Not Just to Get to the Next Thing

I’ve noticed myself slowing down and enjoying tasks as the joyful things they are (and not the necessary thing I’m doing to get to the next thing). For example, I often rush through chores because they stand in the way of the next thing I’m doing.

But what if the chores are the thing I’m doing? What if this thing is the thing? I refreshen the linens on my daughter’s bed. I think that tomorrow, I’ll do another bed, then my bed the next day. Why rush? I scent the sheets with lavender and fluff all the pillows. I open wide the windows to air out the room.

I’m here right now with the unseasonably warm air and the lavender. I’m here with the peach sheets and the white pillows and the green comforter.

Is this what wise people have said all along? About being in the moment? About relishing life instead of only bouncing to the next thing? Now I’m holding this cat, stroking his patterned fur, marveling at him. There’s no next thing. 

I noticed this shift in doing things when I went to the grocery store with my daughters who love to saunter. They love to sample artisan cheeses. They love to look at endless hair products. They love to take their time. In years past, I would have urged them on to keep to some imaginary schedule of productivity. But instead, I sat with them and gazed upon all the shampoo bottles.

It was a slow, fun meandering. It was the thing I was doing. And I was with them, my girls, and finally, I wasn’t pushing everyone to get to the next thing.

That was the thing.

And now this is the thing. I write these words joyfully and slowly. And I remember that efficiency never brought me joy. It never helped me relate better to myself and others. It robbed me of the thing I was doing.

So I’m living differently and better.

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Watching The Nutcracker By Myself (and other Realities of Christmas with Teens)

I realize that our normal Christmas routines have changed dramatically with two teenage daughters who want to spend more time with friends than with me. It’s a different kind of holiday season.

I’m making snowflakes by myself.

I’m watching The Nutcracker on Netflix by myself in the afternoon.

I’m frosting all the cookies by myself.

Sure, the teenagers drop in like little Sugar Plum Fairies, spinning and alighting for just a moment or two (mostly for food), and then they’re off to their own celebrations of Christmas and their own private worlds of friends and books and dreams. Sometimes, they’ll stay longer, lounging on the couches like cats who have agreed to put up with us.

But my husband reminds me of how sweet it is to let teenagers be teenagers. I’m the one adjusting. I’m the one left behind with scraps of cut snowflakes on the table after school.

Well, I’m here. I’m here if any child of mine wants to join in.

And I suppose that’s motherhood for me now. I’m here.

I’ll savor the moments I have.

 

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When Shining

This morning, the sun rose bright in the sky. It’s the kind of bright sun we haven’t seen in a while here in Pennsylvania. One Italian Mama texts to announce our need for a brisk walk.

Oh, the walk in sunshine! I find myself so thankful for a bright winter day. I love so many things about it:

I love walking in the sunshine when it’s also cold on my face. It’s such a contrast.

I love the feeling of warming up on a walk when you pull off your hat and gloves, unzip your coat, and cool off from the exercise.

I love watching the sun shine through bare trees in winter.

All day, I watch that sun in the sky until it begins its slow descent through the backyard trees.

I realize it won’t always be this way; some days arrive bright and clear while others slug on with a dark, gloomy cloak around everything.

But on this day, the sun came out. We took it in–we felt it and saw it and enjoyed it. Living with flair means we do this feeling and seeing and enjoying each day. When snow comes on a cloudy, grey day, we’ll do the same thing and feel joy, too.

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The Next Soup and Stories Recipe: Greek Lemon Rice and Chicken

Tonight I’m trying this recipe for Soup and Stories. It’s a Greek Lemon Rice and Chicken recipe found here. 

The folks coming tonight can have eggs and meat, so this recipe works when you aren’t serving vegans or vegetarians.

I’m amazed at how gathering people isn’t as exhausting or stressful as one would think. If we’re already making a pot of soup, there’s no reason we can’t simply double (or triple) the recipe. It will take us the same amount of time, right?

Finally, I’m realizing the benefits of winter soups not only for nutrition; cooking soup in your kitchen humidifies the air, generates a wonderful aroma, and connects you to so many cultures and histories that gathered around to ladle out bowls of soup on cold nights.

 

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A Delicious Christmas Side Dish: Pear and Pomegranate Salsa

I tasted this Pear and Pomegranate Salsa at a Christmas party, and I immediately wanted to make it. I couldn’t stop eating it! When I received a delivery of pears from my family, I knew it was time to make this recipe.

It’s just 5 ingredients, and I found the recipe online.

You only need pears, pomegranate seeds, red onion, cilantro, and the juice from a lime! So good!

I love the greens and reds in this salsa. Although you’re supposed to dip crackers or pita into this salsa, I eat bowls of it by itself.

Enjoy!

PS: Follow the tutorial on that website to deseed a pomegranate. So easy!

