Wednesday, February 29, 2012

3 Ways to Debrief

After school, we institute our sifting and sorting routine.  We hang up coats, put away our shoes, and carefully empty the backpacks.  We sort each paper, display art projects, and clean out the lunchboxes.  The whole process takes only 15 minutes. 

If we don't do this, the mess and mayhem of the day simply tumbles into the next day and the next after that.

I realize it's the same for me mentally.  Living with flair means I sift and sort the day.   What did I learn?  What do I need to tell others about?  What would I do differently tomorrow?  I'm sorting, displaying, and cleaning.  These three questions provide the perfect debriefing. 

I have a friend who calls and tells me simply that it's time for me to debrief.  She encourages me to sift and sort the day, put things in order, and repack the truth for tomorrow. 

Blogging, for me, is the grand debriefing.  And each day, I find one great thing I learned, one great thing to report, and one thing I might do differently tomorrow. 

Tomorrow, I think I need to drink less caffeine!  And, now that I'm thinking about it, I will not eat handfuls of chocolate tomorrow just because a neighbor had a bowl of candy out. 

Did you debrief today? 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Instead of Shopping

I know it sounds strange, but one of my favorite activities since moving to Pennsylvania involves walking the woods in search of shed deer antlers.  The deer in our woods shed their antlers right around this time, so it's fun to hunt for them.

Shed Deer Antler
They blend right into the forest floor--like some dropped bare branch from a tree--and discerning them from their surroundings makes for a supreme challenge.  Plus, rodents immediately come and eat the antlers.  If you find them, it feels, like my neighbor said this morning, "like serendipity."

Serendipity!  A happy and unexpected event! Some women feel this way about finding a great pair of shoes on sale.

I get it from antlers. 

I keep an antler by my writing desk.  My brother-in-law gave it to me after he found it in North Carolina.  I love this little antler.  It's always symbolized the deep hope that I can find a remnant, some beautiful and mysterious thing, if only I'm devoted to the search.  

We'll go back out into the woods this afternoon.

What objects in nature have you hunted?

Monday, February 27, 2012

An Ode to the Gentle Semicolon

I'm sitting in my office at this very moment to print out a grammar exam for my students.  I normally just check for grammatical understanding within their papers, but this semester, I decided to formally assess and reward in an exam format. 

Lucky them. 

Different sections carry different weights.  Writing a sentence with a semicolon, for example, matters much more than using a comma after an introductory clause.  At least it does to me.  It's because the semicolon symbolizes so very much in the world of writing with flair.

If you can use a semicolon, you understand the romance between sentences; you see how one sentence flirts with and amplifies the other.  If you can use a semicolon, you're offering a complex sentence structure that unveils the complexity of your own mind.  You're an expert.  You have authority.  You have insight. 

The semicolon reiterates.  It's a gift to the reader with its gentle nudge of explanation.  It's the most considerate of punctuation marks; it offers another way to understand and another way to see.  While the colon insists, the semicolon suggests

Here.  Hold my hand.  Come on this journey with me. 

I love the gentle semicolon. 

How is your writing life today? 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Thistle Self

I'm standing before a bowl of artichokes.  I have no idea what to do with them.

Forget it!  This is too much work.  

I remember that an artichoke, as a kind of thistle, repels everything in nature.  No one comes near a thistle; it's too dangerous and painful.

But there's a great, soft heart in there, and I will find it.

I will continue to draw near to what seems so unapproachable in myself and others.  Every time I try, God shows me an authentic self, a great heart, and a beautiful soul. 

I will also let my thistle-self be found. 
Do you have stories of unapproachable people that became dear friends?  Were you an unapproachable person that someone chose to love? 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What You Really Want

I’m vacuuming.  I’m in the worst mood as I think about the day ahead (laundry, dishes, cleaning), so I beg God to send me relief from all this work. 

Just then, the power goes out in our neighborhood.

