When It’s Harder to Count Your Blessings

My neighbor and I discussed the difficulty of counting your blessings when you’re in a hard season of life. Since we’re both exceedingly positive people, you know things are rough if even we have a hard time finding the good.

I love keeping the gratitude journal for such a time as this. When it’s especially hard to count one’s blessings, the challenge is to force yourself to fill a page in your journal. I’m thanking God for the rain, for friends, for medicine, for God’s timing, for family, for laughter, for a soft bed, for a warm bath, for pickles, for meaningful work, for the Bible, for the Holy Spirit’s comfort, for hope, for a future in heaven, for watermelons growing on the vine, for my cat pouncing on butterflies in the backyard, for big bear hugs, for seasons, for how the brain loves to learn, for God giving us a purpose, for spiritual gifts, for turtles, for how a cat bathes herself, for tomatoes from the neighbor’s garden, for friends who text funny memes, for small towns, for great stories, for great food, for popsicles, for nice writing pens, for blackberries, sunsets, and early morning walks. 

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A Day Off and a Reset

I didn’t write yesterday. I took a day off, and it reminded that living with flair means it’s always a good practice to reset. Enduring a bad case of COVID feels like a whole-body reset. I’ve done nothing but hydrate, take vitamins, and eat to support my health. Now, I’m reset. I pray for the new me to emerge healthier and stronger post-COVID.

Today, I still have no smell and hardly any ability to taste. There’s a lingering cough. Overall, day 5 is much better. I might even take a walk today if I can.

If you start having symptoms and test positive for COVID, here is the list of things I wish I had ready. Maybe this will help you stock up in preparation: Vitamin C, D3, and Zinc. Tylenol or other fever reducers. Electrolyte replacement drinks. A good thermometer. A pulse oximeter. A box of tissues. Cough drops. And maybe the most important: A Netflix account! 

 

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“The day you feel better is the day you stay in bed.”

I woke up this morning and felt a little better. I started to think of things I might do. But I immediately remembered the words of Nurse Karen from Camp Greystone during the summer of 1998 when I had some kind of intestinal virus. I stayed in the Health Hut for a week! I couldn’t wait to leave. On the day my fever broke and I could eat again, I raced down to the Dining Hall, ready to reintroduce myself to society.

“Heather! Heather! What are you doing?” Nurse Karen cried out. “Get back into your bed!” She shook that loving finger at me and frowned.

“But I feel better today! I finally feel better!” I protested.

She said the words I never forgot all these years later. “The day you feel better is the day you stay in bed.” She explained it like this: “You always need one more day than you think you do to recover. If people rush out on the first day they feel good, they relapse. They push their body too hard. They think they are healed when they always need one more day.” 

She was right. Even as I dragged myself back up the hill to the Health Hut, I knew my body wasn’t ready. I spent one more day in those crisp white camp sheets with fans cooling the room, sipping watered-down Gatorade and eating crackers. I slept and slept. I felt great. I listened to the cheerful sounds of campers and followed the bugle schedule from afar. I stayed in bed.

And the next day, I went back to work.

The doctor said to give this COVID variant a full 5 days. I’m on day 3. When I feel better, that’s the day I’ll stay in bed.

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As If Sent

Let me state the irony: I wrote a whole book on living a sent life as if applies to me. I’m always praying that God would send me. I didn’t expect to be the recipient of God sending you

It started this morning when I was worried about what to actually do about Covid. We didn’t qualify for the antivirals, and the local doctor suggested we just wait it out. But it’s so hard to wait when you feel terrible and you’re scared. Just as I’m thinking these things, I receive two different messages from my most intelligent friends suggesting a protocol of vitamins. Another friend provided a pulse oximeter as if she were God’s personal answer to our prayers. (It does provide some peace to know you’re getting enough oxygen.) Later, when our sore throats were raging and all I wanted was an icy cold popsicle, my friend Sandy dropped my favorite kind off on the doorstep as if sent by an angel. Maybe she was. I never even mentioned popsicles to anyone, yet God put them on her heart.

God also provided a kind tele-heath doctor who made me laugh on the phone. I told him I surely qualified for the antivirals because I’m so unhealthy and so overweight. I’d been feeling like a big blob ever since my surgeries. He laughed and said, “You’re not that bad!” I said, “We’ll, I’m not at my Weight Watchers goal.” He said, “You’ll reach your goal in no time!” He was so kind and so encouraging that I got off the phone thinking, I will! I will reach my Weight Watchers goal! 

I wasn’t sent to anyone today. You all were sent to me. And now I’m crying.

