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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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Can Buy Me Love

Feb

04

Posted by on Feb 4, 2018 | 3 comments

 

I was behind them in line at the Walmart return counter, Dante’s 10th circle if ever there was one.

 

Brothers, maybe twins, I’m guessing knocking on five’s door. They were crammed into the back of a shopping cart; one kid would have been too big for it himself, but together, potentially, it was a recipe for disaster.

 

They had been indoors longer than me but their hoods were still drawn tight around their faces. Perfect little round faces that reminded me of a smiley, except the one hanging over the edge of the buggy wasn’t smiling. His expression was absent, blank, not the look you expect on a little boy. His brother was the spicy one. While their mama was conducting her business with the clerk, he slowly, quietly pushed their cart away from the edge, farther from her. His grin told me he thought he was getting away with something. He was proud, a victor…a darling, little rascal.

 

Tried as I might, I couldn’t get them to look at me. I wanted to offer them kind eyes, a smile, the joy of being noticed and liked. Two little boys ought not be caged in a grocery cart, but I suppose it was simply to keep them out of trouble. Still, it bothered me. Maybe it was in all the time I watched them, neither never said a word. They didn’t poke or pick at each other the way siblings often do, and I thought how well behaved they were.  The expressionless one who kept leaning over could have fallen right onto his head and their mama wouldn’t have seen until too late. I was ready, though, Spidey-mother senses on alert, ready to spring into action if he needed me.

 

It takes a village.

 

The rascal was getting bored, looking for new distractions. I had already been there ten minutes and, like I said, they had been there longer than me. Where babies normally ride sat one of those clear cotton candy containers, or at least that’s what it looked like. Rascal wriggled past his brother and peeled open the lid, and that’s when I realized there was money, not cotton candy, inside, paper and coin. He stuck his fist in and pulled out both, metal dropping back into the tub and making a plastic percussion, the “tell” that alerted his mother. It was the first time she gave them any notice, and she did so by smacking Rascal on his mouth and sharply insisting that he “sit down and leave that alone.”

 

His countenance fell faster and harder than the money in that stupid bucket.

 

I continued to watch them, still trying to telegraph love through eye-to-eye connection. The blank one kept tracing the squares of the buggy or leaning over its blasted edge, but Mr. Mischievous had all but disappeared. He was hiding in plain sight best he could, his arm resting across the back edge of the inner baby basket, that perfect little face burrowed underneath, refusing to make eye contact with anything or anybody.

 

I couldn’t help but wonder what happened when they were home, when the mama had freedom to express her irritation or anger without onlookers. Maybe I was jumping to conclusion, but I couldn’t help my imagination. But then I thought back to the countless times I dragged my kids to places they didn’t want to go, and how, sometimes, I pinched, prodded, or popped them to obey, or how I used my expression, tone, and words as a weapon.

 

Who was I to speculate or judge?

 

Still, I read volumes into what was being played out in front of me.

 

I don’t know why I felt so desperate for them, but I did. I prayed for them and their mama, wanting to do something for them, and feeling a fool at the same time. Was this an opportunity or my brain on a pint of crazy?

 

I opened my mostly empty wallet, finding two quarters and a penny, and when I say I felt like I was “supposed” to give those boys the quarters, I mean it. I argued in my head over the benefit of a quarter – back in the day you could buy 25 pieces of penny candy, but now the two of them together could barely buy a chocolate bar at Walmart. And their mother…what would she think of a stranger giving her boys money? I was frightened of her response but mostly I questioned any value derived by such a small offering.

 

OYTO. An opportunity? I found myself in an odd test of wills.

 

The mom appeared to be nearing the end of her transaction so I knew I had to act swiftly: I placed the two quarters on the lid of the cotton candy tub, grabbing the attention of both boys. In a fluid move, I pointed with both index fingers, first to the coins, and then to each brother, then hastily turned and walked past the registers toward the closest aisle I could hide behind.

 

But not before seeing the expression on both of their faces….

