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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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I’m Mad And I Want You To Know Why

Oct

30

Posted by on Oct 30, 2017 | 8 comments

SpeakOutForYourself_RobinDance

Long ago and far away, or so it seems now, we lived in South Carolina. A few years after we landed there, a young couple moved to town, life-friends of my younger brother-in-law. We welcomed them with open arms; friends of family are friends of ours. They were barely out of newlyweddom when baby Dylan arrived. Stephanie and Trey loved him fiercely and completely, the way we all marvel at those firstborn, or let’s face it, every child we call our own.

Breastfeeding was a priority to Stephanie, and like any new mom, she expected to have questions along the way. When she complained to her doctor about a knotty sore place, she readily accepted his plausible explanation: a blocked milk duct (I massaged my way through a few of those painful devils). It was good news that satisfied her questions and concern, but this is what I would categorize as hearing what you want to hear (which is rarely a good thing).

Six months later Stephanie was dead, leaving behind a grieving husband and a son who would have no memory of her. She was 23. Cruelly, cancer cut her life short–six months from diagnosis to death.

My mother was 34 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer; she died at 38. Her mother died when she was 22, cancer again robbing a baby of knowing her mama. My sister is a survivor, creeping up on almost 20 years (thank you, Jesus).

I’ve lived under the Dark Cloud of Cancer Possibility my entire life (or at least as long as I remember). But as aware as I am for myself, taking all the preventive and proactive action I can for early detection and best health, I am even more aware for my daughter. She is 25 and has lived three years longer than her great-grandmother.

Medical opinions vary about when women with family histories of breast cancer should have their first mammogram; one popular suggestion is ten years prior to the diagnosis of first-degree relatives. While my daughter has no first-degree connection to breast cancer, her grandmother and great-grandmother died young, and her aunt endured aggressive treatment for DCIS and a malignant lump.

There are several methods to predict or evaluate your risk (for example, here or here). But I’m of the strong opinion it can serve you well to get a baseline early for future reference. 

Here’s the thing: no one wants to have a mammogram. They aren’t exactly painful, but they’re incredibly awkward and contort and smash your body into positions you didn’t know were possible.

Know what I say to that? So what? Get over your fear or dread or excuses. Early detection could save your life.

 

Continuing a streak of awesome adulting, my daughter recently decided to schedule her first mammogram (she’s a plane-ride away from me so if it’s going to happen, she has to make the effort without me dragging her kicking and screaming). She questioned me about anything she might need to know before she called a local provider, and I explained to her since it’s preventive (and given our family history), it’s covered under her insurance.

Well.

The office she called told her she did not need to have a mammogram yet, that she was too young and it wasn’t necessary. Of course, Rachel was thrilled and felt like she was off the hook for now. It was like they had handed her a “get out of jail free card.”

My response was volcanic.

 

“YOU DO NOT WANT TO GO TO A DOCTOR’S OFFICE THAT SUMMARILY DISMISSES A HISTORY LIKE OURS! FIND ANOTHER ONE! THIS IS NOT A TIME WHEN YOU CAN AFFORD TO BE SATISFIED HEARING WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR! YOU COULD BE DEAD! YOU’RE JUST ANOTHER PATIENT TO A NEW DOCTOR, SO IT’S UP TO YOU TO BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE FOR YOUR HEALTH! DO NOT ALLOW ANYONE TO MINIMIZE YOUR CONCERN!”

or some manner of poked mama bear vitriol.

I want my daughter to benefit from my experience, to learn how to make herself heard when others aren’t listening. It is too damn easy to accept a medical professional’s advice BECAUSE THEY’RE THE PROFESSIONAL. We want to hear the easy, not scary thing. But this I know:

I am my best advocate for my own health. So is my daughter. So are you.

 

We cannot afford to be passive when it comes to our bodies. We must be brave enough to press in and ask hard questions and resist the temptation to back down if there’s something still disquieting in our spirit. We must speak loudly until we are heard. Doctors are not perfect – one friend helped me put it in perspective by reminding me that they’re practicing medicine and don’t know everything -but if your doctor isn’t listening to you or quickly dismisses your concerns without relevant explanation, find another one.

We’re nearing the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month aka When Athletes Wear Pink; you don’t have to get a mammogram during October, but you DO need to have one if your age and/or family history warrants it. Even if your insurance won’t cover a baseline mammogram, it’s worth it to pay for one. Better yet, be on the lookout for free screenings. Most cities and towns host health fairs at some point during the year where you can receive a mammogram at no cost to you.

Just do it.

/end of rant

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#GivingTuesday – When it’s personal (a must-read no matter when you see this)

Nov

29

Posted by on Nov 29, 2016 | 2 comments

rachelandrobin-2

She had no idea what her words were doing to me that night. My heart was growing like the Grinch’s when he finally understood the mystery and beauty of Christmas.

 

Which I realize, as I tell this tale,  is essentially about the same thing: Giving.

