Sunday, August 31, 2014

Perfect Conditions

This afternoon I harvest raspberries in the rain. It's perfect this way; the bees stay hidden, so I don't need an epi-pen. 

Once again, I learn the principle that God creates the perfect conditions for protection and joy. 

Even if it looks like the bad luck of rain, it's filtered through God's permission for our good, for our growth. 

My husband reminds us that with rain, it's all about perspective. In ancient days, the rain represented God's favor and blessing. In modern days, we think rain symbolizes misfortune and sadness. 

The youngest says, "Yes, some people see rain and think God must be sad and crying. But what if the raindrops are tears of joy?"

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Best We've Ever Had

Do you remember the story about my raspberry bushes? We received the canes from a neighbor and learned about passing on great things to our community. I also, back in 2010, learned a powerful lesson about fruitfulness from My Huge Gardening Mistake.  I learned that you must not let your berry bushes produce fruit that first or second year in order to let the roots go deep. God comforted me greatly with the spiritual principle that when my life isn't producing obvious fruit, it's the time for growing the deepest roots possible so I know how to draw from the Lord.

As you know, in the last three years, we've had more berries than we can even handle. I freeze them, make sorbet, pies, breakfast crepes, smoothies, and cobblers.

Well, not this year. It's been a cold, wet summer. All summer, nothing. No fruit. In fact, the plants look brown and shriveled. There's a general miserable feeling about the garden. Perhaps, my days of raspberry farming are over, at least with these canes. 

Nevertheless, by habit, I check the plants this morning to find that each plant holds more berries than I've ever seen before. I know it's September, but obviously, the berries obey a different timeline.

I pick the first few ripe ones. They are the best we've ever had! Sweeter! Plumper! Juicier!

I learn not to evaluate potential fruitfulness by appearance, age, my emotions about the thing, or what I think is right timing. Those canes abide deep in the soil and produce glorious fruit when it's their time. Yes, they seem shriveled and brown and dying and old. But they have a source I obviously cannot see.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Make It An Offering, A Gift

Today my wise friend reminds me that when I make teaching, writing, or speaking an offering to God and others--rather than something I'm doing to gain something for myself--I experience true freedom.

We don't have to imprison ourselves by measuring outcomes like money, influence, power, or prestige when our work is an offering, a gift.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Every Day: Sent

It's simply amazing to think we are, every day, sent. 

In John 20:21, Jesus says, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." Jesus sends his followers out as sent ones to deliver something.

What am I to deliver? What good news, what encouragement, what blessing, what aid, what prayer, what hope, what truth? Or rather--and better--not what but whom?

I'm to deliver God wherever I go.

The day changes when we receive the mission: We're sent. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Some Pictures of Late Summer

On the walk to school, I remember the patterns of late summer. I recall other years of capturing photos of acorns. I love these green ones, fresh from the tree. I'm so excited for a new season. Come Autumn! Come quickly!

Right now, it just feels hot, muggy, and heavy. It's overflowing, sticky, and almost too much. I miss this same path in the stark autumn, the bitter winter, and the hopeful spring. But late summer? It's a jungle. 

But (of course), I know better. There's something to glean here.

I examine a few treasures of this season of too much: a mushroom born from too wet conditions, for example.

I notice the spotted jungly feel of this mushroom and remember the same spotted pattern in the snapdragons:

I love the heat of the jungle in this little neighborhood today. I can take the heat of summer for a few more weeks. Wishing it away means I miss some treasures that only grow right here and right now.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others." Jonathan Swift

I recall the quote by Jonathan Swift that "vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others."

I think about having great vision for the beauty of this day (that so many things attempt to obscure). It's invisible--the underlying joy, wonder, and peace here--so we use a different spiritual vision to experience it.

I think about having great vision for people who, on the surface, present hopelessness or despair.

I think about having great vision for not-yet writers. I think about all my new students who hold within them great, life-changing writing that we just cannot see yet.

What else sits here, invisible, but here? When I see disappointment, the visionary sees possibility. When I see an obstacle, the visionary sees it as a stepping stone. When I see everything going all wrong, the visionary sees everything going all right.

