About hopesquires

I've left behind the daily grind to write full time and to figure out what my own flourishing tree looks like. I'd love to help you flourish and grow along the way, so that you, too, can cultivate a life that pleases God.

On finding new trees to love

I hope you won’t mind a shorter-than-usual post today. Between trying to sell a house in North Carolina and buy a house in California and finalizing my manuscript to publish my first book, my 24-hour days seem even shorter than usual.

Last week brought a whirlwind house-hunting trip, but I had a few precious hours while my husband worked, and I found a new tree or two that would make my new home feel more like … well, home. Surprisingly (given that I love to support local coffee shops when possible), these particular trees live at a Starbucks in what will be my new hometown. This Starbucks has quite possibly the most beautiful outdoor seating area of any Starbucks I’ve seen:

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Just one side of the outdoor seating area; two stately oaks

Look closer, though, and you’ll see the effects of Northern California’s severe drought, browning leaves and an early leaf shed so the trees can protect themselves.

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I’m not quite sure how I’ll adjust to such a dry environment. Do you think it’s odd that I’m already praying for rain in a place where I don’t yet have any roots?

I’ll leave you with this map of all the trees in the contiguous 48 states (how I wish they had included Alaska and Hawaii in this). How’s it look where you live? If I visited, would I find plenty of new trees to fall in love with and sit under while I drink tea and write? And finally, if I may ask a favor, would you share a kernel of wisdom about uprooting gracefully and moving to what feels like a faraway land?

The art of hand-lettered words

Several years ago, I took an introductory calligraphy class with calligraphy artist Don King. He was a great instructor, even for as poor a student as I was. Watching him create calligraphic letters was nothing short of mesmerizing, and he occasionally brought in beautiful pieces he had done to illustrate particular techniques.

From him, I learned that calligraphic art is equal parts engineering and artistic talent. This may seem a contradictory combination of science and art, but King’s life may also seem a contradiction. He served in the US Army’s Special Forces before deciding he would prefer to take orders from himself. There’s no gruffness left over that you might anticipate from a career military man, only discipline.

Along with that discipline—he constantly told us to practice, practice, practice every day to improve—and his artistic talent, he generously shares his gift for encouraging and teaching budding calligraphers, sometimes leading multiple classes in a season.

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Don King with some of his artwork

Don sent out an email recently announcing an exhibit of some of his 2D and 3D work, and unlike my usual procrastinating self, I didn’t wait until the end of the exhibit to rush over. (Facing a cross-country move has made me carpe diem more often than usual of late.)

The exhibit is at a local church and is only open to the public when the church holds services. But two other times each week, Don has agreed to escort visitors through his works. If you’re in Raleigh, NC, and love this kind of beautiful work, make sure you see it (more details at the end of the post).

He graciously agreed to let me photograph his work and even him, asking afterward, “Did that look as unnatural as I felt?” I laughed. I’m also one who feels about as unnatural as possible when someone asks me to pose for a photo. Some of us prefer to create and let the light shine on our creations rather than on ourselves.

Don’s work does shine. Some of it literally, with metallic paint and even costume jewelry pins he inherited from his mother and is now using to inspire unique works of art. There’s one of these pieces I would buy in a heartbeat if it didn’t mean one more thing to wrap up for the move. (Most of what he is exhibiting is for sale.)

These photos provide details of some of the pieces on exhibit. You can visit Don’s website to learn more about him and his works, but nothing beats seeing them in person. Go if you can. The exhibit runs through October 30.

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A detail from John’s Revelation. Many of Don’s works incorporate Scripture, his favorite source.

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A 3D piece called Why Not?

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A delightful piece called Joyful Noise

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A 3D piece Beginning inspired by the turn of the millennium and 9/11

The story behind Beginning is an intriguing one, and in case you don’t get to hear Don tell you about it himself, I’ll share a bit of it with you. He was creating a piece for the new millennium and came into his studio one morning to find that the easel had fallen and dashed the work into little pieces. He saved them, not suspecting the tragedy of 9/11 that would inspire this work and enable him to put his own rubble toward its own new beginning.

