“Abby is giving henna tattoos in the cafeteria after yoga class!”

We moved through tree pose and downward dog, then rolled our mats and hurried to the cafeteria.

The big room echoed with the voices of a few scattered groups sitting around at tables. The dimmed lights made the atmosphere calm and serene while Abby patiently painted brown henna dye onto offered forearms and hands.

For me she designed playful paisleys and sunbursts. My daughter requested a blooming flower surrounded by swirling waves. While Abby worked on my daughter’s design, I chatted with Hank.

My daughter and I had attended this women’s nature retreat together for two years. We hiked in the woods and watched for birds in the treetops, stretched and twisted through yoga class, aimed arrows toward paper targets, roasted marshmallows over the late-night bonfire. Hank, my favorite workshop instructor, had led the birdwatching hikes.

As we talked over tea cups in the cafeteria, Hank told me about his health problems, his wedding anniversary, and the appreciation for family and friends he developed as he grew older.

“Enjoy your life while you can,” he told me. “Enjoy your partner while you can. You never know how much time you have left.”

Abbey finished her work on my daughter’s arm. I thanked Hank and said good-night, left my cup in the kitchen window, and retreated to our cabin for the night.

It occurred to me that I may not return to the nature retreat next fall. I may never sit and chat with Hank again. That evening’s talk in the cafeteria may be the last conversation he and I will share.

In the morning we packed the car and headed home. The henna dye had cracked and crumbled. The dust washed off in that night’s shower. The red markings that remained gradually faded through the next week of washings.

“You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

Our lives are like henna tattoos, beautiful designs lovingly crafted and carefully painted into place, destined to give temporary joy before fading into memory. Our lives are as beautiful and brief as flowers that fall in the field, clouds that skim across the sky, waves that break and churn upon the shore.

“Enjoy your life while you can. You never know how much time you have left.”

We cannot know how long we have to share with the people who improve our world. All we can do is decide to be grateful and choose to enjoy the special moments and companions while we have them.

Today when we pray, I encourage my friends to give thanks for every moment of our short and amazing existence.

Thank God for every minute we spend with people who encourage and cheer us.  Appreciate conversations shared over teacups, wisdom offered and welcomed, and every chance to speak positive words into someone else’s life.

Thank God for beauty of trees and birds, clouds and sky, made more precious because we know this world around us is constantly changing.

Thank God for opportunities to help others and share, for the privilege of praying for the people we love, and the time we can spend enriching someone else’s experience.

Thank God for the unique abilities he has given to each one of us, for all the talents he entrusts us to invest, and for every cherished gift that blesses our days.

I thank God you are reading today and I pray you will remember that every life is a work of art. We are all merely the creations of God’s generous and loving hands.

What do you have to thank God for today? How can you be grateful and appreciate each beautiful moment of your amazing life?

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While I silently grumbled about having to clean these footprints from my white tile floor, I realized these marks, tracked in from the wintry outdoors, give me a reminder of my many reasons to be grateful.

Footprints on my floor are evidence I have someone else to come home to and share my life with. Muddy floors show my house is lived in and filled with friendship.

Dirty dishes to wash every day show I have enough food to eat, a filled pantry and refrigerator, a nearby grocery store and enough money to buy more when I need to.

Some crusty stuff on the stovetop records a history of delicious food prepared and shared around the dining room table, with people I value and love.

My basket of dirty laundry says I have enough clothing to keep me warm and the freedom to dress and express myself anyway I want.

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we will be content”

(1 Timothy 6:6-8).

The bathroom to scrub each week makes me especially thankful for indoor plumbing, hot and cold running water, soap, and clean towels.

My life is sometimes messy. My floors go unmopped, and my to-do list is never done. My days get crazy-busy, and my schedule is complicated. My life is sometimes imperfect, but always perfectly amazing.

Today I am grateful for my busy, messy life and the people who are busy and messy with me.

What is your evidence of a life well-lived? How does God remind you to be grateful for your crazy, messy, and amazing home?

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I can't sleep.

I've never been a steady sleeper. When I was a kid, I often crawled out of bed in the middle of the night, crept downstairs to the dark kitchen, then sat on the cold linoleum floor and ate slabs of Wonder Bread straight from the bag.

As I got older, I developed new strategies to deal with my sleeplessness. I watched hours of Letterman and Leno. I read volumes of The Vampire Chronicles. And most frequently, I wrote in my journal.

