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If these walls could speak



Posted by on Jun 2, 2016 | 6 comments


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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If God is for you, WHO is against you?



Posted by on Jan 30, 2016 |


“The story of your life
is the story of the long and brutal assault on your heart
by the one who knows what you could be and fears it.”
John Eldredge, Waking the Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive

It almost seems like a dream to me, that season. I wouldn’t call it a nightmare exactly, but it was dark and desperate, and I couldn’t find my way to morning. I drifted through days marking time, barely living in the ways that matter most.

Right foot . . . left foot . . . breathe in . . . breathe out.

Perfunctory motion got me through another day.

That smile on my face was a masquerade, a lie — camouflaging the truth of my fractured heart.

I hid it well, or at least I think I did. Mostly anyway.

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.

It wasn’t difficult to hide behind my children. With three in school it was easy to volunteer myself to death. I hadn’t yet made the discovery I was an Olympic peace-keeper and people pleaser (something for which I’ll likely be in recovery ’til the end of my days), but I didn’t want to bother people with my woes. I had lived in this place only a short while and friendship roots were shallow. Plus, there were so many bigger, worser problems in the world.

Comparison is always a thief, isn’t it? 


Comparison can rob us of joy, yes, but sometimes she steals the dignity of our struggles. To suggest that my battle holds no significance simply because your battle has presumably greater weight is disservice to us both.

If it matters to me, it matters.
If it matters to you, it matters.

It was so long ago, but memory brings it close. Remembering even now brings shudders. But there was something I (finally) learned that changed e v e r y t h i n g.

* * *
Please click to continue reading If God is for you, WHO is against you?  It is one of the most crucial things a believer can cling to during those Holy wrestles. If not an encouragement you need to remember right now, please share this with someone who does.
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Posted by on Jan 3, 2016 | 2 comments

Red sky at morning


I was sitting in my kitchen, reading and alone. In the peace of Christmas Eve’s morning, I sensed something different, a change in atmosphere. There are a lot of windows in our small house; two entire sides of it are practically all glass. Streaming – practically screaming – through all of them was an eerie rosy glow, so peculiar it lured me outside to see if someone was shining a giant rose-colored light. No one was there, of course, but the old saying whispered–

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning…

And I wondered just what the day would bring.

If I wouldn’t be enjoying a white Christmas – unseasonable temperatures breaking record highs – a pink one was just fine by me.

Matching my delight in this magical sky was anticipation for the day to get on with itself. By suppertime all my children would be gathered ’round our table, a rarity anymore. Good food is secondary; it is these moments I savor.

Right now I’m a little in the dark. It’s an odd spot for me, someone who typically lives with an expectancy of good things, God things. I’ve prayed for direction for this new year, but I’ve felt more like a wanderer.

The sky felt like an omen.

I don’t mom on a daily basis anymore, not the way I’ve done for the past two decades or so. I’m thankful for good and challenging work, because it fills time and space, but I can’t help but question its significance. What does it really matter, you know?

But then in a stroke of divine timing, I stumble across a writer new to me: Rachel Naomi Remen. I don’t know anything (yet) of her faith persuasion, but she says some pretty wise things, the kind of things I needed to hear. In her words I remember that my life has meaning and significance, to remember what I already know.

And then it occurred to me how often God uses the sky to speak to me, today, yes, but a few weeks ago, a few years ago, and problem a zillion other times I didn’t bother to record in writing.

My babies were all out at 1:30 that afternoon when the warnings began. A tornado in December? What the heck?

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning….

It was surreal when the weatherman said the rotation was heading straight to us and I seriously wondered what it would sound like if our little stick-built house splintered. I was sitting in our only interior room with no windows, a powder room off our kitchen, toilet on one side and sink on the other, phone in hand, and wondering if a bike helmet ever saved anyone’s life in a tornado (the weatherman had said to go to your safe place and put on a helmet…). It was comical, but even my husband was on edge.

Soon enough the warnings passed and that swirling mass of air never touched the ground. No damage, no death, no splintered houses this time.

We’re into this new year now and I’m still on a Wander.

But the old year ended in wonder, and with a challenge to see anew.

A perfect place to end and begin again, don’t you think?


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Christmas Tree Toppers – Does Yours Come With a Story? (Angel, Star, Bow – DO Tell!)



Posted by on Dec 18, 2015 | 11 comments

Madame Alexander Christmas Angel

I waited a long, long while to find her, but the moment I saw her, I knew she was the one.

There was never any question about what I wanted to top our Christmas tree; not a bow or a star or but an angel. That decision was forged by the time I was five, my mother’s DNA pressed into me from the outside in, a small but lasting impression of what you’re supposed to do when you’re grown up.

