5.9.18 Out Once More

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“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” Norman Cousins

Two weeks ago the unthinkable happened … the young daughter of some friends of ours passed away after battling cancer for a year. I thought I was prepared for the funeral, after all, I’ve been to my fair share of them – I wasn’t. Though funerals were literally something I grew up with, I’ve only been to one other child’s funeral, and they were equally, agonizingly, heartbreaking – both for seven-year-old girls.

I don’t have words really, to describe how it feels to see their parents … it is surreally painful because instantly I’m forced to imagine myself in their place – and I am lost. So although I have no right to even pretend to know how it really feels, this poem is what came out of my emotions. All my love, all my prayers, casting hope to anyone who understands this pain. All my love to anyone who lost anyone whose lost life matters to them as much as their own. I so desperately wish this void was not a burden you must carry. We were not intended for separation. God knows … this is not the end.

Elle

Out Once More

In.

Out.

In again.

Out once more.

Breathe.

Breathe.

Breathe.

I think that it’s “returning to normal” that I find the most offensive.

Things like …

casual conversation

filled with, “How are you?” and other equally unpleasant

pleasantries.

In those moments I feel every too-quick heartbeat

and it seems supernaturally unfair that involuntary responses

are not, in fact, involuntary –

because I literally need to remind myself to breathe …

to release.

Sometimes I can’t stand the sun’s arrogance – that it has the audacity to rise when I,

when she

no longer can.

And it hurts in places I can only describe as

the absence

the empty

the lost.

And I cry with a voice I don’t recognize as my own,

because “we” no longer are …

and I can’t remember how to find who I was

before.

Returning to a “normal” place in this life is somewhere I can’t find.

And so it seems I’m chasing a new normal –

something I’m seeking but am not sure I’ll be able to recognize

being in the state-of-being that I am,

or am not.

But even now,

even here

in this

in-between …

I can’t bring myself to hate the world,

because she loved it …

and I can’t hate my life,

because she was a part of it –

and as I live on

in some way

so does she.

It’s not in the way that I hoped for,

but she believed in hope,

and so must I.

In.

Out.

In again.

Out once more.

Breathe.

Breathe.

Breathe.

 

 

4.25.18 Change Never Is

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“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a savior from there.” Philippians 3:20

In the past three days, I have been confronted with a series of challenging perceptions,  presuppositions, misrepresentations, misunderstandings, and multiple-perspectives on ethnicity, racism, and personal identity. From literary discussions to student issues, faith-based revelations to immigration conversations, it has been a heart-swelling week of looking hard at myself, my beliefs, my unintended biases, and my intentions. Revelation? I am still learning. Most importantly? I still want to.

My poem “Change Never Is,” is dedicated to every individual who maybe, like me, is still trying to discover how to be their best, most loving, undeniably compassionate self through it all, albeit imperfectly … and who is willing to step through the broken glass of shattered hearts, in the hopes of finding all the pieces to put us together again.

Go heal where you can,

Elle

Change Never Is

And suddenly … it’s different.

Just like that.

With the flip of a switch,

or the bat of an eye.

In the space of a heartbeat.

You realize something new about yourself.

Or maybe it’s old, but you wouldn’t admit it before now –

when actuality is staring back at you

clearer than the reflection of the mask you’ve grown so comfortable wearing,

you’d actually forgotten your own face.

You still might not want to deal with the truth of how you feel

but you do feel

and that’s the problem

(or some sordid beginning of the solution)

You can’t ignore it anymore –

and it’s jarring,

this knowing that you can’t go back.

Suddenly the innocence you had only just before,

is nothing more than a fantasy you can’t find your way back to

because reality demands accountability –

and there’s no longer room for the callousness of pretend.

We grow in stages,

but sometimes it feels as if a lifetime of lessons are hurled in our direction

faster than we can absorb the shock of their blows.

There is hardly a line between villain and victim –

the pain is dolled in equal measure,

whether it is deflected or digested? That depends on the user

and the used.

