Full Sail Living

hey from me…

If I were to boil my writing (and my life) down to a single focus it would be “Full Sail Living.”

 Photo Credit: Darwin Bell via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Darwin Bell via Compfight cc

Full sail Living is about recognizing abundance and celebrating all that fills my cup in my life.  If I were to hang my hat on one thing that I am passionate it is this… “what fills my sail?”  What I love about this subject is how small the answer can be that fills a massive area of my life.  Seeing those day to day moments and sharing those stories that I have been told or that have happened to me is more than inspiration.  It is changing and shaping my life in ways I must share with others with hope that their sail will be filled as well.

The theme that is naturally emerges from full sail living is inspiration.  Where do I see it and feel it and how can I recognize it? Who inspires me and who do I inspire is a question I have always been captured by.

My deepest desire and objective for the blog challenge I’m taking, as well as my life as a whole, is every person would know just how loved they are. Seems simple.  If we did… if we believed that we all, each of us, are loved… our response might be to live our lives out of abundance rather than scarcity.  Love creates love… I believe we were made from love and we were made to love.

I could write about that for a lifetime.

celia anne


Wonder… what is it about wonder that still takes our breath away? What is it about something spectacular that captures us and makes us dream again? Can you think of a moment like that in your life… remember it… smell the smells… feel the chills… see the excitement… experience the wonder.

The first time I can remember a something remarkable happened in my life was a birthday when I was in elementary school and I received a bicycle I really wanted… bike bell, tassels, reflectors and all. I promptly put cards in the spokes to make it make sound… just so the neighbors, in case they didn’t know, could hear me coming and celebrate the joy with me. I’m laughing at the thought of them not hearing my approach. I think I have always been this volume… loud.

Remarkable moments. I love the word “mark” as the root of this word… defined by… seen by others… viewed openly… in my life remarkable moments are not few and far between …

I see them every week… well… let’s say I have a chance to see them every week if I am paying attention.

Still, I can think of a few if I were to look over my life and think of the most important ones I might mention…

I remember an encounter with my grandmother Ruby (mama’s side), during a hot summer visit. I was staying with my grandparents Vivian and William (daddy’s side), while my parents were at a regional church event. I had a beloved poodle that I insisted on bringing because I was terribly lonely at their farm during my stay. During that visit, my dog proceeded to pee on every part of my grandmother Ruby’s house. Ruby surprisingly and unexpected I might add, very graciously picked up some paper and wiped the spots up. Then (with a fresh tissue in case you were wondering) wiped tears from my face as my other grandmother scolded me. Ruby made such a small gesture… it was a little thing… her eyes were full of grace and her vocal gently said only two words that to this day I have thought of when the world gets a little crazy… “it’s ok.” ~ grace danced with me that day.

Loved and alive… funny how it seems so simple and small… I pray you feel that today… you experience when you hear a song, a story, are given a hug. Week after week as I travel, I hear stories across the country of how people have overcome; at times been swept away by everyday life tragedies and trials. Simple words seem to get us through, “it’s ok,” “I love you,” “I’m sorry,” “I’m here”… and at times it’s not the words at all… just the presence of a close one that helps us through a tough spot.

I am touched by how the human spirit and how resilient it is… I always have believed that about children. They just get it… they get that there are monsters and things in life to be scared of… they get they need a friend to hold on to and hold hands with … they get that they can try… and it’s okay if it doesn’t work out… they can try again. They see life through the eyes of wonder. They understand being connected and realize at an early age not even knowing why but that we need to be known and know others… they get loyalty… pinkie swear… and BFFs.

But children are not the only ones who get it… those moments when something takes our breath away… books, movies, songs, poems and stories are full of accounts of these occurrences in our lives.

When thinking about my faith, the evidence is there throughout scripture as well as lived out in our everyday lives. Jesus birth… the angels sang and awe filled the stable – Jesus baptism… the clouds parted and a dove flew down and those present heard God’s voice say, this is my child in whom I am well please – the paralytic healed… all were amazed.

Time and time again… we search for words for the unexplainable, the remarkable, the wonder in our lives. Recently for me… it was a beautiful red sunrise that my son Zach noticed one morning. I love that he was the one who had to point it out to me… as I made my way to stand with him at the bus stop in front of our house… I missed it.. and it was huge.. well, sky size… and I once again was reminded… hidden in plain view is the truth of life. Wonder is all around.

Last month while driving to the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine I pulled over and sat in a cove and cried over the simple beauty I was witnessing. A cove so small… so simple.. yet it’s beauty and wonder captured me. I’m not sure what got a hold of me that day… all I can say is it was sacred… and filled me at a time when I felt empty and needed to be inspired.

Recently, we re-watched one of my favorite movies, “Ratatouille.” At the end of the movie when the food critic has come to judge the meal. The critic takes one bite and in an instant there it is… that moment I have been talking about … he is transported and transformed and taken over by joy… by goodness… by the wonderful and in his write up he praises not only the dish but the chef… and what he most points out is the new… that the new needs to be embraced; the new needs friends… sometimes it’s in the new that we have these encounters… and we are free… free to experience something we have not… free to be rule breakers… free to see something in a new way… someone in a new light… and we are unknowingly captured by wonder once again… so I ask you friend… where have you seen and been grateful for wonder this week?

