Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Becoming a Soothing Presence

I begin to wonder what to do with all the cucumbers from the garden. I'm picking two or three a day, and I'm not prepared for this.

I have dreams of pickling, but I also want to do something with all these pickles before the end of the afternoon. We want cucumber salad!

We thinly slice them, add rice vinegar, a little sugar, and dill.

I learn that the name for the herb "dill" comes from a Norse word meaning to soothe. Eating dill apparently soothes.

I like that. We need a little soothing today. (By the way, I love words that sound like their definition. Soothe sounds soothing in the same way that crackle sounds crackly. . . I digress.) I haven't used the word soothe in over a year, maybe longer.

Soothe means to gently calm.

As we eat my cucumber salad, I wonder about the word. Lately, I've notice how anxiety producing our environment can become. I wonder just how many soothing activities I invite my family into during any given day. With all my energy and talking and scheduling, am I even a soothing presence in their lives at all?  It's a nice summer challenge to think about being a woman with a soothing presence.

Some things do soothe: walks in the woods, gazing at flowers, reading, long dinner conversations, leisurely baths, and drawn-out tuck-ins.

Living with flair means I learn to be a soothing--not anxiety producing--presence.

What did your own mother do to soothe?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Before Cable TV and Home Computers, My Sister and I Did This

This morning, we rediscover the joy of the domino effect. I tell my daughters and their friends that--long before home computers and cable television--my sister and I would spend afternoons creating our own fun with our own minds.

For example, we were obsessed with falling tile circuits. We used scrabble pieces and set up huge mazes. Our cat would paw at the first tile and set off the chain reaction.

Sometimes, I used my own breath to knock that first one down. 

That's what we did, over and over again.

We spend the morning amazed over the effect one tiny push has on a whole sequence of events.

It's a simple pleasure--tactile, exciting, rewarding--that came from afternoons with my sister when we had nothing else to do 30 years ago. I don't remember television shows I watched with my sister. I don't remember movies I saw with her.

But I remember the mazes of tiles.

What did you do to entertain yourself before cable TV and home computers?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

All the Ways You Persevere

Today in church, the pastor remarks that God makes us dwell in dark places, and one of the reasons is to learn perseverance.

How true! I look back at those dark places and realize I did learn perseverance. Perseverance doesn't end with itself; it leads to character and then hope. All those difficult things were a stepping stone to hope.

And hope is so beautiful.

I want to think more about all the ways God is asking me to persevere today instead of hating whatever difficult circumstances come my way. On this very day, I'm persevering through weight loss challenges, a sassy little one, writing rejections, the day-to-day work of keeping a home, and various others situations with friends and colleagues. What's required?  Perseverance through God's power.

My character's growing. My hope is rising. 

I want to say that I persevered. Today my husband and I celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary. We've persevered through so many things that, looking back, we actually cherish those difficulties for what we've learned and how we grew together. We never gave up.

Teach me to persevere, Lord. Help me rise up out of myself to embrace any dark place. Make me strong, full of good character, and overflowing with hope.

How else can we learn perseverance except through difficulty? I'm not sure there is another way!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

I Wish I Did This More

In the five years I've lived here, I've never gone to the Farmer's Market that's right down the road. But today, my neighbor reminds me that a local Italian sells fresh ravioli stuffed with delicious combinations of flavors: salmon, artichoke and asiago, portobello, pizza, goat cheese and beets, asparagus, and more.

Ravioli calls my name. 

A moment later, I stroll with my pound of pepperoni pizza ravioli in my arms. I find I'm drawn in by the fresh, crusty bread from local bakeries and Amish families.

But first, I watch my husband talk about Silver Queen corn (his favorite from growing up in North Carolina) with a local farmer.

"Silver Queen is so old," the farmer says. "We grow a better version called White Ice that you will love." We buy several ears, and later, we agree that it's absolutely the best corn we've ever had.

It feels like such a supreme luxury to go to such a market to buy food for the day. I watch folks carry their fresh eggs away, and I wonder why I'm not living like this all week.

Do you go to a Farmer's Market each week? What do you buy there?

Friday, July 27, 2012

In Only Five Minutes

I look up at the clock and realize I've haven't posted my blog, and my personal deadline is 5:00 PM. There's no real punishment for not blogging every day; nobody penalizes me, and most people just don't care one way or another.

