Friday, August 31, 2012

Your Top 5 Leisure Activities

My educator friend remarks on the importance of teaching leisure skills to students.

Learning the skill of leisure fascinates me. Some children understand how to excel in leisure; they use free time for pure enjoyment in ways that don't harm themselves or others. Other children need help learning how.

My friend comments that the default leisure activity for many children--of all abilities--is television and video games, so part of her curriculum involves helping students discover leisure skills that keep them moving and engaged.

Our conversation raises so many questions for me. Do I have leisure skills? Do my children? Would they know how to enjoy themselves apart from a screen?

I'm inspired again to walk in the woods, bake cakes, paint, read novels, take bubble baths, complete puzzles, build forts, take photographs, and try out new things I might enjoy. A therapist once told me I should--at any given moment--be able to list 5 leisure activities I enjoy.

Some folks can't.

There's a skill to leisure, and I want to do it well.

Here are my top five:
1.  Reading with a cup a coffee in my rocking chair
2.  Photographing very small things
3.  Taking a bubble bath
4.  Walking around the neighborhood
5.  Baking something

Do you have 5 ways you love to enjoy yourself? 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

They Know Not to Mess With You

I must go pick raspberries. The patch appears more bee than berry, and I'm deathly allergic. I have my epi-pen ready.

I wade into the patch and the bees swarm about me. I don't even pay attention to them. This is my territory, folks. Don't mess with me.

I'm amazed at my own courage. 

I pick with confidence. I pick with authority. "Excuse me, little bees, but I have a harvest to gather here." 

I pick a bowlful and notice how the bees actually avoid me. They actually seem to fear me.

I think of my own spiritual life. When I wade into my day with confidence and authority--because God is with me--I feel the difference. I don't let spiritual assaults hinder me.

Don't mess with me. I have a harvest of God's fruit to gather. 

I'm beginning to think that bees know when you mean business!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"I'm Laying a Dragon Egg."

The first words out of a little boy's mouth this morning on the walk to school are, "Remember not to touch my back; I'm laying a dragon egg."

"Oh, yes of course!" I say. "And where will you be laying the dragon egg?"

"In a very soft patch of sunflowers." Then he's off running down the sidewalk to lay the imaginary dragon egg in the imaginary patch of sunflowers.

10 minutes later, another little boy joins us on the walk. I tell him he should meet the other little boy.

"No thanks," he says politely. "I already know too many people."

I burst out laughing at the honesty and the keen understanding of his own capacity. He sets a boundary--not an unkind one--and walks on to school.

The other boy doesn't mind at all. He's too busy laying a dragon egg and reminding others not to bother him.

Oh, that I could rediscover the imagination of children and retain the natural boundary system that keeps them aware of their needs and limits! They act sincerely and creatively.

Both boys taught me something this morning.

Isn't it amazing that children know their boundaries and adults are so terrible and saying "no" and setting limits? 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Then I See Them Coming

This morning, we leave for our first day of Walk-to-School. It's our 5th year of walking that mile together, but I'm worried I'll be mostly alone. Children have grown up; they've moved on to middle school so quickly.

It was fun while it lasted.

But then I see them coming: new families! One mother pushes a stroller, and her 1st grader joins me and shows off his new sneakers. I was that young mother 5 years ago.

Two other new girls join us on our mile even before I'm down the block.

A whole new group of young children now carries on the walking tradition, and I'm so happy I could cry. 

All together, we're 21 folks strong by the time we near the school. 

And so we walk on.

Don't you love seeing a tradition carried on?

Monday, August 27, 2012

All the Good I See

I'm back on campus to teach two writing classes, and I pass by professors helping freshman find campus buildings. We're all in this together. I will help you!

In the classroom, I observe a group of students applauding a soldier returning to college after tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I return the kind handshakes of eager students wanting to introduce themselves. We learn names and offer smiles.

We are all in this together.

Did you witness an act of kindness today?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Slow and Careful Life

You need protection when you harvest raspberries.