I say God’s kingdom has come down, among us… like my aunt Rosemary’s mac and cheese… my mama’s chocolate sheet cake recipe… Tom Petty’s “Free Falling,” my friend Brent Maher’s new song, titled “Gratitude” that I’ll release soon. Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World, the last scene in the movie Gravity… Grandmother Ruby’s “It’s Ok”…. all we can say is thanks!

Great Ideas

There is something to be said for having a great idea.  Where do they come from … what inspires us the most?  Trying to have a great idea about anything never seems to work.. We always end up like we are trying too hard.  The best great ideas … just happen.

They fall in our laps. They are brief moments of brilliance that we stumble upon and only in hindsight do we realize what a great idea they were.  I’ve had a few in my life time…

A few friends that I just happened to introduce myself to… sit next to… call and invite them to join me somewhere for a something… and I look back 30 years later and realize they have become my bestest best friend… or maybe it was just a brief encounter we exchange and for a second we shared something profound.. real and genuine that happened unexpected and you end up sharing your heart… spilling all you are to someone you just met and it feels right.. those moments- I love.

Decisions I’ve made have always had a certain sure-ity to them… moving to becoming a teacher… working for a church with youth… marrying my best friend… quitting teaching… moving to Nashville… connecting with my vocal
coach Gerald Arthur 20 years ago… sitting at Merridee’s table and meeting friends there… filling my cup at the Good Cup…following Christ… having my kids, Max and Zach.. even though I call them the dangerous duo… I am so glad
they are on this ride with Ron and I… belonging to my church family, writing books… songs… stories… There has been a peace that has come with every decision… some of them as small as having coffee.. others huge like who I
married and should I have children… always a peace and affirmation that the reason I choose this decision… was good for me, my family, my faith, my future.

Living in Nashville… great ideas are discussed daily.. mostly with regards to songwriting… everyone.. well, almost everyone is a songwriter.. knows a songwriter… lives near a songwriter.. admires a songwriter or their neighbor

But great ideas go beyond songwriting.  They can change everything… they can change our world.  Learning something new, forgiving, taking a risk, stretching, seeking a new door when one closes, not being discouraged, what happens AFTER we fail, remembering a passion we had long ago and rekindling it, starting over, not letting our joy be robbed by what could beat us down each day, following a hunch or a nudge, saying what if, believing things can be different, knowing that our one voice matters, putting everything on the line, making room, doing
things that are hard and scare us, letting go, giving over control, realizing with death comes new life, making mistakes, learning from our mistakes, resting, giving everything, leaning into something we love, not letting fear keep us from trying, being ok with different, accepting others and mostly ourselves, plowing a new row, see things differently, listening, speaking up, waiting… my whole life I have believed there was more … and sometimes the more came when only I was willing for a great idea to come outta something less… something little… something small… almost missed.. and insufficient.  What if that is true for you… you pick one of those statements I listed and you become that… your embrace that something amazing is happening.. is going to happen.. has happened… is about to happen… you believe that your next great idea is not behind you … it’s here! It’s right now.. it’s right around the corner.. it’s in the door that opened only because the door beside it closed!

I have always said… I love no’s because I know my yes is near!

Guys came by and cleaned out our tree line this week… with large machinery they removed more than we wanted… funny our compost pile we had secretly tucked in the bushes and trees.. .was sitting out by itself.. out in the open
for the world to see… What I am watching now is my sons and Ron make piles and burn all the work crew left behind.  On the way home from school, we discussed the kind of trees we’d like to plant .. evergreens along the tree line between our house and the road.. we’ve talked about it for years but now we really need … to do it.  They have never pruned like they did this week… I mean they really cleared out a lot of stuff… stuff we didn’t even know was under there! On the edge of our property.. under all that stuff.. was a young dogwood tree we had never seen before… we have two and are thrilled to have another.  I laughed at the thought that it was there the whole time … I passed it daily and never saw it… maybe mine phrase should be … see things differently!

That’s a great idea.

Last thought … as I was writing this I not only thought .. raise a juice box for our next great idea… raise your juice box friends … you are a great idea! embrace that! You are… no one else is you … and what you offer in this
world.. your smile… your laugh.. your problem- solving, your effort, your heart, your gifts, your everything….

I know is a great idea.

Some ideas I love:

Solmate socks – http://www.socklady.com

Jamie O’Hara’s new CD Dream Hymns

Thistle Farms Products – http://www.thistlefarms.org

boots and bandana golf – http://www.bootsandbandana.com

listening to music at the Bluebird Cafe’ – http://www.bluebirdcafe.com — I’m there 11/20/2012

listening to music in Luckenbach, Tx…  – http://www.luckenbachtexas.com (everynight starts at 4)

camping in the backyard!


