Friday, February 8, 2013

The Light Bulb

This whole week I have shared my thoughts about how people shine their lights to this world.  I was honored to have 2 very special guest bloggers for the first time!  I have loved this week on the blog.

But it has been hard to figure out how I want to close it up.  How can I possibly wrap up all these amazing people's stories in one sweet conclusion package?  How can I sum up what it has meant.  How can I finish this series?

So.... I won't.

I will continue to, over the years, write about people who...
inspire me.
change me.
encourage me.
motivate me.
bless me.

But what for today?

Instead of finishing the series I am going to put myself out there a bit.  I am going to tell you a bit about me and my light.

I am sure (and know for a fact) that some people think I am a bit Pollyanna-ish.  It used to hurt my feelings a bit and confuse me.  Why would anyone want to criticize or put down someone because they try to be positive?  It boggles my mind.  Aren't there enough negative people out there?

But they, clearly, don't know me well.  I have not always been this content and hopeful.

Long ago, when I was younger, something happened in my life.  Something bad.  There are only a couple of handfuls of people on earth that know what happened.  My husband, family, close friends and now even my high school home group girls.  I trust them all.  But I didn't always trust so well.

What exactly happened doesn't matter.  What does matter, however, is that afterwards I was not the same.

I was changed.
I was fearful.
I didn't trust.
I was not positive.
I was not Pollyanna-ish.  At all.

It was like I was a light bulb whose filament had broken.  My light had be destroyed and there was no chance of repair.  I am pretty sure I was one of those milky white 25 watt incandescent bulbs.  You know the ones?  When it goes out you can't see that the filament has broken, it looks the same on the outside.  You have to shake it up to hear the damage.
I may have been smiling on the outside but not so much on the inside.

Sure I could just replace the light bulb but it wasn't the same.  It was like the wiring from the switch to the light had been messed with.  I took it out on my body and ate my way through the pain...for decades.

What changed?  What happened to change me from that broken bulb to the gal I am today?
I figured out where the glitch was.

The glitch was me.

I was focused on the broken filament.
I was focused on the faulty wiring.
I was focused on the bad stuff.
I thought I was a broken, faulty, big old mess.

So I chose a new light bulb.  I became an Edison light bulb.  They have clear glass, able for someone to see through to all of the inner workings.  The filaments are twisted and imperfect, but when the power switch is turned on they are artistic, inspiring and bright.  How did I do this?

I changed my focus.

I focused on being a new light bulb.
I focused on being fitted with new wires.
I focused on the good stuff.
I focused on the fact that I was still a mess...and that was a good thing!
I focused on what I had to be grateful for.
And......most importantly....I focused on who I was grateful to.


He is the power source for my light.
My light is a reflection of his love for me.
I am Pollyanna-ish because of him.

I intend on always being a content, happy gal who, to be honest,
just simply loves a not-so-simple God.

No perfection.  No apologies.  No regrets.  No broken light bulbs.

May you look at yourself as a new bulb.
May you focus on the source of your light.
May you be content and positive.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Shooting Star

I have never been lucky enough to see a shooting star in person.  I have seen them in photos, in movies and on greeting cards.  People who do get to see one report how incredibly amazing it was to see, how fast it flew through the sky and how bright a fiery blaze it was.  Oh, how I wish I had ever seen one........

Or....maybe I have.

Today, in the "Let Your Light Shine" series I want to introduce another guest blogger!  
Ashley is one of the newest members of my big old Irish brood of a family.  No, she isn't a little baby who has just been born and no, she isn't a new bride who has just married a family member.  She is my new of oodles!  Ashley and her 3 sisters Natalie, Stephanie and Leah, along with their mom, Mary Jo,  were the newest people crazy enough to want to be a part of our family a few years ago......and we are all blessed by them. 

They are brave.  
They are strong.  
They are resilient.
They are compassionate.
They are beautiful.

I know all of these because shortly after they joined our family, they suffered a huge loss and showed us these characteristics in how they lived through it...and still are.   

