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To Dambarr, With Love || #ILookToHer {Part 1}

Mar

20

Posted by on Mar 20, 2017 | 3 comments

My much-beloved grandmother died when I was ten.

 

I was at camp when it happened, and I didn’t even know she was ill. The camp director brought me and my sister into an office space behind the camp store to tell us, and I remember her saying, “You can cry or scream or whatever you need to do.”

I don’t remember my response, her funeral, or anything else about it. I suppose I built a mighty fortress around my little girl heart for protection; Dambarr died the year after my mother. Two heartbreaking losses in a year’s time, early lessons in “life isn’t fair.”

That’s why the memories I hold of her are treasure. I write at a secretary that once sat in her living room, an antique thing with dulled brass accents and pulls I’ve been warned not to polish. “It will lose its value,” I’m told, and what I know that a furniture dealer discounts is that Dambarr’s secretary will never lose value because it was hers.

DambarrI remember only a few things about her, but they are good things, and lasting. She gave us after-bath alcohol rubs, wintergreen, and we’d lay face down on our towels on the bed, naked and squirmy and loved (and I suppose, disinfected). She made fairy sandwiches out of Pepperidge Farm dinner rolls or Callie biscuits and whatever meat we had the night before. She’d slather butter top and bottom and broil our tiny sandwiches in a 70s green toaster oven that sat on a rolling metal cart in her galley kitchen.

She’d let us jiggle the fat on her arms and she’d sketch bowls of fruit for us to copy. She’d sit on the floor and build houses made of cards, this stately, well-to-do woman, a competition bridge player who traveled the world. She sang “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and “Please, Mr. Judge Where’s My Daddy?” old, melancholy songs but nighttime rituals we couldn’t do without. We’d “blum-blum” before lying down to sleep, her feet on the floor with soft arms wrapped around our tiny bodies, us, standing at the foot of our beds, tiny arms cupped around her neck, swaying side to side and sing-songing those words until we settled. Blum…blum…blum…blum. It was our thing, flesh on flesh, heart to heart.

Her house, “the house at Woodlawn,” is over 100 years old and my brother owns it now. A fraternity house sits right in front of it, so he rents it to college students today; but when Dambarr owned it, it was a grand home, plaster walls and radiator heat, and wallpaper actually made of paper. Birds and botanical if my mind’s eye remembers well. A fancy crystal chandelier in her dining room. A loud but wonderful attic fan in the basement that sucked air with a big whoosh (calling it “attic” never made sense to me since it’s in the basement).

Dambarr was a master gardener, and her back yard was magical.

 

 

It was gated in manicured boxwoods, an even hedge with an always-invitation. Its center was grassy and square, perfect for a child and her imagination to run wild, free. Camellias, hydrangeas, and azaleas lined the edges and back. The right corner, pathed with a rocky edge, was reserved for annuals and perennials–roses in every shade, worth the prick of rude thorns; primrose and pansies, daffodils, snowbells, narcissus, and tulips. Snapdragons. Marigolds. Star-of-Bethlehem. Those are all the names I can remember right now but maybe there were more? A little herb garden and veggie spot in the back right of that–spearmint and peppermint and parsley, tomatoes–cherry and the big kind, the name of which escapes me. She had a scuppernong vine, but that always seemed weird to me.

We’d jump off her detached garage roof into the compost pile, clueless as to what was in it, or more likely, we didn’t care. We got to jump off a roof!

She taught us to make tiny dolls out of a flowering shrub; unopened buds for a head, and opened flowers as ball gowns. I can’t call it by name, but I recognize it when I see it…and I always want to steal a bud and a flower to make a little fairy doll.

Dambarr died too soon to teach me anything about gardening, but she seeded in me a deep love and appreciation for flowers.

 

And this is precisely why when DaySpring invited me to join FTD Flowers onstage at the Designer’s Studio at the Philadelphia Flower Show, I said Yes! with no hesitation.

And then I learned about FTD’s #ILookToHer campaign, an initiative celebrating women and how they inspire us. I knew before I shared about my experience in Philadelphia, however, I had to introduce you to my grandmother, the reason it made sense for me to go, the woman who has continued to inspire me over 40 years after her death.

I can’t wait to share images from the Philly Flower Show, and my Designer’s Studio segment with the incredibly talented Andrea Ancel, lead floral designer for FTD. It was a blast and an honor, and I’m very thankful to FTD for sponsoring my visit.

Stay tuned….

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Wisdom You Can Count On – (Word Writers ~ James 3:17-18)

Mar

13

Posted by on Mar 13, 2017 | 0 comments

DAY 16 JAMES

Used to be I was a Bible study snob.

 

If it wasn’t long and so deep it took me hours to complete, if it didn’t quote Lewis or Piper or Spurgeon or their ilk, if it didn’t use big words I recognized but didn’t necessarily understand, it wasn’t worthy. In this ridiculous, pretentious economy, Level of Difficulty = A “Good” Bible Study.

