Continually

In Psalm 105:4, we read this:

Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually!

How do we “continually” seek the Lord’s presence? Practical tips: a prayer journal, worship music playing throughout the day, Bible reading, attention to thanksgiving and good gifts all day long, directing worries and stress into specific prayer requests, intercession for others, spiritual writing, and scripture memory. 

I’ve even set reminders on my phone for times of the day that always feel particularly discouraging. My discouraging times usually appear between 3:00-5:00 when I’m answering end-of-day email, shifting my attention to the home duties of after-school snack and conversation, meal preparation, tidying, and lesson plans for the next day. These hours can feel scattered and overwhelming, and I’m usually worn out! I set a reminder to pray, and during that time, I have two friends I often text to gather prayer requests.

If you’re on Spotify, there’s a great 90’s Christian Hits playlist that I love. This helps me keep my attention on God when I’m driving, cycling, or cooking.

And remember the part of the Psalm that says to seek “his strength.” You have things to do today that are beyond your strength or capacity. Do not despair! Seek His strength for it. He will provide it. 

 

 

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Good Things

This morning, I considered the kindness of God “who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:5). Think about this declaration about God from David. He satisfies our desires with good things so that we feel young and fresh and strong like an eagle. 

So many of us feel like we’re languishing! Right at the time when we should feel relaxed and refreshed to start a new semester or a new project, we feel worn out. Rather than soaring above the fray, we’re stuck and muddled up. We need God to renew us.

I think about the majesty and fearlessness of the eagle. Can you imagine living a renewed life, full of this kind of vitality? 

Imaging soaring. 

What a wonderful prayer to ask God to satisfy people’s desires with good things as they seek Him. We can pray for a renewed sense of energy. We can also ask God to open our eyes to see how He sends us “good things” when things look bleak. I imagine we must accept these gifts to make them operational in our lives. What good thing is God giving that we haven’t accepted–that very thing that will renew us?

 

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So Many

Today I harvested so many beautiful tomatoes! Our church often sets up a free produce box for people to drop off fruits and vegetables for anyone who wants or needs them. I’m excited to contribute this summer.

I also love having tomatoes to give to guests or neighbors who love a garden-ripened tomato for a sandwich. It’s not as wonderful to keep everything for yourself; giving away as much as you can in life adds so much joy. I want to live a life of generosity.

Let it begin with tomatoes.

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Be the Learner and Not the Expert

As you know, I’ve been teaching for Penn State in a part-time role for over 12 years. Recently I took on more responsibilities and a leadership role that put me in a category of “new faculty.” Penn State therefore enrolled me in all the new faculty orientation programs. So I decided to attend all week long even though I’ve been part of the PSU community for over a decade.

A colleague laughed when I told her I was attending all the new faculty meetings. I’m a rule follower, so I wanted to to the right thing and abide by the technical rules of Penn State.

And guess what? When you attend meetings as a learner and not the expert, you learn. You feel delighted to be there. You make new connections. I already know 90% of what the orientation covered, but the 10% I didn’t know felt like little golden treasures. I learned some new technology to use for my classroom, for example. And today, I’m in meeting about academic freedom and free speech in a college classroom. There’s always more to learn about that.

Living with flair means you don’t act like things are beneath you or that you don’t need to learn something new. It means you attend meetings as a learner, even if you might be the expert. 

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Seek the Lord for Wisdom

When hearing the news this week of the loss of life in Haiti because of the earthquake, of the terror in Afghanistan, and of more COVID-19 hospitalizations, we can feel scared, numb, and confused about what we can do. I’m in a small town in Pennsylvania, but I look around my large house, and I wonder if I could one day house Afghan refugees here. I look at my finances, and I think about spending what I have on others.

If you’re reading this from a comfortable, safe home in the United State, for example, it’s possible that you’re near a large church who might send aid to both Haiti and Afghanistan through reputable and legitimate organizations. You might have the opportunity to house refugees. You might feel led by the Lord to donate money or to give of your resources in some way. Mostly, we can pray. We can ask God to direct our prayers, our resources, and our attention to His purposes for our families when we hear about suffering people. We need God’s wisdom for the days ahead in large and small ways.