Twice today a bird has hit the large window in the den where my desk is. I have gotten up both times to look out the window to find a bird, but have only seen the overgrown crab grass that grows wildly under a white dogwood tree. Those birds are fast! Maybe they didn’t even hit the ground, before they took off. But the sound of both impacts makes me believe they must have hit the ground, but wow, they recovered quickly. I mean I have seen birds just lay there for a moment. I have seen birds die on impact. Each time an animal is lost on our watch, our family has been pretty good about pausing for a moment of silence to celebrate and to remember a life well lived. A few words are spoken and heads are bowed. Just last week, Zach brought home a Fiddler Crab from school and named him Bob. Bob only lasted a day with us. Ron called me to say they carried Bob to the tree line. Ron expected a moment of reverent silence. Ron asked Zach if he had a few words to say. As Zach flung Bob into the trees, he said, “nah, we’re good!” Well, let’s say, sometimes we’re good about that!

When I think about those birds, I think flying is good, death is difficult, but stunned is, well, just stunned. Sometimes it takes a while for resolution. It takes a while to realize what just happened. It takes a while to get up and get back to flying. Can I relate? I don’t know about you, but there have been some stunning moments in my life. Not all of them were life threatening. Some of them have ended up quite pleasantly. Others ended up being heartbreaking. What I know of life is that, that is life. One minute you’re flying and the next you hit your head on a window you never saw coming. What about that window draws birds to it? I guess it looks real. It looks safe. It is falsely perceived as the right way to go. Yet it’s not. Recently, I read a quote from Picasso that said, “art is a lie that tells the truth.” Sometimes there is a hint of that in real life, don’t you think?

Funny, we spend millions on cosmetics, clothes, and accessories, when we know in our heart of hearts that we came into this world in our birthday suit and we’re leaving in the same outfit. Our beauty, our true beauty, lies within ourselves. When we truly share our inner self, the superficial pales in comparison to all that we adorn ourselves with. Our true beauty is our laugh, our gentle look, our sincere smile, our shared tears, the way we share our true selves when we lose all concept of self-awareness. When we are real and genuine with each other and our selves. That kind of treasure can’t be bought or sold or traded or owned or bartered with or stolen from. It is all we ever need to be, just us. When we are that, our true selves, we are not afraid of judgment, imperfection or criticism. The phrase “comfortable in our own skin” has a life, and it’s us, who we are.

This past week during a women’s retreat, a young mom shared her story with me. She told me about the loss of her son Matthew James, born 6 weeks ago. He only lived 3 days; but she said in those three days, she was more certain of God’s presence than ever before. Though she mourned the loss of her son, she celebrated a life lived and loved fully in 3 short days. I told her of my friends, Rodney and Allison, and of my singing for their daughter, Mercy Elizabeth’s celebration of life. I sang “Grayson’s song — Child From Above” from my CD of lullabies. I asked Matthew’s mom if I could sing it for her during the communion service we had during the retreat. I said it was now the “Grayson, Mercy, Matthew” song. She smiled and said, “I would be honored.”

Now to the thing that made me laugh during such a heartfelt moment. Her friend Kim who was sitting on the pew in front of her, as the song started, jumped over the pew to sit with her. All of us began to laugh. I later commented on the moment, “what makes a woman jump over a pew in church during a song, during communion, to sit next to her friend, to put her arms around her? During a time when most folks, won’t make eye contact with her makes her look into her eyes and say, ‘I’m right here.'” It was poetically stunning or stunningly poetic! We all thought at the same time, “why didn’t I do that.” What a sweet gesture. I’m so glad we didn’t just sit in silence and stare at the floor. That mom told me she was numb and her body ached all over. At the same time she said, I almost didn’t come today, but I am so glad I chose to.

I think of her back in her town. All the love they have to give to her, all the ways they want to support her, yet many of us don’t know what to do at times like that. Sometimes ya gotta jump a pew. The lie may be to believe that to be silent and still makes it better. Don’t say the wrong thing. When all along, when we find that we have slammed into a glass window, the truth is we need people to be willing to just be with us through it, not to be afraid to share their own pain with us and maybe we don’t need them to talk at all. Just to jump the pew already and sit by us and to put their arm around us.

On that same weekend, someone gave me this quote that said, “A friend understands what you are trying to say… even when your thoughts aren’t fitting into words.” Ann D Parrish

I’m not sure what made those two birds get up and get on with it and fly toward their next. I know the only thing that gives me the will… what made that woman jump the pew… is only love. Love that surrounds us when we are stunned… love that makes us forget ourselves and reach out to others… love that carries us… love that lifts us when we can’t lift ourselves.

One of my favorite songs says it all…

Love lifted me
Love lifted me
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me

w. James Rowe, 1865-1933 / m. Howard E Smith 1863-1918

Psalm 40:2 He lifted me out of the pit… set my feet on a rock.

