Beyond Words

Words, Wit and Wisdom for Today's Style and Decision Makers

What a Saint! December 9, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:32 pm


Kneeling Santa



Okay, you’ve been forewarned!  Now, my question today:  how do you handle Santa Claus in your family?


My co-worked Ana and I were talking about this just recently, as her youngest son is of the age where he’s asking lots of questions.  Are you honest?  If so, how so?


I remember the situation very clearly when Kristen started wondering and I also remember a few friends telling me I had to tell her the truth or she would be made fun of someday for believing in him.  Not so fast, my friends.  Instead, I simply told her that I believe in Santa and that in order to receive you have to believe.  But, our Santa is not just the red-clothed, white-bearded jolly guy.  He is St. Nicholas.  He is Jesus.  He is mom and dad.


You see, in our little family, Santa has never been the main man of Christmas.   I’m not sure how Santa handles things in your house, but in the Smith household he only puts little things in our stockings.  Our “real” gifts are from each other.  Santa?  He’s simply a nice guy who fills our stockings.


Kristen is now 20-years-old and yet she still also knows not to have more than three things from mom and dad on her Christmas list.  All her life, that’s what she’s gotten, just like Jesus did from the 3 Kings.   It’s a family tradition I started and that I hope someday she passes on to her kids.


As many of you know, last Friday was the Feast of St. Nicholas.  I always teach the kids in my class that St. Nick was the original Santa Claus.  (“santa” means “saint” in Spanish by the way.)  I show them pictures of him dressed in his red coat and sporting his white beard and they all say “that’s Santa!”  Yes, and no.  I then tell them the story about St. Nicholas, who was a real life bishop,  being so generous and that one time he heard about three sisters who were so poor they couldn’t afford their weddings, so he snuck onto their roof and dropped bags of gold coins down their chimney.  The coins landed in their stockings that were hanging near the fire to dry.  Hmmm…stockings on the mantle.  That sounds familiar!


So, as we all hang our stockings, and start putting out gifts under the tree, and place Santas all over our homes, let’s remember the history behind those stockings, who those gifts are really from and why we get them, and let’s make sure a “kneeling Santa” is front and center in your Santa collections.




Santa lives at the North Pole

Jesus lives everywhere

Santa rides in a sleigh

Jesus rides in the wind and walks on water

Santa comes only once a year

Jesus is always around

Santa fills your stockings with goodies

Jesus fills your life with goodness

Santa has a belly like a bowl full of jelly

Jesus has a heart full of love

Santa says “Ho, Ho, Ho”

Jesus says “Hope, Hope, Hope”

Santa says “You better not cry”

Jesus says “I will be there when you’re sad”

Santa puts gifts under our tree

Jesus is our gift!





Sunday Scripture December 8, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:43 pm

Joy To The World




“Always be joyful and always keep praying.  Scatter joy.  This is God’s will.”  1 Thes. 5:14



I keep a file in my desk of “Blog Ideas.”  I’m forever running across things I think would make great blogs and people are always telling me, “I feel a blog coming!”


One notion I wrote down months ago was the difference between Joy and Happy.


Webster’s defines “joy” as a feeling of great pleasure and delight.  “Happy” on the other hand is defined as a feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.  So joy isn’t necessarily happiness; it’s more than happiness.  Happiness is fleeting and temporary.  Joy is a true sense of utter and permanent delight inside.



During the holidays we often hear the word joy.  “Joy to the World.”   “Echoing their joyous strains.”  “Comfort and joy.”  But what, exactly, does “joy” mean?



My church often hosts speakers of all kinds and I don’t often attend them, but for some reason one this past week drew me in.  I read about and knew I had to go.  The speaker was Sally Robb and she spoke about “Choosing Joy”



Sally spoke all about joy vs. happiness.  She said happiness is attached to circumstances but joy isn’t.  In short, when things go well you are happy.  But, if you have true joy, you remain in that state even when things aren’t going well.  How do you get there?



By allowing God to open you up to let Him move in you.  She called people who have the grace to do this “shiny people.”  You know the type:  those you meet who just radiate sense of bliss and blessedness.    God, I found out through Sally, wants us all to be like that.



In fact, she reminded us that St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that “our sin, given to Him, gives Him His greatest joy.”   I loved Sally’s description of this when she talked about Jesus healing the leper.  We all know the story, but, Sally asked, where did the leprosy go when it was removed from the man?  Jesus took it, that’s where.   The only way our sins really die are on the cross when Jesus takes them and He does so every single day!



Another analogy Sally used was that of a barren twig vs. a beautiful flowering poinsettia.  She said we can chose to live in the barrenness of a twig thinking God turns away from us in disappointment for our sins, or we can choose to “bloom” knowing He says our actual names and forgives us unendingly.  We can run towards love and away from sin or we can run away from love, which is what sin ultimately is.



Finally, Sally suggested we live each day knowing God loves us and is there for us each and every step of the way.  Yes, there will be heartache and pain, but it’s all just the truth of our lives.  It’s not our job to control every aspect of those lives, but to let Him free us of guilt and the pain that goes with it.



Whew!  How awesome is that?!



“The joy of the Lord is our strength.”  Nehemiah 8:10



That’s how truly joyful people live.  Think about it.  Don’t you find it difficult to offend a joyful person? Joyful people let insults role off them and there is forever a spring in their step.  They are loving, kind, gentle, and unselfish.  They are, quite frankly, a joy to be around.



