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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 |

Sometimes-parenting-means-letting-go-652x489

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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Why I refuse to be discouraged (when your scale is a jerk)

Feb

12

Posted by on Feb 12, 2015 | 21 comments


The best reason to exercise and eat well

I wonder how many times I read about it before taking action. A least a dozen, probably twice that.

A Boot Camp offered at my church–I mean, really, how hard could that be?

Initially, I wasn’t as intimidated by “Boot Camp” as I was by the early start: 5:30am, three days a week.

I could never do that.

 

While I am a morning person, I am not an early morning person. Trust me, the difference is apples and orangutans.

But everything changed when my motive changed. 

When you’re teetering toward an empty nest, you’ll have thoughts you’ve never thunk before. Deeeeep thoughts, wrapped alternately in angst or jubilation. I could write volumes on the subject, but we’ll save that for another time. Today I’m talking fitness.

Me, talking fitness. I never saw that coming….

Anyways…yes, my motive changed. I spent the month of January avoiding all sugar, added sugar, sugar alternatives (chewing gum, people…even sugar-frackin-free gum!), grains, dairy, processed foods–approximately 75% of my diet before I heard of Whole 30. You simply do not realize how much crap you eat until it’s off limits–and that’s despite me cooking five nights a week and typically having vegetables.

As a mother I think I’ve always parented with careful intention, but particularly after reading Jean Fleming’s Pursue the Intentional Life I’ve sought intentionality in all areas of my life–marriage, friendship, faith, family…and lifestyle.

I’ve got one body and the choices I make will either help it or harm it. 

You’ve got one body and the choices you make will either help it or harm it.

 

I did not choose to attend Boot Camp or eat a restricted diet to lose weight. While I don’t have a huge weight problem, I look like I’m better shape than I am. The way I was sucking wind on the first day of boot camp – and every day since – proves it. But I made a decision to steward my body well and to do what I could to improve my health and quality of life for the duration of my days. I wish I could say honestly my motive was esteeming my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, but that’s secondary to my reasons.

Tomorrow marks the end of my first six-week session, so yesterday we checked our progress based on weight, body fat % and BMI (calculated a month ago two weeks after the start of Boot Camp).
Every stinkin’ one of my numbers went UP.

 

Up as in the wrong direction. Up as in I’ve gained weight instead of losing weight. Up as in higher BMI and Body Fat percentage. Right there in my church gym I asked my (fantastic) instructor if I could cuss. She laughed nervously, so I just thought ugly thoughts instead of burning her ears.

She asked if I was hormonal – Hello…I’m menopausal! – and reminded me I’ve been building muscle. She told me how her numbers haven’t changed in a year (her body is perfect) and how hormones affect your calculations. Everyone is quick to say “muscle weighs more than fat” but a pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat. Remarkable, no? But I know what they mean.

This is where the rubber meets the road, though, where I believe what I profess, where I buy what I’m selling. This is where I answer the question “Am I really eating well and exercising for my long-term health and benefit or am I doing it for numbers on a scale?”

 

I have gotten up at 4:50am three times a week for six weeks, even after driving eight hours in two days and falling into bed at midnight in order to attend an important event for a special friend. My attendance is perfect, my form, not so much.

My clothes fit differently. I do have more energy. I have done what I’ve sworn I could never do.

Let me say that again:

I have always said I could never do an early morning Boot Camp (or any fitness thing) and I have always said I could never give up all sugar for a month and drink coffee black.

 

Sometimes “always” and “never” are liars.

 

This has been a Hard Thing for me. Not on the scale of say, fighting cancer or climbing Everest, but it has demanded commitment and discipline and doing things I don’t want to do. My spirit has felt like a child who clamps his mouth shut and refuses to take his medicine even though it will make him better.

This has made me better.

On February 17th, my friend Jessica Turner will release her first book The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You (available now for pre-order), and I can’t think of anything fringier I’ve ever done. After brushing my teeth, washing my face, eating an egg for protein’s sake, and thanking God that my body hasn’t mutinied on me yet – before I’m barely awake – I stumble out the door Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to do a thing for ME.

