Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lingering Questions

I'm studying the art of telling a good story.  It's helping me live with flair. 

Today, I read that every great novel needs mystery and conflict.  Otherwise, the reader won't turn the page.   As readers, we love and expect a good mystery and a grand conflict.  We want each chapter--maybe even each page--to have a lingering question.

But what about in real life? 

I think that every great life needs mystery and conflict. There's something beautiful and full of flair about the unresolved.  There's joy in the lingering questions.  Is it possible that mystery and conflict are written into our own stories on purpose to drive us onward?  All morning, I think about what it means to trust the Author within the mystery and conflict (internal and external) of my own life's journey.  Do these lingering life questions have a purpose? 

Mystery and conflict provide great motivation to continue on with hope and expectancy.  I'm actually thanking God for writing these elements into my own story.

Journal:  What are my great life mysteries?  What internal and external conflicts do I need to resolve in my story?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

When You Feel Sapped of Strength

Tree Leaking Sap
I think about sap today.  I'm standing outside the apartment, waiting for my fitness friend to accompany me to the gym.  I see the sap weeping out of the tips of the pine tree beside me.  I know sap.  It's the vital circulating fluid in the tree.  A tree's sap carries all the nutrients to every part of the tree, much like our own vascular system.

The sap must circulate and deliver the nutrients in a closed system.  I learn that this pine tree isn't supposed to leak sap.  A tree leaks sap when it experiences a wound or when excess pressure builds up in the tree. 

When we use the word sap as a verb, it means to drain vitality (as in, I was sapped of my strength).  I think about the reasons why we become sapped.  I think about ways we become wounded and what sources of pressure cause our "vital circulating fluid" to drain out.

A woman asks me today how I stay in balance.  She wonders how I find energy and how I refresh.  I think about sap.  You have to attend to where your wounds are.  You have to manage sources of pressure before you're sapped of strength.  I'm learning to circulate and deliver God's truth to every wound and every stress.

Living with flair means we know how to circulate and deliver what our mind and body need before we're sapped.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wanting Your Story Told

I'm ordering a smoothie (raspberry and peach), and the young woman making it asks me what I'm doing for the rest of my day.

"I'm writing," I tell her.  "I have this idea for a novel, and I want to start it today."

She leans over the counter top and looks to her left and then her right.  "Do you have ten minutes?"


"I have a good story for you.  You'll never believe it, but it's true.  It's my life.  Maybe afterwards you will write my story."

I sit there drinking my smoothie while she recounts her childhood in Venezuela, her failed marriage at just eighteen years old, her dreams to become an artist, and what she's learning in therapy.

"I tend to become everybody's mother," she says.  "I'm not doing that anymore."

I thank her for her story, and she adds, "You can use all of this in your novel.  That's how it works, right?  You meet someone and they inspire a great story.  But I want to look good in it, you know.  Not like a crazy woman or anything."

I tell her I'll return for another smoothie on another day.  Maybe I will write down her story.  I'd like to know more about this Venezuelan young woman, wouldn't you?  

Journal:   Who needs to tell you their story?  Do you have a life story that people might not believe?

Monday, June 27, 2011

My Solution to Not Wanting to Exercise

This morning, my new friend walks me to the gym (it takes us 25 minutes).  Then, she pushes the elliptical machine time so that we exercise for 30 minutes.  Then, she drags me up the stairs to do arm weights (she shows me how).  Then, just when I'm about to suggest that we stop and get very fattening and delicious coffee drinks, she says, "Now we do push-ups." 

Then we walk home for another 25 minutes.  

It feels like five minutes because I'm with my new friend. We talk about everything. 

She's getting me out of bed tomorrow. 

Living with flair means if you don't want to do something, you find an enthusiastic friend to do it with you.  Enthusiastic friends make everything better.  Even exercise.  I'll report my fitness achievements at the end of the summer!

Journal:  What enthusiastic contribution can I make to a friend's life?  What would my friends say I'm enthusiastic about? 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sending Out Your Roots

We hike in the dry heat.

I notice this:  The cactus finds a way to bloom in this parched land.

Cactus Blooming Yellow

I've never in my life seen a cactus blooming up in the mountains.  Surely, this plant stores up what it can.  It adapts to its environment to avoid water loss and immediately sends out roots wherever and whenever a water source arrives.