But I care! I love having that moment of reflection just to ask what great thing happened--what moment of flair--that's worth sharing. After 857 days of finding that thing, I'm amazed I just simply forgot to think about it today.

Can you believe it?

But I still have five minutes left of this blogging day. In five minutes, I remember. I remember to reflect. With four minutes left now, I think of the deep purple in the blackberry cobbler we ate, the sweet forgiveness we all had to ask of each other, the cool blue neighborhood pool, and the great storm cloud that hovered over it. I'll never have this day again.

I have two minutes now, and I think about how tomorrow and every day after that, I'm pushing as far into my experience as I can to find that one beautiful thing.

One minute left. Living with flair means we remember not to forget. I can't skate on the surface of my life. I want to dive deep.

Blogging for even five minutes a day is such a blessing!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

What Panic Shows Me

My friend reminds me today that if I feel panic, I'm out of step with God's spirit.

The word originates from the Greek god, Pan, thought to be the source of irrational fear.

Panic drives a loss of self-control, a loss of order, and a loss of peace. It signals that I've let fear--real or imagined--in somehow.

If I feel panic about anything from finances to friendships, I've lost God's perspective. I remember in Deuteronomy 20:30: "Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified. . . "

When I panic, I rush. I manipulate to get what I want. I begin to over-control. 

I'm beginning to realize that much of my parenting stems from panic.

I ask myself what I fear. What is it, really? Am I afraid of a loss of love, a loss of security, a loss of health? What?

When I name it, I can apply the exact remedy from scripture that soothes that fear. Then, I make wise choices and find my emotions lining back up to truth. 

Do not panic. I've got this. 

What tends to cause panic? 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Or. . .It's Art

I'm roasting enormous beets, and by the time I've unwrapped them from their foil pouches, my hands, the counter, and even the kitchen floor is covered with beet juice.

I don't clean it up right away. Something about this particular stain enchants; it's so deeply red--almost purple-black--except when smeared to the lightest pink. I carefully pour the juice from the pouches into a cup.

It occurs to me that it's either a mess or. . . or. . . it's art

We're going to paint with this beet juice.

There we sit, painting on canvas landscapes made from beet juice.

We turn the stain to paint, and I know I've tapped into some real, true thing. That's how it is with art. We take the deep stain in our own hearts, and we pour it out on a landscape. We make beauty of it for the world to see.

This is either a mess, or it's art. Today we chose the art.

I combined my beets with vinegar and sugar to make a delicious beet salad. What's your favorite thing to do with beets? 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It Returns

My youngest comes to find me early this morning to report the terrible news:

The tomato hornworms have returned.

Tomato Hornworm
These pests destroy my tomato plants, and they are so hard to find that it's nearly impossible to remove them. They blend in so well.

Tomato Hornworm
Every summer, I think the same thought: these hornworms will return, so I have to train my eyes to find them. Otherwise, the harvest is lost.  It reminds me so much of sin in the heart. Evil doesn't come obviously. It never has. Temptation always looks like something right and good at first. I have to train myself to see it for what it is.

And once I rid myself of it, it returns as surely as the hornworm. 

"It's just like sin," I tell my daughter. "Does that make sense?"

"Not really," she says.

I'll try again later. We're training ourselves to see clearly.

Can you believe how huge these pests are? They ate the whole side of one tomato plant!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Dawn, Every Day

My daughter plans a sunrise walk through the forest this morning. We wake at 5:00 AM and bring a flashlight, a breakfast, and sweatshirts. She wants to go alone--no friends, no sister, no father even. Just us. 

I don't know why yet, but she does.

I've never done anything like this before, especially with my own daughter.

I follow her through the dark woods, and we watch as the light begins its slow creep inside. Eventually, we have enough light to see the field. 

She wants to walk and talk about her life--all her fears of growing up and all her joys. She needs to talk about Penn State and then the shooting in Colorado.

Mostly, she wants to see the sunrise and eat breakfast at dawn with her mom.

I think I will remember this for my whole life, this dawn.

It's so hopeful and new; I can't believe it happens like this every single day of my life. There's a dawn out there, and today I felt it with my hand holding hers.

(Permission granted from her to write about this.) 

