Forget Not His Benefits

This morning, after I find myself elbow deep in a strawberry patch, I spend some time reading Psalm 103.  No matter how many times I read this Psalm, I’m struck by the simplicity, truth, and joy of it.  Other than Psalm 16, I can claim Psalm 103 as a favorite. 

Just the first five verses set my mind right:  “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. . .” And what follows is that beautiful list of verbs:  He forgives, heals, redeems, crowns with love and compassion, and satisfies.

He satisfies!  The verse reads that God “satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” 

He satisfies indeed.  I begin to consider how this happens.  I realize a pure truth that I’ve learned after all this time: He satisfies in the precise way that fits our needs.  He satisfies in creative, often unusual, unexpected, and unimagined ways. 

He invents these ways, and they almost never match my ideas of what will satisfy me.  Almost never.

I want glamorous living, but He gives me a strawberry patch to love.
I want an international bestseller, and He gives me a daily blog to keep.
I want fame, and He gives me friendship.
I want to collect extravagant works of art, and He gives me a camera to make my own art. 
I want global influence, and He gives me two little girls to raise quietly in a small community. 

It’s like He knows the desire beneath the desire.  He knows what I really want.  

So today I make a list of all the good things He’s given me that fulfill the desires beneath the desires. 

And off I rise like an eagle.

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Have you found that He satisfies your deepest desires? 

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Fresh From the Nest

On the walk home from dropping the children off at school, the neighbors and I see a baby robin leave the nest. He stands there ready to start really living.

Baby Robin, Fresh from the Nest

He tries his wings out, and the neighbors lean in and begin cheering for him.  “You can do it!  Fly little bird!  Fly!”

What a great day this one has ahead of him!  Flying!  Juicy worms!  Oh, what it must feel like to be fresh from the nest, exploring a new world!

I want to live this day as if I’m fresh from the nest.  Whatever I need to leave behind–whatever dependencies, spaces, and old, comfortable ideas of what life should be like–I do it, stretch out these wings, and go. 

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Do you need to leave something behind to emerge fresh from a nest today? 

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All the Things You Didn’t Even Know Were Here

The winning pie at the Boalsburg Memorial Day Fair is something I haven’t even imagined in my mind before. 

Coconut Key Lime.

You know my problem with coconut. 

I didn’t get the recipe or try this winning pie, but I immediately come home and proclaim, “I have to make that pie!” 

So I do. 

I use a recipe by Martha Stewart called Coconut Key Lime Pie.  I make three pies: one for a new neighbor, one for a fellow coconut lover, and one for my husband and daughters. 

 
Yesterday, I didn’t know that Coconut Key Lime Pie existed.  Today, I do. 

All morning in my kitchen, I think about all the things I have yet to discover in this wonderful world. 

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Did you discover a new thing today? 

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The Smallest Things Pay Tribute

On Memorial Day, I pause with the kind of awareness that brings tears to my eyes.  I’m aware of my particular freedoms–the smallest ones that I always take for granted–that were secured for me by the sacrifice of others.

It’s amazing. It’s humbling.  It makes these little blueberries in the bowl, this warm cup of coffee, these sausages in the pan, these bathing suits ready for an afternoon at the pool, and this little sentence signify freedom and opportunity.  They signify safety.

I hardly think about this on most days.

Perhaps the fact that I don’t often think about how free I am proves the extent of my freedom.  

It comes at a great cost, and I’m so thankful today. I know that some families think about this every day.  They’ve lost loved ones, and for them, this isn’t a day they suddenly remember or pay tribute.  Every day is a sacrifice for them.  I’m thankful for them today, too. 

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Thank you!

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Our Sabbath Almond Kringle

Our is the word you should remember.  This isn’t authentic Scandinavian pastry.  I’m not even Scandinavian (I don’t think), but I did, as a little girl, have a Scandinavian neighbor who delivered Almond Kringle every Christmas.  For my wedding gift, this sweet neighbor sent me the ingredients, recipe, and tools needed to make her Almond Kringle.

And I lost her recipe.  And I lost track of her.

So our version isn’t authentic.  But it’s ours.  And it’s absolutely delicious.

Late last night, I combine 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup softened butter, and 2 tablespoons water.  I take the mixture, and I make two long rectangles on my baking stone.  This is the “crust.”

Then, I bring 1 cup water and 1/2 cup butter (I know, this recipe is all butter!) to a boil.  Pour this over 1 cup flour.  Combine with 1 tsp almond extract and 3 eggs.  Then, I smear this mixture over my crust.  Mine extended beyond the rectangles.  I didn’t mind.

Bake this at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until puffy and golden brown.

Frost with a mix of 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon almond extract, and 2 tablespoons milk.

You’ll have a light almond pastry for your Sabbath morning.

I ate a slice with a cup of delicious coffee.  That’s living with flair!

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Do you have a better Kringle recipe to share? 

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Well Worth the Waiting

Do you remember exactly two years ago my huge gardening mistake?  I put my strawberry plants in the ground, and I bragged about all the glorious berries I’d have that summer.  Remember how the older, wiser folks told me that I had to pinch off every blossom and not, under any circumstances, let that plant produce?

I had to do it.  I had to deliberately destroy even the possibility of fruit.

