Remain in God’s Love

“Remain in God’s love.”

That phrase from John 15 caught me. What does it look like to remain in God’s love?

According to the passage, we remain in God’s love by keeping God’s commands. But what does that mean? Do we step outside of God’s love when we don’t keep God’s commands? That can’t be right, because God is love; nothing we can say or do will ever change God’s love for us. We cannot make God love us any more or less. God loved us before creation, long before we were born. Before we had the capacity to say or do a single thing, God loved us. God’s love does not depend on us.

God loves us, every single one, from the beginning to the ultimate end, no matter what. (How many ways can I say the same thing? Though it bears repeating, since we’re so good at forgetting: God is love. God’s love never wavers, never changes, never ceases).

So what does Jesus mean?

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but commands don’t motivate me. Many of us quaver under barked orders. Sure, I’m a rule keeper and a people pleaser and I mostly color within the lines. But I don’t wake up in the morning excited about commandments. The dos and the don’ts provide a helpful structure, yet they don’t cause me to jump for joy.

Love, though … that’s different. Love motivates me. I may not love washing dishes, I may not love doing laundry, but I do my share of the house chores (mostly) willingly because I love my guys and this life we share. We also never gave our kids an allowance tied to chores because chores are part of playing on this team we call Family, the calisthenics at the beginning of each practice. We participate in the work of Family because of love. It’s all about the relationship.

Keep reading in John 15 and you’ll see that the command to which Jesus directs his followers is relational: love one another. Always, it boils down to the all-important basics: love God, love your neighbor as yourself. Everything we do comes back to love.

We demonstrate our love for God as we continue in the way of love Jesus showed us. Because God first loved us, we respond to God’s love with actions motivated by love. Even when we’re not feeling especially loving, the truth of love motivates us to keep moving forward in loving action. And, I suspect, in keeping the command to love, we are also reminded that we do these things because of Love flowing back and forth and all around.

“Remain” … the word that first caught my attention. What does it look like to remain in God’s love? Let’s try something: I’ll offer a series of words that might, in this context, act as synonyms. You pick the one to which you feel most drawn and mull it over throughout the day. See what it might reveal to you about being in God’s love.

Abide. Move. Act. Hang out. Continue. Stand. Sit. Pause. Linger. Swim. Run. Walk. Work out. Garden. Grow. Serve. Play. Rejoice. Receive. Rest. Nest. Live. Love.

Which word stands out, or does another suggest itself? Take that word with you today, offer it to God, and see if it doesn’t influence your attitude toward loving others … and remind you of God’s always and forever love.

We’ve Been Everywhere, Man

I’m no Johnny Cash so I won’t try to rhyme all the places we’ve been, but wow did we ever go sauntering (read “the before” post here). We can truly sing along with Cash that we’ve crossed the desert’s bare, man and breathed the mountain air, man.

Santa Barbara, CA
Grand Canyon NP, AZ
Zion & Bryce NPs, UT
Santa Fe, Roswell, & Carlsbad Caverns NP, NM
Austin & Houston, TX
New Orleans, LA
Memphis & Nashville, TN
Mammoth Cave NP, KY
Gateway Arch NP & Kansas City, MO
Mt. Rushmore NM, SD
Devil’s Tower NM, WY
Billings, Great Falls, & Sheridan, MT
Yellowstone NP, Grand Teton NP, & Jackson Hole, WY
Craters of the Moon NM & Ketchum, ID
Home!

By the numbers … Eight thousand miles. Twenty-nine days. Fourteen states, plus a couple more that we quickly passed through. Twelve nights of camping in ten campsites. Eleven national parks and monuments. No more than three nights in any place.

We drove and drove and didn’t drive each other (too) crazy.

When we spent a sabbatical summer in Costa Rica, we called it our “God treasure hunt.” We attended an expat church and spent time learning about and volunteering with various ministries and animal rescue projects. We also collected pictures of hearts we discovered in nature – in flowers and foliage, once even at the center of an onion – as small reminders of God’s love.

