Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Learning Non-Negotiables in Work / Life Balance

I'm learning from various folks how they protect their family time from the ever-encroaching demands of work and service.

Lately, the concept of "non-negotiables" comes into these conversations. Wise mentors, for example, refuse to travel more than once a month. It's a non-negotiable. Others protect family dinner as a non-negotiable. Still others insist that Friday evening is always family night--it's a non-negotiable.

Non-negotiable, if you remember, means not open for discussion or modification.

I'm learning more and more how different families use the non-negotiables to stay in balance in a world where work never ends.

If you have a moment, would you share your non-negotiables when it comes to work / life balance?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Maybe She Needs To

This morning I see a groundhog racing around a field as I'm driving to campus. I know this field; sometimes a dozen or so groundhogs will scurry across and then dive into their underground tunnels. I imagine this whole network of tunnels and an intricate Groundhog City. I wish I could see it and understand it.

There's so much hidden underneath the surface, I think. I consider their secret lives all morning.

Later, I walk into my building only to see some student sitting right there in the middle of the staircase so no one can pass by without difficulty. She's talking on the phone, ignoring everyone as she sits there like she's the most important thing in the world.

I squeeze my way around her, astonished--angry really--at her impertinence. How rude! How selfish!

As I pass her, I think of the groundhog. It's the strangest thing; I think about the intricate tunnels inside that girl's heart. There's a whole life I cannot see. Maybe she's sitting down because she just received the worst news of her life. Maybe she's sitting there because she can't possibly find the energy to move even an inch.

Maybe something's happened to her, and, for whatever reason, sitting there, blocking everyone's path is an inconsequential thing by comparison.

Or, she's just selfish.

I don't know. But for once, I consider how rude and selfish it is to judge others when I cannot see their underground lives and the intricate network of joy and pain within.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

If You Dominate Every Conversation

I've become aware that I control every single conversation.

I confess! I repent!

My friend kindly tells me that it's my leadership style and perhaps my teacher's heart (and I excuse it as my curiosity), but it's really my bossy, nosey, impatient, and controlling personality.

It's my power-hungry, obnoxious self.

I'm a conversation thief. I steal what you want to talk about, and I make it about what I want to talk about. I also direct the path of conversation. In the classroom, this serves me well, but outside of the classroom, my conversation style doesn't love others. I didn't even realize that I like the position of power in a conversation. Oh, who can save me from myself?

When I think about this today, I realize that I want to transform my interrupting, dominating, controlling conversational patterns into a more loving kind of exchange. But it's too deep, people. When I share how I'm growing, for example, I'm embarrassed by how my very techniques reveal that I still believe I'm in charge and still concerned with my own power.

Case in point: I say things like, "I'll let you ask the questions, or I'll let you talk about what you want to talk about," as if I'm allowing something that I ultimately control. I can't escape myself! Or I imagine saying, "Who would like to direct this conversation?" to grant authority to someone else (as if I had it to begin with). I think I need to stop talking altogether.

What has happened to me?

I want to listen and let others direct conversation. With God, all things are possible, right?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Every Single Frame

I find a quote by photographer Annie Leibovitz that has me thinking.

She says, "I am impressed with what happens when someone stays in the same place and you took the same picture over and over and it would be different, every single frame."

So much of my life in the past 8 years has been about staying in the same place every single day and seeing the incredible beauty, wonder, and mystery in the most ordinary day.

The smallest details of this day--like the human face captured frame by frame by a photographer-- bring about endless things to notice and delight in.

It's different, every single frame.

Friday, March 27, 2015

I Love Psalm 143:10

This morning I read this in Psalm 143:10: 

"Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground."

It's such a simple cry for God to teach us what we need to know to do His will, and that we'd be led on level ground. I learn that the idea of "level ground" doesn't just mean straight; the description also means pleasing, agreeable, and good (as in righteous). What a great, simple prayer for anyone today. 

It's not as if we come before God knowing already what to do and how to live. It's not as if we come before God knowing the path today or how to move forward. 

