Friday, January 31, 2014

Giant Frozen Colored Ice Balls on My Lawn

We wake up to giant frozen colored ice balls on the lawn. We love them! They're beautiful! Some creative and whimsical person (was it you?) decorates the front yard with them in the night all stealth-like.

After pondering these lovely orbs, we reason that someone filled a balloon with colored water, froze it, and then removed the balloon.

I love my new and unexpected decorations. I feel the same way I did when the Fudge Fairy delivered mysterious fudge to my doorstep four winters ago (was that you?) or when the Elves decorated the little pine tree in the woods (Maybe I had something to do with that. Don't tell.) Or what about when someone planted tulips on the barren path? (We still don't know you).

Thank you, Mysterious, Creative, and Whimsical people who perform in secret.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Still, Literally

My youngest (who travels mostly by cartwheel and is up at 5:30 AM constructing origami or sewing little doll dresses) announces at 7:00 AM that she is sick. Her stomach feels queasy, and she cannot possibly go to school. She wants to stay in bed and just. . . stay still.

For one who exists as non-stop movement (dancing, jumping, tumbling, and random hopping), her declaration means something. In fact, she tells me, "I don't want to move." (I know she's really sick now).

So we stay put. We don't move.

All morning, I reconsider the notion that when God says, "Be still and know that I am God"(Psalm 46:10) or that He will work on my behalf and I "need only to be still"(Exodus 14:14), this might actually mean to cease movement. 

I'm not sure I could. I'm not good at doing nothing and staying still. It drives me crazy.

But I'm thinking of it as a spiritual discipline the same way I might think about prayer, Bible reading, solitude, journaling, fasting, tithing, or worship. Stillness. Doing nothing but staying still is a kind of doing. 

I practice this beside my little girl who doesn't want to move today.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Your Signature Story

In our memoir-writing unit, we're talking about "signature stories" that work well, not just for friends and family, but in professional settings. 

We watch a short video by Jennifer Aaker, Professor of Marketing at the Stanford School of Business. She invites us to stop telling certain stories about ourselves and start telling new ones--ones that change us and others for the good. Maybe there's a story you should stop telling. Maybe there's one you must now tell. 

A signature story is a story you tell about yourself that changes how others view you. It's a story that you keep telling because it's somehow important to you. It's a story that perhaps has shaped your identity most of all or reveals something essential about you. 

We talk about stories we keep telling ourselves and others. Aaker challenges us to "populate" our portfolios with great stories that showcase who we are, what we value, and how others change from our narratives. In class, we'll be crafting a signature story full of sensory detail that brings a reader on an emotional journey with us. 

All day, I've been wondering about my "signature story." I think about my journey in faith, my belonging to neighborhood, my recovery from depression and anxiety, my encounter with God in Ephesians 2, my experience as a mother, or my decision to blog daily here. Maybe, just maybe, it's all the same story. If I whittle it all down, might each story be the one where I am changed by God? Once this, now this? 

This month, I'd like to work on my signature story--the one I keep telling because it changes us both. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Coaxing You Out

I've been coaxing the kitten from underneath the bed.

Coaxing is a form of persistent persuasion. It's a great verb.

For days, I've reminded dear Merlin that kitty treats abound in our home. I've showed him my lavish affection. I've pet him, brushed him, and scratched behind his little ears. I bring him to his fresh food and water. I invite him to sit with me wherever I am.

My persistent persuasion is working. He's been curling up with me and finally, finally acting like he's part of the family with full rights and privileges here. But then he'll go back into hiding.

Coaxing a kitten out of hiding reminds me so much of God's persistent persuasive techniques to prove His love. It's all right here for you! Come and get it! 

One cat knows this and grows fat and happy on my bed.

As we watch the bird feeders together--waiting for winter birds--I see the contrast between a cat that has all she wants and the bird feeders that hang there simply waiting to be enjoyed.

Come out from hiding and enjoy all this.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

"God's Love Would Be Enough for Me"

My oldest daughter says she's been thinking about me lately and how much I fear that I'll become a terrible mother and somehow damage my family.

She's in the kitchen cooking a new recipe, and she says, "No offense, Mom, but God's love is going to be enough for me. You can't be a perfect mom."

She really says this. This really happened. Then, she adds after a few minutes:

"Maybe I'll want some romance in my life, though, too. But God's love would be enough for me in case that doesn't happen."

