Treasuring Day 3 of Gratefulness…

I have dear friends who have an incredible little man for a grandson.  He is currently pirate savvy, collecting all manner of pirate booty, celebrating a pirate birthday as he enters Kindergarten, and more.  We spent a few days together in my part of the country exploring museums as well as famous pirate gathering places of yester-years along the Atlantic coast a couple of months back.  Because he’s about to become a big brother for the very first time, of course I had to gather some big brother pirate booty to send his way so he can better prepare to teach his little brother the ropes (being an additional surrogate GrammyB has perks, you know). Pirates always get a bad rap historically, but my pirate teacher friend, Dave Burgess, says it best in his manifesto, Teach Like A Pirate“Pirates are daring, adventurous, and willing to set forth into uncharted territories with no guarantee of success. They reject the status quo and refuse to conform to any society that stifles creativity and independence…entrepreneurs who take risks and are willing to travel to the ends of the earth for that which they value…they travel with and embrace a diverse crew.  If you’re willing to live by the code commit to the voyage, and pull your share of the load, then you’re free to set sail…and besides, everybody loves a pirate.”

So what do pirates have to do with today’s question?

Day #3:  What do you truly treasure or value most right now?

Personally, I value finding purpose, nurturing relationships, and treasuring the transitions of time above all else. Savoring a hand-written letter from a long distance friend or performing valuable daily (if mundane) tasks brings a sense of peaceful order and a calming focus.  Creating experiences, moments, and opportunities to venture forth and explore cultivates the inner-pirate…and face it; there’s a little pirate in all of us! After all, as my momma would often remind me, “wherever you go, there you arrhhh…”  just a like a pirate! 🙂

Day Two of Gratefulness…

My desk calendar says it all today…“All things that are beautiful–think on these things.”  Yes, I’m absolutely, unapologetically one of those cutsy, longtime Mary Engelbreit graphic artist/illustrator fans (just ask any former student or colleague, or especially St. Michael!).  I had a third grade classroom so covered in her work one year, my learners were convinced she was coming as a mystery reader before the school year ended (too bad my requests never reached her).  The beautiful thing about ME’s extraordinary work is the pure JOY she exudes onto the canvas in great, colorful detail; I sometimes just want to live in her graphic world.

By definition, beauty is a combination of shape, form, and color; those descriptive characteristics pleasing the aesthetic senses (especially sight) and exalting the mind and spirit.  What beauty one finds in something may be perceived differently by another.  Just walking along a rugged trail on an early cool, crisp autumn morn with leaves gently swirling as birds flutter in the trees and clouds billow calmly above, you can’t help seeing and feeling the strength of nature’s beauty.  I’m indeed grateful to live in an area where these images of simple beauty present themselves daily.  So here’s your question on Day Two:

What is something of beauty in your world you are grateful for at this time in your life? 

I challenge us to stop every single day, take a deep cleansing breath, and set your mind to explore the beauty all around; after all, as John Keats remarked, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever…”

Grateful Game…Day One

I know; it’s been months since the last post.  So much life…

Today, however, marks 40 days until my personal favorite holiday of the year, Thanksgiving.  In an effort to jump start the season of thanks and giving, these next 40 days are all about GRATEFULNESS.  As a way to express appreciation, share kindness, and reflectively narrate on gratitudes of gratefulness, there will be one question posted each day (similar to prior years with Christmas Questions) so feel free to play along with the Grateful Game.

As you know, being grateful is an extraordinary feeling of appreciation for a kindness, a welcome experience of gratitude and thankfulness.  Being authentically grateful brings pleasure and contentment on a level we could genuinely use in our daily world.  The word itself comes from the Latin derivative, gratus, “showing grace, blessing, and JOY…” Just like daily physical exercise, we must create mindful ways to powerfully practice daily gratitude in order to benefit mind, body, and soul.

Day One:   What is ONE thing you are grateful for today, only today?

