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The Kindness of Strangers

Sep

06

Posted by on Sep 6, 2017 | 4 comments

VintageTruck_GraceTablePostbyRobinDance

It was a day of inconveniences, the kind where you wonder if you’ll be able to get it all done.

 
 

Since I was driving out of town the next day, taking my car to the shop for its past due oil change was top priority. The wait was hours long without an appointment (what? they take appointments?!), and I could’ve kicked myself for not bringing work along, or better yet, a book from my never shrinking stack. I called my son to see if he could leave his job to come and get me. He said yes, but even his time was limited, and he didn’t have the extra minutes to run by the grocery store on the way home so I could grab something to cook for dinner.

Influenced by both our year living in Germany (where we biked or walked everywhere) and my husband’s wellness plan at work (that pays us to track health and fitness), I made the decision to have him drop me at Publix and I’d walk home.

While I had mentally calculated the distance between home and Publix – a little more than a mile – I hadn’t factored in July’s stifling heat and humidity. Mylanta, summertime in middle Georgia is a big, fat, steamy sauna.

I crossed the street into my neighborhood, sweat-drenched and questioning my sanity. It had seemed like such a good idea at the time, especially if I wanted to have dinner ready before midnight. Now, I would’ve been happy to troll the pantry and make a meal out of Cream of Mushroom Soup and Ritz Crackers–aren’t they the base of every good casserole, anyway?

About that time I sensed a car approaching from behind, slowing down beside me. I kept a confident and determined stride, staring straight ahead and painting a fiercely intimidating expression on my face (a surefire method for disarming potential kidnappers and murderers). I tried to act like I didn’t notice them…

Which is next to impossible when the window rolls down and you hear…

 

Please click over to Grace Table today to discover what happens next!
(It’s a story I love.)

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Leigh’s (Almost) Famous Shrimp and Grits Casserole

Jun

18

Posted by on Jun 18, 2017 | 1 comment

Leighs_Shrimp_and_Grits_Casserole

 

One of my favorite things is tasting a dish that is so delicious, I must ask for the recipe; and, then every time I make it, I think of the person who now mingles her kitchen with mine. When I had my friend Leigh’s Shrimp and Grits Casserole, I knew it was one of those. It’s easy, a little bit fancy, and diverse enough to serve for brunch or dinner. It’s a turn on traditional shrimp and grits, and if you don’t care for either, well, a) try this and you might change your mind, or b) if you’re a hard-core hater, I feel for ya. (Unless you’re like my friend Holley, who has a worse-than-Will-Smith-in-Hitch reaction to shellfish. She can’t even look at ’em.)

Leigh’s Scrumptious, Easy
Southern Shrimp and Grits Casserole

Pre-heat oven to 350°F
Lightly grease a 9×12″ baking dish

  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup regular grits (not quick cooking)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey jack pepper cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1½ pound fresh (or frozen) shrimp, peeled and cooked
  • 1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained (Rotel)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  1. Bring 4 cups chicken broth and ½ teaspoon salt to boil in a saucepan; stir in grits.
  2. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Stir together grits, ¾ cup cheddar cheese, and Monterey jack cheese.
  4. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat; add green onions, bell pepper, and garlic; sauté until tender.
  5. Stir together green onion mixture, grits mixture, shrimp, and next 3 ingredients.
  6. Pour into a lightly-greased 2-quart baking dish.
  7. Sprinkle top with remaining ¼ cup cheddar cheese.
  8. Bake at 350°F for 30-45 minutes.

Personal notes:

  • Leigh actually got the recipe from her friend Lisa; clearly good recipes keep goin’ and goin’, Energizer Bunnies of the culinary world.
  • Using half each of a red and green bell pepper make this dish especially festive at Christmas.
  • Depending on how much heat you like in a dish, you might want to use more cheddar and less jack cheese; or, if you want to add more heat, use Rotel’s spicier version of tomatoes. You can mix up the dish with your favorite cheeses, too.
  • This divides well into two smaller casseroles; keep one and give the other to someone who could use a meal!

 

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The Gift of Hospitable Countenance

May

25

Posted by on May 25, 2015 | 1 comment

Quote about countenance

Wisdom lights up a person’s face, softening its harshness. ~ Ecclesiastes 8:1b

There is great possibility in face-to-face encounter.
~ Jean Fleming, Pursue the Intentional Life

Have you ever thought about how much your appearance and expressions are communicating something to those around you? What is it that you have been saying when you haven’t been speaking?

It was Jean Fleming in her transformative work, Pursue the Intentional Life, who first scattered seed for an idea that rooted quick and deep in my heart and soul: the ministry of countenance.

Jean says it this way:

Those of us who know God, who have been saved from destruction and eternal lostness, who carry around in our bodies the treasure of knowing the gospel and the Holy Spirit Himself, should radiate something of that wonder.” (p. 84, Pursue the Intentional Life)

Our countenance reveals who we are, and a radiant countenance can reveal Whose we are. The difference between forcing a smile and something birthed in our interior places (when God removes our stony, stubborn hearts and replaces them with tender, responsive hearts (Ezekiel 36:26, NLT)) is ev-er-y-thing.

