Moodiness to Marvelous

We’re in a new town for a wedding, and we ask the pastor where we might go for breakfast this morning.

This is the pastor who describes this little town as “ordinary people who serve an extraordinary God.”  He leans over and tells us we can go to all the normal breakfast places, but if we really want the best place, we need to go to Java Jacks.

Java Jacks looks like a run-down house on the side of the road!  This can’t be the place.  A dog named Samson sits by the side door waiting for a sample of sausage.  But the pastor said this was the place, so we enter.

I have one of the best breakfasts (in the quirkiest settings) I can remember in a long time. (By the way, a “Jacks” is a little funnel cake they serve on the side of your blueberry pancakes and crab omelets.)

I love finding people who know the local scene.  You have to leave the beaten path, not judge by appearances, and be willing to go on an adventure. 

I used to detest traveling.  All my anxiety and bad moods would flare up in resistance as soon as I packed the car.  But not anymore.  Living with flair has set me on a journey to find the extraordinary thing–often off the beaten path–that nobody else notices.  When I travel, it’s now anticipation instead of anxiety.  It’s marveling instead of moodiness.

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Journal:  What’s the best kept secret in your town?  A coffee shop?  A bookstore?

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After a Rain Shower

It stops raining, and so we go outside just to take a look at things. The peony might just bloom this weekend.

Peony Soon

And maybe the yellow iris. 

Yellow Iris Almost Here

The weeping cherry won’t bloom for us again this year, but if we part the leaves like a great green curtain, we can enter a secret chamber.  The limbs embrace us, hanging low to the ground.  I’m a grown woman, and yet I can’t resist burrowing deep within the tree.  From the street, you’d just see a tree with blue garden shoes sticking out from below.

Within the Weeping Cherry

Living with flair means going outside to just take a look and finding yourself inside a tree. 

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Journal:  Do you have tree memories? 

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On the Cheap

Who would have thought that living with flair could be. . . cheap!  I used to think that budgets and coupons and delayed gratification (blah, blah, blah) meant limitation.  But it actually offers me a different kind of freedom.  I’m free not to buy.  Imagine! 

Just today, my daughter and I made homemade hazelnut frappuccino drinks because you can make anything good with a blender, ice, and something sweet.  You put out some ingredients on the counter, start pouring things into the blender, and you ask–wide-eyed and smiling–“What can we make with this?” 

It was better than Starbucks.  I mean it.

Earlier, I took the advice of my world-traveling neighbor that you don’t need to buy expensive craft kits or distractions for your children when you travel in the minivan.

“You just need one thing,” she says.  This is the woman who drove her children from Pennsylvania to Washington in her minivan last summer.  “And it will cost you less than five dollars.”

“What?”  I’m taking notes.

“Pipe cleaners!”  She tells me that if you hand a child a bunch of pipe cleaners, they can make whole villages of imaginary animals and flowers.  “There’s no mess on the floor, either.”

I’m going to buckle them into their seats, hand them some pipe cleaners, and simply ask, “What can we make with this?”  

I like living on the cheap.  It’s never felt more creative.

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Journal:  How do you live on the cheap?

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Who Needs You to Listen to Them?

Every few months or so, I’ll get a migraine headache that forces me to get in bed.   

Last night, I crawl into my daughter’s bed, and she joins me.  At 7:00 PM--two hours before her bedtime.  

The little one finds her pajamas, brushes her teeth, and snuggles up on the other side of me.

For two hours, we stay there.  I listen to exactly 35 diary entries that chronicle my daughter’s 3rd grade year.  I listen to a debate about which glitter pen is actually better–red or blue.  Then I listen to prayer requests straight from the heart of a child.  I hear about best friends, arguments, crushes. 

For two hours, I listen because it doesn’t feel good to talk or to move. 

I need to get sick more often.

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Journal:  What can I change in my schedule so I have time to listen to family members?

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2 Ways to Fight Envy

Sometimes, what keeps us from living with flair is a deep-rooted sin.

