Friday, January 30, 2015

Published 1:18 PM by with 2 comments

A New Kind of Storytelling: Twenty-eight Days of Music and Words

My dear friend Heather suggested a wonderful new creative idea: what if you could post an entire short story on Instagram, a snippet each day, over the course of a month? How cool would that be?! So I decided to give it a try. Who knows, maybe nobody will care except me, or maybe it will be a bore, but I'm gonna do it anyway. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! I'm am all about sharing creative work with others and finding inspiration in what others share!

The story I'll be posting during the month of February (woohoo, only twenty-eight days in that month!) is called "The Jazz Singer". I shared it several months ago on this blog, but have since taken it down in order to revise it a bit. After the entire story is finished on IG I'll re-post the whole thing here. Since IG requires a picture to post any content and my story is about a jazz singer, I will be sharing pictures of musicians and musical instruments (not related to the storyline) over the course of the month. I am always seeing gorgeous instruments everywhere, or amazing musicians, and this will give me another chance to share those with the world! There might even be some videos of live music... you'll have to wait and see!

I'll be tagging the story under #jazzsinger #instagramstory and #writersofinstagram, along with a tag for whatever particular musical picture I take for the day. My name on Instagram is Lyssagirlloveslife. Come along for the journey! Better yet, I'd LOVE it if anyone else wanted to join and post their short story over the course of twenty-eight days too :-)

Let me know what you think in the comment section!

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Published 12:55 PM by with 2 comments

Ten Reasons Why I Let My Daughter Watch My Little Pony

When I was a kid, I watched Reading Rainbow, Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, Puzzle House, and Thomas the Tank Engine. Oh, and the Antiques Road Show, because I was weird :-P  At the very least, my mom wasn't too worried about me watching those shows (I was usually allowed one show a day) because they usually had good morals, positive lessons, and decent storylines.

Fast forward to television shows of today. When I had access to a cable television a few years ago, I tried watching some of the popular kids' shows on channels like Nickelodeon and PBS to see what they were like. Some of the shows geared towards very young children were fine and interesting enough, but the ones for about ten and up (the tween and early teen years) shocked me. There were sarcastic kids who were rude to everyone, too much focus on romance, vague blurring of moral ethics, and other problems. The most innocuous just seemed dumb; the worst had appalling situations or stories that I wouldn't want my child watching until they were much older than the targeted age, if at all!

Fortunately, from a very early age (see picture below), Harmony found a show that she liked when my sister (who is now twenty-two) introduced her to it: My Little Pony. Despite my sister's reassurances that it was a great show, I was worried that it would have negative aspects, or that it was just another stupid kid's show. But after watching quite a few episodes and learning what it was about, I am finally on the side of supporting MLP (My Little Pony).

Side note: she has also watched Thomas the Tank Engine (a big hit!), Clifford the Big Red Dog, old Mr. Rogers episodes, old Reading Rainbow episodes, and Magic School Bus (her second favorite show). My Little Pony wins every time, though!

Harmony a few months after her first birthday, already crazy about ponies!
Harmony is two and half now. She began liking the MLP figurines, the tiny toy ponies, when she was barely a year old. My sister found the toys at the thrift store she works at so we have slowly amassed quite a collection of them, much to Harmony's delight! They are her most beloved toys. She even has a pony purse that she uses to carry her ponies wherever she goes. Ponies go to sleep with her, they are held all day long, she recruits everyone to play ponies with her, and the best reward is to let her watch a My Little Pony episode on t.v.  She LOVES it!

So here are ten reasons why I think My Little Pony is a good show:

1. Friendship is magic!

It's such an important lesson for kids to learn how to be good friends to each other! The MLP episodes deal with situations like getting along with folks who are very different (more on that later), trusting your friends, appreciating your friends' talents, respecting the boundaries your friends have, appreciating what your friends do for you, supporting your friends when they go through hard times, being honest with your friends even though it might be tough, and many more wonderful life lessons that us adults would do well to re-learn, too.

