Friday, October 31, 2014

Holding Your Ground

Today we read the message inside a fortune cookie that says this:

"The mightiest oak in a forest is just a little nut that held its ground."

I love that the nut literally holds onto the earth around it in order to grow. But I also know that the expression, "hold your ground," means two more things. It can mean you refuse to change your opinion or behaviors that you know are right (even if others want you to). The expression also means you refuse to retreat backwards in the face of opposition.

You stay put. You don't compromise. You refuse. You keep your eyes fixed on the goal without retreating. Living with flair means we hold our ground against cynicism, complaint, boredom, bitterness, jealousy, despair, and hopelessness. We hold our beautiful and joyous ground!

What ground must I hold today? Against what or whom?

(And for someone who often feels a little bit odd or crazy, the idea that a Little Nut might hold her ground and one day become the mightiest oak makes me smile.)

For whatever it is today that requires this kind of fortitude, we Little Nuts hold our ground.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

6th Annual Boo Platter: I'm a Legend

I balance the 6th Annual "Boo Platter" in my hands. Former teachers cry out, "The Boo Platter! Oh, I miss the Boo Platter!"

My youngest daughter's teacher says, "I've heard about this Boo Platter! The Boo Platter is here!"

In honor of the Boo Platter, I've included the best three below from years past. Enjoy!

(And note that they aren't fancy or crafty. This is the point of the Boo Platter: It can be Your Most Memorable Act because it's you, in your way.)

I'm off to the Halloween school parade. My daughter is a Pioneer Girl!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Whole New Day of Marvels

On the blustery and dark walk to school this morning, we shuffle our feet in the damp piles of leaves that rise up like the banks of a river about us. We're now traversing the wooded hill when my daughter points out an enormous toad just hopping along beside us.

What else awaits on this path? What other marvels, partially concealed, hop along beside us?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

If They Were Never Here at All

Today I thought about how much the ladybugs entering my home drive me crazy. They're everywhere. In our county, the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Ladybug) invades homes in search of warm places to overwinter. We're not talking about one or two bugs. We're talking about tens of thousands, according to Penn State University.

I vacuum them up. I seal off the windows and door frames. I turn off every light that draws them.

I'm curious about how quickly something precious and full of whimsy turns into a downright nuisance. When I was a girl, ladybugs symbolized great luck. It felt like a magical moment to find one on your arm or on your coat in grade school. Children even gathered 'round to observe the beautiful spotted insect. And remember that scene in Under the Tuscan Sun with the symbolic ladybug? It's supposed to mark good fortune, love, and happiness. The ladybug makes one feel chosen and sacred.

But now? With so many here, I only immensely dislike them.

I think about rare things. I think about scarcity. I think about what we treasure because so little of it exists. It's a strange phenomenon that rare things gain a certain value. The ladybug hasn't changed; my perception of its value has.

I want to remember that everything about me might hold a precious and most sacred value if it weren't here in abundance. I want to stay conscious of all that invades my life and know that, if I'm complaining about it, I might change my mind if it were never here at all.

Monday, October 27, 2014

"Every experience God gives us. . . is the perfect preparation for a future only He can see."--Corrie Ten Boom

I love thinking about everything that has happened to me--and everything that will happen to me--as "perfect preparation" for the future in store for me. It's so hopeful and comforting!

I know this to be true already (although I couldn't have seen it back then!). I think of how particular kinds of suffering were "perfect preparation" for the ministry I now have. Even my own embarrassing failures that I thought I'd never recover from were "perfect preparation" for my storehouse of wisdom I can pass on to my children. 

What is this thing happening to me? Well, it's perfect preparation for a future I cannot see. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

How Shall We Win Her Back?

We're currently training our new kitten, Merlin, to enjoy us. It was the same with Jack; you have to convince the cat that you aren't going to harm him. You have to persuade him with treats and brushing and scratches behind the ears.

Soon, the cat realizes how good you are, and he approaches you freely to be petted and showered with innumerable signs of affection. Training a cat to enter into relationship with you is a long, slow process of proving your kindness.