 

Rascal was back, his countenance lifted, his sweet face alight. For the first time I saw his brother smile.

 

Turns out I misjudged the value of 50 cents.

 

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When One Word Becomes Your Battle Cry #OneWord #OYTO

Jan

25

Posted by on Jan 25, 2018 | 16 comments

Are you a subscriber? If not, please do, and if you are already, thank you!


Do you believe in signs and wonders?

 

I do…I  believe in signs and wonders. Miracles. Divine timing and appointments. Circumstances, if not orchestrated at least permitted, by a great, great God who knows me better than I know myself, and loves me more than my little brain can comprehend.

 

He feels the same way about you, you know, regardless of your belief (or unbelief), despite your most grievous sin.

 

Signs…wonders…miracles aren’t necessarily showy or spectacular (like baby rainbows settling in your front yard). Wide open eyes and receptive hearts seem to find them in otherwise ordinary moments.

Photo by Alana Smith, the 10-year-old daughter of my friends Heather and Rich; a child with an amazing eye who saw the beauty of a single snowflake, and captured it that we, too, might See.

 

A new year is a dear thing to me. January just shouts possibility and potential.

 

Maybe it’s that joie de vivre heart of mine anticipating soon-to-be-written story. Maybe it’s the grace of a mulligan, a chance for a do-over, to get more things right than wrong. Blank slate, bare canvas, the beginning of a one-of-a-kind something, days not yet lived but already ordained.

 

I love a new year.

 

It should come as no surprise that I’m a resolutions gal. I don’t make it hard, though, there is no formal procedure.  No ominous list that will defeat me 12 days into the new year; more like a series of targets, beacons, touchstones inviting me to draw near.

 

For me, setting resolutions is as simple as living with greater intention. Don’t we all want to be the best version of ourselves? Shouldn’t we?

 

Resolutions are invitation to live fully and well.

 

Beyond my abstract, ethereal resolution-setting, I love to have One Word to mark my year, a word that serves as both anchor and aim. One Word to both ground me and give me wings. As days turn into weeks turn into months that make a year, I look over my shoulder while looking ahead to recalibrate, to make sure I’m on course. One Word helps me remember where I’m headed, what I want out of the priceless time I spend for each day.

 

Value of time increases with age.

 

It’s always fun to watch my One Word come into being; it’s a sacred thing, given by God. It’s a process of discovery for me, seeking and searching and setting my head and heart on otherworldly things. Kingdom come.

 

Or maybe that’s this year. Maybe this year I’ve received a word in light of the gospel, because this year, like never before I sense fresh wind. Fresh fire.

 

My God, it’s good.

 

Weeks ago, I thought my One Word was time. “Time” became A Thing for me last year, the first year I was acutely aware of and in conflict with my age and brevity of life. Grains of sand seemed to be slipping through the hourglass’s narrow neck at an incendiary rate, and there’s not a blasted thing you can do to slow it down.

 

Over Christmas this year, a conversation with my daughter rolled around to One Words for the new year, and I asked her to predict mine. “Jump!” she said without hesitation. She had good reason for her guess –

 

#TheRobin ~ Jumping in front of The Pursuit IS Happiness mural
by Sean Metcalf at Ponce City Market in Atlanta.

 

Because I have such high regard for Rachel, I began to toy with Jump! for my 2018 One Word. She didn’t know my interior stirrings, but I did, and “jump” fit..

 

Except that’s the thing about a One Word; it ain’t about making something fit. Anchor and aim…grounder and launcher. For me, I know it when I know it, and both time and jump ended in a question mark, not a period, or better yet – my favorite – the exclamation point.

 

My 2018 One Word arrived in an unusual package: a graphic tee shirt from The Loft, a Christmas gift from a dear friend. I didn’t see it at first, but when I knew, I knew it. 

 

 

OYTO.

 

oyto

\ öi-t? \ (rhyme with toy-toe)

Definition of oyto:

1. noun. One Year, Three-hundredSixty-five Opportunities.
2. verb.  Carpe diem. Seize the day. Looking for opportunity every day, and then acting on it.

