I Can…

Earlier today I had a conversation with one of my students. She was having a moment—one of those moments when getting out of bed is difficult and facing the day feels impossible. I’ve been having those days quite a bit lately. In fact, today was one of those days.

I felt it as soon as I forced myself out of bed at 5:09. It hung over me like a heavy weight while I showered. It stuck “in my craw” while I prayed and journaled. It slowed me down as I dressed and packed my bags and offered all the reasons to hide under the covers and try again tomorrow. But, of course, being an adult, I had little choice but to “suck it up” and face the day.

It’s not anything in particular that places us in these “ugh” moments. It’s the accumulation of “life stuff.” Our operating in a pandemic for the last year certainly doesn’t help—the isolation from those we love, the death toll, the uptick in technology use. It’s downright wearying. It’s depressing, and we have to do everything we can to take care of ourselves and avoid slipping into a deep well of despair.

I told my student to get out of bed, open her curtains, let some light in her room, seek counsel, and meditate over scripture. I shared with her on those days when I feel like I just.can’t.do.life, I repeat over and over and over again the only Bible verse I have the energy for—

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. —Philippians 4:13

I can. She can. You can. And we wake up the next morning, realizing, we’ve survived another one of those moments.


About the Image: My Love Notes friend, Arielle W, sent the sunflower above for International Women’s Day 2021. She sent it with IWD wishes and a cheerful spring greeting. What a beautiful way to begin the week!

When You See Me Standing…

may i grow
so tall and bright,
so free and wild,
so brave and vibrant
that when you see me
standing
you think i am
a sunflower.

Gaby Comprés


About the image: I received such beautiful cards and messages for International Women’s Day/Women’s History Month that I decided to share some on the blog this week. The sunflower above is from Diane W, one of my Love Notes friends. Her card was the first to arrive, and it was such a pleasure to open her sunflower-adorned envelope and find the sunflower inside with other goodies–the poem above, a “Horned Poppy Fairy” postcard, and positive affirmations neatly penned on daisy-shaped cutouts. Diane enjoys making cards using postage stamps, but this was her first time making sunflower cards. This unique beauty is on its way to my sunflower wall!

Seven Practices for One Little Word

Do you have “one little word” for 2021? If you haven’t heard about it, one little word (1LW) is the practice of choosing one word to focus on for an entire year. Instead of–or maybe along with–New Year’s resolutions, individuals use the word as a path to growth and transformation in a particular area.

I first started the 1LW practice in 2015.  I’m not sure where I first read about it, but I liked the idea of intentional focus in one area of my life or on one spiritual discipline.

The practice of 1LW has increased in popularity significantly since my first word. There are many blog posts, worksheets, writing and creative groups devoted to helping you find and stick to the practice.

Keturah, a beautiful soul who was part of the youth ministry my hubby and I worked with some moons ago, reached out at the beginning of the year and asked for some tips on 1LW. My far less than prompt response was long enough for a blog post [and my time today is too short to respond to her and write a blog post], so I decided to kill the proverbial “two birds with one stone” and share it here in case some of you are interested.

It’s easy to get lost in a sea of words as you look for the right one word fit, so here are some micro-practices I use as I work toward finding the word I need and putting that word to work. Hopefully, they’ll help make your journey to and with your word meaningful.

  1. Partner with God. Near the end of every year I go through the rigmarole of claiming and rejecting one word after another. In fact, I have rarely chosen a word by the first of the year. It is only when I partner with God and seek His wisdom and insight into my life and character that I feel settled with a word. There are all sorts of things I would love to claim for myself, but sometimes those things just aren’t aligned with God’s desires for me. The beauty of partnering with God for your 1LW is that you get all the extra opportunities to dwell in His presence and listen for His voice.  When you let Him have some “say” in your one word decision, He places in your path little reminders all along the way.
  2. Define. When you accept your word, write down all its connotative and denotative meanings. Look for various nuances of the word in different languages, particularly the biblical languages. This exhaustive lexicon will help keep you engaged with the word as you seek ways to expand. It also reduces the prospect of boredom as you exploit all the possibilities of the word.
  3. Scripture and Other Inspiration. Make a list of scriptures related to your word. You don’t have to write the scriptures out just yet, but tape the list inside a journal for reference. You’ll find enough reason to scripture-journal the biblical texts that speak to you later in your journey. Select one scripture that will serve as your focus scripture. This is the one you’ll recite over and over and meditate on during your toughest moments. This also works with other sacred texts and forms of inspiration.
  4. Listen. As I mentioned in point 1, God will place signs of His presence and reminders along the way. Listen for God’s voice and embrace the markers related to your word as you go through your days. Journal your experiences and your encounters with God via your 1LW..
  5. Collect. Collect quotes, poems, and images related to your 1LW. Post them–on your wall, in your office, in notebooks, on mirrors. They serve as confirmation and affirmation for those moments when you feel a little lost and disconnected from your journey. You’ll be amazed how many things related to your 1LW meet your eyes once when you begin to pay attention..
  6. Pray, meditate, and act. The one word journey, if done right, is not for the faint of heart. The path is meandering and unstable. If you want a transformed life, then you must remain on the path and stay connected to the Source. Walk with prayer, take time for meditation, and as with all change, take the steps necessary to make changes when the time is right. You’ll know when the time is right because you’re connected to the Source...
  7. Journal. Maintaining a regular journal is key. Use it to collect your thoughts, prayers, quotes, musings, frustrations, victories, and setbacks. The journal ties it all together.

