Robin Dance

essays on faith, aging, parenting, wandering and wondering

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Change Your Attitude For the Better Right Now! (Plus, a giveaway–scroll for details)

Posted by on Jan 18, 2019 | 17 comments

I had totally missed it — noticing I ended 2018 similarly to how I began: writing about an attitude of “getting to” do this or that instead of “having to” in both January and December. Maybe once the idea slipped into my psyche, it quietly settled there and began changing my entire outlook from that point forward.

I’m a fan and advocate for choosing a Word of the Year, #OneWord that sets a compass point (in contrast to a destination), a trajectory, a direction for life. It’s not a think intended to confine or box you in. On the contrary, it’s liberating.

If you can love a word, I loved my entirely-made-up word from last year–OYTO. Sweetly inspired by a tee shirt a friend gave me, OYTO was a fierce battle cry, wrapped opportunity-gifts that begged to be opened. My intention stirred awareness that led to results. Simply put, I saw things differently because I wanted to see things differently, and that affected how I responded.

The same is true for being a Get-to Girl. Shifting my attitude from having to do everything — even needing to do anything — gives me a sense of control because I understand I have a choice about my attitude. Necessary chores that could potentially seed resentment, martyrdom, or leave you feeling taken for granted suddenly become opportunities to serve your family. Irritations that stem from people being so human and imperfect are a catalyst for you to remember everyone is fighting a battle, and this is your chance be kind, to live the gospel by your response.

We aren’t always able to control our circumstances or the obstacles and opportunities that come our way, but we can control our response. That’s powerful.

To me, the essence of being a Get-to Girl is 1 Corinthians 10:31: So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. (CSB) Every move you make, including the attitude that companions action, can be offered to the glory of God. Should be done for the glory of God. It’s one thing when we’re facing opportunity or favorable circumstance; that’s when it’s easy. But there have been seasons when my life feels out of control, when a situation is bearing down, or relationships that matter to me are fractured, or grief feels unshakable, or I don’t know what else…. Knowing I can choose how I respond gives me at least a modicum of control, which is incredibly encouraging and empowering.

This is much more than turning a frown upside down. It’s an intentional decision to frame your life and everything within it in light of The Light. Even if “Get-to” isn’t your word of the year, will you join me?

Giveaway time!!

Today, DaySpring is releasing A Workbook Guide to Bible Journaling, “filled with fun techniques for painting, hand lettering, stickering, and stamping…” and I’m here to tell you, SO MUCH ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THE NEWBIE BIBLE JOURNALER. But the content is substantial enough to offer the long-time journaler plenty of new tips and ideas.

If you’ve wanted to try your hand at Bible journaling but didn’t have a clue where to start, consider this a master class featuring Shanna Noel and others at a bargain price. The first 600 people who order a copy will also get a free set of two pens, perfect for Bible journaling.

DaySpring was kind enough to offer me a copy, and I get to give one away, too! Entry is simple:

You must subscribe to my blog (new or existing subscriber) and “Like” my brand-spanking new Facebook Author Page, then leave a quick comment on this blog post telling me how you’ll use this book, why you want to win, what your #OneWord is, or something you GET-TO DO that you previously viewed as “having to.” Or pretty much any sort of comment at all–easy peasy! (Only U.S. addresses are eligible to win. Entry deadline is Friday, January 25th at midnight EST.)

NOTE: If you’re a first-time commenter, there might be a slight delay in approval; comments have to be moderated and it could take up to 24 hours. ūüôā

  • Link to subscribe: http://eepurl.com/dkH4uv
  • Link to like my new Facebook Author Page (yippee!!): https://www.facebook.com/RobinBDance

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Have We Forgotten That Love Is Kind?

Posted by on Jun 20, 2018 | 3 comments

 

Love is patient, love is kind.
Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant,
is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable,
and does not keep a record of wrongs.

Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth.

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (CSB, emphasis added by me not Jesus ūüôā )

 

It should never be a surprise when lost people behave like lost people, but it is shocking to my core when those who profess Christ act like lost people. Is it wrong to expect more?