In researching this blog I also ran across an acronym for JOY that I loved: “J” is for having Jesus first in your life, “O” is for placing Others second only to Him, and “Y” is for placing Yourself last. If we put Jesus first in our lives, joy is a natural byproduct that will empower us to really love others and love ourselves.  Let’s not forget that Joy is also one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.



Perhaps “The Purpose Driven Life” author Ken Warren said it best when he wrote, “I thought joy meant feeling good all the time. That’s impossible! So here’s the definition I’ve come up with from studying Scripture:

“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”

Can I hear an Amen?!


“May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” 

Romans 15:13



So let’s go spread good tidings of joy this Christmas season and pray that joy will envelope the world.


Trip & Travel Tips December 7, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:04 pm



We are smack dab in the middle of “Holiday Season,” which also means the travel season.  It, along with summer, is the busiest time to travel.  Don’t we know it?!  Have you been to an airport lately or stood in a security line?  It’s crazy!


Planes are fuller, fares are higher, service is mediocre, and non-stop flights are harder and harder to find.  Ten years ago around 10 airlines were in business, today it’s down to four, meaning 85 percent of air travel is controlled by fewer and fewer carriers.  To make matters worse, those airlines are nickel and diming us, the flying customers, to death with checked bag fees, added costs for non-online purchases, and reservation changes.  We pay their bills but they don’t seem to care!  But, we are complaining!  A recent study by Purdue and Wichita State Universities found that airline complaints have risen more than 20 percent.  Could it be lost baggage?  Delayed flights?  Missed connections?  Involuntary bumping?  All of the above?




To avoid delayed flights, you might consider driving to your destination.  I personally love long road trips but I know many of you don’t.  To, driving for up to 12 hours can prove way less stressful than flying from airport to airport.


To avoid missing your connections, try your hardest to book non-stop or direct flights or, at the very least, avoid big hubs like Atlanta, Chicago and D/FW.  Lost bag numbers are actually somewhat on a decline, but experts believe the reason is more people are choosing not to check their bags because of the extra fees most airlines charge.  (So far Southwest and Jet Blue do not.)


As for trying to avoid being involuntarily bumped from a flight you have a confirmed reservation on, (and yes, it does happen), maybe opt for JetBlue or Virgin America, who don’t overbook or oversell flights.  If that’s not possible, keep in mind that those most likely to get bumped are either the last ones to check in, paid the lowest fares, and/or don’t have an advance seat assignment.


I often use Expedia to book travel if I’m not flying Southwest or JetBlue, but online sellers like Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz complain they are often denied “choice seats” on carriers.   And what about using air miles or points?  Good luck doing so during any peak travel times, including the holidays.


Some of you may still like to use travel agents or specialists, if you can find them.  In general, experts say to use travel consultants not necessarily to find low prices, but rather top-rate travel experiences.  Work with a specialist if you need highly-personalized itineraries, once-in-a-lifetime activities, or specialized guides and drivers.  Work on your own if you want the least expensive trip possible, are looking for simple and popular day tours or restaurant reservations that concierge services can help you arrange, and if you have more time than money.


When booking hotels, if I’m not familiar with a property, I rely heavily on word-of-mouth and Trip Advisor.  I know many live by the “you don’t spend much time in your room so it really doesn’t matter where you stay” motto, but I’m one of those rare birds that actually likes hotels (well, most hotels!), so it does matter to me!  Keep in mind this tidbit shared with Conde Nast Traveler magazine by a front desk clerk:  “Guests don’t know it, but we often have a lot of leeway to decide on which room you get right up to the very last minute.  If you’re impatient or nasty, you’ll get a room in front of the elevator or one that overlooks the street, so be nice!”


As for what to do before you even leave town, Conde Nast Traveler recommends you make two copies of the contents of your wallet:  one to give to a friend or relative and one to keep with you but separate from your wallet.  It’s also recommended that you leave an extra set of car and house keys with a trusted friend or neighbor.  And, always, always double-check your flight status before leaving for the airport.  Delays are common and cancellations happen!


The most important things to pack?  Patience and tolerance!  Happy travels everyone!


Do you have any valuable travel tips you can share?  We’re listening!






Friday Funny December 6, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:54 pm



Any “Giving Sunday” December 1, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:48 pm



Thursday we celebrated Thanksgiving; Friday we hit the stores and malls on “Black Friday;” Saturday many commemorated “Small Business Saturday” by purchasing items at local, small businesses; and tomorrow on “Cyber Monday” some 100 million of us will take to our computers and notebooks to shop til we drop on-line. What about today?


Today let’s all celebrate what “Parade” magazine editors call “Giving Sunday.” Since 2011, the Sunday paper insert’s readers have donated millions of dollars to the charities of their choice. What a great idea!


Every year our family donates to our church and college alma maters and also Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital in Dallas. I personally also donate to Austin’s “Breakthrough,” which supports area high schoolers who are first generation college attendees and the Carmelite nuns in Santa Fe. This year I also want to donate to “The Wounded Warrior Project” and the Central Texas SPCA, where we got our sweet Boomer nearly one year ago.


When I think about it, all of these have influenced my life and inspired me in some way or another. Church and OU are both pretty obvious, but what about the others? Scottish Rite doctors were there for Kristen early on, “Breakthrough” is special to me because I am the only member of my immediate family to graduate from college, Sister Marie Bernadette and her fellow Carmelites have forever been so special to my mom and our whole family, members of the U.S. armed forces remind us every day of their sacrifices on our behalf, and Boomer has brought pure joy into our home! Yep, I’m pretty sure they’re all deserving!


So as we decorate our homes with Christmas cheer, how about sharing some of that cheer with charities of your choice? After all, as St. Francis said, it is in giving that we receive.