All my love… be pew jumpers, friends! ~ Celia Anne

Where I was / where I am

There are times in our life when we remember exactly where we were when something happened:

November 22, 1963 – I was only two months old, but from my mom’s stories, I grew up knowing where my mom was when she heard Kennedy was shot. She was in the kitchen cooking and I was there with her when she got the call.

January 28, 1986 – When the Challenger exploded, I was driving to Broadmoor Middle School in Shreveport, Louisiana, where I was student-teaching 6th grade science. When I arrived and heard the news, I remember audibly hearing the breath leave my body and walking into a classroom of crying 6th grade science students who looked to me, all of 22 years old to bring comfort. They needed me to be their solace and consolation during the time…. we had been following the science teacher Christie McAuliffe who was on that mission as we were going to follow her lessons plans from space.

January 17, 1991 – I remember being in the car headed home from the Collin Creek mall in Plano, Texas….when I heard over the radio that we had begun bombing Iraq and that the Iraq invasion had begun.

April 19, 1993 – I was eating pizza at Pizzeria Uno in Addison, Texas glued to the TV with Ron and one of our college friend’s John, when the Branch Davidian compound burned in Waco TX. I sang two months later at the UM Children’s home in Waco, where several of the children who survived that day had been sent.

August 31, 1997 – Ron and I were leading a family retreat for Foundry UMC in Washington, DC the weekend princess Diana died. After watching coverage on television from our rooms, we visited the spontaneous memorial in front of the British Embassy in DC.

August 29, 2005 – I watched the Hurricane Katrina coverage from a hotel room in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Thad was out with me playing the guitar and we kept yelling back and forth at each other down the hall between our rooms.

September 11, 2001 was a different experience because I was a mom and because I felt like anything could have happened that day . Less than a year prior, we had bought a home just outside of Franklin, Tennessee. I was sitting in the den rocking Max…. pregnant with Zach, only a month from delivering him. Our friend Ashley was there helping us with office work and with Max. I sat, like so many of you, and cried as I watched our day crumble right in front of us on every channel. An hour faded into the several hours. I became a news junkie. I wanted to do something. I called a friend within the hour and I remember her saying the name, “Osama bin Laden,” as if I knew who that was. I did not have a clue what kind of world we were all entering into — an age of terrorism and the fear of terrorism. As I watched President Bush speak from Barksdale Air Force Base only a few miles from our former home in Louisiana, I thought to myself, “anything could happen today.” And it wasn’t a hopeful thought. It was like the sky was the limit, but any bad thing, any crazy thing, any unthinkable thing could happen that day. And it did for so many.

One night while watching Diane Sawyer interview family members of a firm whose members were lost when the towers collapsed, she spoke with a mom and teen daughter. The teen was holding up a picture of her dad and looking straight at the camera and saying, “if anyone knows where my dad is, please contact us. We love him and we want him home. We want him where he belongs. Maybe he left the building and someone knows something. We want him back. Please call us.” I remember wanting to write the number down and to call just to say how sorry I was. I broke down and just wept for her, for her mom, for NY, for our country and for me, really for all of us. There are times when we want things back. We want something fixed. We want someone to call and say it is all gonna work out. I know. I feel it, too.

At some point, I had to turn off the television and start living. I picked up the phone and called Danny, a youth director in Ohio, whose group I had just been with the weekend prior to that Tuesday. One of the best memories from that weekend was their Saturday night tradition. The new seniors shared their wisdom, hopes, dreams and fears with everyone. Those words guided me in the days and weeks following and continue to guide me today. We laughed that evening. We cried. We hugged. We promised to be there for each other. We were reminded that we are not alone and we were reminded that the sky is the limit (of good things). Anything can happen. The unthinkable can come true and all for good! And when the unthinkable happens, when darkness washes over each of us like a violent storm; we will get through it. The sun will rise again.

Maybe as important as 9-11, were and are the days following tragedies. The days when we wake to the sun rising again and we rise to take our first steps forward – we hug our children a little closer, we are a little more patient and we realize how precious each moment is.

September 6, 2011 – I made a phone call and sang over the phone for my friend Marti, a pastor friend who I have had the joy to know for several years. She was in her last days of cancer, being cared for by her loving husband,Mac… family and a wonderful hospice group. I was flooded with all of the wonderful memories I had shared with her in ministry. She was all about …justice… and mercy. She reminded all of us that we each can make a difference. Her daughters have followed in her footsteps finding careers that bring healing and hope. Her love, her smile, her laugh, her presence — she was very real and a presence of goodness during our ministry together. I called to sing to her over the phone — “How Great Thou Art” and “Wonderful World.” I sang “Wonderful World” specifically because even though what’s immediately around us might at times cast a shadow on all the wonderful, we can choose to find the wonder. We can choose to dwell on the wonder filled world we live in — a world that so desperately needs us, needs our laughs, needs our hope, needs our us! Mack said she kissed the phone when I finished. Marti died on Sunday morning, September 11, 2011 at 4:30 am. I smiled thinking, “here she goes again reminding us to remember” — remember the life, not the death, remember the goodness not the bad and to be about forgiveness. The best way to respond to hate is simply to love; which is simple to write in a devotion, but not so simple to follow through on. I get locked up daily with all that weighs me down in life. And yet on some days I get a small reminder of what could be and about the difference I am making. A few days later, I spoke with Marti’s husband who called to say thank you. Thank you for the songs, thank you for taking the time. Thank you for calling when you did (I told him I almost didn’t, because I didn’t want to bug them.) Thank you for your love — it made a difference and it was enough. I kept thinking, I could do more. I should have done more. I can still do more.

