Category Archives: Abundant Life Small Group

Finding Christmas Beauty


 Christmas is a time of wonder, beauty, magic, love. It’s also a time of hustle, bustle, To Do lists, one thing after another.

How do we focus on the first without being overwhelmed by the second?

First, get everything out of your brain. How often do the thoughts of “don’t forget to…” and “after this I have to…” rob you of focusing fully on any given task? Give your brain a break! WRITE IT DOWN!

It’s called a Brain Dump and it works on so many levels. Grab a blank piece of paper, or a voice recorder, or a Word document and start to dump what’s on your mind. In bullet form, write down everything you feel you have to do this holiday season. Cooking. Gifts. Cards. Decor. Events you want to attend. Parties to host. Loved ones to call. Groceries to buy. Items to pack if you’re spending the holidays away. Gifts left to buy. Everything. Dump it out of that brain!! One coach says it this way, “Half the anxiety you feel about the things you want to get done is that you aren’t doing anything about them.” Just writing them down is taking action. It’s doing something. And your mind and body respond to that momentum, propelling you towards getting things done!

Next, look at your list through the lens of Martha Beck’s 3 B’s. Anything on the list that brings a good feeling, do it as immediately as possible. For the rest…

  • Can you BAG it? I’m willing to bet there are a large number of things on that list that are more about expectations – your own or others’ – than they are about things that HAVE to be done. Would it forever alter your life for it just not to get done? Is it really important to the experience you want Christmas 2011 to be? If not, bag it! For example, when we pulled out all the decor this year and put up the tree, I found myself uninterested in decorating much of the rest of the house. I grabbed the stockings and the nativity scene for one area, but the rest I just put back in storage for another year. I’m not expecting Martha Stewart anyway. It was Ok to BAG IT!
  • Can you BARTER it? If it’s important to have done, who can help you with it? Maybe it’s a family member who just needs to be asked. Maybe it’s worth paying someone to do. Whether it’s deciding to cater your party this year instead of cook it yourself or let your kids stamp the Christmas cards, you probably have more help available than you thought.
  • Can you BETTER IT? It must be done. And it must be done by you. Some things are just like that. So, how can you better the experience so it doesn’t seem like such a drag? The house needs to be cleaned, for example, and you decide not to barter that out. Put on Christmas music and have fun with it! Make it a race. Let yourself watch a favorite movie after it’s all done. There is almost always a way to better it!

Finally… Decide how you WANT to feel this Christmas. Stressed? Blessed?

At the end of the month, what do you want your gratitude list to look like for this season? Write it down now and then use it as a treasure hunt list. Here are a few items some friends and I decided we want to experience – really SEE, HEAR, FEEL, SMELL, TASTE – this Christmas.

  • Twinkling lights
  • Homemade ornaments
  • O Holy Night
  • Santas with real beards
  • Cookies
  • Pine trees
  • Live Nativity Scenes
  • Elementary School Christmas pageants
  • New pajamas on Christmas morning
  • Caroling
  • Soft snow falling
  • Wearing red
  • Fun holiday jewelry
  • “O come let us adore Him”
  • Hearing the Christmas story
  • Hallmark movies that make you cry

Think on THESE things, and you’ll have a BEAUTIFUL Christmas!


Beauty through Photography

Taking photos is a great way to see the Beauty around you in a new way. In fact, it’s a great way to catch beauty in some of the places you least expect. Give it a try… you don’t have to have a fancy camera or a lot of training to get some great shots. Just grab your camera, shoot A LOT, and see what you get.

Here are some of my recent favorites.


Something to Write About

As you learn to become more aware of the Gifts all around you, sometimes those gifts come to you as quotes, scripture, song lyrics, even dialogue in movies or TV. When I hear something that inspires me, I like to write it down at the top of a blank journal page. Then, even if I don’t have time to explore it now, I have provided a space — AND AN EXPECTATION — that I will come back to it.

Still not sure where to start? Ask yourself, “Why do I like this?” And just start writing your answer and see where it goes. Check out the Inspiration Station  page; grab a favorite quote/lyric/verse; start writing!