I throw myself onto the bed.  “Oh, great!  I can’t even vacuum now because the power went out! What a horrible day!  God, please let the power come back on so I can work!” 

I imagine a great heavenly chuckle.  What do you really want? 

What do I really want?  I have no idea. 

What do I want, God?  What do I really want? 

The answer arrives:  I want to be able to give thanks in all circumstances: work, rest, convenience, inconvenience, light, or darkness.   Vacuuming or not.  Thank you for the electricity, and thank you for a power outage.  

Did you have an opportunity to give thanks to "all circumstances" today? 

Friday, February 24, 2012

No, You Go First

Early this morning, I'm driving to campus for a meeting.  I'm half awake, and the day hardly shimmers with beauty in the drizzle.

I come to a four-way stop sign at the exact same time another car reaches it.

The driver, an older man, points to me and waves.  "You go first!" he mouths and smiles.

"Me?" I point to myself.

"Yes," he nods.

"Really?  Me?"  

I drive on, feeling a burst of love that people do show kindness and insist that others go first.

Did someone let you go first today?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bravery and Kindness: What it Takes to Be Together

I'm asking the children in my neighborhood what role they play and have played in building our neighborhood community.

I'm also interviewing them about what makes it hard to form communities.  

I realize that every single member matters--even the toddlers--when it comes to creating a neighborhood.  These little ones have wisdom I can glean. 

I start with my own daughters.  "What is your role here?"

The oldest says she's a "Fitness Team Leader" because she hosted the neighborhood basement fitness groups and encouraged her friends to come to Monday Night Fitness group in the parking lot.

My youngest says her role is simply showing up to play.

Leading and participating both matter.

"Why is it so hard for some neighborhoods to come together as a community?" I ask.

The oldest says, "You have to be brave.  You have to get over insecurities and confront any bullies.  You also have to be kind.  That's why it's hard for people." 

Kind and brave.   Living with flair means we move out into our neighborhoods with bravery and kindness.

What makes it difficult for people to devote themselves to a neighborhood in this generation?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Little Cabin in the Woods

Solitude and silence both require faith.

You sit down for the day in a cozy little cabin by a big mountain, and you have to believe certain things: 

 You must have faith that stillness constitutes its own form of productivity.

You must have faith that the real you--and all her honest and unspoken thoughts--won't terrify you when you meet her. God can handle this unruly woman. 

You also have to trust that God will help you find your way out of the dark woods when you walk up towards the mountain. 

He will.  

It was a great day away! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Better, Greater, or Otherwise Different

Today, is a special day.  It's going to better than, greater than, or otherwise different from all the others.  That's what special means:  better, greater, or otherwise different. 

When life catches up to me in a collision of stress, uncertainty, or exhaustion, I truly need a special day to recharge.  Do you? 

Otherwise different for me means one thing:  solitude.  

I'm an off-the-charts extrovert.  I've never played solitaire.  I write novels to invent more people to spend time with.  Even when I'm blogging, children run circles about me while I'm texting friends. 

So I arrange six hours of solitude in a little prayer cabin in the woods today. 

I really did.  Me!  Alone for six hours in a tiny cabin by a stream. 

I have a journal, a pen, a Bible, snacks, coffee, more coffee, and of course, leftover Chinese food.  I might lose my mind with all this time alone.  Either that, or I'll meet with God in the refreshing solitude of an otherwise different day.

I'll report back on my adventures in solitude.

What would better, greater, or otherwise different be for you?  

Monday, February 20, 2012

"Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work." Oswald Chambers

This morning I remember Oswald Chamber's quote that "prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work." 

I think of all the ways God draws people into prayer.  It's not only beauty and celebration, but also confusion and suffering.  What if everything I experience functions as God's bait to reel me into prayer?

I'm here, God.  Your servant is listening.

This is today's greatest work. 

Do you have special times or places of prayer?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

When I Searched for Just One Beautiful Thing

We leave the house to walk and search for something beautiful. 

