Monday, September 30, 2013

Who Cares About Your Blog?

This morning, I spy two different blue jays. I watch their behavior all morning. I recall the day in May 2010 when I saw other blue jays in my yard.

It's been over three years, and that blog springs to life in my memory today. I loved reading it again, and I hope you will as well.

Living with flair means we reap the benefits of blogging; I have a searchable record of every single day of my life (except for that one day in Kansas) for the past three years plus.

If you wonder who cares about your blog today, my answer is that you do. You do! One day--maybe three years from now--you'll be so glad you recorded a moment that might have been lost forever.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

When it Looks Like Chaos and Abandonment

My sassiest daughter was playing school with her big sister this morning before church.  Apparently, they'd set up a whole imaginary classroom with imaginary students. All of sudden, the little one starts stomping around with her hands on her hips.

“I can't do imaginary anymore!” she yelled. 

I laughed out loud. Watching her with her hands on her hips, saying in exasperation, “I can't do imaginary anymore,” gave me the same feeling as when I hear her singing that Sugarland song about not settling. There I am, driving down the road, minding my own thoughts, and this little girl will belt out:

I ain't settlin'
for just getting' by
I've had enough so-so
for the rest of my life. . .

It's the kind of sass I like in a girl. She doesn't want so-so or imaginary, and neither do I.  We want to fully inhabit the lives God gives us.  We are learning that ordinary is extraordinary when you figure out what you can learn from it.  We aren't settlin' if we can help it.  We aren't letting one moment go by without finding out what it means. 

We are getting better at it.  This morning, in the cool breeze of 9:00 AM, something caught my eye as we pulled out of the driveway.

Blue and wispy like the tip of some fairy's wing, leaves danced across the base of the oak tree by my house. I stared harder, confused about the blue leaves tumbling around on the lawn.  My husband stopped the van, and I got out. There, like tiny crumbled scraps of blue construction paper, balls of feathers unfolded to show little beaks. Obviously abandoned, obviously fallen from a high nest, these bluebirds strained their heads and wings hopelessly. They seemed cold, sure to die, and starving. I looked up through the branches of the oak tree. High up, higher than the rooftop, the tangle of sticks and leaves sat.

The whole family gathered solemnly around the oak tree. Believing we were seeing dying birds, the girls shouted: “We need to call the pet store! We need to call animal rescue! Help!” We all ran inside, frantic as we tried to find the phone book. My husband, calm and sure, went to the internet to find out what to do.

And we prayed.

A moment later, my husband spread the good news: These weren't dying birds. They were fledgling birds. There's a big difference.

Fledgling is a great word. It describes a young bird (or person) who is new to the scene. This person has just left the nest and is almost ready to fly. They still need help, but as they flop around, looking hopeless, they are actually building strength to fly. To the inexperienced observer, a fledgling looks like a dying bird. The feathers look all rumpled and broken, and the body is limp. What I saw, when I looked at those bluebirds, was chaos and disaster and, worse, abandonment.  

But it was actually a highly controlled, intentional situation.

Later, I sat in church, so thankful for the truth about my fledgling times. What I see as chaos, disaster, and abandonment (by God or others) is actually a highly controlled, intentional situation. God knows I need some time to strengthen my character and my resolve. He knows I need to flop around a bit first.

And I was thankful that my daughter who can't do imaginary didn't have to this morning.  She could sit and look right out at the real world in her front yard.   And this girl who won't settle for so-so learned that rescuing birds isn't about removing them from their situation or creating better circumstances.  Sometimes it means keeping them right there in it because it's where they are supposed to be.  

Living with flair means that I might reinterpret chaos, confusion, or even disaster as part of a highly controlled, intentional situation.  God, like the mother bird, knows exactly what's going on.  Later today, I saw that mother bird seeking out each fledgling with a worm in her beak.  She found all six of them, no matter where they had tumbled, and nourished them fully.  They'll fly by evening. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Greatest Temptation in the Christian Life

I've been a Christian a long time--since 1985--and I find that one thing tempts me more than anything else.

It's the temptation to live a life of self-effort rather than one of spirit-filled dependence.

I rely on myself. I do it in my own strength. I am filled with anxiety with all my micro-managing. I work harder in all my power. I attempt my spiritual disciplines with all my energy.

Aren't you tired just reading that sentence? I am. It gives me a headache.

