Another Great Question to Ask Your Children

I have a friend who reminds me so much of my sixteen year old daughter. I decide to ask this wonderful friend what helped her connect so well with her mother–especially since the two have such a great relationship now in adulthood.

She tells me to ask my daughter to “tell me a story” about her day. It’s such a simple question: “Do you have a story about your day?” She loved it when her mom would ask her this question.

Something about inviting children of any age to tell you a story of something that happened to them makes them feel less stressed out, less interrogated, and less closed off. It’s a non-judgmental question, too. And I’m learning that everyone likes to tell a good story.

I plop down on her bed while she’s getting ready for work, and I ask, “Do you have a good story about your day so far?”

My friend also reminds me to let my daughter share as many details as she wants because, to her, they matter to the story. I’m normally telling my teen to “get to the point” or “bottom-line it” but that just shuts her down and harms our connection.

So I ask for the story.

And then, I hear all the great stories. 

She feels loved, and I feel connected.


When Your Southern Husband Cooks Dinner

My husband announced that he will cook dinner tonight since he has southern barbecue defrosting from the freezer–sent home from North Carolina. I imagine we’ll have barbecue sandwiches with maybe some fruit. Oh, no. I’m told he’ll fry hushpuppies, serve “slaw” and whip up some southern potato dish.

My favorite thing about today is the promise of hushpuppies. 

While I’m trying to fully inhabit my Pennsylvania life and perfect my Philly Cheesesteak recipe, I have a husband frying hushpuppies to serve with barbecue and slaw.



When All the Socks Find Their Match

It was a small moment: I folded the fresh, warm load of laundry on our bed. Something about folding laundry and putting it away makes me happy; it’s one project completed in a day full of long projects with looming deadlines.

And then, the scattered socks–blue, brown, patterned, and white–all found their matches. It was a moment of order and satisfaction.

And I was thankful for even socks matching.


Thankful for Lunch

I often go back to the original concept for Live with Flair: to find the meaningful and beautiful thing in an otherwise ordinary day. I wrote every day to cultivate a thankful, joyful heart. I wrote in order to pause, to notice, and to record.

I’m in my office at Penn State, and I pause. I’m so thankful for the smell of a freshly peeled orange I brought for lunch. I’m so thankful for the warm soup in my thermos on this rather cold day. Thank you, God! Thank you for oranges and my thermos and corn and celery. Thank you for parsley and minced onion and thyme!

For just a moment, my heart sang.


If I Would Have Tweeted

I honestly try to have more of an author presence on social media, but I find myself laughing at myself each time. I’m so sorry! I hope I haven’t let you down. It’s just that, if I did tweet, it would go something like this:

Happy that Leo the cat was miraculously found! Yeah, neighborhood. #neighborhood #missingcatfound

I cut a mango today. I love ripe mango because it makes me feel like I’m vacationing in the tropics. #mango

I’m editing my Chosen for Christ manuscript. Did you know you omit the hundreds digits for the closing page numbers in your endnote citations? So you would say 110-12 instead of 110-112. Yeah, Chicago style! #editing

We finished the raspberry lemonade cake. I’m making hamburgers tonight. We stuff blue cheese into our hamburgers and bake them on a foil-lined pan. We always have hamburgers on Monday night. It’s a thing. #hamburgersonMonday

I really love Jesus, and I think about Him all day long. #Jesus

I watched Taylor Swift’s Delicate video twice, and I love it. But I’d never say that on Twitter because haters gonna hate. #ILoveHer.

I’m excited to watch American Idol tonight. See above for explanation about why I don’t mention this. #Shhhhh.

So now you know why I have a hard time posting. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll tweet something.


Searching for the Neighbor’s Missing Cat

The cat down the street has been missing for 5 days. I don’t know this neighbor or this cat, but I find myself super invested in the search ever since I saw the Cat Missing poster on my walk and followed the owner’s Facebook updates in our neighborhood Facebook group.

When I walk today, I’ll search for Leo the missing tabby cat.

Because that’s what you do in a neighborhood.

If you settle into a place, the neighbor’s problems become your problems. Their missing cat becomes your missing cat.

Maybe I’ll find Leo today and return him safe and sound.




A Wonderful Week: Planning Your At-Home Writing Retreat

For the first time, I lived in my house alone for a week. Alone for a week! With Sarah serving on a missions trip in Jamaica and Ash and Kate visiting family and friends in North Carolina and Williamsburg, I stayed home to finish the latest book, Chosen for Christ: Stepping into the Life You’ve Been Missing. 

For at least six months, we knew I’d stay home to write over Penn State’s spring break, so I had time to mentally prepare for my own writing retreat. I was giddy. I was unable to fathom what the week could be like, but I knew it’d be amazing.

If you’re planning your own extended time to write–over at least several days–I thought I’d share what made it so wonderful.

First, you stock your kitchen with foods you love, just for you. It will feel extravagant and indulgent, but do it. Buy the smoked salmon, a chicken to roast, mangos, and dark, rich coffee. Buy blackberries and crisp apples and all the treats you’ll love. Make a big pot of your favorite soup that you can eat for your lunches. But don’t be afraid to make a hamburger just because you want a hamburger (this happened).

Then, you arrange afternoon excursions to replenish yourself after writing for 7-8 hours (since your writing day begins at 7:00 AM). Take long walks. Visit thrift stores. Enjoy time with a friend at a salt spa (this actually happened). At least twice, go out to dinner and eat something you’d never cook at home like truffle and pea ravioli (and this actually happened).

Make yourself available to walk your neighbor’s dog since your street will be empty from Spring Break vacations. This way, you’ll stretch your legs twice a day.

You wake up and you get right to it. You wear your most comfortable clothing. And you write. You write until lunch. You switch to tall glasses of water instead of coffee at some point. You soak in a bubble bath before lunch to think about what you’re writing and what you need to revise. You cut a mango and warm your corn chowder for lunch. You return to writing.

Then, you relax and think.

Then you make dinner while you shamelessly listen to country music or 80’s pop–as loud as you want.

In the late evenings, you read books. You tuck cozy blankets around you with the candles lit, and you read to your heart’s content.

By Saturday morning, you miss your family so much that you bake a lemon raspberry cake, assemble a homemade lasagna, and clean the house till it sparkles for their return. Soon, you’ll be back to the rhythm of family life and work, but for one week, you were alone and you wrote.

You wrote!


Reconnections and Possibilities

Over the course of a few days, I’ve reconnected with a dear friend with whom I’ve been out of touch, deepened a friendship with a current friend, and met a new friend to arrange a morning get together for coffee. I love the possibilities. 

And I love waiting on God’s timing for friendship in the midst of work and parenting. I love friendship when it comes along, at just the right time, with sudden breathing room in life.

Some seasons of life feel rich in friendships; other seasons feel sparse and more empty of socializing, as if God invites us deeper into friendship with Him alone.

When periods of deepening friendships happen, I thank God for these times as a precious gift.


Lessons from Walking My Neighbor’s Dog

I love walking Peanut for my neighbors. He looks like a peanut. He must be a poodle-terrier mix. What I love about walking Peanut is how he leads. I walk when I’m supposed to walk; I stop when I’m supposed to stop. He walks. He stops. He smells things. He goes to the bathroom.

I didn’t realize how much I love being led. I love not making decisions. I love stopping sometimes and even going in strange directions.

In this life of faith, I remember again the wonder of being led and not driven.