I wrote this:

This counter-intuitive and destructive move would make my plants thrive.  If I take away the fruit, the plant directs the energy and nutrients to the most important part of the plant: the root system.  A new berry plant needs a few years to make an indestructible foundation of roots.  Then, we can enjoy the fruit. 

Today, two years later , my youngest daughter rushes in from school, and the first thing she grabs is a bowl for harvesting berries.  We have so many that we can’t eat them all.  We will begin storing them this weekend.  And they’re huge

Don’t ever let me complain about waiting again.  Don’t ever let me tell you that unproductive seasons with no fruit in sight are wasted in God’s economy.  Remind me that my roots are going deep, and I’m nourishing my system.  That’s the way it has to be if we want any kind of harvest.

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Here we go!  Strawberry pies, strawberry smoothies, strawberry sorbet.  What would you do with a bowl full of strawberries?

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Finally Accepting God’s Boundary Lines for Your Life

All week, I’ve considered how beautiful it is to finally surrender to the limits of your own life.  You stop resisting.  You stop wishing for a different life.  You stop living in an imaginary future.

Instead, you look at all the perfect boundary lines in your life.  You thank God for the places He never let you go and for the people He never let you marry.  You rejoice with every single rejection because time always shows you a Divine Hand of protection and guidance.  You giggle with joy over every thing you wanted that God withheld because you know by now that He sees what you don’t see.  

You actually even come to the point of celebrating emotional, physical, intellectual, financial, and relational limits.  Why?  Why could you?

It’s because you know God, and you know what He’s up to. 

You begin to realize that limits breed innovation and creativity.  They usher in freedom and joy as you relax into the borders God places.  They are good!  They are perfect!

Most of all, limits protect and nurture you.  

You read Psalm 16 again and thank Him that “the boundary lines for [you] have fallen in pleasant places; surely [you] have a delightful inheritance!”  You finally understand that God has “hemmed [you] in, behind and before” (Psalm 139) because He knows exactly what He’s doing for our good and His glory.

Living with flair means we thank God for all our limits.  We accept them and let Him work.

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What personal limitation have you finally thanked God for?

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I Refuse

A stranger comments to me this morning at the gym that I’m just so positive.  After a few minutes of conversation, she couldn’t believe that I would find good and hope and joy even in a hard day.  I just smiled and moved on, but I wanted to tell her this:

Complaining is easy.  It’s boring and unoriginal.  Negativity is our default state as sinners in need of saving grace.  I refuse it by God’s power.

I refuse. 

When you’re someone like me–who has battled years of darkness and depression–you simply don’t have the luxury of sitting around moping, criticizing, or insulting.

We can become addicted to how good it feels to complain, to sulk, and to be victims.  We begin to think that behavior and mindset is healthy and right and good.  It perhaps makes us feel important or worthwhile to complain.  It perhaps makes us feel self-righteous and good. 

It’s the most toxic narrative that runs counter to God’s story in our lives.  

What if we refused to complain?  What if, no matter what, we took God at His word in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that we are to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for [us] in Christ Jesus”?  

I know at least one thing I’m called to do today:  Give thanks in all circumstances.  How could I not?  How could I, after all these years of seeing God’s faithfulness and goodness, not?

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Living with flair means giving thanks.  What can you choose to be thankful for that on the surface looks like a disaster?  

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A Better Purpose

I notice that my glorious peonies no longer hold the same beauty today. They seem too big for themselves.  They collapse onto the grass and dirt.  Even when coaxed by a cage to stand tall and firm, they outgrow it and fall. 

I’m standing in front of this bush, and I think about the weight of self-focus and self-absorbing tendencies that make us collapse and suffer in the prison of our own egos.

“I have a better purpose for you,” I say with garden shears in hand.  “You will make the world beautiful, so just stop thinking about yourself all day long.”  I’m laughing at these fat peonies and taking a good long look at my own spiritual tendencies. 

Balancing introspection with the mission to love a hurting world challenges me some days.  God takes us in hand, prunes us, and uses us to showcase beauty to a hurting world. 

Otherwise, we just collapse under our own weight into the dirt.  God, prune me!  Lift me up from the dirt and use me!

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Have you found a good balance between self-focus and focus on others?  

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I’m Not Gonna Wait Around All Day For It

I place the fresh nectar in the feeder for my hummingbirds, and I decide to position myself in the backyard to take the perfect photo of a glorious hummingbird. 

I wait.  I wait some more.  Normally, the hummingbirds arrive immediately after I hang the feeder.   I wait.  I know they’re coming. 

I wait.  I focus my camera.  I just know they’re coming.  It will be so wonderful when they come!  I’ll have a beautiful photograph!  It will be so great!

I wait. 

Then I begin to think about all the other fun things I could be doing.  I could be reading!  I could be baking!  I could be with friends!  I could even be folding fresh, warm laundry! 

As I sit there on my deck, waiting with camera in hand, I remember that dreams and hopes are like this.  I can wait and wait–frozen here–or I can go about the day, enjoying fully all the good gifts God has in store. 

A hummingbird may indeed come, but I’m not going to wait around all day when there’s a life to live. 

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Do you sometimes get frozen as you wait for a dream? 

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