12.5.17 Believing Anyway

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“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” Hamilton Wright Mabie

It was over a year ago now, that much I remember, when I fell asleep crying because I knew that someday, I’d have to tell my son the truth about Santa Claus. I remember it distinctly, because the moonlight was bright, and my pillow was salty and damp with heavy tears continuing to stream and soak in as I silently continued to weep. It was the idea of someday that pained me – the idea that someday I’d have to make him grow up just a little bit more … and it hurt, but I carried on and calmed myself with the solace that “someday,” was not today.

A few days ago, “someday” came. As a child I never understood the term bittersweet, or when people tried to tell me that pain could be beautiful. But now? As a mother? I understand.

He came to me on a Friday night, after school, after piano lessons, rumpled and boyish and wonderful. “Hey mom?” he hedged, “I know that Santa is real, but I just wanted to ask you, because … well … he is right?” And as much as I wanted to, as many times as I had before, this time was different because this time, his eyes begged to dispel a truth he already half-wished he didn’t know. Every time I’ve ever had to have a difficult conversation with my children, I’ve prayed God would just let me know the right time – and this was his.

In a series of too-short moments, I explained that Santa was a real and wonderful man. I spoke of his history, and his mission, and the way that he helped people believe in the beauty and love of giving. I said I believe in Santa, because I believe in his mission, and the magic and wonder of his mission lives on through us.

And he cried.

And I cried.

And I lifted that beautiful, long-limbed boy into my too-small arms and cradled him for just a moment. In the stretch of tears and sniffles, he turned to me with a weak smile on his now, somehow older face. “I understand mom,” he said, “and I believe in his mission too.” Then his expression shifted to something of worry and he asked, “But last year mom, when I got the new video game system – it was so expensive … I’m so sorry!”

And I cried again. Here this boy. This wonderful, God-given gift, who I would have done anything for just to give him one more day of believing, was selfless enough in his own heartbreak to worry about our bank account. After telling him it was nothing, that we gave from Santa’s spirit of giving, he looked at me with his deeply-watering eyes and hugging me said, “Thank you so much.”

I have experienced many a treasured Christmas, but this understanding, his ability to love beyond disappointment – that was a gift beyond words.

Wherever you are in the realm of the magic of Christmas … of first wishes, fond memories, or once-upon-a-snowflakes, I wish you the delicate, yet miraculously shatterproof love that keeps a broken heart beating … a tear-streaked face smiling … and a spirit believing – anyway.

Elle

 

 

11.13.17 New Creation

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Today was a little tough. Okay … a lot tough. There was nothing particularly awful, no singular tragic event or definitively difficult set of problems. It was just the sort of day that left me feeling defeated, deflated, and a little worse for wear. Scrolling through my Instagram feed, I came across the passage in 2 Corinthians 5:17 which says, “You are a new creation.” What a beautiful thought – a new creation. After days like today, after strings of monotonous moments that didn’t go according to plan, I wonder, at times, what God designed me for and if I’m very far off from his original blueprints. 

Was I really created for deleting a string of unwanted emails? For buffering stress-inducing conversations and scenarios? Is my purpose to have less time than I’ve ever had before to be instead of do? For some reason, I don’t think so. I don’t think that was meant for anyone. In his infinite wisdom I don’t believe that God handcrafted us with unique talents just so we could waste them in the pursuit of mediocre days where one is indistinguishable from the next. 

So how do we downshift? How do we recycle and reclaim our spent hours? Honestly? I have no idea. But I think it has something to do with attitude. In her infinite wisdom at ninety-five, my grandmother said, “It’s just so easy to be happy.” And you know what? She’s right. No one, not one single person on this earth has it easy. We are all struggling with past pains, present dangers, and future fears. There is not one among us who is unscathed or scarless. We each have crosses to bear and burdens we cannot share. Still, I agree with my grandmother. Even with the weight of your own small world on your shoulders, it is possible to be happy. Happiness is an action, a state of being, and a calling on your life. So. Be. It.

Right now, right here, writing to you … the hour is much too close to tomorrow. My blinks are drawing themselves out, my eyes burn beneath sleepy, lavender lids, and my body has begun that tingly stage of quiet revolt against another long day that isn’t done. Still – I decide, here and now, to be that “new creation” I think I was designed to be.

She is confident, this version of myself, and her smiles are given freely. She is stronger than she looks, but sensitive enough to know when to be real. She is creative and caring, and she never lets the opportunity to make someone’s day go by, even if it costs her the most precious gift she has – time.

She is happy, this girl in the blueprints. And even now, so am I.

