Oh, lovely day

Feb

15

Posted by on Feb 15, 2018 in Art, Celebrations, Faith, Family, Family Traditions, Inspiring, Life Philosophy, Memoir, Mothers and daughters, Personal, Valentine Tea, Valentine's Day | 4 comments

Oh, lovely day

i. Today is Valentine’s Day, one of my favorite days of the year, one of the happiest reasons to celebrate life: it’s all about love.   I am wearing hot pink shoes now, but I think I’ll be changing into the ones dipped in glitter, gold and a thousand points of light. A thousand reflections of love.   Shoes can say a lot about a person; not always, but sometimes. Today mine tell you I’m feeling sassy and defiant. Sassy speaks for itself, but the defiant part is me telling Cruel Things they will not be the boss of me. Not today.   There has been a long-standing tradition in my family: a tea party on Valentine’s Day. It all started over 23 years ago when my mother-in-law asked me if we could host a mother-daughter Valentine Tea Party. As a mama to four boys, she was longing for girly things something awful. Her first grandchild, our daughter, paved a way to all manner of pink and frilly.   For almost two decades we hosted a Valentine Tea. My heart swells and aches at the memories.   Sarah will not be with us today. She’s home, confined to bed, her love of almost 65 years caring for her around the clock. To me, dementia has stolen the best parts of her, but her one and only still sees that girl he fell in love with. He will tell you he loves her more now than ever. He means it. When he looks at her and tells her “You’re so pretty,” your heart will split in two.   So, I’m raising my fist in defiance, a small and almost silly gesture, but significant to me in that I WILL carry on this tradition because it means something important. Geography and circumstance force a different type of Valentine Tea but its heart beats just the same.   Love. Friendship. The company of women drawn close.    I have been working for four days straight to get ready–not because anyone else cares or expects that, but a) because nothing like a party to kick my housekeeping into high gear, and 2) the effort is a love note to my guests.   The work that precedes opening my home to others is worship. It’s an offering and opportunity–yes! That’s it: OYTO! It’s my personal battle cry springing to action, enlisting others to help. We weren’t meant to go it alone, to carry the world on our shoulders.  But we do this, don’t we? I’m trying to break that old habit because the joy is amplified and the weight lightened when sisters bear the load never intended for one. There’s mutual blessing in the service, the offering, the worship. And this is the kindness of God in this season; He affirms the “who” and the “how” and I remember all over again there’s no “I” in team or teamwork, and laughing with other people is much more fun than laughing alone.   ii. If you could explode from joy, I’d be splattered all over my house.   Yesterday was perpetual motion, and by the time I fell into bed I felt it all. My bones were tired, but my spirit was…satisfied. I’m surprised satisfaction feels so good.   I thought about Sarah often throughout...

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Can Buy Me Love

Feb

04

Posted by on Feb 4, 2018 in Beauty, Personal, Uncategorized | 3 comments

Can Buy Me Love

  I was behind them in line at the Walmart return counter, Dante’s 10th circle if ever there was one.   Brothers, maybe twins, I’m guessing knocking on five’s door. They were crammed into the back of a shopping cart; one kid would have been too big for it himself, but together, potentially, it was a recipe for disaster.   They had been indoors longer than me but their hoods were still drawn tight around their faces. Perfect little round faces that reminded me of a smiley, except the one hanging over the edge of the buggy wasn’t smiling. His expression was absent, blank, not the look you expect on a little boy. His brother was the spicy one. While their mama was conducting her business with the clerk, he slowly, quietly pushed their cart away from the edge, farther from her. His grin told me he thought he was getting away with something. He was proud, a victor…a darling, little rascal.   Tried as I might, I couldn’t get them to look at me. I wanted to offer them kind eyes, a smile, the joy of being noticed and liked. Two little boys ought not be caged in a grocery cart, but I suppose it was simply to keep them out of trouble. Still, it bothered me. Maybe it was in all the time I watched them, neither never said a word. They didn’t poke or pick at each other the way siblings often do, and I thought how well behaved they were.  The expressionless one who kept leaning over could have fallen right onto his head and their mama wouldn’t have seen until too late. I was ready, though, Spidey-mother senses on alert, ready to spring into action if he needed me.   It takes a village.   The rascal was getting bored, looking for new distractions. I had already been there ten minutes and, like I said, they had been there longer than me. Where babies normally ride sat one of those clear cotton candy containers, or at least that’s what it looked like. Rascal wriggled past his brother and peeled open the lid, and that’s when I realized there was money, not cotton candy, inside, paper and coin. He stuck his fist in and pulled out both, metal dropping back into the tub and making a plastic percussion, the “tell” that alerted his mother. It was the first time she gave them any notice, and she did so by smacking Rascal on his mouth and sharply insisting that he “sit down and leave that alone.”   His countenance fell faster and harder than the money in that stupid bucket.   I continued to watch them, still trying to telegraph love through eye-to-eye connection. The blank one kept tracing the squares of the buggy or leaning over its blasted edge, but Mr. Mischievous had all but disappeared. He was hiding in plain sight best he could, his arm resting across the back edge of the inner baby basket, that perfect little face burrowed underneath, refusing to make eye contact with anything or anybody.   I couldn’t help but wonder what happened when they were home, when the mama had freedom to express her irritation or anger without onlookers. Maybe I was jumping to conclusion, but I couldn’t...

