Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I Went to Meet a Tree

I learn from the Italian Mama about an oak tree in our neighborhood that's over 200 years old.  It's a ten minute stroll from my house, and I've never seen it.  This is why every neighborhood needs an Italian Mama who knows the secrets.  She's the one who told me where to find the hidden vernal pond.  She's the one who knows this land.

I'm thinking about the oak tree all morning.  I have to see it; I have to touch it; I have to thank it for being here all this time, witnessing lives lived right here.  My friend and I see the oak tree's arms raised above the houses, and she takes off running.  "There it is!  It's right here!" she cheers and points.  I run behind her, full of joy and awe. (Every neighborhood also needs the kind of friend who not only agrees to walk with you to meet a tree, but who also runs with joy at the sight of it.) 

We're going to meet a tree! 

With those wide branches, it feels like the arms of God bestowing a blessing upon my head. 

Oak Tree over 200 years old
You have to dance around a bit when you stand next to something this big. You have to step way back to capture the whole thing.

But you also have to lean in close and run your fingers along the veins and wrinkles of its skin. 

I love ancient things.  I love the physical evidence that time passes and that new generations come and old ones die.  In 200 years, another woman and her friend will run and dance around this old oak tree.  I'm aware, suddenly, of my own mortality.  But I'm equally aware of one thing:

I'm here right now.

Psalm 90 requests, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."  As I touch the old oak, I know my days here are numbered.  The tree makes me step back

I number the days, anticipating and recording the wonder of God, as sturdy and expansive as the oldest oak in our town. I'm full of joy as I stand with my friend, and I can't wait to tell the Italian Mama what it felt like to see the tree.

Once again, I learn that living with flair has nothing to do with fame, prestige, or wealth.  It has everything to do with beauty in community. 

Do you know the oldest thing in your town?  When you visit it, do you become aware of your own mortality?

Monday, January 30, 2012

If We Had a Mile

On the walk to school, a normally shy and withdrawn little girl comes to my side. 

"Guess what?" she asks, her eyes huge. She watches me with her mittens folded together and her boots kicking the ice. 

"What?  Tell me everything," I respond (because I have a whole mile to listen and nothing to do but walk with her).  And then, I learn all about dolphins. 

Dolphins.  That was the door that let me into her heart.  I think about how--if only I had known--I might have asked about dolphins last year. 

If only I had known!  I realize that every person I meet today has a deeply held love of something.  Maybe it's dolphins or coconuts or turtles or guitar.  I want to make the kind of time and space to hear about it. 

I want to give you a whole mile today. 

If you had a mile to talk, what would you want to talk about today? 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Littlest of Treats

This morning after church, we visit the grocery store and let our daughters run to the very back where all the bins of "penny candy" sit.  For just a few coins, they can pick out chocolates or taffy or jelly beans of any flavor.  They fill a little bag, weigh it on the scale, and print out the price tag.

My daughter feels as if she's hit the jackpot in chocolate.  She finds chocolate made to look exactly like smooth pebbles.  She holds up her bag of candy while I put the price sticker on it:  35 centsMy oldest has found green gumdrops, and for 19 cents, she's happy for the entire afternoon.

How much does it take to add a treat to the day?  Something little--under a dollar--can make an ordinary Sunday seem different. 

Living with flair means we don't forget the power of the littlest of treats. 

What's something that brings you pleasure that costs less than 50 cents?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Single Moment

This week, I find a quote from Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges.

Borges states, "Every destiny, however long and complicated, essentially boils down to a single moment — the moment when a man knows, once and for all, who he is."

In a few weeks, I'll begin to teach memoir writing again, and I'm asking myself and my students if the statement rings true. Can we remember falling upon our own identities in a single moment?

I know it sounds silly, but I remember the single moment when I looked out my front door and longed to be part of a neighborhood.   I remember calling people I didn't really know to invite parents and their children to ride bikes and jump rope in the front yard.

In that moment, I felt a calling:  I was to devote myself to building a neighborhood.

It would mean walking to school with neighbors, Neighborhood Fitness Group, potlucks, Playdates for Dads, and Creative Women Nights.  It would mean not going anywhere but here, not leaving my street, not seeking all those things I've always wanted in my life that involved fame, wealth, and prestige.

