Frothing the Almond Milk

I’ve been frothing up my almond milk to make a delicious little homemade latte every morning.

It’s a small thing.

I realize the joy of small, good things. The frothy foam of the warm almond milk with the coffee is something I thank the Lord for.

Frozen mango smoothies, a sleeping cat, a sun-soaked living room–all the little things!

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A Heart Occupied

I read through the book of Ecclesiastes yesterday, and it brought overwhelming joy to my heart (and this shocked me!). Normally, people approach Ecclesiastes as a rather hopeless little book that makes us feel like everything is meaningless. After all, the wisest and richest man who tested himself by denying himself nothing he thought might bring him pleasure ultimately felt that all was meaningless. You’ll end this book by realizing fearing God and keeping His commandments are “the whole duty of man,” but it normally doesn’t feel very good in your heart by the end.

(It’s not a motivating book, if you know what I mean.)

But when I read it this time, I noted some important repetitions–a clearly stated gift that comes from God in the midst of utter meaninglessness.

In the middle of talking about death and anxious striving and grievous work, Solomon writes that “a man can do no better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness.”

I kept noting that phrase about finding satisfaction in work as a precious gift from God. How interesting that yesterday morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about rest, but today, I think about work.

Indeed, he continues to write that it is a gift from God when we “find satisfaction in all [our] toil” (3:13). Again, Solomon tells us in chapter 5 how it is “good and proper. . . to find satisfaction in [our] toilsome labor.” He then reminds us that when God enables us to “accept [our] lot and be happy in [our work] this is a gift from God.” When this happens, we’re told we will “seldom reflect on the days of [our] life because God keeps [us] occupied with gladness of heart.”

I want to be occupied with gladness of heart! Let’s ask for this!

Over and over again, the wisest king tells us about enjoying work. I highlighted every phrase.

During all of Solomon’s refections, he seems to return to what he commends: enjoying the work God has given us to do. He also talks about trying things out in our work–which I just love. He famously writes, “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well” (11:6).

I left my time with the Lord in His word asking Him to also make me glad in my work, to accept my lot, and be like the one occupied with gladness of heart.

What a great prayer for us both!

Can you imagine being so occupied with gladness of heart that you don’t have time for depressing reflection? That you don’t have time to wallow or worry?

And what is the work for today? It might look differently during COVID-19, but I thought about the joyful busyness of laundry and dishes and groceries and cooking, of the gift of curriculum development and of writing, of grading even. What a gift it all is from the Lord. And I asked Him to inspire and confirm the work He wished for me–not just for today, but for my lifetime.

And I left wondering what seed I might sow today in word or deed. I thought about sowing seeds of creativity and new writing. I thought about sowing seeds of encouragement and wisdom into my children. I thought about sowing seeds of prayer.

I will cast it all on the waters with joy.

Then I went about my work occupied with gladness of heart.

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Just Keep Resting

I find myself so easily exhausted, and I was thrilled to read this article sent by my friend, Patti, called, “Why Am I So Tired?”

I love how the author explains what’s happening in our brains as we stay put in this COVID-19 world. I learn about trauma. I learn about stress. I learn about uncertainty (my least favorite thing!). Our poor brains! It’s time to rest, live in grace, and do whatever we need to do (sleep, eat popcorn for dinner) and feel what we need to feel. She puts it’s like this:

We cannot expect ourselves to function optimally during this time. Recognizing that, and giving ourselves grace in our self-talk about our perceived under-performance or our lack of energy and motivation, is the key to surviving. . . During times of survival, our expectations for ourselves and our families must be lowered. 

It indeed feels like a time of under-performance on some days. I’m not learning a new language or writing the novel I hoped I’d write. I’m not reorganizing my whole house and painting everything (although I am trying watercoloring some nights). I love how I might simply lower the expectations for myself and others–including my students and my children–as they deal with the traumatic events surrounding living in during a pandemic.

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But We Do Have Today

I know I do not handle uncertainty well, but COVID-19 has revealed the depths of how much I rest in careful planning. Perhaps it’s an idol God is shaking from my heart. I especially feel uncertain because I have a daughter getting ready to start college in the fall (and I also teach at a large university). Will universities reopen? What will life look like then? Will anything ever return to normal? How do I plan for my residential classes? What about our finances? What about this? What about that? What about our future health in a COVID-19 world? Can the economy recover?

