May It Carry a Blessing

My seminary professor once said, “Nothing mattered more to God’s people than securing His blessing. There was nothing more important. Everything was about being blessed by God.” Today I thought more carefully about what it means to have the blessing of God and why people would do anything to have that blessing.

I ask my daughter, “Would you rather have a million dollars or one blessing from God?” She said, “The blessing! I’d take the blessing!” She knows that when God blesses, it’s everything we’ve ever needed because with God’s blessing comes His power, presence, and favor. It comes with fulfillment. A blessing means that God pours His love and purpose out on that situation. Lately, I’ve expanded my view of God’s blessing to mean that God has moved in this situation in a way that will honor Christ and work for our good.

I think about sharing in this character quality of God. He is a God who blesses, and we partake in bestowing blessings on others. We invite God’s blessing into the lives of others through us, in our work, in our speech, even as we prepare meals for our family. When we give of resources, I pray that it carries more than just that financial or material provision. I pray it carries a true blessing from God.

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Revise, Resubmit

This week, my literary agent decided to represent a novel I wrote six years ago after significant revisions. What exciting news! I’m learning this about the whole world of writing and publishing:

You keep steady. You write. You do what you do. If something doesn’t hit the market in the right way, you consider revising or waiting for a change of the tides. You realize that others have more wisdom than you. You don’t let either the emotions of acceptance or rejection overwhelm you. At the end of the day, what matters is that you’re still writing.

You keep steady. You keep writing.

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Once Again: After a Season of Loss and Heartache

I take my hurting neighbor to the compost pile and point to what became of the garbage of our lives. I talk about pain and loss and heartache and how Jesus always made something grow from it—some beautiful and unexpected thing that I neither controlled or helped along or even knew to want at all.

I pull back the leaves as big as garbage lids and show her what’s happened since this time last year. I show her the pumpkins.

I think about the secret year of growth from within that compost pile. I think of how we absentmindedly tossed the rotting pumpkin into the compost. The snow came. The spring came. The late summer came. And now, once again, a harvest of some incredible gift.

I think about the times in scripture I’ve read the phrase once again. I think of all the hurting, devastated families in Houston. I think of what it means to rebuild a life. I think of Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 36, and Zechariah 8. I think of God responding to Israel’s cries and His promise to once again restore their lives and land. God restores everything, at some time, in His own way.

I love how, in Psalm 73 we read, “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.” Three times in Psalm 80, we read that beautiful verb: restore! The people pray, “Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.” I love how, too, in Lamentations 5:21, we read the cry, “Restore us to yourself, O Lord!”

I especially remember this verse when in the midst of a difficult situation. In 1 Peter 5:10, we read, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

I view the pumpkins each new morning and those roots coming out of the scraps in the compost, and I remember the secret ministry of God in our lives. And while we wait for physical restoration–that may happen now, in a year, or never in this life–we know that God restores us most of all to Himself. 

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And I Walked, But Less

Today, my youngest begins 7th grade.

So I walked her to school, but only part way.

She met up with friends, and I scooted away.

In this parenting journey, I note milestones when life changes. After walking children down that hill for a decade–yes, a decade!–I’m phasing out of this part of my life. I walked around the neighborhood a bit and greeted children. I told the younger children to have a great day. I shook hands with a couple who were walking their children to school like I once did all those beautiful years.

I stopped by the raspberry patch where once all the children ate their “power pellet” of a raspberry because the neighbors let us. I stopped by the enormous oak tree where we noted how big the acorns were that year. I thought about all those walks. I’m so happy I walked children to school. I’m so happy for a neighborhood, for public school, for children, and for the simplicity of walking alongside them as they all grow up.

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Back to School: Weekly Menu, Lunch Box Ideas, and Snacks!

It all starts tomorrow! 7th and 10th grade! This means I enter a new season of lunchbox ideas, after school snacks, and easy family dinners. For the discouraged and tired among us, I thought about including some of our favorite and unusual dinners that don’t take long to make. This is our menu for the week, our lunch ideas, and what we’ve planned for snacks. Enjoy! Maybe you’ll get some ideas for your family. Click on the shaded dinners for the link to the recipe.

Sunday Night: Korean Beef and Quinoa Bowls 

Monday Night: Vegetarian Enchiladas (roll softened corn tortillas with refried beans; top with enchilada sauce and cheese; bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees; serve with guacamole, salsa, and sour cream.

