Are You Happy with Your Story?*

“Story Girl” by Connie S.

I received the most adorable tag this weekend! It came from my penfriend Connie S. I sort of coveted the tag when I saw it in a Facebook photo among several tags she crafted a few weeks ago for a “Little Wings and Tim Holtz” challenge on swap-bot. This one was an extra, so she sent it as a gift as I “get back into teaching mode.” Happy dance!

Connie wrote a note on pretty floral stationery and ended with the question–“Are you happy with your story?”

On this rainy, bluesy Monday when the headaches are unrelenting, it’s difficult to answer when my mood and pain are trying to do the typing.

Interestingly, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about “my story”–the narrative of my life that shapes who I am, my path, and who I am becoming. Particularly, I’ve noticed  just how often other people insist on writing my story or are set on what they think I should do and be; I’ve also taken note of just how often what they think I should do, think, and be benefits them in some way.

Though sometimes [most times, maybe?] individuals are actually advocating for us, I realize if we’re just going along and not paying attention, we can make it easy for someone else to write or rewrite our story. Therefore, we must be intentional about guarding our own developing script.

My life isn’t perfect–it’s certainly “been no crystal stair,” but those ups and downs and all arounds have developed in me a deep sense of empathy and compassion. The questions yet unanswered have taught me to love the questions and either seek the answers with an open heart and mind or patiently wait through the process. I’m learning still that sometimes the answers will come on “the other side of glory.” In my weakest moments, through Christ I’ve found strength–grace sufficient–to overcome the seemingly insurmountable.

I have an amazing family, the best friends, and good energy in my most important spaces. When I count my blessings, they far outnumber my setbacks and disappointments. Even in my most dejected state or my hour of most profound need, my gratitude deepens and widens over the blessed life God has given me and over His indescribable, incomparable love for me.

Am I happy with my story? Yes indeed. I’m not sure I’d know how to behave with a different story.

Are you happy with your story?


*My apologies to those of you who received a draft of this post via email or in your reader. Somehow the WordPress bot decided to publish before I hit the publish button. 

Joy Break 2 | Dance, Dance, Dance

“Allow yourself to trust joy and embrace it.
You will find you dance with everything.”

My Love Notes friend, Connie, sent the postcard above a couple of years ago. She found it and many others at an art fair, I think. Even though I searched “high and low” for information about the artist, I found none.

This is one of my favorite postcards because there is so much joy in the artwork–the colors, the movements, the expressions. The dance is part of the conversation between the women whose very souls seem to be possessed by joy.

Perhaps, that is the point of the quote above (attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson). When we release ourselves to joy, there’s a light in the step and mirth in the eyes. Our very beings are infused with joy.

Be the Light!

My home office is a complete, utter mess. The books and papers are literally closing in on me. There is a narrow path from the door to the desk and my favorite thinking place–the window. Other than that, every space is covered with stacks of books and piles of paper.

At some point, I’ll spend a day or two getting things back in order. For now, I’m glad I kept the many beautiful works of art created by swap-bot and Love Notes pals separate from the madness–especially since I have a lot of “catch-up sharing” to do this summer.

Today, I’m sharing a couple of postcards that remind us of the [potential] role we play in the life of each person we encounter.

The first card came from Martha S. of Postcards in the Air.

“Be the Light.” Artwork by Martha S.

Martha’s cheerful watercolor urges us to “be a light in someone’s life.” Her work has been featured on Pics and Posts many times. My favorites are her autumn leaves and the über cute raccoon watercolor.  Be sure to check out her blog for more of her work and musings.

The card below, also a watercolor, came from Rae L. I hadn’t seen her in my mailbox in ages, so I was overjoyed to receive this pretty card.

“Flowers.” Artwork by Rae L.

Rae included a Mother Teresa quote with her flowers:

Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love. –Mother Teresa

I truly appreciate the messages of love and light. The world can be lonely, dark, and cold, so the work of light workers is critical. If you think you have very little to offer, remember, even the smallest flicker radiates tremendous light.

Love Means…

“Love” by Robert Indiana, 6th Avenue at 55th Street, New York City. Photo by Jennifer Howland Hill.

“Love” is likely the most difficult word to define. We talk about what it means, but definitions fail to hit the mark. Since it finds meaning in action and in character, we describe love more than we define it.

“Love means” was the final prompt for Love Notes 27. Peggy, again, did not disappoint as she shared a poem which demonstrates the evolving meaning(s) of love as she travels the decades.

Love Means
By Peggy L.

At the age of 10
Love means my mama’s smile and a hug.

At the age of 20
Love means bodies tangled in the sheets.

At the age of 30
Love means walking my sweet daughter to class before heading to work.

At the age of 40
Love means letting my baby find her own life, away from me.

At the age of 50
Love means discovering myself and learning to paint.

At the age of 60
Love means…

I’ll let you know.

I love how the poem touches on parental love, romantic love, self-love, and the “unknowns” of love.