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What Runs Through Your Mind When You Wake Up At Night?

Jan

28

Posted by on Jan 28, 2018 in (in)courage, Faith, Uncategorized | 1 comment

What Runs Through Your Mind When You Wake Up At Night?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable— if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8 NIV   As We Think, So We Do For years I’ve battled insomnia, trouble with both going to and staying asleep. Over the past six months I’ve seriously addressed it every way I know how–medically, physically, holistically, alternatively, and spiritually (prayers welcome), and while my sleep quality has improved slightly, it’s still an issue. It’s not a question of whether or not I’ll wake up between Bedtime and Rise and Shine, it’s how many times will I awaken. On good nights I’m able to fall back to sleep relatively quickly, but the roughest nights have me tossing and turning for hours (yes, I know I should get up for a change of scenery, but apparently knowing what I should do doesn’t necessarily translate into doing it–a whole ‘nother post for another time.). When I’m wide awake at two in the morning it usually goes like this: Relax and try to keep the dream you were just dreaming going, to fool yourself into thinking you’re still asleep. Get mad because you can’t even remember the dream, but you know it was a good one and you want to know how it ends. Become increasingly irritated that you’re awake. Decide to take advantage of being awake by praying for every person on your prayer list, and even a few more who come to mind… and it is right about there my mind begins to wander off track (anyone relate…?). Recently I’ve been convicted about the direction my thoughts were taking. A new series I discovered on Netflix offered a steady diet of…   Click here to continue reading As We Think, So We Do over at {in}courage today. I think most of us can...

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When One Word Becomes Your Battle Cry #OneWord #OYTO

