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

Mar

20

Posted by on Mar 20, 2017 in Uncategorized | 3 comments

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

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. I 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,...

read more

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

Mar

13

Posted by on Mar 13, 2017 in Faith | 0 comments

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

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) Share...

read more

For The Fools Who Dream

Feb

27

Posted by on Feb 27, 2017 in Movie reviews, Music, Personal | 4 comments

For The Fools Who Dream

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…. Share...

read more

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

Feb

14

Posted by on Feb 14, 2017 in Advice, Beauty, Books, Marriage, Memoir, Personal | 1 comment

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

  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…. Share...

read more

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

Feb

02

Posted by on Feb 2, 2017 in Advice, Affiliate links used, Kids, Mom stuff, Parenting, Uncategorized | 1 comment

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

    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.     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...

read more

Why I Jump

Jan

12

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

It’s always surprising to me, these obscure things my brain tends to remember.   There are times I try so hard to tuck a memory in tight, to hold it close, to never forget, but I’m finding I can’t always control what sticks and what releases. My recall is as fickle as time, the way she speeds up the things we want to linger, and inches along those thing we want to hurry. I see this with books a lot. A turn of phrase will settle in deep; the perfect adjective in the hands of the best author makes special what most writers would leave bland, tasteless. It’s why adults love Harry Potter. Rowling isn’t just a children’s storyteller–she’s magical. Years ago I read “Same Kind of Different As Me.” At its core it is a love story, the kind birthed in tragedy, lived in fragility, and told with sincerity. It’s based on a true story, a tale of unlikely friendship, and though there’s plenty to find fault with, there’s one thing that has remained with me eight years after reading. Deborah’s attitude. Mostly people consider it a friendship tale between her husband, Ron Hall, and a man they meet at a homeless shelter, Denver Moore, but Deborah was the catalyst for all that came later. Her determination and moxie were inspiring. Deborah battled cancer like a warrior. She didn’t live in denial. She celebrated “what is,” not “what might be.” She understood life is precious, each day a gift.   There was a point in her illness when she and Ron would begin their days with a declaration of what they knew for that moment– We’re alive! We’re alive. I’m alive. I’m not battling cancer, but there are days I’d rather not face, circumstances that challenge all I know. Whenever I wake up with any type of destructive thought or dread for the day, I find myself echoing Deborah’s words– I’m alive!   This day is all I’m promised, this moment is all I know with complete certainty I’ve got. Indeed, it is reason to praise God. It is motive enough to celebrate every moment.   I think this is why I love princess dresses and joy-jumping: They’re outward expressions of this inner declaration: I. AM. ALIVE! When despair or defeat threaten to creep into your soul, scream that back at ’em. They’re trying to kill the best parts of you, but I’m convinced when we remember Whose we are and who we are, we stand a fighting chance.   ***   The image above is taken at my local Barnes and Noble, where I first saw copies of Craving Connections: 30 Challenges for Real Life Engagement on the shelf. I’m thrilled to have a chapter included, one that covers 20 years of my life and the people who impacted me along the way. As part of its promotion, book elves are sneaking Starbucks gift certificates in stores all over the country, and also autographing copies. If you aren’t familiar, please check out the book’s site to learn more. Also? If you’re one of the lucky ducks who’ll be at the Atlanta Market this week, DaySpring is giving away free books to everyone who stops by our booth. Co-author Dawn Camp and I will be there to sign copies, and play cheerleaders for a wonderful book celebrating community, and what it...

read more

C-L-E-M-S-O-N T-I-G-E-R-S!

Jan

10

Posted by on Jan 10, 2017 in Uncategorized | 4 comments

C-L-E-M-S-O-N T-I-G-E-R-S!

  A year ago I celebrated the reasons Clemson remained #1 to me, despite a hard-fought loss to Alabama for the National Championship. Tonight they tamed the Crimson Tide in a stunning come-from-behind victory. What a day…what a season…!   Share...

read more

Presents or Presence (The Difference in Listening Well)

Dec

24

Posted by on Dec 24, 2016 in (in)courage, Advice, Christmas, Faith, Family, Friends, Service to others | 0 comments

Presents or Presence (The Difference in Listening Well)

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” (John 3:16)   You can’t fool her, you know. Two pudgy hands cup your cheeks to turn your face, demanding your eyes look deep into her own. “Mama, you’re not listening!” You can almost feel her heart stomping its tiny imaginary foot to accentuate the point. Of course, you’re right when you insist, “Yes I am, honey, I can just do two things at once.” You did hear her, after all. But she’s right (more right?) because you weren’t listening. Hearing requires only ears. Listening demands ears, eyes, mind, and maybe most important, heart. The difference matters. A lot. Here’s why: Your children don’t just notice the difference between hearing and listening, they understand the difference: Something else is more important than them in that moment. O u c h! This isn’t confined to children; don’t we all hate it when we know someone is only half engaged in conversation? Present in body but absent in thought? I grow weary from all the admonitions to focus on Christ during the Christmas season, to resist holiday busyness. Please don’t get me wrong — I agree — but then I see a believing people tangled and lifeless in sticky-webs of shopping, baking, parties, and school or church programs. We are distracted. Everyone is working extra hard to pay for All The Things. And though our homes have never looked more lovely or smelled more delicious . . . Our actions are speaking loudly, and they don’t always match up to our words. Can I get an “Amen!”?   Please click to continue reading Presents/Presence for incourage. Promise: if you’ll follow this friendly advice this Christmas season, you’ll be  giving and receiving something precious. Share...