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Not Exactly What We Hoped For

We spend the morning filling various bird-feeders with all kinds of seeds. Last night, my daughter won a basket in our school's "Basket Bingo" night. She put one ticket into the "Backyard Birds" themed basket, and twenty tickets into the "Cat Toys" themed one. With her whole heart, she wanted that cat basket.

But she won the Birds (which, upon further reflection, counts as Cat Toys).

This is no small basket. We put all the feeders out, including the special treats. We have four in the backyard and two in the front Weeping Cherry.

Now, we wait. We're all filled up with hope. Even the cats pace around the windows, waiting.

We anticipate them all: various sparrows, pine siskins, cardinals, tufted titmice, blue jays, nuthatches, doves, black-capped chickadees, finches, and many more. According to Penn State's research, some backyard feeders during a Pennsylvania winter have attracted 25 different species of birds.

I love that my daughter wanted one thing, but received something better (that happens to also entertain cats).

Friday, January 24, 2014

What You Saw Has a Name! It's Called "Diamond Dust!"

This morning, I briefly feel like I'm hallucinating (either that or a migraine's coming on). The air around me looks covered in silver glitter. I look up into the bright sky. Nope, it's not snow. I poke my head out of my coat and scarf. Nope, there's no wind blowing the snow around.

I'm seeing something beautiful and a little bit haunting. It's like little diamonds surround me as I walk.

I learn something astonishing: I'm seeing the meteorological phenomenon of Diamond Dust.

Diamond dust is a ground level cloud of ice-crystals that normally occur in Polar regions, but this beautiful event can happen anywhere temperature fall below freezing. You can read more about it here.

It's glorious! It makes the terrible cold worth it.

Here's a video of Diamond Dust in Finland. This is what I saw this morning.

Enjoy your gorgeous, freezing day. Some beautiful things only happen in the midst of something otherwise unpleasant. I'm looking at this winter a little differently now. Without this cold, no diamonds.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

"A gold medal is a wonderful thing, but if you're not enough without the medal, you'll never be enough with it." ~Irv Blizter from Cool Runnings

My friend quotes Irv Blizter yesterday when I tell her that sometimes I wonder what I'm waiting for in life. We are writing buddies; we meet to encourage one another about our non-fiction pieces and novels. We share an office in the English department. In between grading and meeting with students, we talk about our hopes and dreams.

"What is it? A best-seller? A big crowd cheering? Sometimes I wonder what I'm waiting for."

"Well," she says. "A gold medal is a wonderful thing, but if you're not enough without the medal, you'll never be enough with it."

Yes. Thank you, dear friend.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Don't Give It Feet: 3 Ways to Look at Thought Management

Our family is learning thought management from the oldest to the youngest. When inappropriate, illogical, strange, or depressing thoughts come into our minds, we have a few techniques. To handle "junk thoughts"(that every person has) we learn to quickly categorize them as either funny or unimportant.

This works: A bizarre thought comes, and instead of dwelling on it, we quickly categorize it as funny or unimportant and move on. It's a filing system for the brain. It's like you dump the thoughts (which we affectionately label "brain hiccups") into the funny or unimportant garbage can.

Another way to handle a distressing thought is this: Don't give it feet. That's my husband's expression to help me refuse to authorize or enable thoughts I don't want to have. I imagine the thought with little feet that get to walk all over my brain and therefore my life. Instead, I don't give the thought feet.

It's a funny little expression! So, in summary, I'm learning to move a thought I don't want into a category of first, funny or second, unimportant. Thirdly, I don't give it feet.

We're learning that we aren't our thoughts. Thoughts come that we cannot control, so we learn to shuffle them away and move on into our glorious day.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

All My False Rests

Today I find an obscure and rare little document written in 1650 by R. Wilkinson, a member of the British army. He composed an 81 page paper entitled, The Saint's Travel to the Land of Canaan: Wherein are Discovered Seventeen False Rests.

The university library happens to have the images of this old text, and although it's hard to read, I find myself fascinated by Wilkinson's list of where the soul is tempted to "rest" apart from Christ alone. His language is much more beautiful and complicated than my notes, but essentially, Wilkinson warns the Christian of the "false rests" we base our hope, peace, and joy upon.

These false rests include feeling superior to others, our obedience, our spiritual gifting, our right theology, our mystical experiences, our feeling of special deliverance, our skills, our large and thriving ministry, our shame or regret over sin, or even our application of certain biblical promises for Israel that were never meant for individuals. In these things, we often find a false security and a counterfeit peace.

