Inspiration

The Unexpected Gift of A Brighter Day

October 25, 2017
I had a full blown case of the blues swirling around inside me, but looking back now, I probably couldn’t have told you why. I’m not sure I even knew myself.
Perhaps my internal struggle stemmed from the fatigue of battling low blood iron levels, or maybe it was just the stress of working in a busy office, playing catch up after a natural disaster. But whatever the reason, I could easily imagine being tucked away into a cozy corner, my favorite mug of herbal tea in one hand, and a good book in the other, soft classical tunes setting the stage for a few moments alone.
It was October 2016, and Hurricane Matthew had recently ripped through the east coast of Florida, leaving a trail of devastation in it’s wake. But thankfully, my family and I were fine. No major damage to speak of at home, and the worst was behind us as the storm slowly disbanded, following a northern track to finish out it’s course.
So why the unsettled frame of mind? Why the tugging and pulling, the stilted dance with soft rhythms of discouragement? Good questions. But ones I chose to push aside,chalking up the emotions to “one of those days”, deciding instead to prepare for an afternoon walk to the nearby coffee shop.
That’s when I heard it. The voice of a coworker filtering across my desk in low, subdued tones, giving an update on the tree in her house – A large tree toppled by Hurricane Matthew that unexpectedly brought a world of change, crashing into the house she and her husband rented for eight years.
To make matters worse, they were being displaced for an indefinite period, scrambling to salvage furniture and make temporary living arrangements until new accommodations were available.
On my way out the door, I paused, allowing the news to sink in, suddenly convicted over the selfishness of my earlier mood.
In a moment, everything changed.
Walking across the parking lot, crunching loose gravel and a kaleidoscope of fallen leaves on a warm autumn afternoon, a new question came into focus.
What can I do to brighten her day?
It was a simple phrase, but one that turned the tide in a way I didn’t expect, my own problems fading into the background like unimportant baggage on a cross country trip, too cumbersome and heavy to shoulder any longer.
The mission took on purpose. It became about her, not me.
It took on the form of a sweet treat from the local Starbucks menu, carefully wrapped and placed on my teammate’s desk, a humble offering of care and concern.
The stark reality of her situation remained, but a few heartfelt words of gratitude and the light in her eyes let me know the day had been brightened, if even just a little.
But walking away, what really struck me was the transformation inside my own heart, the new outlook and the lighter steps that came from setting my focus on spreading joy into the life of another.
What a difference such a journey makes. I pondered it then, and I reflect upon it now, thinking of the words of Christ, referenced in Acts 20:35.
It is more blessed to give than to receive.
And I know these are words I want to hide inside my heart, protecting them as though my very life depends on it.
Because I believe it does.
And along the journey, I think maybe yours does too. Though we don’t give in order to receive, it’s in the giving that we shall receive.
Joy for today. Strength for tomorrow. And the unexpected gift of a brighter day, through shining His light in the direction of a fellow traveler.

 

For Those Who Wonder If Love Leaves A Mark

July 26, 2017
It was a blue sky day on an ordinary morning at the dentist’s office. Bright sunshine filtered through panoramic 6th floor windows, and in the distance, tall skyscrapers gleamed, catching the light over bustling city streets. I soaked it all in from a large vinyl chair, listening to the friendly voice of my hygienist.
Normally, it would be time for x-rays and a standard exam. But today was different. Since the doctor wasn’t quite ready, we seized the opportunity for a quiet, conversational chat.
Nothing too serious at first. A bit of small talk about the weather. Construction going on downtown. The perks of large windows and having an office with a view.
But ever so slightly, the direction shifted as Sandy pulled a cell phone from the pocket of her scrubs, and we moved toward a topic that carried undertones of love and kindness, though it would be a while before I recognized it for what it was.
“Let me show you a picture of my squirrel.”
Surprised, I watched Sandy scroll through several photos, pausing on a close up shot of the small, furry creature with wide eyes and a black mark behind his ear.
Now, if I’m being totally honest, the picture of a squirrel is not usually something that would grab my attention.
But what followed was an intriguing tale of country living and a dental hygienist with a big heart, along with unexpected perspective on a question that might be buried deep inside each one of us.

