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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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For school, tooooo cool!

May

03

Posted by on May 3, 2016 | 4 comments

Making an impact quote - Robin Dance

Some of us will make tiny ripples and others will send waves crashing,
but each one will forever change the surface of the water.   ~ Robin Dance

 

It was another one of those “When Harry Met Sally” moments. Not the one in the diner, but that one when Marie, Sally’s friend, quotes an article she read without realizing Jess, Harry’s friend, was its author.

I had barely arrived at a church leadership retreat when Terri said, “I need to ask you something.” It had been a while since we had seen each other, and I had no idea what she wanted to ask.

“Are you a writer?” a question that is still odd for me to answer in the affirmative after all these time (because most people are asking if I’ve published a book), but in this case she explained why she was asking before I could even answer.

Terri is a nurse by profession and I didn’t know she was working at a local elementary school now; her job changed a while back but it was news to me. “There’s a quote painted over a mural on one of our walls, and the author cited is ‘Robin Dance.’ IS THAT YOU??”

She couldn’t recall the exact quote but she described the artwork–a sea motif with a large manatee. Immediately I thought of the DaySpring print that was sold a few years back —

Quote about making an impact - Robin Dance for incourage

 

But even I couldn’t recall the exact quote used for the print. I just knew that whales are ginormous sea mammals, and maybe someone had seen the print and made the connection to a manatee.

What I did remember was that it was about the impact – big or small – everyone makes, a perfect message to send to school children of all ages.

 

On Monday morning Terri texted a picture of the mural, and sure enough, it was the quote from the printable I had wondered about. Terri investigated a little further and discovered one of the first grade teachers had painted it, and either she or another co-worker had found the original quote on Pinterest.

HOW COOL IS THAT? I don’t know anyone else who works at Sonny Carter elementary, and no one there has any idea the mural quote is by someone local.

Day made. I relish the obscurity of it all.

And, going back to that original (in)courage post, (Be)loved, I realize it’s a message we will never stop needing to know, one we’ll always benefit from reading and reminding ourselves of its truth.

 

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Superpower

Jan

01

Posted by on Jan 1, 2016 | 6 comments

Bloom where you're planted image

You have what it takes to f l o u r i s h when you embrace who you are and rest in Whose you are.

 

Regardless of circumstances. Despite events from your past. As long as you draw breath, you’re impacting the world around you, and it’s up to you to determine what that looks like. You may not be able to control most things, but you can control the most important thing: your response, to others and circumstances.

If we believe what Scripture teaches, as believers in and followers of Jesus, we’ve received supernatural power through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It’s not intended to reside in dormancy; but to be exercised in the way we love and live, making a difference in who we are, the choices we make, the way we treat others.

The Holy Spirit is incredible superpower, intended to change the world by changing me and changing you; not for the mere sake of change, but for our good, God’s glory, and the advance of the Gospel.

 

I am convinced there is an enemy whose greatest wish is to steal and kill and destroy me (and you) by defeating us before we begin. He’s cunning and subtle, an expert in deceit, a brilliant observer of mankind, and it’s not hard to identify and exploit our weakness. He wins when we forget that HE is our enemy. How can you win a war when you’re fighting extraneous battles?

Be who you are. It is not trite to say you are one of a kind which makes you inherently amazing. Can you imagine a world where every individual realizes their unique potential and uses their natural gifts and talents for the benefit of others? We waste precious time and what we’ve been given when we make comparisons, when we’re snared by envy and covetousness. They’re an effective weapon.

Remember your enemy. He’ll break your heart six ways to Sunday when you forget who you’re fighting, when you forget who you’re following.

 

Weeds who wish to be roses are doomed before they begin. No matter how hard they might try, they can never become something they weren’t created to be in the first place.

Consider the dandelion who digs in deep and sprouts a tiny sun before sprinkling a thousand wishes in the breeze.

Be who you are. Bloom where you’re planted. It can be magical.

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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 One Thing People Always Remember About You

Jul

06

Posted by on Jul 6, 2015 | 2 comments

The One Thing People Always Remember About You by Robin Dance

Mind and memory are such a tricky thing, aren’t they? We don’t always have the luxury of controlling what we’d like to remember – or forget.

