All Within the Tight Boundary Line

My daughter received a Spirograph for Christmas. I loved this same toy as a child in the 80’s (and maybe you used one in the 60’s). 

You basically have a small round circle with another circle inside that you stick your pen into. You rotate the small circle inside the bigger one and create the most intricate, beautiful designs. 

I’m placing my gear inside that circle, and I think once again about the small boundary lines of my life. Within the tight circle, a small move of my pen generates new patterns and a glorious picture. 

I remember that it’s rarely about a change of location or a different “circle.” It’s about God’s movements within the boundaries He sets that make extraordinary designs. 

I stay put and let Him draw the beautiful design right here. 

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Delivering It 

I’m listening to a business leader describe the problem of someone being more sizzle than steak. 

I start laughing because I love the following expressions describing those who over promise but under deliver:

Big hat, no cattle.

All tracks, no train. 

I remember my husband’s advice to under promise and over deliver. 

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Because of All the Mistakes

We’re talking about knitting, and Grandma shares her secret to becoming so skilled. “It’s because of all the mistakes I corrected. It’s a great way to really learn because you undo the mistake and then do it correctly.”

I think about mistakes differently when I remember Grandma’s wisdom. 

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More Southern Living: The Joy of Pickled Things

Every time I visit North Carolina, I learn more about Southern Traditions. Here, we’re spoiled with full breakfasts of bacon and eggs and coffee and buttered grits with cheese. For later meals, we eat butter beans, corn, and snap beans with everything.

I thought I knew all I needed to know until I found myself elbow deep in jars of pickled things.

We were setting out lunch after church, and I was in charge of arranging the pickled beets, beans, watermelon rinds, tomatoes, cucumbers, and apples. I learn about pickled okra even. Deep in the basement, all the mason jars for pickling sit from a time gone by before refrigeration or freezing when everyone canned for the winter.

I eat more than I arrange on the platter. And I love pickled watermelon rinds. Who knew?

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Collected

I think about the old phrase, “stay calm, cool, and collected.” It’s funny because I sit here in 70 degree winter weather (I’m not cool), and I’m half Italian and the loudest, most excitable extrovert I know (I’m not calm). But collected? I love this word. 

Collected. I think about gathering up all my emotions and concerns–collecting them from every corner of my mind–and tossing them out the window. Then I collect every truth I know about God’s perfect peace. 

I gather the pieces into peace. I build a fortress, brick by brick, of God’s peace that Jesus leaves us and gives afresh every day. 

I collect it and stay collected. 

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Christmas Every Day

I remind myself that it doesn’t end today; Christmas rises in our hearts every day because God is with us. 

It’s Christmas! Emmanuel! God is with us!

He’s with us today, tomorrow, and forever.

He’s not outside of us in a lowly manger or even on a cross. He’s resurrected and now living within us–as with us as can possibly be–when we invite Him to do so.

So it’s Christmas every day.

 

 

 

 

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The Little Handmade Presents

My youngest daughter presents me with a handmade little candle for an early Christmas gift. She tells me how, in school, she took a piece of yarn, dipped it in different colored jars of wax, cooled that layer in cold water, and then dipped it again to build up layers and layers of wax around her yarn. It was part of a craft for her Colonial unit tea party. IMG_6871She dangles it before my eyes. It’s crooked and strange looking, and I’m not sure it will even work as a candle. But we light it together.

It works!

We sit in its soft glow in the middle of the day, and she reminds me how long it took to make, how careful she was, how she just knew I would love it because I love candles so much, and how maybe we could make more candles for her birthday party in May.

We sit together in the kitchen as the candle burns down, and I think of mothers and daughters from Colonial days all the way until this very moment who sat in the kitchen and talked like this by candles they made themselves.

It was a lovely little present for Christmas.

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Taking Our Eyes Off Ourselves

This morning I remember the despair that comes from self-focus and self-absorption. I recall the day I read Isaiah 58:10 for the first time in college. It was a strange and inverted kind of promise from God. It read: “If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” A few verses earlier, I read how, if we care for others, than “[our] healing will quickly appear.”

Oh, how I needed healing! Oh, how I felt the darkness and night in my own soul!

I tend to think I must focus more and more on myself and my own internal struggles as a way to eventually find healing, but here, I listen to the Lord’s invitation to care for others as a pathway out of darkness and pain.

Back in college, I was miserable as I thought about all my unmet needs and complained about all the bitter things. But I listened closely to God’s words, and that very day, I went to volunteer at a shelter.

Now, I ask God to show me how and where to meet the needs of the oppressed. Where and how can I bless and serve? Where and how can I provide care? To whom?

It’s a wonderful freedom to take my eyes off myself.

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Lesson From the Danish Grandmother

I stop to visit the 70 year old grandmother from Denmark who visits her family down the road. Years ago, she inspired me with her 3 mile a day walking routine. She insists that the walking has kept her as fit and lively as she is. 

I’ve tried to walk like she does. 

“Are you walking today?” she asks as the rain drizzles around her. 

“Not when it’s this rainy out,” I say. 

“You know,” she says, “we have a saying in Denmark: It’s not the weather; it’s the clothing.”

Noted.

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