Have you gone in search of the sunrise?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

What Grows in Dreary Places

After a dreary few days of rain and cool weather, we return to the woods for a walk.

I take my camera because after all this time, I finally know what to expect. The forest follows a predictable pattern: first rain, then a beautiful display of fungi. I can't wait to see what I'll find.

(I'll pause here and thank you for continuing to read. I know it's so strange to marvel over mushrooms. I know it's weird to be fascinated by fungus. I've decided I love beautiful things that come from dark and dreary places. Fungi grow in dreariness. I love that.)

We find laetiporus, sometimes called "Chicken of the Woods" or Sulphur Shelf first.

Laetiporus or "Chicken of the Woods"
It spills from a tree like a humble offering.

Laetiporus Spilling From a Tree
But then, I find something so rare, that I can't believe I'm seeing it. It looks to me like a little white pony rearing up her head.

Monotrop Uniflora or "Indian Pipe"
Ghost Plant in the Woods

This one is monotrop uniflora, also called Ghost Plant or Indian Pipe.

The forest never disappoints after a week of rain. I'm learning God doesn't either after my own dreary seasons.

Fungi can only grow in dreary places. Maybe all truly strange and beautiful things do. 

I know it's a little strange to be fascinated with mushrooms, but I am! Have you seen some great ones lately?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

65 Ways to Act Like a Fool

I'm reading the book of Proverbs and taking notes on what it means to be a fool.

My list grows long. (This is the shortened version below!) I have many ways to grow in wisdom. (The parts about eating, speaking, and sleeping too much always get me!) 

I start to realize how much I long to be a wise woman, not a foolish one. I make my list and put it by my bedside table. I'm humbled as I think about it:

Foolish people
1. Are greedy for money
2. Hate instruction and don't enjoy learning
3. Have no fear of God
4. Are lazy and complacent
5. Take pleasure in evil
6. Are disloyal and unkind
7. Depend on their own understanding without seeking counsel
8. Plot harm against their neighbors
9. Pick fights
10. Envy others
11. Mock people
12. Cause others to sin
13. Chase fantasies 
14. Speak with foul language
15. Commit adultery
16. Have no self-control
17. Love to sleep all the time
18. Lie
19. Kill
20. Sow discord between family members
21. Flatter and seduce
22. Cause grief to their parents
23. Talk too much
24. Squander their money
25. Irritate their employers
26. Harm their own city
27. Gossip and share secrets; enjoy listening to gossip
28. Are stingy and don't like to share
29. Act and feel self-important; they brag and boast
30. Are cruel to animals
31. Always think they are right
32. Trust in their wealth most of all
33. Are quick-tempered, easily angered
34. Waste
35. Use violence
36. Hang out with foolish people
37. Don't leave an inheritance for their grandchildren
38. Don't discipline their children
39. Have many unreconciled relationships
40. Believe everything they are told
41. Act recklessly because they love danger; they have no caution
42. Don't help the poor
43. Speak harsh words
44. Don't pursue godliness
45. Don't think before speaking
46. Love rebellion
47. Accept bribes
48. Hold grudges
49. Nag
50. Don't keep their word
51. Love pleasure
52. Love to drink alcohol
53. Accumulate debt
54. Exploit people
55. Rejoice when others fail
56. Show favoritism
57. Want the highest seat of honor
58. Eat too much
59. Argue with foolish people
60. Conceal their sin
61. Fear people other than God
62. Complain
63. Abandon friends and family
64. Impulsively spend money
65. Act with selfish motives rather than serving

I'm so glad God doesn't give up on me!

Would you add anything to this list?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Unconditional Positive Regard

I learn from a former nurse about the concept of "unconditional positive regard" for every single patient.  Something about the phrase resonates with me because it's about believing the best about people and treating them with respect regardless of what the person says or does. It's about giving equal chances and equal care.

I know this idea has necessary limits in the case of lawbreaking or when being harmed by someone, but generally speaking, it's about kindness. 

15 minutes before learning this concept, I witness a woman screaming at an employee in a coffee shop because he doesn't get her order correct. She stomps her feet, pounds the counter, and begins humiliating the employee in a loud voice. I want to run to that tired worker, throw my arms around him, and comfort him. (I actually do intervene and encourage him briefly; he ends up giving me a free coffee!)