This trip was entirely different. We set out to see the US, to encounter her beauty and the kindness of her people. After some ridiculously difficult years in this country, it felt like a redemption in the form of a road trip.

Of course we saw God everywhere: in the staggering beauty of the national parks, in caves and valleys and rivers, in stalactites and stalagmites and hoodoos, in elk and squirrels and fireflies. In the people we had the pleasure to visit, including my mom. In the unique experiences we had along the way, in art and music and food, in culture and history (never underestimate the power of proximity in bringing history lessons to life. History was never my favorite school subject and I saw so much that popped all those names and dates into place).

Bryce Canyon National Park

An overwhelming sense of ease I can only attribute to God pervaded every day. Remarkably, even when things didn’t go to plan, they turned out better. For example, Dave accidentally double-booked us for the same night in Houston and New Orleans. The Houston hotel graciously refunded the room charge, we saw what we’d landed in Houston to see (NASA), and we enjoyed one more night in New Orleans in the nicest accommodations of the whole trip. And let’s just call it a miracle that we never had an issue with the car.

We didn’t make it to Glacier National Park, and Quinn would like more time in Santa Fe, and we’ll just have to figure out how to take more trips. We have confirmed that we are excellent road trippers.

At our last campsite outside of Ketchum, Idaho, we were directly across from a river. Dave spent a couple of hours fly fishing while I sat in our campsite and wrote in my journal. My eyes occasionally rested on a flower to my left, a single tall stock of small white flowers. The same flowers had been everywhere for days, plain on their own yet pretty in abundance.

However, when I eventually stood up, I gasped: those tiny blooms formed a perfect heart. I laughed and imagined I could hear God laughing with me, like he had been watching and wondering how long it would take me to notice. Like God had sent me a token of his love, a perfect flower finish to a mostly perfect trip.

Recovery

Five Minute Friday prompt: RECOVER

This summer is all about recovery.

After a long, hard year of too many indoor hours, hunched over computers, struggling to work and learn and connect through Zoom. After a few long, difficult years of ministry. After a long slog through the worst school year ever. After anxiety and injury and illness. After injustice and trauma and differences about which we can no longer agree to disagree. After all, we seek to recover.

Recovery is key to sabbatical, a sabbath season. In sabbath we redirect ourselves to God, trusting him to take care of the details we necessarily let go of in order to rest fully. We let him fill us up, refresh our joy, lead us back to our best selves, and show us a way forward, maybe a new or different way.

Dave’s reveling in Sabbatical Adventure #1, a fly fishing trip in Montana with C22 and a friend. He’s immersed in nature where God has regularly restored his soul. Spending long days in the sunshine (and snow) and water, focused fully on the playful task at hand. (Thanks to our praying community!)

Adventure #2 is coming right up: Dave, Q17, and I will take an epic road trip around the United States. Over four weeks we’ll travel from the San Francisco Bay Area of California to Nashville, TN, and back again along a different route. We will camp and explore national and state parks. We will stay in a few boutique hotels and AirBnBs. We will wander through America seeking God’s goodness after some long, difficult years in our country.

U.S. States Map

We can’t wait to wave goodbye for a time as we wave hello to the road ahead. We have a good plan and we know to expect the unexpected, good and hard and God in all of it. We anticipate that we will recover our senses of adventure and humor. We will see old wonders, meet kind people, eat delicious food, create new memories, and have stories to share.

I have one more week to blog before we take off, and then I will be away from my computer for longer than ever since I first encountered a humongous PC as a high school senior. I’ll take along a brand new journal instead. And when I have WiFi, I will post on Instagram. Follow me there to keep up on our travels.

Gone Fishin’

Today marks the beginning of Dave’s first sabbatical adventure: a ten-day fly fishing trip from California to Montana and back with C22 and a friend.

He learned to fly fish as a child but didn’t have much chance to practice until a few years ago when he began organizing an annual trip for men in our church. That led to occasional one- and two-day trips with a friend or two. During the pandemic, when in-person church programming came to a screeching halt, he was able to slip away on non-meeting days to hit the river more often; sometimes he was on the road before sunrise and returned late at night just to spend most of the day fishing. Necessarily outdoors and socially-distance, it was one of the safest ways to break out of the everyday sameness.

