When You Need Strength for the Week Ahead

Sometimes I pray for a circumstance to change, but when it will not, I know it’s time to pray for strength. I think about three promises from scripture when I feel weak and scared inside:

2 Chronicles 16:9:  For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

Isaiah 41:10:  So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Ephesians 3:15: I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. 

I’m so thankful that it’s not my strength at all. 

Do you need strength for the week ahead?


A Little Thing Supports a Big Thing

At the pumpkin patch today, my daughter chooses a pumpkin with an unusual stem. Part of it branches out into far reaching curly cues.

I lean in, noticing the design. This pumpkin comes wrapped with her own curled ribbons on top.

I love observing pumpkin stems. Such a little thing supports such a big thing. I see folks carrying around 40 pound pumpkins by those sturdy–but small–stems.

I suppose if your stem is strong (just like your roots), you can be small but support so many big things. And you can look cute and twirly while you do it.

Did you go a pumpkin patch this weekend?



In May, she quietly houses Northern Cardinals, but in October, she sets herself aflame in autumn color.

Can you believe the difference? In one season, this bush serves a particular quiet purpose. In another season, everything about her–even her look–changes.

I think about this particular season when I feel aflame with a stressful schedule, too many writing projects (all good!), grading deadlines (not fun!), speaking events (all exciting!), and parenting challenges (all challenging!). It feels red with energy and pace.

It didn’t help that I had a fever for two days and now feel two days behind. 

My husband reminds me that it’s a season. I’ll have my quiet May. I’ll have my deep green, soothing, shaded May.

Besides, red has its own astonishing beauty if I just step back and take it all in. 

Are you in a stressful season?


A Meal to Deliver

Several years ago, a friend delivered a delicious meal to our family after the birth of my second child. We loved this meal so much! After all these years, I still think about this one meal.

I recently heard that everybody tends to bring lasagna to neighbors who need a meal (and sometimes lasagna gets boring), so I remembered this recipe when it was time to help a neighbor recovering from surgery.

Kids love it. Husbands love it. I love it.

It’s a Cheesy Kielbasa Bake, and since I’m in bed with a fever today, I thought I’d just send you to the website that has the recipe.

If you need to deliver a meal that’s not lasagna, this one tastes great and lasts a few days. Enjoy! (Deliver with salad and brownies!)

What’s your favorite meal to deliver to a neighbor that’s not lasagna?


Every Moment Sacred

Last night, some friends discuss the sacred. We wonder if every moment might become sacred; we consider how even grocery shopping and washing dishes might be set apart with the power and presence of God. Can we have sacred moments in our ordinary routines?

Yes! Yes! We invite God into it all. 

I look into my daughter’s eyes. I brush her beautiful hair. I walk to school in the dappled morning sunlight. I think of the beauty of words. I meditate on the sacred vocation of teaching.

Even tying my shoes, buttoning my coat, and pulling on my mittens, I think about the Almighty God who fills the whole earth with His glory.

Did you find a sacred moment in a common thing?


More of You

I hear a wise woman tell a friend that sometimes people want more of you. They want the real you–and lots of you.

They want more of you. Lots of you!  I think about the expression all day.

I think about the way I hold back with people, even my own family. I think about how I hold back in writing and even in my teaching. I think about holding back even from God.

Am I holding back? Where? How? I imagine God says: “I want more of you.” Do I believe it, or do I think I’m too much and unwanted?

Living with flair means not holding back. We want more of you.

Where do you hold back in your life? 


Praying for Endurance

Just this week, I pray and ask God to give my children endurance to complete their tasks. People with endurance know how to withstand difficult circumstances. They know how to complete unpleasant jobs that take a long time. Many people give up because they lose stamina. They can’t endure.

I read in Romans 15 that God actually “gives endurance.” I read in Colossians 1 about the “great endurance” the Lord bestows. But I don’t think about endurance as a gift. I think of it as something I muster up. I think of gritting my teeth and forcing myself. But it seems that God gives endurance.

Well, if God gives endurance, I’m going to open wide my hands and receive it. 

I’m struck by how every person I meet has something they must endure. I’m tempted to ask everyone I know what in their lives requires great endurance. I’m tempted to remind them that God gives endurance, so let us ask for it.