Salvation doesn’t guarantee sinlessness, so it’s not that I expect perfection from believers. But it breaks my heart to hear the vitriol spewing from opposite viewpoints of the hot-button issues of our day. Blistering lava destroys what it touches.

Pick any comment thread of your favorite news outlet or open a tab for Facebook or Twitter. Why would anyone value what you have to say if it’s mean or rude? Why would I listen to anyone who pummeled me with contempt while trying to make their point? It was disconcerting to me when Tsh Oxenreider, a good friend and trusted colleague, posted a thoughtful and reasonable essay, Child-Parent Separation at the Border and What You Can Do, only to be hammered on Facebook. Those who didn’t agree with her thoughts were angry and loud; when I skimmed comments, no one who disagreed seemed kind.

Recently I was startled by the effect of wearing my Kindness is Golden tee shirt: strangers talked to me. No lie, half a dozen people  initiated a conversation with me about what it says, telling me why they agreed with the sentiment, why we need more kindness, or even about similar tee shirts they own. It was weird. Now, granted, I was in a place where I encountered more people than usual (an airport and then hotel lobby with lots of folks taking advantage of a free continental breakfast), but it was interesting to me so many different people (diverse men and women) approached me.

 

Who knew my tee shirt was an invitation to conversation? I suppose it’s because it demonstrates something important:

Kindness is powerful because kindness is an incarnation of love.

 

When you lead with love, I will listen to you. You have instant credibility with me. When you lead with love, as manifested in kindness, it tells me that you value me, you care about others, you’re listening as well as speaking, and what you have to say warrants my listening…even if I don’t agree. When you are hostile, antagonistic, or condescending, the effect is la-la-la (fingers in ears) I-can’t-hear-you. I don’t even mean to do that; it’s a by-product of being disrespected.

In John 13:34-35 (CSB), Jesus could not be clearer: 

‚ÄúI give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.‚ÄĚ

Loved people love people. Could it be that many of us are simply forgetting how dearly we’re loved?

Galatians 5 has a compelling passage describing the difference between walking by the Spirit or walking in the flesh–

By the Spirit:

  • desires what is against the flesh
  • you are not under the law
  • you’ll bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. (verses 22-23)

By the flesh:

  • desires what is against the Spirit
  • plagued by sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar (verses 19-21a)

It sends me to my knees….

Dear God, help me remember love is kind.
Slay my fleshly ways that I might walk by the Spirit and bear fruit.
Bring conviction without condemnation to Your people
leading us to love first that the Church will be known by its love,

by Your grace,
for our good, Your glory, and the advance of the Gospel,
These things I beg.

 

I affiliate-linked to my tee shirt since folks wondered where I got it…and when I saw the necklace above, I HAD to include it :).¬†

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Inspired to Inspire #OYTO

Posted by on Apr 28, 2018 | 2 comments

Fat Robin

 

‚ÄúArt enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.‚ÄĚ
~ Thomas Merton

 

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. On one hand, I’m convinced our lives were better without it overall. We had fewer friends, sure, but they were real life flesh and blood humans who would show up in person at your back door with a meal or a paintbrush or a hug depending on your need at the moment. We trudged to the library and navigated a card catalog to research anything and we had to buy magazines to catch up on the newest fashion or home design trends. Our houses had a whole lot more color before all the home d√©cor and DIYer instagrammers showed us over and over again how beautiful stark white could be. (It is a mystery to me how they can photograph the same room a thousand ways and we like it every time.) You knew what adult America was doing at 6pm and 11pm every night, and if anything happened after that, you could read the news in next morning’s paper, delivered right to your front door.

 

Amazing.

 

On the other hand, we never have to be dumb or ignorant for very long. We hear immediately when a Royal goes into labor, gives birth, reveal’s the new little prince’s name. We know the nanosecond a celebrity dies (except for Abe Vigoda who never could make up his mind) as Facebookers or Twitterers race to the internets to offer their public condolences, a thinly veiled ruse to be first in letting you know how well they’re connected, which always strikes me as funny. And it is cool to engage with people you admire, to have an inside glimpse into their behind-the-scenes lives. And sometimes you make a real connection that translates to real life and geography doesn’t really matter.

