Don’t miss the Christmas whimsy

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A chandelier atop a Christmas tree? Huge gingerbread ornaments? A moment of whimsy restores weary hearts and brings joy.

The holidays are here and elves have appeared, ballerinas dance with nutcrackers that come alive, and all kinds of stories and historical tales find renewal underneath Christmas trees and other scenes. It seems like the child’s eye of life takes over once a year, briefly, and allows us all to relax into the memories of our youth along with them.

How can we capture more of those moments this Christmas season? And what is the special magic of whimsy?

Whimsy gives us an opportunity to recharge our batteries.

During a very challenging day, with hours at the car dealer, more hours driving kids to activities, handling house needs, and squeezing in work, I had twenty minutes to stop in a favorite holiday store. It immediately took me from bedraggled, to amused, to joyful. What happened?

Like many other moms, I’m busy trying to make my children’s dreams come true while ensuring they are safe and growing into their potential. What looks like a normal minivan is actually the family’s magic carpet for adventure. But if the driver is exhausted, it’s not fun for anyone. Even if it’s just ten minutes, a little touch of Christmas whimsy — seeing a little gnome or Santa Claus or twirling fairy on a tree — helps me recover the ability to smile and not forget a world of sweetness. A moment of reflection helps me be fluid, like swimming laps in the water.

Whimsy brings a gust of fresh spring air to tired winter hearts.

Sometimes you have to wear so much armor, like an ancient warrior of old, just to fend off the enemies of the day. To stay employed, to put food on the table, to advocate for someone weaker in your life who needs strength, to give wisdom and remember the bigger picture during a challenge. To remember to love, sometimes from a place of will, when exhaustion’s knocking at the door. The ability to have a little moment with a sprite, or magical creature, or fanciful story acts like a cup of coffee. It makes me remember to smile and slow down to enjoy the moment and preciousness of every day.

Whimsy can help you find the front-door to faith so don’t miss it this season.

There’s an innate ability in all of us to want to dream, to succeed, and to learn from mistakes so they don’t get repeated. When you momentarily consider a beautiful memory dotted with great food, laughter, or a fun setting, it lifts your mood. It gives you room to forgive others, to accept their shortcomings if they’ve changed. And to remember others are more important than our own agendas.

How are you going to keep giving without hitting that breaking point this season? Taking a moment with laughter, or a good movie, or a fun book to separate yourself can help remind you that you aren’t defined by the challenges in life. Instead, you have the same magic inside to refocus, give love from a place of hope, and bring smiles to the loved ones in your life.

 

The Treasure Box

This beautiful silver box with precious stones reminds me of my own heart's treasure box.

This beautiful silver box with precious stones reminds me of my own heart’s treasure box.

When you have to pack and run for it, you find out what is your true treasure.

This week we’ve been in Dallas before some media work and it’s given me a renewed appreciation for generous hearts once more. People who accept you after many years, places bringing old smiles back to the surface, silly comments by our kids as they experience a new part of the world. Dallas has been kind to us once more, but mainly for the people and shared experiences that can bridge the distance and miles and years apart.

As we head into uncharted territory, trying new things and rediscovering grace in special ways, I keep thinking of the treasures I’ve been given, and those I’m soon to give away. Given—friendship, gestures of kindness, unwarranted grace and forgiveness, family, and new beginnings. To give—advice for avoiding some bumps in the road, shortcuts and money-savers for parenting, and other nuggets derived from much pain. Like the gold that rises during purification, these precious things are my treasures.

It’s so important to realize what should be in your treasure box, to count each morsel of beauty, and be connected with others to share.

What kind of beauty are you grateful for today? Take a moment and appreciate your gifts as we head into a new school year. It helps slow the march of time just a little, and broadens the scope for renewal to enter in.

Eyes Wide Open

It's a dark pool if you shut your eyes, so keep looking up!

It’s a dark pool if you shut your eyes, so keep looking up for renewed insights!

Crash goes my arm, yet again. I’m swimming backstroke and have forgotten to keep my eyes open. I love the feel of the water stirring and renewed energy, but only seem to swim straight with my eyes open, not closed.

I do some of my best thinking swimming backwards. Not sure why. Except the quiet surrounds me and somewhere in the rhythm I find room to let go. Troubles stirring? Let them sink with the leaves. Aches and pains? Soothe them away with every kick. Decisions lingering? Let them slide aside. Just don’t crash into the divider again.

