Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Afternoon Slump

I've been thinking about the afternoon walk to combat the afternoon slump. It's the perfect solution to what wanes in me between 1:00 and 3:00 PM.

A little walk, and I'm refreshed.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Every Time: Expect Something Powerful to Happen

I'm listening to a professor who has taught the Bible for over 35 years. He apologizes that he cannot contain himself; he's gripped with passion for God and His word. God's word thrills. It captures. 

He remarks that when we read the Bible, we should expect something powerful to happen. We should expect our lives to change. We encounter a God who is faithful and good and who loves us beyond measure. We are gripped, captured, and thrilled by the supernatural. 

We are changed. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

High and Deep

I'm back in the Rocky Mountains, and I know this truth: What's above me--the glorious expanse of it that I cannot contain within the scope of my vision--is just as marvelous as what's barely visible here beneath my feet.

From this height, I remember the beauty of what grows in the Alpine Tundra.

You will not notice these flowers unless you observe what you trample. I'm missing so much wonder in my scrambling to the top.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Tiny, Perfect

In the past 24 hours, I went to a drive-in movie, saw a very small bunny, smelled a yellow rose, ate a flavor of ice-cream called Oatmeal Cookie Dough, and met the daughter of a friend. This friend I knew years ago way before marriage and children. The sweet baby was tiny and perfect. 

Someone told me on Thursday night that one can't be thankful and anxious at the same time, as if the brain simply can't or won't allow it. I'm testing the theory and finding the joy of rejoicing again in small things, like I did years ago when Live with Flair--my grand experiment!--began.

So I think again about that bunny that I could fit in my palm--that wriggling nose and those little, soft ears. Tiny, perfect things!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Adapting to the Space

I'm taking a New Testament course from a wise professor in a very small space where I'm scrunched up next to him and other students. When I remark about the awkward arrangement, he says, "You've never lived overseas, have you?"

He kindly says, "Something I've learned in my life is the importance of adapting to whatever space I'm given."

Here in my own context, I'm used to expansive space all the time. I live a wide-open kind of life, unhindered and unconstrained. Put me in something small, and I protest.

Lesson learned. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

"Don't let the sky keep you from fishing."

I'm talking to a friend who is about to pack up to go fishing. I remind him about the darkening sky overhead.

He says, "You don't let the sky keep you from fishing."

It sounds like ancient fisherman wisdom that's designed to teach me how to live my life, not just catch trout.

I suppose it might storm. I suppose I could think of a million other circumstantial reasons keeping me from doing what I'm supposed to do--or rather, what I really want to do. I see the darkening clouds of discouragement in various forms.

But then I see the fisherman who packs up the truck underneath a gathering storm.

Fisherman know that the sky doesn't keep you from fishing.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Morning Briefing

I realize that most of my failures in a day come about because of the element of surprise. I'm not expecting something, and I'm not prepared with a strategy to act in the right manner. This includes things like overeating when a cheesecake unexpectedly arrives or falling apart in the face of stress with the needs of my children. 

I learn a military technique of the morning briefing to alert soldiers to potential threats, inform them of possible means of attacks, and explain what strategies exist to combat potential threats. I think of the mental preparation associated with the briefing. Some surprise attack may come, so what will we do?

I pause this morning and consider what's before me today--the potential challenges, temptations, and pitfalls both physical and spiritual. I gather my resources, assess my options, and plan my escape route or my means of resistance. 

I'm ready. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Too Heavy Inside

Twice in the last few days, a dark raincloud hovering overhead delivers drops of rain and then floats merrily on. The bright, hot sun still shines all around it. The mighty storm--a few yards in scope--cools down my steaming flip-flopped feet and the few trees around me. It's such a valiant attempt at a rainstorm from a singular cloud.

I think about the little raincloud that offers what it can despite its size and surroundings. It doesn't wait for other clouds or a more impactful storm. I know it's not scientifically accurate, but still, I think that when what it's carrying inside becomes too heavy, it must rain.

I think about what we hold inside that must come out--those drops of words or images that must fall because they sit too heavily inside our hearts. It never matters how small or influential our contribution (or in what circumstances); when it's time, it's time. God know when and on whom these words with fall, no matter how small or large in scope.

