Christmas season--more than anything else--is about God who "made himself nothing" and "took on the nature of a servant" (Philippians 2).

It's unfathomable. The One who should be served, serves.

What would it mean for us if we "made ourselves nothing?" If we "took on the nature of a servant?" If we served instead of wanting to be served all the time?

Practically, I mean.

With God's power, I decide to do my husband's ironing. If you know me, this is indeed a supernatural act. My too least favorite household chores include ironing and vacuuming stairs. Let someone else do it! Why do I have to do it?

With God's power (going against my flesh, my desire to be served, and my agenda), I get out the ironing board. I get out the vacuum. It feels different this time. It feels like love, and I'm filled with joy.

When we make ourselves nothing, we are indeed "exalted to the highest place."

That's Christmas!
Isn't it so hard to serve and not be served? 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Come, Let Us Adore

I'm standing in the kitchen listening to the old song, O Come, All Ye Faithful, and I think about how, since the 13th century, worshipers have praised Jesus Christ by singing this hymn.

I love the invitation, "Come let us adore Him." I think about the way one might stand in utter amazement and worship of something. You don't ask for things. You don't complain or worry. You don't do anything but adore.

Come, let us adore Him.

We are joyful, triumphant, and we sing in exultation!

O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant!
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of Angels:

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

God of God,
Light of Light,
Lo, he abhors not the Virgin's womb;
Very God,
Begotten, not created:

Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of Heaven above!
Glory to God
In the highest:

Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given!
Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing!

Do you sometimes just adore Him? 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Pull Through

I find myself talking to a woman who has suffered through chronic pain and fatigue for most of her life. She tells me all the ways she's adapted; mostly, she's learned to rest well and accept her limitations. This means she doesn't live the way others live. This means she lives with the acute reality that while others live very productive, fast, and high-capacity lives, she has the energy for maybe two or three good hours a day.

That's just how it is.

She doesn't push herself. She listens to her body and swims in a completely different current than all the rest of us. She doesn't push against the current; she leans back and lets God pull her through.

Sometimes, I think that's what our bodies are telling us, and we don't listen. We don't know how to lean back into the arms of God, rest well, and let Him pull us. We're too busy pushing through.

Can you rest well this weekend?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why the Wilderness?

My husband reminds me of Deuteronomy 8 this morning, in particular this part beginning in verse 2:

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna,which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

I spend a few minutes this morning recalling all the ways God "caused me to hunger" in my life. I remember all those things that humbled me and forced me--out of real desperation--to cling to and depend upon the Lord because I had no where else to turn. I remember the wilderness of my own heart. I remember those years of wandering.

All these years later, I can thank God for those times of humbling and hungering. Does God want to teach us how to need Him? Out of that Great Mercy, he allows the wilderness of the heart so we turn back to the one who loves us and truly meets out needs.

Can you look back and be thankful for hard times?    

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Turkey Leftovers? Easy Turkey Pot Pie

I love easy and fast, so here you go: 

You get two ready-to-bake pie crusts from the grocery store and put one of the crusts in a pie pan. Mix two cups of chopped leftover turkey, a can of cream of chicken soup (or mushroom or celery), a bag of frozen mixed vegetables (or a can, or whatever leftover veggies are in your fridge), 1/4 cup milk, and a dash of salt and pepper. Mix well, and then fill the pie crust with your filling. Then top with the second crust.

Bake about 45 minutes on 350 degrees. Children love it!

Serve with sliced apples and a tossed salad. Yum!


What's your favorite leftover turkey recipe?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lost on the Way

Today we walk to school with a little boy who has never seen the snow. He moved this year from Texas, and today is his very first day seeing, tasting, and touching snow.

Seeing the morning snow through his eyes fills us with wonder again. It's amazing to think about: fluffy flakes of white fall from the sky and cover the ground. You can eat it, roll around in it, shape it into balls, and slide across it.

We experience it again through him, and what seemed like a cold, dreary morning now becomes magical.

If fact, at one point, we lose him on the walk to school because he's playing in the snow. 

Living with flair certainly means recalling our joy and wonder. Maybe we'll get lost on the way today because we're too busy delighting in the snow.  