It’s annoying.

Sometimes in the thick of things, I’d rather just keep my eyes shut. Drown out the noise of the world. All the negative voices and overwhelming things. But that makes for a rather dark pool.

So, I kind of love that I have to keep my eyes open, too.

It makes me look up. I get to watch the swirl of dawn’s rays alight on the twisting clouds or geese fly overhead, or sometimes seagulls strayed far from the ocean’s edge. At sunset, there are planes that drift by or hot air balloons gliding above, too. The canvas of possibility is wide open to my blurred, bubbled perspective behind the goggles.

And there’s the catch: I can only site on possibility when my eyes are wide open. The truth must be fully present for wisdom to seep into my decisions and for me to act from a place of wholeness, and be renewed to give. Whether it’s for a writing project, a gift for a friend, or an ability to move over and make room for the inevitable seasons of change, I can’t hide from difficulty at all.

Take courage this week in facing your challenges, knowing if you look at them directly, it’s the first step to freedom and your dance of resilience can arise once more.

The Hidden Magic

Perhaps your own creative side is ready to burst forth. Listen today and something magical could begin anew.

Perhaps your own creative side is ready to burst forth. Listen today and something magical could begin anew.

Have you had a season of life where you felt bogged down, burdened by too many options and commitments? Look for that tinge of hidden happiness, and keep following it.

There is a hidden joy that surprised me recently. It reminds me of watching a thorn-bearing rose bush come to life as the fragrant flowers suddenly unfold. I’ve been feeling nudges of creativity wanting to come to life, even in the midst of getting over a sprained ankle, and had been pushing it aside. Finally last week I started research for the next novel and I could instantly tell the difference. Some secret joy came out of the drawer, like Peter Pan’s shadow dancing around the room in the Disney movie.

What’s going on? Why the sudden joy, even while my leg’s still throbbing?

It’s that listening to my calling, to being a writer.

I’ve been focused on marketing activities, which I enjoy in a different way, and practical life maters, so I’d been putting the creative side on hold. I forgot that I NEED to write to be happy at the core of my being. This is why it’s the CALL to write. It’s like when your phone keeps ringing even though you put it on silent.

Are you ignoring that call?

Perhaps you are skilled with baking or sewing. Or decorating cakes. Or acting in theater. And life’s brought many distractions, good and bad, to keep you far from that happy place.

Today I’m challenging you to listen to that little voice wooing you toward something beautiful and follow that urge. I need to do the same thing. When my creative side gets blocked by errands and laundry, I can identify the stagnant feeling that slowly creeps into life. When you get injured, you must slow down and adjust. I’m almost grateful for the pain that makes me reassess my energy and activities.

Ever since the fires, my husband and I have tried very hard not to live with regret. When you lose everything, all the bits you left there to burn can haunt you for a while. I used to wish I could just have five minutes to grab certain things. I had to give up that sense of loss and be filled with peace. That last sentence took a long time of healing, but when I need to adjust now in life I don’t want to keep putting it off. I’m encouraging you to do the same.

Even if it’s one small step, move out in faith that if you pick up the pencil to draw something good will come forward. It may not be a Rembrandt, but in the being still with your hidden skill, renewal and resilience can come to life.

There’s something magical at work, just waiting to come to life. Whether it’s arranging flowers or writing a poem, give it a voice today and see what grows from there.

What do you do to bring out your hidden joy?

The Lady’s Fingerprints—A Tribute to Elisabeth Elliot

Famed author and great resilient woman Elisabeth Elliot died this week at 88 years. I got to meet her years ago. Photo courtesy of YBW Mag.

Famed author and great resilient woman Elisabeth Elliot died this week at 88 years old. I got to meet her years ago when she spoke at Baylor University. Photo courtesy of YBW Mag.

If you scratch beneath those early years, you’ll find the words of Elisabeth Elliot. Her message of relentless hope has carried so many through adversity to the other side of deeper healing.

I spent part of this week looking at skeletons and footprints from Dinosaurs in a museum. It’s fascinating to realize that these animals have left an impression that’s lasted countless years. I also heard sad news of a tremendous author passing away and it made me think—what kind of fingerprint do I want to leave when I’m gone?

That sea foam-green carpeting

When Elisabeth Elliot came to speak at Baylor when I was an undergrad, the news spread quickly and the large white building with high white walls and stained glass was filled to the brim. Somehow, I was lucky enough to sit in the front row. She was a tall, gracefully gray-haired woman with a kind but firm expression and gentle, metered voice.

