Treasured traditions…

Most likely you have a favorite holiday tradition or two…something you treasure each year as the season comes ’round again.  Whether it’s placing a special ornament on the tree, watching a favorite holiday movie together, visiting a certain jolly fellow (in our family, the Northpark Santa IS the real Santa), or doing a familiar holiday activity together, you have a tradition you never want to miss.

My sister and I would always write long, detailed letters to Santa each year; it was our tradition together in fact.  My parents would then take us downtown to Titches (yes, I’m that old), to visit with St. Nick to share our letters.  I would never tell my parents what I wrote even though they would do any number of things to make me “spill it” (Momma always said, “You were stubborn that way…”  Go figure?!).  It took me a while to pin down exactly why they wanted to know this personal information.  Writing our letters was a tradition we shared together.  Today, we still write our shopping lists (using email or text) because great minds think alike and we’ve also been known to buy the same present for a family member.  Talking and planning (along with writing) with my sister are traditions during the holidays and everyday I never want to miss!

So this leads me to a question for you to ponder:  What is your favorite family holiday tradition?  In whatever way you and yours choose to define the holiday season and make seasonal memories, here’s hoping you take time to reflect together on special traditions.  If you don’t have a favorite tradition, here’s hoping you start one as you #SpreadJOY this year!

JOY…a simple three-letter word packing a whopping thirteen Scrabble points!

When was the last time your heart was lifted by a wave of pure JOY…when you felt so excited by an unexpected miracle you couldn’t stop yourself from smiling?  When was the last time in a busy day you found a way to spread JOY to someone else?

It’s no secret one of my all-time my favorite words is JOY.  My family and friends know this only too well.  Momma always told me I came into this world “singing robustly with great JOY” and have actively pursued JOY in simple, everyday ways as a constant quest.

This time of year, we see the word JOY all over the place.  You can find it on cute ornaments, in greeting cards, on wrapping paper, and especially on the smiling young faces of those whose eyes sparkle and marvel at the wonder of the season.

Days may be long, but years a far too short.  So why do we reserve JOY only for special occasions, holidays, or stolen moments?  If we want JOY to be the story of our years, JOY must really be the story of our daily lives.  JOY must be the way we choose and the habits we form as we travel on this journey of life.

JOY surrounds us, but we must actually teach ourselves and others the way to find it and how to share it with others, thus leading me to a couple of challenging seasonal questions for today:  How will you share JOY with those you hold dear during this JOYous season?  How will you convey JOY to others who look to you for guidance in finding it within themselves?

It is my sincere hope you give yourself and others the gift of JOY.  Catch, cultivate, and crave it!  If you make room daily for JOY, you may just find JOY is a strong magnet for more.  Invite just a little into your life and see how quickly a little JOY grows.  May great hope, peace, and love surround you and those you hold dear as you #SpreadJOY!

A Happy Hello to 3009…

Life is funny.  Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself.  Life is also a real adventure at any age, thus St. Michael and I find ourselves in the midst of just such an adventure, even at our age.

Welcome to our home at 3009; new state and new opportunities to explore.  We discovered years ago when we lived with the intention to be our personal best, life became better than expected.  When we challenged ourselves to pay attention to our intentions, new and profound opportunities openly presented themselves.  How ironic it is we moved in autumn (my favorite time of year) to a place where extraordinary foliage colorfully displays how great it is to let things go!

In truth, there’s no such thing as an ending…just the place where we leave parts of the prior story to create new chapters.  It’s our story, yet when we choose to let go of the control, the fun and unexpected emerge.  As momma would say, “there’s no present like time…,” so we gratefully say hello to 3009!

A fond farewell to 1440…

HOME is where our story begins.  After all, a house is made with walls and beams; a HOME is made from love and dreams.  Such is the HOME at 1440…

We bought the 2.2 acre piece of rugged land in June of 1997 after St. M took a long training run from my parent’s home one sunny afternoon.  As the dove flies, it was less than a mile from their home in our little growing county  community in Texas and the possibilities were endless.  We paid cash the next week for the land and embarked on creating house plans for our builder to construct in pursuit of living the American dream of true home ownership!

Ground-breaking and construction commenced with us taking possession nine months later, very similar to childbirth for home owners really.  We raised two extraordinary little women through their most formative years (along with a few others too).  From family and friends gathering for feasts and fellowship to halving our sorrows and doubling our JOYs, 1440 has been along for the journey.

