Your Top 5 Leisure Activities

My educator friend remarks on the importance of teaching leisure skills to students.

Learning the skill of leisure fascinates me. Some children understand how to excel in leisure; they use free time for pure enjoyment in ways that don’t harm themselves or others. Other children need help learning how.

My friend comments that the default leisure activity for many children–of all abilities–is television and video games, so part of her curriculum involves helping students discover leisure skills that keep them moving and engaged.

Our conversation raises so many questions for me. Do I have leisure skills? Do my children? Would they know how to enjoy themselves apart from a screen?

I’m inspired again to walk in the woods, bake cakes, paint, read novels, take bubble baths, complete puzzles, build forts, take photographs, and try out new things I might enjoy. A therapist once told me I should–at any given moment–be able to list 5 leisure activities I enjoy.

Some folks can’t.

There’s a skill to leisure, and I want to do it well.

Here are my top five:
1.  Reading with a cup a coffee in my rocking chair
2.  Photographing very small things
3.  Taking a bubble bath
4.  Walking around the neighborhood
5.  Baking something

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Do you have 5 ways you love to enjoy yourself? 

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They Know Not to Mess With You

I must go pick raspberries. The patch appears more bee than berry, and I’m deathly allergic. I have my epi-pen ready.

I wade into the patch and the bees swarm about me. I don’t even pay attention to them. This is my territory, folks. Don’t mess with me.

I’m amazed at my own courage. 

I pick with confidence. I pick with authority. “Excuse me, little bees, but I have a harvest to gather here.” 

I pick a bowlful and notice how the bees actually avoid me. They actually seem to fear me.

I think of my own spiritual life. When I wade into my day with confidence and authority–because God is with me–I feel the difference. I don’t let spiritual assaults hinder me.

Don’t mess with me. I have a harvest of God’s fruit to gather. 

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I’m beginning to think that bees know when you mean business!

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“I’m Laying a Dragon Egg.”

The first words out of a little boy’s mouth this morning on the walk to school are, “Remember not to touch my back; I’m laying a dragon egg.”

“Oh, yes of course!” I say. “And where will you be laying the dragon egg?”

“In a very soft patch of sunflowers.” Then he’s off running down the sidewalk to lay the imaginary dragon egg in the imaginary patch of sunflowers.

10 minutes later, another little boy joins us on the walk. I tell him he should meet the other little boy.

“No thanks,” he says politely. “I already know too many people.”

I burst out laughing at the honesty and the keen understanding of his own capacity. He sets a boundary–not an unkind one–and walks on to school.

The other boy doesn’t mind at all. He’s too busy laying a dragon egg and reminding others not to bother him.

Oh, that I could rediscover the imagination of children and retain the natural boundary system that keeps them aware of their needs and limits! They act sincerely and creatively.

Both boys taught me something this morning.

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Isn’t it amazing that children know their boundaries and adults are so terrible and saying “no” and setting limits? 

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Then I See Them Coming

This morning, we leave for our first day of Walk-to-School. It’s our 5th year of walking that mile together, but I’m worried I’ll be mostly alone. Children have grown up; they’ve moved on to middle school so quickly.

It was fun while it lasted.

But then I see them coming: new families! One mother pushes a stroller, and her 1st grader joins me and shows off his new sneakers. I was that young mother 5 years ago.

Two other new girls join us on our mile even before I’m down the block.

A whole new group of young children now carries on the walking tradition, and I’m so happy I could cry. 

All together, we’re 21 folks strong by the time we near the school. 

And so we walk on.

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Don’t you love seeing a tradition carried on?

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All the Good I See

I’m back on campus to teach two writing classes, and I pass by professors helping freshman find campus buildings. We’re all in this together. I will help you!

In the classroom, I observe a group of students applauding a soldier returning to college after tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I return the kind handshakes of eager students wanting to introduce themselves. We learn names and offer smiles.

We are all in this together.

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Did you witness an act of kindness today?

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A Slow and Careful Life

You need protection when you harvest raspberries.

Those little bitty thorns can pierce your tender fingertips and scratch your legs to pieces. It’s a slow and careful process.

The younger, more impulsive me would have thrown myself into the patch, mouth open and greedy fingers spread wide. You can’t see the thorns at first. And even when you do actually see them, they don’t seem like they’d cause any harm.

Oh, but they do.

Now I know. Let me warn you in case you want to go pick raspberries.

Living with flair means a slow, careful approach with most things in life. I never used to live this way. But this summer, hummingbirds, berries, friendships, and even daughters have taught me another way to move in my life.

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Is there a thorn-proof raspberry plant?

