Friday, July 31, 2015

Just Throw Yourself In

I watch the baby red eared sliders launch themselves off the logs as I approach the water. These turtles are named sliders for this very reason: they slide--quick as lightning--into the water. 

Watching them, I see all the verbs in my mind: they fling, abandon, careen, pop, and even twirl off the log. They parachute, trust-fall, tumble, and fly.

However you say it, it's so passionate how they fall. 

I think that's how it's done with God. You pull in your claws, detach, and desperately splash down into the Living Water. You free-fall any which way you can. It doesn't matter how you reach the water, just that you do--and fast. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Receive All the Good

The Italian Mama tells me how easily people accept disappointing things in their lives and how terribly they accept good things. Why do we do this? We doubt and question and fear the good things. Instead of questioning and being suspicious of great things happening, we should simply receive and embrace the great thing, thriving and flourishing as we do. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Watch Me, Don't Watch Me

My youngest daughter wants me to ride in the boat while she attempts her stunts on the kneeboard. 

"Will you watch me, Mom?"

"Yes!" I say. "I cannot wait to watch you!"

"But don't watch me," she says carefully. "It's too much pressure." She pauses. "But can you watch me? I mean watch me, but don't watch me."

I nod in understanding. 

I will watch her with all my delight, celebration, encouragement, and cherishing. But I will not watch with pressure, criticism, judgment, or anger.

I will watch and not watch her. 

As she giggles and says "watch me but don't watch me," I know that's how God sees us both. All anger and judgment were poured out and absorbed by Christ, so God--who carefully observes, carefully watches--sees us through the lens of cherishing and delighting. 

He watches me, but He doesn't watch me. Children know exactly what this means. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

5 Wonderful Things

I've been writing down things I just love in this world to share with my daughters. It's a fun conversation to talk about these things and why I love them. So far, I have the following on my list:

1. Pine cones and the smell of pine 
2. Eastern box turtles
3. The golden sun setting through a forest
4. Violets in a field
5. When a favorite song comes on the radio

Why do I love these things? What emotions do they conjure? What makes them wonderful? It's a great conversation to get to know someone, but it's also a great writing project to put into words what it feels like to come upon a blanket of violets in a meadow or a turtle half hidden by a log. And why love the smell of pine? And why love singing to a familiar song? 

I wonder who else loves these thing, and I wonder who loves entirely different things but for perhaps the same reason. If we talked about it, we'd surely stumble upon beauty, mystery, praise, and a longing for home. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Place Prepared

Today I'm reminded and comforted by the great promise from John 14 that Jesus goes and prepares a place for us. One day, we shall experience this prepared place--this dwelling made for us by God's own hand. 

I grew up in a lovely home where each room was specially prepared to delight and comfort the inhabitant right down to the gardenia scent. Guests in our home enjoyed lavish textures and delicious treats often prepared days in advance. When I would return from college or later with my husband and new family, we'd find special cookies and presents amid lit candles and music. 

I always knew special preparations were happening in anticipation of our arrival. 

I think about Jesus preparing a special place that's beyond what I could hope for or imagine. I think about Him being there most of all. How incredible and comforting to know we have a place prepared!

Sunday, July 26, 2015


I'm nourished the Southern way: fried okra, fried chicken, butter beans, sweetest sweet corn, sliced tomatoes, sweet tea, and a trip to Dairy Queen for dessert. 

Friends, family, a lake, dragonflies: nourished indeed. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Remembering Resonance

This morning I see a blue jay dive for a locust. I remembered the extraordinary discovery of the resonance chamber inside the locust. Enjoy:

An Extraordinary Find: The Secret Resonance Chamber

This morning, my youngest finds the shed exoskeleton of a cicada. She can hardly believe it. She's heard the news about the seventeen year wait for such insects to emerge. She's heard their songs--haunting, loud, and strange--across the landscape. But she's never seen one.

We examine the abandoned shell and marvel at the tiny hole by which the cicada exited. Such an interesting insect!

We talk about that distinct cicada sound (listen in this video), and I learn that it's actually one of the loudest of insect-producing sounds. But how? We discover that the hollow inside of the cicada's abdomen acts like a resonance chamber to amplify that song.

