This is the Day

My birthday was earlier this month. The weather was perfectly autumnal, crisp and brisk and colorful. My parents, brother, and I ate at Texas Roadhouse, where I was coerced onto the Birthday Saddle, blushed through a rousing “Yee-Haw!” and nearly kicked a passing waitress as I dismounted.

It was a wonderful day. Simple. The days of pink parties with little girls are done, and as fun as they were then, I’m glad things are quieter now. I must be getting old, because all I really wanted was food and family. (And a nap.) In fact, I kept forgetting it was my birthday—it felt like just another day. Seven-year-old me, with her alphabetized party plans, Barbie-themed favors, and birthday countdown calendar would have been appalled. Is any day so magical, so meaningful, as one’s birthday? Twenty-four-year-old me says Yes. Every day.

Every day is wondrous.

God’s been growing me. Revealing that He infuses every day, not just “special days,” with awe-inspiring gifts and moments. The scent of woodsmoke, dryer-warmed blankets, conversations with safe people. Cozy moccasins for my feet, long hugs from the kiddos, fresh oatmeal raisin cookies. Love from family, encouragement from friends, and tenderness from a great Redeemer who doesn’t need me but cares enough to save and shape my heart.

My birthday was wonderful, but it was just another day. Another glorious, miraculous, God-given day.

Postscript:

“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”—Psalm 118:24

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”—Psalm 90:12

Story of the Song

Careening down back roads, hemmed by corn fields nearing retirement, I turned up the dial to better hear the radio over the rumble of gravel. My head soon dipped and dived in time to a Country class, “Harper Valley PTA.” As the singer recounts, a small-town PTA takes issue with a teacher’s scandalous behavior, and she retaliates by exposing their hypocrisy. Croons the singer, “It was the day my mama socked it to the Harper Valley PTA.”

Once at home, I researched the song (because I’m nerdy like that) and discovered that singer Jeannie C. Reilly catapulted to fame with this 1968 hit. In fact, it was such a success that it led to a film and a TV spin-off, both starring Barbara Eden of I Dream of Jeannie fame. (I wonder what the PTA would think of those midriff-baring costumes.)

I’ve always loved that country songs tell a story, so I’m doubly delighted by the fact that this song inspired a movie. Books and true stories are the inspiration for films, so why not songs, too? For that day when I just happen to sit next to a movie exec on an airplane, here’s my list of suggested song-to-movie adaptations:

Austin by Blake Shelton. Confused woman, steadfast boyfriend. That feel-good, let’s-make-up Rom-Com we’d all publicly mock but would secretly adore. Especially if the confused protagonist has a witty best friend like April on Parks and Recreation.

Ol’ Red by Blake Shelton. Essentially The Shawshank Redemption but with a hound dog instead of a Marilyn Monroe poster. Morgan Freeman should make an appearance, though, even if he just narrates the trailer.

The Longer the Waiting (The Sweeter the Kiss) by Josh Turner. A historic film about a sea captain and the waifishly beautiful woman who paces the Widow’s Walk of her stunning seaside mansion, constantly scanning the horizon for her beloved’s approaching ship, meanwhile growing as pale and bereft as a Tim Burton heroine until he finally returns and they embrace passionately.

She Believes in Me by Kenny Rogers. He’s a coffee shop singer with tousled hair, flannel shirts, and hipster glasses, while she works in a sad, fluorescent-lit office building to finance his dreams. They live on tap water and quinoa and love.

Carolina Eyes by Scotty McCreery. Can’t you just picture the teen couple sitting on the dunes, a watercolor sky in the background and a soft Corinne Bailey Rae song playing? No, that’s just me?

Don’t Take the Girl by Tim McGraw. There’d be more weeping during this hour-and-a-half film than during the last Nicholas Sparks movie, the Royal Wedding, and the final Harry Potter installment combined. (Until Allegiant hits theaters, of course.)

I’m a Survivor by Reba McEntire. Oh, whoops. Already made a show about this.

Postscript: Which songs (Country or otherwise) do you think should be developed into films or, for that matter, books? :)

Marking Time

I like to mark time. Flip through the calendar to remember what I was doing this time last week, last month, or last year. Page through the underlined and scribbled months of my planner, recalling the tasks and to-do’s. This practice helps me see answered prayers.

Because what once overwhelmed me, God helped me overcome.

Like penciling someone’s height on a doorjamb, the notes on the calendar measure my progress. They reveal how much I’ve grown in certain areas and how far I need to stretch in others.

Verses, too, trace the arc of time. In middle school, I clung to verses about God as our refuge and strength; in high school, I memorized reminders not to worry, but to rest in His peace. My college dorm walls were papered with index cards telling me to serve and love God above all else. “Gentleness” and “meekness” were the words I highlighted all through grad school, stunned that after years of reading God’s Word, I’m somehow missed the fact that my weakness was a strength.

And now, beginning this new academic calendar, I’m compelled to keep my thoughts focused on Him. Not the to-do list, not the color-coded plans, not future worries or past regrets. Just His Presence in this vibrant moment.

“I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.”—Psalm 16:8-9

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”—Isaiah 26:3-4

 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”—Romans 8:5-6

Down the road, when I look back at this curve in the path, I’ll see the crisping leaves and the yellowing fields and the lesson I was learning—and hopefully, the change it reaped in me.

