Have a cuppa: Encouragement

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150“What encouraging words do you want the people you care about to hear as they begin a new year?”

That was the prompt that Holley Gerth gave on January 1 to begin her new series: Coffee for Your Heart. (You can read about it by clicking on the illustration at left, and read more entries, or link up yourself here.)

If there’s one thing I learned in the past year (and something I should’ve learned a long time ago, that’s for sure), it’s that life is full of hard things. It’s not easy. But that doesn’t mean give up.

I know, it’s very tempting.

We see videos on YouTube, we watch movies, we see television shows, maybe even a person demonstrating something at our local library. They all have one thing in common: they make it look easy. Effortless. Piece of cake.

But we all know it’s not really like that. So why do we give up? Because it’s haaaaard…

Vintage PianoI know I got into this rut (and it was years in the making, believe you me) where I got to the point where if I couldn’t figure something out in about fifteen minutes of honest effort, I believed I wasn’t meant to do it. I mean, obviously, God didn’t give me a special talent for intuitively mastering Gimp, or learning HTML (let alone cascading style sheets), so, clearly, these things must not be something I need to master.

And it’s true, I don’t really need to master Gimp or cascading style sheets to make my life meaningful. But there were a lot of other things that this “it’s too hard” attitude trickled into. Learning how to budget my money. Returning to playing the piano. Understanding the design theory behind becoming a better photographer. Singing in a church choir. I was no longer learning almost anything, because…haaaaard. I wasn’t even participating in a great many things I already knew how to do (at least a little) because…hard.

My life got dull, tedious, and so very sad.

Don’t let that happen to you.

Allison Vesterfelt, in her book, Packing Light, says:

“I think sometimes when things get hard, too many of us assume we’re moving in the wrong direction. … Like if we’re doing life right, it’s supposed to be easy.”

When I read this book last summer, this hit me like a ton of bricks. I distinctly remember looking up from the page and staring for a long time out the window in stupefaction. When had I stopped understanding this? Me, a pianist? A person who had spent weeks learning a single piece of classical music. What was I thinking?

It might be hard. But it will be worth it.

Yes. Yes it will.

And, oh, let me tell you. You will feel the most sublime sense of satisfaction when you accomplish that hard thing.

Relish that. Dance around to that music. Roll around in that sensation. Feel that good feeling of accomplishment. Because that feeling of satisfaction will carry you through the next hard thing. And the next.

Oh, things will probably never get easy. Really worthwhile things are never easy.

But they are worth it.

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Bold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

Camel Caravan

“Out there! See?”
“Oh, now I do. In the East.”
“Yes. That cloud of dust.”
“That’s a caravan, isn’t it, Aziz?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Tell Nathan to go into town, and tell them a caravan is coming. It looks large.”


“There must be twenty camels.”
“And, look! They have horses!”
“Hmmm… that’s not something you see every day. Not around here.”


Adoration of the Magi Gaspare Diziani 1718 Oil on Canvas Museum of Fine Arts Budapest

“We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” … and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:2b, 11 NABRE)


That’s bold.

“Hi. You don’t know us. But…uh… we saw a star… Um… It’s been kind of a long trip…”
”Two years, really…”
”Yeah, two years.”
”Can we see him? Your son?”

That’s a vision, and a true belief, and a solid faith that what you’re doing is exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.

That’s the kind of bold I want. Magi bold. Keeping after the task at hand, not being dissuaded. Following the star. Even when it gets tiresome. And it does get tiresome.

Bold is what keeps you going.


If there’s one thing I’m pretty dismal at, it’s being prepared for unexpected company. Oh, I’ll do the best I can, but it’s not like I’ve got an extra casserole in the freezer and can put fresh sheets on the bed in a twinkling. They’ll be lucky if I have a cold beverage.

But we never hear that Joseph was ill at ease around these pagan shamans. We don’t read that Mary was ambivalent about having foreign dignitaries dandle her boy on their knees.

And the gifts. Let’s not forget the gifts. Oh, they had probably seen the frankincense before, at the temple. We do know that Mary’s cousin Elizabeth was married to a priest, so it’s very likely that Mary and Joseph were frequent visitors to the temple (at least, as frequently as their schedule allowed). At that time, village women were accustomed to preparing the dead for burial, so maybe Mary had seen myrrh before. And yes, if they had been to the temple, they had obviously seen gold. But touched it? Even the little coffer of gold that we see in most paintings would’ve been enough gold to set them up for life. And then some.

But they remain unruffled. They don’t say, “Oh, you shouldn’t have.” Or, “Oh, this is too much.”

They are gracious, and welcoming, and take everything in stride.

That’s bold. Mary bold.

That’s the kind of “yes, life, I’m taking what you’re offering, even though it’s about the most outlandish thing possible” attitude that I want this year.

Ready to take on whatever wise men are coming.

Who knows? Maybe they’ll even have gifts!

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2014: A Bold New Year

It's gonna be a great year!I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner.

As you may be aware, I’ve been pondering my new “word” for this year. It’s been a struggle, to say the least. (FYI: It was a struggle last year, too. I think if it’s not a struggle, maybe it’s not a good word. Hmmm…)

I had developed a plan, which I talked about here. I followed all my own directions. Nothing.

Ugh. Blergh. I left it alone for a while.

Then, I tried some new things, and you might see if they work for you.