I remember the day in 1997 when a woman shared with me about spirit-filled living. It seemed too good to be true. We looked at the scriptures together (mostly Romans 8 and Ephesians 5), and I learned that I can ask the Holy Spirit to control, direct, and empower my life.

I turn from self-effort. I do this by faith.

I can surrender control of my life and invite God's spirit to live a supernatural life through me. Otherwise, the Christian life isn't just hard; it's really impossible. It's really not good news at all if I have to work harder, in my own power, to do anything.

With God's power in me, I'm increasingly filled with the "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5) and have a mind "governed by life and peace" (Romans 8).

Really? Is it that simple?

Yes. The good news of Jesus is really good news. But I find that every few months, I'm tempted away from this reality back into the drudgery and enslavement of working harder in my own power.

So today I remember this simple and joyous truth.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

It Looms

This morning, my youngest receives an invitation to loom. Yes, the boys and girls gather to loom.

They bring their Rainbow Looms and their tackle boxes of little rubber bands, and they weave all sorts of designs. They make bracelets, necklaces, rings, and anklets. They weave the fishtail, the triple single, the hexafish, the rose, the tulip, the starburst, the zipper, the waterfall, the bridge, and more.

It's a little crazy. I love it because nobody asks to watch television or play video games. They do ask to watch instructional youtube videos.

I love the Rainbow Loom for how it gathers boys and girls together for hours to weave. It reminds me of something ancient and something communal. It's a kind of pleasure with no negative consequences.

So let's loom.

Friday, September 27, 2013

I've Gone to Seed

Today, I consider things that go to seed. The expression, "go to seed," normally refers to loss; things that deteriorate, worsen, devitalize, or fall apart have "gone to seed." 

It's a funny expression, especially when you think about gardening. 

In gardening, allowing plants to "go to seed" means you let them enter into a new phase: seed production. The plants direct all their energy into a new generation. The resulting seeds will scatter and take root. Some gardeners claim that these seeds create the strongest, most durable plants. Going to seed, in this case, isn't terrible; it's wonderful and necessary. What looks like loss for the plant is really multiplying (too many to count!) growth. 

I think about John 12:24 and how the seed that falls and dies produces many seeds. If it doesn't fall, it just remains a single seed. 

If we seem to the world that we're deteriorating, falling apart, and losing our productivity--especially in these tasks of parenting, community care, and teaching young people--we think of it as going to seed. We're directing energy into a new generation. 

As we should. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Subtle But Wonderful: It's Happening

On campus today, I notice the beginning of something new.

Subtle but wonderful, the leaves begin to change in Pennsylvania. I love this new season. I'm walking in a painting. I'm traveling through a dream. 

I love autumn. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Simple Way to Improve Your Teaching

No, it's not more name games (although they help)!

It's one thing I often forget. During every class, teachers neglect the need to assess for understanding

Regularly. Two or three times per concept! 

But how? Some ways include asking students to summarize verbally or in writing; to demonstrate the concept; to teach the concept to a partner; or to apply the concept in a different context. 

Sometimes it's asking students for immediate application in a real-world scenario. 

Normally I think of assessment in terms of big exams or papers, but really, great teachers assess as they go--in small ways--that allow the student to learn, not just prove themselves in some final moment.

I think this makes for great parenting, too.  It's less stressful! It's more joyful! 

I'm thankful for teachers who checked for my understanding along the way.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

4 Things I Learned from Camping with the Youth Group

Well, I survived! I actually slept in a tent (sort of), roasted my dinner over a fire, and endured a torrential downpour on the way to the bathroom.

All in all, I loved it. I learned some amazing things, too.

1. It's emotional. I forgot how full of zeal and joy young people are. I forgot how raw their emotions are--both good and bad. I forgot how deeply they experience God. For example, during one my first conversations, a girl shared about a hard situation in her life. I said, "That must be so hard."
She said, "It was until I met Jesus." I listened to some high school volunteers talk about their devotional lives and how they study the Bible together before school. They love to talk about their love for Jesus in such passionate ways. No cynicism! Such hope!

2. I'm the adult. Sometimes I don't actually feel very adult. When you work with young people, however, you are the adult. I found myself responsible for driving, getting gas, tending to emergencies like a shampoo bottle that exploded inside someone's duffle bag, answering all the questions, cleaning, providing food, etc. It's so good to be in a situation that has nothing to do with me; in fact, you surrender your rights to sleep and good coffee on trips like this. You can't insist on your own way. Camping with the youth group exposes any selfish tendency and invites me to die to myself. I grew up a little last weekend.