It would mean putting down roots right here in Central Pennsylvania.  It would mean blogging about it.

It would mean realizing that community--real community--met a need in me I didn't know I had.   

So my moment came in my own front yard in August of 2009. 

Do you have a single moment?

Friday, January 27, 2012

One Benefit of Imagining the Worst

This week, I learn that sometimes fear and imagining the worst motivates folks more than hope.  Instead of putting up photos of your dream life, viewing photos of terrible situations (the opposite of what you hope for) motivates more powerfully, especially in terms of fitness and weight loss.  Researchers wonder if the brain responds more rapidly and thoroughly to fear

Then, I read this morning how people who imagine how bad a situation could be tend to overflow with gratitude and love.

Is God trying to teach me something?  But I love positivity!  What about living with flair?

So I try it.  I'm in the shower, and I imagine--with all my heart and all my senses--a freezing cold flow against my shoulders.  Suddenly, the reality of that warm, steaming shower makes my heart so very thankful.  Thank you God for this shower!  Thank you for water in my city!  Thank you for warmth!  Thank you that I can even stand up unassisted in this shower!  Thank you that I'm thankful and not depressed right now.  Thank you that I can blog about it!  Thank you for the internet!  Thank you for blogging!  Thank you for readers!  Thank you for. . .

I find I cannot stop.  I imagine what's worse, and indeed, it works today.  Living with flair means that negative thoughts--how bad it could be--fuel motivation and thankfulness.  Who knew?

Did it work for you?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What We Let Ourselves Near

This morning, the Local Artist and I confess our problems with proximity.  We're on a health and weight loss journey together, and we realize we cannot let ourselves near the cupcakes and cookies without eating them all. 

"I'm just too weak," she says. 

"Me too," I say. 

"I have problems with proximity," she says. 

"Exactly.  This is my problem exactly," I agree.  

We can't resist internally assimilating whatever we let ourselves near.  Sometimes, it's right and good to flee the cupcake table at the school musical's reception.  Sometimes, it's right and good to flee situations that test your resolve whether emotionally or spiritually. 

The apostle Paul advises us to flee from anything taking us from God and "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness" instead.  I love that verb flee!  It produces the kind of image I'm carrying around today:  A woman turns, arms flailing above her head, as she runs for her life from the pink frosted cupcake towards the gentle carrots.

Sometimes, you just have to flee. 

What's one thing you're fleeing from today? 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Why are they wasting their time talking about me?" What Tom Bradley Thinks JoPa would Think of the Fuss

I've spent all day thinking about Joe Paterno.  I've navigated my way through media vans, through tears, through crowds, through countless twitter updates.  Even now, I'm watching the student-lined streets ready to erupt as the funeral procession begins. 

Then, I hear former coach Tom Bradley on the news say to a reporter that if Joe Paterno were watching this fuss about him, he would say, "Why are they wasting their time talking about me when there are so many things they could be doing to help other people?" 

Good point.  I think this is why we can't stop talking about him. 

Are you thinking about Joe Paterno today? 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Places You Can't Reach Alone

Today I observe the way cats bathe each other

Cats know that some places you just can't reach alone: behind the neck, way down the back, the shoulder blades.  So one bathes the other.

I'm watching Jack and Snowflake, and I realize that some places in my own heart I just can't reach alone.  I think about the beauty of good counselors, wise friends, skilled teachers, and discerning pastors.  I think about spouses and children.  I'm not meant to reach some places alone, and God sends understanding people to journey there with me.

One translation of Proverbs 20:4 reads, "A person's thoughts are like water in a deep well, but someone with insight can draw them out."  When I don't know what I'm feeling, and when I don't understand myself, I find someone with insight.  

Cats know that some places you can't reach alone.  Living with flair means knowing we aren't meant to.  We find people to journey with us to the deepest places in our own hearts. 

Have you found that some places you can't reach alone?   

Monday, January 23, 2012

Another Delay!

