Creativity, Inspiration and Dancing in the Streets

Creativity, Inspiration and Dancing in the Streets

Last year David and I found ourselves at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World all by ourselves. We’d stopped for the day on our way from south to north Florida, and we felt a little bit like two kids playing hooky from school. It was the middle of the week during a busy season and there we were eating Mickey ice cream ears and watching a parade.

Sometimes when you are ditching school, it catches up to you. On this day, David had just taken a conference call that needed to happen, so he stepped into a quiet corner to chat while I watched the rocking street parade coming down Main Street. Now this was the Disney street party, and they were ready for the crowd to dance along in a long conga line.

I don’t dance. Never have, and probably never will unless I’m compelled. But for just a brief moment in time, I realized I could dance. I was all alone and could choose to be the kind of person who dances in the street. I pictured myself doing the twist with Goofy when David came back from his conference call. It was exhilarating.

I didn’t do it. I didn’t leave myself behind and dance in the street. But that shot of adrenalin was enough to put my mind in a different place. I could think new thoughts. That’s the value of stepping outside yourself once in awhile. New thoughts. It’s the power of putting yourself into a story, into someone else’s world.

I need that dose of creativity on a regular basis. I am pretty sure that’s the fuel that kept Walt going. I’m heading to Disney later today, and my work day has been focused around the power of Walt’s storytelling. If you want to give yourself a little jolt of that pixie dust, read this post from the Disney Institute. Follow the bunny trail of links embedded and let the inspiration wash over you.

Go dance.




Blessed are those who make You their strength, for they treasure every step of the journey. On their way through the valleys they stop and dig wells to collect refreshing spring water, and the early rains fill the pools. They journey from place to place gaining strength along the way, until they meet God in Zion.


— Psalm 84:5-7 (The Voice translation)

What inspires you?

I have been wandering around my house today — quiet since Jillian is out of the house — searching for that shot of inspiration. I’m looking for the spark that sends me to my computer to write, or the bookstore to research. I love that moment when a “quest” presents itself: go learn, go do, it’s time, get going.

I’ve learned over the years, though, that the moment of inspiration rarely comes on schedule and it never looks like you think it will. I guess it comes in God’s time. Imagine that. There are, however, fairly mundane things that usually inspire me in one way or another. Since there’s nothing burning on my mind today, I thought I’d list some inspirations! And if you don’t mind, send a little inspirational love back over the weekend!

Things that inspire me:

  1. Catalogs. Mainly the “new breed” of green-inspired catalogs. There’s something about their clean, fresh and natural interiors that puts me immediately into a de-cluttering, spiffing up kind of mood.
  2. Quiet.
  3. The smell of coffee at just the right moment, especially if the smell is unexpected. Oh what an aroma! I think that some coffee shops actually have too good an air ventilation system. They’d have more sales with more aroma.
  4. Walking through the front door of a bookstore.
  5. Scripture, if read in the right frame of mind.
  6. Two or three unread, waiting books on my nightstand.
  7. Rows of books on my bookshelf, all standing like they should.
  8. The smell of fresh laundry throughout the house — preferably at the end of the day’s laundry, not the beginning.
  9. Music set in the right frame of mind or tempo for my mood.
  10. Bright blue skies and sun.
  11. My back porch.
  12. Remembering rainy days on the side porch of my parent’s house in New Hampshire.
  13. Traveling somewhere new.
  14. The beach.
  15. Hearing from friends.
  16. Hearing from people who have read something I’ve written and have been able to apply something to their own life.
  17. Chocolate.
  18. Did I mention coffee?
  19. Cleaning out my closet.
  20. Having hubby fill my gas tank and clean out the car for me (not as big a chore now as in the early parenting years!).
  21. Music performed unexpectedly well, such as the rare performance on American Idol. When you see someone who is obviously made for music take delight in their craft and sing from their gut, that can make me cry.
  22. Sunlight making windows sparkle or creating patterns on the carpet of a calm house. Or even a crazy house.
  23. Friendships, old and new.
  24. A fresh pedicure. Admit it now, ladies…everything is better with a fresh pedicure accompanied by a delightful foot massage from someone who knows what they are doing.
  25. Looking deep into people’s eyes. There is something about the intelligence shining out of people’s eyes that makes me see God’s image better than anything else. Love that.

