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If these walls could speak

Jun

02

Posted by on Jun 2, 2016 | 6 comments


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A week ago we sold the house my children will always remember as home, the one they will dream about when they are the age I am now, when sleep makes them think they are young again.

We’ve packed and we’ve purged and we’ve cried – a lot – but we’ve also seen precious people who mean a lot to us, friends who’ve sat around our table through the years, and kids who’ve grown up right before our eyes. They’ve helped us put things into boxes, and loosen my grip on anything that didn’t make sense to keep. I’ve found that being a sentimentalist about e v e r y t h i n g has the potential of making me a hoarder.

Even now, just the thought of that is offensive to me – I am not a hoarder! Except the two-and-a-half filled and emptied curbside dumpsters would suggest otherwise. And the Goodwill truck locked and loaded with stuff that used to live in my house. And the things we sold on Craigslist. Not to mention all the stuff we’ve stored for our kids or later use, or given to friends who had the eyes to see the treasure in our trash.

It made my day when Abbie texted me a picture of my old copper cookie canister that had been gathering dust in my pantry (the holder of rarely used cookie cutters) sitting on her shelf alongside her wedding-new copper cookware.

We haven’t lived in that house full-time for three years – a long story that makes sense for us – so I didn’t expect…I wasn’t prepared for, the depth and breadth of emotion attached to selling it. We moved there the summer before our children began 1st, 3rd, and 5th grade; 13 years later we said our final good-byes. It is the summer before my babies’ sophomore and senior year of college, and the oldest is engaged and a year past her graduation.

If it sounds like I’m in mourning, I suppose I have been. I mean seriously – if I have trouble tossing a pair of ratty short-alls, so shredded you can barely figure out which hole to put your leg through, just because Tad gave them to me as a gift when Thomas, now 21, was born – it makes sense that selling the house we lived in during our children’s most formative years would be difficult. Shout out to Stephanie and Paige who looked at me like I had grown another head for wanting to keep those short-alls.

Still, Glory! Hallelujah! It’s sold and we’re thankful.

In addition to all the packing and purging and crying and good-byeing, we’ve been remembering.

We’ve watched our children’s lives pass before our eyes.

 

WoodyCowboy BootsBaby Blanket

Three kids makes for many a keepsake. The things they’ve made for us. Treasured school and artwork. Love notes to us. Their special lovies. Every single thing stacked in their closets and crammed in our attic meant something. Stood for something. Held precious memory.

Every time I held a thing, whether to keep or toss or give away, it was an exercise in remembering. Memories are powerful.

 

Maybe something fun or important or special, or I don’t know, something less concrete. The boys sword fighting with light sabers. Thomas reciting all the lines from his pull-toy Woody from Toy Story – “There’s a ‘nake in my boot!” The way Rachel negotiated holding the most fragile of collectibles – “I just gonna ’tiss it.” Blond, curly mop. Wide, determined eyes, pudgy hands carefully holding. She never broke anything. The way Stephen would build with his Legos. His patience and persistence played me.

It’s an interesting phenomena to me, this conjuring of emotion. And despite all the tears – barrels of them – I’m not sad. Well, not exactly; there’s a tender melancholy to this closed door. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad or I wish it didn’t have to happen. It’s a saying good bye (for good) to what was, which enables us to fully grasp what is, and what is to come. 

We’ve had three years to get used to the idea.

Still, a Band-aid pulled off slowly still stings at the end.

 

Our house sat perched at the end of a long, steep driveway, on nearly three acres of, shall we say, a challenging yard. The master bedroom was upstairs. Thirty years old, wood-sided, and roomy, its primary competition was new construction. We loved that house and took good care of her, but three years with no one in it full-time took a toll. It was still a great house, but it would take someone who looked skin deep to find all her beauty, a buyer who didn’t want a perfect and new home, but a perfect for us home. 

After a fair number of showings but no offers, I decided people needed a little help seeing a home and not just a house.

 

I’ve fully explained this imaginative tip for helping to sell a house at The Art of Simple so I won’t go into it here, but I wanted to share a few pictures of my idea since they aren’t included with my post. (Do click over and read it, it’s a good ‘un.)

Why I love this home

House Lovenotes

House scripture

House notes

 

There’s this great old song by Amy Grant that perfectly captures the power and beauty of reminiscing, of life with all its complexities, and how a house is an incredible vessel of stories and secrets and dreams. (She does a fair amount of reminiscing to begin; the song starts at the 2:12 mark.)