2. It's okay to have friends who are different!

Each of the six main ponies has a drastically different personality than the rest. Rarity is a high-strung, drama-queen fashion designer, Applejack is a down-to-earth, hard-working farmer, Rainbow Dash is an athletic tomboy, Fluttershy is a gentle animal-lover, Twilight Sparkle is an academically-focused leader, and Pinky Pie is a bouncy party-planner! Yet they are all good friends with each other, learning to appreciate and respect each other's differences, even though sometimes Twilight gets frustrated with Pinky Pie's silliness, and Applejack and Rainbow Dash are always competing with each other to see who is "better" at everything, and Rarity gets on everyone's nerves when she has a freak-out session... everybody has quirks, and MLP teaches kids that true friends learn to love each other in spite of them.

3. Every person has something they're good at!

Each pony, when they discover their special ability, the talent that really "clicks" with them, magically gets a cutie mark (a symbol representing their special ability) on their flank, so that all can see what they love. The implication is that EVERY pony has gifts to share with the world. Heckyes! I wish all children could see that they have something to offer, that everyone has talents. Part of MLP focuses on three young ponies who do not yet have their cutie marks. They are intent on finding what they are good at doing, so they try pretty much every activity to see what might possibly make their cutie marks appear, and in the process learn some valuable lessons.

4. Life can be complicated!

This show tackles tough situations. One episode deals with colonialism, another with the pony equivalent of the used-car salesman (selling a miracle-cure tonic), another with stage fright, several with wanting to be popular, another with xenophobia, another with the fear that reading books is something an athlete shouldn't do, several with family issues, several with sibling problems, etc. These are hard scenarios for any age, and I appreciate how the solutions are found in a kid-friendly way, because sooner or later we all will need to deal with complications in our lives. One of my favorite episodes is about bullying. In the end, the advice given to the ponies is to tell a responsible adult if you are being bullied, and to also realize that there is often a reason why a person feels the need to bully someone else due to their own negative life circumstances, which doesn't excuse the bullying but does mean that probably the bully needs help.

5. Girls are great, and boys are great too!

While MLP is mostly focused on the female characters, there are male ponies too, and they are both equally independent! The female ponies are portrayed as powerful enough to save themselves, yet they rely on each other's strengths and try to help each other through their weaknesses. One of my favorite characters is Twilight's older brother, Shining Armor, who *SPOILER ALERT* marries a princess who used to be Twilight's babysitter. They are shown to have a happy, supportive marriage with mutual love and respect of each other's abilities. Male and female characters throughout MLP are portrayed as being equal, and no gender is better than another, because each individual has talents that can be used to benefit everyone.

6. Every person has strengths AND weaknesses!

Each pony has very clearly defined talents, as identified by their cutie marks, but they also each have pretty evident weaknesses of character as well. Rainbow Dash is brave, strong, and the only pony to have ever broken the "sound barrier" by flying fast enough to create a sonic rainboom, but she can also be overly competitive, prideful, and overbearing to other ponies. Fluttershy is gentle, sweet, and compassionate, but she can sometimes be indecisive and afraid of her own shadow. Kids know that we all have these same strengths and weaknesses, and with MLP they can see what it's like to deal with both, in themselves and others, and how it's important to grow and change so that you can become a better person.

7. Music!

Okay.... I'm a classical musician, and even I have found the MLP music to be catchy! Harmony likes to listen just to the soundtracks of the shows, so I'll find a Youtube channel with all of season two's songs, or all of the music from season four, and just let her listen to it while she plays (I don't often let her just sit and watch the videos). She is already starting to sing along with the songs, and will play with her pony figurines while she listens and have them act out the songs! The words are often clever or funny, with puns, good messages, or just plain silliness. I've caught myself singing along, and I know I've heard my husband whistling the melodies occasionally ;-)

8. It's good to try new things!

One of the hardest lessons for any child to learn is that it's good to try something new. MLP demonstrates over and over again that being brave and trying a new thing (as long as it's a positive thing) is always a good idea. Even if you don't succeed, you still can learn something valuable from the situation. And if you do succeed, that's great! Plus, you have your friends to support you, no matter what the outcome.

