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The ministry of tears

Jun

05

Posted by on Jun 5, 2016 | 1 comment


06032016_RobinDance_MoveUsEDIT-652x400

I have cried more in the past three weeks than I have since my mother’s death, and that was a long, long time ago. Emotions? Threadbare. Sleep? Fitful at best. And eating a real meal? Wishful thinking. Who needs a meat and three when you can have a Snickers and coffee?

I wish I were kidding on that last one.

It’s embarrassing to admit the “Why” of it, because, if I play the Comparison Game, it’s not a good enough reason to justify my fragility. I’m not facing illness or financial trouble, my children and marriage are doing well; in fact, the “Why” of it is ultimately good: We sold our house, the one we haven’t lived in full-time in almost three years.

I mistakenly thought selling was the hard part.

Packing up and purging the house my children will remember as Home — the place destined to inhabit their dreams when their minds drift back to childhood — undid me.

As my oldest son and I emptied the attic, their lives passed before me, twisting my heart into knots. I didn’t expect to feel every memory, to re-live so many moments I had taken for granted at the time.

As we emptied the attic, their lives passed before me, twisting my heart into knots. I didn’t expect to feel every memory, to re-live so many moments I had taken for granted at the time.


The first instance happened as I passed down a box of their handmade Christmas gifts to my son, and the weight of all I hadn’t accomplished punched me in the throat.
So many unfinished plans, slick roads paved with good intention. Life events, milestones, a childhood of Firsts times three. Tears were impossible to control. I could barely speak as I asked . . .

Did I get it right? Did I miss it…?” and poor Thomas, my 21-year-old, tried to answer the question he thought I was asking, “Mom…stop! You’re a great mother, we couldn’t have had it any better….” but he couldn’t possibly know what I meant. He hadn’t yet earned the right to understand; that price would be paid with a lot of life between now and then. Years. Decades.

We’ve been married almost 29 years; our babies are 23, 21 and 19. The oldest just received an amazing marriage proposal; the middle one will graduate college next May; and the youngest just finished his freshman year. The house we lived in most of their lives was big enough to hold a lot of memories, and many of those memories were now represented by things made or bought. Downsizing to a much smaller house forced decisions I didn’t want to have to make. To toss any “thing” felt personal, as if I were saying that memory didn’t matter. Suddenly everything mattered and I was paralyzed by emotion and indecision, and just about anything could trigger an emotional breakdown. 

I was grieving a certain kind of loss, and though that loss wasn’t marked by tragedy, and it wasn’t attached to relational devastation, financial ruin, or health scares, it was final. I was saying good-bye to more than just a house.

I cried a lot, and instantly felt guilty or hated myself for it, because selling our house was a good thing. But then it hit me–

Crying wasn’t weakness or pity party, it was catharsis.

Tears are an incredible pressure valve and every single one of them tells a story. Tears are a way of my body expressing itself when words are insufficient.

Please continue reading The Ministry of Tears over at incourage.me.
You’ll come away with a greater appreciation for the benefits of an ugly cry :).

 


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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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A father’s plea

May

05

Posted by on May 5, 2016 | 2 comments

A Fathers Plea - Dont text and drive
 An email shared with me today, from someone our family loves. I asked permission to post it here, hoping to share its heart-breaking message beyond his original recipients. Please read it as if your husband or father or brother or best friend wrote it; it’s that personal. It’s that important. If you’ve never shared a post of mine before, now is the time. Use the easy share buttons at the bottom of the post, cut and paste it, email it…I really don’t care. I believe it is so affecting, you could possibly be saving lives. Thank you. Love, Robin 

 

* * * * * * * * ** *

 

My beloved children,

 

This morning on my way to work I came up on a head on car collision that had just happened seconds earlier.  A young boy was thrown into the front seat in one car, air bags deployed on both cars. At first glance it appeared that one driver and the child may be dead. We could not open the doors and had to call 911 and wait. Fortunately the drivers and child started moving. When emergency rescuers arrived they were able to get the child out and it appears he will be okay. The drivers are alive but who knows if they have head trauma.

