Well, we made it to the last week of 2020. This time last year feels like 10 years ago. Who knew what 2020 would bring? When we started discussing this community and then finally bringing it into fruition, we never could have anticipated that a few months into the year a global pandemic would hit and life would drastically change.
Throughout this year, we would sit in awe when some of the words fell on the weeks they did. Such as hope when the first vaccine was approved and injected into the arms of healthcare workers or when we needed resilience after the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gigi. These didn’t seem like coincidences. To us, this was part of the “wonder” of 2020.
We wanted wonder to be the last word because it seemed the most magical. Charlie Chaplin said, “You’ll never find a rainbow if you’re looking down.” In 2020, it seems like many of us didn’t just look down. We actually closed our eyes to forged ahead. It seemed like 2020 stole our wonder and replaced hope with fear.
In a season of loss and death, is it important to sit back and see the wonder of what came out of this ugly time? This year, Julie heard one of her children saying many times, “I wonder what to do with my life?” She caught herself asking, “I wonder if life will ever go back to normal?” Many of us have wondered, “How do nurses and first responders wear those masks for 16 hours at a time?” These are all valid ways to use the word wonder. Maybe the word was meant to be used in a different way? “The WONDER of it All!” Using it in a magical way, as if we were all still children and not jaded in the reality of a pandemic.
Sometimes it feels like 2020 stole our wonder and stole our ability to “look up.” We think 2021 is the year for taking it back. With wonder comes hope. With hope comes motivation to move forward and carry on while also stopping to look up. Keeping our eyes open to endless possibilities and hopeful imagination. Living everyday dealing with reality but knowing what is possible. Some fear “wonder.” They function in what they know is real and what they can see. Wonder is like Love. You keep it in your soul and your eyes. It’s what you see that no one else can. A vision of what’s possible, if you believe. Wonder is what you see when you look up.
If the definition of wonder is a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable. You can definitely describe 2020 with all these emotions. All in fearful negative ways we’ve experienced. But… in that horrible suffering, we also witnessed wonder of the human spirit, wrapped in surprise strength, unexpected hope, unfamiliar human resilience, and inexplicable generous love shown by all humans for each other.
If you use wonder as a verb, the definition is 1) feeling of desire or 2) feeling of doubt. I guess you can decide which way you forge ahead with the meaning. For us, we hope to hold on to the wonder of what we’ve seen this year and the beauty of what everyone shared in the blogs for this small journey we started. We hope to try one week at a time to emulate what wonder we’ve seen in others as we move into the next year of 2021. We hope to try and stay in the beauty of wonder and not the fear. It’s time to steal “wonder” back and keep looking up.
Thank you for joining us all year and we hope you continue to stay with us and see what the next year brings. Here’s to 2021 and the Wonder of it All!
In all of life's wonders,
Julie and Tonya
I have spent the last 11 months pondering on the word love. What does it mean? Describing love seemed like a convoluted task. The actual definition of it is infinite. Where is it? I spent the months of March to May thinking we all knew exactly what and where it was. As a whole community, we were extending grace during those months and it was a beautiful thing. I found it easy in those months to get a final idea of love. We were all connected and that connection created a community of loving, accepting humans.
Then came the summer months, where agitation began to take place. No one agreed and everyone had their own, very passionate, opinion. I then started questioning the existence of love. Did we lose sight of love? Do we need a “love” revival? As a whole, we began to show our frustration with each other and it seemed love went out the window, alongside our patience and sanity. I began to think love had been lost.
So, I started searching for acts of love in my daily life. However, what I was really doing was searching for where love was not. It seemed to be the culture we were in during the summer months and on into fall. We were doing a wonderful job shining light on all of the unkindness, hatred and division going on in the world. We knew exactly how to say, “that is where love is lacking.” I found that in only seeing where it was not, I was depressed and turned harsh towards myself and others.
