Well, You’re Home Now

You’re home now.

I say the expression to a teen wearied from stress and difficult social interactions. I say the expression to my middle schooler you endured the onslaught of everything comprising middle school. I say this to myself after a day of marching through the rain, late to my office hours, and then running from class to class.

You’re home now. Relax and refresh here. Here’s a snack placed out for you, a warm beverage, and a soft song. Here’s a candle lit, a cozy blanket, and a listening ear. Here’s the relaxation of lounging about. Here’s where you’re the favorite, the blessed, the adored. Here is where we champion you, attend to you, and promise great things ahead. You’re home now. Here is a tea tray with homework and grading, the smell of lasagna cooking, and the crumbs falling off crusty Italian bread. Here is where evening will fall on you, where you will sleep tucked in and deeply loved. You’re home now. 

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“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” Psalm 105:4

When in distress, I wonder where we look for help. Today I love the encouragement to look to the Lord and His strength and to seek Him always. What do I seek? Where do I look? Whose strength?

It’s God! I think about how to seek His face “always” and how to set my mind upon Him. I think about how to fix my eyes upon Jesus. I remember all the ways He has taught me these past five years: I know I’m seated with Christ, and I picture it now.

I know I’m in the fortress of His care, and I think of a castle. I know I’m in the guarding care of God. I’m guarded by righteousness, peace, hope, power, and the crucified life. I know I’m included in the family of God. I think about my identity as chosen, strengthened, renewed, filled with the Holy Spirit, and proclaiming.

Why do I write all year long on verbs and images? It’s how I look to Him. It’s how I seek His face and His strength.

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The Psychology of Punctuation

If you’ve never considered how your punctuation marks advance arguments and create emotion in themselves, let me delight you. Let me change your life. Let me forever transform how you view punctuation.

I tell my students this: the colon makes an argument. It’s bossy. It’s a controlling, dominating symbol that pushes the reader around. Use it when you want to feel bold, confident, and sassy. Choose the colon to accomplish two things: focus and ferocity.

If you want to sway your reader without them knowing it, use the semicolon; it’s a sly, seductive way of telling the reader how you want them to relate your sentences to one another. The semicolon symbolizes something romantic, beautiful even. It doesn’t argue; it beckons. 

Now, if you’ve had enough with your readers, those you believe aren’t listening to you, use the dashes because–unlike the overbearing and extra exclamation point that sounds desperate–they shout without annoying anyone. They tell the reader to look–really look–at what you’re saying inside those dashes. It’s enthusiasm without shrieking. The joyful dashes tell the reader you have something to say–and it’s gonna be awesome–so keep reading.

Maybe, just maybe, you don’t feel close to your readers (they, after all, exist as unnamed, unseen eyes reading), so I invite you to use the parentheses. The parentheses create a moment of intimacy, a secret, a whisper. It’s me cuddling close to tell you something special (something I don’t tell just anyone).

The psychology of punctuation reminds me that even at the level of mere punctuation, I’m crafting emotion. I’m directing you to feel something about me, and I’m telling you just how I feel about you.

Is there anything more fascinating? Well, maybe vivid verbs, but that’s an argument for another class.

 

 

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What You Need God to Reset

Last night, I ventured out in the cold with my husband to stand in line for Winter Jam seats alongside thousands of teens with their youth groups. My own daughters found their friends and joked with their youth pastor who, of course, arranged for hot pizza to arrive for all the teens as they waited in line.

I felt so thankful for youth pastors everywhere who camp out in cold weather to secure places in line for teenagers to attend Christian concerts, who bring pizza wherever they go, and who offer laughter, acceptance, and insight just when teens need it most. The exhausting world of youth ministry and the relentless energy and generosity of youth pastors continues to earn my deepest respect and gratitude, especially as I raise teen girls.

I sat behind the youth group and inserted ear plugs like the other older folks. I sang along to all the bands and listened to the speaker as I tried to inhabit the mindset of a teen hearing all of this. It rang true in my heart as I heard the speaker ask teens to stand if they needed God to provide a “reset” in their lives and if they needed to get rid of all the baggage they carry around as they try to walk with Jesus.

My husband and I had prayed that this would be a special night between God and our daughters, and it suddenly was.

I watched my daughters responding and worshiping God, but I didn’t feel like an outsider. I felt fully engaged as I asked God to reset my own heart and life. I thought of all the areas needing a reset. And I knew God would do it; He would accomplish a reset each new day of my life if I asked Him. He resets everything.