September 18, 2011 – I had the chance to sing for someone else receiving hospice care. I had not met Mercy Elizabeth Whitfield who was born days earlier on 9/8/11 with Trisomy 13. She was sent home with her loving parents Rodney and Allison, and her siblings Grace and Justice. She has been surrounded by family, friends and church members, all loving that sweet baby during her limited days here on earth. As my guitarist friend Austin, and I entered their home, we were greeted by my friend Allyson George, the children’s director at Rodney’s church First UMC Richardson where he serves as an associate pastor. As I sang, Mercy was held by those who loved her and sometimes I could hear them singing along with me, like on “Jesus loves me” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Grace and Justice were put to sleep after rocking with their parents. Then the adults all just sat and listened to instrumental music of the guitar fill the room. As I prepared to leave, I took Mercy’s hand and leaned close and whispered, “I love you.” Her mom Allison was holding her and said to me, “you can kiss her” and I placed a soft kiss on her forehead and said, “you sleep sweet baby.” I got the news this morning that Mercy died around 2 am this morning. I believe that she is still held by loving arms. I am a witness to Mercy–love going the extra mile. Those parents and caregivers being in the moment, every second, knowing what they had was the right now. I loved that my friend, Marti paved the way for me to share with Mercy… and in Marti’s ministry… she loved mercy.

I am reminded that our time is precious. I am thankful I used my voice, as tired as it was and as uncertain as to how I was going to be able to sing for my friends. I gave what I had in that moment and it was enough.

I love you all and pray that today you know that YOU are the gift. You use your voice and live with the assurance that you too are surrounded by loving arms.

I’ll always know where I was on September 18, 2011, the day I saw the face of Mercy, in a living room filled with love in Dallas, Texas. I hope I never forget the impact it made on me.

Celia Anne

You can offer your prayers for Marti’s family here: Marti
and for Mercy Elizabeth Whitfield’s family here: Mercy

On Good Friday

Nearer, my God to thee, nearer to thee!
Even it be a cross that raiseth me,
still all my song shall be,
nearer, my God to thee:

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
darkness be over me, my rest a stone:
yet in my dreams I’d be nearer my God to thee:
Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

Words Sarah F. Adams 1541
Music Lowell Mason 1856

On Good Friday, I was reflecting on what it must have been like to survive the first Good Friday without the assurance of Easter Sunday. It couldn’t have felt like a very good Friday. It might have felt something akin to being on a sinking ship.

I’ve been reviewing the story of the RMS Titanic with my sons as they’ve studied the ship and my mind wandered there as I reflected. I have always been fascinated by the Titanic.

Wallace Hartley, the bandmaster of the orchestra on the famous ship Titanic, changed songs from popular ragtime tunes to Nearer my God to Thee sometime before the ship sank April 12, 1912 around 2:20 am on that incredible evening of its maiden voyage. A friend had asked earlier Hartley what he would do if he found himself on a sinking ship. “I would gather the band together and begin playing,” he responded. Wearing their life vests, not one of them stopped playing till the very end … survivors recounted.

I loved the movie “Unsinkable Molly Brown.” Debbie Reynolds was fantastic as she played Molly Brown, a survivor of the ship. It is understandable why it was the major blockbuster years ago. People are spellbound by someone who survives something like that, because few do. So I was thinking about how those survivors made it to the lifeboats — simply one word…others. Others put them on those boats. Others gave up their seats so that someone else might have one. Others informed them. Others pointed them in the right direction. Others thought of someone else, instead of themselves that evening.

I recently watched a movie about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life. Once in captivity he said, “real Christianity is sharing each others pain… it will shock people.” I think of those who stepped aside so that someone else might live: husbands put wives into lifeboats, women put children in the hands of strangers. What kind of person does that? Someone who is selfless, someone who is willing does that. When the Titanic finally went down, countless people were in the water. Amid the Lord’s prayer being prayed, one cry heard by those in the boats was, “Save one life! Save one life!” Boat after boat… thought about going back to aid those in the 28 degree water, but were talked out of it fearing they would be overthrown by the masses in the water. One did go back though, Fifth Officer Lowe. He thought he might wait and let the crowd “thin out,” but in fact, he waited too long. Even still he did find Steward John Stewart and another unknown gentleman and 2 collapsible life boats with a dozen men still alive, as well as Mrs. Rosa Abbott.