(Wilkinson, by the way, influenced Hannah Whitall Smith who adds to this list such false rests as reputation, knowledge, and wealth.)

In the end, I'm challenged to think about from where my rest actually comes.

I need not work for it or manufacture it. Instead I remember Psalm 62:5 and how "my soul finds rest in God alone; my hope comes from him." Or I note how, in Isaiah 63:14, the people "were given rest by the Spirit of the Lord." Even more specifically, I apply Matthew 11:28 where Jesus says, "Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Finally, in Hebrews, we're told to enter "his rest" repeatedly.

So there you have it: I enter in and receive it.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Becoming a Light Hibernator in Winter

I'm reading a fun book with my daughter that draws spiritual lessons from the animals. It's an old book called Listen to the Animals: Devotionals for Families with Young Children by William Coleman. I love the idea of watching nature and forming spiritual lessons--like Jesus did when he talked about sparrows or lilies.

Today I learn that several animals in the woods behind my home fall into the category of "light hibernators." In winter, they take long naps and minimize activity down to the essentials of family care taking. And even this takes on a deliberately slower pace. It's all about conserving energy during these long, cold winter months.

With less sunlight and more cold, I find myself wanting to slow down, eat warm things, and sleep more. Instead of feeling guilty, rushed, or wasteful of the day, I align myself with other light hibernators around me. In January and February in Central Pennsylvania, it's OK to bundle up, stay close to the hearth, and minimize activities. This is a season of more silence, more solitude, and more attention to family.

I love the deliberately slower pace of the animals in winter.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Afraid of What They Think

This was a devotion I wrote for Camp Greystone that I call to mind this morning. 

Fear of man will prove to be a snare,  but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2:4

I had times of real fear as a college-aged camp counselor.  I remember the first night I had bats in my cabin. I remember the day I stepped on a yellow jacket nest and had seven stings up my leg. The Health Hut took care of me, and to this very day, I have to carry an epi-pen. I remember going on the high ropes course and screaming my head off in fear. I remember being terrified to drive a camp van through the pouring rain to get campers back to camp after a water skiing day.

But even all those events weren’t as terrifying as one particular type of fear:

The fear of what other people think about me.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to win the approval of people. I was terrified to have anyone be upset with me. I needed everyone to like me, so I exhausted myself pleasing people all day long. Guess what?  This year, I actually started practicing saying “no” and letting folks be upset with me. I couldn’t please everyone. In fact, pleasing people became a sort of weird idol. 

One of the marks of emotionally mature spirituality is the ability to seek God’s approval and not man’s.

It’s the ability to say “no” when God isn’t leading you in that way, and to realize you cannot meet everyone’s needs.
At Greystone one evening, a counselor asked me why I was trying so hard to get people to like me. She told me that I could seek to be a blessing to people, but I didn’t need everyone’s approval. I could be free to be myself and follow God’s leading instead of scampering around trying to make everyone happy. These lessons have carried over into being a parent (you really cannot make your children happy; they’re responsible for their own happiness), into my career (not everyone will adore you), and my public life (negative reviews, terrible blog comments, or insults). I’ve learned to go about my specific calling and please Jesus. 

I want to be a servant of Christ and not a slave of public opinion.

When you’re a people-pleaser, you don’t know how to say “no.” When you’re a people pleaser, you follow the crowd. When you’re a people-pleaser, your greatest fear is that nobody will like you. When you’re a people-pleasure, you’re more concerned with your reputation than pleasing God.

Remember this: A people-pleaser’s greatest fear is that she is not loved. God loves you deeply, and you are never alone. Ask God to help you be yourself. Some people will love you. Some people won’t. What matters is that God loves you, and that’s always enough.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Blessed are those who. . . acclaim!

Today I read in Psalm 89:15:

"Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long."

I notice the verb acclaim. It means to praise enthusiastically and publicly. 

Enthusiastically! Publicly! In front of people. Where they can hear you

There's a blessing in speaking aloud about an awesome God.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Best Way to Get Along with Others

Two of my cats immensely dislike each other. They can't stand to be in the same room together.

Today I notice something very curious: When they're focused on birdwatching, they suddenly love each other. They align themselves together in their attention on the birds.