I want that vision that sees the invisible thing.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Gross and Delicious

I only have a five more back to school dinners for my oldest daughter. In five years, she'll be in college! I suddenly want to make tonight's dinner so special for this back-to-school night. I know just what my daughters love:

Honey chicken!

Honey chicken isn't even fancy; it's just chicken tenders lightly breaded in flour and sautéed in olive oil (or coconut oil) and drizzled with honey.

We'll celebrate with honey chicken. And yes, I may share that honey represents living with flair; it's the product of bees making something out of nectar. It's a little disgusting, actually. Honey forms through regurgitation. I won't go into it, but you get the point. What I love is that bees take from their environment and create a nourishing thing.

No matter what we encounter tomorrow at school, we'll take it in and offer the world the sweetest honey in return.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Just Begin Even If You Can't See It

Do you remember how God cut off the flow of the Jordan river as the priests set foot in the water? It wasn't before; it was as they walked. 

If you reread Joshua 3, you'll find that Joshua says the famous lines, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you." It's so exciting! It's so dramatic! Get ready: God is about to do something huge. 

But it wasn't before anyone began to walk the impossible path. The miracle happened as they set foot into the waters. I see Indiana Jones (in the Last Crusade) walking across the invisible bridge that appears only as he begins to walk across it. 

Yes, we consecrate ourselves in anticipation of amazing things. We also realize these things occur as we move out in faith and not before. We launch ourselves out into the unknown and the unseen because the way appears as we begin.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Do Not Deprive Your Children of This One Pleasure

I find myself increasing controlling as the new school year begins. I worry about my daughters' teachers, their friends, their activities, their health, and their happiness. Even after all these years of seeing God's faithfulness, I still want to micromanage and craft the perfect childhood for them.

This morning, I find myself full of fear about this or that situation regarding them. As I sit there praying about it all, I say to myself:

"Have you forgotten? Have you forgotten already that every problem, disappointment, stressor, and point of suffering is an opportunity to see God work and to know His power? Why would I deprive my children of this particular pleasure?"

In my attempt to generate environments of only happiness, only ease, and only comfort, I'm depriving my children of the pleasure of depending on God, of knowing His power, and realizing His sufficiency in their lives.

Suddenly, I'm not praying the same way anymore. I'm not praying for easy, comfortable, or only happy. I'm praying that "they would know Christ and His power for those who believe."

My husband comes into the kitchen at this moment, and he says, "I stopped praying for a good day today. I prayed that good or bad, I'd have a spirit-filled response to whatever happens."

Oh, the pleasure of knowing God in any circumstance, in any suffering, in any disappointment!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Worth Trying for a Great Night's Sleep

A older friend of mine and I were discussing how absolutely fantastic we feel after a great night's sleep. We talk about the health benefits, of course, and that incredible feeling of waking up at 6:00 AM having slept deeply for 8 full hours.

Sleep changes everything. I'm nicer. I'm myself. I'm able to solve problems. I'm positive. I'm the mom and wife I want to be. I'm the teacher I want to be.

This friend reminded me that as we get older, sleep becomes more difficult because we feel too warm to sleep. She informs me that I must stay cool if I want this great night's sleep. Unfortunately, our husbands and children might not appreciate this chilly environment.

She reveals her secret for a great night's sleep that doesn't freeze everyone else: A frozen water bottle wrapped in a cloth, tucked either behind her neck, right next to her body, or under her pillow. The cloth absorbs any moisture from the slow melting frozen water bottle, and it provides a nice cushion of blissful cold.

Sometimes she uses three of them. I'm laughing as I imagine her all tucked in with frozen water bottles flanking her sides.

Cooling down at night makes all the difference for a great night's sleep for older women in particular. The brain, apparently, enjoys a room temperature of 64 degrees for perfect sleep. That's pretty cold! And for those of us who don't have air conditioning in these last days of summer, the frozen water bottle trick works wonders.

For this new season of back-to-school, lesson plans, meal planning, housekeeping, speaking, writing, and grading, I want a fresh start each morning. Making sleep a priority blesses my whole family. I commit to an early bedtime and some cooling down tips.

Oh, ladies: Aging isn't always cool.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"They were small cookies, and we'll walk faster tomorrow."

I deeply appreciate my walking partner because of her approach to my failures. I text her to tell her I've sabatoged my workout by feasting on cookies. 

