Saturday, June 30, 2012

First Time Ever

 I saut√© beet greens for the first time ever.

Wash and Chop Beet Greens


Sauté Beet Greens with Olive Oil and Lime Juice


I add olive oil and lime juice.

Here goes! I absolutely love them.

Boiled Fresh Beets with Sauteed Greens

I absolutely love that even after all this time of living, I still have first time ever experiences. As simple as beet greens! The world is full of new things to taste, see, feel, and smell. Meanwhile, I'm off to share beets with my daughters.




____________________________
Have you recently tried something for the first time ever?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Your Flying Leap

In the middle of the night, a raging storm rips through the valley. Loud thunder and blinding lightning wake us all.

Normally in such conditions, my youngest will race down the stairs, burst through our bedroom door, and take a flying leap to land right into the middle of our bed. She'll burrow down, wiggling and shimmying her way into a comfortable spot, stretch out her little arms and legs, and fall fast asleep in the security and satisfaction of it all. 

Not my oldest. She arrives cautiously and stands by the door. She announces the obvious--the loud storm--and makes all sorts of excuses about why she's at our door. I actually coax her to my side to let her receive comfort. Still, she's justifying herself, explaining her fear, and asking if I'm sure it's OK that she's bothered me at 3:00 AM.

All into the morning, I visualize the difference between that flying leap into my comforting arms and the cautious, justifying stance of the wise, logical older sister. So many times, my approach to God brings me cautiously to the door, making excuses, wondering if I'm a bother. 

Doesn't scripture proclaim that we can come boldly--in a flying leap sort of way--to receive from God?  I remember this from Hebrews 4: "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most."

When did my oldest abandon her flying leap? When did I?

Living with flair means we race, we burst through, we take a flying leap into the arms of God.

______________________________
Why do we become cautious and logical when we need God most? 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"I'll Do the Hoping For You."

Yesterday, I text the Local Artist to tell her that a literary agent called to offer representation for my novels.

Finally!  After all these years! After a decade of "we don't want this" and "no" and "we'll pass on this."

The Amazing Agent doesn't just want one of my novels; he's interested in a whole series I wrote years ago.  

I'm casual about it. I'm not telling hardly a soul. Something in me can't hope yet. 

But the Local Artist screams with joy on the phone. She's so happy for me. She's bubbling up with hope.

"I'm just not as excited as I could be," I tell her. "I guess it's hard to have hope after this long."

"I'll hope for you," she says. 

I'll hope for you. 

I love her. She hopes for me when I feel hopeless. Even more, when I stop by her house, she has a huge bouquet of balloons--one that shouts CONGRATULATIONS--a gift card for coffee, and a glorious golden pen (she knows one of the characters in my novels has an obsession with beautiful pens). 


It's over the top. It's too much.

It's just what I needed. 

I'll hope for you. 

Living with flair means we hope and go over the top for friends who maybe can't hope yet. We're too much (because I think you can't have too much hoping). 

_____________________________________
It's true! I am signing with a literary agency after all this time. I'll keep you posted! Do you have friends who do the hoping for you?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Evidence That It's Working

Every time I buy a new pair of running shoes (I'm not a runner), I begin to think that maybe I could start running--very, very slowly--on a treadmill at the gym.

I'm not a runner. I decide, though, that maybe a little jog would be a good thing to help me shed some pounds and relieve the boredom of the elliptical machine.

So I jog (not run) for 5 minutes on the treadmill, and then I walk for 5 minutes. Then run another 5. I read I'm supposed to build up slowly.

That was easy, I think. But that night and this morning, I suffer the pains of sore muscles everywhere.

I begin to consider that running might actually be doing something to me--a good something--as evidenced by the sheer pain of it.

Could it be true that muscle soreness offers the evidence that something good is happening? Something strong is forming within me (something I don't get from the elliptical machine).

It's something so strong that I might just take off down this road into that unknown future.