And as much as you thought that you knew who,

and how,

and what

you were …

everything can change

when you’re challenged to accept as fact

that what you wished was just the remnant of a bad dream.

You’re awake.

So now what?

There is no rest for you in dreaming … only in shaking off your slumber.

It’s time to breathe in slowly,

acclimatize yourself one fiber at a time …

There are thoughts to be sorted –

film reels of clouded memories to look at with new lenses.

The past may not align with the present,

but the future is yours to discern.

Endow a legacy stronger than pride.

Entitle yourself to an awakening.

That shifting in your bones … that thickening of your skin …

it’s not comfortable,

but darling,

change never is.

 

4.18.18 Busy People

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“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates 

I’m a handful; I know it. And usually I have a mouthful of words I’m holding in, ready to share with the next victim who gives me an opportunity to speak. Busting at the seams with ideas and dreams, I’m usually a bouncing-on-my-tiptoes, ready-to-go, kind of girl. But lately, this weather, this eternal winter, has got my curl-up-and-stay-warm-to-survive mentality fighting my productive self.

It is not unusual for my husband or I to work after work – to hang out with the kids, do dinner, dishes, bedtime, and then exercise, or write, or read, or plan for something essential that’s coming up in the next few days. We are “get ahead” people, “positive” people, “go-getter’s.” But sometimes, like the last few days, I’m a “tired” people. And in times like these, I realize that sometimes times like these are necessary to remind me why people should slow down sometimes.

The other night my son had soccer, and I volunteered to take him. I usually use his practice time to write because I literally need to steal time to write. I have a writer’s conference to go to Saturday. I have homework for a class that’s making me an educational ambassador to a major museum due next week, I have a field trip to plan for that is also next week, I have all these ideas for a new book, and the list goes on! I started to type, but the whirring of soccer balls was a smidge distracting. Usually I can “get in my zone” and ignore almost anything, but for some reason … nothing doing.

I picked up a book I brought along. I’d intermittently wave at my son, watching him weave between cones, look up at me, wave, and dribble on. I might’ve read three pages total when I gave in to the nagging feeling that I was supposed to “do nothing.” What surprised me was that I was watching him for a full five minutes or so before he looked up at me again. And in those delayed moments, I had the very valid fear that I’d missed an opportunity. Not to write another article to be published, or read another bucket list book, or get more homework done – but that I’d missed the opportunity for my son to look for me in the hopes that I’d be looking back. Ouch.

The good news is that instead of missing an opportunity, I got the sweetest little touch of grace. He did look up, eventually, and saw me elbows-on-knees, no book, no phone, no computer in my hands … staring at him. He literally did a double-take and gave me the most unexpected smile of genuine astonishment. With a confused grin he signed typing fingers and said, “Why aren’t you writing?”

I smiled back at him and signed, “Because I’m watching you.”

And that’s when he did it. That’s when he broke my mommy heart. With the greatest sincerity he held my blue eyes levelly with his and said, “Thank you.”

I love that he was concerned for my writing time. I love that he wanted me to watch him. But most of all, I love that without even knowing it his, “Thank you,” was really an, “I forgive you, for all the times you choose work, for all the times you choose writing, or reading, or cleaning, or planning, because this time – you chose me, and I forgive you.”

How could I deserve a love like that? Like his? It makes me think about my faith and how I can never earn the grace I receive on either side of my family, divine or earthly. I’m a little ashamed of myself, and how dense I can be in the midst of my busyness … and for the way I know I will do it again. But for the moment, I am grateful, that my slow-down-self won just this once … and I saw my son, when he needed to be seen.

I have no idea what kinds of lives you lead. I don’t know if you’re constantly busy or a slow down person. The funny thing is, we’re probably all a combination of both, but I am one-hundred percent convinced others do it better than me … they find a semblance of balance that I am perpetually chasing. Regardless, I’d love, love, love to hear of a moment that caught you in your tracks. I’d delight over you sharing a story of when destiny helped you make the right decision to be present in the presence you were drawn to. You hear so much of me … I’d love to hear a bit of your tale too.