Let me explain.
It turns out that neighbors and extended family in Sandy’s small community outside the city know she can be counted on when it comes to animal rescue efforts. So when the friend of a nephew found an abandoned baby squirrel fighting for life, “Aunt Sandy” was the go to person.
And true to her nature of tending furry critters needing a little TLC, she was happy to help.
 An outdoor shelter by the woods near her home became a clinic of sorts, and the large pen was filled with strategically placed limbs and foliage to create a natural habitat, fostering comfort and growth.
Sandy fed and nurtured. She took pleasure in the squirrel’s progress and strength, and the playful interactions they shared.
But then the day came to release her newfound pet back into the wild.
Questions bubbled to the forefront of her mind, and it was hard to let go.
Would he remember her? After gaining independence, would the squirrel ever return?
If so, how would she know it was him, when so many others scampered around the wide, open space of her property?
Intrigued, I listened to Sandy’s story from my perch near a dental tray, taken with her words, but not able to fully articulate why.
Looking back now, though, I think it’s because I heard more than just the story of a rescued animal. Beneath the surface of ordinary words, I sensed a tender heart longing to know her love made a difference, a woman who wondered if she was making a lasting impact.
And I identified with those feelings.
Because deep inside, where questions stir and simmer, isn’t that a longing we can all relate to, whether or not we ever give it voice?
The simple desire to know our contribution matters in life, and will resonate with those we touch long after being released into the world?
Maybe that’s why I understood what Sandy did next.
Before bidding farewell at the edge of the woods, her answer came in the form of  Natural Instincts hair dye.
I know. Clever, right? Just a few drops of dark liquid behind the ear, and her squirrel was marked.
And to Sandy’s delight, the tiny pet returned over and over again in the days and weeks to come, flourishing after time spent in her care.
I couldn’t help but smile at photos of them together before it was time to move on and see the dentist. And while walking into the sunshine after my appointment, soulful thoughts began to settle in the quiet recesses of my mind, striking parallels to everyday life.
What if we could monitor the results of gentleness and servitude with a small bottle of hair dye?
Of course, it’s impossible. But think about it for a minute  –  Love freely given. Seeds sown in kindness.
What happens after they leave our care? Sometimes I wonder.
And maybe you do too.
But when I ponder the effect our actions have on the lives of others, I realize we may never know how deep the impact goes. And perhaps that’s the precious beauty of it all.
There isn’t a mark strong enough to measure the significance of hope, compassion and thoughtful encouragement to a weary soul. It might be an important defining moment, or even the pivotal point that transforms a life in need.
And it will come through the quiet generosity of people who care, releasing love and kindness into the world while feeling uncertain, just as Sandy did –  watching, waiting, and wondering what will happen next.
They will carry a question, but rarely say it aloud.
“Did I make a difference?”
It hangs in the air, climbing and circling, then comes back down again, laying low when the answer isn’t always forthcoming.
But as I think back on my dentist appointment that morning several months ago, I believe there’s a simple takeaway for those of us who wonder if love leaves a mark.
It does.
Visible or not, love leaves a unique impression through the life we are called to live on this earth, and sometimes, it’s little things that make the biggest impact.
So please, don’t give up. The world needs what you have to offer.
And when the fruit of unselfish labor isn’t clearly seen, maybe it’s time to pause, take a step back and remember the dark, wide eyes of a baby squirrel whose life was saved by a compassionate caregiver.
Remember that generous acts of love are not wasted. And remember that small, scattered seeds of kindness are never in vain.
They matter.
Perhaps more than you or I will ever know.

