“Small disconnected facts, if you take note of them, have a way of becoming connected.” Walker Percy

I wake up and scroll through my phone to learn about a Wendell Berry quote I had forgotten. At the end of his poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” Berry says simply:

Practice resurrection. 

It’s a beautiful line in a beautiful poem. I think about what it would mean to “practice resurrection” each day in my own soul, in my tasks, and in every deadened area of my heart.

So all morning long, I think about that lovely and compelling phrase, “practice resurrection.”

Practice resurrection. 

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new project, and I am in search of a great commentary on the book of Ephesians. I text my husband on campus to see if he might retrieve one from his office library.

Then, I hear a knock at the door. A friend from far away who knows I loves verbs has sent me a book in which she claims there’s a section on “God’s verbs.” I unwrap the packaging to find a Eugene H. Peterson commentary on Ephesians.

I needed a commentary, and one arrives. How strange and convenient, like God received my text instead of my husband. But then I notice the wonderful title:

Practice Resurrection. 

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I think about these disconnected facts: my loving Wendell Berry’s poem; my needing an Ephesians commentary; my having a friend far away who knows I love verbs.

And then, the knock on the door where all disconnected things become connected under the power of a great and loving God who knows what we need, what will delight, and how to make sense of what seems like disparate, chaotic facts.

I love the way we open the door to God’s intervening, harmonizing, answering work.

 

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Training Your Mind In Hope

Last night I shared with women at church my journey to “train my mind in hope” based on the biblical principles of Jeremiah’s choosing to call to mind the new mercies of God (Lamentations 3), David’s cry that God would “show [him] the wonder of His great love” (Psalm 17), and the truth of Romans 15:13 that God is a God of Hope that can fill us with hope till we overflow with it. I wrote about this journey in Guarded by Christ: Knowing the God Who Rescues and Keeps Us. 

As part of my journey to fight despairing feelings and dark moods, I thought: I will ask God to show me the wonder of His love. I will look for it and record these new mercies. I will believe that Jesus is my Hope. 

And you know the rest of the story: I blogged these new mercies for 6 years without stopping (except for that one day in Kansas).

Sometimes I go back and read what I was thinking and doing on a certain day. On this day, one year ago (2015) I talked to a researcher studying Native Americans and marveled over the beauty of hearing someone’s story of why they do what they do. Another year (2014) on this same day, I was thinking about empowering my children instead of micromanaging them. Still another year on this same day (2013), God was beginning to teach me the most life-changing truth from Ephesians. Back then, I wrote:

I’m learning another path to freedom from comparison, jealousy, insecurity, and even fear. Two Bible verses inoculate me against these kinds of temptations: 1 Corinthians 3:6 tells me that “the Lord has assigned to each his task.” Ephesians 2:10 reminds me that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

I realize that some of us are simply appointed for certain externally beautiful, prosperous, joyous things, while others seem appointed for suffering, disappointment, loss, or failure. Is God not still in charge? Is God not still assigning–with great care, specificity, love, and purpose–our task (whether pleasant or challenging)? Is our prepared “good work” suddenly less meaningful because it looks different from another’s?

In 2012, I looked at a baby dangling from the carrier on her mother’s front side. I thought of how Jesus holds me so tightly to him so I can just dangle and kick my feet with joy. In 2011, I was fascinated with Chamberlain’s quote on great deeds as I walked the Gettysburg battlefields. Finally, way back in 2010, when I felt so much younger and immature, God was beginning my education in hope and beauty. I considered what happens when we lose something we can’t recover. A student had deleted her entire paper from a campus computer.

I wrote:

But beauty does arise from the ashes.  I see it every semester with every lost paper.  I see it in my own life with every thing I’ve ever lost.  There’s a way to start again on the fresh page, remember what you had, and press your fingers down on the keys.  You start letter by letter, word by word.  Soon, you’re not just back where you started.  You’re beyond in a beautiful far country that you never imagined existed.  And the loss got you there.

Looking back, I know that I can run faster and longer and into much more dangerous territory because of how God has strengthened my soul to know Hope every single day. On this day, there’s something to learn, something to marvel over, and something that invites worship.

And guess what it was? I was walking my daughter partway to school, and we saw a hot air balloon. We called out to it and it answered. Helllllooooooo!! We laughed and smiled and thought about what it must feel like to float above the neighborhood, skimming the tips of the burnt orange trees.