I find myself favoring the employee--showing him unconditional positive regard--because it's easy. But what about the angry woman? What if I had gone to her, put my arms around her, and comforted her?

I'm learning to go beyond my natural, first response judgments and see new perspectives. What if I found the person hardest to love and went to her?

I'm thinking about that angry woman this morning.  I wish I had loved her.

Who do you need to show "unconditional positive regard" for today?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Harvard Research Study Encourages Community Exercise: We're Walking, We're Walking

This morning I read the new Harvard research report about the dangers of inactivity. It's clear: we all need to move more. But what excites me about the report is the praise of community exercise initiatives. Walking to school as a neighborhood, neighborhood fitness nights, and other community interventions actually work.

The work best, the study concludes.

I find myself so motivated for another year of walking a mile to school--and back again--and then again in the afternoon. It takes time, but when the neighbors do it together, it's so fun.

Just the other day, I walked with my neighbor. I'm not sure I would have done it alone. The social aspects of exercise really do motivate me. I'm beginning to think it's the only way I'll move.

Living with flair means we walk together.

Do you have more ideas for community movement?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Can You Guess?

I'm watching this plant every day now. Can you guess what it will bloom into?

Answer: This one will blossom as a glorious sunflower.

I want to harvest the seeds at the end of the summer.

What about these?

These are my absolute favorite (don't tell the Sunflower).  

Answer: Raspberries!

I will make more raspberry sorbet and deliver it to the Italian Mama.

We have no harvest yet, but we have signs and a whole lot of hope. Living with flair has something to do with tending things. It has much to do with anticipation. I love that particular emotion. Anticipation means we're beating the odds; this harvest is going to come. It's happening, folks. We're just waiting.

Don't you love anticipation?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Drawn to a Simple Landscape

We run in the field across the street and through the woods as the sun begins to set.

I take a camera because that particular evening light always illuminates something I either haven't seen before or something I've seen before but never in that way. 

I observe the setting sun's light on the tips of corn plants in a cornfield. I realize that nothing interrupts the sunset when you're out in a great field. No buildings rise up, and no crowds of people block your view.

Maybe this is why I'm here in this town. Nothing can interrupt what I'm supposed to see when I'm sent to a simple landscape. I'm in a cornfield, wondering how I got here, and suddenly so thankful for everything I see.

Do you find yourself drawn to the country sometimes?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Putting All Your Eggs in One Basket

I ask my oldest daughter why she's putting all her library raffle tickets in only one prize box. Our public library gives children a raffle ticket for every 100 pages they read, and they can put a ticket in one of dozens of boxes to win prizes. You can choose weekly prizes or put a ticket in a box for a huge grand prize drawing at the end of the summer.

She puts all her tickets in for the one grand prize, a giant stuffed dog.

"Why are you putting all your tickets in that one box?" I ask her. "You realize that you have a chance to win so many other prizes if you spread them out."

"That's the one I want," she says simply. "Why would I put tickets in boxes for things I don't really want?"

"It's just called 'putting all your eggs in one basket'," I explain.

She's quiet for a minute, and then she says, "Mom, it's the same thing we do with Jesus. All our eggs are in one basket with Him, right? Why would we try to go for anything else when we know He's what we want?" 

Good thing I can drive to the library and be amazed at the same time. 

Don't you just love the wisdom of children?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Prayer Before the Prayer

This morning in church, it occurs to me that I ought to ask God to make my heart ask for the right things.

My stubborn heart often refuses to cooperate, and it likes to plan a course and invent dreams that aren't His. So all my praying in a certain direction is just that: my direction. 

Make me want the things You want. You tell me what to ask for.

That's first.

Do you have your own "prayer before the prayer?"

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Just Something About It

I eat peas fresh from the pod as I stand in our little garden.

There's just something about doing this that brings me right into joy.

You know my love of pea plants.

I pop open the pod, and I gobble down the sweet peas.

I like keeping track of the simplest of pleasures.

Did you enjoy a simple pleasure today?

Friday, July 13, 2012

By the Time I Finished, I Came Out New

This morning, I read a post by Judy Douglass on going low. It's about motherhood, but it's also about choosing the "lowest place" in all things. Judy writes about what it means to "go low": you go last; you give up your plans to defer to others; you sacrifice sleep; you forfeit your own time.

