I love Psalm 90:14 and this beautiful prayer: “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”
Moses wrote this psalm that stands as the oldest psalm in the Bible. I love that Moses didn’t ask for a morning filled with food, safety, wealth, friendship, clarity, or success. He asked for God’s unfailing love because he knew this was the only true satisfaction.
This love allows us to sing for joy and be glad all our days.
I see a photo in a travel magazine of someone eating a soft corn tortilla stuffed with roasted butternut squash, black beans, shrimp, avocado, cilantro, and mango salsa. It seems odd to me but also marvelous.
I move on into my day, but I cannot stop thinking about this dish.
Eventually, I try this without a recipe: I roast the diced butternut squash for 40 minutes with a drizzle of olive oil, crushed garlic, salt, and pepper. Then, I mix the roasted squash with black beans. Meanwhile, I sauté shrimp with lemon juice and a sprinkle of cumin. I soften the corn tortillas in the oven.
When I call the family to dinner, they stuff their tortillas with the unusual but deliciously fragrant fillings of shrimp, squash, and beans. They top off the fillings with mango salsa, cilantro, and avocado slices.
These tacos work as a sweet and spicy dinner that I would have never tried had the picture not prompted a new experience. I’ll update later with a picture, but for now, imagine the wonderful creation.
My daughter starts her first job this afternoon at the grocery story down the street. I’ll drive her down, drop her off, and beam with pride that this day has come.
I remember my first job and the feeling that I was becoming larger than I was somehow; I rose up to what the boss required. I became a different person than just a daughter or student. I was an employee.
At fourteen, with my work permit in hand, I became an employee serving ice cream at Mount Vernon. Then I worked at Staples after school and on the weekends until my second year of college. I loved it. I loved punching my time card, meetings all the employees, and working so hard to sell fountain pens back in the 90’s. Sometimes, I blocked aisles, worked with the stock boys, or cleaned the break room. I would converse with the cashiers all about their lives on slow afternoons.
I loved those teenage jobs so much!
After the horrific news of the school shooting in Florida yesterday, I remember the paralyzing disbelief of Columbine. I remember asking, “How can this be?” over and over again as I stared at the television. I remember the shock. I remember not being able to continue on in the day. The world was different now.
The images were new.
I’d never seen students filing out of a school because of an active shooter. Even the words were new; I didn’t even know the phrase “active shooter” or “active shooter drill.”
Now, the images feel terrible but also familiar because we’ve seen them so much. I hated feeling this way as I watched the news.
Our regular, ordinary vocabulary includes words I wish my daughters never learned: school massacre, assault weapons, and lock down drills. I hate that they know how to “scatter” and not gather when fleeing a school to minimize casualties. I’m sad that I must know where the safe space location is to pick up my children in the event of an active shooter emergency.
So that’s how it feels today: horrifying but also familiar.
It’s late afternoon, and I’m crying in a bubble bath.
I arrived home from work and a doctor’s appointment with my oldest daughter, Sarah, to discover that my youngest daughter, Kate–not even 13 years old–made our dinner (her speciality: veggie enchiladas and Spanish rice). I stood in the kitchen as Sarah went to play piano for the pure joy of it and Kate put the finishing touches on dinner.
Well then. Shall I go relax somewhere?
So I went to relax in a bubble bath like a queen. I cried tears of happiness for so many things: for years of piano lessons that paid off, for children that grow up to make dinner, and for the truth that I never would have believed you if you told me that one day it would be like this.
One day, you’ll hardly remember the enduring of sleepless nights, the wrangling of feet to put on socks and shoes, and the feeling of endless afternoons. You’ll barely recall vacuuming crumbs from carseats, searching for lost library books, and later, classroom Valentine’s parties.
One day, you’ll find yourself taking a bath in the late afternoon, crying over this long task of parenting that basically killed the old you and birthed a parent that grew up right alongside the children. And you’ll soak in the bubbles, listening to piano music and smelling the warmth of a dinner you didn’t bake.
You’ll still set out Valentines of nail polish and teenage accessories–because you’ll always be that kind of parent–but you’ll send them off into their day, truly released in love.
When I place students into their peer writing workshop groups of three, I always give them five minutes to answer a surprisingly difficult question. I tell them that this single question tests their ability to build rapport quickly, to find a deeper connection with one another, and to quickly sift through meaningful life events. I want them to connect personally before they launch into peer editing. It builds their investment into one another.
Here is my favorite question for these small groups:
“What is the most bizarre thing you all have in common?”