Lowe knew what others forgot that day, that his rescue could not come without his helping others rescued. Molly Brown knew the same. She begged the crewman from their lifeboat to return to aid those in need. When denied, she knew that to stay warm the women would also have to row along with the men in the boat and she carried on until they were allowed to. She wrapped her coat around the legs of a man who sat beside her shivering uncontrollably as she rowed into the night. But those that really captured my attention on the Titanic, were the crew. In Daniel Allen Butler’s book, “Unsinkable: The full story of the RMS Titanic” he notes that, “… it was devotion to the duty, a sense of responsibility, obligation to other people, a knowledge that people were depending on them that caused so many crewmembers to stay at their posts, even at the cost of their lives.” There is no greater love, a love for their fellow men and women. I love what Butler wrote of the crew, “if there was a lasting legacy from the crew of the Titanic, something genuine, meaning that would transcend cliché and platitude… that they could leave for their children and grandchildren… it was their willingness to follow men who were doing what was right and noble and good, and in doing so become right, noble and good themselves.”

Some call it crazy, others call it sacrifice. A kind of sacrifice rarely seen, but when witnessed, it captivates our spirit, it makes us too want to do for others, to be selfless for others, to risk it all without regard for our own gain, to step in when stepping in might not seem popular or easy. Isn’t that what hope is all about? You and I in the icy water as our ship is going down near us calling, “Save One Life” desperately hoping, longing with all that is in us that someoneŠ just one someone, will come to our aid.

I think back on the Titanic moments in my life – those times when I hit an iceberg or when I sunk altogether. As someone one who grew up with a mother who struggled with depression, I know all-too-well what the sinking of a metaphorical ship feels like.

That was part of my survival and my growing up. Someone stepped in; someone lent a hand; people came to my aid. My support system was quilted together by people who surrounded me at times when I felt my ship was going under. Whether or not they knew of my mother’s battle or the challenges that came with living in a pastor’s family, or others that presented themselves as an adult… eating disorders, deaths of my sister, parents, close friends… fear disappointments, loss in all our lives….others were there.

I received that aid time and time again, from friends on my street, in my choir, sitting near me in class, in Sunday school and from teachers, volunteers, aunts/uncles/ cousins, pastors and youth directors. As I look around I’ve continued to have that in my life: blessedness… blessed friends, family,from my best friend Ron and the dangerous duo- Max and Zach, countless folks I’ve met along the way. Names and faces continue to be added to my list. You are on it if you have opened your stories and yourselves to me, have put your arms around me, have laughed and cried with me and drank countless cups of coffee with me, have written songs, edited books, showed up to concerts, eaten many meals, played at the park, gone to the movies… and on it goes. You’ve been present for moments of despair, loss, shame, hope, joy and healing… you were simply agents of loveŠ living love.

And so it goes, each day we all have a chance to put someone else in a lifeboat. We all can huddle together and be on the lookout… we all can simply save one life and in doing so, what a wonderful funny little twist, our lives are saved as well. Isn’t that what really happened Easter morning… the disciples finally really got it.. what real sacrifice looks like… not death at all… real living love.

Following that first good Friday, we find the disciples in a room, huddled together, hanging onto each other for dear life. They are presented with the wonderful news that you and I can’t help hearing the story through. God owns the Omega as well as the Alpha. Light has the last word.

Take care of your soul, friends,
Be yourself,
Enjoy the journey
… and celebrate the simple things of life… like more ice cream!

Celia Anne

What is the most surprising thing about love?

What is the most surprising thing about love? It was a question posed in the last magazine, “Real Simple.” I love that magazine. I rarely take the time to read one, unless I am getting my hair done or sitting on an airplane, but it has become one of my favorite magazines. Its subtitle is “Life made easier:” Now who among us doesn’t need a little bit of that!

I enjoyed many of the responses included in the article to this question about love. Some of my favorites were: “It can come from someone you barely know. Stephanie, NC”, “It happens when you least expect it. Marianna, IL”, “How simple it can be. Robin, ID Everything, Courtney, MA.”

I asked Max, who is 9, how he would answer it. He said, “You never know what’s gonna happen.” Which I thought was a wonderful answer. Real Simple should have printed his! About 5 minutes later, as we were about to turn onto our street driving home from school, he asked if he could play outside with his friends after he finished writing his spelling words. I said, “yes, sure.” He chuckled and said “Mom, you are beautifully surprising!” I loved that answer for love. Love is beautifully surprising. I couldn’t keep from laughing.

Isn’t that it? Love is beautifully surprising. I am filled with it’s wonder at its depth, its diversity, its perseverance, its endurance and its sheer will. I have seen so many things happen in the name of love, both incredible and detrimental. I do revert to chapter 13 of I Corinthian’s as a guideline.

A couple of years ago while at elementary camp in Texas with our friends, we had the joy of experiencing camp worship, led by campers. One group did a skit as the message about the camp theme: “the fruits of the Spirit.” In the skit, someone would behave a certain way that was pretty much contrary to one of the fruits and an angel watching would speak to them and ask them a simple question: are you gonna be loving? …caring? when they got to the trait of kindness.. they said “kindful?” I loved it. Full of kindness, loveful–full of love. I loved that thought. It might not be a real word, but it made its point.