"What's a resonance chamber?" she asks.

The very term delights me. It's an enclosed space where sound waves combine, reinforce, and intensify one another. And it's all happening inside that little insect. I begin to think about the space inside of me. 

Just the other evening, a dear friend talked about her "mind space" and whether or not she makes room for lovely, noble, and pure thoughts. We talked about godly thinking that we allow to occupy our spacious minds.

It's like my own resonance chamber up in here. In the enclosed space of this life, I want to allow the Good, the Noble, the Lovely, and the Pure to combine, reinforce, and intensify. And I want the resulting music to be as loud and invasive as the cicada's song. Against a complacent and compromising culture, I let another song resonate, haunt, and confront.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Doors to Blessing

This morning I read an interesting insight from Prayers Over Our Children. The author writes to God:

"Your promises are great … but we must each learn the doors we must walk through in order to receive them."

Some doors surely look like entryways into dungeons. Some look strange and confusing. But perhaps this is the door for blessing. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

In a Calm

My husband stops every few minutes as he's reading David McCullough's new book, The Wright Brothers. 

He stops to share quotes here and there. The first one is from Wilbur Wright: "No bird soars in a calm."

Yes, without the calm, we soar best. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

To the Stars

We're driving through Kansas, and I learn the state motto: Ad astra per aspera.

It means "through hardship to the stars" or, better, "a rough road leads to the stars."

A rough road leads to the stars. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

3 Lessons from Ney Bailey

This morning, I listen to Cru staff member Ney Bailey speak from her wisdom accumulated from over 46 years as a missionary with a great faith in God. When she speaks, it's as if a great light floods into my soul and Jesus expands. Ney--nearly 80 years old--tells us how to bring God into our pain.

It's an astonishing message of releasing God's power and presence into our circumstances by thanking Him for the worst things in our lives. The worst things! Imagine!

We do this by faith, because as Ney always taught, "faith is not a feeling."

Secondly, she reminds us, that by faith, we always bless instead of curse. We must speak well of people. We must seek to bring joy and love right into our enemies' lives. Our enemies! Imagine!

We do this by faith, because as Ney always taught, "faith is not a feeling."

Finally, she says that we most represent Jesus when we are forgiving others. We can forgive because our God is bigger than any hurt. We forgive because of who God is. We forgive because we do not base this on feelings. Forgive those who have hurt us? Imagine!

We base everything--our whole lives--on the authority of God and His word.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Because It's a Good Story

This morning, I hear from several people who wished, at some point in their lives, they had a different story. At that time, they were angry at God, mad at the world, and filled with cynicism. They didn't want the story their lives were telling. Who would willingly want death, suffering, persecution, or isolation? Who would want homesickness, dashed dreams, and the loss of comfort? Why would anyone accept unimaginable pain? Why?

They know something. They know that this story that God is writing ends magnificently. What if He sees what we don't see and that He really, really is for us and not against us? What if it's true about Him--that He brings good out of anything and everything and that He can conquer death and handle our sorrow? What if the comfort and peace of being in the presence of the Almighty God makes the stories our lives are telling beautiful because of the gateway they provide to Jesus?

Because of the gateway they provide to Jesus. . . 

The people I listened to know something most do not know:

They know it's a good story, no matter what.

And they let God tell whatever story He wants with their lives, for His glory.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Your Swampy Days

My daughter remarks that she wants to research swamps because nobody really likes them and developers destroy them to their own peril. As a family, we remain fascinated by whatever one rejects at face value that could, in fact, become a moment of flair.

I learn again that swamps are good. Swamps serve us. They provide flood control, broad habitats for breeding and protection of fish and wildlife, and a vital ability to purify water. Swamps capture what harms surrounding lands and water. Swamps are sponges that absorb the unwanted chemicals and organic waste to protect nearby streams and rivers.  They strengthen and cleanse their surroundings in such supportive and beautiful ways.

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Ekem [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

But often we interpret the swamp as ugly, unproductive, useless, unfruitful space. We fret about removing or developing this worthless area, not realizing what we're doing.