Singing Truth

Isn’t it funny how when I’m silent, I’m better able to hear God? As I’ve been working toward stillness, I’ve been hearing, seeing, and even tasting Him in new ways. (How can I not rejoice when biting into a Honeycrisp apple?) He’s in the saturation of autumn blue skies, the printed dialogue of favorite characters, and the poignancy of Country song lyrics. Here are some of my new favorites:

“Real” by James Wesley

Reality shows are anything but realistic. Reality is bounced checks and sick kids and bare cupboards, raking leaves and cleaning bathrooms and wiping tears, falling into bed exhausted but affirming, “I love you.”

“That’s What I Love About Sunday” by Craig Morgan

It’s the small things that make life wonderful. This song—whether it’s the lyrics or the melody, I’m not sure—still makes me well up.

“Fall” by Clay Walker

Outside of Scripture, I’ve never found a more visceral, beautiful articulation of how we can completely bring our broken, sinful selves to God and rest in His arms.

Fall
Go on and fall apart
Fall into these arms of mine
I’ll catch you every time you
Fall
Go on and lose it all
Every doubt every fear
Every worry every tear
I’m right here
Baby fall

Profundity

Lately I’ve been working toward stillness. I suppose it’s an oxymoron to work toward stillness, but my mind is in perpetual motion, and it takes quite a bit of force to slow all those churning thoughts. But when I do, I finally hear the wisdom around me.

Here’s what God’s been revealing to me as I listen, read, and absorb:

“Absence diminishes mediocre passions and increases great ones, as the wind extinguishes candles and fans fires.”—Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Well. Talk about powerful metaphor. (Is this why the Song of Solomon talks about the North Wind?) I’m awed by the way God weaves symbolism into our world.

“To the stars through difficulties.”—Kansas State Motto*

Isn’t this precious? A rare, exquisite truth, one to turn over and over in your hand. We discover beauty through adversity—every wound, scar, and tear results in something wondrous.

“We are immortal until our work on earth is done.”—George Whitefield

This is one of the most liberating truths I’ve ever encountered. Why do I cower in fear, buckle with anxiety? I am empowered by God Almighty to accomplish the specific tasks He has given me. Yes, Lord! So, so freeing.

*Postscript: Out of curiosity, I looked up the Minnesota State Motto, and what did I find? “The Star of the North.”

Be Still My Soul

I’m out of words.

Perhaps that’s not entirely true—calvous (lacking all or most of the hair on the head) kept me chuckling yesterday, and pratfall (a fall in which one lands on the buttocks) will undoubtedly appear in today’s conversation.

I’m not necessarily out of thoughts, either, since plenty of those keep running and tumbling in my head. But the path between thought and expression is well trod after writing my Master’s essay and now teaching online Composition courses, and I’m not sure I have the stamina to traverse it today.

As I prayed and journaled the other night, I was reminded that much of my time with Jesus consists of me talking to Him; I struggle to quiet myself long enough to hear what He has to say. So I turned off the nature music and shut off the bedside light, sat with my eyes closed and waited for His words.

Instead of words, I was given an impression: It’s not always about the words, but about the stillness.It’s about simply being, attuning my entire self to His presence.

So for now, I’m going to stop trying to hold words down on the page. This isn’t a respite from words, but a stillness of words.

For the purpose of this blog, which is such a gift to me, I’m going to temporarily reduce my posts to one per week, sharing the insights of others that are resonating with me. It’s my prayer that during this glorious season of fiery colors and lush textures and rich fragrances that I—we—will find beauty not only in speaking and thinking, but also in being.

Postscript: “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’”—Isaiah 30:15 (emphasis added)

ABCs of Summer—Now I Know My ABCs

My Sportage was submerged up to the fenders in thick, gritty mud. Rain pattered down, then poured, and the windshield wipers valiantly thwaped against the deluge. The nice guy who stopped to help push out my vehicle yelled directions through the open window, and my left side was quickly drenched. My Good Samaritan was already soaked, but he waved away my profuse apologies. “No worries,” he smiled, “It’s an adventure!”

Does it count as an adventure if you’re just outside your own cul-de-sac? They’d torn up 7th street earlier that week, resulting in a cratered gravel road. Other compact cars had maneuvered the rutted obstacle course, so I assumed my hardy jeep could conquer it as well. Alas. Once again, I could put a tally mark under Book Smart, Not Street Smart. (Literally.)

We finally gave up; I left the car and slogged through the rising rivers (blessing or curse I was wearing flip-flops?) back to the house, knowing my dad could pull me out after work with his truck. I hate being an adult, I chafed as I contacted the city so I wouldn’t get fined for leaving my vehicle in a construction zone. They redirected me to the project manager. “We’re done for the weekend, so leave it there as long as you need,” he said, then laughed, “It’ll keep other people from driving there.”

Normally such a statement would spread flames of humiliation across my face and chest. But I looked at my smeared clothes and feet and had to laugh with him. As frustrated as I felt, I wasn’t panicked. I hadn’t rejected the help of my Good Samaritan like usual, preferring to muddle through on my own rather than reveal my ignorance. I’d thought clearly enough to call the city, spoke calmly. I was embarrassed at being a cautionary tale, but I didn’t wallow or cry or eat away my foolishness with Cheese-Its.

I wasn’t reacting the way I would have a year ago, even six months. A smidgen of stupidity still bit me, but I wasn’t paralyzed by it. I was growing. Accepting each moment as it came, muddy or not. And that realization made the whole adventure worth it.