Your turn. What inspires you????

Book Review: Holding Fast, the untold story of the Mount Hood Tragedy by Karen James

If reading opens new worlds, I stepped into a brand new one this week when I read “Holding Fast: The Untold Story of the Mount Hood Tragedy” by Karen James. Most of us remember the Mount Hood climbing accident just before Christmas in 2006. Three experienced mountain climbers were lost for over a week before the lifeless body of Kelly James, Karen James’ husband, was found in a hand-dug snow cave on the side of the mountain. As a nation, we held our collective breath hoping for a Christmas miracle, a live rescue, or the rescue of Kelly’s two missing climbing partners. We did not receive that Christmas miracle.

Karen James decided to write her account of the harrowing days of Kelly’s climb, accident and death. In the process she has given us an inspiring glimpse of the faithfulness of God’s care even in the darkest night. Each of the three climbers — Kelly James, Brian Hall and Nikko Cooke — had a deep personal faith in God, and it shines through each page of their story. Kelly was a man who lived his life in every sense of the word: full of adventure and risk, declaring the Glory of God on the high summits of the world.

The true story of the climbing tragedy was pieced together in the days and months following the tragic events on Mount Hood. Karen and Kelly’s four children painstakingly gathered details together to understand how experienced climbers could find themselves injured and in a deathly situation on the side of Mount Hood. While not many of us will ever step foot on a mountain the way Kelly James did, his story is a testimony and a metaphor for conquering the mountains in our life. I was stuck like glue to this book for most of the weekend, and at the end  of it I feel like I have lost a friend. But that friend holds the gift of hope in his hands, and holds it out shimmering to anyone who reads this book.

Kelly’s faith will inspire others to reconnect with the God who made them. Can there be a higher purpose or a greater reward?

Poverty or Success?


Make the Impossible Possible, by Bill Strickland

He had me at the title.

Make the Impossible Possible is the amazing story of Bill Strickland, an African-American born in a poor section of Pittsburgh called Manchester. One day well into his senior year of an unremarkable high-school career, Strickland wandered into the art room to watch his former art teacher throw a pot on a potter’s wheel. This began a passionate love affair with ceramics and art and jazz, and introduced Strickland to a world of hope and dreams. As a 19 year old college student Strickland wanted to pass on the hope he’d received, so he began teaching neighborhood kids how to make pots, calling his fledgling center the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. I could go on and on telling you the amazing path this leader took: his students have a 90% college attendance rate; he has trained impoverished men and women for high-placed jobs in the community; he operates a world-class greenhouse, and runs a grammy-winning recording label. These are just the things I could highlight quickly. The twists and turns leading to Bill Strickland’s achievements are great reading in and of themselves.

But the magic in this book is  not in the sequence of events: it is in the mind of the creator of the events. Bill Strickland sees things that are not as though they were. He dreams big. And this book taught me to take a risk at a big dream.

There is one guiding principle to Bill Strickland’s center, the Manchester Bidwell Center, that seems part of the general conversation I’ve been having lately. He designed the center to the most exacting standards. It is filled with sunlight, decorated with priceless at objects, and houses a state-of-the-art jazz hall. His poverty-blighted students can eat gourmet meals (prepared by students studying to become sous chefs). His welfare mothers can sit on hand-made, one-of-a-kind benches made by famous artists. He believes that his students will live up to their environment, and in all the years he has been operating he has never had to call the police to handle an incident. This is a remarkable claim considering his location.

So once more we are led back to the idea of our surroundings inspiring our behavior. Bill Strickland’s students walk through the door of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and feel hope pulsing in the air around them. For many of them this is literally the first time they have been exposed to the life-changing power of a dream. The implications for designing our own spaces are obvious. In his case, Bill Strickland was adamant in providing the best for his students. When asked why he would put so much effort and money into a poverty center, he gently instructed the questioner that he was building a success center, not a poverty center. What are we building?