I recently decided to change my perspective and make note every time I saw a tiny twinkle of love. I started highlighting in my mind when a stranger held the door for an elder, when a smile came from behind the mask in the busy after work store run, when emotions were high and we still found a way to reach out to a friend to ask how they were doing. These are all acts of love that I had forgotten were still there. It finally hit home when my 11-year-old son was verbally reacting to an injustice done to me (I was cut off at a stop sign.) He said some bad things about the driver of the other car. I had my love seeking goggles on, so what would have been a reprimand by me to his words of unkindness, actually turned into me thanking him for always wanting to protect me and take up for me. He was not acting in hate, he was actually acting in love, for me. That was the finale! The end of my search and my very finite answer. Love is.
Love is everywhere and can also be nowhere. We can see love where we chose to. We can spend our time choosing to see where it is lacking. And in doing that, we often collect massive amounts of data to argue that it is gone. But we can also choose to see it everywhere. And, oh, how it is everywhere. I see sprinkled in every single thing we are doing as humans. Even in the actions, at one time, I pointed out love was lacking. I now see the intention behind them and there it is, love! It is quietly resting behind our every motivation, waiting to be chosen. When we take away the idea that it is gone, it is so very apparent. Love is all around us, if we choose to see it.
My name is Melissa High. I live in Shawnee and am the mother of 3 children. I have always been facilitated with words and the power they have in our lives. It is an honor to write about my favorite word, LOVE.
The year 2020 has brought with it more changes than any of us ever imagined. Schools have closed, toilet paper has been hoarded, masks have been mandated, and social media wars have ensued. One of the most difficult changes as been the reality of necessary quarantine. Many of us experienced quarantine in the early months of the year, and many of us live in fear of the next time illness will force us back into isolation. Those who live alone are particularly acquainted with the deafening silence that accompanies staying home in isolation. In one way or another all of us have seen loneliness woven into our lives in the year 2020.
“It is possible to accept and to endure loneliness without bitterness when there is a vision of glory beyond. This is a very different thing from the sigh of resignation or defeat, the hopeless abandonment to a malevolent fate which merely ‘sits there and takes it.’ In circumstances for which there is no final answer in the world, we have two choices: accept them as God’s wise and loving choice for our blessing (this is called faith), or resent them as proof of His indifference, His carelessness, even His nonexistence (this is unbelief). Finding fault with God is sharp temptation, especially when there is no one else to blame. Yielding to that temptation leads to spiritual emptiness” (Elliot 2001, 108)
Having a vision of glory beyond our present pain is hope. Biblical hope is not wishful thinking, but rather a confident expectation. Even if our difficult circumstances persist, we can fix our gaze on Jesus, knowing that every promise in the Word of God will come to pass. Through faith in Christ, our future is secured with him in the perfect eternity that awaits us. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1)
One day, the pain of 2020 will make sense, but in the meantime, we can trust our unknown future to God. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises” (Romans 15:13, AMP).
Julie Busler is married to Ryan, and together they have 5 children. She and her husband own Busler Media, where she is a photographer, and she is actively involved with the Women’s Ministry at Immanuel Baptist Church. She also serves as the Oklahoma president of WMU with the Oklahoma Baptists. She is currently writing a book on mental illness in the Christian and can be followed on Facebook, as well as @juliebusler on Instagram.
Determination. Oh, how I would have written drastically different words about this term if I had written this at the beginning of 2020…
So, let’s talk about ‘determination’ as January-2020-Karoline would have talked about the word. At the beginning of the year, and even before that, I would have told you that ‘determination’ means:
To go in spite of.
To never back down.
To never admit defeat.
To use grit.
To defy the odds.
To push beyond your limits.
I would have told you some grandiose, hard, masculine, and externally focused version of the word. Is there anything wrong with this version of ‘determination’? Absolutely not. This version suits some people. This version of ‘determination’ is exactly what some people need in this season of their life.
However, this version is not the one December-2020-Karoline is entertaining.
Determination, in this season of my life, looks much different than it used to. My old definition and understanding of the word came from a stubborn, bull-headed, externally driven, and fixed version of myself (if you couldn’t already tell…). That definition came from a version of Karoline that was resistant to honoring her evolution, and lived by a phrase known as “my way or the highway,” regardless of how it felt to her insides.
So… how did the term ‘determination’ evolve and what does it mean to me now??