 

You guys know about the UGA girls and the tragic accident there.

 

While we don’t know, my suspicion is the drivers were distracted, and my guess is they were distracted by a cell phone.

 

I am guilty. I let my phone distract me at times. I check a text or email. I look up a number to call someone, maybe calling you.

 

These events remind me it’s not worth it. It happens in an instant.

  

Please, please, please. Leave the phone in your pocket when you are driving. Look at the directions before you leave to go somewhere. Program the GPS before you leave. Do something radical and turn your phone off. Don’t tolerate your friends using their phone when driving.

 

I love you all so much and don’t want a distraction to hurt your or someone else, to cause something like this.

 

Please hear your Dad’s plea when that text message goes off while you are driving.

 

It ain’t worth it.
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Why Clemson is STILL #1

Jan

13

Posted by on Jan 13, 2016 | 8 comments

1981 Freshman Clemson picture

Why, yes, I have Big Hair. It was the 80s for heaven’s sake!

Looking back through my lens as a parent, it’s difficult to understand why my father allowed it–

 

Me going to an out-of-state college four years, especially in light of what influenced my decision:

It was only 90 minutes from home.

I loved the Tiger paws dotting the highways leading into campus.

It was not where my sister – 16 months my senior with a shadow that shrouded me for 18 years – went to college.

Oh, sure, I probably gave a more intelligent explanation when asked, but those were the real (now mortifying) reasons. Of course, my Grand Plan included me returning to my hometown to attend the University of Georgia my sophomore year, so it’s not like I set out to break the bank.

Daddy had wanted me and my siblings to have a “true college experience” away from home our freshman year, and apparently I wanted him to pay dearly for it. It’s not like we were spoiled – it was rare for us to ask for extras, and we all worked as soon as we could to earn spending money – but I still can’t believe my gall to think it was okay. At best I was insensitive to the cost differential between in- and out-of-state tuition, and at worst, invoked some sense of entitlement.

My collegiate decision had nothing to do with academics. Clemson didn’t even have the major I was interested in so I had to chose something close.

I can think of no other more shallow or immature decision made my entire life.

 

My husband is quick to remind me it worked out pretty well, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Monday night in a ferocious contest, Clemson’s #1-ranked, 14-0 football team, played for the National Championship. Though they didn’t come away with the win, I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of or happier for my personal association with the school. From underdogs to wonder cats, Clemson has endeared us all.

In full disclosure, I’m not a general football fan; it’s team specific and I only care about a few. Having grown up in Athens, GA, I can’t ignore my long-standing affection for the Georgia Bulldogs, and with my youngest there now I, once again, have a vested interest (I’m still incensed they ran off Coach Mark Richt; he is as fine a man as they come, concerned about developing his players as good men as much as he cares about winning…but that’s a rant for another time).

Here’s why the Tigers are still #1 to me:

 

1)  Quarterback Deshaun Watson. J’adore a good story, and that’s exactly what Deshaun brings along with his cool composure under pressure, wicked passing precision, and the Eye of the Tiger when reading and running the field. Of course, I’ve got near-family affection for this guy–he’s from the same hometown as my sister and her family, and they’ve long lauded his talent and character. There’s great reason former Clemson standout Steve Fuller graciously unretired his number 4 jersey for Watson (a story worth reading), and when you learn why Watson partners with Habitat for Humanity, you might just cry. As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t become a fan of this kid, your heart might just be stone cold.

2) Dabo Swinney. I’ll be honest–at first Dabo’s wiles and ways didn’t win me over. Dork came to mind. We laughed and squirmed at those daffy dance moves. He seemed to wear an unattractive chip on his shoulder when interviewed, and lordy, the things that spilled out of his mouth made me shake my head. “Bring your own guts?” Seriously?