9. You don't always need to have romance to make a story interesting!

Frankly, I'm sick and tired of shows geared toward kids focusing on who has a crush on whom, or who is dating whom, or who likes whomever... kids shouldn't be worrying about that at such a young age! I know I already mentioned a wedding happening in MLP, but that is the focus of only a few episodes in one season. There are two other episodes I know of that involve romantic interests, and in both cases it was dealt with well at a child-appropriate level, I thought. The vast majority of the MLP stories do NOT have any kind of romance at all, which I very much appreciate!

10. Positive character traits are highly valued!

One of the biggest story lines involves the Elements of Harmony, which represent six important qualities of harmony: honesty, kindness, generosity, laughter, loyalty, and magic. Each of the main ponies embody one of these elements, which is a big focus of the storylines exploring friendship. Also, one of the most important lessons woven through the entire show is the power of forgiveness. *SPOILER ALERTS*  Princess Celestia forgives her sister Luna for trying to control the world with darkness, even after a thousand years of Luna being banished, when Luna finally learns her lesson and wants to change. The six pony friends are constantly forgiving each other for hurt feelings and wrongdoing. A dragon named Discord is forgiven several times for betraying his friend's confidence and for not doing the right thing. Forgiveness, for those who are truly sorry, is shown to be much better than anger, retribution, or rejection. Once again, that is a great life lesson that all of us could do well to learn better.

So in the end, when it comes down to children's television shows, I'd rather have my daughter watching My Little Pony than a show that has negative values or imparts ethics or lessons that are not what I want her to emulate. MLP is pretty cool :-)

Do you have a children's t.v. show that you really like and let your kids watch? Do share!
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Monday, January 26, 2015

Published 10:37 AM by with 2 comments

Start Your Week Off With Inspiration and Thoughtfulness

Sometimes the beginning of a week can look daunting, especially if you're facing a tough job, a hard situation, a difficult relationship, or an overwhelming schedule. I like to give myself some inspiration, ask myself questions that make me think, and consider interesting ideas on Monday so that I can enter the new week with the energy that (for me) comes with a stimulated mind!

Do you like Doctor Who? What is your morning routine, or do you wish that you had one that served you better? Do you mind being alone? Ever wanted to paint some watercolor flowers? Do you feel like you have a messy mind? Need tips for dealing with the toddler(s) in your life? How was your experience in high school? What kind of insecurities do you have, and what helps you deal with them?

Hope you enjoy these links!

10 Lessons We Can Learn from Doctor Who

The Morning Routines of Many Different People

How to Be Alone: an Antidote to One of the Central Anxieties and Greatest Paradoxes of Our Time

When Talk of Racism Centers on Black and White, What Does a Brown Parent Say?

Learn to Paint Watercolor Flowers in Fifteen Minutes

The Messy Minds of Creative People

Seven Tips for Surviving the Terrible Twos

Why I Don't Believe in Grace Anymore

Why You Never Truly Leave High School

30 Famous Women on Overcoming Their Insecurities

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Published 7:49 AM by with 2 comments

These Moments

Kaleidoscope fun.

Budding creativity.


Washcloths knitted.

Minimalist flowers.

"The Class": guitarists growing together.

Beautiful mandolins.

Burn's Night concert.

Check out last year's January photo with the same coat!

"Light gives itself freely, filling all available space. It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are a friend or a foe. It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished."
~ Michael Strassfield

"The man who has many answers is often found in the theaters of information where he offers, graciously, his deep findings. While the man who has only questions, to comfort himself, makes music."
~ Mary Oliver

"We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being..."
~ Thomas Merton

"Your heart does not have to go through half the trouble it does; you need to know that. Tune into a different radio station and let your ears listen to sweetness, for once. Step off the broken glass and give your feet a break. The world is meant to be up for interpretation, and it's a lot more tolerable- and enjoyable- that way."
~ Carly Kaste, Zauberbear (love ya, sweet girl!)

