Leaning into Winter

My neighbor from Denmark tells us to “lean into winter” as we discuss the coming snowstorm. He’s already snuggled into his warm, fire-lit kitchen and making homemade donuts for us. He’s the same neighbor who tells us “winter is the warmest season.” He’s probably already been cross-country skiing through the neighborhood.

I think about leaning in.

I’ve been pushing against. I’ve been waiting for springtime.

Leaning in: to the cold, the dark, and the empty. Leaning in: to the icy days, longer nights. What if I didn’t resist it? What if this season was it–the thing I receive with all its wonder and beauty? What if I didn’t wish it away and long for spring? I’ve been training for this for 10 years at Live with Flair. There’s abundant bounty here. And it’s unique to this season.

I lean in: to bundled walks, blankets and books, hot tea with fresh donuts, empty landscapes ripe for creativity, gentle music, candlelight, warm soups, and long prayers.

Lean in to winter. Lean in to whatever is here now.


4 Ways to Move Forward with Wisdom for February

Lately I’m thinking of a few pieces of wisdom to guide February’s choices:

  1. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Jesus said “no” to certain tasks often (Mark 1:35-38). Jesus also followed the exact instructions of the Father and did not go beyond this (John 14:31).
  2. Lots of activity isn’t the same as bearing eternal fruit for God’s kingdom. We’re told in John 15 to abide with Him because apart from Jesus we “can do nothing.”
  3. Our educated, strategic, and humanly good plans don’t replace the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. We’re told in Proverbs 3 to “trust in the Lord” and “lean not on [our] own understanding.”
  4. If we’ve gone ahead of God in January–perhaps with unwise choices or alliances–we can pray that God “releases [our] foot from the snare” (Psalm 25:15), that we can live free from condemnation (Romans 8:1), and that God would mercifully make “all things work for good” (even our mistakes). 

I pray that we spend our weekend praying for wisdom for February.


The Winter Windowsill Garden

Growing things indoors in winter makes me so happy. I love the fresh basil in particular since I’ll harvest a few leaves for our stuffed spinach shells tonight. Having windowsill basil in the winter means you always have fresh basil for pizza toppings, in pasta, or on sandwiches.

I have the orchid and the growing plumcot plant, too!



A Great Prayer for You and Others

I love Psalm 141:3-4. It’s an odd prayer to pray when you’re dealing with all the things David dealt with. In fact, if you notice how this psalm begins, David says this:

O Lord, I call to you: come quickly to me. Hear my voice when I call to you. 

Doesn’t it sound so urgent? Doesn’t it sound so desperate? Naturally, I wonder what David will ask for as he lifts his hands up to the Lord. Here’s what he requests in this urgent time of need:

Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds. . .

I consider how many of our struggles and problems have stemmed from our words we spoke that we wish we could take back. I consider how much pain we’ve endured in our life by being drawn away to sin. David knows this. He knows the danger of his own mouth and his own desires, and he prays a deeply wise prayer.

Guard my words. Guard my heart. Help me say the right things and want the right things.

Guard my words. Guard my heart. Help me say the right things and want the right things. David's basic heart cry in Psalm 141:3-4--a wise and timely prayer. Click To Tweet

A Gift of Creating and Teaching

In Exodus 35, we learn something amazing about God. He clearly gives a special gift of creativity and teaching. How wonderful! We read about Bezalel and Oholiab this:

Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze,  to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others.”

I love how Moses points out the gifting in these men–creativity and teaching. Don’t you love that God gives gifts like this? Don’t you love that God can fill someone with His Spirit like this?



It’s a Snow Day!

I love that our school district allowed for a real snow day today–even for the students who learn remotely. When we received the alert of closed schools because of the fresh layer of ice outside, life felt a little normal. It felt like it did in past years–before everyone learned on Zoom, before nobody stopped gathering, and before we even owned face masks. Once, a long time ago, we all went to school and we bantered excitedly at dinner that we just might have a snow day the next day.

Today was that day, and it felt like old times.


Small, Easy Changes

I love thinking about how small interventions into your life can create major ripple effects of well-being. Try these: drink another glass of water; eat an apple; go to bed at the same time every night; record 5 things you’re thankful for; walk for 15 minutes around the block.

In a classroom, you can also make small, easy interventions that create major ripple effects. Try this: learn every name; check often for understanding; play music to increase the positive mood to enhance learning; share your life by telling students what you’re making for dinner.

