Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Best Ten Minutes

My daughter keeps telling me that ten minutes of jumprope is equivalent to running for 30 minutes. Do it, Mom! You'll love it! 

I read a fitness blogger's summary of the research reports that say that ten minutes of jumping rope has the same cardiovascular benefits as:

  • 30 minutes of jogging
  • 2 sets of tennis singles
  • 30 minutes of racquet and handball playing
  • 720 yards of swimming
  • 18 holes of golf
How encouraging! But can I do it? Yes, I can! It's hard. Very hard. We set a timer and jump rope in the kitchen since it's 9 degrees outside. Jumping rope indoors offers me a way to exercise when it's too cold to walk! Yahoo! 

We jump and jump and jump. We play Motown music in the background. (I love Motown music in the background of anything I'm doing lately.) 

I'll report back on my jumprope progress. For now, it's something so fun to do with children indoors. Just don't do it if there's a fan and light above your head (lesson learned). And watch out for cats. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Take Yourself Out to Lunch

I just took myself out to lunch. I asked myself questions I wanted and needed to answer. I took notes on myself in my journal. I gave myself undivided attention. I didn't interrupt.

My date spot with myself was a tiny little Thai place where servers brought delicious things to my table. My date, unfortunately, lasted less than an hour, but it was a wonderful time.

For an extroverted girl who loves lunches out with friends, it was refreshing and joyful to be a friend to myself and take myself out for a treat.

I want to be a good friend to myself. I forget this.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Stamina for Work

I've been thinking about stamina today because in the world of writing and grading, one needs a certain ability to keep at it for long periods of time.

Imagine grading a stack of 50 five-page essays, for example (and some faculty I know teach twice my load and have 100 five-page essays) that you want to return to students by the end of the week. Imagine working on a 40,000 word manuscript that's due in a month. Imagine your own work project that you're currently tackling that requires a long mental commitment for a long period of time. 

What helps grow stamina? I'm not an expert, but here are some tricks I've learned from myself and from professional friends for an 8-hour work day. Here's what I've learned:

  • Every hour, take a 15 minute break to do something else that doesn't involve the same kind of mental work. 
  • Every three hours, walk away from the project for 30 minutes to relax completely (bath, walk, reading, television, lunch with friends, etc). 
  • Have delicious snacks to munch that don't involve sugar, or you will crash later. 
  • Only drink two cups of coffee, or you will crash later. Drink water after that. 
  • Put a reward system in place during your most mentally fatigued time. Perhaps if you complete an hour of work, you can reward yourself with some kind of prize. In other words, motivate yourself somehow and prepare your environment for a mental boost with prizes or treats like new music and novel snacks.
  • At your half-way point of the day, stop and do jumping jacks or dance. Anything to move for a few minutes. Sedentary work, I'm learning, isn't good for energy levels. 
  • After you've put in your work hours, totally walk away and disengage from it. Don't go back to the computer at all. 
  • Eat a great dinner and get 8 hours of sleep, begin the next day with prayer and exercise, and then start the whole process over again. 

What would you add to the list?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Teaspoons, Not Buckets."

I read the NYT interview with Eddie Redmayne and Emma Stone, and I loved Stone's memory of her first acting coach in LA telling her "teaspoons, not buckets." Redmayne agrees and says, "People can see closer than you think."

Teaspoons, not buckets! It doesn't have to be so big all the time.

You know me: I'm theatrical and over-the-top with just about everything. It's all swooping hand gestures, loud talking, and dramatic expressions. But last night, I thought more carefully about the wisdom literature of Proverbs that suggests the power and wisdom of restraint. Subtlety contains its own beauty and rewards the audience more. They already know by the small evidence; they don't need big and theatrical all the time.

I turn to my one daughter who inherited most of the Italian exuberance. "Teaspoons, not buckets. You don't need to give all of yourself away with every conversation. Subtlety, dear child."

My other daughter says, "Mom, you are all buckets all the time!"

