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The Gift of a Lifetime

Dec

15

Posted by on Dec 15, 2017 | 0 comments

 

We moved to a new house over the summer. Invariably, that meant we not only had to unpack all the items from the small house we had lived in for the past several years; but also furniture and possessions that had been stored since we sold our (much larger) home in Tennessee.

 

If you’ve had a major move, you know that some unpacking can be tricky. It’s not just you moving to a different house, all of your things have to find a new place to live, too. Well, all the things you haven’t given away, sold, or thrown out.

 

Sentimental attachments are the most challenging things for me to deal with. It is the one area of my life where I might just be a hoarder. The thing is, some of my sentimental attachments are ridiculous–EVERY tee shirt that represents a fun memory doesn’t need to take up space in a drawer. That cool glass from a formal in college? Seriously? I didn’t drink out of it then, and I’m not about to stick it on a shelf now.

 

I finally got around to one of the last boxes a few weeks ago, and what I thought would take a few minutes ended up taking all day.  Of course it did–

 

It was the Story of My Life in cards, letters, and mementos.

 

 

 

Dating back to my Y camp days in grade school, there were hundreds of letters and cards from the people who defined each era. I remembered every person they represented. I recognized their handwriting even before reading the closing. Some of these letters are over 45 years old.

 

Some were folded sheets of notebook paper that had been passed in class. (Are you lucky enough to remember? Do kids even do that anymore?)

 

A few were super-sized cards.

 

Every single one of them represented a special relationship, a sweet friendship, the kind of knowing and intimacy we all long for, that sometimes we take for granted or forget when we get older.

 

Some of these friends hold my oldest and sweetest memories. Some are vaults for secrets I no longer remember. I’m thankful a few are still in my life, though geography and life trajectory means we aren’t necessarily close any more.

 

I “visited” college friends and friends who shared my life BK (before kids). There were thank you cards, encouragement cards, and “I’m glad we’re friends” cards.

 

I meandered the five-year off-again/on-again relationship I had with my husband. We just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.

 

Reading his words (and mine, he had saved all my cards and letters, too), I was transported back in time and could literally feel what I felt all those years ago. I remembered things I had long forgotten: he called me his little brown-eyed girl; I called him my little blue-eyed boy. Were we ever really that sickeningly gah-gah?? (yes, we were 🙂 )

 

That box might as well have been bedazzled in gold and brilliant gemstones–the treasure it held, priceless.

 

And then a lightning bolt struck:

 

Everything in that box was before the internet.

 

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Oh! I hope you’ll click over to continue reading The Gift of a Lifetime at The Art of Simple today.
(I’m trying so hard to practice what I preach…)

 

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Holiday Haikus: The Christmas Mug Edition

Dec

10

Posted by on Dec 10, 2017 | 5 comments

Tiny things have always made me happy.

 

Oh, I don’t know the why of it–is it necessary to always dissect the whys of things? I just know that miniatures fascinate me. If they had been around when I was a little, Polly Pockets and My Little Ponies would have littered my bedroom floor six inches deep. I’m sure of it.

 

I wonder if this explains why I hold such high regard for a well written haiku; the economy of its structure. Seventeen syllables is all you get–five/seven/five, remember?

 

Last weekend we emptied the attic of  All The Christmas Things. Since we moved to a new home over the summer, it’s necessary to figure out the perfect new spot for each of our decorations to live. And with that little exercise, this might just be the year I decided a) I could be a Christmas decoration hoarder, and/or b) I’m tired of all my stuff.

 

Or maybe that was just the inconvenient cold draining my sinuses (and the local water supply), combined with the pressure of finishing decorating in time to clean, cook for, and host a small dinner party Tuesday night.

 

It’s hard to say which.

 

I finally got to the point where enough was enough, or more accurately, when I was absolutely out of time for decorating, and had to shift into the cleaning and cooking portion of the afternoon. I piled all the remaining decorations into a few boxes, marched them upstairs and sat them in the corner. Done…!

