A Huge Little Prayer

This morning I read a comment by Hannah Whitall Smith from The Veil Uplifted

She writes, “We are made for union with Him, and union must mean oneness of purpose and thought, so the only pathway to this union must be a perfect harmony between our will and His.”

I prayer for a “perfect harmony” between my will and God’s. Bring everything in my life into complete harmony with you, Jesus.
I breathe the 11 word prayer and realize mountains have moved within me. Gears have locked, mechanisms have aligned. Whatever isn’t harmonizing will tune itself to a holy note. 
This is a huge little prayer. 

How to Teach Children to Be Great Hosts (and Why)

My daughter invites a friend for a sleepover, and I take a moment to remind her what it means to be a great host. I remember that certain things aren’t intuitive; you have to teach young children how to welcome someone into their home.

First, I remind my daughter to immediately make a guest feel comfortable by helping them settle in. This means letting them know where to place shoes and coats and where the restroom is. Then you can offer a beverage or a snack. You can also ask a guest if they feel too hot or too cold in your home. The goal is his or her comfort.

Second, I teach my daughter that great hosts have a plan. Instead of friends staring at one another not knowing what to do, I encourage my daughter to make a plan of possible activities for them to enjoy together that the guest will particularly love. With a plan of lots of options, a guest can chose something she really enjoys to do.

Third, I tell my daughter that the needs of the guest come first, so it’s a great opportunity to defer to someone else, to take your turn last, and to put your needs aside for a time.

Fourth, I talk about the power of the Special Treat that the guest isn’t expecting. Whether it’s a chocolate cake, a rented movie, a recipe to create together, an outing, or a craft, you can offer little surprises to delight another person.

Finally, I send my daughter upstairs to tidy up. Cleaning the bathroom, organizing the playroom, and picking up clutter means that the guest can enjoy a lovely space that’s clean and fresh smelling.

Why do this? Well, teaching children to host well gives them a lifelong skill of how to bless people with the resources God gives us (our home, our possessions). It also builds empathy as you ask your children to imagine how another person might be feeling.

Hosting other people is something I do every week, if not every day. It’s part of having a home and blessing a community. It’s a great ministry. It’s something I had to learn from others, so today, I’m passing it on to my own children.


Hiding the Effect for Your Own Good

Today I visit a neighbor’s house. She planted an enormous garden, and while she’s in and out with all her travels, she invited me to harvest her wonderful beans, tomatoes, squash, rhubarb, and my favorite: her raspberries.
I’m slinking my way into the berry patch with my silver bowl to get the hardest to reach raspberries.  It feels wrong to harvest what I did not plant and to gain such juicy joy out of all her labor.
She’ll never get to enjoy all this, I say to myself as I stuff a few berries into my mouth. She’ll never even know everything her worked produced.
I realize that she’s free from something I still have desperately to learn. She’s free to plant and enjoy gardening (what she loves most of all) and leave the harvest to others. She’s free of the need to see the impact of her labor, the gift of it, and the blessing to others. She’s not even thinking of it. She too busy fulfilling her calling elsewhere. 
There’s something right and good about the hidden harvest that you never see.There’s something beautiful about creating something or working hard and releasing its impact as a secret that only the Lord knows. It saves us from pride, from greed, and from basing our worth on our impact. It saves us from exalting ourselves, building our own kingdoms, and glorying in fame and influence.
As I’m now almost hidden in the berry patch (if you drove by those were my legs and rear end sticking out), I thank God for hiding certain things from me (both good results and bad) for my own good.
It’s better to live free and ripe for the world without any concern for who happened to be blessed by you. Because when our impact becomes our concern, we rot like berries left too long in the sun.
I’m ashamed to admit this, but after a particularly large speaking event last year, I found myself relishing all the attention. I felt like a celebrity; I was recognized in public, sought out for advice, and photographed. After leaving the stage after my last talk, my assistant for the day swept me off the stage, pushed me into hiding along the dark corridor, and practically kidnapped me. She had me in the passenger seat of her car and was speeding away from that event before the applause even died out.
“Wait!” I screamed. “What about all the people who might want to talk to me?” I said this as I actually checked my lipstick in the mirror. 
“They don’t need you. They need Jesus,” my friend said and sped on, far away from the crowd. She didn’t even compliment me. She didn’t even tell me I did a great job.
It was one of the best moments of my year. 
We drove off to enjoy our day, and I had no idea what kind of impact my speaking had on anyone. It didn’t matter. They didn’t need me, anyway. They needed Jesus, and I was getting in the way.
That moment, I felt saved from myself. This is the moment I thought of when I was hidden inside the raspberry patch, picking fruit I had nothing to do with.