I'm amazed at everything I see, but then I hear something just as amazing.  A waterfall roars somewhere up ahead.  Just the sound of it begins to refresh me. 

The mountain rocks yield to a glorious sight in the blazing sun.  A waterfall!  

Mountain Waterfall

A clear, icy pool of water collects at the base. 

We wade in, even in our shoes, even in our clothing.  We are cacti sending out roots.

All day, I think about sending out roots--wading in--to those things that refresh the soul. A cactus can bloom in the desert if she knows when and where to send out roots.

I pray I know when and where to best wade in.

Journal:  Besides spiritual practices that connect us deeply to God, what projects, friendships, or habits might we wade in to find refreshment? 


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Getting Rid of All the Old Excuses

I'm at an indoor pool that features a climbing wall with a waterfall.  All the children climb up the wall and then jump off into the water. 

"You have to do this, Mom," my oldest insists.

I'm too old and out of shape for this sort of thing.  Besides, I would look like a fool. 

And that's exactly why I did it.  

(I only made it halfway up the wall, but I still did it!)

Journal:  What activity does someone want me to try that I'm using all the old excuses to avoid? 

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Very Curious Thing

Cottonwood Seeds on the Lawn
I walk outside and great puffs of white float about me.  It's not snow; it's cottonwood seed

The seeds pile up on driveways, on the sides of streets, and on lawns and gardens.  I've never seen anything like it. 

All through lunch, I think about cottonwood trees.  I wonder where all these seeds end up and why millions of cottonwood aren't somehow sprouting all over Colorado with this kind of onslaught of seeds.

Could I stuff a pillow with cottonwood seeds?  Might I make a great comforter for my bed?  In the midst of these questions, I realize something:  Being curious about the world makes me very happy.  Living with flair means you take a look around and ask a question.  You develop that lost art of curiosity so natural in children.

I'm traveling with a group of professors, and we talk about the strange things we are curious about on this day alone.  Surprisingly, I'm not the only one who feels curious about random things.  Today, some wonder:

1.  Where did the concept of "family pews" originate?
2.  What really is sorbet?
3.  Is diving into a pool of cold water or wading in slowly better for acclimation?

I laughed out loud and smiled about the kinds of things we think about.  I want to stay curious for my whole life.  

Journal:  What did you wonder about today?  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What You Monitor

Today my youngest cries out, "Mom, please tell me that you have not written your blog for today!"

"I haven't written my blog for today," I tell her.  "Why?"

"Well, I found the thing you are supposed to write about!"

"You did?" I ask.

"Yes!  Come with me!  There's a little twig hanging from our balcony, and I just know it's a bird's nest." 

I go out onto the balcony, and there I see all sorts of tiny bird nests tucked into the gutters, the light posts, and even in the railings.  I hadn't noticed them before, but now, they were everywhere.  The one by the neighbor's light post has two blue eggs in it.

"What should I write in the blog?"  I ask her.

"Tell everybody this:  I traveled a very long way to Colorado.  I found a bird's nest, and now I have things to check on every morning like I did back in Pennsylvania."

I realize how important--how wonderful--it is for children to observe something growing.  A vegetable garden, a bird's nest, their own bodies. . .

Adults take great delight in monitoring growth, but I think we forget the pleasure in it.  Maybe that's why I love listening to a professor teach me the book of Romans and help me look back over my own spiritual growth.  Maybe that's why I blog every single day.  I'm monitoring my own ability to find the one good thing each day, no matter what.  

Journal:  What growing thing are you monitoring today?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Just Look Up

Every time I feel lost in this new place, I just look up.

An enormous mountain rises so high that you can see it no matter where you are.  When you observe it, you immediately reorient.  You suddenly know which direction to go. 

I find myself desperate for that mountain.  With every turn in the car, I'm shifting in my seat, craning my neck to find it.  And then I relax.  "This is the right way," I say.  I don't even need street names anymore.  I just drive on with that mountain beside me, and I know I'll make it home.

I'll remember the simplicity of looking up to find a mountain as I continue in this journey of faith.  
Journal:  What in my life has been a fixed mountain for me?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Things Worth Writing Down

I'm sitting in a lecture hall, listening to a seminary professor teach on the book of Romans.  I bring a journal with me (the one the Italian Mama gave me before I left for Colorado).  I reserve this journal's pages for the most special things--ideas worth keeping--so I can remember my summer experiences.

