Photo Courtesy: Unsplash.com
There is something so beautiful and sacred in the power of our silent words -- Those words that are not spoken aloud yet heard deeply within our soul; their weight carrying more meaning because they do not need to be spoken.
I've been surrounded by these silent words for some time. I've come to realize that many of my deepest friendships have been built on a framework of silent words. It's in the look of an eye that smiles with admiration and love; it's in the single heartbeat that skips simply because you've entered the room; it's in the knowing expression when someone else has said something hurtful, or exposed a secret not ready for the world to know; it's in the squeezing of a hand that says, I am here, you are not alone.
In my deepest relationship, the one with my husband, I imagine we could successfully carry on an intelligent and meaningful conversation while sitting across from each other at dinner without ever speaking a single word.
These silent words are moments of comfort and peace between two people and are offered up in a single slice of energy that passes between you -- no one else capable of intercepting the message because only the two of you can decode its meaning.
Silent words are beautiful, pure, poignant, and penetrating.
When I think of my dearest relationships, they are filled with hilarious and tender conversations, but it is the silent words between us that creates an unshakeable bond hard to describe.
I've encountered them so much lately -- perhaps because I'm in the midst of one of "life's transitions." These are times when you really don't know what to say. The words do not have the capacity to fill the depth of which you feel -- the emotions too raw, too big, too powerful to match any attempt to describe the feeling out loud. Looking at the beautiful souls around me, I hear their silent words and am immediately comforted. Their smiles, laughter, tears, hugs, hand gestures, knowing looks, and bowed heads say all that is needed. The message of the heart is carried out through actions, not words.
As beautiful and glorious I believe words to be (I am a storyteller after all), they are nothing without love and intention.
While stringing together a syncopated sentence full of delicious syntax is something that tantalizes me, it's the silent words from my loved ones that move me to tears.
I hear you.
I understand your 'no words'.
You say everything by saying nothing.
Your beautiful and special heart speaks to me through your kind gestures, your availability, your honesty, your hospitality, your openness and your humanity.
I am humbled by your love and comforted by your symphony of silence.
I'm coming off an amazing weekend where I attended our church Women's Retreat up in the mountains of North Carolina. It just so happens that I was the retreat organizer and helped plan the weekend. And it just so happens that those plans included MUCH of the vision I hold for the "Ignite Your LIGHT Retreats" that have been dancing around in my head for about 2 years now. I was gifted with a playground in which I could test out my ideas. The women loved it. I've been flooded with emails and texts today about how awesome this retreat was. Don't get me wrong -- it was not ALL because of my plans -- we had an exceptional retreat speaker and some other really amazing contributors that made the weekend really special. But the vision was there -- and it was phenomenal to see it play out and be so enthusiastically received. It solidified my theory: WOMEN WANT THIS. WE NEED IT.
This is how life and VISIONING works.
I planned this retreat simply because I said "yes" to a committee 3 years ago. The position was a 3-year commitment with different responsibilities each year. The 3rd year was planning this retreat.
3 years ago, there was no LIGHTbeamers.
3 years ago, I had no idea how to plan a retreat.
3 years ago, I had no vision for any of this.
But God knows our path long before we do :)
Enter the first ever "Ignite Your LIGHT" Retreat. [HAPPY DANCE]
What Vision do you hold for yourself? What story are you telling yourself that is holding you back from going after your dreams? What do you really want your story to be? Spend a weekend tapping into your personal power and reigniting the LIGHT that is inside of you.
Jennifer Rackley Chacon, a certified health & life coach, will join me to facilitate this retreat.
We are offering crazy good "beta" pricing.
$250 (shared room) - $350 (private room) for the entire weekend.
All inclusive (meals, accommodations, supplies, workshops)
The retreat will be Friday March 31 - Sunday April 2 at a lake house on Lake Norman (just outside Charlotte, NC)
I don't even have the registration links fully operational yet ... but I cannot wait another day to share this. I am too excited and READY to share it with you.
MY PROMISE TO YOU: We will pour into you the most amazing energy and content we can dream up. You will leave refreshed and reenergized. Your story will unfold. Your light will shine.
If you want more details: email us @ email@example.com
or you can Register by simply clicking here
, we will be in contact to secure payment for the retreat.
Darkness & LIGHT Courtesy: allthefreestock.com
I like the Dichotomy of things. I like to wear a little color with my black & white. I am both a thrill seeker and a careful ninny. I am a go-getter who loves to be lazy. I have fears that rage inside of me that only my Faith can suppress. Fundamentally, I believe we are all complex creatures who sometimes don’t make a whole lot of sense to the naked eye. At least, not at first glance. It’s why I seek the LIGHT, yet find so much goodness in the dark.
