Please Join Me October 14th in Nashville for (in)real life: FRIENDED #inrl

Sep

13

Posted by on Sep 13, 2017 in (in)courage, Conferences, Encouragement, Favorite things, Friends, friendship, Inspiring, Personal, Uncategorized | 3 comments

Please Join Me October 14th in Nashville for (in)real life: FRIENDED #inrl

I suppose you could say it’s been years in the making: a gathering of friends old and new within hugging distance.   (in)courage and Lifeway have teamed up to bring (in) real life: FRIENDED, “an event for women that unpacks what makes healthy friendships tick.” OF COURSE, our greatest hope is that you can come in person, but because we care so deeply about community, relationship, and the ways women need one another, event planners are offering a simulcast option. The upside? You can bring #inRL to your church, or, if you’re game for the coziest option of them all, from the comfort of your home! The downside? I won’t get to meet you face to face. Boo. Hiss. Featured speakers include Lisa-Jo Baker, Chrystal Hurst, and Annie Downs; Meredith Andrews will lead worship; and Jamie Ivey, host of The Happy Hour podcast, will emcee. I’m thrilled to join a panel of real-life friends and fellow incourage writers (Holley Gerth, Jennifer Lee, Aliza Latta, Jen Schmidt, Kristen Strong, and Alia Joy Haganbach); we’ll all be sharing a message of hope and encouragement as it relates to friendship, practical calls to action, and personal testimonies about the beauty and brokenness we’ve all experienced with friends. This is an event like no other, one that will have you looking inside and out, and most important of all, looking up to the One who designed us to be in community with one another.   It’s going to be special, y’all, and it’s very affordable as far as conferences go (in Nashville AND the simulcast). Please decide right now that you want to take part, whether in Nashville, at your church, or even from home with a few friends. Click the (in) real life: FRIENDED website to find out everything you need to know for each option (plus a bonus add-on for Friday night if you’re able to get to Nashville!).   Share...

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Hope in the Hurricane

Sep

10

Posted by on Sep 10, 2017 in Uncategorized | 3 comments

Hope in the Hurricane

In the eye of a hurricane There is quiet For just a moment…. ~ From “Hurricane” by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton — I’ve listened to the Hamilton soundtrack 317,256 times, give or take. I love it. For its story and history, of course, but more so for the madness and brilliance of Lin-Manuel Miranda. Smart (although at times explicit) lyrics companioned with incredible music – hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B, and Broadway – bring me to tears in places, which is saying something. I’m not an easy crier. My friend Monica has listened a million times, too. For their anniversary, her husband scurried her off to New York, and between that and a surprise pair of tickets to Hamilton he won the Husband of the Year Award (congratulations, Derek). During a conversation about her visit we discovered we both do the same thing: instantly think about Hamilton when we hear a word or phrase in everyday conversation that includes a snippet of lyrics. I wish I could remember what the reference was when we were with a group of friends and someone unknowingly said a line from one of the songs. We looked at each other, both repeated it, and grinned. “Wait for it…”? “Rise up”? “I’m not throwing away my shot”? Who knows? I just sure we had a moment. Anyways… There’s a song called “Hurricane” in Act II of the musical, referring to both a hurricane Hamilton literally survived, and also  figuratively to a life storm he faces. When Harvey punched Texas in the face a few weeks ago, and now with Irma crashing through the Caribbean and bullying her way straight up Florida toward me – three hours from any coast for heaven’s sake – this song keeps ringing in my ears. This morning in church our pastor talked about storms and what they reveal about God and/or man. Tim knew Irma was on everyone’s mind and we likely had evacuee visitors (we did). Our church has already been reaching out to those affected by Harvey, but with this one hitting closer to home – we have five evacuation centers in our area (and an extra one for pets) – it’s personally relevant. He threaded together stories of people in the bible who faced storms…Noah, Jonah, wise and foolish men, even Jesus and his disciples…but it was a beautiful passage from Psalms that gave me the most encouragement today, Psalm 57:1. If you find yourself squaring off against Irma (or Harvey), or facing any kind of life storm (both can level you, can’t they?) I hope you’ll find life and encouragement in these words, too: Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,     for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,     till the storms of destruction pass by. My thoughts and prayers are with you, the millions of neighbors affected by these storms. My greatest hope is that you will see the goodness and glory of God in the days to come. xo   Share...