I think I might record two, maybe three, pearls of wisdom.

I fill eight pages.

I go through the ink of two pens.

It's because it occurs to me once again that this whole life of faith is miraculous.  I'm listening to supernatural, impossibly beautiful things here.  Apart from God, I have no choice but to embrace a self-centered existence, doomed to conflict and despair.  If I did as I pleased, I would have probably destroyed myself long ago.  But when I surrendered at last and bended my will, I found the kind of freedom that doesn't make sense.  It is a miracle how God interacts with us.  I can't figure it out. 

Living with flair means I fill journal after journal with wisdom that never gets old.  The miracle is new every morning.

Journal:  What's the last bit of wisdom you wrote down?

Monday, June 20, 2011

An Unexpected Photography Lesson

I'm hiking in snow in the middle of June.

It's actually not even that cold (as you can see from our shorts).

The landscape presents an unexpected photography challenge for me.  Normally, I focus on the very small when I take photos.  But not today.  The view nearly overwhelms me, and I have no choice but to change the settings on my camera and try to capture it all in my lens.

I snap the photos, but it doesn't feel as satisfying for some reason.  It is beautiful and majestic, but something is missing.  Then I notice this:  While all the adults gaze at the mountains, the children turn their attention to the chipmunks on the trail.  Every child screams in delight at these little creatures running around our feet. 

Why do children find the small thing to delight in?  I follow their lead and search the ground for beauty.  I discover mountain wildflowers growing in places where the snow had melted.  The flower, held up against the majesty of the mountains, contains equal beauty--equal awe--for me. 

I remember not to limit awe to those things large in scope and grand in appearance.  I will have to come down from this mountaintop and live in the valley.  But I will not leave my wonder and awe up there.

Journal:  What small thing created awe in me today?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How Shall I Acclimate?

Did you know that in high altitudes you have less oxygen?  I'm currently staying at an altitude of 5,000 feet, and later today, I'll be hiking at 12,000 feet.  Some folks experience altitude sickness at altitudes of just 2,000 feet.  You can feel really sick because of decreased oxygen, pressure, and humidity in the atmosphere.  Nausea, dizziness, headaches, and malaise are common symptoms.

We're told to focus all week on acclimating.  We double our water intake.  We moisturize.  We rest.  We have to let the body acclimate

But I'm not good at adapting!  I'm not good at acclimating.  I want everything to adapt to me, to acclimate to my purposes.  Why do I have to be the one to change?   Then I realize this:  People who live with flair know how to adapt to the new situations God brings about.  They remove themselves from the center of their own worlds and submit to that reality.  They submit with joy, enthusiasm, and hope.  They focus on acclimating and more forward. 

That's what my husband is so good at as a father and as a spouse.  He's the kind of man who welcomes and submits to what God wants to bring about.  That's what I want to learn how to do this summer in Colorado.  When the new challenging situation comes, I don't want to resist.  Instead, I'll ask the question, "How shall I acclimate?" 

Journal:  What new reality requires me to submit and acclimate?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Humbled by Mountains

When you drive into Colorado, you'll soon discern the faint outline of the Rocky Mountains.  It's another source of the sublime:  mountains so huge that you think you're looking into the clouds instead of the white peaks of a mountain range. 

First you feel small in the expanse of the Kansas praire.  Then you feel diminished by the height of the Colorado moutains.  Either horizon humbles you. 

We are so very tiny in this great universe.  And yet we know and are known by God.  It's a wonder that keeps me living with flair.  It's a sublime truth I don't want to forget for a single day of my life.

We finally set up our little apartment here in Colorado.  My husband will take classes, and I'll be writing and teaching others how to write with flair.   With these huge mountains offering a great hug every morning, I can hardly forget the presence and power available to me. 

Journal:  Do you ever feel humbled by something in nature? 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Why I Felt Terribly and Beautifully Small

We drove through Kansas.  All day.

The great thing about driving through Kansas is that you can see for miles in all directions.

The bad thing about driving through Kansas is that there's nothing to see for miles in all directions.  Except the fields and the sky.  You feel terribly and beautifully small on the prairie. 

So I thought a lot.  I thought about novels I might write.  I thought about stopping the car and walking way out onto the prairie just to see what adventure might find me.  I was in need of an adventure after 12 hours of driving in Kansas (see above for the bad thing about driving through Kansas).