When I'm sore in my heart and mind--just like in my muscles--that's evidence that something good is happening. Runners view pain differently from the rest of us. They welcome it in a sort of crazy, intense, and joyful way.

They know it's evidence.

___________________________________
Are you a runner? Any advice?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"They Received More Than They Knew to Want"

I'm listening online to Paige Benton Brown give a talk at a women's conference. I remember her from 1998 (back when she spoke at Camp Greystone to a group of us counselors). She always knew how to make the Bible come alive and apply it in ways I so desperately needed as a young woman.

So I tune in all these years later to hear her again. As she begins teaching from the Bible, she describes how when people encounter God, "they received more than they even knew to want."

They received more than they even knew to want.

I write the sentence in my journal and stop listening to anything else. I'm just so amazed by the truth of it: God gives what we don't even know we want yet.

We don't know to want it.

Our hearts have been instructed by so many false narratives that we don't even know to want the great things of God.

God wants to give what I don't even know to want. The thought astounds me again. I entrust myself to this God who knows what I don't know.

______________________________
Has God given you a great gift that you didn't even know to want?

Monday, June 25, 2012

You Just Can't Know

On our journey home from visiting family, we stop at a restaurant for a late dinner. Our waitress, an older woman with silver hair, might have been tired from her shift or just angry that yet another family with young children has come to her section. Whatever the reason, she seems impatient, frustrated, and just unpleasant.

I take a deep breath. This is going to be a fun dinner, I think sarcastically.

But as our meal comes out, the waitress starts asking questions about our children. She inquires about their ages and then tells us she has three grandchildren right in that age range.

"Oh," I say politely, still not liking her one bit.

"I'm raising them," she continues. "Right as I was about to retire, my son was killed, and I inherited his three little children to raise on my own by myself."

I'm cut to my core.

We learn her son was murdered. She raises her grandchildren. Alone. She works as a waitress when she wanted to retire.  

It's the very end of her shift, and it's getting late. Nevertheless, she pulls up a chair and takes a seat because she remembers we said we were traveling back up to Penn State.

"How are you handling the news?" she asks, shaking her head and genuinely concerned for us.

And so we talk for a bit.  She wants to make absolutely sure I love my chicken. She wants to make absolutely sure I don't need more tea.

She shares more about losing her son, raising her grandchildren, and what it's like to live in this town.

We finish our meal and promise in our hearts never again to judge a waitress (or anyone!) in a bad mood. We just can't know what her life is like. We just can't know her story. 

___________________________
I'm going to remember this when I become angry with someone who cuts me off in traffic, treats me poorly in line, or doesn't provide good customer service. I just can't know their story, so I want to respond with patience, kindness, and compassion.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

2 New Things I'm Learning

I'm learning--at this older age, finally--two things that actually begin to redefine how I live my life. 

1.  I can't make people happy, and it's wise to stop trying all the time. Folks are responsible for their own moods and their own issues.  

2.  It doesn't matter whether or not people like me, so it's wise to stop trying to please people all the time. The greatest gift I can give a person is myself--without flattery, people-pleasing, or false encouragement. Take it or leave it. 

Why does it take over three decades to find freedom from needing to please and needing to make everybody happy? I'm tired! I'm ready to be myself. On the journey to do this, I find people become disappointed in me and discouraged by my inability to please them. This feels scary, but it also feels like freedom. 

__________________________________
Who will this new woman be? 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Shame, Darkness, Secrecy, Fear

Late last night, my husband and I listen to the remarks following Sandusky's guilty verdict. I'm not as happy as I thought I'd be. I'm not as relieved as I thought I'd be. I find myself in anguish over what this trial reveals about a culture of shame, darkness, secrecy, and fear. There's hope today, however, because the verdict helps reverse and rebuild. It sets the whole community on a course to radically change. 

Instead of shame, we live in communities of vulnerability and acceptance. 
Instead of darkness, we bring our lives into the glorious light.
Instead of secrecy, we live by transparent truth to others.
Instead of fear, we live by courage and faith.

