A Throw Away Day

Today I remember that after exertion, one must recuperate. I’m listening to a new friend describe the way she recuperates after a day of activity. She’s still recovering from a serious illness, so she spends entire days regaining strength.

She rests. She does nothing. Her health depends on these days.

She calls them her “throw away days.” Not one useful thing happens on these days except for rest. 

“You need some throw away days,” she says.

I imagine I do. It seems wrong. It seems like a waste. But to a person recuperating, a throw away day saves your life. Calling them a throw away day helps clarify how unimportant or insignificant your activity will seem on these days.

Of course, that kind of recuperation holds incredible importance. Sometimes, you have to throw a day away to make it become the best kind of day.

You’re recuperating.

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Do you find it hard to have a day of rest when you need one? 

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“In Great Deeds, Something Abides”

I’m visiting Gettysburg, and no matter how many times I walk the battlefields, I’m always overcome with the extraordinary sacrifice of soldiers–then and now–who fight for freedom.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s words echo in my heart and mind as I walk. I remember his great speech at the dedication of the Maine Monument on October 3, 1888:

“In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls. This is the great reward of service. To live, far out and on, in the life of others; this is the mystery of the Christ,–to give life’s best for such high sake that it shall be found again unto life eternal.”

In great deeds, something abides. And in the great mystery of Christ, we give our “life’s best” for a high sake so that it “shall be found again.”

I feel heart-drawn just as Chamberlain said I would feel.

Later, I walk to the spot where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, and I take note of one certain witness tree.

I hear the words again: “In great deeds, something abides.” I want to live “far out and on” into the life of others and participate in the great mystery.

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Next year is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. If you haven’t visited yet, I recommend taking a trip!

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Perfect ‘Cause They’re Not Perfect

A couple from Texas–they know cowboy boots–comments on my own boots.

“We love those boots!” they exclaim.

The man leans over to look more closely to examine them and says, “They’re perfect because they’re not perfect. So many boots are too shiny and too fancy. Your boots are perfect.”

I lean over to my friend and say, “Did you hear that? They’re perfect because they’re not perfect.”

Imperfect things reflect a certain glory. The more ordinary and comfortable (I wear them all day long), the better. These boots are 25 years old. My mother wore them. They were put together perfectly by an expert maker.

Perfect!

I just have to end with one of my favorite poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

                                                       Pied Beauty

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
  Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;         5
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
 
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:         10
                  Praise him.
 

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I just love the perfection of imperfect things. Don’t you?

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“The Hard is a Whole Lot Easier When You’re Living Your Dream”

Last night, I learn about the following conversation: A mother shares her concern over her daughter’s dream to run an orphanage in Haiti.

“Why are you so concerned?” her friend asks.

“Because it’s so hard there. Life will be so hard.”

The friend looks at her directly and says, “Life is hard everywhere. But the hard is a whole lot easier when you’re living your dream.”

The hard is a whole lot easier when you’re living your dream.

Living with flair means I follow the dream, even if it’s hard.

Everywhere is hard.

The hard will be a whole lot easier if I’m living my dream.

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Isn’t it so true? I remember how hard it was to begin a ministry position and leave comfortable jobs. The hard was easy because we were living God’s dream for us.

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Obviously, This Isn’t Over

We finally cut down our dried-up sunflower bloom and roast the seeds.

“Well, we did it,” I sigh to my daughter. It’s bittersweet; the whole journey ends.

I turn to cut down the large stem, but I can’t do it. 

I keep the tall stem of the sunflower just growing in that pot–without the glorious bloom–because I can’t bring myself to see it all end. My youngest planted that sunflower from a tiny seed in the kitchen. We watched that daily journey of transformation from seed to huge sunflower. We loved visiting that bloom every day.

And now it’s over, the daily examination of its progress, the hope

So I leave the tall stem, just sitting there, with brown leaves rising up and down the stalk. It’s starting to shrivel near the base.

Earlier this week, however, we notice something growing on that stalk.

It’s another sunflower.

When they say it’s hopeless and that the journey’s over, they haven’t seen my sunflower. It’s the same lesson I learned two years ago when I started to feel old.

Keep yourself planted, even if the big bloom is gone. You never know when a new one will pop up.