Her words seemed to cost her dearly, each one measured carefully like ingredients in an intricate recipe. She described waiting to marry her love, and one night when they took a walk in a cemetery and sat down, the moon rose behind them, casting the shadow of a cross between them. He had to go abroad for a while, so she had to learn to wait patiently, she related to the hushed audience. I could almost feel the moonbeams and easily picture the rise and fall of disappointment in her fluttering heart back in the day.

Her mastery of description made me feel like I’d just tuned into a Hallmark show, where the loved ones would be separated. I greatly respected the choices that she made in her youth to strike forward in service and count the cost of her decisions carefully. I’d never heard anything like this before and it had me riveted to the hard wooden seats. Her discussion of her first husband, Jim Elliot, and his tragic death, speared by natives, followed with stories of forgiveness and new beginnings.

As she drew to a close, I remember the feeling of my shoes sinking into the deep carpet as I rose to shake her hand in thanks, never knowing that her words would make a deep mark in my outlook, like my shoe print did in that plush carpeting. If you look carefully, I hope you can still see it today.

“There is a deeper meaning far more and far reaching to God’s protection.” – Elisabeth Elliot

Not so safe, but secure

The thing that spoke to my core was her message of a faith that surpassed circumstances and could survive the worst things in life’s despairing moments. That outlook has been so integral to planting firm roots that weather the storms. For example, this week I found out my father’s having heart surgery, and a dear friend has had a terrible illness that put her in the hospital very unexpectedly.

It’s that watchtower of hope that propels you forward or enables you to really pitch in and help when others may need to see a word-picture of resilience amidst uncertain times.

Elisabeth Elliot has faced so many difficulties, her purity of resolve and source of inspiration speaks whispers of encouragement to me still after so long, like smelling honeysuckle on the evening breeze. I long to sit and be filled with those breezes again, and feel afresh and anew in my outlook. The winds of change haven’t removed this original thought but have shaped it into my own direction.

Living fingerprints

As a gemologist, I’ve studied inclusions, some called fingerprints, inside of beautiful gems. They provide clues to the makeup of the gem and can heighten or detract from their beauty and value. So when I see the beautiful geodes and amethysts as tall as I am, I keep thinking of how to leave a lasting fingerprint that won’t scrub off with Windex.

For me, its writing, making sure I connect with loved ones, playing with my kids, being there for others in difficult moments, and looking for the good in life that I hope will be my fingerprint on those in my circle of readers and friends and family.

What are your fingerprints you hope to leave behind? Who would you give them to and how? What ones do you cherish the most in your life?

_____________________

For more information about Elisabeth Elliot, and to hear an audio lecture very much like the one she gave years ago at Baylor, check out this link here. Be sure to scroll past the intro to her picture to hear the heart of the message.

http://article.wn.com/view/2015/06/16/Iconic_Christian_author_Elisabeth_Elliot_passes_away_June_15/

Here’s also a great article with detailed overview of her life and books by Renee Ann Smith:

http://reneeannsmith.com/a/the-most-remarkable-woman-ive-never-met-or-a-love-story-a-video-and-a-giveaway/

Lay Down Old Luggage

Old luggage weighing you down? Drop it, and run free!

Old luggage weighing you down? Drop it, and run free!

Part Three of the Lockout Series

It’s spring so perhaps you’ve been tidying up as we have in the corners that grow stacks like bunnies and need a fresh approach. It’s a continual struggle for me, this rearming, refocusing, and getting rid of things. I’ve spent time recently sorting out, yet more to go, but I don’t want to miss an opportunity because I’m holding onto something it’s time to part with, and hopefully help someone else along the way.

I once heard a speaker talking about the best ways to help others. He described how impossible it is to run fast in a race when holding bulky luggage. That image has remained and been so true in our lives.

People will tell you when you lose everything as we did after the wildfires swept through, that it’s just “stuff.” And indeed, things are not as important as people. We were grateful to escape the flames without harm. But some of the things we lost that day represented special memories with family, or a talented Aunt who painted, or years of history wrapped in a book or piece of silver. To me things lost represented a precious moment and it took time to heal from having those ripped away. Yet in losing everything, I became more open to receiving a new gift of not making things quite so important.

It made me strive for living a bit lighter, in every sense.

