Giant Frozen Colored Ice Balls on My Lawn

We wake up to giant frozen colored ice balls on the lawn. We love them! They’re beautiful! Some creative and whimsical person (was it you?) decorates the front yard with them in the night all stealth-like.

After pondering these lovely orbs, we reason that someone filled a balloon with colored water, froze it, and then removed the balloon.

I love my new and unexpected decorations. I feel the same way I did when the Fudge Fairy delivered mysterious fudge to my doorstep four winters ago (was that you?) or when the Elves decorated the little pine tree in the woods (Maybe I had something to do with that. Don’t tell.) Or what about when someone planted tulips on the barren path? (We still don’t know you).

Thank you, Mysterious, Creative, and Whimsical people who perform in secret.


Still, Literally

My youngest (who travels mostly by cartwheel and is up at 5:30 AM constructing origami or sewing little doll dresses) announces at 7:00 AM that she is sick. Her stomach feels queasy, and she cannot possibly go to school. She wants to stay in bed and just. . . stay still.

For one who exists as non-stop movement (dancing, jumping, tumbling, and random hopping), her declaration means something. In fact, she tells me, “I don’t want to move.” (I know she’s really sick now).

So we stay put. We don’t move.

All morning, I reconsider the notion that when God says, “Be still and know that I am God”(Psalm 46:10) or that He will work on my behalf and I “need only to be still”(Exodus 14:14), this might actually mean to cease movement. 

I’m not sure I could. I’m not good at doing nothing and staying still. It drives me crazy.

But I’m thinking of it as a spiritual discipline the same way I might think about prayer, Bible reading, solitude, journaling, fasting, tithing, or worship. Stillness. Doing nothing but staying still is a kind of doing. 

I practice this beside my little girl who doesn’t want to move today.


Your Signature Story

In our memoir-writing unit, we’re talking about “signature stories” that work well, not just for friends and family, but in professional settings. 

We watch a short video by Jennifer Aaker, Professor of Marketing at the Stanford School of Business. She invites us to stop telling certain stories about ourselves and start telling new ones–ones that change us and others for the good. Maybe there’s a story you should stop telling. Maybe there’s one you must now tell. 

A signature story is a story you tell about yourself that changes how others view you. It’s a story that you keep telling because it’s somehow important to you. It’s a story that perhaps has shaped your identity most of all or reveals something essential about you. 
We talk about stories we keep telling ourselves and others. Aaker challenges us to “populate” our portfolios with great stories that showcase who we are, what we value, and how others change from our narratives. In class, we’ll be crafting a signature story full of sensory detail that brings a reader on an emotional journey with us. 
All day, I’ve been wondering about my “signature story.” I think about my journey in faith, my belonging to neighborhood, my recovery from depression and anxiety, my encounter with God in Ephesians 2, my experience as a mother, or my decision to blog daily here. Maybe, just maybe, it’s all the same story. If I whittle it all down, might each story be the one where I am changed by God? Once this, now this? 
This month, I’d like to work on my signature story–the one I keep telling because it changes us both. 

Coaxing You Out

I’ve been coaxing the kitten from underneath the bed.

Coaxing is a form of persistent persuasion. It’s a great verb.

For days, I’ve reminded dear Merlin that kitty treats abound in our home. I’ve showed him my lavish affection. I’ve pet him, brushed him, and scratched behind his little ears. I bring him to his fresh food and water. I invite him to sit with me wherever I am.

My persistent persuasion is working. He’s been curling up with me and finally, finally acting like he’s part of the family with full rights and privileges here. But then he’ll go back into hiding.

Coaxing a kitten out of hiding reminds me so much of God’s persistent persuasive techniques to prove His love. It’s all right here for you! Come and get it! 

One cat knows this and grows fat and happy on my bed.

As we watch the bird feeders together–waiting for winter birds–I see the contrast between a cat that has all she wants and the bird feeders that hang there simply waiting to be enjoyed.

Come out from hiding and enjoy all this.


“God’s Love Would Be Enough for Me”

My oldest daughter says she’s been thinking about me lately and how much I fear that I’ll become a terrible mother and somehow damage my family.