Determination evolved when I discovered there is more to Karoline than I admittedly understood. Like many people over the course of 2020, I discovered a lot about myself. I learned that I am a much more dynamic being than I let on… I think we all are. The deeper and truest side of Karoline is intuitively guided and yearns for connection, not accolation. When I started to discover my own inner workings, I realized how contradictory they were to my external actions. Moving through this existential crisis of sorts, resulted in my understanding of life and its various components to expand, and the term determination being one of them.
Now, what does determination look like to me, today? The term itself still holds resolute. I still consider determination to have an unwavering air about it; however, the term has shifted to an internal focus. Determination, to me, means to live on purpose… to live according to MY purpose. Not the one others tell me to live by. It means to be ruthless for my own well-being. Today, a determined Karoline will do whatever it takes to act based on her internal knowing system. She is less externally motivated, and lives to connect. Determination looks like taking the walk rather than the run because I am determined to honor my body’s needs. Determination looks like waking up early to pursue the purpose-driven life rather than the material-focused one. Determination looks like meditation to quiet the mind rather than manipulate it. Determination means standing firm in what I know to be true rather than forcing what I want to be true. Determination means moving with the evolving seasons of life rather than pushing against them.
Determination is still a term of strength, just with less hardass-like tendencies.
Being ruthless for your own well-being.
Standing firm in your power.
Moving rather than forcing.
Tapping in, not tuning out.
One foot in front of the other.
Going within even when it hurts.
December-2020-Karoline is DETERMINED to know herself, love herself, and listen to herself a little more every day. She is determined to honor the internal evolution that she will experience in this life.
I encourage you to reflect on what this word means to you. Whether you resonate with my definition or not, find the one that feels good to you, and allow it to evolve with each season you pass through in this life.
With all my love,
Karoline Elizabeth Wiens wears many hats. After graduating from a Liberal Arts college in Kansas City, Missouri with her Bachelors of Science in Business Administration, she stepped into the “real world” on fire for life. She followed one of her many internal tugs early in college when she switched from a Pre-Medicine degree to Business and Leadership, where she quickly locked arms with two of Kansas City’s most esteemed wedding planners at Events by Elle. Alongside her endeavors as a luxury event and wedding planner, she teaches group fitness at a local barre, yoga and fitness studio, as well as dance at a local dance studio. Her “teaching hat” allows her to feed her soul’s mission of empowering people to live according to their own unique and divine calling, by “yelling at them with love” to get one more burpee in. Her last, but probably not her final, hat is that of a holistic wellness coach and consultant with a global brand called Arbonne International. Karoline has found peace and purpose in helping people find their power through their emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health. She lives by her hashtag “inspire through intentionality” and continues to seek ways of fostering communities by unveiling our human commonalities.
Truth: a fact or belief that is accepted as true
My parents taught my sisters and I at a very young age, the importance of always speaking the truth. They shared with us that living truth is one of the most important traits of a person, as it speaks to their character and integrity. Truth is a trait that doesn’t require any super powers, it’s a universal characteristic understood by everyone, no matter what language you speak, the country you live in, your age, your gender, or IQ. Truth does not discriminate.
Last week was the 28th anniversary of my mother’s death. I was 17 years old and my sisters were 12 and 16, and this was the day we started our journey with truth.
Our mother was murdered in the confines of our very own home, while we were at school. My sisters got off the bus that afternoon to find our mother bludgeoned to death in our garage. We were united with our father, where we tried to find the truth with limited facts and the realization of what just happened. Seven days later after losing our mother, our father was arrested for the murder of our mother.
Over the next 22 years, my siblings and I fought in faith with our father for the truth to prevail and for his innocence to shine through. This included three different courthouses, 5 prisons, 2 parole hearings, newspapers, tv interviews, and countless attorneys, including the famous Barry Scheck and his innocence foundation. Our belief and faith in our father had us fighting for the truth to prove his innocence. We clung with all our energy and might for the truth to prevail.
Our dad has since been released on parole for the past six years. He was greeted by all his children with all the love and support (emotional, practical, financial, etc) we had to give and did so with joyous hearts. He quickly returned to the same man that he was before, one focused on work, money, superficial trappings. As our disappointment grew from all his broken promises and his own complicated and flawed humanity, we began to question all the truths we had believed and fought so hard for nearly three decades. In the end, the acts as we knew them and the truth we so desperately fought to believe came crashing down as doubt, deceit, untruths, broken trust, and ultimately, broken relationships.
