Do You Know What Quiescent Means?

It means “tranquil repose.”

I find the word this morning when trying to determine if it’s true that my daughter’s silky dogwood has grown this winter.

Can trees and shrubs grow in winter?  We stand on the back porch in our rain boots.  Huddled together in the pouring rain, under a huge blue and white umbrella, we examine the silky dogwood.  The snow has melted (finally), and my daughter races outside to check the growth of that tiny little wisp of a sapling she planted two years ago.

We haven’t even had breakfast yet.  Even my coffee can wait; I’ve learned this year to follow a child where she wants to lead you.  

We peer over the deck.  It grew!  It grew into a whole bush.  I can’t believe it.  I thought everything went dormant in winter.  I imagine trees and shrubs in suspended animation.  

Apparently, even in the winter, trees can grow.  Dormant isn’t the same thing as quiescent.  In winter, roots experience “winter quiescence.”  They are resting but ready.  As soon as roots encounter nutrients, water, and even a slight elevation in temperatures, they spring into action. 

The dogwood was resting but ready all season.  It took advantage of every warm day, every bit of moisture, and every nutrient. In tranquil repose, it waited and experienced growth as the days allowed. 

I like to think of living in tranquil repose. I’m resting but ready as soon as my environment offers nutrients for spiritual and emotional growth.  And I have to remember that the sapling wasn’t dormant–growth happened–it only looked like suspended animation on some days.

Living with flair means we embrace quiescent days.  We are resting but ready, and we are growing.  


Screaming “Base!”

Today I chase my daughter around the living room to tickle her.  At one point, she defiantly stops in her tracks, places one hand on the couch and screams, “Base!” 

“I’m safe!  I’m safe on base!  You can’t touch me!”  she insists, nodding her head and putting one hand up as a stop sign. 

I wait patiently for her to move from “base” only to find that as soon as she’s nearly in my grip, she just touches the wall and screams, “Base!” again.  

For little ones, the concept of a “moving base” saves them every time.  They just have to touch something–anything–claim it as their safe haven, and stop the attacker (in this case, the Tickle Monster).

She’s onto something.

I imagine enemy attacks against us in various spiritual forms.  I reach out my hand, wherever I am, cling to God and scream “Base!”  You can’t touch us here.  We are safe. 

Living with flair means I realize I’m on base.  

Journal:  What do I need to scream “Base!” to as I claim my safety and protection in God?


Why I’m Jumping Up and Down

Yesterday, I receive a large, bumpy envelope in the mail from the Baker family.  I know it’s gonna be good. 

This is from the mother who advised me that the sign of a happy childhood is dirty children.   This family doesn’t own a television set, and the children don’t play computer games.  Whenever they come to visit, I’m inspired to find new ways to take my children away from the screen. 

Just yesterday, we walk in the woods. 

My daughter’s image blurs as she races away. 

Breathless from running, she pauses to show me leaves larger than she knew existed. 

Back home, I remember how much I want to keep my children (and myself) moving.  

I open the large envelope and find a gift from the family-who-owns-no-television.  

It’s new double-dutch jump ropes!  My friend has sent long jump ropes made of soft rope that don’t hurt your ankles when you mess up.

Her timing is perfect.  Monday night, we resume our Neighborhood Double-Dutch Challenge in the parking lot.  Because of the time change and the warm weather, we can finally go back outside.   We’ll work on jumping in, turning the ropes for each other, and singing all the old songs. 

Who needs television when you have a double-dutch challenge? 

Journal:  What are my plans to move more this Spring? 


I Have Proof!

Bright Yellow Crocus

On the walk to school this morning, I see the crocus blooming.

I turn to examine the daffodils, and a ladybug greets me.

We made it through the winter.

The crocus symbolizes encouragement, hope, resurrection, and joy. It’s a victory sign that the unrelenting winter has passed. 

Hello, Ladybug

The ladybug, in most cultures, marks this day as one of blessing, protection, and good fortune.

Nature proclaims something today: hope rises, defying the barren ground and crawling up the stalks.

Right down to the shimmering diamond drops of dew on that ladybug’s back and right down to the silky case from which the crocus blooms, life delivers gift after gift.

We made it through the winter.


Journal:  What did I notice in nature today? 

Dew on the Ladybug


The Exploding Green Waffles and Why I’m Making Memories

I’m not crafty, imaginative, or even energetic when it comes to holidays.  I wish I were a mom who decorated better, thought of more exciting traditions, and planned memorable and delicious meals.

I’m not that kind of mom.

But when it comes to children, even the tiniest (and I mean tiniest) efforts don’t go unnoticed.  I learned that from my Halloween Boo Platter that became public school legend.

I stir the waffle mix and let my daughter add a few drops of green food coloring for St. Patrick’s day.  She can’t stop giggling.  I’m starting to worry, however, that this isn’t going to work.  

We pour way too much into the waffle maker. (See?  I can’t even get this right!) The children scream and run around the kitchen to alert me to the explosion.  

Then I realize something:  I guarantee that this time next year, my daughters will remember the exploding waffle maker that oozed green slime.  Can it be that my mistakes make this a beautiful memory?  

Eventually, the waffles are ready.  But I’ve made green waffles that don’t really look that green.  Plus, they exploded out of the machine.  

We are celebrating St. Patrick’s day with almost green waffles.

It doesn’t matter that they aren’t even that green.

