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Presents or Presence (The Difference in Listening Well)



Posted by on Dec 24, 2016 | 0 comments


“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.”
(John 3:16)


You can’t fool her, you know.

Two pudgy hands cup your cheeks to turn your face, demanding your eyes look deep into her own.

“Mama, you’re not listening!” You can almost feel her heart stomping its tiny imaginary foot to accentuate the point.

Of course, you’re right when you insist, “Yes I am, honey, I can just do two things at once.” You did hear her, after all.

But she’s right (more right?) because you weren’t listening.

Hearing requires only ears. Listening demands ears, eyes, mind, and maybe most important, heart.

The difference matters. A lot. Here’s why:

Your children don’t just notice the difference between hearing and listening, they understand the difference:

Something else is more important than them in that moment.

O u c h!

This isn’t confined to children; don’t we all hate it when we know someone is only half engaged in conversation? Present in body but absent in thought?

I grow weary from all the admonitions to focus on Christ during the Christmas season, to resist holiday busyness. Please don’t get me wrong — I agree — but then I see a believing people tangled and lifeless in sticky-webs of shopping, baking, parties, and school or church programs.

We are distracted.

Everyone is working extra hard to pay for All The Things.

And though our homes have never looked more lovely or smelled more delicious . . .

Our actions are speaking loudly, and they don’t always match up to our words.

Can I get an “Amen!”?


Please click to continue reading Presents/Presence for incourage. Promise:
if you’ll follow this friendly advice this Christmas season,
you’ll be  giving and receiving something precious.

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Posted by on Oct 21, 2016 | 0 comments


Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, 
with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17 ESV)

Have you ever found yourself wishing, “If God would just SHOW ME A SIGN…” you would know what to do or whether or not you’re headed in the right direction?

Haven’t we all?

Just once, wouldn’t it be nice to look up and see writing in the sky?

Though answers rarely come as a flashing neon sign – call me crazy – sometimes I sense God’s favor in what others may dismiss as coincidence. Maybe nothing as dramatic as a thunder clap or lightning strike or a rainbow sent right to your front yard, but a kind of mini-miracle that speaks right to the heart of whatever is going on in your life rightnow….

Hold tight to what we’re promised in scripture: God has gifted us with not some, but every, spiritual blessing. In the passage from 1st Ephesians, we learn that in Christ, we are





receivers of grace,



and sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.

God’s generosity knows no bound. 

He is a giver of good and perfect gifts, and what He gave because He loved us (Who He gave)? Should compel us to boundless gratitude. Lord, may I never cease to be thankful, humbled by, and astonished at the wonder, beauty, and cost of the cross.

Last week I was sitting at my kitchen table with two friends. I had invited them over to begin putting flesh on the bones of an idea birthed in my heart a while back. They weren’t the first people I had approached about joining me in this new thing; but after arm-twisting another friend without success for over two years, it finally occurred to me that maybe she wasn’t the one to help.

Sometimes earnestly seeking the Lord means letting go of preconceived plans and ideals. 

This is a lesson on repeat for me, something I’ve been slow to learn.

We began to sense God’s presence in our gathering, oddly enough, in a color scheme. It started with Hannah and Tracey noticing my journal, pen, and espresso cup perfectly coordinating. (How much do I love that friends picked up on such a tiny detail? It’s exactly the kind of thing I’m prone to notice.)



Intent in our conversation, all three of us jumped when Hannah noticed the shadow of a man at my front door, followed quickly by a sharp knock. I knew what they didn’t–it was simply a package delivery. Our front door is within arm’s reach of our kitchen table, and they aren’t accustomed to that proximity.


Why, yes, we may look like tears were involved…. <3

I opened the door to pick up my package, and immediately realized what it was: an Advanced Reader’s Copy of Craving Connection: 30 Challenges for Real Life Engagement. Since you’re obviously an (in)courage reader (smile), you might have seen recent images and teasers about Craving Connections. What makes this book extra special is that it is a first from (in)courage and features 30 authors from both the (in)courage team and community at large. Through scripture exploration, personal testimony, and prayer, the 30-day devotional asks the question, “How could your life be different after prayerfully and intentionally connecting with God, friends, and your community?” (If you’re interested, subscribe to my very occasional blogposts, I’ll let you know when Craving Connections is available!)

I quickly explained what it was to my friends, who remembered me working on my chapter, A Safe Harbor, at the first of the year. As quickly as I placed the book on the table to continue our conversation, we noticed–

Everything was color coordinated….