Would you consider daily recording your own experience of God’s new mercies? It will train your mind in hope, and you’ll never be the same. The old despair won’t have the same kind of power over you because you know how to turn it, always, into beauty and worship.

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Lightening Your Load

I’m trudging across the campus with a bag full of library books to return. My arms ache and the morning sun feels much hotter than it should. Finally, I reach the book return and unload each book one by one. The feeling of sudden lightness, of relief and ease, and of simple comfort takes me by surprise. I had forgotten the feeling of a light load. I recall some stunning statements in the Bible about carrying heavy burdens:

  • “Cast all your cares upon him, for he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
  • “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble and heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

The words of Libby Miller from Camp Greystone return, as they often do, when I’m experiencing the burden of a heavy load–either emotionally or physically. Libby pulled me aside on a day when I was stressed out, overburdened, and weighed down by so many tasks.

She said, “Heather, stress comes when we try to assume responsibility for things that aren’t our responsibility.”

What could she mean? I sat there, staring into space with that stressed out, frazzled, exhausted and hollow look I get when everything feels like a weight on my soul, and then I snapped back to reality. She was right. I had a list of things to do and people to manage and care for, but the truth was that God was in charge of me and everything concerning this list of tasks. God was responsible for my life, my tasks, my situation. In Christ, I find rest for my soul. I take all the weary burdens, and I cast them into His care and keeping.

Libby Miller spoke that sentence to me 21 summers ago, and it returns to me every few months. I’m so thankful for wise sentences!

I recall the truth: Jesus is working on our behalf and inviting us into His rest that’s easy and light.

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“Glory be to God for dappled things.”

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As I walk today under a pelting of fat green and brown acorns that I then crunch underfoot, I remember one of my favorite poems, “Pied Beauty” by Gerard Manley Hopkins. The sun casts beautiful patterns through the barely green leaves. The sidewalk collects her own design of light and leaf. It’s dappled and stippled and so lovely that I feel joy rise up in me. Hopkins writes:


Glory be to God for dappled things – 
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; 
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; 
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings; 
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough; 
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim. 
All things counter, original, spare, strange; 
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) 
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; 
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: 
                                Praise him.

I turn the words in my mind like I would a fresh acorn: dappled sunlight and the stippled sidewalk. I think about the way the light arrives as it does because of this particular time of day and season. It feels like the last day of summer with the heat that feels strangely chilly by the time the wind blows. And even though it’s bright and green here still in most places, I smell the acorns and leaves begin to settle into rest.

I’ll walk again tomorrow, and see new patterns and new light.

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Two Little Lessons

I rush out the door without the keys to my office. My husband agrees to drive home, find my keys, and return them to me. So I pass the time at the coffee shop and then wander aimlessly in the library until he arrives.

(This is a good husband who doesn’t really have time for these kind of tasks. But he does it.)

Meanwhile, I run into a dear friend who I would have never seen otherwise. We have a timely, joyful, encouraging conversation! I’m suddenly so thankful for forgotten keys that force me off the beaten path. I’m suddenly so thankful for delays and odd schedules. I remember the lesson that every delay is God’s way.

Yes, it rhymes just like “Every rejection is God’s protection.” Every delay is God’s way.

Then, once in my office, I notice my little plant has become overgrown on one side, the side facing the sun. I quickly rotate the pot to turn the stunted side towards the sun. Now, we’ll have some balance.

I can’t help but wonder what parts of me need more time in the sun of God’s wisdom and Holy Spirit growth. What parts need a little rotation in my heart to let God develop me there? I might be overgrown in some areas and dark and stunted in others. The plant teaches me so much.

It’s worth thinking about today: God’s delays and turning all the parts of my life towards God’s light.

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So You Might Bless

Last night, I pulled some of those oven-dried tomatoes from the freezer, placed them to defrost in a bowl with fresh basil and olive oil, and then paired them with some hearty bread and mozzarella for an appetizer for some friends.

It made me so happy to share the harvest from the garden. It was the kind of living-with-flair happiness that made me stop and ask, like I have for the past half-decade, “What’s going on here that’s so right and beautiful?” The feeling of joy reminded me of the day I took all my raspberries and made raspberry sorbet for the Italian Mama.

I bounded down the street with that sorbet in hand, so happy to share the harvest. I delivered more the next week from the bounty. I kept making sorbet for others, and that year, I had enough for myself and half the neighborhood.