Jan

25

Posted by on Jan 25, 2018 in Personal, Uncategorized | 16 comments

When One Word Becomes Your Battle Cry #OneWord #OYTO

Are you a subscriber? If not, please do, and if you are already, thank you! Do you believe in signs and wonders?   I do…I  believe in signs and wonders. Miracles. Divine timing and appointments. Circumstances, if not orchestrated at least permitted, by a great, great God who knows me better than I know myself, and loves me more than my little brain can comprehend.   He feels the same way about you, you know, regardless of your belief (or unbelief), despite your most grievous sin.   Signs…wonders…miracles aren’t necessarily showy or spectacular (like baby rainbows settling in your front yard). Wide open eyes and receptive hearts seem to find them in otherwise ordinary moments.   A new year is a dear thing to me. January just shouts possibility and potential.   Maybe it’s that joie de vivre heart of mine anticipating soon-to-be-written story. Maybe it’s the grace of a mulligan, a chance for a do-over, to get more things right than wrong. Blank slate, bare canvas, the beginning of a one-of-a-kind something, days not yet lived but already ordained.   I love a new year.   It should come as no surprise that I’m a resolutions gal. I don’t make it hard, though, there is no formal procedure.  No ominous list that will defeat me 12 days into the new year; more like a series of targets, beacons, touchstones inviting me to draw near.   For me, setting resolutions is as simple as living with greater intention. Don’t we all want to be the best version of ourselves? Shouldn’t we?   Resolutions are invitation to live fully and well.   Beyond my abstract, ethereal resolution-setting, I love to have One Word to mark my year, a word that serves as both anchor and aim. One Word to both ground me and give me wings. As days turn into weeks turn into months that make a year, I look over my shoulder while looking ahead to recalibrate, to make sure I’m on course. One Word helps me remember where I’m headed, what I want out of the priceless time I spend for each day.   Value of time increases with age.   It’s always fun to watch my One Word come into being; it’s a sacred thing, given by God. It’s a process of discovery for me, seeking and searching and setting my head and heart on otherworldly things. Kingdom come.   Or maybe that’s this year. Maybe this year I’ve received a word in light of the gospel, because this year, like never before I sense fresh wind. Fresh fire.   My God, it’s good.   Weeks ago, I thought my One Word was time. “Time” became A Thing for me last year, the first year I was acutely aware of and in conflict with my age and brevity of life. Grains of sand seemed to be slipping through the hourglass’s narrow neck at an incendiary rate, and there’s not a blasted thing you can do to slow it down.   Over Christmas this year, a conversation with my daughter rolled around to One Words for the new year, and I asked her to predict mine. “Jump!” she said without hesitation. She had good reason for her guess –     Because I have such high regard for...

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Letter From Birmingham Jail: As Relevant Today As It Was Over 50 Years Ago

Jan

15

Posted by on Jan 15, 2018 in Faith, Inspiring | 3 comments

Letter From Birmingham Jail: As Relevant Today As It Was Over 50 Years Ago

  Click here to read MLK’s Letter From Birmingham Jail. Powerful and jarring....

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Culinary Catastrophes (Why They’re Actually Good)

Jan

10

Posted by on Jan 10, 2018 in Faith, Grace Table, Hospitality, Humor, Uncategorized | 2 comments

Culinary Catastrophes (Why They’re Actually Good)

  It occurred to me recently how there’s value in our mess-ups: they’ll often sear memory, and in the best of times they can point us to something magnificent.   Mess-ups…mistakes are hard to forget. The more public, the more memorable. On a spiritual level, mistakes and failed effort point me back to my need for Christ. It’s really that simple. He already is what I will never be – perfect; and He has already accomplished what is impossible for me despite my best effort (all of us) – reconciled me to God. My mess-ups (my sin) reveal my inadequacies in every area of my life, and because God has set eternity in the heart of man (Ecclesiastes 3:11a) – because He has set eternity in my heart, I want to be right with Him. If I were already perfect, why would I need the atoning, redeeming, complete work of Christ on the cross and beyond? I have zero aspirations for perfection, but increasingly, I’m drawn to the perfection of Jesus. His ways were not ordinary and His model of perfection wasn’t tidy; he certainly didn’t behave the way a King would be expected. But He never wavered in His purpose while on earth, to serve and love and lead us in the way to light and life. Beyond a spiritual, deeper consideration of mess-ups, can we agree that on a superficial level oopsies are awesome?   Isn’t this why we love America’s Funniest Home Videos, why we can’t get enough of our favorite TV show’s outtakes and blooper reels, why videos go viral?   When we blow it, we make fantastic memories.      Because I love to cook and bake, some of my more memorable mess-ups occurred in the kitchen: Like the time I made a peach pie for a friend going through chemo and I added salt to the pie dough. My flour was stored in a canister on the counter (not in a bag) and I didn’t realize it was self rising and already had salt. I had made two pies – one for my friend and one for us – so I realized the mistake with the first bite. I still remember Dan’s congenial thank you note: “…and thank you for the slightly saline peach pie….”  Trust me, there was nothing “slightly saline” about it. No doubt he appreciated the effort, and my “oops” made it all the more memorable. And the time at Thanksgiving when most all my husband’s side of the family traveled hours to our home. To keep things simple, and because there were lots of cooks in our kitchen that day, I planned on using the glaze packet that came with our store-bought spiral ham (typically, I made my own glaze). However, apparently I couldn’t read that day, and I set our microwave for minutes instead of the seconds it recommended. We heard a small explosion coming from our laundry room (where the microwave lived), and the glaze had exploded inside, “baking” onto the oven’s interior. There was no cleaning or wiping or scraping off the sweet resin. We had to buy a new microwave.   But my worst “culinary catastrophe” happened years ago at a supper club with friends. I hope you’ll read The Dessert Disaster, a story I...

