Monday, December 31, 2012

Reaping What You Sow

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

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

What will you sow this year?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Strength and Courage You Need

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Loving Delusions and Seeking False Gods

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 28, 2012

How Else Will It?

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

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

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

"Think of something." 

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Going the Back Way

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

And you get beautiful scenery. 

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

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

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

Am I willing to take the winding back way home?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Larger Hearts and Wilder Yearnings

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

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

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

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


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

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

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

I take it, Lord!

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

I hope you have a wonderful and very merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Loving Well During the Holidays

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Snow Landscape

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

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

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

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


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Out There Alone

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

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


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

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

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

Sometimes we need to go out there alone for awhile.

Do you have fond memories of being alone in nature?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mourning With Those Who Mourn in Newtown

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

I'm grieving with you, Newtown.

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

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

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

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


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Respect Yourself

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

Respect Yourself.

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

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

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

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

When did you start respecting yourself?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Your Best Worst Grade

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

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

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

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

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

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

I might have just assigned you your best worst grade.

Do you have a best worst grade?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Because I Was In the Bubble Bath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 17, 2012

Little Toes

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

And I mean terrible.

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

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

How are you coping with this tragedy?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Build Your Life Around It

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

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

So I write.

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

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

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

Saturday, December 15, 2012

On This Terrible Morning, We Are Grieving With You

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

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

This is a terrible morning, and evil is real.

One day, it won't be this way.

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


Friday, December 14, 2012

"Your Path is Following You"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fret and Fret

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The One You Run to Greet

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Always a Portal

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 10, 2012

I Always Forget

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

But it's only God in us.

I always forget this.

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

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

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

Aren't you tired of self-effort?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

3 Gifts That Change Everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Less Is More (In Sprinkles and in Life)

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

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

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

Too much, and you lose something.

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

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

Friday, December 7, 2012

Ready to Drip Diamonds

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 6, 2012

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

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

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

We forget the why of it all.

Enjoy your Thursday! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Through My Being With You

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

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


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

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

Do you know people like this?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Unparalleled, Unique, and Exclusive

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have a favorite character description in literature?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Small Things in Forgotten Places

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

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

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

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

Have a great Monday filled with small, unexpected things!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Considering Himself Nothing

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

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

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

Practically, I mean.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Come, Let Us Adore

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

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

Come, let us adore Him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you sometimes just adore Him?