Do you need to experience something through new eyes today?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Just Write and See What Happens

Today, I ask my students to describe their childhood backyard. It's a lesson on setting. I don't give any instruction other than to use as much sensory detail as possible. "Just write and see what happens. See what your brain does with this."

I'm fascinated by the results. Students write about things they don't expect: the way the grass felt on bare feet; the jagged edge of a fence; the sound of a mother calling them in for dinner; the slope of a landscape; the shimmer of a creek in the sunlight.

They write for five minutes, and then I ask them to interpret what they remember. Do the objects or the sensations have symbolic meaning to you now? Is there a reason why you remember what you do?

Writing down our memories of places helps us understand something about ourselves. We gain insight because of what we remember. I love just putting the pen to the page with no other instruction than to "Just write and see what happens."  I want to do this every day just to see what happens.

Do you ever begin writing just to see what your brain does?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Two Favorite Games to Play with Young Children

My two favorite games to play with my children are Memory and Jenga. During the holidays, it relaxes us all to just sit and play games. After all the doing and going, I love sitting down in the living room--amid all the holiday decorations and smells of pine and baking things--and play games.

I used to detest game playing. I wanted to go be productive. But now, I just love laughing and relaxing to these two games in particular. I love how everybody shrieks when the Jenga tower topples, and I love how I always lose Memory because I don't pay attention! 

I'm learning.


Do you have favorite games to play with young children?

Saturday, November 24, 2012


This morning I read a verse I don't remember reading ever in my life. Deuteronomy 33:27 offers this wonderful promise:

"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms."

I try to imagine God's everlasting arms underneath me.

Even if I fall (or am falling), the everlasting arms are underneath me.

They will catch me.

I love that He catches me, don't you?

Friday, November 23, 2012


It's arduous: We're driving up the mountain to go hiking, and my youngest tells us all how much she loves chugging uphill in the car.

"It's because the uphills mean the downhills later."

She knows it's a fast, twisty thrill ride downhill. The arduous task affords us all the ease and joy later.

There's something true in it all; the uphill battle rewards you with a thrill ride down. It's just how it works.

I consider all the hard things--the strenuous labor of life--that, if we just persevere on the uphills, we get the downhills later.

Keep on with the arduous. You'll crest soon and enjoy the downhill. 

The downhills are coming!

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Wouldn't it be wonderful to stop trying to impress people all the time? Wouldn't the holidays be so easy if the motivation behind our behavior was genuine love and not a desire to impress?

Recently, my friend and I laughed about all the things we fear folks finding out about us. We carefully construct ourselves to manage everyone's opinions; we wear the right clothes that make us look thinner; we clean our homes so everyone delights in our organization; we boast of certain accomplishments so everyone thinks we are. . . perfect.

What if, instead, we just announced this: I'm afraid you will think I am fat, disorganized, or unaccomplished (or whatever it is you really fear people thinking about you). What if we just let people think the very worst and we stopped trying to impress? Maybe then we could really serve people over the holidays. We could think about them and not our images and reputations.

That would be impressive indeed!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Sometimes, characters in novels take on lives of their own. They do things that deviate from the originally storyline. It might be a small detail (the time of day, a food she eats, a piece of clothing she wears), but it ripples through the story.

Sometimes, this small change easily folds back into the story, and other times, I have to write entire chapters just to accommodate the detail. Whether it takes a sentence or thirty pages, eventually, the plot moves on as planned.

I find myself weaving the tale in new ways when something changes. Eventually all the characters end up where they're supposed to. There's a plot line they come back to, no matter how far they've strayed.

Writing novels teaches me so much about a life of faith. I love thinking of God as the Author of my life's story. It comforts me to think that God weaves all the details (and even the mistakes) right into the master narrative. Eventually He knows how to get me where I'm supposed to be. It might be in a minute or in thirty years, but I know for certain He "works all things together for good."

He's the only one who can. He wrote the story.

Did you ever make a mistake you felt like God couldn't use for good? I'm amazed that He can and does work it all out for good. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


We're driving on the highway behind a huge concrete truck. The revolving drum on top the truck mixes the concrete even while on the road.

The concrete must be continually stirred or else it hardens and loses its workability. It hardens too fast and too soon. As the drum revolves, the right amount of water and other additives keep the concrete pourable till it reaches a construction site.