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Our Beautiful Beginning

Dec

29

Posted by on Dec 29, 2017 in (in)courage, Beauty, Faith, Inspiring | 1 comment

Our Beautiful Beginning

  I want to push you, gently but sure. Not in the way that bruises knees and pride but in the way a mama bird nudges her lovies out of the nest. She knows they’re capable of doing so much more, that they only need a little encouragement. Mama knows they’ll soon find out she wasn’t being mean after all, that she just wanted them to experience Great Things, Wide Open Spaces . . . and what they were designed to do. And it hits me, that in this nudging, mothers share a kinship with God (though mamas push and God “pulls”). Isn’t it when we seek God and walk in obedience that we discover our calling and begin to live with passion and purpose? It slays me to know I’m created in the image of God; I can barely think on it. I don’t think it’s possible to comprehend fully all it means. If we’re called to be imitators of Christ, to look like the One whose image we bear, what does that mean? What are the first qualities that come to your mind? To love lavishly and without condition? To forgive freely even when you’ve been wronged? To serve sacrificially and to consider others’ preferences above your own? There’s another attribute of God I’d like us to consider together: creativity. Your potential to create. God’s creative nature is revealed from the moment we open a Bible.   “In the beginning God created . . .” (Genesis 1:1) Then, a few verses later, He describes the creation of man: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness . . . ” and then how He fulfills it: “So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God . . .” (Genesis 1:26-27).  Because we’re created in the image of God Himself, we’re inherently creative.    Our Beautiful Beginning continues at {in}courage. I hope you’ll add your thoughts to the comment thread– I can hear bravery and boldness stirring…....

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Holiday Haikus: Merry Christmas! Edition

Dec

25

Posted by on Dec 25, 2017 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

Holiday Haikus: Merry Christmas! Edition

I’m traveling over Christmas, a first-of-a-kind for our family.   Two and a half years ago, my daughter joined an urban leadership fellowship with CrossPurpose in Denver, Colorado. At the end of her fellowship, she was offered – and accepted – a permanent position with the organization.   We’ve always wanted to take our boys to Denver to visit her, but it’s never worked out for everyone until now. Rather than Fly Rachel home, we decided to pack our bags and head west. We found the perfect Airbnb (our host even put up a Christmas tree)–so much better than a hotel.   It’s been glorious.   I mean, seriously…have you been to Denver?! It’s a fabulous city with a kinetic vibe; and, interestingly, reminds me of a much larger version of Chattanooga.   More than anything, it’s been magical to have my three babies under the same roof. Though we’ve been doing a lot together, it’s been the being together that has mattered most.   Anyway…   Christmas is a season brimming with inspiration. Though I’ve been a tad busy (going out of town for the holidays brings its own challenges), I’ve managed a few holiday haikus, wishing I had time for more. The last post generated FUN responses – all in haiku! – and if you’re feeling up to it, I’d love for you to share your own.   In the meantime…a few 5/7/5 poems, and the images that inspired them, for you.   humble arrival his life, holy offering extravagant gift     sweet preparation a Christmas invitation love poured out for all   heaven and nature sing the world declares His glory how can I not jump?   The last image is from Red Rocks amphitheater, a bucket list destination for every music lover.       Merry Christmas from our family to yours, with wishes for grace, joy, peace and great love for you and yours in the new...

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The Gift of a Lifetime

Dec

15

Posted by on Dec 15, 2017 in Advice, Art of Simple, Favorite things, Memoir, Parenting, Personal, Uncategorized | 2 comments

The Gift of a Lifetime

  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.   * * * Oh! I hope you’ll click over to continue reading The Gift of a Lifetime at The Art of Simple today....

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Holiday Haikus: The Christmas Mug Edition

Dec

10

Posted by on Dec 10, 2017 in Christmas, Personal, Poetry | 12 comments

Holiday Haikus: The Christmas Mug Edition

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...

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