3. I won't avoid hard things in the name of comfort.  I'll be honest: it wasn't pure bliss the whole time. I entered right into it, though. I let God provide what I needed in the midst of it. When I returned home, I threw myself on my bed and said, "I'm never doing that again! I'm so tired!"

But I didn't mean it. I will do it again.

4. Youth pastors are the most amazing people in the world for what they do. That's all.

I loved loving those young people, listening to them, and learning from them. My daughter enjoyed having me with her, and for that, I'm perhaps the most thankful.

Monday, September 23, 2013

How to Stop Comparing Yourself: You're Appointed for That

I'm learning another path to freedom from comparison, jealousy, insecurity, and even fear. Two Bible verses inoculate me against these kinds of temptations: 1 Corinthians 3:6 tells me that "the Lord has assigned to each his task." Ephesians 2:10 reminds me that "we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

I realize that some of us are simply appointed for certain externally beautiful, prosperous, joyous things, while others seem appointed for suffering, disappointment, loss, or failure. Is God not still in charge? Is God not still assigning--with great care, specificity, love, and purpose--our task (whether pleasant or challenging)? Is our prepared "good work" suddenly less meaningful because it looks different from another's?

I'm reminded that we're sovereignly appointed for our tasks and our good works. No one has the same tasks. Externally, we compare and measure ourselves against one another and end up in places of jealousy, insecurity, and sometimes fear. But the way out (at least for me) is to always remember what I'm appointed for.

It might be harvesting raspberries, walking with my neighbor, writing, cooking dinner, leading a quiet Bible study, helping my daughters with their homework, making snacks, grading, and teaching. I'm filled with peace when I realize this is what I'm appointed for today.

And I pray that I enter into the path of freedom where I receive my specific tasks with joy and confidence.

I'm appointed for this.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bringing Back the Best Autumn Craft

It's acorn season! My youngest gathers a bowl of them, and she brings out her old nail polish for our Super Cool and Easy Autumn Craft . She loves this activity. She remembered it from last year!

I store her painted acorns (from this year and last) to display in a little bowl as part of our table centerpiece.

This year, she's adding some flair in the form of glitter hearts and polka-dots. Go for it!

I note that the crafts you think they won't remember are the very ones they bring back year after year as family traditions. What I thought was just one fun afternoon last year now marks the beginning of a new season. Painting acorns with our old nail polish just might become a generational tradition.

You never know what children latch on to and make meaning and memories from. I like to remember that living with flair means memory-making and traditions from simple little things: acorns and nail polish.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Exhausted

I'm writing this on Friday for tomorrow's post because I'll be camping with the youth group! I'm a parent volunteer on their camping trip. Yes, you may laugh. No, I didn't wear my pearls (well, I did wear my pearl earrings, just no necklaces). Yes, I agreed to stay in an actual tent. Yes, I brought coffee.

Yes, I'm afraid, and I have many friends praying I will survive the night.

I'll report back Sunday, but meanwhile, please pray for High-Maintenance Me.

As I write this, I remember with joy and thanksgiving every youth group leader / parent that drove me in a church van, talked to me about God, listened to my incessant talking, answered my questions, played messy and ridiculous games with me, introduced me to great music, showed me a different way to live, and loved me exactly how I was.

I think about all those youth group leaders who spent time with me when nobody else would, who lost sleep for me, slept in strange places for me, fed me, drove me, paid my way, and endured the rain for me.

They did it once for me. I'm praying God gives me the strength to be just like them.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Glitzy Little Resistance

This morning, I notice the way the rose bushes stand secure, mature, and large against the trellis. In just a few months, they've grown. The leaves display a certain shimmer, so I bend down to look.

Each rose leaflet wears a diamond necklace of dew. In stark contrast to those menacing thorns, the delicate dewdrops signal a glitzy little resistance.

Yes, we have thorns, but we also also have little gifts to receive this morning. Even if it tried, no thorn could scatter what God appointed for those leaves.

They stand alongside--but can never pierce--those leaves.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Get a Little Closer to It

This afternoon, a treacherous and enormous--and most likely poisonous--spider casts a terrible shadow onto the drapes. From my vantage point, I see a crawling terror the size of my fist.

(Cue horror movie music in the background as I tiptoe slowly to the window.)

When I pull back the curtain, I find a tiny little spider. It's a little jumper spider.

Completely harmless.