Does It Matter How We Start Our Day? + Confessions Of A (Somewhat) Transformed Night Owl

June 6, 2017
There’s a fascinating story in the Book of John that has captured my attention . But before I tell you about it, let me share a little secret.
Ready? Okay. Here it is.
I have always admired people who make morning quiet time a priority. Especially those who rise before dawn, settling into the stillness with a steamy mug of hot tea or coffee, as soft light creates a backdrop for the first fruits of their day. These people tend to carve out priority space for God’s Word, conversation with the Lord, and time to write or journal.
Maybe this is you. But I thought it could never be me.
For years, I’ve lived a different narrative, convinced “I’m just not a morning person.”
In stark contrast, the early hours of each day have long been defined by a love of the snooze button, and the mad dash that comes with getting a late start.
Like an airplane making up for lost time, compensating with higher speeds during flight to maintain an on time arrival.
Okay. Not really. But honestly, that analogy has come to mind on many harried occasions, and spending time in God’s Word has often been folded into the course of an already busy day, or even pushed aside with hope of catching up along the way.
Because as a self proclaimed night owl, it’s easy to procrastinate.
I’ll read my Bible in a little while.
I’ll work on an outline for that writing project after this one thing.
Good intentions. But as you and I know, one thing often leads to another, and even the best intentions falter in the face of exhaustion. Then sleep offers solace and a silent promise to do better tomorrow.

So this is my struggle.
But the good news is, it doesn’t end there.
With these thoughts in mind, I’d like to invite you into a story. It’s  found in John 20, an epic moment in history that brings fresh perspective to the early hours of each day.
Unfolding in quiet stillness, very early in the morning, it’s the journey of a grieving woman surprised by one of the greatest miracles of all time.
Her name is Mary Magdalene.
In the darkness before dawn, she makes her way down a dusty road, heart heavy with suffocating weights of turmoil and uncertainty.
How could it be?
How could the horrific events of the past week playing over and over in her mind be true? Persecution. Betrayal. Death. If only it were a dream. Or a terrible nightmare.
But no.
The man who changed her life forever suffered a cruel crucifixion, and the cold reality shook her to the core. Now, at the mouth of an empty tomb,  Mary shivers in the face of another heart wrenching realization.
The stone is rolled away. And The Lord’s body is gone, stolen by a thief in the night.
As grief turns to confusion and despair, Mary runs to tell the disciples. Two of them decide to accompany her back to the tomb, only to return home again, the harsh memories of what they all endured cutting bitter wounds into their souls.
And believe it or not, this is where the story gets good. In the face of hopelessness, loss and pain.
John 20:11 tells us Mary stood outside the sepulcher, weeping. She stoops down, looking inside to see two angels where the body of Jesus had been.
“Woman, why weepest thou?” They ask.
Carrying more questions than answers, Mary’s response holds uncertainty, becoming the voice of longing in an impossible plight.
“Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him, ” she replies, turning to see a man through her tears.
Supposing him to be the gardener, her plea intensified.
“Tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

“Mary.”
That’s when she froze. At the familiar, soul stirring voice calling her name.
At that moment, overcome by a flood of emotions, she knew it was Him.
The grave had been defeated. Jesus was alive and He showed up in her deepest hour of need.
As I read this account of Christ’s resurrection, here is the point I often pause to take in the wonder of it all.
Can you imagine?
Hope triumphs over sorrow. The burden of grief is lifted. And a broken heart is transformed with unspeakable joy.
The story is captivating. And there is an underlying message that brings us full circle. Because you may be wondering how the illustration relates to my morning struggles.
Right?
Bear with me, we’re almost there.
The correlation starts with a question.
Why did Jesus appear to Mary Magdalene first? 
Though there could be much discussion and speculation on the topic, two thoughts in particular stand out to me.
She made Him her priority.
And she sought Him early.
Jesus was on Mary’s mind even before the first glow of sunrise dotted the landscape and she made it a priority to find Him. Granted, the circumstances were far from ordinary.
But could this be the answer? I don’t know. I do, however, think it’s possible.
Hebrews 11 tells us that God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. And though He is not bound by time, you and I are. And I believe He pays attention when we put Him first.
Asking the question, “Does it matter how we start our day?”, is a hard one for me. Because, well, you know. Mornings have historically not been my strongest virtue.
But in closing, let me say that 2017 has been a subtle wake up call. (Pun not intended, but it applies well, don’t you think? 🙂 )
Quiet, early moments are calling my name and I’ve begun embracing the beauty they have to offer. There is still struggle, yes. And as with any journey, it’s a work in progress.
But I’m learning that consistency starts with commitment in allowing daily responsibilities to unfold from a place of calm, rather than the frantic rhythms of our noisy world. Believe it or not, when the desire is strong enough, even a night owl can slowly be transformed.
Giving God the first thoughts of each day is a humble offering of appreciation for the grace filled moments He allows us to live.
And I’m realizing it does matter how we start our day, though it looks different for each season of life.
Like the form of a gardener Mary saw through her tears, sometimes The Lord shows up in unexpected ways.
On the sacred pages of His Word. Through the strengthening power of His Spirit.  And in the form of answered prayers when we least expect them.
Because The Lord’s mercies are new every morning. For me. And for you.
If only we will always make room for the honor of His presence.