"Really," I say calmly. "This is me holding back. This is teaspoons."

I suppose my teaspoons are buckets, comparatively, but the point still stands: the quiet, simple, subtle thing often reveals the most beauty and invites others in. And in life, too, the teaspoon here showcases as much wonder and joy as the glamorous buckets.

I think about teaspoons today when I want to burst out with all my opinions and drama. Teaspoons. I think about teaspoons when I want the buckets of prosperity or attention or adventure. Teaspoons. I can see closer than you think. There's beauty and meaning here in the teaspoon. Teaspoons. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I Love Awkward

My daughters and I love to talk about being ourselves and not changing who we are to fit in. Besides, we know that every community contains folks who love our particular awkwardness. We just have to find them. 

The Old Norse and Middle English etymology of this word awkward reveal a wonderful meaning. Awkward means "turned the wrong way." 

When we follow God, obey our parents, refuse to gossip, reject materialism, maintain purity, tell the truth, choose empathy, defend the bullied, smother cynicism, preserve innocence, and celebrate learning, we often feel turned the wrong way against a massive cultural current.

Stay wrong. Stay turned. We find, always, that the awkward among us were right all along. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Some Poems I Loved in College

A friend asked me to share with her some of my favorite poems because she is a scientist who never once took a poetry course.

I went back to college in my mind, to Rita Dove and Lisa Russ Spaar and all the poetry workshops and poets and coffee and meaning.

Where do I begin? Keats, Wordsworth, Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane, Dickinson, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, AR Ammons, Milton, Herbert, Sharon Olds, Mary Oliver, Jane Kenyon, Shakespeare, Barry, Robert Frost, Tennyson, EA Robinson, Louise Bogan. . .

Where do I begin?

I thought of a few for my friend that don't classically make the list of folks' favorite poems ever:

Try Seamus Heaney's "The Oysters" or Theodore Roethke's "In a Dark Time" to start. Then add in Ammon's "Loss" immediately. You'll want to read Hart Crane's "My Grandmother's Love Letters" and then probably Frost's "For Once Then, Something."

Later, when you want to think about beauty and truth, read all the Keats you can, especially "Ode on a Grecian Urn," "Ode on Melancholy," and "Ode to Psyche." End with Wordsworth's "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey."

Before you go to bed, read Elizabeth Bishop's "The Man-Moth" and the entire collected poems of her friend, Marianne Moore (especially "A Grave." ).

In the morning, begin reading Wallace Stevens. Then take a break and read Robert Lowell's "After the Surprising Conversions."

With afternoon tea, read Emily Dickinson. All of Emily Dickinson. Read Whitman the next day, but only if you want to.

That was college. I'm so glad you asked.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Get Up and Go

In winter, I want to hibernate. I find myself turning in on myself. I find myself burrowing into my blankets and closing down. It's cold. It's dark.

This morning, nobody wants to go to church. We want to stay in bed and snuggle. We don't want to shovel the driveway, warm the car, and bundle up. "What should we do?" we mutter to one another in our winter-induced stupor.

"We should go. We should go. We should go."

By the time we arrive to the warmth of fellowship, coffee, and music, we feel everything inside of us lift and awaken. Connection with our community in the midst of this isolating weather brought so much joy and so much energy.

I have to remember to get up and go when everything in me wants to stay wrapped up in this house. Day after day inside, with the gentle snow falling and the house buttoned up, indeed starts the process of hibernation. But too much burrowing disconnects us and shrivels our joy in community.

Even in winter, living with flair means we get up and go.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Line I'd Forgotten from Because of Winn-Dixie

I'm watching Because of Winn-Dixie for family movie night because my youngest daughter just finished the book by the same title (by the wonderful Kate DiCamillo!).

I find myself overcome with emotion when a sweet, nearly blind neighbor, Gloria Dump, tells the lonely little girl, Opal, that she can't see well. She says:

"You know, my eyes ain't too good at all. I can't see nothing but the general shape of things, so I got to rely on my heart. Why don't you go on and tell me everything about yourself, so as I can see you with my heart."

