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Oh, lovely day

Feb

15

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 clichés, 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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The Gift of a Lifetime

Dec

15

Posted by on Dec 15, 2017 | 2 comments

 

We moved to a new house over the summer. Invariably, that meant we not only had to unpack all the items from the small house we had lived in for the past several years; but also furniture and possessions that had been stored since we sold our (much larger) home in Tennessee.

 

If you’ve had a major move, you know that some unpacking can be tricky. It’s not just you moving to a different house, all of your things have to find a new place to live, too. Well, all the things you haven’t given away, sold, or thrown out.

 

Sentimental attachments are the most challenging things for me to deal with. It is the one area of my life where I might just be a hoarder. The thing is, some of my sentimental attachments are ridiculous–EVERY tee shirt that represents a fun memory doesn’t need to take up space in a drawer. That cool glass from a formal in college? Seriously? I didn’t drink out of it then, and I’m not about to stick it on a shelf now.

 

I finally got around to one of the last boxes a few weeks ago, and what I thought would take a few minutes ended up taking all day.  Of course it did–

 

It was the Story of My Life in cards, letters, and mementos.

 

 

 

Dating back to my Y camp days in grade school, there were hundreds of letters and cards from the people who defined each era. I remembered every person they represented. I recognized their handwriting even before reading the closing. Some of these letters are over 45 years old.

 

Some were folded sheets of notebook paper that had been passed in class. (Are you lucky enough to remember? Do kids even do that anymore?)

 

A few were super-sized cards.

 

Every single one of them represented a special relationship, a sweet friendship, the kind of knowing and intimacy we all long for, that sometimes we take for granted or forget when we get older.

 

Some of these friends hold my oldest and sweetest memories. Some are vaults for secrets I no longer remember. I’m thankful a few are still in my life, though geography and life trajectory means we aren’t necessarily close any more.

 

I “visited” college friends and friends who shared my life BK (before kids). There were thank you cards, encouragement cards, and “I’m glad we’re friends” cards.

 

I meandered the five-year off-again/on-again relationship I had with my husband. We just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.

 

Reading his words (and mine, he had saved all my cards and letters, too), I was transported back in time and could literally feel what I felt all those years ago. I remembered things I had long forgotten: he called me his little brown-eyed girl; I called him my little blue-eyed boy. Were we ever really that sickeningly gah-gah?? (yes, we were 🙂 )

 

That box might as well have been bedazzled in gold and brilliant gemstones–the treasure it held, priceless.

 

And then a lightning bolt struck:

 

Everything in that box was before the internet.

 

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Oh! I hope you’ll click over to continue reading The Gift of a Lifetime at The Art of Simple today.
(I’m trying so hard to practice what I preach…)

 

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The Panhandler’s Breath

Mar

26

Posted by on Mar 26, 2017 |

03232017_RobinDance_AlwaysRightEDIT

He slipped in sideways between the closing elevator doors, as if he were late to a meeting; he pressed the “5” without looking. Instead of suit and tie, though, baggy pants and faded navy hung on his tall, slim frame.

His stealth entry stiffened the hairs on the back of my neck.

I had noticed him a few seconds earlier, just after we had parted a sea of rowdy teens. He was smiling, grandfatherly, standing maybe 30 feet away where the downtown electric shuttle picks up.

I had no idea he had been watching us, studying us, predator patiently awaiting his next prey.

The four of us were sealed in a four-by-six-foot metal tomb. Tomb — that thought really muscled its way into my mind. I wondered if he had a knife in his pocket. I wanted to protect my son.

Fight or flight pumped adrenaline but there was nowhere to run.

 

A true story, the kind that reveals so much. Hope you click through to read
The Panhandler’s Breath over at incourage and
then share your own thoughts in response

(the last line still rattles me….).

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A Lavish Gift (& a Perfect Gift Idea for Valentine’s Day!)

Feb

14

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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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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