All my love,

Elle

4.5.18 Embracing Weakness

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“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”  – Saint Augustine

There’s nothing wrong with your computer or phone. I’m aware that the video is sideways. It’s on purpose. When I originally took the video, my camera was not aligned and I tried to fix it, but then I remembered what my husband (an unbelievable skier) always tells me, “Skiing when it’s snowing is like being tipped in a snow globe.” And you know what … I like it this way. I’ve stopped trying to “fix” the video, because watching it makes me feel like I’ve been placed in a safe, slow, bubble of glass protected and stilled – visible only in the perfect way that memories preserved in a globe portray.

TRUTH? I’m awful at skiing. I take that back. I’m not awful, I’m just not awesome. My entire family is awesome at skiing. My husband was a competitive skier, wowing me from the start with flips, lincolnloops, spins, stealth, and speed. He has taken our kids on the hill since they were three, so both have had well over five years of practice. Me? I went (when I had to) with my husband before kids … then I had a blessed reprieve during pregnancy and the early years. Now that my kids and husband are all out there – my excuses are gone.

We spent Spring Break in Colorado, and I was literally near tears as my children and nieces whizzed past me saying, “Great job!” They waited for me on every lip of every run, and I was so frustrated, not at them, but at my own weakness. The more my family encouraged me, the more desolate I became until I literally asked to spend some time alone to get my bearings on the mountain. My son wouldn’t hear of it. “I’m going with mom,” he said with authority. Though trying to talk him out of it, his resolve would not be moved. He spent the next hour tree-skiing next to me as I sailed down the green runs where I was most comfortable. “Look at me mom, look! Watch this,” he would shout above the wind.

Within a few runs I felt God tapping me on the shoulder saying, “See … it was never about you.” I struggle with this; I’m admitting it. Though I wouldn’t necessarily have thought it before, I realize that I am an inherently selfish person. I didn’t want to ski because I wasn’t the best at it. In fact, I was the worst. It wasn’t fun for me to be last, when as a teacher and mother and writer, I’ve become accustomed to being “good” at things. Not. Needing. Help.

I don’t like help. I like helping. There, I said it. And even though it is the truth, I realized this trip, that it isn’t a good truth. When the rest of my family rejoined my son and I for lunch, my sister-in-law pulled me aside. “You know it means a lot to my brother that you come out here.”

“I feel so awful,” I admitted. “I’m just slowing everyone down.”

“It’s not about that for him,” she said. “It’s about his wife being out here, standing beside him and doing what he loves. I know how proud he is just to be with you.”

More truth – I’m happy to say that our trip was wonderful. I grew (not necessarily as a skier) but as a human in my IMPERFECTION which needed some reminding. There is something amazingly beautiful about stepping into humility … as Saint Augustine said, ” … that makes men as angels.”

My halo’s pretty tilted at times, like a snow-globe tipped sideways. So here’s to embracing our weaknesses angels. I’m right there, flying slowly with you.

Elle

3.26.18 Is Him

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Even the sky becomes overburdened sometimes –

from the density of the clouds,

the chaos of lightning,

and the threats of storms to come.

Yet still, she does not succumb to the pressure.

Somehow – no matter how heavy,

the sky continues to be upheld

by the invisible hands of her maker …

a constant reminder that even the weight of galaxies

are not too leaden for God to bear.

So often this world,

contemptuous in its asking,

wonders where He is –

but an easier question might be to ask where He isn’t.

From the vibrant blue petals of a Forget-Me-Not,

to the whispered declarations of the wind, 

God is everywhere and always,

ubiquitous.

Present and yet passed through,

out of focus from the very nearness of His essence.

In turmoil, in pain – He is the quiet voice of recognition

that this virulent world is not the way it was supposed to be.

God is the very sense of HOPE that promises

restoration is only a short distance away …

one breath and a few years from this side of heaven to the next.

Where is God? 

In the spirit behind every compassionate word, or soothing thought – 

in the quickening beat of the heart attune to wisdom beyond itself – 

in the truth that opens a mind, and floods a soul with light beyond our reckoning. 