I think about that revolving drum. I think about the ways I want to keep moving--getting stirred up each year--so I don't set and harden in my heart. I want to invite new, essential additives in to keep me soft. If I'm toppling over and my life seems off-kilter, I'm going to think of it as my being stirred in a revolving drum. Otherwise, I'll harden. Otherwise, I can't be poured out in the ways God wants.

New experiences and new challenges keep us soft and workable, don't you think?

Monday, November 19, 2012


Today I realize all the ways one might influence an environment.

In writing, an author influences the mood of a piece by using primarily sensory detail: sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste. Writers generate moods for their readers; they manipulate language to produce sad moods, happy moods, suspicious moods, romantic moods, or humorous moods (among others).

It occurs to me that when we enter a room, we too--like an author--can influence what people experience. What do folks experience when they spend time with us? What mood do we leave them with? It's worth thinking about. It's worth considering if we contribute to negativity and hopelessness or if we lift an environment with joy, peace, and expectant faith.

We do influence our environment. We are influencing our environment--right this moment--and I wonder what kind of influence we're having.

Can you imagine bending every situation toward the light? That's what I want to do.

Have you seen the way one negative person can bring down a whole room?

Sunday, November 18, 2012


My shy daughter finally befriends a little girl she's crossed paths with for years but never had the courage to approach.

She finally invites the girl to play, and now, it feels like they've been best friends all this time.

When I'm tucking my daughter in for bed, she says, "Mom, I have a regret. I regret that I didn't ask her to play sooner."

I think about all the times we want to do something but don't out of fear or shyness. I think about how many months and years pass because we lack courage to approach that person, that project, or even that  new experience.

I'm glad we learned what it feels like to wish we'd done something sooner. Living with flair means we pray for courage--even when we're shy, even when we have fear--to approach someone or something when we want to.

Do you have a regret that you would have approached someone or something sooner?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"It's All About Tension": Writing and Living Advice

My amazing agent and I are working together to prepare a manuscript to submit to publishers. (It's a contemporary adult novel that you'll hear more about next month.) He says to me, "Always remember that tension is the lifeblood of the novel. You cannot resolve the tension too quickly."

In fact, he says, you want to "layer more and more tension" in this particular scene. We talk about deliberately delaying the resolution of certain problems. We talk about even greater subtexts of tension and conflict that drive the reader on.

It's all about tension.

It's always about tension. Essentially, we're talking about suspense. We're talking about emotional anxiety. We're talking about strained relationships. These things will resolve, but they can't resolve too soon.

All morning, I think about the beauty--and importance of--tension. I remember that God is writing a novel of my life. When things don't resolve quickly, it's because there's a chapter way ahead that makes a stunning plot twist, a gorgeous reconciliation, or a revelation that takes our breath away.

It's all about tension.

Don't you hate waiting for things to resolve?

Friday, November 16, 2012

It Changed Everything

Today, I read my students a single event memoir by Deidra Riggs. I'm asking them to choose a single event--a single moment of their lives--to narrate for a reader.

The memoir, "Better Than the Ballroom", takes just a few minutes to read. In this piece, Riggs transports us to an evening spent with her grandfather. A granddaughter takes a walk with her grandfather; it's a simple walk, but it means so much.

We talk about tiny moments. Can you remember a moment that changed everything? A conversation, a walk, a view of a landscape?

All day, I think about how these tiny moments can shape entire lives. Listening to students talk about "moments that changed everything" makes me deeply aware of my own interactions with folks. I also consider how much I want to be fully aware of the moments of my day--my conversations, my walks, my landscapes--because on this day, that moment might just change everything.

Finally, I recall those tiny moments in my own life that changed everything. Maybe it was finding a turtle as a child or skating on a frozen creek at midnight. Maybe it was reading the poetry of John Keats. Maybe it was eating coconut cake.

Maybe it was sitting down and writing the very first word.

Can you think of that moment? Have you considered writing about it?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wait! Where?

This morning, my oldest daughter cries out to her sister, "I'll race you!"

"OK!" the youngest one says, and they're off! Suddenly, she stops and demands, "Wait! Where are we going, anyway?" She has her hands on her hips and her head cocked to one side.