I use my phone to zoom in on him. He's furry. He has bulging eyes. He has strange green and white markings. I observe him for a good while, nearly nose to nose (spiders don't actually have noses; they breathe through a slit in their abdomen!).

I think again about all the things I first fear. I remember that when we pull back the curtain, examine the terrible thing, and stand nose to nose to it, it often transforms before our eyes into something interesting (and completely harmless).

We study the thing we fear and get even closer to it. Behold, we see it anew, and suddenly, it no longer terrifies.

That thing you fear only casts a big shadow. In reality, it's a small thing.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When Light Intervenes

In the late afternoon sun--right around 5:15 PM--light saturates the overgrown, untended, and chaotic backyard garden.

I notice that when the light intervenes, the most unlikely plants take on a certain beauty.

They can't help it; in the right light, anything might become beautiful. I think this must be true.

When light intervenes, people and circumstances that seem unlikely candidates for it, actually shimmer with beauty.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

It's OK to Ask

This morning, I read the simple prayer of David when he was being persecuted by Saul. He prays: "I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer."

Don't you want to know what he asked? Don't you want to know what this great request might be?

It's this: "Show the wonder of your great love."

Show the wonder of your great love for us today. 

Show means to "make visible," to "display," or to "allow to be perceived." Essentially, David needed to see a tangible demonstration of God's love to encourage his heart.

Yes! Make it visible to us. We need tangible today, God. We need to perceive you. It's OK to ask this.

David asked for this, and so shall I.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Reminder from Tozer: "No Common Act"

I find an old quote in one of my journals from A.W. Tozer:

"It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular; it is why he does it. The motive is everything. Let a man sanctify the Lord God in his heart, and he can therefore do no common act."

I like to remember this. Sanctified, even the folding of laundry and the washing of dishes, even the picking of raspberries, the making of beds, the cleaning of toilets, and the shopping for groceries elevates from common to extraordinary.

Why we do what we do matters more than what we do.

We do no common acts today.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The 10 Glorious Verbs of Psalm 65

I read Psalm 65 as someone obsessed with verbs.

My students know my great love of verbs; they weasel "grapple with" and "fritter" into their papers because they know such verbs send me clapping.

So I'm reading Psalm 65, and I discover glorious verbs about God:

He answers us with awesome deeds of righteousness.
He brings us near.
He calls forth songs of joy.
He enriches us abundantly.
He drenches furrowed places.
He levels hardened ridges.
He softens.
He crowns.
He clothes.
He mantles.

Our God does things.

I ask for Him to answer; to bring me near; to call forth songs of joy within me; to enrich me; to drench any dry and withdrawn parts with His love; to level all my hardened spots; to soften me; to crown my year with bounty; to clothe me with gladness; to mantle me with fruitfulness and joy.

I love the pure verbs of God.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Best Breakfast Ever

Lately (twice a week even), we have made the most delicious family breakfast. You must try this! Imagine children running, skidding around the corner. Imagine a spouse hovering in anticipation. Imagine family members having their breakfast wishes come true.

It's crepes! We use Alton Brown's All-Star Easy Crepes Recipe. You can whip this up the night before so the batter's all ready for your 7:15 AM breakfast. I add a dash of vanilla and a teaspoon of sweetener.

The crepes take just a minute or two, so before we cook them, we arrange a Crepes Bar of both savory and sweet ingredients. We crumble bacon and scramble some eggs for the savory lovers; we pick fresh berries in the backyard and provide lemon juice and powdered sugar for the sweet lovers.

We've deemed Wednesday morning (when we need a joyous mid-week boost) and one weekend morning our Crepes Day.

I highly recommend this as the Best Breakfast Ever.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Even the Cat Has a Rainbow Loom Bracelet

My youngest is now making rainbow loom bracelets for the cats.

I just wanted to report this in case you needed a little laugh.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Things They Remember

A former student stops by my office today to catch up on her life and request a recommendation. She asks me about my current students. I tell her that I'm still trying to win them over and pretend that I'm cool.

She laughs and says, "Well, you should tell them about the time you watched the airplanes land instead of going to class when you were younger. Or tell them about your neighborhood pancake breakfasts. Make sure you tell them about your neighborhood."

That's what she remembers from class (besides all my favorite verbs). She remembers my off-hand, short, seemingly inconsequential life stories; that's what connected her to me and helped her learn from me.