I notice this morning the beauty of delay

When you live in Central Pennsylvania, you receive early morning phone calls alerting you to delayed school openings (normally two glorious hours) due to icy roads. With a delay, my daughters have the time and space to think about what they really want for breakfast.  With a delay, they reconsider outfit choices.  With nothing and no one to rush them, they relax as the morning passes.

Thank God for delay! 

I'm thankful for every delayed dream, every delayed plan, every delayed relationship.  That time and space allowed me to ask what I really want.  I could relax and reconsider. 

When I want something right now, I have to remember the beauty of delay.

Are you thankful for a time when your plans were delayed? 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I Don't Mind

Today, I don't mind the Pennsylvania landscape.

Our Little Sledding Hill

The Big Wide World
The wide space of it soothes the soul and brings you to the kind of simplicity you've wanted all your life.

You settle down into it.  

My Snow Angel

You find angels everywhere.

Just over your shoulder, even, a deer pays a visit.

The Deer Come Watch
Do you finally love right where God has you? 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Best Way to Wake Up: Pretend You're Six Again

This morning--before my eyes open, before the cats clamor and fuss for food, and even before coffee--my daughters bounce and squeal on the bed.

"You won't believe it!  You won't believe it!"  they giggle, urging me out of bed.  "It snowed!"

Snow in January

They run to the window with eyes big.  Their little bare feet jump up and down.

Oh, to be a child again!  I envision a day of shoveling snow, negotiating with the ice, and battling the traffic.  They envision a day of sledding, snowmen, hot chocolate, and snow angels.  Of course you wake up happy when you see the hope and possibility of it. 

I sit up in bed, and I suddenly remember this truth:  that little child still lives in me and in us all.  Today, I'm going to have hot chocolate and make the world's plumpest and tallest snow angel in my backyard.  I'm going to sled down the big hill at the park, and I'll go faster because of my size.  I'll bring the carrot for the snowman.  You bring the hat.

Can you remember it?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Where You Return

Today I remember an author who shaped my spirituality in my mid-twenties.  During that deepest darkness of despair--when you've lost hope--certain written voices bring you home.  Henri Nouwen's Return of the Prodigal Son will always stand as that book that led the way Home. 

I pull the old book off the shelf and see the places I've underlined.  It's been over a decade. Back then, far from God and far from even myself, I read of Nouwen's own search for both.

Nouwen describes a particular movement towards God in this way:  "It is the movement from the glory that seduces one into an ever greater search for wealth and popularity to the glory that is hidden in the human soul and surpasses death."  He tells his reader that "[We] are called to enter into the inner sanctuary of [our] own beings where God has chosen to dwell.  The only way to that place is prayer, unceasing prayer."   In that sanctuary, we encounter Jesus and--not surprisingly--the very self we've lost along the way.

It sometimes takes years to realize that wealth and popularity do not bring one Home.  The more hidden and more sparse a thing is, the more glory it reveals.  The counterfeit glory shines so brightly, but it cannot compare to the illumination within when I die to myself.

Do you have spiritual authors that help bring you home?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

When All Else Fails, Bring Chocolate

Sometimes I find myself having to attend meetings I don't want to attend with people I don't know.  Sometimes I have to enter into hostile classroom settings with students who scowl about grades or class assignments.  Sometimes I find myself at odds with a neighbor.

As I prepare for a meeting today, I turn to Proverbs 18.  Here, the wise man says, "A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great." Some translations say a gift enlarges the way of the giver.  Others claim the gift opens closed doors and connects you to people. 

I know what I need to do.

I buy chocolate.  Really good chocolate.  I enter the room with an armload of it.  "I brought chocolate!" I exclaim.  The gift never fails in classrooms, meetings, and even between friends with hurt feelings.  You stand on the doorstep, ring the doorbell, and just hand over the chocolate. 

I remember the story of a little girl who had her first fight with her best friend.  Days pass.  Finally, one of them sulks over, still mad, knocks on the door and says, "My mom wants to know if you want some chocolate."

The other girl, angry and frowning says, "Of course I do."  She then smiles and says, "Come in and let's play."

When all else fails and you don't know what to do, bring chocolate.