In February he decided to learn to tie his own flies, as his grandfather had done before him. He started watching YouTube videos, he ordered more craft supplies in months than I have in years, he even once plucked feathers off a fresh turkey roadkill (gross, I know, but he washed well and the feathers are pretty…). He designed his own workstation set-up with a vice to clamp it to his desk and another vice to hold the teensy-tiny beads and ribbons and what-nots that become his intricate creations.

He told me recently that he thinks he’s making flies for a few cents each, so even though he’s buying supplies, he’s spending less than he would if he had to purchase the flies. We got a fly fishing catalogue in the mail and I was shocked: a set of six flies for $50? Maybe he should start selling them!

After his last day trip, he happily reported that every fish he caught he did so using one of his own flies. His hobby that supports his hobby is providing layers of satisfaction.

If you’re the praying type, keep Dave, Corban, and Mike in your prayers. It’s a long drive, and the forecast predicts up to a few inches of snow … and they’ll be camping for some of the trip. Of course we want to keep them safe, and also enjoying long, in-depth conversations and making wonderful memories. After all, rest and refreshment are essential to the purpose of a sabbatical.

Tune In

Over the last few years I’ve been learning to develop healthy boundaries around the voices I listen to.

I stopped listening to the news and read carefully instead.
I implemented care in my use of media and social media.
I made the difficult choice to walk away from relationships that had become crusty, toxic, bullying.
I also tuned out the voices that lingered in my head, refusing to have conversations with people who weren’t physically present.

And I’ve done some serious relationship work with my inner critic. I call her Grumpamonk, sometimes Grumpamonkey, because either name makes me laugh and helps me take her less seriously.

So those are the voices I’ve tuned out. I’ve also tuned in to other voices, voices that speak encouragement, motivation, justice, and love. I’ve allowed myself to feel uncomfortable when necessary for the sake of learning and growth. Even my Grumpamonk’s voice has changed her tune, surrounded as she has been by a choir of voices singing in harmony.

The most important voice I’ve been listening to? The voice of the One who sings love over me.

Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

Since Holy Week, I’ve been using the free version of the Ritual phone app to practice lectio divina several times a week. Lectio is a way of listening to the Spirit through the reading of a short Bible passage. You listen for a word or phrase that stands out, and then invite the Spirit to tell you what that particular word might mean to you. You listen to the passage three times (it’s short, so it doesn’t take long) while having a quiet conversation with God. I’ve done lectio with groups, but I’m thrilled to have this simple tool guiding me regularly at home.

During Holy Week, as I listened to the passages from Isaiah commonly called the Suffering Servant passages, I anticipated challenging words related to my sin for which Jesus died. Instead, I heard that God is pleased with me.

Other times I have heard words such as: have life, come to me, see the Son, become, and complete joy. All encouraging, all relational invitations.

This has led to a significant realization: as much as I believe that God is love and God is good and God has good plans for me, I have also expected to hear judgment. I have expected to hear that I’m not measuring up, doing my best, or living as fully as God intends. Each time I’ve been surprised to hear God’s gentle voice loving me and calling me forward because somehow I’ve been anticipating rebuke. I know God doesn’t weigh our sins on a balancing scale, but if sins could be weighed, I’m sure my bad attitudes and inactions could get heavy.

Where did my presupposition come from? How had I internalized the voice of an angry, at least annoyed, God? I don’t know, though I can guess. All the voices of spiritual leaders who have emphasized personal sin without challenging the fallen systems within which we commit those sins, wagging fingers generally and sometimes pointing directly, combined to make my humanness seem a bigger deal than God’s love. It shouldn’t need a spoiler alert: God’s love is way bigger than any word or action on my part. Or yours.

Talk about spiritual seismic activity! I’ve been following Jesus since childhood. I have degrees from a Christian liberal arts college and a theological seminary. I can teach and preach and write about God’s love from here to Jesus’ return.

