Well–the Lord is so kind. I set a writing day for myself today (if you remember, my last writing day involved my emergency room kidney stone surgery!), and I hardly believed it would happen. Would I find the motivation? Would my mind feel clear? Would I want to write? Would another health crisis befall me?
I arrive to my writing desk full of fresh energy and new ideas after a hearty breakfast. And it’s the most perfect setting you can imagine: Snow is falling in Pennsylvania. The house is warm and quiet. I’m sipping water. Every few minutes, I glance up to see the snow accumulating on the bare, dark branches. It’s a bleak winter sky. I love writing in the snowfall!
Back to writing.
This morning I remember Hebrews 11:6: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
I consider what I’m doing without faith. I want to earnestly seek God and live a life of faith down to the tiniest morsel of my life, especially in those areas where I might claim self-sufficiency. What does it look like to apply a life of faith to ordinary things? To housekeeping, to a job, to walking about the day? May God increase our faith and help us live by faith. May God help us see His sustaining power and ability to transform any situation into which we invite Him. By faith, may God use us mightily to bless others. By faith, may God work miracles through us and around us today. By faith, might we perceive Jesus here–right now.
I find it’s not as difficult to stay properly hydrated if you just add water to everything. A glass at every meal. A water bottle in your hands in between meals. A tall glass after dinner and right when you wake up. Just add water. Not surprisingly, you’ll gain energy, better skin, and better sleep. Your joints feel better; you’ll endure fewer headaches; and, most joyously, you’ll prevent kidney stones!
Sometimes, scheduled plans get cut short or grow longer. You adjust, stay flexible, and trust God’s sovereignty. I learned to surrender to unpredictability this month.
And now, because of upcoming snow, we’ll return my daughter to Pittsburgh a day early. I think of the time I’ll miss with her, but I realize the power of surrendering to the unpredictable. The new plan is also good.
Everything contains a hidden blessing.
It feels wonderful to join with family without the fear of COVID. I’m most thankful for cozy living rooms with family. I love having meaningful conversations with loved ones.
As you know, I’m writing a book on having better conversations. My favorite two questions for the Thanksgiving dinner conversation are these:
When were you the most courageous this past year?
What are you most proud of from this past year?
These questions help you learn so much about each other. They secretly reveal fears (what requires courage) and core values (points of pride) which you all can continue to connect over as you feast!
Happy, happy Thanksgiving!
This morning, I remember the power of kindness. Kind people don’t insist on their own way. Kind people think about what others need. Kind people focus on blessing others. They compliment freely, offer gratitude in all circumstances, and let others take the spotlight.
Kind people ask others great questions and let them share about their lives. Kind people give away their treasures to others. Kind people think about how they can help and how they can make the lives of others easier. Kind people let the love of Jesus flow through them–through their face, hands, and words. Kind people pronounce blessing over others. They enter a room and change the atmosphere with their joy and their love. What if you were that person at the Thanksgiving table?
Kind people don’t worry about being uncomfortable, inconvenienced, or put out. They serve; they humble themselves; and they stay surrendered. They don’t control or push others. Instead, they empower others and love them unconditionally. They don’t wish for people to change or be different. They just love. They’re just kind.
Today I winterized my potted plum tree. When you have a plum tree in a pot outdoors (at least in Pennsylvania), you must insulate the tree against the bitter winter cold. This tree’s roots and young trunk won’t fare well if I don’t offer some protection. You might have a potted plant that you hope survives the winter. Here’s what I learned to do:
Purchase a frost shield blanket from your local hardware store and wrap the pot all the way around and up to the base of the trunk. Then, wrap your pot around and around in layers of burlap or another kind of insulating material. I used 12 feet of burlap, and then I secured everything with this festive ribbon.
In the spring, I pray my little plum tree grows beautiful plums (it might take another year). The more mature plum trees along the back fence have strong roots deep under the ground. They don’t need the same insulation. Maybe this year, they’ll produce fruit at last.
I take my cues from nature. Some of us need to wrap ourselves up and create better boundaries against things that deplete us or threaten our well-being. Some of us need to help protect others. It’s a harsh season. Bundle up.
Today I remembered to take each moment as it comes as a gift from God with a special purpose attached to it. Sometimes I find myself in unpleasant situations in places I wish I could leave (like the doctor’s office). But then I remember my “sent” identity and what it might mean that Jesus sent me to this location for a purpose to bless and proclaim to others something about God.
So today, when a nurse asked me about upcoming travel, I mentioned my Christian conference speaking. She immediately put her pen down and asked, “What do you speak about?”
I told her. I told her about being seated with Jesus from Ephesians 2 and how much God loves us. I asked her if she has ever read Ephesians or what she knew about God. Did she have a Bible? Did she know about being a Christian?
Suddenly, the appointment didn’t matter. What mattered was her and her need for God. We talked about her faith and her desire to reconnect again with God. She asked if she could look up my books, and I told her not to worry–I would deliver signed copies to help her grow in her understanding of God’s love for her.
Sometimes, where we find ourselves has nothing to do with what we think is going on. It has to do with God sending us somewhere to someone who needs to know Him.
Maybe that’s why you are where you are today.
I always remember how often Jesus retreated to solitary places to pray. I love the power of this statement in Luke 5:16: But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Jesus valued solitude for the purpose of prayer. He valued taking time away from people for spiritual purposes. During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season ahead, I remember the importance of withdrawing from others to reconnect with God.
But how? Isn’t it rude to go off by yourself? No! It’s OK to tell people you need time alone to recharge spiritually. You can even plan ahead for solitude, especially if you have a house full of guests. What about waking up early or retreating to bed an hour before others? What about going on a walk alone? You can tell others you are developing the spiritual practice of solitude for the purpose of prayer. It might just inspire them as well. You might even invite your friends and family to designate times for solitude.
In that special time away from people, consider carrying your Bible and reading to listen to the Holy Spirit. Consider journaling your worries or prayer requests. Reconnect with God and ask to “keep in the step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5). Confess wrong attitudes about others or any sin that comes to mind. Ask God to fill you afresh and then enjoy reconnecting with your friends and family from a heart filled with the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control). In your time of solitude for prayer, pray for your friends and family. Practice gratitude. Listen to the voice of God to direct you for the rest of the day.
Your solitude–when you’re away from people but near to God–will change everything about the times when you’re fully present with people during the holidays.