Here’s one of mine:

Be not afraid of growing slowly. Be afraid only of standing still. -Chinese Proverb

I do get so afraid of not seeing progress quickly sometimes. I like the instant gratification. At least that’s what I tell myself. But if I look back on experience, maybe that’s not really true. There is something extra special about the sucess that did not come quickly and easily. The one where all the blood, sweat and tears just makes the finish line that much sweeter.

Moments of moving – no matter how small are still progress. Stop camping out half way to the summit, Beth!


Be an Explorer!!

Yesterday, I introduced the idea of Bullet-Point Journaling, a rapid-fire, no stress way to clear a lot of information out of your head by putting it on paper. That is helpful and healthy in many situations. Sometimes, in fact, it’s all you need — just to download your brain to paper ro make room for something else.

But I have often found that my Bullet Points on any given subject great moments of A-Ha that need to be explored a little more fully. This is Exploratory or Layered Journaling.

I recently did a Bullet-Point Journaling session on the topic of God. (Note: I often limit these bullet-point sessions to 2 minutes, but I have also found it cleansing to keep going for as long as I can think of something new. Until a list feels substantial — or until I have hit something that signals me that I need to Explore it more.)

In about 100 seconds, my God is… list was this:

  • amazing
  • love me in new ways every day
  • the lifter of my head
  • my Abba father
  • trustworthy
  • faithful
  • the ultimate friend
  • not hidden
  • ready to show himself
  • always in control
  • always at the top of his game
  • my defender

Then, as I read my list again, I knew I wanted to say more about God’s character as trustworthy and faithful. So I wrote “God is trustworthy and faithful” at the top of the page to Explore. Peel back another Layer.

Have you not proven yourself so, Lord? So many times I have stepped into the seemingly nothingness of faith and you have provided a bridge that holds. Each & Every time! Oh, I have been bruised. I have scraped knees, battle scars, and there have been broken hearts. At times I’ve felt like I had to scramble along a tiny ledge — but there, too, you are — with a cleft in the rock, an escape plan I never could have imagined.

I have prayed recently to see your glory — have the privilege of watching you live and breathe and have your being in me & others around me. Why did I think those moments would come anywhere but on a precipice — or a potter’s wheel — or a refiner’s fire? For your greatest treasures, your strongest champions have been forged in flames.

Oh the story to tell on the other side. Surely then I will know even more deeply what I already know to be true. You ARE trustworthy. You ARE faithful.

Now read your entry again. Slowly and WITHOUT JUDGEMENT. If a word or phrase grabs you, circle it, write it at the top of a new page and go with that topic. More exploring. Another layer.

Your turn!


Don’t Be Afraid of Journaling

I am convinced that the reason a lot of people don’t journal is for one or more of the following reasons…

  • They think they aren’t a “writer” and worry about spelling and grammar and style
  • They think they don’t have time
  • They don’t know what to write about

Journaling is NOT about the perfect expression of anything. It’s about clearing the crud out of your brain so it has room to think a new thought. When the junk is on paper, you don’t need it in your head anymore.

So here’s a quick way to make that happen. It takes no time at all, and I’ll tell you exactly what to write about. I call it Bulletpoint Journaling.

You can learn this technique most easily with a topic you have neutral feelings about. Start with a color, for example. Write “Purple is…” at the top of a page. Set the timer for 2 minutes. Now make a list of EVERYTHING that comes to mind that can complete that sentence. No editing. No stopping. Just whatever comes to mind. Don’t let your brain say, “No, it’s not.” … if you think it, write it down!

Ready? Go.

Purple is…

  • regal
  • the color of grapes
  • happy
  • a bright
  • the color of iris & pansies
  • unique
  • the mix of blue and red
  • the surprise bloom on my Morning Glory
  • the color of my walls
  • my Massey’s favorite color
  • majestic
  • Barney the dinosaur

Now try it with an animal, a feeling, a flower, a favorite place.