My husband scribbled a note on the back of a grocery list for me to find on that first day, six weeks ago–

Word of encouragement

Lawsy–looks like someone needs to clean her bathroom mirror…. #IDHTBPTBB

 

and when I’ve felt like throwing in the towel, it’s a little thing that has kept me going. My neighbor, Marie, brave enough to say “Yes” when I asked her to join me, has kept me going, too. Accountability is an important contributor to my success, as well as the ability to process verbally every aspect of each day’s session. Our instructor is incredible, and she has yet to structure any two days the same. (Seriously, if you’re in the middle Georgia area looking for a good cross-fit program, contact me and I’ll give you the details.)

Boot Camp and Whole 30 are natural topics of conversation–anyone who follows me on Instagram, Facebook, my blog, or you know, asks me what I’m up to in real life, knows about both. Without exception…without exception…everyone has responded the same way: “I could never do that.”

Which I absolutely understand. Been there, said that.

Believed that.

And then, lo and behold, I discovered “always” and “never” are little demons that make you believe things that Just Aren’t True.

Once you discover a motive that means something to you, you’ll accomplish the very thing you were sure you never could. Once you think you can…you can!

 

So, yeah…my minimal weight gain…. The slight increase in BMI and Body Fat %age….

Sure, I’m disappointed. But I refuse to be discouraged and I’m certainly not defeated…

*

*

*

Because my motive is in great shape.

 

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WANTED: YOUR thoughts on nurturing and encouraging friendship ~ PLEASE read, comment & share!

Aug

21

Posted by on Aug 21, 2014 | 20 comments

Faithful Friend Quote - Hearts and chocolate

It was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever said, and I wish I could remember more about the context of thinking it and saying it: I don’t really need people.

I can even recall the room I was standing in – in our den in South Carolina – so it must have been significant.  You can only say something that careless and arrogant when you are in a season of plenty.  I had a lot of friends in this season – close ones, good ones and casual ones – and the demands of friendship, marriage, family and life must’ve been pushing me to some kind of ragged edge to say such a thing.

Regardless, a lot of time has passed since I felt that way, and if I’ve learned anything since then, it’s this:

I DO need people, and very much so.

I’ve started over three times in the years between then and now, moving to new places where I didn’t know a soul.  Pursuing friendship has demanded effort, initiative and intention, and given my children’s ages, it hasn’t happened as easily and naturally as it once did. Moving to a place at 40 and then again at 50, well, people aren’t always open to new friends.  Which reminds me of this SPOT ON bit from Jerry Seinfeld–

 

 

Unless you’ve started over as a 40-, 50-, 60- (even 30?)- something, you can’t imagine how challenging it can be. When I was settled, before life and circumstances uprooted us from The Comfort Zone, I sometimes took my friends for granted. And something I’ve seen in recent years is that I haven’t always done a great job at maintaining the relationships of friends who are important to me–I assume they know and that’s good enough.

It isn’t always good enough…. ( ~ crooked, fragile, begging-for-forgiveness smile ~ )

All of this is to tell you about something I’m extremely excited about:

I’m working with a team potentially to develop resources that can help support, feed, initiate, inspire, nurture and encourage you to maintain friendships!

Friendship rarely comes together by accident; it has to happen because you pursue someone or she pursues you, typically after you’ve found common ground–that moment C.S. Lewis speaks of in his wonderful, little-but-heady book, The Four Loves:  “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . . .”  What would help you become more purpose-filled in your relationships?

I fully realize a thing doesn’t make a friendship happen; but a thing can

  • communicate thoughtfulness and intention
  • express affection and interest in another
  • become a connecting bridge
  • serve as a tangible reminder that we are loved
  • act as a conduit for getting together
  • encourage, affirm and demonstrate that we are known

I’d love to hear your ideas as they relate to initiating, cultivating, maintaining and deepening friendship.

I’d also like to know about your needs and wishes as they relate to friendship, hear about difficult situations (broken fellowship), how you’ve restored or reconciled a relationship, the tools and resources you already know about that encourage and turn you toward friendship.

 

Books, articles, blog posts and/or any other resources, apps or products  that come to mind.  There are no wrong answers.

Your simple response might be the spark that creates something wonderful.

 

Whether you’re a frequent commenter to blogs or you’ve never commented before; whether we’re friends from the second grade or you’re hitting my blog from a friend of a friend’s share; regardless of your age or stage of life–

I hope to hear from YOU!

I’ll keep you posted as I’m able to share more; for now we’re in the brainstorming / crowdsourcing / ideation (ohYESthatsaword!) phase.