 

  If These Walls Could Speak
~ Amy Grant

If these old walls, if these old walls could speak
Of things that they remember well
Stories and faces dearly held

A couple in love livin’ week to week
Rooms full of laughter
If these walls could speak

If these old halls, hallowed halls could talk
These would have a tale to tell
Of sun goin’ down and dinner bell
And children playing at hide and seek from floor to rafter

If these halls could speak
They would tell you that I’m sorry
For bein’ cold and blind and weak
They would tell you that it’s only
That I have a stubborn streak
If these walls could speak

If these old fashioned window panes were eyes
I guess they would have seen it all
Each little tear and sigh and footfall
And every dream that we came to seek or followed after

If these walls could speak
They would tell you that I owe you
More than I could ever pay
Here’s someone who really loves you
Don’t ever go away
That’s what these walls would say

They would tell you that I owe you
More than I could ever pay
Here’s someone who really loves you
Don’t ever go away
That’s what these walls would say

That’s what these walls would say
That’s what these walls would say

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One of the Most Important Things I’ve Learned About My Kids Leaving Home

Oct

16

Posted by on Oct 16, 2015 | 15 comments

2015 - a milestone kind of year

Rarely has there been a year when our family has celebrated so many milestones and major events–

Our oldest (and only daughter) graduating from college and accepting an incredible two-year fellows position 1,500 miles from home.

Our youngest graduating from high school and going away to college.

Our middle son turning 21. Something about – everything about – that age means so much.

My husband and I becoming official empty nesters.

Not to mention the intricacies of life no one needs to know about; because even in this culture where there’s a bizarre compulsion to tweet, gram, scope or stream Too Much Information on a regular basis, some things are better served and reserved as Personal Matters. Sometimes what happens in a person’s life is none of my or your business. I think we forget that, what with all the opportunities for oversharing.

It takes one to know one, yes?

Anyway, what most of you precious blog readers of mine can’t possibly know is I’ve had a job for a few years with a company called GO GROUND. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it in this space or even as a social share. GO GROUND, a ground transportation logistics manager, is a young company beginning its fifth year as I begin my third. My role for the first two years was solely related to collegiate travel during the championships for fall, winter and spring sports. It has been short-term and seasonal, lasting about 6-8 weeks during each championship. An intense 6-8 weeks.

I’m proud to say I’ve worked with several national champions for Division 1, 2 and 3 schools, in mens and womens’ sports ranging from lacrosse to softball, volleyball to basketball. It’s fast and furious, and I’ve learned that March Madness is, indeed, a road to insanity.

In addition to serving as the NCAA’s exclusive ground transportation travel partner, GO GROUND also manages special events. We’ve just concluded work with the World Meeting of Families, which might not mean ring a bell to those who aren’t Catholic, but pretty much everyone will know who brought its closing remarks: Pope Francis. The World Meeting of Families is what brought the Pontiff to Philadelphia.

GO GROUND handled logistics primarily for those traveling by chartered bus to Philadelphia for the Papal visit. Mine was a dual role for the event: account coordinator working with bus operators and groups attending the event, and director of communications to the motor coach industry.

The Department of Homeland Security designated the WMOF as a “national special security event.” As such, extensive measures were put into place to assure the safety of all pilgrims and officials in attendance. Until you work with an event of this historic magnitude, you cannot imagine the intricate detail and planning that must take place. In addition to WMOF officials, GO GROUND worked with Homeland Security, the Secret Service, local and state law enforcement, local and regional transit authorities, departments of transportation in the tri-state area, and others.

My role began in June, the Papal weekend in Philly took place September 26th and 27th, and I’m still tying up a few loose ends before we close the World Meeting of Families book for good.

Did you notice the timing? I started working on this event within the month after my daughter graduating college and my son graduating high school. What began, by design, as a part-time position in June, had morphed into 30+ hours/week by August – right about the time we took my youngest to college. By Labor Day, I was at full-time hours, which happened to be the weekend we drove cross country to move my daughter into her new apartment, where she was to begin her fellowship.

Three weeks out, I worked almost 80 hours/week, and by the last week and week of the event, I was clocking around 100 hours/week.

Pope Francis and me

Never have I been more thankful to be busy.

I simply didn’t have time to dwell on my children’s absence.

 

I tell you all that for the sake of sharing this: I learned an invaluable lesson through my experience that will serve those of you younger than me. Tuck this away until you need it:

Plan s o m e t h i n g that occupies space and time when you’re facing empty nest.