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The Kindness of Strangers

Sep

06

Posted by on Sep 6, 2017 in friendship, Grace Table, Hospitality, Inspiring, Life Philosophy, Personal, Uncategorized | 4 comments

The Kindness of Strangers

It was a day of inconveniences, the kind where you wonder if you’ll be able to get it all done.     Since I was driving out of town the next day, taking my car to the shop for its past due oil change was top priority. The wait was hours long without an appointment (what? they take appointments?!), and I could’ve kicked myself for not bringing work along, or better yet, a book from my never shrinking stack. I called my son to see if he could leave his job to come and get me. He said yes, but even his time was limited, and he didn’t have the extra minutes to run by the grocery store on the way home so I could grab something to cook for dinner. Influenced by both our year living in Germany (where we biked or walked everywhere) and my husband’s wellness plan at work (that pays us to track health and fitness), I made the decision to have him drop me at Publix and I’d walk home. While I had mentally calculated the distance between home and Publix – a little more than a mile – I hadn’t factored in July’s stifling heat and humidity. Mylanta, summertime in middle Georgia is a big, fat, steamy sauna. I crossed the street into my neighborhood, sweat-drenched and questioning my sanity. It had seemed like such a good idea at the time, especially if I wanted to have dinner ready before midnight. Now, I would’ve been happy to troll the pantry and make a meal out of Cream of Mushroom Soup and Ritz Crackers–aren’t they the base of every good casserole, anyway? About that time I sensed a car approaching from behind, slowing down beside me. I kept a confident and determined stride, staring straight ahead and painting a fiercely intimidating expression on my face (a surefire method for disarming potential kidnappers and murderers). I tried to act like I didn’t notice them… Which is next to impossible when the window rolls down and you hear…   Please click over to Grace Table today to discover what happens next! (It’s a story I love.) Share...

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#SolarEclipse2017: A Playlist To Maximize Your Viewing Experience

Aug

21

Posted by on Aug 21, 2017 in Beauty, Inspiring, Nature, Personal, Uncategorized | 6 comments

#SolarEclipse2017: A Playlist To Maximize Your Viewing Experience

Really, truly, it doesn’t make sense even to me:   Ever since my sister mentioned today’s total solar eclipse ages ago – The Greatest Celestial Event since the founding of our country – I’ve been downright giddy at the thought of it. It is even the inspiration for my (in)courage post today. I’m a little jellie, (okay…a lot) of the folks who’ll see it along the path of totality (I’m looking at you, Sissy), and I am K.I.C.K.I.N.G. myself for not getting eclipse glasses (in case you’re wondering, stacking sunglasses will not prevent damage to your eyes. Darn.) It looks like we’ll have pretty good coverage where I live, maybe 90-95% (HOLLA Macon, GA! The moon will be closest to the sun at 2:39pm. Set your watches, homies.) I’m back from a long weekend out of town and don’t have time to go deep with All The Eclipse-inspired Thoughts I’m having this morning, so I thought it would be fun to create a playlist of sun- and moon-themed songs to play during eclipse viewing. Please do chime in with your favorite, or share good songs I’ve missed. I Can See Clearly Now, Johnny Nash Brighter Than the Sun, Colbie Caillat (so, so, SO happy) Staring at the Sun, U2 Soak Up the Sun, Sheryl Crow Island in the Sun, Weezer Under the Boardwalk, The Drifters (okay…this one’s a stretch, but I love beach music and this one mentions the sun in the first line) Circle ‘Round the Sun, Matthew E. White (new to me, loved this) Good Day Sunshine, Paul McCartney Toward the Sun, Rihanna Seasons in the Sun, Terry Jacks (a sad one but I loved it back in the day….) Sun is Shining, Bob Marley The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore, The Walker Brothers Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me, George Michael and Sir Elton John I’ll Follow the Sun, The Beatles And my FAVORITE sun-song:   And for the moon songs? Sun and Moon, Phil Wickham (another new one to me, love it) Here Comes the Moon, George Harrison Fly Me To the Moon, Frank Sinatra Moonshadow, Cat Stevens (Remember this one all my This Is Us fan-fanatics?) Talking to the Moon, Bruno Mars There’s a Moon in the Sky, The B-52s Dancing in the Moonlight, Thin Lizzy Song About the Moon, Phil Simon (This one is gooood…)   And because this is an Event for the Ages, I believe it’s absolutely appropriate to end with one of my top favorite songs of all time: 100 Years by Five for Fighting, a reminder of life’s brevity.   Today is a day we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. For the first time in a very long while, it feels like we live in “one Nation, under God, indivisible.” I have this lovely sense of human connectedness that feels both foreign and familiar. This moment is fleeting but the memory is forever.  Hold tight.  Share...