"Tell me when you see it," I say, camera in hand.  My oldest says it's good I have her along; children see better, hear better, and feel better than adults.

"It's because we are closer to things.  We are shorter and smaller and listen naturally." 

"Yes," I agree because it seems true and right. 

We spy an unusual yellow--unusual because it's the middle of winter in Pennsylvania--and stop immediately.

Witch Hazel?  I'm not sure.  The bud unfolds in circus ribbons of yellow and red.

Witch Hazel Unfolding

A bow on a package or the tight curls of tissue in flowers made by hand turns this winter day into a marvelous event.  The literary scholar in me remembers Bakhtin's carnivalesque:  the world turns upside down through humor and chaos to subvert the dominant power or atmosphere. 

I need this carnival of color today.  It subverts the winter mood I've suffered all weekend.  Who made these?  I wonder and smile.  It's so bright and festive that it's actually a little ridiculous. 

We search for a beautiful thing, and we find it.  We know it's beauty.  We stop and cannot be anywhere else.  In our thoughts we ask Who and How.  We find ourselves delighted, delivered.

Did you see one beautiful thing today?  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Garbage You Make

For a class project about our community, my daughter must record every single piece of trash we throw away.  Recording it like this amazes me; it's not even noon, and I'm made more garbage that any person should. 

I am not helping my environment, I lament as I see the plastic milk carton, the paper towels, the fruit rinds, and the coffee filters.  Then I remember our compost pile.  I ask myself, "Is this thing in my hand really waste, or can I use it somehow?"  I can compost, recycle, and reuse.  It's so easy, I realize that, in part, I'm just simply lazy.

I'm lazy!  

It's funny how recording things raises the kind of awareness I need. I lose weight when I record what I eat.  I gain health when I record our family's five fruits and veggie servings each day.  I grow spiritually when I keep a record of prayers I offer and scriptures I'm learning. I grow mentally when I learn and record it in a blog.

Living with flair means keeping a record to monitor the garbage in my life.  I don't want waste and worthless output; I want meaningful, beautiful, and beneficial.

Have you ever monitored your own garbage? 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Stay Tethered and Run Free

I heard a story last week about horses that I think about every day now.

A psychologist shared that she grew up on a farm, and she noticed something incredible about her horses during a barn fire.  During a barn fire, all of the animals would run free from the barn except the horses.  The horses would go back into the burning barn. 

Unless they were tethered together

Only if tethered together would the horses flee the burning barn and not return.  The psychologist made the point that as we begin to set ourselves free from dangerous or toxic situations in our lives, we sometimes go back to the burning barn.  Over and over again, we might return to what's not good for us.

Unless we are tethered together

My friends and I now claim we are "tethered horses."   Together we can change our lives and not return to dark places.  As we heal, we stay tethered. 

To tether means to restrict, and it seems restrictive indeed.  Yet when viewed in light of my own freedom, I choose to tether myself to Jesus and then to the women in my community.  We're running from a burning barn out into a glorious pasture, but only when we stay tethered together.

Are you tethered? 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

iPad v. Paintbrush

Today my youngest bursts from the school doors to announce that her little friend will come for a playdate and bring her iPad.

"Really?" I say.  I shrink down, sad and disappointed.  All day, I had been so excited because I found paints with glitter inside.  I pictured a leisurely afternoon with my children painting quietly in the kitchen.

But crafts can't compete with an iPad, and she's so excited.   

"Well," I venture, "I bought a paint set at the thrift store for you.  It has glitter."

Silence. Paints or iPad? 

The little girl arrives with her iPad.  They use it to record themselves and modulate their voices for a few minutes as a cat on the screen mouths the words.

But then. . . but then, the longing looks towards the craft area turn to actual racing to the paints. 

I knew it.  The mess and texture of paints wins.  There's hope for the six year-olds after all.  