As I ask my husband our strategies for convincing the stubborn, cowering cat how good we could be to him, I think of one of those conversations in heaven that must happen at the precise moment of my own shrinking away from God.

"How shall we convince her?" I imagine the committee meeting in the heavenly realms. What will do it? What would be enough to believe in God's goodness?

I think of God's message in Hosea 2:14 when he says, "Therefore, I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her." Some translations say, "I will win her back."

As we try day after day to win Merlin's affection, I think of God's relentless pursuit of us to allure, to convince, and to win back.

How great is your goodness that you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men. Psalm 31:19

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Instead of Excuses

All day I've been thinking about barriers to the kind of change I want in my life. When I see a barrier, it's an automatic excuse. Instead, I want to see the barrier as an opportunity.

I know how to do this in some areas of my life, but I can't apply it to other areas. Why? I'm thinking about this!

For example, some of you always ask me how I can blog every day (except that one day in Kansas) for 1,684 days. No matter what, I blog. If there's a barrier of time, location, internet access, etc., I see it as an opportunity to become really creative. It's the kind of pressure I like. It's pleasurable to solve this kind of problem.  Plus, and most importantly, it's something God empowers because I know it's what I'm supposed to be doing.

Other good things I want to do, but somehow can't (insert anything you want here: fitness, weight loss, home decorating, mood management, finances) result from lots and lots of excuses. I want to apply the same creativity and pleasurable problem solving to whatever I want to change. I want to see God empower those things that should happen in my life because they are right and good.

I want to take the pressure of time, location, access, etc. and become exceedingly creative!

To give us hope, I want to share one thing I'm learning most of all: Friends really matter here. If you can recruit a friend to help you on your journey of change, it will make all the difference. When you want to change something, ask, "Who can help me? Who can be my friend in this?"

Be ready for God to send someone your way.

My blogging friends, exercise friends, teaching friends, parenting friends, and praying friends help so much. Together, we are exceedingly creative when faced with barriers and excuses.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Certain Things I Didn't Realize About Quoting People

I'm learning so much as I get ready to self-publish Live with Flair: Seasons of Worship and Wonder. I thought I'd make a little list of what I'm learning in case you're thinking of self-publishing anything (or writing blogs where you quote people).

1. Publishers actually own the rights to certain Bible translations. You must get permission, for example, to use the NIV 1984 edition in your published writings.

2. You must request permission from publishers to quote from material to which they own the rights because there's no set rule on "Fair Use." It's really debatable, and unless you're an expert on copyright law, I wouldn't risk it. Some publishers said, "Yes, this is Fair Use, but please cite it this way." Other publishers said, "You must pay us $ to use this quote." Believe it or not, the C.S. Lewis estate charges you to quote C.S. Lewis. I didn't realize this.

3. Poetry and music lyrics don't follow the same "Fair Use" laws. You need permission for every word you want to quote.

4. It might take several weeks to hear back from publishers about whether or not you have permission.

5. Do not trust that someone's copyright has expired. For example, Walt Whitman's poems are out of copyright and can be quoted without permission. However, W.B. Yeats is a poet whose copyright has just been extended to 2021.

Copyright law suddenly seems so interesting (and strange) to me. It's been fun talking to publishers all about Rights and Permissions.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Simple Life Pattern: Praise and Gather

This morning I read something wonderful in Psalm 142:7. David writes, "Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me."

I love that the prayer isn't just about David. His freedom isn't for him alone. When God frees him, it's for God and for others. His prayer isn't "free me so I can be free"; it's "free me so I can praise you and  let others rejoice because of it."

I also love the picture of community surrounding the one to whom God has displayed a particular work. I want to gather with others around the one in my community who showcases the goodness of God. Instead of jealousy or comparison, I want to gather and rejoice with that person who has been set free.

Finally, I love how David will experience community as part of his freedom. The isolation and loneliness leaves and a community of celebration surrounds him.