As I looked at piece after piece, I was reminded again: we lean increasingly on computers to produce calligraphy and lettered “art,” but simply nothing beats what an artist can do with a real calligraphy pen.

More on the art and cost of letters
Learn more
about the exhibit. I’ll try to post here as he announces days and times he’ll escort visitors through the exhibit. This week, he’ll be there today (Wednesday, Sept. 10) and Friday, September 12, from 4-6 p.m. both days. The church is Crossroads Fellowship, located at 2721 E. Millbrook Road in Raleigh.

See some of the “hands” (we might call them fonts in our modern age) Don uses in his work.

While we’re talking about hands and fonts and why sometimes computers aren’t better, check out this Huffington Post article about the cost of the font Comic Sans.

I’d love to hear what you think of Don’s calligraphy, whether you view it on his site or get to visit his exhibit. Maybe you’ll be inspired to sign up for one of his classes or find a local teacher near you.

When the (holi)days pile up

Did August zip by in a blur as fast for you as it did for me? Here we are in a new September, a new school year already underway. Soon enough (or maybe not soon enough if you’re living through a heat wave like I am), the days will turn cool and crisp, leaves will fall, and children will dream of costumes for trick-or-treating.

What follows is the headlong tumble through November and December, and before you know it, plastic eggs and marshmallow chickens will decorate store aisles.

Walking by a neighbor’s house earlier today, I had a horrible reminder of how quickly the holidays can pile one on top of another:

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Santa and ghosts and the Easter Bunny, oh my!

I am not even making this up. (!)

Other than straightening and cropping the photo and adding a watermark, I did not alter the photo. Do you see the scared Thanksgiving turkey peeking out from behind one of the trees? I felt like hiding, too.

I drove past the house on my way out of the neighborhood so I could take pictures. This is a view from the other side.

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There’s even a birthday cake in the shadows for an extra “holiday” into the mix. Happy Merry Thankseastereenmas, everyone!

When I walked by this morning, I thought, “Garage cleaning?” Maybe they were testing all the decorations to make sure none had holes?

As it turns out, someone in the house is celebrating a big milestone birthday today, and I guess her family (and friends, too?) decided this would be the perfect way to announce the occasion.

I’m grateful all of our celebrations don’t happen at the same time and not only because of what the big celebration would mean for our neighborhoods. I like holidays spaced out with time to anticipate, prepare for, and enjoy each one in its own special way.

I’m also grateful that my family celebrates birthdays in a quieter way.

In case this post has stirred a little whisper of panic in your heart or head about the approaching holidays, let me arm you with this Bible verse:

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will take care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

—Matthew 6:34

Each day has enough trouble and, I would add, enough to celebrate, too, without worrying about the holidays lining up on the calendar ahead.

I have a long line of loved ones’ birthday celebrations coming up, all before I even have to think about buying giant bags of candy, and I hope to celebrate each one without worrying about the next. What’s the next special occasion you’ll celebrate? And do the holidays ever feel like they pile up on you as these pictures suggest?

Uprooting, or the big push, part 2

When you hear the word “uprooting,” what do you think of? Maybe pulling up weeds or transplanting flowers? If people are uprooted, is that a good thing or a bad thing? I guess that all depends on your perspective and your faith.

My uprooting news is that, after a lifetime of living in North Carolina, I’m moving to Northern California for my husband’s job. Yep, I’m leaving home, leaving the South, leaving sweet tea and biscuits (oh, the biscuits), leaving family, leaving friends. (I apologize to any friends who are reading this news for the first time here. I tried to reach you all in person, but I hope you’ll understand that this is a busy/hectic time right now.)

I’m filled with equal parts excitement and dread. While I’m looking forward to this new adventure, I’m not always happily or gracefully packing up a life I love here. So I’m looking for signs of hope and words of reassurance wherever I can find them.

As my husband and I work to declutter our home to get it ready to sell, we’re moving lots of little treasures out of the house. About a year ago (maybe longer given how quickly time flies), he brought home three little gifts for me: solar-powered plastic flowers that wave in the sunlight. He’s adorable that way.

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I set them in a sunny window and waited for them to start waving. The blue one started. The red one started. The purple one … well, it didn’t start. Even after I set it out in direct sunlight for a bit, it still didn’t wave. I don’t know why I didn’t throw it away, but it sat next to the other two, never budging all this time.