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Blessed Are All Who Take Refuge in Him

This morning, I think about refuge. Psalm 2 promises that “blessed are all those who take refuge in God.” Sometimes the psalmist refers to this refuge as a “rock, but sometimes this refuge is a place that’s “underneath the feathers” of God.

Some days I need a rock. Some days I need soft feathers. Either way, God offers refuge from distress.

We flee to it. We run as fast as we can, hiding under those feathers or standing tall on a rock. Whatever we need, He’s our perfect refuge today.

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I love thinking of the soft feathers of God in Psalm 91. Don’t you?

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Sometimes You Just Need To

Sometimes you just have to take your shoes off and get in a creek.

I mean it; something happens to you when you’re in a creek.

Nobody says, “I’m bored,” or “Can we do something?” Nobody fights or worries or complains.

Maybe it’s because the water teaches us something about how to live a good life: You keep moving. The obstacles in your path just make for more creative patterns. Every fallen thing only fosters better music as the water swirls and descends.

Every step you take, there’s something to find. A smooth stone, a silver minnow, a sprinting crayfish.

And every dark place in the creek promises a treasure. That’s where everything hides.

You look and listen. You tread carefully. You take a friend’s hand to balance you on the rocks.

Sometimes, you just need to get in a creek.

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Do you have great creek memories? 

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Too Much Too Soon

I harvest the beautiful cherry tomatoes today.

I’m disappointed by how many have split open. All but a few are ruined. I learn that split tomatoes are breeding grounds for bacteria and generally aren’t good for eating.

Why do they split and crack like this? Most gardeners agree it’s because of irregular watering that causes the tomato to grow so fast that the skin cannot accommodate the growth.

Too much growth–too soon–cracks us wide open.  I consider the value of slow growth. Things come about in time. There’s no rush.

I love fast and big. The split cherry tomato reminds me that slow, even growth wins the day.

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How are your tomatoes doing?

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Their Favorite One: When You Feel Lonely

We finish our summer devotions this morning, and I ask the girls which one was their favorite. Which one meant the most to them?

My oldest says that it’s definitely Number 12, the one about feeling lonely.

I realize that she’s not alone in the lonely. I’ve talked to so many women–young and old–who feel the pain of loneliness. This devotion comforted my daughter, so perhaps it will comfort you.

12.  What if I Feel Lonely?
Have you felt lonely before? It is one of the worst emotions in the whole world. You feel alone, disconnected, unloved, forgotten, and depressed. You’re lonely! You think you have no friends and no hope for community.
You’re lonely!
I’ve been lonely before. Most everyone I know has felt lonely. I feel lonely when I just miss having company around. I feel lonely when I don’t know who my companions on this life’s journey are.
What’s a girl to do?  I’ve learned two secrets to cure a lonely heart. Are you ready?
1. Cry out to God like King David did. He says in Psalm 25, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely!” When we cry out to God to send us companions, He responds by taking care of us. David says later in Psalm 68 that God, “sets the lonely in families.” All through your life, remember to cry out to God to send you fellowship and companionship. He will. It might take time, but He will. Every time I have prayed for fellowship, God has been faithful.
I also have learned that sometimes God allows loneliness because it forces me to make God my True Companion and find rest in His love alone. He never leaves us! He is always with us!
2. Go Be a Blessing to Someone. When I was 18 years old, I left to spend my summer in a new place where I had absolutely no friends. All the girls my age were from the same sorority, and they were beautiful, popular, happy, and busy. Nobody had time for a new friend. Nobody paid any attention to me.
One night, after crying about my loneliness, a woman came to find me in the woods where I was crying. She said, “Stop worrying about whether or not people like you. Just go into a room and ask yourself who you can be a blessing to. Go find people to encourage. You’ll never be lonely again.” Guess what? That conversation changed my life forever. I walked back to where all those popular, beautiful girls were, and I spoke words of love and encouragement. It didn’t matter whether they paid any attention to me. I was there to serve! I was there to encourage! Within a few days, those girls started to seek me out. They wanted to spend more time with me because it was a blessing to them.
Scripture teaches in Isaiah 58:9
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
      with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
      and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
      and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guideyou always;
      he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
      and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
      like a spring whose waters never fail.
Basically, if you stop thinking about yourself all day long and think about satisfying the needs of others, your light will shine. That means you don’t have time to be lonely! 
Lonely? Cry Out to God and Seek to Bless Others
To Do:
·       Thank God:
·       Ask God:
·       Looking Back:  Have you felt lonely before? What was that like?
·       Looking Ahead: Is there someone you can think of that needs some encouragement today?
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