Be a new creation, and introduce me to who you were designed to be! I can’t wait to meet you. Can you?

Elle 

 

 

7.8.17 Bella Grace Blog Hop: “The Magic of Birthday Wishes”

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I am so excited to share that this post is a part of the Field Guide to Everyday Magic Blog Hop! Bella Grace Magazine’s newest sister publication! The Field Guide is pure delight wrapped in pages of golden images, inspiring writing prompts, and ways to make your imagination sparkle and shine. Be sure to comment and share this post with others for a chance to win a complimentary issue! I will be choosing the winner at random by next week’s post. Also, in anticipation of my: This Quotable Life Boutique, opening on my site this fall, I’ll be sending a little something wordy and wonderful as a personal thank you for being a faithful reader! Best of luck dear ones! Read on.

***

“Make a wish …” 

Could there be any sweeter imperative than this? To be ordered to wish? To dream? To believe that all it would take to achieve what you most hope for would be to think it, close your eyes, and blow out the drops of light before you? What an enchanting command, and one I am more than willing to obey – year … after year … after year.

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Birthdays have always been a grand source of celebration in my family. My mother believed in the power of birthdays the way some people believe in holiday traditions – reverently. Each year, no matter how old my sister and I were getting, she would decorate the house, post notes on our mirrors, and make a thematic meal and cake to commemorate the day this earth was graced with our singular presence. How then could I, as a mother, do any less? Each year, our son and daughter’s summer birthdays are enveloped in confectioned delights and filled, moment-by-moment, with friends, family, and plenty of candled opportunities to wish. My husband once asked me when I thought we’d “go easier” on our birthday capers, to which I cast a wide-eyed reply of, “Never.” As long as this world has you in it – we must celebrate.

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I think very few people today realize that dreams are a renewable resource. We get so stuck in the ordinary expectations we set for ourselves, that we forget to imagine that there could be more – that we could be more. I am always especially bothered when it comes to birthdays, and the underwhelming perceptions people have of themselves on this once-a-year, you-alone celebration. Flippant comments like, “I don’t even remember how old I am,” or, “It’s just another day,” chip away at my heart like paint fading on something once considered beautiful. When did this one precious life ever give you permission to stop being grateful for it? Even in the darkest of times, there is something to be thankful for.

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Maybe that is why candles are so much more enchanting in the dark – because they shatter any chance at remaining there. Flickering flames dance in anticipation of the light they represent – the hope. So regardless of the number of birthdays you’ve been blessed with, you go ahead and make that wish. Make as many wishes as there are candles on your cake, and if you have no cake, light a candle anyway … just to have hope for what might be … just to believe in yourself and the power of your beautiful, renewable dreams. That is the true magic of birthday wishes after all, believing in what is yet to be.

Elle

Share a wish in the comments section with me now, or on Instagram @elleharris82 for your chance to win the copy of Field Guide to Everyday Magic that was destined for you! Much love darlings!

Bella Grace Magazine - Love the Life You Live

4.23.17 More

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More

I am more than a sum of achievements

I am more than the things I have done

I am more than my mountain of losses

I am more than the times I have won

I am more than the fears that have chained me

I am more than the weakness I’ve felt

I am more than just simple emotions

I am more than the cards I’ve been dealt

I am more than how others might see me

I am more than reflections in glass

I am more than what I can’t accomplish

I am more than the time that will pass

I am more than my insecure moments

I am more than the world’s pain or schemes

I am more than the limits I set for myself

I am faith.

I am hope.

I am dreams.

 

You are more too.

Love always,

Elle

1.1.17 Seventeen Wishes

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It is the first day of the first month of a new year, and let me remind you – anything is possible. People always say, “Happy New Year,” but I want to offer you more than happy … I want to give you my own personalized list of seventeen wishes for 2017 that have nothing to do with resolutions (thank God). Author Francesca Lia Block offered great advice when she said, “Wish on everything. Pink cars are good, especially old ones. And stars of course, first stars and shooting stars. Planes will do if they are the first light in the sky and look like stars. Wish in tunnels, holding your breath and lifting your feet off the ground.” So, from someone who believes in the power of a wish followed by a prayer … here are mine for you.

