Your Best Technique: A Triumph of Teaching

Today I address the crisis of needing to prepare a new syllabus for freshman composition. After so many years of teaching, I confess my excitement can wane. But I have a proven technique to restore my pluck; Parker Palmer’s famous quote, “We teach what we most need to learn,” always ricochets in my mind as I craft new lessons.

I teach what I most need to learn. Great teachers are students themselves, so I probe the subject matter to find new mysteries.

This very day, I’m intrigued by Jon Morrow’s jaw-dropping list of “317 Power Words That’ll Instantly Make You a Better Writer.” I print out his list and apply his techniques.

It’s all new and fresh again.

I’ve avoided a tailspin. I’m applying new vocabulary–feeling blissfully rich in words–and cannot wait to endorse such a list to my students.

I do love to teach writing. Sometimes I forget that I do, so I’m grateful that it’s as simple as becoming a student again.



I Brought Back the Rainbow Hunt for Myself

When my daughters were toddlers and learning their colors, I took them on “Rainbow Hunts” in nature. We’d look for every color–red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet–and pause to acknowledge our finds.

Today, they’re off with friends or involved in their own pursuits, and I find myself wanting to go on a Rainbow Hunt for myself. 

It’s silly, I know. One day, I’ll probably do this with my grandchildren.  I’ll remind them that it’s hard to find orange, but they should keep looking.

Yellow’s not as hard.

The shades of blues and purples bring a particular joy.

This one hid in the blueberry patch.

I finish and then remember the photo I took years ago in the Rocky Mountains with my very old camera. Enjoy!

Rocky Mountain Rainbow, Live with Flair

Enjoy these last days of July!


We See it As We Choose

Today my oldest reminds me of a huge problem with scientific inquiry. She explains that if you go looking for what you think will happen, you can skew your results.  She further explains that we often experience what we imagine will come about. Our own bias destroys authentic research and discovery. Our hopes bias what we choose to see, and we interpret experience through a lens. 

“It’s true,” she reports, nodding with her eyebrows raised in serious revelation. 
“Well, if that’s true,” I suggest, “and if my bias is that powerful, then I can actually influence how I interpret this very day–good or bad, hopeful or hopeless, meaningful or pointless.” 
“Yes. That’s true. We see what we want.”
I love learning from my children. 

An Extraordinary Find: The Secret Resonance Chamber

This morning, my youngest finds the shed exoskeleton of a cicada. She can hardly believe it. She’s heard the news about the seventeen year wait for such insects to emerge. She’s heard their songs–haunting, loud, and strange–across the landscape. But she’s never seen one.

We examine the abandoned shell and marvel at the tiny hole by which the cicada exited. Such an interesting insect!

We talk about that distinct cicada sound (listen in this video), and I learn that it’s actually one of the loudest of insect-producing sounds. But how? We discover that the hollow inside of the cicada’s abdomen acts like a resonance chamber to amplify that song.

“What’s a resonance chamber?” she asks.

The very term delights me. It’s an enclosed space where sound waves combine, reinforce, and intensify one another. And it’s all happening inside that little insect. I begin to think about the space inside of me. 

Just the other evening, a dear friend talked about her “mind space” and whether or not she makes room for lovely, noble, and pure thoughts. We talked about godly thinking that we allow to occupy our spacious minds.

It’s like my own resonance chamber up in here. In the enclosed space of this life, I want to allow the Good, the Noble, the Lovely, and the Pure to combine, reinforce, and intensify. And I want the resulting music to be as loud and invasive as the cicada’s song. Against a complacent and compromising culture, I let another song resonate, haunt, and confront.

You cannot escape that kind of song.
Have you found a cicada’s shed exoskeleton yet?


Till Gleaming

This morning I find myself covered in cat hair. We haven’t brushed our kitties in a while, and I remember the importance of weekly brushing.

Cats shed hair. If you don’t brush them, they get hairballs in their stomachs when they groom themselves. When I bring out the cat brush, the cats run to my lap. They love it when I brush them; they stretch their bodies out and raise their heads in the air with pleasure. They purr and twist in delight. Afterwards, they seem lighter. They gleam.

I think about what’s happening: I’m collecting all the hair they don’t need and what will sicken them if left on them. This grooming process reminds me of a spiritual process I desperately need to invoke. I want to groom well and shed the excess off my life. Even by 8:00 AM, the day feels overburdened, stressed out, and too much.

I stretch out against God’s great lap and let him take the excess. Afterwards, I’m lighter.

I gleam.

What excess do I need to shed today?


Let Things Be

I return to my blackberries after a summer away. What I love about blackberries is that they thrive when you let them be. 

Nobody looks after them in the summer. They just do what they do until they ripen and nearly burst off the vine.

Some assignments from God are like this. You set something in place and let it be. You send off a prayer and let it go. You sow something deep and go about your life. One day, you look out the window and find the fruit of your labor that you neither tended nor worried over.


I Didn’t Write That Day

I forgot to blog on Monday. I seriously just forgot! I can’t believe it. I haven’t forgotten to blog in over three years of daily blogging.

My sweet neighbor asks me why I didn’t blog on Monday.

“I did!” I claim.

“No, you didn’t!” She claims. I check. She’s right.

Well, I was driving across Kansas that day. I was thinking about the wind turbine farms and the glories of wind power. I had researched the differences between wind turbines and windmills and stayed fascinated for hours.

The Smoky Hills Wind Farm as seen from Interstate 70 in Kansas, by Drenaline, Creative Commons 

But I didn’t write.

I’m sorry.

As I think about it, I remember that I like getting away from writing at times. Maybe I needed to forget to write.

Sometimes, you store things up in your heart until you’re ready to talk about them. Things have to get hot inside and then sputter and boil over on the page. If you haven’t written in a while, maybe you’re just storing up what will eventually spill over at just the right time.

I did love those wind turbines.

Are you storing up some great writing?


I Hope This Takes Us to the River

My husband veers off onto some unpaved back road in a blind attempt to reach the banks of the Mississippi River.

My youngest wants to dip her toes into it.

“What are you doing?” I cry out.

“I hope this takes us to the river,” he says as we wind deeper into marshy lands filled with white cranes and turtles.

I’m imagining Mark Twain and steamboats. I’m also aware that this is exactly the sort of wild behavior we would have embarked upon in our younger, more romantic days. Alright then. Take me to the river! 

The landscape opens, and we’re there.

All these years later, we still have some spontaneity and adventure in us.

Twain would have applauded.


Artful Coffee

We visit a little coffee shop in St. Charles called Picasso’s. You wait a while longer for artful coffee.

It’s delicious. And like all truly artful things, it’s worth waiting for.
If one might create artful coffee, might one make other things artful? 
I think about artful cleaning, artful marriage, artful speaking, artful dressing. 
I think about artful living.

I Love This Photo

It’s so bright as the thunder ceases that I just hold my phone over my head and snap whatever it can see.

The storm ends, and the sun shines through. All that churning and terrible, grumbling darkness ends in a terrific display of light.

That’s how it is inside me. This is how it’s always been, and I’m grateful.

I hold my hands up in worship and praise God for the light and the dark.