Feeding or Cooking?

My friend made me laugh the other day when she gave advice for when my husband travels.   She reminded me that some nights, you just feed people. Other nights, you are cooking a meal.

There’s a difference.

That’s how her own mother survived when her husband traveled.

Sometimes, feed. Other times, cook. 

She tells me that feeding children could mean mac-n-cheese or something from a can, and that’s perfectly OK when you just need to get through the week. You don’t need to always cook a meal. I give myself permission to feed and not cook sometimes!

It’s funny to think of all that’s involved with cooking a meal: the setting of the table, the serving dishes, the lit candles, the balanced theme of it all including pairing the right vegetables with the meat you serve and making rice or potatoes or fresh bread. Don’t get me started on the shopping for ingredients, the prepping of food, the actual cooking, the serving, and then the cleaning up. The Italian Mama always warned me that cooking for a family was really a four hour affair from start to finish.

I know what she means. I’m not really complaining; I want to have meals when we can. I love the family dinner table. I love the delicious, home-cooked meal!

But sometimes, you don’t have to always cook a meal. You can feed people, and that’s OK. Sometimes, it’s OK to have a bowl of cereal, a bowl of popcorn, soup from a can, or any thing else quick and easy. I forget this all the time! I laugh when I tell my children, “Tonight, I’m feeding you. Tomorrow, I’ll cook a meal.”

 

 

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The Bible Verses God Used to Change You

Tomorrow, I’m teaching a Bible study on loving God’s word and what would happen if you actually expected God to use the Bible to change you. 

I immediately think of the Bible verses God used at critical points in my life including Psalm 30, Deuteronomy 31:6, Psalm 16, Galatians 2:20, and 2 Corinthians 5. I think about Romans 8:1 and Jeremiah 29:11 (quoted below). These statements transformed me deeply.

I have a lifetime of God using His word to speak to me, to help me make a decision, to shape my character and my responses to my circumstances, and to most importantly, connect me to Jesus and experience His love and care for me.

I decide to ask others around me today if they can remember a time when God used a special Bible verse in their lives. When I asked a graduate student who stopped by my office, her whole face lit up as she recounted Isaiah 40:31 and how “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” I could see the joy in her face.

Later, on the phone with my dear friend, I asked the same question. Has God used a Bible verse in your life? Her voice sounded like a burst of sunlight as she immediately quoted John 20:31 with profound joy: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name!”

I ask my husband who lights up, too, and quotes Matthew 16:25 and his memories of surrendering fully to Christ. Jesus says here, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

Everyone I ask could immediately recount a way God has used His word in their lives. What precious conversations to have with friends! I loved asking this question today and remembering my own journey of God faithfully teaching me and being present with me through His written word.

 

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Psalm 30: 2, 5 Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. . .weeping remains for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and of good courage, for the Lord your God goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.

Psalm 16:8  I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

2 Corinthians 5: 17-21 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Jeremiah 29:11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

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Gold and Dust

This morning I read a quote from Parker Palmer that goes like this:

“We need a coat with two pockets. In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold. We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are.”

The quote resonates with me because I remember my great need for God when I think of the dust of my life and sad things happening in my community and all over the world. I think of death and illness most of all. But, in this next pocket, I touch gold.

I cannot know the gold without the dust that reminds me of that from which I’ve been rescued. It’s right and good to walk around with this kind of coat that keeps us dependent, humble, and tender.

Without the gold, we stay in the dust, so I keep a hand in each pocket all day long.

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This Moment

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On this day, near 4:00 PM in my backyard, the clouds and light and trees and blue sky came together like this. I stood and enjoyed this moment. Nothing fundamentally changes in this after school schedule of snack and homework and chores and play dates, but if I look, the day offers a brand new miracle of a view that won’t ever repeat exactly like this again.

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“Anything looked at closely becomes wonderful.” A.R. Ammons

I’m reading my favorite poet, A.R. Ammons, and I find this quote on close observation:

“Anything looked at closely becomes wonderful.”

It’s so simple and so precious. When I observe closely, I move into curiosity, wonder, and then worship of a God who designed this incredible thing I cannot begin to understand.

It’s late afternoon, and the setting sun beckons me once again to the kitchen window to catch the view. I think of that verb, beckon. How warm and beautiful it is!

Come nearer, come follow. There’s something down this path for you.

I leave the window to venture out back. It’s a warm day; the ice melted enough for me to ride my bike behind my daughter with the puddles splashing and the neighborhood black cat trailing us. Kate noted that the smell of melting snow and the bright sun made her want to run and skip in a dress. Yes. I know just what you mean. 

I go to the backyard to observe, and I see the bright red berries you can only see in winter.

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I notice this beautiful bush, and I remember all the seasons of her and what she offers us–the Northern Cardinals nesting in spring with blue spotted eggs; the thick foliage all summer that overtakes the porch and hides the hummingbirds that dart back and forth to the feeder; the bright red flamed leaves of autumn like she’s anointed, burning from within; and now the stark of winter with arms that hold icicles and snowflakes and bright little berries.

It’s wonderful to observe simple, distinct seasonal offerings. I’ve learned so much about my own soul from watching closely the patterns of nature: Every season distinct. Every season has its own offerings. And some things you can only see in certain seasons, like the bright red berries that only reveal themselves in winter. No matter what’s happening in my life, I remember the gifts from God that come only because of certain conditions of growth, abundance, diminishment, and emptiness. And each season is a beckoning from God to come nearer, to follow down the path where I’ll find more and more of Him.

