Live Wide

My daughter tells me I must come to the garden to see another kind of butterfly.  He’s golden.

Golden Spotted Butterfly

His wing pattern looks more leopard than insect, more African than Pennsylvania backyard.  On top, he’s a tiger, but on the bottom, he’s a giraffe or spotted fawn.  Up close, his compound eye reminds me that he can see in virtually every direction at once

Butterfly Eye

His wide angled eyes–with miniscule sensors–perceive the back, front, top, bottom, left, and right of him.  There’s something amazing about that kind of perception.  He cannot see far, but he can see wide

I’m reminded of my own limits when pitted against this marvelous creature.  I cannot see that wide.  My vision is bascially limited to what’s directly in front of me.  Isn’t it strange that humans can see far but not wide?  We have to turn our heads to consider what’s beside us.  Unfortunately, I often race ahead into an imagined future–the one out there in front of just me–and I forget to widen my embrace to my left and my right. 

I want to live wide. 

I’m a girl who was supposed to go far.   Remember my obsession with achievement, affluence, and appearance?  I’m so glad I decided to stop trying to go far and instead live wide.  I pray I can gather whatever community I can in my life.  I want to widely welcome, love, and encourage right here.   I don’t go far; I go wide.  

I learn to turn my head.  Living with flair means I live wide.

Journal:  What’s happening to the left and right of me?   


What a Child Needs to Hear from You

I’m visiting with my dear friend, the one who told me that the sign of a happy childhood is dirty children.  This is my same friend who raises five children without a television set or computer games.  I’m always eager for what new parenting advice she’ll impart.

Today, I watch and listen.  Over and over again, I hear her tell her children, “I just love to be with you.”  Her teenage daughter comes to sit next to her, and she says, “I’m so glad!  I just love to be with you.”  She still walks with the teenager to school, she says, “because I just love to be with her so much.”  She says it so that daughter can overhear her. 

The teenager’s beaming face lights the whole kitchen.

Later, we leave to go on a walk in the neighborhood, and the oldest children want to come along.  Their mother says, “Of course!  I just love to be with you!” 

That’s the phrase I hear the most coming out of this mother’s mouth.

I make lunch with my daughters later, and I tell them, “I just love to be with you.”  I walk outside and push them on the swing and tell them, “I just love to be with you.”

Something’s changed between us already.  

I wonder if children would make better choices, grow in confidence, overflow with happiness, and connect better with their parents if we practiced saying, “I just love to be with you.”  I want my children to overhear me tell the neighbors this.  I want my children to know I’d choose them.  I want my children to know that those words reflect the boundless love of God who adores and delights in them.

I’m going to tell more children that I love to be with them.  

Journal:  What child in your life needs to hear the words, “I just love to be with you”?  


Increase the Fun

At the pool, my youngest begs me to go down the water slides with her. 

I have that feeling that I’m too old to do this sort of thing.  But then I see something that changes my mind.  

The Italian Mama goes down the slides whether her children are with her or not.  She does it for her own fun! I watch her climb the steep steps in her red bathing suit and then emerge in a great splash at the bottom of the slide. 

I follow her to the slides, challenged and inspired.  I remember her telling me that in any given day, 80% of life is work and only 20% is fun.  We want to tip the balance in favor of more fun

On this day, I think we did.  

Journal:  How are you going to increase the fun today? 


The Nectar Made for You

We stand by the neighbor’s flowerbeds and watch butterflies dance and skip across the petunias. 

Black Swallowtail in the Petunias

I learn that this butterfly tastes the flowers with her feet to decide whether she wants to drink the nectar here.  The dance we observe is a taste-test (who knew?).  Next, she unfolds her proboscis (a straw!) to slurp up the nectar inside the flower. 

Black Swallowtail Tasting with Feet © Live with Flair

 Then she dives into the flower she wants and drinks. 

Black Swallowtail Drinking Nectar

I watch in amazement at the tasting dance.  She’s discerning–picky and sensitive–about where she quenches her thirst.  I find myself remembering the dance and longing for the kind of sensitivity that would alert me to where and when I might dive in.

Our feet will take us many places during this new season, but I only want to dive deeply into places of real nectar.  If it doesn’t suit me, I rise in the dance and skip on to new openings.  So many cups beg for our sipping.  I want the nectar made for me. 

Journal:  What will I say “no” to this new upcoming season?


Does He Really?

I’m reading the forward to Immaculee Ilibagiza’s memoir, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.  I’m overcome by this quote by Dr. Wayne Dyer:  “The laws of the material world do not apply in the presence of the God-realized.”

I have no idea what I’m getting into when I read Immaculee’s account.  It’s horrifying, shocking, and impossible to imagine.  And yet, in the midst of this woman’s battle to survive the genocide of millions–including her own family–she forgives, loves, and experiences God in supernatural ways.

She hides in a tiny bathroom with 7 other women for 91 days while killers hunt for her.  91 days.  In a bathroom smaller than a closet.  With 7 women.  What does Immaculee do?  She prays.  She receives comfort from a real God who really hears prayer, who really protects, who really directs, who really loves, and who really gives us power to let go of hurt and anger.  This God heals.     

Her material reality told her one truth, but God’s reality was something totally different.  

Journal:  Let’s pray that we have the faith, courage, and love that Immaculee does. 


Why We Need a “Yes!” Day

It’s only 7:30 PM, and I’m falling asleep.  My oldest daughter climbs up beside me on the bed and says, “Mom, you really need a Yes! day.  That’s what you need!  Remember the Yes! day?”

Oh, I remember.