We pray this: Teach me to do this, God. Teach me whatever it is I need to know to accomplish Your plans for me. And, by the way, could the path please be a good, pleasing, level one? Something drama-free and peaceful? Thank you, Lord. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Every 50 Minutes

My kinesiology students have been teaching me all about the dangers of a sedentary writer's life. The research confirms that I must move more throughout my day, not just in my bursts of exercise in the early morning. The writing life that sits all day is not good for my body. It's not good for my heart. 

They recently advised that I simply set a timer for 50 minutes. When it dings, I get up and move for 10 minutes. I jump around. I race downstairs for snacks or to fold laundry, and then I race around the room and up the stairs like a crazy woman. I dance. I take a brisk walk outside. Then, I sit down, reset the timer, and work for the next 50 minutes.

The 50 minute segments of the morning have brought a certain joyful order and rhythm to the work of sitting at a desk. When the timer dings, I think about the kind of fun I can have for 10 minutes.

My heart feels so much better.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

5 Things I Learned That May or May Not Be True

Today I learned several things that may or may not be true from students who heard this information from somewhere. I am so curious that I just cannot wait to learn more. 

I learned that certain sounds can make one physically sick.

I learned that we connect more, and feel more rapport with, people who move their eyebrows as they speak.

I learned that most people cannot spend more than 30 minutes alone with their own thoughts. They become too distressed.

Some people can hear their heartbeat, breathing, and blood flow and sleep with fans or noisemakers in order to distract them from the noise of their own body. 

And finally, I learned that people with more symmetrical faces apparently have better immunity.

How interesting this day has become already!

I'm off to an afternoon of learning more.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What We Didn't See Before

I asked my students another name game prompt: "What's one thing you look forward to when you wake up in the morning?"

My favorite answer? A student says simply this: "I look forward to what I'm going to learn that day. I look forward to learning something new."

Something new. Something I didn't know before or see before. 

Can you imagine the possibilities? Can you imagine this sentence as a cure for boredom and despair? I think of the pleasure of making new connections and of learning something new. For me, it's learning new verbs and their origins. It might be experiencing something new--a new food or drink or a new television show. It might be learning something new about my daughters or husband. It could include learning a new game, reading about another country, or investigating something in the natural world. 

I think about waking up with the energy and commitment to learn something new. I think about how, when evening comes, I would keep my commitment to learning something new by deliberate attention to some kind of phenomenon or research. 

I get excited just thinking about tomorrow and what I might learn. I'll let you know. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Why We Do What We Do

I love asking students to interrogate every day objects and routines in their lives to find out what they signify.

They consider what's in plain sight to them all the time.

They ask questions like: What does this object represent to me? What meaning do I attach to it? What does this object or activity teach me about larger themes in the humanities like beauty, ethics, happiness, or longing? What am I overlooking? 

It's seems absurd at first to take the most common of objects--lip balm, pencil, baseball glove--and ponder it, really ponder it. We're suddenly hacking into the system where everything means more than itself.

Everything becomes worthy of our attention. Everything teaches us something about ourselves, our world, and how we've constructed our lives. We're attentive; we're choosing how we think about what's happening around us. We can stop and ask why and how and what.

It's a different way to live, one in which you feel fully engaged in your own life.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

They Don't Seem to Mind

Just yesterday, we were covered in snow. Today, it melts, and my daughter Kate and I circle the house just in case we find Signs of Spring. She and I decided to write this blog together.

We find the daffodils indeed. They rise up as usual. Nothing can stop them. The snow comes, and they don't seem to mind.

We looked at those daffodils that have come once again, as they do every single spring. We realize that they do what they do, as they do it, no matter what's happening around them. We're encouraged to rise up in our own internal springtime of joy, thankfulness, and beauty, even when winter won't let go.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Irresistible Rest

When I come upon my cat, Merlin, resting in the sun, it's irresistible: I'm drawn into the light.

I have to get right down beside him and let the warm sun greet my face. Whenever I see cats lounging in the sun, I remember that's there something more important than laundry, cleaning, baking, or grading. There's something more important than all the gazillion things I'm supposed to check off my list.