I reinterpret the swampy places in my own heart and think about the succession of swampy days. Yes, I fret about anything that seems useless, unproductive, or ugly. Remove this! Develop it now into something better and useful! But no--what if I paused and considered what this day is purifying in me, how it's strengthening me, and how it does a cleansing work?

I'm thankful for swampy days that nobody like and everyone wants to end. Perhaps these days absorb something in me to protect and allow for more and more flourishing.

Saturday, July 18, 2015


I hear a quote from Mother Theresa:

"I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust."

When I think of someone who exhibited such a clear mission in life, it astonishes me that Mother Theresa not only did not have clarity, she once suggested it wasn't the best thing to pray for. Perhaps God does not offer clarity precisely because He invites us to trust. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Always on Time

I recall the line by Lemon in a Def Jam Poetry performance:

"God may not come when you call, but He's always on time."

I laughed when I heard the line because of all the years I called for God to come with this or that blessing. He never came when I called, but He was always on time.

He came with what I needed and wanted that only made sense in His timing. Now I see it: He's always on time. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sometimes Their Story is More Important

Today I'm reminded to turn my attention to the stories of other people. I think about enabling them to tell their story rather than always talking about my own.

I think about all the time I spend developing the craft of writing and how deeply I care about telling stories, but I think now about devoting more time to helping others do this, especially those we might overlook or think have nothing important to say.

A new good question: How can I help you tell your story? 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Starting with Compassion

Today I was challenged to look at others first through the lens of compassion. If I begin with deep concern for others--especially for any ways they might be suffering--I can more easily transform anger, judgment, or disregard into gospel love by God's power.

I begin with compassion, and I see things differently. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


I'm at an outdoor cafe, and I look down to see a little family of mice emerge from the cracks in the sidewalk and nearby door frame. 

They know it's lunchtime. One mouse is the size of a tiny spool of thread. She comes boldly for the crumbs. 

I had just returned from hearing how in the gospels we see spiritually starving people seeking crumbs from Jesus and knowing if they just touch the threads of his garment, they will find healing for more than they knew to ask. 

The little mouse comes boldly for her crumbs today. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Same Monday 5 Years Ago: Framing the Day

I love remembering. I love recording and reviewing all I've learned over the years. Today, I go back to a Monday in July five years ago when I was just learning how to be happy and find meaning each day. I loved this little moment with my friend in the store:

What We've Known For a Long Time

I read an article on the bus yesterday that recounts the results of a number of happiness studies. Researchers want to know if happiness is something we experience or something we think

I love reading articles like this.  Once again, research proves that when we think about our experiences we can put the day in a certain framework to create meaning and joy.  Not surprisingly, this meaning and joy rarely depend on circumstances.  

I'm thinking about that article, and I run into one of the most vibrant and enthusiastic moms in my town.  She's waving at me as I make my way through the self check-out line in the grocery store.  Within 30 seconds, she's inviting me to her "Alphabet Summer" where everyday at her home celebrates a different letter of the alphabet.

It's "J" day, so there's jam, jello, and jumping in the pool.  I'm imagining jugglers and jellyfish and jackals.  I smell jasmine.

Her two little boys smile, and one of them says to me, "I just loved 'F' day.  'F' day was the coolest!"

I'm living in the same town as this woman.  I'm raising my children on the same streets and we are going to the same grocery stores.  I'm making breakfast, doing laundry, cleaning and cooking, and yes, even going to the pool.  We both probably worked-out, had coffee, and will feel tired after lunch. 

But it's "J" day at her house.

They will jump into the pool instead of easing in.  With this alphabet framework, her whole summer radiates with hidden meaning and wonder.

"Do we have a special letter today, Mom?"

Quickly, I think about the curry chicken I've planned for dinner.

"It's 'I' day," I say.  "For India."

They are quiet and thinking of exotic lands.  

Same old day.  Same old dinner.  But now, we've got ourselves a happiness framework.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Big Enough for Broken Dreams

My friend gives me the book, Walking with Arthur: Finding God on My Way to New York, by James O'Donnell. As the author recounts a spiritual memoir of coming to faith in Jesus, he mentions a pivotal question his friend Arthur asks him one day.