Why don't you go on and tell me everything about yourself, so as I can see you with my heart? 

I remember again to see people with my heart and not just my eyes. When you hear the whole story, you stop judging people so much. When you hear the whole story, you see with your heart, and you find that you love that person that you were so critical and misunderstanding of just a day before.

I want to look at the whole world with my heart, just like Gloria Dump.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

"Daily life is always extraordinary when rendered precisely." --Bonnie Friedman

I love expressions like this one: "Daily life is always extraordinary when rendered precisely." In other words, when represented precisely--exactly and particularly--we find extraordinary evidence of beauty, mystery, wonder, and joy.

It's true. I'm encouraged to pay attention, look closely, and see my surroundings like an artist. When I write or communicate, I think about precision. The smallest, most mundane thing might become extraordinary if I let it.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

When Your Children Need Something Fun to Do

Guess how we are surviving the long afternoons and evenings indoors during this bitter cold winter?

Salt dough. 

You remember salt dough, right?

Just combine 1 cup flour with 1/2 cup salt, add a few tablespoons of water, and stir until you get a nice ball of dough. Knead it a few times and then distribute it to your children.

Let them make things.

So simple. So peaceful. So fun. Play music in the background. Drink your coffee.

Dry their creations in a 200 degree oven for an hour (or just let them sit on the counter over night).

Then, let them paint their objects using all your old paints or nail polish. We are making things for our doll house, as you can see. Notice our little fruit bowl and teapot.

This afternoon, we're making animals to paint.

Enjoy your afternoon!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Place that Feels God's Absence

This morning I read Psalm 81, and I learn all about how the Israelites were tested "at the waters of Meribah." If you read in Exodus 17, you find a people dying of thirst. The Lord instructs Moses to strike a rock, and water gushes out for the people. He calls the place "Meribah" (which means strife or contention, because the Israelites complained to God), and says it's because they tested the Lord and said, "Is the Lord among us or not?"

Is the Lord among us or not? 

What a paramount question as we face circumstances that bring doubt or worry! Is the Lord among us or not? Because if He is, then, well, He can do anything.

I'm thinking of what it must have been like to sit there, dying of thirst, with only a rock before you. Can you imagine? A rock. An impossible means of satisfying thirst. Yet God was there, and that made all the difference.

But still, they needed water, and all they had was a rock. I think of all those times I really needed something, and God brought the opposite sort of experience that, of course, ended up opening into even greater abundance than the thing I wanted in the first place. The rock He gave--that immovable block or impossible situation--brought forth the thing I needed.

But at first it just looked like a rock. It felt like God's absence, not His miracle-making presence. Oh me of little faith!

I continue reading until the end of Psalm 81, and here God says that, if the Israelites followed him, he would provide. He says: "You would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you."

The rock again. But it's honey--not from the hive--but from the rock. How strange. Can honey come from a rock? No. Can water? No.

Yet God is there, and that makes all the difference. Is the Lord among us or not?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Her Secret to Being a Great Mom

I've made a new friend at Parent Pick-up from school. Parent Pick-up is one of my favorite parts of the day because we all huddle there by the school and solve all the world's problems in those ten minutes before our children come tearing out of the school like hungry wolves.

I've been admiring this one particular mother of three very young girls for some time now. She's consistently enthusiastic, patient, encouraging, and funny. She carries one child on her back in a fancy pack; one she pushes in a stroller; and one holds her hand. I think she actually may have another child somewhere. This woman represents everything I could never do! So I watch her. I watch, and I learn.

A few weeks ago, I just blurt out, "You have to tell me the secret of how you are such a great mom!"

I'm waiting for a list of books I must read, therapists I must visit, Bible studies I must join, or some supplement I must go into debt over. I fear she's going to tell me about more prayer groups, expensive housekeepers, boot-camp gym commitments, a gluten-free diet, or her educational afternoon craft schedule.