"I remind myself, 'Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good'. (Cribbed from Voltaire.) A twenty-minute walk that I do is better than the four-mile run that I don't do. The imperfect book that gets published is better than the perfect book that never leaves my computer. The dinner party of take-out Chinese food is better than the elegant dinner that I never host."
~ Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Published 8:20 AM by with 2 comments

How I'm Reading in 2015

Last year I wanted to read at least one book a week. The titles were documented on another page of my blog. I forgot to write down ANY books I read from about the end of November through December, so although I know I didn't quite get to fifty-two books, I do know that I read a few that didn't get documented because I was so busy, so I probably got close to my goal!

This year I want to read all the books in my home that I haven't read yet. This includes books that were gifts, books that I started but never finished, books that are being lent to me, and books that I bought for myself but never got around to reading yet. There's nothing necessarily wrong with any of these books, and there's a nice variety of genre; they just haven't made it into my queue, until now!

I collected all the books in my house that fit my qualification. I'm sure more will join this stack after I hit the annual spring book sale that happens in St. Louis every year. Heh. Here's the list so far!

1. Civil Disobedience and Other Essays ~ Thoreau

2. The Turn of the Screw ~ James

3. The Four Loves ~ C.S. Lewis

4. Candide ~ Voltaire

5. The Bullfighter Checks Her Make-up ~ Susan Orlean

6. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work ~ John Gottman

7. Gilead ~ Marilynne Robinson

8. Culture Making ~ Crouch

9. The Arabian Nights

10. The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

11. Flower Fables ~ Louisa May Alcott

12. Ella Minnow Pea ~ Mark Dunn

13. My Bondage and My Freedom ~ Frederick Douglass

14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man ~ James Joyce

15. Middlemarch (two volumes) ~ Eliot

16. O Pioneers! ~ Willa Cather

17. Forever Music ~ Edith Schaeffer

18. Questioning Evangelism ~ Newman

19. Narcissus and Goldmund ~ Hermann Hesse

20. Silent Spring ~ Rachel Carson

21. Effortless Mastery ~ Kenny Werner

22. 1-2-3 Magic, Effective Discipline for Children 2-12

23. Jayber Crow ~ Wendell Berry

24. The Goldfinch ~ Donna Tartt

25. Only You Can Save Mankind ~ Terry Pratchett

26. The Magician's Book: a Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia ~ Laura Miller

27. L'Abri ~ Edith Schaeffer

28. The Stories: A Journey through Time ~ with W.C. Light

29. Pudd'nhead Wilson ~ Mark Twain

That's only about three books a month. Should be do-able! I read the Pratchett novel yesterday, which was fast and easy. I liked the characters and the descriptions, and the plot was interesting, but I didn't like the style Pratchett wrote in. Sorry, Pratchett fans! It wasn't a bad book, though :-)

I'll be marking off each book as I read it and giving it a rating over on my book page!

What are you reading lately? Got any great recommendations? Do you keep a list of books to read?
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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Published 9:16 AM by with 3 comments

The World in Color

As you might know if we are friends in real life, or if you've been keeping up with my blog for quite a while, I am a synesthete: a person with synesthesia.

The reason I'm writing about this is because I want to continue to spread the word about synesthesia so that people can become more aware of it. Anyone can have it: children, adults, teens, the elderly, anyone. It's something that people are born with; you either have it, or you don't. For some, it doesn't affect their day-to-day existence too much. For others, it has a huge impact on everything they experience.

The technical definition of synesthesia is this: "a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway". It is a "union of the senses". Essentially, it is like having an added sense similar to sight, sound, smell, etc.

What it means for me is that all words, letters, days of the week, months of the year, time, some numbers, music, people, places, and names are associated with color. These are automatic, natural associations that I have no control over. Other synesthetes may have different associations, such as experiencing taste when hearing specific words. There are many forms of synesthesia and it is a scientifically documented occurrence.

When I see the letter "A", it appears red in my mind's eye. Same with the month of August or the time of 9:00. When I see my daughter Harmony, she has a sort of golden-honey aura around her, an innate color that I associate with her being. When I hear a song on the radio or played live, it will have a glow of colors that radiate through my vision. The strongest colors I see are for letters/words or music. Most of the time I know that the colors are simply in my mind; other times the colors actually appear to be out in my surroundings. Just as if you see a flower and you can automatically smell it when you bring it to your nose, when I hear music, I see colors, too.

