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In Praise of Morning Traffic

This morning, I drive across town to drop my oldest daughter, who normally takes the bus, off at high school. As we move through traffic in the crisp autumn air, we note the rising sun turning the tips of the trees golden. We note all the morning activity: crossing guards gesturing with authoritative hands, school bus drivers using their stop sign to halt drivers so small children can board their bus to elementary school, families hauling out garbage cans to the curb, morning joggers puffing out soft clouds of frozen breath, students walking briskly about with their backpacks secured, and construction workers bringing their machines to life.

“It’s just like Richard Scarry’s Busytown,” I laugh. “Do you remember Busytown?”

I find myself smiling at all the good citizens of our town. Here we are, working together, obeying traffic laws, living out our lives with the kind of togetherness that waits patiently as the smallest child boards his school bus for what must be kindergarten. It’s a good town. It’s a good life.

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At the Table

I’ve been thinking more deeply about Ephesians 2:6 and being seated with Christ. Something I didn’t write about in Seated with Christ is the joy of the banquet and how much we read in scripture about the value of food and feasting together at the table.

I recently ordered the book, The Lifegiving Table, by Sally Clarkson, and it has reinvigorated my love of feasting with family and friends as a representation of something eternal, heavenly, and valued by God.

So I set out the wedding crystal that I never use. I arrange the happy bowls of crisp salad, warm rolls, and a pan of spinach lasagna. We gather together, share stories, and enjoy feasting. It’s a shadow of what’s to come. This feasting brings so much joy.

And we’ll do it again tonight.

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Back to Autumn Spices on the Stove

I love warming the kitchen with a simmering pot of spices on the stove. The whole house smells of cinnamon, cloves, and apples.

To make your own simmering spices, fill a pot on the stove with water and add the following: sliced apples, sliced orange (peel on), two cinnamon sticks, a teaspoon of clove, pumpkin pie spice, and allspice. Bring to a boil and then turn to lowest setting to simmer for an hour or two. You’ll humidify your kitchen in the cold of late autumn and winter, and you’ll provide the best smelling welcome to weary family returning from school and work.

While we don’t drink this concoction, you can find similar recipes for mulled cider like this one: Mulled Apple Cider. 

Enjoy smelling the mulled spices and, if you wish, adding them to apple cider for a delicious warm beverage.

 

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A Date

Last night, my husband and I wandered around downtown in the crisp autumn evening air. With 25 minutes before the start of the high school homecoming football game, we left one daughter with the marching band and another with her friends by the stadium.

We considered having a little snack of a gourmet hot dog, and we tasted some street-side samples of “gelato hot chocolate” offered by cheerful college girls outside of the hot dog restaurant. I pulled off my maroon knitted mittens to feel the warmth of the cup. While we waited for our hot dogs, we played speed scrabble with the tiles housed in little glass jars at each table. There we sat, playing scrabble, eating hot dogs, and dreaming of more gelato hot chocolate. It felt like the old days of dating in Ann Arbor, nearly 18 years ago.

And it was fun.

 

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A Pressing On. A Bringing Through.

I read Psalm 66 and pause at verse 12: “We went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” For nearly thirty years, I’ve read that psalm figuratively, as if fire and water were symbols of any kind of hardship. But today, I think about the literal fire and water so many families have endured. I think of the destruction of property and homes in the California fires and those still reeling from the floodwaters of hurricanes.

I think of the despair. I think of the disorientation of having to start living from scratch.

I consider Isaiah 42 and the promise of God’s nearness in both flood and fire. I consider how, even in the midst of these things, God declares how precious we are, how He will rescue and deliver. One day–maybe soon, maybe in eternity–He brings us to a place of abundance. We press on with Jesus. We let Him bring us through.

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Two Reasons God Brought You Here

I can think of no more powerful inspiration for having an eternal perspective during personal difficulty than Paul’s statement in Philippians 1:12-14. He writes this from a Roman prison:

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. 

Paul’s twofold perspective about suffering and difficulty shows us this: he focuses on others around him who need to know Jesus, and he knows his response to suffering might strengthen the faith of others. Paul is actually thinking about the guards and others who will know about Jesus because of where he is and what’s happening to him.

He’s in prison, and he’s thinking about advancing the gospel from that very place.

From that very place! 

When we find ourselves in a painful or discouraging place, we look around. Did God bring us here because someone here needs to know Him? Did God bring us here because our response to this suffering will greatly encourage the faith of others?

Can you imagine seeing every situation we’re in as holding these eternally significant purposes? Wherever I go, I think of who needs Jesus and how my attitude and behavior encourages others.

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When It’s Hot But Also October

For after school snack, it’s pumpkin milkshakes made from pumpkin ice cream. I’ll sprinkle a little pumpkin spice on top the whipped cream.

It’s been such a warm October in Pennsylvania, and I’ve worn more flip flops and t-shirts than anything else. And today, with the rain and general mugginess, both in weather and in heart due to Wednesday’s homework and activities, everyone awaits an icy milkshake, flavored nevertheless with the season’s best.

 

 

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Three Little Writing Tips for Completing a Book

I love helping writers envision new projects and, most importantly, complete them. Here are 3 little tips.

  1. Create the skeleton of your manuscript with all the chapter headings. Keep this document always open on your computer. When you have an idea, find a quote you want to use, or imagine a piece of dialogue, insert the writing into that chapter that you can organize later in the process. As you gather ideas, you don’t have to go in any order; just fill up your document with seeds of possible paragraphs. Even if you have an idea while you’re folding laundry or washing dishes, run to the computer and get the thought down.
  2. Set a deadline and then determine how many words you need to write per day in order to complete your manuscript. You can use various apps or websites like WordKeeperAlpha (my favorite!) to help you with your daily goals.
  3. Make every day a writing day because you’ve decided that you are a writer. In his advice to a young writer, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke advises this: “Ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple ‘I must’, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.”
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The Opposite of Dread

As I continue to study dread and the biblical solution to such a paralyzing and thwarting emotion, I ask my youngest daughter what she believes is the opposite of dread.

“It’s peace,” she says. But then she revises that statement because we don’t think it’s altogether accurate. If dread involves assuming the worst and anticipating terrible things, then the opposite of dread is about believing good things for your day. “It’s hoping for the best,” she reasons. It’s choosing to believe wonderful things will happen today.

It’s living in the expectation of God’s goodness, provision, and surprise gifts and blessings. In this way, we stay fascinated by God as always loving and bountifully blessing.

It’s living in the reality of Psalm 31:19: “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.”

 

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