This is personally easy:  rest.  It’s been a challenging week of weather-related anxieties, preparations, cleanup, regroup, and more.  Being grateful for simple, comfortable rest, including deep sleep, rejuvenates all functions.  Purposefully planning an entire day of rest with little-to-no agenda is a self-care tool to gratefully embrace. My favorite Transcendentalist, Henry David Thoreau noted, “I am grateful for what I am and have…my Thanksgiving is perpetual.”   What’s your ONE grateful thing today?

Mommas…

My momma always told me the best sermon is a great example, thus she and daddy (for better, or worse sometimes) taught us daily by their example.  My sister and I know we “chose our parents well” because in the midst of everyday life, there were the daily lessons by example.

As I watch moms today in the grocery store or at the park, it occurs to me how moms must be as wise as Solomon, as smart as Socrates, as unconditionally loving as Mother Teresa, and as disciplined as Coach John Wooden.  My mom demonstrated daily who she was and lived by the legacy she created with sass, grit, humor, and a dash of humbleness.  She shaped our character, expected integrity, and encouraged us to dream big for the future.  We learned to control our attitude and effort because those are really the only two things in our constant control.  And just like her classroom, mom set the bar extremely high but provided a cushion when we stumbled along the way.  Our mom was our first and most important teacher, advocate, and disciplinarian; she set the rules and we followed them (mostly).

While mom’s physical voice is now silent, the echos of her lessons ring strong inside my soul.  I’m grateful and thankful for the example of my mom.  At times I was so busy growing up and then raising two little women of my own, I often forgot she was growing older too, but mom was always smart enough to hold on, and then brave enough to let go on her journey…  I’m abundantly grateful and thankful for the example of my mom (and dad) who raised me well so I could one day be a mom to the two grown miracles who shower my world in JOY!  Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms!

Signs and Promises of Spring…

As spring brings new hope and promise from a long winter and the beautiful dogwood blooms slowly begin to open their petals in my backyard woods, I am reminded today of the powerful story my Granny B shared each Easter:

dogwood3

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 recently, 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.  On our recent move from Texas to North Carolina, I brought a sprig of the original tree (still on Aster Street in Dallas) as a poignant reminder of the legend, and of His loving grace in our lives… Happy Spring, y’all!

2018 Stop/Start Mindset…

A friend and I wander along a frigid pathway into the woods for a stroll among the trees, pondering life, reflecting on a new year, and waiting for our annual ONE WORD to find each of us.  Ideas ebb and flow from the past year and project themselves forward to new goals.  At this stage of life, we discuss how it takes great courage, strong conviction, and a consistent growth mindset to move forward some days while other days simply unfold in miraculous ways.  It also takes the bold ability to STOP doing some things no longer fruitful or in our best interest only to START doing other things in the best way possible.  Here’s just a small sample:

1. STOP telling everyone everything on social media. START leaving some things to chance and imagination.

2. STOP comparing yourself to others and worrying about what others think. START marching to your own drummer and the positive path you create, no matter the path may lead.

3. STOP focusing on self and more on others. START helping others and be nice to everyone because kindness matters.

4. STOP making everything a competition in life. START competing only with your best self.  Make your choices, be accountable, accept responsibility, and deal with the consequences (good and bad) of your choices.

5. STOP being like others. START owning who you are, where you are, and tell YOUR story in a caring manner. There is only one “YOUnique” you…

6. STOP fearing failure; no one has it all figured out because nothing in life is perfect, especially on the first time. Failures bring powerful clarity and change in the most positive way! START embracing failure to find personal success (it’s also a recovery step from perfectionism…and one I struggle to release daily).

Our list goes on, but you get the general idea. So, what’s on your STOP and START list this new year? What is something you will commit to STOP and START each day throughout the year?

May 2018 be filled with magic and dreams and good madness in your life.  May you read great books and kiss someone who thinks you’re the wonderful.  May you create art–write, draw, build, sing, play, and live as only you can!  And I sincerely hope somewhere in the next year, you amaze, bless, and surprise yourself (and others) in the most extraordinary ways! Happy New Year!

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!