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Enduring Covid

My family tested positive for Covid this week. It isn’t easy. It’s probably the worst virus I’ve ever had (except for the Norovirus back in 2010 that lasted 14 days). In our case, we’ve been in bed or on the couch since Saturday night. In the spirit of documenting our family trial, I will report that the fever and chills are rough. They will keep you in bed, shivering and miserable, even with meds. The headache is painful. You might have aches like us. You also might have a raging sore throat. You won’t sleep well. Some people, I’ve heard, recover in just a few days. Others take longer. My husband now has a cough. You might have bizarre dreams like my very vivid and detailed conversation with a friend. I also apparently watched the sinking of the Titanic in real time on youtube at 3:00 AM. Ha! We rotate caring for each other based on which family member feels the best at the time. Yes, we are vaccinated. No, we’ve not had Covid before. Yes, we tested positive on the home test.

But, in the spirit of living with flair, I’ll record the extraordinary blessings:

We are all home and not traveling or stuck in some strange hotel. We have a well-stocked medicine cabinet. We have plenty of hydration. We have neighbors who already committed to 7 days of meals delivered. Another neighbor just picked up Instacart for us. I’m thanking God for the comforts He provides. He is the God of all comfort and an ever-present help in time of need. 

Day by day, we trust Him.

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Do This First

Right as July turns to August, I feel the rush of a new semester starting. Speaking events, radio interviews, podcasts, university meetings, manuscript deadlines–all of it. This list doesn’t include the regular tasks of keeping a home, organizing family events, and spending time with people. This list doesn’t include meal-planning and cooking which can take the better part of a day! How do people stay organized and make the right choices with their time?

The most strategic thing I’ve learned to do is pray first.

In John 14, Jesus says, “I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”Jesus took instructions from God. He didn’t say yes to every need; He didn’t go to all the places people wanted Him to go. My mentor at Michigan once told me this: Jesus didn’t come to meet the needs of people but to do the will of the Father. That statement struck me profoundly. Everyone needed Jesus, but He only did exactly what the Father told Him to do. I think He was letting us see the secret to planning a day.

Praying first means I talk to God about the opportunities before me and ask God for wisdom and direction. I ask these kinds of questions: If I say “yes,” how will it impact my marriage and family? Will it be a blessing, increase oneness in my marriage, and help advance my goals of loving God and loving others? Do I feel increasing peace about a “yes” or do I feel confused and unsettled?

There’s a reason I keep my family calendar at home in my kitchen and not on my phone. I never have a calendar physically with me. Why? This way, I can say, “I don’t have my planner with me, but I will get back to you in the next few days.” Keeping my calendar away from me (and not on my phone), gives me a buffer to take time to pray and check in with my family before I commit to anything.

I place my schedule in front of God. I ask for wisdom, direction, and peace. I take out what needs to go and put in what needs to be there. I want to do exactly what God wants me to, no more and no less.

 

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How to Scare the Enemy

I hear a story from Beth Guckenberger (director of B2B Ministries for orphan care) that I cannot stop thinking about. She tells a story of how she’d been thinking about Luke 10:19 and praying about it. Here, Jesus says: “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” At the time she was thinking about this verse, her husband sends her a picture from India where a man is using a strange technique to keep a King Cobra snake from harming him. 

The man holds up a tiny piece of snake cartilage in between his thumb and forefinger, and the snake slithers away in fear. Beth used the illustration and video to show us a picture of a snake retreating in fear. It’s a great picture of our authority over the power of the enemy.

But I couldn’t get over the first part and how it was dead tissue that most scared the snake. I thought about how Satan cannot handle the truth of our own crucified life and how we are dead to sin and alive in Christ. He slithers back when we hold up the truth of a life now hidden in Christ. I hold up my old, dead life and proclaim to Satan that I belong to Jesus now. And the enemy runs and hides.

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Recombobulation

This morning at the Milwaukee airport, I found a delightful sign right outside of security. It’s the Recombobulation Area. Apparently, the airport director created the signs to provide comic relief in a moment of stress. Getting through security can feel chaotic, and when you  finally get your bags, you often find yourself (depending on whether you have TSA Precheck), having to put your shoes, belt, and jacket back on and then putting your small liquids back into your suitcase. It feels discombobulating.

Hence, the Recombobulation Area.

I like the idea of having a space and time for recombobulating.

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Worship Dancing

After I spoke on living a sent life, a group of dancers came up on the stage and danced to a special song with a chorus that began with the words, “Send me!”

Their movements were so beautiful as they told a story of being sent. I watched as they danced across the stage, twirling with joy and freedom as ones who know how carefully kept they are in God’s hand. Within this freedom, they could jump and extend themselves fully and beautifully. They could go in any direction God would fling them.

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Speaking for Cru22 on Living a Sent Life

This morning, I loved speaking for Cru’s National Staff Conference in Milwaukee. What a joyful time to share all God has been teaching me about telling others about Jesus. Here are some photos from the event

Thank you for praying for me!

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