cookies and milk

        I like good endings to movies and books and visits, and I like good endings to my days, too. I always have, but it took me a long time to stop making bad ones instead. Every night, I used to either miss the chance to revisit the day, or, worse, I'd walk back through it feeling like a kid going to the principal's office. If I'd done ninety-nine things out of a hundred that day, I'd ignore the ninety-nine and stare at the one looming thing I'd messed up. Then I'd cross my arms and glare at myself and call myself names and tell myself how much better so-and-so would've done. It was like having a few sips of poison as a nightcap. But I don't do that anymore. I have cookies and milk instead. I start at the very beginning of the day, and I remember all its pieces. It gives me a chance to say thank-you for the dog and the fire and the guy at work who always has my back, and it gives me a chance to feel sad about things that got buried under all the busyness. It gives me time for I'm-sorry, too, but not the poisonous kind. Instead of I'm sorry I'm such a hopeless rat of a failure, I say I'm sorry I made You sad, because I know You love me higher than the stars. Sometimes I make it all the way through the day, and sometimes I fall asleep halfway. Either way, it's a good ending. 



birthdays and other small parties

        You have to be careful about small parties. If you're not, you'll outgrow them. You'll get too busy and sophisticated and weighed-down for celebrating, and you'll miss all the invitations. And the invitations are everywhere. Sometimes they're birthdays or half-birthdays (remember those?) or anniversaries. Sometimes other people come, and sometimes they're private parties, like the one I'm having all by myself today because it's Barbara's birthday and I get to celebrate how beautiful she is. On darker days, when it's hard to see the invitations, you can look in the rearview mirror and celebrate something that happened last week or last year. Or you can borrow things -- you can celebrate somebody else getting a promotion or writing a book or having a baby or exercising every day. Before you know it, you'll be so busy having small parties that all the worries and complaints will end up sulking in the corner where they belong.

"[Celebration] is the unceasing affirmation that underneath all the ups and downs of life there flows a solid current of joy." Henri Nouwen, Lifesigns

"Let's have a feast and celebrate. . . .  [And there was] music and dancing." Luke 15:23, 25.

inside out

        Every time I see little Caroline, I say the same thing. "Wow, look at you! You've gotten so big!" She grows like lightning -- new words and big-girl beds and climbing like a monkey. But kids do that. They grow. With us, it's different. Some of us don't grow at all, and some get smaller, and some grow every day. It all depends on who's living inside. The ones who say yes when a King wants to move in (and then keep on saying yes) grow a lot. They can't help it. They'd burst if they didn't. They get more solid and spacious, and they laugh more and worry less. They listen when you talk. It feels good to be around them, sort of like a camp fire. They're warm and comfortable. They feel like home. But they don't know it, and they'd be surprised if you told them. They're just doing what they always do -- making sure the King is comfortable inside.
"Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." 2 Cor. 4:16.

"[T]wo people may be at the same spot in manners and behavior, and yet one may be getting better and the other worse, which is just the greatest of all differences that could possibly exist between them." George MacDonald

baby birds

        I used to have a nest full of baby birds right outside my window. On the lucky days, I'd get to watch them when their mother came home with a meal. The whole nest would turn into craning, straining necks and cartoon-character mouths. There was only one thing on their little bird minds: feed-me. They never seemed to have more important things to do -- TV shows or meetings or newspapers or chores. I never saw them get side-tracked or lie back down instead, as if tomorrow would be a more convenient day for a meal. They were dying for food. They ate as much as they could every, single day, and after a while they learned to fly.        

Father, I can't feed myself. I don't know how. Feed me this day, and I will open wide my hungry heart. Amen.

"Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things in your word." Ps. 119:18

the golden rule

        Remember the golden rule -- treat other people the way you want them to treat you? I heard it a lot in school when I was growing up, but that was a long time ago, before we outgrew it and traded it in for the me-first rule. That was one sad trade. The me-first rule is such hard work compared with the quiet, old-fashioned rule that says I'm going to give you a break today, whether you deserve it or not, because that's how I'd like you to treat me. I wouldn't want you to carry around a list of all my shortcomings and misdeeds and failures today, so I won't carry yours around. When I pick up my wallet and my cell phone this morning, I'll just leave that dog-eared list on top of my dresser. I bet I'll have an extra skip in my step today. Miracles do that sort of thing.

"Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; remember me instead according to Your lovingkindness. . . ." Ps. 25:7.

coloring monday

        This Monday morning started with the sinking feeling that recess is over and now I have to slog through all the undone chores. After a while, I half-heartedly (because that's all I had left) started reading a psalm, and that's when I saw these magic words: "I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart." In the margin, there were scribbled dates from other days when this verse had rescued me, so I decided to add "1/10/11" to the group. I told all my anxious how-will-I-ever-make-it thoughts to wait in the corner, and I gave my imagination a few minutes to wander around. I ended up in places I haven't been for a very long time -- Mrs. Ewell's kindergarten class; accident scenes that people I love have walked away from; a stormy canoe trip with one of my favorite (used to be little) boys. I just followed along, saying thank-you for the good grace that filled those times, and a funny thing happened -- I started looking forward to all the grace that will surprise me along the path today. Somehow those few minutes managed to color Monday. I guess recess isn't over after all.