More Tea Parties

I add a new resolution to my list:

throw more tea parties for friends and teens. 

I’m talking about delicious little tea sandwiches, tiny cakes, and scones and lemon curd. I’m talking about conversation, connection, and rest.

I’m talking about love.

I think about 2018 and ever-expanding ways to invite others into experiences that nurture their souls.

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Without Me

I’ve been so healthy all of 2017, but last night, at precisely 4:30 AM, illness hits. Sick in the tummy and shaking with chills and fever, I keep my aching form still in bed.

But I’m supposed to be out there with a thousand college students at this Winter Conference. I’m supposed to be out there, spreading joy, speaking about my new favorite verbs in scripture, signing books, and rejoicing with students over God’s work in their hearts.

But I’m in here, in a strange bed. I’m in here, remembering that God’s work doesn’t depend on me or anyone. He does what He wants for good reasons.

I’m in here, and it’s what God allows. He chose me for this, and I rest in Him when the show goes on without me.

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Great in Small, Secret Things

As 2018 approaches, I consider how to help myself and others resist the urge to be great in public and large ways, as if those mattered more to God than humble, secret, and small ways.

For some reason, I think more and more about the boy who gave Jesus the loaves and fishes he had to give. That was it. We don’t even know his name. But what God did with his small offering represented one of the most well-known miracles of Christ.

What happened to the boy? I imagine he never boasted that his unique fish and personally well-baked bread allowed God’s work. It was precisely because of how insignificant the offering that we bring glory to God.

 

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If It Improves the Silence

Today I think more about this Mahatma Gandhi Quote: “Speak only if it improves upon the silence.”

What a wonderful quote to share, especially when tempted to use words to divide, criticize, gossip, complain, or lie.

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To Serve and Not Be Served

During the holidays, we aim to put into practice those ancient principles:

Seek to serve and not be served.

It is more of a blessing to give than receive.

Treat others as you wish to be treated.

Mostly, we remember to focus on the needs of others only to find the mysterious, inverse kind of truth that living this way becomes a great blessing and a joyful service to us in our hearts.

 

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Christmas Begins

Merry Christmas!! As we tidy up from unwrapping presents and feasting, I want to remember that Christmas isn’t over.

It’s beginning. Jesus is here, a Living King, who forms Himself in our very hearts. May our awareness of Christ enlarge day after day.

Let Christmas begin the day it ends.

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A Little Dog on Our Lawn: Expecting the Extraordinary in Common Places

My husband enters the house with great alarm. Something isn’t right: Our elderly neighbor’s dog has suddenly appeared on our lawn, off leash, from way down the street and around the corner. We’ve never seen the man without the dog or the dog without the man.

My daughter immediately says that something sad must have happened to the man; the dog has come for help. She’s certain. That’s how it is in the movies. We’re imagining a man in distress due to heart attack or stroke or a fall in his home. The good dog has come, and we must respond.

Although it seems unlikely—impossible even—that a dog would come to our home to alert us that his owner needed help, my husband gathers a leash from neighbors next door, collects the dog, and hurries down to the man’s home to check on him.

It turns out that the dog simply ran away. The man was safe and sound but had been searching frantically for his dog for nearly an hour.

“Well, he came to our yard and just sat there,” my husband explains.

“Your yard? Way down there? Just sitting on the lawn? That’s so strange.”

My husband returns the dog and exchanges neighborly pleasantries, and then he casually asks what the man’s Christmas plans are.

Nothing. No one. He’s entirely alone. 

But not anymore! My husband invites him to Christmas Eve—the church service, the fine dinner, and all the festivities—and he happily agrees to come.

All because of a little dog.

(We joyfully believe that God sent the dog just so my husband would find him, return him, and bless an elderly soul without family.)

I’m learning to embrace strange, marvelous things in this common neighborhood. So if you see my family out and about at church and then dining with an older man tonight, you’ll know the story of the little dog who came to get a Christmas invitation for his owner.

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A Little Danish Christmas Gnome

My Danish neighbors continue to bless me with lessons in hygge–the ultimate kind of coziness. I love these neighbors! This time two years ago, the Danish Grandmother taught me that there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing. Yesterday, my friends deliver me the most wonderful, precious little gift:

A Christmas Gnome. The Danes love gnomes, and they leave sweet rice porridge out on Christmas Eve for the gnome to eat so the next year would be sweet.

I grew up loving gnomes, especially the Gnome book illustrated by Rien Poortvliet.

Now, I have a Danish little gnome by my Christmas tree. And I miss that book that I read over and over again as a child.

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“Stand over here. Present yourself.” Annie Leibovitz

I listen to photographer Annie Leibovitz describe how she engages with the person she’s photographing.

Instead of posing the subject, she merely says, “Stand over here. Present yourself.”

Is there a more honest approach? Is that not what we wish to always do?

We stand and present ourselves.

Who might we present in that moment? Would the truest self emerge? I ask myself the question and wonder about that photograph. What setting surrounds me? What am I doing?

It’s a nice activity to journal about. I was surprised that I pictured my Annie Leibovitz photo of me serving food in my kitchen to children. I think there’s something deeply true about God bringing Himself out through our comforting work in the world. For me, today, it’s serving.

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