First Time Ever

 I sauté beet greens for the first time ever.

Wash and Chop Beet Greens
Sauté Beet Greens with Olive Oil and Lime Juice

I add olive oil and lime juice.

Here goes! I absolutely love them.

Boiled Fresh Beets with Sauteed Greens

I absolutely love that even after all this time of living, I still have first time ever experiences. As simple as beet greens! The world is full of new things to taste, see, feel, and smell. Meanwhile, I’m off to share beets with my daughters.

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Have you recently tried something for the first time ever?

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Your Flying Leap

In the middle of the night, a raging storm rips through the valley. Loud thunder and blinding lightning wake us all.

Normally in such conditions, my youngest will race down the stairs, burst through our bedroom door, and take a flying leap to land right into the middle of our bed. She’ll burrow down, wiggling and shimmying her way into a comfortable spot, stretch out her little arms and legs, and fall fast asleep in the security and satisfaction of it all. 

Not my oldest. She arrives cautiously and stands by the door. She announces the obvious–the loud storm–and makes all sorts of excuses about why she’s at our door. I actually coax her to my side to let her receive comfort. Still, she’s justifying herself, explaining her fear, and asking if I’m sure it’s OK that she’s bothered me at 3:00 AM.

All into the morning, I visualize the difference between that flying leap into my comforting arms and the cautious, justifying stance of the wise, logical older sister. So many times, my approach to God brings me cautiously to the door, making excuses, wondering if I’m a bother. 

Doesn’t scripture proclaim that we can come boldly–in a flying leap sort of way–to receive from God?  I remember this from Hebrews 4: “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

When did my oldest abandon her flying leap? When did I?

Living with flair means we race, we burst through, we take a flying leap into the arms of God.

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Why do we become cautious and logical when we need God most? 

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“I’ll Do the Hoping For You.”

Yesterday, I text the Local Artist to tell her that a literary agent called to offer representation for my novels.

Finally!  After all these years! After a decade of “we don’t want this” and “no” and “we’ll pass on this.”

The Amazing Agent doesn’t just want one of my novels; he’s interested in a whole series I wrote years ago.  

I’m casual about it. I’m not telling hardly a soul. Something in me can’t hope yet. 

But the Local Artist screams with joy on the phone. She’s so happy for me. She’s bubbling up with hope.

“I’m just not as excited as I could be,” I tell her. “I guess it’s hard to have hope after this long.”

“I’ll hope for you,” she says. 

I’ll hope for you. 

I love her. She hopes for me when I feel hopeless. Even more, when I stop by her house, she has a huge bouquet of balloons–one that shouts CONGRATULATIONS–a gift card for coffee, and a glorious golden pen (she knows one of the characters in my novels has an obsession with beautiful pens). 

It’s over the top. It’s too much.

It’s just what I needed. 

I’ll hope for you. 

Living with flair means we hope and go over the top for friends who maybe can’t hope yet. We’re too much (because I think you can’t have too much hoping). 

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It’s true! I am signing with a literary agency after all this time. I’ll keep you posted! Do you have friends who do the hoping for you?

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Evidence That It’s Working

Every time I buy a new pair of running shoes (I’m not a runner), I begin to think that maybe I could start running–very, very slowly–on a treadmill at the gym.

I’m not a runner. I decide, though, that maybe a little jog would be a good thing to help me shed some pounds and relieve the boredom of the elliptical machine.

So I jog (not run) for 5 minutes on the treadmill, and then I walk for 5 minutes. Then run another 5. I read I’m supposed to build up slowly.

That was easy, I think. But that night and this morning, I suffer the pains of sore muscles everywhere.

I begin to consider that running might actually be doing something to me–a good something–as evidenced by the sheer pain of it.

Could it be true that muscle soreness offers the evidence that something good is happening? Something strong is forming within me (something I don’t get from the elliptical machine).

It’s something so strong that I might just take off down this road into that unknown future.

When I’m sore in my heart and mind–just like in my muscles–that’s evidence that something good is happening. Runners view pain differently from the rest of us. They welcome it in a sort of crazy, intense, and joyful way.

They know it’s evidence.

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Are you a runner? Any advice?

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“They Received More Than They Knew to Want”

I’m listening online to Paige Benton Brown give a talk at a women’s conference. I remember her from 1998 (back when she spoke at Camp Greystone to a group of us counselors). She always knew how to make the Bible come alive and apply it in ways I so desperately needed as a young woman.

So I tune in all these years later to hear her again. As she begins teaching from the Bible, she describes how when people encounter God, “they received more than they even knew to want.”

They received more than they even knew to want.

I write the sentence in my journal and stop listening to anything else. I’m just so amazed by the truth of it: God gives what we don’t even know we want yet.

We don’t know to want it.

Our hearts have been instructed by so many false narratives that we don’t even know to want the great things of God.

God wants to give what I don’t even know to want. The thought astounds me again. I entrust myself to this God who knows what I don’t know.

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Has God given you a great gift that you didn’t even know to want?

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You Just Can’t Know

On our journey home from visiting family, we stop at a restaurant for a late dinner. Our waitress, an older woman with silver hair, might have been tired from her shift or just angry that yet another family with young children has come to her section. Whatever the reason, she seems impatient, frustrated, and just unpleasant.