Right now, it's more important to turn my face to the sun next to my cat. We close our eyes and enjoy the warmth of it, and the whole day feels much better and more manageable.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Unencumbered (or Forgetting All Your Bags)

Maybe I'm getting old. Today I arrive to campus to discover that I had left all my things--my purse, my bag of teaching supplies and handouts, my wallet--at home by the front door. I just hopped into my van and drove happily away.

I'm walking around with nothing but my phone in my pocket and my car keys.

Then I realize that I don't need anything because everything I need is either in my mind, on my phone, or available through classroom technology.

I feel so unencumbered. So light. But I also feel strangely exposed without all my things. Then, I'm used to it. I'm walking free, airy and spry as a fairy.

The sensation had me wondering more and more about what I might do without, what I might cast off, what I might surrender.

Everything I need, I already have.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Another Great Verb in Scripture

This morning, I notice how often we're told that God "guards" our lives. In Psalm 97:10, we read that the Lord "guards the lives of his faithful ones." The verb guard is the Hebrew word shamar which means to watch closely, observe carefully, exercise great care over, or to heed well.

It's the same verb we read when Adam is told to "keep" care of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:15; it's also the verb to describe how the cherubim "guard the way to the tree of life" in Genesis 3:24. It's the verb Cain uses when he asks, "Am I my brother's keeper?"

475 times we read of this verb shamar, and each time, it means carefully protect, carefully hold, carefully guard, and carefully observe.

It's so comforting to think that I am carefully protected, held, guarded, and observed by God today. In Psalm 121:3, we're told that "the God who keeps you will not slumber."

At all times, we're carefully held.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Your Symbols of Wealth

I'm writing about regional symbols of wealth for a project, and I ask my students what wealth looks like here in college.

I had to google search some of their answers because I'm that out of touch. Apparently, it's the Canada Goose brand of outerwear, the Lululmon athletic clothing, and of course, your Beats headphones. With these three items alone, you have a seat at the rich table in college.

And it's a coveted, essential seat. People know you--and your family--by these brands. More than your character or ideas, it's your brands. 

I talk about different areas of the country and what wealth looks like there. For some, it's the right activities--lacrosse and summer camp--and for others it's where you vacation. Others report wealth is about remodeling, and this remodeling must include granite. 

And, of course, you add in the Apple watch everywhere. 

I'm interested in how arbitrary the symbols become and how they change. I want to expose the trap of it, the false and empty social pressure of it. Once, I'm told by some, the rich club meant the Outer Banks vacation (with the OBX bumper sticker to authenticate your experience) and the Highander. Now, it's the two-week rented villa in Italy and the Lexus. The stakes get higher and higher and the pressure more laughable. 

Ask a teenager here, and they know the rules: the elite wear Ugg boots and Northface. But in Richmond, Virginia it's all Nike and Lilly Pulitzer. The Ugg boots and Northface seem ridiculous to some there, even in cold weather. 

It's silly, really. I wonder how to help my daughters rise above it and value themselves and others for who they are. 

That's what I'm studying and asking others about. Living with flair means I'm free from categorizing others, and I live beyond a need to belong in this club or evaluate others by their brands.

I know it's hard. It's an ancient problem. The day I wore Guess jeans to school in 1987, with a Benetton t-shirt, I felt like I belonged. You too?

Would you help me with my project? What are the symbols of wealth in your part of the world?

Thank you!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

No Turtle

Five years ago, I convinced myself that a turtle was hibernating under our deck. When Spring came, I attempted to lure him out with treats. Luring the Turtle filled my heart with anticipation and wonder as I watched the yard for that enormous turtle.

Every day, I peeked out the window to see.

Yesterday, repairmen came to fix our old deck. They ripped up disintegrating wood to reveal the depths of my deck's underside.

I walked out there in my socks to witness what was for so long unknown to me. Would I see dozens of turtles half-buried in leaves and soil? 

Nothing. Just old leaves, a tennis ball, and rocks. Even the mysterious skunk tunnel was just a boring abandoned hole.

But I remembered the anticipation and hope I felt 5 years ago. I thought to myself that maybe, just maybe, the turtle went deeper. Maybe, just maybe, many mysterious creatures hide in deep burrows that I cannot see.

