You Don’t Need it Now

I wish I could be more like my friends who know how to really shop well. They buy clothes for next year at the end of each season; they glean name-brand ski jackets and gear for ridiculously low prices because it’s the end of the season. My friend advises me to go to the sporting goods store to check out the end-of-season sales because spring clothing already fills the racks.

I do. I can’t believe it. Beautiful things for low, low, low prices. I buy the cutest little winter coat for one daughter, and it’s something like 80% off!

I’m not very good at thinking about what I’ll need later. I’m not very good at gleaning end-of-season.

But there’s a principle I’m learning here: sometimes you gather up easily–and what costs you little–those lessons and truths from God that you don’t need right now, but you’ll need later. Everything that’s happening right now might not be about right now.

It might be about the future. It might be about something you’ll need later.

I keep that in mind when I’m not sure what’s happening or what I’m supposed to do with the things I’m learning or thinking about. Maybe it’s just something to glean easily for later.

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To Want This More

Today I remember that King Solomon, when told by God in a dream that he could ask for whatever he wanted, asked not for wealth or longevity, but for wisdom.

Wisdom!

(And it wasn’t even wisdom for his own enjoyment. It was to govern others well.)

I imagine that God approaches and says, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 1:7: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

I will give you anything. Just say the word, and it’s yours. 

What would we say? What would the truest part of ourselves say?

I want the answer to be as wise as Solomon’s, but I know my own heart.

But I also know I can pray to want the right things.

Help me want the right things! Turn my eyes from worthless things! 

God shapes and directs a willing heart. I’m so thankful.

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The Words that Changed You

I ask students to write about the book, poem, movie, or song that changed them. Then, they choose one word that defines what major theme in the humanities that this work of art addresses.

As we make a list on the board, I realize that the enduring themes of feeling interconnected to people, friendship, forgiveness, hope, perseverance, empathy, suffering, and love cry out from our hearts all day long. We carry around stories that shaped us because they made us understand something, changed our perspective, or connected us to something we knew was true and right and good.

We’re actually thinking about these things, and when given the chance, students love discussing these very words that make life meaningful to them. They unload the poems and books and song lyrics that formed them. They recount movie scenes that set them on a new path. We talk about such a range of art: Shawshank Redemption, Hotel Rwanda, T.S. Eliot, Tolkien, Life is Beautiful, The Book of Eli, the Bible, The Alchemist, the music of Billy Joel, or even Pet Cemetery. We talk about lessons from the Godfather and The Giver.

Words are working on us, all the time. They cry out, and we cry back. And now, we enter into the conversation ourselves. We write a story for others, from our own lives, that shapes how we understand what it means to be human. They’ll cry out, and we’ll cry back.

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Set a Goal and Track Progress

I love goals and deadlines. People who know me well know that if you give me a deadline, I get really excited about it. I don’t know why, but I do.

I found a fun website to help me with writing deadlines. It’s called WordKeeper, and when you sign up, you input your manuscript deadline and your word count goal. The website tells you how many words you must write in a day to meet that deadline. The website is here: https://wordkeeperalpha.com

It’s so manageable! It’s so fun to chart progress!

I love coming to the end of the day and knowing that I met my daily writing goal. It’s motivating and fun to see how far I’ve come and how manageable my goal is when broken down into daily segments. 

What begins this whole process is asking these kinds of questions about your goal: “What will it take to get there? (time and amount of daily work) How will I get there? (training and technique) What else do I need in order to get there?”(external motivators)

I think about the resources I need, including time, training, and equipment. I think about what kind of encouragement will sustain me on the journey. I think about trusting God with my emotions, fatigue, or other stressors that take me away from my goal.

It’s how weight loss works. It’s how training for a race works (I wouldn’t know, but my runner friends tell me this).

Essentially, I’m learning that rather than looking at the huge thing in front of me (the end goal), tracking progress is way to have small, daily victories. I look at what each day requires in terms of time, technique, and equipment, and I set myself up for success. So far, so good!

I wish you the best with your own writing (or other) goals today. I’m thankful for what I’m learning about how daily, small victories will get us there.

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Snow and Sun

It’s so bright–because of all this snow–that I’m drawn outside to bask in it.

With snow up to the knees, and school canceled for the second day in a row, one would think this situation might prevent an appreciation of beauty. One would think.

The snow reflects the sun in ways that shame the hottest and brightest summer day. And I remember the old quote from E. Stanley Jones that “weather. . .  is always favorable if you know how to use it.”

It’s favorable weather: It brings its own advantages and its own special beauty, like everything does–if I let it.