Have you experienced the power of giving a gift to enlarge your way?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

We're No Fools

We actually bundle up in warm coats, hats, mittens, and thick socks and boots to walk to school this morning.  Two neighbors call to applaud our bravery.  We feel proud, strong, and so very courageous.  Look at us!  We walk a mile to school in freezing weather for exercise and community! 

We travel exactly to the end of our driveway. 

We had not accounted for the strong winter wind or the thick ice under the snow.   

My husband calls out over the biting wind, "Is this wise?" 

With our heads burrowed into our coats, we turn, hurry into the warm house, and decide that sometimes, it's foolish to be brave. 

We call the neighborhood children to tell them a warm van will pick them up. 

Living with flair means we know our limits; we swallow our pride; we choose wisdom over foolishness.

Did you have to swallow your pride yet today? 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Best Two Hours of the Day

I have a new theory about my day:  My day contains two great hours of creativity, productivity, and motivation.

It all goes downhill after that.

My two great hours (discovered after years of introspection and analysis) fall between 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM.  During this time, I'm clear-minded, focused, and enthusiastic.  After this time, I'm hungry, sleepy, and less creative. 

Because of this new insight, I realize that if I'm going to write, that's the time to do it.   And because of this new insight, I've observed in my daughter an interesting pattern:

My oldest daughter's best two hours are between 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM.  She loves homework then.  She's full from dinner, cozy in her pajamas, and situated at her desk with all her pencils.  She's creative, joyful, and motivated.  She's tapping her feet, humming a tune, and rolling out her math problems in no time.  Hello, little night owl. 

I, however, like the after school homework routine.  I want work and then play.  I want homework first.  But this isn't her rhythm.  I'm learning this only now. 

I'm thinking about these things today.  I'm learning to ask the family what their best hours are for creativity and work.  I might need to change our schedule to accommodate our best two hours of the day.  

What are your two best hours in the day?

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Know It Doesn't Sound Romantic

My husband buys me a space heater as a surprise.  I know it doesn't sound very romantic.  Just wait. 

He leaves a trail of words taped to the floor that eventually lead to my frigid, Arctic Basement Office.  Here, I find a small Lasko space heater.  I turn it on, and immediate warmth embraces me right here in the bitter cold. 

I'm in love.  

He knew I was cold down here.  He knew about my freezing little hands on this keyboard.  

One of my friends says that her love language is warmth.  If her husband can warm her, she's happy. 

I sit here in the basement, and I'm warm and happily married. 

Can't practical gifts be romantic? 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Seeing Inside Your Knot

I'm trying to untie a jumbled mass of a thin gold necklace from my daughter's jewelry box.  A tangled knot on the chain challenges me to the point of frustration.  Finally, I put the chain down and find the tip of a pencil to loosen the knot. 

I don't even know where to begin; I just dig around inside that knot until I see the tiniest bit of space. 

With even that small bit of space, the knot starts to unravel.  The chain releases its tension, and I can see inside the trouble.  Strand by strand, the whole thing smooths out. 

I start thinking that this is what great teachers do.  This is what mothers and fathers and spouses do.  This is what friends do, especially those friends who know the exact verse of Scripture for every problem. 

They help us unravel what's so tied up in us.  They loosen us up enough to see inside the knot. 

I want to be a pencil tip in a knot. 

Do you have the kinds of friends that help you unravel your problems?  What kinds of questions do they ask you so you can see inside your knot?   

Saturday, January 14, 2012

One Thing Leads to Another (Pictures of the Cauliflower Mac-n-Cheese)

First, flaxseedNow?  I'm pureeing cauliflower.  I have photographic proof that I actually served cauliflower mac-n-cheese (only it wasn't cheese; it was cauliflower).

Adventures in Cauliflower Sauces

My oldest says, "This is delicious.  Who knew?"  My youngest says, "No way. I love it."   My skeptical husband doesn't say a word because his mouth is full of delicious pasta.

It's like some great momentum took over and healthy food just finds its way in now.  I steam the cauliflower, put it in my blender (the same one that makes the blueberry-spinach smoothies), add milk, some Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and there you go.

Flaxseed started this whole thing.  Living with flair means making a simple change--adding one new thing in--that just might change everything. 

