Remember the Bonsai: Patience, Small Improvements, and Invisible Labor

My husband and I enjoyed a beautiful day at Longwood Gardens. I found myself returning several times to the bonsai display of azaleas.

When you see the magnificent blooms here, know they represent sometimes 60 years of training (if not more). While I only observed a select number of bonsai (since the display was under renovation), I’ve heard you can enjoy a bonsai tree from 1900 as well as a miniature pomegranate tree that grows real pomegranates.

I stand and marvel at these beautiful trees. I think of the gardener gently pruning for a lifetime. I think of the art of bonsai: the trimming, the shaping, the cutting, and the binding. I think of the patience. I think, too, how one goal of bonsai involves what’s called “no trace of the artist.” A viewer should not notice or even be able to detect at all any external cutting or shaping that would leave a scar. It’s an art where the artist disappears to let the tree’s beauty shine.

The goal of the bonsai artist: invisibility.

All day I think about those trees.

Bonsai: patience, small improvements, and invisible labor. 

I think of so many things in life that require patience and gentle care. I think of the invisible labor in marriage, parenting, and in keeping a home. Day after day, you craft a life. You make small changes. You prune and shape.

Stand back and observe the beauty. Yes, it’s invisible labor and years and years of patient work. The blooms might not even appear in your lifetime. The finished product and the fruit of your labor may come in 100 years. But one day, indeed, the blooms come. In God’s perfect timing, and in the hand of the Bonsai Master, they come.

 

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What We Need Even If It Doesn’t Feel Like It

This morning, as I help a writer edit some of her devotional writing, I discover a quote she writes about from Elisabeth Elliot that I haven’t heard before. I just love it!

“What God gives in answer to our prayers will always be the thing we most urgently need, and it will always be sufficient.”

The quote invites me to consider how God knows what I need even when I do not. I love thinking of God’s answer as the best, most sufficient thing.

God’s answer is what I needed, even if I cannot see it as good or feel that’s it good. 

I think of our family mottos that continue to prove true with every passing day:

Every delay is God’s way. 

Every rejection is God’s protection. 

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It Seems Impossible

I wander to the garden to feel the morning air on my skin. I sip coffee and meander about, just observing. I look at the ground cherry and marvel how the seed I planted once sat in my palm, no bigger than a grain of sand. And now? The whole plant seems impossible. One seed creates this plant whose fruit holds hundreds and hundreds of seeds.

Would we not discover God if we just asked about this whole seed business? Who thought of this process? How can we not worship? And why do we love thinking like this? Who put that inside of us to wonder over growing things and delight in growth at all? How uniquely human!

Next, I note the super sweet cherry tomato. I worried over these seeds. I worried I’d see no fruit. I hadn’t seen the normal rabble of bees to pollinate. My oldest daughter reminds me how easy pollination is and how the wind can do it. I find myself amazed at wind. Is that why we have wind? To pollinate when the bees cannot?

Finally, I note the potted mini sunflower. It follows the sun. Think about it. How does it do this? Who programmed it? How can we not worship this kind of God? I thank Him for the particular combination of yellow and cobalt blue–my favorite. Thank you for colors. Thank you for seeds. Thank you for the sun, for dirt, and for gardens. Thank you.

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3 Reasons to Start Your Own Record of God’s Faithfulness and Power

This morning, I read Psalm 68:19. It’s such a simple declaration about God, but it changes everything about how we approach the day ahead. We read, “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.”

It’s the daily part that comforts me and challenges me to remember this astonishing offer from the Lord. Today—this very day—God bears our burdens. He gives us power, strength, wisdom, peace, provision, and more. He gives us everything we need as we come to Him with our burdens for the day.

What a different kind of living!

I remember to write these burdens down and record God’s power. But why? Here are 3 reasons to begin your own record of God bearing you burdens.

First: It’s a way of fulfilling Psalm 102:8: Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord. Keep a record for the next generation. 

Second: Writing down the daily story of God’s provision gives us stories to share with our friends who don’t yet know the Lord. You have ways to encourage others because of how God encouraged you. Can you imagine these joyful conversations around the dinner table or campfire? At the baseball game or at the pool? We’ll be like the psalmist who says, “Come and listen! Let me tell you what God has done for me (Psalm 66:16).”

Third: We build our faith when we record the faithfulness of God. We choose to remember. We shall not live like the wandering Israelites who “did not remember [God’s] kindnesses” and rebelled against Him (Psalm 106:7).

You can record your stories in a journal or blog. You can share them broadly or just keep them for your close circle. Know that God hears you and is already working. It’s going to be a great day!

