The You They Want

The last little girl just left my house after a small birthday party for my youngest daughter.

With a tight budget, we hosted a “garden party” theme.  This garden party included making greenhouses, taking swings at a butterfly pinata, and letting my extremely cool teenage neighbor come and do face-painting of butterflies, ladybugs, and anything the girls wanted.  Still, all the old insecurities rise up:  Is this fun enough?  Is it OK that it’s not expensive? 

Just then, my daughter asks me to make the fruit platter.  Can I make it in the shape of a butterfly for the garden party?  If you remember the legendary Boo Platter (and my most memorable act), you know that I’m not crafty or skilled in these areas.  But we come up with this: 

It just so happens that this little platter steals the show.  And the greenhouses and the face-painting were exactly what these little girls wanted. 

When I’m tempted to compare myself to other mothers, I remember that God gave me these children.  He gives me ideas that are perfect for them.  And when the old insecurities rise up, I remember the fruit platter. 

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Journal:  Do you realize you’re the perfect person for the task God assigns?  It’s you

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Why Searching Should Be Part of This Day

Baby Squirrels

Do you know how hard it is to take a photograph of a baby squirrel?

Hard.  Very hard.  Baby squirrels are fast.

This week, we discover a nest of baby squirrels high up in the front yard tree.  I find myself looking out the window constantly just to catch a single glimpse of them.  They venture from the nest and explore the limbs, but when I approach the tree with a camera, they scurry back into their nest.

Can you just stay still for a second, Little Squirrel?

Baby Squirrel

I decide to bring a telescope to the side yard to spy on them from afar.  Yes, a telescope.  I realize the neighbors think I am crazy.  I wave my arms and point up to the tree.  “Baby squirrels!” I shout.     

Searching with the greatest intent and the greatest care, I finally see them.

All morning, I think about the search to see an unusual and wonderful sight in nature.   To search means to look thoroughly with the intent of finding.  That’s how I study this nest in a tree, and that’s how I want to approach this day.  That’s the way I want to investigate my lingering questions, read scripture, and converse with someone else.  I’m searching–looking thoroughly–for that wonderful and unusual thing in store today. 

If I turn my eyes away, I might miss it.  

Living with flair means I’m a thorough searcher. 

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Journal:  What activities today deserve my looking thoroughly

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Why (and How) I Wrote a Writing Book

I remember the exact moment when a student called out from the back of the room and said, “Dr. H., I just want to learn how to write!  I’m tired of all these grammar rules and fancy rhetorical terms!”

He wanted to write.  And the expensive grammar books weren’t helping him.  I stood at the chalkboard, and I told him that every writer needs just five lessons.  I talked about the power of strong verbs and the need for sentence variation through punctuation marks like the semicolon and parentheses.  I talked about how to create rhythm by changing up the length of our sentences.  Then I talked about how to be clever using wordplay like repetition and puns.  Finally, I talked about how to build rapport with your readers.

That was it.  Class over.  I walked to my car and thought, “Somebody should really write a book about how to write in 5 easy lessons.”

Remember my problem with saying, “Somebody should really. . . “? (I was that somebody.) 

So I did it.  Over my winter break, I wrote out the lessons.  I took my little writing handbook to a print shop, and I assigned it the next semester.  Students emailed me to tell me that their fraternity brothers or their parents or their cousins wanted copies.  Others would report that my book “changed everything” and now they had confidence in writing.  I found notes in my mailbox from students claiming that my verb lessons have made them amazing writers in all their other classes.

Maybe my life calling has something to do with verbs.  I’m OK with how nerdy that sounds.

With so many positive evaluations, I decided to publish How to Write with Flair and sell it as a real book.  I didn’t know how, but I knew I was supposed to.

Within a few weeks, some strange things started happening.  A neighbor told me about createspace.com, and I learned how to put a manuscript together.  Then, I discovered that the neighbor to my right was an editor the same week I learned my neighbor to my left was a professional typesetter.  They wanted to help me publish my book!  But I needed a cover design and an author photo.  No problem.  I found a photographer mom at gymnastics class (of all places!), and I remembered a dear friend who had a knack for graphic design. My whole community was helping me and encouraging me!