We shine the light of God into every dark place. We rescue, protect, and heal.

____________________________________
Please continue to pray for the Penn State community.

Friday, June 22, 2012

When You Find Yourself in Deep Waters

We drive to the beach to let our children see the ocean. Watching the sea creates that moment of awe I want them to experience; that sublime encounter when nature overpowers their imagination ushers in worship and joy.

Behold the great ocean! 

We splash in the waves, dig in the sand, and collect shells. My oldest daughter and I venture out past the breakers into deep waters. Could there be sharks? Well, yes. Could there be jellyfish? Well, yes. Will giant waves crash against me? Well, yes.

In the midst of all the questions and real fears, we look down towards our feet and notice the sparkle of unbroken seashells scattered on the ocean floor. Here, they don't endure the assault of the waves. Here, they stay intact and beautiful. 

My daughter runs to get a bucket and comes back out into the ocean. She picks up seashells--with her feet--and builds a collection of treasures from the deep. 

When I find myself in deep waters--amid real fears and assaults--I remember to build my collection of treasures from the deep. Certain gifts can only come from this deep and dangerous place. 

_________________________________
Have you read Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea? I haven't read this for 20 years, so I'm going back to the library to find it. Has the ocean taught you anything in particular? 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Thing You Want to Write

A few days ago, I saw a real, live blueberry farmer. I met him last year, too. Old and wrinkled--maybe 85 years old--with a straw hat and a wise expression, this man has lived out his days on his expansive blueberry farm. He wears a brown work shirt, jeans, and sturdy boots. 

I can't stop thinking about him. I want to know everything. What's it like to live on a blueberry farm? How did it all begin? Do you ever get sick of blueberries, or do you still eat them by the handfull? Did you fall in love and convince some very stylish and urban woman to settle down with you and raise blueberries along with children? Do these children race up and down the rows of blueberry plants and rest underneath the shade of those huge trees that border the field?

Do you eat blueberry pancakes, blueberry jam, and blueberry muffins? What about the pies and the cobblers and the ice cream?

I watch the lazy sprinklers arch up and shower the acres and acres of blueberries. I see no machines picking blueberries, so I begin to wonder who picks these berries and how. 

I want the whole story. I want the mystery and the conflict. I want the love and the loss. I want to know what this blueberry farmer prays for and what he dreams about.

I won't be able to let it go until something comes of it. 

I'll keep you posted.

______________________________
What's brewing for you in your writing life? Any good ideas coming? 




Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Where and the What Matter Less and Less

I finish a paragraph by Margaret Silf and realize how much I believe it. She writes, "There is nothing on earth that doesn't reveal some fragment of the reality of its maker, nor any moment that I live that doesn't hold God concealed within it. Sometimes this is obvious, as in a beautiful sunset. Sometimes it remains hidden." 

Every moment that I live, therefore, holds God concealed.

Here and now! It doesn't matter where I am or what's happening all around me. I can be assured that God is with me and in even this.

Sometimes, it does indeed remain hidden.

But if I seek, I will find. If I ask, the great door will be opened.

In even this.  

I'm starting to consider this task as my life's work; the poetry of finding the concealed fragment that reveals God offers the kind of joy and meaning I cannot live without. 

The older I get, the more I realize that the where and the what of my life matter less and less. The reality of God in and about me makes every place sacred, every person a mystery, and every situation ripe with glory. 

Amen!

__________________________________
Have you found this to be true? 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Baby Turtle Today

By accident, I happen to glance down and see a baby turtle swimming in the water today. 



As small as a silver dollar and as quick as a minnow, the turtle shimmers in the water.

I'm immediately transported to my childhood days on the banks of the Potomac River. I'd see those little turtle heads come up from beneath a lily pad. I'd watch their little feet and those intricate designs on their backs. My heart would beat faster. I had seen them! I know they are here!

I would forevermore search for them. 