I set the timer for five minutes, and I’m amazed about the lively chatter and the depth of conversation. Students arrive to my classroom from all over the world, yet they find these beautiful connections. Over the past decade of teaching, I’ve seen groups connect over shared Halloween costumes, appendectomies, meeting the same celebrity, enduring the same humiliating lunchroom dropped tray experience in third grade, or arriving to college with a piece of jewelry given by a grandparent. I push them further to find even more unusual connections like leaving a sleepover due to homesickness or having the exact same corrective lenses.
I believe students feel less lonely, more connected, and more friendly after this single question. We laugh about the events of our lives: the travel, the injuries, the pets loved, and bizarrely shared dreams of falling or flying. You too? I thought it was just me!
We’re not so far apart from one another after all.
I hear a new friend use a new verb: scaffolds. She’s describing how a particular mentor works in her life, and she says, “I just love her. She scaffolds women’s lives.”
She scaffolds them!
Do you know what scaffolding is? Can you picture it around a building? I’ve observed the scaffolding from the buildings I’ve seen in cities and how it rises up like strong bones around the structure being built, repaired, or cleaned. The scaffolding stays until the building can stand on its own. It’s a temporary protection.
I see this mentor creating structure and support around a woman.
What would it mean to live my life as if I’m scaffolding people wherever I go? When someone needs the structure and support to stay standing while God builds their new lives, repairs their broken hearts, or cleans up the sin in their lives, we stand around them. We offer the sturdy presence of God through the fellowship of believers.
I fear that sometimes, instead of scaffolding, we act like wrecking balls through judgment, shaming, selfishness, or fear. We don’t support; we impatiently demand change before it’s time. We tear down what God might be transforming for His glory.
I want to scaffold my daughters, my husband, my students, my neighbors. It’s a new verb with a new image of living a life in Christ.
I think of Sunday as a time to prepare the heart spiritually for what’s ahead by nourishing the soul with God’s word, prayer, learning in church, and worship.
Refreshed, I think about preparing physically for what’s needed: planning meals, cleaning and deciding on clothing, arranging transportation for children, and discussing who needs what in this week ahead.
Setting aside a day of preparation—for the heart and the body—helps everything run more smoothly.
For the first time in years, I felt complete peace at a speaking event. I’ve spent so long asking God to teach me how to do this–to deliver me from self-consciousness, pride, self-exultation, and fear. I’ve also been learning from the best people I can find about sharing my life on a stage in ways that don’t simply inform but transform audiences.
I’m learning to translate written words into spoken words. I’m learning to depend more and more on the Holy Spirit in this craft. I’m learning to love audiences and join myself to them, not speak above them.
I knew that something had changed in me when a man approached me last night after I spoke on Seated with Christ to a group of 80 professors and graduate students. This kind of group surely would generate insecurity in me about my knowledge and experiences, but it didn’t. Not at all. The man says, “I didn’t listen to you. I listened to God speaking through you, and it was very meaningful to me.”
I stand up there and tell the story of God’s miraculous work in my heart through verbs in scripture, and I let Him speak. I become less; He becomes more.
Today I remember to actively seek out wisdom from those ahead of me–not only in parenting, but also in my professional life. Whenever I’m in the presence of people in their fifties or older, I always ask, “What do you wish you knew in your forties?”
(I find they don’t mind. I find it blesses people to invite them to share well-earned wisdom.)
I ask a new friend this question, and she says, “I find the biggest mistake people make in their forties is that they stop learning and growing. It’s like they send their children to college and then they retire from life.” Then she shares a few stories of women who thrive emotionally, spiritually, and professionally well into their late 80’s. “Keep growing. Keep learning.”
I take her advice to heart and immediately think of what I don’t know that I need to know. Professionally, I’ve been studying the skills and life patterns of public speakers and learning more about maintaining a social media presence that blesses without self-exalting. I think of what I don’t know about launching teens into adulthood well or how to build a new life of togetherness with my husband as our daughters become increasingly independent.
I think of what I don’t know about God that I’m seeking. I read more and more about His sovereignty and His movement in response to our prayers. I read the words of those ahead of me.
We all need a coach, a leader who’s down the path a ways, and a person calling us to great things who knows the way. We also can all become that person for someone else ten years behind us.
I look to books, videos, and connections in my church community. I’ve even paid a professional life coach for several months. It’s worth the investment to think of personal development as one of your key tasks at the precise moment when you wish to retire from life.