I remember the beautiful passage in the Bible about a harvest. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:10-11: He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

Notice: You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.

God enriches our lives so we might bless others from this abundance. God blesses so we then bless others.
The more that comes in, the more I give away. And we always have more than we need.
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The Difference a Little Plant Makes

For the first time ever, I purchase a little plant to decorate my office.

It’s symbolizes that I’m here; I’m staying; I’m settled in and nurturing things. More time in my office with students means I’m decorating.

I find myself eager to arrive to campus to check on this plant, to water him, and to observe his growth. Having a living thing in a work space cheers the room.

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I lean in to chart the slow unfurling of a new leaf. Apparently, the sun from this window and the water I’m giving match what’s needed.

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But when you get a little plant, you now feel a sense of home and care-taking. You consider expanding out to nurture more and more. You’ll find you want to nurture students with essentials like chocolate that you keep in a candy jar. You’ll stock a little basket of bottled water and protein bars and tissues and lemon drops just in case.

You’ll find you want to add a few more comforts like eucalyptus in a vase, some photos, and whatever else you need to welcome students in.

But really, it’s you that feels so welcomed every time you turn that key, coffee in hand and papers dangling, to begin another day in the place where you choose to finally settle in.

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But mostly, you sit back and enjoy the little plant in your window.

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It Works! Autumn Craft #2: Yarn Orbs and the Simple Pleasure of Waiting

We find this tutorial from gurl.com (but we don’t suspend our balloons; we just let them dry on a towel).You basically combine glue, water, and some cornstarch, dip your yarn into the mixture, and cover a balloon with gluey yarn. Then, let it dry for a good day or two.

Pop your balloon (but first poke it a bit to release it from any yarn attached to it). Pull the balloon out, and you have a nice little yarn orb to add to your autumn decorations.

It’s messy, but it’s fun.

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As you can see, we still need to scrape away left over glue!

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What did I learn? I realized how much joy it brought just to anticipate what would happen when we popped the balloons after school today. Such a simple pleasure!

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Let the Autumn Crafts Begin: #1 Painting Acorns

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We gather all the old nail polish and our bowl of gathered acorns. We have the best afternoon just painting them! We even share the craft time with some friends.

We’ll scatter beautiful little acorns on a side table or place them in a decorative bowl for our autumn decorations. We love sitting down amid the rush of homework and football games and work and cooking to just paint little acorns.

It’s so sweet and peaceful.

Next, we’re going to try “Twine Hanging Lanterns” using all beautiful autumn colors like burnt orange, burgundy, and gold. In a few weeks when the leaves change colors, my daughters want to make “Autumn Leaf Bowls.” I will share pictures and instructions!

Are you laughing or so curious about these new crafts with teenagers? I am too! I thought my crafting days were over. I had finally cleaned my kitchen from years of glitter and glue and sprinkles. Aren’t we too old for crafts?

Never.

And it’s more fun with these older daughters:  they’re sitting with you, listening to music, chatting all about the day’s events, and just being there. Try it! Pour a fresh cup of coffee, listen to their music with them, and invite them to paint acorns.

For this mom who hated crafts and was never any good at creative projects, I’m so thankful I never gave up on letting children make things at the kitchen table with me.

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In Step

This morning I’m driving on a little two-lane road that’s a 25 MPH zone. A police officer drives up right beside me. I immediately slow down from 30 MPH to the legal limit. We’re keeping pace exactly with each other. I know I can’t drive faster or slower than him; I don’t want a ticket! I don’t want any trouble.

But it’s so hard–surprisingly hard–to match that legal speed limit. Driving 25 MPH feels so slow. There we are, driving together head to head, at the legal and good limit. This is where I confess I have a tendency to drive over the speed limit. I’m learning! Oh, I’m learning!

This police office situation seems to goes on forever. And I’m getting annoyed at how hard it is to not drive faster than him.

I remember the verse in Galatians and “keeping in step” with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5). I never thought of what it takes to look so intently to match someone else’s pace. It takes all my attention. I’m resisting so many impulses to drive on ahead at least at 30 MPH to get home and enjoy this drive.

Attention, resistance. Attention, resistance. I consider the active process of staying aligned with the Holy Spirit. I don’t run ahead into my own plans and dreams, and I don’t lag behind either.

I keep in step.

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