I think God used the turtles to save my heart back then. I knew this: 

The world is a magical place, I'd think. There are incredible things here.

I call every child within earshot to come and see the baby turtle. I step back and watch them fill up with the same kind of wonder I had all those years ago on the banks of the Potomac. 

__________________________
What is it about a turtle that delights us so much?

Monday, June 18, 2012

When You Match Teenagers with Older Women Prayer Partners

I'm visiting my husband's home church, and I learn from the teenagers about their prayer partners. This church pairs teenagers with older women who partner with them in prayer for a one year period. 

A teen and her prayer partner share prayer requests over the year, pray for one another, go to lunch a few times, and get together as often as the teen wishes.

I talk to one girl who just loves her prayer partner. I talk to one women who just loves her teen partner.  They talk about everything. They text. They pray. 

It's cool. It's the thing the teens do.  

We imagine it might be supremely uncool to hang out with older folks to talk about life and God and prayer.  Oh, no: this is the greatest thing, and one teenager who doesn't normally share about anything told me right away about her awesome prayer partner. 

I wish I had that when I was sixteen.  I wish I had been matched with an older woman who would care about me like that and pray about my decisions with me. 

I pray my daughters will have older women prayer partners to love them and care for them. 

This is the greatest thing. I want to be that older woman for a teenager!  Maybe I will!

_____________________________
Does your church do anything like this?  How does it work?  


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Like a Father

I'm reading a line by Margaret Silf in her book, Inner Compass, that helps me understand something about God. She writes:

"Imagine yourself as a wounded bird savaged by a cat, or as an animal caught in a trap, or as a small child who has hurt herself. . . Now, without offering any excuses or justifications or reproaches against what has harmed you, just let yourself be gathered up by God and held gently in the palm of his hand."

Just let yourself be gathered up. I think of how, when my daughters were toddlers, they used to scamper about the yard. My husband would swoop down, gather them in his arms, and lift them high into the air. They still beg for that game so they can be caught up in those arms!

I think of a Great Father, swooping down to gather me as I scamper about. After being gathered up, Silf says now to "Be still, and simply know that he is God, who loves you and desires your wholeness so much that he is ready to die for it."

A Great Swooping Father's Love.

___________________________________
Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Book My Daughter Insisted I Read

"You must read this, Mom!" she insists. For days, she's been following me around, this book in hand, telling me it's the best book, her favorite book, and the book that will make me cry and cry.

"Why will I cry?" I ask.

Tears actually form in her eyes as she says, "It's so heartwarming and. . .," she stammers because she can't find the words, "and joyful and sad and so happy. . . I don't know!" 

Finally, I read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. It's written by the same great author--Kate DiCamillo--who gave us Despereaux, Because of Winn Dixie, and that amazing pig, Mercy Watson. 

I know I'm in for something life-changing when I read, instead of a dedication, the quote that the "heart breaks and breaks and lives by breaking," and that "it is necessary to go through dark and deeper dark and not to turn."

So I follow a little china rabbit on a dark and deep journey.  

I learn about how to find a way home. I learn from the grandmother, Pelligrina, that in life there will be a story--soon--if I wait. I learn that one of most important questions a person can ask herself is "Whom do you love?"

I learn that a story cannot end happily if there is no love. 

I put the book down after I read the final line: "Once, oh marvelous once, there was a rabbit who found his way home."

Once, oh marvelous once!

I'm going to listen when a child tells me about a book I must read. 

_______________________________________
Have you discovered Kate DiCamillo? 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Even If You Don't Feel Like It

I don't want to write this morning.  But I remember that once I start doing something--even if I don't feel like it--I begin to love it once I'm in it.

I love it once I'm in it, so I'm learning to ignore the tug of "I don't feel like doing this."

I have to get in it.

Because deep inside, I do feel like doing this (only I don't know it yet).

I've never, in all these years of writing, not felt that love of it once I'm in it.

It's the starting that's hard.

So I keep doing it even if I don't fee like it. And within just a minute, I'm in it and loving it.