In a family, you can make small, easy interventions that create beautiful effects. Try these: create a new tradition like pizza on Friday night; play one round of cards after dinner; start a family prayer journal; build a few surprises into the week.

Think of whatever “system” you belong to (yourself, your family, your work environment, and your friendships) and implement a tiny, easy positive change.


Listen, Celebrate, Watch, and Remove a Burden

I’ve been thinking about the time Moses’ father-in-law comes to visit him in the desert. It’s such a beautiful account in Exodus 18. It actually offers great insight into how to interact with both adult children and younger people who might look to you for wisdom. Here’s what I noticed:

In verse 8, we read how Moses “told his father-in-law about everything the Lord had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the Lord had saved them.” Jethro listens with delight (v. 9) and then celebrates with Moses (10-12). What a caring and loving conversation! Can you imagine how wonderful it must have felt for Moses to give this account and celebrate?

What I notice next is something so astonishingly vital: Jethro observes Moses in his actual work and speaks words of wisdom to help Moses unburden himself. Jethro makes key observations about how hard Moses is working and says, “What you are doing is not good. . the work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice. . .”

Of course, Jethro helps Moses establish a much-needed system of delegating leadership to help him “stand the strain” and “satisfy the people.” Moses listens to Jethro and does everything he advises at this point.

I think about the order of events here–the listening, the celebrating, the observing, and then the advising. I think we reverse this order or leave out the listening and celebrating all together. I think about acting more like Jethro with my family, students, and neighbors. Before I step into to offer advice about anything, I think about Jethro and all the time he took to listen, celebrate, and observe Moses before saying a word. As I approach my older daughters, I think about this order. Then I can step in and tell them when I think they are working too hard, when I think they should stop certain stressful activities, or when I think they’ve over-scheduled themselves. I have conversations like this with my Penn State honors students all the time!

We all need a Jethro, and we all need to listen to the wisdom of older people like Moses. I remember the day an older Cru staff team member called to tell me that what I was doing was “not good” because I had 19 speaking events in one month! She told me I would soon need a chief-of-staff person to schedule my life if I kept overbooking myself. She told me with wise words that I needed to protect my energy, to pause and evaluate for signs of burnout, and to listen better to the Holy Spirit about what to agree to. She was a Jethro, and I was the Moses. I never had a overbooked month like that again.

Sometimes you’re Jethro, and sometimes you’re Moses!



The Blessing of a Virtual Retreat

I wasn’t sure how it would feel this morning as I spoke from the corner of my bedroom for a virtual retreat on Seated, Guarded, and Sent. Yet so quickly I realized how fantastic this event was going to be! I loved the cozy feeling of speaking to the women as they sat in their own kitchens with their coffee. Some of the women confessed they’d leave their cameras off because they had rollers in their hair and no make-up on!

Over a Zoom platform, the church welcomed the participants and began a pre-recorded worship session. They then chose names for “door prizes” that the church would mail to the winners. After each break, the host chose more names for even more prizes. How fun! After my first two talks, the host invited the women into smaller breakout rooms for “table talk” discussions. The event even included a Q & A with questions from the chat feature on Zoom. A special time! Yeah for virtual events during a pandemic! The three hours flew by.

I thought about the blessing of it all and how, even when we cannot meet together in person, we can do things like this that still allow people to connect deeply with God and one another through technology.



It’s hard to read Exodus and not think carefully about all the complaining. We see the worst in ourselves as the Israelites murmur and grumble and continue to complain when things don’t go well for them. In fact, I’ve heard others teach on this murmuring, critical spirit that can take over your whole life. In can infect your home and work environment. When we murmur, we miss the miracles around us. We forget that God is working.

And we forget to add good to any situation we’re in.

I’ve learned that when I’m tempted to complain, the very next thought should be this: OK–I see a problem here, so how can I help solve it? What can I do to add good here? I’ve also learned that it’s easy to find what’s wrong. Anyone can do that. It’s harder to see what’s right, what’s working, and what’s hopeful. Most of my life has involved the hard training to find the good and “give thanks in all circumstances.”

Murmuring represents inaction. It’s speech and an attitude that pollutes us and others. But productive, helpful speech finds what needs to change and moves towards positive solutions. This works well in our leadership positions, in environments where we must give feedback, and in our social media presence.