I'm dying to know what thing you added to your life that created a snowball effect of good things?

Friday, January 13, 2012

One-Eyed Jack Learns Synchronized Napping

You know the story of sweet Jack.  We found him wounded and frail with a broken tail, a cut mouth, and a missing eye.  We nursed him back to health, and one day, he found his purr.  Next he learned to meow.  Eventually, he rediscovered normal feline behaviors and even developed courage.

We know he's not very pretty to the untrained eye.  

Jack with One Eye

But oh how we have fallen for this little cat! When he's not basking in the sun, he's weaving between our legs, purring and expressing the deepest love.

Yesterday, I find Jack's newest and most favorite winter activity:  Synchronized Napping. 

Can I Nap with You?

His best friend, Snowflake (affectionately called Snowball due to winter weight gain), naps in the same spot every single day of her life, and now, Jack joins her.

Synchronized Cat Napping
He matches her curve by curve.  I watch him, and I think about friendship.  We meet folks where they are, synchronizing.

Aren't animals amazing?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Attempting Homemade Naan

Last night, I attempt homemade naan (Indian flatbread).  I'm learning that trying new culinary tasks--especially ones with great potential for failure--represents part of living with flair.  I survived Italian Cooking Lessons, so why not try Indian food?

If I'm not risking disaster, maybe the task isn't worth trying. 

I make the dough and add fresh chopped garlic. With garlic, you press down until the clove escapes from its prison of sticky paper skin.  I imagine the work it takes to release a person from her protective shell; that pressure accomplishes a beautiful thing in us.  I have to remember this.

I let the dough rise all afternoon, return from teaching, and then roll out the dough.  I apply brushstrokes of rich yellow butter.

Rolling Out the Naan Dough
Then, I let the dough bubble and rise on the griddle. The smell of this garlic naan beckons the children toward the kitchen, their noses leading them.

Naan Bubbling on the Griddle
We feast on the Indian Naan with yogurt raita (I add coriander, cucumber, and diced tomatoes). 

Later, I think about how far I've come with these experiments in cooking.  I want to move on to other experiments and unexplored regions of my abilities.  Thank you for joining with me in these "experiments" of living with flair.

What was your last life experiment? 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

When Your Greatest Strength is Weakness

This morning, I hear the Local Artist pray that our friend could "have the strength to rest" today.  The expression sticks; it takes strength to allow oneself to admit weakness, need, and dependence.

Authentic folks display weakness.  They live in the beauty of weakness.  They confess they lack power and ability, and that makes them the most honest and the most grace-filled of all.  At that point of confession, the power of God surely enters.  

Living with flair means we have the strength to be weak.
What is it so hard to admit weakness? 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"You Keep Glancing"

This morning, I enter the elementary school's gym to retrieve my daughter for her dentist appointment.  It falls right in the middle of her very first band practice.  I sneak in, and I'm overcome with the scene.

The fourth and fifth graders--at their first band practice--do the best they can.  It's loud, squeaky, but actually beautiful.  It's orderly.  My daughter holds her flute with the other flautists, and as I watch her play, it seems like she's truly separate from me now, truly her own girl.

I never played a musical instrument.  I never once read a piece of music or obeyed the ethereal dance of a conductor's hands. 

Now the conductor holds his baton in a particular way, and the children stop their music.  Before I motion for my daughter, I hear this:

"You have to watch me so closely that you'll know if I'm telling you to stop or go, quicken or slow.  I won't use words, so you have to watch my hands so closely so you'll know what to do."

I'm standing there, full of delight, thinking about the ways God directs the tempo and sound of my life.  When He doesn't speak, I watch for the hand of God and that ethereal dance that tells me to stop or go, quicken or slow.  The Holy Spirit always seemed musical anyway, a Conductor indeed. 

Later, on the way to the dentist, I ask my daughter how she manages to look at her music and the conductor at the same time.  What an impossible focus on two things at once!

"You learn," she says.  "You keep glancing."

I keep glancing: the music and the Music.  I want to be part of this grand performance.  I want to notice and obey the gestures of a God who leads. 

That little band made me so happy I wanted to cry!  Do you have memories of elementary school music?