Those little bitty thorns can pierce your tender fingertips and scratch your legs to pieces. It's a slow and careful process.

The younger, more impulsive me would have thrown myself into the patch, mouth open and greedy fingers spread wide. You can't see the thorns at first. And even when you do actually see them, they don't seem like they'd cause any harm.

Oh, but they do.

Now I know. Let me warn you in case you want to go pick raspberries.

Living with flair means a slow, careful approach with most things in life. I never used to live this way. But this summer, hummingbirds, berries, friendships, and even daughters have taught me another way to move in my life.

Is there a thorn-proof raspberry plant?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Blessed Are All Who Take Refuge in Him

This morning, I think about refuge. Psalm 2 promises that "blessed are all those who take refuge in God." Sometimes the psalmist refers to this refuge as a "rock, but sometimes this refuge is a place that's "underneath the feathers" of God.

Some days I need a rock. Some days I need soft feathers. Either way, God offers refuge from distress.

We flee to it. We run as fast as we can, hiding under those feathers or standing tall on a rock. Whatever we need, He's our perfect refuge today.

I love thinking of the soft feathers of God in Psalm 91. Don't you?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sometimes You Just Need To

Sometimes you just have to take your shoes off and get in a creek.

I mean it; something happens to you when you're in a creek.

Nobody says, "I'm bored," or "Can we do something?" Nobody fights or worries or complains.

Maybe it's because the water teaches us something about how to live a good life: You keep moving. The obstacles in your path just make for more creative patterns. Every fallen thing only fosters better music as the water swirls and descends.

Every step you take, there's something to find. A smooth stone, a silver minnow, a sprinting crayfish.

And every dark place in the creek promises a treasure. That's where everything hides.

You look and listen. You tread carefully. You take a friend's hand to balance you on the rocks.

Sometimes, you just need to get in a creek.

Do you have great creek memories? 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Too Much Too Soon

I harvest the beautiful cherry tomatoes today.

I'm disappointed by how many have split open. All but a few are ruined. I learn that split tomatoes are breeding grounds for bacteria and generally aren't good for eating.

Why do they split and crack like this? Most gardeners agree it's because of irregular watering that causes the tomato to grow so fast that the skin cannot accommodate the growth.

Too much growth--too soon--cracks us wide open.  I consider the value of slow growth. Things come about in time. There's no rush.

I love fast and big. The split cherry tomato reminds me that slow, even growth wins the day.

How are your tomatoes doing?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Their Favorite One: When You Feel Lonely

We finish our summer devotions this morning, and I ask the girls which one was their favorite. Which one meant the most to them?

My oldest says that it's definitely Number 12, the one about feeling lonely.

I realize that she's not alone in the lonely. I've talked to so many women--young and old--who feel the pain of loneliness. This devotion comforted my daughter, so perhaps it will comfort you.

12.  What if I Feel Lonely?

Have you felt lonely before? It is one of the worst emotions in the whole world. You feel alone, disconnected, unloved, forgotten, and depressed. You’re lonely! You think you have no friends and no hope for community.

You’re lonely!

I’ve been lonely before. Most everyone I know has felt lonely. I feel lonely when I just miss having company around. I feel lonely when I don’t know who my companions on this life’s journey are.

What’s a girl to do?  I’ve learned two secrets to cure a lonely heart. Are you ready?

1. Cry out to God like King David did. He says in Psalm 25, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely!” When we cry out to God to send us companions, He responds by taking care of us. David says later in Psalm 68 that God, “sets the lonely in families.” All through your life, remember to cry out to God to send you fellowship and companionship. He will. It might take time, but He will. Every time I have prayed for fellowship, God has been faithful.

I also have learned that sometimes God allows loneliness because it forces me to make God my True Companion and find rest in His love alone. He never leaves us! He is always with us!

2. Go Be a Blessing to Someone. When I was 18 years old, I left to spend my summer in a new place where I had absolutely no friends. All the girls my age were from the same sorority, and they were beautiful, popular, happy, and busy. Nobody had time for a new friend. Nobody paid any attention to me.