"What do you most deeply trust?"

The question mattered to the author because of this truth that he shares with his readers: "However crisis may one day come to you, when it does come, my hope for you, as Arthur's was for me, is that whatever--or whomever--you trust will prove big enough and real enough to carry the weight of your broken dreams."

Is this thing or person you trust big enough and real enough to carry the weight of your broken dreams? Who or what could?

Arthur asks his friend what he's most afraid of. They talk about the trials of life and inevitable sadnesses from every direction. But rather than turning towards cynicism or unbelief, the friends realize that Jesus is big enough and real enough to carry the weight of anything your heart suffers.

It's a great comfort to think of allowing Jesus to carry whatever weight, whenever the crisis comes. I most deeply trust Jesus.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Go Paint a Stone

Today we gather up some stones and paint them!

It's fun, relaxing, and whimsical. We tuck the stones in among other rocks to bring joy. A minion even appeared.

The morning feels like it did the day we gathered acorns and painted them that long autumn afternoon years ago. In any season, nature offers something to paint. This winter, maybe we'll paint icicles.

I remember the ancient lesson: In any season, in any circumstance, there's something to gather to turn towards beauty. There's Art there, always.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Bake More Cookies

My daughters have never said no when I ask them if they want to bake cookies.

But I usually say no when they ask me. Who has the time? Who wants to measure and clean again?

After two days of no, I say YES! Oh, I'm so glad I did. 

Put on the music, gather 'round the kitchen, and bake more cookies. Pour a glass of milk, and in 8-10 minutes, you'll be so glad you did.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Little Encouragement

There's always someone around you who needs encouragement in some form. If you're confused about your purpose today, or if you're wondering what it is God wants you to do in some situation, remember the little (but enormous) task of being an encourager.

In word or deed, we might breathe encouragement into a discouraged heart around us today.

It thrills me to think of just how creative I can be in encouraging my husband and daughters to start. And then from there, I think about all the people I will see or meet today.

I have a new assignment: Encourage.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Other Than Where You Are Now

Written on the wall of the classroom where I'm taking a New Testament Survey course, I read the following day after day:

"Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there. . .Take up your own daily cross; it's the burden best suited for your shoulder and will prove most effective to make you perfect in every good word and work to the glory of God." --Charles Spurgeon

What a wonderful quote to consider and know to be true! If any place other than this very circumstance would have been better for me, God would have put me there.

But He didn't. I'm right here, right now because of His divine love.

And the burden I bear--in whatever form--is best suited for me to make me bear much fruit.

His divine love puts me where I'm supposed to be for a reason I trust is for fruitfulness.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Other Lives

Today my friend shares with me a link to a BuzzFeed article on 32 of the Most Beautiful Words in the English Language. I do love words!

I think my favorite word on this particular list comes from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig. He invents and defines the word "sonder" as "the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own."

I want to keep this sense in my awareness when I'm with other people. I want to remember that, for as self-involved and important I make my own life, every person I meet is living a life equally vivid, complex, and beautiful. I stay in my own mind too much. I view everything from the lens of my own experiences because I forget the enormity of the life in front of me and all it represents. 

I want to exit my self-involved day and inhabit the lives of others. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Gulch in the Heart

Out here in Colorado, you learn the definition of gulch. In fact, you learn about gullies, gorges, ravines, canyons, and valleys. Yes, gulch can mean to greedily gulp something down your throat, but it technically refers to a deep ravine that marks the course of a stream or torrent.

It's a holding place, a deep cut into the earth that's made for water. The gulch quickly fills up with a deluge of rain, but normally, the gulch is just a dry creek bed.

There the gulch sits all marked out for rushing water to course through it.

I take in the gulches as I drive across the landscape, and I think about the erosion that cuts deep, sorrowful valleys into the soul--just by the work of living, of growing up, and of all the ways a heart can break.

I see the empty valley, and I know this: When the water comes--and it must--the groove has been cut to contain it and direct it where it's going to go and to experience that water's flow. 