 

 

 

 

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So Satisfied

This morning I remembered my favorite AW Tozer quote:

“God is so vastly wonderful, so utterly and completely delightful that He can, without anything other than Himself, meet and overflow the deepest demands of our total nature, mysterious and deep as that nature is.”― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine

Don’t you just love it? And as I read Psalm 65:1, the word “satisfied” kept ringing out. David writes this about those following God: “We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house.” I then remembered Psalm 63:4 where David recalls the steadfast love of the Lord that “is better than life.” He says that with God, “[his] soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food.” God is better than anything–than even life itself–and He satisfies us completely.

I often believe I need this or that thing in order to find true satisfaction. What a freeing and beautiful thought to remember God can meet the demands of our souls and satisfy us completely only with Himself! Yes!

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God Is Always On Time

Signing the book contract for my novel!

Hello! I have some great news! Last fall, I wrote a children’s book based on Seated with Christ about a little girl who can’t find a seat in the lunchroom. We follow her journey to discover she’s already seated at the best table with Jesus!

I showed my agent and publisher this book–called This Seat’s Saved–and guess what? This morning I signed a publishing contract for my very first novel (technically it’s a called a middle grade novel since it’s for 8-11 year-olds). If you’ve been with me here at Live with Flair since March 2010, you probably know I’ve always wanted to be a fiction writer. Some of you reading this remember when I tried to sell a Southern fiction series and then a quirky adult contemporary novel. I’ve been reading rejections for those novels forever!

God had other plans for me. I never set out to write Christian nonfiction. But here I am. And today? What a winding, wonderful journey to see an old dream revived. Because I wrote Seated with Christ, God opened a great door to write fiction based on Ephesians 2:6.

This Seat’s Saved will come out in 2023, so I’ll keep you posted. This book features some extraordinary stories from my own middle school life–like when my dad and I tracked a red fox in my backyard for a science project that won a prize. So yes, a red fox appears as an important character. It’s also set in the Pennsylvania woods which I have come to deeply treasure since I moved here back in 2008. I cannot wait for you to read this book and share it with the rising middle schoolers in your life.

God doesn’t forget about our dreams. He knows exactly when things should happen and why. Remember that God “holds in His hands your life and all your ways” (Daniel 5:23). Remember that He “formed the hearts of all and considers everything they do” (Psalm 33:15). And remember to trust His perfect timing. That’s what I’m learning most of all.

I love the quote from the poet Lemon Andersen who says:

“God may not come when you call, but He’s always on time.”

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Thank You for Your Patience! And a FREE GIFT for You!

Hello! After several days of migrating all my email subscribers to a new service called Follow.it, you all should now receive the daily email updates just like before. I’m so sorry for the interrupted service! (For inquiring minds: the old service called feedburner is ending–that’s why I need a new email subscription service)

As a thank you for your readership and friendship for all these years, and to celebrate a new email service, enjoy a free pdf download of my writing book called How to Write with Flair.

Click here for free pdf: How to Write with Flair Free Download

And here’s a post you might have missed from this past week: And Then Help Others 

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Maintenance for the Next Day or Two

Hello, Readers! I’m figuring out how to transition my blog email subscriber list to another service, so you may experience a temporary disruption in your daily email from Live with Flair. Hopefully, everything will be back in order ASAP!

I’ll keep you posted!

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And Then Help Others

Do you remember how I had to learn new things this month? Remember all the technical writing skills I studied? And what I didn’t mention is how I’ve learned excellent online course design techniques. Our university’s course management system, Canvas, allows you create a great course for your students.

It’s easy to use Canvas (it’s like a website that houses all your course material, grade book, attendance, etc.). It’s easy after a while that is, but at first it’s scary. The shame comes. Nothing makes sense. It’s a whole new vocabulary and a whole new way of thinking. You feel old.

But little by little you learn. You take your time, and you learn how to design online quizzes, how to make intuitive learning modules, how to post discussions and link to videos, and how to upload your files in an organized way. You learn all about assessments and course narratives and learning outcomes. You talk to colleagues and ask to see their Canvas sites. You steal all their great ideas with their permission! You run your course by your teen daughters to see what they think.

You then find that you’ve made this beautiful website to serve students well. (And yes, every learning module mentions something about verbs. I’ve built a brand I must uphold!) So I did it.

But you have to learn it. You didn’t know it at first, and now you do.

And then? Here’s what’s so lovely. A friend calls in distress today because her school is transitioning to use Canvas, and she knows nothing about it. I remember the same fear and confusion. Can you help me? she cries. Help me!

I know that sound. It’s the sound of frustration, fear, and confusion. It’s the sound of hopelessness that you’ll never understand. And it’s also a sound of resistance to even wanting to learn things. Can I help? Yes! I know where you are and where you will be soon.

Yes! I learned. And now I can help you.

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