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The Heart of Marriage (& a Perfect Gift Idea for Valentine’s Day!)



Posted by on Feb 14, 2017 | 1 comment

The Essence of Love by Robin Dance - #HeartofMarriage


There was no way to know 35 years ago where we’d be today. Certainly not literally, but not even in a figurative sense.

12,775 days, give or take. Plenty of ups, our share of downs, and all beautiful in their time.

I believe it–that everything is beautiful in time. Beauty from ashes might be the most lovely.

The Heart of Marriage releases today. It’s a collection of essays about marriage, curated by my long-time blogging friend, Dawn Camp. I’m thrilled to be included in this collaboration; it’s personal.

Originally Dawn and her editors were going to feature an essay I wrote on our 26th anniversary, an exploration of what love is, and isn’t, maybe best summarized in one of my favorite lines from the piece:

Love usually doesn’t happen in a moment, it happens in a life.

However, ultimately Dawn’s team choose another piece I offered to them, The Essence of Love. Or at least I think that’s the title they kept–I haven’t see the book yet, so I’m not 100% sure about the title.

I cried when I read it again. It’s a glimpse of my in-laws’ story, a love story as rare as it is extraordinary. In it, my father-in-law offered an unexpected and provocative caution–

“People want to know how we’re still so in love, how we have such a good marriage,” he began. And the next thing he said was the kind of thing pulls your attention taut, “Having a good marriage doesn’t have anything to do with trying to have a good marriage.”

I hope you’re curious enough to read the rest of it; do pick up a copy of the book to read it( and so many other love-tales). I’ve heard it’s on the shelves at Barnes and Noble just in time for Valentine’s Day (and maybe your favorite local bookstore), but you can get it on sale at Amazon (affiliate link provided).

OH–a bonus! In my piece for The Heart of Marriage, it begins by referencing something else I wrote; it’s best when read together. If you’re interested, please read The Essence of Love || When Love is a Pie.

It’s coming up on two years since I wrote it, and what was true then is even more true today: Things are different now, and business isn’t as usual.

But, still, beautiful in time….

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When You Don’t Feel the Love



Posted by on Feb 25, 2016 |



There’s little doubt that familiarity breeds contempt, but recently I found myself wondering if familiarity can breed contempt even when it comes to Scripture. (Gasp!)

There’s part of me that scolds myself — a heretic at best, guilty of apostasy or blasphemy at worst — but if you hear me out, maybe you can identify? When I’m brutally honest with myself, I see how easily it can happen. It’s not a matter of disdain or unbelief, but more a case of having read or heard “go-to” passages so many times, you gloss over it or think there’s nothing new to learn or that you already know it all as it relates to that verse or this chapter.

But here’s the kicker: we might not even realize we feel that way. It’s as subtle as speed-reading through familiar words or skipping a section altogether because you “know” it so well.  Oh, our enemy is a wily one.

I was thinking on this because I had sensed that Holy Spirit tug to write about 1 Corinthians 13, the greatest treatise on “love” ever penned. I’d wager even new believers or unbelievers immediately think Love is patient, love is kind, upon hearing the Scripture reference. It felt incredibly cliché to write about love during the month we celebrate Valentine’s Day, except . . . except . . . the battle in my head and heart was so fierce, it seemed important to listen.

Why would God want me to write about love? And perhaps a more telling question, why would our enemy not want me to write about love?

When I realized the simple answer to both questions was identical, the wrestle was over: 


 Oh, I hope you’ll click to keep reading this one. It’s something I’ve found myself sharing in so many different situations lately.


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The Wedding Gift and Mr. Housman



Posted by on Aug 11, 2015 | 8 comments

Toulouse from Reed and Barton Select

Mr. Housman was a crusty old man with gravel in his voice.


A stubble of white dusted the sides of his head. His skin was a map of liver spots and blotches. When he stood his tallest I could look him square, and his belly looked like he had swallowed a watermelon whole.

Mr. Housman was never in a hurry. Even if those stubby legs could’ve shuttled him faster, he wouldn’t have bothered. He had lived long enough to learn that getting there quicker wasn’t always better. Better than most, he knew life was less a straight shot and more a tangled road.