One cold February night in 2010 Leah and Natalie were traveling home from spending the day cheering on their high school's boys swimming team at the state competition.  The roads slowly became not the best of traveling conditions and they were in a car accident.  Ashley's sister, Natalie Kate Bolin, passed away that night in the accident. 

Today, almost 3 years later, Ashley has written down her thoughts about Natalie and the light she still shines.  

Dear Natalie,

Sometimes I cannot help but wonder about the beautiful woman you would have become, the experiences you didn’t get the chance to have, and the life you would have lived whole-heartedly. For a moment I pretend your life on Earth didn’t end on that dark February night in 2010 and I see you graduating from high school, finding your own college, growing up and living your dreams. Although I thought we would have our entire lives to laugh, grow and be together, I know that someone else had a greater plan for you. Despite the fact that you are not here in person, you continue to live on in the hearts and lives of your friends, family and people who never had the chance to know you. You have shown us the power of bringing people together, the magic of smiles and laughter, and the joy of life. You are the light that saved us in the heart of our greatest sorrow. You have always been my sister, soul mate, and best friend, but now you are the shining star that guides me each day of my life.

While your death was a turning point in the lives of many, we refused to let it be the defining moment. From the very moments after the accident we knew life had to go on: for Leah and the other girls recovering in the hospital, to keep your spirit alive and for each other. As difficult as it was to move forward, we were able to do it because of you.

Throughout your life you approached every situation with a smile; you were and still are our bright shining star, our Natalie. In the midst of our darkness you reminded us that the light hadn’t burned out, we had only lost our way. As your star continued to brilliantly shine, you gave us strength to find our own light. You provided the opportunity for our beam of life to burn even brighter. We realized the only way to move forward after losing you was to live as you would have lived; to hold our loved ones tighter, count our blessings every day and focus on spreading your contagious, happy light of life that we love so much.

For every day that I don’t get to spend with you, you inspire me to do my best and remind me that every day is a precious gift. Your beautiful smile is a daily reminder for us all to do the same. For the last three years the Natalie Kate Memorial swim camp has been bringing people together while creating special bonds and lasting friendships. Instead of recognizing the anniversary of your death, we celebrate your birthday with a blood drive, a birthday swim and a Swedish pancake breakfast. You remind us that the sun will rise as we wear your favorite color, purple. Your spirit has taught us that love, laughter and faith are the only answers for all the pain; you have helped us transform the darkness into light and hope.

Even on the hardest days you give us the strength to keep on shining. We remember how lucky we are to have you in our lives and know you are always with us. When I left for college the first time in 2008 you sent me a card that said “I love you with all my heart and that will never change. Stay strong and call me whenever you’d like”. Underneath your words you drew a shooting star. While I would give anything to be able to make that phone call right now, I can’t help but smile every time I read the card. You are my hope when I am defeated, you are my light in the darkness and you are my shooting star for the rest of time.

While tragedy and heartache are never someone’s chosen path, sometimes going through those struggles is exactly what we need to grow, learn and come out even stronger. We can’t change the past and we can’t control the future, but we have power over our reaction and approach to life. We can’t stop the darkness from happening, but when we make our way out of the depths and find life, we create a light that is beautiful, unique and everlasting.

Thank you Nat, you have given us an incredible gift that can never be repaid. You have given us hope and guidance, reminded us to smile and shown us how to find our light.

Your star lights the whole sky.

With all my heart,

Here's the thing about shooting stars.  When you see them with the human eye, they only last for a short time, are very bright and make you gasp at the breath-taking beauty.  That sounds like what Natalie did for so many.

But.......if a photographer taking the picture of that same shooting star were to slow the shutter speed so that the lens is open much longer the shooting star looks much different.  It looks like this.....

This shooting star's light remained in the sky for a long time.  This shooting star's light changed colors across the skyline.  This shooting star's fiery tail stayed bright. 

I didn't know Natalie long or very well at all.  But I am blessed to be getting to know her extraordinary mom and sisters better all the time.  I am inspired by the love they have for each other and people around them.  I am encouraged by their strength to carry on when that is most difficult.  I am moved by their compassionate natures that motivates them to help others in Natalie's name.  

