Things That Humble Us Like Weather

I remember today how fragile my physical life actually is in the face of blizzards. I’m outside of the two foot prediction for Virginia, but I think about all the people in that area.

Nothing we do can prevent it. We can’t negotiate with weather. We can’t assert our own importance or human rights. We can’t throw money or power at it to change its course.

Weather has power we can do nothing about.

It’s humbling.

It’s a reminder that my soul takes refuge in the Lord, and I entrust my life to Him. It’s a reminder that I am small, weak, and subject to even the environment. But I’m hidden in Christ as the storm brews.


A Pioneering Spirit

Today I urge a student to realize she wants to use the verb “pioneered” on her résumé instead of the bland phrase, “help start something new.”

Pioneered feels so memorable, so beautiful.

I think of someone enduring hardship in uncharted territory to explore and to attempt something that no one else had the courage to try. I think of bravery. I think of new ideas, new research, and new development.

The pioneering spirit! I want it! I love it!

I begin to consider unknown regions of my own life and future. What would it take to move into uncharted regions and bring new, fresh thinking and development? Could I have a pioneering spirit as a wife, mother, writer, and teacher?

I feel a new excitement and a rising courage today.



Doldrums and Squalls

I wonder why it’s so cold. I also wonder about the huge snowstorm coming this weekend. I begin exploring weather, and I discover that pressure systems have names like the Doldrums, Trade Winds, Horse Latitudes, and Polar Front, among others.

The doldrums! 

I never realized that being in the doldrums referred to the calm period with little wind that trapped sailors until the trade winds came. It meant inactivity and stale, stagnant times. But leaving the doldrums often meant a hurricane or squall had shaken the sea. So while boring and confining, the doldrums were safe. 

Either I’m in the doldrums or I’m in a squall. Like in weather systems, there’s just no avoiding the ups and downs of life. But I’m in a sturdy ship, anchored to God. 


When You’re Not a Morning Person

I love reading the oldest psalm written by Moses, Psalm 90. My favorite verse lately is 14 where Moses writes, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

In the morning? Oh, but I immensely dislike the morning! I’m not a morning person at all!

I focus on the little verb “satisfy” because it seems so hard to grasp for a person like me who does not like the morning. How can someone wake up and feel satisfied so quickly with God’s unfailing love? What does one need to call to mind to know this, to feel this, to put her toes on the cold floor and realize the truth of it?

I pause in the bed and let the words sink in like I’m a dry sponge absorbing water.

I think of the default state of my heart that complains instead of sings, that sulks instead of rejoices. I wonder what Moses taught his own heart each morning and how he escaped his own despair. I find the secret in his very first sentence: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place. . .”

I’ve wondered for years what it meant that we have our “dwelling place” in God and that He’s also dwelling in us. If I remember, like Moses did, that my soul rests in this beautiful refuge and fortress, I begin to think that what satisfies is this being with God and enjoying His presence here in my soul. It seems no accident that the next psalm tells us “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust'” (Psalm 91:1). I can wake up here, in this truth, instead of in my own moody thoughts.

I leave the bed, but I’m in a different place. I’m in a refuge, a fortress, a heavenly dwelling.



More Than They Are

I’m so inspired today when I hear a reminder that “a little goes a long way” in God’s economy. You give Him what you have–loaves and fishes–and He knows how to multiply it, make it last, and nourish many.

When I begin to think about God multiplying small offerings, I feel so blessed in ordinary, small, unseen acts of service that God can somehow amplify to become more than they are. If I don’t have much to give–financially, emotionally, relationally, or physically, I recall God’s multiplying miracles.


The Clamping

Today I read a curious command from God in Psalm 81:10: “Open wide your mouth, and I will fill it.”

I ask so many questions:

What does it mean that I open wide my mouth? How do I open wide my mouth? What prevents me from opening wide my mouth?

I found this gem of a quote: “‘Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it;’ widen and dilate the desires and expectations of your souls, and God is able to fill every chink to the vastest capacity. This honours God; when we greaten our expectations upon him, it is a sanctifying of God in our hearts,” said Thomas Case (1598- 1682), in “Morning Exercises.”

Widen my desires and expectations! Greaten my expectations! Yes!

But I think about what it means to open wide my mouth–literally.

I’m someone who cannot chew gum or crunch on too many hard foods because I’ll have jaw soreness and stiffness. I avoid opening my mouth too wide for this reason. I don’t want it to get stuck! Oh, the human jaw! I learn that the temporomandibular joints are the most complex joints in the body. I also learn this astonishing fact according to Dr. Michael Roizen. He says this: The jaw is “the only joint in the body that purposely dislocates itself during motion.”