I'm washing breakfast dishes, and I think of the day's schedule--the weight of demands, the crush of deadlines, the too-much-to-do of it all--and I stop and question: "Wait! Where am I going, anyway?"

I'm racing after. . .  What? Who? Why? 

It's the same feeling I had when someone told me about all the new technology I was supposed to use in my classroom. We were all in such a rush to adopt every new gadget and technique. We were racing to be the most sophisticated, and then it struck me that we had all the "how" and none of the "why" or "where are we going, anyway."

I'm stopping for a moment and reconsidering the rush of the day.  I don't need to run every race. I don't need to be in such a hurry. I need to pause and ask, "Where are we going, anyway?"

Do you ever rush about and think you just need to stop?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Most Extraordinary Piece of Art

An incredible artist, Ted Cantrell, sends my family a piece of his original artwork for our home. From the moment I remove this piece from its shipping box, I know I'm holding something extraordinary in my hands.

This Texan Artist once found an old tree that had grown up through a barbed wire fence on his grandfather's farm. He examines the dying tree with barbs running through it, and he sees something that we don't see. Taking discarded copper from a scrap metal yard, he shapes beautiful roses with barbed wire stems. He titles this piece, "Love Will Find a Way," and describes how it's about "beauty from ugliness" and "value from worthlessness."

Love Will Find a Way
We can't stop exploring this amazing creation. The Texan Artist knows that when a tree grows up against a barbed wire fence, it eventually incorporates it into itself.

I think about suffering--about all the painful barbs in life--and how we take it all in. It becomes part of us. We can't escape it. But I think about how under the hand of a skilled artist, this reality turns into something exquisite. All the parts we deem worthless suddenly become so beautiful.

Roses from the Scrap Yard
We talk about symbols, and my children and I see a wooden cross, a crown of thorns, and the beauty of Christ in the roses.

I see the strength of a tree that won't be stopped.

I see perseverance, joy, and beauty despite any obstacle. In fact, I see how the obstacle becomes our greatest meaning and our greatest raw material for beauty.

This is what God does. 

 Are you amazed with how an Artist can make some discarded thing so beautiful?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gingersnap Tea and Almond Biscotti

Two days ago, I purchase mini almond biscotti for no reason at all.

You can't just eat biscotti, you have to dip it in tea (at least that's how I do it since I don't like coffee in the afternoon).  So if you have biscotti, you simply must have tea.

If you have tea, you must put on your little tea kettle to boil water.

If you put on your little tea kettle, you might as well pull out your good china tea cups and a little serving tray.

And if you do this, you might just start speaking in a British accent and insist to your family that it's tea time.

Soon, everyone might be dipping almond biscotti in gingersnap tea, and suddenly, it's a wonderful afternoon.

Are you an afternoon tea drinker?

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Interview Game

My youngest daughter tells me today that her friends at school never ask her anything about herself.

"I ask about them, but they don't ask about me," she explains.

"I know what you mean," I tell her. "Hardly anyone knows how to ask good questions of one another. We might need to learn how to do it."

So after school, I ask her and her friend all about it: "What kinds of questions do you like people to ask you?"

Her friend says, "I want people to ask me about what it's like to have brothers or what I'm thinking about my pets."

My daughter insists that she wants people to ask her about her fashion (of course!).

"You might tell your friends what you want them to ask you about since nobody seems to know."

I suddenly realize this is a great idea. Instead of stewing about how friends aren't asking enough about us, why don't we just tell them the kinds of things we love being asked about? Later, I hear my daughter ask her friend, "How many pets do you have, and what are their names?"

Her friend tells her and then turns to my daughter and says, "So what's your favorite style of clothing?" 

I think we're on to something. Telling people what you like to discuss could certainly help build friendships. (Don't ask me about weight loss, grading, or holiday shopping. Ask me about God, writing novels, teaching, and blogging.)

"It's like an interview game," I tell them. "And the first question is always, 'What do you want me to ask you about?'"

What do you like people asking you about?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

When She Steadies You

Today I'm roller skating with my oldest daughter, and I realize that for the first time in all these years, she's steadying me.

It's one of those moments when I think about parenting differently. I think about the relationship between mothers and their almost teenage daughters.

I flail my arms, grab on to her hand, and she steadies me.