We have a choice to be full of something: envy, small minded things, hurts from the past that should have been forgiven long ago, mistakes we have made. We also have a choice to answer a different way maybe even to surprise ourselves. Some of our choice boils down simply to letting go. Letting go of ourselves, so that we can be open to love.

A few days ago I saw a man quietly holding a sign on the corner of our downtown main street that simply said, “Easter is all about Jesus.” As he held it, I was mindful of the funeral a friend asked me earlier that day to help plan. It was the service remembering a friend of hers named Dawn who had just died. During the last 18 months, Dawn has let go of everything. My friend, a mom of 4 boys, has had reinforcements from her dear parents and husband that enabled her to care for her friend Dawn who has been ill all year. Last week, her friend completed her battle and died silently in the night with my friend and another of their friends standing by. As my friend and I sat at one of our local coffeehouses and talked about her dear friend Dawn, I thought of the man with the sign. Dawn liked to say, “don’t postpone joy!” Don’t postpone joy. What a breathtaking way to live and what an inspiration. What an amazing sign to hold up in life.

I’m almost ashamed to reflect on some of the signs I have held up at different times in my life, “I don’t like the way I look. Life isn’t fair. I’m overwhelmed. I need a break. I’m lonely. I don’t know how to love you. I need to surrender.” The list goes on also with others like, “be yourself, enjoy the journey, we are never alone… whatever your name is-I love you, anything is possible” We all can make a difference. Love is beautifully surprising.

From the perspective of Holy Week, I think Jesus was beautifully surprising. He constantly served as a reminder to those around him. I can think of a couple of signs he carried, “I love you” and “love each other.” He did about everything he could to get that point across. He was willing to be used as an example. There are moments when I think of his willingness to go the distance, the ultimate sacrifice, all for love. I’d like to think I would do anything, for anyone. Jesus certainly sets that up with a living example. If I am willing to read the text from Matthew literally, when am I going to have a real chance to lay down my life for a friend? Maybe there are several ways to do that. Maybe it can show up in the laying down of my will or my desire to have the center of attention or my spending my time and money for others or my attention to what are the real priorities, or my discipline to say whatever comes to my mind when I am mad or hurt or my using my time wisely or thinking of others before myself or my constantly asking myself, “does this look like love, am I living love fully?” We have to be in constant evaluation of the signs we carry.

One has to come to grips with how we are loved even when our signs are wrong. Though my behavior never measures up to how I believe one who follows Jesus should live, I can sleep at night knowing that there is a God who loves me with all of my shortcomings, who measures how I love and live not by how many acts of kindness I do, but by what’s in my heart.

It’s winter and I’m feeling it.

All that comes with winter is here–the snow, the cold, the barren trees and days spent indoors watching endless movies while drinking hot chocolate. Paraphrasing Charles Dickens, “it [is] the best and it [is] the worst of times.” I love winter for so many reasons: Thanksgiving, gathering with loved ones and sharing a meal, Christmas-there is nothing as magical, the birth of Christ, presents, Christmas lights and the Christmas tree, which has always been a favorite part of the holiday for me. This year we bought a new nativity set – a Playmobil Christmas. It was so cute on our mantel. We got one for our friends Skyler and Bill Baskin-Ball, too. Skyler said he loves his as much as we love ours. There are some things about this season that are wonderful and timeless– the memories, the traditions and the spirit.

Holidays, I’ll be honest, are also hard for me. Both my parents have died and it always feels strange not to see them or to call them. I have felt that hole more this year than the past seven since they died. This year I have had a sense that I’m really doing this alone. Part of that sense is because I miss my dear friend, Skyler’s mom. Kathleen Baskin-Ball died last December 2nd, with several of us surrounding her with love. Through November and December I have been reliving those fresh anniversaries as I thought back to “a year ago today I was…”.

At her memorial service there was an celebration of all we loved about Kathleen and a sense of gratitude for all she had given to each of us. I think of her especially this season–she celebrated and loved Christmas. My sons knew why I kept going back and forth to Dallas for her treatments and our visits. My son Zach and I were talking about death. He said, “I’m not scared of death; the living’s just so good!” I love that. It’s a reminder that they are both parts of our lives–life and death, good and bad, back to back, hand in hand.

I am also aware of our turning the calendar page. I have been reflecting on all that 2009 has been and all it hasn’t been, on all of my hopes. There is a longing for loved ones that I will not hold again in this life and a thankfulness for those still within my reach. I stand at the crossroads of hope for a New Year and acceptance that some my 2009 resolutions are still on my 2010 list. I’ll be honest, Zach is right, the living is good, but living faithfully is also hard work. Daily, hourly, second by second, I am working on believing things unseen, trusting that God is still working on me, surrendering, being real and present in the moment and being myself. It means remaining on the lookout for ways to bring the kingdom–helping others, growing and becoming the person I am meant to be.