I chose to keep the hope alive, and I'll peek out every day, just in case. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Same Old Thing Every Day: How Spiritual Disciplines Saved My Life

"Do you have to do this every day?" My youngest flops down on my caramel colored bedspread and rolls over onto her stomach. She's asking out of curiosity, not annoyance.

"Yes," I say. "It changes me." 

I'm in the same rocking chair where I cradled her in my arms 10 years ago. I glance out the window at the Weeping Cherry and the swirls of an orange and pink sunrise. I drink coffee with hazelnut creamer from a mug that says, "Put Your Big Girl Panties On and Get Over It." 

It's the same thing every day: coffee, rocking chair, and sunrise. To my right, in a blue wicker basket, I have my essential tools including Hannah Whitall Smith's God is Enough, the green Bible my friend Elizabeth gave me in 1994, my journal, and my favorite pen (the Pilot G-2 ultra fine point). 

Then, the ritual--the dance--begins. It's just Jesus and me as I read an entry from God is Enough, underlining and sighing in agreement with her words. I'm talking to Jesus about what I'm feeling, what I'm worried about, and what's coming ahead. I turn to the Psalms and read the next five. I'm asking Jesus to teach me, to change me. I'm asking Jesus to let His word work within me. I find I'm confessing bad attitudes and shedding off the old me like snake skin.

The new me comes into view, hazy at first and then fully here. I'm anchored again. I remember who I am. I open my journal and cry out to God in numbered lists about my children and husband. I pray over what's coming in this day. When I close the old journal and the equally worn Bible, I feel emptied out of every dusty thing that settled upon me in the night. 

By 8:00 AM, I'm out the door, walking children to school. 

"Do you do this every day?" my colleagues wonder when they realize the time commitment of walking a mile to school every day.

"Yes," I say. "It changes me." 

I'm not just walking; I'm composing a symphony with the rhythm of my steps; I'm forging invisible tethers of love to my neighbors that hold me when I'm lost; I'm remembering the beauty and simplicity of children and elementary school. I'm not just walking. 

Later, I sit down to write my blog. "Do you really do this every single day? No matter what?" my students ask. 

"Yes," I say. "It changes me." 

I'm transforming the mundane into something infused with God. The single most important spiritual discipline has been this daily reflection--normally written in 20 minutes or less--each day for the past 5 years. I'm teaching my heart the ritual of thanksgiving, of hope, and of God's presence in ordinary living.  

Once, I wasn't this woman. I lived in despair and regret and longing and fear. Everything within me felt dead or at least missing. I was missing from myself. The spiritual disciplines of study, prayer, journaling, Bible reading, walking, and blogging--and might I add the ritual of morning coffee--brings this lost girl home.

She returns to me every new day in the same old ways. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Keeping It Fresh

When you think about your work and your relationships, you want to keep things fresh. The enthusiasm I continue to feel for God, teaching, marriage, and parenting comes from one thing alone.

I will tell you now. Are you so curious?

Are you?

That's the answer: It's curiosity.


Curiosity is the mental state of being extremely interested in something. It's the mindset that you have so many more beautiful things to learn and experience with this topic or this person. When it comes to writing and grammar, I press deeper and deeper into complexity and puzzlement. I cannot exhaust the topic! It's the same with people; I love asking questions--even after 15 years--to find more complexity and more puzzles to put together about what makes them do what they do and think how they think.

The profound pleasure that comes from further understanding an inexhaustible topic or a person means each new day feels fresh. What will I learn of you now? What new mystery awaits?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Do Not Fret: All Kinds of Ways to Grow

Today I find myself fascinated by germination. My daughters love buying seed packs and planting seeds into little greenhouses for late spring planting. They love beets and poppies and snapdragons and lemon basil, and I smile when I see their little signs.

I think about all those little dried seeds that suddenly come to life with oxygen, warmth, and water. So easy, so predictable.

I've been praying about growth and maturity with my daughters and what it means to continue to grow up well. When I compare their growth patterns to other children, or even to my own growing up years, I can easily feel worried, frustrated, confused, or even scared.