Well, an adventure did find me.

A storm brewed to the left of us, and as we drove into the town of Hays, lightening struck the prairie.  The sky became an eerie dark and the atmosphere felt heavy and tinged with. . . something.  We pulled into a restaurant for dinner, and that's when I saw the television set mounted over the bar.

The ticker on the bottom urged residents of Hays to seek immediate shelter.  The waiters and waitresses went to secure the windows and pull down great wooden shades.  A loudspeaker sounded to request that we leave the restaurant and seek shelter--underground.

Shelter?  Where would we go?  Then we heard that the cars in the parking lot were imploding.  Windshields were blowing apart in the 75 mile per hour wind.  A giant semi-truck went belly-up on the road to the west.

We stood inside the restaurant, stunned.  We tried to stay calm for the children.  My husband checked on our minivan and reported that it was secure, and then we moved to the innermost part of the restaurant--away from windows. 

Then it was over.  The storm passed.  Just like that, it passed.  Other diners comforted us that "this was regular for Kansas" and that "it was just a little storm."  One man--a complete stranger--even brought his phone over to show me a picture on the radar of how small the storm was.

But I was the one who felt so very small.  A prairie storm can humble a family and bring it to its knees. 

Imploding cars and overturned trucks.  Lightening dancing around the prairie on tiptoes.  This was my Kansas adventure.

Journal:  When was the last time you felt terribly and beautifully small?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Promise Not to Laugh

I climbed into a giant hamster wheel with my children today.  

Then I put my hands into a tank of fish to let them eat the dead skin off of my fingers. I learn this constitutes a spa treatment in some salons.

It tickled and was very strange indeed. 

Then I went back to the hamster wheel to take funny pictures of my husband. 

We were visiting the City Museum in St. Louis on our way to Colorado.  

I decided (somewhere between the 11-story slide and the airplane you reach by climbing through a wire tunnel) to embrace some whimsy. 

So when my youngest asked me to get into the hamster wheel, I didn't hesitate.  And when my oldest told me I could get a manicure by fish, I didn't hesitate. I can honestly say that I accomplished two spontaneous and whimsical feats today.  I remembered learning the "Beat It" moves in my kitchen; this felt like that. 

What a day!  How was yours?

Journal:  When I'm asked to do the next spontaneous and whimsical thing, will I hesitate?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Only the Essentials

My neighbor advises me how to pack for an entire summer in one tiny little bag.  Her family travels for months at a time with only one duffel bag each.


Well, I did it.  I listen to her advice about essentials.  For once in my life, I don't over-pack.   I get bare-bones about it, and I actually have room to spare.  One skirt, three tops, two pants.  Everything coordinates.  Two shoes:  one pair of sandals and one pair of running shoes.  A sweater.  Toiletries. 

It feels so free to cast off the entanglements of too many clothes, too many shoes, too many this or that.  What if I lived like this all the time and gave the rest away?

Living with flair means simplifying.  That's the first lesson of my summer travels!

Journal:  What else can I simplify this summer?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Do You Know What's Coming?

We leave to travel for nearly eight weeks today.  (Don't worry, Jack, Louie, and Snowflake have a family living in our home all summer.) 

I take one last look around the garden.  I realize that nature will offer several gifts when I return:

First, I can look forward to ripe raspberries.

Then, the blackberries. 

The beans have just started to send their little tendrils up, so I can harvest them when I return. 

And, the peppers!  I'll have so many peppers. 

I have to imagine it.  I only see the unripe, unfinished, not-yet.  But I know how growth works by now.  I have hope that the unseen work will continue, and, one day soon, I'll be up to my elbows in a new season:  harvest.

But not yet.  That's just fine.  Living with flair means I wait and hope because I know what's coming. 

Journal:  What fruit am I hoping for in this next season?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Beautiful But Fatal

I'm relaxing in a neighbor's backyard, and she leans my lounging chair back to make sure I'm comfortable.

Then she exclaims, "Look!  The delphinium!"

I turn to see the brightest blue flowers.  What beauty!  That blue shames even the sky. 

Later, I learn that this plant's beauty comes with a caution:  it's poisonous.  It can actually kill a person if eaten.

Dr. Alice Russell, in the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University, reports that this gorgeous plant will cause "burning of the lips and mouth, numbness of the throat, intense vomiting and diarrhea, muscular spasms, paralysis of the respiratory system, convulsions." Her list concludes with a toxic warning:  Fatal.