If Mr. Housman were a book, you’d do yourself wrong to judge him by the cover. He was much, much more than meets the eye.  Slipping out in a wink or slight nod, mischievousness might’ve been his superpower.

He had been with the company longer than I had been alive.

When I first met him, I was intimidated. I was fresh out of school and he was a walking institution. I thought I knew something until I was around people like him. When in the presence of a sage, I became aware of how little I knew, how brief my life had been in comparison. People like Mr. Housman had trudged the history I had only read about in school.

My perception started shifting as soon as the stories began. His prickly veneer masked satin.

Mr. Housman had one son and one wife. He’d say he got it right the first time. Among a pile of surprises I’d learn about Mr. Housman was finding out he and his missus fostered children. More than you can count on your fingers and toes. That’s something.

That’s great love.


When I got engaged, the company I worked for hosted a bridal luncheon a few weeks before I left to start my new life. I remember sitting around a long table full of people, most of whom probably came for the good eats more than the good-byes. Mr. Housman wasn’t among them.

A few days later he stopped me in the hall and squired me to a quieter spot. He handed me a beautifully wrapped gift, heavy and easy enough to guess what was inside–a set of flatware. Though I would never admit it to him, I knew we weren’t going to use it. I had bought a good set of stainless when I moved out on my own a year earlier and I had registered for “nice” silverware when we engaged.

Soon enough, however, I would discover Mr. Housman’s gift was a seed for a dream…


…but that’s another story for another time.

When he handed me the gift, he winked and said something like, “This is just a cover…” and I was confused as he reached to shake my hand, an odd gesture even for an odd man. He withdrew his own hand leaving a small slip of paper in my palm, or at least that’s what it felt like until I looked down.

It was a yellow post-it note with three words in his familiar script. One of those surprises about Mr. Housman you wouldn’t have anticipated was his beautiful penmanship.

“Go, and quietly.”

I turned it over and it was stuck tight to a neatly folded $100 bill. (In today’s dollars, about $212, a very nice gift.) I quickly glanced up to challenge him – it was much too lavish a gift – and, without a word, he dismissed me with a wave of his hand as he turned to walk away.

Twenty-eight years later, the flatware is still unopened in its original box, still a dream’s seed.

Twenty-eight years later, Mr. Housman’s wedding gift is the one I remember best.


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A Secret to Lifelong Marriage



Posted by on Jul 8, 2015 | 1 comment


Matthew 633 - Heart image with text by Robin Dance

We didn’t talk for two days after I wrote about him. Them. It wasn’t because he wouldn’t but because he couldn’t.

“I know it’s all true because I’ve lived it,” he quivers, “but it’s still hard to believe when you see it in writing.” My words are mirror to their lives, an undistorted reflection of what I’ve observed for over 30 years.

At 75, he and his bride still hold hands. At times I’ve seen them look at each other, grins telling secrets, eyes sizzling. Their son ignored it because – gross – but I thought it was…kind of amazing.

Marriage is a hard thing, and untended, it will cool. 

I want heat.

Even the most blistering of fires will eventually dwindle to ash if not fed. 

Give me flames.

When I wrote about my father-in-law, apparently I poked a bear. Not a mean, grumpy grizzly but more along the lines of Pooh–not exactly a willy, nilly, silly old bear, but sweet nevertheless. With all manner of deference, he suggested a different title (his, based on a poem he penned 25 years ago, is better) and that I might want to rethink my choice of words in one spot (because I “might present myself better”), so I did.

And then he reminded me of the secret to their 54-year marriage lest there was any doubt, to make certain I understood.

“People want to know how we’re still so in love, how we have such a good marriage,” he begins. And the next thing he says is the kind of thing pulls taut your attention…

Having a good marriage doesn’t have anything to do with trying to have a good marriage…


A simple truth that doesn’t begin to be easy.
Please, please click to continue reading A Secret to Marriage for Life at incourage!

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The Essence of Love || When Love is a Pie



Posted by on Jun 21, 2015 | 9 comments


The Essence of Love

I don’t remember so much meeting him that first time, I remember meeting her.


She was standing, arms crossed, in their garage, awaiting her oldest son’s arrival home with his new girl. I was stunned when I laid eyes on her. Their resemblance was so remarkable I could have plucked her out of a crowd a thousand strong. It was the eyes, the same ones I was coming to love in her son. Envy-blue and brilliant.

