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“She scaffolds their lives.”

I hear a new friend use a new verb: scaffolds. She’s describing how a particular mentor works in her life, and she says, “I just love her. She scaffolds women’s lives.”

She scaffolds them!

Do you know what scaffolding is? Can you picture it around a building? I’ve observed the scaffolding from the buildings I’ve seen in cities and how it rises up like strong bones around the structure being built, repaired, or cleaned. The scaffolding stays until the building can stand on its own. It’s a temporary protection.

I see this mentor creating structure and support around a woman.

What would it mean to live my life as if I’m scaffolding people wherever I go? When someone needs the structure and support to stay standing while God builds their new lives, repairs their broken hearts, or cleans up the sin in their lives, we stand around them. We offer the sturdy presence of God through the fellowship of believers.

I fear that sometimes, instead of scaffolding, we act like wrecking balls through judgment, shaming, selfishness, or fear. We don’t support; we impatiently demand change before it’s time. We tear down what God might be transforming for His glory.

I want to scaffold my daughters, my husband, my students, my neighbors. It’s a new verb with a new image of living a life in Christ.

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A Day of Preparation

I think of Sunday as a time to prepare the heart spiritually for what’s ahead by nourishing the soul with God’s word, prayer, learning in church, and worship.

Refreshed, I think about preparing physically for what’s needed: planning meals, cleaning and deciding on clothing, arranging transportation for children, and discussing who needs what in this week ahead.

Setting aside a day of preparation—for the heart and the body—helps everything run more smoothly.

 

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After a Speaking Event

For the first time in years, I felt complete peace at a speaking event. I’ve spent so long asking God to teach me how to do this–to deliver me from self-consciousness, pride, self-exultation, and fear. I’ve also been learning from the best people I can find about sharing my life on a stage in ways that don’t simply inform but transform audiences.

I’m learning to translate written words into spoken words. I’m learning to depend more and more on the Holy Spirit in this craft. I’m learning to love audiences and join myself to them, not speak above them.

I knew that something had changed in me when a man approached me last night after I spoke on Seated with Christ to a group of 80 professors and graduate students. This kind of group surely would generate insecurity in me about my knowledge and experiences, but it didn’t. Not at all. The man says, “I didn’t listen to you. I listened to God speaking through you, and it was very meaningful to me.”

I stand up there and tell the story of God’s miraculous work in my heart through verbs in scripture, and I let Him speak. I become less; He becomes more.

Amen.

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Learning From Those 10 Steps Ahead

Today I remember to actively seek out wisdom from those ahead of me–not only in parenting, but also in my professional life. Whenever I’m in the presence of people in their fifties or older, I always ask, “What do you wish you knew in your forties?”

(I find they don’t mind. I find it blesses people to invite them to share well-earned wisdom.)

I ask a new friend this question, and she says, “I find the biggest mistake people make in their forties is that they stop learning and growing. It’s like they send their children to college and then they retire from life.” Then she shares a few stories of women who thrive emotionally, spiritually, and professionally well into their late 80’s. “Keep growing. Keep learning.”

I take her advice to heart and immediately think of what I don’t know that I need to know. Professionally, I’ve been studying the skills and life patterns of public speakers and learning more about maintaining a social media presence that blesses without self-exalting. I think of what I don’t know about launching teens into adulthood well or how to build a new life of togetherness with my husband as our daughters become increasingly independent.

I think of what I don’t know about God that I’m seeking. I read more and more about His sovereignty and His movement in response to our prayers. I read the words of those ahead of me.

We all need a coach, a leader who’s down the path a ways, and a person calling us to great things who knows the way. We also can all become that person for someone else ten years behind us.

I look to books, videos, and connections in my church community. I’ve even paid a professional life coach for several months. It’s worth the investment to think of personal development as one of your key tasks at the precise moment when you wish to retire from life.

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You Let the Project Go

Today I learned something so vital about creativity: you constantly create and then let the project go into the world.

Letting the project go means you stop trying to recreate, evaluate, or worry over it. You fully immerse yourself into a book or another kind of creative work, and then at some point, you end it. You close the book and move on to the next thing.

I remember the best advice I received from PhD program mentor when it came time to begin my dissertation. She said, “At some point, you stop researching, you write the dissertation, and you move on. It might not be your best work. You might not even publish it. But you’ll finish it. And then, you’ll move on to so many other books and projects.”