One night, after crying about my loneliness, a woman came to find me in the woods where I was crying. She said, “Stop worrying about whether or not people like you. Just go into a room and ask yourself who you can be a blessing to. Go find people to encourage. You’ll never be lonely again.” Guess what? That conversation changed my life forever. I walked back to where all those popular, beautiful girls were, and I spoke words of love and encouragement. It didn’t matter whether they paid any attention to me. I was there to serve! I was there to encourage! Within a few days, those girls started to seek me out. They wanted to spend more time with me because it was a blessing to them.

Scripture teaches in Isaiah 58:9

If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
      with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
      and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
      and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
      he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
      and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
      like a spring whose waters never fail.

Basically, if you stop thinking about yourself all day long and think about satisfying the needs of others, your light will shine. That means you don’t have time to be lonely! 

Lonely? Cry Out to God and Seek to Bless Others

To Do:
·       Thank God:

·       Ask God:

·       Looking Back:  Have you felt lonely before? What was that like?

·       Looking Ahead: Is there someone you can think of that needs some encouragement today?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Reward for Stillness

Before dinner, just as the water comes to a boil for our pasta, I head to the backyard and sit down. I prop my arms on my folded knees, zoom in my camera, and I wait: still and quiet.

If you know me, you know that still and quiet don't go well with my style. I'm all frenzy and noise most of the day.

But not right now.

It's because I know what's coming; the reward for stillness will surely be delivered, shimmering green as a hummingbird's wing, if I wait in stillness and silence.

Hummingbird Perching

Some gifts from God only come in that way.

These hummingbirds are teaching me so much about silence and stillness. I love watching them!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Praying for a Happy Heart

A few days ago, I pray that God gives my daughters a happy heart. It is a simple, honest prayer.

I wake up, and I laugh at that little baby hummingbird at the feeder. I replaced the nectar with fresh sugar water (I even added in more sugar just for her), and I watch how she finds the nectar and then stays for the longest time just sucking it all down. She's so full of nectar that her flight seems wobbly when she finally departs!

Then I turn to the raspberry patch with my youngest, and we feast on ripe berries right there in the garden. 

It's all there for the taking--the nectar and the berries--and we fill up, wobbly and unashamed to be so happy.

I'm praying for your happy heart!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Until I Saw a Bear

Sometimes, I dream that a little cabin in the woods--far, far away from civilization--will somehow help me live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.

I'd enjoy simple pleasures: wildflowers and  stretches of meadow interrupted only by a lazy cloud or two. 

I would rest easy and enjoy all that peace.

It's wonderful--until of course the bear comes.

He labors towards me like he owns the place.


He stops and stares. He's small, but I fear he could still make a meal out of me and my small children. 

Bear Stare-Down

I realize that perhaps little cabins also inevitably come with bears. What I imagine is so wonderful actually holds its particular dangers and challenges.

It's not all meadows and flowers. It seems lovely, but it comes with bears.

Have you seen a bear in nature? Sublime! 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I Go Out. I Come Back.

For the last month, I've adopted a new walking program around my neighborhood. It's a 3 mile loop. 

In 3 miles, I can process the day.

In 3 miles, I can write a new chapter in my head.

In 3 miles, I can connect with several neighbors on the way.

In 3 miles, I can lose weight. I have lost weight! So easy!

In 3 miles, I can change from an angry mother to a peaceful and inspired one.

My friend tells me that there's something about moving rhythmically through space--for a long time--that takes the rough edge off of life.

I go out one kind of woman, and I come back another.

I love it so much that I wish I had been a walker all this time.

Do you have any tips or inspiration for new walkers?

Friday, August 17, 2012

"Don't Fake Your Life"

My oldest daughter tells me that some friends act one way around certain friends and another way around other friends.

This really bothers her.

"I know," I tell her. I'm thinking how much I value authenticity and how long it took me to be myself in my own life. I think I'm still working on this.

She throws her hands up in the air and cries, "Don't fake your life!'"

