“Always Make New Mistakes”

Today I see a fun magnet in a bookstore. It simply says, “Always make new mistakes.”

I smile because it’s exactly the kind of mindset that sets someone free to do extraordinary things.

My youngest considers the strange advice, and I can tell she’s wondering about this. Normally, she hears advice to do her best, accomplish more, and earn good grades. But this? This tells her to commit herself to a particular kind of failure.

This kind of failure gives you permission. It sets you on a no-holding-back kind of adventure. Go, child! Get out there and make incredible mistakes as you live the fullest life possible. 

This, I can do.

I imagine us waking up tomorrow and breathing a great sigh of relief. We’re implored to get out there and make some new mistakes.

I plan on making some marvelous ones.



Rose-Moles All in Stipple

Today I see the trout that Gerard Manley Hopkins describes in his poem Pied Beauty. For many years, I’ve taught students about the “rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim,” but I’ve never actually seen them myself. (I never knew what “stipple” meant. It’s an artistic term for marking something with little dots.)

We’re on a hike in the mountains, and right there in a little mountain stream, I see them. If you look closely, you can see them in the water.

Like Hopkins, I proclaim, “Glory be to God for dappled things!” Yes, a Clever Artist stippled these fish to blend right into the stream bed. Their strange beauty–dappled and counter–is perfect for how they were meant to live best. Enjoy the poem below and delight in your own dappled, strange, fickle self:

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.


Breaking a Voice

When my daughter was just a toddler learning to speak, her older sister would constantly interrupt her. The little one would say, “Stop breaking my voice!”

I’ve been thinking about my problem of interrupting these past few days. I have a terrible problem with interrupting people. Part of it is rooted in a good thing; I love what you’re saying and want to comment on it all. I think quickly and love to verbally synthesize (great for teaching, terrible for friendship conversations).

But the other part of this problem is an excessive self-focus; what I want to say becomes more important that what you are saying.

I have places I want this conversation to go, so let’s get on with it. I have things I want to say, so let me just insert myself right here. 

Last night, a wise friend reminds me to give people a long, long, long time to answer completely and get out everything they want to say.

Let them finish. Let them finish! 

Then wait. Then wait some more. 

Then wait more. 

Then comment. Then ask a question or offer your thoughts. 

I’m working on this. My friend lets me practice with her. It’s so hard!

I don’t want to break anyone’s voice today.

What advice do you have for interruptors?


Your Spacious Place

Lately, my oldest has been around so many people in lots of small spaces. As an introvert, she’s feeling distressed, overwhelmed, and in great need of space.

She wants to be alone in a spacious place.

(I think of Psalm 18:19: He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.)

Spacious: vast in range and scope; generous and broad; ample.

I think about the space she needs both physically and mentally. I think about the space we all need, both physically and mentally. My friend tells me that in her tiny apartment in Brooklyn that she shares with her whole family, she goes on long walks alone every day. Getting space, for her, means walking, but it also might mean reading, writing, cooking, or sitting still on the couch.

Blogging, believe it or not, is my spacious place. My garden, too. My cutting board, my book on my bedside table, my conversations with my husband, my purring cat—these bring me space.

Today I realize our need for spacious places. We asking God to bring us there–both physically and mentally.

How do you find spacious places?


I Stand Corrected: Emotional Well-Being Isn’t the Goal. Intimacy with Jesus is the Goal.

This summer, I’m speaking on emotional maturity and well-being in leaders. I’ve accumulated over ten years worth of research in therapeutic settings on how people can achieve well-being and happiness.

But something doesn’t seem right as I talk about boundaries, creativity, toxic relationships, balance, and all the other tricks one learns to protect oneself from anything distressing or negative.

I’ve gone too far. I realize how much I miss out on in the name of “emotional well-being.” I realize what I won’t allow, what I resist from God, where I won’t go, and what I won’t do in the name of my own emotional health. It’s too self-protective. It’s too self-exulting.

It’s an idol, really. At least for me it is. Emotional health trumps everything these days, and it feels wrong.

It’s good–in moderation–to apply boundaries and techniques for balanced, happy living, but when it comes right down to it, that’s not the primary goal of my life.

The primary goal of my life is to know and love God. It’s to learn the secret of being content in every situation–which, I’m ashamed to admit, isn’t the happiness philosophy of the day. The secret is that we can “do all things though Christ who strengthens [us].”

If God leads us to distressing places, we don’t resist to protect our emotional health. If God leads us to a hard-to-love person or a difficult circumstance, we don’t shy away in the name of our own need for comfort.