  1. I wish you the longest of weekends … and the shortest of Mondays.
  2. I wish you laughter – the kind that makes your belly ache, tears run down your cheeks, and your breath come in pants and wheezes. 
  3. I wish you luxurious baths, filled with bubbles so thick you can’t see your toes.
  4. I wish you coffee … coffee every single day in only the BIGGEST of mugs.
  5. I wish you clearance sales when you don’t expect them.
  6. I wish you loads of time for reading books that fill your spirit with the power of pretend.
  7. I wish you marathon movie nights with loads of buttered popcorn and M&M’s.
  8. I wish you adventures that lead you to discover you are braver than you ever thought you could be.
  9. I wish you loads of sweet-dream sleep, complimented only by the cool side of the pillow. 
  10. I wish you ordinary delights, like perfectly toasted toast, a full gas tank when you didn’t expect it, extra cheese on your pizza, and a day free of any computer glitches at all.
  11. I wish you ice cream on a weekly basis, especially if it involves peanut butter or marshmallow sauce, sprinkles and cherry juice.
  12. I wish you memories … the type that flit into your consciousness and make you smile almost before you register that they’re there … like a friend who came to visit, bringing you “home” once again.
  13. I wish you a chance to step into the ocean, to stand somewhere with a view, to lean into the wind, and to remember that you’re a part of a story much bigger than your own.
  14. I wish you the appreciation of others, even people you don’t know … I wish you relationships, both old and new, that stretch into friendships you’ll never outgrow. 
  15. I wish you poetry, not the kind you read, but the kind you feel beyond the page.
  16. I wish you the opportunity to nurture your curiosity, to imagine what ifs, to discover new places, and to create space in your life to play.
  17. Finally, I wish you undeniable, unquenchable, unrestrained joy.  I wish you much beyond happy … I wish you unmitigated delight in believing that this isn’t just another year … but another chance to find the best version of yourself. 

It is an honor to know that somehow, my words have found you. I pray that this year I’ll continue to have the pleasure of your company, whether in person, or here as digital friends.  Your readership is one of my greatest sources of happy … so please keep visiting me here, and share this blog if you think anyone else would like to join our weekly word party. 

Literarily yours, 

Elle

 

12.24.16 Winter Stars

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I love the stars at winter.  More than any other time of the year.  I realized, long ago, that even while we may shy away from the cold, the stars embrace this time of year, as if following the command of Psalm 37:7, “Be silent to the Lord, and wait patiently for him.”  Its as if they are frozen in the glorious memory of the purpose they served over two thousand years ago … to light the path to a baby, so that wanderers might no longer seek a destiny, but a person. 

Mother Theresa understood that finding our faith required attention to the details of life around us. “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence … We need silence to be able to touch souls.” 

Well, the stars have always touched my soul – and I hope that this Christmas you find time to look up … time to let yourself be embraced by the glow heaven casts, and time to reflect on the wonder and majesty of the one who put them in place.  Merry Christmas to all.  I pray my words be a gift to you today, as your readership is such a treasure to me. 

Winter Stars

There is something magical about winter stars – the way they hang just a little bit
brighter, reminding us
somehow

that even at the darkest time of year, light will not be vanquished,
but distinguished in the heavens … set in place by divinity’s hand

Somehow, they know
frozen in the ancient majesty of what was, that still all these millennia later
we would need their company
their guidance each night
to reassure us that regardless of the chaos

some
things
stay

And so these winter stars
illuminate the inky depths with their promises of constancy immutably protecting all beneath them,
glowing more brilliant with the wishes they absorb
and the prayers they translate
to the one who listens above

Radiant of the skies, resplendent gift
glisten on,
and restore these dark days with a hope only you know

11.25.16 Thanksgiving Grace

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This year, Thanksgiving started early for me.  Last Sunday in fact.  I was in a bit of a mood, to say the least.  It happens every time I don’t have something lined up for myself.  I suffer from a bit of, “What’s Next Syndrome,” and while I relish in the miniature successes and publications of my writing, by the time the next issue comes out, or the next submission is sent, I am already feeling a bit unsettled, like an itch I can’t quite reach that requires another step forward to satisfy. 

It sounds discontent, I know.  But honestly, the light of a wordsmith’s heart tends to dim ever-so-slightly when there isn’t a project in the making.  At times it feels like it’d be a whole lot easier to just journal instead of dream, but J.R.R. Tolkien once said, “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”  His words remind me that it is so easy to feel that the “road” is ending, just because I don’t know what turn to take next.  I wish that my writing career came with a little GPS, but unfortunately, it doesn’t.  There isn’t a Google map to follow, there isn’t a set plan-of-action that guarantees I’ll get “there”… I’m not even sure I always know where it is I’m trying to go –  it’s more about the inertia of moving ever onward I suppose. 