Monday, June 22, 2015

I Declare

This morning in the bathroom stall of an elementary school, I notice that someone has written on the wall a declaration of love. I remember how significant this was in school to declare, in writing, on a wall--or a tree, or a bench, or a chair--your love for someone for the whole world to see.

The impulse to declare, even in the bathroom stall, your heart's true love, made me smile today. I remember the childlike insistence of it and the pure motivation of the heart just to write it down for the world to know.

Declaring our love in writing for others to see represents something so simple and sweet. And I noticed it.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

This Cannot Be True

All week, I've been studying mysteries, paradoxes, and seemingly impossible truths of the Christian faith. Sometimes, I think, "This cannot be true," or "How can this be true?" when I'm confronted with something that confounds my logic or understanding. Miracles, the incarnation, the trinity or just the fact that we're spiritual beings housed within physical bodies, for example, can make my mind hurt.

We're up in the Rocky Mountains in our shorts. It's so hot. I'm burning up. I'm sunburned and so thirsty that I've consumed gallons of water.

And yet. . .

Snow! Snow right here on this hot mountain. But how? It cannot be true, but it is true. Instead of cynicism, doubt, or defeat, we embrace this impossibility and delight in the sublime experience of hiking through snow in the heat.

(It's so easily explained up here, from this altitude.)

I remember that just because my own set of circumstances means nothing makes sense, from a different, heavenly height, all makes perfect sense.

Here, we race in the heat and we make snowballs at the same time. It is true.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

When I Stop Getting My Own Way

This morning I realize again how much I love to get my own way. I'm not just imagining this; I've been told for many years by people who want to help me grow into maturity in this area that I struggle with needing to have things my way.

Others like me who voice their opinions and argue the benefits of their viewpoint--whether it's small things like where to go to dinner or larger issues like what kind of goals one should have--often bulldoze over people.

We're quick to decide, quick to discuss, quick to persuade. We smother others with our words that seem winsome while selfish.

This isn't as loving as listening to others, giving them time to think, providing them more time to articulate their opinion, and not forcing quick decisions. Why not let others decide a plan? Why not do what others like to do, too? My demanding and manipulative self needs to back off and love others through this kind of patience and deference.

Living with flair means letting others have their way most of the time. Perhaps this is a way to humble myself, like Jesus did, and serve others as He did.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Led Not Driven. . . Again

Today I remember to live a life that's led, not driven.

Led Not Driven!

Over the years, this phrase has reoriented me back to sanity and fellowship with God. Why all the rush and frenzy and scattered living? When I feel driven, something's not right. I sit down and think about being led by God and not driven by the culture--or anyone or anything.

I'm led, not driven.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Reading Outside

My youngest hands me one of her favorite books, When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead. She says, "Let's read outside together, and you can ask me questions if you get confused." She's carrying her own book, Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry.

How can I resist? We'll go outside in lawn chairs and read together. And I can ask questions if I get confused.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Every Time, the Little Box

Every time I order this one particular dessert (white chocolate croissant bread pudding from Chocolate Cafe, Ft. Collins, Colorado) when I'm out with my friends, I ask my husband if he would like me to save some for him.

Every time, he says, "No need. I'm good."

For years, he's said this.

But every time, for years, I ask the waitress for the little takeout box, and I place half the white chocolate croissant bread pudding into it. I pour all the extra white chocolate sauce over it, and I head for home. I find him and place the box before him.

Every time, he's overwhelmed with gratitude for this treat that he loves as much as I do. Every time, he's so happy. It's a little joke in our marriage--the white chocolate croissant bread pudding that he doesn't request but receives anyway, that he doesn't need but can enjoy, that he insists is too much but eagerly devours.

I want to cultivate more white chocolate croissant bread pudding moments for every time I forget how to love and delight someone else. Of course they don't need this extravagant thing. But they do.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Feeling Left Out

Sometimes my daughters will talk to me about feeling left out. Sometimes these feelings reflect truth (someone actually excludes them), or sometimes these feelings are lies. Either way, my husband and I have been helping them through these common experiences in adolescence that, unfortunately, don't go away in adulthood. All day, I've been reviewing some of the lessons I learned in my 40 years:

1. We are part of a community--knit together in Christ--so feeling left out sometimes isn't the truth of our experience, just an emotion that doesn't reflect reality.