______________________________
I realize this concept applies to so many things! I just have to remember it!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Driven from a False Resting Place

I keep coming back to the same paragraph in Hannah Whitall Smith's, The God of All Comfort. In a chapter entitled, "Things That Cannot Be Shaken," she discusses the flimsy foundations we often build our lives upon rather than the sure foundation of God and God alone.

But these flimsy foundations seem so very secure. We rest in good things: ministry, productivity, family, kindness, orderly living, or intelligence.  

How can we see what cannot be shaken? In order to gain the sure foundation of God and God alone, she claims we go through various "shakings" so that what remains is that which cannot be shaken.

These shakings come from a Loving Hand in order to make us strong, immovable, and fully secure.

Smith writes, "But there comes an upheaval, and all our foundations are shaken and thrown down, and we are ready to despair and question whether we can be Christians at all. . . If people have rested on their good works and their faithful service, the Lord is often obliged to take away all power for work. . . in order that the soul may be driven from its false resting place and forced to rest in the Lord alone."

The false resting place!

Smith further discusses the false rest of good feelings, sound doctrine, prosperity, good reputation, secure home and family, accomplishment, and even mental clarity. So many things that we rely upon for a sure foundation--when shaken--reveal that they could never save us at all.

I'm left with God alone.

Praise God, I'm left with Him alone.

___________________________
Have you had "shakings" at various points on your spiritual journey?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ripe with Joy

My husband calls me to the garden. "The first blueberry is blue!" he reports.

"Already?"

We find that first ripe blueberry, and it makes us so happy.


First Ripe Blueberry

Who gets to eat it? The one who will have the most joy in it.

Normally, the youngest in the family gets to pick the first ripe anything: cucumbers, tomatoes, beets, and especially berries. We set the littlest one out in the wet new morning, rain boots protecting her against the dew, and she picks the berry. She holds it up as a grand trophy and then eats it as the family watches on.

She gets the most joy out of it.  So we let her go first, and then we get the most joy.

___________________________________________
Gardening brings wonder into our lives. Do you still experience wonder over ripe things?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Save It For a Rainy Day

Today we venture into all the things we've saved for a rainy day

The movies and popcorn!  Long visits to the library!  Knitting!  Boardgames!

We tell ourselves that certain things must wait for the rain, and so we hold off until we see those dark clouds and raindrops. 

Certain things must wait for the rain. 

In this way, we relish the rain. We actually hope for it. What a change in perspective for little girls who keep their bathing suits and towels by the door for the moment the pool opens. With a forecast of rain today, we don't mope. We don't wish for different weather.

No. We waited for this because we know that certain things must wait for the rain.

______________________________
What did you do during the rainy days of summer as a child?  

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Time She Felt Most Loved

I arrive at the part of summer devotions where I ask my daughters when they felt most loved. One says it's when she held her cat for the first time.

The other says, "When I had to ask you to forgive me and you said, 'yes' and still loved me."

Devotions over.  I have to go cry my eyes out!

__________________________
I want to remember to ask people what makes them feel most loved. What makes you feel most loved?

PS:  Summer Devotions still available and still FREE. Email me, and I'll send the pdf.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Acting Like a Keystone Species

I'm reading a book about alligators with my youngest daughter, and I learn the definition of a keystone species.

A keystone species uses the environment in a way that shapes and benefits an entire community.  The alligator, for example, digs a gator hole for her own use that supports hundreds of other species.  Without the alligator, a whole ecosystem falls apart.

Only the alligator knows how to find the water deep within the land. Only the alligator has the ability to access the water and build the gator hole (she does it with her tail). 

I hear that whisper of truth that challenges me to the core. Does my behavior shape and benefit an entire community or do I harm and diminish my community by my actions?  Support or threaten? Build or crumble?

I think about my family and consider our role as a keystone species in loving, protecting, nurturing, serving, and growing a neighborhood. Do we act in isolation or do we act in ways that build an entire community?