She immediately responds: "They were small cookies, and we'll just walk faster tomorrow."

Friends who minimize problems and failures and look ahead to a successful future are wonderful! 

I want to make a t-shirt about small cookies and just walking faster tomorrow. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Calm Down and Eat Cookies

The week we transition back to school, everything erupts around here. We all have frazzled emotions, more conflict, and more stress in general.

Yesterday, we slowed down and made Lunch Box Cookies--hundreds of them!--to freeze for future lunch boxes.

They are so yummy that we've been eating more than we've frozen. Either way, we've had a relaxed time making cookies.

Here's the recipe from my own mom:

Lunch Box Cake Box Cookies 
1 box yellow cake mix
1/2 cup oil (we use coconut oil!)
2 eggs
6 ounces chocolate chips
1/2 bag flaked coconut
2/3 cups of either chopped nuts, toffee chips, or peanut butter morsels (depending on your taste! We used toffee.)

Throw everything in a big bowl. Stir well (use your hands; it's fun!) Drop by spoonful onto your baking stone at 350 degrees for 11 minutes. If you want to make some more to freeze, go ahead and triple the recipe (we did!)

They are amazing, and you will all pour a big glass of milk, eat cookies, and calm down.

Plus, you know my problem with coconut? Well, these hit the spot.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Loving Without Needing Affirmation, Affection, or Appreciation

My current prayer request for myself it that I would learn what it means to love sacrificially with God's love.

I'm learning that love that expects something in return isn't really love.

I'm learning that love that manipulates, flatters, is needy, is self-serving, is self-focused, is easy, and is even rewarding isn't really love.

If it's all about me, I don't think I'm loving well.

Where is this hitting me hardest? Parenting! I want to love well without needing affirmation, affection, or appreciation. Can you imagine how that would be to live in a home where you were just loved with no strings attached? Can you imagine?

I find myself standing in my kitchen wanting all sorts of affirmation and appreciation from people that I'm working so hard to love. Is that love? Is it?

When I'm set free to love as God loves--from a pure, joyful, overflowing, spirit-filled space within me--it doesn't matter one bit what I get from you. I'm going to love, love, love no matter what.

It feels so free and right to love this way.

I'm finding more and more freedom in Jesus every day.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Imaginary Battles

Some family members suffer from seasonal allergies, and in this season, those allergens come on particularly strong.

Allergies! When we think about the body's response to what seems like an enemy attack--but in fact is not-the whole thing frustrates us. 

All day, I think about imaginary battles that waste energy and cause suffering. 

Some things aren't worth fighting about because we're giving them a weight and a meaning they don't deserve. 

There's no real threat here. God has won. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Stop Comparing and Make Your Own Fun

Sometimes we get into a terrible thought pattern where we truly believe everyone else is having much more fun than we are. We just can't handle all the wonderful things we see others experiencing while we go about our hum-drum, boring Sunday.

We're driving away after dropping one daughter off at a fabulous party, and the other daughter sulks in the back seat of the car. Why doesn't she get those kinds of invitations? What about her day? Why isn't she having any fun?

Because I continue to mediate on Ephesians 2:6 and our special seat in the heavenly realms in Christ, I can say with confidence, "God has a perfect day planned for you that is entirely separate from--but not better or worse than--your sister's or anyone else's. God has good works prepared in advance for you to do today. God has blessings for you in store today. It might not be a party, but it will be something."

Can we believe it?

She sulks for a while longer but then something clicks inside of her. She announces, "I am going to make chocolate cupcakes from scratch from my own recipe." It's like the dark mood lifts and she's in a different spiritual place.

That's it, girl! There's a great day ahead that's your day.

Later, I ask her what advice she would give to other little girls who are having sad, empty days. She says, "Go bake. Make your own fun."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

10 Words That Sound Like What They Mean

In a few days, I teach freshman writing again. I just love verbs, as you know, but I'm also currently obsessed with words that sound like what they mean.

For example:

Effervesce is an effervescent kind of sound. It bubbles up as you say it.

Just like sizzle sizzles and crackle crackles off the tongue.

The word crisp is a crisp kind of sound, just like swish swishes and a sting sounds like it's stinging. Squirmy is a squirmy word, just like ooze is an oozy word. Tickle has a tickle to it as you say it, and pound has a kind of heaviness to it.