But while I was busy being all judgy, a catch-phrase was birthed in great affection. And the man and his team kept winning. Defying all the naysayers, mucking through rain, and despite the odds, Clemson. Kept. Winning. And then I bothered to learn more about Dabo’s remarkable story and he won me over. Don’t skip this one–Dabo leads by amazing example, and all parents would be privileged to have their football-playing sons to play under his leadership. He loves his team. He shares his faith. He means it when he says #ClemsonFamily, and I’d love to know him as friend.

3) Team Play and Resilience. Less than four minutes into Clemson’s season opener, leading receiver Mike Williams caught a four-yard pass, scored a touchdown…and suffered a small neck fracture when tackled and rammed into the goal post. Thankfully, it wasn’t a career-ending injury, but it wouldn’t be the last injury to an impact-player. Regardless, Clemson’s team rallied game after game, and everyone, together, found a way to win.

What is particularly exciting is how young this team is–as many as nine offensive starters will be returning for the 2016 season; we’ll lose a few more defensive players to the NFL. Going all the way back to pre-season, this was not the year Clemson was expected to do anything great because of its youth; next year was supposed to be The Year. Cannot wait to see!

4) Worst of Times, Best of Times. Didja see (or at least hear about) Andy Teasdall’s self-decided fake punt during the ACC Title Game against North Carolina? The only thing uglier than the punter’s bad decision was Coach Swinney’s post-play tirade. But in a beautiful tale of redemption, a fake punt play was called by coaches in the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma, and this time Teasdall delivered beautifully.

5) Coaching staff. I don’t know a lot about Clemson’s coaching staff, but the stories I do know make me proud. “The incredible underdog story of Clemson’s Tony Elliott” is an inspiring, heart-wrenching must-read whether or not you like football, sports, OR Clemson. And you’ll love this true tale of two Notre Dame midnight hitchhikers and their providential meeting with assistant coach Robbie Caldwell. Thankfully, it has a happy ending.

6) R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I know I’m showing my age, but I kept thinking of Rodney Dangerfield of the “I don’t get no respect” fame early in the Clemson season, what with all the predictions of “Clemsonning,” that somehow, some way, the Tigers would find a way to lose. But I’ll be darned if they refused to give in to all those haters by shutting them up win after win and re-defining Clemsonning. Clemson fans were treated to something very special this season–we saw a team finally come into its own and earn play by play and game by game the respect it deserved.

My husband and sons will totally roll their eyes that I’m writing a football post, but I have the pedigree: a) I grew up in Athens during the Dooley years, cheered with his daughters, and went to our high school homecoming dance once with his son; b) I was one of the first Georgia Girls, back before there was a former program or any kind of scandal…. c) I can remember sitting on The Hill, long gone now but a great memory for those lucky enough to experience simpler times. I can still remember the scent of sweat and alcohol, probably before I even knew what I was smelling.

 

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wonderstruck

Jan

03

Posted by on Jan 3, 2016 | 2 comments

Red sky at morning

 

I was sitting in my kitchen, reading and alone. In the peace of Christmas Eve’s morning, I sensed something different, a change in atmosphere. There are a lot of windows in our small house; two entire sides of it are practically all glass. Streaming – practically screaming – through all of them was an eerie rosy glow, so peculiar it lured me outside to see if someone was shining a giant rose-colored light. No one was there, of course, but the old saying whispered–

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning…

And I wondered just what the day would bring.

If I wouldn’t be enjoying a white Christmas – unseasonable temperatures breaking record highs – a pink one was just fine by me.

Matching my delight in this magical sky was anticipation for the day to get on with itself. By suppertime all my children would be gathered ’round our table, a rarity anymore. Good food is secondary; it is these moments I savor.

Right now I’m a little in the dark. It’s an odd spot for me, someone who typically lives with an expectancy of good things, God things. I’ve prayed for direction for this new year, but I’ve felt more like a wanderer.

The sky felt like an omen.

I don’t mom on a daily basis anymore, not the way I’ve done for the past two decades or so. I’m thankful for good and challenging work, because it fills time and space, but I can’t help but question its significance. What does it really matter, you know?