Because isn’t Christmas rooted in giving? It’s about how a great, great God extended lavish grace to an undeserving world and gave love in human form, a way back to him. 

The Way back to him.

Love incarnate.

Jesus.

And in our car that night illuminated by freeway lights, she was the most luminous thing of all, her countenance aglow. I didn’t even have to look at her. You could feel her light. His light in her.

We had three hours on our drive home and she filled time and space with stories of her work. They poured out, water from a hydrant, quenching our desire to know more, to better understand.

She was the one on fire.

What my heart doing- growing – was greater joy, John tells me so. I believe him.

She wasn’t talking about what you should do to change the world around you, she was telling us about all she’s done. We know what she likely doesn’t:  She’s changing the world. All of them are, these co-laborers for a cause. There are many on either side of her, arms linked, stepping into hard places and leaving footprints. Sometimes literally.

She’s a college graduate who accepted a two-year fellowship working with poverty elimination.

She’s a college graduate who accepted a two-year fellowship where she has to raise her own salary, which happens to be as it were, below the poverty level. I did the math and it broke my heart.

But not hers. She hasn’t even noticed. She doesn’t understand how little she makes because as she looks around, she’s just like everyone else in her world. The one she’s changing.

And of course she has parents who can stand in the gap for anything she needs, and she knows better than me, the people she serves don’t have that luxury.

So, if you’re thinking about year-end giving or inspired by this day known as Giving Tuesday, and you haven’t already promised your hard-earned dollars to your own personal cause, I’m asking you to give to Cross Purpose, and I’m bold enough to add, as much as you can.

 

(If you’d like to give specifically to Rachel, be sure to add “To the ministry of Rachel Dance” in the notes section, but however you choose to give WILL make a difference in the lives of those earnestly taking the steps to walk out of poverty.)

Cross Purpose is a non-profit and seeks:

“to abolish relational, economic, and spiritual poverty through the power of redemptive relationships. CrossPurpose is a nonprofit ministry dedicated to the idea of neighborhoods without poverty.”

The world my daughter is helping to change specifically focuses on nine poor neighborhoods in Denver, CO. The way Cross Purpose is going about poverty elimination is revolutionary, and other organizations around the country are studying their model to learn more. Cross Purpose esteems and empowers the people they’re hoping to help; they do not consider them human projects to pity.

Rachel has just begun the second year of her fellowship and she still needs partners interested in investing in this special ministry. If you’d like to be added to her mailing list, drop me an email (click envelope at top right of page) or add a comment to this post (she will happy dance with every new friend!!). An excerpt from a recent update–

image

“One of the things I love about going to a multi-ethnic church is having the opportunity to meet people from different cultures. I’ve had the opportunity to build a relationship with one family from the Congo by driving them to church and spending time with them in their home. Last week after church, we were invited to their house for lunch and and to watch African music videos; soon, I will help their daughter practice driving. They have blessed me with their kindness, and honored me by making me a beautiful African dress (pictured at left).” 

 

Thank you for taking time to learn more about Cross Purpose. Thank you to infinity and beyond if you give financially. Whatever the amount, it will be stewarded well, and you can trust every gift matters.

One last ask: do you mind sharing this post? You can use the handy dandy share buttons below the post or copy this link:

http://bit.ly/ASpecialCauseforGivingTuesday

to share on Facebook, email to all your contacts, Tweet, Pin…or however you socially share :).

Mother and child will do the happy dance together, miles apart. 

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A father’s plea

May

05

Posted by on May 5, 2016 | 2 comments

A Fathers Plea - Dont text and drive
 An email shared with me today, from someone our family loves. I asked permission to post it here, hoping to share its heart-breaking message beyond his original recipients. Please read it as if your husband or father or brother or best friend wrote it; it’s that personal. It’s that important. If you’ve never shared a post of mine before, now is the time. Use the easy share buttons at the bottom of the post, cut and paste it, email it…I really don’t care. I believe it is so affecting, you could possibly be saving lives. Thank you. Love, Robin 

 

* * * * * * * * ** *

 

My beloved children,

 

This morning on my way to work I came up on a head on car collision that had just happened seconds earlier.  A young boy was thrown into the front seat in one car, air bags deployed on both cars. At first glance it appeared that one driver and the child may be dead. We could not open the doors and had to call 911 and wait. Fortunately the drivers and child started moving. When emergency rescuers arrived they were able to get the child out and it appears he will be okay. The drivers are alive but who knows if they have head trauma.

 

You guys know about the UGA girls and the tragic accident there.

 

While we don’t know, my suspicion is the drivers were distracted, and my guess is they were distracted by a cell phone.

 

I am guilty. I let my phone distract me at times. I check a text or email. I look up a number to call someone, maybe calling you.

 

These events remind me it’s not worth it. It happens in an instant.

  

Please, please, please. Leave the phone in your pocket when you are driving. Look at the directions before you leave to go somewhere. Program the GPS before you leave. Do something radical and turn your phone off. Don’t tolerate your friends using their phone when driving.