Motherhood does indeed have its moments of pure wonder.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Read and Be Inspired: 8-Year-Old Dresses Up as Her Greatest Insecurity

My friend calls from Texas to update me on her life and children. She shares this incredible story and gives me permission to share it (and the photos) with you.

Her sweet daughter has had to wear hearing aids these past few years. This little girl doesn't want anybody talking about them; she hides her hearing aids with her long hair, and she just wishes everybody would ignore them.

For years, she hides them. 

But this year, she asks her dad to make her into a giant hearing aid for her Halloween costume. She asks him to cut out ear holes so she might point to her hearing aids and explain to everybody at school how they work, where the battery is, and where she hides the wires.

I repeat: A little girl dresses up as her greatest insecurity and essentially says to the world, "Ask me about this." 

Tears fill my eyes as I think about all of us parading around, showcasing our greatest insecurity. I think about walking around in freedom, coming out of hiding, and amplifying the thing we hate the most about ourselves in order to turn it into a beautiful thing.

I share the story with my college students, and they are moved and inspired. I ask them about their greatest insecurities. Would they do what this little girl did? Would anybody?

I'm amazed. Living with flair means we come out of hiding, show the world our greatest insecurity, and boldly say, "Ask me about this."

We'd be free. 

What's your greatest insecurity? I think mine is my big tummy that I'm always trying to suck in! Maybe it's the pores on my nose, my coffee breath, or my awkward gait. Oh, I could go on!

Friday, November 9, 2012

So You Could See It Better

I leave my classroom today, and I see purple berries. In a simple moment of gratitude, I thank God for stark landscapes in late autumn that serve to showcase color I might have missed otherwise.

I might have missed these, but today, I couldn't possibly. All seems stark and bland on purpose; it might just serve to illuminate what you're really supposed to see.

I love berries in autumn! Do you have bright berries where you live?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Dirty Kitchens and Unmade Beds

Today, I write for three hours straight. I don't empty the dishwasher, make beds, or think about what I'm going to make for dinner.  

Something has to fall by the wayside to make room for art.

I remember Annie Dillard's wonderful quote about writing. She writes:

"Let the grass die. I let almost all of my indoor plants die from neglect while I was writing the book. There are all kinds of ways to live. You can take your choice. You can keep a tidy house, and when St. Peter asks you what you did with your life, you can say: I kept a tidy house. I made my own cheese balls." 

I think about dirty kitchens and unmade beds today. I don't want to come to the end of my life and say I didn't write what I was supposed to write because I kept a really clean house and made excellent cheese balls instead.

I think about cheese balls as I'm writing this very sentence with a sink full of breakfast dishes to clean!
Did you make time for creativity today?



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What Gets Set in Motion

I love putting things in my crock pot, leaving for campus, and returning hours later to dinner. The crock pot performs this secret work all day--that secret ministry--while I go about my regular life. I set it in motion, and it continues all day long.

You set things in motion in the morning, and they do their thing to create something good by the end of the day. I think about what gets set in motion by prayer, a kind word to a family member or a neighbor, a brisk walk, a photograph taken, a thought considered. 

We set things in motion, every day. For good or not, we do. I want to set the right things in motion.

Did you set something in motion today?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Miriam's Tambourine: The Song You Would Sing

This morning I read in Exodus 15:20: "Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her with tambourines and dancing. Miriam sang to them: 'Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted'."

Something about this woman challenges me today. She takes up a tambourine and leads those following her into a great song of praise. I thought about women in my life who remind me of Miriam; they go before me and invite me to worship a great God. They lead others with the song their lives sing. 

I thought about the younger women in our lives who we might lead into worship. If they followed us, what song would they hear? What song is my life singing? Would it be a dirge, a complaint? Would it be an exceedingly joyful proclamation? 

I'm thinking about the song my life sings today. Living with flair means we lead women into praise.

Have you had a Miriam in your life? Are you a Miriam?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Maybe Today

All day, I have that feeling that something amazing is just about to happen. It actually doesn't matter if something does happen; it's the feeling that I love.

It's hope that maybe today, something.

I'm not sure what. It could be anything: Maybe today, I'll find a new friend. Maybe today, I'll hear from a publisher. Maybe today, I'll see something my eyes have never seen before. I rinse my hair out in the shower, and I just know that maybe today, something amazing will happen.

I love having hope in my heart. You just never know. Maybe today.

Do you wake up thinking, "Maybe today?"

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Go Now, Write It on a Scroll as an Everlasting Witness

This morning, I consider the strange call to . . . blog. Blogging? What a weird little genre of writing! I remember in Isaiah 30:8 that simple command to "Go now, write it on a scroll so that in days to come it may be an everlasting witness." I know this command was specifically for the prophet, but something about it rings true today. Something about recording the Lord's work--actually writing it down--matters so much. I think about creating a document for my children that's an "everlasting witness" to the Lord's work.

I think about Psalm 102 and the words, "Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord."

What if I simply recorded it all? Here's what God is doing. Here's what God has done. I don't want to forget. I don't want my children to forget.

I especially don't want to forget the nuggets of wisdom I find during the day. For example, on Thursday night, my husband and I took a missionary couple to dinner. They had been in Eastern Europe, raising their family and faithfully serving the Lord for decades. After all this time, their passion and love just oozed out of them.

"What's your secret to persevering all these years and keeping your joy? What's your best advice for us?" we ask them.

I learn two things that I want to pass on. First, they tell us to be certain of our calling from God and to not expect others to understand this special assignment. They advised us not to compare ourselves with others--either falling into the trap of superiority or inferiority--and to press on into our specific calling. We don't have to look like other families look. We don't have to do what other families are doing. And we don't expect them to behave just as we do.

Second, they said the big secret to perseverance was "understanding the Biblical definition of rest." They counseled us to "rest well" since there will always be too much work to do in a day.

Be certain of your calling. Rest well. 

There, I wrote it down to remember it. I wrote it down for you and my children as well.

Do you record the Lord's work either in a blog or a journal?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

"Oh, Good! You're Exactly Where I Want You to Be."

This morning, I rock in my old rocking chair as I read a verse from Colossians 2 about having "all the fullness" of God inside of me. I'm thinking about any empty place and the promise that I'm actually full.

I'm just rocking and thinking, tapping my chin, and I hear my youngest calling out to me. "Where are you? Mama, where are you?"

"I'm right here," I say.

She peers around the corner and cries out, "Oh, good! You're exactly where I want you to be."


"Because I'm going to be here playing, and I want to be where you are." She's talking about the little doll tea party she's set up in the living room, right in front of the rocking chair. She starts playing. She's not even talking to me or looking at me. She's just playing in front of me, wanting me to be there.

So we're there together, and I feel very full inside. It feels like God is saying to me, "Oh, good! You're exactly where I want you to be." I rock some more and read. I'm bursting with fullness.

Do you feel full today?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hold Unswervingly

The word "unswervingly" occurs only once in the whole Bible. It's in Hebrews 10:23, my theme verse for my new birthday journal.

I write this on the first page: "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful."

I chose this verse because of all the ways I have swerved and do swerve. I chose this verse to remind me to hold unswervingly to Jesus, even when everything about my life asks me to swerve away.

To swerve means to change directly abruptly. Usually, one swerves to avoid calamity. One swerves to get out of the way to find a better course. Oh, how my daily life asks me to swerve to find a better course than Jesus! Oh, how the ideas I hear and the words I read challenge me to swerve from the life of faith!

I find myself swerving away from a rich life of faith whenever calamity strikes. I find myself swerving to get out of the way of ideological controversies and debates at the university. Sometimes it seems easier to just agree with the dominate worldview--to swerve--to avoid the pain and confusion of debate, conflict, and hurt feelings. I'll just swerve on over to a comfortable and less controversial spot. I'll just swerve away from the hope I know is true.

No! No!

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful." That's my prayer for this new age I'm facing.

Do you have a theme verse for your year?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

"You Told Me Once, and I Took Note."

This morning, a friend delivers a little birthday gift to me relating to the small details. She remembered the particular kind of coffee I love, the fun kind of socks I wear, the bright nail polish I put on my toes, and even the kind of pen I love to use best of all when grading papers and writing in my journal. 

Yes, she knew about the pens. She added them into the mix that made up a big package waiting for me in my kitchen.

She knew about the pens!

