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Fresh Encounters

What my husband and daughter expressed most of all regarding their mission trip was a fresh encounter with God, His love, His power, and His work. 

They glowed from it. 

I realize the importance of fresh encounters with God. Sometimes, I know we rely on past experience, past emotions, past revelations. Instead, we aim to position ourselves for fresh encounters. We serve radically, off the beaten path, and take risks. We go out far into the unknown to find God there in a new and fresh way. 

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5 Questions to Ask Friends When They Return From Mission Trips (or Any Trips)

My husband and oldest daughter return from their mission trip today! Today’s the day! We’ve had no contact except for a 1 minute phone call on his birthday. I’m so excited to reconnect. I’m visiting with my friend who reminds me of this post I wrote last year. I had been worried about what to ask and what to say to bless them most, and she directed me to my own lesson! Enjoy!

My friend sits beside me in church on Sunday, barely awake from her mission trip to the Dominican Republic. “I missed you! How was your trip?” I ask.

This is a terrible question, and I know better. It’s an overwhelming, nonspecific kind of question that makes my friend do all the work. When I returned home from Chicago when I recorded the audiobook for Seated with Christ, my husband didn’t ask, “How was your trip?”

I would have said, “Fine,” and then I would have yawned.

But he asked, “What surprised you the most about the process there?”

What surprised me? Oh, I have so much to say! I want to tell you everything about the technology and my voice and the whole thing!

So this morning as I prepare to meet with other professors for our Bible study, I’m so eager to connect with my friend who just took her whole family on a mission trip. I don’t want to ask, How was your trip? I want to ask a question that will bless her and help her process all that she experienced.

I ask others what they think are the best questions to ask returning friends, and we come up with these that I just love:

  • When did you have to be the most flexible?
  • How and when did you experience God the most?
  • What did you see God do for you as a family?
  • What did you learn that you’ll want to incorporate in your life and ministry?
  • What are you finding yourself praying for now that you’ve returned?

I’m excited to ask better questions. I love a good question like a love a good verb!

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Begin Something

As we wait for my husband and daughter to return for their mission trip, we reflect on our spring break week of being together: we baked and visited friends, we traveled to neighboring towns, we shopped and ate at a restaurant or two, entertained neighbors, new friends, and old friends, and accepted invitations for adventures. We cared for cats, walked a dog four times a day, had sleepovers, organized the house, painted, and watched television. We did it all! 

And now? We wait and feel bored. But boredom is a trick of the mind–a longing for action without the motivation to do anything. But if you begin to do some task in the midst of being certain you don’t want to do that thing, you’ll find boredom leaving quickly.

We try it. We organize a space and feel creative and inspired again. 

We’re off! 

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Ordinary Thanks

This morning I rejoiced in ordinary neighborhood living that makes my heart explode with delight.

  • I walked my neighbor’s dog (the one named Peanut who looks just like a peanut) in the fresh snowfall and laughed at how the falling snow made a coat of cottony white that he didn’t shake off. Happy dogs in the snow represent a particularly joyful pleasure.
  • I arranged bowls of blackberries for morning crepes, and as I cooked each delicate crepe, I noted the buttery, warm smell. I squeezed fresh lemons for drizzling. I put out powdered sugar and another bowl of sliced strawberries. I was so thankful for this feast.
  • I called an early-rising neighbor over for coffee and crepes. She walked over in the snow without question. Seeing her form come closer down the sidewalk made my heart sing for the joys of friendship.
  • I set my mind to the day’s task of shoveling snow, writing, and dinner preparation for a friend coming later. I rejoiced that God gives us daily work. What a privilege!
  • I texted out the Morning Pep Talk to a struggling teen. I rejoiced that nobody has to struggle alone.
  • And I finally thanked God for a fresh day and a fresh start. What a gift each day is!
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Small Things, Barely There

When you walk in the early morning, you hear all the birds. And if you seek the origin of the beautiful songs, you find that the loudest songs that carry over the whole neighborhood come from the tiniest birds

The small, hidden thing up in those branches, barely there, proclaims. With apparently no relation to size, visibility, beauty, or numbers, the sound astonishes with its power. 

And I remember that small things, barely there, often proclaim the most significant, beautiful, powerful messages. 

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An Explanation: Disruption Will Come!

I apologize for the missing blog posts these past few days! My site was moving to a new hosting service, and with these sorts of things come disruption and lost posts. I’ve learned it’s all part of growth and good movement.