We praise; we gather: a simple life pattern for today.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

You, Like This

For several years now, I've noted my favorite spot in the neighborhood in autumn. It's this tree right here:

This tree stands out against all the others. It seems whipped up with golden butter, layered with sunshine, and spun with gold. Imagine it on a bright, clear day (instead of this gloomy, dark one).

All week, I've been talking to my daughters about how they can "shine like stars" from Philippians 2:15. As I read this section of scripture, I know that when we choose not to argue or complain, and when we "hold fast to the word of life," we stand out like bright lights in a cynical generation.

I also think about those women in my life who are those shining lights for me. Finally, I think about that one shining star of a moment that comes every day, without fail, in the midst of whatever is going on in life. There you are, driving down the dark road, and the golden moment rises up in view, spun with gold and layered with sunshine.

That's what this tree invites in my heart year after year on this very week.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Neighbor's Adorable Autumn Scene Cupcakes

You know my love of cupcakes. Well, my amazing neighbor delivered some for our family tonight. I thought these would make you smile:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Now That's Customer Service!

I love nice people. I love helpful people.

Today I had to call a publishing company to request permission to quote from the Bible. I was already mad about having to get permission to use God's holy word. Why does it belong to anybody? Why do I have to spend my time figuring out what's "fair use" with this kind of thing?

Well, it must be done.

I call the 800 number of the publishing company. Someone answers! She is so nice, and she transfers my call to the Legal Department. I leave a message for a kind man named Brett. It's an overly emotional and rather long narrative about my blog and my new book about Living with Flair and how I sometimes quote from the NIV Bible. I clumsily end the call with, "I'm not sure if you actually call people back, but if you do, here's my number, and I sure would like help figuring out how to get permission to quote from the Bible in my book."

Brett calls back. He calls back! He's so nice and helpful! I exclaim, "Wow, you called back!"

Brett: "Well, you had a question, and I had an answer."

Bless you, Brett! He tells me everything I need to know and what I need to state in my book and how it is indeed under Fair Use. That's good news!

It reminds me of the shocking phone call I made to my county when I wanted a fence put up on the walk to school. They responded immediately and put up that fence.

My reaction to encountering a nice, helpful person reminds me today to be one myself. What stress might I eliminate in another person just by being nice and helpful?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Behind You

In my backyard, I see this: It's my favorite view--the golden sunlight on the golden trees--and I just stand there in the kitchen looking out back in silence.

This backyard view of what's behind all my living grants me a moment of worship because God has turned what's behind me--all that past--into pure gold. The memories of my whole life shape a landscape that transform into something beautiful like this. Over time, any difficult thing slowly dies and falls away from the branches of my heart.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

5 Things to Remember Today

Every new day, I can remember these truths:

Nothing can happen to me that doesn't hide within it the love and care of God: Romans 8:28--"We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose."

Wherever my location, I can find wonder and meaning there: Psalm 19--"The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands." 

Every person I meet showcases a great beauty and has something to teach me: Psalm 139:14--"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." 

Emotions are not truth and, over time, they obey the truth of God's word: Galatians 5:22--"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control."

I have nothing to fear because God is with me: Psalm 46:1--"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble."

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Great Snack for Children (That You Might Not Have Tried)

The garden gives up its final harvest, and I juggle two eggplants in my hands. My daughters ask for Eggplant Crisps to dip in marinara sauce.

It's so easy: You cut your eggplant into thin slices, soak them for a minute in whisked egg and milk, then press each side of the slice into your breading (1 cup Italian style breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, and a tablespoon of garlic powder).

Drizzle with olive oil (or spray the tops with oil). Bake these at 400 degrees until crisp and brown.

It's a great snack, and a good way to use up all the extra eggplant around here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Distorted View of Yourself

I heard about a daughter who had a old mirror in her bedroom that bulged out and created a fun-house effect when she looked into it.

But she didn't realize this was a distorted view of herself. Without a proper mirror, she took this image as truth.

