Holding Your Ground

Today we read the message inside a fortune cookie that says this:

“The mightiest oak in a forest is just a little nut that held its ground.”

I love that the nut literally holds onto the earth around it in order to grow. But I also know that the expression, “hold your ground,” means two more things. It can mean you refuse to change your opinion or behaviors that you know are right (even if others want you to). The expression also means you refuse to retreat backwards in the face of opposition.

You stay put. You don’t compromise. You refuse. You keep your eyes fixed on the goal without retreating. Living with flair means we hold our ground against cynicism, complaint, boredom, bitterness, jealousy, despair, and hopelessness. We hold our beautiful and joyous ground!

What ground must I hold today? Against what or whom?

(And for someone who often feels a little bit odd or crazy, the idea that a Little Nut might hold her ground and one day become the mightiest oak makes me smile.)

For whatever it is today that requires this kind of fortitude, we Little Nuts hold our ground.


6th Annual Boo Platter: I’m a Legend

I balance the 6th Annual “Boo Platter” in my hands. Former teachers cry out, “The Boo Platter! Oh, I miss the Boo Platter!”

My youngest daughter’s teacher says, “I’ve heard about this Boo Platter! The Boo Platter is here!”

In honor of the Boo Platter, I’ve included the best three below from years past. Enjoy!

(And note that they aren’t fancy or crafty. This is the point of the Boo Platter: It can be Your Most Memorable Act because it’s you, in your way.)

I’m off to the Halloween school parade. My daughter is a Pioneer Girl!


A Whole New Day of Marvels

On the blustery and dark walk to school this morning, we shuffle our feet in the damp piles of leaves that rise up like the banks of a river about us. We’re now traversing the wooded hill when my daughter points out an enormous toad just hopping along beside us.

What else awaits on this path? What other marvels, partially concealed, hop along beside us?


If They Were Never Here at All

Today I thought about how much the ladybugs entering my home drive me crazy. They’re everywhere. In our county, the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Ladybug) invades homes in search of warm places to overwinter. We’re not talking about one or two bugs. We’re talking about tens of thousands, according to Penn State University.

I vacuum them up. I seal off the windows and door frames. I turn off every light that draws them.

I’m curious about how quickly something precious and full of whimsy turns into a downright nuisance. When I was a girl, ladybugs symbolized great luck. It felt like a magical moment to find one on your arm or on your coat in grade school. Children even gathered ’round to observe the beautiful spotted insect. And remember that scene in Under the Tuscan Sun with the symbolic ladybug? It’s supposed to mark good fortune, love, and happiness. The ladybug makes one feel chosen and sacred.

But now? With so many here, I only immensely dislike them.

I think about rare things. I think about scarcity. I think about what we treasure because so little of it exists. It’s a strange phenomenon that rare things gain a certain value. The ladybug hasn’t changed; my perception of its value has.

I want to remember that everything about me might hold a precious and most sacred value if it weren’t here in abundance. I want to stay conscious of all that invades my life and know that, if I’m complaining about it, I might change my mind if it were never here at all.


“Every experience God gives us. . . is the perfect preparation for a future only He can see.”–Corrie Ten Boom

I love thinking about everything that has happened to me–and everything that will happen to me–as “perfect preparation” for the future in store for me. It’s so hopeful and comforting!

I know this to be true already (although I couldn’t have seen it back then!). I think of how particular kinds of suffering were “perfect preparation” for the ministry I now have. Even my own embarrassing failures that I thought I’d never recover from were “perfect preparation” for my storehouse of wisdom I can pass on to my children. 
What is this thing happening to me? Well, it’s perfect preparation for a future I cannot see. 

How Shall We Win Her Back?

We’re currently training our new kitten, Merlin, to enjoy us. It was the same with Jack; you have to convince the cat that you aren’t going to harm him. You have to persuade him with treats and brushing and scratches behind the ears.

Soon, the cat realizes how good you are, and he approaches you freely to be petted and showered with innumerable signs of affection. Training a cat to enter into relationship with you is a long, slow process of proving your kindness.

As I ask my husband our strategies for convincing the stubborn, cowering cat how good we could be to him, I think of one of those conversations in heaven that must happen at the precise moment of my own shrinking away from God.

“How shall we convince her?” I imagine the committee meeting in the heavenly realms. What will do it? What would be enough to believe in God’s goodness?

I think of God’s message in Hosea 2:14 when he says, “Therefore, I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” Some translations say, “I will win her back.”