Yet I’m learning anew to hear God’s voice, the voice of love, a voice I want to hear again and again. Thanks be to God.

Cover Image by CSTRSK from Pixabay

How to Honor Earth Day

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it – Psalm 24:1

Today is Earth Day. In 1970, the first Earth Day mobilized 20 million Americans to greater care for our planet. Now the Earth Day organizers say they have one billion people committed to the environment and 75,000 business partners working to drive positive action. And there’s so much more work to be done.

I’ve never intentionally recognized Earth Day before. However, given the apocalyptic wildfires in the American West over the last several years – those smokey orange skies over our NorCal home felt eerily oppressive – and the recent unseasonable arctic freeze in Austin, Texas, I have become increasingly convinced of the truth regarding the terrible trajectory scientists claim we are on toward environmental collapse in 2030. On the one hand, that date looks like science fiction, but so did 2001 at one point. It’s only nine years from now.

So I made a list of easy ways we can love our planet well, today and moving forward:

Walk, bike, or carpool to work.

Take a phone call or meeting outside.

Enjoy a plant-forward picnic in a natural setting.

Go for a hike.

Plant something, or tend to your plants, or volunteer in a community garden.

Eat meatless for the day.

Sketch something from nature.

Spend 10 minutes making a list of observations about one natural object (you think you won’t be able to fill 10 minutes – surprise yourself).

Buy a book (or check one out from the library) that will help you fall deeper in love with nature. Suggestions: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimerer, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, anything by John Muir. (Please note: as an Amazon associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases).

Watch a nature documentary. Two I highly recommend (both on Netflix): My Octopus Teacher and A Life on Our Planet (by Sir David Attenborough whose voice, to my ear, sounds like Winnie the Pooh in the classic Disney movies – lovable!). My son recommends Seaspiracy, also on Netflix.

Educate yourself about environmental groups doing good work, like WWF, Sierra Club, or Plant with Purpose (our personal friend is CEO). Check out this list of organizations, or this water-focused list. Consider making a donation.

Take a picture of something in nature that brings you joy – a flower, a tree, an insect – and share it on your social media.

Follow the social media accounts of individuals and groups working to preserve the planet. Instagram suggestions: NatGeo, NatGeo Wild, Mitty, Paul Nicklen, Tim Lamen, and Joel Sartore

Purchase a book or print from The Photo Ark to beautify your home and support their continued work.

Cut down on paper towel use by using reusable and compostable kitchen towels.

Switch one of your plastic disposable goods for an eco-conscious and reusable alternative, like this toothpaste or these makeup removing towels.

Stick a bucket in your shower and use that water to water your plants.

Have a close encounter of the friendly animal kind (i.e., walk your dog or your neighbor’s dog, pet a cat, visit an animal shelter, watch squirrels rollercoaster-ing through trees).

Contact your state or national political representatives and ask them to support pro-environment legislation.

Do one or more actions from this list, then forward this post to others so they can join the fun.

What ideas do you have to share about loving our planet well? What next steps will you begin to take on this Earth Day and beyond?

“Creation is call and response. When Scripture speaks of mountains singing and trees clapping, it’s not just metaphorical. If our range of hearing were a little better, we would hear the voice of God in every drop of water, every blade of grass, every grain of sand.” – Mark Batterson, Whisper

Permission to Stay Cozy

This week’s Five Minute Friday writing prompt is: PERMISSION

Friday was National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day. Seems to me we’ve been living National Wear Your Pajamas to Work YEAR!

When California declared stay-at-home orders in March 2020 due to the global pandemic, I lost my job. I stopped sleeping, which meant I had little energy to exercise, and I developed anxiety. My kids are old enough to feed themselves, so I had freedom to move at whatever speed my body and soul required. Some days I got up and going like everything was normal, though nothing felt normal. Other days, I stayed not only in my pj’s but also in bed. With a good book.