How to live open-handed

That same speaker who discussed not being able to run holding heavy luggage, asked us to open our hands, palm up. Then to pray and give things up that we shouldn’t be holding any longer, that were holding us back. It’s a powerful image, the open hand. It means living with heart’s hope first rather than stuff first. By heart’s hope, I mean determining to focus on how you wish to live and goals you want to achieve rather than continually wading through either old memories or old things that keep you from running free.

What does it take to run free?

When we were in Hawaii this Christmas, we visited an end-of-the-road beach where there were perhaps 30 parking places and miles of beach beneath green forested mountainous terrain. The wind whipped my hair as we hiked around a corner and as far as I could see, it was clear blue waves. No one else was there except us. For a brief moment, I found wild beauty in front of me. I felt so uninhibited and reveled in the pure magnificence. It was difficult to describe for a while, too. Unfettered beauty does that.

But we had no chairs or bulky equipment. We certainly had no luggage with us there. It was just us digging in the sand and walking along watching huge waves crash against the volcanic rocks and golden sand.

That moment sums up how I long to live. Unfettered. Released. In freedom.

It’s a struggle here at home, away from the island. But I encourage you to look in the scary closets teetering with fullness, both in reality and in any damaged corners of your heart, and ask for wisdom about cleaning out to make room for unfettered joy and beauty.

Know that you are not alone, and certainly, it is worth the endeavor to lay it down and walk into greater freedom this day.

Photo by Witthaya Phonsawat courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net.

Are You A Double Agent?

Are you secretly undercover in your own life? Find a better path here.

Are you secretly undercover in your own life? Find a better path here.

Part Two of the Lockout Series

When I say the word “undercover” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For me, it’s secret agents, or double agents. I like spy movies and intrigue.

But here’s a tricky thought: are you your own double agent when it comes to dealing with trials? Are you improving over time or remaining paralyzed in pain?

If you stuff down rather than press through, you may have secretly, stealthily been hampering your own progress.

How’d a double agent get here?

When you’re going through a rough time, sometimes you and your loved ones are in survival mode, just tending to basics to get by. You’re being strong for your family or someone you care about. But with time, eventually you are out of survival and into coping. It’s at that critical point that a writing tool I learned about in crafting good fiction can be so helpful.

It’s called a beat.

Not quite a drumbeat. In writing, it’s the moment your character has a big aha and pauses to absorb it. In any story that’s impacted your life, whether gritty fiction or gripping suspense, if the characters touched your heartstrings they had a telling moment or two where some great lesson was perceived. It felt like you experienced that lesson alongside them, too.

How does a beat feel in real life?

A beat feels like pausing to watch the sunset after a hectic day driving around for errands. The cares of the day melt away and you connect with a lasting moment.

It’s where eternity and value in the now intersect.

It’s like having your family seated around the dinner table and they’re as eager to share kind thoughts as they are to eat. It’s like planting a new garden bed and watering it in at the end of a hard day of work, breathing in the fresh earthy scents, full of promise.

Setting aside a determined moment to focus on lessons learned can be so hard. It requires self-awareness and the ability and desire to process the feelings now, both good and bad, behind pivotal moments in life. But it prevents emotionally volcanic disruptions at later times if you work at it close in to the challenging times.

My hardest one was when my son almost died right after birth. We survived, and he was miraculously healed, but had other complications that kept us on the razor’s edge for over a year on monitors and frequent medical care. The day he got off the monitor, another critical emergency arrived. We weren’t out of the woods. Then another one, all huge emergencies. It was really months later that we began going to the beach more often and taking time outdoors as a family. Delving into a healing moment after so much pain wasn’t only refreshing, it was life giving. Like the first breath of spring on the wind, or exiting an overheated room to the fresh outdoors. Finding time to process along the way, and allowing yourself to do so while giving yourself grace, is really the key to moving forward in life.

It works with good times, too! I’m finishing my proposal soon. We’re hoping for more dates and time with friends. But first, were cleaning out the garage, updating records, and catching up on practical things that need attention. It’s an outward sign mixed with a deeper need to pause and breathe. I want to be ready to take in the delight of finishing this step before making the next one and create room for success along the way.

If I could give you one gift, it’s taking your own beat, or special time this week, to pause and give thanks or grieve if necessary after a difficult time. Cry out over your needs and be grateful for the blessings, too. In the process, you’ll expose any undercover agents lurking in your front yard and disable their control over you.

 

Photo courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.