Lots of people post “Friday Favorites.” I’ve picked up shopping tips from Melanie Shankle, followed Kate’s pregnancy through the eyes of new mom Elizabeth Robertson Williams, and snagged more than a couple of good recipes from any number of Friday bloggers. But, not being much of shopper (or a royal watcher; has Kate had that baby yet?), you won’t find those types of good tips here. And while I might share a recipe once in awhile, I am currently conducting an experiment to prove to Robbie that eating out–if you find the right “deal”–might actually be cheaper than cooking at home, now that it’s just the two of us. (Wish me luck.)
When I use the word “favorite,” it is often in the context of a Bible verse. Some people have their “life verse,” and they can tell you what it means to them, and why. Not me. I have any number of Bible “favorites,” and they change almost daily.
For me, then, Friday is going to be the day when I post whatever principle or promise has captivated my heart that week. And, banking on promises like John 15:7 (“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you”) and Isaiah 55:11 (which tells us that God’s word does not return empty, but accomplishes the purposes for which it is sent), I will offer these verses in the format of prayers, with blanks where you can insert your own name, or that of someone you love.
I hope you enjoy praying this way, and that these words will serve to strengthen your faith and increase your joy. I hope they will transform your perspective and breathe fresh hope into weary or challenging situations. And I hope, actually, that some of these verses will become your new favorites.
Spread your protection over ____ and bless him/her. Surround ____ with your favor as with a shield. (Psalm 5:11-12)
My friend Nancy invited me to join her at the She Speaks conference, put on by Lysa Terkhurst and her pals at Proverbs 31 Ministries. The conference was uplifting and informative (www.shespeaksconference.com, if you want to go), particularly for old gals like me, who don’t know a lot of what we don’t know when it comes to things like “driving people to your website.” (Seriously? As a recently minted empty nester, the last thing I want to do is start driving people again!)
Eager to drink from the fire hose of digital information, I parked myself in a series of sessions about things like analytics, maximizing traffic, and creating a “strategic pinning plan.” (Pinterest, as it turns out, is not just a place where people show what they can do with a glue gun and a cheese grater. Who knew?)
(Well, you probably did. Maybe everyone does. But it was news to me.)
After three or four of these workshops, I felt like a dinosaur. Or maybe a platypus, swimming in a sea of cute young girls, all of whom seemed to have websites and followers and “highly pin-able content.” I was just about to slip out of my seat and go in search of some comfort with my new BFF, the conference center barista, when Nancy tugged at my arm. “I want to get a quick picture of the two of us,” she said, fishing in her purse for her iPhone.
“Here,” she said, handing the phone to a stranger. “Will you take a selfie of us?”
(You can’t make this stuff up. I love Nancy.)
And I love selfies—the kind that you actually take yourself. They are such a photographic enigma—almost nobody looks good in a selfie, but everyone looks happy. And which would you rather be? Attractive, or happy? (Maybe don’t answer that. Or at least think about it for a sec, before you do.)
And I bet God loves selfies too. You wanna know why? Because—and I just read this today, so it’s fresh—he has long arms! Back in Exodus 11, when Moses wasn’t sure the Lord could deliver on the whole “Where’s the meat?” thing, God had just one question for him: Is the Lord’s arm too short?
Long arms, as everyone knows, are the key to a good selfie. It’s hard to get everyone in the photo if you are built like a crocodile. But God can get the whole world in his pic! And his arms are not just long…they are strong (Psalm 89:13), everlasting (Deuteronomy 33:27), and always ready to gather us close (Isaiah 40:11).
Next time you get ready to take a selfie—or to hand your camera to someone else to snap it for you—remember God’s arms. No matter what you need, it’s within his reach. No matter how heavy your burden is, his arms are always there, underneath. And no matter how far away you may stray, he stands ready, with arms open wide, to welcome you home.
Whether or not my mom and her siblings knew it, these words—spoken regularly, and with the authority that comes with being a parent—shaped their lives. They served as a daily reminder of God’s presence (“Walk with the King”), and they injected a sense of purpose into even the most routine or unremarkable mornings: Your mission today is to be a blessing.
