You Need One of These in Your Life

Today I realize how much I need a cheerleader (or two or three–maybe the whole squad). I do! Even with my over-the-top energy, enthusiasm, and “I can do it!” attitude, I need cheerleaders.

How do I know? Because so far this month, the cheerleaders have made all the difference.

My cheerleader walking friend keeps me going with texts and words of hope and encouragement in fitness. 
My cheerleader writing friend keeps me going with words of affirmation, phone calls, and insight on the most discouraging days. 
My cheerleader teacher friend keeps me going with laughter and compliments when I feel like I’m a terrible teacher. 
My cheerleader husband keeps me going with love and support through long days of housekeeping and parenting.
I have a cheerleader sister, cheerleader Italian Mamas, cheerleader parents, and cheerleader neighbors.
We must have cheerleaders, and I’m so thankful for these encouragers! 
But more importantly, these cheerleaders remind me that I can be this woman for someone else today. 
I can cheer for someone in whatever she’s discouraged about. I can tell her to keep going, that she’s great, and that she can do this!
Maybe it will turn it all around for her like it did for me. 
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Your Wound Is as Deep as the Sea

This morning I read the prophet Jeremiah’s poem in Lamentations 2. Here, he writes God’s words of sadness over sin.

He says, “Your wound is as deep as the sea. Who can heal you?”

I imagine the question posed so lovingly, almost as if God allows us to try and imagine every possible avenue of healing before we come to the one true Healer. He also acknowledges exactly how we feel about it and the raw truth of it.

Our wound is deep. It’s as deep as the sea. Is there anyone here who can heal? Anyone? 

I was most curious about this question because I remember feeling this way many times in my life. My wounds felt too deep. Who could heal me? How? Haven’t we all felt that at some point in our lives? I wonder if I’m the only one.

Back then–as a girl and then a young woman– I took so much comfort in God’s description of himself as Healer. My Bible is falling apart in those places. Highlighted and worn, the pages note God’s name for himself. Wrapped up in one of His names is that very promise. He is the God Who Heals You. 

I also took great comfort in Jeremiah 33:6 when God promises, “I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and prosperity.” Or the simple explanation in Exodus 15:26 when God just says: “I am your healer.”

Jesus comes as a healer. He’s healing wherever He goes! If He’s a healer, then I offer Him every part that needs healing, knowing that what I need most of all is a healed soul–a healed relationship with God. Everything trickles down from this healed relationship, this healed intimacy.

So I offer these wounded parts every day, even every moment if I must.

What still needs healing? When the wound feels as deep as the sea, God knows exactly how to heal you.

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In Case You Hadn’t Thought of This Already: Managing Winter Things with Hanging Shoe Racks

Today’s the day we try on winter coats and boots to see what we need for the new season. Children grow so fast! We grow out of mittens and snowsuits in just one year.

I’m sitting in a big pile of scarves, hats, and mittens, and I’m wondering what to do with them all. Normally, we just unload everything into a big basket by the door, but each morning becomes a frantic search for matching gloves.

I remember the Wise Big Sister who organizes winter things in hanging shoe racks. I just happen to have one, so I sort everything into the neat little slots. Why have I waited 13 years to do this?

Anyway, in case you hadn’t thought of this already, hanging shoe racks make the best organizers for winter hats, mittens, and scarves.

And I love learning to improvise and make uncommon uses for ordinary objects.

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Because They Might Say, “Yes!”

I find myself noticing all the friendship and dating relationships emerging within the one class where that one brave student called on the first day, “Does anyone want to have lunch together?”

That one question built something special; this group of once-strangers now eat together twice a week–at least–and enjoy true community.

I ask the student why he asked that question. He said, “Well, I figured I would see these people on the same days for class each week, so why not?” He tells me he’s really concerned about his dorm floor, though. He says, “We see each other every day, and some people don’t even talk to each other. I’m going to start a campaign to get people who naturally see each other every day to actually hang out.”