Two weeks ago, I took all three flowers for a road trip. We’re fortunate to have a place where we can bring boxes and our treasures to wait while our house sells. I set the three flowers up in another sunny window sill and checked them the next morning. I took this video to share what I discovered:

Wow! I’m not one to overuse exclamation points as a general rule, but wow!!!

I never thought plastic solar flowers could amaze and delight me so much. You see, all that little flower needed was a road trip—a bit of shaking up and uprooting—before it could thrive. And maybe if that’s true of a little plastic flower, it can be true of me, too. I can thrive in a new place, uprooted, shaken up, in an unfamiliar sunny spot.

Those little plastic flowers are a comfort to me now in the moments I get panicky about moving away.

Back in March, I wrote a post called The big push. I know Richard Rohr didn’t write the words I quoted in there just for me, but they comfort me even more than the little plastic flowers. God is giving me a big push. I’ll be honest: some days it feels like a bully’s shove. But I have hope and reassurance that God is going with me and dreaming a California dream for me that I never imagined for myself.

A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie the Pooh, wrote, “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” I’ll be leaving my little corner of the forest soon, and I’m looking forward to meeting those who needed me to come to them out in California. I’m trusting the uprooting will bring a wonderful change.

How about you? What ways has life surprised and pushed you? I’d love to hear your uprooting stories in the comments below.

Much ado about ice buckets

The ALS ice bucket challenge has taken social media by storm in recent weeks and is generating plenty of talk, pro and con.

For the ALS Association, the bucket challenge has generated awareness and raised millions of dollars in a short time. School children have enjoyed watching their principals get doused with icy water. Friends and families have come together for a moment of joy and hilarity. And for ALS sufferers such as Lorri Carey, the ice bucket challenge has brought hope. These are all great reasons to call the challenge a success.

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There has been a backlash to the bucket challenge, though. Clean water advocates are decrying the waste of so much clean water in a country where some regions are suffering devastating drought and in a world where access to clean water is a struggle for more than 700 million people. Even the ALSA site suggests repurposing the water and offers suggestions of water-free ways to help the organization.

While the waste of clean, drinkable water troubles me, I don’t want to diminish the success for ALS research. Besides, even though I haven’t dumped a bucket of ice water on my head, I can understand why August is the perfect time for such a challenge, and I know I’m guilty of a lifetime of wasting water in fun ways.

So for me, the ice bucket challenge has brought up complex issues of balancing the rights and needs of those of us who live in a privileged place, those who live with a terminal illness and hope and pray for a cure, and those who lack basic necessities and dignities of life.

I reached out to several non-profit groups who raise funds and awareness for clean water projects around the world to ask for their take on the ice bucket challenge. Lopez Lomong—a U.S. Olympian I’ve blogged about before—responded with enthusiasm.

Lomong’s foundation has partnered with World Vision in a project called 4 South Sudan. One of the major goals of the project is to help communities in South Sudan gain access to clean water and sanitation facilities.

Here is Lomong’s challenge:

Take the ice bucket “Clean Water” challenge for the women and children of South Sudan who walk miles every day for clean water. Taking the challenge will give thousands in South Sudan the gift of education, safety and life. Just $50 gives clean water for LIFE to one person in South Sudan.  Thank you for being awesome and bravely taking the challenge to save lives in South Sudan!

So will you accept the challenge? If you have already done a bucket challenge for ALS, consider skipping a second bucket and making a donation to fill someone else’s bucket with clean water.

If you feel like you’ve been missing out on the fun and want to cool off with a bucket of water (and would repurpose the water or conserve water in some other way to make up for it), have at it. Two worthy causes—more research funds to find a cure for ALS and better, safer access to clean water in South Sudan—could benefit from your bucket of fun.

Have you taken the bucket challenge and repurposed the water? Maybe filled up a kiddie pool that you were going to fill anyway? Or stood in a garden that you needed to water? I’d love to hear your creative ideas for repurposing the water. And if you accept Lomong’s challenge to give a person water for life, please let me know in the comments below so I can thank you.