It doesn’t matter that they aren’t even that well-shaped.

What my daughters really care about–what really makes this memory–is the exploding waffle maker.

And that was the easy part.  I didn’t even have to try for that one.   

Journal:  What tiny embellishments (or failures!) can make a lasting memory? 


A Very Important Person

Today in my class, we discuss dignity.

What gives a person worth?  Why do we esteem other people (and ourselves)?  It is because of what they accomplish or because they have inherent value?

These questions matter.  Our answers determine how we view others and ourselves.  We tend to make ourselves into commodities; we believe that what we produce and what services we provide make us valuable, worthwhile people.

When I think about unconditional love, I’m challenged to radically love others regardless of their contribution.  I think that’s the way God loves us.

Dignity relates to the word “dignitary” or very important person.   I remember watching American Idol last week and hearing Jennifer Lopez talk about a contestant.  She said that when she watched him sing, she knew she was “watching somebody very important.”

What if I felt that way about everybody I met today?  What if I felt that way when I looked in the mirror?

You are somebody very important.   It’s true in light of God’s truth.  Not for market value or contribution.  Not for appearance, affluence, or achievement.  Not for anything other than who we are as declared by God. 

It’s freeing and humbling.  We don’t need to prove our worth.  It’s already in there.

Journal:  Do I feel like a very important person?


This Is the Day

Who knows what a day will bring forth? 

For the past week, I’ve become aware of how precious each day is.  I put out the flag (as usual), but I see things differently today.  Because of the time change, everything looks strange.

We walk to school as the sun rises. 

Illuminated by a new light, a pathway clears through the forest. It’s a new day, and I witness it. 

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118: 24)

As I look out into the forest–in that new light–I remember that God’s mercies are new every morning.  I remember the prophet Isaiah speaking out on behalf of the Lord. 

He writes, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

I want to perceive the new thing today.  I want to find that way in the desert, that stream in the wasteland.    

Journal:  What new thing is God doing today? 


Rearrange the Day!

This morning, I scrape egg off of a blue and white plate.

I overhear a pastor, Tim Keller, speaking about work in a sermon video. I wipe my hands on the dish towel and strain to hear.

Keller says, “Work is rearranging the raw material of a particular domain for the flourishing of everyone.”

I think about what “raw materials” make up this day.

So far, my raw materials are dirty dishes.  Later, I rearrange letters to make words and then rearrange words to make sentences.  Now, I position red peppers in a pan to roast for dinner.  At 6:30, I’ll open the front door and welcome the children for neighborhood fitness group.   

I also have the raw emotions of fear about my sick friend and sadness for the Japanese.  I take the feelings and do the work of prayer.  

Suddenly, I look at my work in new ways.  Cleaning the kitchen, teaching grammar, making dinner, praying, and then hosting the neighborhood fitness group tonight all represent ways I rearrange raw material into new positions for flourishing.

And if what I’m doing doesn’t contribute to our flourishing, then it’s not the kind of work I want.  I think of Proverbs 14:  “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”  I want to be the kind of person who rearranges whatever she’s been given today to allow everyone (including myself) to flourish.

Living with flair is a kind of rearranging:  We rearrange our circumstances, turn them towards the light, and find the good, the beautiful, and the hopeful.  

Journal:  How does my work advance our flourishing?    


Some Pictures of Hope

The landscape in Pennsylvania, for the most part, still frowns with the weight of winter. 

Trees raise their arms in surrender to a blank sky.

After church this morning, my youngest daughter pulls on a double layer of pants and says, “Mom, let’s go on a hunt for daffodils.”  (How can I not follow her outside?  I’m struck by how I need to listen to and follow children more often.)

The hunt!  I put on my winter coat, and my old camera dangles from the strap around my wrist. 

We journey to the side of the house, the hidden territory in front of the gate.  With frozen fingers and faces, we hunt.

We hunt, and we find.

Lilies burst forth; daffodils announce victory over winter.

To hunt means to chase relentlessly.

Lord, let me be relentless in my hunt for hope. 

Journal:  What gives me hope today?


Vinegar for the Soul

Today, I learn that I can clean my crusty microwave by mixing 1/2 cup vinegar with 1/2 cup water and letting it boil for a few minutes inside the microwave. 

I’m doubtful as I stand waiting with one arm resting on a mop and another wiping down a counter top.  I don’t think the website that gave these instructions has seen the inside of this microwave. 

Saturday cleaning day has felt particularly somber as I remember the tsunami as well as more local news of a dear friend, Micah, who fights for his life in a hospital in California.  His pneumonia became life-threatening this week, and I check my computer for updates about his condition.   Micah is a young father with a beautiful wife and three children.  His wife is due to have their fourth child any moment.  They are close friends of ours from our previous community.

The microwave sounds its signal, and I open the door.

I can’t believe it!  Apparently, no old crusted thing can survive the presence of that highly acidic vinegar.  I take a cloth and wipe down the inside.  Not one stain resists me.  The vinegar dislodges every bit of bacterial splatter.

That’s what it feels like today in my own heart.  The news of suffering comes into my soul with a sour sting, but it’s the kind of work that purifies and refines.  I suddenly know what matters.  I remember what I love.  I remember God’s comforting presence and what I need to pray for.  I take my fear and my sadness, and I let it do its complete work.  The crusty stains of selfishness and materialism break apart–just a little bit more–and I become closer to God today.

Journal:  What does sadness do to the soul?