She welcomed me like she already loved me.

That weekend is a blur, save for first and last things–initial impressions and Sunday lunch. Of course she used her fine china. She and I were the only girls at their dining room table that day; we were circled by the love of her life and the loves of their lives–a mess of boys four strong. I think the china and crystal and silver met her need for a little civility.

Hers had not been a childhood of indulgence. She appreciated nice things because they were rare and special, not because she was entitled or spoiled. Quite the contrary.

Sarah would come to teach me many things over the ensuing 30 years, so it just makes sense she’d start at our beginning.

Use your nice things or what’s the point of having them? China isn’t made to sit in a box; it’s a precious thing that reminds us that any moment around a table is sacred and cause for celebration.

She regarded lifestyle over lecture, and lessons were learned by osmosis. We’d eventually spend a lot of time in her kitchen, so it was perfectly natural for me to become a sponge absorbing everything there was to soak up.

Serving others was as natural to her as breathing. She had been saved by grace and her focus was as outward as anyone I’ve ever met. I’m sitting here trying to think of a time she was self-serving and I can’t. Unless you count how “one” she was with her husband – she was always about serving him – so maybe in a convoluted sense, she was a little self-serving after all.

Sarah managed to be about taking care of others without ever playing the martyr card, with never a complaint. There was no obvious sense of obligation or responsibility in her motives, just simple acts of service birthed in love. As if that were a small thing.

It wasn’t obvious when things changed. Subtleties are best noticed in hindsight.


One time we were talking and I must’ve been going on about how sweet she was, how she never seemed to do anything “bad.” Or maybe our conversation was about my propensity to use colorful language at times but that I had never heard a profane word come out of her mouth. Whatever the context, she laughed and told me a friend had once said, “Sarah wouldn’t call it ‘s—‘ if she stepped in it,” and I thought, “Ah ha! There’s one!” Might’ve been the only.

Sarah is beautiful and if you met her today, you’d never guess she’s 75. Her black hair is finally graying but those steely blue eyes still sparkle; that was literally what I told her a few weeks ago – Your eyes are sparkly!  In the midst of so much change, I’m thankful that hasn’t; on most days, anyway.

Tommy cooks for them now. After over 50 years as the head chef, Sarah has stepped down. I’m not sure she realizes the seismic shift as much as the rest of us, she’s rather congenial and accepting of the way things are.

This is a hard, sweet thing for all of us:  hard because, while Sarah looks the same, she isn’t, but sweet because of what I see in a 55-year-old marriage:

Deep, self-sacrificing, unconditional love.

Sweet, too, because of the evolution of my relationship with my father-in-law, my father-in-love. My amazing, 75-year-old FIL who recently got an iPad and an iPhone…and sweet mercy, uses both! We FaceTime and share recipes and talk about my children and Whole30 and taking Fish Oil supplements…and about Sarah and the Lord, the two most important things in his life.

Tommy had a Damascus Road salvation encounter decades ago, and he’s been preaching and teaching ever since. His life’s laser focus is knowing God and making Him known. He has ministered in places the likes of which I’ve never seen, and he sees every personal encounter as Divine Appointment and opportunity to share Jesus. He’s comfortable in low places because he knows the Cross is planted on level ground.

He’s had a prison pulpit for over 20 years. His parishoners are often the least of these. He’s given away most everything he’s ever owned. He knows how to work the earth, he’s well acquainted with hard labor, his hobby is raising cattle.

When he hugs you, you know he means it.

He’s an uncommon man who knows the language of tears.

The other day, after several phone calls and me coaching him on the method behind my pie crust (the best one in the world by some accounts), he sent me this picture:

Blueberry-Peach Pie

Actual, unretouched photograph, because any alteration would be photoshopping a precious love story.


If it’s true a picture paints a thousand words, this one paints a 1000-word love story.


I’m a good cook and a confident baker. I don’t have a problem in the world saying so because it’s not said with a shred of arrogance, but to pay homage to the the woman who has taught me well, much to my husband’s delight. Many of my recipes were first birthed in Sarah’s kitchen, and I can’t imagine how many hundreds of questions she’s answered over the years, some of them over and over.