Robbie and I adopted the practice of speaking blessings over our children when they were very young. Sometimes we spoke or softly sang these words in the tender darkness of their bedsides; sometimes, we practically hollered them at the kids as the school bus rumbled up the street and everyone scrambled to find coats and backpacks.
We had a few favorites, all taken from the Bible. Today, our kids (now ages 18-24) might not be able to quote the chapter and verse, but these words are locked in to their minds:
May the Lord bless you and keep you; may he make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn his face toward you, and give you peace.
The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. The Lord will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with his love. He will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
And this one, which the children simply called, “Presence”:
Where can you go from his Spirit? Where can you flee from his presence? If you go up to heaven, he’s there. If you make your bed in the depths, he is there. If you rise on the wings of the dawn; if you settle on the far side of the sea, even there his hand will guide you, his right hand will hold you fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)
The Bible is full of verses that can be appropriated and personalized to create your own family blessing. You’ll also find rich words in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, the Methodist hymnal, and even The Fiddler on the Roof. (Our kids had bit parts in that high school musical, and family blessings don’t get much better than the Sabbath Prayer: “May the Lord protect and defend you, May he always shield you from shame…” I could have sat through that number, with Tevye and Golda warbling about things like peace and strength and good marriages, 15 times. Come to think of it, I probably did.)
If you’ve never spoken a blessing over your family, start today. If your children are young, snuggle them into your arms as you speak. If they are prickly teenagers, a simple “The Lord bless you!” as they walk out the door can penetrate even the thickest shell. And if they are adults, consider writing a letter of blessing, or giving it to them as a gift for birthdays, Christmas, or as a New Year’s benediction.
A family blessing does not have to be eloquent, complicated, or long. Simple works. But I can’t think of an easier—or more powerful—way to speak God’s grace over your children, and to remind them that he loves them and that his power is active in their lives.
“Rejoice in the Lord always.”
If you’re like me, you read a line like this one (Philippians 4:4) and you think, “Well, that might work for some people. People who don’t have teenagers. Or a leaky roof. Or a colonoscopy scheduled for tomorrow.”
We live in a world where it can sometimes be tough to be joyful. People hurt us. Money gets tight. Circumstances—ranging from bad hair days to ill-behaved children to frightening medical conditions—conspire to sap our confidence. And, particularly for women, fear and worry can lurk around every corner, ready to shape every piece of bad news or uncertainty into a torpedo to aim at our faith.
Is it even possible to have joy—always? Yes. Yes! Joy might not come naturally, but we can tap into the secret of a joy-filled life if we are willing to embrace a simple truth: It’s not about us. It’s not about our happiness, our goals, or our success. It’s about bringing honor and glory to God. (more…)
I drove a Chevy Suburban for 19 years. I had three different versions—each one fueled by dog hair and the smell of soccer cleats—and they were all faithful.
Two years ago, with the empty nest looming, Robbie suggested that it was time to find a smaller, more fuel-efficient car. I wasn’t sure I was ready to say goodbye to my current road-beast, but I agreed to take a few test drives.
Oh my! Two decades and four kids’ worth of life behind the wheel of a tank had not prepared me for the feel of these younger, snappier cars. I took the on-ramps like I was channeling Danica, and even the salesman in the passenger seat marveled at my donuts in the parking lot. By the time we’d left the third dealership, I was hooked. (more…)
Our daughter, Annesley, loves puzzles. As a preschooler, she’d open a 500-piece box and start fitting pieces together. She didn’t bother with doing the edges first, or with sorting by color. She simply worked left to right, like some little towheaded computer, methodically checking to see if each piece fit before she rejected it and moved on to the next one. Row by row, piece by piece, the picture finally came into focus.
Today, as a 22-year-old architect, Annesley still welcomes a good puzzle—and each Christmas, she’s sure to get one from her brother, Robbie (who does his limited but effective shopping at Target). Annesley doesn’t waste any time getting started; usually by December 27, the puzzle is all but complete.
