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Storied Dishes || ~ a Grace Table feature ~

May

03

Posted by on May 3, 2017 | 0 comments

GraceTable_StoriedDishes

After we got engaged I couldn’t wait to finally get to choose an everyday china pattern and register for our dishes and gifts. (How in the world was that almost 30 years ago?) I didn’t need to choose fine china; I had inherited my mother’s Malden by Oxford, simple, rimmed in gold, and stunning.

I’m one of those who believes kitchen art begins with pretty dishes.

A spectacularly set table doesn’t necessarily have to be fancy and expensive, but with a little thought and intention – flowers and greenery plucked from your yard, handwritten place cards, a centerpiece created with found objects from your home – you can design a masterpiece. I couldn’t wait to begin our life together, to open our home, and experiment with new-to-me recipes. We didn’t have Pinterest or the internet to mine ideas, but we had magazines and the traditions of our own families, plenty to get us started.

I’ve always been drawn to color, and my first choice for everyday dishes was Villeroy & Boch’s Fruit Basket; predominately green and yellow, it was just so doggone happy. But it was also pricey for an everyday, and sensitive to gift-givers’ budgets, I ended up choosing Poppies on Blue, a popular-in-the-80s Lenox pattern.

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 10.41.42 AM

 

We received all the place settings we registered for in addition to serving bowls and platters, the cream and sugar, and I think even the salt and pepper shakers. These were the dishes of our newlywed years, a part of countless meals shared with friends and family, and eventually with our own children.

Right around the time the poppies began fading, my tastes began changing. With a move from South Carolina to Tennessee, I decided timing was perfect for buying new dishes; this time around, I went with a neutral. When I wanted a splash of color, I’d pick up festive placemats. My once-beloved Poppies on Blue was relegated to a box in the attic, waiting for my children to grow up and move into their own home, or the bigger dream, a heart-secret I’ve held close for all these years.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Recently, I enjoyed a girls weekend out of town, and we decided an Airbnb rental would accommodate the space and flexibility we wanted. With many options to choose from, we decided a small, three-bedroom near downtown was best.

Our first night there we planned a simple dinner–wine, cheese, fruit and the like, and we began rummaging through cabinets for the dishes we’d need.

And then God winked. Twice.

 

Do pop over to Grace Table to see why I can’t help but think God is especially fond of me :).
Sometimes He’s kind enough to assure you you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be….

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The Philadelphia Flower Show ~ A Botanical Paradise

Apr

03

Posted by on Apr 3, 2017 |

As soon as I learned about an opportunity to represent DaySpring at the Philadelphia Flower Show, I knew I had to go. In a sweet, odd sort of way, my going paid homage to my grandmother.

 

Philadelphia Flower Show

But first, the background:

DaySpring® Gratitude & Grace Thank You BouquetAbout a year ago, DaySpring became a licensing partner with FTD, meaning, if you’d like to send flowers with a faith-based message included, you now have some beautiful options in the DaySpring store (also found at ftd.com). DaySpring and FTD go together like peas and carrots, and the partnership means thoughtful gift-givers can choose from gorgeous, professionally designed arrangements with meaningful, inspirational sentiments.

As a major sponsor of the Philly Flower Show, FTD hosted a Designer’s Studio daily throughout the event. Together with FTD lead floral designer Andrea Ancel, talented designers and creatives joined her on stage for beautiful demonstrations and conversation all week long. Because of DaySpring’s partnership with FTD, an {in}courage writer was invited to join Andrea at the Designer’s Studio for a chat about inspiration and how it fuels creativity.

When asked if I was interested, I knew immediately I wanted to go; thankfully, I was able to work out my schedule to attend.

While most of the on-stage guests worked with flowers or as designers, my floral knowledge is limited to sticking flowers in a vase; clearly, there was no intention of me coming to talk floral design. Instead, to mix things up a bit, FTD planned for Andrea Ancel to create an arrangement while she and I spoke to the things that inspire us, the kinds of things that fuel the creative process, and how ALL of us need to exercise the gifts we have. What we – all of us – have to offer is unique and special and beautiful.

There’s only one you in this world, and the world needs what only you were created to give.

Theres only one you quote - Robin Dance

Anyway, our Designer’s Studio was Facebook live-streamed, at least until the convention center’s wifi dropped the connection. It would tickle me pink for you to watch and thumb’s up, and if you’re feeling generous, please share it on your Facebook page or share your thoughts in comments. FTD (or I, as appropriate) will still make sure to answer questions and we’re all paying attention to engagement :).

 

 

If being surrounded by colorful, inspiring, creative floral beauty is your jam, DO ink in a spot on your Bucket List to the Philadelphia Flower Show. It is amazing what can be done with flowers.