We couldn’t miss it, and we didn’t want to dismiss it as coincidence. It felt like a God-wink, a conduit of God’s pleasure with our plans.

Please click to continue God-winks at (in)courage!!

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For school, tooooo cool!



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.


* * * * *

Be sure to enter my $100 Giveaway from FTD Flowers and DaySpring!
Entry deadline is Wednesday, May 4th at 1 EST.


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A friend in need, in deed, indeed



Posted by on Feb 19, 2015 | 1 comment


I was seven months pregnant with my third baby in four years and my sciatic nerve wasn’t happy about it. Juggling a part-time job, caring for two toddlers, and all the other demands of life siphoned every ounce of energy I could manufacture. With no family in town, there was little relief.

And then I got pneumonia.

Let’s just say a baby kicking your fluid-filled lungs into your throat isn’t something on anyone’s bucket list. It hurt to do just about anything, but it really hurt to cough.

I felt like a bigger baby than the one I was incubating.

Words weren’t necessary to express how dreadful I felt; my husband knew this wasn’t a cold or even the flu. He also knew I wouldn’t ask for help.

What is it about women that we’re eager to offer a helping hand, but we’d rather come close to dying before admitting we need help?



God love him, the man knew exactly what I needed. He couldn’t take off from work (any more than I would have wanted him to…), but he knew who to call and what to prescribe.

Isabel showed up with a Coca~Cola and bendy straws, and poured a glass for me over crushed ice. Just like Mama did when I was little, the remedy that always makes me feel better even if it doesn’t actually make me better.

When I needed someone to show up, Isabel showed up. 

Because friendship does.

* * *

I was moving and there were a thousand things to do. Probably more.

Each task was exponentially more challenging with three littles underfoot. Without a shred of ill intent, children can undo hours of work by unraveling their mama’s nerves, particularly her last one.

It’s an emotional thing, digging up roots that have been growing for 14 years, painful, too. Even if you’re transplanting to what you think is greener grass, there’s no way of knowing til you get there if the soil is sandy or rocky or nearly impenetrable Georgia clay.

So it helps to have help. But it was a season in life where everyone was busy and I wasn’t about to ask.

One day Help showed up as my neighbor Michelle. Uninvited, she knocked on my back door with a bucket of cleaning supplies in her left hand and a broad grin painted across her face. “Put me to work,” she insisted; there was no point in arguing.

So I didn’t.

When I needed someone to show up, Michelle showed up.

Because friendship does.


{to be continued…}

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The Breakfast Club :: on friendship and the ministry of “me, too”



Posted by on Oct 12, 2014 | 0 comments

The ministry of me-too by Robin Dance at Deeper Story

Her tears were watery magnifiers – incredible resolve damming a river – making her impossibly blue eyes look bigger and bluer. I hadn’t known when we made our plans the conversation would go so deep, so fast. Right about then my Belgian waffle arrived, gloriously buried under an avalanche of berries and cream.  I shoveled breakfast in while her pain trickled out.

Our friendship was still in its infancy. Birthed from circumstance – both of us new to town and starting over at mid-life – we needed one another.  That will quicken a friendship like few things can, but the more time we spent together the more I was convinced our circumstances only provided us opportunity–we liked each other and would have bonded regardless of time or place.

Rolling up our sleeves and comparing scars, war stories began to tumble. I had an intimate knowledge of the hurt she described – rejection, and what felt like betrayal from people she had once called friend. Her pain was my own.

These are the things that can bolster a new friendship. They are battle’s redemption.




Sometimes I envision satan as this maniacal little man, rubbing his scaly hands together and wearing a wicked, fangy grin. He’s grotesque and wormy, self satisfied and dark, clothed in evil and arrogance and dread. His minions are despicable, too, slobbery and snarly and powerless to do anything but follow the dark. Their favorite taste is defeat of human heart and they know a million ways to take you down.

But mostly, I wonder if satan just wound things up in the garden and then left us to our own devices. I’m certain that’s the case at least some of the time.

How much of your misery lives inside your head?

How much of your misery lives only inside your head? Imagination’s conjuring, born of (mostly errant) assumption and past experience.

Whether it’s the devil’s machination or my own, one thing does me in like few others:


Please click to continue reading The Breakfast Club at Deeper Story, published there earlier this week.  I’m continuing with my plan to offer content for my 31 Days in October/A Parent’s Guide for College-bound Students during the weekdays and link-love and intros to my posts published elsewhere on weekends.

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



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.

Robin Heart Signature - Green


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