Thursday, December 27, 2012

Words for a New Year

I love words. 

Reading them. 

Writing them. 

Hanging them on my walls. 

That’s why I love the idea of choosing one word to focus on all year. Instead of making a new year’s resolution that may disintegrate in a few weeks along with the good intentions, I can try to remember one word all year long. 

Last year, I didn’t really choose a word as much as a word chose me. Two words, actually. 

At the end of last year I asked God a question. I wanted to know what to do. How to handle something that didn’t turn out like I wanted it to. Should I move on and forget it or keep a flicker of hope alive? 

The words “carry on” immediately came to my mind. They weren’t words I often used so I felt sure they were God’s words to me. But what did they mean exactly? I thought those words really didn’t answer my question. Or did they? I looked them up in the dictionary.

“Carry on: Continue an activity or task; continue to move in the same direction.”

As I continued to think about those words, the more they meant to me. I decided to carry on with seeking God in this situation. I continued taking all my concerns, worries and fears to him. 

I made up my mind that even though I couldn’t understand how God could work this disappointment out for something good, I would trust that he would. And then this year brought me some new things. 

When I decided to change my routine and get up extra early to spend time with God, even though I’m more of a night owl than an early bird, I wondered if I could possibly make it a habit. 

When I asked myself how could I write a blog when I knew so little about it, and wondered what in the world I would write about after my first post, I had no idea if I could continue. 

When I didn’t even own a camera and wanted to take my own photos for my blog, I wondered how I could learn about photography. 

When my plans for a trip to Paris seemed overwhelming, I wondered how they would take shape and fall into place.

But those words, carry on, whispered to me that I should keep moving forward. 

Keep stretching. Keep connecting. Keep doing the hard things. The risky things. The fearful things. The things I don’t like to do. 

Because I found sweet and gracious and giving friends, who were either experts in their fields or willing to share their knowledge of blogs and photography with me. And I found other friends who were happy to walk beside me and cheer me on as I forged ahead on these unfamiliar pathways. 

And as I decided to carry on, the embers of disappointment and fear were snuffed out and a dimly glowing dream of sharing my words with the readers of (in)courage started to flicker. 

I’m thrilled beyond words (actually speechless!) that in 2013, they will publish another article that I wrote. 

And when I carried on, the fear that made me say maybe someday I’ll travel, became a day last year when I flew across the ocean on a dazzling trip to Paris.

My word for 2013? It’s aspire

It speaks to me of possibilities. Things I can hope for, dream of and set my sights on. Things I might never even think of today or dream that I might love. 

To me, aspiring is not about having ambitious plans or meeting goals. It’s not about trying harder or expecting things to go the way I want them to. 

Instead, it urges me to reach for more. Of God. I want to look for him and follow him. To soar. Through doors that open to places I could never imagine.

If you’re interested in choosing a word for 2013, visit for inspiration and to connect with others who are choosing a word.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Keeping Hearts Aglow All Year Long

Holiday festivities are in full swing. My house is ready for the season. The candles are glowing, the tree lights are glittering, the punch is fizzing. 

This year I found the prettiest white tree branches twinkling with tiny white lights while I was in St. Augustine for Thanksgiving. 

The sparkly branches inspired me and I was excited to dress up my mantel around them with a new silver wreath. 

My tree is full of ribbons and garlands and mostly skating ornaments, given to me by family and friends over the years. The vintage figure skaters that twirled around the town under our tree every Christmas when I was a kid now strut their stuff and glide on a mirror at my house. 

When my sister and I were little, we were bothered that there were only three skaters instead of four so the skaters could happily pair off. 

Now I happen to think that the skater in the red dress is a lucky girl indeed to have two boys to spin around the ice with. Tiny skates, real-life skates and postcards of skaters are everywhere around my house at Christmas. 

Even a wreath with a pair of baby skates hangs on my door.

When all the holiday decorations are out and my house is trimmed in swags, skates and silver, I want to invite a few friends over. 

But I tend to let details consume me. I want to make all my favorite desserts. I want to experiment with a new appetizer recipe. I feel compelled to clean spaces I ignore the rest of the year. 

By the time my guests arrive, I'd rather collapse in a chair with a cup of coffee and not talk to anyone. 

Acting the part of a chatty hostess is the last thing I feel like doing. 

I'm dizzy trying to see whose glass needs filled, if the dip could be refreshed or if the appetizers should be reheated for latecomers.

But then I stop. And remember. What the season is for. 

The gatherings, the gift exchanges, the holiday cards that arrive in the mail. It’s all just an opportunity to connect with those who happen to be in my life. By choice or by chance. Family and friends I’m blessed to know. 

So I take a step back. To lean into the sparkling conversation. Wrap myself in the dazzling cheer. Drink in the glittering ornamentation. 

It's only for a season, after all.

In the twinkling of an eye, the celebration is over. The gifts are unwrapped. The lights are unplugged. The baubles are packed away. 

My house will look sparse after the tree is hauled out. 

The spaces will seem empty after everything is stored until next year. 

But not just yet. For now, the spirit glimmers and glows. May it last all year long.

Today I'm linked to Emily's Tuesdays Unwrapped.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fragments of a Family

I have a stack of cards from the Ward family. I don’t know them, but I feel like I do just from reading the bits and pieces of their lives. The cards were jumbled in a drawer in an antique mall and as I started leafing through them, I noticed they all seemed to be from the same family. They're from the early 1900s, and I think they were originally pasted in a scrapbook but to sell them individually, the antique mall had ripped them out. I wish I could have seen the entire scrapbook but from what’s left, I like to imagine that these odds and ends of their lives tell the family’s story.

There are gift tags to children Helen, Edwin, Kenneth, Marion and Winifred from Auntie Kate and Auntie Belle. Bookmarks and bridge cards, a Christmas place card with an address in New York City, notes and invitations to birthday parties. A poem written in 1881 to a young Marion from Mr. Ward while in Washington, DC. Beautiful, colorful images with gorgeous penmanship. I like to think the fragments seem to say that this family celebrated the events of their lives. I like to think that Auntie Kate and Auntie Belle doted on their nieces and nephews. And that someone in their family cared enough to commemorate the events of their busy lives by pasting a memento in a scrapbook. Just when I think I have all of the pieces that the Ward family left behind, I’ll open a note from my mother to find another card from their scrapbook. Somehow she unearths one last remnant when she visits the antique mall and sends it to me as a surprise in the mail. 

It seems sad though, that the scrapbook ended up in an odds and ends drawer in an antique mall and not with a friend or family member. I don’t want the Ward family's carefully pasted memories to be lost and forgotten. They tell a story of a family, and as I read their words, it makes me want to tell my own story. So I keep their beautiful cards. Slid between ribbons on a memory board hanging on my wall. And I remember them. Even though I never knew them. 

In my own odds and ends drawer, I have a card my dad gave me on my very first Christmas when I was three months old. It's the first card in my story. It has a darling poem about Santa on one side and on the other my dad wrote, “The most precious and joyous bundle of all! Love, Daddy.” And on Santa’s fur-trimmed coat, he wrote, “You make our Xmas complete.” Maybe someday my cards and notes and letters will end up jumbled in a box in an antique mall, where strangers will casually rifle through them. But these fragments are just a suggestion of the story of a life. A life that has the opportunity to encourage, support and give. A life full of celebrations, love, faith and a whole lot of joy.