This explains why my husband — who knows the bright, bubbly, positive, light-chasing side of me — has grown very accustomed to my Bat-like tendencies. He'll often find me curled up in a dark nook, sitting quietly by myself, having drawn the curtains in the room to create a cavernous space in which to retreat. Yes — me, the chaser of the LIGHT, likes to sit and simmer in the dark.
What’s happening in these moments is an opportunity to shut out the world, silence the noise, and go inward with my thoughts. It is here, in the dark, I often meet the LIGHT I am so hell-bent on finding. Our days are filled 24-7 with stimuli — news, internet, conversations, to-do lists, errands, commitments, rushing … rushing… rushing… I often only have time to scribble down little notes — glimmers of LIGHT stories I dream up or encounter but don't have the time to develop, ponder, digest. These notes are memory joggers for me to flesh out later when I have time to actually sit down and write. But oddly enough, sometimes when that time arrives, I no longer see the importance or relevance of these little notes. Their tangled words no longer make sense to me, and I'm left trying to recall the details I clearly felt important enough to write down in the first place. This unravels me! Why didn’t I just stop and write it out in the moment? I ask myself. This would have been a great story to share but now the words escape me.
I think this is how life is — don’t you? Our days are filled with little moments that really could be epic stories if we would just stop long enough to soak them up, drink in the moment and savor its lingering message and impact. But we are too busy to stop and enjoy them so we let them pass us by; just a blip on the radar. When you later recall it, it has very little meaning or importance anymore. It’s just nothing.
When a string of these moments pile up and all I have is a series of little notes that I can no longer make sense of — it's a red flag warning that I have gone too far, too long, too deep into the madness of life. I have to push the pause button and shut those curtains to block out all the light that is life rushing by. I embrace the cold, quiet dark; I become very quiet and still. And I listen. I have complete conversations in my head with my ego, my self-doubt, my courage, my spirited-self, and most importantly, God. Then, something always emerges. A LIGHT that was not there before. Clarity. Purpose. Faith. Resolve. Intention. Sometimes full-blown stories emerge and I'm gifted with material to write; Other times, full-blown revelations about my life and my personal journey that help me adjust my course.
The yin-yang of my writing life really intrigues me. I’ve come to realize I’m a very emotional writer — the stories only spill out when I’m fully enthralled in my highs and lows.
When life is on cruise control and balanced, the words don’t easily come. But send me over the edge — either into the sky high emotions of happiness, love, and elation or down into the deep valleys of fear, worry, and doubt — and the stories emerge. Why must I go to the extremes to find them? I wonder. When I contemplate this I hear God say to me:
"Because that’s where life is lived, my dear. That’s where I need you to go to find me. That’s where you need to go to find others, too, so you can do this thing I’ve called you to do: Write and Share and Shine. Real friendships and true Community are not found on the road to Balance and Harmony. They are found in the thickness of the Dark and in the brightness of the Light. Go there. Be there. And then come back to tell the tales so others will find comfort in knowing they, too, are in the exact right place. They will know there is a lesson/story/reason in here, and that it’s all unfolding exactly as I would have it."
These are lessons from the Universe, God's great masterpiece. The things that send us high and low are really just life lessons we need to learn -- things to be absorbed, processed, evaluated and shared. It's what I call "Riding the SERF" (Stop, Evaluate, Focus and Rededicate) ; these are the real things that bind us because we are all riding the highs and lows of life!
I've also learned that my highs are really high, and my lows are very low. It doesn't mean I am drunk on positivity anymore than it means I am unhappy or depressed. It simply means I feel deeply. I imagine many of you can relate to this. For this reason, I have come to embrace the Dark even more because there is so much to be learned there.... such valuable teachings if we are brave enough to really sit in it for a spell.
Keep riding your SERF.
EDITORIAL NOTE: I found most of this piece on my computer, in a place I scribble down notes quickly when an idea strikes. When I found it later, I didn't even remember writing it! It's like I had Writer's Amnesia. But when I sat with the notes, and fleshed out this piece, I realized again how much beauty and truth can be found in our dark corners. I am grateful for this lesson.
