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Silent and Listen

SILENT and LISTEN…the same six letters spell these two words.  Stop for a moment to just be silent and listen.  Really, just stop!  Be silent and listen…

Most days I’m grateful to have the opportunity to stay aware of current events, but lately I find myself filled with profound sadness, grief, anger, and disappoint to watch or listen to news.  On the other hand, my dad (who lives with us) spends most of his waking hours watching and listening to news, regardless of what’s being shared.  While watching a national newscast just this morning the reporter was updating events and speaking with survivors from the Synagogue mass shooting in Pittsburgh when our local news interrupted with “shots fired at local high school.”  I froze; as a recently retired 34-year educator, my heart stopped and breath escaped my body. Silence and intense listening occurred.

As an example, during my tenure I lived through numerous “newsworthy” events–some staged drills and others real-life events. Until retirement, I was truthfully on edge, constantly waiting for “when, not if.”  Educators and learners must train for events (shelter-in-place, evacuation, and lockdown), but until the situation calls for REAL action, there is no way to predict how anyone will respond in the moment.  I’ve been the teacher in the classroom with students in lockdown for four+ hours AND the administrator in charge at the command center until first-responders take command.  I was one of the fortunate ones, thankfully surviving real tornadoes, massive hail storms, torrential rains with a roof collapsing, gas leaks, a building fire, lightening strikes, and multiple active shooter DRILLS, but never a real shooter on campus. After any drill or real event, we did what’s called a “hotwash.”  It was my opportunity to learn…to gratefully be silent and really listen.

As another example, as one who sits in the choir loft looking into the congregation on any given Sunday morning, I’m constantly scanning the back of the church, watching anyone entering or exiting, and waiting for “the event.”  In fact, every time I enter any building, form of transportation, or anyplace other than my home, I’m scanning for the nearest exit and creating a quick plan for safety purposes.  SOOO much training!  My family has come to appreciate this about me because they’ve learned to just be silent and listen.

In the unfortunate age of mass shootings in the country I call home, it somehow still stuns me to face a constant barrage of talking heads on social media, TV news, radio waves, and other forms of modern communication.  They talk and act like they know and understand.  Unless you’ve lived through an actual situation, you do not know and understand.  You can appreciate the seriousness of the situation, but placing words into others’ mouths, speculating, wool-gathering, and more will not bring back human loss.  Just be silent and listen!

Love, encourage, uplift, and strengthen one another…these are words I gratefully grew up hearing from the adults in my life.  In these troubling times of more questions and few answers, it is more important than ever to respectfully be silent and listen.  There’s a time for talking, asking questions, building others up, problem solving, and finding solutions, but learning the fine art of being silent and listening first is critical.  After all, most of us have two ears and only one mouth. We are ALL part of the problem; we can ALL be part of the solutions and actions needed in moving forward  First, we must be silent and listen.

So…on Day #16:   What’s your personal plan to be silent and listen? 

I’m gratefully and lovingly continuing to work on this daily.

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!

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 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.