Irresistible Rest

When I come upon my cat, Merlin, resting in the sun, it’s irresistible: I’m drawn into the light.

I have to get right down beside him and let the warm sun greet my face. Whenever I see cats lounging in the sun, I remember that’s there something more important than laundry, cleaning, baking, or grading. There’s something more important than all the gazillion things I’m supposed to check off my list.

Right now, it’s more important to turn my face to the sun next to my cat. We close our eyes and enjoy the warmth of it, and the whole day feels much better and more manageable.

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Unencumbered (or Forgetting All Your Bags)

Maybe I’m getting old. Today I arrive to campus to discover that I had left all my things–my purse, my bag of teaching supplies and handouts, my wallet–at home by the front door. I just hopped into my van and drove happily away.

I’m walking around with nothing but my phone in my pocket and my car keys.

Then I realize that I don’t need anything because everything I need is either in my mind, on my phone, or available through classroom technology.

I feel so unencumbered. So light. But I also feel strangely exposed without all my things. Then, I’m used to it. I’m walking free, airy and spry as a fairy.

The sensation had me wondering more and more about what I might do without, what I might cast off, what I might surrender.

Everything I need, I already have.

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Another Great Verb in Scripture

This morning, I notice how often we’re told that God “guards” our lives. In Psalm 97:10, we read that the Lord “guards the lives of his faithful ones.” The verb guard is the Hebrew word shamar which means to watch closely, observe carefully, exercise great care over, or to heed well.

It’s the same verb we read when Adam is told to “keep” care of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:15; it’s also the verb to describe how the cherubim “guard the way to the tree of life” in Genesis 3:24. It’s the verb Cain uses when he asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

475 times we read of this verb shamar, and each time, it means carefully protect, carefully hold, carefully guard, and carefully observe.

It’s so comforting to think that I am carefully protected, held, guarded, and observed by God today. In Psalm 121:3, we’re told that “the God who keeps you will not slumber.”

At all times, we’re carefully held.

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Your Symbols of Wealth

I’m writing about regional symbols of wealth for a project, and I ask my students what wealth looks like here in college.

I had to google search some of their answers because I’m that out of touch. Apparently, it’s the Canada Goose brand of outerwear, the Lululmon athletic clothing, and of course, your Beats headphones. With these three items alone, you have a seat at the rich table in college.

And it’s a coveted, essential seat. People know you–and your family–by these brands. More than your character or ideas, it’s your brands. 

I talk about different areas of the country and what wealth looks like there. For some, it’s the right activities–lacrosse and summer camp–and for others it’s where you vacation. Others report wealth is about remodeling, and this remodeling must include granite. 
And, of course, you add in the Apple watch everywhere. 
I’m interested in how arbitrary the symbols become and how they change. I want to expose the trap of it, the false and empty social pressure of it. Once, I’m told by some, the rich club meant the Outer Banks vacation (with the OBX bumper sticker to authenticate your experience) and the Highander. Now, it’s the two-week rented villa in Italy and the Lexus. The stakes get higher and higher and the pressure more laughable. 
Ask a teenager here, and they know the rules: the elite wear Ugg boots and Northface. But in Richmond, Virginia it’s all Nike and Lilly Pulitzer. The Ugg boots and Northface seem ridiculous to some there, even in cold weather. 
It’s silly, really. I wonder how to help my daughters rise above it and value themselves and others for who they are. 
That’s what I’m studying and asking others about. Living with flair means I’m free from categorizing others, and I live beyond a need to belong in this club or evaluate others by their brands.
I know it’s hard. It’s an ancient problem. The day I wore Guess jeans to school in 1987, with a Benetton t-shirt, I felt like I belonged. You too?

Would you help me with my project? What are the symbols of wealth in your part of the world?

Thank you!

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No Turtle

Five years ago, I convinced myself that a turtle was hibernating under our deck. When Spring came, I attempted to lure him out with treats. Luring the Turtle filled my heart with anticipation and wonder as I watched the yard for that enormous turtle.

Every day, I peeked out the window to see.

Yesterday, repairmen came to fix our old deck. They ripped up disintegrating wood to reveal the depths of my deck’s underside.

I walked out there in my socks to witness what was for so long unknown to me. Would I see dozens of turtles half-buried in leaves and soil? 