2. Feeling left out means we're focusing much on ourselves and not looking outward to bless others. Instead of asking, "Who is excluding me?" we can turn it around to say, "Whom can I include?" or "Whom can I bless?" In this way, feelings of exclusion and loneliness often fade away.

3. Friendship doesn't satisfy the deepest need of the soul; it's belonging to, being known by, and relating to God. With this primary relationship in place, we can relate to others in pure love and not from a need to belong or be noticed.

4. The feelings of rejection, loneliness, or feeling left out draw us deeper into a relationship with God who alone satisfies.

5. God, in His providence, sovereignty, faithfulness, and love, can provide rich and meaningful friendships. We can ask Him to do so. 

6. The aim of friendship isn't to provide security; perhaps it's to enjoy life and work towards a common goal together. If I'm looking to friendship to provide security, it quickly becomes an idol.

7. We can choose to believe we are loved and worthwhile even when we are not surrounded by people and receiving attention.

8. The fear of rejection and loneliness is real and common. Everyone experiences this, and you are not alone. Over time, you will create a whole network of people who love and care for you and whom you love and care for in return. It takes time.

9. Becoming friends with yourself will serve you for a lifetime.

10. What would you add to this list?

Monday, June 15, 2015

"God's refusals are always merciful. . . " Elisabeth Elliot

I remember the day in July 1994 when I met Elisabeth Elliot at Camp Greystone. What I remember most about this wonderful woman was her unwavering trust that God would always supply what was needed. She spoke to the campers and staff about God's provision--including her famous story of the ant that retrieved a contact lens for a mountain climber. Back then, I was in awe of her faith in God's miraculous provision. 
I know this is a very strange memory to share, but I was stunned that Elisabeth Elliot had been married three times. It seemed that God simply kept providing what she needed in a spouse when her former spouse left her to be with Jesus. I was 19 and so worried about my own future. Would I marry? Would God care for me? I wondered about this God who cared for Mrs. Elliot through the tragic loss of her first husband. I wondered about the peace she had in her heart and how she told us we could trust God to care for us--even through loss and pain and sorrow.  

Later, I read this quote of hers: “God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God's refusals are always merciful -- 'severe mercies' at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our heart's desire except to give us something better.” 

I am learning that if God doesn't provide something I think I need, it can be seen as a severe mercy. I continue to learn to trust God even in His refusals. 

I'm so glad I met this wonderful woman when I did and so thankful for her life and ministry.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Restoration in Progress

We're on a family hike, and we come upon a field with a fence and a little wooden sign. It says, "Restoration in Progress."

We know that means it's been recently seeded and carefully tended to bring it back to how it is supposed to be. But it's not itself quite yet. We're therefore supposed to leave it undisturbed. We tread carefully, touch carefully, and leave it with as much peace and time as it needs to become itself again.

My husband and his friend take a picture right next to the sign to refer to themselves as still under restoration. We all are; we're not quite ourselves as we wait for God to perfect us, to make us ever more like Jesus, and to work what is pleasing to Him in us. One day, we'll be restored to our true beauty.

Everyone is a case of restoration in progress, so we interact with other hearts carefully, disturbing as little as possible, offering peace and time, and careful tending. We imagine the beauty that's underneath and that's surely coming in due time.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


In Isaiah 65:24, I read this in the New Living Translation: "I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!"

Just the day before, I learn about God's provision and how the word provision means to "see ahead." I thought about how God's provision--his supplying of my needs--is also about providing right now something I'll need in the future. It's about God seeing what I don't see on the road ahead. It's about bringing something into my life that I will need for a reason not yet disclosed to me.