Traveling through a string of airports recently, I couldn't help but notice an overwhelmingly obvious fashion trend. I noticed it as I was waiting to board my first flight. The boarding process was just beginning and passengers were falling in line at the gate. I was in the dreaded "Zone 3" so I remained in my seat a while longer, staring at those lucky souls who travel enough to get priority boarding. I stared blankly at the crowd, sucking down my coffee hoping the caffeine would kick in soon, when something jumped out at me. A sea of darkness filled the room. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was wearing dark colors. Blacks, Greys, Dark Blues, Browns. It struck me -- so odd and noticeable. Really? Not even one person had on a bright colored scarf or sported a cheery shirt on their travel day.
Once upon a time, there was a certain dress code and we we all donned our Sunday Best when flying on an airplane. These days, we're lucky if some passengers even bother to shower and get out of their pajamas before heading to the airport. Furthermore, it seems everyone has fallen prey to some sort of secret dress code of darkness. I glimpsed down at my own attire, not having thought much about my own wardrobe choice until now. And there it was: I had on dark jeans and a dark navy button down top. The only saving grace (for my own guilt was starting to set in) was a bright Kelly-green tank top peeking out at the V-neck of my blouse. I let out a sigh of relief "Oh Thank God, at least I have on a little bit of color today". I was surprised at myself though, as color is a staple in my wardrobe and I usually always have on something bright. Colored jeans, a pretty bright scarf, and - if that doesn't do the trick - a colorful statement necklace and some fun earrings. But today, as if subconsciously falling in line with the Secret Travel Code of Darkness that I didn't even know existed, I dressed down in dull, dark, boring clothes... except for that little green peek-a-boo number. But in reality, it wasn't enough to save me from my own finger pointing back at me. "Aha! Even you are dressed in dark clothes!"
So what is it with this Secret Travel Code of Darkness?
Just as I was pondering this phenomenon, a lady in a bright red sparkly sweater stepped up and handed her boarding pass to the gate agent who, up until now, had been lulled into a slumber by the routine of it all. The agent looked at the Lady In Red, widened her eyes, and exclaimed "Oh, I love your pretty red sweater!" To which the Lady in Red replied, "Oh Thank You" in a very appreciative and surprised voice. That 2-second exchange completely spilled LIGHT into the entire boarding area, where the rest of us dark-clothed-boring-souls lumbered. They say clothes do not make a man... but I dare say they can brighten a mood! And that Lady in Red, and the gate agent who noticed her and gave her a compliment, brightened my mood instantly. I smiled. I figured out the secret. The Lady in Red knew the secret, too. From then on, all I could think was, "I will never wear dark clothes while traveling ever again". Like Never. In fact, when I get back home, I'm donating this boring navy top along with every garment in my closet that falls into the Secret Travel Code of Darkness standard. Yep, it all must go. Someone else can have it, but I will not fall prey to the dark code ever again. Nope, I choose LIGHT. I choose bright. I'm going to the Lady in Red's team.
While scurrying through the next airport, catching my connecting flight, I looked at everyone I passed and counted on one hand the number of people who wore bright colors, who were like me now and on "Team Red". We are small in numbers, people, but our message is clear. Wherever we go we will shine our LIGHT. We will show up with our Canary Yellow scarves, Kelly Green Tank tops, and Sparkly Red Sweaters so we can help the rest of the poor souls who are traveling in the darkness. We will be there shining our lights, making them smile, and snapping them out of their stupor.
Is there a Secret Code of Darkness at work in your life? Get up, get dressed, and put on your brightest best. There is a sea of darkness out there that needs, craves, yearns for your LIGHT. What color will you wear today? Choose it and share it with everyone you encounter.
Shine on, my friends!
It's funny how when you're younger - like in college - you don't really look too far into the future to imagine all the trials and tribulations that are surely coming your way. Back in those days, you're so full of LIFE - ready to charge into the world and make your own way; no one really stops to think about the downside of 'growing up'.
When I was in college, I didn't contemplate life's frailties. I didn't really think ahead to the fact that some couples would get divorced, some careers would fail, some friendships wouldn't last, or someone's daughter would get cancer... and die. Nope, I never thought about that one. Until it happened.
Star Nuckolls was the first child born to my college friends, Kari and Steve. I never met Star as I had moved away and had lost touch with so many people after graduation. I didn't know about this young, vibrant child moving about in the world shining her LIGHT wherever she went. But that's how people describe Star -- as a shining light of energy. A child who never sat still. A child who lit up a room when she entered.