The kind of pen? It's the Pilot G-2 0.38 Premium Gel Roller in blue ink. She knows I'm a pen snob. It has to be the G-2. It has to be the 0.38 ultra fine pen. She wrapped them up in tissue paper, and I laugh so hard when I open them.

Small things. Tiny details. Oh, how loved I felt.

Living with flair means you remember things about your friends. You remember that they only use the Pilot G-2 0.38 Premium Gel Roller in blue ink. I asked her how in the world she knew about those pens. She said, "You told me once, and I took note."

So there you have it. I want to take note of those small things, those tiny details, in others.

What's a small thing--a tiny detail--about you and your particular loves?  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Don't Waste One Word

Today in class, I repeat my new writing slogan: Don't Waste One Word.

As we finish all the lessons in How to Write with Flair, students know that every single word matters. Each word creates a precise mood and image.

Don't waste one word. Don't settle for a weak or imprecise word when you can select a vivid and deliciously specific one.

We juice the sentence down to its best parts. We invite the sentence to do what we know it was meant to do.

I ask students to transform the weak verb into an image and mood-producing verb, and they proceed with flair. Instead of:

The leaves are on the ground.

They write:

The leaves garnish the ground. They dance on the ground. They obscure the ground. They even grapple with the ground. And of course, they blanket the ground.

I actually perceive things differently when I don't waste the verb. This isn't just writing we're talking about; it's living. I want vivid and deliciously specific, right this very moment.

The words--when I don't waste them--change everything.

How's your writing life going?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Beyond the Boo Platter: Now She Wants Spiders

We gather in the kitchen to make the annual Halloween Fruit Platter for the class party. It's tradition now.

"What if we did a spider shape?" she asks so innocently.

Why not?

I like it. She loves it. It's nothing but a foil blob with legs that divide the fruit, and still, she loves it.

I never thought the fruit platter would be so important to my children. I love that the littlest things make a big difference in their lives.

Monday, October 29, 2012

"You Are Not Essential": Go Home and Be Safe

Today, the university shuts down. I receive an email telling me to go home and be safe. In this email, I read this line, "Although we are all important, no one is essential."

It's humbling and strange to think about how non-essential we actually are. Over the next few hours, blogs will shut down (not essential), teaching will stop (not essential), meetings won't happen (not essential), and all the hustle and bustle of downtown commerce will cease (not essential!).

The email communication reminds me we matter deeply, but our activities are simply not essential.

During storms, we pare down to essentials: Go home and be safe. Gather your loved ones in your arms.

Is it hard to know you're not essential?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Storm Ready

Today we--like most everyone else in our community--spend the day becoming storm ready. Hurricane Sandy's on the way, so we make sure we're ready with water, food, lanterns, candles, and batteries. We're also bringing in lawn furniture, propane tanks from the grill, garbage cans, and anything else that high winds might send flying.

We're storm ready.

The activities of the day comfort us. There's something about advance warning and preparation that settles me down inside. Of course I'm nervous and praying for folks in coastal towns, but I'm also certain we can survive if we're wise and work together.

Normally, I like to be "in the moment" and enjoy the beauty and joy in the common thing right before my eyes. But on days like today, I shift my attention to what's coming. I secure my borders and strengthen my interior with an eye on tomorrow.

It's wise to keep that dual focus on the now and the yet-to-come. We secure ourselves in the Lord and strengthen our faith for whatever comes against us. We're storm ready.

We are praying for you folks on the coast tonight!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Never Too Old

This morning my husband tells me about an interesting encounter he had during my daughter's music lesson. While waiting for her turn with her piano teacher, a very old man shuffles into the waiting room. He sits down and carefully pulls out his beautiful violin.

My daughter turns to him to ask if he's the violin teacher, and he says, "No, I'm a new student."

My husband finds out that this man--well into his eighties--once played the violin in high school but had lost his skills over his long career as a professor.

Now in retirement, he has time to learn again.

So there he sits with all the little children in the waiting room of the music academy with his violin. He's the new student, and he's ready to learn.

Living with flair surely means that we don't stop learning. Even in our eighties we make it a priority to become a student again.

If you could take a class--any class--what would it be?

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Child's Time Management Advice that Just Might Change Your Life

I'm losing my voice after my cold, so I write my youngest daughter a note to tell her what she needs to remember to do before bedtime.