 

Social media has it’s lovely sides, too. What we see or read can inspire us to go and do likewise.

 

Recently, a real life friend of mine I haven’t seen face to face in forever began posting images of watercolors she painted. Oh…my…her work was beautiful and I would have guessed she was an art major before becoming a full time mama. When I asked if she was taking classes, she admitted she was just trying something new.

 

Well….

 

Slap me naked and hide my clothes–girlfriend just unearthed an incredible gift.

 

And here’s the beauty: Rebekah inspired me to try something new because she tried something new.

 

Right after this, our church hosted a two-night water color class. I signed up immediately. With low expectations, high hopes, and a few butterflies fluttering around my stomach, I walked into class. The first night we were instructed what to paint (a landscape), but the second night we could choose on our own.

 

I knew exactly what I wanted to paint: fat birds, like my friend, Rebekah.

 

While my little creations were far from perfect, I absolutely love both! Watching them come to life and at least resemble what I was going for thrilled me. Starting with a blank page and swirling a paintbrush into a little color you create something from nothing.

Fat Bluebird

 

Painting is magic!

 

I begged Rebekah to send me an original, and I meant it. I would have bought one (I love having my friends’ art on the wall). When she asked for my address I crossed my fingers and yesterday I received her prize: Fat Robin’s pretty cousin! We must’ve drawn inspiration from the same image, and looking at the differences between her painting and mine, I learned a few things. Again, Rebekah is teaching and inspiring me by being herself and doing something she loves!

 

 

Rebekah also sent me a beautiful journal with a strong call to action (thought she’d never see it as anything more than a word of encouragement):

 

Keep trying new things!

 

If that isn’t a challenge for One Year 365 Opportunities, I don’t know what is.

 

Don’t miss the important takeaway: if Rebekah hadn’t tried something new herself, when would I have tried my hand at watercolor? I would’ve missed out on a delight of my heart, a creative opportunity that feeds my soul. By pursuing a new thing, a new passion, my sweet friend inspired me. Sometimes inspiration begets inspiration.

 

This is when I love social media: Rebekah and I haven’t seen each other since I moved from Chattanooga five years ago (I don’t think?) but we’re able to stay connected through Instagram. Her friendship continues to be a blessing.

 

You have no idea who you’re inspiring just by being you. And if someone has inspired you by simply being who they are? Tell them!

 

 

 

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Oh, lovely day

Posted by on Feb 15, 2018 | 4 comments

i.

Today is Valentine’s Day, one of my favorite days of the year, one of the happiest reasons to celebrate life: it’s all about love.

 

I am wearing hot pink shoes now, but I think I’ll be changing into the ones dipped in glitter, gold and a thousand points of light. A thousand reflections of love.

 

Shoes can say a lot about a person; not always, but sometimes. Today mine tell you I’m feeling sassy and defiant. Sassy speaks for itself, but the defiant part is me telling Cruel Things they will not be the boss of me. Not today.

 

There has been a long-standing tradition in my family: a tea party on Valentine’s Day. It all started over 23 years ago when my mother-in-law asked me if we could host a mother-daughter Valentine Tea Party. As a mama to four boys, she was longing for girly things something awful. Her first grandchild, our daughter, paved a way to all manner of pink and frilly.

 

For almost two decades we hosted a Valentine Tea. My heart swells and aches at the memories.

 

Sarah will not be with us today. She’s home, confined to bed, her love of almost 65 years caring for her around the clock. To me, dementia has stolen the best parts of her, but her one and only still sees that girl he fell in love with. He will tell you he loves her more now than ever. He means it. When he looks at her and tells her “You’re so pretty,” your heart will split in two.

 

So, I’m raising my fist in defiance, a small and almost silly gesture, but significant to me in that I WILL carry on this tradition because it means something important. Geography and circumstance force a different type of Valentine Tea but its heart beats just the same.