The one little word practice is not about achieving success or mastering yourself in a particular way in 12 months. It’s about challenging yourself and deepening soul practices, so release the notion that you must reach a particular state of being related to your 1LW in just one short year.

I only began to recognize the changes in me related to my first 1LW [six whole years ago!] within the last few months. And guess what. Last year’s word might be this year’s word too! 1LW is not a marathon or a task you must complete in 12 months. It’s fluid.

The goal is to realize a vision for yourself in one word. 1LW is a whole lot more practical and achievable than a list of resolutions and, if done sincerely, will become a consistent practice in your life–far beyond this one year.


About the Image: This is another beauty captured at Scott’s Orchard in October, the Chianti Sunflower . It is not as stunning as the Moulin Rouge, but I think it’s pretty close.

Sunflowers for Inauguration Day!

And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation
that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.

–from “The Hill We Climb,” Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate

If you haven’t heard, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., the 46th President of the United States, was sworn in today.  And history was made today when Kamala Devi Harris, the very first woman and very first Black woman was sworn in as Vice President of the United States. Based on recent events in the USA, it’s hard to believe I bore witness to this bit of history.

I am excited and hopeful and relieved (all adjectives my students used to express their feelings about the inauguration).

One of my students expressed hesitation toward hope. She commented about the propensity [of many Americans] to raise the alarm and fight the good fight but then lapse into inaction when the major crisis is over. Her concern is valid, but the insurrection on Capitol Hill a couple of weeks ago gave us a glimpse of what can happen if we do not guard our democracy fiercely. “The Hill We Climb,” the inaugural poem written and performed by Amanda Gorman, the very first National Youth Poet Laureate, poignantly emphasized this point.

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it,
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
It can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith, we trust.
For while we have our eyes on the future,
history has its eyes on us.

Though we are flawed and prone to temporary amnesia, I am hopeful that we will accept the charge Gorman [implicitly] issued through her poem. It is up to each individual citizen of the United States to protect and uphold democracy.

Peace: The Icon and the Symbol

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.  –Matthew 5:9

Did you know the sunflower is a symbol of peace? That makes it the perfect image to share for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

King stirred things up and disrupted the status quo. He bravely spoke truth to power and, through the Civil Rights Movement, stimulated the conscience of a nation. He met with state-sanctioned violence at almost every turn, but peace was his means for change. And peace was his goal.

If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective. –Martin Luther King, Jr., “Christmas Sermon on Peace,” 1967


About the Image: The postcard above came from my Love Notes friend Debbie T. Debbie has been through a lot of heartache this year, but she pulled from her store of love and sent a beautiful package of [sun]flower love just because. This was just one of the many bright and cheerful postcards included in the set. The postcard is from Christopher Arndt Postcards. It is a “derivative photo” based on original photograph by David Clode on Unsplash.

Good Light.

If you see someone who has good light, thank them for it. It will help them keep the light on. —Jaiya John, Daughter Drink This Water


About the Image: In honor of my hubby’s birthday (today), I’m sharing one of the sunflowers he grew for me. He has good light. 😉

You can find more of Jaiya John’s words by visiting his website (linked above) or his Instagram page.

All the Feel(ing)s

The Strawberry Blonde

“Are you happy?”

“In all honesty? No. But I am curious – I am curious in my sadness, and I am curious in my joy. I am everseeking, everfeeling. I am in awe of the beautiful moments life gives us, and I am in awe of the difficult ones. I am transfixed by grief, by growth. It is all so stunning, so rich, and I will never convince myself that I cannot be somber, cannot be hurt, cannot be overjoyed. I want to feel it all – I don’t want to cover it up or numb it. So no, I am not happy. I am open, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Bianca Sparacino, Seeds Planted in Concrete

Have you ever been asked “Are you happy?” and wondered how you should answer. To answer with an emphatic “Yes!” is almost dishonest, and to answer “No” places you and the inquirer in an awkward moment.