 

A Key To Pursuing Life Goals – Even When You Want To Quit

April 28, 2017
Do you ever find yourself excited at the onset of a new plan, only to become overwhelmed halfway through, a desire to quit suddenly more tangible than the dream itself?
If so, you’re not alone.
I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say, “Me too.”
Whether it’s an important personal goal, or movement toward spiritual growth, the struggle of middle ground often presents a treacherous climb.
Wheels of hustle begin losing traction, and we find ourselves desperate for a strong dose of momentum.
Sound familiar?
Not long ago, I experienced this firsthand, along with a little nugget of truth that helped me press on, even when things got tough.
 
It was a beautiful day, and in the spirit of Spring and home improvements, I set out to paint the front porch.
Just a simple project.
Or so I thought, since only the outer frame and supporting posts needed attention.
A cool breeze teasing the countryside, I popped open a gallon of dark gray Valspar, stirring the thick liquid in anticipation of spending about two hours on the task.
A dip of the brush, a climb up the ladder, and there it was.
The first stroke of rich color pressed against thirsty wood, gleaming in the sunlight.
As soft birdsong floated on a gentle wind, morning shadows played across green grass. And though exterior painting is not my forte, the experience was refreshing and invigorating.
At first.
Three hot and sweaty hours later, though, the rise of an afternoon sun began taking it’s toll, my desire to quit bubbling up alongside it.

Isn’t that how it often happens in the pursuit of life goals as well?
Heat and pressure  have a way of becoming unwanted catalysts, tempting us to throw in the towel midway through our journey.
Where thoughts of victory once reigned, the haunting cry of defeat echoes gloom and failure instead.
You know?
Like on the path toward a healthier lifestyle, or during the uncertainty of learning a new skill.
Or when we’re trying to navigate the uncharted waters of long held dreams, a disillusioned cadence beating through tender places of our hearts.
More important still, defeat taunts us on the sacred journey toward Godly character, and in the pursuit of days filled with purpose.
Stuck between the vision and the finish line, letting go seems the best route to take.
Red faced and tired, that’s where I was, standing on an aluminum ladder while hopelessly staring down the long stretch of bare boards, wanting to step down and move on with my day.
Until I looked back.
Until I realized just how far I had come.
It was a subtle mindset shift that became a driving force, suddenly bringing truth to light with a thoughtful reminder.
Momentum isn’t always found in pressing forward.  Sometimes, it comes by simply appreciating how far we’ve come.
When fighting the urge to quit, looking back may be a key component in the process of moving ahead, an underlying current of strength to help us stay the course.
It’s surrender, but not defeat.
It’s a necessary time of pressing pause and embracing the stillness.

As heat and pressure swirl around us, we can remember that strength comes from above, and success isn’t always measured in giant strides.
Sometimes, it rises with rich tones of Valspar paint, floating softly on an afternoon breeze.
Temptation may threaten to derail our vision, shifting an old ladder in the wind, but we can stand firm and say,
“I’ve come too far to turn back now.”
Rising stronger.
Better.
More determined to appreciate the process, one step at a time  –  even while reflecting on a Spring afternoon in the country and a simple porch painting project.
Because, thankfully, I pressed on, finally finishing the job.
Five. Hours. Later.
Complete with a lopsided sunburn, swollen joints, and paint spattered clothing.
But oh, so very glad I did not give up.