But then I read about germination.

I learn that some seeds require light; some need darkness. Some need fire to break apart their seeds; some need an animal to digest them to then grow. Some need chilling temperatures; some need extreme heat. Some seeds germinate quickly and others take a very long time. Some seed exteriors require years of softening and disintegration before maturity comes. Other exteriors fall away with the slightest addition of water.

As I read of all this variation, I think that I cannot prescribe a growth pattern for my daughters. God may send darkness and despair to mature them; He may put them in the glorious light of well-being and prosperity. He might let them know the icy depths of loneliness or fear; He might put them under the Refiner's fire of heat they can hardly stand. They may, like me, find peace as they turn 40 years old and wander, as I did, through a lifetime of desert. Or they may find wisdom, joy, and rootedness as teenagers.

It's possible. Anything's possible.

God knows exactly how we're going to grow best including when, where, and with or through whom. It will not match another kind of seed.

I remember that everything that's happening to us is part of our particular growth pattern. We can trust the one who planted us and who knows the number of our days. We can trust that all things might be used for our development if we allow it. And we can trust that, no matter how different our growth looks from others, we are following the growth pattern marked out for us.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Writers and Their Cats

I'm not the only writer who works with a cat standing guard. My cat, Louie, sits there like a bodyguard. Whenever I begin even walking in the direction of my desk, he races ahead and positions himself right here.

You can't do this without me. You need me. It's a dangerous thing, this writing. Beware.

He's a rather large cat, by the way. He just sits. The whole time. With me.

It's comforting and protective, as if the words I'm writing might bring despair and danger. I'm here. I will protect. I notice all. I am the gatekeeper here. 

Oh, cats!

I had fun reading this website that showcases 11 Writers Who Really Loved Cats and this list of 30 Renowned Authors Inspired by Cats. 

Does your cat sit with you while you write?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Live with Flair for Kids: 3 Questions to Ask

Today I tell my children that it's getting harder and harder to blog each day. I feel like I've recorded so many extraordinary things in my ordinary days that I wonder if I've run out.

Then I recall in Psalm 40:5 a beautiful new mission: "You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told."

They are more than can be told.

In another version we read David's statement: "Were I to speak of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.

They are too many to declare. 

I won't give up! There's more, always more to declare. I'm inspired afresh!

As I talk about my blogging with my children, they insist I must not stop blogging.

"Well," I say. "Tell me, if you were me, what you would blog about today? What would be your Flair moment?"

As they ponder, I remind them both that living with flair has always been about these three questions:

1. What filled you with wonder today (and the more ordinary the object or experience, the better)?
2. Where did you see God at work today?
3. What negative thing happened that you could find the good, the beautiful, and the purposeful in? How could you spin a not-so-good moment into something wonderful?

I hear their answers--too many to recount--about embracing failure during the dreaded rope climb in PE (I owned my failure, Mom. I laughed at myself, and it was awesome. I was hanging there, one inch off the ground, owning my failure), about seeing God give opportunities to talk about the Bible in class (I told the whole story of Moses to the class), or about not giving into peer pressure at recess (I just said, No, and I did the right thing).

The list goes on, but this is my blog, not theirs. I learned in this moment that asking children these three questions builds a fantastic mental framework for them (one I now take for granted each day) and it provides great parent/child conversation.

I'm feeling so proud of this lovely conversation just as my daughter says to me, "I do know something really cool to share for your blog. Did you know that the delicious maple syrup we enjoy on our pancakes is tree poop? Tree poop. It's like waste that the tree doesn't need. It's poop. Essentially poop. That's right, tree poop. It's a byproduct of tree respiration."

I exclaim that the tree poop comment is the opposite of a live with flair moment because she's taken a delicious thing and turned it into something gross. She's laughing so hard. It's not really scientifically accurate, but now we're all laughing.

"That's not living with flair," I say. "That's so gross!"

"I know! But it's funny."

Everyone is laughing, and we'll never see Saturday Morning Pancakes the same way again. I suppose, for some of us, living with flair means plain old laughter at the expense of maple syrup.