I can easily become overwhelmed with unanswered questions and my inability to plan for an unseen future. I fortify my heart with the biblical truth of God’s sovereignty, His good plans, and His ultimate control of all things for His purposes. I cannot see what’s ahead, but God can and does. And whatever it is, it will be right.

It will be right.

In the meantime, I recall the importance of today. I don’t have tomorrow; nobody does. But we do have today. We have now.

Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). We’ve heard this before from the wise king Solomon who wrote, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (Proverbs 27:1). James reiterates this wisdom as he argues, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’.”

We simply do not have tomorrow.

But we do have today.

I recall the Lord’s prayer and the statement “give us today our daily bread.” What a precious little word: daily. Daily bread. Daily provision. Jesus instructs in Matthew 6 that “this, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
 Give us today our daily bread.
 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.”

I focus on the daily bread–the sustenance I need for today alone. And then I remember another time when God talked about daily bread. It was for another time of great uncertainty, of wandering, and of hardship. It comes from Exodus and refers to the daily bread of manna from heaven that God miraculously provides. It matters that it was a daily miracle, fresh from heaven each new morning. The people were to gather what they needed for that day only (except for gathering for the Sabbath). The people were instructed not to store it for the next day. It’s a curious command, and it makes us wonder why. We read this about the manna in Exodus 16:

The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.

We cannot store the manna of God’s provision in such a time as this. We need daily bread, and the Lord knows this. He requires it. I’m thankful for a new world in which I cannot see my way ahead. I cannot make plans or store up what I need of God for an unknown future. Instead, He calls me to seek and gather daily bread.

And of course–in the most beautiful and marvelous way– Jesus is our bread of life (John 6). He’s the miraculous provision we need. He’s my daily bread. We come to Him and enjoy His presence each new day. We ask for exactly what we need of Him for this day He’s given us. Not for tomorrow. Today. After all, we don’t have tomorrow.

But we do have today.

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Instead of Always Working

I do love to work, and I love productivity. I love lists and goals and “making the most out of the day.” But something I forced myself to do last night was something joyful and creative for its own sake–not to produce or achieve or work.

Watercolor painting!

I based my painting on one I’d seen online (so I hope it’s OK to post my version! I don’t know the rules!).

Tonight, I will try a forest and a creek painting. It was joyful and restful to sit and paint, and I highly recommend it!

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Helping Neighbors Deal With Fear

Ashley and I made a video for Moody Publishers to answer the question, “How can we help our neighbors deal with fear?” Here’s the link to the video:

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Because of What You’ll Now Build

Today I remembered something beautiful about robins. I had been looking out at the swaying trees and the dark sky as the rain pelted the grass and turned the dirt into mud. I had remembered the way the rain fell all night. Normally, I wouldn’t become so excited about the rain. But I remembered what comes next. I remembered what the mud means, something I learned two years ago for the first time.

Robins require mud to build their nests. This is precisely why they make nests after rain storms (or why they suddenly begin to build them under a darkening sky that promises rain). In fact, if you like finding nests as I do, watch where the robins go after a rainstorm. Most likely, they’re now building there.

I remembered how, when I first learned about the robins and the mud, I thanked the Lord for the stormy conditions in the heart that provide essential sturdy building material. I think of the growing perseverance, hope, and trust growing in me in the COVID-19 storms. The mud of it fortifies my faith like never before. It’s building material. The hardship around me offers the right kind of conditions to now build something new, something essential, and something I could have never built without the storm.

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The Simplest and the Greatest

Our Easter was the simplest it’s ever been in my memory. But in its simplicity, it was the greatest one I can remember having. It included prayer and Bible reading, a meal with just my husband and daughters, a church service from our living room couch where we worshipped together, a time on Zoom with my sister’s family and my parents, a time to watch the Sight and Sound production of Jesus, and then a walk to come.

I thought about Jesus all day. I thought about how so many people are coming to know Him as I do because of what COVID-19 has stripped away in their hearts.

I thought about Psalm 22 and how Jesus quoted this psalm from the cross as He was dying. In this psalm, we read, “They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.”

After all these years of knowing Jesus and trusting Him with my life and all that concerns me, I know it was true then and now: We place our hope in Jesus. And just as the followers of Jesus came to the empty tomb with hopes dashed and fears growing, the disappointment dissolved as the risen Lord revealed Himself. And He continues to reveal Himself now.

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