She tore off every outfit because it made her look terrible. She turned from the mirror each morning and felt awful about what she saw. One day, the mother put up a new full-length mirror in the bedroom. The daughter took one look at her real image and smiled. She felt right again.

Deeper into this situation, mother and daughter discuss how even the mirror isn't true. Her daughter's beauty radiates from within her, and her body just houses that beauty inside. A good analogy is the difference between a house and a home. The outside structure doesn't make the home; it's the beautiful people inside that turn a house into a home. What's inside matters, but it's so difficult to help someone see that. 

All morning, I consider the distorted views people have about themselves that don't make them feel good or right. They authorize certain reflective sources--mirrors, people, social media--to determine who they are. With no accurate measure, they live in self-consciousness and disgust all day long. Sometimes these reflective sources instill fear and doubt--like the ones I experienced early on in my blogging days. I encountered bullies and "haters" who almost shut down my writing forever. I'm so glad I didn't entrust these folks with the right to determine my worth.

And I'm so glad that--as an older woman--I don't grant beauty magazines or celebrities with the authority to tell me whether or not I'm beautiful.

I remember one of my favorite verses on beauty from Psalm 34:5 : "Those who look to the Lord shall be radiant; they will never have ashamed faces."

I think of the little girl before the fun-house mirror. Will she believe what God says or continue to trust this distortion?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What You Won't Know Until It Rains

My friend just bought a new house in town, and today, she learns of a small leak in the roof. It's a downpour kind of day; it's so rainy that even our Walk-to-School group drives in.

This kind of deluge immediately showcases any roof holes or cracks otherwise hidden in dry weather.

This kind of weather shows you the strength of your roof.

All afternoon, I realize the truth of what life's downpours of disappointment or discomforts reveal; they immediately showcase areas of growth in my character. They show my strengths and weaknesses. I'm that unsuspecting roof, and I see my leaky spots in trying times. I can, however, repair and strengthen them to weather the next storm. In this way, I grow.

But how would I know about them unless it rained? How would I grow if not for the storm that illuminates these spots in my heart?

I'm thankful to weather whatever storm comes because of what it teaches me about ways I can still grow. One day, I'll endure even the hardest trial with joy and strength because I've built up the strongest roof.

I'm reminded of 1 Peter and the fiery trials that forge a genuine faith. We rejoice in this; we aren't surprised; we aren't afraid. We know we're building something watertight, leakproof, and solid.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Today: Three Notes

Today, I loved the smell of the autumn leaves and the warm, misty wind that swirled the leaves against a dark, ominous sky. It's an earthy, crackly kind of smell.

I loved kneading buttermilk yeast rolls for our dinner and peeking under the green dish cloth to confirm that the dough rose in that great puff of warm, yeasty aroma. It's a milky, floured smell. No matter how many times I remind myself that the dough will rise, I never quite believe it's going to happen until it does. I have to peek. 

I loved that my daughter announced a connection with students from Saudi Arabia who only speak Arabic and sit across from her. Today, the two students sang "Let it Go" from Frozen in Arabic, and my daughter knew exactly what they meant. She loved that moment. 

Three little things: leaves, rolls, and singing. They all rise up, in their own ways, and bless. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

How Easy It Would Be

Tonight is Enchilada Night at our house. It's not a fancy recipe, but it's a great one. The hardest part is softening up the corn tortillas (either in oil or butter--not so healthy, I know). Then you roll them around refried beans, cooked ground beef, sautéed onion, and any kind of seasonings you like. I use enchilada sauce, cheese, and chives for the top. We serve this with a chopped salad and some rice.

The recipe isn't the important part.

Right before I start cooking, I remember the family with the new baby down the street and another family with both parents working full work days (who we haven't seen in weeks and weeks!). I realize how easy it would be for me to triple this recipe and spread the love around the neighborhood. It takes no time at all to roll a few more pans of enchiladas. I call both families and cry out, "Don't make dinner! I've got the dinner!"