No matter how many times I’ve had her explain how she makes fried chicken – even watched every step – I’ve never gotten it right.  I might’ve earned brownie points for trying, but not for fully succeeding.

Sarah’s cooking is well known far and wide, and the only reason my father-in-law doesn’t weigh 300 pounds is because of his cowboy ways. He never stops moving.

But cakes and pies? Outside of her Coconut and Italian Cream cakes, I can keep up with her. Our sour cream pound cakes are indistinguishable, and years ago I was even tapped to bring not one, but two, apple pies to all our family gatherings.

But, like I said, things are different now, and business isn’t as usual.

Tommy and Sarah are living the most incredible ministry of their lives.


They aren’t able to do some of the things they’ve done week in and week out for as long as I can remember, but they’re still devoted to serving at the prison as often as they can, and ministering to the poor living down the road a bit.

But that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the beauty of a 75-year-old man making a Blueberry-Peach pie because his bride couldn’t, and how she looks at him when he speaks. Did you hear me? Her eyes sparkle when she looks at him. If he leaves the room, she can’t stand being apart and she’ll look for him until she finds him. Love is being lived out in patience, tenderness and understanding, even under a canopy of unanswered questions.

They still hold hands. A lot.

And when we checked in today to wish him a happy Father’s Day, we found them watching golf but mostly napping, her nestled in his arms, quiet and content to just be.

The way he is living out his faith today might not be as loud as when he’s preaching behind a pulpit, but it’s speaking volumes.

“…lifestyle over lecture, lessons [to be] learned by osmosis…”

When he looks at her he still sees that girl who stole his heart at 14.

Always and forever.

The pie was delicious.


A kiss


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50 Shades of Play



Posted by on Feb 16, 2015 | 9 comments

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50 Shades of Play - Quote about sex as a gift

On Friday when I was in the shower I was thinking about all the things I had planned for Valentine’s weekend instead of going to see 50 Shades of Grey. One thought led to another, dry kindling stacked and doused with kerosene, and before I could properly rinse the shampoo from my hair, I was in front of my laptop. My insides were on fire and words are water to burning fingers.

Fifty Shades got on my radar a few years ago when my friend Stephanie told me all about it. A l l about it. I remember thinking then, I wonder how they could make a movie out of t h a t, which was ridiculously naive, because Of Course They Can.

I thought about why I have zero interest in seeing the movie and only mild curiosity about how they could adapt the book to an “only” R-rated film. Readers will insist the book is better than the movie, but men will just be glad their woman had a need to compare.

I have thoughts.

I wish I could say it was my faith convictions that are keeping me from seeing the movie, but that isn’t it. Maybe I should feel bad about that, but mostly I feel guilty that I don’t feel guilty.

I claim grace.

I won’t go because I know what a movie like that does to me. It takes up residence. It hijacks my ideas and implants its own. Images become a lingering haunt, rude ghosts who refuse to leave or that show up when I’m not expecting company.

I can’t unsee them.

This isn’t me judging or condemning anyone, not at all! None of us is righteous, but there is one who is for our sake. Reading the book or seeing the movie won’t send you to hell any more than going to church will bring you salvation. So if I know what a movie like that does to me, it means I’ve seen movies like that, I see movies or shows like that. No judgment, no condemnation. I understand.

I just happen to be drawing a line because of all my knowing.

A movie like that takes on flesh – yours…mine – and if you say otherwise I won’t believe you; or maybe you’re just much, much better than me. It crawls under skin and looks for a way out. It’s gonna show itself one way or the other because that’s its nature. Show, in the secret places; but Tell…the Tell will be something that you know, whether or not you ever admit it to yourself or confess it to another.

And I was imagining how a movie like that teaches you things. Sure it does. I mean, if you aren’t already practicing what it’s preaching.*

And I was thinking how a wife might try a move or two on her husband because she’s learned a thing or two, and what she tries might not even be anything related to the movie or book. But she’s willing to try because, like I said, it gave her ideas.

It primed the pump….

Spoon stirring passion.

And a husband might even appreciate the gesture – variety, spice and all that – but if I were him I’d resent it just a little, that it takes something like a stupid movie to get his wife all hot and bothered and willing to try something new.

