After the Silence || On Motherhood, Wisdom, Listening

Aug

11

Posted by on Aug 11, 2017 in Parenting | 7 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,...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

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...

read more

The Philadelphia Flower Show ~ A Botanical Paradise

Apr

03

Posted by on Apr 3, 2017 in (in)courage, Art, Beauty, Inspiring, Personal, Uncategorized |

As soon as I learned about an opportunity to represent DaySpring at the Philadelphia Flower Show, I knew I had to go. In a sweet, odd sort of way, my going paid homage to my grandmother.   But first, the background: About a year ago, DaySpring became a licensing partner with FTD, meaning, if you’d like to send flowers with a faith-based message included, you now have some beautiful options in the DaySpring store (also found at ftd.com). DaySpring and FTD go together like peas and carrots, and the partnership means thoughtful gift-givers can choose from gorgeous, professionally designed arrangements with meaningful, inspirational sentiments. As a major sponsor of the Philly Flower Show, FTD hosted a Designer’s Studio daily throughout the event. Together with FTD lead floral designer Andrea Ancel, talented designers and creatives joined her on stage for beautiful demonstrations and conversation all week long. Because of DaySpring’s partnership with FTD, an {in}courage writer was invited to join Andrea at the Designer’s Studio for a chat about inspiration and how it fuels creativity. When asked if I was interested, I knew immediately I wanted to go; thankfully, I was able to work out my schedule to attend. While most of the on-stage guests worked with flowers or as designers, my floral knowledge is limited to sticking flowers in a vase; clearly, there was no intention of me coming to talk floral design. Instead, to mix things up a bit, FTD planned for Andrea Ancel to create an arrangement while she and I spoke to the things that inspire us, the kinds of things that fuel the creative process, and how ALL of us need to exercise the gifts we have. What we – all of us – have to offer is unique and special and beautiful. There’s only one you in this world, and the world needs what only you were created to give. Anyway, our Designer’s Studio was Facebook live-streamed, at least until the convention center’s wifi dropped the connection. It would tickle me pink for you to watch and thumb’s up, and if you’re feeling generous, please share it on your Facebook page or share your thoughts in comments. FTD (or I, as appropriate) will still make sure to answer questions and we’re all paying attention to engagement :).     If being surrounded by colorful, inspiring, creative floral beauty is your jam, DO ink in a spot on your Bucket List to the Philadelphia Flower Show. It is amazing what can be done with flowers.   All last month, FTD celebrated women through their #ILookToHer campaign. Social sharers were invited to snap a picture of women they look to for inspiration, and then share online using the hashtag #ILookToHer. It’s had me thinking of the women who have shaped, encouraged, and inspired me, and if you watch the video above, you’ll hear about some of them (SO fun that special people in my life were shocked to hear a personal shout out during my Designer’s Studio clip ).       Whether it’s a time of celebration and great joy, or mourning the loss of one you love, flowers can speak for you when it’s hard to find the words. DaySpring®’s Happy Birthday bouquet is practically on fire, and with gerberas and snapdragons, the Gratitude and Grace bouquet is one I want to give myself. There are options for more lasting gifts, too–a mini rose,...

read more

The Panhandler’s Breath

Mar

26

Posted by on Mar 26, 2017 in (in)courage, Faith, Family, Memoir, Personal |

The Panhandler’s Breath

He slipped in sideways between the closing elevator doors, as if he were late to a meeting; he pressed the “5” without looking. Instead of suit and tie, though, baggy pants and faded navy hung on his tall, slim frame. His stealth entry stiffened the hairs on the back of my neck. I had noticed him a few seconds earlier, just after we had parted a sea of rowdy teens. He was smiling, grandfatherly, standing maybe 30 feet away where the downtown electric shuttle picks up. I had no idea he had been watching us, studying us, predator patiently awaiting his next prey. The four of us were sealed in a four-by-six-foot metal tomb. Tomb — that thought really muscled its way into my mind. I wondered if he had a knife in his pocket. I wanted to protect my son. Fight or flight pumped adrenaline but there was nowhere to run.   A true story, the kind that reveals so much. Hope you click through to read The Panhandler’s Breath over at incourage and then share your own thoughts in response (the last line still rattles me….). Share...

read more

To Dambarr, With Love || #ILookToHer

Mar

20

Posted by on Mar 20, 2017 in Uncategorized | 7 comments

To Dambarr, With Love || #ILookToHer

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 |

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