Category Archives: Personal Reflections

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!

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…”

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.

#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!