I think that Natalie's light is definitely a shooting star.  But not that one that we human's can see.  She is the one that God sees, with His lens pulled back and open for longer than we are able to.  

She is a beautiful enduring light.
She is a fiery far-reaching blaze.
She is a light that remains in the sky lighting the way for all to see.

May you recognize the shooting stars in your life.
May you write a letter to them today.
May you be grateful for the lights that light your way.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Fireworks

So far in my "Let Your Light Shine" series we have be affected by a story about how a well loved high school ministry director's spotlight changed as he walked through the pain of losing his mom, and inspired by the honest words of a high school senior whose spark lit her path as she bravely recovered from a mountain fall.

Today we move to a totally different kind of light.

I love the 4th of July.  I remember, as a young girl, watching the fireworks on a grassy golf course hill near my grandparent's house.  We would lay on big blankets and look heavenward and be in awe of the colors and beauty of the fireworks.  Now, as life is amazing, my own kids walk to the same hill from their own nana's house, lay on blankets and view the fireworks as well!

I like the ones that go up and have a single blast of color.  I like the ones that have 2 colors bursting in the sky.  I like the white ones that look like they are old-timey and could be from an old film.  I like the ones that spiral down in many shoots.  I like the ones that start as white and turn to blue.
Oh for Pete's sake.......I like them all!

But the ones I love the most........ are the finale ones!  I wait, in anticipation, for that spectacular finale when they let a TON fly!  Dozens and dozens of fireworks of all colors and types light up the night sky and the ground,  illuminating the whole crowd that has gathered.  Before the finale I can only really see those people right around me, my family and friends.  But with the explosion of the final flurry of fireworks I can clearly see the hundreds of people who are all on that big old grassy hill with me.

A firework.

Each firework is made of a pasteboard tubing that is filled with some kind of combustible material (remember...I am not a science no technical explanation from me!).  Each of these individual fireworks can light up and be its own astonishingly pretty color and form.  Sometimes, though, they string each of these single fireworks together with others to create a complete explosive.  They are tied together with string that winds through all of them to create the long ladder-like bond of fireworks.

It just needs to be ignited to be able to view the incredible display.

It just takes is a single spark......for hundreds and thousands of fireworks to light up!

Sometimes we hear about, or are blessed enough to experience, the outrageously big love that tons of people can forge when they all ban around a cause, or a person, or an event.  The light created from these things can be blindingly beautiful.  I can think of many of these but I will just highlight a few...

My favorite blog is one written by a strong willed, brilliantly funny, stunningly smart woman who.... is a flawed gal.... she is a mess.  Just like me.  Just like you.  I can't tell you the number of times I have read her words and thought, "Yes!  That is EXACTLY what I think and feel!".  The crazy thing is.... millions of other women think that same thing.  Glennon Melton of Momastery has grown to be the voice of millions of women.  She lifts people up, treats them with kindness, admits her own failings, struggles with life and health, empowers people to love each other and inspires the world daily.  She was once an individual firework.  But as she grew and built a community of other women who felt like they, too, were lonely single fireworks, she formed a bundle of fireworks that lights up the internet sky weekly!  She just has to put out a blog post telling the story of a mom who needs help and thousands of people offer.  She just has to share the needs of an organization that needs funds or a car to transport kids and tens of thousands of people give.   This is one amazing finale after day after day.

A local middle school teacher, who is much loved, has a sweet daughter who has had many medical struggles.  Her daughter needed to have a major spinal surgery.  That surgery took her and her mom to a different state far away from their support system.  They were gone a long time and were missed dearly.  The cool thing is that even while gone from this community I think they, even if only for moments,  felt like they were just minutes away because of the out-reaching actions of support they received.  On the day of the daughter's surgery our whole community wore pink (her favorite color) in support of the long, grueling surgery she would have to endure. Hundreds of pictures were posted on Facebook all day long.  As a mom, I can only imagine how this must have lifted that special teacher up, as she sat for hours upon hours in hospital waiting room hoping to hear the best news.  Those pictures, notes and pink apparel lit up the community....the hospital...and their hearts.  It was a marvelous show of lights and love!