Yesterday, I started to sell my first book.  Who knows what will happen?  All I know is that living with flair means you move forward with crazy ideas because you think they might help someone.

PS:  You can find How to Write with Flair here:  https://www.createspace.com/3471782  

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Journal:  Do you have an idea that you need to move on?

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Gone in One Day

The weeping cherry has bloomed! The children hide underneath and make a fort.  We’ll only have these blooms for ONE DAY.   The thunder storm will come, and by morning, the tree will be bare. 

My Weeping Cherry

But not yet.  The roar of a hundred buzzing bees greets you at my front door.  We stand there, risking the stings, just to hear it and gaze upon the blooms.

A neighbor comes to the door, says nothing, and merely points to the blossoms and puts his hand over his heart and closes his eyes.

You don’t need words.

Later, the storm does indeed strip the leaves.  We will have to wait one whole year to see them again. 

Stripped in the Storm

It was glorious for that one day, and now, I turn my attention to other blooms.  There’s a wild violet at my feet.  I see it differently–treasure it, cherish it–because my weeping cherry taught me it might be gone tomorrow. 

Wild Violets

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Journal:  What would I treasure more if I knew it’d be gone tomorrow?

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The Best Day of Your Life

I wrote that title before the day even happened.  Did you choose to read this post because of the title?   More folks might read this if it said, “The Worst Day of Your Life,” because studies report that we’re attracted to pain and negativity. 

I’m teaching the power of a great title in my writing classes this week.  The title makes all the difference.  It determines whether I engage with the writing, how I engage with the writing, and why I’ll keep reading.   The title gives a shape and a focus for a text, and that got me thinking about writing and living with flair. 

What if I titled my day?  What if I chose a title this morning that made me engage differently?  What if I shaped and focused this day by a title?  Here are some possible titles for a day:

The Day Everything Changed
The Day I Finally Did It
The Day I Became the Person I’m Supposed to Be
The Day I Surrendered Everything
The Day I Found Beauty in Pain
The Day I Rose Above My Circumstances
The Day I Laughed So Hard I Cried
The Day I Did the Thing I Feared the Most
The Day I Chose Happiness
The Day I Discovered How to Really Love Someone Else

Living with flair means I choose a title for my day.  And then I move forward and live it. 

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Journal:  How did you title today?

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How to Blog Every Day

When you blog for almost 400 days straight, sometimes you get emails asking how to blog every day.

The average blog lasts 6 weeks (42 days), and when I started Live with Flair, I wondered if blogging would stick for me.  Would it fizzle?  Would anyone read it?  Would this whole thing continue? 

It did.  I love it, and I look forward to it every day.  Sometimes I have 10 minutes to write.  Sometimes an entire hour clears.  Either way, I write.  And along the way, I figured out three secrets to blogging every single day.

Here they are: 

1.  You have to ask yourself a good question. 

My question for each day is simple:  Where’s the flair?  This question means that blogging is my commonplace book–that treasury I keep of answers to a question.

There’s a genuine question to answer today, and, as you’ve read before, I pray for the answer (usually in the shower when I’m tempted to feel grumpy about the day).  I have to believe that the answer to the question inspires someone else as well.  That’s the second secret of daily blogging:   

2.  You have to believe that what you write will be good for someone else. 

I’ve talked to so many bloggers who don’t think their thoughts are worth anything to anybody else.  These last few years, I’ve seen brilliant student writers refuse to share their work in class because they think it’s “worthless” and “nobody cares.”

What if we did?  What if your thoughts today could inspire a whole community?  We do care, and your thoughts can inspire

Living with flair means we ask good questions and build a treasury of wisdom to offer to others.  Sure critics will come against you.  Sure you’ll think nobody cares.  But when you learn something and pass it on to others, you’re engaging in an ancient art of recording wisdom for future generations.  Why wouldn’t we blog every day?  Why wouldn’t we ask ourselves philosophical questions every single day and tell someone what we think?

In this way, we also build a community of readers–fellow pilgrims–who join in and contribute their own wisdom.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Right now, we can say “hello” to readers in Germany, New Zealand,  Nigeria, and Australia.  We can engage with readers from Turkey, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Russia, and Italy.  (Hello friends!) 