Regardless, last Sunday, I was in this mood … stuck in this moment of, “what’s next.”  Sitting in church, I decided to have a little conversation with God about it.  I offered up my prayer, which was simply, “Can you give me some direction?” I’d been feeling stuck at a stop sign, and I’d have done just about anything for a, “turn here” signal.  But as God knows, I don’t always hear his whispers so well, and sometimes I need an in-my-face-moment to remind me he is bigger than my self-doubt.  Kahlil Gibran reminds how weak my mentality can be saying, “Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.”  Faith.  There’s a noble pursuit. 

When I got home, I checked my mailbox and what do you know … there it was.  A complimentary artist’s copy of the winter issue of Bella Grace – and I was in it.  Turns out that the email I received back in October wasn’t a residual marketing outreach, but a new push for the magazine I didn’t even know I was a part of!  Not more than thirty minutes later and God showed up.  Another small step, but forward nonetheless.  It was my very own Thanksgiving grace. 

So thank you all, thank you for reading what I write, for commenting so I don’t feel alone, and for inspiring me to continuing to share my words, no matter how small they might be. 

Literarily yours,

Elle

11.19.16 Half-Okay

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“At the end of the day, all you need is hope and strength.  Hope that it will get better, and strength to hold on until it does.” -Unknown

This week something happened that left me speechless.  It wrecked me a little if I’m being honest, because it forced me to confront something that I usually choose not to … loss.  A few years ago I had a “golden class” of kids.  It wasn’t that they were the most advanced, or the greatest at anything in particular … it was just that the chemistry they had with one another and with me made us so much more than a teacher and her bunch of students – it made us a family, raw and real.  I’ve only ever had one other class that affected me the same way, and that was my second year of teaching.

Needless to say, when they happen, those “perfect” years, you don’t take them for granted for a day in the life of curriculum. When you need to stop class to talk about life and the love, and the joy, and the pain of it, you do.  We had many of those conversations. There wasn’t a topic we didn’t cover … politics, war, love, hope, faith, future, life, and death.  To this day, those two classes have been the ones to keep in contact with me.  From texts, emails, and phone calls, to lunches, emergency ice-cream stops, and coffee breaks.  The hardest thing, is when that life and that future we dreamed comes crashing to a halt I can’t step into.  They’re not with me day in and day out and I can’t be there the way I wish I could or want to be.

Two days ago I found out that one of these “golden” ones lost her brother.  He was 17, a varsity swimmer, Christian youth group leader, star student, family focused … a true all American dream.  His heart just stopped.  And with it, I assume his family’s did as well.  I thank God that they know Him … it has to be a sort of a comfort, the only comfort I would guess.  Still, for all the words and the wisdom and the grand conversations we had, I don’t think I ever prepared them enough for this.  For the grittiest parts of life – the end of it.

I asked my kids to pray for their family.  I told them that mommy would be absolutely never okay again if anything happened to either one of them.  My son asked me then, “What if you lost only one of us mom … would you be half-okay?”

How can you answer that?  How can this mother live it?  It took me two days to reach out to the family … to my student.  I couldn’t find the words, and I’m still not sure I used the right ones, but saying something in the midst of it all seemed the best way to go.  Sometimes I think that when things are the hardest, the most  important thing is just showing up.

I’ve heard that the holidays can be painful for a great deal of people.  They bring up and out memories that might do better to stay in the past, but still … we celebrate and we smile.  So if this is you – if you’re just “showing up” because people expect you to, because you said you would, that might be enough.  God has a way of putting the right people in your way at the right time, and whether you’re the one hurting, or you’re the one helping … I really think that’s the point of it all.  Of this journey.  Of this life.  You might only be half-okay, but you know what?  Half might just be enough to carry you back to whole.

Wishing you all the hope in the world,

Elle

11.11.16 A Double-Fisted Day

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This week I was in line for Starbucks … again.  I’d just been there two days before, but I needed it, and vindicated my drinking choices with my blonde-head held high.  I was that kind of girl … the Starbucks-toting, it-is-what-it-is “Gold Card Member,” drive-through frequenter that women like me are so typically pegged to be.  There’s a favorite verse of mine, Corinthians 15:10 that says, “But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace within me is not without effect.”  I realized I would not be “effective” at all, without a Ventì.

While I might regret my Starbucks affliction at times, this week, (yes I’m talking about Wednesday morning) there was NOTHING that could keep me away from my perkalicious-pick-me-up.  The funniest thing was, as I made the necessary left, and quick right turn into the parking lot, my kids chorused, ” Again mom?”

“Don’t be judgmental,” I chided, “it’s not an attractive quality.