God sees ahead of me and provides just what I need for right now and also for the future I cannot see. He answers before I even know what I'll need and before I even ask Him. What an amazing God!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Good Lines

Psalm 16 wins my heart as my most favorite psalm, and today I learn from Charles Spurgeon's commentary that, when translated well, this psalm's title is this: "The Psalm of the Precious Secret" or the "Golden Psalm."

I memorized this psalm as a struggling graduate student at the University of Michigan in 1998 because of the line, "I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." I also couldn't get over David's insistence in verse 6 that "the boundary lines for me have fallen in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance."

I thought about the boundary lines of my life that year and all the ways I felt shaken deep inside. I thought about being a single woman with little income in a strange city. I thought about my battle with depression and anxiety. As I meditated on this psalm, I learned to rejoice and find these boundaries pleasant because of what I was learning and how God alone could be my refuge. I learned to "not be shaken" no matter what trouble or distress came into my life. What terrible, beautiful years!

Nearly two decades later, I find I'm still choosing--by faith--to find God's boundary lines pleasant. As I age, I think about the boundary lines God draws around my life in many ways--physically and emotionally. I'm challenged to rejoice in the pleasant places of not overeating, for example. I'm challenged to listen to God and understand the boundary lines He places for me relationally or even in my leisure time.

During those years in Michigan, I studied 19th century British poetry. I loved poetry because of what happens to language when put under the pressure of rhyme, meter, and the limitations of minimal, stripped down expression. We see things more clearly; the words become beautiful and mysterious. Boundary lines--all those limits that we resist at first--come to showcase something we really need to see and understand.

The boundary lines are good lines. They are pleasant places. What a precious secret, a golden truth.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

What We Most Want

Today I learn again that what we need most of all is completely satisfied in Jesus.

Whatever it is that we most want, we find in God. If I could reiterate this to myself every day, it would transform my wandering, my striving, and my restless, anxious heart into a satisfied heart who has found her treasure at last.

I preach the gospel to myself over and over again these days. I know that what I most want and actually need is God.

But sometimes I just don't know what I want or need, or I forget!

I think of how David proclaimed in Psalm 27:4, "The one thing I ask of the Lord--the thing I seek most--is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord's perfection and meditating in His temple."

What we most want is the Lord.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

In an Instant

I'm learning that situations can change in a minute. In any moment of the day, a new friend, a new experience, a new possibility, or a new understanding might enter your life and change everything.

It will happen in an instant. I remember this when life feels stuck in a rut.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Always in the Same Place

I'm digging around in my enormous purse for my phone. There's a little pocket--that I never use--expressly for my phone. If I only used it! I think of the time I would save! I think of the fumbling I'd avoid, the awkward stress, and the embarrassment!

I'm tired of losing my phone in light of the essential truth that if put in the right place, I'd always find it. 

I try this revolutionary concept, and I locate my phone immediately. When using the pocket, what I need is always right there, in its place, where it should be. So easy. So predictable. So accessible. No more scrambling like a crazed woman who can't find what she needs. 

I consider the nearness of God and how, when secured by faith in that deep place in my heart, I have immediate access. I find what I need of Him without delay. I scramble no more.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Something New

Today my neighbor reveals the astonishing fact that a bird has built a domed nest with a beautiful side entrance right in her potted plant. After laying eggs, the bird has moved leaves over the side door, closing it off from the rest of the world.

She's a Carolina Wren! We listen to her cries, and I match the vocalization to what I find online at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (they have an app for bird identification!)

I examine the pictures of nests online, and I'm fascinated by the architecture. 

I love learning new things, and today I remember what a feast life is if we approach each day as students of wonder. 

My daughter and I discuss the Carolina Wren on the walk to school. We decide that if we were birds, we would be Carolina Wrens. We would build little domed houses with a side entrance covered by leaves. We'd stay cozy and warm and safe in this wonderful little home. 

(Google image search Carolina Wren nest, and you'll find much better photos than what I could take.)

Sunday, June 7, 2015

What You Need, You Have

I read this morning a little prayer for children regarding staying strong in the face of enemies (from Prayers Over Our Children). The writer points out that when David needed to fight the giant Goliath, he had exactly what he needed--the slingshot and the stones. 