What else wins over the iPad?  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How to Ask a Great Question to Get Students to Talk

The first article I ever published in a real magazine revealed the seven ways to ask a great question.  I used to be so good at asking questions!  I remember that article today as I stare out at a group of students who aren't talking.

They don't answer my questions, and suddenly I know the problem:  I'm not asking good questions.

I'm asking the worst questions.  

Closed questions seek one-word, obvious answers.  Insignificant questions don't relate to anything students consider important. Leading questions position the professor as a fisherman baiting students to tell him what he wants to hear. Vague questions nobody can understand.

What makes a great question?

I realize that I might ask how instead of what.  I venture asking why instead of where or who.  And then I understand something new.  If I ask from a place of authority instead of curiosity, the conversation stops.

I step back, frame a new question from my own curious heart, and all of a sudden, they won't stop talking.

I know it's true, as Parker Palmer states, that "we teach what we most need to learn."  If I forget this, then perhaps I should stop asking students questions. 

How have you experienced the power of a great question?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

When Something's Missing (Strawberry Lemonade Bars)

I want to create a special after school treat for Valentine's Day, but I'm out of everything.  No lemon juice for lemon squares; no chocolate anywhere for brownies; no frosting for cupcakes.

I do, however, have strawberries and some pink lemonade mix.  Behold!  People actually make strawberry lemonade squares, and they look so cute for Valentine's Day.

I just love it when what I lack forces me into creative spots.  Praise God for the kind of limited resources that uncover abundance (deep in my pantry where the pink lemonade mix sat, lonely and just waiting).

I need to run out of ingredients more often.  

I find this recipe, but instead of fresh lemon juice, I mix a very strong cup of pink lemonade. And I puree every fresh strawberry we have. 

Strawberry Lemonade Squares

Happy Valentine's Day!

Living with flair means we push through and create new things when we lack certain resources.  There's a lonely something waiting in the back corner just waiting for use.

What's the last thing you made because you were missing an ingredient?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Once You Know, You Can't Unknow

It occurs to me again this morning that some things you can never go back from.  Some things you just can't undo.  Learning to read, for example, forever dooms you to a life of reading.  You have no choice but to read the bumper sticker in front of you, the advertisement on the bus, the message in front of the church, or the billboard by the car wash.

Try as you might, you have no choice but to read once you know how.  The brain makes reading like breathing--involuntary--so you see letters and make the words without really thinking about it. 

Just try and not read this sentence.  What a beautiful and inescapable outcome of learning to read! 

I thought of other things I can't undo.  When I heard the story of God's love for me, I couldn't go back from it.  I couldn't undo that truth, and it changed how I read everything around me.  Once I knew, I couldn't unknow, and now each moment becomes filtered through Jesus's love.

Do you wish I could undo it because it offends?  I can't.  

I'm doomed in the best possible way.  The inescapable outcomes of a life of faith means you'll learn things you cannot go back from.  It's that powerful and that complete. 

Do you have experiences that made you see the world differently forever? 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A First Aid Kit for the Brokenhearted

Two years ago, I wrote about my daughter's theory of bike riding.  As we took off the training wheels, she said, "Little hills mean little boo-boos and big hills mean big boo-boos."  My husband said that we should just find the little hills then, and my 5-year old said, "No, Dad, we just need bigger band aids."

She knew the adventure and the freedom was worth the pain.  

As I continue to find the brokenhearted in our region, I think about the big, dangerous hill that we travel down when we enter into our own pain and the pain of others.  We don't need to be afraid; we don't need to stay in silence. We don't need to stay safe on the little hill. 

We conquer the biggest hill of our suffering, and we'll need a bigger first aid kit.

In this first aid kit for the brokenhearted, I've learned so much about prayer, about truth, about the role of creativity in healing, about the beauty of devoted community, and about the power of God to heal.  I've learned the role of telling your story, of believing the victim, of walking side-by-side, of laughter, of crying, and of rejoicing that, as my friend mentioned this morning, we have "treasures from our trials."