She’s in the kitchen cooking a new recipe, and she says, “No offense, Mom, but God’s love is going to be enough for me. You can’t be a perfect mom.”

She really says this. This really happened. Then, she adds after a few minutes:

“Maybe I’ll want some romance in my life, though, too. But God’s love would be enough for me in case that doesn’t happen.”


Not Exactly What We Hoped For

We spend the morning filling various bird-feeders with all kinds of seeds. Last night, my daughter won a basket in our school’s “Basket Bingo” night. She put one ticket into the “Backyard Birds” themed basket, and twenty tickets into the “Cat Toys” themed one. With her whole heart, she wanted that cat basket.

But she won the Birds (which, upon further reflection, counts as Cat Toys).

This is no small basket. We put all the feeders out, including the special treats. We have four in the backyard and two in the front Weeping Cherry.

Now, we wait. We’re all filled up with hope. Even the cats pace around the windows, waiting.

We anticipate them all: various sparrows, pine siskins, cardinals, tufted titmice, blue jays, nuthatches, doves, black-capped chickadees, finches, and many more. According to Penn State’s research, some backyard feeders during a Pennsylvania winter have attracted 25 different species of birds.

I love that my daughter wanted one thing, but received something better (that happens to also entertain cats).


What You Saw Has a Name! It’s Called “Diamond Dust!”

This morning, I briefly feel like I’m hallucinating (either that or a migraine’s coming on). The air around me looks covered in silver glitter. I look up into the bright sky. Nope, it’s not snow. I poke my head out of my coat and scarf. Nope, there’s no wind blowing the snow around.

I’m seeing something beautiful and a little bit haunting. It’s like little diamonds surround me as I walk.

I learn something astonishing: I’m seeing the meteorological phenomenon of Diamond Dust.

Diamond dust is a ground level cloud of ice-crystals that normally occur in Polar regions, but this beautiful event can happen anywhere temperature fall below freezing. You can read more about it here.

It’s glorious! It makes the terrible cold worth it.

Here’s a video of Diamond Dust in Finland. This is what I saw this morning.

Enjoy your gorgeous, freezing day. Some beautiful things only happen in the midst of something otherwise unpleasant. I’m looking at this winter a little differently now. Without this cold, no diamonds.


“A gold medal is a wonderful thing, but if you’re not enough without the medal, you’ll never be enough with it.” ~Irv Blizter from Cool Runnings

My friend quotes Irv Blizter yesterday when I tell her that sometimes I wonder what I’m waiting for in life. We are writing buddies; we meet to encourage one another about our non-fiction pieces and novels. We share an office in the English department. In between grading and meeting with students, we talk about our hopes and dreams.

“What is it? A best-seller? A big crowd cheering? Sometimes I wonder what I’m waiting for.”

“Well,” she says. “A gold medal is a wonderful thing, but if you’re not enough without the medal, you’ll never be enough with it.”

Yes. Thank you, dear friend.


Don’t Give It Feet: 3 Ways to Look at Thought Management

Our family is learning thought management from the oldest to the youngest. When inappropriate, illogical, strange, or depressing thoughts come into our minds, we have a few techniques. To handle “junk thoughts”(that every person has) we learn to quickly categorize them as either funny or unimportant.

This works: A bizarre thought comes, and instead of dwelling on it, we quickly categorize it as funny or unimportant and move on. It’s a filing system for the brain. It’s like you dump the thoughts (which we affectionately label “brain hiccups”) into the funny or unimportant garbage can.

Another way to handle a distressing thought is this: Don’t give it feet. That’s my husband’s expression to help me refuse to authorize or enable thoughts I don’t want to have. I imagine the thought with little feet that get to walk all over my brain and therefore my life. Instead, I don’t give the thought feet.

It’s a funny little expression! So, in summary, I’m learning to move a thought I don’t want into a category of first, funny or second, unimportant. Thirdly, I don’t give it feet.

We’re learning that we aren’t our thoughts. Thoughts come that we cannot control, so we learn to shuffle them away and move on into our glorious day.