So much of who we become is seeded in early memory, the things we remember, of course, but also the things we don’t even realize we remember.


Mama topped our tree with an angel, so, of course, that’s what you were supposed to do.

But I was picky. I couldn’t find an angel I liked. For years I settled for a big, colorful bow. Then one day I walked into Belks and I saw her, and the heavens opened amid a chorus of glorious hallelujahs.

Or maybe something a little less dramatic. And more quiet.

She was pricey. You are not going to get a Tuesday Morning deal on a Madam Alexander doll at Belks. I thought twice…three times. Probably four. But…

her red hair…

those green eyes…

her crooked wings…

She was absolutely, positively imperfectly perfect. 


Madame Alexander Angel Tree Topper


I know I know, she’s as far removed from a Biblical description of an angel as possible, but she represents the one who brought good news 2000 years ago. She’s visual reminder of a spiritual reality.


One thing that makes her more special today than when I found her +/- 20 years ago is I cannot find any Madame Alexander angel toppers today. When I searched images (and Amazon), I couldn’t even find another version of her (though, admittedly, I didn’t scroll beyond the first few screens of images).


It’s been forever since I’ve hosted any kind of a link-up, and I know it’s a busy time of year where I hope you’re offline more than on, but I’d love to see what tops your tree, and if there’s a story behind it, I hope you’ll share (either by way of a blog comment or even write about it and link a post below. You can also link a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter image).

Christmas Tree Topper - Link-up

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One of the Most Important Things I’ve Learned About My Kids Leaving Home



Posted by on Oct 16, 2015 | 15 comments

2015 - a milestone kind of year

Rarely has there been a year when our family has celebrated so many milestones and major events–

Our oldest (and only daughter) graduating from college and accepting an incredible two-year fellows position 1,500 miles from home.

Our youngest graduating from high school and going away to college.

Our middle son turning 21. Something about – everything about – that age means so much.

My husband and I becoming official empty nesters.

Not to mention the intricacies of life no one needs to know about; because even in this culture where there’s a bizarre compulsion to tweet, gram, scope or stream Too Much Information on a regular basis, some things are better served and reserved as Personal Matters. Sometimes what happens in a person’s life is none of my or your business. I think we forget that, what with all the opportunities for oversharing.

It takes one to know one, yes?

Anyway, what most of you precious blog readers of mine can’t possibly know is I’ve had a job for a few years with a company called GO GROUND. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it in this space or even as a social share. GO GROUND, a ground transportation logistics manager, is a young company beginning its fifth year as I begin my third. My role for the first two years was solely related to collegiate travel during the championships for fall, winter and spring sports. It has been short-term and seasonal, lasting about 6-8 weeks during each championship. An intense 6-8 weeks.

I’m proud to say I’ve worked with several national champions for Division 1, 2 and 3 schools, in mens and womens’ sports ranging from lacrosse to softball, volleyball to basketball. It’s fast and furious, and I’ve learned that March Madness is, indeed, a road to insanity.

In addition to serving as the NCAA’s exclusive ground transportation travel partner, GO GROUND also manages special events. We’ve just concluded work with the World Meeting of Families, which might not mean ring a bell to those who aren’t Catholic, but pretty much everyone will know who brought its closing remarks: Pope Francis. The World Meeting of Families is what brought the Pontiff to Philadelphia.

GO GROUND handled logistics primarily for those traveling by chartered bus to Philadelphia for the Papal visit. Mine was a dual role for the event: account coordinator working with bus operators and groups attending the event, and director of communications to the motor coach industry.

The Department of Homeland Security designated the WMOF as a “national special security event.” As such, extensive measures were put into place to assure the safety of all pilgrims and officials in attendance. Until you work with an event of this historic magnitude, you cannot imagine the intricate detail and planning that must take place. In addition to WMOF officials, GO GROUND worked with Homeland Security, the Secret Service, local and state law enforcement, local and regional transit authorities, departments of transportation in the tri-state area, and others.

My role began in June, the Papal weekend in Philly took place September 26th and 27th, and I’m still tying up a few loose ends before we close the World Meeting of Families book for good.

Did you notice the timing? I started working on this event within the month after my daughter graduating college and my son graduating high school. What began, by design, as a part-time position in June, had morphed into 30+ hours/week by August – right about the time we took my youngest to college. By Labor Day, I was at full-time hours, which happened to be the weekend we drove cross country to move my daughter into her new apartment, where she was to begin her fellowship.

Three weeks out, I worked almost 80 hours/week, and by the last week and week of the event, I was clocking around 100 hours/week.

Pope Francis and me

Never have I been more thankful to be busy.

I simply didn’t have time to dwell on my children’s absence.