I know this: When I'm focused on Jesus, I'm aligned with others (even those I might not naturally get along with). Proverbs 16:7 promises that "when a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him." And of course 1 John 1:7 explains that "if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. . . "

If I'm not getting along with someone, might I redirect my focus, examine my own darkness, and reorient my ways to please God?

Then, I find I'm at peace with others.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

OK with Not OK: Wabi-Sabi!

Last night, my 3rd grader reports she's learning all about wabi-sabi in her art class. I've never heard of the concept, so we research this Japanese aesthetic.

We learn that wabi-sabi--at least in art--encourages the acceptance of imperfect, aged, or broken things. In fact, if a teacup you're creating breaks apart, the Japanese artist would simply amplify the broken places and point them out by filling the cracks with pure gold.

My daughter tells me that you know it's wabi-sabi if it's not perfect. It's beautiful if it's broken or old. Strange, odd, imperfect: I think of Hopkins' poem "Pied Beauty." The odd thing reflects God's grace the most.

I think, too, of the beauty and even the necessity of frailty and imperfection as we approach God. I read in Psalm 79:8 how the poet cries out, "May your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need." It's a poem beautiful in its desperation.

Desperate, of course, means you feel hopeless or that you're in a situation that's impossible to manage. It's OK to feel this way. It's OK to feel broken, old, desperate, and beyond repair.

I think of that teacup that only receives the gold if it breaks apart.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

5,000 a Day?

I've been reading various reports on how many advertisements we see in one day. Way back in 2006, CBS news reported that we might see up to 5,000 ads in a day. While I think that number is high, especially for those of us not living in major cities, I still reason that everywhere I look, someone is trying desperately to get my attention.

Internet ads, spam email, billboards, mailings, radio ads, and television commercials all want my attention. 

What's it going to take to get my full attention? What will I give my attention to and why?

Our attention is a precious thing. And it's so hard to capture these days.

I'm teaching the ways we're lured into considering something is important or worthwhile by subtle (and not-so subtle) promises and ploys. For this generation of students, I love teaching the fine art of filtering information into categories of important, unimportant, essential, and non-essential.

And I must teach myself to ask, "What is this ad promising? Can it deliver on this promise?"

I'm older and wiser and trained in persuasion, yet I'm lured just the same.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Even in Destruction

I'm sitting in a chair in the hallway of an old campus building. I face a large window. The view? Terrible. It's all construction: colossal machines rise up like prehistoric monsters. The skeletal, metal neck of a crane crosses the window. Hammering, scraping, beeping, pounding, and smashing signal the sounds of destruction. The building to the right crumbles.

But I'm here because the sun shines so brightly that it feels like a greenhouse right here. I'm basking in it.

I remember that in the right light, it's all beautiful.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Enormous Kitten Paws

Introducing our new kitten: Merlin.

Merlin has huge ears and enormous paws. He purrs and meows like he has very important things to discuss with us.

I'm thankful for kitten paws on this Sunday morning. I'm thankful that the Lord brings new joys after losses.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Another Way to Dress a Doll

My neighbor recently bought some adorable doll clothes for her daughter, but they weren't actually doll clothes. They were newborn baby thrift store clothes.

Seriously? Why haven't I thought of this before? We've been buying doll clothes for ten years--the ridiculously expensive kind that we save money for or reserve just for birthdays or Christmas!

I take my daughters to the thrift store today in hopes of finding a newborn baby clothes section. Of course! Rows and rows of cute little dresses. So many were discounted because nobody wanted them. It just so happens that our 12 inch dolls love these fashionable and adorable clothes that were each under $3.00. (I know for a fact that t-shirts at the popular doll website are $40.00 each.) 

I remember that marketing clouds my mind sometimes. I didn't consider another way to dress a doll. I wonder what else I haven't considered. 

When something seems too expensive, why not ask if there's another way? 

There's more than one way to dress a doll!

PS: I also consider that I'm concerned with dressing dolls when real little babies need clothing. I'm still thinking about this. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Supremely Uncool Behavior

For the past few days, I've recalled a certain memory of fishing on the banks of the Potomac River. In this memory, I'm putting bright yellow cheese on a hook, casting my line from the end of the dock in my backyard, and reeling in yellow perch after yellow perch. I'm also catching silver minnows in my net.

I'm alone, and I'm so happy.