Monday, January 9, 2012

It Never Gets Old

The new semester begins, and I enter the room to greet a fresh group of students.  The magnificent people sitting there fill me with wonder each and every time.  What a privilege to meet them!  What a sacred vocation to teach!

It never gets old.  They take out pen and paper and write.  It starts again--this beautiful journey--where I ask them to walk, and I find them dancing. 

I sit behind the desk, and I gather their stories into my heart.  At this time in history, on this very day, I enter their story, and they enter mine. 

What a blessing to say a task "never gets old."  Do you feel that way about your work?  Why or why not?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Things I Must Admit

Today, as I put the house back in order from the holidays, I turn up the radio and belt out the song with my horribly out-of-tune voice. 

It's a country song.  It's Carrie Underwood.  My husband comes into the kitchen, and I confess, "Honey, I'm sorry, I'm back to country music.  I just love it, and I can't help it." 

I do love country music.  I love the sentimental, predictable, sappy, small-town, bad-rhymes, and twanging guitars of it.  I love it all.  I know I'm supposed to be refined, academic, discerning, and above this kind of music.  I'm supposed to have good taste. 

I know it's not intellectual.  I know that the formula is standard in most country songs:  Someone's going to have a broken heart.  God usually appears by the last line.  And finally, it's going to be patriotic of all things. 

I love it.  I love it all. 

I had to admit this to you.  I hope you'll still like me. 

Do you have a favorite country song?  Anything else you'd like to admit? 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Under Occlusion

Right about this time of year, my hands inevitably crack and bleed.  The knuckles, red and leathery, reveal winter fissures that make me wince. 

Nearly every part of my skin, if not already chapped, is vulnerable to the bitter cold winter air. 

And right about this time of year, I wear gloves everywhere.  I even wear them to bed.  I especially wear rubber gloves when I'm doing housework.  These tender hands need a barrier of protection against the elements.

My doctor friend says to put my hands "under occlusion" (covered with gloves) after using lotion to keep the moisture from evaporating.  Under occlusion, my hands have a chance to heal.  Occlude means to cover, block, or close, and I've decided it's a great winter verb. 

My whole day becomes about protecting these little bleeding knuckles!  My skin isn't as tough as I thought!  I'm putting these hands under occlusion! 

I realize that sometimes that's the season I'm in:  vulnerable.  So I pull back, go inward, and rest more.  I'm under occlusion, and that's right and good.  When I'm in a tender place emotionally, spiritually, or physically, that's exactly when it's appropriate and necessary to produce an extra layer of protection from whatever comes against me. 

My extra layer?  It might be more sleep, more prayer, more nourishment, more fellowship, more laughter.  It's that kind of season, and we aren't as tough as we thought.  We go under occlusion, and we'll be ourselves again soon. 

Do you have a cure for chapped hands? 

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Way to Conquer the Morning (Besides Coffee)

This morning, I wake up so sluggish and crabby that I just can't imagine walking to school with the children.  As I slump out the door, scowling and overwhelmed, I feel my camera in my coat pocket.

At least it's a sunny morning.  Maybe I'll document this grueling walk.

Woods in the Morning

I look out through my lens to follow the light, and immediately, something changes in me.

I see the trees--really see them--and pause for a minute. 

And then I find her:  Some old crabby thing rises up against the morning light.

Letting the Light Find Her

She's lit up, now beautiful, now conquering the morning, now distinct from the gnarled woods.  Rise and shine.  But she's not doing it; she's just letting the light find her.  

Do you have a way you like to conquer the morning (besides coffee)?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Finding the Right Vein

I'm sitting in the doctor's office, and the nurse enters to draw my blood to check my thyroid.  She's been practicing phlebotomy for over 10 years (I never knew the name for it!).  A skilled phlebotomist, she tells me, trains one finger to locate the perfect vein. 

"How do you find it?" I ask.

Venipuncture--the process of gaining intravenous access--isn't easy. 

"I've taught this one finger to feel the bounce of the vein against it when I tap it.  When I feel that bounce, I know." 

I sit back, close my eyes, and let her tap my arm.  Then, she pierces swiftly and confidently; she's gained access, and within a few seconds, she's finished.