My husband and I had moved over 1000 miles away and keeping track of all my friends' accomplishments and successes usually came in the form of a phone call with a few close friends who'd quickly give me the recap of what's going on with everyone else back home. Jenny moved to Dallas and is working as an engineer; Rob and Sherri just bought a new house - it's really big; Karen and Joe just had their third child, she's still working full-time- can you believe it?
These are all great conversations until you get to this: Steve and Kari's daughter has Stage 4 cancer and it's not looking good. What?? I myself didn't have children yet so I could not fully grasp this scenario. My friend told me about a "blog" Kari had started where she posted updates daily to keep everyone informed (mind you, this was waaaay before Blogs were even a thing). I went to the site to find out more and I didn't come out of my office for 3 hours. I read every post. Star's story did that to you -- she captivated you.
Star was diagnosed with a type of childhood kidney cancer in 2004. Of all the childhood cancers to get, Star's kind was the most favorable -- the one with the highest survival rate. 90% of children with this type of cancer survive. Star did not.
I won't bog you down with details of Star's cancer treatment because no matter how you write it - it sucks. Of course there are beautiful stories of beautiful people who emerge all along the way (doctors, nurses, fellow patients, community) and all of that was certainly true in Star's case ... but in the end, a child dies and that's never a beautiful experience. But what did happen throughout Star's journey was a LIGHT that shined bright and brought people together. Star had an unusual way about her. She would go to anyone; she had no fear; she had no sense of prejudice. She simply loved everybody, and everybody loved her. As a result, entire communities came out of nowhere to lend their support.
During Star's illness, friends and family sold purple stars for $15 to raise money for Star's medical fund. Before long, there were purple stars in flowerbeds, in lawns, in windows of businesses -- there were purple stars everywhere
as a sign of solidarity and prayer. Within Steve and Kari's network of friends, people came together to learn about their needs, raise money, hold prayer vigils, and give support to the family. People -- strangers
-- donated money to help offset the enormous costs of fighting cancer. Much of that money was never spent as Star's time expired before the funds could all be used. Today that money is in a foundation in Star's name, which in turn helps people in Star's community who are fighting their own cancer battles. Kari also used some of the money to establish a Scholarship fund at our college for Greek students. The Greek community was another group that stepped up with donations, support, and prayer during Star's illness, and Kari's never forgotten their generosity. Star's LIGHT even reached the politicians. The State Capitol in Texas delivered a proclamation in Star's name, and a flag was flown in Washington D.C. in her honor. Throughout it all, Kari continued with her daily posts about Star's routine, her attitude, her chemo regimen, Kari's own fears and concerns. Before it was all over, Kari's "blog-that-was-before-it's-time" had over 1-million hits, reaching every continent in the world. When I asked Kari why does she think this happened? how
did this happen? She replied, "I do not know -- so many kids have cancer".
This is just what Star did. She was full of life -- even in the midst of dying -- and that just transmitted somehow. You can't explain how something like this happens. It just happens. You can't explain why children get cancer. They just do.
On the day of Star's funeral,
it was cold, cloudy, and rainy outside. Following the service, the family had a graveside burial. Just as Star was being laid into the ground, a double rainbow appeared. It was such an unusual sight -- a rainbow in that weather! Later, they learned the rainbows were caused by a phenomenon called a "Sun Pillar". By definition, Sun Pillars are shafts of light extending from the sun or other bright light sources. They’re caused by ice crystals drifting in the Earth’s air. Yes, Star's LIGHT was so bright it blazed through the sky as her spirit traveled upward. For Kari, this was a sign -- from Star -- from God -- that she was where she belonged. She was home.
It has been 10 years since Star Knuckolls died, but her legacy and LIGHT continues to shine. Star's younger sister, Saylor, was just 2-years old when Star died. Now she is 12 and has written and illustrated a children's book honoring her sister's story. Star loved a lot of people, but she didn't love anyone more than she loved her sister, Saylor. Her book is titled, My Shining Star.
Kari's own memoir will be released later this year. Kari will tell you she has come from the depths of hell and back. She's endured unimaginable heartbreak, divorce, depression, and fear. The books were not something Kari ever planned on doing, but as the journey unfolded, it became clear Star's LIGHT was guiding her, pushing her to move forward to share her story.