If God leads us to sorrow, a lack of balance, depression, anxiety, or pain, the first question isn’t, “How do I get back my emotional health?” The first question is, “How can I be with Jesus in this? How can I find the strength of God here?”

I have so much more to learn.

Do you think we’ve gone to far to protect our emotional health?


Great Parenting Advice: Find the Strength in the Weakness

I’m sharing with another mother all the ways I’ve had to correct my daughters lately. She reminds me that every presenting weakness in character is a strength disguised and misdirected.

If I can remember the strength behind the weakness, I can celebrate it and then reorient the weakness back toward the strength.

I suddenly feel more like a cheerleader and less like a cruel task-master.

For example, critical and judgmental attitudes find their roots in wise, discerning hearts. Flattery comes from encouraging impulses gone overboard. Highly organized, efficient people might tend towards overbearing control.

Everything I don’t like about others (and myself–myself especially) hides a particular strength. When I see it this way, I recalibrate weaknesses back to strengths.

I’m not, therefore, disciplining children all day long to change. I’m inviting them to use their strengths in the right way.

Have you found that every presenting weakness is a strength disguised and misdirected?


We Do Not Know What We Do Not Know

I stop and notice the veins on the tree leaves this afternoon.

In darker leaves, one can’t always see the intricate nutrient delivery system within the leaf. On these lighter leaves, you can. And on these particular leaves, the venation is reticulate. Leaves, apparently, can have one of many kinds of vein patterns with different names.

I had no idea.

Suddenly, I think that I should go back to school for more and more degrees. I want to study leaf veins. I want to learn about leaf anatomy–the sinuses, petioles, midribs, and lobes. Did you even know such words existed in leaf terminology? Have you ever even read the word venation before?

The world is stunning in its beauty and complexity. We simply do not know what we do not know.

What would you like to study if you could?


She Records Her Acts of Bravery

My youngest–who is actually shy and nervous– decides to record her acts of bravery in her journal. 

I love this idea so much! I ask for her permission to tell you all about it.
She knows God is with her, so she’s challenging herself to be very brave this summer.
Rattlesnake confrontation, rock climbing, meeting new friends, walking behind a waterfall. . . 
Each day requires bravery for something, and she’s excited to face whatever comes.
Were you brave?

The Amazing Power of a Tiny Ritual

I’m reading the Harvard research study on the power of rituals, and I recall the very day my husband and I instituted a little ritual that’s become a huge part of our marriage.

The research shows how rituals increase happiness, meaning, and enjoyment of the day. Our little ritual is gathering around the coffee pot in the morning and sharing a delicious cup of coffee. The children aren’t awake. The house is quiet.

It’s just us–with our coffee ritual.

My husband, by the way, was never a coffee drinker. He became one for me. He decided that we could share a little morning ritual that had nothing to do with our children or our work. It happens the same way every single morning. The same order. The same cups. The same coffee.

Even when we travel, we find a way to have our ritual.

A ritual, technically, is a kind of ceremony; it’s a series of actions you perform in a prescribed order.

Rituals lend a particular significance to whatever event you decide to ritualize.

Maybe it’s something before a meal. Maybe it’s a bedtime ritual. Maybe it’s a mid-day pause to slow down and think about how you’re living and why you’re doing what you’re doing. Some of us have writing rituals, praying rituals, cooking rituals, eating rituals, or sleeping rituals.

I’d like to think more about ways I can have special rituals in friendship, marriage, and parenting.

The research shows that ritualizing–even in small ways–affords huge benefits.

Do you have family rituals?


Advice for the Homesick

Today I remember something I learned back when I served as a camp counselor for six summers. When dealing with a homesick camper, you have to remind them that it’s perfectly OK to have a great time and miss home.

You can feel both things at once, and that’s OK.

Sometimes little campers didn’t think it was right to have so much fun at camp and miss their parents. They felt like they had to choose.

Once they felt the freedom to hold both emotions in their hearts at once, they settled down into their reality.

This morning, my youngest tells me that when we leave home, she misses her cat.

“I know. That’s OK. You can miss the cat and still have fun here. You can do both at the same time.”

She tilts her head to one side and smiles. This hasn’t occurred to her young mind before.

My husband reiterates later that one definition of emotional maturity is exactly this: You can live in the tension between opposing emotions. 

My own homesick heart–the one that longs for a spiritual home I will one day have (but not yet)–holds  longing and joy at once.

Enjoy conflicting emotions today!