I ask for endurance for my one daughter who has to complete 17 pages of make-up math homework. How can she do this in one afternoon?

Strangely (and quite out of character), she buckles down, enduring it. She finishes it, and I remember that I prayed. It’s a simple example, but I know God heard my prayer.

I open wide my hands and suddenly know that whatever comes my way, I can–I will–endure it.

What helps you endure?


Students Who Text Their Parents Too Much: Another Perspective

I ask my students how much they text their parents.

“All day long.”

“At least six times a day. And we Skype. And we talk on the phone each morning to say ‘Good Morning’.”

“I check in with my dad several times a day while he’s at his computer. We chat on line about everything going on.” 

I’m talking to students in my office later, and I tell them the concern my generation has that students don’t transition well to adulthood or gain any independence because they’re constantly over-communicating with their parents.

“Dr. H, you’re wrong on this one,” they insist. “Technology keeps us close to our parents. We have great relationships with them. But we make our own decisions and live our own lives.”

“But how do you figure anything out on your own if you’re always talking to your parents?” I’m actually scowling. I’m actually crossing my arms and tapping my foot.

“I figure things out on my own. But then I text them to tell them about it,” one says.

I find myself angry about this. I find myself convinced that technology surely delays adulthood.

But then later, I realize this: I’m not angry.

I’m jealous.

What I wouldn’t give to have had that kind of connection with my own family! What I wouldn’t give to have talked with my dad like that!

The more I study college students, the more I realize I’m not observing co-dependence; I’m observing love.

One student tells me to watch the Google Chrome commercial between a father and freshman daughter. “You’ll change your mind when you see this,” they claim. “This is what it’s like for us.”

I’ve changed my mind about this.

Do you think you would have texted your parents every day from college? 


“You Make Me Feel Smart”

In class yesterday, I try to make the point about just how difficult it is to be kind in argumentative writing. I’m teaching ancient truths like the rules of civility and the lost art of listening. We’re learning about how to defer to others, to believe the best about them, and to persuade them by finding common ground and acknowledging when an opponent is actually right.

To demonstrate, I ask students to give two genuine compliments to the person on their right. It’s so awkward. It’s so embarrassing. But they do it. We end up loving it. We end up laughing and nodding our heads in agreement with each compliment given.

At the end of it all, a student calls out from the back of the room to me: “You’re on my right, so I have to compliment you.”

“OK,” I say. “Go for it.”

He’s quiet for a moment, and then he says carefully and clearly, “This is my favorite class because you make me feel smart.”

I nearly burst into tears. It’s because I’m suddenly aware of the narrative he’s fighting; someone told him he wasn’t smart, that he couldn’t do it, that he didn’t have anything to offer.

But not here. You’re smart. Your particular intelligence matters deeply here.

Do you remember a teacher making you feel smart?  I had a few that shamed me instead. I think I’m adding this to my teaching philosophy: Teachers need to help students feel smart again.


Caramel Apples Rolled in. . . Everything

If you want to make awesome caramel apples with your friends (our Autumn tradition), you need 4 things:

1. Caramel (of course)
2. Granny Smith apples (so tart and crisp)
3. Chopsticks (sturdy)
4. Every delicious thing in your pantry to roll the caramel apples in (nuts, crushed cookies, chocolate chips).

Let’s begin:

First, wash small Granny Smith apples and jam half a chopstick in each one where the stem would be. You can buy bags of cheap chopsticks at the grocery store (and you can reuse these each year). You can also use craft sticks.

Then, prepare plates with all your favorite toppings. We used nuts, crushed chocolate cookies, and mini chocolate chips.

Unwrap your caramels and melt them with 2 tablespoons water.

Invite each guest to dip her apple in your pot. Pull the apple straight up and let the excess caramel drip off.

Gently roll the caramel apple in your topping.

Young and older alike made a tray of caramel apples. You want to put a piece of wax paper on a tray, spray it with cooking spray (or butter it), and let these apples harden in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.

These weren’t perfect, but they were so good. 

Enjoy caramel apples this month!

Have you tried caramel apples before? Many of our guests last night never had! There’s a first time for everything, right?