All from a tiny blue buttercup.  I think about the nature of temptation.  It always seems tiny, harmless--beautiful even--that thing we want that's outside the boundaries. 

Remember the delphinium.  It's beautiful but fatal. 

Journal:  What's tempting me right now that's really only going to damage my mind, body, and spirit? 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fling Wide Your Gate

Today in church, the pastor challenges me to "open wide the gate of my heart" to God.   I know that verb.   Open.  It means to remove obstacles and allow the kind of passage that makes an interior fully accessible.

Remove obstacles.  Allow passage.  I ask God to show me any obstacles that keep me from flinging wide the gate.  Whatever fear, whatever doubt, I want to live a life that gives Jesus full access.

A closed gate seems like safety.  It seems like protection and control.  But God awaits as the ultimate Protector--the ultimate Safety--who rushes in when I fling wide the gate. 

People who live with flair demonstrate that kind of vulnerability and that kind of trust.  They've made their lives fully available to the purposes of God--no matter what the obstacle.  They know that's the safest place.  That's the place of protection, peace, and provision.

I'm flinging wide the gate.

Journal:  What obstacle keeps my gate shut?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

If Nothing Changes, Then I Don't Either

I hate change.  It makes me anxious. 

This morning at Saturday Morning Pancakes, my neighbor (the one who showed me the lady slipper orchid)  reminds me that when I feel anxious, it's my opportunity to have faith

I look at her as if she's just reminded me of my own name.  Of course.  It's so simple.  When I'm anxious about anything, it's a bright flashing neon sign saying:  Opportunity to Trust God Right Here!

I'm anxious because I have to travel.  I'm anxious because I have to leave my environment and live in another one for a while.

As I explain all these anxieties, a boy beside me suggests that if the environment never changes, then a person cannot grow and develop.  He explains it all using a video game analogy.  You've got to move around!  You've got to change things up! He tells me how good it is for my growth and imagination to have some change.

So this thing (whatever it is) that's causing anxiety?  It's an opportunity to trust God.  It's putting me in an environment for growth.  If nothing changes, then I don't either.  And I want to change and grow into the woman God wants me to be.  That means welcoming situations that stretch me. 

Journal: What's causing anxiety in me, and how can I see this as an opportunity to trust and as an environment for growth?

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Great Idea for a Dinner Party

Living with flair means cultivating the art of hospitality.  I'm learning what it looks like to let everybody take part.  You give up control, you accept the mess, and you let people bring their own flair. 

Last night, we decorate the counter top with all sorts of ingredients, hand folks a tiny baking pan, and let them build their own lasagnas.

Noodles, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, onion, green peppers, basil, meat, sauce--even mushrooms!  We broke the noodles in half and cooked them first. 

I indulge in cheese and basil in every layer. 

Everyone finishes, and we put the lasagnas in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. 

Then, we feast.   I just had to show you. 

 Hospitality can be a group effort.
Journal:  What can I do to personalize my next gathering so folks participate in the hospitality? 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

10 Ways to Laugh as a Family

Yesterday, the Italian Mamas reminded me of the importance of humor in a family.    Later, I compile a list for myself of ways I can immediately lighten the mood in my home.  You know me:  I think too much, I take everything too seriously, and I like to think about the deep things of the heart.  I could use some lightening up.

Thankfully, I married a hilarious man.  He's the one who sings us ridiculous tunes to get us all out of bed.  He's the one who will create a diversion to help us cope with anything from fevers to bad moods.  One time, he took a duck puppet, popped it out of the sun roof, and performed a show for all the drivers (and their children) who were stuck in a major traffic jam. 

So I asked him, my children, and the Italian Mamas all the ways to immediately bring laughter to a home.  Here are our ideas, and I'd love to hear some of yours.  

1.  Watching YouTube videos involving cats, babies, or (according to the Italian Mamas), misheard song lyrics, or the family friendly comedian, Brian Regan
2.  Playing any improvisational game like charades
3.  Showing your children what it was like to dance in the 80's
4.  Random tickle fights.  Even the adults.  And then try to have a conversation nose-to-nose.  You won't be able to keep a straight face!
5.  Making up a Broadway song and routine to announce what kind of mood you are in when you wake up in the morning
6.  Assigning nick-names for each family member
7.  Making fun of yourself
8.  Using a puppet to talk about anything--no matter what age you are.  
9.  Owning a pet, preferably a one-eyed cat.
10.  Speaking in an accent of your choice for an entire meal.