Tuesday Night: Chicken-n-Dumplings using Kodiak Cakes as dough, a rotisserie chicken, thyme, pearl onions, peas, and chopped carrots. Cook all but dough in a skillet with fresh thyme, 2 cups unsweetened almond milk, some salt and pepper, and 1/2 cup flour. Drop your dough balls on top, cover with lid, and cook 15 minutes.

Wednesday Night: Easy quick and delicious: Israeli Shakshuka with Feta! 

Thursday Night: Chicken Piccata 

Friday: The first Football game and Marching Band show means sliders! Bacon and Cheddar mini hamburgers!

For lunches this year, the girls love pita wraps. You send the fillings in a separate container: hummus, olives, feta, capers, chopped cucumber, and tomato. At school, they can spread what they want on the pita or use it as a dip. You can do the same thing with a pita and some marinara sauce, turkey pepperoni, and some cheese for a build-your-own pizza at school. We’ve got popped popcorn in ziplock bags, ready to go.

After school, they love mango smoothies, fruit, and popcorn.

Here’s to a great year for you and me!

(In case you’re wondering about breakfasts, we still have eggs or yogurt.)

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Write for that One Reader

Last night at a speaking event, a woman came up to introduce herself. She wanted to share with me that my book Guarded by Christ helped her endure one of the most difficult years of her life. She talked about crying through sleepless nights and reading the book all through the night as her comfort and reminder of God’s presence with her when life felt like it was falling apart.

She held the book and cried. When she couldn’t sleep, she held the book and cried. She wasn’t alone because I was with her through those scattered words on the page, the ones that I wrote through my own times of sorrow.

As a hundred women swirled around the meeting location, I sat alone with this one woman at a table. I listened to her sorrow and how God used my little book to intersect her life when she needed another voice of hope to cling to. The voice was my voice that shaped scripture for her for on those long, weeping nights. That voice was my voice that helped her feel understood and not alone. And my writing voice reminded her of Him–the One always with her and guarding her life.

I felt how sacred writing is and how we write because of the reality of someone searching for hope in the dark night through the words about Jesus we arrange on a page. We write for that one person who holds a book to her heart all through the night.

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Back to School Sparkle

I talk to my daughters about having sparkling eyes and a sparkling smile as they go back to school. It’s so simple! Smile, girls! Greet everyone you see with sparkling eyes and a sparkling smile! 

Smile.

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A Compliment from a Stranger

In the thrift store today, a stranger tells me that she was listening to me talk to my daughters and that I was the most positive mom she had ever met. She said, “I hear so many terrible mothers who treat their children so badly.” Then, a young woman beside her told me she heard how I was helping my daughters pick out jeans, and she peeked out of her dressing room to listen to how I advised them because she wanted help from a mom, too.

Everyone was smiling and so happy, like positivity and motherhood was in short supply and I was vital fuel for them.

I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to tell them the whole story of what it’s meant for me to “live with flair.”

I remember reading about being a “positive mom” and what it meant to primarily encourage, stay predictably cheerful, and point out the good in every situation. I began to make changes in my attitude because my default state tended towards negativity, criticism, complaint, and hopelessness. The whole house suffered when I stormed around in my bad moods. Around the time I started blogging, I also started to record five things I was thankful for–and things that brought me joy–every single day. I knew God valued my being thankful. I knew God arranged the circumstances of my life, and that I could trust Him. So I began to look for wonderful things. It helped me worship Him. It helped me live in a state of perpetual wonder.

Today, for example, I found myself so thankful–to the point of true rejoicing–over simple things like my daughter finding inexpensive jeans that she loves, like the way the house smells when I mop the floors, like the way my daughter found a necklace once lost, like how the pumpkin is growing so well, like how tonight we’ll have tacos, like how I splurged and bought spicy guacamole from the deli for our tacos, like how I figured out how to embed and trim a video in a PowerPoint presentation for a talk I’m giving tomorrow night, like how I found half-off shoes for one daughter, like how I went to lunch with my daughters, and like how a stranger complimented me today. And the day’s only half over.

So I love being a positive mom. I love living out this verse: “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

 

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What We Need

Truth: God knows what we need. We think we know what we need, but we often misunderstand what we truly need.

So we can pray and ask God to provide what we need, not what we think we need.

 

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Some Grow Fast; Others Grow Slowly

I love watching things grow. I love learning how plants grow best, under which conditions, and why. Our avocado seed has grown so slowly. You barely notice what’s happening. Meanwhile, in the pumpkin patch after just a few days, we see incredible growth.

I remember that everything in the world keeps its own pace. Everything–and everyone–grows at a different rate. No need to rush or worry; this pumpkin will ripen, and the avocado will indeed grow.

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