-n o u n
1 . an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.
2. such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God.
3. a wonder; marvel.
4. a wonderful or surpassing example of some quality.
5. my mother’s test results*

*Against all odds, there is no sign of cancer anywhere in her body and she’s only halfway through the prescribed chemo regimen, the one that wasn’t supposed to be as effective this time. I don’t know why God answers some prayers for healing and not others, and I know it’s not a matter of how many people pray or how heartfelt their prayers are or how righteous are those who are praying. But I do know that I am grateful, overwhelmed, and excited to see what can only be a miracle. God is so good. Again. Still. Always.


I may not choose to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but much of that time is spent baking. I love sweets, especially homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I know how to read a recipe, and I know the basics of baking, but I tend to be impatient, wanting to cut corners whenever possible. For instance, I know you’re supposed to sift the flour, letting it fall in little puffs of white softness that pile up in the center and slope down on the sides, then level it with the back of a butter knife for a perfect cup of flour. I know that it’s supposed to make the finished product lighter, fluffier – and it’s the only way to guarantee perfect proportions. But years ago I finally threw away my sifter, tired of it getting in the way when I tried to close my over-cluttered kitchen drawer. Why? Because I never used it. I discovered that if I scoop the flour into a measuring cup and run a knife through it to kind of loosen it up — fluff it up a little — it will still work. I may not win baking contests, and occasionally things don’t turn out as well as I hoped, but it works OK. In my harried mind, sifting seems like an extra, unnecessary step. If I skip it, I can finish faster and make less of a mess.

God, the master chef and Creator of all, never skips the important steps. He sifts our hearts. He filters out the lumps and impurities. He understands the difference between pretty good and perfect. He doesn’t want to take a chance that we’ll fall flat, that something will end up in the finished product that doesn’t belong there. And the mess? We may worry that something important will get thrown out or that the mess will be too big to clean up. But He knows that what is lost along the way is never as good as what remains, so He doesn’t let that get in the way. It’s just part of the process. And because of it, after God sifts our hearts and our lives, we end up with a certain lightness of spirit, a delicate but consistent texture, and maybe even a little taste of heaven.

Cleaning out my Inbox

I spent some time this weekend emptying out my e-mail Inbox. It contained 63 messages. That may not sound bad — I know some of you have thousands of messages in your Inboxes — but yesterday alone I received 92, so if I don’t deal with them regularly, they quickly get out of hand.

My rule is this: when I have more than 20 messages sitting in my Inbox, it’s time to file. Otherwise, it’s just too overwhelming. I use my Inbox like a to-do list (if it’s in there, I still need to do it.) When I’ve dealt with an e-mail (either responded to it, handled the request, or added the item to my written to-do list), then I file it. I have about 100 folders in my e-mail program — covering my kids and their activities, each of my clients, Bible study and prayer requests, bills, personal items, jewelry, writing, and my blog. But inside all those folders I’ve saved over 35,000 individual messages. I don’t need them all anymore, but I it takes too long to sort through them, so I let them remain. They’re like electronic clutter, but at least they’re out of sight and out of mind.

Our lives are so busy, and many of us are inundated with hundreds of items on our to-do lists every week. We have work to do, household chores piling up, dirty laundry, bills to pay, prescriptions to refill, birthday cards to send, gifts to buy, errands to run, phone calls to make. Sometimes it’s too much.

God knows how easily overwhelmed we are. And I think that’s why He chose to simplify the Ten Commandments. Our brains are too full at times to hold onto even ten things. He made it simple by breaking it down to just two. Jesus tells us Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). It’s not always easy to do those things, but it’s simple enough to remember them. I think there might even be enough room in my poor overloaded brain for these two important rules. And if I can manage to follow them, I know that everything else in my life will fall right into place.

Through the sunroof

The gigantic tree by my back door looks like it will uproot my back porch if the wind ever blows too strongly. The trunk butts right up to the house, but the huge old tree grew up and out at an angle, its branches extending to form a leafy canopy over my driveway. Never one to be practical, I have a white car that is beautiful when it happens to be clean but otherwise serves as a large, blank, inviting canvas for the birds and squirrels that cavort above it.

As I walked to my car the other day, I was grumbling to myself about the nasty trail of multicolored droppings all over my car. I was also annoyed because my allergies were bothering me. Feeling sorry for myself, I sat in the driver’s seat, grabbed the bottle of eye drops I’d left in the center console, and tilted my head back to administer the drops. Even though I have a sunroof, I don’t use it much. The wind messes up my long hair, which gets pulled up and out of the opening, and the sun shines through and glints in my eyes, so I usually keep the roof closed tight. But on this particular day, the sliding panel was open, leaving only the clear glass above me, which had somehow not been hit by the little birdy bombs that splattered the rest of my car. The view was gorgeous. The patterns of the lush green leafy covering shimmied in the wind against the clear, cloudless, bright blue sky. The beautiful fall day took my breath away, and I stopped, momentarily overtaken with awe by the sight above me.

I had to laugh at the irony. I tend to be so busy looking at the excrement in my life that I forget to notice the beauty. I have to remember to keep looking up. At the beauty of this earth. At the blessings in this life. And at the One who gave all this to me to enjoy.