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…

Are you bearing fruit?

During a recent meal with a dear friend, this profound question was posed to me:  “Beth, what fruits are you bearing these days in retirement?”  WOW…what a way to start a powerful conversation!

My voice (literally and figuratively) has been somewhat silent these past months as I ponder, adjust, and adapt to new pathways for the future.  Pouring through multiple bins of family memorabilia (including unseen pictures, writings, and journals), has consumed much of my time.  Various volunteer opportunities and travel experiences have brought great JOY to my days as well.  Re-consumption of favorite books, movies, music, and more have pushed the nostalgic buttons into therapeutic overdrive to say the least!  But ‘fruits?’  Then it dawned on me as I crunched on my salad…”the ‘fruits’ of the spirit…” Ahhh…

This particular cross-stitch piece was one of the first I did years ago under the watchful eye of my mom.  She started the project about the time I was carrying my youngest daughter; I finished it three years later. 🙂  For years the piece hung in a quiet corner of our home with little emphasis; it now resides in our kitchen as a daily reminder to bear fruit in the best possible ways.  These nine succulent “fruits” allow us to grow, nurture, and serve others from the heart and soul.  In these uncertain political and social times, these “fruits” are the important ones we should carefully garden each day…

So, the big question today:  Are you bearing fruit?

Bending tradition for a constant reminder…

Twenty years ago today, our youngest made a simple, prolific statement that forever changed my life.  St. Michael, my extraordinary husband, wrote about it in a magazine article we continue to display in our home.  Please allow me to elaborate a bit…

It was a frosty winter’s morn in the bleak midwinter and our single task for the day was to disassemble Christmas in our home.  From the handmade garlands, ornaments, and other decorations to the artificial pine boughs of the 8-ft. tree, everything was deconstructed and carefully placed into boxes for storing in the attic.  Not exactly understanding why this was critical on January 7th (the day after Epiphany), our youngest asked “Why are we doing this again?”  My dad quickly replied, “So it is out of the way until the Christmas season rolls around once again.”

This particular year, we had three Creche or Nativity scenes on display–one made of ceramic pieces simply displayed on the fireplace mantle, a wooden set made for our oldest daughter by a dear family friend, and a soft-sculptured fabric set both girls played with on the hearth everyday (their re-enactments were legendary).  Our oldest packed up the wooden set while our youngest gathered all the players and animals to the soft set.  I started carefully wrapping each piece of the ceramic set in tissue paper.  She stopped to watch and then asked, “So, are we putting Jesus away in the box until next Christmas too?”  Stunned silence ensued…

img_3570It’s been our custom now for 20 years to leave Jesus and the Creche on the mantle throughout the year.  While the Angel’s wing is a little chipped and one Wise Man (traveling from afar) is missing his gift of myrrh, each piece is proudly displayed to remind us daily how a little child came into our hearts sharing hope, peace, JOY, profound grace, and unconditional love…

In 1872, one my favorite poets, Christina Rossetti, penned this familiar verse: What can I give him, poor as I am?  If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; yet what I can I give him: give my heart.

May a special tradition in your life touch your heart and become a constant reminder of what you hold dear throughout the year.

STOP and START in 2017…

hnyA group meets periodically to ponder life, gather ideas, and share general conversation about all manner of interests.  As we sat down to reflect upon the past year and project our thoughts forward to new goals, the overwhelming consensus of the group was how a new year takes great courage, strong conviction, and a growth mindset to move forward!  During the course of our conversation, we also noted how important it is to STOP doing certain things no longer in our best interest and START doing more interesting things in the best ways… here’s a 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.

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 (not with others).  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.

The list goes on, but you get the general idea.  So, what’s on your STOP and START list this new year?  What are those few items you will commit to STOP and START each day throughout the year?  Here’s hoping 2017 amazes and blesses you in the most extraordinary ways!  Happy New Year!

Thank you, Santa Claus!

The pictures come out each December…the beloved Christmas cards and clever Santa snapshots with the real Santa we share with family and friends.  Yes, I said the real Santa Claus because, and you must trust me on this, he is.

img_3307Roll back 27 years ago, our oldest daughter was only five months old the day Santa first came to NorthPark Center.  My sister-in-law, Lynn, was the lady responsible for hiring him and she insisted I make the trek north with the baby on his first day for her first picture with him:  “All those others are just guys in suits; he IS the real Santa.”  I must agree;  he has the most extraordinary way of being completely in each child’s moment, giving each child a laser-focused, powerful interaction, and more if needed.  He listens, questions, reassures; he gives respect to all.  Everyone around him feels it and languishes in it.

You may remember hearing the famed New York Sun newspaper column, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”  The writer, Francis P. Church, warns an 8-year-old who is doubting her belief in Santa against the skepticism of an unsure time in our country’s history.  Sound familiar?  ~“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.” ~

The year our oldest was really doubting Santa’s existence, I mentioned her concern to him by saying, “Merry Christmas, Santa.  This is Rachel, she’s 6 and she’s having a ‘Virginia’ moment.”  Not only did Santa remember our girl from the previous five years, he knew exactly what to do.  After the photo with both girls, our youngest joined me (still a little shy around Santa), but Santa pulled Rachel aside.  Watching Rachel’s expression and her rapid-fire questions, they had several moments of conversation.  In the following days, it was obvious she had made her peace; her soul had calmed.  She never shared the conversation, but snuggling one night she noted, “You know, Santa told me I can choose to believe or not; I choose to believe in the truth of his work, his generous spirit, and the things in my heart.”  Yes, she was six…

img_3310-1Fast forward 27 years now as I pull out the pictures and reflect on these precious memories of making the trek each December to speak with the real Santa.  Our last family visit was in 2000 when Santa took time to read with our youngest who brought a book to give to him; notice our oldest (in middle school at the time) stayed for the story too…

Thank you, Santa, for sharing your time with our family and so many others through the years; thank you for the lessons in life you give.  In these unsure times, may we all express the love, generosity, hope, peace, and joy you remind us of each day of the new year.

#SpreadJOY

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 told me I came into this world singing robustly for 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 JOYplace.  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 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 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!