Building rapport with students means we don't just share our knowledge. We share our lives. I didn't remember sharing those stories, but she did.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Because I'm So Loved"

I'm unloading grocery bags into my car. It's hot and sticky outside, and I'm dreading the walk to return my cart to the store.  Then, an older man (gray-haired, wobbly, and adorable) asks if he can return my cart for me. He has his own cart in one hand and grabs my cart with the other.

"Yes!" I call after him as he trudges away with my cart. "Oh, thank you! Thank you! Why are you so kind? Why would you do this?" I continue to call after him, so thankful and pleased that kind people exist in this world.

"Because I'm so loved," he says.

I stand there, car keys dangling, amazed at the truth of it.

He's so loved. He has nothing to gain and nothing to lose. He lives his life differently, and I noticed it. He's so loved, so he knew just how to love me at that tiny moment that came and went in the grocery store parking lot today.

When we know we're so loved, we overflow with it.

I'm so loved by God that I have nothing to gain and nothing to lose. I do everything because I'm just so loved. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The One Who Does the Most

My colleague and I conclude today that the student who often appears the most disengaged can be the very student thinking the most deeply.

Maybe, just maybe, the more silent and separate the student becomes, the more her brain works. We cannot assume that silence or staring off into space means what we think it means. We favor the talkative, energetic, busy, over-producing student because we misunderstand what's happening inside a student's mind.

I hear the story of a challenge presented to a group. Three group members tackle it head-on with eager involvement while one sits aside, apparently bored and consumed with his media. As the other three try and fail to solve the challenge, the disengaged student calmly announces the solution the others cannot see. He'd been thinking all along. He'd been problem solving even as he stared at the screen.

His way of thinking looked different from what we praise in the classroom.

I remember that sometimes I do my best thinking when I'm doing something else. Sometimes I have to talk and talk to get to a solution, and other times, I have to watch television and let my mind work on its own in that mysterious process where thoughts roam without pressure. It might seem like someone's "wasting time" when really, the brain's working in its own way.

Maybe the one doing the most is the one doing nothing at all.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Protecting Your Friends

Today, a friend asks me to protect her from over-scheduling herself. All morning, I think about a friend's function as protector. 

"Yes! I will protect you! I will help you say 'no' and not ask too much of you!"

Friends should indeed work to keep one another from harm, but I seldom think of friendship like this.

I want to ask my friends this question: How can I help protect you? From what or whom? 

I realize we all need protection--spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially, financially, or in any other way.

I need protection from desserts containing coconut.

I also need protection from trying to micro-manage my children.

I need protection, like my friend, from doing too much. I need protection from discouragement and burn-out in my teaching life. I need protection from afternoon coffee that keeps me up all night.

I need protection from watching too much news and obsessing over it.

I need protection from pride, anger, impatience, and gossip.

I'll stop now.

I love thinking about friends as protectors. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Put Your Records On

I share with my students (who were born the year I graduated from college) what it was like when I went to the record store to buy my very first album. 

It was Michael Jackson's Thriller, and I played it over and over again on my record player. 

My life has a soundtrack, and I love telling my students about it. Mine of course, includes lots of music from the 80's and early 90's. I didn't have headphones, by the way. Back then, we listened together more than privately. 

I love listening to music with people. My youngest and I danced in the kitchen to Bruce Springsteen's Hungry Heart yesterday (the Italian Mama would approve). Right now, my oldest and I sing out the lyrics to Phillip Phillips Gone, Gone, Gone as loud as we can. 

A few days ago, a student asked if we might listen to Kanye West as we wrote in class. We did! Later, I suggested Jack Johnson or some contemplative piano music. Tomorrow, I might just play John Waite's Missing You because it's a great example of saying one thing and meaning another. 

Living with flair means filling my life with music and sharing in the musical tastes of my family and students. My husband--right this very minute--is digging out his college CDs for us to listen to again. It's going to be U2 and Counting Crows. Actually, I know it's going to be REM. He has every single one of their albums. 

We'll put that record on just like old times. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

One Step Ahead

Today I realize how important planning is to maintaining my sanity this fall semester. I learn from other moms how to stay at least one step ahead so any given day doesn't feel so overwhelming.

This means meal planning and meal preparation on Saturday so the week goes smoothly (especially with nightly activities). I don't do this well! Do you have tips for us?! I never imagined how busy life could get with a middle schooler!

I'm attempting to subdue this week before it takes the lead.

Today, I make chili and a casserole dish of Chicken Divan to freeze for our busiest days. Later, I chop veggies for quick salad preparation during the week.