A few years ago, I felt like every word out of my mouth was, “No.”  I’d scream that word about everything.  No she couldn’t eat this, touch that, go there.  No she couldn’t stay up late, sleep out in a tent, climb that tree, bake that thing, or visit that place.

I saw her little shoulders slump down further and further with every “No!”

So one day, I told her I was changing my ways.  We were going to try out a Yes! day.  For one entire day, I would say Yes! to every single thing she asked.   

It was a very long and very strange day.

It involved brownies for breakfast, glitter, playgrounds, visiting neighborhood dogs, eating pizza, and watching movies.  It involved baking, bubble baths, lip gloss, and dancing. It involved Polly Pockets somehow.  I can’t remember each event, but I remember I learned to say, “Yes!”

“Why do I need a Yes! day?”  I ask her, rubbing my eyes and yawning.

“You need a break.  You need to say Yes! to yourself.”

(insert long pause as a mother sits up, tilts her head, and considers the wisdom of a child)

She’s nodding with the words of an ancient soul.  “You need to wake up and say Yes! to the stuff you want.  You know, the things you love.  Maybe just for a day, you could say Yes! to all the things you love and want.”  She furrows her eyebrows very seriously.  “Like coffee.  You could get the best coffee tomorrow.”   

I want to cry.  Moms forget to say Yes! to themselves.

Journal:  What am I saying Yes! to today?


My Kitchen Table and the Snowspeeder

Neighbor boys introduce me to the intricacies of Star Wars.  They spread Legos across my counter top and build V-Wing Starfighters.   I learn the whole story beginning with Qui Gon Jinn and ending with Luke Skywalker.  I’m thrilled that my kitchen now houses the Legos snowspeeder from Episode V (the boys alert me that I must write that as a Roman Numeral to be precise).   

I’ve learned more about boys and Star Wars this last hour than I ever thought a person could.  My daughters haven’t introduced me to this world, and I haven’t been that attentive when my husband attempted to.  I realize something:  Living with flair means learning what other folks care about.  You enter into that world, you ask good questions, and you take a seat at the table and build another Starfighter. 

Journal:  What’s the latest culture you’ve tried to learn about? 


What a Change of Background Can Do

I realize today that I love experimenting with background.  The word technically means the “scenery behind the main object of contemplation, especially when perceived as a framework for it.”  We distinguish objects and circumstances–understanding them properly–because we measure them against their background. 

Live with Flair is my background.  A different background changes how we understand and see. 

I gaze into a deep, clear lake, and I have to capture the apple tree against that beauty.  What’s behind the object–the setting–fascinates me.  It frames and contextualizes.  It tells a story. 

Just as in photography and writing, I think carefully about what background I’m choosing to view my own life against.  What subtext, what ideologies, what memories, what conversations?  Do these frame my life the way I want–in beauty, hope, and joy–or do they obscure, depress, and oppress?

I’m starting to wonder if I can identify sources of unhappiness and despair by asking folks what singular background they view themselves against.  

I chose a different frame the day I started blogging.  I decided to set my life against the background that I’ve been “blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ” and that nothing happens to me today that God doesn’t use to “work out everything in conformity to the purpose of his will.” 

It’s been 510 days of seeing life differently.  God is good.  All the time. 

Journal:  Do I need to change my background today? 


It Doesn’t Look Like the Picture Says It’s Supposed To

My oldest wants to make a raspberry cheesecake.

No problem!  We have a cookbook for children that shows delightful pictures of perfect daughters pureeing raspberries and making lovely designs on their cheesecakes.

My daughters make a mess of a creation. At least the cheesecake is actually in the pie pan.  

My daughters say, “It’s our original design, Mom.”

It doesn’t look like the picture.  I have to remember that it won’t.

As the school year begins and I fret and am tempted to compare my children to everybody else, I will remember this picture and the cheesecake we made.  We are originals.  We won’t look like the picture I have in my head of what we’re supposed to be like.

Journal:  Do you struggle with things not looking like they are supposed to look? 


Where You Shouldn’t Go and What You Shouldn’t Do

A neighbor knocks on our door and begs us to come pick his peaches.  “Take all you want!”  They have so many peaches falling off their trees that the ground reeks of them.  

“But beware of the yellow jackets,” he says ominously and then departs for his travels.

I take my youngest daughter to the peach trees.  I carry an epi-pen for my yellow jacket allergy, a bucket, and my dreams of peach ice cream and cobbler.

We cannot even approach the tree.  Armies of yellow jackets fight over smashed peaches.  Yellow jackets blanket the lawn.  They suffocate the tree trunks and swarm aggressively. I look down and see masses of them sucking the sweet juice off of rotting peaches.

There’s nowhere to walk without endangering ourselves.  Finally, we gingerly travel in a wide circle around the tree and try to reach the luscious fruit by hanging far over the deck.  As I reach for a peach above my head, I enclose a fist full of yellow jackets that were feasting on the other side of my peach.  Shaking my hand free of them, I start running. 

“Let’s go!” I shout to my daughter.  “This isn’t a good place for us!  It’s not safe!”  We race home.  Suddenly the taste of peach cobbler isn’t that appetizing.

Lesson learned:  Run away from harmful environments.  Flee!  My epi-pen was no match for a swarm of yellow jackets.  Living with flair means not being foolish.  There are some places we should not go and some activities we should not do.  That’s what I want to tell my daughters and the incoming college freshman.  Stay out of trouble by fleeing environments that are just not good for you.

Journal:  Where should I stop going and what should I stop doing because it’s not good for me anymore?