Specifically today, I pray that God strengthens the persecuted Christians in Afghanistan and that He gives people wisdom for their next steps. I pray He makes His presence known in a powerful, undeniable way.

 

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First Out of Zero

I just completed an online bike ride, and I could hardly believe my eyes. The results came in that I finished first! First place! Me!

(I felt that it wasn’t my best ride. Maybe there was a mistake.)

Then I saw the number of riders also riding with me.

Zero.

I was first out of zero. 

I burst out laughing because the accomplishment suddenly meant so little. And it didn’t even make sense. How can someone be first if there’s not even a race? Is there even such a thing as first out of zero? If you’re first out of zero, and you know you never really tried and didn’t really do your best, it’s not first. It’s not anything. It’s just a poor ride.

I’m not a competitive person. But when it comes to goal setting, you don’t want to be first out of zero. You want to know you’re being challenged and rising above what you were yesterday.

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“Hike your own hike.”

Yesterday I read a post by my friend’s son (credit to the adventurous Nolan Wilson) who just completed a solo-cross-country trip. As he’s talking to fellow hikers, he gleans a powerful piece of wisdom to “hike your own hike.”

Hike your own hike!

The best way to complete a difficult hike in particular is to “hike your own hike.” Nolan discusses how to know what you want to do on the trail and the path and pace you want to follow. It’s your hike, not theirs. Even if you’re traveling with another person, there’s still a way to “hike your own hike.” You can check in with others along the way, but the best way to forge ahead is remember it’s your own journey, your own pace, and your own path. You don’t need to compare your hike, match anyone else, or see what they see.

I love this idea of hiking my own hike today.

 

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Let Me Reassure You

When I coach writers formally or talk to anyone trying to start or finish a book project, they inevitably lament all the lost writing time from the summer.

They had planned to write! They imagined long summer days of writing, reflection, and oodles of creativity. They thought that surely by August, they’d have finished their proposal, chapter, article, or book.

But they haven’t. They didn’t work hardly at all. And now the summer is gone.

I’ll tell you what I tell them. Do not worry! I don’t know many writers who work well in the summer. Forget about it! For a variety or reasons (family, changing schedules, etc.) most writers never get into a good writing rhythm in summer. And for whatever reason, most writers I know never work at all in the summer.

I’ve written 9 books and am contracted for the 10th, and I never wrote any of them in the summer. My best writing months are actually October and November. I’ve talked to other professional writers who say the same thing. They’ve tried to write in summer, and it doesn’t work.

But October?

Maybe it’s the colder weather. Maybe it’s the coziness of slippers, hot coffee, and a desire to stay indoors. Maybe it’s the fact that an autumn schedule lends itself to writing.

So press on! Forget the past. Don’t ever try to write in the summer again (unless it just happens!). Start your writing schedule next month or the month after. Email me if you need encouragement. I’ll be writing my own book wholeheartedly September-November.

If you’re anything like me and other professional writers, summer isn’t the best time to write. It’s October. Living with flair means you show yourself some grace and start again next month.

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You Probably Need Even More

With the weather so very hot here in Pennsylvania, I remember to drink more water. And I remember what the Italian Mama recently told me about hydration. We think we are drinking enough water, but we most likely aren’t. Whatever amount you’re drinking, you probably need even more.

When it comes to hydration, you need more than you think.

So drink more! You need more water!

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Simple Gifts

My lavender plant bloomed a year early! Just one purple flower recently emerged, and it smells divine. This wonderful bowl of cherry tomatoes goes in a garden salad tonight with my new favorite salad dressing (find recipe below)–a Balsamic Vinaigrette from this website: https://barefeetinthekitchen.com/best-balsamic-vinaigrette/

 

Best Balsamic Salad Dressing

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly crushed black pepper finely ground

1 large garlic clove minced

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

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