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After the Silence || On Motherhood, Wisdom, Listening

Aug

11

Posted by on Aug 11, 2017 in Parenting | 8 comments

After the Silence || On Motherhood, Wisdom, Listening

After the silence, sound is different.   It’s not necessarily better or worse, it’s just different. Maybe it’s more about discernment; being careful about what you’re listening to, who you’re listening to. And I’m not talking about Who you’re listening to – though every “good Christian” knows when I capitalize Who, I’m referring to Jesus, right? Can you imagine a world in which the Who we’re listening to informs everything else we hear? Glory! We’d glimpse the garden. After the silence, your ears become a discriminating filter recoiling from noise, resisting the fray. It’s like when you’ve been skipping rope a long, long while, and you’ve got a certain rhythm…perpetual motion – twirl-skip twirl-skip twirl skip – but then you stop, and only then do you realize how tired you’ve become, how it drained energy like a hole in a bucket. When you pick that rope up to start again, you’ve learned to be more efficient, set limits, make it work for you, not against you. My Friday morning playlist? The dryer’s tumble, nearby traffic’s rush, my Precious (Praise God from where our coffee flows), moving boxes begging to be unpacked–but loudest is what I don’t hear. I’m an empty nester, a phrase I do not care for, I suppose because “empty” has more negative connotations than positive? I don’t know. Two of our three are adulting well, fierce and independent, with real jobs and living in places I have nothing to do with that they dare to call home. Sometimes I have to remind myself that isn’t a slight. The youngest returned to college yesterday after spending the summer living at home, our home. Last summer he worked at a summer camp and the only time he was able to visit was the week he got pneumonia (who gets pneumonia in the summer?!), the same week I had a business trip across the country. Are you kidding me? Only once have I had a trip that took me out of town five days. Thankfully, he wanted to spend summer break with us this year, because, in his words, “it might be my last chance.” He worked full time(ish) in a local internship and I expected his evenings to be spent hanging out with friends, also home from college. I was wrong. More often than not he was happy to be with us. Between college and camp he had been gone the better part of two years, meaning we had to work through a few things, but overall it was so good. So, so good. One of those summer nights was my favorite, the one where, standing in our kitchen, our conversation veered deep. His heart opened wide and he invited me into his interior. Sacred places. We ventured into a similar but different space last week, and I considered myself fortunate to have gone “there” twice. Conditions have to be perfect for those conversations, and the best advice I can offer a parent is to be available when the stars align. And listen more than you speak. Two ears, one mouth–do the math. With his car jammed full, he turned to tell me good-bye, and like a child or a fool, I started running around the kitchen island. He started to follow until he realized what I was doing, and I said, “If I keep going forever will you stay?” and he answered,...

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On (my) radio silence

Aug

10

Posted by on Aug 10, 2017 in Uncategorized | 5 comments

On (my) radio silence

Most folks reading my blog today don’t know me from back in those early days, the ones after the six months or so when I never actually told anyone I had a blog; the years and years I published daily and when comment threads created vibrant community among virtual strangers. That season was before blogging conferences en masse became a thing, when BlogHer was the only show in town; it was founded the same year I started my (at-the-time-anonymous) blog. Back then bloggers didn’t trust the internet. We typically didn’t reveal our real name, we didn’t include pictures of ourselves (for years my avatar was my feet), and we would NEVER dream of sharing images of our children. That last one’s hard to believe, yes? It was also before Zuckerberg figured out what Facebook was, and definitely before it caught the attention of Boomers and Gen X. Twitter hadn’t even been born.  Pre- YouTube, Instagram, podcasting, and OH MY WORD–I just realized smart phones hadn’t yet been invented! (Technically, I guess they had…Blackberry and all, but I’m talking pre-iPhone….) There are a lot of years between then and now – almost 12 – and the changes in my life since then are significant. But this isn’t about that, exactly; nor is it about the seismic shift in blogging and how social networks forever-impacted its landscape. It’s mostly about all the noise out there. I had to quiet my heart…my head…my soul. Wait a second…that’s not entirely accurate. The noise does have something to do with it – there is no dearth of opinions about everyfrickingthing, and does what I write (say) add value or just more noise? – but it was more about the way I had my phone in my hand more often than not, the way I was umbilical corded to technology.   While there has been a lot going on this summer – a wedding, travel, moving, and then some – one day it was like a switch flipped, and I couldn’t do it anymore.   For a few weeks I ignored messages, emails, and who knows what else, and I shared next to nothing. It was an unofficial sabbatical of sorts, and I’m afraid that meant missing some writing obligations, too (Please forgive me if you fall into this camp? Can I beg grace??). But it sure did feel liberating. Anyways, I’ve been missing writing lately, and that feels good. During my sabbatical I had a revelation of sorts, and it has my brain all spinny. It’s the kind of substantive thing that will take a while to unpack, and I’m trying to figure out how to articulate my thoughts; some of them are important, and I humbly believe will bring more value than noise to the internets. I hope a few of you are still around to listen. xo             Share...