 

I love you all so much and don’t want a distraction to hurt your or someone else, to cause something like this.

 

Please hear your Dad’s plea when that text message goes off while you are driving.

 

It ain’t worth it.
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Christmas Tree Toppers – Does Yours Come With a Story? (Angel, Star, Bow – DO Tell!)

Dec

18

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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Understanding Others || a guest post by my daughter

Oct

17

Posted by on Oct 17, 2015 | 11 comments

CrossPurpose Quote - Jason Janz

Motherhood is a gradual series of Letting Go. Some days it’s harder than others.

Today is one of the hard days.

My daughter is in her second month of a two-year fellowship with CrossPurpose, a training program “designed to bring together highly motivated individuals with diverse backgrounds and interests, and develop them into powerful kingdom builders for the public, private and nonprofit sectors.” Their mission is “to launch a movement of lifelong urban church leaders who will work through local churches and their communities to advance the mission of God and transform the cities of the world.

My girl explains CrossPurpose’s philosophy, in part, the way it was explained to her:

You can’t solve a problem you don’t understand, and you can’t understand from a distance.”

 

Long story short, this means she’s living among the people she’ll serve, at the poverty level…by design. She knows she’ll be stretched thin and pulled outside her comfort zone. Figuratively, sure, but also literally.

A few weeks ago she took part in a 48-hour weekend homeless immersion experience where she “entered the world of poverty and homelessness [to] discover the unique challenges of ministry among those on the margins of society.” She wrote a recent update for her supporters, and I asked her permission to share excerpts of it below.

You see, I’m her mama and I know what she and her co-workers are doing is hard. I’m asking your prayers on her (their) behalf. Especially this weekend when she’ll be taking part in another 48-hour encounter: a Refugee Immersion – “an intense, physically challenging immersion experience that exposes [participants] to the parallel universe and ministry challenges among refugees.”

Even if you discover this post after the fact, please pray. While the Refugee Weekend ends on Sunday, there’s no doubt its impact will linger, and the Fellowship is ongoing.

Please continue reading for a glimpse into the life of a CrossPurpose Fellow. My daughter would be the first to shrug off any personal accolade, but the program is special and what they’re doing is revolutionary.

* * * * *

“First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

~ Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird

__

This new skin I put on smelled bad. It was baggy and stretched from walking for miles. It did not endear me to others; on the contrary, this skin and the words that came from it garnered a type of reaction I’ve never before received.

Dread dropped into my stomach to mix with my hunger as we were given a series of assignments throughout the weekend intended to provide a brief glance into the lives of those who have no place to call home. People who didn’t know better would easily make assumptions about who I was. What I was.

* * * * *

My daughter recently experienced a Poverty Immersion Weekend, where she and others spent a weekend on the streets, feeling and experiencing the lives of people who are homeless. This simulated experience has taken place for 18 years, guiding hundreds of individuals to empathize more deeply with our brothers and sisters who don’t have a place to call their own. When asked to put into words what she learned, my daughter said, “This experience gave me a small taste of what it’s like to feel rejected by the vast majority of society, to be ignored or treated with contempt. Listening to people’s stories helped me to see them as people; not as pitiful individuals who need rescuing, but as humans with strength and resilience, with knowledge and skills to offer society.”

She met people with life experiences very different from her own, leaving her with more questions than answers– “What trauma has he lived through that causes him to numb the pain with bottles and drugs?  How do you enter into that space of such obvious pain and brokenness?”

One of her great takeaways was realizing “so many times I just want to fix people or situations, not understanding that I am broken too.”

Introspective, Rachel acknowledged thoughts and ideas that brought conviction to my own heart.

My brokenness simply manifests itself in different ways than the homeless. The man at the rescue mission who handed me food when I was hungry showed me that empathy is a universal concept, and that walking with people living in poverty is a reciprocal relationship. Too often I have been guilty of adopting a ‘white Savior complex,’ where I view the poor as lowly, desperately needing what I have to offer. This attitude and positioning places the power in my hands, and reinforces the idea that I actually have the ability to save people. But I am gradually coming to believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only Savior, and we are merely his ambassadors with a debt of love. This process is slow and painful, confronting deep-rooted patterns and mindsets that I deeply desire to prune from my heart.”

This weekend my girl and others in her Fellows Program will take part in another Urban Encounter – one designed to gain a little insight into the Refugee experience. My mama-heart would greatly appreciate your prayers on her (and their) behalf.

CrossPurpose has created an incredible urban leadership program through its Fellowship. Those willing to devote two years of their lives to learn and then live (and work) differently, are some of the bravest people I know. These are the kind of crazy people who are changing the world by daring to believe – and most importantly, live – what they profess.

Please click if you’re interested in learning more.

 

If you are interested in contributing to Rachel’s work with CrossPurpose, please follow this link:  https://app.etapestry.com/onlineforms/EncompassDenver/crosspurpose.html
Both monthly and one-time donations are appreciated. Questions? Shoot me an email:
robindance.me at gmail
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