 

 

It’d be laughable if it wasn’t true.

 

These days I’m thankful for studies I can digest, writers who provide margin to think, linger, and engage the Word. And complete, finishing each lesson is important, too.

 

This is why Denise Hughes’ Word Writers series hit the sweet spot for me; she’s written studies for Philippians, Ephesians, and now James, and they’ve filled a void I didn’t even realize I had. Without overpowering you with heavy reading and complex  hermeneutics, she’s created accessible studies that lead you to Jesus and leave room for you to know Him better.

 

She invited me to take part in an online Deeper Waters blog series for her newly-released James study, and today I’ve written a brief devotion inspired by James 3:17-18. Please take just a few minutes to read the devotion, share your thoughts, and maybe even follow the rest of the devotions in this series.

 

(affiliate links used)

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For The Fools Who Dream

Feb

27

Posted by on Feb 27, 2017 | 4 comments

La La Land Musical

Mondays are my favorite because they feel like a new year, except every week.

 

I know, I know, statistically heart attacks most often occur on Mondays, but I’m not giving in to a statistic. I love a fresh start. It’s why I prefer sunrise to sunset.

By this particular Monday morning, you probably already know there was a mistake of  Steve-Harvey-Miss-Universe proportion at the 2017 Oscars–La La Land was mistakenly awarded Best Picture due to Price Waterhouse giving Warren Beaty and Faye Dunaway the wrong category envelope. The rightful winner was Moonlight; the obsidian counter to celestial La La Land.

(For the record I haven’t seen Moonlight, but I’m a fan of Maharshala Ali, winner of Best Supporting Actor for his role as a drug dealer who becomes a father figure to a kid who’s a punching bag for bullies and the son of a drug addict.)

Anyway…

The music in La La Land is at least half the reason I love the movie and want to watch it again and again. It strikes a chord that reverberates through my heart, begs tears to fall, and swirls inside my head long after play has ended. The music and lyrics are haunting and beautiful, and that opening number? Spectacular.

I wish there was a video available of Emma Stone singing her audition at the movie’s end, The Fools Who Dream; since I can’t, click play and follow the lyrics below.

My aunt used to live in Paris.
I remember, she used to come home and tell us these stories about being abroad and
I remember she told us that she jumped into the river once, barefoot.

She smiled…

Leapt, without looking
And tumbled into the Seine
The water was freezing
She spent a month sneezing
But said she would do it again

Here’s to the ones who dream
Foolish as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that ache
Here’s to the mess we make

She captured a feeling
Sky with no ceiling
The sunset inside a frame

She lived in her liquor
And died with a flicker
I’ll always remember the flame

Here’s to the ones who dream
Foolish as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that ache
Here’s to the mess we make

She told me:
“A bit of madness is key
To give us new colors to see
Who knows where it will lead us?
And that’s why they need us”

So bring on the rebels
The ripples from pebbles
The painters, and poets, and plays

And here’s to the fools who dream
Crazy as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that break
Here’s to the mess we make

I trace it all back to then
Her, and the snow, and the Seine
Smiling through it
She said she’d do it again.

 

Here’s to the ones who dream…. :)

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A Lavish Gift (& a Perfect Gift Idea for Valentine’s Day!)

Feb

14

Posted by on Feb 14, 2017 | 1 comment

The Essence of Love by Robin Dance - #HeartofMarriage

 

There was no way to know 35 years ago where we’d be today. Certainly not literally, but not even in a figurative sense.

12,775 days, give or take. Plenty of ups, our share of downs, and all beautiful in their time.

I believe it–that everything is beautiful in time. Beauty from ashes might be the most lovely.

The Heart of Marriage releases today. It’s a collection of essays about marriage, curated by my long-time blogging friend, Dawn Camp. I’m thrilled to be included in this collaboration; it’s personal.

Originally Dawn and her editors were going to feature an essay I wrote on our 26th anniversary, an exploration of what love is, and isn’t, maybe best summarized in one of my favorite lines from the piece:

Love usually doesn’t happen in a moment, it happens in a life.

However, ultimately Dawn’s team choose another piece I offered to them, The Essence of Love. Or at least I think that’s the title they kept–I haven’t see the book yet, so I’m not 100% sure about the title.

I cried when I read it again. It’s a glimpse of my in-laws’ story, a love story as rare as it is extraordinary. In it, my father-in-law offered an unexpected and provocative caution–

“People want to know how we’re still so in love, how we have such a good marriage,” he began. And the next thing he said was the kind of thing pulls your attention taut, “Having a good marriage doesn’t have anything to do with trying to have a good marriage.”