 

In any event, some of my favorite Christmas things – ones I will never get tired of – are my Christmas mugs. They aren’t fine or fancy, but they’re fantastic little purveyors of whimsy.  Each year I’m excited to rediscover them.

 

Simple pleasures are the best, aren’t they?

 

 

Early Wednesday morning I was sitting at my kitchen table, sipping and savoring my coffee, smiling and satisfied that our home felt cozy and Christmassy. My mug looked happy, too, just sitting there, and in the inexplicable way we all behave now, I had to take a picture of it. Mercy, we’re all cookoo-pants, but we still keep snapping those pictures of everything and anything over and over and over, and we share them like it’s this morning’s news. Which is sort of is in The-Internet-Is-My-Neighbor kind of way.

 

And wouldn’t you know it–my coffee mug had me waxing poetic. So, I wrote a little ditty, and then lo and behold, I did it again every morning for the next three days. I never quite settled on a name for the series, but it’s something like Holiday Haikus Inspired by Christmas Mugs. Dang, that sounds awful, so feel free to give me your own (better) series titles. Girlfriend’s not shy to ask for help when she needs it.

 

happy, it makes me
most wonderful time of year
sweet, simple pleasures

 

 

Spirit of Christmas
sweet atmosphere of welcome
merry hearts draw near

treasure of Christmas
unimaginable gift
Key to the Kingdom

 

Christmas is promise
kept; a King to lead the way
brightest morning star

 

Hmmmm…such a joy to my spirit to pen these little poems. I have an idea for next week–do check in? (feel free to comment in haiku :). Now, THAT, would be a gift in my inbox!!)

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God is Working in the Waiting

Nov

30

Posted by on Nov 30, 2017 | 2 comments

God_is_at_work_even_when_you_cant_see_him_RobinDance

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

I remember it like it was yesterday, when a new-to-me speaker posed a question that burrowed under my skin like a chigger in the heat of summer —

“Are you the kind of person who walks into a room and declares, ‘Here I am!’ or do you walk into the room and say, ‘There you are!’?”

I wasn’t an “all about me” person, but I’m naturally outgoing and comfortable talking to new people. I can work a room if that’s expected of me. My nerves do rattle on the inside, but they’re energy fueling confidence and conversation.

It also wasn’t that I didn’t notice other people; but the question forced me to realize at best I was blissfully unaware, or at worse, I was more concerned about myself than others. Ouch.

Over the past ten years through unexpected personal deserts and crazy life, I’ve tried to become a There you are! friend, the one who notices what you’re not saying as much as what you are saying. I’ve challenged myself to notice people in the margins. And trusting the providence of God (mostly in hindsight), I’ve wandered into those places myself, learning by experience what it feels like to be ignored, rejected, forgotten, irrelevant, and sometimes invisible.

I’ve hated it.

But on the other side of those hard lessons and hurt feelings is what has become a passion of mine: redemptive purpose

Just as sure as the sun hangs in the sky behind a veil of dark clouds, God is accomplishing His will and His ways even when I can’t see His hand at work.

 

And when I do gain insight and understanding in the aftermath of pain or heartache? It is an astonishing gift and grace to discover beauty among ashes.

Pride and ego were subtle idols of mine. God was kind enough to reveal them to me in a way that would sear an impression on my heart and ultimately change me.

———-

It’s been a long, long while since I’ve attended a Beth Moore Bible study. I forgot how she gets to me, how every study I’ve ever taken will somehow speak a word over me so strong it’s undeniable God had her write it just for me.

What . . . you, too? 🙂

It was in the fourth week, day three, on her study of James, when a section started doing its thing.

Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment. (James 3:1)

Beth spoke about “landmines that go with the territory” of teaching:

  • The temptation to teach more than we know.
  • The capacity to mislead.
  • The capacity to be misled.
  • The temptation to use the platform for personal agendas or opinions.

And though not exactly in the context of being a teacher, I sensed these landmines speaking to my life as a writer.