A Day that Changed Me Forever

I’ve been sitting in my rocking chair by the Weeping Cherry and reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. It’s a cool morning, and I have my old green sweater around my arms, a fat cat at my feet, and coffee by my side. I feel older than I’ve ever felt in my life. I’m weighted down by more than age; I feel the heavy sadness and confusion of land wars, shot down planes, storms, suicides, and so much news of suffering that my heart cannot contain it. For a moment, I let God take it all from me, and I rest in my chair.

If you haven’t read The Hiding Place, it’s the account of how a Dutch Christian family helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust. We follow Corrie ten Boom’s imprisonment in horrific conditions and how she found strength, hope, and forgiveness in Jesus. You can also watch the movie made in 1975 based on Corrie’s book.

This book is especially meaningful to me because I remember how one summer at Camp Greystone, I met the traveling companion to Corrie ten Boom, Ellen Stamps. Mrs. Stamps was a visiting speaker at camp who shared many stories of her time with Corrie ten Boom as they traveled the world together to share the message of Jesus Christ before Corrie died.

I scurry down to my basement and pile up all the old journals from that summer at Camp Greystone. I find the one that takes me back to this moment:

One day, Mrs. Stamps invited me to her little guest cabin, brewed me hot coffee (even in the middle of summer), and prayed with me about my own life and struggles. It was July 26, 1995, and I wrote in my journal everything I learned from this humble woman who had more wisdom stored in her than any person I had ever met. She talked to me privately–as the rain fell and the coffee brewed–to impart a few special lessons just for me.

I felt so loved by God that He would allow me to spend time with such a godly woman. I wrote in my journal, “I think my life began to change on July 26, 1995.” I was young in my faith. I was confused and full of shame and worry.

I learned this:

Mrs. Stamps began by telling me that the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of Hope. Anything else is wrong. Don’t listen to any other voice but Hope. 

She also told me that the ups and downs of my heart are like the waves of the sea, but that the Holy Spirit is a calm place within me.

We sat in two chairs by a small wooden table with just a lamp and a Bible on it. It rained, and I could smell the mulch and the pine trees. Mrs. Stamps’ wrinkled hands held onto mine. This woman who had spent so many years traveling with and learning from Corrie ten Boom held my hands in hers, and I wrote in my journal about all the hands those hands had comforted over the years. What would my hands do in my life? Why was God letting me touch what I felt like were sacred hands?

She spoke of forgiveness–of forgiving oneself and receiving the Lord’s forgiveness.

She also spoke about a beautiful broken harp that no one in the village could repair. In this illustration, the only person who could repair the harp to make beautiful music was the one who built it himself. Mrs. Stamps reminded me that God made me and knows how to repair whatever is broken in me. 

Those were powerful and important moments in my journey with the Lord as a twenty year old.

So I’m sitting in my rocking chair, now two decades later, and I go back to the lessons of Corrie ten Boom that she passed on to Ellen Stamps. I had forgotten my favorite lesson from Corrie’s father after her first broken heart. He tells her this:

“Corrie. . . do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked, that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill the love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or, Corrie, we can ask God to open up another route for this love to travel.” 

All morning, I think about when our love (our desires, our dreams, our hopes) is blocked and we experience pain. I’m filled with such overwhelming hope when I see the wisdom of asking God to open up another route for our love to travel.

If not this path, then that one. If not this, then something else. I pray for God to keep my love strong and to open up all the routes on which this love might travel best.

I look back on the wisdom of Corrie ten Boom, her father, and Ellen Stamps. On a single rainy afternoon twenty years ago, their stories intersected mine in a way that changed me forever.


I Do Love Pennsylvania

I take to the walking trails through the woods behind my home. 

When I walk far enough, I’m surrounded by the woods again. It’s cooler and darker here, and a deer darts by me.

How blessed it feels to hear the whisper of a creature in her hidden life and see that trace of something wild. How blessed it feels to see so much green and to walk in so much space alongside the animals. 
I do love Pennsylvania. 