We drove home in the dark, cold night as we marveled over all we heard and experienced.

Reset. 

 

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Fresh Courage

I’m excited to read this new book by my favorite educator Parker Palmer. It’s called The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity.

In the sample I began to read, I found myself so intrigued by the idea of “creative courage” and what it would look like to measure my year by how much creative courage I had.

What is creative courage? Palmer discusses that creative courage is the courage to generate new ideas, new symbols, and new structures for positive change in the world. Creativity takes courage; you put yourself out there and choose to believe your voice–in whatever form–is worthwhile and important.

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Today We Lose a Tree

Today we lose our tree! The tree experts explained how the tree wouldn’t survive; it needed to come down.

We realize how this tree–this witness tree–was here for everything: the jumping rope, the swinging, the chalk, and the raking. It welcomed us home, brought beauty with vibrant leaves in the autumn, and housed the nests of squirrels and large birds.

It shaded us.

And now, we have new vantage point and a blank space to fill with new memories. We’ll plant a new tree to bless another generation.

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Afternoon Light

I stand at the kitchen window, as I always do, in the late afternoon. Today, the wind blows the snow off the tree limbs, and the flakes catch the light of the setting sun so that the whole forest shimmers in panels of lights, like draperies hung from the sky.

I sip the tea my friend delivered–a coconut, ginger, turmeric–and stand to watch that single breeze animate that particular snow, at this time, that will never fall like this again, in this way.

And I watched it happen.

This, too, is a kind of work.

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Teaching Helpfulness

Today I remember the blessing of helpful people. I thought of what characterizes such people:

Helpful people live ready to assist. They reserve the energy, time, and resources they have in order to bless others. It’s as if they truly believe their day is not their own; it belongs to God to use them as He wishes in helpful service.

Helpful people live recognizing the need. They look around. They notice what people need and rise to help.

Helpful people live radiating cheerfulness and love. If they cannot physically or verbally assist, they help by their attitude.

I want to teach myself and my daughters more about having a helpful spirit. Proverbs 3:27 reminds us: “Do not withhold help from those who need it when it is within your power to act.”

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Still Telling the Story

Tomorrow afternoon, I provide a guest lecture in a Bio-behavioral Health class on the story of our Neighborhood Fitness Group and our Walk to School Campaign. The professor asked me to share this story as a way to talk about the profound impact of a small community effort on well-being. I talk about what changed about us all physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and even financially as neighbors connected over needs and job opportunities.

I talk about how my life changed forever through a Monday night neighborhood fitness group and a daily walking to school ritual with my neighbors.

My favorite parts of this presentation include the measurable results of such a wonderful time in our neighborhood. I talk about the number of families (nearly 50 people) who once gathered in a parking lot to ride bikes, jump ropes, and throw footballs. I talk about the day 35 people walked to school and how, on the 100th day, we made t-shirts to celebrate our 100 miles.

I talk about the hours of dancing to Michael Jackson in my basement with children who needed some exercise in the winter.

I talk about persevering year after year. This effort gained momentum in 2008 and continued till 2013 when most of the children entered high school or graduated.

Finally, I talk about the day the local news came out and wrote a story in the newspaper about our fitness group. And one afternoon, I gathered the children together to show them a letter that arrived from the White House, signed by Michelle Obama, celebrating our fitness group. We had written her a letter to talk about our ideas to fight childhood obesity and engage a community in fitness. When she wrote back, we couldn’t believe it!

It’s now 2018. Some stories, you just keep telling because they are so good.

 

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Some Meal Ideas for the Week for You

In case you need some menu planning on this cold, winter, day, I present to you the menu for the week based on the recommendation of my daughters:

Rachel Ray’s Linguini with Clam Sauce

Sheet Pan Turkey Dinner from Life Made Sweeter.

Pioneer Woman Lasagna (enough to freeze four servings)

Vegetarian Enchiladas (made with refried beans and black beans seasoned with cumin, wrapped in softened corn tortillas, covered with enchilada sauce and cheese, bake 350 till melted and hot)

Pizza night (Little Caesar’s)

Cheesesteaks (sauté shaved beef with peppers and onions, serve in hoagie rolls with provolone cheese)

Shrimp and Broccoli Stir Fry (cook shrimp and veggies with soy sauce and garlic; serve over rice)

Enjoy dinner this week with your loved ones!

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