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Amazon Prime Day aka Christmas In July!

Jul

11

Posted by on Jul 11, 2017 in Uncategorized |

Amazon Prime Day aka Christmas In July!

Today is Amazon Prime Day. and I’m sneaking out from under my unofficial social media hiatus to urge you to try Amazon Prime today while it’s FREE (for 30 days). What exactly is Amazon Prime Day?, you ask. Think Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or any ol’ retail bargainpalloosa. Some deals are major, some, less spectacular, but with free shipping and additional incentives, there is no better time to try Amazon Prime. Check these out: Amazon Prime Exclusive Phone (Save $120 on Moto G5 Plus) and more Shop Amazon Devices – Echo 50% off on Prime Day. If you’ve been thinking about an Echo, just do it TODAY! Kindle – Up to 40% Off Kindle Unlimited Prime Members get 40% off Audible Membership (until midnight PST on July 11, 2017) Prime Members get 40% off Audible Membership now through July 11, 2017 Baby Registry – $100 credit towards diapers and wipes Amazon Devices – All-New Kindle Travel Bundles, starting at $199 Get 4 months of Amazon Music Unlimited for $0.99 – just a quarter/month I’m already an Amazon Prime member, and it’s been fun scrolling through the deals (more of that to come, but for now, I wanted to put a little (Amazon) Fire (Tablet) under your behind to pull the trigger and sign up. I think you’ll be glad and get your money’s worth out of it in no time. DO let me know if you snag a special deal! They ARE timed, so if there’s something you want, get it while you can! If you happen to sign up for Prime through affiliate links on my post, it’ll be your way of supporting my blog at no added cost to you! The winning doesn’t stop, does it? (Thank you!)   Share...

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Leigh’s (Almost) Famous Shrimp and Grits Casserole

Jun

18

Posted by on Jun 18, 2017 in Friends, Hospitality, Recipes, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Leigh’s (Almost) Famous Shrimp and Grits Casserole

  One of my favorite things is tasting a dish that is so delicious, I must ask for the recipe; and, then every time I make it, I think of the person who now mingles her kitchen with mine. When I had my friend Leigh’s Shrimp and Grits Casserole, I knew it was one of those. It’s easy, a little bit fancy, and diverse enough to serve for brunch or dinner. It’s a turn on traditional shrimp and grits, and if you don’t care for either, well, a) try this and you might change your mind, or b) if you’re a hard-core hater, I feel for ya. (Unless you’re like my friend Holley, who has a worse-than-Will-Smith-in-Hitch reaction to shellfish. She can’t even look at ’em.) Leigh’s Scrumptious, Easy Southern Shrimp and Grits Casserole Pre-heat oven to 350°F Lightly grease a 9×12″ baking dish 4 cups of chicken broth ½ teaspoon salt 1 cup regular grits (not quick cooking) 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese 1 cup shredded Monterey jack pepper cheese 2 tablespoons butter or margarine 6 green onions, chopped 1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped 1 clove garlic, minced 1½ pound fresh (or frozen) shrimp, peeled and cooked 1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained (Rotel) ¼ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon pepper Bring 4 cups chicken broth and ½ teaspoon salt to boil in a saucepan; stir in grits. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir together grits, ¾ cup cheddar cheese, and Monterey jack cheese. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat; add green onions, bell pepper, and garlic; sauté until tender. Stir together green onion mixture, grits mixture, shrimp, and next 3 ingredients. Pour into a lightly-greased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle top with remaining ¼ cup cheddar cheese. Bake at 350°F for 30-45 minutes. Personal notes: Leigh actually got the recipe from her friend Lisa; clearly good recipes keep goin’ and goin’, Energizer Bunnies of the culinary world. Using half each of a red and green bell pepper make this dish especially festive at Christmas. Depending on how much heat you like in a dish, you might want to use more cheddar and less jack cheese; or, if you want to add more heat, use Rotel’s spicier version of tomatoes. You can mix up the dish with your favorite cheeses, too. This divides well into two smaller casseroles; keep one and give the other to someone who could use a meal!   Share...