She turns to me with an alert smile and says, "Afternoon coffee."

"Really? That's it?"

"Yes," she says, but then she leans in with narrow, warning eyes. "But you have to be careful. Too late, and you won't sleep at night. Too much, and you won't sleep at night. You have to get it right. This is very important."

Just when she's about to lose her mind, she delights in her afternoon cup of coffee. I'm so happy I clap my hands together like I'm now one of her children. I had forgotten about afternoon coffee! This I can do! This I know how to do! 

I pour myself a cup after school, and that night, I hardly sleep. The next day at Parent Pick-up, she approaches me with the seriousness of a doctor and says, "How did it go?"

"Too much," I report. "I need to go down to half a cup."

She nods knowingly. "Yes. Or have it earlier in the day. You'll figure it out."

I will.

One day, I'll get it right. One day, I'll pour that perfect amount, at the perfect time, that will give me the energy I need for another afternoon of snacks and homework and cleaning and drama and dishes and dinner. If not today, then maybe tomorrow. I'm just thankful that at least one great mom's secret had nothing to do with working harder and everything to do with coffee.

This is something I can laugh about over a nice little cup of afternoon coffee.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Just Psalm 86:5

This morning I read this in Psalm 86:5:

"For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you."

It's a verse I've read over and over again and underlined in my Bible, but today it strikes me anew. In my Hebrew dictionary, I read that the Lord is good and "ready to forgive." I think of God, positioned and alert, just waiting to forgive. Just waiting!

I think of the great word abounding. Just abounding in a persevering kind of love that puts up with all of my shenanigans and wanderings.

What a great promise to hold in my heart today! I know a good and forgiving God, a God who abounds in steadfast love when I call upon Him.

What more do I need to know today? Just this.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Different Kind of Bright

Last night, we drive through an actual snow squall. Sudden, violent, zero-visibility, scary: you get the point. We arrive home safely to news of canceled church due to continuing snow and wind chills of -20. We stay in, snuggle up, and bake. I mention that it feels like we are living like the Ingalls family in The Long Winter, only it's Centre County and not South Dakota. How did they survive?

It's so cold. It's so harsh.

But by mid-morning, we notice--once again--the brightness of a winter sun. Outside, we hear the wind against the garden gate that cracks and thuds against the house. Inside, we're lit up with all kinds of warmth and all kinds of light.

This kind of bright makes the shadows of winter so beautiful in the backyard. Every tree's limbs vein across the snow. It's our kind of Long Winter, and we are doing just fine.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Cleaning Day in Our House

I do love the routine of Saturday mornings and cleaning. It gets us ready for a quiet Sabbath and a fresh, new week. I also love that cleaning is a change of pace from thinking, grading, and writing. It's a different kind of work. When the whole house is finally clean, we settle in to enjoy the new week. We've dusted, shined things with vinegar water, vacuumed, scrubbed, and organized.

And we'll do it again next week. In the meantime, it feels so good to have a clean little house.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Stomach Bug Advice

I woke up in the chilled night with the stomach bug. My first thought was that I was thankful for the timing. Last week I was traveling and next week I'm speaking. So I stretched out on the bathroom floor and was thankful, drenched with tears and sweat, for the timing. 

Then I did nothing. Nothing. I sipped water and Gatorade all day and took strange, feverish naps.

I texted people to gather my children and keep them until my husband arrived. I canceled class, thankful that it was a peer editing day and not a lecture day. 

That's all you can do. Cancel everything and thank God that this might have been another day--on a plane or a stage. 

This time around, I'm less dramatic and more thankful. I'm in bed thankful for a quiet home, a warm bed, and friends. 

Good night!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

-20 Wind Chill

I've been reading all the about -20 degree wind chill warning for tomorrow morning. We're warned about frostbite that takes a mere 30 minutes to damage exposed skin. We're told to wear hats and layers and gloves because the wind will steal our body heat so quickly. This is no joke. This is dangerous.

