Dental Mirrors, Black Dots, & Attitudes: The Secrets to Living an Extraordinary Life

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Three.

I only spent about three afternoons with the man, and he left an impression on me forever.

Some people are just like that. They leave an unforgettable impression which you will carry throughout your entire life.

There is something different about these people. Try as you might, you can never really put your finger on what it is. They seem quite ordinary when you break it down and look at the facts, but you still can’t shake the feeling that there is something extraordinary about them.

Maybe all of us leave impressions like this on at least a few people throughout our lives, but the really rare people spread this magic to more than just a few.

They invite you into their secret clubs for an afternoon or so, but you leave with the feeling that you have some growing to do. Somehow, they don’t make you feel inferior because of this, either. Whatever it is they know that you don’t, you haven’t yet figured it out. It inspires an endless pursuit of their great secrets.

The man I knew like this told me the secrets.

His name was Rex, and he could make you feel like you were exactly who you needed to be with nothing more than a smile. His skin was wrinkled, but it didn’t take away from his youthful energy. His hair was white with the wisdom of many well-lived years. His eyes shone with that glimmer of knowing a secret.

I met with Rex and his sweet wife, Jan, who carries the same legacy as him, to have coffee. If my memory is correct, this only happened three times. My dad is a contractor and had worked on their house. The couple heard about my sister and I and decided to invest some time and wisdom into us. Being the influential people that they were, I’m sure there are at least a hundred other people they could have given this time to, but they chose to give it to us.

Aside from his time, Rex gave me three things. Each told me one of his secrets to being an extraordinary person.

One. A Dental Mirror.

I keep it in my box of keepsakes on the top shelf of my closet. Rex was a well-respected oral surgeon who founded his own surgery group. He was the Medical Missions Dental Team leader on several trips he took to Nicaragua to give people dental care who otherwise wouldn’t have it. He had a bag of old, extra dental supplies leftover from these trips that he offered to my sister and I. I chose one dental mirror to remember him by.

The great secret found in this is simple: serve. To whom much is given, much is expected. Get outside of yourself. Use the gifts you’ve been given to help others. This is one of the unexpected places that true contentment is found.

Two. “The Black Dot.”

One afternoon at coffee, Rex handed my sister and I each a piece of paper. It had a story on it called “The Black Dot.” The story tells of a professor that handed his students each a white piece of paper with nothing more than a little black dot in the middle. He told them to write about what they saw on the paper. Afterwards, he read the responses to the class. Every last student had written about the black dot on the paper, but no one had written about all the white space around it.

The “black dots” of our lives — the negative things — are what we spend the majority of our time dwelling on. We think about them so much that we don’t even give the white space a second thought. We take all the good things, which far outweigh the bad things, for granted. One of the great secrets, then, is to simply focus on the good more than anything else. You don’t have to deny the bad things, but allow your focus to gravitate toward the good things.

Three. “Attitude is Everything.”

The last time I ever visited with Rex, he was 96 and dealing with a painful medical condition that had been going on for a while. You wouldn’t have known it, just by talking to him. His smile was still genuine and his mood was as chipper as ever. He gave me a spiral-bound booklet titled “Attitude is Everything.” He had used the booklet to teach his employees. The principles in it are so simple, but so life changing.

Filled with his own scribbled notes, the booklet explains that everything begins in your thoughts. It says, “The majority of people do not understand how important thoughts are, and leave the development of thought patterns to random chance.”

Your attitude — the way you think about something — makes or breaks it, and you are the one in control of it.

“You are the gatekeeper of your thinking,” Rex writes.

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These three principles he taught me are incredibly simple, but I know I still have a lot of growing to do.

I keep the dental mirror, the piece of paper with the story, and the booklet on hand for when I need a reminder of how to live an extraordinary life like Rex — a man who lived like Christ.

The secret behind it all was that Rex didn’t make an unforgettable impact on the world because of who he was, but because of the God he knew.

This was a secret Rex knew was best told.

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Flowers of the Flock: DIY Embroidery Hoop Wreaths

finalI don’t know what it is, but there’s something about getting whisked away in a craft project.

There’s something about taking messy things and haphazardly turning them into something beautiful.

Those carefree days of childhood seem a little bit closer when I’m wrapped up in a project. Those days were marked by creativity — whether we were running mud bakeries in the backyard, planning out doll house floor plans, or rehearsing for magic trick shows.

The ability to be creative is one of the ways in which we are made in the image of our Creator. Being creative is one of those small things that makes me feel alive inside, whether it be painting or taking pictures or arranging flowers around an embroidery hoop.

If you feel the pull of creativity and want to get crafty, or are simply as obsessed as I am with the floral and greenery trends taking over, this is a simple project to take on.

Want to make your own? Here’s how I did it.

Start with an embroidery hoop. Any size will work.IMG_1754You’ll need a glue gun and some floral shears.IMG_1775Picking out the dried or artificial flowers is the fun part. I chose two different leaf stems, an orange flower stem, and a white flower garland.IMG_1766IMG_1768Clip the flowers and leaves off into little pieces with the floral shears.IMG_1780Arrange the flowers before gluing them down. I usually figure out the “focal point” flower cluster and put it 3/4 of the way around the hoop, like the picture below. I chose to only put the orange flowers here so they would stand out. I laid down the green leaves first, then added the orange flowers and finally, the white flowers. IMG_1797Next, arrange the other pieces around the rest of the hoop. It takes a lot of trial and error, but the key is layering.IMG_1798The next part is the trickiest. Pick up one piece at a time and glue it down. Once you’ve gone as far as you want around the hoop, pull off any glue strings.IMG_1790One thing I ran into with this particular wreath was that it was off balance. When I hung it up, it swayed to one side. I solved the problem by cutting off chunks of one of the stems and gluing them on, one at a time. This also took some trial and error to figure out how many it needed and where to put them. IMG_1803Ta-da! The finished wreath.final

Embroidery hoop wreaths bring a taste of the outdoors in for the days you’re stuck inside. Sort of like the daisy chains we made when we were kids, they’re one way to capture a whiff of wildflower fields in your home.

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