 

Love. Friendship. The company of women drawn close. 

 

I have been working for four days straight to get ready–not because anyone else cares or expects that, but a) because nothing like a party to kick my housekeeping into high gear, and 2) the effort is a love note to my guests.

 

The work that precedes opening my home to others is worship. It’s an offering and opportunity–yes! That’s it: OYTO! It’s my personal battle cry springing to action, enlisting others to help. We weren’t meant to go it alone, to carry the world on our shoulders. ¬†But we do this, don’t we? I’m trying to break that old habit because the joy is amplified and the weight lightened when sisters bear the load never intended for one. There’s mutual blessing in the service, the offering, the worship. And this is the kindness of God in this season; He affirms the “who” and the “how” and I remember all over again there’s no “I” in team or teamwork, and laughing with other people is much more fun than laughing alone.

 

ii.

If you could explode from joy, I’d be splattered all over my house.

 

Yesterday was perpetual motion, and by the time I fell into bed I felt it all. My bones were tired, but my spirit was…satisfied. I’m surprised satisfaction feels so good.

 

I thought about Sarah often throughout the day, all of it a testament to her strength and resolve. Teary moments threatened a few times, but I banished them quickly. There’s a time for all that, but not during the Valentine Tea. In a gesture to bind together old tradition with new, I read the intro from Emilie Barnes, “An Invitation to Tea.” It perfectly expresses the heart of our Tea, and Sarah had always included it.

 

I wish I had taken more pictures, but here’s the thing about that: I haven’t figured out how to be fully present and live behind a camera. It’s one or the other but not both. The more accurate thought is I wish I had more pictures, but my mind’s eye still sees each precious face and my soul remembers every connection.

And, this, to me, is where Body Life is so beautiful–I don’t think we ever necessarily talked about God but we flat out lived it. Not to pat ourselves on the back – good googlie-mooglie, heaven forbid¬†that! – but sometimes we need to recognize that living the gospel IS preaching the gospel, and all at once this little tea party tradition sparked something new in my heart, and I’m curious if it will smolder to ashes or blaze into fire.

 

Time tells that kind of thing. If it’s the real deal it’ll burn.

 

iii.

 

Can you scooch over here and let me admit something? I’m not quite sure how to say it, and I sincerely, truly, really really hope you hear me….

 

I’m worried some people who find their way to these words will feel their eyes turning green. Maybe they’ll wish they could’ve been there or feel void in their own lives, or maybe they’ll compare home or friends or gifts, or, I don’t know what, but click away from the page feeling less than or lonely.

 

If that’s you, darling…and I say this gently but firmly:¬†stop it.

 

That’s the enemy of your heart talking, and I promise, his is a convincing voice. Don’t believe the lies.

 

I’ve felt the angst of all that. I’ve swum those dark waters.

 

I have wasted years wanting things never intended for me.

 

Wasted. Years.

 

I loathe a victim mentality. What I hadn’t realized was me envying or coveting what someone else had was me playing the victim. Blech. The wallow is an ugly thing and accomplishes the work of your enemy by distracting you from the Lord has for you.

 

For you.

 

Be the one to BE the one. Ask a neighbor to come over and serve her leftovers for lunch; she cares more about time together than what it is you’re serving. Get a group of people together to go see a movie and dessert after. Stop wanting what other people have and create community by gathering together the people who are already around you.

 

Bloom where you’re planted. If you can’t be with the ones you “love,” love the ones you’re with. Okay…so now I’m resorting to song titles and clich√©s, but if the shoe fits wear it. (I’ll stop now…. ~ smile ~ )

 

Give from your void.

 

Give.

 

We could mine the spiritual dimensions of all this til the end of time – thoughts on contentment and joy and satisfaction and a million other things, but I’ll leave it at give to give and not give to get. I’m convinced that giving to give (glory to God, blessing to others…) brings greater gain than giving to get could ever accomplish.