I need to read it. I need it like I need air. I wake up with the little ones bouncing around me wanting to bake cookies, play dolls, read, and swing on the swing with me. But I want to be alone. I want to sleep. I want to read poetry.

They need hair brushed, sunscreen applied, laundry folded, emotions soothed. All day long.

Once, before children, I slept until noon. I strolled downtown to a coffee shop and drank a leisurely cafe mocha while reading poetry books and composing thoughtful poems of my own.

The whole day belonged to me.

Then I became a mother, and I was depressed for years and years. I wrote this in the midst of one of the hardest days, and by the time I finished it, I came out new on the other side. 

Steadfast in Motherhood

Split-pea soup on the stove;
chicken pot-pie in the refrigerator;
ingredients for morning waffles made ahead;
laundry, folded; bed, made.

I’m here, God, with candles lit
in the middle of the day.
Just me, with a steadfast heart,
like some pebble thrown out across
a pond, settled in generations of silt. 

I still believe and wait for wonder to seize me
in the midst of flour, sugar, and peas.

This morning at 8:00 I drove
to get groceries. The check-out line
was long enough for me to read every headline,
study a hundred other women’s lives,
wrapped in silk and chocolates.

I kept thinking of my soft, warm bed
where once, I slept in
for hours, then sipped cocoa, reading poems
in the middle of the day. Maybe here and there
a light-hearted phone call.
Me, pampered, but with a lost heart
wanting freedom
with only myself to please.

God, you have saved me from myself.
You recreated me in a new recipe.
I’m the pebble that shines because of the
elements that cover and consume it.
You let others dine on me and be satisfied,
and I let myself wash away with the dishwater.
You have come, in the midst of myself,
and saved me.  
Have you learned to take the lowest place? Teach me!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Led, Not Driven

Today I remember to calm down with all my driven tendencies to do more, write more, plan more, build a better platform, etc. etc. etc.

I read twitter, and I feel bad about all the ways I'm not being influential or important.

I start to feel driven again.  

Driven folks feel forced to succeed, produce, and excel. Led people respond to the gentle whisper of God's spirit. They accept specific, simple instructions and go exactly where they're led. Everything comes after that--the planning, writing, doing, and building.

Seek first the kingdom and then. . . 

When I'm driven, I'm fearful, frantic, and frenzied.

When I'm led, I'm full of faith, peaceful, and ordered. 

My prayer today: Lord, let me be led and not driven. Your yolk is easy and light. Mine is hard and heavy. When you lead, you bring me to paths of peace and joy. When I'm driven, I find disorder and unrest. I want to be led by you to accomplish the good works you've planned for me. No more, no less, at just the right time. Led and not driven. Amen.

Do you find yourself more driven than led?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Special Thing a Day

As the summer rolls on, some days feel very long.

I find that if we have one special thing--a simple thing--the day changes somehow. It doesn't have to be a long, elaborate thing. It doesn't even have to cost anything.

Today, we gave ourselves French manicures and made a peach popover.

That was it.  That was our big afternoon. For some reason, it was enough. 

I'm going to miss these long days of summers with two little girls underfoot. 


I didn't know you could put fruit in a popover. Delicious! Do you have a good popover recipe? 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My Biggest Writing (and Life) Struggle: Point of View

All week, I revise a novel's point of view. It's hard! The narrator tells the story through the lens of just one character, so I have to be sure his knowledge comes from what only he experiences. Even though I know everything as the author, I can only reveal to the reader what comes from the main character's point of view. 

It's limiting! It binds me to dialogue and observation. I just want to tell everything quickly and obviously, but this would be no fun at all for the reader.

Studying point of view alerts me to exactly how limiting it is. There's a whole larger story that I deliberately don't let a character--or a reader-- access yet. The narrator exists within clear boundaries of a chosen viewpoint for a very specific reason:

It makes a better story.

I have to remember my limited point of view. It's just one character's lens.

I love thinking of God as an Author who knows the whole story. I'm sitting here within those boundaries--accepting what I cannot know and cannot do--and surrendering to the joy of the whole story.

One day, I'll read it.

Have you had that experience of shifting to God's point of view and suddenly feeling differently about your life? 