Oh, I love words!

So in addition to grapple being my all-time favorite verb, I love words that sound like what they mean.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Something So Important (That I Didn't Know Mattered So Much)

My oldest daughter tells me yesterday how much she loves our after school snack time. Years ago, before I even had children, I remember wise mothers who told me how they stopped everything, set out a special snack, and greeted their children after school.

Special snack? Whatever do you mean?

I learned then about choosing between parfaits in crystal goblets, platters of crackers and cheese, little sushi rolls, bowls of hot buttered popcorn, smoothies with gobs of whipped cream, fruit salads, pretzels, or trays of cut vegetables and dip. These moms made coming home from school an event to celebrate.

So I've been making an after school spread for years. The Italian Mamas tell me this is normal and just how its done in Italian families.

When my daughter tells me how much she loves this time with me (and she's a teenager!), I want to burst into tears of joy.  My grocery shopping list for next week now includes raspberry mousse ingredients, some seaweed for sushi, and greek yogurt for all those after school smoothies. And whipped cream! I can't forget the whipped cream!

So we snack from 3-4 and then do homework. I had no idea they even thought about this time, but then do.

Oh, they do!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"Not Because They Are Easy, But Because They Are Hard": A Back to School and Work Pep Talk

I'm listening to John F. Kennedy's "We Choose to Go to the Moon" speech, delivered on September 12, 1962 at Rice University. He spoke to 35,000 people on that hot day about the nation's space efforts. Landing a man on the moon, back then, must have seemed impossible, ridiculous even. 

He says the famous lines: "We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

I find my heart racing faster as I watch the video of this speech. The line, "not because they are easy, but because they are hard," inspires me to my core. Yes! Let's go forth and do hard things! Let's do these things--not because they are easy, but precisely because they are difficult

Let's do a hundred difficult things this year! Hard things, impossible things, things that organize and measure the best of us, things that challenge us, things that will change the whole world. 

I want to stand atop the breakfast table on our first day of school with my finger pointed in the air and my voice projecting out across the neighborhood: "We choose to do things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard!" 

Sometimes, hard things are the best things. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

As Awful As You Think

Today I have an anxiety breakthrough. It's because I'm standing in my kitchen feeling anxious about the day, and then I realize I'm actually more anxious about being anxious.

It's weird. It's like when the fear of a thing is worse than the actual thing.

The anxious feeling is making me anxious. What is this about? I sit with the feelings for a minute and realize that part of my anxiety is about hating anxiety. So instead, I chose to stop having anxiety about the anxiety. It's just what it is. It's just happening to me, and I don't need to get anxious about the feelings, the spinning thoughts, and the inability to make any kind of rational decision. It's not that awful, really. It's the anxiety about this that makes it awful.

Again, weird.

Then, everything washes over me and out of my mind like it couldn't find a place to settle. This is a new trick to add to my arsenal against anxiety: When it comes, I don't evaluate it and get anxious that it's happening.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Supplying Your Weakness

This morning I read this as I finish the book I've been reading on Christian happiness:

"Our part is to supply the weakness; God's part is to supply the strength" (Hannah Whitall Smith).

It's a great quote as I consider all my training in professional development and portfolio building. I'm so used to talking about strengths and what I bring to the table. I'm so acquainted with my own skill set, proficiencies, spiritual gifting, and areas of expertise.

I imagine the great interview question: What do you have to offer? What do you supply for us?  In God's business model, I find a new truth: I supply my weakness; God supplies His strength.

When I offer my weakness, God applies a special, incompressible strength to that very spot.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Preserving Your Childhood: An Amazing End-of-Summer Activity

When I was a girl, one of my favorite activities was flower pressing. That's right: Flower Pressing. I collected the most beautiful wildflowers from all over Alexandria, Virginia. I picked flowers from the neighbors' spacious gardens (with their permission), and I wandered the woods and parks for anything I might put in my wooden flower press.

I was thirteen years old. Thirteen! And guess what I did with all these pressed flowers? I made bookmarks that I gave away to the 7th grade class when I had to give a demonstration speech. Years later, a woman told me she still had that bookmark I made for her that year. My teacher presents for Christmas were framed bouquets of pressed flowers set on black velvet.