  • I asked friends to brainstorm.
  • I went to Thesaurus.com.
  • I thought about words I didn’t like, then looked at their opposites (a thesaurus can help with this, too).
  • I prayed.
  • I looked at how another person decided on their word, which I read here.
  • I walked around the block.

I was ready to give up for the night. After all, I rationalized, there was no real deadline. There was no reason I had to come up with a word before the 1st of January. I hadn’t even heard of this program until mid-January last year. I was ready to give up for the night, but I decided to try one last thing:

  • I went to other sites (here, here, and here, and here) where people talked about their words, and read the list of words that people had picked.

BINGO! That’s when it hit me: Bold.

Bold. I love it. It says everything I need this year. Heck, it’s even part of my motto. Again, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner. Go figure.

Then I stayed up a couple more hours designing my graphic. Amazing how energizing this process is.

Unashamed: The Finale

UnashamedIt’s been an interesting, eventful year, and I remain unashamed.

When I first became aware of the concept of picking one word for the year, instead of a passel of New Year’s Resolutions, I was immediately intrigued. I’ve never been much of a resolution keeper, anyway, but this sounded do-able. For a couple of weeks, I had struggled with what word to pick. I love words, and, well, picking just ONE of them seemed an unlikely prospect. Nevertheless, I struggled on,

As you can see from my posts here, and here, and here, I did succeed. I would never, ever, ever have guessed that the word “unashamed” would be not only interesting, but of real value to me, as I was reminded of it time and again. It carried me through a nearly soul-crushing depression, relationship traumas, an interstate move, and career upheavals.

Now the year is drawing to a close, and I’ve already been thinking, at some length, about next year’s word. I’ve narrowed it down to a few, but a couple people have asked me what process I used to determine the word. I think I can safely say that it’s not so much a series of easy steps as it is a time of reflection.

  • The word has to be deep. I can’t really speak for others, but I seriously doubt the word “groceries” would be of value to me.
  • The word has to be applicable. “Read” isn’t useful for me, because I already do it everyday. Probably to excess. It’s hardly something I need to grow in. Which is a good reminder:
  • The word has to promote growth. I already “think” too much, so I need a word that stretches me in a different direction.
  • The word should be challenging. Again, I have a tendency to “linger,” so that’s not where I’m headed.
  • The word shouldn’t be too narrow. I’ve read about a system where the idea behind choosing the word is how I want God to be working in my life. That’s really cool, but again, that’s something I probably spend a lot of time pondering anyway, so it’s not where I’m headed. Not this year.
  • The word should be able to be interpreted in a variety of ways. Again, not too narrow. But not too broad. In my internet meanderings, I ran across a couple of people who chose the word “do.” Whoa, Nelly, That’s just too much.
  • The word has to resonate. That’s really it, in a nutshell. Whatever the word is, it has to “ring” for me. It has to hit me, just right.

I’m down to about five words. I’m getting closer. One thing I’m excited about this year is working with Ali Edwards and her ideas here. I’m still thinking. You think, too. In no way should this be a constraining idea, where if you don’t get it by New Year’s, you’re out of the loop. Nonsense.

Five Minute Friday: Together

Together AgainI thought it was what I wanted. To be together.

I wanted to be with someone. So badly. I guess I didn’t care who it was. And it wasn’t a bad relationship. It just wasn’t the right relationship. So it’s over.

And that’s not bad. In fact, it’s much better. So much better that I was tempted to stay.


So, I’m moving on, and moving out. And moving. Because there’s no point in being together if you’re not really together.

But guess what? I still want to be together. With someone…

I want to do what’s best. But it’s hard.


What’s Five Minute Friday?

A blog-prompt project dreamt up by LisaJo Baker, which you can read about here. The basic idea is that you spend five minutes of writing, generally unedited (I correct typos, WAY too OCD not to do that), on a prompt that she provides just after ten p.m. via a tweet, then spread the word, and link up. Interested? Join up. Enjoy a delightful assortment by clicking on the picture to the right, or here.

This is what happens

Depression Era FamilyThis is what happens when you throw your lot in with a madman. This is what happens when you give yourself away to an idea that is not ready to be born, barely formed enough to be recognizable as a coherent thought. This is what happens when you’re lying on the ground in a dirty dress, with your hair falling in your face and your breath knocked out of you so that you’re gasping.

Gasping. And grasping. Grasping at the straws of belief. The belief that you thought would give you a foundation and a shelter from the storm. This is what happens… This is what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket, when you decide on a truth. This is what happens when the truth turns into nothing more substantial that a burned out building.

Building. Building what you thought was a dream world, but it turns into a nightmare. A nightmare that you wake from, screaming and panting. This is what happens when the nightmare is real and you don’t know what to do or where to go anymore. This is what happens when truth turns into a lie and all you want to do is lie.

Lie. Everything was a lie. This is what happens when you’re afraid to admit to yourself that you were wrong again. This is what happens when you allow yourself to be duped. This is what happens when he leaves in the night with the car and the rent money and you’re stuck with unpaid utilities and five hungry kids and nothing to eat in the house but half a summer sausage and a bottle of Jack Daniels. This is what happened when you try.

Try. But fail.


Amity and SorrowI wrote this after finishing another chapter in a fabulous book, Amity & Sorrow (by Peggy Riley, published by Little, Brown & Co., 2013). I was inspired by the book, and this is not a direct reflection of the plot, though it has similarities. It just up and flowed out, and I couldn’t stop writing. I wish all writing was this easy.