I wish I could claim the wisdom of intentionally throwing myself into an all-encompassing work role, but the reality is it fell in my lap. Regardless, I see its great value.

Writing is a wonderful, creative, and sometimes therapeutic outlet. But it’s done in isolation and I’m given too much time to live in my head. For me, that can be defeating and sometimes dangerous. My job with GO GROUND has been the perfect compliment to my skill set, flexible enough to allow me to continue writing (except the past few months…!), but busy when I needed it to be.

Even though I didn’t realize the need.

I’m beginning to see more clearly the value of simply living a lot of years.

Experience provides insight you can’t possibly understand until you live it.

No substitute for experience quote

It’s incumbent on me – of all of “us” a few years farther along the way than “you” – to share what we’ve learned.

It’s up to you whether or not you’re listening.

 

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Greater Love

Sep

14

Posted by on Sep 14, 2015 |

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Sometimes when you get what you hope and pray for, it’s not just hard, it hurts.

 

I’m a mama to three — two brothers born before their big sister turned five. Babies, then toddlers, are so active, aren’t they? Endless demands and never enough sleep, a constancy of care and attention. If you see a woman with raccoon eyes and a coffee IV, she’s probably a new mama.

Every day is a learning experience for both child and parent.

Perhaps the greatest surprise of parenting has been how much my children teach me. I presumed this teaching business was a one-way street, where I played the role of teacher, and they, always the students. While our home has certainly been a classroom, often it was me learning the lessons of love and life and forgiveness and sacrifice through them. The hardest lessons were those of self-discovery, where conflict or circumstance revealed my own sin.

Sometimes parenting is knee-bending humbling. 

 

Time plays tricks on mamas. Days stretch forever long but years end impossibly quick. And then one day you wake up to beds already made, an empty laundry basket, two glasses, and two plates in the dishwasher . . . and quiet.

On brutal days of parenting, you’ll wish it would come faster. On days stitched in joy and sunshine, you will time to stop, if only that were possible.

Yes, you will know this empty nest thing is coming a mile away. You’ll steel your heart for the inevitable.

The Day will come softly with no fanfare, the way summer sneaks into fall. In nature and in life, seasons are creation’s evidence that change is good and necessary.

Our youngest son started college last month, our middle son began his junior year . . . and on Tuesday we returned from a cross-country trip to move our firstborn into her new apartment.

Sometimes parenting means letting go all the way.

 

We must let go of tiny hands so they can walk. We’ve got to release the seat of the bike so they can ride. When it’s time for them to leave home, we can’t attach strings of manipulation or guilt.

We began praying for our children when they were only sparkles of hope in our eyes. When they were old enough, we kneeled right beside their bed or lay side by little side, our nightly prayers a bedtime ritual, a necessary prequel to sleep.

That’s something not often marked in a visible place — the last time you say nighttime prayers with your children. I don’t think you recognize it as such; maybe because it’s more gradual than that. And maybe because you never actually stop praying.

It’s safe to say that most parents pray their children will follow the Lord’s will for their lives, that they will love and serve Jesus for all of their days.

Our world is a broken one and, increasingly, our culture seems to fight Judeo-Christian values. It is no small thing when our children leave home with their faith intact. When they’re on their own, free to experiment and explore, it is reason to downright celebrate when they still choose Christ again and again.

Throughout their lives I’ve prayed for my babies to follow Jesus, but it never occurred to me that might come at a cost.

Keep reading Greater Love over at incourage, won’t you?

NEW Lisa Leonard Krafty Kash jewelry DaySpring

Click image for details!!

 

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The Bookmark Thief

Sep

01

Posted by on Sep 1, 2015 | 4 comments

There were no greater treasures than her books - Robin Dance

It was likely birthed as a gentle correction to my inconsiderate transgression: I had dared to turn down the corner of a page in one of her books.

For one so young, she took good care of her special possessions, and there were no greater treasures than her books. These were no papery trophies staged on a shelf. They were stirrers of imagination, journeys of escape, introductions to new friends. It wasn’t hard to figure out those she loved most, loose bindings or passages lined and noted told on her.

You could read this child by studying her bookshelf, and even more so if you opened some of those books. For a season, she carefully applied Wite-Out to profanities, a discovery that made me shake my head in wonder and admiration. We were intentional parents who did our best to train a child in the way she should go, but this was beyond expectation. She was so much better than I ever hoped to be. In case you didn’t realize, “bad” words do show up in children’s books sometimes.