In my adult life of trying to get all the things done, I had forgotten how restful it can be to stay in bed with a book. I read until I got bored of reading which, for me, is a feat unto itself. I read so many good books, though not all of them in bed. I moved around the house – to the couch, the green Adirondack chairs on our front porch, or the (also green) bistro table on our back deck. I sat in the sun or the shade, depending on the temperature. I stayed cozy. It had a healing effect.

Yesterday was a BIG day for me. I submitted my first book proposal (more on that coming soon). We also got our second COVID-19 vaccine.

I have heard from people whose shot experiences run the gamut from a sore arm to slight fatigue, from lightly flu-like symptoms to heavy. We heeded the advice to drink plenty of water, take D3, and take Motrin as needed. We planned a quiet weekend to have time to recover just in case.

So here I am today, cozy in bed with my computer on my lap, coffee mug and water bottle to my right. I’m feeling mostly fine. My arm is sore, but not overly, though it woke me in the night to tell me to shift to a different position. Maybe I’m a little tired, but that could also be allergies on this gorgeous spring day outside my open window.

Mostly I’m feeling grateful. Grateful to scientists who responded quickly and thoroughly to develop effective vaccines. Grateful to my husband for wading through the appointment-making systems online (our kids get their first vaccines today). Grateful to have a full stack of books on my bedside table. Grateful to have given myself permission to stay cozy.

What permission do you need to offer yourself, and how might receiving that permission feel healing?

STOP.

Photo by John Baker on Unsplash

Happiness as an Animal? Meet the Quokka

A writing friend sent me some writing prompts. One in particular caught my eye: “Compare happiness to an animal.”

My animal-loving son sat nearby as I read her email. I love animals, you may love animals, many of us love animals. My son takes loving animals to a whole different level. Like to an animal whisperer, animals emerge from the tall grass when he’s nearby so they can share an encounter. It’s a rare moment when I witness him learning about an animal he’s never heard of before. He can correctly name animals that have been misidentified elsewhere, for example, on a TV show. Once he even accurately described why an animal had been mislabeled in a natural history museum.

So I read the prompt to him. I expected he’d talk glowingly about his Bullseye Tabby cat, Phoebe. About the particular smell of her fur and its calming effect on him. The way she naps during the day on his pillow. How her belly wobbles side-to-side as she limp-toes through the house on arthritic legs. How she follows him room-to-room to be near him, like a dog.

He could also have talked about our three rescue dogs, particularly Rudy, who he calls Big Chicken for his large eyes that grow even wider when startled. Especially when he passes gas and jumps, looking accusingly at whoever is closest.

He might have talked about his ball python collection, or his newest snake-pet, a beautiful Reticulated Python he named Rhea because all his animals have mythological names. Rhea means “flowing” in Greek; in mythology she was the mother of Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, and Demeter. His Rhea will eventually grow to 25 feet in length, hopefully long after he has moved out on his own.

He might have described the simple lazy joy of a lizard basking in the radiant heat from a summer warmed rock. Instead, he repeated the prompt. “Happiness as an animal? Quokka.”

When I didn’t understand, he insisted that I look up quokka on my phone. He had to spell it for me.

Wikipedia was the first site to pop up. I summarized: “Oh, a quokka is a wallaby, specifically a short-tailed scrub wallaby!” I have long been familiar with wallabies from our many trips to the San Diego Zoo and from all the animal documentaries we’ve watched together.

He protested. “No, not a wallaby. Look at its face!” I glanced at the image again and shrugged. I supposed the quokka’s face might be different from other wallabies but I was looking at a side view and not a quokka version of a profile picture. I showed him the Wiki site and he got frustrated. He took my phone and searched for images, then flipped my phone around to show me one photo after another. He handed back my phone and I continued looking at images, flipping my phone towards him so we could laugh at picture after picture. We laughed so hard we almost cried.