And I thought Valentine’s Day…sweet, sweet Valentine’s Day, and then, What in the hell is romantic or loving or good about watching actors having fake kinky sex on a 30-foot movie screen with a theater full of people?

No thank you.

And it’s not that I’m as judgy as this sounds, but I wish it were a different world sometimes, that’s all.


I want more for the women in my life. I want more for the men in my life.


My daughter, my sons. My family, my friends.

My husband.


Sex is an incredible gift born in paradise when the world was perfect.


I can’t fully appreciate Song of Solomon – comparisons from another time and culture falling short – but of this there is no doubt: it is an intense expression of love and fidelity, longing and desire. The bride and groom are ravenous, and they notice everything about each other. There is no shame in their appetite, their affections undivided. They call out beauty and respect and the kind of intimate knowing we all crave.

Oh, yes, don’t we hunger to be known and loved and seen as beautiful in another’s eyes?


When will we realize we already are by the One who matters most?


We hunger to be known and loved and seen as beautiful quote from 50 Shades of Play

I love what my wise college roommate said when I told her what I was writing about:

Song of Songs could be seen as a correction to what the Lord knew we were capable of doing to his beautiful gift of intimacy between husband and wife as He spells out in Genesis. He knew we could either treat it as something to be ashamed of (desire, our bodies or enjoyment), or we could perverse sex and take it out of the context of God’s design, using it to manipulate, control, or share with people outside of His will.

The scripture gives us a beautiful picture of what He meant it to be, between a husband and wife, intimately shared together and with no one else. There is passion, desire and intimacy that declares the deep union of a husband and wife; yet also gives a picture of the Gospel.

Grace God gives, and grace we desperately need.


There are women in my life, friends I cherish, a daughter by birth and more by love, and I want more for them. I want the best for them.

How could it possibly be best to learn about sex from watching actors act out sex? In a movie (or book) that reduces a woman to an object of pleasure, regardless of her eventually finding pleasure herself, and particularly when the form is abusive, demeaning and at times violent?

In a culture where we’ve already become desensitized to sexual perversity on varying levels, I refuse to continue lowering the bar to normalize or accept deviant behavior.*

So what to do?

What if we went to the Creator of sexuality and pleasure and studied His way and will? What if Ancient words informed our ideas and the way we see our mates and our roles in marriage? My goodness, take a few minutes to read Song of Solomon with an open mind and a willing spirit and free your imagination to figure out what it means for you, your marriage.

And I know marriage is imperfect, and we’re tired, and we aren’t treated the way we want to be treated or we aren’t seen the way we so long to be seen or we feel like we’re growing apart or we sense that our spouse doesn’t even know us?

What if we let that go?

What if we respected our mates the way they so desperately long to be respected? Love is one thing, respect is another.

What if we released any sense of entitlement or rights or, this might be the hardest, our wants and needs?

What if we made it our business to be a student of our spouse, to know him in a way that feeds his soul, that esteems him and extends grace?

What if we appreciated the way he speaks love, so often in a language foreign to our own tongue?

What if we received the way he speaks love as love?

What if we tried to speak it back?

What if you believed that he loves you?

What if you believed that your spouse wants you?

The porn industry generates almost a trillion dollars primarily for one reason: men like to see naked woman.

The only naked woman a husband should be looking at is his wife.

So, are you withholding that from him?

I understand…it’s hard.

Age takes it’s toll.

Pregnancy changes our bodies.

Photoshopped images of beautiful women with perfect bodies assault us everywhere we go, and we’re defeated before we begin.

Why is it so hard to trust that a husband views his wife through love-tinted glasses and still sees the girl he first fell for?

– – –

I shared part of this post with a few close friends and I was surprised that most of them saw it as a stand against a movie; understandably, because that’s what started the whole thing. While it wasn’t my intention to climb up on a soapbox, I want to make sure you know which one I’m standing on:

The hot-sex-in-marriage soapbox. That one.

It’s titled 50 Shades of Play because originally I thought I’d write a piece with general suggestions and encouragement for spicing up the bedroom sans the help of Hollywood.

I guess I reached for the wrong glass of water.


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Note: I’m purposefully not using terms and abbreviations that describe Christian Grey’s sexual predilections.  
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