I loved pressing flowers so much. I loved that I could preserve them like that and make all sorts of beautiful things.

So I pass it on to my own rising 7th grader. At first, we place our flowers on paper towels and press them in-between the pages of old books. In two weeks, we have our final products to make bookmarks, jewelry, landscape scenes to frame, or bouquets.

My husband just happens to have some extra wood this week at the wood shop, and by the end of the afternoon, he presents us with homemade flower presses.

As I'm pressing flowers this morning, I remember all the fleeting things from Spring--the Weeping Cherry blossoms, the daffodils, and the lilac. They aren't so fleeting after all. I can preserve them like a sweet memory stored from childhood of my younger self delighting in the beauty of creation.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

25 Things a Wise Woman Learned About God

Today I see that a wise woman, Judy Douglass, posts that she's "celebrating 50 years of ministry and 70 years of life." She invites us to view one of her favorite blog posts (and one of the most read) to commemorate this time in her life. 

She entitles her post, "25 Things I Have Learned About God."   

I can hardly wait to read it and learn from all of her wisdom. It's so inspiring, and it urges me to seek out the wisdom of older women in my church and in my community. 

I hope you enjoy it, too! (Click the link to read it or cut and paste this link into your browser: )

When I read this list, I realize that I, too, want to have a list of 25 things to pass on when I turn 70 years old. Will I believe these things? Will I know them to be true in my experience? I'm full of hope that, yes, I will!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

"Smiling. Wagging Its Tail."

I'm standing in a little gift shop in July 2011. I had forgotten this moment until this morning when I found this entry. In this gift shop, I lean over to look at all the journals (journals are some of my favorite things).  They each have a different poem written on the cover.  I read this:

"Then swing your window open, the one with the fresh air and good eastern light, and watch for wings, edges, new beginnings."  ~~Monique Duval
Duval also wrote this: 

 "That’s the way it is with dreams. They scratch at your door. You see them through the peep hole: a stray dream looking for a home. You think it might go away if you ignore it. Wrong. It’s still there when you open the door, smiling. Wagging its tail."

I love thinking of my desires and dreams for the future as a dog scratching at the door, smiling, and wagging her tail. You just can't ignore that kind of dream. 

And if you've forgotten a dream, you open the window and watch "for wings, edges and new beginnings." 

Friday, August 8, 2014

"Pull Yourself Together!"

This is a strange little statement: Pull Yourself Together. 

It's been a hard day of learning about terrible deaths in the news, comforting close friends who grieve, and enduring a general weariness over evil and brokenness in the world.

Years ago, I might sit in my minivan, tilt my chin up, and say, "Pull yourself together, Heather! Find some flair!"

I realize how much of my life has been about doing this. It's been all about gathering in all my wild emotions, terrible wanderings, grieving thoughts, and bizarre behaviors into some kind of order.

Today, I realize a better quote is this: "Let Yourself Fall Completely Apart!"

That's when I stop trying so hard to make sense of anything. That's when I break open so God can do that mighty work. Pulling myself together has something to do with being in control and making sense of what's happening. I want the narrative. I want to know the why behind it all. I want to make sense of it all.

But what if I can't? What if I just can't find the narrative in senseless deaths? What if I just can't find any reason for anything anymore? My wise friend said this: "Why is not the most important question."

We talk about how God owns our life, and if He chooses to withhold any order or sense of narrative--a why behind a senseless thing--then I submit to not knowing. I submit to falling apart and moving forward with faith.

I'm not pulling myself together anymore. I don't have to. That's living with flair.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Fall Where It May

Today my friend remarks that she's not responsible for where the fruit God produces in her life falls. In other words, her gifts might be of service at the king's table or in the stables.

God's in charge of where and for whom. We don't concern ourselves with this as much as abiding and bearing fruit.

Wise words from a new friend!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What You Give Away Comes Back to You

On my walk today, (I wish we had been together, so I'll just share everything I would have told you!) I think about the verse from Acts 20:35 (when Paul quotes Jesus) that claims, "It is more blessed to give than receive." I start to wonder why this might be so. As I think about my life, I know that everything I've given of myself freely, purely, with love, expecting nothing, has come back to me abundantly.