If memory serves me rightly, I was annoyed when she scolded me for folding a page corner to mark my place. She was making a mountain out of a molehill. I was disrespecting her property. Neither of us was particularly impressed with the other’s point of view.

I don’t think I fully understood the gravity of this breach to her until she handed me a present a few days later, a hand-stitched bookmark. Certainly, it served both of us, but it was no doubt a love offering. She paid for it with humanity’s most valuable currency – time – and to me it was priceless.

I was heartbroken years later when it was no where to be found.

 * * *

But this is a story with a happy ending, the kind punctuated with tears, heart-wrung but binding joy to sadness in the presence of good but hard things.

 

She found the bookmark she had sewn for me half her life ago.

She was in the process of turning her room into mountains, piles to sell, piles to give away, piles to throw away, piles to keep. The yuckiest pile was the one marked undecided; it held sentimental attachment but no practical good. Every thing was a symbol of something more, a memory or season worth holding onto. It wasn’t about the thing itself but the everything else of it that made these things so hard to get rid of. If you’ve got an old tee shirt in your drawer you haven’t worn in decades but won’t throw away, you know exactly what I mean.

Somewhere in the sorting and pile-making, she found my bookmark. Neither of us know why it was in her room but who cares? She found a treasured possession.

When I look at this bookmark, I see her then. I can sense her indignation over my scarring her precious book, and her satisfaction in figuring out a brilliant solution.

Uneven stitches…ragged edges…skewed alignment–the casual observer might see a mess of imperfection, but all I see is something perfectly beautiful.

 

The same could be said of all of us, I suppose.

* * *

When you’re raising your children it feels like it will last forever, doesn’t it?  The fridge is a revolving gallery, measuring time in footprints and thumbprints and handprints. Crooked letters and misspelled words. Construction paper and tissue paper, glitter and glue and gumption.

We save every masterpiece…

because we don’t quite know when the last one will be The Last One.

But make no mistake my friends, there is a Last One.

* * *

I find her sitting on the floor in her room surrounded by piles of things wanted and not, an undoing of the life she’s constructed for more than a dozen years. It will be the place she’ll remember as “home” when she’s grown and away, the house dreams about her childhood will travel back to.

The bookmark is on the floor next to her –  “The bookmark you made me…!” “Yeah, I’m not sure why it’s in here….” – and the sight of it slays me happy. It’s a prodigal, an old friend, treasure found, and surely it’s a good sign of some sort. The edges are a bit frayed and the ink escaped her lines, but those things only endear me further.

Sometimes you can love a thing so much it becomes an idol, but sometimes that thing is a just a placeholder for something else, and there’s no sin or shame in those affections.

 

Memories roll in like thunder. So do thoughts of her future.

In four days we’ll pack up the piles she decided to take and drive 1400 miles to go confidently in the direction of her dreams, to begin living the life she’s imagined.

The bookmark stays with me.

 

 

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Don’t I look different…? {Part II, a series on motherhood & empty nest}

Aug

18

Posted by on Aug 18, 2015 | 4 comments

Sometimes endings and beginnings are one in the same

ii

There’s this scene in the 1980s version of About Last Night where Demi Moore’s character, Debbie, is rebuffing her former lover’s (and boss’s) advances. Steve’s a persistent one, not believing her first “no” and reminding her of what they once shared. Her response is angry…indignant, not so much at his uninvited gesture but because he can’t see “it,” her feelings for her current boyfriend.

Debbie: There’s somebody else now.

Steve: I don’t see a ring.

Debbie: I don’t need a ring…. Look at me. Don’t I look different? I’m in love, can’t you tell? This has never happened to me before. I want to have ten kids with this guy…doesn’t it show?

The scene strongly resonates with me though under different circumstances. I’ve felt a similar emotional tension, markers of something significant.

After I got married…

After giving birth to my first child…

The shock of learning I was post-menopausal when my body told a very different story

And now.

When we’re young, we think there’s a point at which we’re grown. What I’ve come to realize is as long as we’re alive, we never stop growing, at least not in the ways that matter most.  In the beginning, we celebrate a series of Firsts. Somewhere beyond the crest of the Hill we celebrate lasts.

Sometimes endings and beginnings are one in the same, the point of view and beauty therein lies in their beholder.

 

My youngest and I shared a dual ending/beginning, and it hit me he’s not the only one coming of age. So am I.

His departure ushers in a new season for me and I find myself wanting to scream

Look at me! Don’t I look different? This has never happened to me before!

I didn’t expect to feel different, but I do. Nothing has changed and yet everything has changed.