I'm amazed to think that God prepares us in advance for whatever battle we're in--physical or spiritual. I imagine my frantic proclamation that I don't have what I need. I usually feel alone or unequipped, but if I just look around, my slingshot and stone are right at my feet. 

I pray that we recognize what God has provided to stay strong, even if these tools appear small and inconsequential. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Life-Changing Lesson from the Strawberry Patch

This week, we harvest bowl after bowl of the sweetest and biggest berries. I just don't understand it; last summer, many of the berries were small, sour, and often rotting with some kind of fungus.

What's changed?

My husband thinned out the patch and solved the biggest problem in the garden: overcrowding.

I learn that strawberry plants will not limit themselves to any boundaries. They won't stop sending out new runners. They will overproduce, overflow, and overrun. One might think, in this case, that more means better, but with strawberries, you must either thin out or relocate. You need fresh air between plants and plenty of space for runners to send down strong roots. Gardeners call this process renovating the strawberry bed.

Without renovation to create space, plants succumb to disease and they sour. While you may have many berries, they'll sadly be small and bitter.

When my husband renovated the bed, he removed so many plants that would, in fact, bear fruit. But too much is too much. A more fruitful bed, like a more fruitful life, understands that overcrowding of tasks, relationships, and activities sours everything. And like strawberries, we don't naturally move towards thinning and spacing out. We need an expert to come in and do the hard work of thinning out our lives.

Left to myself, I'll overcrowd every last space. No wonder my heart feels sour and small sometimes.

I ask God to bring in the new space, the fresh air, the thinner tasks, and the simpler boundaries. This will bring the sweetest and biggest into my life. I'll be a sweeter me with a bigger heart.

Friday, June 5, 2015

An Easy and Light Life

I'm alerted today to Matthew 11 where Jesus tells weary and burded people to come to Him. 

He says, "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

There's no confusion here in the ancient language; Jesus isn't speaking in a riddle here or inviting us into some inaccessible theological argument. No, it's really simple: We come to Jesus, and do what He asks as we learn from Him. It's refreshing, light, restful, and easy. 

Is this my life? Are you serious? I'm getting something wrong in these days filled with worry, exhaustion, labor, and trial. I'm missing something, and this morning I remember what it is. 

I'm taking on a different yoke of self-effort and striving. I'm taking on control and independence.

I take on Jesus's yoke of dependence, Spirit-empowerment, and surrender. I remember that if it's not easy, light, and refreshing, maybe I've missed the way of Spirit today. 

What a different way to live! Can it be true? Yes!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Free Summer Devotions for Children: 30 Things You Need to Know

Back in 2012, I wrote these summer devotions for my daughters and me to read together. I compiled a list of the most important truths I wanted to pass on to them. They are free for you to enjoy if you are looking for some material to use with your children.

Click on this link: Summer Devotions 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Summer Advice: Same Thing, Different Form

My children don't eat the watermelon slices I've put out on the counter. One of their friends comments that she loves melon balls. I bring out my melon baller and ball up bowls of melon. They gobble them faster than I can ball them.

Same thing, different form. 

It's the same with kabobs on the grill. If it's on a stick, children will eat it.

Same thing, different form. 

I laugh about all the things I finally do simply because they've taken a different form. Exercise packaged as a walk with a friend, for example, is just the same thing in a different form.

I'm thinking about other things I might not particularly enjoy that I would enjoy if put in a different form. I'm challenged to consider it!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Yet to Come

I find a "To Do" list written by my very organized daughter (she also makes lists for other family members). 

Among the normal, everyday kinds of things one might find on such lists, she writes, "Look forward to the cool things that are yet to come."

It's #7 on her list, but it's now # 1 on mine. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

I Made This. It Was Amazing. Chocolate Tofu Pie.

I found a recipe for "The Ultimate Chocolate Fudge Pie" on the blog Chocolate Covered Katie: The Healthy Dessert Blog. 

It's made with tofu! I can't believe it! Here's her amazing recipe. 

I used a blender and the firm tofu, and after putting it in the fridge for several hours, I couldn't believe how firm and delicious it was! I didn't even use a crust!

My husband liked it, and he does not like tofu.