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I love the bright yellow sunflower, especially as October approaches!

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Did You Know?

This morning, the Dragon Boy begins every animated sentence with, “Did you know?”

He has so much to share. “Did you know about . . .?” I learn about many types of dragons. I then learn about the game he’s inventing.

“And did you know. . . ?” He continues with a new interesting fact for every square of sidewalk we pass. 

The zeal of children! The joy of sharing every discovery!

Living with flair means we maintain that joy in learning that becomes the joy in teaching others what we’ve learned.

Did you know, for example, that there’s a website called, Did You Know, that shares interesting facts? Today I learn about the Mimic Octopus that can copy the movements and coloring of over 15 different species. They impersonate shrimp, crabs, jellyfish, flounder, sea snakes, and starfish–to name a few.

Called, “Nature’s Greatest Actor,” this little octopus delighted me today. I never knew! Did you? Here’s a YouTube video where you can watch the Mimic Octopus in action.

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What would you tell me today if we were walking to school together? Did you know about the Mimic Octopus? 

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“Stress Comes from Assuming Responsibility for Things that Are Not Your Responsibility”

15 years ago (I remember the day!) a wise, older woman took me by the hand and said, “You experience so much stress. Sometimes stress comes from assuming responsibility for things that are not our responsibility.”

What could she mean? She explained that God is responsible for it all. I’m not. Have I taken on responsibilities that are not mine to take? Oh, yes I have.

“You assume responsibility for things that are not your responsibility.” 

If I’m not responsible for this or that, but God is, then everything changes.

Everything changes because God can handle it.

I think about this conversation multiple times a year.

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What’s your solution to stress?

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Dangling

I’m in line at the grocery store, and I can’t take my eyes off of a little baby strapped to his mother in a Baby Bjorn carrier. The baby, facing forward, dangles with joy: feet wriggling, hands waving, eyes exploring. He’s so free.

One would think it would terrify a baby to dangle without any sure footing. One would think that dangling in space–attached by tethers–would make one feel totally out of control.

Well, not for this baby. When you’re tethered tightly to the one who loves you and cares for you–the one who will not let you fall–it suddenly doesn’t matter that your feet have no place to stand.

You kick your feet with joy; you wave and explore. You’re free, dangling.

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I love thinking about God holding me in a Baby Bjorn!

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“The Harder You Fall, The Higher You Bounce”

I’m telling my woes to my hairstylist (the one who told me last year that it’s better to be the spotlight than be in the spotlight), and he says, “Well, the harder you fall, the higher you bounce.”

He advises me to go ahead and fall hard and fast into whatever pain or sadness each day brings. Then, I’ll rise up into joy.

I’ll bounce. Remember: The harder you fall, the higher you bounce.

He’s cutting my hair (adding bounce, of course, because everything’s a hair metaphor). “Don’t avoid pain. Don’t be afraid of it. Sit with it and go ahead and fall. Then, you’ll bounce. The point is not to say ‘cheer up’ to anyone. Instead, go right into the pain and wait for the bounce.”

I love getting my haircut.

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Have you fallen hard in life only to find you’re bouncing so much higher? 

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What I’m Learning About Self-Acceptance

Yesterday, I learn about how to help children love who they are–who God uniquely made them to be. I’m observing the problems of conformity, popularity, social acceptance, and rejection all played out in my daughters’ (and my own) lives.

We cry a lot around here. It’s painful to not fit in. 

It’s painful, but as my great friend in Texas reminded me this week: “If you’re rejected by the popular crowd, it’s probably because you’re doing something right.” This is the woman who regularly reminds me that I’m the perfect mother for my children. 

So instead of thinking about all the ways we’re rejected, we’re thinking about self-acceptance. We’re delighting in the unique, quirky, totally awesome things about us.

It’s working. My prayers are working. I find that when children are being themselves–creating, imagining, playing freely–they stop thinking about popularity. They remember they are made for something great, and this probably means they won’t fit in.

That’s OK. We’re really learning that’s OK around here. I tell my friends it took me 30 years to really accept myself and believe in God’s complete acceptance of me. Living with flair surely means we relish in God’s unconditional acceptance of us in Christ. When we know this, we run across the playground freely without a care in the world.

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 When did you finally accept yourself?

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