Fresh breath

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. (Psalms 150:6)

Go ahead: take a breath. Make it a deep one.

Let it out.

Repeat.

I read once that a well-lived life is almost always busy. I’m good with that. This has been our summer of activities. The kids are trying both regular and new sports, and we are squirrel-proofing our backyard garden. B and I are both working at the church, plus attending leadership meetings and bible study. I’m prepping PTA and Moms in Prayer programs for the coming year.

But just because we’re full of activity doesn’t meant there hasn’t been down time. Many of our days have long stretches of Lego building, book reading, and swimming. We play occasionally with friends but not often. Mostly we’re satisfied by our plates, and considering how full they are, it’s no wonder. There’s always something to do, even if that’s resting.

Given the pace, I lose my connection to God. Then I lose my patience, focus, and joy. I struggled to find the “method” that would keep that connection going. Scripture memorization. Bible study. Journaling. But in the midst of our lives–which sometimes feels like God-directed chaos–these all seemed so hard. Too complicated, too much. And yet I know that I need that connection, that He certainly means for me to have it even while doing everything else. But how?

This verse changed my life.

I memorized it via a worship CD. Then I really began thinking about it. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Take a breath. Let it out with that verse. Praise the Lord. Instead of working at that connection, it came naturally, just through that simple action.

God stays so close, and makes it so easy. Of all the things on my plate, this takes up the least room, and yet is the very most satisfying. When everything else is so crazy, why try to make it so much harder than it needs to be?

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord indeed!

Heaven on earth

There are some moments that are so perfect I feel like I might just burst from happiness. Of course, every time I think that, it’s followed by that creeping paranoia that people always think things like that right before something awful happens. So instead of saying it aloud, I’ll sneak it out in a little blog whisper.

This morning, right in between a fun hike with friends and a free morning to myself, a long and open weekend just a few hours away, I was driving in the cloudless morning sun. The day was already warm enough that all my windows were down, amazing praise music mingling with the wind, and I was joyous. Joyous to be in that particular moment, but also joyous that I have a life this blessed, with good friends and a spouse I still can’t get enough of and healthy children and enough to fill all the cracks and edges in between. And then it hits me:

This is what heaven must be like. But all the time.

I have trouble imagining heaven. It often seems vague and (Lord forgive me) somewhat boring. But defining heaven as a feeling, a feeling this joyously blissed out–I can definitely look forward to that. And those little moments, they’re buried in every day, I think, just so that we know there is something better waiting for us. I’m just usually too busy focusing on the weight of the here and now; there’s so much more of that, surely. But dig a little, find the joy, and then share it. If there’s anything this world could use, it’s a little more of heaven.

Language art

Aminal.

That’s exactly how she said it: aminal. For years.

And then we coached her, just the other night, on the correct pronunciation. A-NI-mal. Which she repeated, after a few tries, in her sweet five-year-old voice: animal.

I will forget, someday, that she forever mispronounced animal, just like the sound of M’s cimanin (for cinnamon) is already fading. So this morning, when she mispronounced it again, B and I just smiled at each other and lot it slide. They grow fast enough as it is.

Girl magic

A few weeks ago K and I went for an afternoon with her friends, starting with a princess-themed tea party and ending with a performance of Disney on Ice. It was not the most stellar afternoon. We stumbled over the directions to our friend’s house, the lunch options, the seating options. There was drama between the little girls about who was playing what with whom, and who would drive together to the event. There were pit stops for more money, more food, more water. As much as it was intended to be magical, it ended up muddled instead.

In exchange, B took M to a Sn Diego Sockers game last night. While the boys were gone, K and I launched into a series of girl-themed activities (don’t worry, I reminded her that lots of boys might enjoy and do the things we did, they just weren’t the boys we lived with). After changing into pajamas, I got all my nail supplies and walked her through a manicure, where we both ended up with pink and purple glitter nails. Then we curled up on the couch with a Barbie movie (yes, it was that bad). But her little head resting on my shoulder makes just about anything perfect. Halfway through she whispered to me, very grown-up like, “You getting a little hungry?” “A little. You?” “A little.” So I made us a plate of nachos to share–food that, again, our boys don’t like. After the movie came dancing. Pillow fighting. Chasing through the house. More cuddling. Reading. Love.

Truth is, I’m not a dancing/pillow fighting/glitter nail kind of girl, and some of those things the boys would have liked sharing in very much. But those activities were ours that night, because we made them so. How different from an event that cost five times as much but was complicated by five other pairs of moms and daughters.

K repeated, no fewer than five times, one of the most meaningful phrases I’ve ever heard: “This is the best day of my entire life.”

Ministering to each other doesn’t have to involve lots of money or even time (no matter what she said, it was less than four hours of a fourteen hour day). Ministering involves loving others, meeting them where they are, taking interest in what they love and sharing it with them. This is a life both abundant and light, because it is rooted in love.

Flourish like a palm tree

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
    they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;” (Psalm 92:12)

I’ve been thinking about this verse lately: flourish like a palm tree. It’s a funny comparison. When I think of flourishing, I usually think of big flowering bushes or a tall and lush tree or a plant heavy with fruit. Palm trees are pretty stark, even when they are flourishing. But because we have a flourishing palm tree in the front yard, I’ve taken some time lately to consider the truth of that analogy.

A flourishing palm still needs regular trimming.

Branches die on a palm at regular intervals, even in perfect health. We also need to continue to care for ourselves, and yes, parts will die or need to be trimmed away, even (or especially) if we’re growing as intended.

A flourishing palm matures slowly.

It would be more exciting to watch grass grow. Palms grow tall in stature, but at a very slow and steady rate. We too may be flourishing, but our growth is still going to be measured out.

A flourishing palm bears seeds.

I know because I am constantly cursing them–we have small rocks underneath our palm, and there’s no good way to separate the seeds from the rocks. But that’s also important: a flourishing palm (or Christian) will be bearing seeds, and they should probably be just as hard to get rid of.

A flourishing palm grows from the inside out.

One of the most beautiful parts of a palm’s growth are the new fronds, which stretch straight from the center of the plant and then unfold until they can fan out. If we are flourishing, our growth will come from the very center of our heart, where Christ is doing His most important work. A healthy heart means new growth can come forth.

This post has very little to do with anything, except that I had trouble making much of that analogy in the past, given the simplicity of the palm tree. But when I really thought about it, it was amazing to see what God was offering us, even in a simple verse. And I look at palm trees with a sense of appreciation now, seeing what I hope we share in common.

The kiss of diss

K: Can I have a playdate today?

Me: How about we play together, just you and me?

K: That’s okay. I want to let you do your work.

Me: You know, I don’t really have any work to do right now. I’d love to play with you all afternoon.

K: Oh. It’s just that… well, I’d kind of rather play with someone my own age.

And there it is: the first official diss. After years of playing dolls and legos and board games, you’d think I’d be relieved. But no, it still feels like a diss. On the plus side, I love that she’s  got good friends that she wants to play with. As long as none of them figure out how to make really great carrot cake, I think I’ll still be loved.