With my oldest daughter home from college, I think about preparing all her favorite dinners. And with more time at home with COVID-19, I finally decide to organize my treasured recipes in a binder with clear page protectors. I print out freshly typed recipes from old and tattered recipe cards (Like Grandma Kitty’s Christmas Caramel Cake). I also discover recipes I’ve loved but haven’t made in years and years (that are perfect to deliver to a family in need). These include the Cheesy Kielbasa Bake or a recipe my dad made me a decade ago called Lemon Rosemary Garlic Chicken and Potatoes. As the weather gets colder, and with the whole family home, I love making a great dinner with a big salad and another vegetable on the side. We love buttery garlic green beans.
The best part of this organization involves donating old cookbooks and tossing recipes we don’t need anymore or didn’t enjoy. I love opening my recipe cabinet to see just one thing: the binder of favorite recipes. I’ll pull it out today for our Christmas sugar cookies.
I’ve been teaching a writer how you rarely, if ever, need the word “very.” You don’t need to use it ever again! Almost always, you’ll find an adjective that means the “very” that you want.
If you’re coaching a younger writer, you can challenge them to find the word that includes the “very” in it. It’s a more precise and vivid way of writing.
Very tired = exhausted
Very mad = incensed
Very happy = ecstatic
Very sad = despairing
Very late = long-overdue
Very boring = tedious
Very surprised = astonished
Very stressed = overwhelmed
Very in love = infatuated
You get the point. You can, of course, use very if you like. But remember to give your readers the joy of seeing the “very” in their minds instead of you telling them. Finding a better word rewards the reader and gives you some variation in wording.
Yesterday, I saw my students’ faces for the first time. We’d been gathering together in masks for our in-person classroom at Penn State, but after the Thanksgiving break, PSU transitioned to all virtual instruction.
So when the zoom meeting began, we finally gathered and saw each other.
It was a joyful and peculiar experience. So many of us laughed and said, “I didn’t think you looked like that! I imagined a different face altogether!”
It was wonderful and new. We had met only part of each other through our voices and physical bodies; without the face, we missed the complete picture. Ah! Now I see you! I really see you!
I suddenly found myself so thankful for that nose or that smile, that chin, and those cheeks. I see you now. What a blessing to come out from behind the mask. I’d never been so thankful for a face before.
Maybe heaven will be like this. We’ll gaze at each other and say, “I only knew part of you–not the whole, real you. Now I see you.”
“The Lord is good, therefore all that He does must be good no matter how it looks. I can wait for His explanations.”
Can you imagine the maturity to look at hard circumstances and say that God is still good, no matter what? And can you imagine the patience and joyful surrender to say in your own soul, “I can wait for His explanations”?
This morning, I remembered the name God gives Himself in Exodus 15:26: The God Who Heals–Jehovah Rapha.
I think of all that needs healing around us. In a pandemic, we all pray for physical healing and think about illness every day. We cry out to God as Jehovah Rapha. There’s no better time than now to remember this powerful name of God as we intercede for others who battle illness.
We need a Healer. This morning, I think of physical illness but also emotional distress of all forms. I think of brokenness within our hearts but also in larger systems around us. God is a Healer far beyond physical concerns. It’s deeper and more powerful than we can imagine.
Consider the verb:
“Rapha” as a verb means to completely make whole and to thoroughly mend and repair. Realize how deep the healing of God goes. Invite the healing God to enter into fractured places, disrupted situations, broken hearts. Realize how we need Jesus to work His healing to make us whole and to repair everything about our lives.
He’s mending everything. He’s making us completely whole and right.
I received a generous and unexpected gift in the mail yesterday. Dominique Jordan (http://www.dominiquejordanart.com/) sent me the most beautiful print of Isaiah 40 after reaching out to me with a kind note about my podcast and encouragement she received from the eagle imagery teaching from Guarded by Christ and Isaiah 40.
I cannot wait to hang this in my office. All day, I kept thinking of Dominique Jordan’s generous spirit and how unexpected it felt to receive such a thoughtful gift. I thought of my love of birds. I thought of how I treasure God’s word.
Then I considered what it could mean to live a life of such generosity with my own gifts. Whom might I bless in generous and unexpected ways like this? Who has blessed me whom I might now bless in return? Better yet, could I bless someone who perhaps wouldn’t come to mind right away–maybe someone overlooked or undeserving for whatever reason? Could I display God’s grace in my own life to others? Could I live with a generous spirit more and more?
And what can we give? Consider the resources God has given us–whether time, money, talents, or whatever resources imaginable. I pray for my heart to grow in generosity.
It’s so wonderful to think of all the December traditions: Christmas cookies, Christmas movies, and Christmas music especially. I’ll light the pine-scented candles and drink spiced tea. I’ll sit in a wonderland of lights and decorations. I’ll wrap gifts in festive paper and big bows. I’ll walk in the snow. A new season begins with fresh joy, fresh peace.