I love that he doesn’t discriminate. He assumes that anyone can become friends. He assumes that all people can connect in community if given the opportunity. His two criteria for gathering folks include availability and proximity. In other words, if you’re here and available, let’s do this.  

I tell him that he’s got a great future in community organizing. And I realize that it all begins with one question.

I think about the “one questions” that started it all for me:

Do you want to have coffee with me? 
Do you want to study together? 
Do y’all want to walk to school together? 
What if we all had pancakes together on Saturday?
What if. . . ?

They just might say, “Yes!”

After all, if we’re here and available, let’s do this!

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How Would You Have Answered These 4 Questions College Students Ask?

Yesterday, my student asked if she could interview me for her Biobehavioral Health class assignment. I thought these interview questions might have something to do with stress, work-life balance, or my unnatural love of semicolons and vivid verbs. I’m used to student interviews; many courses send students out to gain career insight from professors, and they report their findings back to the class. 

So I’m in the hallway before class, and my student begins with what I think will be an interview about how I handle stress. Instead, she launches into these four questions: 
1. What was your biggest regret from college?
2. If I only read one book in college, which one book would you recommend I read?
3. What is your definition of a great student?
4. How do you define success? 
Well, I wasn’t exactly prepared, but there she sat, ready to record every word I said. She told me her professor was encouraging this class of students to find wisdom and guidance from professors to help them be the best kind of students they could be. 
Did she want the truth? Yes. Did she want the real me? Yes. 
I told her that my biggest regret from college was not focusing on or enjoying my relationship with God my freshman year. I told her that I regret the partying and dating that harmed my faith. I told her that if she could read only one book, she should read the Bible because it shows you how to know God and has an answer to every problem you’ll ever have. 
She typed. I answered. 
I told her that a great student is curious and knows how to extract information from every class to help advance her personal and career goals. A great student works hard. 
Finally, I answered the success question. Since it was on-the-spot, it seemed like the answer bubbled up from inside me from a honest place. I said that success is knowing that I accomplished all that God had in store for my life, and that really, it was about relationships more than anything else. 
She typed. I scrunched up my face in thought at my own answers. I didn’t say fame! I didn’t say wealth! I didn’t say prestige! 
I think these are great questions, and I wish I had asked my professors these same ones. What would you have said? 
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Slow Change

It’s discouraging to lose weight when you  age because it’s a slow change. It’s a pound a week–maybe

It’s discouraging to enter the teenage years with children when you say the same things over and over again. It’s a slow change for them to grow into independence and to gain more and more responsibility. 
It’s discouraging to manage your mental health every day and choose to find the beautiful and joyful thing. It’s a slow change.
But! But! It is a change! One day, you wake up and find that you’re at your health goal. You come home and find children growing into great young women. And, five years into your Live with Flair project, you realize you have no idea what to blog about anymore because what was once one moment in a day has changed into a thousand deeply joyful moments. The whole day is flair. There’s no fight; the joy has won. 
It was a slow change, but this is the enduring kind.
We stay the course. We run this next mile. Soon, we’ll see the finish line. 
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Consider This

In my writing class today, we talked about our campaigns for campus change. Students observe a problem, identify root causes of that problem, and then write a plan to motivate people to change. We talk about topics like technology addiction, binge drinking, conformity, unhealthy eating, sleep deprivation, and caffeine dependency.

Every semester, I add in my own observations of something I wish were more true of myself and college students.

I tell them that I’m considering launching my own campaign that encourages us to consider more. In other words, I want more time to think carefully about ideas. Etymologically speaking, the word “consider” comes from the Latin and means, “to examine the stars.” I think about this verb in the context of that definition; I want to tilt my head upwards, gaze into the heavens, and consider.

Consider means to think carefully, to look attentively upon, and to contemplate with great care.