I’ve been thinking about the spiritual disease of envy today.  It creeps into the soul and causes the kind of devastation that leaves us depressed, angry, imprisoned, and lonely.  We know we’re being controlled by envy when we cannot rejoice in the prosperity of others.  We know envy has taken root when we secretly feel better about ourselves when we hear of the misfortune of others. 

These are deep, ugly, honest things.  Living with flair means we expose them and live in the truth.  When we compare ourselves to others and then find ourselves wanting more, we get sucked into the powerful delusion of envy.

Envy oppresses and depresses.  It sabotages friendships.  It divides us from our true self.  It alienates us from God. It imprisons us in a world of competition, accumulation of possessions, and frenzy to prove ourselves. 

It just might be the major cause of unhappiness in American society.  As I thought about this today, I discovered two truths that help me battle this spiritual cancer:

1.  Envy cannot stand in light of the sufficiency of God.  God provides for all of our needs.  I can rejoice and claim that, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.” Why compare myself to others?  Why look with longing on what everyone else has?  I have everything

2.  Envy cannot stand in light of perceived abundance.  Perceived abundance means just that:  we choose to acknowledge every place of abundance in our lives.  Instead of perceiving scarcity, we rejoice in abundance.  My daughters have so many toys.  But guess what?  They want the one thing they don’t have.  They want the one toy the other child chooses.  I’ve watched this dynamic for the past 5 years.  Why do children go crazy over the one toy in the playroom that somebody else has when there are hundreds of other choices?  Envy!  It blinds them to the reality of abundance

When we feel that resentful longing of envy, we confess it and ask God to show us the truth of His provision and abundance in our lives.   I want to be the kind of woman that truly rejoices over the prosperity of others and celebrates that abundant life that God always–always–offers to me. 

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Journal:  How do you fight envy in your own heart? 

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Too Deep for Words

Waterfall After the Rain

When I’m out here in the woods, I don’t think about shopping or decorating my house or how many pounds I have to lose. 

When I’m out here in the woods, I listen to the way the water sounds as it spills down this hill. 

And when I’m out here in the woods, I talk with my friend about Jesus and truth and meaning.

There’s something about creeks and rivers that sets my soul back on track.  I look deep into the pools that gather by fallen logs, hoping to see fish or turtles.

I’ve never, even after all these years and pages and pages of writing, been able to capture in words what it feels like to stand by the rushing water in the deep woods.

It’s too powerful for words.

Water Rushing in the Deep Woods

Living with flair means finding places with God that go deeper than language.   

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Journal:  What’s that sublime place for me? 

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Why You Belong Right Here

I’m walking with my neighbor in the woods.

Lady Slippers in the Woods

All of a sudden, she cries out, “The lady slippers have bloomed!”  She’s pointing to the earth, and at first, I do not see anything.

Then, I see them.

Pink Lady Slipper Blooming

I don’t even really know what I’m seeing or why it matters.   

Lady Slipper Reaches Out

My friend tells me something wondrous.  Lady slipper orchids are extraordinary.

Are You Looking at Me? 

It’s illegal to uproot them.  It’s actually against the law to harm these wild orchids.  I learn two amazing facts that explain why.

First, the US Forest Service reports that lady slippers depend upon a very special fungus in the forest that allows the seed to grow.  The fungus cares for the seed–passing on nutrients–until it grows older.  And when the plant matures, it then sends nutrients back to the fungus through its roots.  That symbiosis will be destroyed if we harvest the orchids.

Second, I learn that the intricate system of orchid roots means that if you take even one plant away, you harm the entire network of orchid plants. 

Lady Slipper Family

Every single one matters.  And the location isn’t an accident.

As I think about the impossibly complex design that allows these orchids to thrive, I consider my own community.  Every single person nourishes each other, and we’re here for a reason.  There’s nothing accidental about it. The conditions for our growth exist only here.