"Don't fake your life?" I repeat.

"Yeah. Don't fake your life. That's what I want to say to them."

I close my eyes and pray that she never fakes her life. I pray that she always lives out of that true self God made her to be--that girl who throws her hands in the air and cries out in truth.

I pray that I live that way, too.

Why do we fake our lives?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Despite Everything

Despite everything, the cherry tomato ripens on the vine.

And the sunflower lifts her head. 

When I go in search of color, I usually return with a particular kind of joy that stands up to any kind of mood.  I think I am going to eat that warm tomato right off the vine.
I love the yellows and reds of late summer! Do you have them where you live? 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Just Because It's Hard Doesn't Mean God's Not In It

I'm reading Genesis again, and I'm struck for the first time with God's great call on Abram's life. He asks the man to leave everything and "go to the land I will show you." There would be blessing! There would be greatness and prosperity! 

So Abram follows God into a new land, and instead of prosperity, he finds a great famine there. I'm not kidding. It's right there in Genesis 12:10. This doesn't sound delightful or promising to me. This doesn't sound very glamorous. This sounds hard and unfair. Where's the blessings, greatness, and prosperity?

So I keep reading, and then I find that wonderful truth we've all been waiting for:

"After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
'Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield and your very great reward'."

I am your shield and very great reward. 

God himself is the very great reward. That's why, even in a great famine, we still have our shield and great reward. We still have our blessing, our greatness, and our prosperity. It's God.  No matter what kind of scarcity--whether resources, relationships, insight, or health--we have a great reward in the midst of the famine.

And perhaps that's the only way we know it to be true. Perhaps that's why God called Abram--not to glorious abundance--but to famine.

Believing this truth makes all the difference. Have you found this to be true?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

When All Else Fails on a Rainy Day: Salt Dough

It's a rainy summer day here. My oldest remembers an old rainy day tradition that I had forgotten: salt dough. 

Mix 2 cups flour with one cup salt. Add in 1 cup of warm water. Mix and knead.  Let the children create beads, play food, doll house furniture, Christmas tree ornaments, animals, or letters. Dry out the creations in a 200 degree oven until hardened.

Then, paint them!

This activity lasts for a good hour or more with children (and their moms!).

Sometimes, rainy days aren't so terrible.

Do you have a favorite rainy day activity?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Baby Hummingbird Photos

Out by the blooming sunflower where our nectar feeder sits, we notice tiny hummingbirds at the feeder. Every once in a while, a much larger hummingbird will circle around the smaller ones. I think we are observing babies.

Baby Hummingbird

What a happy day to have seen them! We prayed God would bring them back so we could photograph them, and we quietly waited on the porch. Then, we snapped as many photos as we could, hoping to catch them in the frame. We did!

Baby Hummingbird

Enjoy these beautiful creatures.

Maybe the Mother Hummingbird?
They are so mysterious and rarely observed. 

Hummingbirds are so delightful. Have you witnessed something rarely observed in nature lately?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

All Day Long

Finally, each little arm unfolds, waving to us. 

All day long, this sunflower will track the light. All day long, she will strain and stretch after it.

All day long.

Psalm 25:5 "Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 71:8: My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long. 

Psalm 71:15 My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long--though I know not how to relate them all.

Psalm 86:24 Have mercy on me, Lord. For I call to you all day long.  

Have a glorious Sunday!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

5 Easy (and Cheaper) Meals to Serve a Crowd

Last night, it suddenly occurs to me that I no longer feel stress when I have to cook for a crowd. I used to worry so much and plan and agonize. But now, I have 5 favorites I can pull out to feed 5 or 40 (or more). I thought I'd pass them along, and perhaps you can add your own suggestions in the comments.

I like easy and cheap, so here goes (in order of increasing difficulty). Number 2 and 3 are great for our vegetarian friends. You can also use vegetarian substitutes for the chili.