I think of Jesus' promise of Living Water that springs up within us. I think of what's in place to contain it and direct it. I remember the gulch that's waiting for it, cut there by design, to hold something true and beautiful.

With every deep cut into the heart, the Living Water courses.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Within the Refuge

I've been studying the idea of God as our refuge who is within us as we are within Him. It's such a mystery in Ephesians 2:6 that we are both with Christ and in Him. It's such a mystery that Christ is in us, dwelling there by the Holy Spirit. So many prepositions! In and with, in us, in Him--it's so complex and beautiful.

However it works, the in and the with, I think about the hiding place--the soul refuge--of God. I know it's strange to consider, but I think about this refuge as a little home inside my heart that's decorated with sentences of truth. I write sentence after sentence upon the walls of this place inside to construct the right identity every single day and to worship God. I recall Galatians 2:20: "I've been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." I paint upon the walls words from Romans that God is for me, that there's no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and that my mind can be controlled by peace. 

I decorate the refuge with all the words that now build my heart's home.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

As if it Meant More

I'm reminded of C.S. Lewis' description of the new Narnia in the final book of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle. 

Lewis says of this new place: "Every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can't describe it any better than that. . ." 

Later, the Unicorn explains that it was the land he'd been looking for his whole life, but that he had loved the old Narnia because "sometimes it looked a little like this."

Here, I find nature meaning more. It gestures to another place that, at its best, looks a little like the New. 

But it's not quite home. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Settled Down

I love to read the way in which frazzled and depressed King David settles himself down in Psalm 13. He feels forgotten, scared, lonely, and unseen. He feels mistreated. He chooses to remember true things in this moment. He writes:

"But I will trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord's praise, for he has been good to me."

Years ago, in the margin of my Bible, I wrote to myself: Settle down! Just like David knew how to calm himself with the truth of God's unfailing love (unfailing!!!), His salvation (we're saved!!!), and goodness (so good!!!), I know how to diminish the reactive emotions and stir up the truth. 

So untrue things stay settled while I rouse up the truth! 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Walking the Fence in 1982

When I was in 3rd grade, I lived on the military base in Ft. Lewis, Washington. Across the street from our house, an old fence enclosed an overgrown, grassy field. It was a rickety metal fence that had rusted in many spots.

My sister and I loved to climb on top of the fence and use it as a balance beam to see how far we could walk along the perimeter. I'd fall off every time in the same spot where the fence was bending and falling apart. Still, I tried. All year, I tried. I'd balance with my arms flapping as I tried to "walk the fence" and finish the challenge. Month after month, I moved along the course.

(This is what we did as children in the early 1980's: we walked fences and set up impossible outdoor challenges. No adults. No supervision. If a parent had been there, I'm certain she would have screamed, "You crazy children! You'll kill yourself! You'll impale yourself on that fence!" But no. We were free and young and stupid. Oh, childhood!)

One autumn day, I went outside by myself to walk the top of the fence again. I was frustrated and remember just storming on top that fence--stomping really, not even trying to balance--and advancing closer and closer to the finish line. When I came to the treacherous spot that conquered me each time, I picked up speed and raced right on. I intended to fall hard and angrily, but instead, my momentum kept me upright.

And then--I was back to where I started. I had done it. I had completed the year-long challenge to walk the fence. It was over. It was both a victory and a defeat as I celebrated alone and walked back to my house. The fence changed in my mind. I didn't have anything to do that next day after school because I'd reached the goal. I looked for other challenges like climbing trees and gymnastic feats, but nothing compared to the fence.

I remember the fence whenever I balance along curbs or fallen logs with my daughters. I remember how much I loved having a challenge and the sadness I felt when it was over. It was one of my first memories of understanding bittersweet. 

Bittersweet--the pleasure with the sadness--accompanies so much of life, and today I remember when I first felt it. And I think of the bittersweet reality that these little ones are already older than I was when I walked the fence in 1982. It's a different world, long gone.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Another Great Verb: Slake

I want to turn to my thirsty daughter and say, "Slake your thirst with this cold glass of lemonade."

Slake: to quench or satisfy. 

I'm slaking my desire for new verbs today by writing about slake. 

I slaked it.