Doesn’t God tell us that He “searches out the exact places where we live” (Acts 17) and that we are “all part of one body”? (Romans 12)

You are here for a marvelous reason.  We need you!  And even when these growing conditions seem like, well, fungus, this is what we require to thrive.  

Living with flair means really seeing ourselves as a community and knowing why it matters.  We are part of each other. 

Finally, it took another person to reveal this beauty to me.  I would have never noticed these lady slipper orchids without her.  Living with flair means that when our neighbors don’t see it, we show them. 

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Journal:  Do we really believe we are part of one another?

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Exciting News from My Winterberry Bush

All winter, that faithful bush offered me glimpses into a secret world of snowflakes and icicles on bright red berries.  All winter, we waited with hope while we watched our homemade bird feeder.  I’ve witnessed a whole cycle of death and rebirth outside this kitchen window. 

That bush never fails to show me something about my own heart.

Today, we position a kitchen chair and take another peek at the Northern Cardinal nest.  Three eggs!  I learn that this collection of eggs is called a clutch.

Northern Cardinal’s Clutch of Eggs

I know it only as a verb.  To clutch means to grasp and seize.  It’s a desperate verb.  But as a noun relating to birds, it simply means all the eggs produced at one time in a nest.  No desperation, no seizing.  It’s just the fact of reproduction and new life.

If I wait out the seasons, and if I stop grasping and instead let God bring things about in due time, the result will be as wonderful and right as a Northern Cardinal’s clutch of eggs.  They’ll hatch in a few weeks.  We can’t rush this.  We can only observe and honor it.   We cooperate, not clutch. 

A wise mentor told me that the secret to a life with God is to be “led and not driven.”  It means patience.  We don’t clutch.

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Journal:  Where can I be more led and less driven?

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The Thing You’re Neglecting Might Be the Thing You Need

First Green Strawberry

Today I zoom in on the first little strawberry in the patch.  I take a moment to focus.  The background blurs, and all of a sudden, I see what I have never observed in my whole life:  the white fuzzy covering on a new strawberry’s stem. 

Have you noticed it before?  Not me!  It’s because I value (and pay attention to) final products that I can consume;  the juicy bright red of a strawberry far outshines the immature and stunted green bud.

Not anymore.
 
That’s what living with flair feels like.  It’s a mindset and a focus to notice that one stunning thing (that you haven’t paid attention to before) that ushers in beauty, wonder, and mystery. It’s often not the obvious final product that gives the most delight.  It’s the not-yet and the neglected.  It’s the unripe and the green. 

Look there, and you’ll find flair. 

This white fuzzy stem declares something today. A tiny, beautiful thing is happening here.  Not glamorous or stage-worthy.  Not marketable or consumable.

But beautiful. 

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Journal:  What neglected thing has the most wonder and beauty for us today? 

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Choosing to Appreciate Pollen

A fine dusting of pollen covers the town today.  Everything bloomed at once in Pennsylvania, and it’s as if God shook down yellow fluff from the heavens.   It’s not just car windshields and house shutters; even inside the house, the golden film cloaks the furniture and linens. 

My allergies!  As I dust and vacuum and launder the bedding, I stop to consider what pollen actually is.  All this powder?  It’s the male part of the flower.  It’s the part of the flower that will connect with the female part to then germinate

Millions of microscopic grains await meeting just the right receptor site (on a compatible flower) for growth.   Right now, the air currents as well as insects disperse all this pollen.  Some of it will find the perfect conditions whereby, once matched, some astonishing flower or fruit will eventually burst forth.

I appreciate this widespread covering of pollen today.  It’s a hopeful gesture that maybe–just maybe–conditions will be favorable for germination.  Might I cast my ideas out so broadly?  Might I send out spores of creativity, encouragement, prayers, and love?  What if that particle happened to land at just the right sight where something amazing could grow from it? 

Who knows?  I think about how ideas germinate today.  Living with flair means we sow broadly because we can’t predict where and when pollination might happen. 

Meanwhile, I’ll never look at Spring dusting the same again. 

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Journal:  What can I send out today that could grow into something amazing? 

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