A Last Resort Turned First Choice

My friend in high school played cards nearly every day. His family played cards after dinner or at odd times when the chores were finished. His friends played cards on weekends, gathering in dusty, mysterious basements. I turned down every invitation to play cards with him except one, and that was because we were trapped together on a plane on our way to debate camp in Michigan.

I had no choice.

I hardly ever played cards, and when I did, it was War or Go Fish with my sister as a last resort on rainy days on the military base in Ft. Lewis.

Apparently, in an alternate universe, a whole world of Rummy, Spades, Gin, Anaconda, Blackjack, Poker, Egyptian War, Euchre, Hearts, Sequence, and Slapjack existed around joyous dinner tables everywhere. No matter how hard I tried to join in with the trend, I could only picture the low swinging light fixtures, dangling cigarettes, and hushed conversations. Card playing seemed creepy and underground, the behavior of misfits or else grandmothers in Bridge Clubs. It seemed profoundly boring, and like I said, a last resort for folks who had nothing better to do.

My friend actually kept a deck of cards on his personal being at all times. This is how important it was. This is how much card playing was part of his life.

This summer, card playing became part of my life–not as a last resort–but as a first choice with my daughters, their cousins, uncles, and grandparents. True, we were stuck together in a lake house, so it could have felt like a last resort on rainy days.  I woke up and made a plan for our card playing after dinner. I had to schedule it because I loved it so much. We’d play for over an hour before we all went to sleep.

During the day, my nieces and nephews would coax me over to the table to play whatever card game they chose for the afternoon.

So I bought a deck of cards. I have it right here. I’ve played a version of Rummy (Shanghai Rummy, the best game ever. Rules here) twice with my children already today. I’ve invited others to play, too. I’m actually thinking of keeping a deck of cards in my purse.

I’ve become my friend, and I’m so glad.


Every Day Was Your Best Day

My husband asks me if I remembered to back up my blog on my hard drive because I have 5 years worth of daily reflections on blogger.com. He tells me it would be so terrible to lose all that writing.

I do it as soon as I can get to my computer.

(If you haven’t saved your blog to your computer, do it now! Just go to Settings-Other-Export, and you can save it to your drive.)

As I talked with my husband about saving my blog, I thought, “Yes, I do want to save my blog. I want to do more than save my blog!” That got me thinking: I want to compile a “Best of Live with Flair: Volume One” of the last 5 years of writing. Sometimes folks ask me for a copy of my blog in book form, and I realize I could do this easily on createspace.com. 
My plan is to sift through 1800 entries and choose 300 hundred (or maybe 200) for a little devotion book. What do you think? Do you just love it? 
I do! Then I’d have copies for my daughters and extended family, too. 
So I sit down this afternoon to begin the work of compiling. I say, “Only the best, Heather. Only the best! Only choose the best days, the ones that meant the most, the ones that really mattered.”
I have to chop 1500 of these little days to make my compilation. 
You know where this is going.
I couldn’t do it! I reread March and April of 2010 and remembered each glorious day. I pictured just where I was and what I was thinking, and each day came back to me with such joy. 
Every one was the best day. Every one meant the most. Every one mattered too much to cut. 
I think my little blog project has worked after all: No matter what happens on any day–no matter how terrible, boring, disappointing, or wrong–it’s a beautiful, meaningful day. I wouldn’t take any day back. I wouldn’t cut one.
That’s living with flair. 
(However, I’m still going to try to make my devotional book of “best” blogs. I want to keep them in book form for my children. I’ll keep you posted.) 

Worn Out But Carried

Have you had the experience of being so exhausted that you just can’t do what you’re supposed to do and you cry out to God and He hears and carries you through it? (Whew, that was a long sentence!)

It’s an incredible thing to experience the power of God when you come to the end of your own strength.
I felt this many times in my life: as a camp counselor, as a new mother, on the mission field, in sickness both mentally and physically, in graduate school, and sometimes just on ordinary days when I throw my hands in the air and say, “I am too tired! I just can’t do it! 
Then, God provides a special strength. I’m thankful that sometimes I’m in situations like this so I can know this kind of strength. 

Run the Mile You’re in

My sister always provides Runnerly Wisdom for me. Today she reminds me not to dwell on the past or focus too much on the future. “Run the mile you’re in,” she says.

It’s a long race with many miles behind and many miles ahead. I run the mile I’m in right now.