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You Can Go Where Others Cannot

Today my daughter announces that she hates being so short.  “Everyone else my age is taller than I am!”

I want to deny it.  I want to comfort her.  I want to tell her to get over it. 

But she is rather short.  So instead of denying the truth of her statement, I remind her that God has a reason for everything

“Can you think of any reason why a loving God would let you be shorter than everyone else right now?”  I ask her, staring deeply into those little girl eyes that will undoubtedly face a lifetime of the kinds of disappointments and heartbreak that come with the human experience.  She will ask so many why? questions as the years unfold.  

She tilts her head to one side and ponders the thought.  “Well, I can get into places that most people can’t.”

This means she wins hide-n-seek.  This means she has an advantage in finding hiding places that suddenly makes her stature valuable.  What a change of heart! 

All day, this statement resonates in my heart:  “I can get into places that most people can’t.”  I talk to God about this, and I imagine this conversation: 

Yes.  You can go where others cannot.  That’s what this confusion, this disappointment, this heartache is for.  Your experience gives you access.  It’s a portal into a place others cannot–or will not–go. 

I find myself welling up. God speaks to my own heart through my daughter’s answer.  Suffering allows you to “get into places that most people can’t.”  I think about ministry opportunities, writing projects, insights, amazing friendships, communities, and blessing after blessing because I went into beautiful spiritual and physical places I could only enter through the door of suffering. 

Living with flair means knowing that you can go where others cannot because of the things you’ve suffered. 

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Journal:  Where has your suffering allowed you to go?

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“She was generous with her life.”

Today, I hear a woman describe another woman by saying, “She was generous with her life.  She expected nothing in return for what she gave of herself to me.” 

I dug into my purse to find my journal and pen to write down those words.

Something about the expression stung my heart.  I normally think about being generous with money, time, or acts of service.  But what about being generous with my own heart–giving my very self away–so others are blessed? 

I want to be generous with my life

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Journal:  What does a generous life look like?

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Dance Instead

I’m driving to meet some women for karaoke.  You know I cannot sing.  At all.  But I say, “yes,” to this kind of invitation precisely because I’m living with flair these days. 

Everyone knows I can’t sing, but I can dance, and when Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” comes on (the song that began Live with Flair), my group sings while I put the microphone down and do the whole choreography.

Living with flair means that when the empty track plays, you don’t have to sing.  You can put the microphone down and dance instead.

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Journal:  What can you do well?

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I Just Wanted to Remind You

This morning, I wanted to take you someplace to remind you how beautiful the world can be.  Even when there’s heartache, somewhere a rainbow shimmers in a dark sky.  Yesterday, we drove to the Rocky Mountains.  My camera’s very old and not fancy, but look at this! 

Rocky Mountain Rainbow

And just in front of this rainbow, a herd of elk leisurely feast.

Elk on the Mountain

And back down the trail, a waterfall spits and roars down the rocks.

You don’t think about laundry or dishes or sickness or sadness when you’re on the mountain.  At least I didn’t.  I sprawled out and took a deep breath.

Heather in the Heather

My daughters climb and explore.  A friend hands my oldest a pair of binoculars, and she suddenly becomes quiet and thoughtful.  

Sometimes, we need to go places that make us still and thoughtful as we contemplate the beauty of the earth.

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Journal:  Where do you go to contemplate how beautiful the world is? 

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Who But You?

As I prepare my writing seminar, I receive emails and comments from folks asking sadly, “What do I have to write that’s worth reading?  Why would anyone read what I have to write?” 

In Mary Pipher’s book, Writing to Change the World, she entitles a chapter, “What You Alone Can Say.”  She claims, “You have something to say that no one else can say.  Your history, your unique sensibilities, your sense of place and your language bestow upon you a singular authority.  Who but you can describe the hollyhocks in your grandmother’s backyard or the creek outside of town that you fished as a child. . . ?” 

Who but you?

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Journal:  What will you write that you alone can say? 