———-

It would seem that the natural progression for a long-term blogger is to write a book; that is the childhood dream of many in the online world. Those of you who’ve followed (in)courage since its inception know many of our regular contributors have gone on to lovely writing careers.

Here’s the thing that’s hard for me to admit: 

Please continue reading God is Working in the Waiting at {in}courage.
It’s personal but in some ways the story of ALL of us….

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Honest Thoughts About #GivingTuesday

Nov

28

Posted by on Nov 28, 2017 | 2 comments

GivingTuesday2017

I love Holly Hunter. An Academy Award- and Emmy-winning actress, she seems to take any role and make it memorable; she dies to self while her characters come to life. I appreciate her talent, sure, but maybe tipping the scale for my fangirldom is the fact she’s Southern, born just up the road from me in Conyers, Georgia. Her accent makes me happy. Instead of sounding like some illiterate, backwoods miscreant – the way Southerners are too often played in film and television – her voice is comfort food to the ear. As Tammy Hemphill in 1993’s The Firm, she delivers one of my favorite movie lines of all time when convict Ray McDeere tells her he “loves her crooked little mouth.” She quips…

It’s not my best feature.

Gah–J’adore! (Shout out to my friend Lisa M. who jinxed me with this line!)

Anyway, that scene always comes to mind when one of my, say, “lesser qualities” rises to the surface. Like today. Today is known far and wide as Giving Tuesday. My first instinct is cynical.

GivingTuesday2017

My cynicism is birthed out of priority:

  1. Black Friday.
  2. Small Business Saturday.
  3. Sunday usually equals more of #1 and #2–retailers and e-tailers are smart that way even if Sunday doesn’t have an official name.
  4. Cyber Monday.

And with whatever you have leftover after all that manic spending, tip your favorite charity on Giving Tuesday.

See? Not my best feature.

Here’s the thing, though. While my first instinct is cynicism, it’s not where I land. I am a bargain shopper. I understand that this season sometimes offers the most savings of items you plan to buy anyway.

More than anything, I believe that giving is good.

 

And when there’s a global movement encouraging citizens of the world to give to organizations and causes who represent undeniable need, we should respond with great generosity.

 

#GivingTuesday reminds us giving isn’t only about dollars and cents–

…whether it’s some of your time, a donation, gift or the power of your voice in your local community….

but a financial gift is always an easy and immediate way to respond.

 

There is no dearth of non-profits to support, but three I’d very personally love for you to consider are:

  • CrossPurpose. 2½ years ago, freshly graduated and with a degree in community development, my daughter accepted an urban leadership development fellowship in Denver, CO. On the ground, working to eradicate poverty in their city, CrossPurpose in an incredible organization that teaches people how to fish for a lifetime instead of feeding them for a day. When her fellowship ended, Rachel accepted a full-time position with CrossPurpose. We’ve met those who serve and are served by this visionary organization. Your dollars here change lives, now and forever.
    CrossPurposeDenverLogo
  • Compassion. Eight years ago I traveled to Kolkata (Calcutta) with Compassion International, and it’s still changing my life. Compassion is a world-wide organization that works by investing in local people and projects to do the work of caring for the least of these. I was privileged to observe first-hand what this looks like, and I’m convinced it’s the best, most reputable sponsor program out there.
    CompassionBlogger_RobinDance_India

 

  • Salvation Army. Ringing the bell for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Drive has become an annual tradition for me; it was fascinating to learn so much my first year (10 Things Salvation Army Bell Ringers Want You To Know is one of my most popular posts of all time). The Red Kettle Drive is a great example of every gift matters–whether pocket change or folding money, every donation thrills the bell ringer AND makes a difference in your community. Which goes the same for my online campaign: gifts of any size are welcome! (Please help me reach my humble goal?)
    Ringing Salvation Army Bell

Your support doesn’t have to end with the organizations I’ve mentioned here; I’m sure there are many near and dear to your heart. But I sincerely hope you join me AND THE ENTIRE WORLD in giving something today.

Because something is always better than nothing, yes?

xo

 

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