As we try day after day to win Merlin’s affection, I think of God’s relentless pursuit of us to allure, to convince, and to win back.

How great is your goodness that you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men. Psalm 31:19


Instead of Excuses

All day I’ve been thinking about barriers to the kind of change I want in my life. When I see a barrier, it’s an automatic excuse. Instead, I want to see the barrier as an opportunity.

I know how to do this in some areas of my life, but I can’t apply it to other areas. Why? I’m thinking about this!

For example, some of you always ask me how I can blog every day (except that one day in Kansas) for 1,684 days. No matter what, I blog. If there’s a barrier of time, location, internet access, etc., I see it as an opportunity to become really creative. It’s the kind of pressure I like. It’s pleasurable to solve this kind of problem.  Plus, and most importantly, it’s something God empowers because I know it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.

Other good things I want to do, but somehow can’t (insert anything you want here: fitness, weight loss, home decorating, mood management, finances) result from lots and lots of excuses. I want to apply the same creativity and pleasurable problem solving to whatever I want to change. I want to see God empower those things that should happen in my life because they are right and good.

I want to take the pressure of time, location, access, etc. and become exceedingly creative!

To give us hope, I want to share one thing I’m learning most of all: Friends really matter here. If you can recruit a friend to help you on your journey of change, it will make all the difference. When you want to change something, ask, “Who can help me? Who can be my friend in this?”

Be ready for God to send someone your way.

My blogging friends, exercise friends, teaching friends, parenting friends, and praying friends help so much. Together, we are exceedingly creative when faced with barriers and excuses.


Certain Things I Didn’t Realize About Quoting People

I’m learning so much as I get ready to self-publish Live with Flair: Seasons of Worship and Wonder. I thought I’d make a little list of what I’m learning in case you’re thinking of self-publishing anything (or writing blogs where you quote people).

1. Publishers actually own the rights to certain Bible translations. You must get permission, for example, to use the NIV 1984 edition in your published writings.

2. You must request permission from publishers to quote from material to which they own the rights because there’s no set rule on “Fair Use.” It’s really debatable, and unless you’re an expert on copyright law, I wouldn’t risk it. Some publishers said, “Yes, this is Fair Use, but please cite it this way.” Other publishers said, “You must pay us $ to use this quote.” Believe it or not, the C.S. Lewis estate charges you to quote C.S. Lewis. I didn’t realize this.

3. Poetry and music lyrics don’t follow the same “Fair Use” laws. You need permission for every word you want to quote.

4. It might take several weeks to hear back from publishers about whether or not you have permission.

5. Do not trust that someone’s copyright has expired. For example, Walt Whitman’s poems are out of copyright and can be quoted without permission. However, W.B. Yeats is a poet whose copyright has just been extended to 2021.

Copyright law suddenly seems so interesting (and strange) to me. It’s been fun talking to publishers all about Rights and Permissions.


A Simple Life Pattern: Praise and Gather

This morning I read something wonderful in Psalm 142:7. David writes, “Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.”

I love that the prayer isn’t just about David. His freedom isn’t for him alone. When God frees him, it’s for God and for others. His prayer isn’t “free me so I can be free”; it’s “free me so I can praise you and  let others rejoice because of it.”

I also love the picture of community surrounding the one to whom God has displayed a particular work. I want to gather with others around the one in my community who showcases the goodness of God. Instead of jealousy or comparison, I want to gather and rejoice with that person who has been set free.

Finally, I love how David will experience community as part of his freedom. The isolation and loneliness leaves and a community of celebration surrounds him.

We praise; we gather: a simple life pattern for today.


You, Like This

For several years now, I’ve noted my favorite spot in the neighborhood in autumn. It’s this tree right here:

This tree stands out against all the others. It seems whipped up with golden butter, layered with sunshine, and spun with gold. Imagine it on a bright, clear day (instead of this gloomy, dark one).

All week, I’ve been talking to my daughters about how they can “shine like stars” from Philippians 2:15. As I read this section of scripture, I know that when we choose not to argue or complain, and when we “hold fast to the word of life,” we stand out like bright lights in a cynical generation.

I also think about those women in my life who are those shining lights for me. Finally, I think about that one shining star of a moment that comes every day, without fail, in the midst of whatever is going on in life. There you are, driving down the dark road, and the golden moment rises up in view, spun with gold and layered with sunshine.

That’s what this tree invites in my heart year after year on this very week.