“Yeah,” my son said, “but weren’t you just here like – a day ago?”

Thankfully, right as we pulled into the line, I saw something beautiful … a man drinking a large porcelain cup of coffee, as he waited in the drive through line to order MORE coffee!  I laughed out loud and immediately diverted the conversation by throwing this amazing man right under the proverbial bus. “See,” I literally pointed,”now that guy has problems!  He’s the addict.”  My kids reluctantly agreed, and let me proceed with my order sans discrimination due to the double-fisted wonder ahead of me.  Still, if I hadn’t felt so “on-watch” I’d have loved to get another drink today … maybe two.

And while my pride won’t let me, I’ve decided to exonerate you … to absolve if you need to have a double-fisted day of three shots of espresso, or even something stronger.  So here’s a small list of reasons to allow you to be, “Off the Hook,” so-to-speak.   Relate to one, or ten … and enjoy a drink on me!

Official Double-Fisted Off the Hook List

  • If you’ve lost sleep because you’re looking into moving to Australia instead of staying in America … you’re off the hook.
  • If you’re balancing work, or kids, or school, or all of the above … you’re off the hook.
  • If you’re going on a television fast because you can’t stand to see another Black Friday commercial thus reminding you of the inevitability that you’re about to be broke in a month … you’re off the hook.
  • If your laundry is tracking you and the only way to avoid it is to leave the house … you’re off the hook.
  • If your inbox is filled to the digital brim with things you’re trying hard to ignore … you’re off the hook.
  • If you realized that the Halloween candy bowl is a lot lighter but you aren’t … you’re off the hook.
  • If you just want to go jump in the leaves but have to go to work instead … you’re off the hook.
  • If you needed to wear your winter coat for the first time this week … you’re off the hook.
  • If the only family member who hasn’t made you lose your temper this week is the cat or dog … you’re off the hook.
  • If you’ve already double booked (or triple-booked) for the holidays … you’re off the hook.
  • If you’ve spent any amount of time at all on Pinterest, thus making you feel like an epic failure … you’re off the hook.
  • If you had someone tell you, “You look tired,” this week …  you’re off the hook.
  • If you would do anything to stay in bed but the alarm is reminding you that the world expects you to show up … you’re off the hook.

You’re vindicated, you’re exonerated, you’re double-fist coffee worthy!

Carry on.

Elle

11.4.16 Instead of Counting Sheep

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The other night, I couldn’t sleep.  This rarely happens to me.  Usually, I am a master at conquering the pillow, but that night …  it eluded me.  Instead of counting sheep, however, I ended up letting my mind take over – never a good thing.  And in about ten minutes, I was crying about how  this might very well be the last year that my son believes in Santa.  Crazy that I would lose sleep over this, and yet it is a very real, very deep heart-hurt for me.  Because things like Santa, and Neverland, superheroes or fairies, represent so much more than characters from a storybook or holiday … they represent wonder and imagination, and the power of pretend and what if?

Don’t you remember how it felt?  Believing in things you couldn’t explain and delighting in the mystery of it all?  I want that feeling to stay for them.  I would protect it at any cost if I could, but I can’t.  People talk.  Kids overhear.  Beliefs shatter, and reality sets in … spoiling everything.  My husband tries to console me saying that since I never lost my imagination, they won’t either.  It is in the way we live and perceive things, not in who they do or don’t know is real.  I hope so.

I guess it ties back into the same problem I have with the word “forever.”  I am always equal parts shocked and shaken when people say, “I’ll live here forever,” or “This is our forever plan.”  I literally shudder.  And I can’t decide if this means something is wrong with me in terms of commitment, or in terms of perception.  I feel like the word puts an end to our stories … and it leaves no room for the unwritten possibilities to play.  There is something beautiful about order, and planning … but I like my personal definition to somewhat resemble Roman Payne’s description of a character in his book The Wanderess, “She was a ‘wanderess.’ Thus she didn’t care about money, only experiences – whether they came from wealth or poverty, it was all the same to her.”

I’m not sure I have any solutions to the inevitable, or if I’m even looking for any.  My children will learn the ways of the world soon enough.  I guess, I think we just need to live with equal parts intention and attention.  We need to not only hope for, but seek out opportunities to share in the wonder of everyday magic, and allow ourselves to travel a path slightly overgrown and wild, for that is where adventure lies.  So maybe the next time I can’t sleep, instead of counting sheep, I’ll focus on my “forever” plan … of making space for what-ifs, for imagination, and always, for pretend.

Wander far and wide my friends,

Elle