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Jun

25

Posted by on Jun 25, 2018 | 1 comment

 

I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. His skin was the color of summer and youth, beautiful and smooth and the stuff of a 1970-something Coppertone ad, minus a black Boykin Spaniel. This wasn’t his first day at the pool.

He couldn’t have been much older than three. His head barely reached the top of the diving board. To reach the platform he had to crawl up the stairs. This one whose smile was permanent fixture already understood joie de vivre.

Fearless and free and fueled by adrenaline, he went off the board a dozen times. Increasing courage quickened his pace.

He shifted the aim of a spotlight he wasn’t even aware existed. “Hey, watch my Dad!” he called out to the others when his father mounted the stairs. His face beamed awaiting the show, his eyes twinkling love, admiration, and joy.

His dad did a one and a half gainer with marginal success.

He awarded his approval in laughter and applause, and gleefully asked everyone in earshot, “Did you see my Dad?!”

Olympic gold doesn’t come close.

 

 

 

 

 

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Have We Forgotten That Love Is Kind?

Jun

20

Posted by on Jun 20, 2018 | 3 comments

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Kindness is powerful because kindness is an incarnation of love.

 

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

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

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

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

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

By the Spirit:

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

By the flesh:

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

It sends me to my knees….

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

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

 

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

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Inspired to Inspire #OYTO

Apr

28

Posted by on Apr 28, 2018 | 2 comments

Fat Robin

 

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

 

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

 

Amazing.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Well….

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Fat Bluebird

 

Painting is magic!

 

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

 

 

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

 

Keep trying new things!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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Your Influence Matters

Apr

27

Posted by on Apr 27, 2018 |

 

Green and inexperienced, I was recruited to step into the role of marketing director for a local retirement community. My education combined with a love and natural propensity for those senior than me far outweighed my managerial skillset, and only days after I was hired I found myself in the position of needing to hire a new sales associate. Because I hadn’t interviewed many people at that time – okay, any people – ¬†I read what I could could get my hands on about best interviewing practices and compiled a list of basic questions. Plus, I had been interviewed a dozen or more times, so there was that.

 

Sifting through a competitive pool of applicants, I selected three people to interview. More than anything I was trying to find a good fit for the role and someone with whom I felt comfortable. We would be working closely together.

 

I would go on to hire Mary Jane, over 20 years my senior. Time would soon tell she was an excellent choice–professional, empathetic, and, man, she could close a deal.

 

Over 25 years later, I still remember Mary Jane’s interview, specifically her answer to one question:

 

 

“What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?”

Without hesitation she replied,

*

*

*

Considering I’m writing about a conversation that took place over 25 years ago, it’s interesting to hear how a interview answer impacted me in such profound ways. Do keep reading Your Influence Matters at the Art of Simple today, and be sure to tell me your thoughts or if YOU remember something someone said forever ago that influences you to this day.¬†

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Aging and Aquamarine

Mar

29

Posted by on Mar 29, 2018 | 2 comments

 

Right now, in this hair’s breadth of a moment, you are both as old as you’ve ever been, and as young as you ever will be again.

 

Interesting thought, isn’t it?

 

It is not unusual for me to think about time, in general, and aging, more specifically this time of year; March is my birthday month.

 

Aging comes naturally, but if your wish is to age gracefully, you’re going to have to be intentional.

 

Aging can be like a riptide, forcing you off course and threatening to pull you under. It can knock you off your feet in a single wave and leave you disoriented and wondering How in the world did I get here?

 

Neither aging nor aging gracefully are destinations; they’re journeys. One is completely left up to chance, the tail wagging the dog, que sera sera; the other is intentional, contemplative living, controlling and planning for a preferred outcome. The latter ¬†also involves accepting what you can’t control and making the best of it.

 

A positive attitude ignites your ability to age gracefully; it enables you to receive all of life as this big, incredible, magnificent gift–all of it. That doesn’t mean you’re immune to hardship or disappointment. It means you’re better able to navigate those seasons when they arrive.

 

When I was a kid, choosing a birthday gift for a friend was always easy: something birthstone-related or Zodiac sign-related. That’s so funny to me now; I don’t think I ever got anything related to either of those for gifts when my own children attended their friends’ birthday parties. My birthstone is aquamarine, and I’ve always loved it; it’s one of my favorite colors to wear, clothing or jewelry. Maybe it’s why I long for and love the ocean so, exquisite aquamarine sea. And though I never bought into Zodiac stuff in terms of practice or belief, I know I’m Aries and it’s associated with fire, and there’s something in that I appreciate.

 

While the four seasons are like my children in that each one is my favorite but for different reasons – I see the signature beauty in each –¬†I find myself thankful to have been born in the spring. Spring is colorful, alive with promise, with hope, with life! Aquamarine finds her way into spring.

 

Spring holds the darkest day in Christendom and the brightest. Jesus, in full surrender and submission, enduring a gruesome spectacle of death, demonstrating an incomprehensible love, and ultimately conquering the grave and bringing reconciliation of man to God through His atoning sacrifice. Spring is beautiful and reminds me of our hope in Christ.

 

I am at the age now where milestone birthdays have lost the meaning they do in our youth. Remember when you couldn’t wait to

  • turn double digits
  • become a teenager
  • get your learner’s permit
  • get your driver’s license
  • vote
  • order a cocktail (or beer or wine…)

I am at the age now where sometimes, dammit, I have to check the last box. I wish that didn’t phase me, but it does. I’m also at the age where my body betrays me, alternately catching fire or my hair changing color or just plain hurting from sitting too long. Seriously–sitting too long can hurt? Who knew?