1. Pulled Pork BBQ: Put several pork loins in a crock pot with broth and one can of coke covering. Cook all day. 30 minutes before guests arrive, drain liquid, shred pork, and add your favorite BBQ sauce. Serve on big rolls. Offer corn on the cob and salad. If you have the energy, make Bobby Flay's Cole Slaw.

2.  Tacos and Burrito Bar: Make a huge pot of rice (6 cups depending on crowd) and add cans of black beans and some sauteed chopped onions and garlic. Then, brown turkey or beef and season. Heat up some refried beans. Put out bowls of cheese, lettuce, sour cream, salsa, diced tomatoes, taco shells, and tortillas. Let guests build tacos, burritos, or taco salad if they wish.

3.  Brenner (Breakfast for Dinner): My husband and I have lots of fun flipping pancakes for dinner for a crowd. The day before, I make Emeril Lagasse's Breakfast Casserole and cook one hour before event.

4.  Chili: Dump into a crock pot cans of diced tomatoes and kidney beans. Add some water and some chili seasoning that you like. Brown turkey or beef and add to the pot. Cook all day. Serve with various toppings like chives, cheese, chips, and sour cream. Make tons of cornbread from a mix. Toss a salad. Yum!

5. London Broil: When London Broil is on sale or buy one get one free, you can marinate them all day and grill them when your guests come. Slice and serve with baked potatoes and salad.

Easy desserts include ice cream with a topping bar, a bakery cake, or brownies. Don't forget the decaf coffee!

What's your favorite meal to serve a crowd? 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Receiving the Finest

Yesterday, I take my youngest to the doctor because of a terrible reaction to the new earrings we let her wear. They were beautiful earrings, and she loved them. But after just a few days, a disgusting infection brewed. I'm talking about the green pus-filled sort. I'll spare you a photo. 

After many tears and much drama, we remove the earring in the doctor's office. The doctor announces the news:

"Only the finest for this girl," she says. "She's reacting to the poor quality of this earring. She needs the hypoallergenic, 14 carat gold variety."

My daughter smiles and tosses her hair. "Only the finest, Mom." It becomes a joke all evening. Only the finest. The conversation turns to diamonds and pearls and gold and rubies. She simply wasn't made for poor quality. 

But those other earrings were beautiful. She begged for them; she wouldn't listen to anyone's warnings until we found ourselves in an earring emergency.

I recall Psalm 81. God has the finest things to give to his children, but we resist those gifts because of what we think we want. I read this:

But my people would not listen to me;
    Israel would not submit to me.

So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
    to follow their own devices.

“If my people would only listen to me,
    if Israel would only follow my ways,how quickly I would subdue

 their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! 
 you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
    with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.

I want to listen to God and submit. I want to receive only the finest. If not, I fear the terrible reaction that will surely come in time. 

We simply weren't made for poor quality, so we won't compromise.

 Have you found it to be true that when you obey God, you tend to receive only the finest?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

You Have Authority

Today at an intersection, I see a central point around which tentacles of cars line up to wait their turn to go. So many "lane closed" and "detour here" signs dot the landscape, that nobody really has any idea what to do or where to drive.

Then I see him. A thin old man complete with a white beard and weathered face stands in the middle of it all. It's like the government called in the oldest and wisest to handle this mess.

The man waves his arms to one group, directing with pointed figures exactly where to turn. Then he holds another hand to stop a line of cars. Then he changes direction, challenging cars that try to sneak on. Oh no you don't!

He's so small in stature against the onslaught of cars, but so very large in authority. 

As he continues this full body workout of directing us, I notice that he doesn't seem self-conscience or worried in the slightest. It's because he knows he's been put there for such a time as this. He's been placed right in the middle of a complicated mess--with work to do--so he doesn't question himself.

So small. Such authority.

It doesn't match up. He's so powerless-looking and yet has ultimate power here. It makes me think about all the complicated places God sets me down to accomplish his work. The obstacles might be huge and threatening, but I don't have to think about them or myself at all.

I have delegated authority, so I don't worry. 