A phlebotomist gains access to that hidden life force, that secret current, by instructing herself to feel what locations allow access to it.  I want to gain access to life-giving places, places where God's Spirit leads, places of rich and deep flowing.  I want to pierce life swiftly and confidently and enter in, straight to the heart of God.  Maybe, when I'm not accessing abundant life, it's because I'm hitting the wrong vein. 

Do you ever find you can't access abundant life because you're hitting the wrong vein?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Can't Tell You

I'm eating dinner with my six year old, and she announces that she has the world's best math teacher.  For a little girl who has struggled in school, her report amazes me. 

"She doesn't tell us the answer, Mom.  She lets us learn.  Do you know the difference between telling and learning?"

I feel the flair coming on, and I put down my fork and look her right in the eyes.

"Telling means you just get the answer from the teacher.  Learning means you have to figure it out.  And then you know it.  And then you can solve any problem because you know it."

She tilts her little chin up in the air, proud and confident.  "I can probably solve any math problem now," she reasons.

This, of course, explains why God doesn't always tell me the answer.  He's letting me figure something out so I know it. Oh, the problems I will be able to solve one day!

What is learning?  How do we know we're learning? 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Scratch Life Anywhere

This morning, I read the quote, "Scratch life anywhere, and you find a witness to the Way."  It's E. Stanley Jones again, talking about how life always bears witness to Jesus. 

I stop and ponder.  Hasn't it been true as I've scratched the day, looking for evidence of Something Beautiful, that God's principles appear in acorns, snowflakes, one blade of grass, Lady Slipper Orchids, and even a cat with one eye

That's what I'm doing:  I'm scratching life anywhere--everywhere--and finding God. 

Where did you find a witness to God in some unlikely place (anywhere!) today? 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Hide the Things You Don't Like Inside the Things You Do: A Resolution for 2012

I'm starting to think that flaxseed can solve many problems.  We've decided to use a few teaspoons a day in things like smoothies, sauces, and even mashed potatoes.  Nobody knows the difference, but I promise that everything works more smoothly with flaxseed around.  Maybe it's the fiber, or maybe it's the omega 3's or the lignans.

Whatever it is about flaxseed, my children have more energy and better moods.

So I hide it in the smoothies.  And with blueberry smoothies, you can put in a handful of spinach (it doesn't show up against the deep blue color of the berries) and children drink it down lickity-split.  My sister calls these kinds of smoothies "Sneaky Smoothies," and her children have one every day.  They did not have one sick day last fall. 

So for 2012, we're attending to our health with flaxseed and spinach.  I realize that when you hide the things you don't like inside the things you do, you can stomach almost anything.  I'm coupling exercising with friendship, folding laundry with chatting on the phone, scrubbing floors with new music downloads, and completing stressful writing projects with homemade lattes.

And consuming flaxseed and spinach with berry smoothies.  

Hide the thing you don't like inside the thing you love. That's helping me so far in 2012.

What unfavorable thing do you couple with something you like in order to endure it?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Return of the Hamburger Cupcakes

I ask my daughter what birthday treat she wants for her classroom, and she reports, "Everybody wants the Hamburger Cupcakes!"  I realize now that I'm most known, not for novels, speeches, or books on writing, but for things like Boo Platters, wooden fences, and Green Apple Cupcakes

And Turkey Vegetable Platters. 

And acorn flour

And double-dutch jump rope

Years ago, I told God I would live the life He asked me to live.  I had no idea back then that I would find myself knee-deep in sprinkles and little girls and basement dance parties.  What a glorious life that has nothing to do with fame or wealth or prestige! 

So we set out this morning for the ingredients for Hamburger Cupcakes, and my daughter says, "Mom, we need lettuce and cheese this time." 

This means one thing:  fondant.  I'm out of my league.  I'm in uncharted waters.

But we try it.  We color it, roll it out, and make lettuce and cheese for the Hamburger Cupcakes. 

We're getting better and better.

Happy Birthday to the girl who sent me off into the uncharted waters of motherhood. 

 I've tried apples and hamburgers.  What other cupcakes could I try?