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The Stories You Tell Again and Again

Today I teach the Advanced Writing students about writing their “Signature Stories” for their professional development. It’s such a fun and meaningful assignment. We look at the key stories that have shaped our ideas about work and adulthood.

They choose one life story, and they craft the tale in five pages of vivid verbs, varied sentence patterns, sensory detail, dialogue, and tension. We talk about how to present an unanswered question that promises a delayed revelation. We talk about creating mood and mystery. We talk about important characters in our stories.

We talk about why this story must be told.

I tell them a few of my own Signature Stories like the Neighborhood Fitness Group, my decision to write a daily blog, the day I became a teacher, or the day I knew I was meant for graduate school.

I have sets of stories about overcoming, about finding love, about parenting, and about learning. At my age, I’ve collected cautionary tales, adventure stories, and even my own ghost stories.

Life is story. We tell the story, and we pass on wisdom, warning, insight, or just a good, hearty laugh. We tell stories because we testify in front of these witnesses who acknowledge the meaning and beauty of this one little life that has seen what nobody else has seen, in the way that it saw it, with the people it knows, in the exact location it lived.

Oh, life is wonderful, mysterious, and so rich. I can’t wait to read all of the stories these brilliant students will write.

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“We know how to spend time together.”

Today a younger couple came to our home after church and brought lunch for everybody. After trying unsuccessfully to set up a date night or mid-week lunches, the couple joked that they knew an irresistible way to spend time together.

“We’ll show up, and you don’t have to do anything,” they had said. “And you have to eat lunch, right?”
That statement was balm to my tired mother’s soul. I wanted to spend time with them, but they were right that arranging a night out or a work week lunch felt overwhelming. Shopping and cooking a nice meal for friends felt overwhelming. Everything felt overwhelming. 
But when this couple showed up at the door with a whole spread–including an appetizer and dessert–nothing felt overwhelming. I felt so loved and peaceful. 
We had the best time. No babysitters, no cooking or cleaning, no juggling schedules–it was perfect.
I wish I had thought to bless older couples with children in this way when I was younger. This couple said, “We will fit into your schedule however we can!” 
This attitude felt so selfless and loving.
They took care of us as a couple and as parents who just had a lot going on, and they didn’t make me feel bad about all the ways I was too tired to give or reach out. 
This has been a truly blessed and delicious Sabbath.
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For the Past Three Days

For the past three afternoons, I’ve walked in this setting, across this landscape.

I’ve seen the tracks of rabbits. I’ve seen three hawks circling in the sky, their cries piercing the silence until they perch quietly on the snow-burdened tops of the trees.

As my children sled on the great hill, I part the curtain of evergreen trees and enter into the deep, icy woods.

Later, I think about that hawk’s beautiful cry and the tracks of animals. I think about their secret winter lives.

I’ll go back throughout the winter, listening and watching.

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2 Great Truths that Discouragement Teaches

This morning my husband and I discuss diacouragement in our work lives. It comes! It happens! What I’ve learned in the last ten years is to see diacouragement as a signpost on the journey. 

It shows me two truths:

Diacouragement reminds me of what I really want and need. If I’m not discouraged about an obstacle or setback, then maybe the dream wasn’t all that important to me.
The extent of my discouragement reveals the meaning of this goal or dream. I listen to these feelings, and I learn about myself  and become even more honest. 
Discouragement also, praise God, breeds creativity. Discouragement in my writing life sent me on a journey of blogging, self-publishing, speaking, and teaching. It was a Refiner’s Fire to purge anything extraneous or inauthentic. 
If an obstacle comes, I don’t cringe; I create. 
Every dream needs the school of discouragement. It reminds and refines. It’s the signpost we should note carefully for what it’s teaching us. 
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A Big Truth in a Little Something

Notice anything about my succulent (crassula ovata “Jade”) plant? This is the plant I’ve neglected and damaged with all my moving it about. But look!

It has propagated! 
As I observe the sweet little new plant, I grow curiouser and curiouser. I learn, according to Tabitha Sukhai that “these plants thrive on neglect.” And I learn further that the new little plant grows from the wounded and dropped leaves of the big plant. 
Neglect and wounding foster what becomes a nearly indestructible plant that grows more and more no matter what obstacles come. 

Not enough attention? No problem; I grow. To many wounds? No problem; that’s how I grow. Feeling neglected? No problem; that’s what helps me grow. 
I love what my Jade plant symbolizes: Whatever we feel like we lack, and whatever kinds of wounds we bear, we know God can turn that environment into indestructible growth. We keep before us the truth that God “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLT). 
Besides, what I perceived as damaging was actually good for this kind of plant. It all works together to bring about the plant’s health. What a curious and wonderful truth!
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