read more

Craving Connection Book {Order before December 15th & get a second free!}

Dec

09

Posted by on Dec 9, 2016 in (in)courage, Book Review, Books, Encouragement, Personal, Uncategorized, Writing | 0 comments

Craving Connection Book {Order before December 15th & get a second free!}

  A year or so ago an opportunity was presented to me that sounded intriguing: submit a chapter for a collaborative work published by incourage in partnership with Lifeway. This first book project by incourage was to be all about community, its tagline, 30 challenges for real life engagement. Other than that, I knew my chapter was to be based on John 15:12-17 and needed to be between 2,000-2,500 words. It was an easy “yes” and sounded like fun. When I sat down to write I wasn’t sure what to share, but once I put pen to paper, 20 years of my life poured out. Amazing how you can squeeze over 7,000 days into 2,500 words.   A few weeks ago I received an early copy and joined a small group of people who agreed to read the daily chapters and take part in one (or all) of the challenges associated with each piece. Well. I don’t know exactly what I expected, but friends, I’m here to tell you, it exceeded whatever expectation I had! Day after day I was encouraged. Just about every chapter was something I could personally relate to. The material was accessible and inspiring, and I was so glad and grateful to be a part of such a solid, God-glorifying collaboration. It was a blessing to be with two dear friends when my copy arrived. God love ’em, they let me read my chapter out loud to them. Because it had been so long since I submitted my piece, and I had never read it aloud – essentially “hearing” it for the first time – I was surprised that it moved me to tears. I mean, it’s not like I wasn’t familiar with the material. In any event, Craving Connections releases in hardback on January 10, 2017. It’s available for pre-order now, and if you order by December 15th, you get a second copy free along with a few other fun incentives.    Of course, I hope you’ll support this work (because I KNOW you’ll come away encouraged!), and if you do, please DO share your thoughts with me! I reallyreallyreally want to hear! Share...

read more

#GivingTuesday – When it’s personal (a must-read no matter when you see this)

Nov

29

Posted by on Nov 29, 2016 in Family, Gratitude, Mom stuff, Mothers and daughters, Personal, Uncategorized | 2 comments

#GivingTuesday – When it’s personal (a must-read no matter when you see this)

She had no idea what her words were doing to me that night. My heart was growing like the Grinch’s when he finally understood the mystery and beauty of Christmas.   Which I realize, as I tell this tale,  is essentially about the same thing: Giving. Because isn’t Christmas rooted in giving? It’s about how a great, great God extended lavish grace to an undeserving world and gave love in human form, a way back to him.  The Way back to him. Love incarnate. Jesus. And in our car that night illuminated by freeway lights, she was the most luminous thing of all, her countenance aglow. I didn’t even have to look at her. You could feel her light. His light in her. We had three hours on our drive home and she filled time and space with stories of her work. They poured out, water from a hydrant, quenching our desire to know more, to better understand. She was the one on fire. What my heart doing- growing – was greater joy, John tells me so. I believe him. She wasn’t talking about what you should do to change the world around you, she was telling us about all she’s done. We know what she likely doesn’t:  She’s changing the world. All of them are, these co-laborers for a cause. There are many on either side of her, arms linked, stepping into hard places and leaving footprints. Sometimes literally. She’s a college graduate who accepted a two-year fellowship working with poverty elimination. She’s a college graduate who accepted a two-year fellowship where she has to raise her own salary, which happens to be as it were, below the poverty level. I did the math and it broke my heart. But not hers. She hasn’t even noticed. She doesn’t understand how little she makes because as she looks around, she’s just like everyone else in her world. The one she’s changing. And of course she has parents who can stand in the gap for anything she needs, and she knows better than me, the people she serves don’t have that luxury. So, if you’re thinking about year-end giving or inspired by this day known as Giving Tuesday, and you haven’t already promised your hard-earned dollars to your own personal cause, I’m asking you to give to Cross Purpose, and I’m bold enough to add, as much as you can.   (If you’d like to give specifically to Rachel, be sure to add “To the ministry of Rachel Dance” in the notes section, but however you choose to give WILL make a difference in the lives of those earnestly taking the steps to walk out of poverty.) Cross Purpose is a non-profit and seeks: “to abolish relational, economic, and spiritual poverty through the power of redemptive relationships. CrossPurpose is a nonprofit ministry dedicated to the idea of neighborhoods without poverty.” The world my daughter is helping to change specifically focuses on nine poor neighborhoods in Denver, CO. The way Cross Purpose is going about poverty elimination is revolutionary, and other organizations around the country are studying their model to learn more. Cross Purpose esteems and empowers the people they’re hoping to help; they do not consider them human projects to pity. Rachel has just begun the second year of her fellowship and she still needs partners interested in investing in this special ministry. If...

read more