He is in each of us,

in our ability to recognize what is good,

what is pure,

what is true.

But ever the gentleman – 

he will wait. 

Never forcing himself upon you. 

He will stay beside you until you realize that 

every life within a life, every breath within a breath,

is Him. 

 

 

1.3.18 Eighteen Thoughts for 2018

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“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been”
– Rainer Maria Rilke

So here we are … a new year … a new set of 365 chances to do it better than we did before. This year will not be perfect, so don’t expect it to be. It will present its own set of challenges, but that doesn’t mean it will not be a grand and delightful adventure … so pack your bags … update your passport … and book a vacation for your imagination to plan the wondrous possibilities that abound. I’m speaking to myself here mostly. I tend to be the queen of fantastic plans that get booted out when the reality of my schedule comes trundling in – but this year I’m determined to do things differently. So here are eighteen thoughts (not resolutions) I will be thinking throughout the year. Let me know what number resonates with your heart. I’d love to know I’m not “thinking” alone. Be well dear ones. Be courageous as you march to the beat of your brave new heart this year.

  1. Be intentional when talking to people. Slow down enough to read their eyes and feel the theme of their story.
  2. Embrace people fully … hug with both arms and hold on with healing hands.
  3. Laugh without reservation. Giggle unashamedly and let mirth bubble over spilling into the lives of others.
  4. Listen without an agenda, timeframe, or plan to fix anything or anyone. Just hear the words that are said, and the ones that aren’t.
  5. Wait expectantly for the Holy Spirit to move. Be open to the reality of a faith that lives and breathes without my permission or direction.
  6. Allow pretend to be real enough to inspire.
  7. Be grounded. Be humble. Be real.
  8. Dance! Whenever and wherever the music moves. Disregard the audience or invite them to twirl along.
  9. Reconnect with nature. Breathe in the wind and tell the trees your story. Allow the forest to comfort you. Allow the water to wash your spirit clean.
  10. Sleep. Give up time to rest and refresh your mind in dreaming.
  11. Write daily. See what you say when you don’t force a story, push an article, or hurry a poem. Let words filter around you and catch only those that are willing to stay without a net or jar.
  12. Spend time with the stars. Be in awe and wonder at the majesty of ancient light.
  13. Talk to God. Speak to him as a friend. Interrupt yourself if needed with the things you’ve been longing to say … be silent together, as only the closest of friends know how to.
  14. Draw. Sculpt. Paint. Create. Don’t worry about finishing. Don’t make it perfect, just do. Try. Play.
  15. Reach out to that person … the one that tugs at the edge of your mind for the overdue attention you’ve been longing to give but repressing. They are worth your time, they are worth the effort of loving them. Call. Write. Visit. And go with the intention of easing the division you’ve laid.
  16. Love. Carve out time to be who you need to be … for you … for them … for the version of truth that can only come from unreserved affection.
  17. Discover justice in stepping in for causes that are small. They may only matter in the moment, but they matter. Don’t shy away or count them as trivial, walk intentionally into situations that may be uncomfortable, but that will lead to a greater change.
  18. Believe that this moment is your moment. Wait for no one’s permission to grow into the self you’ve been waiting for. Introduce yourself to the you of tomorrow and welcome the reflection you see.

Remember to tell me what number you’ll be journeying on!

All my love,

Elle

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

 

 

11.27.17 Come Boutique With Me!

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Tis the season … you know the one – BLACK FRIDAY, CYBER MONDAY, and every other ridiculous Christmas sale in the world! But you know what? A small part of me kind of loves it. I realize that this might seem inauthentic coming from someone who usually posts pictures of nature and family, but I’m just being honest, and a little bit girlie … shopping is fun.