We must insulate! We must interpose! 

These verbs mean to place something as a barrier between two things, in this case, me and outside air. The deadly combination of wind and cold is serious here! We aren't made for this kind of deadly dance. Our skin cannot handle it. We will die out there. It is, like the national weather service warns, deadly. 

It feels humbling and strange to realize our own frailty, to know we need protection. Against the reality of wind and cold, which man cannot tame or control, we feel small as we huddle together, wrapped up.

We aren't the strongest or the most powerful thing. We like to think we are, and then, the wind comes.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A New Kind of Living with Flair, An Even Deeper Joy

As I continue to blog day after day, I'm discovering something so interesting in the harsh Pennsylvania winter. In years past, I focused so much on redeeming and elevating my circumstances. Everything about living with flair has been about finding beauty in common things, discovering mystery, and worshiping Jesus through the wonder of my environment. 

It was always, "Look! Look at this wonderful thing that reminds me of God! Look at His mysterious ways, and let's worship Him because of this snowflake, this Northern Cardinal, and this bare oak tree!"

That discipline made me exceedingly happy and brought structure and purpose to every single day for the last 1,790 days. It healed my brain. It changed me. The darkness left. I'd recommend this practice to anyone.

But lately, the environment--no matter how full of mystery and wonder--isn't as satisfying as Jesus himself. 

For five years, I looked outside of myself to see God in everything; this month, I'm going deeper inside of myself to find that inner fortress, that soul refuge, where the Holy Spirit resides. In other words, I'm not needing to see beauty everywhere because God is the beautiful thing. This means that, sometimes, the circumstances might not produce a wondrous narrative or reveal any kind of beauty. Maybe they cannot. Maybe they should not.

I think of what I'm hearing on the news and the suffering across the globe. I think of persecuted Christians who do not--and will not--have the luxury of considering the gentle snowflake today. Hurting and dying people will not hear the gorgeous cry of the hawk or interpret the beauty of children skating on a frozen pond, their laughter ringing like sleigh bells across the landscape.

Is life any less wondrous? Is there a secret dwelling place in the heart that makes what's happening around us unrelated to our deepest joy?

My circumstances no longer depress me or put me into despair--or, on the other hand, create the kind of joy I used to feel. The new disposition of my heart means I think about God's truth and His great character. I'm worshipping Him in the quiet of my soul and rising out of whatever is happening, good or bad. It's a deeper kind of living that I'm experiencing, a new kind of living with flair.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Advice for an Organized Mind

My friend tells me that she chooses one day of the week and spends 6 to 10 hours on all her least favorite, most annoying tasks. On that one day, she accomplishes everything she must do but does not want to do. Because she devotes this one day to these undesirable tasks, it frees her mind for the rest of her work week.

Otherwise, these tasks clutter her to-do list all week long. They tyrannize! They demand!

I nod my head in agreement because that's the only way I have peace of mind about my housecleaning. I only clean on Saturday mornings because that way, for the rest of the week, I'm not worried about it. If the bathroom is dirty on Wednesday, I don't think about it; that's Saturday's task. If the floor needs scrubbing on Thursday, I don't let it nag at my soul. That's for Saturday morning.

More and more, I'm meeting successful and organized people who compartmentalize their weeks. With this kind of organized mind, I can only worry about my manuscripts, for example, on Tuesday and Thursday and my grading and course preparation on Monday and Wednesday.

I'm thinking more and more about freeing up the mental space to work better and more enjoyably. Designating days for certain tasks means I'm not controlled by their perceived urgency. I push it aside and out of my brain; this task is for another day.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Intense Observation

I'm flying home from a trip, and the woman beside me discusses her profession. She's a criminal investigator who has become an expert in observation. She's highly trained to notice patterns and inconsistencies in a person's mannerisms. She's also trained to gather incredible amounts of personal information about a person within a few seconds of meeting them.

Within a few seconds!

