There are a number of short prayers, “Help!” being one of the most popular. “Save me,” being another. But the one that I find myself praying most often is, “Father, lead me.” And I know that God does. How can I be so confident? Because the Lord is my shepherd, and I am asking him to do something that he has already promised in his word.
It is hard to reconcile the terrible things that happen to us with God’s great love for us. Yet, those who I admire most have found a way to keep loving and trusting God anyway while working to lessen the suffering of others.
Did you know that in Jewish culture at the time of Jesus there were six ways in which a person could be “born again”? According to my Complete Jewish Study Bible these included: when a boy becomes bar mitzvah at age thirteen, when a Jewish man married, when he was ordained as a rabbi, when he became the head of a rabbinical school, or when a Gentile converted to Judaism or was crowned as King.
I’ve always loved old houses. But what I love most, especially when I drive down Maine’s winding back roads, is glimpsing a dilapidated old house that someone is lovingly restoring back to life. Often in life, when we encounter something hard, we view it as bad. Or when something is easy, we view it as good. But most often in life, I find that hard and good are not antonyms.
When was pregnant with my second child, instead of driving to my local doctor’s office for prenatal checkups, I drove 45-minutes from our house in Bath, Maine, to an abandoned church in Lewiston where boxes of donated food filled the lobby and economically disadvantaged, single moms came together for support for their young children.
Growing up on a farm with a single mom who was working her way through college, we didn’t have a lot of extras. Most of my clothes were passed down from my older brother, and most of our food came from our flocks of sheep and chickens and from our garden. Only many decades later did I discover that for much of my childhood my grandparents had sent my mom money to help pay the mortgage.
Like many, I woke up on Easter to the tragic news of the terrorist bombing in Sri Lanka. Having buried a daughter and my mother, I can only imagine the grief gripping those who lost children, spouses or parents in the blasts. Whole families were obliterated, but the victims included more than the terrorists’ targets.
"I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly," John 10:9-10...
I am not a fan of puzzles. Taking a perfectly good image, cutting it into one hundred or more tiny pieces and then trying to reconstruct it feels like a frustrating waste of time. But last weekend, I was selling books at a local Grange hall with my 9-year-old son, Asher, when one of the organizers kindly offered us a puzzle of a shiny green frog.
It isn’t hard to find something to be unhappy about these days. The melting ice caps. Racial and economic injustice. The high cost of education and medical care. The opioid epidemic. I suppose Lent is as good a season as any to be miserable as we recognize the grievous condition of the human heart and of the harm our actions have wrought on humanity.
I had fun this past weekend, sharing about writing with children at the Homeschoolers of Maine Convention, just up the coast in Rockport. One of my top tips for writers of any age – and one I live by – is to try to experience whatever it is you are writing about.
When I was in middle school, I stood beside my mother on a small-town sidewalk, holding a white-painted sign that said, “We love babies. Let them live.” In high school, I wore a T-shirt to class that read, “Babies, things we throw away?” and gave a persuasive speech on why I believed that abortion was wrong. As a newlywed, I held my husband’s hand outside my state capitol and prayed with others to end the systematic, widespread use of abortion.
One of the most beautiful opportunities during Lent is the opportunity to focus on the larger Christian community around the world. It is an opportunity to repent – such as when reading of abuses committed by those who call themselves followers of Christ – and to pray for those who’ve been abused, both by those from within the church and those from without.
What boasting about my incredible popovers taught me about knowing God this Lenten season.
I wondered whether I was wasting my time, all those early mornings and late nights sitting at my computer writing children’s stories. Would anyone ever read my work? If only I could enroll in an MFA program, I was sure I could get published. But with a house full of children, life was too busy. Plus, I didn’t have the cash.
With the deep chill of a Maine February upon us and five children hanging around our house on a one-week school vacation, it was time to get out and have fun. So, while our older children played a board game around the kitchen table, my husband, Dana, and I gathered our two youngest boys and headed to a local pool. No sooner were we in the water, than 5-year-old Ezra spotted his former swimming teacher and paddled over to join her class.
One of my great delights as a writer is promoting the work of other writers. But with so many books, it’s hard to read them all. So when an Ohio author I’d never met, Elaine Starner, reached out to me by email and asked whether I’d be interested in reading one of the four books in her Hope Knows devotional series, I wasn’t sure I had time.
I was helping at my children’s school last Friday, when one of the first graders raced up to me, arms open wide, and gave me a hug. Then she thrust a piece of paper into my hands. “I LOVE YOU!” said the giant, red words with a picture of a smiling girl underneath.
“This is for me?” I asked, surprised.
Grinning, she nodded.
What compelled me to take my mother’s mystery houseplant, I don’t recall. Its smooth, reed-like fronds grew outward from a single, papery stalk in the shape of a fan. My mother kept it in a plastic pot – the kind in which you might bring home a tomato plant from a nursery. Nothing showy. And the plant wasn’t either. “Give it a little water once a week,” Mom said, forgetting what it was called. “It blooms once every year or so, but if you’re patient, the flowers are spectacular.”
With five kids fluttering in and out of our front door, clutter is definitely an issue at my house. In fact I couldn’t write that sentence without getting up to clear a coffee table and put away some books. Now, I feel compelled to fire up a load of laundry. Some of that may be the result of having just watched Netflix’s new series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. I’d never read Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or any other books by the bestselling author. But I do like a clean house.