Anticipate the Blessings

You know how people can enter a room and live out their rejection-sensitive identities? I’ve written about this before in my Bible study, Included in Christ. Rejection-sensitive people read their experiences through the lens of rejection. They anticipate it. They look for it. They learn to seek evidence for rejection wherever they go.

I believe it’s the same with so many things in life. In the past, I’d wake up and assume it was not going to be a good day. I began to look for evidence of disappointment or struggle. I lived in anticipation of despair and not hope.

But not now. I’ve learned to train my mind in hope. I anticipate the blessings. I assume the blessings are hidden all along the path, sent just for me by a God who delights in my well-being (Psalm 35:27) and longs to be gracious to me (Isaiah 30:18). It’s an entirely different vantage point. It’s an entirely different way to live.

Two quotes I live by now:

The soul that gives thanks can find comfort in everything; the soul that complains can find comfort in nothing. --Hannah Whitall Smith Click To Tweet

I am sure that there can be nothing in our lives which has not in it a cause for thanksgiving and that, no matter who or what may be the channel to convey it, everything contains for us a hidden blessing from God.--Hannah Whitall… Click To Tweet

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It’s Not Always Junk

I enjoyed a classic Live with Flair moment yesterday when my oldest daughter decided to check her Spam folder from her gmail account. She found a vital email from a university involving a scholarship application that was due on the very day she happened to check her junk mail. She quickly filled out the application and sent off the email, but we realized a valuable lesson:

Not everything deemed junk or spam actually is. We review the category; we look carefully at things we might have dismissed. Quite possibly, things we quickly count as worthless, an inconvenience, or malicious might, in actuality, serve as a source of blessing and joy.

Living with flair means we keep our hearts and minds open. We review our assumptions and categories. We embrace possibility and give people a chance and even our full attention–especially those others might cast off.

And, in a deeper sense, we think of our own identity as valuable, relevant, worthwhile, important. I know people–especially younger women (and on the other hand, retired men and women)–who’ve designated themselves into a junk category when they need to move themselves to a different folder. They need to star themselves, move their worth from irrelevant to the very top as a child of God and a treasured possession. In gmail, when you finally delete all the spam, you see a little message that says, “Hooray, no spam here!”

No spam here!

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“Just Show Up and Get to Work”

My husband reminded me of a quote that I now repeat to myself when my writing days feel uninspired.

The painter Chuck Close famously quipped: “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightening to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.”

Inspiration is for amateurs!

I laugh about this notion of waiting for the “clouds to part and a bolt of lightening” to come and provide all the inspiration I need. I’ve been writing books long enough to know it rarely works that way. Mostly, it’s simply keystroke after keystroke, every day. It’s showing up and getting to work.

And then, quite often, the best ideas do come.

I apply the idea that “inspiration is for amateurs” to exercise, housework, grading, or anything else I don’t want to do. I’m learning to just show up and work.

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Active Recovery

I like listening to the wisdom of athletic people. I recently heard someone talk about how, during a workout, you want times of “active recovery.” Some people think of recovery as stopping all movement–of giving up and shutting down–but really, to stay healthy, you want active recovery if you’re letting your body recover from anything.

I immediately think of the journey of those around me who handle so many difficult things whether a cancer diagnosis or the death of a loved one. I think of those enduring another day of depression or those receiving disappointing news.

I think of the parallels to both physical and emotional health. I think of the wisdom to keep moving, to push yourself a little here and there, and to stay in active recovery. It’s less of a push and strain of a full kind of living, but it’s still movement. It’s still growth. It’s still pushing forward.

It means getting out of bed to face the day. I remember a student coming to class in pajamas after a terrible night. At least she made it. At least she showed up. Active recovery. It’s doing a little exercise, even around the block. It’s writing a few sentences after a rejection or going out on a date after a break-up. It’s moving forward. You’re not 100% you, but you’re also not at 0%. You haven’t given up because that’s not you.

In active recovery, you get out of the house. You take yourself to a movie. Or you might stay in and bake a treat for a neighbor. You do something. You keep moving forward.

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Connection and Laughter

What makes a great holiday isn’t how wonderful the decorations, how tasty the food, or how glamorous the gifts. What makes a great holiday is connection, and for me, laughter. Laughter, after all, signals mutual understanding. I love to laugh with others.

I pray that for you and me this season. May you connect deeply with others and laugh heartily! Maybe you’ll learn a new dance together, play charades, or share funny stories from the year. Maybe you’ll watch a comedy. Whatever you do, remember to laugh.

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Some Christmas Party Ideas for You Involving Fun Beverages

When my husband and I host the annual Penn State Christian Grads Christmas party, we love to provide a nice selection of fun non-alcoholic beverages. I thought you might enjoy the tips!

First, why not try a crockpot of hot chocolate with a toppings bar including candy canes, marshmallows, and whipped cream? Here’s a great recipe: Rich Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate

A second favorite is a red punch we called “Cranberry Fizz.” It’s so easy: In a punch bowl layer scoops of raspberry sherbet, some cranberry juice, and pour in a 2 liter bottle of ginger ale soda. It will become a frothy, pretty punch.

Enjoy your holiday parties!

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Letting God Plan the Day

This morning, I begin my enormous To Do List, and I feel overwhelmed with tasks and deadlines. It’s a day with too much to do, too many events, and too many people needing something. It’s a busy season!

But first: coffee, Bible, and that To Do list and journal. Why?

I’ve learned over the years to sit down with the Lord first and ask for instructions for the day. In case you think this is too mystical or not the Lord’s concern, remember how the Lord “formed the hearts of all and considers everything they do” (emphasis mine from Psalm 33:15). Remember how Jesus didn’t do everything but only exactly what the Father commanded (John 14:31). Finally, remember that God has prepared in advanced the good works of our lives. The day belongs to God. I belong to God. You belong to God. Let’s ask Him to plan this day for us.

We have a God who is magnificent in wisdom (Isaiah 28:29) and who instructs us in the way we should go (Psalm 25:2). He promises to direct our paths as we trust in Him and “lean not on our own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

So I ask God right now to plan and direct my day by the Holy Spirit. I pray for His wisdom to order the chaos and to prompt my heart in the right direction of where to focus my energy and attention. It’s a matter of listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd in my heart. I also ask God to shape my desires for what is best today as I make a thousand choices. What or Who needs the most attention? God sees what we don’t see. He knows all.

So I let Him plan the day.

I remember to pray and invite God to plan and direct the chaos of the day by His Holy Spirit. God is magnificent in wisdom and will direct our steps. Click To Tweet
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Some Good Words from Psalm 59

David writes powerful words in the midst of Saul hunting him. Imagine how terrified David must have been. Imagine how uncertain of his future. And imagine how tired and frustrated. And now, consider the comfort. David writes:

But I will sing of your strength,
    in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
    my refuge in times of trouble.
You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
    you, God, are my fortress,
    my God on whom I can rely.

PSalm 59: 16-17

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What You Were Proud Of

To end my semester today, I ask students to tell the class about the writing they were most proud of during the semester.

It’s a great question for closure and to invite students to feel a sense of accomplishment.

I like this question as a dinner conversation for us all. What were we most proud of today or this month or even this year? The question reveals what we valued, what we invested our time in, and what goals we had for ourselves.

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