Living with flair means laughter.

Journal:  How do you bring humor to your home?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Perceiving Contrast Brings Pleasure

I learn today how sensitive the human eye is to contrast.   In fact, perceiving contrast brings pleasure.  We actually enjoy it.   This explains why I can't take my eyes off of my hostas.  The contrast of white on green keeps me planted. 

Or my weeping cherry that now has cherries.  That deep cherry red on green (with the sun shining upon it) brings out some joy in me. 

Or, of course, the strawberry patch.  Red and green again!  I actually feasted on this berry right after I snapped the photo.  Sweet and juicy. 

I think about what catches my eye and delights my senses.  It's always contrast--juxtaposition. 

I'm so thankful for contrast--light and dark, hope and despair, joy and sorrow, suffering and relief.  Beauty and worship come in the crossfire between these opposing states.  There's a sweet spot in the contrast that catches my breath and lets me see inside a spiritual reality.  I'm not afraid of the darkness or the despair anymore.  It's contrast that shows me truth, beauty, and wonder. 

My own vision depends upon contrast, so why wouldn't my spiritual eyes? 

Journal:  What contrast do I see today? 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Nobody Likes Perfect People

My daughter's crying in the backseat because of her horrible dentist appointment.  She has cavities.

The oldest daughter says, "Look at it this way:  Nobody likes perfect people.  Imagine all the conversations you can have on the playground with other kids who have cavities.  You'll understand.  Who wants perfect?  Right, Mom?"

"Right."  I'm smiling.  I'm smiling with a mouth full of my own cavities. 

Journal:  Who wants perfect?

Monday, June 6, 2011

This Could Be Your Shell of Protection

Well, it finally happened.  I found an eastern box turtle!  She was crossing the street, and after observing her in our backyard, we delivered her to her original habitat.  She was headed for the wooded yard of a neighbor (who just installed a lovely garden pond and lots of landscaping perfect for a turtle), so we brought her there.  

We watched her for a long time.

Eastern Box Turtle © Live with Flair 2011
The eye color and shape of the shell tells us that this turtle is female.  I can't stop looking at her shell because it reminds me of something.

It looks like tiny children were finger-painting and made hand prints on her shell!

Eastern Box Turtle © Live with Flair 2011

As my own children romp and jump about me, I consider that I too have a home covered in hand prints (dirty walls, the sticky refrigerator door, the smudged table, and as art projects in frames).  I, too, am an aging woman with bumpy thighs (have you seen me in my bathing suit?).

And like the designs on her shell, I'll carry the marks of motherhood--in its broadest sense--forever.  Hard and all consuming, you wear it like a shell you cannot shed.  On the worst days, it feels like a prison. 

But that's what it means to choose adulthood, to choose to care for the next generation, to choose to nurture everyone in your path.  It's not a prison.  It's protection.  

She'll keep these markings forever.  When I look at this turtle, I see impenetrable strength and resolve.   We let her go into the neighbor's yard.  I'm not worried about her.  She has places to go, and even if it takes her a lifetime, she'll get there.  She has the protection, now, to do so. 
Journal:  When I see myself imprisoned by my circumstances, can I instead see them as my shell of protection?  

Sunday, June 5, 2011

My New Favorite Verb

My old favorite verb was grapple.  But I found a new one!

This week, I let the girls try cream soda for the first time.  Someone brought bottles of the stuff to a cookout, and we were left with several.

I love cream soda.  We are so eager to drink it that when we pour it out, it fizzes so much that we have cream soda all over the counter top.  We pour more, and I try the stick-your-finger-in-the-glass trick.  It works!  I'm not sure why, but it works. 

Later, I pour too much cream soda again.  It fizzes faster than we can sip it.  That volcanic eruption of carbonation all over the kitchen tells me to pour small amounts and wait

I slow down and watch the process.  Even a tiny amount will effervesce.  I think about this verb.  It means to give off bubbles or to be exceptionally vivacious and enthusiastic.  I learn two things about living with flair:

1.  I can do and have too much.  Pour small amounts and let things settle before doing more.
2.  No matter what God pours into my life, I want it to effervesce--spill over and give off--enthusiasm and vivaciousness.