 

But hear me loud when I tell you this: I am no victim of age. Neither are you.

 

I am at the age of incredible opportunity. 

 

I have lived 17 years longer than my own mother, who didn’t get to see her babies beyond grade school. I’m enjoying the incredible privilege of knowing my children as young adults, of seeing them on the way of becoming who they’ll be.

 

I’ve lived long enough and gained the experience that convinces me Romans 8:28 is true–

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,
for those who are called according to his purpose.
(ESV)

 

I’ve lived long enough to learn that there’s more than one way to the other side of the mountain, and that one day you will make it to the other side.¬†

 

I’ve lived long enough to understand the difference between “have to” and “get to”–

I get to clean my house because I have a house to clean.

I get to wash our clothes because we have clothes to wear (and a washing machine to do the actual washing).

I get to do yard work because I have a yard.

I get to give money to those in need because I have money to give.

I get to spend time getting to know God through His word, because He’s preserved His word in scripture.

I get to praise and worship the Lord because He has given me life now and forever.

 

Aging gracefully relishes Get-to living. Have-to living puts you under the chains of obligation. Be free, my friend. You get to be free. Let go of those chains.

 

I’m at the age where hindsight is a masterful teacher. Age allows you to see the veil lifting to reveal more and more of the big picture, all the tiny puzzle pieces of your life fitting together into something lovely.

 

I’m at the age where I can tell you¬†it is never too late to:

learn something new

follow your dreams

try something that scares the snot out of you.

I’m at the age where I believe it is always right to:

lead with love

forgive, then forgive again. And again.

be generous

be kind, because everyone is dealing with something beneath the surface.

I am at the age where I want to steward my time well, love the people in my life well, and honor, serve and love Jesus well. In my past I have wasted time, taken friends and family for granted, and resisted God and what He asks of me.

 

An incredible opportunity has come my way that couldn’t have happened before now, unquestionably a God-gift. One year, 365 opportunities, and this one is huge. Tomorrow I turn 55, and 2018 is the year I will write my first book. It took me a long, long while to get to the age when, finally, my life is not my own.

 

Soli Deo gloria.

 

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How You Can Make A Difference on International Women’s Day

Mar

08

Posted by on Mar 8, 2018 | 3 comments

I’m sitting at my kitchen table where the sun is piercing filthy windowpanes, a thing I notice in the morning but forget by noon’s shadow. A ladybug sits on the sill, I’m assuming dead. Our home is a death spiral for pretty bugs dressed in red with black polka dots, and I wonder why that happens at the end of every winter.

It’s International Women’s Day and I wish I could say I knew that on my own, but it’s the internet that tells me so. I’m stung by awareness of my comforts, my plenty, and my relative wealth, and it brings a sort of shame. Those things have cost me nothing, but in some places in this world even lesser things cost everything you have to give.

I’m reminded of a woman I encountered almost nine years ago.

 

 

She was striking to me, uncommonly beautiful, obviously haunting. The sun on her shoulders. Her expression, somber yet intense. Her shoes matched her saree. She carried a bucket, soap, cane, and, most important, her dignity.

In my trip to Kolkata where I met dozens and dozens of people, hers is a face I always remember first. Whatever her age, she had lived a long, and undoubtedly difficult life, and yet she’s endured.

She is not victim. She is an unnamed international woman I celebrate.

She lived in a village where Compassion International had a Child Survival Center, a place where mothers and babies receive goods, education, training, and services that contribute to their survival.

Shortly after my trip with Compassion Bloggers to India, the child I sponsored left the program. Her mother remarried after the death of her father, and they moved to a location where Compassion didn’t have a local presence. Though I wasn’t able to continue helping her family financially, I’ve never stopped praying for Pinki; meeting her carved permanent residence in my heart.

 

I often wonder what she looks like now – nine years older – and how she’s doing…how all the beautiful children served by Compassion are doing in India.

You see, about a year ago Compassion had to shutter its sponsorship program in India; it was heartbreaking for those involved. After decades of ministry, Compassion could no longer send funds into the country due to Indian government restrictions (read more here).

We’ve also sponsored a daughter from the Dominican Republic; this year will be our tenth! She’ll turn 16 in May, and our sponsorship began right after she turned six. It never occurred to me until this moment how long we’ve been blessing one another, and make no mistake: Isaura blesses me with every letter she writes and ever prayer she offers for me and my family.

Compassion currently operates in 25 countries and has touched millions of lives since beginning its work in the ’50s.¬†Everything I learn about Compassion only reinforces its impact and value to our broken world.

Today (regardless of when you read this), in celebration of International Women’s Day, I’m asking you to make a generous contribution to Compassion International. Get your credit card or checkbook out and start here.

 

You can make a one-time gift or change a child’s life – and his/her family’s lives – by committing to a monthly sponsorship. It’s up to you.¬†

I know our churches need our money, and our communities need our support, but today to celebrate International Women’s Day, I’m asking for global consideration for a gift to our world. I trust Compassion completely, and I’ve witnessed first hand their impact in local communities.

Look at these precious faces I had the incredible honor of meeting almost ten years ago. They’re my inspiration for today’s bold ask, but I bet there are significant women in your life worthy of celebration. I hope you’ll want to make a gift just because you can.

This old world needs those who have financial means to remember those who have financial need. It’s really as simple as that.

 

 

 

 

Thank you.

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