Blogging means I’m going international every day.  That’s the final secret:

3.  You blog every day because you have an appointment with your readers.

I hope this post encourages fellow bloggers and reminds you why you started blogging in the first place. 

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Journal:  What question am I trying to answer today?  Do I believe I have wisdom to share?  Do I have a community with whom I might share these thoughts?  We are all waiting to hear what you think!

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A Passage Through Thorns

On the way to the vernal pond, I notice how we can’t even approach it unless we pass through the thorns.  There’s no way around them. 

These thorns tangle and form a crown above us. 

This Easter, I think of the passage Christ paves through that crown of thorns he wore at the crucifixion.  And today, that beautiful resurrection means I enter in, and I’m free. 

A paradise awaits, but I have to pass through the thorns. 

 
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Journal:  He is risen indeed!  Have I walked through that free passage, marked by the crown of thorns?   

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My Easter Tantrums

I could chronicle my life in tantrums.

Two years ago, I demanded new Easter dresses and complained that we didn’t have reservations at the expensive place where all the neighbors have Easter brunch.  Can you believe it?  We were miserable in those dresses, and we changed into our shorts and t-shirts and ended up having a brunch of juice and popcorn out in the woods together.  Easter rose up in my heart that afternoon.

Last Easter, God reminded me of his grace when I witnessed a flair disaster.  It was a great Easter, and I didn’t even think about dresses or brunches or new hats and shoes.  We didn’t need any of it.   I actually woke up this morning thinking about how far I’ve come

But just now, I find myself complaining to my husband that he didn’t get the Easter Egg Coloring Kit.  I fall apart because we haven’t colored our eggs yet.  I actually raise my voice.  I’m throwing a tantrum about coloring eggs.  I thought I had come so far! 

I apologize to my husband and children, and as I stand in the kitchen, worrying that Easter’s not going to be good enough because the cookies aren’t right and the eggs aren’t colored, I let out a huge sigh and cry out, “I need the real Easter!  I need it so badly.” 

The real Easter is Jesus rising to save us from ourselves.  And just when I think I’m finished with these tantrums, I find the old self oozing out.  I’m glad it did.   I won’t ever not need Him.  I won’t ever be strong enough, mature enough, or wise enough to not need Jesus.  

I need the real Easter!  I need it so badly.

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Journal:  Will I find the real Easter?

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This Question Might Help You Rejoice Today

During breakfast, my husband announces: “The tire man really helped me rejoice today!” 

I know that some flair is coming.

“What do you mean?” 

“Well, when I dropped off the car at the tire shop, I told the man how thankful I was that this flat tire happened in a parking lot and not out on the road in traffic.  I could change it safely in that lot and not on the side of the road.  But then guess what he asked me?”

“What?”

“‘Was it raining?’ And I said, ‘No it wasn’t!  It was the only hour all week that it wasn’t raining!’  I was so thankful when I remembered that.”

My husband remarks that the tire man simply asked the right question to help my husband rejoice in the midst of something inconvenient. 

Living with flair means I ask the right questions to realize all the ways God is indeed protecting and providing even in the midst of trouble. 

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Journal:  Was there a time in my life that God protected and provided for me even during trouble? 

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What Has to Die in Me?

This afternoon, I notice my winterberry bush budding in the backyard. 

Those blooms hold particular significance this Easter season because I’ve beheld their cycle this whole year.  I see death and resurrection, and I suddenly remember the importance of death

For months, this bush seemed more acquainted with death than life.    The brittle and barren branches! 

This bush endured the assault of ice storms.  Those branches seemed hopeless, trapped, and unchanging.

Things were being put to death in her.

Now, these new buds burst forth. 

I remember my winterberry bush when I think about God’s work in my life.  I go through seasons when things have to die in me.  The soul in winter feels like death, but with every burial, there’s a resurrection.  What will Jesus bring forth in us?  We await that bloom even when we cannot perceive the secret work happening deep within our souls.  

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Journal:  What has to die in me this Easter?  What will God bring forth? 

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