Today he is a very small part of my life and has been completely eliminated by my sisters, as we have come to grips that our TRUTH has changed and the facts of that November day will likely never be known to us while on earth. Now as I ponder the definition of truth, I see the meaning completely anew. While the one thing I seek more than anything in this world is confirmation of what really happened on November 20th, 1992. But in our heart of hearts we have come to grips with the fact that life can and must continue with joy, even without the truth in hand.
Through this tragic experience, I have learned there never is just one truth. We all share truth and any given situation is complicated by multiple truths. Striving, reaching, praying, being held accountable, teaching, understanding, listening, and being compassionate to truth is a long and arduous journey and not without pain, but there is freedom in truth and that is my hope for all of you.
This is my truth.
Steve Haddock is the father of 3 amazing boys and married to his beautiful wife, Brooke Roberts Haddock. We love everything about living in Colorado with the mountains, the rivers, the wildlife, and our 24 family members living in the same city. Steve is the VP of Sales for a software company in Denver.
Respect is the acknowledgement of another person’s dignity through simple verbal and nonverbal actions. It’s the ability to reserve judgment and be honest with oneself and an adherence to value a different opinion. The recognition of a special quality is also a form of respect. Everyone has an innate desire to be respected, especially by those that are loved or admired.
One of the nicest things about respect is that it can be demonstrated in many different ways. Depending on the situation, respect can take different shapes and isn’t always a “one size fits all” approach. Words like, “thank you,” “I appreciate…,” “yes ma’am/sir, “ are the most basic verbal forms of showing respect. Holding a door, smiling, making eye contact and paying attention are easy non-verbal forms of showing respect.
But the biggest benefit of showing respect is earning it in return. To be respected feels great because, thankfully, for most people it feels good to respect one another. Paying respect adds value to a relationship. Good friends are valuable in large part because of the mutual respect that exists between the parties.
Whether respect manifests itself in the form of a high five, a simple smile or listening intently, it is contagious. It’s the duty of everyone to spread it to one another in order to foster a platform on which anyone can have a voice and know that at the very least, it will be respected.
Brent Lampl teaches middle school Spanish in Dallas, TX. He has been married for over 17 years and is the proud father of a son and daughter. Aside from family, he enjoys music, the outdoors and things with wheels.
Long, long ago when I was a mature student at St. Gregory’s, I took a six-week intensive “Math for Critical thinking” course with Bob Yarbrough. His very first assignment asked us to write an essay on what we thought math was and what its role was in society today. In my essay, I challenged him to show me how math was relevant for our everyday lives for non-math people. With much patience, and teaching skills he helped me pass the course with a ‘B’. At the end of the course, his final assignment redirected us to our first essay and he asked us to reflect on it and write how our opinion may have changed or may not have changed after completing the class. Needless to say, my opinion had changed and I could see how math, algebra included, did play a role in our lives every single day. We use it when we go shopping, when we are felling a tree, when deer hunting, when we are planning our household budgets or projects, and when we create art. We cannot escape the math skills we learned when we were young.
And so, it is with “Patience”!
When we were young, our parents, grandparents, teachers and elders would say things such as:
• “Patience is a Virtue.”
• “Just wait, good things come to those who wait.”
• “It will be ready soon enough and then you can taste it.”
• “Don’t be wishing away your years; you’ll be eighteen soon enough.”
• “You’re trying my patience.”
Sometimes we learned, such as when we stopped getting up at 5 a.m. to open our Christmas presents. As we became adults, we learned to be patient and wait in line, wait till payday, wait for a letter, wait for somebody to get off the phone so we could use it, wait until the traffic light had turned green or for the cars to pass so that we could cross the road safely. We also used our patience to find alternative things to do around the house until our grounding expired.
And then, along came the age of instant gratification and easy credit and ‘patience’ suffered. We no longer had to wait till we had enough money saved before we bought things for ourselves and our children or friends. Instant gratification can be good, but it can also be very dangerous, self-centered, self-destructive, and definitely not as rewarding as self-control and patience.