"For example," she tells me. "I can tell you many things about you just by the kind of purse you carry, your glasses, your nails, your body posture, and your hand gestures."

She tells me that I'm trustworthy, organized, confident, and warm.

"How did you know that?" I ask her.

"You touch people when you talk to them. You touched me on my elbow and then on my arm while you were talking. That tells me you are comfortable with yourself and with others right away. You are someone with great interpersonal skills."

Then, since we have two hours left on the flight, she trains me in the fine art of detecting a lie. She remembers every thing I've said to her and the way in which I communicated information to her. She points out my verbal patterns and mannerisms. She explains that when someone is lying, they simply break the established pattern somehow. "I'm always looking for an inconsistency or a break in a pattern when I'm investigating a witness."

She lets me practice on her, and I'm able to detect subtle lies by her change in tone, posture, or sentence patterns.

Then, she tells me that criminal minds know how to quickly find vulnerabilities in people, and they manipulate people based on what they feel most insecure about. I think of my own insecurities and pray that God strengthens me against any kind of manipulation.

As our plane nears our destination, I comment that I wonder what life must be like for her to be trained in such intense, alert observation. All day long, she intensely observes. That's her whole life; it's just how she lives. She's reading everything in her environment all the time. Everything means something. Everything contributes important information for her.

"It's fun!" she says. "I love it! I learn so much!"

I'm suddenly observing everything I can and learning more than I thought I ever could about people. The criminal investigator says goodbye, and I suddenly wish I could go back to school and learn a whole new field. I want to see the details of my world as contributing important information. I feel more alive and more present. I feel so curious and awake, even after the longest day of travel.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

As You Go

I'm learning new things in new roles. When I'm in new situations, or when I'm asked to serve in new roles, I often say, "I haven't done this before. I don't think I'm the best person for this."

Because I haven't learned how to do something, I don't try. Isn't this ridiculous? How will I learn if I don't try it?

Recently, I served in an emcee speaking role that involved tons of organization and management of people and details. I kept telling people I didn't know how to do this! Don't make me do this!

I got up on stage, and I did it. It wasn't perfect, and one night I forgot everything and messed up the schedule. I learned so much from this night about myself and strategies on stage for handling this. 

I learned how to do this role, and just last week, I didn't. That's why living with flair means trying on new roles we know nothing about. That's how we learn. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015


Today I hear a speaker use a timely turn of phrase. He says, "You don't need to try to overcome your sin. Instead, let Christ overcome you." Everything follows from that.

I think of being swept away, overcome by the majesty and power and beauty of God. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

2 Lessons from Dr. Henry Cloud

I'm listening to Henry Cloud answer questions based on his expertise in leadership and clinical psychology. As guests present problems and ask for personal advice, I write down as many of Dr. Cloud's golden words as I can. 

I glean some wisdom I needed! He imparts that one of the goals of parenting is helping children become resilient and resourceful when faced with problems. As parents, we can encourage our children to reach out to God, family, and friends for support. But we don't rescue or solve problems; instead we invite resourcefulness and empower them.

Resourcefulness! I forget that my role as a parent isn't to rescue or solve problems.  

also learn from Dr. Cloud the principle that "closed systems" eventually expire over time. He encouraged the audience members to continually keep our lives and work open to new energy and new intelligence. We stay open to God and others, and we seek to input fresh perspectives and support into our lives and work. 

I think about problems as opportunities to become resourceful. And I think of areas of my life that feel like closed systems. I open these places up to something new.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

If You Have a Sleepless Night

I've had two sleepless nights that fill me with anxiety that, because I'm sleep-deprived, I therefore cannot manage my emotions, perform at my best, and display patience and kindness. 

I think I'm able to endure many things, but enduring a bad night's sleep is on my list of personal development goals! I'm just a wreck without sleep! 

I'm reminded of the number of times Paul  endured sleepless nights. God was still in charge, still empowering, still present, and still enabling Paul to overcome as more than a conquerer. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How Did It?

