When She Arrives

It’s time! You may keep a different time, and so might I, but the Weeping Cherry decides when the party begins.

And it begins.

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Offering Yourself

Lately I’ve been thinking more about what it means to offer yourself as a “living sacrifice” from Romans 12 in the context of blessing people. What does it mean to give of yourself to God and to other people–not in terms of acts of service, but in terms of your very self? I’m talking, of course, about sharing vulnerably, of knowing yourself so well that you have an authentic self to give to other people.

How do you give yourself to others? What does it mean to share your life, your heart, and your thoughts with others? I think of the blessing of meeting new friends that begin to offer themselves freely; they don’t hide or pretend to be someone else. They don’t try to please, manipulate, or flatter. They just stand there and offer who they are to you. They live in humility and honesty. They know who they are, and they give themselves freely.

 

 

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Sure of the Who

When I travel, I remember A.W. Tozer’s words again:

“We cannot know for certain the what and the whither of our earthly pilgrimage, but we can be sure of the Who. And nothing else really matters.”

Oh, how I love being sure of the Who! I remember–no matter where I am– God’s great care at all times.

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Nature Goals (and Beauty Along the Way)

As I watch a hummingbird flit across the patio, I remember that I’ve been searching for at least 8 years for a hummingbird nest. Perhaps this will be my year! I find myself wandering through a hummingbird garden in Austin, TX. While I search for tiny nests, I cannot believe all the other beauty to notice that I almost ignored.

Two different bright lizards scurry by my feet, and I see birds of all kinds flying from limb to limb in the garden. I examine the bright Texas wildflowers.

I remember that living with flair means I keep my eye on new goals in nature while not focusing so much on that aim that I forget the scurrying beauty all around.

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When in Austin, Texas

The living with flair moment arrived as soon as I walked through the airport terminal in Austin to see a “taco bar” with brisket, pulled pork and chicken, and a variety of hot sauces. I’m here for the weekend for a Cru National Summit Briefing, and I’m already fully immersed in Austin, Texas.

Years ago, travel caused so much anxiety. I really needed to feel in control all the time, and with travel, that’s never possible. But now–after years of trusting God, walking with God, and knowing that the where doesn’t matter but the Who does–I relax into God’s care.

And it’s fun! It’s fun like going to new cities and eating from a taco bar of the most delicious food.

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It’s Not Always Spam

I’ve been learning to quickly scan my spam email before deleting it all in one lump. It’s a simple lesson, but today I found a lovely personal email that had mistakenly been sent to spam. I don’t know why it landed there. Meanwhile, spam often arrives to my inbox, improperly marked as real mail. I don’t know why.

I’m so thankful I paused before trashing something meaningful. And I realize that what others mark as meaningful might serve as trash to me. I don’t want technology to decide for me anymore.

As I study the changing ways we absorb data in our inboxes and through social media, I remember to slow down, to sift more expertly, and to give thought to labels. In our data overload, we often miss the meaningful thing and rely on flawed mechanisms to tell us what matters.

What social media sites mark as trending or viral often mean nothing and serve no purpose to improve lives or bless others. We have to dig down and elevate what’s meaningful now more than ever.

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The Blessing and the Shaking of Hands

When I end a course at Penn State, I always read the Irish Blessing to students. I actually read it over them, like a proper blessing. I tell them I’m not Irish, and I’m not Catholic, but still. Everyone needs someone to bless them at least once in their life.

I cry nearly every time.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Students cheer for one another and for a class completed. They stand and often shake hands with one another and with me. As I send them off into the world, I think about their future selves. I might not ever see them again, but once, in the spring of 2018, we wrote together all semester. I was there, and so were they.

I pack my teaching bag of vivid verbs, and I travel home.

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Inviting Folks for Dinner

Tonight we host some new friends for dinner. I know it’s strange to gather on a Monday night, but why not? Everyone needs to eat, and this way, the family coming doesn’t need to worry about cooking or cleaning. It’s a weeknight break!

They come. They eat. They go home. It’s a quick, fun weeknight thing. The children will love it because I finally found a meal that everyone loves, no matter what the ages. (If you need a gluten-free version or something dairy free, I’m no help here. Tip: Ask in advance for food allergies; in this case, everyone can have gluten and dairy.)

If you want a menu for your own weeknight gathering, I’ve included it below. You can make the lasagna and cookies on the weekend or anytime you have a moment. They both freeze well.

  • Pioneer Woman Lasagna (my favorite for company!)
  • Garlic Breadsticks of any kind cooked from frozen
  • Caesar Salad from bag salads (easy!) 
  • Fresh fruit salad (strawberries were on sale)
  • Dessert of Chocolate Chunk Cookies (your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe but use bars of chocolate cut up) 

Enjoy a weeknight dinner with friends!

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The Books You Never Publish

Sometimes I go back and look over all my hopeful prayers about books I wrote that nobody published. I recently read in my prayer journal how certain I was that God was leading in this way or that way, with this novel or that nonfiction book. I just knew He’d grant all my dreams to publish all my novels. I just knew it.

I told God exactly how it would go. I could see it all in my mind.

Maybe you see exactly how it will go for you. You can see it clearly like I thought I could.

Once, I was even convinced I’d be a poet as my career. That’s what I knew God was doing.

Since I keep such a record of prayers and convictions–both in journal form and in the actual pages of my Bible–I come smack against my own history every time I sit down to spend time with the Lord. What my past teaches me is that we produce the work God ordains for our lives, but He is in charge of where, how, and when the harvest occurs. He ordains the fruit. He might use our writing powerfully and widely, in published form. He might not. It doesn’t ultimately matter. What matters is Jesus and what it meant to work alongside Him in worship and joy. What matters is how God used the writing to make me more like Jesus. My publishing plan can never matter more than Jesus.

(This is why, in my book Chosen for Christ, my favorite line is that we’re chosen for a Person, not a plan. Don’t you love that?)

And, what if our books have nothing to do with publication but everything to do with the healing that comes through narrative, as if we wrote stories we had to tell for our own benefit? What if our books were for the few and never the many? What if that book you hold in your hands is something to be kept between you and God forever?

As I continue now, all these years later, to publish and speak, I see what it meant to release the harvest into God’s hands. The harvest He ordains is perfect, on time, and for our good and His glory. I can release my work into God’s hands.

And my novels stay for the few. They stay between me and Jesus for now. And when I remind God I was supposed to be a poet, I write down the poem that only He can see.

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Back to Country Music

This semester, my students who arrive early to class to hang out request their favorite country music videos. For the last sixteen weeks, I’ve listened to more Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Thomas Rhett, Sam Hunt, Brett Eldredge, Raelynn, and Blake Shelton than I’d like to admit.

I learn the genre country pop. One student tells me to please just try the Kelsea Ballerini on Pandora.

I do it.

And now, it’s all I do. It only takes one good country song, and you’re hooked. Every five years or so, I return to country music, and it takes over. I play it in the kitchen and in the car. I listen to the stories and smile. There’s something about country music that hits your heart at the right time, in the right way.

So I’m back to country music.

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