 

One year = 12 months = 365 days = 8,760 hours = 525,600 minutes = 31,536,000 seconds.

 

There are a lot of opportunities for opportunity.

 

How many have we missed because we weren’t looking? I don’t want to miss any more.

 

Every day brings incredible opportunity, and it’s a question of wise stewardship to say yes to as many as possible. What I’m not saying is to crowd your plate so full you can’t taste a thing, what I am saying is to open your eyes to the gifts within reach every single day. Gifts that bless and encourage others, and that fill and feed your soul.

 

Every day we have opportunity to be ~
  • kind
  • generous
  • thoughtful
  • encouraging
  • friendly
  • honest
  • practical
  • reasonable.
  • loving
  • joyful
  • fair
  • faithful
  • patient

Every day you can make a difference in someone else’s life. Are you absorbing that? 

 

Every day you can make a difference in someone else’s life.

 

Increasingly, I’m coming to realize the most important daily opportunity is to seek God first in all things.  Also, for believers, every day we can be a reflection of Christ, maybe the only Jesus the people we meet will see on any given day. We get to live out the gospel in word and deed.

 

Sometimes opportunities are big and showy like new jobs or leading a small group or starting a non-profit. This year I’m posturing my heart and head to see and receive every opportunity set before me in light of the Kingdom. I do not want to miss a thing the Lord has for me.

 

One year, 365 opportunities. Every taken opportunity is opportunity to give glory to God. 

 

OYTO!

 

Oyto is my battle cry, a declaration of intentionality, a prayer to be faithful in small and big things. Oyto is how I long to live this year, day by day, minute by minute.

 

I sense God asking me to live an Oyto! life. And, I wonder if anyone wants to join me…as you’re reading this, is your spine tingling? Is there something in your spirit stirring, saying, “Yes! Me, too.”?

 

If so, be my Oyto sister. Let’s encourage one another, and be reminders of seeing the opportunity each day brings. Let’s not be mindless multi-taskers or bowing to the god of busyness.

 

Let’s be prayerful, thoughtful stewards of opportunity.

 

I’m not asking a soul to jump on my personal bandwagon; oyto certainly doesn’t need to be your One Word. But if it sounds like a word that invites your response, let me know. I’ll be in touch soon.

 

 

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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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Holiday Haikus: The Christmas Mug Edition

Dec

10

Posted by on Dec 10, 2017 | 12 comments

Tiny things have always made me happy.

 

Oh, I don’t know the why of it–is it necessary to always dissect the whys of things? I just know that miniatures fascinate me. If they had been around when I was a little, Polly Pockets and My Little Ponies would have littered my bedroom floor six inches deep. I’m sure of it.

 

I wonder if this explains why I hold such high regard for a well written haiku; the economy of its structure. Seventeen syllables is all you get–five/seven/five, remember?

 

Last weekend we emptied the attic of  All The Christmas Things. Since we moved to a new home over the summer, it’s necessary to figure out the perfect new spot for each of our decorations to live. And with that little exercise, this might just be the year I decided a) I could be a Christmas decoration hoarder, and/or b) I’m tired of all my stuff.

 

Or maybe that was just the inconvenient cold draining my sinuses (and the local water supply), combined with the pressure of finishing decorating in time to clean, cook for, and host a small dinner party Tuesday night.

 

It’s hard to say which.

 

I finally got to the point where enough was enough, or more accurately, when I was absolutely out of time for decorating, and had to shift into the cleaning and cooking portion of the afternoon. I piled all the remaining decorations into a few boxes, marched them upstairs and sat them in the corner. Done…!

 

In any event, some of my favorite Christmas things – ones I will never get tired of – are my Christmas mugs. They aren’t fine or fancy, but they’re fantastic little purveyors of whimsy.  Each year I’m excited to rediscover them.

 

Simple pleasures are the best, aren’t they?