I take a deep breath. This is going to be a fun dinner, I think sarcastically.

But as our meal comes out, the waitress starts asking questions about our children. She inquires about their ages and then tells us she has three grandchildren right in that age range.

“Oh,” I say politely, still not liking her one bit.

“I’m raising them,” she continues. “Right as I was about to retire, my son was killed, and I inherited his three little children to raise on my own by myself.”

I’m cut to my core.

We learn her son was murdered. She raises her grandchildren. Alone. She works as a waitress when she wanted to retire.  

It’s the very end of her shift, and it’s getting late. Nevertheless, she pulls up a chair and takes a seat because she remembers we said we were traveling back up to Penn State.

“How are you handling the news?” she asks, shaking her head and genuinely concerned for us.

And so we talk for a bit.  She wants to make absolutely sure I love my chicken. She wants to make absolutely sure I don’t need more tea.

She shares more about losing her son, raising her grandchildren, and what it’s like to live in this town.

We finish our meal and promise in our hearts never again to judge a waitress (or anyone!) in a bad mood. We just can’t know what her life is like. We just can’t know her story. 

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I’m going to remember this when I become angry with someone who cuts me off in traffic, treats me poorly in line, or doesn’t provide good customer service. I just can’t know their story, so I want to respond with patience, kindness, and compassion.

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2 New Things I’m Learning

I’m learning–at this older age, finally–two things that actually begin to redefine how I live my life. 

1.  I can’t make people happy, and it’s wise to stop trying all the time. Folks are responsible for their own moods and their own issues.  

2.  It doesn’t matter whether or not people like me, so it’s wise to stop trying to please people all the time. The greatest gift I can give a person is myself–without flattery, people-pleasing, or false encouragement. Take it or leave it. 

Why does it take over three decades to find freedom from needing to please and needing to make everybody happy? I’m tired! I’m ready to be myself. On the journey to do this, I find people become disappointed in me and discouraged by my inability to please them. This feels scary, but it also feels like freedom. 

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Who will this new woman be? 

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Shame, Darkness, Secrecy, Fear

Late last night, my husband and I listen to the remarks following Sandusky’s guilty verdict. I’m not as happy as I thought I’d be. I’m not as relieved as I thought I’d be. I find myself in anguish over what this trial reveals about a culture of shame, darkness, secrecy, and fear. There’s hope today, however, because the verdict helps reverse and rebuild. It sets the whole community on a course to radically change. 

Instead of shame, we live in communities of vulnerability and acceptance. 
Instead of darkness, we bring our lives into the glorious light.
Instead of secrecy, we live by transparent truth to others.
Instead of fear, we live by courage and faith.

We shine the light of God into every dark place. We rescue, protect, and heal.

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Please continue to pray for the Penn State community.

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When You Find Yourself in Deep Waters

We drive to the beach to let our children see the ocean. Watching the sea creates that moment of awe I want them to experience; that sublime encounter when nature overpowers their imagination ushers in worship and joy.

Behold the great ocean! 

We splash in the waves, dig in the sand, and collect shells. My oldest daughter and I venture out past the breakers into deep waters. Could there be sharks? Well, yes. Could there be jellyfish? Well, yes. Will giant waves crash against me? Well, yes.

In the midst of all the questions and real fears, we look down towards our feet and notice the sparkle of unbroken seashells scattered on the ocean floor. Here, they don’t endure the assault of the waves. Here, they stay intact and beautiful. 

My daughter runs to get a bucket and comes back out into the ocean. She picks up seashells–with her feet–and builds a collection of treasures from the deep. 

When I find myself in deep waters–amid real fears and assaults–I remember to build my collection of treasures from the deep. Certain gifts can only come from this deep and dangerous place. 

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Have you read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea? I haven’t read this for 20 years, so I’m going back to the library to find it. Has the ocean taught you anything in particular? 

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The Thing You Want to Write

A few days ago, I saw a real, live blueberry farmer. I met him last year, too. Old and wrinkled–maybe 85 years old–with a straw hat and a wise expression, this man has lived out his days on his expansive blueberry farm. He wears a brown work shirt, jeans, and sturdy boots. 

I can’t stop thinking about him. I want to know everything. What’s it like to live on a blueberry farm? How did it all begin? Do you ever get sick of blueberries, or do you still eat them by the handfull? Did you fall in love and convince some very stylish and urban woman to settle down with you and raise blueberries along with children? Do these children race up and down the rows of blueberry plants and rest underneath the shade of those huge trees that border the field?

Do you eat blueberry pancakes, blueberry jam, and blueberry muffins? What about the pies and the cobblers and the ice cream?

I watch the lazy sprinklers arch up and shower the acres and acres of blueberries. I see no machines picking blueberries, so I begin to wonder who picks these berries and how. 

I want the whole story. I want the mystery and the conflict. I want the love and the loss. I want to know what this blueberry farmer prays for and what he dreams about.

I won’t be able to let it go until something comes of it. 

I’ll keep you posted.

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What’s brewing for you in your writing life? Any good ideas coming? 

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