Everything that happens
    has happened before,
and all that will be
    has already been—
God does everything
    over and over again.

~ Ecclesiastes 3:15 CEV

Sometimes all I need to talk me off the ledge are Ancient Words.

* * * * *

PLEASE check back as I continue this series, as I process this new and precious life season. Though I feel it deeply, and at times, painfully so, there is too much good about it I don’t want you to miss!   It’s easy to subscribe for free, so if you haven’t yet, consider this my personal invitation.  (Also, if you haven’t yet, please read the first post in this series.)

Robin Heart Signature - Green

 

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Facing giants {a series on motherhood & empty nest}

Aug

17

Posted by on Aug 17, 2015 | 13 comments

A good thing to file away about empty nest

i.

I’ve been pulling this Band-aid off for so long, I’ve become accustomed to the sting. It still hurts but the pain is a dull one just below the surface.

Until it isn’t.

But then once it’s off, that means the healing has taken place and the wound is restored to health.

Isn’t that the way it goes?

Last Wednesday we took our youngest to college, to the big university that happens also to be in my hometown. Athens, Georgia was a wonderful place to grow up in the 60s and 70s – living in Five Points was a citified Mayberry – but I went away to school and never returned except to visit. Reasons are many, mostly tied to job, but I’ve arrived at a definitive peace with my hometown, and it feels so good to be there now, like all the unpredictability, challenge, and change over the last four years was leading to this: setting the stage for my baby to go to college in a familiar-to-me place.

Home. Through him, in an odd sense, I’m able to be at home when I go home. Family is still there – family has always been there – but I think I appreciate being closer in proximity in a way I haven’t in a long, long time.

So we moved my boy in to the 9th floor of a 960-student high-rise, and we left him and a chunk of my heart right there on Baxter Drive, 1.4 miles from the apartment we were living in when Mama died, down the road from my high school and middle school and around the corner from Barrow Elementary….within a few minutes and miles of where I spent my entire first 18 years.

It’s easy to drift into memories – they’re a flood – but I’m anchoring myself to today.

We came home to begin a new season, and lordy, our house was screaming quiet.

And here’s the thing, a good thing for you to file away if you’re years from where I am: 

You can “prepare” for Empty Nest all you want, you can steady your heart for the letting go, and you can even believe it’s good, well done, that this is what your parenting goal has been; but that doesn’t insulate you from the impact of this major change. 

So…I’ve given myself permission to feel it.

 

Thursday, my husband went to work like normal, and I went to work like normal. No, not normal, I threw myself into my work and barely stopped all day. Not to eat or use the bathroom, just go go go so I wouldn’t have to listen to the damned silence.

But then late in the day I had a conversation with a work colleague and she asked about taking Stephen to UGA the day before…and I stopped in my tracks. I couldn’t speak. And she spoke simple, liberating words over me, He’s your baby. This IS a big deal. It’s okay to be sad.

Which of course made me cry, which of course made me feel better.

Sometimes tears are a means of escape for all the feelings pounding your heart.

 

I AM a half-full glass girl. I DO see silver linings in stormy clouds. But sometimes it’s fine, even better, and certainly more honest, to absorb the impact of life and to recoil; eventually you’ll spring back.

If you don’t, you need to get help.

Two things are helpful, important and maybe even necessary when you’re approaching or in the season of Empty Nesting.

 

1. Give yourself permission to grieve. Your identity has been wrapped up in being a mother for a lot of years; while that will never change, your role will. Transitions can be tricky…. Remember that while there may be loss of young humans under your roof, their departure is one measure of success as a parent. You’ve been raising children to be independent young adults, not grown children who need you to survive. Their leaving might not be your only end-goal but it certainly should be one of them.

2. Collect friends in this same stage of life, and even a few years ahead of you. When you’re a new mother, it’s vital to be in community with other young moms; whether to encourage or advise or just listen, having others going through this same life stage is sanity-saving. It’s equally important, if not more so, to have women who can speak life and experience into this new season of Empty Nesting. What you’ll learn soon enough is, at this age, it’s not one thing going on (kids all leaving), it’s many things (aging parents, health issues, sickness among friends, marriages falling apart, career issues, financial pressures, etc. etc. ETC.) and you NEED others who understand from living it that you CAN get through it. It makes a huge difference and I’m so thankful for those in my life who continue to encourage, champion and challenge me…and even let me be sad.

To be continued…this is at all what I intended to write about when I started. Oh, the mind of my fingers sometimes… 🙂 

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