I meet with a student who wants to start a blog on just this question: "How did I see God working today?"

I think of the astonishing verse in John 5:17 when Jesus says, "My Father is always at work, and so am I." I think about the beauty of Philippians 2:13 that "God works in you. . ."

God is at work! He's always working in and around us. How different a day's focus becomes when we allow ourselves to peer deeply into these moments to see God working. How did it happen? When? Where? Through whom? 

And why? And how did I know it was Him?

Can I trust that God is working to display His love, power, and glory?

He is always working. I love the idea of recording this work each day to build our faith. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

With This Now Gone

Our microwave broke two days ago.

You would think this would be a terrible, terrible thing. Oh, but the things we have cooked--slowly and beautifully--without it.

I became old-fashioned like grandma, turning bacon in the pan. The smell filled even the upstairs. I became slow and patient, listening for the song of the tea kettle that heated my water on the gas stove. I became an expert in heating leftovers with olive oil in the pan and added my own seasonings to make it even better.

I embraced the sounds and smells of a different kind of day with this thing I thought we needed, now gone.

When something breaks, it might just be, like my friend Sandy reminded me, to put me back into the joy of an unhurried life.

Monday, February 2, 2015

I Write Like a Mom

I love to write in a clean environment with absolutely no distractions, noise, or clutter. I would prefer a cup of coffee, a light snowfall, and a crackling fire. In this scenario, someone will deliver morning tea on a silver tray with delicate pastries. After all, I'm working hard; writers cannot be disturbed from their work. Someone else is doing laundry, cleaning dishes, and vacuuming. Someone else is making all the beds and wiping down bathroom counters.

And I'm clicking away at the keyboard, pausing only to sip my delicious and perfectly hot coffee.

Ha! It's never been this way, and it never will. In the real version, children literally perform handstands behind me. I'm usually freezing at my desk. Someone is probably crying, and something has just spilled. It's loud in here. I just heard the buzz of the dryer, so the laundry is ready to fold.

I learned in 2006 (I remember the exact week because my husband was traveling to assist with Hurricane Katrina clean up that Spring Break, months after the August 2005 disaster, and I had a fussy infant in one hand and a three year old who needed lunch immediately) how to write like a mom.

Depressed out of my mind and full of anxiety, I settled both children and sat at the makeshift desk crammed into one corner of our impossibly small bedroom of our first home. I had this idea for a novel, and I wanted to write. I just wanted to write. 

So I did. I wrote 140 pages during the next seven days (20 pages a day! I know!). The baby still cried; the house still needed cleaning; I still folded innumerable loads of laundry; I set up all kinds of crafts and activities for my oldest. And I wrote with more distractions, clutter, and noise than you can imagine. At night, zombie-eyed and hungry, I wrote until my head fell onto the desk.

I thought about that week this morning when I had planned a glorious writing morning for myself before my noon classes. But no. School is canceled, and amid cinnamon rolls, dishes, setting up activities, and noise, I'm sitting here to write. I had just whispered to myself, "Well, I guess no writing today," when I remembered that conditions are never perfect for a mom. 

It's the worst kind of background (I can actually hear the music to the Little Mermaid), but the mind is its own quiet place. I've had 13 years of practice to take whatever situation I'm in--a minivan, an airport, a hospital waiting room, a kitchen covered with glitter and flour--and write.

I just write. I write exactly like a mom.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


I'm reading in Psalm 1 about the person who "delights in the law of the Lord" and who "meditates on it day and night." This person gains a special privilege.

We're told that "whatever he does prospers."

Prospers! Don't you think of wealth and success? Don't you think of some kind of gain?

I'm learning to think about prosper in the sense of flourishing, growing stronger, becoming healthy. It's a better, more accurate way to think about this promise. Whatever we're doing, as we delight in God and meditate on the scriptures, we receive assurance that these spirit-led things flourish and grow. They become strong and healthy in unusual and unexpected ways.