As for my part, exhausted and with a mile-long to-do list I couldn’t  even attempt. I went to the Source of Love and sent my partner 1 Corinthians 13:4-8–but again, that describes rather than defines love, and there are more negatives than positives in the description.

According to 1 John 4:8. God is love. Love, therefore, is as complex and multifaceted as God. Perhaps, this is what makes it difficult to define.

If you missed Peggy’s responses to LN 27 Prompt 1 and Prompt 2, be sure click the previous link–twice!


About the imageThe postcard above was sent to me by my friend Cy after a trip to New York last summer.

From the postcard back: The artist, Robert Indiana, settled in New York City in 1954 and began making pop art. His most famous work, Love, was originally designed as a Christmas card for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1964. The image quickly became a symbol of peace at a time when the country had become involved in the Viet Nam War. The 12-foot sculpture was installed at the corner of 6th Avenue and 55th Street in 1971, two blocks from MoMA. It has become one of the most photographed icons in New York City. Every day thousands of couples visit the sculpture and awkwardly ask a stranger to take their photograph.

Happy Weekend!

I.M.A.G.I.N.E.

“From Mother’s Garden.” Photo by Christine B.

Yesterday, our university president, Dr. Les, began a day-long meeting with inviting faculty and staff to think about those with whom we work who have gone out of the way, demonstrated genuine care, and made a positive impact on our lives during the “just completed” academic year. After contemplation, six were selected to share their stories and express gratitude to those individuals. This was an excellent move, and I was heartened after hearing each story.

It’s good to know that people see us as living, breathing, complex beings and not just a cog in the machinery. Furthermore, it’s good to know that we are not alone and there are always those who are willing to “take the burden” or lift us up with words and deeds.

This “lifting” must have been Peggy’s motivation when she wrote Love Notes 27, Prompt 2. The prompt was “Imagine,” and she used each letter of the word to craft seven perfect affirmations:

I think you are magic
My dreams for you are in technicolor
A light inside you shines so bright
Good things are rushing towards you
I believe in you
Never stop exploring your soul
Everything good and beautiful is meant for you

I receive with gratitude each statement as a perfect gift to carry–to bless and inspire others.

What do you imagine for others in your life? How do you help them move from imagination to practice/reality?


About the Image: Today’s purple flowers were shot by another Love Noter, my penfriend Christine B. It was the card she sent for International Women’s Month. The flowers are from her mother’s garden, sent to honor me and the memory of my sister Lori. Hugs, Christine.

Sunflowers and Connection

I participated in the latest round of Love Notes and made a new penfriend!

Peggy L, my partner for Love Notes 27, is a retired nurse who’s finding her way to other “identities” and embracing the artist within. Her messages were sweet and cheerful and I looked forward to retrieving each from my post office box each week.

In response to the first prompt, “I invite you to…,” Peggy wrote:

I invite you to believe that we are all connected and that we can and will change the world together. I invite you to join me in a peace army, a joy tribe, a group of women who KNOW that we are the answer we have been waiting for!

Isn’t this beautiful? It fits perfectly with the woman-empowered inspiration of my Women’s History Month posts. Also, thanks to this note, I finally figured out what to do with the beautiful love notes and messages I receive. Instead of keeping them in a box or album, I’m making them a part of my journaling. Yay!

I’ll be sharing Peggy’s responses to the prompts this week along with images that feature a couple of favorites we have in common–sunflowers and purple!


About today’s image: I spotted surprise sunflowers dancing in the wind while returning from an errand on campus. They were part of a giant bouquet placed near the entry to one of the dormitories. It was a happy find!

The person who placed the bouquet happened by and chatted with me while I photographed the sunflowers. She was torn. She wanted to take the flowers to her room, but felt it would be selfish. I assured her that since the flowers were given to her (instead of being tossed at the end of an event), she was not being selfish. I invited her to enjoy the flowers for herself! 🙂 Besides, cut flowers last longer indoors than outdoors.

Butterflies and Pebbles | Things to Know This Week

As I was avoiding taking a break from grading and perusing Instagram a few moments ago, I ran across a beautiful list of reminders to carry into the week written by S.C. Lourie, Butterflies and Pebbles on Instagram.

Things to know this week:

    • You will grow from whatever the world throws at you.
    • Your precious life is a gift.
    • You are allowed to do life at your own pace.
    • Your time is sacred. Don’t waste it on whatever makes you unhappy.
    • You are changing and expanding.
    • You are loved and needed. That’s why you are here.
    • You are going to be okay.

The card above came from Betsy N, a Love Notes pal who lives “just down the street” from me in Tennessee. Sent for International Women’s Day, it is a perfect fit for Lourie’s words.

May you hold each of these statements close this week. May you remember them when you hit the rough and tumble spots, the insane moments, the not-so-pleasant unexpected. May you grasp them when assaulted by the time-wasters and naysayers. May you know through all the ups and downs “you are changing and expanding […] loved and needed […] and you are going to be okay.”