It purposely dislocates. It purposely upsets itself, disturbing something natural, to work. When I “open wide my mouth” I’m disrupting, disturbing, dislocating the normal position of the jaw.

All morning, I think of what’s grown too stiff and clamped shut in my complex life. What can I allow God to disrupt, disturb, and dislocate to enable a wide mouth–a wide heart–that, like Case says will dilate my desires and greaten my expectation of Him? What does God wish to show me of Himself that my clamped little life won’t allow?

Help me open wide my mouth, God! 



It’s So Hard Not to Lift the Lid

Today I have my favorite crock pot recipe cooking happily along while I’m on campus. It’s pot roast with the packet of onion soup, some cream of mushroom soup, some liquid at the bottom like beef broth, and some carrots and onions. There’s nothing quite like coming home on a winter’s evening to a crock pot holding your delicious dinner.

It’s so good I’m not home because I’m terrible at leaving the crock pot alone. I lift the lid and stir things up just to make sure things are happening. I read that if you lift the lid on a crock pot, you add 15-20 minutes to the cooking time. So much heat escapes that you can really mess up your recipe if you keep peeking inside.

Oh, but I want to peek! I want to confirm that things are happening in there.

I remember that things are happening, and I can trust the process. I let things be in my own life, trusting that God is at work, when I cannot see ahead. And I remember that I learned this same truth back in 2010 when I made popovers in the dark inferno. You just have to trust. You can’t peek because being hidden is part of the recipe.



A Snowfall and a Forest

The morning offered me a snowfall and a forest.

Thank you, God, for this. 

We all decided to walk through the woods to school instead of on the paved path alongside the trees. I wanted to find animal tracks in the snow, and I scanned the ground.


Along the way, we saw what we thought were hawks, but they could have been owls. They took flight, and their wings spread out in a pattern of spotted caramel. They tucked their wings back to themselves as they landed on branches above our heads. They were surely looking for animal tracks, too.

We stood there for a long time and wondered what we were seeing. Maybe they were examining us as well.

I’m still not sure, even after seeing all the pictures I could find of Pennsylvania owls and hawks, what we experienced. They were too big and fluffy to be hawks, but their heads seemed more hawk-like than owl.

I never imagined that one day, I’d be the kind of person who cared deeply about whether I saw an owl or a hawk, who walked to school through a snowy forest, and who rejoiced over thousands of days of moments in nature, with friends who’d go with me off the paved path.

But I am this person now.



The Verbs that Shape You

On the first day of my advanced writing class that serves as professional development for majors in the humanities, I asked students to fill in the blank with a vivid verb: “In my dream career, I _____________.”

What would they write? What verb would they choose? Would they heal, preserve, enlighten? Would they cultivate, protect, help?

Back home at my kitchen table, I could hardly wait to see what they would choose out of the thousands of verbs available to them. I loved reading all the verbs they picked that formulate an adult life. Most chose similar statements like:

I create.

I assist.

I rehabilitate.

I alleviate.

All day, I think about what I’m doing.

I want to envision the verb and let it change how I see myself. Recently, a colleague asked if I loved speaking or writing more. I said, “Neither. I love teaching. The thing that helps me teach is what I love best.”

That clarifying verb changed me that day and connected me again to a passion and a calling.


I Walked Anyway

Today some of us adults decided to walk to school even though our children were already there for early band practice.

There we were, walking to school without children.

(Actually, one dad sent his son last minute, so we walked someone else’s child to school.)

We talked about life and work and even our souls. Yes, we talked about eternity.

One mom walking her dog looked on in amusement at the adults who walked to school without their children. The snow began falling, and we all walked up the hill together. We tried to keep pace with a 5th grade teacher who decided to walk, and we discovered we were all out of shape in comparison.

The whole morning took exactly 30 minutes from start to finish, but the connections nourished us all for hours. As we wondered later just how much time one needs to spend together with folks for nourishing connections to form, we realized the answer is this:

Not much.  

So I’ll be walking to school without my children as they grow up and on to middle school and high school. But like I shared yesterday: It isn’t only about the walk, and it isn’t only about the children.

We declared our adult walk-to-school a “Walking Salon” (as in the French salon of the 17th and 18th centuries where people gathered for philosophical and enlightening conversation). We talk about ideas. We talk about our lives.

We talk about eternity.