Disruption, it seems, has become a theme in my life and in the lives of so many people I know. It’s like we’re all in a season of disruption! You, too? Can anyone explain this?

A thought: Just this week, I read Tozer’s comments on the Holy Spirit being an agent of disruption. He discusses a common theme among people whose lives reflect amazing “God stories.” This theme? God’s work usually comes alongside uprooting, discomfort, and disruption. He writes, “When the Holy Spirit moves, He disrupts a person’s life.”

When the Holy Spirit moves, He disrupts a person’s life. 

I realize the truth of it with joy and surrender. I welcome disruption, loss, uprooting, and discomfort. These changes often (though not always) represent great movements of God in a life. Oh, how I love the disruption of the Holy Spirit that shows me the loving, guiding, shaping work of God. I picture myself in His hands, uprooted and disrupted, but also at peace and enclosed by the One who hold us in complete safety.

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Clearing the Path

The flair moment arrived early this morning as my daughter and I clung on to one another on the walk to school. We stayed trapped on icy sidewalks. Beside us, the depth of the slushy snow in the yards repelled us from that safer path, and the cars rushing past on the road kept us from walking on the cleared street.

So we walk slowly and deliberately on this dangerous passage.

But then, we approach a house with dear neighbors who always shovel their sidewalks and salt down the path to force the ice to melt. We unlock arms, walk with confidence, and enjoy the strange feeling of gratitude for something as simple as walking on a clear path.

Then, we’re back to a sidewalk slick with black ice.

I think about that cleared section that stood out so starkly amid the treachery of ice on the downhill walk. I thought about how we could breathe easy, relax our shoulders, and continue our journey. We could look up and not down to our feet. We could look at each other and talk about the day. We could smile and hope and dream.

Something about clearing the path resonated deep within me as I considered what it means to be a mother and wife and neighbor. I thought about smoothing out a safe passage, of removing–as best as I know how–obstacles to the journeys we take in life. I thought of identifying and removing the traps of the enemy for others. What would it look like for me to shovel and salt and clear the way–of discouragement, hopelessness, doubt, cynicism, and fear? How can I act as an agent of blessing and healing everywhere I go?

I walked home on the ice, and I couldn’t wait for the relief of that one cleared patch of sidewalk. I want my whole life to feel like that for others; when they come near, it feels like a clear path on their journey with Jesus. Here, it’s a place to rest, breathe, and rejoice.

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Noticing–and Thanking–Again

I go back to the beginning of Live with Flair and record all the things I loved in the span of a few moments. I loved, for example,

  1. the thankful face of a student who said a lesson was exactly what he needed right now in his life
  2. the way the snow fell in fluffy flakes all over my coat
  3. the stomping in slushy snow that, at first seemed hard and unforgiving, but then parted into high walls around my boots as I walked
  4. the way a library book arrived from far away because of interlibrary loan
  5. how I’ve never thought to be thankful for interlibrary loan before
  6. the sound of a daughter’s voice on the phone
  7. the feel of hot water on your skin after a bitter cold winter walk
  8. the sight of dinner already prepared, defrosting
  9. the feeling of a completed teaching assignment
  10. the sound of a husband shoveling snow for me

I remember the power of noticing, of thanking God, and of receiving the blessings right here that overflow.

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Mostly Listen

As I pray about my day this morning, I remember James 1:19: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

I think about my meetings today. I think about all the interaction ahead. I think about all the words I usually write on a given day. I’ll probably write 3,000 words. Research tells me that I’ll probably speak 20,000 words today.

That’s a lot of words.

I ask God to help me listen. Would someone ever say of me, “That Heather, she sure is slow to speak.” Never! I pray that I learn what it means to be slow of speech and slow of anger.

Instead, I listen. I measure my words. I stay in the fortress of His peace.

I mostly listen.

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“You Have to Hold My Hand Anyway.”

In the parking lot of Walmart, I walk past a young mother with her independent toddler. She takes the hand of her little girl and says, “You have to hold my hand in the parking lot. Even if you don’t see any cars coming, you always have to hold my hand. Hold my hand anyway, even if it doesn’t seem like you need to.”

The toddler resists. The mother insists: “Hold my hand anyway.”

I think of the wisdom of holding on, even though I see no danger, even though I want independence. I think of holding tight to God’s hand, always. He sees what I don’t see.

 

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