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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Christmas Light

Dec

03

Posted by on Dec 3, 2017 in Christmas, Scripture Link, Uncategorized |

Christmas Light

  Click the image for the most beautiful Advent calendar I’ve ever seen. ...

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God is Working in the Waiting

Nov

30

Posted by on Nov 30, 2017 in (in)courage, Faith, Personal | 4 comments

God is Working in the Waiting

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:11 I remember it like it was yesterday, when a new-to-me speaker posed a question that burrowed under my skin like a chigger in the heat of summer — “Are you the kind of person who walks into a room and declares, ‘Here I am!’ or do you walk into the room and say, ‘There you are!’?” I wasn’t an “all about me” person, but I’m naturally outgoing and comfortable talking to new people. I can work a room if that’s expected of me. My nerves do rattle on the inside, but they’re energy fueling confidence and conversation. It also wasn’t that I didn’t notice other people; but the question forced me to realize at best I was blissfully unaware, or at worse, I was more concerned about myself than others. Ouch. Over the past ten years through unexpected personal deserts and crazy life, I’ve tried to become a There you are! friend, the one who notices what you’re not saying as much as what you are saying. I’ve challenged myself to notice people in the margins. And trusting the providence of God (mostly in hindsight), I’ve wandered into those places myself, learning by experience what it feels like to be ignored, rejected, forgotten, irrelevant, and sometimes invisible. I’ve hated it. But on the other side of those hard lessons and hurt feelings is what has become a passion of mine: redemptive purpose.  Just as sure as the sun hangs in the sky behind a veil of dark clouds, God is accomplishing His will and His ways even when I can’t see His hand at work.   And when I do gain insight and understanding in the aftermath of pain or heartache? It is an astonishing gift and grace to discover beauty among ashes. Pride and ego were subtle idols of mine. God was kind enough to reveal them to me in a way that would sear an impression on my heart and ultimately change me. ———- It’s been a long, long while since I’ve attended a Beth Moore Bible study. I forgot how she gets to me, how every study I’ve ever taken will somehow speak a word over me so strong it’s undeniable God had her write it just for me. What . . . you, too? 🙂 It was in the fourth week, day three, on her study of James, when a section started doing its thing. Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment. (James 3:1) Beth spoke about “landmines that go with the territory” of teaching: The temptation to teach more than we know. The capacity to mislead. The capacity to be misled. The temptation to use the platform for personal agendas or opinions. And though not exactly in the context of being a teacher, I sensed these landmines speaking to my life as a writer. ———- It would seem that the natural progression for a long-term blogger is to write a book; that is the childhood dream of many in the online world. Those of you who’ve followed (in)courage since its inception know many of our regular contributors have gone on to lovely writing careers. Here’s the thing that’s hard for me to admit:  Please continue reading God is Working in the Waiting at {in}courage. It’s personal but in some ways the story of ALL of...

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Honest Thoughts About #GivingTuesday

Nov

28

Posted by on Nov 28, 2017 in Inspiring, Life Philosophy, Love Gifts, On my soapbox, Personal | 2 comments

Honest Thoughts About #GivingTuesday

I love Holly Hunter. An Academy Award- and Emmy-winning actress, she seems to take any role and make it memorable; she dies to self while her characters come to life. I appreciate her talent, sure, but maybe tipping the scale for my fangirldom is the fact she’s Southern, born just up the road from me in Conyers, Georgia. Her accent makes me happy. Instead of sounding like some illiterate, backwoods miscreant – the way Southerners are too often played in film and television – her voice is comfort food to the ear. As Tammy Hemphill in 1993’s The Firm, she delivers one of my favorite movie lines of all time when convict Ray McDeere tells her he “loves her crooked little mouth.” She quips… It’s not my best feature. Gah–J’adore! (Shout out to my friend Lisa M. who jinxed me with this line!) Anyway, that scene always comes to mind when one of my, say, “lesser qualities” rises to the surface. Like today. Today is known far and wide as Giving Tuesday. My first instinct is cynical. My cynicism is birthed out of priority: Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. Sunday usually equals more of #1 and #2–retailers and e-tailers are smart that way even if Sunday doesn’t have an official name. Cyber Monday. And with whatever you have leftover after all that manic spending, tip your favorite charity on Giving Tuesday. See? Not my best feature. Here’s the thing, though. While my first instinct is cynicism, it’s not where I land. I am a bargain shopper. I understand that this season sometimes offers the most savings of items you plan to buy anyway. More than anything, I believe that giving is good.   And when there’s a global movement encouraging citizens of the world to give to organizations and causes who represent undeniable need, we should respond with great generosity.   #GivingTuesday reminds us giving isn’t only about dollars and cents– …whether it’s some of your time, a donation, gift or the power of your voice in your local community…. but a financial gift is always an easy and immediate way to respond.   There is no dearth of non-profits to support, but three I’d very personally love for you to consider are: CrossPurpose. 2½ years ago, freshly graduated and with a degree in community development, my daughter accepted an urban leadership development fellowship in Denver, CO. On the ground, working to eradicate poverty in their city, CrossPurpose in an incredible organization that teaches people how to fish for a lifetime instead of feeding them for a day. When her fellowship ended, Rachel accepted a full-time position with CrossPurpose. We’ve met those who serve and are served by this visionary organization. Your dollars here change lives, now and forever. Compassion. Eight years ago I traveled to Kolkata (Calcutta) with Compassion International, and it’s still changing my life. Compassion is a world-wide organization that works by investing in local people and projects to do the work of caring for the least of these. I was privileged to observe first-hand what this looks like, and I’m convinced it’s the best, most reputable sponsor program out there.   Salvation Army. Ringing the bell for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Drive has become an annual tradition for me; it was fascinating to learn so much my first year (10 Things Salvation Army Bell...

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