Day 29: Take A Hike

It was a pretty Sunday, the Spring kind of pretty you deeply appreciate when the calendar insists it is the middle of January. Church was over and as we’d planned, Tim and I made a mad dash for the parking lot and jumped into his car. He started the engine, then reached across to the back seat and handed me the clothes I’d piled back there earlier that morning.

Here? In the car? I asked. I’m meant to change right here in the car?

He looked at me and shrugged, smiling a little. It’s what athletes do, he said.

(I’m not sure I’m meant for this, is what I thought.)


It all started a few days earlier when, in passing, with hardly a thought, I said something innocent like: I think maybe I could be a hiker, if I knew for sure I’d not encounter a wild animal–you know, a bear or a deadly snake. Well, my husband heard me, and the next thing I know we’re standing in our hiking boots in Harbison State Forest staring down ten wooded trails. My husband is an athlete, you see, the kind who plans life around whatever his training spreadsheet tells him to do. He’s finished dozens of marathons, two iron man competitions and one (I still can’t believe it and I was there) 50-mile ultra marathon–an impressive guy with the self discipline (and commitment to health) it takes to do that kind of thing.

I, on the other hand, am not that person.

Still it was a glorious day, and I’m so happy I made it the four miles we trekked to get to see sight after sight like this.

Harbison Forest

Firebreak Trail, Harbison Forest 1.18.15




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Day 28: Taking Note

It’s a lovely thing, I think, to acknowledge an answered prayer. The world cracks open and a little light comes in, right into your heart. Your burdens are lighter. Your disposition is sunnier. Your possibilities are broader, if only for one tiny, precious moment. And then Life resumes with its endless demands, of course, and you move on to the next set of worries and complications.

But here’s what I’ve come to believe. Prayers are answered with much greater frequency than we realize. A thousand times a day we lob little thoughts out there to the great blue yonder. Lo and behold, the universe hears and rearranges to accommodate the requests. We just fail to notice, fallible humans that we are, because the interruption the rearrangement causes in life–most often the changing of what we had planned–hits us as a big ol’ hassle.

(AARRGGGHH!! OUR FLIGHT IS DELAYED THREE HOURS! following a quiet Wish we had time for a beer in the airport. I really loved that Chicago IPA.)

I first offered this thesis here on The Daily Grace last summer, when we returned from Spain. I vowed then to take the time to look at the unexpected twists and turns in my life, to look all the way through those situations to see not just what they didn’t allow–but what they did. This “looking through,” I believed, would lead me back to something my heart had desired, to some little I wish I had tossed out along the way.

I expected it would be a fascinating and revealing study, yes.

And then I promptly forgot all about it.


Earlier this month, the wonderful blogger Hannah Brencher posted this on Instagram.


What a great idea, I thought in that moment. I should make a folder like this! I could fill it with all those “I got yo back, baby cakes” moments, all the showered blessings, ALL THOSE ANSWERED PRAYERS.

(But I really want the folder to be cool, like Hannah’s, I thought. I’ll have to set aside some time to figure out how to make one.) Yeah, right.


A few weeks later, I was criss-crossing the county in search of the perfect notebook for my upcoming writing workshop in Key West. I had a thousand things on my mind, and none of them involved a study of answered prayers (unless you include this very serious endeavor of finding The Notebook, a quest I took very seriously, a search that took me store to store to store).

Guess what I came upon, misplaced among the journals and notebooks at Target?



well, well, well


My very first entry:

Wanted a really cool folder like Hannah’s in which I could keep details & promises & big acts of faithfulness from God, 2015.

Found it, misplaced in Target.




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Day 27: Sail Away

We took a little boat ride in Key West, a trip that seemed to get us closer and closer to the horizon. It was a welcome indulgence during cold and sometimes dreary January; I’ve never been a winter traveler, but now I certainly understand the appeal. The day was warm, the light was soft, the water was mesmerizing.

I knew I would be captivated by the sunset. But I was most drawn to the ships on the sea: their shapes, their shadows, their constant movement–it was a changing scene, one in which every moment held a bit of awe.




30 Days of Joy


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Word for the Year (v.4) came to me easy this time, so obvious a choice my reaction was resist. It was still December, after all, and entirely too soon for the thing to appear. Still there it was.

Listen the word said. Listen.

THAT’S JUST WHAT I WILL DO! I thought.  I’ll wait, and watch, and in due time–typically a week or two after the new year has begun; once panic has fully set in–in due time, my word will drift in and alight, knowing eventually I will take note and grab hold. It’s happened three times before, you see, the January arrival of My Word for the Year, my guiding star as I move through the next 12 months of my life.