I'm also twelve years old. This is supremely uncool behavior. All my other friends are already going to parties, drinking alcohol, kissing boys, and sneaking out of their houses. Children grew up fast in my neighborhood in Northern Virginia.

I remember this as the year no girl wanted to go in the canoe or fish anymore. But the pull to the river was stronger than the pull towards popularity. Something about the fishing pole and the bait mattered more than the insults, the strange looks, or the rejection.

I suppose when you love something and it makes you truly happy, it sets you above public opinion. I hope my daughters move in the direction of what their hearts love and what brings them joy--even when (especially when) insults, strange looks, or rejection results.

Who cares? There's a bright yellow perch waiting to reel in. I cast the line and dangle my bare feet into the water. A tiny turtle swims in the shade of the dock, and on the bank, the red fox will soon come down his hunting trail.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I Still Use the Chalkboard

I visited my new classrooms today, and the feelings return: I feel so excited to meet these new students.

I touch each seat and wonder who might sit there.

I begin to imagine the discussions, the community, and the magnificent writing.

I love the smell of this room.

I run my hand along the chalkboards and notice the position of the projector screens. Now, most classrooms come equipped with any kind of technology you want. You could just stand up there, direct students to a screen (or two or three) and disappear if you wished. You could put as many screens between you and a live student as you needed to.

I don't do this. I can't do this.

I love classrooms that allow for the ancient practice of chalk and chalkboard. I feel grounded with the chalk in my hand--like we're all really sitting right here together and not in some imaginary place online.

We're here.

I know because I'm covered in the white fairy dust of chalk that falls down on me with every vivid verb I list. Chalk I can feel. Chalk I can smell. Chalk I can even taste. Chalk I can place into your palm when you agree to teach us something and try your hand at the chalkboard.

I still use chalk.

I also still ask students to pull out pen and paper to brainstorm. I love the sound of it--the swish and exhale of a newly released notebook page that a student reluctantly hands me, apologizing for spelling and handwriting. I see their personalities in the human trace they leave on the page.

Go ahead and tap your fingers on the desk. Feel the cool page. Nibble on the end of your eraser. Put pencil to the line and let something loose.

I'm old-fashioned, and I will teach you to be, too.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"The Number of Things One Can Do Without"

Today I read that Tolstoy's definition of wealth was "the number of things one can do without."


Wouldn't it be wonderful to grow into the kind of maturity where we found contentment in every situation, especially those devoid of all the usual accessories? 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Fun Recipe for a Young Chef: Chinese Dumplings from Scratch

My oldest daughter would eat sushi and dumplings every single day of her life.

Since it's a snow day and -30 degrees outside, she's stuck inside and hungry. Can we get dumplings? 

There's no way I'm even opening my door to go outside. Can we make them? 

I don't have the wrappers. I don't have the fillings.

We find out that you can make amazing Chinese dumplings from scratch. This recipe worked perfectly.

My little chef has to improvise for the filling because I refuse to go to the grocery store. Here's what we did:

We finely chop chicken breasts that we then sauté in sesame oil, ginger, 1/2 cup diced onion, and some soy sauce. We continue with the original dumpling recipe and combine our filling with the listed ingredients (more ginger, cooking wine, soy sauce, etc.)

This was a fun recipe: not too difficult but challenging enough for a young chef to feel accomplished!

We boiled 20 dumplings for 15 minutes.

Yum, yum, yum. Lunch and probably dinner, too. Or at least lunchbox treats for school!

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Song Your Heart Will Sing One Day

I read this morning a Psalm that meant so much to me during my darkest days. In Psalm 30, David writes, "Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."

Later, David proclaims to the Lord: "You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent."

That my heart may sing to you . . . 

I wonder about what my own heart sings to the Lord.

A few Psalms later, I learn that David knows God is his "hiding place" who protects him from trouble. He announces, "God will surround me with songs of deliverance." These kinds of songs must be wonderful indeed.

As I study more, I find that most of the psalms are actually deliverance songs.

This is the song. This is the song my heart will sing: Deliverance. The songs our hearts will sing to the Lord are the songs of rescue and freedom. I consider that deliverance songs--the song my heart is singing and will sing--are part of this life's purpose.

I have been delivered. I am being delivered. I will be delivered.

This is a beautiful song.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

On Reserve (A Fabulous Find)

My friend Melanie shares a fabulous find on Facebook: 10 Crock-Pot Freezer Meals from Kari at Mommy's Fabulous Finds.  I'm so impressed with the easy preparation and simplicity of ingredients (plus I have an excess of red peppers in my refrigerator to use up).