 

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Another Great Parenting Question

My students turned in the most beautiful and complex “Where I’m From” poems as a prewriting assignment for their Signature Stories. The “Where I’m From” poem, first popularized by George Ella Lyon, follows a specific template you can find at the bottom of this post.

In one of the lines, students write down something they were told all the time as a childI read everything from “Be aware of your surroundings” to “Suck it up” to “I love you to the moon and back.” I read “You might lie to others but never lie to yourself,” “Money doesn’t grow on trees,” and “It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.”

I begin to wonder what phrases I say most of all in my house that my children would carry with them into adulthood. What do they feel like I’m always telling them?

So I ask my teenager.

“What expressions do you hear me say most of all in this house?”

Without even a bit of hesitation, she listed out these:

“Do you have homework?”

“You’ll thank me later.”

“Every rejection is God’s protection.”

And, finally, “Everything has a home.”

I was glad God was in there somewhere, but I was sad that she didn’t say, “I love you,” or “I want to spend time with you,” or “You are the most incredible, beautiful daughter in the whole world.”

I’m glad I asked this question, and I’m making a few changes to the words I say around here.

 

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The WHERE I’M FROM Template

I am from _______ (specific ordinary item), from _______ (product name) and _______.

I am from the _______ (home description… adjective, adjective, sensory detail).

I am from the _______ (plant, flower, natural item), the _______ (plant, flower, natural detail)

I am from _______ (family tradition) and _______ (family trait), from _______ (name of family member) and _______ (another family name) and _______ (family name). 

I am from the _______ (description of family tendency) and _______ (another one).

From _______ (something you were told as a child) and _______ (another).

I am from (representation of religion, or lack of it). Further description.

I’m from _______ (place of birth and family ancestry), _______ (two food items representing your family).

From the _______ (specific family story about a specific person and detail), the _______ (another detail, and the _______ (another detail about another family member). 

I am from _______ (location of family pictures, mementos, archives and several more lines indicating their worth).

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An Artist’s Limits

For so long, I stomped around the boundaries of my ordinary life and repeated Psalm 16: “The boundary lines for me have fallen in pleasant places.”

But I didn’t believe it.

I wanted to believe that the limits around me–those boundary lines of all things physical, financial, relational, emotional–were beautiful and not boring, marvelous and not mundane, but instead I felt so limited.

Today I read a quote from Willa Cather who says, “An artist’s limits are quite as important as his powers. They are definite assets, not a deficiency, and go to form his flavor and personality.”

Limits important? Limits as assets? Limits form flavor? I love it!

What if I thought about every limiting thing in my life as an asset because it’s shaping artful things in my parenting, writing, and teaching? What if I saw the boundary lines as perfecting art in me?

I thought more about boundaries when my youngest daughter told me that cats feels at peace and safe inside a cardboard box, so we should put random boxes around for them to relax in. I saw the image I needed. I’m in the box, relaxing. I’m here, and it’s an asset today.

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Living Legato

My daughters teach me what legato means today as they play piano. It’s smooth, connected playing as opposed to staccato which is short and disconnected. Translated, legato means “bound or tied together” and “staccato” means detached.

I love thinking of living legato where everything feels smooth and connected. I want everything to flow together because it’s composed this way, organized around God’s love and purpose in each little thing.

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If He Were You

I’m struck by Dallas Willard’s quote about discipleship. He writes, “Discipleship is the process of becoming who Jesus would be if He were you.”

If He were you. 

Instead of thinking about me becoming a different person–“more like Christ”–as I’ve always been taught, it’s actually about allowing Jesus to operate within my God-given personality and God-given tendencies. I like thinking of it like this!

 

 

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Another Way to Understand the Goodness of God on Difficult Days

I’m explaining to my daughters why I have to sear the meat before I cook it in the oven or crockpot. “It seals in the juices,” I say. “The delicious juice will try to escape but can’t; the seared edges will drive the juice back toward the center of the meat and keep it so tender. Some people think this doesn’t work and the juice escapes, but every time I sear the meat, it changes something inside of it. It’s better and more flavorful. Anyway, I like to think that the juices are locked in, even though some people debate about it.”

I find tears in my eyes. Yes, I’m crying over meat. It’s because I see it so clearly. All the difficult days, the hard mornings, the sickness, the disappointment, the rejection, or the loss was a searing that drove me into my own soul. The edges of my life were charred to keep me going back to that center where Jesus is. It’s the only way to keep me tender and in step with the Holy Spirit.

I recalled the day I crushed the stem of the lilac and sliced decisive, deep cuts into that strong bark. It was the only way the lilac could get to the lifesaving water; it was the cutting and crushing that saved her.

I recalled how I’ve asked so many people what drives them to Jesus and keeps them centered on Him. What is it that drives them back towards their own soul and the indwelling Christ? Sometimes, it’s beauty and God’s grandeur in nature, but more often than not, it’s suffering. It’s hardship. It’s weakness, loss, and rejection.

This is the searing that saves us.

In the words of my friend’s daughter: “Everything is a blessing. Because if it’s a bad thing, it makes you depend on Jesus more.” Everything can be a blessing if we see it this way.

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