I’ve been thinking about goat cheese all day. I love goat cheese.
This is the kind of day where one has time and space to actually think about random and inconsequential things. I need this day.
If you haven’t discovered the joys of goat cheese yet, I recommend trying some. I’ve been feasting on goat cheese omelets, goat cheese and red pepper sandwiches (like this one from the Food Network), and goat cheese spread on crackers for after school snacks.
I briefly consider moving to a farm and raising goats. I wonder if Carl Sandburg’s wife made cheese from all of her goats’ milk. The dictionary, by the way, describes goats as hardy, lively, and most of all, frisky.
On this lazy Saturday in which we try to recover from that exhausting first week of school, we find ourselves short on frisky behavior. We lounge about, exhibiting no bounce, no bubble, and no perk.
Some of us are still in our pajamas. And we are eating goat cheese.
We’ll save the lively and the frisky for the goats. I’m off to do nothing at all. Just like Jack.
I love stories. I think about characters when I drive around town. I devise strange plots when I’m grocery shopping. Sometimes, I look at a student and plan a whole novel based on some event she shares. It’s like my mind works best in narrative. I ask so many questions when I meet new people because they, too, become characters in the story I’m writing about them in my head.
All day long, I’m weaving a tale.
So all this time, I’ve thought fiction is my calling. But really, it’s the devotional literature and non-fiction pieces that bear fruit and bless folks in one way or another. I’m walking on one beautiful path, but all the signs point in another direction.
Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever found a calling close to your gift set and talents but different from what you imagined?
Today I talk with my agent about a new direction for my writing. I’m thinking of a non-fiction book. I will share more later!
My blackberry bush offered up her very last harvest this morning. The branches showcase crinkled fingers of leaves, and the remaining unripened berries surrender and shrink back into themselves.
With hardly any time to worry over the loss (and with 7 or 8 bags of frozen blackberries for winter cobbler), I rush to the raspberries. You can’t keep up with them; they fill a whole bowl every morning as my daughter and I, dew-covered and hungry, pierce our hands to retrieve them.
By 3:00 PM, they produce a brand new harvest. By the end of the month, I’ll resent this abundance for the work of it. But now, I learn this: A thankful, busy heart–with more work than one can handle–keeps me focused on current blessing and not what I don’t have or what’s now over.
I love raspberries.
I had a huge revelation while shampooing my hair this morning:
I keep praying for God to save my daughter from mean girls, teasing, and any and every bit of suffering. I’ve spent eleven years protecting her, caring for her, and using all my energy to keep her happy. And now, it’s middle school. It’s a whole new ball game.
So I begin the same old prayer, and then I stop mid-rinse.
No. This isn’t quite right.
The better prayer is that God would be with her–that she’d experience His power and presence right in the middle of all the drama. There’s no end to drama; my supposedly mature and wiser self experiences the exact same kind of exclusion, cliques, and general mean-spirited behavior from adults.
The secret isn’t about creating a life that shields us from any drama. The secret is abiding with God in the midst of it.
In that presence is fullness of joy. In that presence is peace. In that presence we overcome.
Suddenly, peace fills my own heart. My daughter just might have a great day today, or she just might experience teasing (towards her or others), but either way, God is with her.
Besides, she is learning to stand up to mean people. And when she doesn’t–because of fear or feeling “weird” that she champions kindness–she prays for second chances to be that one girl who has the courage to say, “Hey, let’s stop gossiping and invite the one sitting alone to come eat lunch with us.”
I read this morning in Proverbs 27:21 that a “man is tested by the praise he receives.”
One might think more readily of other tests of character that undo us: hardship, loss, failure, or peer pressure. But praise?
Praise must test us in the deepest places. Praise tempts us to believe we’re the real hero. It robs us of the joy of proclaiming, “That wasn’t me. All along it wasn’t me.”
It was God. It was also us as we live interdependently. It was an entire network of sovereignly appointed circumstances that we actually had no say in. All we have, we’ve been graciously given.
It wasn’t me.
It all starts tomorrow. Backpacks are stuffed and waiting by the door.
I smell pencil shavings from the sharpener and the sweet rubber of erasers.
I start tomorrow, too. I’ve copied my syllabus and readied my attendance sheets.
Everything’s ready, but we don’t quite feel ready.
My youngest decides that in addition to a back-to-school dinner (taco soup in the crockpot), we need a cake.
A cake will get us ready!
Once frosted, we put it in the center of the table. We’ll have a special dessert for this last evening of summer. We’ll sigh, hold hands, and pray.
It all starts tomorrow, so we made cake.
This morning I read that our greatest strength is our weakness.
As we confess our utter dependence on God and our great need, we demonstrate our greatest strength.
With God, we become bold as lions and strong as oxen. We conquer and proclaim. We overcome and bring peace. We subdue whatever comes against us.
On our own, we are broken sails flapping against a wind we can never harness.
School starts on Tuesday. My daughters will begin 6th and 3rd grade, and I’ll start teaching two new classes of freshman. It’s a weekend of transition. I print out schedules, organize spaces, and prepare myself for a whole new season.
Midday, I wander out to the garden for some sun-warmed berries. I fill my hands with them, and this even after an early morning harvest for the freezer.
Blackberries are surely one of the greatest delights of the earth.
The raspberries are just now ripening. I’ll begin the great harvest of them all next month. We’ll have our fill of all the good things September brings.
But for now, I bite down into the last few days of summer.
A friend tells me the secret to staying strong through illness and pain. This friend stays sick six months of the year.
“I used to pray for hope and focus on the future. I just didn’t want to feel hopeless.”
Praying for hope sounds good to me. I think of all the ways I put my hope in a future reality that something might change.
But she reveals that hope alone isn’t the answer for her.
“I pray for hope and the ability to be thankful in the midst if it.” She smiles. She shines.
Hope plus a thankful heart sounds like a better equation to me. And it’s a gift from God–something we cannot muster from self-will.
We ask for hope and thankfulness, no matter what.
You know how over the years I’ve prayed for great friendships for my daughters. Well, last night, we arrive at our middle school for orientation, and I find myself so nervous about whether my daughter will find friends. Her homeroom class has no girls from her 5th grade class, and 6th grade suddenly seems overwhelming. Will she find a friend?
Suddenly, out of nowhere, my daughter stands face-to-face with a girl. They claim they know each other but have no idea from where. They never figured it out. Instead, they share information about one another–likes, dislikes, fears, joys–and soon, they stay side-by-side through the whole evening.
This sweet new girl links her arm around my daughter’s arm and whispers in that Anne of Green Gables bosom friend kind of way: “I can just tell we are going to be great friends.”
Excuse me while I get a tissue and cry my eyes out.