My Sister’s Genius Idea for the Holidays

I know it’s six months until Thanksgiving, but my sister is hosting this year. This means the planning has commenced! She’s the most organized person I know. Her careful, advanced planning means family members far and wide received a box on their doorstep today of “Thankful Jars” with our names written on each one and strips of paper precut in little baggies.

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So cute! So wonderful!

The letter she sent with the Thankful Jars invites us to pay attention–for the next six months–to moments that make us so thankful. In November, we’ll all arrive to her home with jars stuffed with memories to pull out and share around the Thanksgiving table. We’ll have so much to talk about and so many blessings to recount!

Nobody can be in a bad mood with the Thankful Jars guiding our holiday. Nobody can dominate conversation or complain with the Thankful Jars standing guard on the table.

It’s a new tradition: We’ll now start our summer thankful jars each year in anticipation of Thanksgiving.

Why not start your own Thankful Jar? My sister’s artist friend painted ours with our names on one side, and I just love the bright pumpkin colored paint.

(You can find “Uniquely Yours Personalized Gifts” on Facebook).



In the Same Space of Joy

We linger on the walk to school because we spy the Pileated Woodpecker.

We stop to take note of his joyful, loud pecking that reverberates through the woods and up the path to school. We stand there to observe the bright red head with the stunning white markings down his neck and on the underside of his wings.

Along the path, in the same space of joy, we lean in to enjoy the progress of the Robin eggs. But no. They aren’t there. It’s an empty, ravaged nest. The eggs have been destroyed and the nest abandoned. As simple as that, a crow, a snake, or a chipmunk feasted. We don’t know who or why or how. So we say, “Things like this happen.”

In the same space of joy, the woodpecker and the abandoned nest.

I think about the joy of the new bundles of energy, those puppies still learning to take obedient walks in the neighborhood. It was a dog party this morning; we greeted at least six dogs. In the joyful space of morning salutations, I learn of a son’s Bar Mitzvah passage from Leviticus 19:9-10:

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.

As the dogs pull the neighbors onward and home, I’m left with the joy of considering what I leave behind for others to glean from my ordinary living. I think of living with reserves to bless others. I feel the joyful rightness of living as one not reaping to the edges of my life.

And then, in the same space of joy, my husband and I watch as a couple walks their aged dog, Belle, for her last walk in this life. It’s her time to depart from us today. As the Amish would say, “Her life was complete.” We cry on the front porch and wave goodbye to Belle.

It’s suddenly the saddest thing of the morning to see a dog take her last walk. We want to stand and cheer for her–for all her living and loving and chasing and doggy life–but it’s a moment to be still.

She wasn’t our dog, but she also was. The eggs weren’t ours, but they were. We’ll think about these things as we walk together for a thousand more miles of joy and sorrow, joy and sorrow. In the same space of joy, we’ll have so many moments together like this.

What a beautiful life lived together because we haven’t reaped to the edges. We have reserves to share of ourselves each new morning on this ordinary walk to school.



A Little Verse, A Powerful Prayer

I find David’s request in Psalm 141:4: “Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil.” It reminds me of a similar prayer in Psalm 119:37: “Turn my eyes from worthless things.”

This I pray for my family–for my daughters, my husband, and myself (and even my friends and students): Draw us to godly things! Draw our hearts to worthy things! Incline us to You and Your desires for our lives!

I know my own heart, and I know it needs this prayer each new day.



When You’re All Grown Up: This

I loved today. I just loved every minute of it.

I loved walking to school and meeting the new Brindle Boxer puppy who is just learning how to take a walk. She’ll walk with us more and more. I’ll watch her grow all summer. Her name is Pearl.

I loved talking with my friend about bird nests and the way we searched the woods for signs of new nests as the children walked beside us.

I loved another friend sharing news of God’s great work in her heart.

I loved then meeting with professors over coffee as we read Psalm 18 and shared all we were learning about God and His faithfulness.

I loved my office hours as students came to talk about writing and their lives.

I loved teaching writing classes. Oh, I don’t have words for the joy of it.

I loved calling my sister for our afternoon chat and then another friend to check in.

I loved shopping for fruit to bless the children who will join us for after school snack.

I loved sneaking under the great arms of the Weeping Cherry to see if the Robin has begun nest construction. According to the data I’ve collected from years gone by, nest construction should begin May 4th (but I wanted to check anyway).

I love this day.

I want my daughters to remember the simple pleasures of a neighborhood: of walking with neighbors and puppies and children; of observing the seasons together and becoming naturalists; of sharing from the heart; of reading God’s word because our lives depend on it; of working in a profession; of connecting to family; of grocery shopping for fruit.

I want them to sneak inside a Weeping Cherry and look for nests.

When they are all grown up, I want this for them, too.