I remember my own days at the University of Virginia. I remember the long office conversations about class topics, the dinners with professors in their homes where we discussed ideas, and the hours upon hours that I sat and thought about things. I journaled and sat still in the gardens or on the steps of the Rotunda, and I grappled with ideas about poetry, my faith in God, and what kind of person I wanted to become. I had so much time to think, and there was much to consider.

Now, times have changed. If I have a moment to stop and consider an idea, I’m more likely to check my phone for news and updates. Students agree; free time means technology. Time alone on the bus? That’s for Instagram. Time alone in my dorm? That’s for texting. Like me, they aren’t ever alone with their own thoughts for long periods of time. It’s awkward and painful to sit with your own thoughts like this, so we avoid considering altogether.

One of the reasons I love writing is that it offers space to consider an idea. I still journal. I still sit in my rocking chair and think my thoughts–but not as much as I once did. I wonder what would happen if we sat down for a moment and considered something deeply for a long period of time. I’m considering this today and what it would take for me to go back to that girl inside of me who once sat still on the steps, just to think.

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Clearer Vision of What’s Been There All Along

On the walk to school, I point out in amazement all the blue jays and finches. They fly in and out of the bare tree branches. It’s freezing; I have my mittens on and my hood pulled tightly around my face.  Yes, a new season has come.

“Look! Isn’t it amazing?” I pause and ask the other adults why the blue jays come out like this every autumn. “It’s so strange! It’s so wonderful!”

One of them replies, “They are always here. You just can’t see them like this when the trees have all their leaves.”

I look up into the bleak and empty sky, into the diminished trees, and I realize that some things we can only perceive in just these conditions.

Once again, I know that seasons that come at us harsh and empty and frozen around the edges offer us a clearer vision of what’s been there all along.

It was a cold and beautiful walk.

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Right Around This Time, It Happens

I feel one special joy that comes with growing older (that I’ve thought about three or four times just this weekend).

Growing older means you get the joy of helping younger people grow into themselves. It’s happening more and more: I’ll be somewhere–a party, in my office, in my neighborhood, at church, anywhere–and younger people will ask for advice.

This month, I embrace this role like never before.

I’m at a party, for example, and a group of young women ask me all about how they can love a neighborhood one day. They talked about how comfortable they feel in their church groups and Bible studies, but they experience the nagging feeling that something isn’t exactly right.

“It’s so comfortable, but. . . “

“Yes,” I said. “It’s very comfortable, but it’s not exciting. I’d rather have exciting than comfortable, so go and love people that aren’t in your Bible study.” I spoke as a woman who has lived almost twice as long as they have and who still walks children to school every morning. I spoke as a woman who for years turned double-dutch jump ropes for Monday Night Neighborhood Fitness and who danced in my basement with children when it was too cold to meet outside. Why shrink back from my lived experience of loving a neighborhood? Why not tell people with a certain authority?

Then, I go home to emails from students needing advice and recommendations for graduate school. Right around this time (when applications are due), it happens: students become desperate for career direction. I find myself full of new energy as I pass on all I know. As I grow older, I feel decisive and confident. I feel like I can state things I’ve learned with a new clarity and love.

When scripture talks about the older women teaching the younger, I suddenly know like never before which category I’m in. I still need those older ladies around me, but this year, I find a whole group of younger folks who need someone to love them and help them become who they’re becoming.

I do like growing older. And I like considering (and asking you) how we might continue to pass on what we know and help younger people grow. In what form? Where? When? It’s exciting to pray towards this end.

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Oh, Loved!

Today is my 39th birthday! I feel so loved by sweet messages, gifts from friends, all sorts of goodies from my family, time to write, and dinner I’m not making.

It’s a great life! 
This morning, as I journaled about another year gone and a new one coming, I just loved the excitement and comfort I felt when I read Philippians 2:13:
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”
As I read it in Greek, it’s like this: “God’s energy is working in you to accomplish all that His loving kindness has in store for you.”
Amen!
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