I think you’ll find that the action of not pressuring yourself to write more than one word or a short phrase makes this accessible and easy. It also creates an environment where your mind is allowed ANY thought. Then the ones that surprise you can be explored more carefully. While Bullet Journaling can be fun and interesting just to see what you get when you think on a color or object or place, this topic is most effective for me when I have to work out something I’m not sure I fully understand yet.

  • The reason I feel sad is…
  • My family is…
  • I wish I could…
  • My home is…
  • My work is…
  • I am frustrated with…
  • My God is…

Try it. And let me know how it works for you. Then come back tomorrow to see how to use this list to pull back another layer in your journaling path to self-discovery and finding beauty in unexpected places.


Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Abundant Life Small Group, Challenge


Why THIS one is better than the NEXT one


I admit it. I’ve done it more than once. Frankly, probably more than hundreds of times, I have taken a single bite of something delicious and immediately think, “I can’t wait to have another one!” To which my mind than hurries me through the cookie, the piece of cake, the whatever so I can get to the NEXT one as quickly as possible.

It reminds me of something I once read from a woman whose friend would comment in the middle of a vacation, “I can’t wait to come back here.”

What about the NOW?! What about THIS one?!? I want to learn to savor what I have instead of hurrying to the thing in the future.

In our Abundant Life group at Manna Church this week, we did a couple of exercises to help us learn to live more in the now. I encourage you to try them, too.

CHALLENGE 1: Get 3 bites of anything you love … peanuts, Hershey kisses, chips, raisins. You know what you like. Eat the first one as you normally would, briefly record in your journal anything you notice about the bite.

For Bite 2: Pause first. Consider the bite with all your senses. What does it look like (from all sides)? What does it feel like? Smell like? Maybe even sound like, if you have a crunch or wrapper, etc. Record these observations before taking a bite. Then eat … SLOWLY … even nibble it, perhaps. Consider the texture. Where does the flavor hit your tongue? Can you distinguish different tastes, textures, ingredients, etc. Think about how your body reacts to what you are eating. Pleasure? Warmth? Relaxed? Record these thoughts and observations.

For Bite 3: As you again savor it and eat it slowly, consider this time the hands that prepared your treat. All the ingredients. Who grew them? Gathered? Processed? Shipped to the store? Cared for them at the store? How did they make it? Give thanks for all the things involved in bringing this bite to your table. Record these thoughts and observations as well.

Now consider this… how does this exercise help you appreciate something you already loved even more?

CHALLENGE 2: Grab a flower, leaf, branch, pine cone — any living thing and lay it in front of you.

Now draw it. Yes, that’s right. I said, draw it. Pencil, crayons, pen, chalk, finger paints — whatever. But I want you to draw it as close to the original as possible.

When you are done, reflect on this… what did you notice in your object that you never would have except for the task of recreating it? How did you see this thing, in some way, for the first time? What detail of it have you missed before — maybe even for your entire life?

What if you got more deliberate and slow and aware of other things in your life. The ones that seem so ordinary. Just how much magic can you find in a single moment?


What is Beauty? PART 2

Yesterday, I asked you to explore your idea of Beauty with a journaling exercise and an opportunity to read a number of other people’s entries on the topic. (If you missed it, or want to review, click here.) And I think they are right on target with where our hearts and minds go when we are asked to consider what is beautiful.

And yet … I am finding that initial reaction VERY incomplete.

If my personal goal is to make it to 1,000 beautiful things – and more – what is allowed to make the cut?

Is it Ok to be grateful for, to find beauty in, to consider it a gift of God in some measure when the topic is Yo-yos? Slim Jims? Contact Lenses?


I have LOVED exploring the musings of other hunters & gatherers of awesomeness, and they have pushed me to be even more creative in my definition of beauty.

For example, on his way to 1000 Awesome Things, author Neil Pasricha, discounts NOTHING in his life as a blessing. Don’t miss his commentaries on…

And here are some more from Neil that are so fun, you just have to trust me and click blindly to these links…

Beauty. Awesomeness. Things that Make you Smile. Gifts. Glimpses of God. I don’t care what you call them — just start NOTICING them!

%d bloggers like this: