My New Favorite Verb

My old favorite verb was grapple.  But I found a new one!

This week, I let the girls try cream soda for the first time.  Someone brought bottles of the stuff to a cookout, and we were left with several.

I love cream soda.  We are so eager to drink it that when we pour it out, it fizzes so much that we have cream soda all over the counter top.  We pour more, and I try the stick-your-finger-in-the-glass trick.  It works!  I’m not sure why, but it works. 

Later, I pour too much cream soda again.  It fizzes faster than we can sip it.  That volcanic eruption of carbonation all over the kitchen tells me to pour small amounts and wait

I slow down and watch the process.  Even a tiny amount will effervesce.  I think about this verb.  It means to give off bubbles or to be exceptionally vivacious and enthusiastic.  I learn two things about living with flair:

1.  I can do and have too much.  Pour small amounts and let things settle before doing more.
2.  No matter what God pours into my life, I want it to effervesce–spill over and give off–enthusiasm and vivaciousness.

Let us effervesce today.  And if we can’t or won’t, maybe we need more good stuff poured in.

Living with flair means I effervesce.

Journal:  When was the last time you erupted with enthusiasm for something?


Suffering is Fertilizer

This morning, we have strawberry pancakes for Saturday Morning Pancakes.  The neighbors come over, and the children pull back the netting to harvest the first crop. 

First Big Strawberry Harvest

We have too many

My husband flips pancakes with a neighbor’s son, and soon, we have stacks upon stacks of strawberry-stuffed pancakes. 

Strawberry Pancake Stack

Everyone talks about this great harvest.

I offer up the secret:  you plant in compost.  

A few years back, we learned from our neighbors down the road how to compost.  We let organic material decay, and then it becomes fertilizer.  Our town lets you purchase a whole truckload of compost for next to nothing, but we also have our own composting bins outside the back door.  After a year, we have nutrient rich fertilizer from the waste of our lives:  eggshells, coffee grounds, paper, and yard trimmings, fruit and vegetable peels. 

All morning, I gaze at this bountiful harvest that comes about on the foundation of waste, decay, and brokenness.  Compost–that break down–provides exactly what the plants need.   I’m in awe of the whole process.

I think about my own fruitfulness as a wife, mother, and friend.  Isn’t it true that any good thing God produces through my life needs fertilizer?  I’ll never look at hardship, suffering, or my break-downs the same way again.  What I see as waste and decay just might be the fertilizer for next year’s harvest. 

Journal:  Has suffering been like fertilizer to me? 


What the Strange and Horrible Odor Was

All day, a strange odor wafts through the entryway, the kitchen, the living room, and the hallway.  I’m actually on my knees, sniffing to discover the source.

“Can you smell that?”  I ask everyone who comes by the house. 

Finally, I trace the odor to the corner of the garage where I spy a tiny hole in the wall.  My husband comes home, and I just point my finger and declare, “Something is in there.”

I run to safety inside the house (I’m a chicken) and leave my brave and wonderful husband alone in the garage.  With a flashlight and tools to cut into the wall, he finds the source of the impossibly foul and impressively permeating smell.

A tiny, deceased chipmunk.

Within a few minutes of removing the odor source, the entire atmosphere changes. 

All morning, I consider the power of that one small thing to overtake the whole environment.  That little thing became impossibly foul and impressively permeating.  I thought of my own life and those small things that inevitably change the atmosphere:  negativity, complaining, gossip, suspicion–all the not-flair that can overtake a life.

I’m on a mission to search and root out the smallest things that I imagine cannot really harm.  Actually, they do.  They quickly become impossibly foul and impressively permeating.  Living with flair means removing that odor source.  I pray God shows me quickly and thoroughly. 

Journal:  What foul smelling thing do we need to remove in our lives?


Is Your Goal Sufficiently Attractive?

I just read a cool quote from Jennifer Kennedy Dean.   She writes, “Whatever you choose to pursue will mean that you sacrifice something else.  The key is this:  If the goal is sufficiently attractive, the sacrifice required will be irrelevant.  In fact, the more focused on your goal you are, the less you will perceive the requirements as sacrifices.” 

If the goal is sufficiently attractive. . . 

I thought of weight loss.  I thought of emptying my dishwasher every day.  Then I thought of Jesus.  When I realize the power, beauty, and wonder of knowing God, the sacrifices of dying to self, surrendering, and giving up my right to my own life become irrelevant. 

Journal:  What no longer seems like a sacrifice in light of a sufficiently attractive goal? 


This Looks Like You

My friend (who really is so close she’s like my sister) stops by this morning before the walk to school and hands me a beautiful new purse.

“This looks like you,” she says.

But it’s not my birthday!  It’s not Christmas!

I immediately put it on my shoulder.  Two neighbors announce they have “purse envy.” Nobody has ever said that to me before.  I’m not the kind of girl who goes shopping for purses.   I still use the brown purse my father bought me for my 16th birthday.  Yes, my handbags are over 20 years old. 

But not anymore.  I have a new bright and whimsical purse.  I have a new purse because I have a friend who gives me things that “look like me.”

Living with flair means being that kind of friend.  I want to be a better gift giver.  I want to find little treasures that could delight someone the way I was this morning at 8:00 AM. 

Journal:  When was the last time you gave a gift to someone?


Becoming a People Gatherer

Lately, my community has been reflecting on how we came together.  We’ve been in the news twice because others folks take notice of this strange phenomenon. 

