I go back to the beginning of Live with Flair and record all the things I loved in the span of a few moments. I loved, for example,
- the thankful face of a student who said a lesson was exactly what he needed right now in his life
- the way the snow fell in fluffy flakes all over my coat
- the stomping in slushy snow that, at first seemed hard and unforgiving, but then parted into high walls around my boots as I walked
- the way a library book arrived from far away because of interlibrary loan
- how I’ve never thought to be thankful for interlibrary loan before
- the sound of a daughter’s voice on the phone
- the feel of hot water on your skin after a bitter cold winter walk
- the sight of dinner already prepared, defrosting
- the feeling of a completed teaching assignment
- the sound of a husband shoveling snow for me
I remember the power of noticing, of thanking God, and of receiving the blessings right here that overflow.
As I pray about my day this morning, I remember James 1:19: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
I think about my meetings today. I think about all the interaction ahead. I think about all the words I usually write on a given day. I’ll probably write 3,000 words. Research tells me that I’ll probably speak 20,000 words today.
That’s a lot of words.
I ask God to help me listen. Would someone ever say of me, “That Heather, she sure is slow to speak.” Never! I pray that I learn what it means to be slow of speech and slow of anger.
Instead, I listen. I measure my words. I stay in the fortress of His peace.
I mostly listen.
In the parking lot of Walmart, I walk past a young mother with her independent toddler. She takes the hand of her little girl and says, “You have to hold my hand in the parking lot. Even if you don’t see any cars coming, you always have to hold my hand. Hold my hand anyway, even if it doesn’t seem like you need to.”
The toddler resists. The mother insists: “Hold my hand anyway.”
I think of the wisdom of holding on, even though I see no danger, even though I want independence. I think of holding tight to God’s hand, always. He sees what I don’t see.
I arrive to my Weight Watchers meeting, and a new friend hands me a jar of pickled asparagus. It’s because I happened to mention last week my love of pickled things and my bizarre dream of having a Pickle Closet filled with pickles: pickled okra, pickled beets, pickled everything.
I realize that now, I have a new friend—the One Who Brought Me Pickles—that I only met last week.
I think of pickled things and how they persevere, preserved in that solution that makes them last, that aids against harmful bacteria, and that changes the flavor into something so delicious.
I want to pickle my whole life.
These past few days, I enjoyed writing devotional materials for a children’s ministry event at a church in Texas that blended so beautifully with things I had written in Guarded by Christ last year. For one of the devotionals, I wrote about being at rest with Jesus in the fortress of His care. If you read Matthew 11 and the famous invitation from Jesus, you’ll find two verbs I love:
Come and take.
Jesus says in verses 28-10, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I ask the children to note how we come to Jesus (in prayer, with our Bibles and journals) and we take from Jesus the yoke that He’s also carrying with us. And it’s an easy and light yoke that’s pulling a cart He designed just for us. Sometimes we pull heavy loads that God never asked us to pull. Sometimes we do this all alone and never come to Jesus in our weariness. We never come to Him to let Him give us rest. We never come to Him and learn.
We never come and receive the very special gift God gives: rest.
If life isn’t feeling easy and light, I remember to come to Jesus and take the yoke He gives me, not one I–or others–put on me.
More and more students come to my office hours because I’ve baited them with promises of chocolates and tasty beverages. And so we sit and have conversations.
A student tells me about her favorite poet–one she insists I will love. It’s David Whyte, so I quickly type in the name, gather his books from the library, and cannot wait to begin reading. Next week, we’ll all talk about poetry and have real conversations.
Meanwhile, I read this from Whyte about conversations:
“A real conversation always contains an invitation. You are inviting another person to reveal herself or himself to you, to tell you who they are and what they want.”
Teaching, I’m learning more and more, is an invitation–just like a real conversation–to reveal ourselves and invite one another to speak about who we are and what we want.
I will buy more chocolate and beverages for next week. We will need them.
The Morning Pep Talk contains a word to remember all day: possibility. We’re walking to school, and I tell my daughter to imagine the possibility of today. She’s listing out all the worries and troubles, and I say this:
But imagine all that might happen! Imagine the possibility of today! You might possibly meet your best friend–the one you’ll share an apartment with in your twenties and call when you have good news when you’re old. You might possibly have the best idea you have ever had in your life today, and it might happen in Science class or during Geography. Consider the possibilities of some great thing that’s been designated by God for today. This day! Girl! On this day, you can live in possibilities. Look ahead to what might be! This day could change everything. Think, just think, of the possibilities. God says we cannot even imagine–even if we tried our hardest–to know the things He has planned for us. This day is here! Go out there and live in possibility. People look back on their lives and note single moments where everything changed. Go and find single moments today of bright and glorious possibility!
The atmosphere around us changes. The colors look deeper; I note the blackness of the trees and the soft blue sky meeting the rising golden sun. The icy snow squishes under our shoes. Our steps take on a deliberate rhythm. We look ahead into possibility, and the whole day starts shimmering. We train our mind in hope. We train our mind to see possibility.
At 8:45 AM this morning, I drove by a family building an enormous snowman in their front yard. A butter yellow dog lounged beside them, half buried in a snow drift. Three (or were there four?) children danced around in the snow as the father hefted a round snow belly up to continue building the snowman.
The whole scene brought a smile to my face, mostly because I looked at the time. I remembered those days when it wasn’t unusual to feel like a whole day had passed and the time read merely 8:45 AM. I imagined how long the children had been awake already and how snowman building was just part of this long snowy morning. I smiled, too, about that happy dog. Dogs in the snow make me so happy, every single time. They roll around in it. They eat it. They bury themselves in it. They take a nap in it.
I drove on, smiling about dogs and early-rising children and snowmen and dads who lift up middles made of snow. I thought about them now going in to drink hot cocoa, then off again to sled. But mostly, I loved that butter yellow dog.
I cancel all meetings. I arrange a nest of warm blankets and pillows on the couch.
I bring out the Sick Tray–the red handled serving tray painted with strawberries.
My youngest is sick with fever, cough, chills, headache–it’s kept her from school and therefore kept me from work.
The Sick Tray arrives to her side with hot tea, fresh fruit, toast, and medicine in the morning. It returns to the kitchen all day and then appears with popsicles and gingerale mid-morning and with ice water and more tea by lunch. I watch movies with her, diffuse essential oils, and fold laundry. I answer emails and finish coursework as I now reassemble the Sick Tray with the thermometer and more medicine.
But it’s just as I hoped and what the Sick Tray encourages: the fever is long gone. Now we enjoy the afternoon in sweet recovery.
And the sick tray goes home to its drawer for another day.
I love the hope of Psalm 118:5-8:
“In my anguish, I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? . . . It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”
Yesterday, I read this from Psalm 108:12: “Give us aid against the enemy, for the help of man is worthless.”
When I consider God’s power and what it means to take refuge in Him, I know I trust in this Name and ultimately no other.