I'll ride down this hill with you.  I've got a great first aid kit right here.

What would you add to a first aid kit for the brokenhearted?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

While Falling, You're Caught

My husband and I walk in the woods in search of icicles. 

I've always been enchanted by icicles.  They possess a strange beauty.

Icicles form because the warm sun melts the snow, but then that water freezes as it encounters the lower temperatures below.  With each attempt to melt, the icicle simply grows longer and more beautiful. 

Little by little, drop by drop, the structure forms.  Just when the water above thaws, freeing it, the cold air below paralyzes it again.

Sometimes, we stay suspended just when we think we're finally free.  We attempt and fail, attempt and fail.  But in it, we grow more and more beautiful.  Conditions aren't right just yet.  We hang on, letting the process work. 

Winter won't last forever. 

Do you love icicles, too? 

Friday, February 10, 2012

"We live only to discover beauty. All else is a form of waiting."

Today in class, we consider the claims of several poets regarding beauty.  Kahlil Gibran claims that "we live only to discover beauty" as if to suggest that nothing else--other than the search for beauty-- matters more to the soul.  Sara Teasdale argues that you know you have found beauty because "it makes the heart break," alerting us to the sorrow and longing that accompanies an experience of beauty.

Ken Weber presents that "beauty suspends the desire to be elsewhere."  You know you have found a truly beautiful object because you don't want to be anywhere else.

Has this happened for us?  Have we encountered truly beautiful things?

Students write about cathedrals, sunsets, oceans, canyons, stars, snowflakes, community, the intricate design of a watch, a musical score, mathematics.  We talk about design, symmetry, surprise, mystery, rarity.  

The whole world aches with it.  

If I haven't found beauty yet today, perhaps I am not searching hard enough.

Did you encounter beauty today?  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Jack Finds True Love

 My one-eyed cat, Jack, has found true love.

He's moved from synchronized napping to obvious displays of tender cat affection. 

He can't nap without her. 

He's come so far:  from wounded, broken, unable to meow or purr to true companionship.

It's adorable to watch.  Adorable things inspire great delight.  They charm.  The world needs more adorable moments to charm us back to simple delight.

Cats hugging: a little delight on a cold, heavy morning. 

Did you see something adorable today?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Pen of One's Own

My youngest asks if she can have a pen of her very own.  We're standing in the check-out line of the grocery store, and we notice a pack of ball-point pens. 

"What would you do with a pen of your own?" I ask.

"I would have so much fun!" she says.  "I would write my name one hundred times with my own pen!"  

"Yes," I say.  "You can have a pen of your own."

I think about all the ways you grow as a person and as a writer.  One day, you press the pen to the page, and it begins.  It always begins somewhere, even if it's just writing your own name down in ink.  This is me, myself, written right here. 

It's quiet in the house because a little writer is writing with her own pen. 

Did you have a childhood object that symbolized something so important? 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Book You Would Write in 2012

I decide to skim my journals from 1993 till now.  Then I reread some blog posts from 2010 till now.  This takes all morning, three cups of coffee, and patience reading all the recorded tantrums between me and God.

I realize that these journals tell a story with a theme and a purpose.  

By the time I've finished, I've read a memoir of a girl's search for. . . something.  And in 2008, she finds what she's looking for.  It was a neighborhood.  Real community.  It sounds basic, boring, and obvious.  But to me, it wasn't basic.  It isn't boring.  It was a secret hidden within and obscured by my longing for fame and wealth. 

How could an anonymous neighborhood be the end of the search?  Why and how would God deposit me in Central Pennsylvania and make all my dreams come true in a little neighborhood

Living with flair means asking yourself the story your life is telling.  Now, this is the book I would write in 2012.  Would you read it? 

What story is your life telling?

Monday, February 6, 2012

When an Enormous Rabbit Finds You

I'm walking through campus to my office with my head looking down into the concrete.  I'm deep in thought about something I can't recall.  I just remember that I wasn't really seeing the sidewalk, and I couldn't even remember how I got to campus.