In the last few years, we learned the art of gathering.  To gather means to cause to come together. 

We figure out a reason to come together, and each neighbor brings his or her own flair.  In the midst of ladies lunches, the play date for Dads, Saturday pancakes, Monday Night Fitness (which grew from 4 people to 50!), community service projects, walking to school, potluck dinners, birthday celebrations, living room singer-songwriter concerts, or whatever else might happen in a week, we consciously decide to do it together. 

We resist the temptation towards isolation.   And we gather, even if the invitation puts us into unusual situations with folks we aren’t used to.  Whatever we are doing, we ask ourselves, “Which family can I invite along?” 

Living with flair means finding a reason to bring the neighbors together.  You have to pick up your phone or go door-to-door.  Whatever it takes, you fight isolation and gather people into community.  And once everybody has a place to belong, we all flourish and discover this is how it was meant to be. 

Journal:  What families do I need to gather into my community? 


We Could Hardly Wait for This!

We could hardly wait.

No, it wasn’t anything electronic, expensive, or fashionable.  It wasn’t anything involving travel, tickets, or long lines for amusements.

It was a single red strawberry (our first one) in the strawberry patch.

First Ripe Strawberry

The squeals of laughter!  The bare feet running across the morning grass!  Living with flair has taught me that the whole family can take great delight in the profoundly simple.  This strawberry represents nearly two years of waiting.  Last year, we couldn’t let the plant produce in order to let the roots go deep.  Then, with the help of compost and netting to keep the birds and chipmunks away, we observed those green strawberries growing.

Every single morning we went out to check on the patch.

My youngest daughter just said, “This is the most awesomest day!  I can’t believe I picked a strawberry!”

It was delicious.  All of us had a bite in the kitchen.

Living with flair means simple, patient, ordinary living.  You don’t need any other life. 

And today especially, I’m so thankful for the men and women who fought and died to make these ordinary days possible. 

Journal:  Tell us all something about your ordinary life.  What beautiful thing happens in your ordinary day?


A Great Big Show-Off

This morning in the garden, I turn the corner towards my little peony plant.  Every time these buds fully bloom, I always think to myself, “Now that’s just showing off!”  A peony is just an over-the-top kind of flower.  What flair! 

Pink Peony in Full Bloom

I lean in to observe what seems just like all the popular ruching patterns I see all over skirts and shirts this season.  God indeed clothes nature in a kind of splendor we can only copy.  I look up that word, “splendor,” because I begin to recall how frequently it appears in Scripture.  It means magnificent, gorgeous, and brilliantly distinct.  I find references all over the Bible that we worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness and majesty.  I also learn that God says we are His “splendor” and that He displays His “splendor” in us

Peony Ruching

He shows off in us.  I even read that the splendor the Lord gives makes our beauty perfect.  

I finally recall when Jesus says, “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”  

God is all splendor.  He displays that splendor in us.  When I look at peonies showing off, I remember a magnificent, gorgeous, and brilliantly distinct God who, in turn, clothes us with all we need to display that kind of splendor.  I want to open my eyes and see that splendor in every face I meet today. 

The Splendor of the Peony

Journal:  What else do you observe that makes you laugh and say, “Now that’s just showing off”?


Sally Smith Says, “You Can’t Fall Apart Over Things Like This.”

Last night I watch a woman, Sally Smith, standing in the rubble of her mother’s home in Joplin.  She turns to Anderson Cooper and says, “You can’t fall apart over things like this.”

I burst into tears.  Can you imagine your whole life crumbling around you and saying that?  What does she know that I don’t?  Sally Smith is firm in her resolve, smiling.  She picks up the pieces of dolls, trying to identify fragments.  Anderson asks her where you even start to build your life again after a tornado like this.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do, but it will work out.  It will.”

Anderson notices her t-shirt, and she says, “Life is good.  God does not give us anything we can’t handle.  I know His hand is in it; I’ve seen too many things.  We’ll be fine.  Saying good-bye to things is hard. . .

Anderson says, “You’re about the most optimistic person I’ve met in a long time.”

That’s when she says, “You cannot fall apart over things like this.”

Sally Smith has the faith, strength, and courage of a woman who lives with flair.  I just love her.  Will I ever be the kind of woman who can look in the face of disaster and proclaim the kind of truth that she can? 

Journal:  When I’m complaining about any disappointment today, I’m going to remember Sally Smith in the rubble.  Where can you say, “You cannot fall apart over things like this”?


Moving Ahead Despite Danger and Uncertainty

I wait for the Northern Cardinals to leave.   I lean in, snap the photograph, and then get out of there before I’m pecked to death or beaten with a mother bird’s wings.

Northern Cardinals Growing in the Nest

I don’t even check the photos until I’m safe inside.

Sleeping Northern Cardinals

It’s the same caution I take when I photograph a snake or a snapping turtle.  The best photographs involve an element of danger.

Living with flair sometimes includes danger.  We take risks; we move out of comfort zones; we endure the possibility of harm.  Why?  Because there’s beauty and joy right on the other side.  I wonder, too, if moving deeper into a life of faith requires confronting danger–seen and unseen–because that’s the only way to have a clear picture of the power and victory of knowing God.  That’s the only way to grow faith.

If I only move ahead in my life into safe and obvious directions, maybe I need to think more about choosing avenues that call for the kind of faith that I want to have.

So I face the danger, and I move out in faith.  There’s a beautiful picture waiting. 

Journal:  Do I need to move ahead despite danger and uncertainty?