Flight

I love photographing the dragonflies that land on the clothesline by the lake. One in particular flies in and lands.

Only later do I notice his torn wing.  His flight, despite that injury, seems all the more beautiful. 

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For Them, Not You

A friend reminds me not to express love to people in the way I like to receive it. 

Go against your natural tendencies here.

It must be how they want to be loved and not how I want to loved. 
We discuss how extroverted people (like me) often approach others with overwhelming enthusiasm, curiosity-driven questions, and wide-open doors for deep bonding. 
This is all happening in the first five minutes of an encounter.
You can’t do this with shy or introverted people. They don’t experience this barrage as a loving act.
I’m advised to wait, speak less (or not at all), and just be generally nearby in case a person happens to want to connect. 
“That’s more loving,” she insists.
Now, I think about how the other person would like to be loved and cared for and not just project how I would want love expressed.
Simple advice. Profound advice.
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My Favorite Back-to-School Bible Promise

When I was younger, I memorized a powerful Bible verse in Deuteronomy. Right before Moses sends Joshua into new territory beyond the Jordan, he summons the new leader and encourages him with this promise:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you”(Deuteronomy 31:6).

Whenever it was time to move into new territory (middle school, high school, college, grad school, new careers, new neighborhoods), I always whispered this verse and remembered the great command to be strong and courageous because I have a God who is with me.

As my oldest begins middle school, she’s excited but also fearful. With this verse in her mind–and so many others that point to God’s faithful care–I pray she remembers this:

When fears abound, I know God is with me. I am strong and courageous because God will never leave me or forsake me. 

_________________________
With so many imagined fears, I love to remember this promise to Joshua.

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Beside Still Waters, He Restores My Soul

When I read Psalm 23, I love how God makes us lie down in green pastures.

I think of myself as a small child who just needs a nap. So tired, and yet I won’t rest. So the parent makes it happen, amid the kicking tantrum of one who simply won’t be still.

Oh, it’s this way in me.

If I were to just relax into His care, I wonder what other wonderful and restorative places He’ll make happen because I’ve simply followed His lead into a spacious and still place.

So I walk beside the still waters today and note how long it took to get me here. I also remember that when I leave, there are other still waters ahead–if I follow. I think of how God does whatever it takes–no matter how strange and seemingly painful–to get us to real rest.

White Lake, NC

Ducks on the Lake

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Day is Done, In Advance

This morning, I remember that the sun will set this evening.

It did last night, and these photos prove it.

This day will end, and I have no idea what will happen in the meantime. I cannot know, and there’s something thrilling and wonderful and so hopeful about this fact.

The whole day stretches out before us. I cannot wait.

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5 Great Promises from the First 5 Psalms

I love beginning a study of the Psalms every few months. In the margins of my green worn Bible, I have notes of what I thought about as I read the Psalms from all the way back in 1995.

That’s 18 years of recording the faithful ways of God! I note the ways in which these promises are true and have always come about no matter what I was going through at the time.

I remember afresh the great truths of the first five Psalms:

1. Taking refuge in the Lord, we are like trees “planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever [we do] prospers.” (Psalm 1: 3)

2. We are “blessed” as we “take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2:12)

3. We have “a shield around [us]” and are both “answered” and “sustained.” (Psalm 3:3-5)

4. We are “filled with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.” (Psalm 4:7)

5. And finally, in a concluding prayer of the psalmist, I pray this like I have since 1995: “Let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”

I watch the wingspan of the dragonfly beside me and thank God that He indeed spreads wide His protection over us today. That wide love hasn’t changed. It will not change.

______________

Have you experienced the truth of these 5 promises?

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The Shore Tells the Truth

I’m kayaking with my daughter, and we’re way behind the others. We just can’t catch up no matter how hard we paddle.

She looks into the waves and remarks that we’re not getting anywhere. From that vantage point–and with the others ahead of us, gaining even more lake–it seems like a true statement.
Lifting our eyes from the waves, we look at the shore parallel to us. All of a sudden, we perceive we’re flying at great speed past lazy Spanish moss-covered trees, boats tied to docks, little cottages, and lawn chairs.
“Keep watching the shore to tell you the truth. We’re traveling so fast!”  We do, and we stay encouraged until the end of our exceedingly long journey. Every time my arms want to give out in discouragement, I look to the shore. 
Once again, I learn what difference where I fix my eyes makes. Yes, I fix my eyes on Jesus, and I know I’m gaining ground. 
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“It doesn’t have to be me.” (Another reason to love Tenth Avenue North)

A few weeks ago, I attend a Tenth Avenue North concert with my daughters. Just a few days before, I had been researching the dangers of narcissism in leaders. Christian leadership, in many ways, can breed a kind of excessive self-focus and self-promotion.

When the lead singer of the band, Mike Donehey, speaks, he seems so humble and unconcerned with how he’s coming off.
In fact, he tells the crowd he’s changed. Donehey claims that in the early days of the band’s success, he’d pray before concerts, “God, please use us. Please use us!”
“I don’t pray that anymore,” he says. “Now, I ask God to just move, and it doesn’t have to be through us. It doesn’t have to be me.”
It doesn’t have to be me. 
This feels like a deeper kind of freedom from self. (And it’s another reason to love Tenth Avenue North.)
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The Only One, Again

I gaze at the window at a single tree in a crowd whose leaves alone shimmy and turn with a gust of wind. Her jazz hands make me smile, especially when I notice she’s the only one dancing. She’s caught a wind current the other trees somehow miss.

I saw this as a child. I remember standing there, wondering why only one tree shook in the wind.

I learned that unseen processes govern the day. Something strange and wonderful seemed to animate the world, and like Wordsworth, I had to chase it down.

Secondly, I recall that two years ago, I wrote about the very same observation. I wrote that certain trees seem to position themselves to dance.

After all this time, I go back to the same beautiful lessons in nature. They cycle through, year after year. I’m not finding new things; I’m rediscovering the same old truths. There’s a warm comfort in this.

____________

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Celebrating Hard Things: Starting Your Own Encouragement Group

When I was a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan, the dissertation process overwhelmed me. It’s one of the most difficult things I’ve accomplished in my life. In order to survive it, three friends of mine began what we called The Encouragement Group.

The Encouragement Group met once a week in our favorite coffee shop for two hours. Each member shared where they were in their own research and writing process.

Then the rest of us simply encouraged her.

We said nice things. We said kind things. We said inspiring things. We drank incredibly delicious teas and coffees and laughed. We asked questions and offered hope. We held hands and hugged. We read our work aloud and applauded.

The Encouragement Group didn’t allow for gossip, criticism, or complaint. We had enough of that from our professional environment. This little group shone so brightly across the landscape of our weary souls that all discouragement faded to the background.

We entered into the hard things, and we encouraged. We didn’t actually otherwise see one another during the week since we were either buried in books in the library’s stacks, in front of our computers, or enduring the stinging critique of our committees.

The solitary dissertation process means you often suffer alone.

All these years later, I wish I might have formed The Encouragement Group for all the other hard and often solitary things: raising babies, moving to new cities, enduring clinical depression for years, experiencing publishing rejection, struggling to be a better wife, managing conflict, seeing dreams die, losing loved ones. . .

Can you imagine a group of friends exclusively devoted to encouraging one another through a difficult task?

I remember The Encouragement Group and wonder about starting another one.

_________________________
Have you had your own Encouragement Group?

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