Out and About

Yesterday, I was out and about: radio interviews, meetings, concerts, and, of course, delivering Christmas cookies to the English Department since this is the last week of class.

So I never blogged. I didn’t even think about blogging.

(Don’t worry, I won’t stop blogging!)

Sometimes, you’re writing. Other times, you’re living.

Sometimes I live through my writing; other times, I’m just out and about.

Yesterday, I lived out and about so much that I fell asleep on the couch with my family around, and I slept the kind of sleep where you don’t know where you are when you finally wake up.

If you find you aren’t thinking about writing as much–or if you simply don’t have time–perhaps it’s a season of being out and about.

On another note, I think I’ve already made 300 Christmas cookies, and it’s only December 6.

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Something So Special for Your Neighborhood: Soup and a Story

Last night, I hosted a few neighbors for a Monday night “Soup and Stories” evening. After years of wondering what I should do next–after Monday Night Neighborhood Fitness and the Walk-to-School campaign ended– I prayed and prayed about how to connect with friends on a regular basis to share our lives.

My fellow Italian Mama encouraged me (and of course agreed to come) to the first Monday Night Soup and Stories night.

The concept: I make a huge pot of soup. I slice warm bread. Some neighbors pop in for an hour to eat soup and share a story about their day.

That’s it. Soup and stories.

I felt like I did in graduate school when we had a Thursday night “Soup Night.” The poets and musicians came; the med students came; the random new friends came. We ate soup. We told stories.

We enjoyed fellowship. 

Fellowship! What a beautiful thing!

Motivated by many things (David Brooks’ The Power of a Dinner Table; Sally Clarkson’s The Lifegiving Table: Nurturing Faith Through Feasting, One Meal at a Time; and the Harvard research report on the epidemic of loneliness as a public health issue), I simply, finally, took the first step.

(PS: If you’re a neighbor reading this wishing for an invitation, don’t worry, I hope to invite you soon!)

So far, I made a Tuscan White Bean Soup with Escarole last night, and next week, it’s going to be a Creamy Corn and Potato Chowder.

My husband set the table. Since I wasn’t sure how my first soup would turn out, we served salad at the last minute!

I share my Soup and Stories idea with my students. I think about the loneliness they feel, too. When I tell them, their eyes shine. They love this. They want this, too.

I hope you do as well. Perhaps you’ll start your own Soup and Stories night to connect with neighbors for an hour on a Monday night.

 

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A Quote I Show My Students

I invite my students to listen to, and read, David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water,” the commencement speech he delivered to graduating seniors of Kenyon College in 2005. While full of many lines to discuss, I love this one in particular:

“Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.”

As my students write their final essay in which they “choose what to pay attention to” and then how to “construct meaning from” whatever they choose to examine closely (the classic humanities essay), I reconsider the truth of what it means to think, to write, and to live a meaningful life. So much of my own thinking, writing, and living has been a journey to hold up my experiences to biblical truth and to see God at work everywhere.

We choose what to pay attention to. And we work to make meaning from what we experience. I cannot wait to read these essays!

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Nonstop Cookies

Right about now, we bake cookies almost every day till Christmas. It’s wonderful! The whole house smells like Christmas cookies. We bake cookies to keep our Christmas cookie platter full, but we also bake cookies to give away. I still use the same basic sugar cookie recipe with the almond icing that I’ve used for nearly 20 years. You cannot go wrong with this recipe. 

We bring iced cookies to church functions, to neighbors, to students, and to friends. We host dessert parties. Basically, for the entire month of December, we bring cookies everywhere.

It’s a great way to spread Christmas cheer.

I’ve learned to keep a roll of clear cellophane wrapping paper on hand with a ball of yarn or twine. Just stack up some cookies, wrap them in some festive cellophane, and tie with a bow to deliver your treats.

And remember, I’m terrible with my icing. This is not fancy expert icing at all. It’s just ordinary, messy, and delicious.

Enjoy your holiday baking!

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A Special Moment with President H.W. Bush

I was in high school and visiting my friend in Kennebunkport, Maine as her father worked with the White House press corps. President Bush hosted a picnic at his vacation home for the press corps and their families, so I found myself here in this photograph.

It was a lovely day. A boat ride, picnic, and a picture with President Bush: I felt so special that day. I remember talking with him about how we wanted to pose for this photo. I thought of this day when I heard the news of his passing this morning.

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Some Wisdom From a Few Novembers Ago

I often read back over blog posts to remind myself of wisdom gleaned and all those moments of living with flair. If ever I feel off-center, like I’ve lost my way, I go back to certain blog posts that reminded me of truth.