Monday, July 9, 2012

3 Exceedingly Delightful Things

At 6:20 AM, my husband calls me to the window to see something exceedingly delightful (and seldom seen) by humans.

Two Pileated Woodpeckers perform a mating dance in my front yard. I'm not kidding. The male bows to the female, begins to hop a circle around her, and then flaps his wings around the trunk of a tree to show off his powerful wings.

Who knew they do that?

Then, my children discover enormous Queen Anne's Lace in a field to put in colored water (we do it every summer) for bouquets of orange, green, and purple flowers.

Who knew Queen Anne's Lace grew so big?

Then, I notice that the sunflower my daughter grew from seed in a big pot has changed positions. It's following the sun and the sunflower hasn't even bloomed. The whole plant knows to chase the sun, not just the flower.

Who knew?

We have many things to think about today. Exceedingly delightful things!

Did you observe something exceedingly delightful today?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Create a Little Joy: Grow Peas

We check the garden every day now. We're already harvesting cucumbers, but the tomatoes, beets, and peppers aren't anywhere near ready. 

The sunflower hasn't bloomed; the blackberries aren't black; the raspberries have no blossoms yet.

But the peas are close. Very close.

I'll gather them in a bowl and begin the shucking of peas. The simple work of it makes me happy in ways I never knew I could be.

I'm adding this to my list of things to do to create a little joy:

Grow peas.

Watch their little tendrils vine and stretch.

Watch the white blossoms elongate into pods.

Watch them soften and nearly pop with peas.

Eat them with delight.

A vegetable garden roots me to a sacred experience--a cycle of seed, growth, and harvest--that I love observing.  

Are you harvesting your own garden this month? 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Keep Your Eye on This

I'm walking in the woods for the last time with my dear neighbor who will move away on Monday. It's evening, and the sun sets as we walk.

She's the one who showed me the Lady Slipper Orchids, the one who taught me how to go owling, and the one who walked me to the secret vernal pond.

She walks in front of me and offers final instructions:

"Keep your eye on this," she says. "It's a thistle. In a few weeks, this will be the most beautiful bloom. It looks terrifying now, but just wait."

"I will," I promise her. 

Keep your eye on that.  Just wait.

I love the kind of friends who show you where to look, who remind you to hope in days to come (even when it looks terrifying now), and who know the importance of walking in the woods to stay enchanted by creation.

I walk behind her, and I notice a tree. Something had a home inside of this hole. I don't have to know what it is. I just have to know it's there. I love the mystery of it. 

I'll keep my eye on it and see what I can learn.  

What do you keep your eye on when you walk in the woods?

Friday, July 6, 2012

First Roots, Then Blossoms

I'm standing at the kitchen sink as the bright yellow sunlight streaks across the windowsill in front of me. I check the gardenia cutting--the one that's been sitting in a glass of water for weeks now--for roots.

Not yet. I change the water, remove the lower leaves, and put the cutting back into the glass.

This is going to take weeks.  

It needs roots before I can plant it (although sometimes you can just plant it and wait for root growth if you keep the soil very moist). I have to let the nutrient delivery system grow into place before I can do anything safe with this cutting.

Only then will I plant and wait for the cutting to grow and deliver that particular summer scent of gardenia. It's a Victorian Tea Party kind of fragrance. It's a kind of fragrance that makes you want to mind your manners, slow down, and act a bit refined. I just love that crisp, clean smell.  

The whole discipline and patience of rooting plant cuttings keeps me focused on God's processes in my own life. That certain and absolute reminder that I need strong roots if I'm going to survive settles me down when  I get impatient. First roots. Then blossoms.

Have you successfully rooted garden cuttings? 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Thorough Repentance

Last night, the fireworks show begins with a reading of the Declaration of Independence. I'm listening to the voice boom over the loudspeakers across the valley, and I'm deeply aware of the verbs for the first time in my life: dissolve, throw off, absolve

I'm hearing it again: We totally dissolve this. We will not tolerate this oppression. We will not. We throw it far away from us. 

I think of how very thorough the breaking away is.  There's no going back.

It's a declaration against what comes against the human spirit. It's a declaration against tyranny. As I sit there in the darkness, I consider my own declarations against that which tyrannizes and comes against everything of God in me. I think about repentance and all the ways I want to turn away from sin and move towards God. 