Where do you need to remember that you have authority given to you by God?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Joy of Rest Hour

Back when I was a counselor at Camp Greystone, I learned the why and how of Rest Hour. The how was this: Every single day after lunch--even on weekends--all the campers and the counselors (yes, even the adults) get in their bunks and stay quiet and still for one hour. They can read, write letters, sleep, pray, or just think.

I remember the why, too: Stillness, silence, and reflection were valued as part of a child's emotional and spiritual development. Some things can only happen inside of you when you stay still and quiet.

Today, I re-institute Rest Hour for all of us.

It works in families, too. I'm seriously thinking of having Rest Hour after school. If we're too busy with activities to have a Rest Hour, something's wrong.

Living with flair means we have a Rest Hour. I'm off to read a book and think.

Do you have a Rest Hour?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Within the One, Two Thousand

I climb on a chair to peer inside.

 The sunflower is really in there. 

My youngest is amazed that a seed no bigger than her fingernail is making this. And that one seed will turn into as many as 2000 seeds (they are really called the "fruit" of the plant) once the sunflower blooms and continues to grow.

One seed into two thousand? How can it be?

I love this simple truth that some things we plant do multiply into more than themselves. Within the one, two thousand. We just cannot know.

Living with flair means we remember that one good thing sown in faith can multiply beyond our imagination.

(I need to learn how to harvest  the seeds to eat. Hopefully, this will be easier than my acorn flour experiment. )

Have you harvested sunflower seeds?

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Great Mother Shared This

Our dear family friends return for their 4th annual visit. Each time, I learn so much from just listening to the mother. I learn so much, in fact, that I want her to write a book for the rest of the world. Watching this mother with her five children reminds me of all the things she's taught me so far.

First it was that the sign of a happy childhood is dirty children. The next year, I learn how their family survives without television or computer games. Her daughter tells me exactly what a 5th grader does without a television set. On visit number three, I learn the best phrase to tell your child.

This visit, I learn so many things about the joy of motherhood. She tells me that children are like gifts to unwrap to learn who they are. One of the ways she unwraps these gifts is through mother-daughter book clubs. You can learn so much about each other! She tells me about book clubs she's started with children and their mothers beginning as early as 2nd grade. She and her daughters make a list for me of all the great books my daughters should read with me this year. Books like Tumtum and Nutmeg, When You Reach Me, Fires of Jubilee, The Last Safehouse, Swordbird, View from Saturday, Surviving the Applewhites, and Summer of the Monkeys.

I haven't heard of even one of these books.

Finally, her last bit of advice to me is that daughters need to feel cherished and chosen. I begin to consider how I communicate this to my children. I want them to feel cherished and chosen--adored and preferred--by me.

Don't you just love being around mothers like this? I have so much to learn, and I'm so grateful for older, wiser mothers who truly do instruct the younger mothers in the joy of motherhood.

Do you think our culture does a good job passing on the joy of motherhood?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

"You can't see me; I'm kneeling down."

This morning in church, the pastor kneels down  in worship during his sermon. Practically speaking, nobody can see him. Folks strain their heads, and he calls out, "You can't see me! I'm kneeling down!"

That's right. In a sermon on taking the lowest place, on humbling oneself, and on exalting the name of Jesus instead of our names and platforms, that moment of invisibility in worship isn't lost on me.

I've spent all my life trying to make a name for myself. I thought Christianity might save me from this, and yet, I find Christians all around me climbing the same ladder to stand out, be heard, be named. I'm not sure where I fit in. Wouldn't it be lovely to be free from that race? 

I think about the great children's book, Charlotte's Web. I was thinking about Charlotte and the phenomenon that she could write. Nobody thinks about the spider; they think about the pig she writes for. Wilber gets the attention. It's so strange. A spider can write, but Wilber becomes famous.

God, if nobody can see me in this crowd, let it be because I'm kneeling down.
Why is it that we need to be heard and known so badly?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Even if it Means Less

I see a black swallowtail in the garden. By the two rows of spots and the fast wings beating (females have one row of spots, apparently, and they beat their wings slowly), I know it's a male.