This morning, it’s a post from November 2016. As I read it, I realized with joy that the truths written reflect my heart even more than they did two years ago. Enjoy!

~~~

When Christian evangelist George Müller spoke to ministers on his 90th birthday, he said this :

“I was converted in November, 1825, but I only came into the full surrender of the heart four years later, in July, 1829. The love of money was gone, the love of place was gone, the love of position was gone, the love of worldly pleasures and engagements was gone. God, God alone became my portion. I found my all in Him; I wanted nothing else. And by the grace of God this has remained, and has made me a happy man, an exceedingly happy man, and it led me to care only about the things of God. I ask affectionately, my beloved brethren, have you fully surrendered the heart to God, or is there this thing or that thing with which you are taken up irrespective of God?. . . The revelation He has made of Himself has become unspeakably blessed to me, and I can say from my heart, God is an infinitely lovely Being. Oh! be not satisfied until in your inmost soul you can say, God is an infinitely lovely Being!”

At 90 years old, a man could say that Jesus made him an exceedingly happy man. At 90 years old, he could insist on the unspeakable blessings of knowing God as an infinitely lovely being.

I know God as holy and powerful and loving and kind. But today I remember his loveliness and how He brings exceeding happiness to a heart fully surrendered to Him.

 

(read in https://www.ccel.org/ccel/murray/covenants.iii.xxi.html)

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The Right Timing to Talk

In my advanced writing courses, we talk a lot about the right timing for writing. Why this? Why now? Is this the best time to discuss this issue? Why?

I think about my own lesson this morning when I want to address some issues with my teen. I think about my list of motherly “suggestions” about her life and how the drive to high school affords us plenty of time to talk about her life.

Wrong. Wrong! Who wants to discuss existential topics or personal improvement on the way to school when you’re tired? Who needs a discussion about life improvement when the whole day of school stretches before you?

Nobody.

I decide to wait till dinner time. Then, she’ll have the whole evening to unwind about it. Rather than early morning or late evening, a dinner conversation provides right timing. (Besides, by then, what seems like an urgent conversation might just not matter as much).

Right timing: necessary for both of us.

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Losing a Sense of Time During Creative Moments

I’m so curious about the phenomenon of losing our concept of time because we’re so involved in some creative process. One of the ways I know I’m striking the right chord in my work is this feeling of losing a sense of time. Normally, I manage every minute of the day; I’m always aware of what time it is, how I’m using my time, how much time I have left, and how I might maximize my remaining time.

But now when I’m in a creative space.

Creativity takes over time. Creativity governs and rules it its own beautiful way.

Maybe, I’m tapping into something of heaven, some timeless, eternal space when I’m creating. It’s so wonderful and so mysterious.

It’s not just writing that rips open a new universe in which time passes in a different manner; it happened today when I was simply arranging photographs of my family from years gone by.

I have no idea where the time went.

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5 Good Things: Try It

Years and years ago, I joined the Grace in Small Things community with the challenge to record 5 things a day I wanted to thank God for. Since today I woke up after not sleeping well, endured the bitter cold on campus, and scraped my car against concrete in the parking garage, I needed the day to turn around fast. So I offer my 5 things:

  1. I returned home from work in the biting cold wind, only to find many of the neighborhood garbage cans scattered down the street from the wind. Never has a trash day felt so windy and cold, I thought, as I braced myself for the hunt for my bins. And then, as I pull into my driveway, I find my bins tucked neatly against my garage door. Someone saved them and brought them close to the house to avoid the wind. I love this person. Thank you, God for the kindness of people.
  2. I realized I never thought of what I’d eat for lunch, and then I remembered that I froze a serving of enchiladas for such a day as this. I microwaved them and enjoyed a delicious lunch. Thank you God, for the provision of enchiladas! 
  3. My bread wouldn’t rise in my cold, dry kitchen, but then I learned from bread baking experts how to put a pan of hot water in your oven, warm the oven slightly, turn it off, and then rise the bread right in that warm, moist oven. Thank you, God, for rising yeast, fresh bread, and those who know all the baking tricks. 
  4. I have a bathtub, hot water, and bubbles. I have Christmas pajamas, hot tea, and slippers. I have time between my classes ending and my daughters’ arrival home from school. I will pick one daughter up in my pajamas, I am sure! Thank you, God, for winter’s indoor comforts. 
  5. I have a one-hour live radio interview on a Denver station tonight that came at the last minute. Thank you, God, for the joy of writing books, speaking about You, and radio hosts that ask great questions. 

I feel better already.

I miss my daily record of the “5 Things.” Feel free to begin your own this very day!

 

 

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Daily Blessing

Lately I’ve been taking very seriously my identity as part of a royal priesthood from 1 Peter 2:9.

Among so many other wonderful duties, priests pronounce blessings. I want to make it part of my daily practice to speak blessings over my children, my husband, my neighbors, and anyone the Lord brings to mind. I can pray that God prospers them, brings them peace, helps them find favor, strengthens them.

I love thinking of myself as someone walking around, pronouncing blessing.

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