10 years later, Kari says the puzzle pieces that were so distorted before are starting to come together. Time has given her perspective and clarity... and peace. Kari says you have to have your eyes open to see the blessings in it all. God/Star speaks to her, but she says, "only if I'm quiet and listen for it"
. Kari's journey and Star's story have gone on to help so many others who are walking that same path. Mothers who are deep in despair; families who are torn apart by death; younger siblings who don't yet have the words to express their pain. Kari's words are weapons of healing for so many. Kari says she wants other parents who've lost a child to have a story they can relate to, so they too can find their way out. "It's easy to check out, to succumb to the depression. It's painful to keep going. Living is a choice you have to make. They have to take it day by day; sometimes minute by minute. I'm hoping my book will help those parents who are grieving. I want them to know there are people who love them and who need them here! There is hope. Keep going. God will speak to you; He will do it in all sorts of ways. Listen for Him."
Looking back, Kari is so thankful that God trusted her to be Star's mom -- even if it was only for 4 years, 2 months and 25 days. Kari says she'd rather have had those 4 years than none at all.
Today - February 7 - marks the 10 year anniversary of Star's death. Kari says this is the first time since Star died that she will actually be able to 'breathe' on this day. "I am grateful for the children's book, and for my book... good things are happening! I feel like Star is looking down and is proud of me... proud that I was able to hear the message. I heard her and I heard God.... and now I can give others encouragement and hope. Everything is temporary and I know I'll see her again one day. Until then, Star gives me strength. I will draw upon that strength and give it to others".
Tonight, when you gaze out at the stars that shine so bright, I'm certain you will see a shining LIGHT.
Her name is Star.
The Kari Smith's memoir is titled "Stars That Can Laugh" which comes from "The Little Prince":
"In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing. When you look at the sky at night...you -only you- will have stars that can laugh."
Today's Forecast: Gloom and Gloomier
It's never the most alluring notion to jump out of bed and make hay while there's sunshine... especially when there is no sunshine! Today, I woke up to your typical cold, foggy, gloomy day. I peered out the window only to see a thick haze stare back at me. The mountains that usually greet me with their glory were hidden by a blanket of greyness. I was scheduled to attend a monthly women's Bible study -- a time I genuinely love and cherish -- but the call of the wild was telling me to do nothing except crawl back in bed. I also needed to finish a video script in which my deadline was looming so that, too, gave me the perfect reason to just stay in my pajamas and put on my UGGs. But something kept urging me to forge ahead with the plan. My LIGHTbeamers!
As I showered and dressed, I kept staring out my bedroom window, wondering to myself what LIGHT could I possibly encounter on a day like this? I almost convinced myself to give in-- that LIGHT doesn't have to pour into our lives everyday like sunshine and lollipops!! "What's the point? Just stay home and pull the covers over your head" I reasoned. How many times have I -- have you -- done this? Just let the weather or the mood dictate your experiences for the day? Have you ever wondered what you might be missing when you give in to the temptation of mediocrity? of laziness? of shutting yourself in?
Still, I went. I went to my study with my group of girlfriends who always make me laugh and think! Today we discussed how we are called to be promoters of the Good News yet how easily we remain silent at times. We discussed how much we can learn from our children in their unabashed ways in which they run, yell, laugh, scream, and cry at the most inopportune times while we cringe and think "Be Quiet!!!". Children have something to say and they often say it loudly. And most of the time, they are spewing the truth because Tact is not their virtue (yet! Please Lord, let this come....). Our group of women shared personal stories of struggle, laughter, and LIGHT -- which reminded me that we are all human... and a work in progress.... and in this together! We need each other!! We can't just stay home, stay in bed with the curtains drawn shutting out the darkness and cold. We must seek the LIGHT and share it with others so that we can be the Fuel someone else needs to get through the Fog.
We're not going to wake up every day with the LIGHT spilling out of our pores. There are days that seem heavy and dark and cold. On those days, ask yourself "where can I find the LIGHT" and force yourself to go in that direction. Think of it as a "Filling Station" -- When you are depleted or despondent, go where you know you will be fueled so that ticking the next things off your "to-do" list seem totally achievable.
I did that today -- and these women filled my tank. They are the reason I showed up; I knew they would provide just the perfect dose of reality and wit to warm my heart and light my LIGHT. Afterwards, my day sailed along with much more meaning and vigor. I returned home to finish my script on time, have a lovely lunch with my husband, and take my kids for frozen yogurt after school.
The Fog persisted all day and the cold hounded into the night but my insides beamed with love, friendship, inspiration and hope. The LIGHT was there all along, wasn't it? It's never really that far away.
Who are your LIGHTbeamers? Seek them out and hold them close. The Fog is always coming.
The smile a frozen treat can bring on such a cold day still mystifies me.... but whatever!!