Our pastor once offered this simple definition for wisdom: seeing our lives, the world and circumstance through God’s eyes. How I long to gain the kind of Ecclesiastical wisdom that “puts light in my eyes and gives gentleness to my words and manners.” (Ecclesiastes 8:1 MSG)

A ministry of countenance is less about what we say or do (though these things are important) and more about how we speak and respond–

  • Active listening vs. passive or distracted listening
  • Being fully present, interested and observant
  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Demonstrating kindness, love, encouragement, empathy, patience and concern with our words and body language

And it hit me that a ministry of countenance is true hospitality–when someone leaves my company feeling better about themselves than about me! We don’t have to be entertaining guests in our home to extend hospitality; it’s demonstrated every time we offer friendly and generous treatment to others.

A ministry of countenance goes hand in hand with a hospitable spirit. Together they have the potential and power to impact everyone they touch for the better.

The opposite is true, too. An inhospitable spirit and dour countenance can crush the heart it touches.

During the year we lived in Germany, we took advantage of our location to travel around Europe as much as we could afford. We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in London, happening upon a Remembrance Day parade during an afternoon stroll. I’ll never forget a conversation I overheard while smushed among the throng of parade watchers–

Please click to continue reading at Grace Table; this story was one of the times it’s uncomfortable to be a fly on the wall, and a reminder of who I always hope to be.

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Stammtisch, Stomp Tish and a Little Gastfreundschaft

Feb

10

Posted by on Feb 10, 2015 | 9 comments

Here from incourage’s Friendship on Purpose series?
Won’t you please take a moment to subscribe by email or in a reader?
Thank you!

 

Friendshi-on-purpose

Garden Stammtisch

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
~ Henry Valentine Miller

To say living in Germany changed us is an understatement.

 

We lived in southern Bavaria which we often compared to Mayberry–the second week we were there I was already running into people I knew at the grocery store.

Dirndl - a German Princess Dress!

Me and my sweet, sweet friend and relocation agent, Vanessa, after we had gone to Oktoberfest and on our way to see FC Bayern Munich play fußball. A FANTASTIC, memorable day!

Germans are a people rich in tradition. From the incredible Christmas markets, to festivals and even clothing (dirndl and lederhosen), they don’t wear pride in country on their sleeve, it is their sleeve.

It’s hard to chose a favorite tradition – they’re all that much fun and interesting – but one in particularly flirts with the top of my list:  Stammtisch

A loose translation for Stammtisch is “regulars’ table.” If you visit Germany and notice signs above tables with a name, it means that table is reserved for a group of people with a weekly reservation.

The German tradition of Stammtisch at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich

Stammtisch signs at the famed Hofbräuhaus in Munich.

No matter how crowded the restaurant becomes, they’ll hold a table for a group they know will show up week after week, even if it sits empty for a while.

During our year there, I attended two Stammtisch gatherings: a dinner one for ex-pats that included my husband and his co-workers; the other for women who speak English, meeting twice monthly for breakfast in homes.

Table Scenes from a German Breakfast Stammtisch - meats, breads, pretzels and more

Images from several of our German Breakfast Stammtisches. A German host would always have assorted meats, cold cuts and sausages–not the traditional Jimmy Dean pork links or ground sausage! We’d always have pretzels and assorted breads, cheeses, fruit, coffee, juices and tea. No grits, no bacon; if an American hosted, we might have muffins or some sort of casserole, but always different than a typical American brunch.

 

I loved the tradition so much, I was determined to bring it back to the States when I returned.

 

And after a delay or three, I finally did.

I don’t think I’ve ever thrown as mix-matched a party. Fifteen people had RSVPed, and I had to scrounge for enough coffee cups and plates to accommodate my guests. Though I over invited what I had room for, I trusted the people who were “supposed” to show up, would. Of course I was disappointed not everyone could come, but the up-side was sufficient breathing room in our small entertaining space.

An American Breakfast Stammtisch

Large, soft pretzels are a staple for German breakfasts so I HAD to have some at my inaugural Stammtisch. A few fun mentions in this collage: the candle under the pretzel picture was a gift from my sweet friend, Shelly Wildman; it’s an Ella B. neighborhood candle featuring her hometown scent “Wheaton”–I always think of her when its lit. Also, Jill Anderson gave me the darling “Thankful for…” chalkboard as a housewarming gift when we moved to Macon & I think of her every day when I look at it. Last, I LOVE my gerberas and spider mums in the Queen Anne’s Lace pitcher from Mary & Martha (get one while they’re still available).

 

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read A Little Gastfreundschaft {“hospitality” in German}, a companion piece I wrote about Stammtisch for the wonderful new site Grace Table; in it I share how Stammtisch reminded me in a very real sense Who I am, and why I was forced to delay beginning a Stammtisch upon our return home (which also explains why we moved). I’ve also found the pictures I took at the first Stammtisch I ever attended.