And I know what he wants: the purple buddleja flowers. We grow light purple and dark purple, and I'm learning that butterflies and hummingbirds simply can't resist them.

But why? And why do they stay so long on these particular flowers?

I discover that this unique flower has one of the highest levels of sucrose in the nectar compared to other garden flowers. The butterflies go after quality. And they stay so long on this plant because it actually doesn't produce much nectar. Fascinating. A butterfly will go for less nectar of higher quality than tons of nectar of low quality.  He'll risk capture. He'll risk death.

He knows he's got the best, and he simply won't compromise.

I want to be both the buddleja and the butterfly. I want to give my best, even if that means less. And I want to go after the best, even if it means a longer journey with less. 

Even if it means less.

Living with flair means we aren't seduced by bigger and more. We produce less but better. We feed on better but less.

Did you know that about buddleja? I didn't!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Go Ahead

I read today that one of the results of shame is a loss of creativity.

I recall my fascination with the emotion of shame: In all my years of graduate study on shame, I found over and over again that shame forces a person to hide. In my own career, I'm most interested in how the shame response stifles a person's ability to write.

You simply won't write freely--with an authentic written voice--if an audience (real or imagined) is shaming you with disapproval, condemnation, and mockery. That's why I spend inordinate amounts of time creating atmospheres of vulnerability and trust. The writing changes by the end. Students feel accepted, so they finally create.

Shame, remember, is a tormenting sense of inferiority. You're fighting the fear of shame when you post on Facebook and your first thought is, "People are going to think this is stupid," or you tweet something and then delete it because it's not clever enough. The fear of shame often drives everything from the clothes we wear to how we decorate our homes. We do what's expected and don't create. We're not free anymore.

The only solution to shame is to go ahead and make a fool of yourself so you can realize that you're unconditionally accepted by God, your family, and your friends. Love never depended on your coolness, cleverness, or wise insights. And when it comes right down to it, people really aren't thinking about you as much as you think they are.

I tell myself with every blog post and every new novel paragraph to "Go ahead." I give shame a stare-down and tell it it's been defeated. I'm going to create and be free today, and it feels so good.

You're loved. You're accepted. Go ahead and create already! Who cares what happens? 

You can create atmospheres of vulnerability and trust by helping people expose weakness, especially within a family and a classroom. Loving folks regardless of their performance can be a life-changing experience for them. Have you experienced this?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

When You Feel Held Back

I see sunflowers all over the neighborhood now. Everywhere I look, it seems a neighbor has a glorious patch of sunflowers saluting the sun.

My single sunflower has no bloom yet. She pitifully goes through the motions, following that sun, like an Olympian practicing a rotation for the real event.

She's absolutely hidden inside a cage of green teeth. Each day, the prison grows stronger and larger about her. How will that sunflower burst forth at all?

When it does happen (and it will), I know she'll be amazing--doing what she was born to do--at just the right time. Before then, she practices and waits.

That's what we do. We practice and wait, preparing for the good events God has.

And sometimes the cage feels so tight and appears so fierce because that's how much it takes to restrain us till just the right time. We're that beautiful and glorious and strong!

Did you ever feel held back on purpose?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Fan and a Bowl of Ice

We have little window air conditioning units, but not in our bedroom. I love a cold bedroom, and this heat is just not cooperating with me.

I read online that you can quickly cool a room if you position your fan in front of a large bowl of ice. I set up my system earnestly and happily late last night. My supportive husband watches me, but I think he's laughing on the inside.

Maybe I'm imagining things, but this very simple solution let me fall asleep in a cool room for the first time in weeks. So simple!

I've learned so much in this heat.

I didn't even think of the possibility that one could cool a room well without the clangy old air conditioner or the expensive central air (we rent a house without it). I'm realizing how hard it is to go back to basic things--I can't even imagine them sometimes--when I'm in need.

I like my fan and bowl of ice. I like the simplicity of it.

Do you know how to stay cool without AC?