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One Blade of Grass

I’m sitting in the grass by my apartment as the sun sets.  Looking deeply into the grass, I see this one tall blade: 


It’s just a blade of grass–nothing special.  Then I recall Walt Whitman’s answer to the child’s question, “What is the grass?”   He writes,

". . . I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we
may see and remark, and say Whose?
 
I begin to wonder again.  I bury myself in the grass and spy 
the tiniest cricket.   I zoom in and take a picture 
before he hops away.  The grass and the insect 
do, like Whitman claims, lead me to contemplate the Creator.  
 




Living with flair means looking at the blades of grass. 


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Journal:  When was the last time you sat in the grass and looked around?  

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The Saggiest Wins

At the Denver Zoo, I become amazed with the number of animals who give prestige and power to other animals based on how much skin sags on their bodies.  I’m serious.  In a herd, the animal with the saggiest chin (dewlap) has the most power and prestige. 

And another thing:  Animals regularly make themselves look larger in this zoo.  It’s best to be wrinkly, big, and old.  It’s beautiful, powerful, and important. 

The other day, I notice the thin little wrinkles that have formed around my mouth.  I’m noticing all the sagging on my body and how nothing stays in its place.  I notice my own hands as I type–leathery and sketched with crossing patterns in skin that’s getting old.  I notice that it’s harder and harder to have a waist when you age. 

But, oh, where these hands have been!  Oh, the great conversations I’ve had with this very mouth!  Oh, the places this body has taken me!  I want these marks and sags to signify the beauty and prestige that they should. 

I like the zoo.  I like communities where old means beautiful. I want to foster that cultural shift in my own community. 

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Journal:  How can I see signs of aging as beauty, power, and importance? 

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Someone is Looking for You

Last night, my youngest asks me to tell her stories of when I was a little girl. 

“What kind of stories?” I ask.

“The ones when you get lost and someone has to find you,” she says.   

I’ve never told her a story like this.  But that’s the story she wants to hear:  a little girl lost and then found.  

Sometimes I think we can tap into the one great True Narrative just by asking children the kinds of stories they want to hear.  The story I tell her is the greatest story I know.  A girl was lost–desperately and hopelessly so–but a great God was looking for her and wouldn’t let her go.  He searched long and far and wide.  And he left clues and messages and little gifts along the trail to remind her of the way home. 

I was lost but Someone was looking for me. 

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Journal:  Children love stories of lost and found, and they love hide-n-seek.  What other stories do children love that reflect the great story of God seeking after us? 

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The Storm Will Come

In this part of the country, it storms at the same time every day.  It’s the strangest and most beautiful thing.  You learn to stay inside at 3:00 PM because a black cloud will inevitably roll over the mountains.  You anticipate the fearful lightening, the wind, and the fat drops of rain.

You train yourself to wait it out.  You adjust your schedule.

And you smile because you know the storm will end in an hour.  You smile because you know you’ll burst out the front door and see a rainbow that seems to stretch all the way back to Kansas.

You smile because you know the storm has a purpose to nourish and cool things down.

I think that’s what I’m learning about the hard parts of life:  they will come, and they serve a purpose.  Knowing the storm will come means I train myself:  I go inward with the Lord, anticipate what I’ll fear, wait it out, adjust and then. . . and then, smile.  I’m cooling off and being nourished by this storm.

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Journal:  Have you found a way to weather life’s storms?

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All Seats Provide Equal Viewing of the Universe

I discovered this quote at the public library yesterday.  It’s from the Museum Guide from Hayden Plantetarium inside a novel by Lorrie Moore.  I read it out loud and it seemed to catch in my throat.  All week I’ve wanted to go home to Pennsylvania.  All week I’ve imagined a different life.  It seemed, as I read it again, that some great voice of wisdom gently whispered in my ear. 

I turned to my daughter and read it to her.

“Do you know what that means?”  I asked.  “It means that no matter where you are, you have an equal chance to perceive the beauty of God.”

When I want to trade seats to find a better view, I’m going to sit tight and realize my equal chance to see–right where I am–the beautiful things God wants to show me.  

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Journal:  What do I see today that proves I have an equal chance to see the beauty of God?

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