The gift of friendship

 

Thank you in advance for sharing this post and your feedback; I’d love to hear a broad spectrum of thoughts and ideas.  And if you’re a little gun-shy about commenting publicly to a blog, shoot me an email at robin dance(dot)me(at)gmail.

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The incredible gift everyone – EVERYONE – wants (and probably needs)

Jun

26

Posted by on Jun 26, 2014 | 5 comments

Your soul sparkles - Celebrating You

My sister gave me a gift last week and it made me so happy I screamed.

Literally.

We were alone in my house sitting on my youngest son’s bed, for a reason I can’t recall now. She handed me a package neatly ribboned and wrapped in the brown paper sack from the gift shop explaining, “I’ve had this forever but kept forgetting to give you.”

I clawed off the paper and grinned, already judging this book by its cover.

Celebrating You book - image by Robin Dance

My sister thought she was giving me an 8″x8″ gift book;  but as STINKIN’ DARLING as it is, the book itself wasn’t exactly the biggest part of her gift.  No…planted among its pages was a magical treasure, undetectable by eye, discernible only by the heart.

Her gift was in seeing and knowing me in the deepest ways I long to be seen and known.

 

I shrieked lunatic-crazy after every single page–think “wolf howling at the moon” and you’ll get a close approximation. Ask her if you think I’m kidding.

THIS IS THE BEST PRESENT IN THE WOOOORLD!

IT’S MY FAVORITE GIFT OF ALL TIIIIIME!

I LOOOOOVE THIS BOOK!!

Counting each double page as a single (one illustration with a companion sentence), there are just 27 pages (aka 27 screams). Thankfully, or the neighbors might’ve called the police.

Possibility - Celebrating You

We’re just 16 months apart but she’s always been the boss of me. I think she felt this was her God-given right and responsibility when we lost our mother so young. Or maybe it’s a first-born thing. Whatever it is, I’ve always accepted it and at times even appreciated it.

(It just occurred to me that she has known me longer than anyone else alive. Whoa…I’ve never thought about that before this very minute.)

One of my best childhood memories is sitting across from one another in her bathroom – her, on the toilet (lid down), me on the edge of the tub. She was my eager audience of one and I delighted in entertaining her…Edith Ann and Jimmy Carter impersonations (my Georgia roots showing), and I don’t know who else.

Her laughter was my paycheck, her approval, a bonus.

 

Quote for the best gift to give - Robin Dance

Even though sometimes she is maddening, she’s always been my biggest cheerleader.

Adventure - Celebrating YouLike when I was an upcoming high school freshman trying out for cheerleading and I suffered a major groin injury doing a split but not sufficiently warmed up (red hot knife searing pain that left me in a puddle in front of the judges). Back in the coach’s office, my sister gave me a “pep” talk:  inches from my face she screeched GETCHUR ASS BACK OUT THERE AND FINISH YOUR TRYOUT!

I thought she was cool to say “ass” in front of grown-ups. Bad to the bone.

I hobbled back to the gym, finished my tryout, and made the squad. Thanks to her.

While we’ve had our differences through the years, she’s still my cheerleader and champion. I suppose it’s not that difficult to understand how she could see me and know me so well, what with our history and sheer amount of life together.

And then she sings it back to me by way of a gift in a gift.

The pages in this little book spoke life and love and affirmation and beauty.

She told me I already am who I long to be.

Strong - Celebrating YouAnd though I know we are intimately known and loved by the God of the universe, sometimes a girl needs it in human form. On the very best of days He is gracious to find the perfect person to deliver the message.

My husband knows me and loves me in a way that she never can, but it’s she who has spent my entire lift knowing me in a way he never can–her blood runs through my veins.

It is wired in our DNA, this desire to be known and loved. And I believe each one of us has the capacity to give this gift to someone in our lives who so desperately needs to receive it.

Will you take a moment to consider the people in your life who might thrill to your notice?  Will you follow through and find a way to express it to them?

I don’t know if Celebrating You will be a conduit you can use to encourage another, but for less than ten bucks, if you know someone whose love language, like mine, is words of encouragement, it might be perfect.

I’m curious now…what makes you feel well known and most loved? I guess it centers around your love language.  If you’re willing to share, I’d really like to know what could turn you into a howling wolf…:).

 

Robin Heart Signature - Green

 

 

 

Affiliate link used for Celebrating You.

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