We all are single fireworks.  We were made with a combustible material.  We have this tough, yet flexible, shell that protects what is inside.  We each have a fuse.

Sure, we can be lit and be bright....
For a moment.
For a few minutes.
We can make someone smile.
Change a mood.
Radiate love.

We each look different when lit up alone....
Some of us are those white old-timey fireworks.
Some of us are bright red.
Some of us change colors.
Some of us twist and spiral.
Some of us shine in the sky and some stay on the ground.
Some of us go off with a large bang and others have a quiet whistle.

And when we are lit we shine our light and others can see us and those close around us.

But..........when our fuses join with others..... a couple, a dozen, a hundred, a thousand.......
we can look like that ladder-like firework!!!  Tied together by a common bond, with the intended purpose of lighting up the whole sky making it easier to see all of those who aren't right next to us. It can assist us in seeing the bigger world around us.

We all wait, in anticipation......lazily laying on the grass.......for those fireworks, with different characteristics but a common mission, to shine at the very same time.
When that is staggering and miraculous.

We, as a group of fireworks, as human beings, have the ability to shine our collective lights in a breath-taking magnificent way that can move people, inspire many and.....
maybe even one day.... change the world.

We just need to find that REALLY long string....and join our fuse to it.

May you see the string.
May you add your fuse to the long line of others on that string.  
May you be willing to be part of that sensational finale.....
except not just at the end of everything....
but in your everyday lives. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Spark

Another day.  Another light. 

Today's source of light is coming to you from another writer.  When thinking about this "Let Your Light Shine" series I knew I wanted to tell Hannah's story.  

Without a doubt.   Her story of shining a light had to be told.

But when I started to write it nothing seemed good enough.  It was difficult for me to articulate an event 2 years ago that changed Hannah's life and the affect on her it had.  So I am honored to say that Hannah has agreed to write about and let me publish a snapshot of her story.....for the first time.  

Prepare to be inspired. 

           Hope isn’t a bonfire. It isn’t a pyre of flames, and it isn’t obvious, especially when it’s in the presence of light. Hope is a spark, and we must choose if we let it ignite in our hearts. However, when our lives are shrouded by darkness, that tiny spark can be brighter than the sun. Without the darkness, we cannot see the stars, and that’s the beauty in our hardships.

            In the summer of 2010, I went on a mission trip to Honduras with my church. At the time, I was living comfortably. I was in my 15-year-old world, and the bubble that I lived in was small. I thought I knew everything, and I thought I had the world figured out. Little did I know that the mission trip would change me forever.

            What I saw on the trip altered my perspective and showed me what the world outside my small life was like. Seeing the terribly devastating poverty was eye-opening, but I was still seeing my world from the inside of my safe, comfortable bubble.

            Three days into the trip, my mission team went into the mountainous jungle to experience an incredible opportunity that Honduras has to offer: rappelling. On the way back up the mountain from rappelling down a 100-foot waterfall, the few of us that had gone down were hit by a tropical storm. The conditions that the storm caused made the trek up the mountain treacherous, and part way up, I lost my footing.

            The fall caused damage, physically and emotionally. The impact had broken my femur, my hand, my nose, a couple of my teeth, and caused compression fractures in my spine, as well as plenty of deep bone and muscle bruises. I had lacerations on my face that still are scars today, along with others that came from the many follow-up surgeries.

            Not only that, but my world had shattered. My safe bubble had burst in one instance, and I was abruptly thrown into a world much bigger than I had ever dreamed possible. I had never been aware of the pain and loneliness the world could hold, and I was suddenly estranged from everything I had once known.

            After my 18 day stay in the hospital was finished, I returned home, but I didn’t escape my accident. I was swallowed by doctor visits, dentist visits, sessions with my counselor, physical therapy appointments, and follow-up surgeries. In the midst of my physical and emotional turmoil, I lost the thin illusion of control I had over my life. My grades slipped, I lost most of my friendships, and I fell into the darkest place I had ever been before.

