Today I ask my students to answer the question, “What will we lose if we don’t read this essay?”
I need them to engage in worthwhile inquiry and launch into questions that change something about how we understand what it means to be human. I also want them to announce to the rest of us their vital work of changing the world through their unique stories and perspectives.
I want them to see that the essay changes us and that their voice changes us. We write because the reader will lose so much if we don’t. We write because we know we contribute–as no one else can–to the conversations we care about, just by who we are and what we’ve seen and learned so far.
We write because you’ll lose so much if we don’t.
No matter how much I prepare, no matter how much I try, I still end up with iced Christmas cookies that look sloppy and unimaginative. I decide that living with flair means enjoying the work of others in this category and marveling over their God-given gift of design and creativity. It means knowing I’m not that girl.
It means knowing I am the girl that will gobble these up.
I like reminding myself and my family that, no matter what transpires, the very next moment serves as a fresh start and a new beginning. We don’t need to dwell in mistakes, shortcomings, arguments, or all the ways we represented diminished and selfish versions of ourselves.
We begin again. We don’t throw the whole day away because of this or that. We take the next moment and start fresh.
Enjoy!! Seated with Christ: Living Freely in a Culture of Comparison in ebook form on Kindle is $1.99 in December!
I continue to learn how to build a beautiful and joyful home environment where people want to gather. I coax my teens out of their bedrooms with hot tea and some fresh treat always ready after school. I’m learning how to make spaces where they want to linger with me and others.
Lately, it’s keeping environments tidy and orderly with surfaces ready for homework or baking. It’s having candles lit, music playing, and snacks arranged. It’s having elements to foster coziness like freshly laundered blankets, soft pillows on the couches, and warm lighting. It’s having books and magazines to read, a promise of a movie we’ll all watch, or supplies set out for a seasonal craft as simple as paper snowflake cutting.
I’m learning how to make irresistible settings for people to gather and connect. It’s an art form and ministry, so I’m learning from others whenever I enter a new home or learn from another family. I ask questions about the food served and the elements of a joyful, relaxed environment. I take notes and revise.
I think about my own presence in the space as calm and cheerful, as creative and inquisitive (but not too much). I’m learning to listen and create a demeanor of availability by having my phone and computer far away. I’m learning!
On difficult days of long work hours–whether parenting or at a desk or any other kind of overwhelming, tiring labor, I think about building in little, joyful activities that help the day more along. That’s how so many of survived the baby and toddler stages, and it still works. Making a special coffee drink, deciding you’ll order out for dinner, or putting on warm socks and slippers can turn the around. Just little things!
Today I ate lunch with the older and wiser population who meet monthly at my church. I was the special guest of my 85 year old friend. As I loaded my styrofoam tray with all sorts of delicious but rather soft foods, I learned about how one must avoid nuts and hard food if you have new teeth. I also learned to move more slowly than usual.
I loved it! I love listening to older people who testify with all their might about the goodness of God, especially through trials. We listened to a speaker who shared his journey of escape from tribal warfare in Africa and his certainly of God’s work on his behalf through angelic, mysterious events.
I listened as I ate four kinds of casseroles but passed on the coconut cake. Even I have limits.
It has been a joyful, inspiring day.
My youngest exudes Christmas spirit the moment we allow her to begin playing Christmas music in her room mid-November. By now, she’s outlined her room in twinkling lights. As we decorate for Christmas yesterday, we find her list of Christmas activities to accomplish that day including but not limited to the following: Gingerbread houses, cookie baking, snowflake cutting, Christmas movies, hot cocoa making, and shopping.
Her older sister says, “You don’t have to stuff all of Christmas into one day. We can spread this out, you know.”
Some people spread out all the joy, and some people stuff as much as they can into every single nook and cranny of the day. I’m thankful for both personalities in my family, and I laugh and smile as I watch Christmas unfold in my home.
And it’s not even December.
I’m back to reading E. Stanley Jones more slowly and deliberately to gain wisdom. Today, I reflect on this quote: “Humans beings are in the process of finding out how not to live.”
I underline the sentence and record it in my journal to digest the truth of it. Everywhere I look–both in my own life and outside of myself–I see the inevitable consequences of living according to patterns and processes that do not work, that cannot work, that will not work because they aren’t God’s way. Eventually we find out. Eventually we experience the results of sin. We find out how not to live.
And then, sometimes, we find out exactly how to live because we tap into the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit when in alignment with God through confession of sin and repentance. We agree to live His way, for Him, and by His power.
Until then, we simply find more ways how not to live.
I’ve blogged in traffic before. You apply all the same remedies: practicing thankful hearts, embracing a peaceful resignation, knowing God works in delay, realizing your whole family learns togetherness in an acute way, and listening to endless Christmas music.
It can be annoying and frustrating or cozy and peaceful.
We choose. Every moment, we choose.