And for the rest of us, we'll stick with wonder, God at work, and finding the good. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tagging Along

Today I enjoyed taking a long walk around the neighborhood to the sound of melting snow and birdsong. My daughters sent me out the door, shooing me off so they might play a game they invented.

But then, they invited me to spend time with them, suggesting things like making pork dumplings and painting toenails. They do most of it; I'm just there with them. 

Their Spring Break ends today, so we spent the afternoon together. They invited me to watch an episode of Undercover Boss with them, which I promised them I would not love at all (but in fact, I am now addicted to and cried three times during the episode). 

To end this break, we are eating Greek food, which I promised them I do not love (but in fact, I follow their lead and love everything they order). 

I'm in a new phase of enjoying family life because these children invite me along with their fabulous ideas for the day. You have no idea how wonderful it feels to be included in something I did not have to plan. You have no idea how wonderful it feels to have your own children coax you into activities that they love and want you to love.

It's a new kind of household, and it's so much fun. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Crammed with Heaven

Today a new friend shares with me a quote from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh (Book VII) that I love: 

“Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware...”

Every common bush is afire with God. We see and take off our shoes because of the millions of holy places in this ordinary day. This day on this earth is crammed with heaven. How easy it is to forget to see. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

And We Saw a Patch of Grass

The neighbors all come outside because it's a stifling 40 degrees outside. We're walking dogs. We're jogging. We're taking long walks.

One finishes shoveling the melting ice from her driveway as we walk by. "Look!" she points at the tiny patch of grass revealing itself on the edge of the driveway. We stand there encircled around it in awe. Grass!

Such joy in seeing what was lost to us for the last few months! It's grass! Green!

I'm thankful for seasons. I remember when we all stood outside with our faces to the evening sky as the first snowflakes of winter fell on the driveway. Such wonder and joy at this snow that we had missed all year!

We'll feel this way again. It's the nature of life and the passage of seasons.

And it's funny to consider as we stand there, marveling at the most ordinary grass in the world.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

More Important Than Fear

We're watching The Princess Diaries, and the famous quote about courage pierces my heart. I haven't seen the movie for over ten years, and back then, I loved the quote as well.

In the letter a father writes to the main character (a scared and reluctant princess who wants to run away from her calling) he defines courage for her. He states:

"Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than our fear. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all."

It's a great quote to remember. When I'm afraid, I remember what is more important than my fear. Living out the good works God has planned may involve fear, but living one's calling is more important than fear. I'm so glad for that.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Happy Evidence

Do you remember my little succulents? I love those little terrariums! Originally, they looked like this (from May of last year). Tiny, unassuming little things, no? Barely there, really.

Now, they explode off the kitchen window sill, reaching out their arms with love as I stand there washing dishes. They've become so involved in the life of the kitchen now. They hold their own place in the world.

Slow growth, over an entire year, eventually showcases itself when you compare yourself to what you were this time last year.

When I'm discouraged about my own emotional or spiritual growth, I glance at my succulents that stay steady and slow all year. With imperceptible movements that hardly anyone sees in the meantime, they reach maturity. I think about parenting, fitness, mentoring, and teaching. If I judge it day by day, it feels like failure or stagnation, but if I look over the course of months or years, I finally see it.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Some Beauty Here

The snow still rises up around the house today, and it's still icy cold. However, we enjoy the bright sun, the blue sky, and the lovely tree bones. This view comes only through winter.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

If God Gives You Ordinary

Today I remember the story of the demon-possessed man who Jesus heals from chapter 5 of Mark. I remember how, as Jesus got into the boat to leave, this healed man begged to go with Jesus. The text doesn't tell us, but I imagine this man not only wanted to be with the one who had healed him, but he also imagined that he would now live an extraordinary life of adventure.

I imagine that he might have been willing to suffer greatly, to sacrifice much, to travel far, to work hard, to do anything. Take me, Jesus! I'll go anywhere and do anything for you!

But the text says that Jesus says, "No."

Jesus says, "No, go home to your family and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been."