Some memories are as slick as a greased watermelon, big and colorful but impossible to hold for very long. Others lodge right behind your eyes, an interminable loop that grates your senses to a stringy pulp.

Some memories anchor the past to the present. Even when they’re good, that’s probably not the best thing, but when they’re bad, it’s downright awful.

What I’m trying to say is you can’t always choose what you remember and that can be frustrating.

Think about all the great speakers you’ve listened to–maybe your pastor on a Sunday morning or the leader at your weekly Bible study; a fantastic NPR segment or interesting podcast. Classroom teachers, special events, conferences, work training, political addresses, retreats or whatever…. We hear people talk a lot. But how much do you retain?

Me? Not so much.

Because I forget more than I can remember, I’ve started paying better attention to what I do recall, the same way I listen to my tears to hear what they’re saying.

I remember how you make me feel after we’ve spent time together.

This landed on my radar after I heard Shauna Niequist describe true hospitality as “when someone leaves your company feeling better about themselves than about you.” That’s not an exact quote – the only place it’s recorded is in my heart – but the sentiment perfectly articulated something I’ve sensed.

I’m not a grudge holder and don’t keep a running tab of injustice, but…if I’m honest…I have a hard time shaking hurt feelings. I don’t get mad. I have no interest in returning insult. I’m eager to forgive but I can’t seem to forget that kind of thing.

An assault on the heart leaves invisible scars.

 

This view of hospitality doesn’t wait for a party or large gathering; it can take place in every conversation you have. Every conversation you have is opportunity to encourage or discourage the person you’re with. Every conversation you have has potential to linger long after the words have stopped.

Do you routinely think how you’re making someone feel when you’re talking to them? What does your body language signal? Do you use your words carelessly?

Do you check your phone, thinking it’s okay because you’ve offered an excuse? (For all the good cell phones offer, they sure have made us a rude people.) Are your eyes scanning a crowded room, looking for someone else to talk to? Are you fully present in conversation or everywhere else but there? Are you engaged or just being polite? The thing is, people know whether or not you’re fully present.

Even a child knows whether or not you’re all there. Have your own children ever taken your cheeks in their tiny little hands and turned your face to look them in the eye when they’re speaking? They know.

This view of hospitality takes practice. It requires intention. It means you actually view people – family, friends, acquaintances, strangers…and even people you aren’t naturally drawn to – as children of God, worthy of love, acceptance, kindness, and esteem.

It grieves me to know I’ve hurt others by not being fully engaged when they’re right in front of me; to know I’ve considered myself more highly than them. To have used my words carelessly.

Not treating others well undermines your credibility. It damages your reputation. It makes me think less of you.

 

If you are in a position of influence, if you lead a ministry, or have opportunity to speak to groups, be careful.

Your peers, contemporaries and those who sit under your teaching, will remember how you made them feel, too. I don’t want you to misunderstand what I’m saying – God is whom we’re to magnify, the One to make much of, but careless words reveal our hearts and what we really think. I couldn’t believe my ears when I overheard a Christian speaker make fun of people who sit close to the front at events – she had a name for them, one I’m not inclined to repeat. I’ve never viewed her the same, but shame on me for not finding a way to lovingly confront her.

There is incredible power in loving well the person right in front of you.

 

Recently I was at a women’s retreat, and I found myself in conversation with one of the workshop leaders, a casual acquaintance. Her personal interest in me was unexpected. Even while we were talking, I was aware of how well she maintained eye contact. She asked questions of me and seemed genuinely interested in my answers. Later, we found ourselves together again. Our conversation went much the same way, so much so, I wanted to encourage her by telling her that the way she engaged others was a rare and special gift. She explained how a mentor of hers had challenged her always to love well the person right in front of her and she had taken it to heart. In less than 30 minutes over the course of two conversations, she esteemed and inspired me to follow suit, her actions a simple but impactful lesson in loving well. Though I recall little else about our conversations, she treated me like I mattered.

I have never forgotten how she made me feel.

Every one of us may not have the gift of hospitality as it relates to entertaining, but in light of this definition, all of us can – and should – practice hospitality. Maya Angelou captured it beautifully ~

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

…which I hope I’ll never forget. 

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