Those autopilot mornings--the ones where it's all routine and no beauty and rich presence--happen way too frequently in my life.

All of a sudden, a huge brown rabbit hops right by my feet, sits down, and stares at me.

"Excuse me, Enormous Rabbit," I say and watch him slowly edge to the grass where he slips under a bush.  He stays there, watching me.

A Rabbit on Campus

Now I'm really here.  You can't help but experience the day when God sends an Enormous Rabbit to shake you from complacency. 

I look to my left and right.  Does anybody see this giant rabbit?  It's quiet on campus this early, so I'm the only one around.  I kneel down and notice the deep black eyes and soft ears.  I find myself enamored with his beautiful fur and his adorable little nose.  He doesn't run away.  We stay there, watching each other.  Meanwhile, my mug of coffee has poured out onto the sidewalk.  But it doesn't matter; there's a rabbit here! A beautiful, glorious rabbit!

"I'm going to take a picture of you," I say to the rabbit.  So I do. He actually seems to pose for it.

All day, I remember the Enormous Rabbit who blocked my path on campus. It's an Alice in Wonderland kind of day now, but it didn't begin this way.  

Did something happen today to shake you from an autopilot morning?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fighting Before Church is Even Better

The whole family just erupts this morning.  We can't control ourselves!  We're all fighting, and one child cries enormous tears while another screams, "You just make me so mad!" 

I could have pretended that everyone was OK this morning.  I wanted to!  I really did.  I could have wiped my daughter's face and plastered a smile.  Instead, I walk through the church doors and tell everyone what a mess we are today.  Guess what?  I'm not the only one.  So many other families had horrible mornings. 

We're all a mess, and it feels so good to admit it. 

Isn't that what church is for? 

Was there fighting in your house this morning, too?  

Saturday, February 4, 2012

How We Captured Essential Oils From Nature (A Great Experiment for Kids!)

My daughter wants to make real perfume from nature for her science project this year.  I'm learning that she wants to discover the essence of things.

She researches ways to get the fragrance out of the flowers and into little vials for students to guess the essence she's extracted.  She wants rose, grass, orange, cocoa, and lily to start.

Sweet Smelling Roses
We learn that you can, in fact, capture the essence of something.  You can distill it by creating steam (which picks up the essential oil of the flower) and cooling the steam (which then you can catch in a bowl). The bowl of cooled steam, in theory, will contain water and the oil from the rose.  The oil will separate from the water in the bowl, and we can use that oil for our perfume.  

"Will this work?" we ask my husband.  He's the one with the graduate degree in chemistry.

"Yes," he tells us.  I'm so excited!  I'm filled with wonder at the thought of seeing the essential oils.  I'm amazed that you can actually distill a fragrance out of something.  We find easy directions here.   

My daughter fills the pot with rose petals, and we place a brick inside the pot to elevate our collecting bowl.

Then, we let the rose petals simmer on the stove with a bowl of ice sitting on top of the pot.  When the steam hits the icy bowl, it condenses and falls back into our collecting bowl.

This way, we capture the essential oil in the condensed water.

A few hours later, we pour out the collecting bowl.  The top layer of water is oil!  I can't believe it!  We captured the essence of the rose!

Capturing Essential Oil for Perfume

We can make perfume, potpourri, soap, bubble bath, or anything we want with that wonderful smell of rose.  We immediately move on to capture orange oil. 

I'm amazed at the process of capturing essence.   Distill means to purify--to separate out--that thing I wanted, that one true thing.  It requires such extremes of heat and cold.  In my own heart, I think about the extreme places of pain and joy, sorrow and rejoicing.  I think about times of instability and unrest.  In the midst of this dramatic process, God distills some essential thing.

He does it because that fragrance released can bless a hurting world. 
What thing in nature would you want to capture the essence of?