A friend of mine spent Thanksgiving with me this year and she brought me a Paperwhite [narcissus papyraceus] Bulb Kit. It has sat on my counter for a month and a half. Today I planted them. I was shocked to read that it takes five to six weeks for them to bloom. The first two are spent in the dark, crazy. I love the smell of paperwhites and I love their delicate budding flower. Now I learn that I have to wait 6 weeks. I’m thinking if I had silk or plastic ones, I’d be looking at them now; but they wouldn’t feel like paperwhites, smell like paper whites and they wouldn’t BE paperwhites. It takes time to make a real one; but I know it will be worth it (if I don’t kill them first). I’m going to do my best, Angie!

Beginning with the Christmas story, Zach and I progressed our theological conversation to the topic of the Trinity. We talked about the creation story. Specifically, about how in Gen. 1:26, 3:22, 11:7, God is referred to as us. We talked about how the Trinity-God who creates, Jesus and the Holy Spirit existed from the beginning. Zach said, “well yea,” then they said, imitating their dialogue, “one of us should go down there and look like them …soooo… they sent Jesus as a baby… cool huh?” It was funny to have my 8 year old remind me about what I already know–God is here, Christ is here, the Holy Spirit is here. Like bulbs under the soil, something is already at work, Though I can’t always see it, I have faith.

Winter is a reminder of that for me. Our faith is more than what we see. It is deeper than we can give words to. It has more potential than it appears. I need to keep telling myself that there is us. Winter somehow brings out this thought that we are isolated, that we are alone, that we are facing all of this by ourselves. But that is farthest from the truth; our lives are a wonderful mix. Just like this past year-fullness, growth, dormancy, listening, fulfilling, celebrating, grieving, standing still, flying by, fully aware and totally unknown. I am all of these and more and I see what I am not-wholeness. I may never get there on this side of the Jordan, but I can keep reaching.

January is also a wonderful reminder of do-overs. I’ve been cleaning out for the last few months. It started a need for an empty guest bedroom for Thanksgiving. A friend in my bunco group said, “don’t let your friend open any of your closets, she’ll be killed by all the stuff that falls out!” I started with the guest room closet and slowly made my way around the whole house. It feels good to put your hands on everything in your life and say goodbye to a portion of it. Think of it, how few times in our lives do we do that–ask ourselves, “what do I need to keep and what do I need to let go of? What needs order and balance in my life?” Whew, it has been a journey! In cleaning out the office, I went through papers, lots of papers, and I once again remembered my friend Kathleen. Someone recently told me their favorite part of her memorial service was when I went to sing the song I wrote for her “One Wish” and I realized that I had sang the second verse first and we were going a little too fast. I stopped and said on the mic, “Kathleen was all about do-overs and second chances,” and we started the song again. To be honest I hadn’t really thought much about my saying that until I found an event brochure for an event I sang at called Perkins School of Youth Ministry. In a faculty bio piece about my friend Kathleen, she was described as someone who “believes in offering second chances and has learned from ‘the least of these’.” I just wept when I read that. I had never really read what was said about all my friends who taught during the years of my leadership at that event, but were they right.

January is that second chance time for me. It is crazy that right in the middle of winter, there is this opportunity for new birth, for changes in our lives–a time for second chances, for some do-overs. We all could learn from the least of these. The Bible reminds us again and again–from a little child, from a despised tax collector, from a prostitute, to a lost sheep, to a stutterer, to a young boy with a slingshot. I keep thinking I need to be perfect–whatever that means. I keep looking in the wrong direction, at the wrong things to be my judge of success and setting the wrong goals for myself. Many times I gaze at people to be my models, when I know people and things have nothing to do with goals–mine at least. This new year I am faced with new opportunities, new risks, new chances, new stories to sing, new challenges, new songs to be written and new mistakes to be made. We all have fresh chances to learn how to love and forgive.

The last day I spend with Kathleen, she taught me one of her wonderful life lessons. As I helped her with a sip of water, she turned to me and said, “whatever your name is, I love you.” I smiled at her, as she said thank you. She was someone who had always been larger than life to me, she oozed talent, grace, creativity, integrity, strength and unconditional love. She was for me an overwhelming symbol of hope and strength–her cup really did run over, and some of it got on all of us. In that moment, she became the thing she had preached about all these years–that God was speaking through the least of these. She was in need and for a second, I saw the living Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. I got why Jesus was born and why in life the biggest gifts aren’t wrapped at all. I got that in winter buried deep beneath the soil, the seeds of new life are really there, waiting for what’s next. It didn’t matter at all whether or not she remembered what my name was that day. I was reminded whose I am, who I am and what I am–I am me and I am God’s. I am becoming more and more who I am suppose to be. I am strong and weak, beloved, lovable and capable of giving love.

I am strongest when I care for others, when I’m a servant. Focusing on that reality this winter will help me the most. I am both–full and empty. When I give, I realize how much I really have.

Peace to all of you this New Year, friends…
May you and all of your paperwhites bloom this year!

Always yours…

Celia Anne