Nothing. Just old leaves, a tennis ball, and rocks. Even the mysterious skunk tunnel was just a boring abandoned hole.
But I remembered the anticipation and hope I felt 5 years ago. I thought to myself that maybe, just maybe, the turtle went deeper. Maybe, just maybe, many mysterious creatures hide in deep burrows that I cannot see.

I chose to keep the hope alive, and I’ll peek out every day, just in case. 

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The Same Old Thing Every Day: How Spiritual Disciplines Saved My Life

“Do you have to do this every day?” My youngest flops down on my caramel colored bedspread and rolls over onto her stomach. She’s asking out of curiosity, not annoyance.

“Yes,” I say. “It changes me.” 
I’m in the same rocking chair where I cradled her in my arms 10 years ago. I glance out the window at the Weeping Cherry and the swirls of an orange and pink sunrise. I drink coffee with hazelnut creamer from a mug that says, “Put Your Big Girl Panties On and Get Over It.” 
It’s the same thing every day: coffee, rocking chair, and sunrise. To my right, in a blue wicker basket, I have my essential tools including Hannah Whitall Smith’s God is Enough, the green Bible my friend Elizabeth gave me in 1994, my journal, and my favorite pen (the Pilot G-2 ultra fine point). 
Then, the ritual–the dance–begins. It’s just Jesus and me as I read an entry from God is Enough, underlining and sighing in agreement with her words. I’m talking to Jesus about what I’m feeling, what I’m worried about, and what’s coming ahead. I turn to the Psalms and read the next five. I’m asking Jesus to teach me, to change me. I’m asking Jesus to let His word work within me. I find I’m confessing bad attitudes and shedding off the old me like snake skin.
The new me comes into view, hazy at first and then fully here. I’m anchored again. I remember who I am. I open my journal and cry out to God in numbered lists about my children and husband. I pray over what’s coming in this day. When I close the old journal and the equally worn Bible, I feel emptied out of every dusty thing that settled upon me in the night. 
By 8:00 AM, I’m out the door, walking children to school. 
“Do you do this every day?” my colleagues wonder when they realize the time commitment of walking a mile to school every day.
“Yes,” I say. “It changes me.” 
I’m not just walking; I’m composing a symphony with the rhythm of my steps; I’m forging invisible tethers of love to my neighbors that hold me when I’m lost; I’m remembering the beauty and simplicity of children and elementary school. I’m not just walking. 
Later, I sit down to write my blog. “Do you really do this every single day? No matter what?” my students ask. 
“Yes,” I say. “It changes me.” 
I’m transforming the mundane into something infused with God. The single most important spiritual discipline has been this daily reflection–normally written in 20 minutes or less–each day for the past 5 years. I’m teaching my heart the ritual of thanksgiving, of hope, and of God’s presence in ordinary living.  
Once, I wasn’t this woman. I lived in despair and regret and longing and fear. Everything within me felt dead or at least missing. I was missing from myself. The spiritual disciplines of study, prayer, journaling, Bible reading, walking, and blogging–and might I add the ritual of morning coffee–brings this lost girl home.
She returns to me every new day in the same old ways. 
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Keeping It Fresh

When you think about your work and your relationships, you want to keep things fresh. The enthusiasm I continue to feel for God, teaching, marriage, and parenting comes from one thing alone.

I will tell you now. Are you so curious?

Are you?

That’s the answer: It’s curiosity.

Curiosity!

Curiosity is the mental state of being extremely interested in something. It’s the mindset that you have so many more beautiful things to learn and experience with this topic or this person. When it comes to writing and grammar, I press deeper and deeper into complexity and puzzlement. I cannot exhaust the topic! It’s the same with people; I love asking questions–even after 15 years–to find more complexity and more puzzles to put together about what makes them do what they do and think how they think.

The profound pleasure that comes from further understanding an inexhaustible topic or a person means each new day feels fresh. What will I learn of you now? What new mystery awaits?

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Do Not Fret: All Kinds of Ways to Grow

Today I find myself fascinated by germination. My daughters love buying seed packs and planting seeds into little greenhouses for late spring planting. They love beets and poppies and snapdragons and lemon basil, and I smile when I see their little signs.

I think about all those little dried seeds that suddenly come to life with oxygen, warmth, and water. So easy, so predictable.