As an abstract artist, I have sometimes been very impatient and relied on my feelings to shape and design the art that I created. However, when I have experimented with new and different mediums I reached down within and backwards to retrieve the patience that was needed to learn the intricacies of each medium; whether it be encaustics, etching on copper or plastic plates, or ink-tense paints and pencils. This has allowed me to build new skills; and that boosts my self-esteem and makes me feel good about the art pieces that I chose to create and my progress as an artist.
This year has been a struggle for me and many others as we have dealt with the COVID virus, lockdowns, cancelled art shows, home-schooling, working from home, struggling economy, and an election that has yet to be finalized. We’ve all reached down within and brought back ‘Patience’ to help us to try and survive current times even though we probably all want to scream these phrases out loud:
• “I WANT THIS TO BE OVER NOW!”
•” I WANT MY NORMAL LIFE BACK!”
•” I WANT TO BE ABLE TO SOCIALIZE FREELY; WITHOUT A MASK.”
• “I WANT TO BE ABLE TO VISIT WITH MY FAMILY WITHOUT THE FEAR OF GIVING THEM COVID.”
Unfortunately, that isn’t quite possible yet. The virus is rampant and the vaccines aren’t yet approved or ready for distribution, but things are looking promising.
Therefore, I wait until another day and I wait with my bag of survival skills that include Math, Patience and Hope, because Hope is a helper for Patience.
Let Us All wait Together with Hope and Patience.
Douglas G Gordon is an artist who lives in Shawnee, Oklahoma. He says that he grew up in Scotland and Canada but he admits that men never really grow up and he says that he still finds fun in being childish at times. Douglas is married to Holly Gordon and is a parent to two well-behaved dogs and six noisy chickens. He loves to travel and meet people; especially artists and writers. You can find him on Facebook and Instagram.
Friendliness: a disposition to goodwill, warmth, kindness to others you love.
In my opinion, friendliness lives alongside the likes of kindness, open-mindedness, confidence, and trust.
But also, friendliness leads to beautiful things.
To be friendly, one must be kind.
To be friendly, one must have an open mind to all manner of possibility.
To be friendly, one must have a confidence that isn't also condescending.
To be friendly, one must trust others but more importantly, one must trust that they themselves are ENOUGH without always receiving the friendliness of others.
I've been alive for 47 years. In that time, I've seen and experienced the full spectrum that friendliness has to offer.
As a small child I saw it in my pre-school teacher, Mrs. O'Neal. You could be the weirdest little kid in the room...little kids ARE the weirdest and most honest humans alive, after all...and regardless, you would be met with such warmth and love. Acceptance. You were ok and she understood you.
Like Shawnee, Oklahoma's very own Mr. Rogers.
As a girl in school, in church, in life, I remember those who were always friendly, even if what they were saying wasn't something I wanted to hear. They did their best to raise me up with loving kindness and with a friendliness that I often didn't deserve. I wanted to grow into who they believed I could be. I'd give you a list of names if I thought you'd recognize them.
I also remember those who weren't friendly. I still feel the sting of their words as I look back. They only grew bitterness. I'd give you a list of their names too, but that wouldn't be very friendly.
As a teenager? Well. People were friendly.... and people were NOT.
Including yours truly.
As a wife and as a MOTHER, I see the faces of my family when I'm both friendly and grouchy, and while grouchiness can't always be avoided, friendliness is much preferred!
A tip to remember when your 16 year-old is losing their mind...like they all tend to do at some point...scan your brain and look back to that insane child's life as a 2 year-old, and miraculously, the patience and love that you felt all those years ago will flood back to your heart in spades allowing your friendly face to reappear...and your child to LIVE another day.
