3 Ways to Debrief

After school, we institute our sifting and sorting routine.  We hang up coats, put away our shoes, and carefully empty the backpacks.  We sort each paper, display art projects, and clean out the lunchboxes.  The whole process takes only 15 minutes. 

If we don’t do this, the mess and mayhem of the day simply tumbles into the next day and the next after that.

I realize it’s the same for me mentally.  Living with flair means I sift and sort the day.   What did I learn?  What do I need to tell others about?  What would I do differently tomorrow?  I’m sorting, displaying, and cleaning.  These three questions provide the perfect debriefing. 

I have a friend who calls and tells me simply that it’s time for me to debrief.  She encourages me to sift and sort the day, put things in order, and repack the truth for tomorrow. 

Blogging, for me, is the grand debriefing.  And each day, I find one great thing I learned, one great thing to report, and one thing I might do differently tomorrow. 

Tomorrow, I think I need to drink less caffeine!  And, now that I’m thinking about it, I will not eat handfuls of chocolate tomorrow just because a neighbor had a bowl of candy out. 

Did you debrief today? 


Instead of Shopping

I know it sounds strange, but one of my favorite activities since moving to Pennsylvania involves walking the woods in search of shed deer antlers.  The deer in our woods shed their antlers right around this time, so it’s fun to hunt for them.

Shed Deer Antler

They blend right into the forest floor–like some dropped bare branch from a tree–and discerning them from their surroundings makes for a supreme challenge.  Plus, rodents immediately come and eat the antlers.  If you find them, it feels, like my neighbor said this morning, “like serendipity.”

Serendipity!  A happy and unexpected event! Some women feel this way about finding a great pair of shoes on sale.

I get it from antlers. 

I keep an antler by my writing desk.  My brother-in-law gave it to me after he found it in North Carolina.  I love this little antler.  It’s always symbolized the deep hope that I can find a remnant, some beautiful and mysterious thing, if only I’m devoted to the search.  

We’ll go back out into the woods this afternoon.

What objects in nature have you hunted?


An Ode to the Gentle Semicolon

I’m sitting in my office at this very moment to print out a grammar exam for my students.  I normally just check for grammatical understanding within their papers, but this semester, I decided to formally assess and reward in an exam format. 

Lucky them. 

Different sections carry different weights.  Writing a sentence with a semicolon, for example, matters much more than using a comma after an introductory clause.  At least it does to me.  It’s because the semicolon symbolizes so very much in the world of writing with flair.

If you can use a semicolon, you understand the romance between sentences; you see how one sentence flirts with and amplifies the other.  If you can use a semicolon, you’re offering a complex sentence structure that unveils the complexity of your own mind.  You’re an expert.  You have authority.  You have insight. 

The semicolon reiterates.  It’s a gift to the reader with its gentle nudge of explanation.  It’s the most considerate of punctuation marks; it offers another way to understand and another way to see.  While the colon insists, the semicolon suggests

Here.  Hold my hand.  Come on this journey with me. 

I love the gentle semicolon. 

How is your writing life today? 


The Thistle Self

I’m standing before a bowl of artichokes.  I have no idea what to do with them.

Forget it!  This is too much work.  

I remember that an artichoke, as a kind of thistle, repels everything in nature.  No one comes near a thistle; it’s too dangerous and painful.

But there’s a great, soft heart in there, and I will find it.

I will continue to draw near to what seems so unapproachable in myself and others.  Every time I try, God shows me an authentic self, a great heart, and a beautiful soul. 

I will also let my thistle-self be found. 
Do you have stories of unapproachable people that became dear friends?  Were you an unapproachable person that someone chose to love? 


What You Really Want

I’m vacuuming.  I’m in the worst mood as I think about the day ahead (laundry, dishes, cleaning), so I beg God to send me relief from all this work. 
Just then, the power goes out in our neighborhood.
I throw myself onto the bed.  “Oh, great!  I can’t even vacuum now because the power went out! What a horrible day!  God, please let the power come back on so I can work!” 
I imagine a great heavenly chuckle.  What do you really want? 
What do I really want?  I have no idea. 
What do I want, God?  What do I really want? 
The answer arrives:  I want to be able to give thanks in all circumstances: work, rest, convenience, inconvenience, light, or darkness.   Vacuuming or not.  Thank you for the electricity, and thank you for a power outage.  

Did you have an opportunity to give thanks to “all circumstances” today? 

No, You Go First

Early this morning, I’m driving to campus for a meeting.  I’m half awake, and the day hardly shimmers with beauty in the drizzle.

I come to a four-way stop sign at the exact same time another car reaches it.

The driver, an older man, points to me and waves.  “You go first!” he mouths and smiles.

“Me?” I point to myself.

“Yes,” he nods.

“Really?  Me?”  

I drive on, feeling a burst of love that people do show kindness and insist that others go first.

Did someone let you go first today?


Bravery and Kindness: What it Takes to Be Together

I’m asking the children in my neighborhood what role they play and have played in building our neighborhood community.

I’m also interviewing them about what makes it hard to form communities.  

I realize that every single member matters–even the toddlers–when it comes to creating a neighborhood.  These little ones have wisdom I can glean. 

I start with my own daughters.  “What is your role here?”

The oldest says she’s a “Fitness Team Leader” because she hosted the neighborhood basement fitness groups and encouraged her friends to come to Monday Night Fitness group in the parking lot.

My youngest says her role is simply showing up to play.

Leading and participating both matter.

“Why is it so hard for some neighborhoods to come together as a community?” I ask.

The oldest says, “You have to be brave.  You have to get over insecurities and confront any bullies.  You also have to be kind.  That’s why it’s hard for people.” 

Kind and brave.   Living with flair means we move out into our neighborhoods with bravery and kindness.

What makes it difficult for people to devote themselves to a neighborhood in this generation?


Little Cabin in the Woods

Solitude and silence both require faith.

You sit down for the day in a cozy little cabin by a big mountain, and you have to believe certain things: 

 You must have faith that stillness constitutes its own form of productivity.

You must have faith that the real you–and all her honest and unspoken thoughts–won’t terrify you when you meet her. God can handle this unruly woman. 

You also have to trust that God will help you find your way out of the dark woods when you walk up towards the mountain. 

He will.  

It was a great day away! 


Better, Greater, or Otherwise Different

Today, is a special day.  It’s going to better than, greater than, or otherwise different from all the others.  That’s what special means:  better, greater, or otherwise different. 

When life catches up to me in a collision of stress, uncertainty, or exhaustion, I truly need a special day to recharge.  Do you? 

Otherwise different for me means one thing:  solitude.  

I’m an off-the-charts extrovert.  I’ve never played solitaire.  I write novels to invent more people to spend time with.  Even when I’m blogging, children run circles about me while I’m texting friends. 

So I arrange six hours of solitude in a little prayer cabin in the woods today. 

I really did.  Me!  Alone for six hours in a tiny cabin by a stream. 

I have a journal, a pen, a Bible, snacks, coffee, more coffee, and of course, leftover Chinese food.  I might lose my mind with all this time alone.  Either that, or I’ll meet with God in the refreshing solitude of an otherwise different day.

I’ll report back on my adventures in solitude.

What would better, greater, or otherwise different be for you?  


“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” Oswald Chambers

This morning I remember Oswald Chamber’s quote that “prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” 

I think of all the ways God draws people into prayer.  It’s not only beauty and celebration, but also confusion and suffering.  What if everything I experience functions as God’s bait to reel me into prayer?

I’m here, God.  Your servant is listening.

This is today’s greatest work. 

Do you have special times or places of prayer?