But then in a stroke of divine timing, I stumble across a writer new to me: Rachel Naomi Remen. I don’t know anything (yet) of her faith persuasion, but she says some pretty wise things, the kind of things I needed to hear. In her words I remember that my life has meaning and significance, to remember what I already know.

And then it occurred to me how often God uses the sky to speak to me, today, yes, but a few weeks ago, a few years ago, and problem a zillion other times I didn’t bother to record in writing.

My babies were all out at 1:30 that afternoon when the warnings began. A tornado in December? What the heck?

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning….

It was surreal when the weatherman said the rotation was heading straight to us and I seriously wondered what it would sound like if our little stick-built house splintered. I was sitting in our only interior room with no windows, a powder room off our kitchen, toilet on one side and sink on the other, phone in hand, and wondering if a bike helmet ever saved anyone’s life in a tornado (the weatherman had said to go to your safe place and put on a helmet…). It was comical, but even my husband was on edge.

Soon enough the warnings passed and that swirling mass of air never touched the ground. No damage, no death, no splintered houses this time.

We’re into this new year now and I’m still on a Wander.

But the old year ended in wonder, and with a challenge to see anew.

A perfect place to end and begin again, don’t you think?

 

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The beautiful-est little Christmas thing ever

Dec

24

Posted by on Dec 24, 2015 | 5 comments

Clay pieces

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. ~ Thomas Merton

 

I believe in the art of play. I believe in the play of art.

Scripture tells us we’re created in the image of God, and in him we see creativity beyond comparison, imagination with no bounds. Nature screams it in her beauty, her complexity, her diversity.

Study your hand. An odd thing, perhaps, but look at it in a way you never have before. You’ll be amazed. Your nails, the joints, the prints on fingers and thumb. Lines that might not tell your future, but certainly tell your life. Your hand is art by a masterful creator. And that’s only one tiny part of you.

As image bearers we share in God’s creative nature, and I think children know it best. Or maybe they’re freer to declare the joy in, and goodness of, their work: “Look what I made!” They know how to be proud without a hint of arrogance.

Children grow up and forget so many important things (adults forget so many important things), or maybe self-awareness settles in and we stuff down or crowd out or silence the creative in ourselves.

Of course, Hobby Lobby and Michael’s exist for those who remember.

This year I signed up for a clay class at my church, led by two friends whose artistic talents match the joy they have in sharing their giftings with others. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and they make you believe there’s Midas touch in your fingers.

Each week they supplied us with a flat of clay and new instructions, and from there we cut and shaped, slipped and scored our way to something incredibly special: my new favorite Christmas nativity.

I’ve always loved crèches, and though there are so many beautiful ones you can buy, my favorites are handmades.

A beautiful takeaway from the class is a deeper glimpse of God as potter; clay in my hands helped me grasp the care and intention in God’s creation of humanity. Not that I’ll ever fully understand it….

I loved both the process and end result. I strongly encourage you to take an art class in your area, but it comes with a caution:

Don’t strive for perfection; go for perfect imperfection. It’s so much more beautiful.

 

My angel. I’d probably re-think that heart now, but when I added it, it was a simple expression of love.

Clay angel

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. ~ Picasso

 

I had a hard time with Joseph and my little sheep. I couldn’t get Joseph’s hair quite right, I smudged the pattern in his cloak when shaping him, and my sheep? Well, he looked like a cross between a brain and a wig for Joseph. In the end they were fine, a great reminder how forgiving clay is. 

Joseph and a sheep

 

Mary, Babe in Manger…and tools of our trade. I had hoped Mary’s head covering would be removable; same with Jesus’ swaddling cloth. But, the way I made them they became attached (a little harder to paint…I’ll take note the next time I work with clay).

Mary and Jesus in manger

The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection. ~ Michelangelo

 

Glazed but not yet fired in the kiln. It is amazing to me how different they look before…

Glazed but not yet fired

 

And after.

Handmade Clay Nativity

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. ~ Aristotle

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