Let us effervesce today.  And if we can't or won't, maybe we need more good stuff poured in.

Living with flair means I effervesce.

Journal:  When was the last time you erupted with enthusiasm for something?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Suffering is Fertilizer

This morning, we have strawberry pancakes for Saturday Morning Pancakes.  The neighbors come over, and the children pull back the netting to harvest the first crop. 

First Big Strawberry Harvest

We have too many

My husband flips pancakes with a neighbor's son, and soon, we have stacks upon stacks of strawberry-stuffed pancakes. 

Strawberry Pancake Stack

Everyone talks about this great harvest.

I offer up the secret:  you plant in compost.  

A few years back, we learned from our neighbors down the road how to compost.  We let organic material decay, and then it becomes fertilizer.  Our town lets you purchase a whole truckload of compost for next to nothing, but we also have our own composting bins outside the back door.  After a year, we have nutrient rich fertilizer from the waste of our lives:  eggshells, coffee grounds, paper, and yard trimmings, fruit and vegetable peels. 

All morning, I gaze at this bountiful harvest that comes about on the foundation of waste, decay, and brokenness.  Compost--that break down--provides exactly what the plants need.   I'm in awe of the whole process.

I think about my own fruitfulness as a wife, mother, and friend.  Isn't it true that any good thing God produces through my life needs fertilizer?  I'll never look at hardship, suffering, or my break-downs the same way again.  What I see as waste and decay just might be the fertilizer for next year's harvest. 

Journal:  Has suffering been like fertilizer to me? 

Friday, June 3, 2011

What the Strange and Horrible Odor Was

All day, a strange odor wafts through the entryway, the kitchen, the living room, and the hallway.  I'm actually on my knees, sniffing to discover the source.

"Can you smell that?"  I ask everyone who comes by the house. 

Finally, I trace the odor to the corner of the garage where I spy a tiny hole in the wall.  My husband comes home, and I just point my finger and declare, "Something is in there."

I run to safety inside the house (I'm a chicken) and leave my brave and wonderful husband alone in the garage.  With a flashlight and tools to cut into the wall, he finds the source of the impossibly foul and impressively permeating smell.

A tiny, deceased chipmunk.

Within a few minutes of removing the odor source, the entire atmosphere changes. 

All morning, I consider the power of that one small thing to overtake the whole environment.  That little thing became impossibly foul and impressively permeating.  I thought of my own life and those small things that inevitably change the atmosphere:  negativity, complaining, gossip, suspicion--all the not-flair that can overtake a life.

I'm on a mission to search and root out the smallest things that I imagine cannot really harm.  Actually, they do.  They quickly become impossibly foul and impressively permeating.  Living with flair means removing that odor source.  I pray God shows me quickly and thoroughly. 

Journal:  What foul smelling thing do we need to remove in our lives?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Is Your Goal Sufficiently Attractive?

I just read a cool quote from Jennifer Kennedy Dean.   She writes, "Whatever you choose to pursue will mean that you sacrifice something else.  The key is this:  If the goal is sufficiently attractive, the sacrifice required will be irrelevant.  In fact, the more focused on your goal you are, the less you will perceive the requirements as sacrifices." 

If the goal is sufficiently attractive. . . 

I thought of weight loss.  I thought of emptying my dishwasher every day.  Then I thought of Jesus.  When I realize the power, beauty, and wonder of knowing God, the sacrifices of dying to self, surrendering, and giving up my right to my own life become irrelevant. 

Journal:  What no longer seems like a sacrifice in light of a sufficiently attractive goal? 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

This Looks Like You

My friend (who really is so close she's like my sister) stops by this morning before the walk to school and hands me a beautiful new purse.

"This looks like you," she says.

But it's not my birthday!  It's not Christmas!

I immediately put it on my shoulder.  Two neighbors announce they have "purse envy." Nobody has ever said that to me before.  I'm not the kind of girl who goes shopping for purses.   I still use the brown purse my father bought me for my 16th birthday.  Yes, my handbags are over 20 years old. 

But not anymore.  I have a new bright and whimsical purse.  I have a new purse because I have a friend who gives me things that "look like me."

Living with flair means being that kind of friend.  I want to be a better gift giver.  I want to find little treasures that could delight someone the way I was this morning at 8:00 AM. 

Journal:  When was the last time you gave a gift to someone?