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Dabo Swinney’s White House Speech Will Make You A Clemson Fan (Full Transcript)

Jun

12

Posted by on Jun 12, 2017 in Uncategorized | 3 comments

Dabo Swinney’s White House Speech Will Make You A Clemson Fan (Full Transcript)

Today Coach Dabo Swinney and the national champion Clemson Tigers visited The White House, and President Trump said a lot of nice words about the team, individual players, Clemson’s president James Clements, and head coach Dabo Swinney. But it was Coach Swinney’s heart-felt speech that made me proud to be a graduate; if I had a son who was competitive as a D1 player, I’d want him to play for Dabo.   Coach Swinney’s speech was so positive and affirming, I took time to listen to it seventy-eleven times so I could transcribe it in its entirety. I’m pretty sure at this point I could give it myself.   If you take a few minutes to read it (or click the video below to watch and listen), you’ll understand why I’m not just a Clemson fan, but also a Dabo Swinney fan. Even if you can’t stand Clemson (haters gonna hate), it’s hard to argue with Dabo’s results.   Thanks to The White House for broadcasting this moment for all Tigers fans to enjoy, and to the ACC Digital Network for posting it on You Tube.   Alright, I appreciate it. Uh, thank you so much, what a, what a special and unique opportunity this is to stand here and look at the Washington Monument and have a chance to also see this trophy, and have the opportunity to speak to all of you today.   It’s such an honor to be a part of such a special tradition, a special and unique tradition, where the White House and the President honor the champions. And that’s exactly what these guys are. They’re the champions. Lets give ’em a hand.   I really thought we were going to be here last year, I really did, but we came up a little short and I am so, so thankful and glad, that my players and my staff has had the opportunity to experience what I got a chance to experience as a player as a part of the Alabama National Championship team in 1992. I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to tour the White House and see all the great history and to just experience this great day.  So thank you so much.   I appreciate everyone involved. I know there’s a lot of logistics to make something like this happen. From the Secret Service to all of our folks at Clemson, to all the WH staff and what a special, special day it’s been. So thank you so much for the opportunity.   The Bible says in 1 Corinthians, “in a race everybody runs, but only one wins first prize. So run your race in such a way as to win.”   And that’s exactly what this team did. And that’s exactly what this team epitomized.   They did that with great leadership, belief, accountability, heart, genuine love and appreciation for one another, and they did it with great chemistry.   This was a team that bought in to one of our core values. I believe it was George Washington Carver who said, “When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”   And eight-plus years ago I had a group of young men come together that bought into that very core value; it’s not the big...

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Storied Dishes || ~ a Grace Table feature ~

May

03

Posted by on May 3, 2017 in Family, Family Traditions, Favorite things, Friends, friendship, Grace Table, Uncategorized |

Storied Dishes || ~ a Grace Table feature ~

After we got engaged I couldn’t wait to finally get to choose an everyday china pattern and register for our dishes and gifts. (How in the world was that almost 30 years ago?) I didn’t need to choose fine china; I had inherited my mother’s Malden by Oxford, simple, rimmed in gold, and stunning. I’m one of those who believes kitchen art begins with pretty dishes. A spectacularly set table doesn’t necessarily have to be fancy and expensive, but with a little thought and intention – flowers and greenery plucked from your yard, handwritten place cards, a centerpiece created with found objects from your home – you can design a masterpiece. I couldn’t wait to begin our life together, to open our home, and experiment with new-to-me recipes. We didn’t have Pinterest or the internet to mine ideas, but we had magazines and the traditions of our own families, plenty to get us started. I’ve always been drawn to color, and my first choice for everyday dishes was Villeroy & Boch’s Fruit Basket; predominately green and yellow, it was just so doggone happy. But it was also pricey for an everyday, and sensitive to gift-givers’ budgets, I ended up choosing Poppies on Blue, a popular-in-the-80s Lenox pattern.   We received all the place settings we registered for in addition to serving bowls and platters, the cream and sugar, and I think even the salt and pepper shakers. These were the dishes of our newlywed years, a part of countless meals shared with friends and family, and eventually with our own children. Right around the time the poppies began fading, my tastes began changing. With a move from South Carolina to Tennessee, I decided timing was perfect for buying new dishes; this time around, I went with a neutral. When I wanted a splash of color, I’d pick up festive placemats. My once-beloved Poppies on Blue was relegated to a box in the attic, waiting for my children to grow up and move into their own home, or the bigger dream, a heart-secret I’ve held close for all these years.   * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Recently, I enjoyed a girls weekend out of town, and we decided an Airbnb rental would accommodate the space and flexibility we wanted. With many options to choose from, we decided a small, three-bedroom near downtown was best. Our first night there we planned a simple dinner–wine, cheese, fruit and the like, and we began rummaging through cabinets for the dishes we’d need. And then God winked. Twice.   Do pop over to Grace Table to see why I can’t help but think God is especially fond of me :). Sometimes He’s kind enough to assure you you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be…. Share...

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