This year, an untimely swipe of the dog’s tail derailed her handiwork. Unfazed, Annesley picked up the pieces and collected them in the box, planning to start over once she returned to her Charlottesville apartment. Unfortunately, when she put the picture together again on her dining room table, she came up short. It was just one piece, but to a puzzle aficionado, to miss one piece is (I am told) to miss the whole victory. (more…)
I love old books. For one thing, their age is proof that they can stand the test of time. For another, at least when it comes to Christian books, the old stuff is usually a lot less about “me” and a lot more about God. Refreshing.
One of my new-old favs is Catherine Marshall’s Beyond Our Selves. I first read it as a teenager; I rediscovered it this year. The bad news is that this 1961 book is out of print. The good news is that you can get copies on Amazon for as little as a penny!
Marshall gets right to the point: Most of us, she says, yearn for something more—something that requires outside help—“either because of some problem for which we have no answer or because of a nagging consciousness that we should be getting more out of life.” She takes us by the hand and, using a refreshing combination of common sense and biblical teaching, offers practical guidance on everything from trusting God to slaying our egos to appreciating our own helplessness and imperfection. (And as a bonus, Marshall’s real-life illustrations, set against the backdrop of life in the 1950’s and 60’s, will appeal to anyone who appreciates the retro-hip nature of a housewife busy with her spring cleaning, or the bygone image of children picking violets and playing a twilight game of kick-the-can.) (more…)
Hey Downton Abbey fans! Were you sad when Sybil died? Bummed to see Matthew crash his roadster and make Lady Mary a widow? Confused about why, when we’ve said goodbye to so many stellar characters, we still have to put up with poor Edith each week?
If you’re like me, you find yourself watching the show—loving the costumes, hanging on the drama both above and below stairs, waiting for the next pearl to drop from the Dowager Countess—and then, at the end of each episode, longing for something more. Something…uplifting. Something happy.
P.G. Wodehouse is your answer! Like Downton creator Julian Fellowes, Wodehouse is thoroughly British (Fellowes is a member of the House of Lords; Wodehouse was a knight), thoroughly accomplished (both penned best-selling novels), and thoroughly versed in the social trials and tribulations of those who totter around in castles and dress for dinner. (Ever heard of Jeeves, the butler? Pure Wodehouse.) (more…)
“You are reading your own book?” Virginia asked, pulling up short as she burst into my bedroom and saw me sitting up in bed, my dog-eared copy of Praying the Scriptures for Your Children open in my lap. “Mom,” she continued, “That is just so…sad.”
I can understand why a 13-year-old girl would consider my actions pathetic. Teenaged girls tend to be embarrassed by a lot of what their moms do—or, in my case, wear. Or say. But it wouldn’t be the last time Virginia (or any of my kids) would catch my nose in the pages of my own book. And happily, as they have grown, all four children have learned to appreciate the value—the power—of praying the scriptures. Now, at age 20, Virginia will actually ask me to do so, on her behalf or for one of her friends.
Which is why I took a page right out of the book (or at least a picture of a page) and texted it to all four kids a few weeks ago, hoping that they would join me in prayer. I had just dropped Robbie—our youngest—off at college, and my heart ached. Not only is Sewanee a million miles from Virginia Beach (okay, so I don’t know the exact mileage, but it takes about 11 hours to drive there), my husband and I know almost no one at the school. The way I saw it, I might as well have been sending my baby boy to China. (more…)
I recently became an MOB. As in, Mother of the Bride. Annesley will wed Geoff, her high school sweetheart, next May. And we couldn’t be more excited.
As soon as the news broke, I found myself on the receiving end of a tidal wave of congratulations (which was exciting), advice (which was welcome), and questions (stressful). Had we picked a date? A venue? A band? Did Annesley have a dress? Her bridesmaids? A signature color? What about the all-important china pattern? Had she registered for that?
Ahhhhh! Could I really survive 11 months of planning? I didn’t think so. Happily (and just as I was about ready to suggest elopement), my friend Michelle (aka “Lucy” to my Ethel; she is a gorgeous redhead who was once almost cast as a Bond girl, while I am the stout and supportive blonde) corralled a group of our friends and decided to host an engagement party. And when she hinted that they might want to include dancing, well…laissez le bon temps rouler! (more…)