Quokkas look like an adorably happy cartoon character. They smile for the camera, and their bright and shiny black eyes look delighted to see whomever is taking their picture. The size of a house cat, they stand on their back legs like a kangaroo which leaves their front paws available to reach out to you in what resembles a welcoming hug. They’re also available to receive a eucalyptus leaf on offer, or to hold your water bottle while they take a sip. In some pictures they appear inquisitive, like they’ve just asked what adventures lie ahead for you today and can they tag along? Or maybe they’ve just told you a joke and they’re giggling at their funny little selves. The joke might even have been a teensy bit dirty. They’ll never turn down your request for a selfie.

Photo by Natalie Su on Unsplash

We looked at pictures of quokkas and belly laughed till our sides ached. At one point in the night, I woke myself up laughing about quokkas. We’re still laughing about them today. I even followed an Instagram account dedicated to quokka photos and art that will continue to provide opportunities to smile in response to these darling creatures.

We have a small menagerie of pets that adds joy to our lives, cats and dogs, snakes and a rabbit. At this moment, an animal lounges in just about every room in our house and we couldn’t imagine it any other way. However, since reading aloud that writing prompt last night, quokkas have definitely increased the happiness quotient under our roof. We haven’t even met one in person … something to add to our life adventure list.

Cover image by Tracey Wong from Pixabay

Easter is Over

Jesus died for love of us.
Jesus beat death for love of us.

He is risen, He is risen indeed.

Easter is over … yet your season of grief may continue.
I’m sorry. Life is hard, and there are so many occasions for grief.

Jesus longs to turn our wailing into dancing, to swap our mourning clothes for radiant joy. But he doesn’t wave his hands over us and zap the grief like a bug in an electric trap. Sometimes we have to move slowly through the sorrow.

The good news? He is in the sorrow with you.

We are Easter people, but sometimes we walk through the valley of shadows. Still, he doesn’t leave us alone in the dark.

Jesus is sad with you.

That simple sentence was an earth-shaking revelation for me when I found myself in a season of sorrow. Jesus wasn’t just sad about what I had gone through, what I was feeling and experiencing as a result of the mess. He wasn’t just sad for me.

He was sad *with* me. He held me and wept with me. He walked with me and listened to me. We sat silently together. We walked and talked some more. It was healing. He walked me back into joy, though we put a lot of miles on a few pairs of shoes before we arrived.

Something I learned along the way: it’s okay to find, or create, a small bright spot of joy in the midst of pain. It doesn’t betray your experience, and it might be just the thing you need.

Sit outside. Look at pictures that remind you of joy. Listen to music. Pet your dog. Wash your face. Write or draw or paint. Read a book. Eat chocolate. Do one small joyful act every day. It will help. It will remind you that you’re not alone and that this season will pass. Because it will.

Tulips image by shannynkm from Pixabay

5 Healthy Habits for 2021

Last year I set a goal to drink more water. I wobbled for a while before the habit took hold. Initially, my skinny water bottle needed to be filled 4 times each day to meet my goal and I kept losing track – was I on bottle #3 or #4?

Eventually, I recognized the bottle was the problem. I switched to 32oz Nalgene bottles and now I am crushing my hydration goals. The Big Moods stickers make me smile, too.

I drink one full bottle before lunch, and another 1-2 after lunch. While making dinner, I switch bottles and fill it with spa water – we keep a pitcher of water in the fridge in which we soak fresh sliced lemons and ginger – and I top it off with a generous splash of unfiltered apple cider vinegar. Apparently, this concoction has a name: Switchel. It’s shocking in a good way, tart and refreshing. It provides a jolt of energy for my evening, as does the happy music I dance to during dinner prep.

After dinner, I finish up whatever’s left in either bottle, and end the day with herbal tea. Add in my morning coffee and evening tea, I’m drinking a gallon+ of water each day. I used to not like the taste of water. I drank coffee or soda, or sparkling or flavored water, anything but clean, clear water. Now I think it tastes great.

What tips do you have for staying hydrated?

One by one, she gingerly removed all the tomatoes from her salad. My eyes must have asked the question my manners wouldn’t, so she explained: she loves fresh-off-the-vine summer tomatoes so much that she can’t stand bland winter hothouse tomatoes.