Friday, February 3, 2012

What Band Would We Listen To Together?

Students arrive to class with earphones deep in their ears.

"What are you listening to?" I ask one.

"What?" he calls back.  I point to my ears and exaggerate the words with my mouth. 


He nods back at me, takes the earphones out of his ears, and says, "Blu Exile."

"Blu Exile?"  I ask.  I find the band on youtube and bring up the song for the class to hear.  It's a rap song.  I listen, trying to think of something to say. 

"I like how the background vocals make this so layered." 

We listen to the song together, and the student smiles.  I tell the class, "Maybe we can play a song from one of your favorite bands at the beginning of class." 

One student who rarely speaks says, "Awesome!  That's awesome!" 

I remember the story of a man who had a very rebellious young adulthood.  He hated everything and everyone, and while his life fell apart with drugs and alcohol, most everyone in the community gave up on him. 

This man tells the story of how his grandma would come visit him and sprawl out on his bedroom floor to just listen to his music with him.  She never preached at him or asked him about all his bad choices.  They'd sit together for hours and listen to all his heavy metal bands.  A few years later, when this man felt so hopeless and depressed, he remembered how his grandma loved him and never judged him.  He knew because she listened to his music with him.  That simple act reminded him somebody cared about him and wanted to enter into his world.  It encouraged him enough that he changed his life and didn't commit suicide.   

That story sticks with me.  I thought about it today when that student told me about his favorite band.  You never know what students are really feeling and what hardships they experience.  What if I just listened to their favorite band with them in those few minutes before class starts?  Maybe they'd feel seen and cared about and not lost in this huge world.

I'd love to know your favorite band.  I admitted I love country music already, so it's your turn! 


Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Million Ways to Prosper

I'm reading Psalm 1 (where it says whatever we do will prosper), and I notice all the things I wanted God to "prosper" in my life.  I've scribbled down everything from boyfriends to book contracts in that narrow margin. 

This particular Bible was given to me by my great friend, Elizabeth, back in 1995.  I therefore have 17 years worth of hopes and dreams written in the margin of this Bible.

I notice something as I look at all the things that didn't ever seem to work out.

The promise in Psalm 1 is this: 

Blessed is the man
   who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
   or sit in the seat of mockers. 

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
   and on his law he meditates day and night. 

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
   which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
   Whatever he does prospers.

I wonder for the first time what that verb "prosper" really means.  Very few of my dreams in the margin came true, but does that mean they did not prosper?  In the midst of failure, broken dreams, disappointments, and unanswered prayers, did I nevertheless thrive?  Did I nevertheless meet God?  Did God not use it somehow? 

Whatever I do, God prospers it.  He makes it succeed and thrive in a million incomprehensible ways.  

I might not see it until 17 years later.  I might not ever see it, but the promise in Psalm 1 is that whatever I do prospers.  

Whatever we do today will prosper.  

Do you have an instance where something seemed like a failure or a disappointment and God actually used it to prosper you? 


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Don't Bother Being Fake

Yesterday, the neighborhood children run in and out of my house, delighting in the unseasonably warm weather.  Some are barefoot and trying to skate on the melting ice, and others are running frenzied circles around the tree.  One of my daughters has mud splashed up her legs.  One child has found the cat brush and attempts to brush her own hair with it!

"Everybody stop!" I cry.  "A mother I haven't met yet is bringing her daughter to play, so could everybody just act normal?  I don't want this mother to think we are all crazy wild animals around here!"

One little girl stops running and looks at me with a deep serious shake of her head.  She says, "Mrs. Holleman, we shouldn't even bother.  She's going to find out the truth anyway." 

I burst out laughing, and suddenly, the wild scene in my front yard becomes a source of comical, wonderful joy.  

She's right. Why fake it?  Living with flair means I don't put on a show.  I don't bother; you're going to learn the truth anyway.  That poor mother might not ever return, but at least she knows the real me. 

Here's to being real in February!