It's a spiritual law that I'm starting to understand. I look back on all those times I behaved in order to  get something--whether more money, more attention, or more anything--and I realize that these things have all disintegrated. They do not last. They do not bring a blessing.

Things that truly remain and bring all the joy are things I've given just because of love. When the motivation is love, something changes. It's a key to unlock unimaginable blessings that far surpass the lesser goals of money, attention, prestige, reputation, security, comfort or any goal that ultimately builds a kingdom made of vapor.

Dig even deeper into this spiritual economy, and you'll find that not only is giving more blessed than receiving, but giving in secret earns a special reward from God (Matthew 6).

What will this reward be? What comes back into your empty hands? I have found that it's always joy, peace, community, and a richer relationship with God. This is more precious than anything you could earn or enjoy on earth.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Path Will Follow You

I am having so much fun compiling all my favorite little devotionals from these past five years. I wanted to thank those of you have emailed from all over the world to encourage me in my writing. I'm just so thankful and my heart is full of love for you!

I'm sitting with December 2012 this morning, and I find this blog that brings tears to my eyes. It's because it's true. It's because it's right. I realize that we have to get going today and see how God leads. It's the old wisdom that God parted the sea as they began to walk and not before.

Get going, my girl!

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. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Even This By Faith: An Answer to Loneliness and Disconnection

I'm happily driving in my minivan (because all seats provide equal viewing of the universe), and I remember how pleased Jesus is by our faith. I remember Hebrews 11:6 that "without faith, it's impossible to please God because anyone who comes to Him must believe He exists and rewards those who earnestly seek Him."

I think about all the areas of my life that require great faith in God's precious promises--regardless of my circumstances or my feelings; regardless of what I perceive; regardless of the material reality about me, there's a spiritual reality that I want to access. I want to pierce right through into the truth of it and not live anymore in doubt, fear, or discouragement.

So anyway, I'm thinking about my struggle to find deeper connection with folks and those times when I or my children experience loneliness. "God is this true? Is this really the truth of my reality, or is this a big lie, these feelings and these circumstances?"

Immediately, I remember 1 Corinthians 12 and the powerful, beautiful, and real picture of what is true: I'm part of a body. I'm deeply knit in. I'm deeply belonging to everyone else, and they belong to me. The great lie is that we're alone, disconnected, alienated, friendless, awkward, and too hopeless for community. I note how Satan is always, always driving people into solitary places. That's how he works best, like a beast isolating his next victim. By faith, I claim the truth of who I am. I am not alone now or ever. I'm not disconnected now or ever. I'm not abandoned now or ever.

I'm dropping my daughter off at Vacation Bible School, and so many wonderful friends and family greet me with great love. Suddenly, I see it like I've never seen it before. The spiritual reality of my connection is a truth I know by faith. My feelings and experience may contradict this on bad days, but the truth remains: I am part of a great community.

Once I choose to believe it, the fiery dart of loneliness and isolation folds and crumbles against my strong and very real shield of faith.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Scatter Far and Wide; Some Will Take Root

The visit with the Bakers was wonderful! A special moment for me was when the daughter ("a face without freckles is like the sky without stars"--that one!) shared with me the list of my blogs she had personally saved to a file over the past four years. She's a rising 9th grader now, and she's been a faithful blog reader all these years. She read on my blog that I wanted to compile my favorite blogs for a little devotional book, and she figured her list might be of interest to me as I build my chapters.

I was so touched! I was so honored! I didn't realize she not only read them but saved them. All this time, when I think I'm doing no good in the world because publisher after publisher rejects my manuscripts because I'm not famous enough, I have before me an amazing young woman who reads my writing and gains courage and hope from it. I didn't know! I will keep writing for you forever and ever and ever!

So she pulls out her handwritten list of her favorite 25 blogs by title, and I smile for so many reasons. I smile because she chose some blogs that I thought resonated with no one. I smile because she put little stars by her favorite blogs within the list.

What did I notice? I noticed she loved blogs about courage, strength, hope, and risk taking. She loved blogs about family and authentic living and Jesus. Teenage girls want these things in their deep, intelligent hearts!

I also noticed that there was simply no way I could have predicted which insights mattered to her and for what reasons. I wrote what I felt like writing, and God did all the rest. I scattered my writing far and wide, and some of it took root in her heart.

I was amazed and thankful.

She doesn't mind my sharing, so I thought I'd show you her list. Maybe some of these, by God's grace, will take root in your heart, too.

Run the Mile You're In
If You Have a Child Who Talks too Much
Am I Fond of Them?
We Can Pray, Can't We Mom?
But It's Impossible
Because You need To
God's Love Would Be Enough for Me
Afraid of What They Think
Supremely Uncool Behavior
I Still Use the Chalkboard
The Right Path
No Matter What Happens
I Didn't Believe It
All the Ways to Laugh Together
Because I'm So Loved
*Of Courage and Second Chances 
My Favorite Back to School Bible Verse
See What Happens
*The Thing You Need Strength For
The Greatest Ending Ever
*On This Bench
*You Won't Miss It
*Give Them Time to Unload
*It's Sort of Awkward
*Playing it Too Safe

I pray today it is a great encouragement to you as you scatter your gifts far and wide. Some will take root, and maybe you'll see the fruit of it. You might not, but just know that somewhere, someone is saving your words and putting little stars by them because of what they meant to her.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Prayer for New Teachers and New Classrooms

It's that time of year again when teacher assignments come and school supply lists scatter around my kitchen like late-summer dropped flower petals. We love school around here. We count down the days, pack backpacks, pick out special outfits, organize our desks, and begin dreaming of all the wonderful experiences we'll enjoy and the new friends we'll have.

I do the same thing as a college teacher; I'm printing out my class lists and getting so excited to meet those new students.

This morning, I begin praying for the new school year. I pray for several specific things both for my daughters' classrooms and my own.

I pray for a great spirit of community within each class room. I pray that students would feel loved and cared for. I pray that a profound sense of belonging and acceptance would fill students' hearts. This kind of reality enables students to learn well. This kind of atmosphere fosters the freedom to explore new ideas together with joy.

Then I imagine each classroom and pray that the room might be filled with celebration, wonder, curiosity, and joyfulness. I pray that the room would enjoy safety and protection all year.

More specifically, I pray that students would have an overwhelming and sustained desire to learn and to work hard at their tasks. I pray that students and teachers would experience freedom from self-consciousness, comparison, and insecurity as they learn well.

I pray that the teachers would be filled with enthusiasm, energy, good health, and joy (and the principal too!). I pray for their perseverance through grading, conferences, and lesson plans. I pray for their families. I pray that God blesses them with "immeasurably more than they could ask or imagine" and that "God would meet all their needs according to his glorious riches" (Ephesians and Philippians).

I pray that school leaders are filled with wisdom to know what to do in difficult situations.

I pray for laughter. I pray for the gift of lots and lots of laughter.

I pray for empathy and compassion to fill classrooms.

I pray for freedom from fear. 

Finally, I pray that this year plants great seeds of hope within both teacher and student. I pray that students receive a glimpse of who God made them to be and how they might contribute to their world as global citizens with a unique calling. This could be the year that this one falls in love with chemistry or the year that one develops a life-long love of semicolons and vivid verbs. This could be the year that a student dreams of a political position, writes a novel, invents a new product, hones a skill, or realizes a special talent. This could be the year that they meet their best friends for life. This could be the year that changes everything.

This could be the year! 

(Did I forget anything? Will you pray for this new school year with me? So excited!)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Look No Further: The Best Blueberry Cobbler Recipe

Today's a baking day over here! I wish you were here with me to drink iced coffee, smell all the good buttery smells, and enjoy the morning. We have a special friend coming for lunch, so our treat for her is our favorite blueberry cobbler. Here's the recipe we use: Best Ever Blueberry Cobbler. We've made this recipe five times at least this summer.

However, we sometimes use fresh lemon juice (we love lemony things) instead of the orange juice. My favorite part of this recipe is that the berries soak in the juice you use. It's just wonderful to soak. Think of being thoroughly immersed in yumminess today.

You can whip this up in 10 minutes, and it bakes for 35 minutes at 375 degrees.

You can serve it with whipped cream or some vanilla ice cream, but we love it plain and simple.

After our cobbler, we're making brownies for our house guests this weekend, our amazing friends the Bakers! I'm sure I'll report on all the wise things I learn from the Baker Family next week.