That day, I developed dual vision: I could see this one project, but I could keep a sharp eye for what would come next.

Her words helped me exit the dark side of creativity—the quicksand that keeps you endlessly considering ideas without ever landing on one, that sinks you into believing this one project must be everything, and that devours your imagination by making you think this is your only chance.

You’ll do so many wonderfully creative things. This one thing is just the beginning, and it doesn’t have to be everything. You invest all of yourself for a time, but then you close the project, release it for the world, and then start on your next idea. This way, you always have room in your heart and mind for fresh breezes of brand new adventures.

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Never Too Old for a Snow Day

It’s a joyous, whimsical day around here. It’s a bonafide snow day! It’s not simply a normal 2- hour delay for the start of school, but a real, genuine, legitimate all-day snow day. Even the university shuts down in response to the fluffy half-foot of snow now frosted with falling ice.

We stay in pajamas and plan our snow day just like we did when we were all much younger. Not much has changed in a decade: we still make a special lunch, watch way too much TV, and consider what warm treat to make in the afternoon.

And we still, much to our delight, receive an invitation from a friend down the street to journey to the sledding hill, just as we did when the girls were little.

Just as I did when they were little girls, I’ll have the steaming hot chocolate with marshmallows ready for their return home.

You’re never too old for snow day.

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What You See in Them

This morning, a fellow faculty member shares the most encouraging words to me. I sat slumped in my office chair as I considered the long day ahead. It’s one of those days when I wonder if I’m in the right place, doing what I’m supposed to be doing, and feeling completely foolish.

She says, Do you know what I see when I look at you? Someone who does us all a favor by being here. You could do anything else, and you’re here. 

I couldn’t believe it. Her words elevated me out of an otherwise demoralizing day. It’s rare that anyone recognizes your effort or work at a huge state university, and on most days, I feel like everyone thinks I’m just bumbling about, not doing anything of value.

And then, encouragement. 

I realize the power of well-timed encouragement. I realize that I might say to a hundred people today, “Do you know what I see when I look at you? I’m not sure what you’re seeing, but I see this astonishing, wonderful thing about you.”

Living with flair surely means we tell others how we see them. They might not see themselves that way, and our vital words breathe life, joy, and truth into their hearts.

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The White of Snow

This morning, my daughter asks me why snow is white. What is it reflecting? She explains that seawater isn’t actually blue; it just reflects the sky. You’ll know this when you capture it in your hands or in a bottle.

I find a website, “Ask a Science Teacher” for us to learn. I read this: “When light goes into snow, it hits all those ice crystals and air pockets and bounces around, and then some of the light comes back out. Snow reflects all the colors; no it doesn’t absorb, transmit, or scatter any single color or wavelength more than any other. The ‘color’ of all the light wavelengths combined equally is white. So all the colors coming out are the same colors that go in, combining to make white light.”

I love thinking of the soft, white, snow showing no favoritism. It reflects everything, absorbs nothing, and brings us such beauty. When I look at snow, I’m looking at bouncing light.

I love learning with my daughter.

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Branches Hold

I sometimes hold leaves and flowers, newborn things, and marvelous creations, fully grown. I’m strong enough for others to build nested dreams upon my frame. I support a universe; I shade everyone near me.

I lose all foliage, and then I sometimes carry only frozen drops of paralysis and blocked flow. I sometimes weep water coming down from above or ooze the sap of wounds. But this way, so much shines through every empty cut or stripped down limb. The sun turns me golden.

And sometimes, when the conditions form perfectly, I carry the snow like frosting. I make a winter palace. I’m a marvel.

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Going Beyond the Request

I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5 where I vaguely remember how, if someone wants a tunic from you, you give him your cloak as well, or how, if someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. It’s a teaching on doing even more than what’s expected or demanded.

I think about that expression “go the extra mile” in a new way. What would it meant to not only fulfill someone’s request (or demand) but to also do even more? How can I practically “go the extra mile” in how I treat both friends and strangers?

In a very practical and immediate example, my phone rings and a woman asks me to make a large salad or several batches of cookies for a women’s ministry event. She needs food, and gathering volunteers seems to overwhelm her. Suddenly I say something out of character for me so surely led by God:  “What if I brought both for you–the salad and the cookies?”

It was a simple moment of responding to a request with even more. And now I find myself waiting for the next request so I can do even more. 

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