 

The Valentine Tea Party is about giving who I am and what I have, which gives glory to God. The gain to me is an abundant satisfaction in learning that me being me is more than enough. It’s what the Lord has been trying to teach me for a long, long while. He wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of, you know, creating me, if I didn’t matter to this world.

 

The same applies to you.

 

Click away knowing that who you are is more than enough, and get busy discovering who and what it is that God is prompting in you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Honest Thoughts About #GivingTuesday

Posted by on Nov 28, 2017 | 2 comments

GivingTuesday2017

I love Holly Hunter.¬†An Academy Award- and Emmy-winning actress, she seems to take¬†any role and make it memorable; she dies to self while her characters come to life. I appreciate her talent, sure, but maybe tipping the scale for my fangirldom is the fact she’s Southern, born just up the road from me in Conyers, Georgia. Her accent makes me happy. Instead of sounding like some illiterate, backwoods miscreant – the way Southerners are too often played in film and television – her voice is comfort food to the ear. As Tammy Hemphill¬†in 1993’s The Firm, she delivers one of my favorite movie lines of all time when convict Ray McDeere tells her he “loves her crooked little mouth.” She quips…

It’s not my best feature.

Gah–J’adore! (Shout out to my friend Lisa M. who jinxed me with this line!)

Anyway, that scene always comes to mind when one of my, say, “lesser qualities” rises¬†to the surface. Like today. Today is known far and wide as Giving Tuesday. My first instinct is cynical.

GivingTuesday2017

My cynicism is birthed out of priority:

  1. Black Friday.
  2. Small Business Saturday.
  3. Sunday usually equals more of #1 and #2–retailers and e-tailers are smart that way even if Sunday doesn’t have an official name.
  4. Cyber Monday.

And with whatever you have leftover after all that manic spending, tip your favorite charity on Giving Tuesday.

See? Not my best feature.

Here’s the thing, though. While my first instinct is cynicism, it’s not where I land. I am a bargain shopper. I understand that this season sometimes¬†offers the most savings of items you plan to buy anyway.

More than anything, I believe that giving is good.

 

And when there’s a global movement encouraging citizens of the world to give to organizations and causes who represent undeniable need, we should respond with great generosity.

 

#GivingTuesday reminds us giving isn’t only about dollars and cents–

…whether it‚Äôs some of your time, a donation, gift or the power of your voice in your local community….

but a financial gift is always an easy and immediate way to respond.

 

There is no dearth of non-profits to support, but three I’d very personally love for you to consider¬†are:

  • CrossPurpose. 2¬Ĺ years ago, freshly graduated and with a degree in community development, my daughter accepted an urban leadership development fellowship in Denver, CO. On the ground, working to eradicate poverty in their city, CrossPurpose in an incredible organization that teaches people how to fish for a lifetime instead of feeding them for a day. When her fellowship ended, Rachel accepted a full-time position with CrossPurpose. We’ve met those who serve and are served by this visionary organization. Your dollars here change lives, now and forever.
    CrossPurposeDenverLogo
  • Compassion. Eight years ago I traveled to Kolkata (Calcutta) with Compassion International, and it’s still changing my life. Compassion is a world-wide organization that works by investing in local people and projects to do the work of caring for the least of these. I was privileged to observe first-hand what this looks like, and I’m convinced it’s the best, most reputable sponsor program out there.
    CompassionBlogger_RobinDance_India

 

  • Salvation Army. Ringing the bell for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Drive has become an annual tradition for me; it was fascinating to learn so much my first year (10¬†Things Salvation Army Bell Ringers Want You To Know is one of my most popular posts of all time). The Red Kettle Drive is a great example of every gift matters–whether pocket change or folding money, every donation thrills the bell ringer AND makes a difference in your community. Which goes the same for my¬†online campaign: gifts of any size are welcome! (Please help me reach my humble goal?)
    Ringing Salvation Army Bell

Your support doesn’t have to end with the organizations I’ve mentioned here; I’m sure there are many near and dear to your heart. But I sincerely hope you join me AND THE ENTIRE WORLD in giving something today.

Because something is always better than nothing, yes?

xo

 

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The Kindness of Strangers

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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