I’ve been praying about growth and maturity with my daughters and what it means to continue to grow up well. When I compare their growth patterns to other children, or even to my own growing up years, I can easily feel worried, frustrated, confused, or even scared.

But then I read about germination.

I learn that some seeds require light; some need darkness. Some need fire to break apart their seeds; some need an animal to digest them to then grow. Some need chilling temperatures; some need extreme heat. Some seeds germinate quickly and others take a very long time. Some seed exteriors require years of softening and disintegration before maturity comes. Other exteriors fall away with the slightest addition of water.

As I read of all this variation, I think that I cannot prescribe a growth pattern for my daughters. God may send darkness and despair to mature them; He may put them in the glorious light of well-being and prosperity. He might let them know the icy depths of loneliness or fear; He might put them under the Refiner’s fire of heat they can hardly stand. They may, like me, find peace as they turn 40 years old and wander, as I did, through a lifetime of desert. Or they may find wisdom, joy, and rootedness as teenagers.

It’s possible. Anything’s possible.

God knows exactly how we’re going to grow best including when, where, and with or through whom. It will not match another kind of seed.

I remember that everything that’s happening to us is part of our particular growth pattern. We can trust the one who planted us and who knows the number of our days. We can trust that all things might be used for our development if we allow it. And we can trust that, no matter how different our growth looks from others, we are following the growth pattern marked out for us.

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Writers and Their Cats

I’m not the only writer who works with a cat standing guard. My cat, Louie, sits there like a bodyguard. Whenever I begin even walking in the direction of my desk, he races ahead and positions himself right here.

You can’t do this without me. You need me. It’s a dangerous thing, this writing. Beware.

He’s a rather large cat, by the way. He just sits. The whole time. With me.

It’s comforting and protective, as if the words I’m writing might bring despair and danger. I’m here. I will protect. I notice all. I am the gatekeeper here. 

Oh, cats!

I had fun reading this website that showcases 11 Writers Who Really Loved Cats and this list of 30 Renowned Authors Inspired by Cats. 

Does your cat sit with you while you write?

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Live with Flair for Kids: 3 Questions to Ask

Today I tell my children that it’s getting harder and harder to blog each day. I feel like I’ve recorded so many extraordinary things in my ordinary days that I wonder if I’ve run out.

Then I recall in Psalm 40:5 a beautiful new mission: “You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.”

They are more than can be told.

In another version we read David’s statement: “Were I to speak of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.

They are too many to declare. 

I won’t give up! There’s more, always more to declare. I’m inspired afresh!

As I talk about my blogging with my children, they insist I must not stop blogging.

“Well,” I say. “Tell me, if you were me, what you would blog about today? What would be your Flair moment?”

As they ponder, I remind them both that living with flair has always been about these three questions:

1. What filled you with wonder today (and the more ordinary the object or experience, the better)?
2. Where did you see God at work today?
3. What negative thing happened that you could find the good, the beautiful, and the purposeful in? How could you spin a not-so-good moment into something wonderful?

I hear their answers–too many to recount–about embracing failure during the dreaded rope climb in PE (I owned my failure, Mom. I laughed at myself, and it was awesome. I was hanging there, one inch off the ground, owning my failure), about seeing God give opportunities to talk about the Bible in class (I told the whole story of Moses to the class), or about not giving into peer pressure at recess (I just said, No, and I did the right thing).

The list goes on, but this is my blog, not theirs. I learned in this moment that asking children these three questions builds a fantastic mental framework for them (one I now take for granted each day) and it provides great parent/child conversation.

I’m feeling so proud of this lovely conversation just as my daughter says to me, “I do know something really cool to share for your blog. Did you know that the delicious maple syrup we enjoy on our pancakes is tree poop? Tree poop. It’s like waste that the tree doesn’t need. It’s poop. Essentially poop. That’s right, tree poop. It’s a byproduct of tree respiration.”

I exclaim that the tree poop comment is the opposite of a live with flair moment because she’s taken a delicious thing and turned it into something gross. She’s laughing so hard. It’s not really scientifically accurate, but now we’re all laughing.

“That’s not living with flair,” I say. “That’s so gross!”

“I know! But it’s funny.”

Everyone is laughing, and we’ll never see Saturday Morning Pancakes the same way again. I suppose, for some of us, living with flair means plain old laughter at the expense of maple syrup.

And for the rest of us, we’ll stick with wonder, God at work, and finding the good. 

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