So the man returns home to the boring, comfortable regions he already knows, and he proclaims the great things Jesus has done. The text says that "everyone was amazed at what he told them."

Sometimes we see the trend in Christian living that exalts the exciting life of adventure and sacrifice. We note the ones who suffer greatly, sacrifice much, travel far, and work hard. But what if God sends you back to boring, comfortable, ordinary family life where you daily proclaim the great things of Jesus? Is that less meaningful and less important?

Jesus said, "No."

Jesus had a different plan for the man who wanted to get into the boat. He was to stay home and not go. Sometimes, that's the way we're called to live, and in the midst of this kind of ordinary family living, I remember it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Tiniest Little Gift

On Sunday night, my friend put a tiny little present on my kitchen counter.

It was a teabag.

It's wrapper said Scottish Breakfast Tea. My friend simply said, "You will love it. It's the best tea."

Days pass. I had set the teabag next to my tea kettle because I wanted to drink it during the morning sometime since I'm so sensitive to caffeine.

Finally, I remember that little teabag, and I make myself a cup of steaming Scottish Breakfast Tea. I add some sugar from my tiny little blue and white sugar bowl.

It was delicious.

This tiny little gift brought an immense amount of relaxation.

I remember that living with flair involves tiny little gifts to pass on and enjoy.

It was, as I said, delicious.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Not the Most Important Thing

I'm sitting here upstairs as I listen to these ice pellets fall. I learn that this isn't a half snow / half rain combination; it's an entirely different kind of phenomenon.

It's amazing. And it means something to me.

An ice pellet forms when a snowflake melts as it falls through a warm layer of air but then refreezes when it passes through a below-freezing layer of air.

I learn that such ice pellets tell us that a nice warm front is on the way. The temperatures will rise this week!

This chiming catastrophe of early dismissals and traffic horrors, this pinging mess of accidents waiting to happen indicates an advancing mass of warm air. It's the pregame; it's the prelude; it's the overture. In other words, this dreary precipitation outside my window that has canceled everything isn't the most important thing happening. It's simply introducing the great thing coming next.

Warmth! Spring! It's coming!

Living with flair means that sometimes what's happening isn't the most important thing. What's coming next is.

Monday, March 2, 2015


You know when you're absolutely freezing, and then you walk into a warm building? You know that feeling of being wrapped up in warmth, completely covered by it? It's the best feeling. Today I enter my campus building feeling particularly icy--both physically and emotionally.

I enter the building: warmth. I sit there in the stairwell and experience the balm of it, so soothing and comforting against the physical experience of cold. But what about my icy mood? My stress and guilt over things undone, personal weaknesses, selfish thoughts, and complaints? What about the ice cold me: the girl who doesn't want to be inconvenienced, who controls everything, and who battles all kinds of internal demons?

I remember Romans 8:1: "Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death."

No condemnation--not in the past, not now, not ever. I place my icy self in the warm embrace of this truth and let the balm soothe and heal. I'm set free from this law of sin and death. I melt by the warmth of this reality.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

What I Am Afraid of Losing

On some days, I find myself begging God to display His mercy in my life so I will not have to suffer greatly. As I grow in maturity and grow in faith and dependence on God, I still worry about pain and suffering in the form of losing loved ones.

I'm willing to let God control and direct all things about my life, but I still say, "Oh, but please be merciful! Please!"

I find such a comforting truth in Jacques Philippe's Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart. My wise counselor recommended this years ago as I battled daily anxiety and fear.

Philippe writes, "The Lord can leave us wanting relative to certain things (sometimes judged indispensable in the eyes of the world), but He never leaves us deprived of what is essential: His presence, His peace, and all that is necessary for the complete fulfillment of our lives, according to His plans for us."

I find great comfort in the truth that God never deprives us of what is essential. And that, with God's power--by faith--I learn more and more to hope against all hope when I experience suffering.

As I travel this week to the funeral of a childhood friend who died of complications from cancer, I think of his sweet wife and precious three young children he leaves behind. I pray that this whole family experiences the essential presence of Jesus, His peace, and "all that is necessary for the complete fulfillment" of their lives. They must hope against all hope to do so.