Obviously, we can’t be happy all the time. However, we place a lot of expectation on that one fleeting emotion, or a lot of pressure on ourselves for not feeling “up” most of the time–as if something’s wrong with us if we experience sadness, frustration, or even ingratitude. Of course, we want to stay in neither of those places for too long. Sometimes, though, we just have to lean in, sit with a particular feeling, and not rush it along because it makes us feel uncomfortable.

There’s a lot going on these days [read: months], and we’re feeling all kinds of things–fear, sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety, even joy. Instead of running from our feelings, we can allow ourselves to feel all the feelings and to even be “curious” in them.


About the Image: The sunflower featured in the photo above is a hybrid sunflower called “Strawberry Blonde.” It was one of the beauties I captured at Scott’s Orchard on the gorgeous October day when I found Moulin Rouge.

Beauty and the Triumph of Truth

Artwork by Lori-Anne C.

Peace is the beauty of life. It is sunshine. It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family. It is the advancement of man[kind], the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth. –Menachem Begin

Despite the disappointment and sadness in my heart today, I am dropping in to bring you flowers. If you are a United States citizen, you need to turn away from the television, put down your phone, and spend a moment with the pretty.


About the Image: The featured art is the work of my Love Notes friend, Lori-Anne C. She makes some of the most exquisite sunflower art. You can see more of her beauties here: Envelope Full of Sunflowers and You’re Entitled to You. Like the other two, the piece above was sent in celebration of women. The purple tulip and sunflower are especially special to me, since they’re symbolic of my relationship with my sister (also named Lori Ann), whose favorite flower was the purple tulip.

Sunflower Love

The kind of Shalom we’re trying to give to people around us requires us to take an active interest in their physical and spiritual well-being. –Lisa Jo-Baker, Never Unfriended

Welcome to Sunflower Month on Pics and Posts!

Since I’m usually a bit overwhelmed with “the beginning of the semester” and unfinished business from the previous semester, I considered taking a blog break this month to focus on all the getting-things-going-in-January stuff.  Then, I remembered, my blog is a happy place, and I need it to escape the madness whenever I can.

So here I am escaping for a moment. I won’t post every day (obviously), but with the exception of the two #ThursdayTreeLove posts, I will share lots of sunflower love this month. Why? Because, as one of my friends pointed out when I questioned whether a sunflower month would be too much, “we need the bright and beautiful right now. ”

As for the gorgeous image above, it was crafted by Kim B, one of my Love Notes friends. I met her when she reached out to me as my sister Lori was nearing her last days. Kim wanted to offer hope and encouragement to both of us and she did just that. I shared her sunflower, which she “grew from a tiny seed,” on Instagram a few months ago, but it came to mind immediately when my hubby told me that instead of focusing on “one little word,” this year, his prayer is that he loves as God loves.

I swoon.

Can you imagine the exponential potential of his interactions with individuals he comes across? How many lives can be charged with even one encounter?

To tune in to others and offer love, unrestrained and without strings, is the best gift we can offer the world.

I am joining him in this prayer. Won’t you?

Favorite Moments of 2020

My blogging friend, Akilah of The Englishist, recently posted her favorite moments of 2020. I’m “stealing” her idea because I think we all need a reminder that despite the icky, crazy of this year, there is also a lot of good. Plus, as you know, I love making lists.

So here are some of my favorite moments of the year of (mostly) sheltering-in-place and almost running out of toilet paper.

Trip to New Orleans. Along with my dad’s three sisters, the guys and I visited New Orleans and returned to ‘Bama just before the Coronavirus outbreak. It was a desperately needed trip for all of us. I am so glad we were able to see my parents and some of my siblings before the pandemic forced us all to stay put. I am missing them like crazy, so I’d probably be out of my mind if we hadn’t taken that short trip.

Brooklyn Arts Library Sketchbook Project. As you read in an earlier post, I completed and submitted a tiny sketchbook to Brooklyn Arts Library. Here’s the link to my mini sketchbook of doodles and quotes if you’re interested: #facethesun: Sunflower and Her Friends.

Try not to judge me too harshly. I’m so not a sketch artist. I didn’t realize I should have only doodled on the front of the pages. I’m definitely going to participate again, with a full-size book and my photography—the art medium with which I’m most comfortable.

Book Talk. Literally two days before the University decided to transition to online learning because of the pandemic, I had the pleasure of coordinating a panel discussion on the book, When Saints Sing the Blues for Wednesday night services at the University church. It was well-attended and well-received. I enjoyed listening to the stories of each of the panelists and speaking with attendees afterwards.

