having a moment


I stand stock still in the rising sun, clutching my container of hot tea steaming and drinking in the deep chill of a fall morning.  I have a few precious moments to dwell alone here between school bus rounds; between silence and mayhem, between quiet and loudness, between peace and playground pounding with happy children spilling off big yellow buses. 

As I watch, the sun journeys and still it amazes me to think that no, the sun is not the item in motion; this planet huge is the one propelling forth.   That in and of itself is a miracle.  I feel an invitation to life as its rays peek over the tips of leafy trees, beckoning me to include myself in the wonder that is now, today, this moment.

All of life is an invitation.  From the moment God designed me to come to earth, He has been asking me to participate in this amazement of being a living, breathing soul who walks and laughs, moves and works, feels joy and sorrow, wonder and pain.  It’s in quiet moments like these, when I will to slow down the distractions around me, draw myself in and allow Him to speak, that I get a glimpse of what being is all about.  

I discover that being is….

….living the daily moments that go too quickly by.   

….moments of awe at the natural order of things I have become achingly used to.

….knowing life as good because God gave it as a gift to me.

I wrap these thoughts around me, cloak myself in them for the day.  I press my mind into these truths and cling to this God-connection I’ve just made, knowing that I will need it later to see me through the ordinaries where I live.  The tether to Him must be strong as I go through the bill paying, grocery shopping, laundry rotating, car driving, problem solving scenes of my life.  It’s what gets me through.

I know I’ve discovered a nugget standing here, a glimpse of pure gold that seems to crystallize all that is around me.  It clarifies life and shows me that when I stop and pay attention, the glory shines.

I hear the roar of a bus.   I hear the whisper of God.

And so my day begins.  His moments sustain me.

What a gift.

when He fills your empty hands


As an assistant librarian, I run the cash register at the book fair in our library. Elementary students come in to the fair with cold hard cash, starry eyes wanting to buy it all.  When they’ve made their choices and come up to me to purchase their books, their money comes in usually one of two forms.  Sometimes I am handed a wad of bills wrapped so tightly that I have to forcibly straighten them out with the heel of my hand so they’ll lay flat in the cash drawer.  Other students have clearly shaken empty their piggy bank just for the occasion, which allows all manner of change to spill across the counter as they pay for their SpongeBob book.  It takes all kinds.

One particular day, I had quite a line of three-foot customers waiting to buy their items.   I noticed that I was running out of cash in the drawer quickly.  It seemed that everyone needed change that morning.  I felt a little rise of panic with each transaction because I knew that soon, the register's drawer would be empty and I would be stranded.  With an ever impatient line of small shoppers, I couldn't exactly stroll around school looking for small bills and coins.  I was going to run out of money long before I ran out of customers.

I had almost made it through when one of the last shoppers came up to the register.  I held my breath as I rang up the sale and watched the empty cash drawer spring open.  I was hoping against hope that he wouldn’t need change.  But, to pay for his three dollar book, he placed a crumpled ten dollar bill in my hand.  It sounds crazy, but my eyes welled up for a moment because all the money in the register was gone, and I had no other resource to draw from.  I needed seven dollars, and I had absolutely nothing to give this little boy looking at me with hand held out, waiting for his change that I had promised him.

At that very moment, another student burst forth out of the crowd.  Breathless and excited, he threw a book on the counter and said, “Here, I want to buy this!”  With that, he produced a Ziploc bag – the preferred wallet of every second grader – and shoved it toward me.

I saw quarters.  Lots of them. 

I started to hope.

The price of the book he wanted to buy?  Seven dollars.

The total of the quarters he gave me?  Seven dollars.

The amount of change that I needed for that other student…..?  Seven dollars.

Those quarters never made it into the cash drawer.  Incredulous at the miracle playing out in front of me, I simply transferred the beautiful shiny circles from one student to the other.   Help had arrived at the moment I needed it, from a place I wouldn't have expected it.

But I sensed a deeper truth.  One that related to cash flow but to life in general.

If I hadn’t been in need, I couldn’t have seen the provision.

If I'm never without, I'll never recognize the Source of my supply.

None of us want to be there, in the desperate need, not knowing where the next whatever-it-may-be will come from. Being in need is unattractive, uncomfortable, undesirable.  Yet sometimes I must to get to the end of myself, my resources, my abundance in order to be reminded Who it is that is providing for me.

Then my eyes are opened, makes me aware.

Then I bow my heart in humble thankfulness, being rescued once again.

Then I get to see, really see, the miracle that comes in quarters. 

lemon squeeze

I drive through McDonald’s every day at lunch time, because their large size iced teas are currently available for a dollar.  For me, iced tea lover that I am, that’s a steal.  I don’t have to make the tea, I don’t have to brew it, I just have to show up with my debit card and tell the person on the other end of the microphone what I want. Easy peasy. And my order is always the same – a large unsweetened with three Splenda and two lemon.