There are many more instances over the years that come to mind, but a favorite example of friendliness and the beauty it has brought to MY life is this one:
A few years ago, I began dressing my son's high school marching band. This included measuring and getting fully into the space of 350 kids, each an individual. As a vetted board member, I traveled as far as Washington DC with the band, having not only cared for and packed each student's uniform, shoes, socks, hat and gloves...which was the job...but I also packed anything else they might need on a trip like deodorant, tampons, band-aids, hair ties, water, tums, etc., so they were well taken care of...NOT the job. And because I had trudged through MY teenage years to become a kind, open-minded, confident, trusting and trustworthy, friendly adult (a fiery, poor man's Mrs. O'Neal, if you will), they knew they could always come to me...if they needed a larger size, to ask if I'd "PLEASE run across the street to Hobby Lobby for a tux shirt because I forgot mine again," to see I knew a good bathroom for them to do #2 and not be mortally embarrassed forever and ever, to confide in me that things were rough at home, that they were gay, that their boyfriend was pushing for sex...and I was so happy to do my very best for them every single time, even if all I did was listen.
It would have been so easy to just keep track of things and make sure that everything had buttons, but HAD that been the case, I'd have missed out on SO. MUCH. BEAUTY. And the mutual ABSOLUTE adoration of 350 precious kids.
I regret NOTHING and I'd do it again and again.
So. I encourage you. Go out there. Be kind. Have an open mind. Exude confidence. Trust people. Be trustworthy.
Go find YOUR beauty in friendliness.
This week's blog writer is Chelley Brewer Davison. She is a wife, a mother, and a professional beekeeper...with a wicked dose of ADHD, more love than she can contain and the occasional tendency to write about it all. You will find her blogs at chelleydavison.com or on her Facebook page Chelleyisms.
As a teacher we focus on the word understanding every working day. It is the goal we strive for in our profession. Understanding is defined as demonstrating comprehension, intelligence, discernment, empathy or the like: an understanding.
Teaching to mastery of a task or concept involves understanding. It also involves empathy on both the part of the learner and the teacher. Navigating day to day life during a pandemic has caused many people to question whether or not people understand the effects their actions have on others. I am guilty of listening to all the facts that come across my news feed every day. Numbers, symptoms, hotspots, masks, no masks, and social distancing, consume my morning news feeds. I crave information about the world around me, but I lack understanding because there are no hard and fast rules. When there are rules and outcomes that are consistent, understanding is easy. It is not easy now. There is no consistency. Things change by the hour.
I was finding myself really frustrated by images of young people gathering on beaches, in bars, and groups not protected by masks or social distance. Don't they understand? Even my nephew comes and goes from home without taking precautions to limit exposure. His parents are at risk. Every day my sister would tell him the facts. Each day when he comes home, he says "Don't worry mom, I am not sick..."
We have not mastered teaching understanding what it takes to stay safe around this virus. And we will continue to fail until we start asking what these young people understand. What do they comprehend? Life experience provides us with the ability to understand. Those of us who have lost loved ones have experience to guide us. We understand the pain involved in loss.
We are having to change the way we navigate through our days. Change is hard. Change is really hard, if there is not complete understanding. We will adjust. As a teacher, I will strive to understand my frustration. I will focus on listening to others and will be empathetic to what I perceive to be a lack of understanding. We all need to be gentle with each other as we strive to understand together.
This week's blog writer is Lynn Pollei. Lynn Pollei is an Art Educator at Pleasant Grove School in Shawnee Oklahoma. She graduated with a BA in Art Education from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Prior to her work as a teacher she served as a Humane Educator. Lynn works to combine her passion for kids, animals and the arts to promote compassionate and creative growth in those she teaches.
How do you know who you are supposed to be or what you are supposed to do with your life?
I feel like everybody goes through a moment where they experience a sense of self-doubt during their life. The path for finding your purpose in life and who you are supposed to become can be easy for some. For others, it can be challenging finding the right path to fulfill your sense of purpose, to feel as though you are achieving significant value in your life as well as attributing value to the lives of others.
The standard of purposefulness varies among every individual. We all want our lives to have meaning and to feel as though we are needed in some way. We are all on different paths but finding your sense of purpose is something that can add a sense peace in your life.
While you are growing up, there is one main question that is constantly asked throughout your life. “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” As a little kid the answer seems easy, but as we grow up, realization hits and we begin to see that life can be difficult and not everything in your life will always work out. Having strength and support in your life are ways that have help me realize that even if I feel as if I do not have a complete sense of purpose now, I will be able to in the future.