Two years ago, I might have blogged about the fact that I made a homemade meal at all. I was just learning how to live with flair. Last year, I would have celebrated doubling a recipe to bless someone else. This year?

I'm tripling the flair.

Maybe in 5 years I'll buy a cart and walk up and down the street to dole out enchiladas. Who knows? When I'm willing to grow like this, anything is possible. Today, I thank God for new energy, new resources, new joy, and new ideas. And next year, I pray God quadruples them.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Favorite Fall Days

I love the bright blue skies and the changing colors of fall.

So beautiful! So crisp! I love the burnt orange colors of this particular tree against that.

I hope you're enjoying the colors of the season!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Strange Gatherings: What We Noticed When We Moved Here

When we moved here to Pennsylvania, we couldn't believe that every single weekend in the fall boasted about a different kind of festival for the family. Apple festivals, pumpkin festivals, craft festivals, farm festivals, Halloween festivals, yarn festivals, corn festivals, hay festivals. . .

Every county in the land had their own festival.

Every weekend, we took our young children to a different festival. It seemed strange, this new town. 

Slowly, I began to enjoy myself. These festivals always involved some kind of feasting (true to the etymology of the word: festival, to feast), animals to pet and observe, crafts to purchase, local products to try, and folks to see. 

This is what we do. We are festive. We enjoy festivities. It's joyous! It's exuberant! It's what we value: community, land, working with our hands, local produce. We celebrate it all!

Now, after living here so long, it's not strange anymore. It's a glorious, small town kind of thing. I'll see you at the festival today. I'll eat apple dumplings and go on the hayride. I'll pet the animals. I'll visit with you and try your jam and apple butter. 

I hope your town has some fall festivals this weekend. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Different Kind of Harvest

It's the end of the raspberry harvest, and soon, we'll put the whole garden to sleep.

One season ends; another begins. Now, we enter into a different kind of harvest--a harvest from within, hidden and cozy--of lessons only late Autumn and Winter can teach.

This kind of harvest is just as fruitful indeed.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Childhood Meal We Hated

Today I tell my students I'm making Tuna Noodle Casserole for my family. You would have thought I proclaimed I was serving recycled garbage. Some gasped. Some rolled their eyes and shook their heads with compassion for my children.

"Don't do it. It's terrible. No casseroles. Ever. Not ever. Especially not tuna. No."

"You mean the one with the little peas and cream of mushroom soup? Nooooooooo!"

"Why? Why would you do that to them?"

I ask each and every student to offer his or her opinion on Tuna Noodle Casserole. Not one has a fond memory of it. Not one would recommend it. Only one said, "Well, if I absolutely had to, I would eat it."

We laugh about how much this particular generation of students loathes this childhood meal that I happen to love. Remembering this fiasco of a meal bonds these students together, but it also makes them long for their homes; I see their eyes glaze over and hear the sigh of nostalgia escape their hungry mouths.

Suddenly, Tuna Noodle Casserole represents a childhood gone by. It's a secure kind of meal: It symbolizes order and health and a dinner table hierarchy where whatever Mom served, by golly, you ate it. It symbolizes the emotions of childhood when you relish the moment you wake up and realize the whole thing is over and maybe tonight she'll serve spaghetti and you won't have the Tuna Noodle Casserole again for a whole month.

Maybe it wasn't so bad after all.

I make mine with sour cream, milk, cream of mushroom soup, peas and carrots, sautéed onion, salt and pepper, thyme, parsley, and a dash of worcestershire sauce. Add in some tuna, a cup of shredded swiss or cheddar cheese, and your favorite cooked noodles. Top with bread crumbs, and you're in Tuna Noodle Casserole Heaven. Before baking, the glorious concoction looks like this:

I could eat it for days.

My children won't like it. They might even hate it. But one day, when they're 18-years-old and missing me terribly, they'll reminisce about this worst-ever childhood meal. I might even get a request for the once-hated but now-cherished Tuna Noodle Casserole.

Sometimes our best meals with our parents are the ones we hated.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Apple Farmer's Favorite Apple

One reason I love living in Centre Country is the Way Fruit Farm on Halfmoon Valley Road (don't you love that there's a real road somewhere called Halfmoon Valley?). Way Fruit Farm began selling those first apples in 1867, and six generations later, Brooks and Sharon Way, along with their daughter and son-in-law, continue the tradition.

Imagine driving past farmland and stables and horses and willow trees. Imagine the hills and the changing leaves and the lush Pennsylvania land. When you see the apple orchards, turn right to visit Way Fruit Farm.

We take our daughters to Way Fruit Farm all year long. There's always something wonderful to see and taste. It's a special place that smells like apple pie in the store and whose rolling hills of orchards and crops are beautiful to see. For eight years now, we've traveled on the old wagon to pick our pumpkins, and then we fill a bag with delicious apples.

Last weekend, I asked Sharon Way to tell me about her personal favorite apple. She's an expert! Her whole life is apples! I tell her the Honey Crisp is too sweet for me; I like crunchy and tart. She agrees and points to her favorite apple: the Crimson Crisp.

It's so good I can't believe it. So crisp--extremely crisp--and tart enough that it's like eating a Sour Patch Kid. But as you chew it, it turns sweet again.

Living with flair means thanking God for apples like this, for orchards, and for this great land that yields this kind of food.

You must try a Crimson Crisp. And if you have a free Saturday, come visit Way Fruit Farm for their Fall Festivals on the Saturdays in October.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

You Cannot Measure This (The Next Extraordinary Piece of Art)

Do you remember how in November 2012, Ted Cantrell, the Texan Artist, sent our family the Most Extraordinary Piece of Art that symbolized how we make beauty from pain and find worth in the most ugly thing? Click that link to be encouraged beyond measure. That piece was called, "Love will Find a Way." Maybe you needed to hear that today. Maybe you needed to know that a piece of wood incorporated something painful and destructive right into its heart like you've had to.

Well, the Texan Artist has blessed us again with an original piece of art entitled, "The Full Measure of His Love." He's made it from discarded yardsticks from our home state of Pennsylvania. The yardsticks come from the year my husband was born.

It's amazing. I love how it smells. I love how it feels. I love how nobody wanted these old wooded yardsticks, but the Artist did. I love how the Artist knows how to make beautiful meaning out of them.

I love how the Artist knows how to cut and arrange until the cross appears.

I love that, no matter what kind of day I'm having, I walk through my kitchen door and see the full measure of Jesus' love. In case I forgot, in case I feel unloved, and in case I feel discarded, I see that bright yellow cross made from yardsticks.

I know that God is cutting and arranging me--this old life--until people can see the cross in it. I know that everything that happens to me is filtered through this love that I cannot measure.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Little Direction: Pressure the System

Today I remember the Second Law of Thermodynamics that systems, if left alone, move towards disorder. Without external pressure or the applied pressure of an organizing principle, things move towards chaos. I know this to be true in my kitchen, in the bedrooms, and in my own mental states.

I pressure the system by ordering my thoughts around truth; I pressure the system by little organizing changes like baskets for craft supplies; I pressure the system by making lists and charts.

It's actually just a little bit of pressure that's enough to reverse the inevitable disorder of this day.

Even blogging it out is a way of pressuring the system. I know what I'm thinking about today, and it feels ordered, right, and peaceful to relate it in words.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The 2 Things that Made it Great

Once someone asked me to visualize a great day as a mom. What two things would mean it was a great day? What two things would have happened?

She asked me not to overthink it but to just blurt out the first two specific actions that came to mind.

I loved this question because it felt manageable and specific. I couldn't do everything, but I could do two things. And I couldn't just say, "Connected with my children," but I had to say how. 

The first two things escaping from my unsuspecting mouth were two words I never thought I'd say:

Baking something and creating something together, like a craft. Baking and crafts! Imagine! Me!

It's true. This is what I've become:

On the days I've loved the most with my children, we created something together, and we also baked something together. I think another mom might answer the question differently; it might be playing a game, building something, having a conversation, shopping, or any other kind of activity, but for me, baking and crafts always make the day great somehow.

It's a great question to ask in general. On the best days, what was happening? What were you doing? Don't worry about interpreting the why, just let your mouth blurt out something true and uniquely you.

Then do those things over and over again to string a jeweled necklace of beautiful days.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Go Paint the Acorns: Our Favorite Autumn Craft

As soon as the acorns fall on the pathway to school we gather them up in our bowl to paint them. It's year three of this craft, and this year, we have even more fun. A friend joins us, and even the middle school daughter pauses to paint.


A Super Cool and Easy Autumn Craft (Even I Loved It)

My youngest wants to collect acorns and decorate them.

"With what?" I ask, remembering in horror the glitter and glue and shreds of various materials involved in that unknown territory called "Crafts."

"We'll use all our nail polish!"

"OK," I say. This might not be such a bad idea. This might actually be a great idea.

As I begin, I realize that these little painted acorns are beautiful. All my old nail polish bottles--the ones I nearly tossed in the garbage--make for a fun craft that will keep for years. My daughter picks out a glass bowl to display her acorns in, and I must admit, they add some whimsy to the room.

We hold them by their caps to paint them. Then we dry them on wax paper. 

As I paint acorns, I realize I'm more relaxed than I have been all week. We're talking and listening to music. We're complimenting one another for our color choices and just being together.

I'm slowly starting to change my mind about crafts. There's nothing better than just sitting, talking, and creating something beautiful just because it's fun. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Something Far Better Than Happiness

I'm having lunch with my husband and an older friend who joined us from out of town. He asks about my experience with God, my life in general, and my discussion with friends about personal happiness. He gently interrupts to offer some wisdom from an entire life of learning and growing in Christ.

When my elders speak, I listen.

He says:

"Remember that Christianity does not offer happiness. It is not about happiness. It's that God is with you. God is with you, and life becomes abundant. God is with you through every trial, every pain, and every disappointing thing."

God is with you. 

Later on, he shares about some terrible things he has lived through. I ask with that innocence of someone who only knows tragedy from a distance, "How did you do it? How did you manage?"

He says, "Well, it takes two. Jesus was with me."

The older I grow, the more pain I know. It's all around me. I'm so encouraged, though. I'm encouraged to know that it was never about happiness. It was always about being with God.

And that is far better.

Living with flair means this: "It takes two. Jesus was with me."

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Today, it's just this word: heard.

I'm amazed at David's statement in Psalm 6 that "The Lord has heard my cry." Isn't it astounding that we have a God who listens to us? So many times in the Psalms, we see the repetition of this: "The Lord has heard."

If we knew that the Lord of the Universe was truly, truly listening to us, what would we say? Do we really believe He hears us and responds?

Today I remember the word heard, and I know that God is listening to the cry of my heart.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

5 Words for Today

Do you remember the power of the One Word Reminder for children? The one word houses an entire narrative. Saying the word "shoes" or "bed" or "teeth" alerts a child to what she needs to do and saves you from an entire monologue. When I applied the One Word Reminder to myself in 2010, I used words like "flair" and "gentle" and "Jesus" throughout my entire day to call forth larger truths and larger intentions.

As October begins, I reread Psalm 1-5 and find One Word Reminders that call forth the larger truth today. 

In order from Psalm 1-5, I chose meditate, refuge, shield, joy, and lead. It's a way to help my memorization and to keep my heart at peace.

Those who meditate on the law bear fruit; those who take refuge in God are blessed; God is a shield who bestows glory; God's joy is better than anything else; and God leads us on straight paths.

I walk to school, drive to campus, make dinner, and tuck the children in with the five words dancing inside of my mind. Meditate. Refuge. Shield. Joy. Lead.

Meditate. Refuge. Shield. Joy. Lead. 

Tomorrow, I'll find five more. Reading the Bible for a single key word helps keep it inside me all day.