Stammtisch has been incredibly formative and affirming, and I’ve been surprised but delighted by the enthusiastic response to Stammtisch here. When we get together, we linger around the table and no one is in a hurry to leave. Each hostess has made the gathering special in her own way.

And maybe the best thing about Stammtisch is it’s never about performance or perfection; it’s about people.

Stammtisch friends

 

Does this sound like something you’re interested in trying? I’ll cheer you along and help you any way I can. Got questions? Please ask in comments!

(And DaySpring has created a new line to add beauty to your pursuit of friendship–
click the image below to see all the new wonderful things!)

Friendshi-on-purpose

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I believe in magic (& I bet you do, too!) :: Traditions & Sacred Space

Nov

24

Posted by on Nov 24, 2014 | 1 comment

The kitchen table is a special place - by Robin Dance

 

With all my heart I believe in magic. Oh, how I hope we’re the same, you and me.

Not rabbits out of hats or the dark and mystical, only in the sweetest sense of the word. The things that steal my breath, explode my heart, and make me want to burst into an ovation of gratitude; seriously, those closest to me know I clap (or jump) in the presence of magical delights– How a bird gathers twigs and twine and puzzles them into a home…

The way a firefly strobes on a warm summer night…

Rainbows after storms, skies striped in lightning, a wave’s thunderous applause…

And what happens around my kitchen and dining room tables.

mag·ic (‘majik)
noun: quality that makes something seem removed from everyday life,
especially in a way that gives delight,
something that has a delightfully unusual quality. adjective: wonderful; exciting

It doesn’t matter if we’re with family or friends, time is suspended when we gather at a table

We eat, we drink, we give and receive, and for those few extraordinary moments, we’re removed from a sometimes harsh world in a way that wholly celebrates life.
A table is a special place, a sacred space, where heart, soul and body are nourished. It is home alter and first classroom, where we learn to serve and be served.

Thanksgiving is within spitting distance and Christmas is right around the corner, both when traditions scatter deep and wide.  I love that about the holidays, don’t you? The older I get the more I appreciate the value in our family’s traditions, the practices my people have learned to expect year after year. I’m convinced traditions aren’t just important, they matter for a lot of reasons. It’s never too late to begin a new tradition, and the holiday season seems to have many anchored right around the table.

gracetablelogoPlease click to continue reading On Magic, Traditions and Sacred Tables over at Grace Table today! I’m thrilled to be part of this incredible, beautiful online community where you’ll be immediately drawn to a collective heart for hospitality. What you’ll find is that doesn’t always look like what you think. Today I want to hear about your family’s traditions, which may or may not be about the upcoming holidays–and be sure to share your favorite recipes! I’m still looking for a few new things to add to our Thanksgiving meal!!





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The Glitter of Your Soul

Sep

19

Posted by on Sep 19, 2014 | 13 comments

Every day of your life is a special occasion - Image by Robin Dance

 

What have you stuffed away in your closet or attic or drawers waiting for the perfect time to use it? What special thing of yours has been packed away, boxed up and long left forgotten?

The earrings that once belonged to your grandmother, that bring her to life in memory and heart when you wear them? That incredible dress that was made just for you, the one that makes you feel beautiful and confident and full of life? Or, my gracious, please don’t tell me it’s your fine china or crystal, the set you received a piece at a time and celebrated when you had four place settings then six and then eight (and for the luckiest 12).

What the heck are you waiting on?!

Are you afraid you’ll lose a stone out of jewelry? Or worry your outfit is too fancy for an ordinary date or girls night out with your friends? Or are you scared you’ll break a plate or glass?

One thing I’m convinced of in life, and I believe it applies here as well–

A decision made out of fear is never the right one.

 

The value in having a precious possession is not in the possession itself. Isn’t it much more so in the joy of using whatever it is for the purpose it was intended?

Jewelry and dresses are meant to be worn. China and crystal and silver are instruments of celebration to enjoy with those who mean something to you.

Remember lovies, life comes with an expiration date.

 

Your days are numbered. The average US life expectancy is 78.7 years. 28,725.5 days if you’re lucky enough to be average.

Why would you settle for using your Special Things only when the moon is blue?

Don't Save print by Mary EngelbreitBecause you think that diminishes their specialness?

Fooey.

Not using your special things is like ordering cake and deciding it’s too pretty to eat. Insanity.

 

To celebrate my 50th birthday, I wore my princess dress out to dinner with friends. Never you mind not a single other person was dressed in formal attire–IT WAS CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION. And really, isn’t there a point where you don’t care what people think BECAUSE MOST OF THEM ARE STRANGERS YOU’LL NEVER SEE AGAIN, anyway, and isn’t it a marvelous thought to imagine that your bold choices gave others a reason to smile?

Whether they’re laughing at you or with you, isn’t laughter the glitter of your soul? 

How can that be bad?

Every day of your life IS a special occasion. Being alive IS the special occasion.

 

So, please…tell me: How are you going to celebrate today?

Laughter is the glitter of the soul. Quote by Robin Dance

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