Marcelene Cox once said that, “The quickest way to know a woman is to go shopping with her.” I’d say that is true half of the time. To shop for necessity is very different than shopping for fun, and this is the season of fun. This is the season of long layers, of high boots, and cute (not functional) hats. This is the season where stores present their A-Game, trying to entice, impress, and woo you – and who doesn’t like to be wooed? I love that this is the time of year when someone is hired just to say hello to me when I walk in. I love the displays that obviously took weeks to install and set right. I love the familiar melodies, the dash-of-pine and cinnamon scents, and the feel of warmth in every article of clothing artfully displayed for me to try on.

Shallow though it may seem, shopping actually holds some pretty precious memories for me. I remember being a kid and having my dad take my sister and I out to the mall at just about this time of year. Every store was literally bursting with colors and sights, sounds and smells; I’m pretty sure my dad couldn’t wait to get out of there, but he came anyway – for mom.

“Alright girls,” he’d say, “you need to help me find something special for your mom because she’s one special lady.”

One holiday season, I stopped at a jeweler and pointed to a matching pearl earrings and necklace set. Though my memory has faded out the pristine details, my dad tells me that I absolutely refused to accept any gift for my mother besides that set. Now, twenty-something years later, she still wears it.

Another milestone of holiday shopping was with my mom, sister, and grandmother. While they’d be scanning the aisles for deals, I would sometimes look right along with them and just as often ride the cart down those same aisles (regardless of the furtive glances tossed my way) just so I’d not have to walk another step. My mother always teared up a little when she saw the “generations” just being girls together.

Regardless of whether you love it or hate it, shopping is an intimate gesture, and usually done with those we love and trust the most. Sadly, though I have an abundant blessing of friends and family, I often find that they are scattered across the country and I am left to shop alone. My mom always says, “I don’t mind being alone, I like my company.” Most of the time (for myself) I agree, but sometimes my own company simply isn’t enough. That is when I find a great opportunity to make what I call “insta-friends,” random-strangers that I call on to tell me their honest opinions about whatever it is that I’m considering purchasing. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to be a friend in a pinch!

Speaking of friends, I want you to know that this is what you have been to me – all of you. You, my readers, are my silent company … my writing support system … my team, and I thank you for that. The realization of this, that you are my confidants, has made me realize that I wish I could shop with all of you! While that is practically impossible, I was inspired to start a mini-boutique on my site. THIS QUOTABLE LIFE BOUTIQUE is my attempt to put words into gifts. If there is an interest, I plan to grow the baby business with PayPal and an increased product line, including collaboration with other witty, wordy artisans, jewelers, and crafters. We shall see, and time will tell, but I am so excited for you to take a peek, share with your friends, and express your desires and wishes for what you’d like this to be.

Some come boutique with me! Let’s make this moment, this itty-bitty start our own holiday shopping memory. If you have interest in a product, simply contact me through the CONTACT ME PAGE, or on the THIS QUOTABLE LIFE BOUTIQUE page!

Love you darlings, and as always, thank you for your love and support,

Elle

11.20.17 Somewhere

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“Imagination often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it, we go nowhere.”   C. Sagan

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It is often that I find myself longing to return to a place that I don’t even physically travel to … but whenever my mind hasn’t wandered there for too long, back to that sacred, holy place of peace – I am sure to be less than the whole of myself. This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for God’s having given me such a strong imagination. I’d love to know your thoughts, and your thanks this season. Enjoy your “Somewhere,”… here’s how to get to mine. 

Somewhere

Somewhere between the here

and now

and the now

and then

there is another place

a place where there is room

to breathe

to pray

to imagine

and to wonder

wondrously

It is sometimes a secret

sometimes a lost place

seemingly far away

just barely on the fringes of our memories

and yet

intrinsically

we cannot forget

our desire to find it again

To follow the invisible compass

back to the song

of the spirit

that makes sense

it is there

quietly

but sure

placed in a place

we could never truly lose

without losing ourselves

completely

So somewhere between the here

and now

and the now

and then

find the beat of the heart

the pulse of the mind

the light of the soul

and return

Somehow

(I promise)

you already

know the way

I hope that you take a moment to nourish your ability to imagine. Be thankful as I am so thankful for you.

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