I love reading books about animals; I learn so much! As I put the book down, I recall the moment of insight I had 2 years ago in September when I learned about how frogs breathe in the froglet phase.

Alligators and froglets! The world is full of lessons to learn.

__________________________________
Do you have a good lesson you learned from a creature?  

  


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Places Within Places

I'm reading a line in Jamie Zeppa's memoir from her time in Bhutan about her love of secret places. As a child, she loved finding hidden places. 

She calls them places within places.

The line shimmers for me. I just can't stop thinking about it. Maybe it's because I'm learning how to dwell in the "secret place" of the Most High God. I'm learning about the inner refuge--the place within--of peace and joy. 

Places within places. 

I remember how my children love hiding under the Weeping Cherry. In that secret place, hidden away, they let the arms of that great tree fall around them.

I walk downtown with these little ones, and I remember a child's love of places within places.

I know about a secret pond that's tucked away right behind a building on campus.   

"You won't believe it!" I tell my daughters.  "Just wait!"  We round a tall building, and there we find a little pond that I could cross in just five steps if I wanted. 

We find newly hatched goslings, great turtles the size of dinner plates, and beautiful ducks. 





We had to go deep within the campus, behind the structures, into the unseen.  Places within places. No matter where I am, there's a place within this place full of wonder. 

_____________________________________
I don't know why, but I just love duck feet.  And I wanted to hold those little goslings so badly!  Have you found a secret place within a place recently? 


Friday, June 8, 2012

The Stormy Weight of It

The wind whips around my body as I bend down to the strawberry patch. Within only a moment, the garden darkens. I look up, amazed at the contrast of light blue to dark grey. It's happening so quickly; the clouds roll over upon one another, swirling, dipping down, racing.

I love it.

The whole atmosphere feels excited, more alive, more ready for anything to happen. I brace myself for the lightning and thunder. I'm ready for enormous, relentless rain to absolutely drench me.


Storm Dips Down



That amplified feeling reminds me so much of our own artistic tendencies--our dark moods, our unpredictability, our imperceptible shifts that make the world go dark--that make up my whole self. It's always this way. We writers spin beneath a cyclone of wonder, terror, expectancy, despair, and joy. Everything carries electric, amplified, stormy weight.  

I'm not afraid of it anymore. I don't resist it anymore.

I stand beneath it, snap a photograph, and I write.   

I write!  You write!  We write! 

The poet in me knows you can't really and honestly know the light without the dark shadow of a storm. I brace myself and welcome that downpour.

It's just how it is. I love it. I'm not afraid anymore.

____________________________________
Can you turn your dark moods into art? 








Thursday, June 7, 2012

One Thing Ends and Another Begins

It's the last walk to school!  I tell the parents, "It's the end!  It's really the end!"  One father says, "Or the beginning." 

It is the beginning. We pick honeysuckle and let summer drip onto our tongue. 

Picking Honeysuckle
We walk under trees in full bloom. 



 We climb the hill through the woods for the last time. . . for now. 


We'll do it again next year.  But for now, we let one thing end and another begin.

________________________________
Happy Last Day of School!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Learning from the Best

Today I have lunch with a dear friend who truly knows how to have a great family. I couldn't wait to talk to her and learn from her.

Some families--like hers--truly delight in being together. They love to play games, read books aloud, make crafts, complete puzzles, and just be together.

I'm always out in the community. I'm always with other families, other children, and other moms. This has been a special calling in my life, but now--for this summer--I want to spend more time as a family.

I think God wants to teach me how. 

I realize I don't have many more summers left alone with these girls. While it's good and right to serve a community, sometimes I need to nestle in with my own little family and delight in them.

So I ask my friend, and she's full of great ideas that cost almost nothing.

She knows how to bind books and design covers so my daughters and I can write together. She's skilled in games of all kinds, and she wants to share her knowledge with me (I'm horrible at games! "You will learn," she says calmly.) She can gather her family around and read amazing books to them, and even the teenager enjoys listening.