 

 

Early Wednesday morning I was sitting at my kitchen table, sipping and savoring my coffee, smiling and satisfied that our home felt cozy and Christmassy. My mug looked happy, too, just sitting there, and in the inexplicable way we all behave now, I had to take a picture of it. Mercy, we’re all cookoo-pants, but we still keep snapping those pictures of everything and anything over and over and over, and we share them like it’s this morning’s news. Which is sort of is in The-Internet-Is-My-Neighbor kind of way.

 

And wouldn’t you know it–my coffee mug had me waxing poetic. So, I wrote a little ditty, and then lo and behold, I did it again every morning for the next three days. I never quite settled on a name for the series, but it’s something like Holiday Haikus Inspired by Christmas Mugs. Dang, that sounds awful, so feel free to give me your own (better) series titles. Girlfriend’s not shy to ask for help when she needs it.

 

happy, it makes me
most wonderful time of year
sweet, simple pleasures

 

 

Spirit of Christmas
sweet atmosphere of welcome
merry hearts draw near

treasure of Christmas
unimaginable gift
Key to the Kingdom

 

Christmas is promise
kept; a King to lead the way
brightest morning star

 

Hmmmm…such a joy to my spirit to pen these little poems. I have an idea for next week–do check in? (feel free to comment in haiku :). Now, THAT, would be a gift in my inbox!!)

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God is Working in the Waiting

Nov

30

Posted by on Nov 30, 2017 | 4 comments

God_is_at_work_even_when_you_cant_see_him_RobinDance

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

I remember it like it was yesterday, when a new-to-me speaker posed a question that burrowed under my skin like a chigger in the heat of summer —

“Are you the kind of person who walks into a room and declares, ‘Here I am!’ or do you walk into the room and say, ‘There you are!’?”

I wasn’t an “all about me” person, but I’m naturally outgoing and comfortable talking to new people. I can work a room if that’s expected of me. My nerves do rattle on the inside, but they’re energy fueling confidence and conversation.

It also wasn’t that I didn’t notice other people; but the question forced me to realize at best I was blissfully unaware, or at worse, I was more concerned about myself than others. Ouch.

Over the past ten years through unexpected personal deserts and crazy life, I’ve tried to become a There you are! friend, the one who notices what you’re not saying as much as what you are saying. I’ve challenged myself to notice people in the margins. And trusting the providence of God (mostly in hindsight), I’ve wandered into those places myself, learning by experience what it feels like to be ignored, rejected, forgotten, irrelevant, and sometimes invisible.

I’ve hated it.

But on the other side of those hard lessons and hurt feelings is what has become a passion of mine: redemptive purpose

Just as sure as the sun hangs in the sky behind a veil of dark clouds, God is accomplishing His will and His ways even when I can’t see His hand at work.

 

And when I do gain insight and understanding in the aftermath of pain or heartache? It is an astonishing gift and grace to discover beauty among ashes.

Pride and ego were subtle idols of mine. God was kind enough to reveal them to me in a way that would sear an impression on my heart and ultimately change me.

———-

It’s been a long, long while since I’ve attended a Beth Moore Bible study. I forgot how she gets to me, how every study I’ve ever taken will somehow speak a word over me so strong it’s undeniable God had her write it just for me.

What . . . you, too? 🙂

It was in the fourth week, day three, on her study of James, when a section started doing its thing.

Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment. (James 3:1)

Beth spoke about “landmines that go with the territory” of teaching:

  • The temptation to teach more than we know.
  • The capacity to mislead.
  • The capacity to be misled.
  • The temptation to use the platform for personal agendas or opinions.

And though not exactly in the context of being a teacher, I sensed these landmines speaking to my life as a writer.

———-

It would seem that the natural progression for a long-term blogger is to write a book; that is the childhood dream of many in the online world. Those of you who’ve followed (in)courage since its inception know many of our regular contributors have gone on to lovely writing careers.

Here’s the thing that’s hard for me to admit: 

Please continue reading God is Working in the Waiting at {in}courage.
It’s personal but in some ways the story of ALL of us….

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