Lettering with the Creator of Cuteness.  Thanks to the gift of time due to the pandemic, I joined Creative Hand Lettering and Doodling with Lindsay. For the first couple of months (or so), I watched Lindsay’s informative and humorous live videos, practiced lettering, and downloaded her free Corona coloring pages and other goodies. The photograph to the left features one of my first projects. The assignment was to use “tinker toy” lettering with a line from a song. This was the perfect creative outlet for our “Corona times.” I don’t have much time to view Lindsay live, but a friend gave me a gift of the workbook, Creative Hand Letter with Lindsay, so I practice whenever I get a chance.

Write Together. Jennifer Belthoff, who coordinates Love Notes, also hosts Write Together, Art Journaling, and other classes. I joined Write Together one evening, and it was such a healing, soul-filling experience that I rode the high for weeks. Life got in the way for a few weeks and when I found time again, I felt a little weird about joining after having missed so much. If Jennifer continues to host next year, I hope to join at least twice a month.

Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt. My son’s (middle school) teachers assigned a “pandemic-style” scavenger hunt for the students. They had to find a list of items in their own neighborhoods. We had fun running (and driving) up and down the street looking for the items, and of course, I took advantage and captured some roses.

Eighth Grade Graduation. My not-so-little one “graduated” from 8th grade! So many things were canceled for the students, but the school administrators decided to hold a scaled-down graduation program with social distancing measures in place. It was held in July–almost two months after the planned date–but we were all so happy for this moment of celebration and to see other people! 🙂 My son, as class president, delivered an excellent speech. This was a proud Mommy (and Daddy) moment.

Spectrum Publication. One of my blog posts was reprinted in Spectrum Magazine (online).

The Chair. I accepted the role of Chair of the Department of English and Foreign Languages. This isn’t exactly a moment, but a shift. I’d served as department chair at another university for several years. I’d also served in other administrative capacities, but even though I enjoy administrative work, I’d made a decision not to go down that road again (for many sound reasons). God had other plans and He let me know very clearly in a moment that can only be described as an epiphany. I don’t know [yet] why He called me to this task, but I promised to walk in obedience, so here I am.

Three Sundays with David Whyte. David Whyte, one of my favorite poets, hosts poetry seminars via Zoom, typically three Sundays in a month. I participated in three–The Courage in Poetry (April); Just Beyond Yourself (May); and Half a Shade Braver (September). In each session, he shared poetic wisdom, stories about his travels, anecdotes about his friend John O’Donohue, his own poetry and the poetry of others. The sessions were life-changing, and I wrote so much poetry as a result.

A Moment with Raven. One of my former students, Raven, came into town to visit family, and she took a moment out to visit me! We met just outside campus at the Farmer’s Market. It did my heart good to see her and know she is doing well! Of course, I tried to get her to leave California and come and work with me, but she makes more than we can pay her. :-/

Sunflowers in My Backyard. My guys planted sunflowers right outside my office window. I watched them grow from seedlings to 6-7 feet tall. They brought so much joy to my days. The sunflower pictured here was the first to bloom. I have many, many more to share, but it’s so difficult to choose!

Moulin Rouge. You read about my encounter with the Moulin Rouge sunflower in an earlier post. This might be one of my top ten favorite moments of the decade.

Sunflowers in My Mailbox. Sunflowers in my mailbox always create a “favorite” moment, and my friends have kept me and my mailbox happy with sunflowers. In addition to the lovely cards and postcards, I received a number of sunflower packages–a boxful of sunflower goodies from my bestie, a personalized sunflower Starbucks cup from my “niece,” Christian, sunflower stickers from Raven, a package full of sunflower postcards from Debbie T, and a beautiful sunflower teapot from Christine B, two of my Love Notes friends.

Christmas Card Lane. I shared the Christmas Card Lane experience a couple of days ago. I needed that strong dose of Christmas joy.

When the year started, we had grand plans, but before many of those plans could be executed, without much warning, everything changed. Instantly. For everyone. In the entire world. As the days rolled on, things got stranger and more complicated and more twisted, and here we are at the end of all that crazy. And I am grateful for these favorite moments and for the many, many beautiful, everyday moments of 2020–(almost) nightly movie nights with my guys, Zoom calls with family, long walks, putting up lights and balloons for birthdays, trying new vegan recipes, opening a mailbox full of happy mail, drive-by visits with relatives and friends, singing and praying with my guys, listening to them play various instruments, and church services in pajamas.

I’m not sure what next year will hold, but “I know Who holds the future.” Therefore, I am looking forward to new moments–ordinary, extraordinary, and beautiful.