In Increasing Measure

I love growing. I read so many self-improvement books because I value personal growth. I want to know what I’m aiming for in life and gather all the wisdom I can. I like writing in my journal personal growth goals, and today, I ponder this question:

What does it mean to become a better person?

As a Christian, I love the fact that God manages and empowers our improvement. God changes us and “conforms us to the image of Christ.” Right this very moment, something is at work in us; we “are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).

I remember what this transformation looks like. I recall 2 Peter 1:5-8 which outlines the best improvement model of any I’ve read anywhere. It goes like this:

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature. . . For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I have decades and decades ahead of me for growth. It’s so exciting! With God’s divine power (that’s the key, the big secret), I make every effort to grow. Each day offers a new chance to increase faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love.

I do wonder how to “make every effort.” I think about things in my natural pathway that offer opportunities for an increase in goodness, knowledge, self control, etc. Those things that challenge me most of all are the very things helping me possess in increasing measure a new kind of character.


When You See the Changing Leaves, Think of This

This morning, I remembered one of my favorite Live with Flair moments from October, 2011. It’s the one where my friend, Cynthia taught me about a tree’s habit. Every time I see a tree in Autumn, I think about how my life takes shape and what I do to hinder or help this shaping.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Your Best Habit

On the walk to school, my rurally-raised neighbor (who knows everything about the land) comments upon the beauty of various trees’ habits.  She informs me that a tree’s habit refers to its overall shape.

She identifies trees by their habits.  Some trees squat and spread lower to the ground:

Others rise tall into the sky as perfect vase shapes:

Some grow into beautiful ovals:

And some unfold against the sky like Japanese fans. 

But as I look around me, I notice something astounding.  Some trees in the forest don’t squat or unfold.  Some don’t rise up and spread their arms wide.

I learn that if other plants or objects crowd a tree, the intended habit changes.  It diminishes.  Stunted and pressed upon, the tree loses potential somehow.

I think about the simple and natural need for space.  We have an intended shape–our best habit–but when crowded and pressured, we change. 

I think about making room for my husband, children, friends, students–and myself–to unfold, to stretch wide.  Do I stifle?  Do I crowd?  What would it look like to give everybody some breathing room? 

Today, I’m making space for my best habit to take shape.  I want to unfold like a bright yellow fan.

Journal:  Do you feel like you’ve taken shape into your best habit?  What allowed this?


Perfect For You

The more women I meet, the more I love hearing how they have chosen to live their lives. I love all the different kinds of women I know:

I know women who homeschool and keep the home; I know women who work-full time or part-time; I know women on the mission field; I know women researchers, women with tenure, women who bake the best chocolate chip cookies the world will ever taste, women who run neighborhood groups, women who volunteer in their communities, women athletes, singers, poets, and scrapbookers. I know bloggers, bakers, coaches, cleaners, crafters. I know librarians, musicians, doctors, photographers, engineers, artists, scientists, and teachers. I know women who rescue animals. I know a mom with 8 children. I know women taking care of aging family members, women adopting children, and women fostering children.

I could list a thousand different women. Each life is perfect. Each life is her special calling. Lately I’m realizing how important it is not to box a woman in or compare her life to anyone else.

I love your life. It’s perfect for you.


A Pure Motive: Love

I’ve been thinking lately about how ambition governed so much of my twenties and thirties. Achievement and recognition were so important to me. I chased after prestige at every turn. Speaking and writing and teaching were tainted with the ulterior motive of needing to feel important.

When God healed those places in me that needed all that attention, I felt lost at sea. What now could motivate all the work and all the achievement? Could I still be me up there on the stage even though I no longer needed to be there? Who was this new woman and why would she do what she was doing? 
Love. Just love. I pray to be a pure and clear conduit of God’s love. With myself out of the spotlight, I’m hopeful that God will teach me how to truly live a life of love. It feels profoundly different. It feels peaceful and free to love an audience and not need anything from them. 


Changing Your Desires

This morning I remember the power and freedom of asking God to change my desires to conform to what He wants for my life. 

I read Philippians 2:13 where we learn this: “God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him.”
I pray that the desire of my heart would conform to what pleases God. I pray this for my family. I know that all His paths are peace, so we travel on these paths. We pray our desires keep us here and not wandering on dark paths. 

You’re In a Funk Because You’re Not Writing

Sometimes my husband reminds me how happy I am when I’m writing novels (or anything really). If I’m in a funk, it’s because I’m not writing. I propose that we might increase our well-being today if we set the pen to the page and create a character with a problem that needs solving. I propose that there’s a great story inside of us that we must tell.