Last week wiped me out. The days raced on ahead of me with me holding on for dear life. 

We actually aren't even that busy, but by the end of the day I have no emotional or physical energy to cook.

Stay one day ahead. This way, I lead out and don't trail behind the day.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Two Things to Remember: Nevertheless and Through

On Friday mornings, I pray with my neighbor for our children. I've come to love writing down her wisdom. Today, she reminds me that if God doesn't take us out of a hard situation, He'll walk with us through it.

Yes. Through it. He will walk with us through it.

Then, later, another wise friend--who was so happy I've returned to helping with youth ministry--reminds me that we often are led to do crazy, unexpected things. We might be called to do something we don't feel quite ready for, skilled in, or even happy about. "Nevertheless, we move forward," she says.

"Nevertheless!" We repeat it together with one finger pointing into the air like we're charging full steam ahead.

Nevertheless, I move forward into places God leads. He will walk me through whatever's coming.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

God Restores Lost Things

Lately, I'm realizing that God brings back things I've lost. He really does. Sometimes, I pray about things I miss from different seasons of my life. I miss my days working at Camp Greystone as a camp counselor. I miss youth ministry from my twenties.

Well, it turns out God sometimes brings things back to you. This year, for example, I wrote devotional material for campers and staff at Camp Greystone. I wrote to one of the directors that I wish I could just be there.

"You are here!" she wrote to me, referring to those devotionals.

I am there--through my writing. It feels like I'm getting a little bit of that lost season of my life back.

And last night, I returned to my first love--youth ministry--by becoming a parent volunteer with the middle school ministry at my church. My oldest asked me to. She's in 6th grade and still thinks I'm cool.

So there I am, leading my favorite games, serving snacks, dancing to worship songs, and slapping high-fives all around just like I was twenty-two.

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling twenty-two.

Sometimes, it all comes back again.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Snacks, Snacks: 5 of Our Favorites

As I prepare my pantry and refrigerator for after-school snacks, I realize others might want some healthier snack suggestions. I get these ready and out on the counter for when they burst through the door, throw their backpacks down, and run to the fridge (sometimes with friends in tow):

Hummus and pita (slice some cucumbers and carrots along with it)
Grapes and blueberries
Cheese slices with crackers (add some pepperoni slices to the plate)
Trail Mix (our favorite is popcorn, pretzels, and chocolate chips all mixed together)
Apples and peanut butter.

What are yours?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Releases Easily

I've learned to pick only the raspberries that release easily into my hands. I know they're ripe and ready to enjoy this way.

I enjoy the morning sun, the glistening dew, and the smell of wet grass.

I think of all the things in my life that come easily when they're ready, when God appoints them, and when I'm ready. I remember Proverbs 4 and how the "path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day."

I pray for God to put me on the that clear, bright path and that I'll wait for the kind of harvest that releases easily, in perfect timing.

Monday, September 2, 2013

We Once Knew Danger

We spy a glorious climbing tree at the park, and I set my children loose. I remember my 7 year-old self running free through the neighborhood and finding a tree like this.

I climbed to the very top and peered out over the city. The wind whipped me. The tree swayed. The branches snapped and barely held me up.

I knew real danger then. We all did. Life was different.

I rode my bike alone (without a helmet, with no hands) all over town.

I jumped across the creek to try to land on the opposite bank. I balanced on fallen logs over deep waters. I fell out of trees so that my mother--nearly fainting from the blood--took me to the emergency room to remove part of a branch from my arm. I still have the scar.

My children don't have scars. I monitor everything. It's all about safety. It's all about risk management.

But as I look up into that beautiful tree that rises up for miles, I send them up into it and walk away.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Inhabiting Their Perspective

We remind ourselves in this family that most conflict comes from a misunderstanding of, or a lack of willingness to, inhabit another's point of view. We're learning--on this micro level--about diplomacy.

What does it mean to negotiate? What do we do when negotiation cannot (and perhaps should not) happen because compromise violates a deeply held conviction or moral stance? What then?

With one daughter starting Student Council and another who simply loves to argue, we're entering more deeply into conflict-resolution and decision-making when folks don't always agree. As an instructor in a classroom divided over various national and international concerns, I jump inside a student's cultural context to see what kind of soil grew that particular viewpoint.

"Oh, yes! I see what you mean and why you feel this way! I understand!"

This is the work of living together. This work doesn't end; it's our most important work as citizens.