My journal became my confidant on the long nights when my mind refused to rest. In my journal, I could pour out my thoughts, worries, fears, and frustrations. I could tell my journal anything I needed, wanted, loved, or regretted. After pouring out my thoughts and feelings onto my journal pages, I could usually find some semblance of peace and return to bed for a few hours of sleep before work.

Journaling helps me clarify my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Writing puts my life into perspective, turning problems and turmoil into more easily managed black and white lines on a page. Journaling brings a sense of logic to life events that are often unpredictable and out of control.

Because I am a believer in the power of journaling, I have written Writing Down the Highway: Guideposts to Journaling for Self-Discovery to expain why, when and how journaling can help single mothers and all women write for self-expression.

On January 1 my ebook Writing Down the Highway will be available by download to new subscribers. Please complete the sign-up form in the sidebar or pop-up box.

Also watch for the new Journaling Prompts page for ideas to begin your own journaling journey.

Letterman and Leno are off the air now. I finished The Vampire Chronicles long ago. But I still journal, and I still sometimes eat bread in the middle of the night.

What are your experiences with journaling? Have you found journaling helps you express your thoughts and ideas?

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It's Thanksgiving, so everyone will be posting gratitude lists this week, but I believe we can't have too many reminders of reasons to be grateful.

This year I am thankful for:

Dollar Tree stores

Freshly sharpened pencils

The smell of Play-Doh when I open a new jar

img_0778Electric space heaters that look like cute little stoves

Plenty of good food

And a table to share it

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Friends and family and the love of God who provides for all we need

What are you thankful for this year?

May you have a blessed and beautiful Thanksgiving Day.

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img_0519Someone new has come to live in my house. This resident hides under the beds and jumps out to bite my feet when I walk by. She has chewed holes in the living room carpet and shredded the kitchen rugs. She ripped a Hillary Clinton doll to pieces within minutes.

I think it is my job to teach her about good behavior -- how to sit quietly and remember that socks are not snacks; but the truth is, her only job is to teach me a few things.

So far I have learned:

img_0732Blessings often arrive disguised as messes. When I dumped a quart container of buttermilk on the kitchen counter and floor, she didn't complain about the milk dripping onto her head and running into her eyes. She enjoyed the unexpected windfall fate had delivered and quickly took advantage of the situation. I could be more aware and appreciate the unanticipated gifts that often fall into my path.

Opportunities often appear disguised as obstacles. The first time she tried to leap onto the sofa cushions, she bounced off and hit the coffee table. After repeated attempts to scale the couch summit, she scrambled to the top and was rewarded with a soft, comfortable resting spot and a better vantage point for viewing the room. I need to remember that success may be preceded by several falls; but if we keep returning and trying, eventually we jump high enough to reach our goals.

img_0589Learning usually looks like playing. Every morning walk is an exuberant chase after falling leaves and a noisy crashing through the crunching drifts. She enjoys exploring this colorful, loud, and aromatic world. I am realizing it is alright to slow down, notice the changing seasons, and enjoy the glow of the early rising sun. I am recognizing that I need to make more time to have fun, enjoy new experiences, and see wonder in the world; because life is short, and children (and puppies) grow up fast.

What are you learning from the residents in your home? What lessons have they shared with you?

 

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Because I had some minor surgery yesterday, I've planned a few days off to focus on activities that are comforting and relaxing. It's nice to be reminded sometimes that life is about more than work and recognition. My plans for the coming week include:

  1. Sleep til 6 every morning and take a nap every afternoon.
  2. Take a long walk with someone who is very special to me.
  3. Eat ice cream with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
  4. Reread Jane Eyre, the story of a poor nanny who marries her wealthy boss.
  5. Rewatch Pride & Prejudice, the story of a poor farmgirl who marries a wealthy aristocrat. (I see a pattern in my entertainment choices.)
  6. Enjoy unhurried conversation with my daughter and friends who stop by.
  7. Call my old mentor, Vivian, to catch up.
  8. Organize my closet and get some warm, cozy sweaters out of storage.
  9. Start sewing the quilt I'm making from old pajama pants.
  10. Watch the History Channel specials remembering 9/11 and be reminded that life is fragile. I will be grateful for every moment, value the people who are special to me, and recommit to helping others when I can. I will pray for God's peace, grace, and mercy for our world.

How do you spend any time you have for relaxing? What are your thoughts as we remember 9/11 this weekend?

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