“Don’t Be Hard on Yourself”

My friend likes to say, “Don’t be hard on yourself.” She’s good at recognizing when I’m somehow, even in a small way, punishing myself for a goal unmet, a schedule abandoned, or a sour attitude. 

So she points it out. And I remember to be gentle with myself. I remember to be soft, not hard, with me. 

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Higher Water, Better Ride

We visit a river to reserve tubes for tubing down the river. 

It’s smooth and peaceful. 

This is exactly what you don’t want when it comes to riding down a river. 

You need storms to come and raise the water level! You need high water, a swift current, and all kinds of not-still.

Sometimes peace and stillness means stagnant and boring. You stay trapped. You can’t move downstream. 

You need a little drama for that great river adventure. 

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If You Think About This For a Moment

I read in Psalm 145 three life-changing statements. 

“The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.”

I had meant to read on, to finish the psalm and move on to other passages, but I couldn’t. I begin to wonder if everything I need to know about God is all right here:

He’s perfect and faithful in everything! He’s near to us when we call on Him! He fulfills our desires! He hears our cries and saves! 

If we’re doubting what’s happening around us, we stand firm upon God’s righteousness and faithfulness to us.

If God feels far from us, we proclaim the truth that He is near.

If we’re struggling with unfulfilled desires, we know we can trust God to satisfy. We know He hears the cry of our hearts and saves us. 

What great truths to meditate upon every hour of every day of our lives! 

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Another Great Parenting and Coaching Question

I learn to ask this:

“If you imagine a picture of yourself at your happiest and most successful in school, what’s happening in that picture?”

It’s a question designed to help them understand themselves more, to help me understand them, and to help us all foster authentic goals for the future.

I’m shocked at what they report. Among various pictures I can share with you, some of the answers include presenting a difficult math solution in a group to the class. What? Huh? I had no idea that one of my daughters feels happiest and most successful in her math group.

Bring on the math group! Bring on the math friends! Let’s do math!

I ask the same question of friends and even myself. If you imagine a picture of yourself at your happiest and most successful, what are you doing? 

I’m shocked at what I report. I didn’t imagine myself at a computer keyboard as I wrote my next book. What came to mind is always people and more people–teaching, speaking, and encouraging others. That’s when I’m happiest and feel successful, so the question unearthed an interesting insight into my writing life: Writing is a means of connecting and encouraging others. 

Perhaps, in light of this new revelation, I might turn down writing projects that don’t allow me to teach, speak, and encourage. Bring on the new, clear projects! Bring me the people that need encouragement! Let’s do teaching and encouragement!

Ask your spouse or children. Ask your friends. Discuss. Enjoy!

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If You’re Bored: Homemade Bath Bombs!

I thought my days of summer crafts with my daughters were long gone. After all, the girls are 14 and 11. But it’s hot. And days get long. And they get bored.

Enter my friend Sue. My friend Sue sends me a link to DIY Lush Bath Bombs for teens, and we find ourselves loaded with new ideas for afternoon crafts. In fact, this whole website features projects for teens! I’m so excited! The homepage is http://diyprojectsforteens.com. I loved making these with my girls and their friends, and we wrapped the bath bombs in tissue paper with a bow to send home. They make great gifts!

We find all the ingredients we need at Wegmans (including the citric acid that they stocked near the canning section). For our molds, I ordered some from amazon.com for under 10$, but you can use your hands, a plastic fillable Christmas ornament, or anything else like candy molds. We had friends over to make our bath bombs, and we chose lavender, sweet orange, peppermint, and lemon for our scents. For our lemon bath bomb, we added lemon zest. We chose castor oil for our oil because of the skin health benefits.

After drying all day, the bath bombs were ready. I took the most wonderful lavender bath last night. My older daughter loves the sweet orange.

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I think they look like little scoops of sherbet. Enjoy crafting with your teens!

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Even in the Wilderness

Oh, how I love Deuteronomy 2:7, especially as a 40 year old woman: “The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.”

And this is before the Promised Land! Even in the wilderness, the people lacked nothing. I love looking back over my own life’s journey–these past 40 years–and knowing how, because I always had Jesus, I did not lack anything.

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True in Our Lives

I’ve been thinking about my circumstances as a way God makes certain scripture passages true in my life.

What a wonderful challenge to consider that this situation I’m in might be the means by which God animates scripture for me! 

If I’m lonely, I will learn that “He sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6). If I am scared, I will learn what it means when God says, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you” (Genesis 26:24). 

I think about whatever I’m going through as a way to see Scripture better, to know God more, and to grow into biblical maturity. Whatever hard or sad thing comes, it’s a doorway to experience God’s promises. 

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Symbols of Fresh Starts

At Weight Watchers, I love how the leader will say, “Today is your fresh start!” after members share setbacks or struggles. 

All day, I think about a fresh start and how certain objects always symbolize a time for new beginnings, new joy, and personal growth. For the last 30 years, one example for me has been a new journal that symbolizes new wisdom coming. 

When I open the new journal and put that date on the first page, it’s a fresh start. Anything can happen in this new life! 

Now, on my health journey, I hear other symbols of fresh starts: new running shoes, new water bottles with fruit infusers, or new music to exercise to. All day, I remember the importance of fresh starts and the objects that symbolize a clear mark that yesterday is over and today has begun. 

On this new day, I lace up new walking shoes, greet the neighbors on my walk, and think that it’s never a wrong time for a fresh start. 

And I wonder about a new journal–maybe something with a shimmery cover. 

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The Fear of Learning New Things

Today I watch some of the training videos to design my writing course for a new online platform for students to access. It’s coming along so slowly as I learn new technology and new ways of thinking about presenting information for others to use.

I’m sitting here in a jumble of a syllabus with lesson plans and presentations, videos, sample papers, textbooks, and exams. Students now access everything from their phones, and they expect my calendar, assignments, grading rubrics, and lesson plans to arrive to them organized, hyperlinked, and beautiful.

And Penn State has adopted a new way of doing this that I don’t know how to navigate.

Fear! Confusion! Stress!

But I’m learning. It’s slow going, but I’m learning.

(Remember, I still use chalk on the chalkboard. I use paper. I hand out pencils. I like to hear the sigh of a real page turning in a book I make students read.)

I made a choice today to ignore this strange fear of new technology when it comes to teaching. If you take your time and realize that nobody is against you—there’s no taskmaster ready to punish you if you mess up this importing of material into this dashboard and that module—you can settle into learning. 

If you realize that you’re OK and still lovable–even if you aren’t as smart or as quick as others–you can settle into learning. 

If you realize that this can be joyful and open up new opportunity, you can settle into learning. 

Joy! Gentleness! Humility!

Sometimes it’s good for professors to become students of something new to remember how it feels to sit in a new space, full of fear and confusion, and need someone to give you permission to settle into learning. It’s humbling and requires a certain graciousness on the part of everyone around.

Just like writers these days also need to become marketing experts, college instructors need technological expertise. Instead of complaining and rejecting this new world–and these new platforms–I settle into learning.

I develop.

And I make an extra cup of coffee to survive the afternoon at my monitor (that word autocorrected to “monster”). Ha! It’s not a monster; it’s a monument to humble learning.

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