I didn’t get it then, but having grown my own juicy-explosive sun-ripened tomatoes over the last few summers, I understand now. I no longer add tomatoes to my winter salads.

Seasonal produce = delicious!

Right now I can’t get enough of Cara Cara oranges. I eat them as snacks. Some nights instead of a salad alongside dinner, I slice up several and our family chows down. I put them in smoothies (pictured: golden wellness smoothie). I add them to salad (pictured: spinach and arugula with oranges, tangerines, chopped nuts, pomegranate seeds; before eating I dressed it with peanut sauce).

You can find lists of in-season produce here. What in-season fruits and veggies have you been enjoying? Any favorite recipes?

When I created a habit tracker for 2021, I decided to add or emphasize positive things in my life. I also recognized that I’d be more inclined to stick to the habit tracker itself if, in addition to new habits, I included habits I already had underway (i.e., hydration) and activities that add joy to my life. Writing and reading daily add joy to my life.

My best days almost always include both, lots of both, with variety. I write to understand how I think/feel. To hone my craft. To connect. For work. And I add joy to my writing by stretching myself in new ways, trying new prompts or styles.

The top “book” in the stack is my well-stocked Kindle.

I take a similar approach to reading. I read to nurture my soul. To educate myself. To travel the world and throughout history. To live vicariously through others’ stories. To develop empathy. I read for pleasure.

I have to shake things up. Of course there are times when I’m engrossed in a book I can’t put down. Or I get involved in a writing project that demands my focus. Still, my life flows better when I engage with an array of words; my writing flows better as a reflection.

I wrote a blog post all about joy here: 21 Ways to Jump Start Joy. What habits add joy to your life?

As a child infinitely content to snuggle up with my nose in a book, I required endless encouragement to get outside. When my grandma asked for help trimming green beans, she sent me outdoors. I thought she didn’t want cut bean-ends flying about the kitchen. Not so, my mother explained. Norwegians believe we should be outdoors all the time, all year round. It’s a philosophy known as friluftsliv (free-lufts-liv).

I experienced it for myself when I visited family in Norway. We hiked and swam in rivers. We heard stories of children snowshoeing or cross-country skiing to school. When it rained, we bundled up and went outside anyway.

So I had to laugh when I woke up to pouring rain on the day I’d planned to post “Get Outside.” I also suspected that I could wait a little while. Even on the rainiest NorCal days, we generally get breaks between downpours. And we did.

Getting outside stimulates the senses. The crisp air felt invigorating, as did moving our bodies quickly to keep warm. The world smelled fresh-washed, like wearing clean pj’s in front of the lit fireplace. We heard flitting birds in the bushes and saw raindrops glistening on winter flowers. I didn’t open my mouth to taste the light raindrops that fell before we returned home, but I did anticipate pouring myself a warm drink.

Which leads me to another Norwegian word: once you’ve partaken in friluftsliv, you come home to koselig, the Norwegian version of the Danish hygge, or getting cozy-comfortable.

What’s your favorite way to spend time outdoors?

Gratitude is one of my favorite habits. I’ve kept a dedicated gratitude journal since January 2017. Most mornings I write at least three things from the previous day for which I can be grateful. I could do this in the evening before bed, but mornings work better for me.

To make this habit stick, I put my gratitude journal and planner next to the chair where I sit to sip my morning coffee. The convenience factor makes it more likely that I will pick up my journal. The reason I keep this habit on my habit tracker is to work on consistency, to record gratitude not just regularly but daily.

It’s such a simple thing to write three points of gratitude for each day. I try to make them unique, for example, not just another walk but the uniqueness of that walk, like the neighbors we greeted along the way. I’m often grateful for beauty that bursts through the days’ sameness, like the now-blooming tulips from the bulbs my husband purchased.

My next step: not checking my phone until I’ve written down my gratitude. Since gratitude is well on its way to being a daily habit, I bet I can piggyback phone-resistance to it and increase the likelihood of both.

What are you grateful for today? Or how could you increase the convenience factor to make a desired habit stick?