It always make me smile when I order a drink with lemon at McDonald’s or any other eatery – because as far as I can tell, they simply drop the lemon wedges in and think that will do the trick. (And maybe I should be thankful for this – the less handling of my lemon by strangers the more sanitary, me thinks.)  But all you get from that maneuver is floating fruit; the flavor has not been released yet.

How does it get released?  Say it with me – you squeeze it.  And you do so pretty hard, too, to get all the juice out.

If I were the lemon, one might hear a loud “Ouch!”, “Stop it!” or “Hands off! Enough is enough already!” 

Let’s face it.  It hurts to be squeezed.  But let's also admit it; that’s when the best in us comes out.  Squeezing may not be pleasant, but it’s necessary.   It releases the good stuff, the stuff we were brought here for, the stuff that is going to liven up the drink of life and make a difference in how it tastes.  It’s not easy, and most days we’d prefer to remain comforable floating fruit.  But then we’d never get the chance to see what we’re really made of, and how our lives can make a difference.

Squeezing means growth.  It means we’re alive and well and going through something that some day down the road God will use to have us help others.  I’ve felt the pressure of a squeeze many times in my life.  Currently, my squeeze looks like a long period of waiting, as if the fingers that are nudging the goodness out of that lemon wedge just keep pressing and pressing and I really wish it was over but it’s not….

This has been one long squeeze.

Let’s turn the story to you. 

Tell me about a time when you were squeezed..... How did it feel, and what did you learn through it?  Share in the comments and let’s keep the conversation going!

creative passion

I had a lot of conversations with my son, a college sophomore, this past weekend, as he is trying to determine what major he should declare.   We talked a lot about talent and passion and what part that should play in his decision.  That left me with swirling thoughts running circles in my head – all to do with this writing pursuit of mine.  I had to ask myself the hard question -  is it really a passion of mine, or is it just a means to an end to be known for something? 
I tend to define someone’s passion as what they naturally gravitate toward in their free time; what they’d choose to be doing when they could be doing anything.  Yes, writing does fit in there for me, but I notice that I often have to talk myself into actually going and doing it.

I remember a time not that long ago when writing a story or a blog post seemed simpler because at the time, there was no weightiness attributed to it. It was just me, writing something that, if it succeeded or failed, didn't much matter. But now it does.  Now that it means something to my life's pursuit or is supposed to propel me forward toward fame and fortune, I find myself shying away from it and at times am terrified to even try.  This is, of course, ridiculous and I’m sure there is some psychological term for the way my brain is processing this weird way of thinking.   I just haven't had time to look it up.

I read a lot about Ann Voskamp this weekend. She's quite famous and influential, and no one had even heard of her a few years ago. Her book, One Thousand Gifts, was one that I really didn’t like when I read it the first time - I just couldn’t get through it for some reason.  The other day when I picked it up at my sister’s house and really read the title, I realized that this book is about exactly what I believe in and would choose to write about given the opportunity- seeking gifts every day that God gives in the ordinary things that are already right around me.  It was odd to me, this connection; hers is one of maybe two books in my entire life that I have put down before finishing, and it turns out to be exactly about what I believe in and try to practice every day.   

I never knew.  Probably because I didn’t read the whole book.  And now I wish I had. (I have it on order from the library....) 
She started with a gratitude journal, and God used it to change her whole life and give her fodder for a book that has taken off and become a New York Times bestseller many times over.  Beginning that journal probably seemed like a small thing to her, and God took it and made it something grand.  We never know in a day what we will start or do or say that God will take and run with like a kite in the breeze  - letting the string out ever farther so it can fly ever higher.
Let's make every moment count.  Let's not miss an opportunity.  Let's dare to fly.


whatever you do....look up

My son was a camp counselor this past summer.  He worked the ropes course, which was an entirely new experience for him.   I visited him one day at the camp, and he graciously took me down into the woods where things like rope swings and zip lines and rock walls and vertical playgrounds were set up.

Clearly, these are things I would rather observe than do.

For a while, I stood with him at the base of the rock wall.  It was huge. It was high. As I was watching, I saw these little kids shimmying up so fast and so confidently that it amazed me.

It took me a moment, but I noticed something about each child going up.  Unlike what I would have been doing in order to measure my progress and welcome panic, they never looked back and they never looked down. 

The key to their success in getting to the top was that they only looked up.

Not once did one of them glance back to see how far they'd come or how dangerous their climb actually was or the risks they were taking or the probability that they shouldn't be trusting fake rocks jutting out of a thin wooden frame.....and on and on it could go.

That's what I would have been thinking while I was climbing that insanely high, precarious looking wall.

But not them.  They embraced no excuses. They just climbed.

Watching from my safe, risk-less spot on the ground, every last one of those kids got to the top just fine. When they arrived, there was a counselor there to give them a huge high five and congratulate their success.   It was a well-earned accolade.

I couldn't help but make the jump to the spiritual parallel.  Life is all about looking up, not looking back.  I need to remember that God's at the top of the wall, cheering me on, just waiting until one day when He can give me the high five that says, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

The climb will go easier if I don't worry so much about where I've been, but instead concentrate on where I'm going.

And the best way to get there is by looking up.