I tell you all that for the sake of sharing this: I learned an invaluable lesson through my experience that will serve those of you younger than me. Tuck this away until you need it:

Plan s o m e t h i n g that occupies space and time when you’re facing empty nest.

I wish I could claim the wisdom of intentionally throwing myself into an all-encompassing work role, but the reality is it fell in my lap. Regardless, I see its great value.

Writing is a wonderful, creative, and sometimes therapeutic outlet. But it’s done in isolation and I’m given too much time to live in my head. For me, that can be defeating and sometimes dangerous. My job with GO GROUND has been the perfect compliment to my skill set, flexible enough to allow me to continue writing (except the past few months…!), but busy when I needed it to be.

Even though I didn’t realize the need.

I’m beginning to see more clearly the value of simply living a lot of years.

Experience provides insight you can’t possibly understand until you live it.

No substitute for experience quote

It’s incumbent on me – of all of “us” a few years farther along the way than “you” – to share what we’ve learned.

It’s up to you whether or not you’re listening.


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The Bookmark Thief



Posted by on Sep 1, 2015 | 4 comments

There were no greater treasures than her books - Robin Dance

It was likely birthed as a gentle correction to my inconsiderate transgression: I had dared to turn down the corner of a page in one of her books.

For one so young, she took good care of her special possessions, and there were no greater treasures than her books. These were no papery trophies staged on a shelf. They were stirrers of imagination, journeys of escape, introductions to new friends. It wasn’t hard to figure out those she loved most, loose bindings or passages lined and noted told on her.

You could read this child by studying her bookshelf, and even more so if you opened some of those books. For a season, she carefully applied Wite-Out to profanities, a discovery that made me shake my head in wonder and admiration. We were intentional parents who did our best to train a child in the way she should go, but this was beyond expectation. She was so much better than I ever hoped to be. In case you didn’t realize, “bad” words do show up in children’s books sometimes.

If memory serves me rightly, I was annoyed when she scolded me for folding a page corner to mark my place. She was making a mountain out of a molehill. I was disrespecting her property. Neither of us was particularly impressed with the other’s point of view.

I don’t think I fully understood the gravity of this breach to her until she handed me a present a few days later, a hand-stitched bookmark. Certainly, it served both of us, but it was no doubt a love offering. She paid for it with humanity’s most valuable currency – time – and to me it was priceless.

I was heartbroken years later when it was no where to be found.

 * * *

But this is a story with a happy ending, the kind punctuated with tears, heart-wrung but binding joy to sadness in the presence of good but hard things.


She found the bookmark she had sewn for me half her life ago.

She was in the process of turning her room into mountains, piles to sell, piles to give away, piles to throw away, piles to keep. The yuckiest pile was the one marked undecided; it held sentimental attachment but no practical good. Every thing was a symbol of something more, a memory or season worth holding onto. It wasn’t about the thing itself but the everything else of it that made these things so hard to get rid of. If you’ve got an old tee shirt in your drawer you haven’t worn in decades but won’t throw away, you know exactly what I mean.

Somewhere in the sorting and pile-making, she found my bookmark. Neither of us know why it was in her room but who cares? She found a treasured possession.

When I look at this bookmark, I see her then. I can sense her indignation over my scarring her precious book, and her satisfaction in figuring out a brilliant solution.

Uneven stitches…ragged edges…skewed alignment–the casual observer might see a mess of imperfection, but all I see is something perfectly beautiful.


The same could be said of all of us, I suppose.

* * *

When you’re raising your children it feels like it will last forever, doesn’t it?  The fridge is a revolving gallery, measuring time in footprints and thumbprints and handprints. Crooked letters and misspelled words. Construction paper and tissue paper, glitter and glue and gumption.

We save every masterpiece…

because we don’t quite know when the last one will be The Last One.

But make no mistake my friends, there is a Last One.

* * *

I find her sitting on the floor in her room surrounded by piles of things wanted and not, an undoing of the life she’s constructed for more than a dozen years. It will be the place she’ll remember as “home” when she’s grown and away, the house dreams about her childhood will travel back to.

The bookmark is on the floor next to her –  “The bookmark you made me…!” “Yeah, I’m not sure why it’s in here….” – and the sight of it slays me happy. It’s a prodigal, an old friend, treasure found, and surely it’s a good sign of some sort. The edges are a bit frayed and the ink escaped her lines, but those things only endear me further.

Sometimes you can love a thing so much it becomes an idol, but sometimes that thing is a just a placeholder for something else, and there’s no sin or shame in those affections.


Memories roll in like thunder. So do thoughts of her future.

In four days we’ll pack up the piles she decided to take and drive 1400 miles to go confidently in the direction of her dreams, to begin living the life she’s imagined.

The bookmark stays with me.



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