The entire world radiates color.

I didn't know that synesthesia was something that not everybody had until I was eighteen. I was sitting in a music class at my university as we studied seventh chords. The teacher would play diminished, dominant, major, or minor seventh chords on the piano and ask the class to tell him which one in particular it was. I was simply looking at the shade of blue each chord had, so it was easy to tell them apart. When I mentioned that to everyone, they looked at me like I was CRAZY. "Doesn't everyone just look at the different colors each chord has....?" I asked. They told me that people don't see colors with music, and that I must be making it up or be on drugs. My mind was completely blown! I immediately went to research what could possibly be wrong with me.

That's when I found out about synesthesia.

Nobody really knows how many people have synesthesia, or what percentage of the population has it. Scientific estimates guess that around 5-10% of people may have it, but there's no definite number. I know a handful of people who are synesthetes:

~ Several of my college friends (all musicians) had strong versions of synesthesia. A few other guitarists or artists I know have mild forms of synesthesia that they acknowledge but that do not have a significant impact in their lives. Several musicians I know who are professionals in their fields have very powerful forms of synesthesia that they actively utilize in their art. One of the contested theories about synesthetes is that those with synesthesia are more likely to be involved with the creative and fine arts, due to the high cross-sensory connections they have.

~ One of my friends, a fellow mother, sees numbers and objects as having gender and personalities, but it doesn't affect her everyday life too much, she says.

~ Three young people at my church have synesthesia, two of them extremely strongly where it affects them almost negatively as they deal with sensory overload, similar to what I had to learn how to overcome as a child, too. It was very overwhelming when I was younger to have so much stimulus all the time coming in through my senses!

~ Two of my guitar students have synesthesia. One doesn't notice it much, and describes it as not interfering with his everyday life. The other has strong synesthetic experiences with music which we are currently learning how to use in a positive way in his musical development.

Otherwise, in the wide circles of acquaintances and friends I have, nobody else to my knowledge has it. That could always change, though. Oftentimes a child may not know that they have synesthesia because they think that everyone has the same experiences they do (like I did). Parents often think that children are making it up or simply pretending that letters have color or personality, for example. Or a person may experience bullying or opposition for being "different", so they might hide their synesthesia.

I wish someone had been around to help me learn how to deal with my synesthesia when I was a kid! Eventually I learned to work through the sensory overload, and even figured out how to use certain aspects to my advantage. For example, I learned how to speed-read by skimming the colors of words rather than reading individual words. This would have been easier if I'd known about synesthesia in the first place. But if you've never heard of it, then you can't understand it.

That's why I want to continue to tell everyone I know about synesthesia. 

I would encourage any parent or teacher to keep a look-out for children who may show signs of having synesthesia. It isn't a good idea to formally "test" children beyond asking them questions, but if you are an adult or teen who would like more clarification or information about your synesthesia, then there are tests available online for free. For older children, I would recommend the book "A Mango-Shaped Space", which talks about a young teen discovering her synesthesia and learning how to cope with it.

Are there disadvantages to having synesthesia? Yes and no. It's like asking, "are there disadvantages to having the sense of taste". Yeah, when you taste something bad! But it's just another sense. Sometimes it's annoying, sometimes it's awesome, but it's just something you live with and learn to deal with and use to certain extents. When I am at a concert with loud music, sometimes the visual colors are so crazy that I am completely overwhelmed; in a similar case, I can't listen to certain kinds of music while I'm driving because the synesthetic responses to the music are so intense that it distracts me too much from driving. Here is a very helpful article about ten disadvantages to synesthesia that I highly recommend.

People are still people. Synesthesia isn't a super-power. It doesn't make a person any more "special" than someone without synesthesia. But it does make them perceive the world a little differently. And it is kinda cool :-)

If you'd like more information about synesthesia, here is the Wikipedia article about it. You can also visit this website, see Pharrell Williams speaking about his synesthesia, check out the website of the American Synesthesia Association, and see a list of historical figures who had synesthesia.