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Transforming Insecurity to Curiosity

I often meet with other professors to learn about their courses and see how they manage their online teaching presence using our university’s digital platforms. After these meetings, I inevitably feel terribly insecure about myself as an educator. Sometimes I feel so insecure that I pledge to never look at another teacher’s course again! I compare myself and realize how much I don’t know, how I have failed to engage my students in certain ways, and how I fumble with emerging technologies.

It borders on feelings of shame that I know so well.

But today, I realized I don’t have to feel shame. I can simply admit the truth about myself and then move into vulnerability and curiosity. How else will I learn and change? How else will I ever improve? Instead of looking at this amazing professor’s course and hanging my head in shame, I peer into her strategies and imagine the kind of teacher I could be one day.

I stay curious: What would happen if I learned this new technique? What is it like to teach like this or like that? What am I gaining or losing? How can I stay myself but also become a little more like this expert?

When you accept yourself just as you are but also take on the identity of a curious learner, you escape the insecurity and shame. And you find yourself so excited to uncover all you have yet to learn.

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Far Better Than You’re Thinking

Twenty years ago, my roommate in graduate school challenged me to read 1 Kings 10 as a picture of myself approaching Jesus. If you remember, in 1 Kings 10:1-13, the queen of Sheba visits Solomon. Picture yourself coming to Jesus just as this woman comes to Solomon. Consider these highlighted phrases that show her heart and the response of the King.

When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed. She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.” . . . King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for, besides what he had given her out of his royal bounty. Then she left and returned with her retinue to her own country.

I love this passage because it showcases a beautiful picture of the way we approach God with our hard questions. We come to him with doubt and a mind full of worry. I love that the queen shares all she had on her mind. And the king answers every single question. 

I also love that the woman needs to experience the king with her own eyes. It wasn’t enough just to hear about him; she wants to come herself, and she finds the reality is far better than the report about this king. Finally, I love the heart of this king who gives the woman all she desired and asked for in addition to what he had already given her.

When I forget the character of God, I look to this picture of Solomon and the visit from the queen of Sheba. I come with my questions. I come wanting to see for myself. I come with desires and requests.

And God far exceeds even the best things I’ve ever heard about Him.

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“I’m surprised I haven’t heard of you.”

Today during a radio interview, the host said, “I’m surprised I haven’t heard of you.”

I’ve heard this line before, and I never know what to say. I’m sorry! I’m sorry to disappoint you with my lack of fame and my ordinary life! I’m sorry more people don’t talk about me on social media. I’m truly sorry! 

Not having heard of me has become a funny expression that several people have said to me lately. It normally comes after people realize I’ve written seven books and speak nationally and interview on the radio, etc. etc. etc. They’ll say something like, “Why aren’t you more famous?” or “So who are you again?”

The best encounters take shape when I’m speaking at large events. I’ll hang out in the lobby with folks. When people realize I’m the speaker, they’ll say, “You? But you’re so. . . ”

Normal? Ordinary? Not glamorous? I know I’m wearing loafers and a cardigan. But look, I did curl my hair and put on my pearls.

They don’t recognize me. I’m not famous enough.

And guess what? I like it when they do this, I really do. It’s not only funny and humbling and a little awkward, but it’s also rather biblical. I want people to remember the message, not the messenger. I want them to know God, not me.

So I suppose the fact that people say they “haven’t heard of me” makes my heart sing a little bit today. It also indicates how far I’ve come knowing I’m seated with Christ:

When you’re already at the Greatest Table with the Greatest King, you don’t need to make a name for yourself anymore.

So I’ll keep doing my thing, and maybe you’ll never hear of me. And praise God, that’s OK.

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They Can Ask; You Can Say No

I’m learning today not to respond in exasperation or anger when people ask me to do things I don’t want to do or am unable to do. After all, people can ask. I can say no. Why become upset? Instead of thinking, “How dare they ask that?!” I step back and think that the question isn’t the problem as much as my response might be.

People can ask. I can say no.

For example, after I post final grades, students inevitably ask me to raise their grades. Some even beg for the A. I always find myself so angered by the request–How dare they?— but then I realize that the way they ask for higher grades with such boldness (and sometimes rudeness) reminds me of, well, me.

Don’t I approach God with a bold and undeserving, often ridiculous kind of expectancy? Don’t I also appeal to His grace on days I need it most, on days when I have nothing to offer and perhaps have even screwed up terribly?

It helps me respond with more kindness and empathy, I suppose.

And I’m learning to possess the strong and loving “no” in my life. The older I grow, the more “no” matters. Sometimes the no is actually the most loving thing. Sometimes the no fosters in a work of God we cannot see. Sometimes the no means a yes somewhere else.

People can ask. I can say no.

And I’m no longer angry about it.

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