As my Granny B always noted, “eras have a way of ending all over the place, Bethy!”  So after 20 years, we are passing this beautiful HOME filled with family lore, memories, dreams, serenity, hope, peace, JOY, and great love to the next homeowners.  A growing multi-generational family takes possession today, starting the next chapter within the walls and beams of their “new” house to create their HOME of love and dreams.  Oh 1440…with a grateful and heavy heart, we say a fond farewell as you embrace your new family to provide them the faithful safe haven called HOME.  As A.A. Milne wrote through the observations of our favorite Pooh Bear, “How lucky we are to have had something the makes saying farewell so hard…”

What really matters…

Mom&MeEven though it’s been a little over a year now, your presence is, at many times, most palpable.  Even as we continue to deal with and come to terms with something so permanent, you give us signs of your existence in a butterfly following us on the trail, a bunny crossing the pasture, or a dove cooing in the distance.  Even as we lost your close friend recently on the anniversary of your passing, you brought us peace which surpasses understanding…

While some things in life cannot be fixed but only carried with the help of others, I remain buoyed by the funny stories of others about you and so much more.  When I hear about a new children’s book or a scrumptious recipe, I still make a mental note to share it with you.  I see your raised eyebrow, your coiffed hair-do, or the turn of your beautiful blue eyes in other’s expressions and daily existence.  I smell your Sunday pot roast or your perfume on your choir robe in the church closet.  You continue to find clever ways to bring light into the cracks of this healing heart beyond my comprehension.

Powerful memories invoke daily reminder lessons of what really matters in life.  Through your earthly actions, you taught how to be kind, to be grateful every day for something, to show grace to others, to always cherish family, to care for others by giving back and thinking forward, and to absolutely wash my face every night.  🙂    You shared how to exult in the moments of JOY and to not seek shelter from those who insist on being energy vampires.  Most importantly, you taught me that love is really the only thing that matters in this life–whether or not you are present or remain forever in my soul.

You are with me always, momma.  You’re the whisper in the leaves and flowers as I hike in fields of gold. You’re the smell of remembered foods and fragrances in daily life. You’re the cool hand of peace passing over me or the warmth of assurance when I’m struggling and uncertain at any given time. You’re the sound of the rain lulling me to sleep on a stormy night or the colors in the rainbows I seek. You remain alive in my laughter, sarcasm, tears, and JOY. You’re the place I come from, my first home, and the road map along life’s journey…thanks for continuing to subtly remind me of what really matters each day.

Harmony in Carnegie…

Performing in Carnegie Hall has to be a “JOY-Jar” item of the most profound experience on anyone’s bucket list.  This will be reality in my world next week!  Under the direction of Maestro Dr. Jonathan Palant, the Credo Choir of Dallas and the Dallas Street Choir will present a special one-night performance of the “Imagine A World: Music for Humanity” at the famed Hall.  Featuring reknown soloists and performers Frederica Von Stade and Harolyn Blackwell, and legendary composers and pianists, Stephen Schwartz and Jake Heggie, both choirs and artists will share music of hope, love, JOY, and peace.  Inspiration, imagination, and integration are the keys noted throughout this combined program.

In our world of daily angst and social uncertainty, music remains an extraordinary avenue to bind people of all generations and walks of life.  Through beautiful notes, melody and harmony provide invisible connections as a covenant of each spirit and soul to express things we cannot otherwise articulate.  Therefore, sing on my sisters and brothers in song!  May we always endeavor to bear our deepest beliefs in the most melodious of ways, whether we do it in harmony at home or in Carnegie… 🙂  #HomelessNotVoiceless

The Legend of the Dogwood Tree

dogwood3As the dogwood  blooms begin to open their petals, I am reminded today of the story my Granny B shared each spring:

There is a legend, that at the time of the Crucifixion the dogwood had been the size of the oak and other forest trees. So firm and strong was the tree that it was chosen as the timber for the cross. To be used for such a cruel purpose greatly distressed the tree, and Jesus, nailed upon it, sensed this.  In His gentle pity for all sorrow and suffering, he said to it: “Because of your regret and pity for My suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a cross. Henceforth it shall be slender and bent and twisted, and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross…two long and two short petals. And in the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints, brown with rust and stained with red, and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns, and all who see it will remember…”

While digging through some of Granny B’s writings today, I came across a poem she penned in 1934:

  • In Jesus’ time a dogwood grew to a stately size and a lovely hue; 
  • Strong and firm, its branches interwoven and for the cross of Christ, its timber was chosen. 
  • Seeing the distress at this use of wood, Jesus made His promise still holding good: 
  • “Never again shall the dogwood grow large enough to be used just so…
  • Slim and twisted it shall be with blossoms like the cross for all to see;
  • As blood stains the petals marked in brown and the blossom’s center with the thorny crown. 
  • All who see it will remember Me, crucified on a cross from the dogwood tree. 
  • Cherished and protected this tree shall be; a reminder to all of My agony.”

When Granny moved from her beloved Tennessee to Texas in 1955, she brought a beautiful dogwood tree for replanting in her new yard.  It still stands strong in her little yard on Aster Street, a powerful reminder of the legend, and of His grace in our lives…