I consider the thorough language of the Declaration of Independence--the great care, the attention to every detail of oppression--and how strong and forceful it becomes. I want to be that thorough when it comes to anything oppressing me and my family and community. 

I feel courage rising in me. I feel another call to battle, but this time, thorough. I look at encroaching sin, and I sever ties; I dissolve, throw off, absolve, and declare a new allegiance. 

Have you ever not thoroughly turned from sin and seen how it comes back?  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Also with the Contrite and Lowly

This morning, I read in Isaiah 57 how God "lives in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit." 

On a day when we celebrate the greatness and independence of our nation, I wonder about the greatness that comes through the deep sorrow--the contrition--we feel over wrongdoing, injustice, and shortcoming. I wonder about the beauty of lowly spirits that come humbly before God to thank Him for our country, declaring not independence, but absolute dependence, on God's great mercy and love.

We declare dependence with a contrite and lowly spirit.

Happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

2 Recipes Worth Sharing for the 4th: Lemon-Blueberry Crumb Bars and Pulled Pork

Today, we make the Lemon-Blueberry Crumb Bar recipe that my mother-in-law discovered (she makes them sugar-free!). This kind of treat disappears within minutes; these bars are so delicious that you'll want to stop reading this blog and make them right now. 

Here's the link to Lemon-Blueberry Crumb Bars.

Then, our family favorite for the 4th is the Pulled Pork BBQ that you'll love. I take a pork tenderloin, throw it in the crock pot in the morning on high, cover it with water and one can of Dr. Pepper (or Diet Coke), and let it cook all day long. Before dinner, I drain the juices, shred the pork, and add our favorite sauce (Sweet Baby Rays or Sticky Fingers). We make big sandwiches out of dinner rolls and coleslaw. 

And yes, there's sweet tea and corn. 

Do you have favorite 4th of July recipes? 

Monday, July 2, 2012

She Claims It's an Exploding Firework

My youngest and I bake a cake for our 4th of July preparations. She chooses strawberry frosting and then assaults the top of the cake with every kind of sprinkle we own. 

I'm about to reprimand her. I'm about to insist she be more careful, more organized, more logical about the decoration. 

She's zealous about it--a little lit fuse--so I say nothing and let it go.

"Mom," she cries out, waving her hands around her cake like it's a true masterpiece. "Look at this! It's an exploding firework." 

So it is.

It is!

Every time I pass the kitchen counter, I see 4th of July fireworks exploding.

Perhaps our truly zealous endeavors must involve a bit of the disorganized, the illogical, and the dangerous. It's the only way to get that particular bursting brilliance across the dark night. And when you capture that lit fuse creativity so natural in childhood, you say nothing and let it go.   

When you get that creative, doesn't it feel like this? 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Time for Silence

All of June, I've felt that nudge from the Lord that something precious and important awaits in my silence.

If you were to meet me in person, you would be laughing right now. You'd be slapping your thigh, nodding in sympathy, and saying sarcastically, "Yeah, right, Heather. You? Silent?" 

Ha ha ha. 

My friends say that I'm a walking exclamation point and "10 women in one body" when it comes to talking. It's been a problem all my life. I just love to talk. One friend says that certain folks have "high disclosure needs," and I smile because I think, "Yes! I just have to speak and tell you everything."

I think the novels I write are simply overflow from all the words I didn't get to say.

I just have so much to talk about.

But not lately. Lately, I'm learning that my input isn't indispensable to every conversation. I'm learning that I'm not the most important contribution to a discussion. I'm learning that God is in control, and I don't need to manage every situation with my words.

I'm also learning that most of my problems (probably all of my problems) stem from my mouth. I think about what I use my words for, and it's normally not good. My encouragement turns quickly to flattery; my discernment turns quickly to criticism; my insight turns quickly to pride; my ideas turn quickly to manipulation to get what I want. All of my great advice becomes about me wanting to be a false savior to feel important.  

What would happen if I stopped talking? Could I do it for an hour or a whole afternoon?

Slow to speak. Quick to listen. God likes this. Something precious and important awaits in this. 

I'm starting to like not talking so much. I'm starting to feel the deep, replenishing, solid joy of silence. 

Do you practice the spiritual discipline of silence?