Please help spread the word about synesthesia! Do you know anyone with it? Are you a synesthete?

{Inspired by Write Alm's January prompt, COLOR}

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Published 2:27 PM by with 4 comments

Time Does Not Stop For Love

She grows out of her shoes
then out of diapers
then out of the sweaters I knit
before she was even born.
"I'm a big girl now, mama,"
she tells me.
Time does not stop for love.

His song, one of his own compositions, springs tears to my eyes
as he gently sings over his guitar.
He will leave for good this summer.
I still see him as eleven,
not this tall, confident young man.
Time does not stop for love.

My friend and I sit across the table
as I listen to stories of university life,
tales that echo my own past
as a guitarist in college,
when music and late nights
and deep conversations
were all I needed.
Time does not stop for love.

We approach the five year mark.
Some things don't change:
he still hates soup and tea,
I still can't remember our anniversary date,
he still drinks more Mountain Dew than I think is necessary,
I still insist on listening to "that horrible pop music" on the radio.
We hold hands on our walk
as if it was only yesterday
that we were strolling across the campus together
on our way to music history.
Yet we discover new things about each other
every year
that make us love
all the deeper.
It is good to have him by my side.
Time does not stop for love.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Published 11:39 AM by with 5 comments

The Greatest Mystery

When you're a child, you usually believe most of what you're told, especially when it's told to you by an adult in authority. So for the first sixteen years of my life, I didn't question what I was taught about God. My family attended church from the time I was about four years old or so. The churches we were part of over the course of my younger years had various denominations, but the majority of them taught roughly the same doctrines. I grew up sitting in Sunday school classes and taking notes during sermons. I was never under the impression that you had to be perfect to be part of a church, or that anyone who went to church was perfect, but it was clear that there were some pretty high standards for anyone who wanted to call themselves a Christian.

All that I learned in this time made me think that I had a pretty good grasp on who and what God was. I didn't have a lot of questions. I was satisfied that I had a good relationship with God. I prayed often, on my own because I liked talking with God, and I read my Bible so that I could understand His character better. It was a comfort zone. I was happy.

It wasn't until I went to college at sixteen that I began to think that maybe God couldn't be wrapped up in such a tidy box. Part of it was that I began to hear questions from my college friends about religion. Part of it was that I began to tackle issues that I hadn't thought of yet in my short time on earth. And part of it was that after I moved to a large city (from Idaho to St. Louis) I was exposed to much more diversity in Christian beliefs and in religions. I met people who called themselves Christians, and even though they were lovely people, they didn't dress or behave like any other Christians I'd met. Some of them *gasp* had tattoos! Or dreadlocks! It changed my perspective both on who God could be perceived to be and my perspective on who were His followers.

Also, when I was seventeen, several other events occurred: my parents separated and got divorced, our current church fell apart underneath us (not the first time this had happened), several good friends betrayed our family, and I was very sick after having what was supposed to be minor surgery. Long story short... all these terrible things did not shake my faith in God, but they definitely shook my faith in the institutional church and people. I began to do more thinking on my own, not relying so blindly on what I was taught, but reading the Bible on my own with more intensity, listening with open ears to others even if what they said contradicted what I believed, and listening to what the Spirit was telling my heart.

Slowly I began to realize that God was bigger than my own personal beliefs.

I still believed that God's Word was the Bible and that Christ is the way to salvation, but there were a lot of other ideas that were actually compelling on both sides of the arguement, instead of being set-in-stone doctrines. I stopped thinking I had all the answers, or even that I could find all the answers. It was a humbling yet beautiful realization that God was bigger than my human mind could grasp! In way, it is comforting to know that the Maker of Life cannot be completely understood. He is God... I am not.

Now I am learning to sit with the Mystery that God is. Every year I learn and grow and change in my relationship with him, but I will never stop wondering. There will never be an end to discovering who He is. There will never be an end to discovering what His amazing creation, our universe, contains. He will continue to speak through His Spirit to our souls. He will continue to reveal truth through His Word. And yes, God continues to work through people in our lives and through the church, both as the individual people of God and the institution, despite their flaws. That's the beauty of the Gospel, that God loves broken folks, and we can love others because of His love for us.