             Darkness is the absence of light, but it is as heavy and as much of a burden as any tangible object. When surrounded by darkness, my entire world changed. I became listless and apathetic, struggling to make it through each day. I was alone, and no amount of loved ones or support could help me feel any less lonely.

Yet even in the darkness, there was hope.
             It began as a flicker, but in the complete darkness, that flicker was blinding. Certain people were placed into my life at the perfect time, and I have no doubt that was any sort of coincidence. Though I still had to grapple with frequent hospital visits, emotional baggage, and physical pain, the spark ignited and banished the darkness away.

            To this day, I am still struggling with many of the effects of my accident, even as time goes by. I have to deal with chronic pain on a daily basis, along with circumstances not many of my peers would understand. However, I know that because of what I had been through, I have been changed for the better.

            Today, I can share my story without hesitation, and hopefully, ignite the sparks of hope in others as a couple of individuals did for me. I am stronger in my faith and my values, and I’ve seen a side of the world that has shaped me to feel for those that aren’t often understood. I now can see past the insignificant details of life and appreciate the big picture, along with being able to enjoy life in a way I’ve never been able in the past. Now, I am proud to say that I will have the opportunity to return to Honduras this summer on another mission trip.
           Metals must be tempered in order to bring them to the strongest consistency possible. Any metal that has not been tempered will be weak and frail, and will shatter under stress. However, if a piece of metal has been melted down and shaped again, it will hold under every pressure it must undergo. When our world is shattered in pieces around us, we are being tempered, thrown back into the forge so that we can be molded into something beautiful, and that’s what hope is. 

Last night, while I sat on my comfy brown couch warmed by the fireplace, I read this beautiful piece of writing.  I could feel Hannah's heart through her words.   I sobbed.   Maybe some of you will cry......maybe you will feel empowered.....maybe you will feel empathy.   But I sobbed.

You see.... I know Hannah.  I think of Hannah as another daughter.  I watched her leave for Honduras so excited.  I cried in the middle of the night when the phone call came that said she was hurt badly.  I prayed for her as she was being air flighted from Honduras to the Florida hospital.  I wished I could have been in that hospital room with her and her mom those long 18 days.  I greeted her  (along with a HUGE crew of people who love her) at the airport when she was wheeled off the airplane back home.  I have observed her as she has gone through agonizing chronic pain and countless surgeries.  

I sobbed.

But I wasn't sobbing because of the hard stuff.  I was crying because she has come out on the other side, done the hard things, been so courageous, conquered fears and..... become a woman.  A wise woman.  At the young age of 18, Hannah is wise beyond her years.  

So.....back to that spark.......  Hannah says that she saw a very bright spark in the midst of the darkness.  

I saw it too.

It was Hannah.  

As she was being molded into a new creation there was a spark that flew from her hardships that heated metal.  When Hannah felt like she wasn't visible is when I saw her the clearest.  

I am grateful that Hannah was molded into the woman she is today.  
I am grateful for her words, perseverance and bravery that inspire me.
I am grateful that God was the one holding the torch and hammer, creating that spark, and shaping her heart anew. 

May you be as inspired by Hannah as I am.
May you know that, in the midst of darkness, there will be a spark.
May you be brave, courageous and persevere.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Spotlight

Today starts a little blog mini-series called "Let Your Light Shine"!  I can't tell you how excited I am about this!  I explained a little about the reason for this series last week when I shared with you a little bit about my favorite sign.

Light is a complex thing. I am not a science gal so you are not going to get a big old explanation about how light works....mainly because I don't know. ;)  I thought about it, so I googled "how light works".  What I found more profound than the science was a little blurb about an article.  This is the quote:

As a citizen of a sunny Earth, it's hard not to take light for granted. 
In this article, we salute you, light, 
for a lightLESS world would be a gloomy place indeed.  


So there are lots of different kinds of lights and each illuminates in a different way.  
Much like people.

Today I will start with the spotlight.......

Meet Lief.  Lief is the director of our church's high school ministry.  Lief is gregarious, passionate, loud, funny, energetic, larger-than-life, unashamed, bold, talkative and an amazing friend to everyone.  