It can be short. It can be very short. Try reading these at work today, and you’ll see what I mean.

As the weekend rolls in, think about a Saturday morning excursion into your own mind. Write it! Post it on Facebook! Start a blog where we might read weekly installments of your great story! Nothing needs to hold you back, not even publishers. You can publish it all yourself and sell it yourself.

I’m excited to try some short–very short–fiction in the coming weeks. I’m also gearing up to finally publish my own novels that everyone systematically rejected in the publishing world.  They are coming! Southern Fiction, Adult Contemporary, and a Young Adult novel are on the way. We can gorge ourselves on them.

And even if nobody reads them, I will. Even if nobody will ever read them, I will love writing them.

So will you. Write!


You Missed Everything

My least favorite emails from students include these kinds of sentences: “I wasn’t in class this morning. Let me know if I missed anything important.” Or this: “I’m going to miss class Monday. Will I miss anything important?”

Yes. Yes, you will miss everything important. What will you miss?  I’m so glad you asked.
You will miss that moment that will never come again, with people who will never gather in this same configuration again, with words spoken by us all that won’t leave our lips again in that same way. 
You will miss a comment by a student that could have changed your mind; you will miss talking to the one girl about something that might just make her your new best friend; you will miss a lesson on writing that might have inspired a novel or memoir that the world needs. You will miss writing something in your notebook that you’ll keep for forty more years and read again when your own daughters take a writing class.

You will miss this. And we will miss this. 

We will miss your voice answering a question that unlocks something for someone else. We will miss the tilt of your head as you think about something and the way you tap your pencil like that. We will miss your insight. When you miss class, you miss you being you at that moment, in that place where verbs and semicolons dance in some spiritual place where students gather with coffee cups and bagels and notebooks and pens with a teacher whose entire life culminates in this moment when she holds the chalk and begins. 
So yes, you missed something. 
You missed everything. 


Empowering Children to Manage Their Lives

As a Type-A, micromanaging type of mom who is on a journey to enjoy our home life without stressing everyone out, I’m learning how to empower my children to manage their lives.

It’s hard. I want everyone to be productive, excellent, and organized. As a result of my zeal, I end up immensely disliking the stress I create around me.

Lately, I’ve realized I’m harming my daughters by not empowering them to live their lives. Micromanaging them steals this life skill from them. I know because I also teach college freshman who often confess that they talk to mom seven or eight times a day about their assignments and their lives.

I want to talk to my children when they are grown, but not that much.

This past week, I’ve made lists of what they must accomplish, but then I let them manage their time–for better or for worse. They are learning. During this new week, they make their own lists, and they manage their own time even better.

Meanwhile, I’m not hovering anymore. Once during the whole afternoon, I’ll call out, “Does anyone need help managing her time? Does anyone need assistance?”

I’m still here, but I’m a different kind of mom. I’m so much happier letting this go.


Any Day Now, It’s Coming

I’m awaiting the proofing copy of my book, Live with Flair: Seasons of Worship and Wonder. I hope to make it available sometime in October! I’m so excited to have (and to offer to you) this collection of lessons my heart learned these past five years.

I’m so thankful for each day now. I’m so attuned to each gift I can gather from the day, no matter how terrible the day seems. Any day and every day, I know how to live with flair. It took five years of practice–of sowing deeply into the belief that God is good and what He does is good, of uncovering the mystery and beauty of simple things–that now, every day indeed shimmers.

Looking back, it was a way of gathering back into my heart everything lost through those years of depression.

Today, I’m standing once again in my raspberry patch, and I gather each ripe thing.

I present a bowl of berries to my daughters to gobble up after school. I think of how, when they are my age, they might remember the way it felt to put each berry on their fingertips. I hope they remember the stain of it and the sweet pleasure of each berry popped into their mouths.

Meanwhile, I gather more and more. Each day, I gather and offer what I glean. When the book arrives to my doorstep, I will smile and know that God helped me gather well.


A Late Blooming Rose

The roses on the garden trellis haven’t bloomed for weeks. But this morning, we find the hugest bloom, right there where no bloom should be. It’s astonishing because it blooms so late. All around us, everything has bloomed and is moving on to new stages: the tips of the oak leaves flare up with color; acorns fall and crack; it’s cold enough for mittens. 

This rose bush lags behind. Yes, this is a late-bloomer indeed. 

We tell our daughters about the expression late bloomer in gardening and in life. If everyone else races on by in any kind of development–social, physical, or emotional–it’s no cause for alarm. Your time will come. You will astonish and bring more beauty to the world precisely because of the timing of it all. While others fade, fall, and crack, you’ll just be getting started!