In the end, what does God require of us, even if we have questions or confusion?

In the words of Micah 6:8, "to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God".

{Linking up with Shelly's "Write or Die Wednesdays"}
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Sunday, January 04, 2015

Published 10:37 PM by with 2 comments

In(tentional) 2015

One of my favorite pictures in my folk's home, that my mom made. She's such an inspiration to me as an artist; their home is gorgeous, and has artwork everywhere! I love thinking about choosing joy in the new year. It's also a reminder that I have choices in what I hope to see in 2015. I ask myself the important question: "What does {THE DEEPEST PLACE} of my soul desire, need, and wish for?"

Beautiful words from Rachel.

For the past four years, I've been using Susannah Conway's lovely free workbook called "Unravelling the Year Ahead" to think through the past year and set intentions for the next year. I love that she calls them "intentions", because the term "goals" feels too solid, and it would be disappointing if I didn't completely accomplish them! With an intention, I can adapt it, do just part of it, or make it suit my needs and still feel like I've succeeded. Yeah, goals and intentions are pretty much the same thing, but it's the thought behind each of them that makes my mind feel like they're different ;-)

Here are a few of the intentions I've set for 2015:

~ Edit my novel, "The Naming of Fio Re", and have a few folks read it and give feedback. 

~ Meditate on Scripture every day, at least one verse. Learn more about Scripture meditation, too.

~ Deliberately make time to be face to face with friends and build relationships.

~ Go outside every single day. Every day. No exceptions. Even if it's just for a five minute walk or to sit in my yard on the grass. 365 Days of Nature, commence! More on that below.

~ Plan a creative retreat again similar to the one my lovely friend Heather and I had this December. Maybe it could be an entire weekend instead of one day? Maybe we could invite more friends? Do more art together? Cook meals? There are so many possibilities! 

~ Finish memorizing Romans 8. I got super close to accomplishing this last year, but it just didn't happen. Now of course it's only vaguely in my memory. I want to have the entire chapter down!

~ Record a CD of my favorite guitar pieces that I've learned in the last twenty years. Sheesh... I am OLD. I have been playing guitar for a freakin' long time!!! I might as well sum it up with some kind of recording after all these years. That will require practicing. If there were only a few extra hours each day...

~ Read all the books in my house that I have not yet read. There are actually a decent number of books that fall under this category. I may or may not make an exception for the Dostoevsky novel that even Chris hasn't been able to finish... *sigh*. This past year I tried to read one book a week, and considering that I forgot to log any of the books I read in November or December on my book list page here on the blog, I'm fairly certain that I hit that goal! Yay!

~ Fresh flowers every week. My mood and attitude are so brightened when flowers are present in my home! I don't need to buy new flowers every week; they last about two weeks if I take care of them, and it would be just five dollars or so from my grocery budget every other week. How about yes :-)

~ Go back to Lambert's Restaurant, the home of the "throwed rolls"! I was there during my senior year of college: it was AWESOME. Gotta go again, even though it's a bit of a road trip!

~ Read aloud with Chris more. We're mired in the weirdness of the "Arabian Nights" right now. It seriously seems never-ending. We may end up just reading it separately so that we can finish it and move on to something a little more manageable!

~ Give another shot to writing down 1,000 gifts. I got really close, over the last two years (even though you're supposed to write down a thousand gratitudes in only one year, not two), but made it to about eight hundred and faded out. It's always worth another try! This time I'm tracking it on my smartphone. I hate putting important things in my phone, which is why I still have a paper notebook and calendar, but my phone is almost always on hand to quickly jot something down, so hopefully this method will help keep me more on track. I love that Ann Voskamp has the "Joy Dares" available for free download in each month so that you have a bit of direction when looking for blessings in your everyday life!

~ Send more postcards. I love letters, but with the busyness of life, sending a postcard is going to be more doable than sending a full-blown letter, I'm thinking. Plus, postcards are art-in-the-mail! Win!