Lief lives BIG.  
Lief loves even BIGGER.  

When he is in a room there is an energy that is fun and contagious.  Sitting back and watching Lief is like sitting in a room that is lit up by dozens of blazing spotlights of many vibrant colors.  It is a perfect thing for a guy in his position.  High school students love him!  (and so do us normally boring adults!)

Those lights can warm your heart, lift your spirits and flood a room with joy.   

Sometimes life can blindside you.  Kind of like last night's Super Bowl.  In the midst of the biggest football game of the year, all of a sudden, the big powerful lights that illuminated the field shut off.  Suddenly and unexpectedly the teams and stadium staff had to change.  That is what happened for Lief late this past year.  

Lief's mom passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.  It was a shock for him, his whole family and the enormous number of people who's lives she touched.  It was always clear how much Lief loved his family and especially his mom.  From all the pictures that we have all seen it very evident that she lit up a room with her smile.  She was a special lady and her death was stunning for him and his family. 

I watched as Lief's light changed.  

The big flashy, fun, colorful spotlights faded.  He was quiet, introspective, sad, grieved and burdened.  All the things he normally is not.  

But........ here is the thing....... I said his light "changed".  It never went out, it just shifted to a different mode.  It became a single soft spotlight.  

When life got a little dark Lief's light became.... 

more pure.
more simple.
more focused.
more purposeful.

At the funeral Lief was brave enough to get up in front of hundreds and share.  He was very clear about the sadness they were feeling at the loss of a dear loved one, but also very clear about the hope and grace that was carrying he, and those around him, through this painful time.  

Lief loves God.  Lief's light comes from that love.  

He has always shone that light so brightly and vibrantly.  He passionately lives his life and teaches about GRACE with great the group of glaring colorful spotlights.  But during these past few months he has lived quietly, honestly and clinging to the HOPE he teaches the undiluted, unwavering, single soft spotlight.  

Both lights are beautiful.  
Both lights are meaningful.  
Both lights have inspired me.... and I hope do the same for you.

May you enjoy the big colorful spotlight people in your life.
May you learn from to the single spotlight people in your life.
May you love them both.
May you know your light may change.
May you know that sometimes, even when painful, change is good. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

My Favorite Sign

My favorite sign hangs in my studio.

Every morning, after my husband leaves for his office and the kids are off to school I "head to work" myself.  I walk down the 12ft long hallway, pass (intentionally!) the laundry room and enter the Cellar Designs' studio.  (my commute is AWESOME!)
And each morning, when the skies are clear, this powerful burst of light streams in the room as the sun comes up over the neighbor's home.  I look over and see that bright shining sun entering into the room right next to my favorite sign.

It is a beautiful moment.

The sign reminds me every day that.......
          A.  I have a light (some days I am not so sure!)
          B.  That it can shine.
          C.  I have to LET it do so.

We all have the ability to let our light shine.  What does that mean?

Well........I am sure it means something different to all of us.  But I am just going to share what it means to me.

I think it means reflecting the love you have received back to others.
I think it means being kind to people.
I think it means forgiving.
I think it means inspiring people to be and do better.
I think it means showing grace.
I think it means smiling at strangers.
I think it means helping to empower others to be their best.
I think it means letting a driver merge into your lane in a traffic jam.
I think it means being supportive to others.
I think it means being willing to be supported.
I think it means overcoming obstacles.
I think it means being brave.
I think it means growing in your generosity.
I think it means.................radiating HOPE.

I have been pondering the idea of how we all shine our light and how the rest of the world sees that light.  I am so inspired by others and how their light has shone in good times and bad times.

So I am going to do something different.  I am going to have a little mini-series of blogs dedicated to "Let Your Light Shine"!!   I am hoping that these few blogs will inspire you as well.

I know I normally only blog about once a month, but I am really shaking it up and there will be MORE THAN ONE next WEEK!  Woah.  I know...crazy. ;)

I hope you tune in............. until then....

May you ponder what "shine your light" means to you.
May you know you have a light.
May you want to "let" it shine brightly.