I hope you’re curious enough to read the rest of it; do pick up a copy of the book to read it( and so many other love-tales). I’ve heard it’s on the shelves at Barnes and Noble just in time for Valentine’s Day (and maybe your favorite local bookstore), but you can get it on sale at Amazon (affiliate link provided).

OH–a bonus! In my piece for The Heart of Marriage, it begins by referencing something else I wrote; it’s best when read together. If you’re interested, please read The Essence of Love || When Love is a Pie.

It’s coming up on two years since I wrote it, and what was true then is even more true today: Things are different now, and business isn’t as usual.

But, still, beautiful in time….

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Helpful New Resource For Moms Who’ve Ever Lost Your Temper #TemperToolkit

Feb

02

Posted by on Feb 2, 2017 | 1 comment


TemperToolkit_SM3-color

 

 

Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs on the planet.

 

I also believe it’s the best job on the planet, and I can say now, from where I sit as an Empty Nester, it’s beautifully, thought sometimes brutally, worthwhile and satisfying.

My three children are becoming the humans I prayed and hoped they’d become, but it was not without a thousand misfires during the years they were daily under my roof.

Some days I didn’t know if I would make it to the next.

Some moments I didn’t know if I would make it to the next.

Some seconds I didn’t know if I would let them make it to the next.

Parenting isn’t easy.

But we parented hard and on purpose, making the best decisions we could with what we knew. We read books and even took parenting classes at our church. Thankfully, we had a strong community of young parents walking the same road shoulder to shoulder.

The internet wasn’t yet a thing when they were young, or at least not what it is today. There weren’t bloggers and websites and social networking that connected you to “experts.” For us there was Dr. Leman and Dr. Dobson, and the good parts of the Ezzos.

But there were wise parents a few years ahead of me, families I could observe. When I saw older kids who seemed to behave the way I hoped mine would eventually, I took note. I watched those mamas and daddies to see if there was anything I could learn from them. They had no idea.

Fast forward to now, and there’s a wealth of parenting resources out there. It’s a “chicken and bones” kind of thing – pick and choose what works for you, keep the chicken, toss those bones. 

I’m excited to tell you about a new “chicken” you’re going to want to eat:

The Temper Toolkit, a special parenting resource from my friend Lisa-Jo Baker. Many of you will already know Lisa-Jo as one of my (in)courage writing sisters, and as a blogger and author, she’s been encouraging moms for years (if you haven’t yet read her book, it’s a GREAT addition to a mom’s library–and on sale!). The beauty of her Temper Toolkit is she has lived this in the trenches. She’s consolidated helpful practices she’s learned over time into a video series that is sure to encourage mamas of younger children (and even those tweens and teens). There’s a reasonable price tag attached to her content; and it’s only fair to compensate her for her time in pulling this all together to make a beautiful, truly helpful resource for you.

 

TemperToolkit_HavingABadDay

 

From Lisa-Jo herself:

I’ve packaged up everything I’ve learned about my mom temper (the hard way) over the last decade of parenting and everything I teach at my workshops so that you can put it into practice in your own homes. And I’m calling it The Temper Toolkit.

The Temper Toolkit is a labor of love from me to you — a collection of practical strategies, honest stories, and Biblical resources from one mom to another to help you take control of your temper BEFORE you lose it. 

It includes: 7 teaching videos, downloadable audio (so you can listen on the go) and key takeaways from each lesson beautifully designed as phone lock screens, computer wallpapers or a print so you can choose which format is best to help you take the lessons with you on the go. 

And there are a 5 bonus videos including how to talk to your husband and how to talk to your kids about your journey with temper. And what 6 daily steps you can take to defuse. 
 
The Temper Toolkit includes real life tools for real life change. Because what you don’t need is more guilt. What you need are the tools to get you through.

By the end of our time together I hope that by sharing my own (embarrassingly) honest temper stories and coping strategies I will have convinced you of three things:

  1. That you’re not a bad mom.
  2. That a good God is using your kids to transform you into His image.
  3. That temper is not an incurable disease, but a treatable condition.  

All for the cost of one exhausted drive-through dinner with the kids after a day of meltdowns.

 

AND…if you’re one of the first 50 people to purchase the Temper Toolkit, you’ll get a FREE copy of Surprised by Motherhood!!

I’m convinced if you’re struggling as a mom, if your temper sometimes flares, if you just wish you had some help or wisdom from someone a few years ahead of you, you’re going to gain some insights and tips to help calm your spirit and reduce the chaos.

You’ll have to act quickly! Lisa-Jo is only going to keep the Temper Toolkit
available for purchase for five days (today through Monday, February 6th.

I hope you’ll share this post with every mama you know could use some practiced advice.
(easy share buttons are at the bottom of this post)
If you have questions or need help with the course, please email support@tempertoolkit.com.

 

Temper-Toolkit-with-Lisa-Jo-Baker

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