When The Light of Tomorrow Seems Far Away (And What We Can Do About It Today)

March 29, 2017
There’s something about simple faith that begs our attention, especially in vulnerable seasons, where the heart teeters between uncertainty and hope.
We want to believe God is moving behind the scenes to work a hard situation for good, but current circumstances appear otherwise.
You know the feeling?
I was reminded of this truth a while back, through the words of my two year old nephew, Owen.
From five states away, his small, raspy voice crackled over the phone line.
“I’m coming to your house –  ‘To the next day’!” he chirped, excitement lacing his tone.
“I can’t wait,” I responded with a smile, playing along with the familiar script, and adding my own enthusiasm to the cute phrase he coined upon learning of the vacation.
He was coming. But the visit was still weeks away.
In order to prepare him for a brief separation from his parents while they went on an anniversary cruise, my sister mentioned the trip south, and that was all it took for Owen to latch hold of the idea.
He knew adventure waited somewhere ahead, and ‘To the next day’ became code for, “I’ll see you soon!”
Yet with each tomorrow that passed, his hope never wavered.
After the conversation was over, Owen passed the phone back to my sister before heading off to play, embracing the sweet innocence of toddler life.
It was a little routine we enjoyed in the months leading up to our time together, and I marveled at his steadfast faith, knowing Owen didn’t fully comprehend the wait.
Nevertheless, he pursued each day with passion, even while holding anticipation close at heart.

The story is one filled with lessons in faith, a reminder to embrace each day with fresh energy, coupled with unfailing optimism for the future, especially during long seasons of waiting.
When you and I find ourselves faced with unanswered prayers, and complex situations difficult to unravel.
Or when we travel the road of unmet expectations, struggling to piece together God’s plan for our lives.
There is often a delicate, almost awkward balance of holding hope in our hearts while embracing reality with our hands.
You know?
It’s a vulnerable place that poses an important question.
When the light of tomorrow seems far away, can we cling to the truth that God is with us today?

With these thoughts in mind, I’m reminded of Simeon and Anna in Luke 2.
The passage provides a brief glimpse into the lives of two Biblical examples who pursued their immediate calling, while holding on to hope for the promise of Israel.
Each story is different, but both intersect in a powerful way through common purpose and vision.
They prayed.
They waited.
They served.
And they believed.
Just as you and I are called to do – in the ordinary moments and on the hard days. When God comes through according to our time line.
And when He doesn’t.
Finally though, the patience of Simeon and Anna blossomed into sweet appreciation when they beheld the glory of God through Jesus Christ Himself as a newborn baby.
And the wait was worth every minute.

The anticipation we carry doesn’t compare to that of Simeon and Anna, but it can often feel as though we are waiting for Jesus to arrive on the scene with hope and solutions, just as they were.
But the good news is, His presence remains.
Today.
Tomorrow.
And Forever.
Seasons come and go in a perpetual cycle of harsh edges, soft colors, fragrant blossoms and golden light.
Each one carries pain, but each one also carries a much greater measure of beauty.
God alone knows when to turn the tide, and if it’s according to His will, “To the next day” is still coming.
But can we hold on to faith and embrace our right now life in the meantime?
Remembering that God is a present help in time of trouble can help us realize that delayed dreams need not overshadow the beauty of our current circumstances.
Because this walk of faith is a gift, laden with grace filled moments from above.
But it’s up to us to seize each one and make it count for good.