As I drive home, I realize that some activities in my home just don't build family togetherness. I want togetherness.  

I love the word togetherness. This summer, that's what I want most of all.

____________________________
What's your best advice for family togetherness? 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

She Taught Me How to Love My Neighbor

When I moved to this town and showed up to retrieve my oldest daughter from kindergarten, a woman came to find me. She introduced herself, welcomed me to the neighborhood, provided her phone number, and immediately invited me over to her home for an after school snack to meet her children.

I went.  I had nowhere else to go and nobody else to talk to. 

She connected me to all of her friends, cooked for me, offered to watch my children, and essentially did whatever I needed to help me transition to this new community.

Know this: She's a working single mother with three children, a busy schedule, and needs of her own.

And yet.

And yet she loved her neighbor.  She took the time for me!  

I think about this dear woman, Kristen Caswell, whenever a new family moves into the neighborhood.  I find myself running to find the new families, providing a note card with my phone number, and offering to do what I do best: walk children to school and cook Italian meals.

My kitchen right now has all the ingredients for Chicken Parmigiana.  I'll deliver a meal to a new family and ask, like Kristen did for me, "How can I help you?  What do you need?"

She taught me all the simple ways to love a new neighbor. Since the Lord is teaching me to love in ways that are uniquely me, I'm going to love my new neighbor with loads of mozzarelle (I already discovered they love Italian cooking).  And remember, the only reason I can do this is because the Italian Mama was a good neighbor to me last year when she taught me how to cook out of the goodness of her great Italian Mama heart.

I'm learning what it looks likes to help and to love.  I'm going to love my neighbor, and I'm so excited.  

_________________________________________
What else does a neighbor need?

Monday, June 4, 2012

"The Moment I Picked Up My Pen, I Declared War on the Darkness." Katye Riselli

I find myself reading Ever Bitter Thing is Sweet whenever I can.  Today, I read the entry, and I want to hug this woman, read her journal, and celebrate her life with her.  She endured great pain, and she wrote in her journal on the day her fiance was killed that, "the moment I picked up my pen I declared war on the darkness."

She picks up her pen, and she declares war on the darkness.

You can read her story here

Perhaps we should all pick up our pens, grab our journals, and declare war. 

________________________________________
Have you declared war on the darkness?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

"We Teach What We Most Need to Learn": What I Most Need

As I write the summer devotions for my daughters, I'm reminded every moment of Parker Palmer's great words, "We teach what we most need to learn." 

When I get to the devotion that asks the question, "What does it really mean to love someone?" I find myself teaching my own heart the truth all over again. 

I write to the children what I'm learning in Romans 12 myself.  This isn't just for you. This is because I need to learn this.

Romans 12 tells me that real love is sincere. It's devoted. It honors others before oneself. It blesses. 

Sincere, devoted, honoring, and blessing.  I'm failing at this!  Lord, help me! 

I think about sincerity for the whole afternoon.  Sincere people speak genuine words at all times.  They don't flatter to get people to like them. They don't say things they think others want to hear.  They aren't concerned with just making people happy or manipulating people through words. 

Instead, they speak and behave out of genuine feeling. 

We teach what we most need to learn.  Today I realize that I most need instruction in the fine art of sincere loving. I want to sincerely love--genuinely, without pretense, without fear, and without manipulation. 

_______________________________
Have you felt sincerely loved? 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Oh, How Quickly We Forget: A Confession

I'm rolling my eyes as I look out to the garden. I have to harvest the berries again

It takes so long.

I get so dirty.

Then I have to store them.

Lord, why do we have all these berries?

Can you believe how quickly I can forget my longing for a berry garden? Can you believe how quickly joy and celebration turn to complaint and drudgery?

So very quickly.

For years, we lovingly cared for the soil, the new shoots, and the blossoms. We expertly staked and fed and watered and waited.