~ Get a perfume I really like. I've had only two perfumes, both of which I liked, but haven't yet found a perfume that I truly LOVE. I'm not gonna push this one too much; perfume is expensive! If it happens miraculously, it happens. If not, hey, I can wait.

~ Explore HONOR as my One Word. "The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be." - Socrates

~ Watch the entire series of "Avatar: the Last Airbender". OH NO NOW EVERYONE KNOWS HOW MUCH OF A NERD I AM. One of my best friends just introduced it to me last week (read: basically held me down and forced me to watch the opening episode because they knew I'd like it even though I was all "noooo I don't want to watch anything new") and I was instantly hooked. It's just the right kind of show for a girl who has watched almost all of the Naruto Shippuden... um, I mean, *cough cough* I totally have never watched anime before. 

I can't wait to see what growth and change this year will bring for Harmony. She is so verbal for a two and a half year old. The other day she and I ran errands all morning, so I made sure that our last stop was at a coffee shop where we could share a fruit smoothie. We sat at a table together, sipping the smoothie, people-watching and talking about the decor of the shop and noticing what folks were eating and discussing the day. That was the first time I realized, "hey, my daughter and I can have conversations now! There's finally someone in our family who talks just as much as me!" and I had a good laugh. My daughter is awesome.

Yes, I truly do want to go outside every day. So far, for the first four days of this new year, I've succeeded in getting outdoors for a few minutes, despite a sick toddler, a messy house, a busy schedule, and frigid weather (with snow today). Each time I made myself get my act together enough to go out, I was always grateful that I had! Being in nature, even on our little dead-end street or sitting in our yard, is grounding, refreshing, clarifying, relaxing, calming, energizing, and so many more things for my physical and mental health. I come back inside renewed and ready to face anything. There must be magic in a breath of fresh air ;-) I'm recording this journey on Instagram with a picture every day under the tag #365daysofnature.

I can tell that even though there will be more days where it will be difficult to get myself out the door, it will be for the best. Many thanks to my sweet husband and sister who have either sat with Harmony or just kept an ear out for her while she slept so that I could escape for a little while! I am SO very blessed to have my supportive family around me. 

Love these daily prompts from Write Alm!

I definitely want to continue to write often, here on the blog, in my personal journal, in postcards and the occasional letter to friends and family, and on Instagram. I've very much enjoyed the little snippets of life I can share on Instagram to accompany a picture, and even more have loved seeing others' lives through their own lens on IG too!

Facebook was de-activated yesterday, as planned. It feels weird not to check it, but I am already appreciating the social media silence that it is allowing. Yes, I'm still part of social media here and on Instagram, but it feels more manageable, if that makes any sense. 

The picture above was taken after I was awake for almost forty-eight hours straight. On new year's eve, half an hour before midnight, Harmony suddenly and violently came down with the stomach flu while we were at my folk's home. She had been sleeping in their guest bedroom as we got ready to celebrate the new year's arrival. Instead of ringing in 2015, we spent the rest of the night caring for her, with barely any sleep. When we finally got her home the next day, I fuzzily remembered that one of my intentions was to get outside every day, so Chris sat with her for a few minutes while I laid in the grass of our front yard, which was all I had the energy to do. It was a good reminder that "the best laid plans of mice and men..."

If all my intentions are not realized in 2015, IT WILL BE FINE. I will be okay. Nobody/nothing will explode, my dreams won't be shattered. Sometimes we have hard times; sometimes our lives are rocked to the core by terrible news. With that in mind, I'm trying to hold my plans loosely, knowing that only God sees the future. I hope that no matter what the coming days hold I will be able to trust in His plans for me even if it means that mine go out the window. My favorite Bible verse from year to year continues to be from Micah 6:8: "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" That is what I truly want to be the desire of the deepest place in my heart!

So here we go, 2015! What do YOU wish that 2015 might hold for you? Let me know in the comments! Did you choose a Word? Do you have goals, or intentions?

{Writing prompt THE DEEPEST PLACE from Write Alm's January prompts}

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