When God Doesn’t Show Up The Way You Want Him To – 3 Questions For Finding Hope

December 27, 2016
Dark unfamiliar roads stretched through the town of Durham, North Carolina on the morning of December 21st, 2015. In the predawn stillness, two of my siblings and I navigated a route toward Duke University Hospital over nearly empty streets.
We spoke softly, not knowing exactly what the day would bring, and tried to ward off the chill in our hands and hearts.
Just a few short miles away, our youngest brother was being prepared for an intense, high risk brain surgery none of us wanted him to face, and we were determined to wake before the sun to show up with love, prayers and support.
A cloud of questions and uncertainty hung in the air. One we carried together, but knew the strength would ultimately have to come from a much higher power.
Thinking back on that day, now more than a year later, I vividly remember how hard I prayed (and still do pray) for a miracle. I wanted God to unleash an abundance of healing and make everything better again.
Maybe you can relate?
When facing difficulty, it’s normal to desire that God swoop down and fix the problem on our terms or deliver a solution we believe to be the right one. And it’s not always easy when He doesn’t show up the way we asked Him to.
But could it be that He’s calling us to slow down and recognize the detailed way His hand touches our lives, even when it’s not the hoped for answer?
Upon reflection of that cold winter day in North Carolina, I can say without a doubt, God showed up. Not the way I asked Him to, but in beautiful ways I did not anticipate.
Like the time a stranger, who knew nothing of what I was facing, sent these words hours before news of the surgery came:
“If God is on our side, who can be against us?”
Or the unexpected artwork and voice of encouragement from a beautiful six year old girl that brought my siblings and I to tears in the spacious hospital hallway.
And the sure, steady way God’s hand gently guided the surgeon’s, bringing an expected four hour operation down to just over two.
And the precious friends and family who drove hundreds of miles to be with us, putting their own needs aside to offer love and support.
Each experience carried God’s signature, allowing me to know, that even in the darkest night, we are surrounded by expressions of His love.
With time comes light and perspective, and God alone knows what each of us needs to change from what we are to who He wants us to be.
Sometimes, we may pray for victory – and God calls us to surrender.
We may ask for healing – and He offers hope instead.
We pray for the pain to lift – and He supplies fresh strength to carry the burden.
We may ask for an end to suffering – yet He sends down comfort for the battles we must face.
It’s not always easy to understand, but perhaps God is calling us to press beyond the veil of our own desires, and truly know He is near, in the good times and in the bad.
And I dare say there is nothing more beautiful than the kiss of Heaven woven intimately through our earthly struggles.

I don’t know the hardships you face, but I encourage you to consider three questions when clouds hover on the horizon, and I will try to do the same.
  1. Even in seasons of darkness, what unexpected blessing can I embrace with gratitude, knowing it is an expression of His love?
  2. While in search of God’s miraculous power, may I pause to recognize the whisper of His abundant presence?
  3. And though His answer doesn’t align with my desire, can I still find Him close through the provision of His sufficient grace?
These answers may not come easy, and on earth, I believe difficult journeys will always be par for the course.
But the good news is, we don’t have to walk alone. And if we move forward with open hearts, God may show up in beautiful ways we never could have expected.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured image credit Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_123rfguy’>123rfguy / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

 

 

Mining Gold In Moments of Gathering

December 19, 2016
They disappeared beyond a dip in the shoreline with sun kissed cheeks and tousled hair. One little niece and two nephews arm in arm, sandy feet carrying them down the beach to the rest of our group. With family in town for a long awaited stay, I could almost feel the moments fading.
December was upon us, but the cold grip of winter had yet to settle a firm hold here in the South. A smattering of vacationers and residents basked in the lingering whisper of autumn, lining the soft earth with chairs, coolers of snacks and iced tea.
Soon it would be time to join forces and begin the process of cleaning and packing. To shake the remnants of sand, sea and togetherness from our blankets, collecting towels and toys before trudging across the dunes toward the end of this beautiful day.
But not yet.
I turned, frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean teasing bare ankles, a constant reminder of my role as an unofficial lifeguard to these children of my heart.
Several more little ones played in the waves, jumping and splashing beneath a bright blue sky as seagulls pranced overhead, their soft gray and white wings moving against the late afternoon breeze.
This buzz of activity alternately stirred fear and delight in my nieces and nephews, the flurry of birds soaring high and swooping low at unpredictable intervals drawing a mix of giddy squeals and wide eyes at their unusual closeness.
And I knew these were the moments I wanted to remember.
The love. The laughter. The excitement and thrill of being together with little thought of how quickly it would all be over.
Soon there would be the struggle of herding our crew toward showers and dry clothes. And the duty of lugging armloads of beach gear across the dunes, up a weathered boardwalk and into the parking lot, layers of sand and seashell dust multiplying along the way.
But it would all be worthwhile.
Because along with these strands of time comes high reward when we choose to fully embrace beauty wrapped into the experience.
As time passes, I realize the stark reality of words that have been handed down for generations: “Life is a vapor. Treasure the good moments while you can.” Amid the rhythm of a fast paced life, I know it’s what I want to do, and I’m guessing you do too.
Thinking back on that day now, no longer standing at the water’s edge or surrounded by childlike wonder filtering the salty air, I’m struck by the value woven through these moments of togetherness.
Perhaps it’s a bit like mining for gold, where the sifting of hard work and responsibility is part of a natural process in uncovering shiny nuggets of wealth. A place where effort and reward go hand in hand if we’re willing to pause.
If we’re willing to release the rush and embrace the treasure hidden just below the surface.
All too quickly, times of gathering with those we love will slip through our fingers. But the next time we feel the moments fading, what do you say we linger just a little longer? Let’s fully embrace the present and allow memories to settle, captured forever in our hearts.
Because ultimately, regardless of status or wealth, these tiny slices of time will be worth more than all the gold in the world.