After shopping, chopping, and preparing (which took less than two hours), I made six dinners from Kari's recipes. In case you need more, she provides 23 MORE for you to enjoy. 

I love it!

You take one from the freezer the night before, place it in the refrigerator, and then empty into the crockpot when you leave for work. Yes! I have six dinners on reserve for stressful work days.

I repeat: I have six dinners on reserve.

This feels wonderful. This feels prepared. This feels yummy.

There's something about storing up--having things on reserve--that makes me happy. I wonder about storing up in other ways--emotionally and spiritually--that won't leave me empty on stressful days.

I also wonder about searching for my own Fabulous Finds to share with you in 2014.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

I Was Grumpy, but Then

For the past few days, I wake up feeling that old familiar darkness: the doom and gloom attempts access, but I thwart it with this:

I recall that I'm "seated in Christ in the heavenly realms" and the only thing required of me today is to receive tender care from God and to simply do the "good works prepared in advance" for me to do. These works are the ones God chooses for me, enables me to finish, and that result in blessing and joy. Ephesians 2 has become a sharpened weapon in my mental battles.

I relax into my seat, and the grumpiness suddenly leaves. It's as if the Bad Mood knocks on the door of my heart, and Jesus says, "I'm sorry, she's otherwise detained. You have no further business here."

Why haven't I lived this stress-free, this joyful, and this receptive all these years?

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Well-Ordered Day

Today I remember that Jesus ordered his day around the Father's exact instructions.

No more, no less.

Jesus says "yes" to what he's supposed to say "yes" to. He declines what he must decline. He travels here and there under divine order.

It's supernatural. It's freeing.

I read in John 14 where Jesus says, "I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so the world may know that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Come now; let us leave."

When I look closer, I see that Jesus knows when to stop talking and when to speak. He knows when to get up and leave, and he knows when to stay.

He does exactly what he's supposed to do.

Just a few verses later, we learn that we can do exactly what Jesus instructs because the Holy Spirit teaches us "all things" and "reminds" us of everything we've been taught.

If the Holy Spirit teaches us all things, can't we ask God for specific instructions for our day? We pray and ask, and then we order our day exactly. 

When to say yes or no. When to stay or leave. When to speak or stay silent.

I pray for a well-ordered, Spirit-led day.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Letters You Write to Your Children

My oldest daughter turns twelve tomorrow. One of our presents to her is a special letter she can keep in her keepsake box.

In the birthday letter we talk about the following:

  • What we see most in her in terms of CHARACTER development
  • What we've observed about what she's becoming an EXPERT in
  • All the ways we've seen her be BRAVE
  • Our favorite thing about her unique PERSONALITY 
  • Something she TEACHES the family 
I'm so happy with my letter to her that I consider writing a letter to myself. What's happening with my character? Am I growing in competencies in certain areas? Was I brave this year? Is there something about me people love most? Am I teaching people things?

At the start of a new year, why not consider these questions? 

I'm seriously thinking about writing letters to my friends to encourage them, too. It just seems like a cool thing to do. We could reread them on the days we feel terrible. 

Meanwhile, Happy Birthday to my sweet, sweet daughter. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Right Path

My daughters recently observe the signs in elevators that tell you to use the stairs in case of a fire.

This makes no sense if you're interested in a fast way out. Wouldn't the elevator take you out faster than the stairs? If the building is going down in flames, wouldn't the elevator make so much more sense?

No! Never! We learn that fires interfere with electrical systems and can trap us inside malfunctioning elevators. Also, since smoke and flames rise up in the elevator shaft, the elevator can quickly become an inferno. We'd be cooked!

I've been thinking of the principle that the safest and best way out isn't always the fastest. When we feel trapped in a situation, we often go to that thing that promises a fast exit. A much better principle is to stop and think about the thing that's promising freedom. What if that thing is just another trap in itself? What if that thing will create even more heat in your life?

No thank you. I'll take the stairs.

I remember that the thing I'm eyeing that promises some way out often isn't a way out at all.

Proverbs 14:12 warns: There's a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. Even more in 2014, I want the wisdom to take the way that leads to life. I want the path of righteousness, peace, and joy. I don't need easy or fast; I'll take slow and safe. I'll take life.

God, lead me down right paths.