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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.

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

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.