I find myself fascinated by the truths of certain statements by Biblical writers who experienced, not just distress, but what they call deep distress.

David writes, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great” (2 Samuel 24:14).

In Psalm 86:7, he writes this simple but profound truth: “When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.”

We fall into God’s hands. He is merciful. He answers our cries. When we feel deep distress, we know what to do:

We leave the dungeon and move to the fortress. Jeremiah says, “Lord, you are my strength and my fortress, my refuge in times of distress” (Jeremiah 16:19).

I think of myself in the fortress of God’s merciful care.


Some Questions About My Life From Growing Plants

I pass by the seedlings growing in the window, and I notice how my daughter has transplanted the seedlings into larger containers. She continues to upgrade the containers to accommodate the rate of growth.

I know that soon, she’ll move the plants outside to strengthen them in the harsh wind and varying temperatures to form hearty plants ready for their final transplant in the wide, wide, earth.

I wonder about my own life. I wonder about marriage and parenting. I wonder about friendship.

Have I provided the space for growth in myself and the people around me?

Where am I too confined?

How am I confining others?

Do I need a new experience to foster my rate of growth? 

Have I allowed enough discomfort to strengthen me in new environments so I’m ready for where God plants me? 

If I’m not flourishing, is my container too small? Is my environment too comfortable? 

By harvest time, I want to have grown alongside my plants. Each new year, I hope for growth, and I think about positioning myself and others for flourishing. 


Many and Bitter

I love Psalm 71:19-21, and I even scribbled it on a page from my prayer journal to give to a friend who is having a hard time today. It says:

Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
    you who have done great things.
    Who is like you, God?
 Though you have made me see troubles,
    many and bitter,
    you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
    you will again bring me up.
You will increase my honor
    and comfort me once more.

As spring bursts forth in every direction today, I like thinking about God restoring, bringing back from the depths of despair, increasing honor, and providing comfort. Why not pray for a new season for the people in your life who are having a hard time today? Pray that, though they see troubles, many and bitter, God would call forth springtime in their soul.





Anaideia Praying

I’m reading in Luke 11:8 where Jesus tells the story of the shameless, imprudent, bold, rash friend who dares to make a totally selfish and inappropriate middle-of-the-night request for bread to feed his guests. Jesus says that we should ask God for what we need in this same manner.

Essentially, Jesus invites us to ask outrageously for what we need.

I don’t do this. I’m reserved. I’m proper. I’m full of appropriate, orderly prayers.

But this guy? Oh, he’s ridiculous. The passage reads:

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’  I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

I just love this passage! I love that the friend is unprepared, obviously disorganized (there’s no food in the house!) and approaches someone at midnight with shameless audacity. The Greek word for this kind of asking is “anaideia,” and it translates as “shamelessness” and “imprudence.” Most translations say “persistence” or “boldness” as well.

I grab my prayer journal and begin scribbling down outrageous and shameless requests. I don’t censor myself. I don’t worry about what’s selfless, self-sacrificing, or even possible. I just go to God and ask Him for what my heart wants because He will give “as much as you need.” He knows and isn’t shocked or shaming. He opens the door and gives.

How fun to think that God invites outrageous praying.




What You Need Might Be Different From What They Need

It’s been a wonderful parenting opportunity to let Merlin heal.

My daughters have to remember that to him, the isolated bathroom is peaceful and lovely. It’s a cat’s dream.

To us, it’s lonely, dark, and terrible. To us, it’s misery.

My daughters want to storm the room and snuggle Merlin. They want to smother him with kisses and pets and treats. They want to compliment him with their high-pitched, sing-song love.

I remind them that what they would like isn’t what he would like. It’s so difficult to consider another’s point of view. We project everything we want and value and need without pausing to inhabit the experience of the person we so desperately want to love and comfort.



Intensive Care: A Lesson from Merlin the Cat

Our dear cat, Merlin, has vertigo from what the vet thinks is an ear infection. He can’t walk and just falls over to one side. He won’t eat. He won’t socialize. The vet gives us medication to heal him and help him eat, and then he provides the instructions for healing. 

We’re told to keep Merlin in a quiet, dark, comfortable area that’s safe from any intruders. We’re to provide delicious, enticing food along with refreshing water. We’re to deliver the medication he needs in an easy way. Even more, we’re to remove any obstacles that could cause him to fall or harm him. We stock a guest bathroom with everything Merlin needs.

His healing might take a week or two.

All day, I think about how relaxing it all seems as Merlin heals. Quiet, calm, comfort, nourishment, and all the love of a family. I used to learn all my healing lessons from our one-eyed cat, Jack, but Merlin’s been teaching me all about intensive care.

When we’re in a season of healing–for ourselves or others–I think about peace, nourishment, the removal of obstacles, and the blocking of intruders. I think about all the love and comfort needed that we can provide lavishly.

We follow our instructions for healing.