 

 

 

 

When The Sparkle Fades

November 19, 2016
If the corner of a room can look tired, mine did.
An empty porcelain mug and wrinkled, tea stained napkin sat atop the pale gray desk, recently re-purposed and painted for a cozy creative nook I worked hard to transform.
Behind the desk, a soft down pillow sagged, flat and lopsided against the slightly crooked chair, setting the backdrop for a stack of books, laptop, and open notebook that added to the disarray, along with a power cord snaking through the mess.
Taking it in, I surveyed the new white rug below, now more shag than fluff, and disappointment whispered through my thought process at the lackluster appearance.

img_27971

Gone was the fresh, bright look of weeks earlier. And in its place, worn and disheveled greeted the eye.
How had it happened so fast? The same cute spot that took hours to clean, clear, organize and paint now held the tone of a well used space.
A long exhale escaped parted lips as thoughts of glossy Pinterest images and home decor sites played peek-a-boo in my mind, the subtle current of discontent stirring inside.
Until realization dawned.
The room hadn’t changed. It was my own mindset, tilting into a gradual drift of complacency. The slight shift in value toward a project I recently held in esteem gave me pause, bringing to mind thoughts of life in general.
Whether at home or at work, in lifestyle or relationships, a lack of contentment can take on many forms, slowly slipping into an unguarded heart.
IMG_1712
On an ordinary Saturday morning, sunlight piercing pale window sheers, I pondered the root of the problem. And while powering up the vacuum cleaner, pieces of the puzzle began to fall in place.
Not long ago, I read a quote that really resonated with me, and perhaps it will hit home with you as well.
“In life, it’s not about what we have, but what we do with what we have.”
Though simple, the statement holds great wisdom. Whether channeled toward people we love or possessions in our care, when we cease to feed the energy of appreciation in any area of life, you and I tread a slippery slope toward the pit of discontent.
Appreciation and contentment go hand in hand. And when the sparkle of our reality fades, more often than not, it can be traced back to a lack of care and attention to what we once held dear.
At some point, new and shiny will always disappoint, but a thankful heart can fuel the fire that illuminates beauty in what we already have.
img_3385
Although life isn’t always pretty, I’m learning that contentment grows with seeds of gratitude, and the mindset we nurture is the one that will flourish.
Sometimes it’s good to press pause, remembering that we are stewards. Through routines and responsibilities of life, sparkle doesn’t just happen. It takes conscience effort to bring beauty to light, over and over again.
On this week of giving thanks, what do you say we gently steer our hearts from the longing of what we don’t have toward a focused determination of caring for what we do have?
Maybe it’s time to fluff the pillows, shake the rugs, clear the clutter, and most of all, lift eyes of gratitude to the One from whom all blessings flow.
It might be just the special blend of ingredients we need to see renewed sparkle come alive again.