Strawberry Patch

Blackberries On the Way

Raspberries Just Emerging

Blueberries! 
Now the harvest has come and is coming. Now the thing I've waited for arrives in my palms, and I just roll my eyes, exhausted by it. 

Oh, how I need a Savior! The human heart wants what it does not have and balks at it when it gets it. We can turn every gift into a burden. We can turn every blessing into a complaint.  

As I pick strawberries and see the red juice stain my fingers, I recall how quickly the thing we long for consumes us, becomes too much, and sours in our hands. 

Even the berries carry the curse.

______________________________________
Do you often complain about the very thing you asked to have?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Make Yourself that Somebody Part Two: Maybe I Should Write It Myself (A Summer Devotional Book for Kids!)

Last night, I'm searching two different stores for little summer devotional books for my children.  I want to take seriously my role in helping them develop spiritually.  I spend so much time fostering their social, intellectual, and physical development, but I don't often know what to do with their spiritual growth.

I end up blaming other people for not doing a better job helping my children grow in their relationship with God.  If only the church were better!  If only someone would write a great book for my children!  Somebody should really do this for me. 

Remember what happens when I say, "Somebody should really. . ."?  

So I search for resources, and then I start complaining.  This is too cheesy!  This is too boring!  This is too watered-down!  This is poorly written!  This is doctrinally inadequate!  This is outdated!  My girls will never read this!

(I can be so arrogant and picky.  God is working on me.  I know that there are many great devotional books out there, but I want one tailor made for my girls.) 

Somebody should really write a better devotional for my children.  

I'm standing there complaining.  I had just read a parenting book challenging mothers to "parent out of their strengths," and I wrote in the margin that my main strength in this world is writing.

Suddenly, I hear that Holy Spirit nudge that if I'm so upset about all the spiritual material for young girls, I should write some myself

I should get a glittery, fun 3 ring binder (they could decorate it!) and fill it with pages of devotions I write myself made to suit my children.  I realize that I have things to pass on, and these girls are at that ripe age of development where biblical truth can sink into the soil of their hearts.

I wake up, and I make a list of the 30 things I want them to know.  If we have three devotions a week, these 30 pages will take me through the whole summer with them.  Each little devotion will be less than 300 words (at their reading level) and contain an action point for their lives with a real-world scenario that they've faced, are facing, or will face.  Here's my list.  What would you add that's essential for a child to know? 


1. What God Thinks About Me
2.  God is on My Side
3.  Every Rejection is God’s Protection
4.  God Gives Me Power to Live
5.  What Real Love Looks Like
6.  What Purity Looks Like
7.  Having a Thankful Heart for the Rest of My Life
8.  Becoming a Royal Servant
9.  I Never Have to Be Afraid
10.  The Smartest Girl in the Room
11. What If I Feel Lonely? God is my Friend
12.  What If I Feel Sad?  God is My Comforter
13. The Things I Hide in My Heart (How to choose the right movies, shows, and internet sites)
14. What If I’m Not Like Everyone Else? 
15. What If I Don’t Feel Beautiful?
16. What If I Mess Up?
17. How Do I Talk to Others About Jesus?
18.  What Is Abundant Life?  It is Fame and Wealth?
19.  How to Be a Friend and Choose a Friend
20.  Discovering Who God Made Me to Be
21.  Looking for Beauty Around Me and Having a Heart of Wonder
22.  Why Should I Read the Bible Every Day?
23.  Does God Answer Prayer?
24.  Does God See Me and Know Me?
25.  How Do I Please God for My Whole Life?
26.  How Do I Make Godly Decisions?
27.  What is Gossip?  How Do I Stop?
28.  Remembering God’s Faithfulness by Journaling
29.  Living an Excellent Life
30.  Worshiping Him 

_____________________________________
So here I go!  I'm praying that God helps me write a great summer devotional book.  Interested in a free copy?  Just send me an email, and I send on what I write for FREE!   Would you like to add a devotional to my list for children to read?  Email me your thoughts!