Listen is what it said.


This word business is not the sort of thing you can force, that I have learned. You can’t pick it out of a hat, or select it just because you like the sound of it, or adopt someone else’s–not if you want your word to do its work in your life. You can’t choose it at all, if you wanna know the truth, because somehow, in some mysterious way–if you pay attention–your word will find you.


And so I waited as words came and words went. And then this morning I awoke with it both in my head and on my heart, unmistakable in its insistence.

Listen, it said.


Past Words:

2014:  Word for the Year (v.3)

2013: Word for the year (v.2)

2012: Word for the Year (v.1)

*A continued thank you to Winn Collier for introducing the concept of a Word for the Year to me via his marvelous blog four years ago.

Day 26: On Dreams. And Courage.

It surprises me, I have to say, how aware of it I feel sitting here by the pool in this most lovely courtyard in Key West. I am alone, you see, traveling alone, something that is not necessarily new to me. And still the solo nature of it all has heightened every sense I have. The wind, tropical but January-cool, carries the sound of the leaves all around that blow and wave and rub. Each is a different green, and the late morning sun shifts the colors moment to moment, the canopy above me a changing show of dance and light. The Hemingway cats, six-toed and fat, stretch and meow and saunter. And in a marvelous twist on all that is represented by this island’s hedonistic brand, in the distance I hear church bells ringing.


Why is this? I wonder. What is it about spending (nearly) a week alone that turns up the volume?

I know, of course. I’m making good on a promise to live more courageously, to be more adventurous, to go more boldly. And while the story I repeat to myself is that it’s solo travel, the honest truth is I am here to realize a life-long dream of studying fiction writing with my favorite of favorite authors, Lee Smith at the renowned Key West Literary Seminar Writers’ Workshop.

(It took a shot of bourbon for me to apply for this coveted spot and another when I received word I was in.)

I take my first dive this afternoon. And for the next four days, I’ll push every writer comfort zone boundary I’ve developed–and more than one solo traveler fear. I’ll do so with this familiar mantra in my head:

You don’t serve the world by playing small.*


Live courageously. Be more adventurous. Go boldly.

Mantra, please serve me well!


*from one of my favorite writings/prayers/meditations by Marianne Williamson

30 Days of Joy


Day 25: A Bit of Chit Chat

They were having quite a conversation, these two, and I watched them for the longest time. Was it world events? Family problems? Some gossip, per chance, about the goings-on around Bickley’s Pond?





Or perhaps–like the rest of us–they were simply discussing this cold, cold weather!



30 Days of Joy

Day 24: in january

on Bickley's Pond

on Bickley’s Pond

There is something to love about each season, every month, those nearly imperceptible day-to-day shifts in nature that keep things changing, time rolling on. I believe it to be one of the universe’s most brilliant design characteristics—a gentle nudging that keeps us mere mortals (who can tend to become a bit set in our ways) always moving forward. It’s true in bud-rich Spring, on that we can easily agree. But it’s true in January, as well, this time of quiet gray and soft light, this month in which the world around us whispers Take a breath. Take a moment. Take stock.

How I love January.



30 Days of Joy


Day 23: Playing Favorites (or Six Things I Learned During Christmas Break)


the whole gang, New Year’s Eve at the SC Aquarium

There was a complicated set of circumstances that resulted in them all being here at the same time, these college friends: family holiday travel, a fabulous New Year’s Eve party in Charleston, move-back-in day at Clemson. Low and behold our house is situated right here betwixt and between so many of these goings-on; it just made sense for our place to be the layover spot.


New Year’s Day! (the girls and Little Bit)

How lucky for me.

Because for two nights and three days, I got to chill with Eliza and her best college buds, watching movies, playing games, and generally hanging out, holiday break down-time style.


a competitive game of Clue

The whole episode served to remind me of some things buried under a layer or two of grown-up life work, worry and busyness.

  1. An entire day on the sofa in your softest clothes can be a very good use of time.
  2. There’s a valuable bit of perspective to be gained surrounded by friends who tell you God’s honest truth about whatever it is you’re remembering/considering/discussing.
  3. Play. Play cards, play games, play let’s try on every hat at Mast General Store! Just play.
  4. Free food is good food, as Eliza explained to me before they arrived. But a really good meal served in a candle-lit dining room is magical.
  5. Laughter is contagious.
  6. Our world will be in very good hands one day.



30 Days of Joy

Day 22: Beginnings



It’s the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes on this first day of this new year.

I think that’s a very good sign. Don’t you?

A very good sign, indeed.

30 Days of Joy