She disappears and then comes back to tuck a note into my hand.

Yes. Finish the important things. Do the rest later.

I love learning from children, don't you?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What It Needs

I was thinking the other day about the millions of acorns on my lawn. What does it take for one little seed to take root and grow into a tall oak? Why aren't there millions of spouting acorn seeds all over my lawn?

So many don't survive. They're eaten. They dry out. They rot. They're stomped on by our feet. They overheat and lose their germination ability.

But some do survive.

This little seed--one of thousands--will become something huge.

It can live past 400 years. It can grow over 100 feet tall.

I think that all my creative ideas are seeds I toss out to the world. Many won't survive, but some will.

When I watch this time-lapse video of an acorn turning into an oak tree, I note how methodical it all is. I note how long it takes. I note that nothing interferes with this process. 

Mostly, I note that if a seed finds perfect conditions, it will do what it's supposed to do.

It will. 

I think more about writing. I think about parenting. I think even about friendship. 

Where shall this one be planted, Lord? What will help this seed grow?

Do you view writing like planting seeds?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Confessions of a Tailgater (The Driving Kind)

It's a rainy day, and on the way to the grocery store, I nearly collide with two different cars at various stop signs. My tires spin and the brakes hesitate on the slick pavement. I'm driving way too close to the car in front of me, and these driving conditions showcase my problem: I'm a tailgater. I'm a shameless tailgater.

I don't know why. I think it's because I'm always in a hurry. I'm always focused, productive, and fast. If you're in front of me, you simply become part of my schedule, so let's move.

When I slow down today (because I was about to crash with several different cars), I suddenly realize the importance of giving folks space and time. They're on their own journeys. They're on their own timelines, even.

Give them space.

Give my husband space. Give my daughters space. Give my neighbors space. Give my students space. I need to stop tailgating and let folks get to where they're going on their--and God's-- timeline.

Living with flair means giving people space and time.

Have you ever wanted someone to give you space and time? It's a precious thing!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Crayon Drip Pumpkins: A Fun After School Craft

My youngest daughter bursts out of the school telling me how we must melt crayons on our pumpkins because her incredibly creative and wonderful teacher showed her one of her own designs.

"It was so beautiful in all those melted colors! Let's do it!"

At moments like this, I feel we are an ill-matched mother / daughter pair. I'm going to mess the whole thing up. I'm going to ruin the pumpkin! I promise to attempt Crayon Drip Pumpkins, but I cannot promise cute or excellent. I cannot promise it will work at all.

Apparently, if you simply glue your old broken crayons around the top of a pumpkin and blow dry them for a minute, they'll run and drip down in fun designs.

It looks scary to me. Perfect for Halloween, right?

Do you have a pumpkin craft you want to share?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Take a Minute

The weather report shows snowstorms for next week, but today, I'm not even wearing a jacket to campus. It's going to be nearly 70 degrees. I take a minute to savor it.

I stand beneath the oak tree and gaze up.

I go inside the Weeping Cherry and let the sun peek in.

I part the branches and examine the sun on those leaves. With snow coming, I know these leaves will fall.

But for now, I take a minute and enjoy the warm morning sun. Living with flair means I take a minute (or more) to enjoy this day's particular gifts.

This day has something special for us. 

Take a minute.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

When You Need Strength for the Week Ahead

Sometimes I pray for a circumstance to change, but when it will not, I know it's time to pray for strength. I think about three promises from scripture when I feel weak and scared inside:

2 Chronicles 16:9:  For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

Isaiah 41:10:  So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Ephesians 3:15: I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. 

I'm so thankful that it's not my strength at all. 

Do you need strength for the week ahead?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Little Thing Supports a Big Thing

At the pumpkin patch today, my daughter chooses a pumpkin with an unusual stem. Part of it branches out into far reaching curly cues.

I lean in, noticing the design. This pumpkin comes wrapped with her own curled ribbons on top.

I love observing pumpkin stems. Such a little thing supports such a big thing. I see folks carrying around 40 pound pumpkins by those sturdy--but small--stems.

I suppose if your stem is strong (just like your roots), you can be small but support so many big things. And you can look cute and twirly while you do it.

Did you go a pumpkin patch this weekend?