Downtime 

I love watching what different family members do to refresh. One immediately goes to her art supplies; one tinkers about; one reads. I write. 

It’s so good to recharge, and I remember to slow down the pace to allow much time to do just that. 

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How It Feeds Your Soul

I consider how easily soul starved I become without the right intake. I can fill up with food and shopping and entertainment when all along I wanted something else. 

I was really after wonder, curiosity, friendship, servanthood, and worship. I need to remember this during the holidays especially. 

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Never a Good Time

I remember the advice of a graduate school mentor who told me not to ever put life on hold to wait for a better time to get married, have children, or anything else for that matter. He said, “The perfect time will never arrive, so just do what you want to do.”

I kept thinking I’d wait for this or that to happen, and then I’d get married and have children. But I realized it’s never a good time. So I did bizarre things like get married and have a baby during graduate school. I’m so glad I did!

I realize it’s the same with writing or any kind of personal goal. There’s never a good time to begin, really. If I waited for the perfect, quiet morning in a writing cabin in New England with a fireplace and snow and endless creative space, I’d never write one word.

So I don’t wait anymore. There’s never a good time, so I write while waiting in line, stirring sauce, doing laundry. . .

I think there’s wisdom in abandoning the wait for the perfect time. 

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For What You’re Not Thankful, Thankful

A woman once told me to write down everything I didn’t like about my life and then to thank God precisely for those things. She said that the command to “be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) wasn’t just about good things. It was about proclaiming God’s sovereignty, power, love, goodness, and provision in all circumstances

Surely not. Surely she was mistaken. 

I’ve come to understand she wasn’t mistaken; there’s always something to praise God for, always, because God is always at work, making beauty and goodness out of disasterous fragments. 

He can rearrange anything into art. This I know, so I thank Him for even the broken things. This is God’s will for me and you. Perhaps this is the great calling on our lives that surpasses career, ministry, or important acts. 

Our ability to remain thankful is indeed God’s will for us all. I pray for the supernatural power to live out this calling. 

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Remember to Include Nature

Some birds approach my youngest daughter, and she feeds them some crumbs. She can’t stop talking about all the birds! I recall the year we took my daughters on a trip to New York City. After a fabulous weekend of well-planned events and activities, it was the pigeons she loved most. 

During the holidays–with so much pressure to provide fabulous, memorable experiences–I remember how joyous unmediated and unplanned nature experiences are. We watch birds, walk in the woods, and observe the beauty all around. 

And this costs you nothing. 

Years later, they’ll remember the birds. 

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A Little Prayer for Gatherings

Lord, help me radiate Your presence–and all that means–to others in the room. Let others experience You in me. Give me the strength to treat others (and myself) with grace and unconditional love. Let the words I say awaken hope in others. Bless others through me in a special way. Protect my heart and mind from bitterness, anger, or an easily offended spirit. Let me serve instead of being served. Mostly, allow me to worship You and stay in Your fortress of peace at all times. 

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Get to Know Questions

I love getting to know new people. Today I remember how much others enjoy talking about their pets, their travel experiences, and how they celebrate holidays. These are three new categories to add to my collection of prompts when I’m with new people. (It’s also easy to connect over movies, music, and television shows.)

Wherever you are, there’s someone to get to know better. 

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Feathers, Fortress, and Father: How I See God Today

I grow best when I visualize something tangible about God–something I can flesh out with touch, sight, sound, smell, and even taste. Perhaps this is why the image of myself seated at a royal table with Jesus (from Ephesians 2:6) renewed my mind so deeply and ushered in great personal transformation.

I’ve been thinking so much about God’s guarding presence in my life, and this morning, I considered feathers. I love reading Psalm 91:4: “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Under those feathers, I feel the soft snuggling. I visualize the great fluffiness. I think about how dark and quiet it is and how still and peaceful. Yes, I need feathers today.

But later, I think of God’s guarding presence as my fortress. I think of Psalm 46:11: “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” In the Hebrew, that word “fortress” means a high, secure, retreat or stronghold. It’s a refuge high above danger. I build my fortress in my mind. I visualize myself inside the strongest building of stone. But it’s bright and high and beautiful because Jesus is there holding me high above any danger, insecurity, or trouble. Yes, I need a fortress today.

Even later, I think of a Father. I think of everything I can imagine a great father could ever be, and I realize all of these things are true about God. Jesus says about us that “no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” in John 10:29. I think of how Jesus says my Heavenly Father knows exactly what I need (Matthew 6:23). I picture His gracious hand and His great throne that I can approach with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). I picture how this feels and what I see. Today, I need a Father. 

Feathers, fortress, and Father: Picturing these images helps me know Him better.

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The Value I Would Want My Children to Have

I experienced a profound realization at a seminar today. The leader asked us about our most important personal values. I easily–and sometimes shamefully–recounted my work ethic, time management, pursuit of happiness, and status. I deeply value such things. 

But then the leader asked, “Which value do you most wish to pass on to your children?”

It was none of these! What I value most suddenly felt foolish. 

I found myself without hesitation wanting my children to value hospitality

It’s because success–and the corresponding values of hard work, efficiency, and chasing happiness–mean very little without community  and belonging.

I’d rather my children have a full kitchen table of friends and family than a wall full of degrees and awards. I would say one measure of success is how deeply connected we are to family and community. I wish for my daughters to open their hearts more and more to the spirit of hospitality that seeks to serve and bless others. As they invite others to belong, they will tap into more and more of the joy of the Lord. 

I know this now after a lifetime of hard work, efficiency, and seeking happiness. 

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