 

Friends at Philly Flower Show

(L-r) Robin & Andrea Ancel; Cassidy and Jamie, incredible FTD Staff; me and Carol, a fabulous PFS Volunteer; Designer’s Studio selfie; DS Stage; #ILookToHer backdrop

All last month, FTD celebrated women through their #ILookToHer campaign. Social sharers were invited to snap a picture of women they look to for inspiration, and then share online using the hashtag #ILookToHer. It’s had me thinking of the women who have shaped, encouraged, and inspired me, and if you watch the video above, you’ll hear about some of them (SO fun that special people in my life were shocked to hear a personal shout out during my Designer’s Studio clip :) ).

Flowers-Philadelphia Flower Show-Holland

 

 

 

Peace Lily - DaySpring-FTDWhether it’s a time of celebration and great joy, or mourning the loss of one you love, flowers can speak for you when it’s hard to find the words. DaySpring®’s Happy Birthday bouquet is practically on fire, and with gerberas and snapdragons, the Gratitude and Grace bouquet is one I want to give myself. There are options for more lasting gifts, too–a mini rose, azalea, and beautiful orchid. A group of friends and I recently sent a DaySpring bouquet to a friend we knew was down, and those flowers let her know how deeply we cared.

I’m grateful to FTD and DaySpring for sponsoring my first – hopefully not my last! – trip to the Philadelphia Flower Show!

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To Dambarr, With Love || #ILookToHer

Mar

20

Posted by on Mar 20, 2017 | 7 comments

My much-beloved grandmother died when I was ten.

 

I was at camp when it happened, and I didn’t even know she was ill. The camp director brought me and my sister into an office space behind the camp store to tell us, and I remember her saying, “You can cry or scream or whatever you need to do.”

I don’t remember my response, her funeral, or anything else about it. I suppose I built a mighty fortress around my little girl heart for protection; Dambarr died the year after my mother. Two heartbreaking losses in a year’s time, early lessons in “life isn’t fair.”

That’s why the memories I hold of her are treasure. I write at a secretary that once sat in her living room, an antique thing with dulled brass accents and pulls I’ve been warned not to polish. “It will lose its value,” I’m told, and what I know that a furniture dealer discounts is that Dambarr’s secretary will never lose value because it was hers.

DambarrI remember only a few things about her, but they are good things, and lasting. She gave us after-bath alcohol rubs, wintergreen, and we’d lay face down on our towels on the bed, naked and squirmy and loved (and I suppose, disinfected). She made fairy sandwiches out of Pepperidge Farm dinner rolls or Callie biscuits and whatever meat we had the night before. She’d slather butter top and bottom and broil our tiny sandwiches in a 70s green toaster oven that sat on a rolling metal cart in her galley kitchen.

She’d let us jiggle the fat on her arms and she’d sketch bowls of fruit for us to copy. She’d sit on the floor and build houses made of cards, this stately, well-to-do woman, a competition bridge player who traveled the world. She sang “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” and “Please, Mr. Judge Where’s My Daddy?” old, melancholy songs but nighttime rituals we couldn’t do without. We’d “blum-blum” before lying down to sleep, her feet on the floor with soft arms wrapped around our tiny bodies, us, standing at the foot of our beds, tiny arms cupped around her neck, swaying side to side and sing-songing those words until we settled. Blum…blum…blum…blum. It was our thing, flesh on flesh, heart to heart.

Her house, “the house at Woodlawn,” is over 100 years old and my brother owns it now. A fraternity house sits right in front of it, so he rents it to college students today; but when Dambarr owned it, it was a grand home, plaster walls and radiator heat, and wallpaper actually made of paper. Birds and botanical if my mind’s eye remembers well. A fancy crystal chandelier in her dining room. A loud but wonderful attic fan in the basement that sucked air with a big whoosh (calling it “attic” never made sense to me since it’s in the basement).

Dambarr was a master gardener, and her back yard was magical.

 

 

It was gated in manicured boxwoods, an even hedge with an always-invitation. Its center was grassy and square, perfect for a child and her imagination to run wild, free. Camellias, hydrangeas, and azaleas lined the edges and back. The right corner, pathed with a rocky edge, was reserved for annuals and perennials–roses in every shade, worth the prick of rude thorns; primrose and pansies, daffodils, snowbells, narcissus, and tulips. Snapdragons. Marigolds. Star-of-Bethlehem. Those are all the names I can remember right now but maybe there were more? A little herb garden and veggie spot in the back right of that–spearmint and peppermint and parsley, tomatoes–cherry and the big kind, the name of which escapes me. She had a scuppernong vine, but that always seemed weird to me.

We’d jump off her detached garage roof into the compost pile, clueless as to what was in it, or more likely, we didn’t care. We got to jump off a roof!

She taught us to make tiny dolls out of a flowering shrub; unopened buds for a head, and opened flowers as ball gowns. I can’t call it by name, but I recognize it when I see it…and I always want to steal a bud and a flower to make a little fairy doll.

Dambarr died too soon to teach me anything about gardening, but she seeded in me a deep love and appreciation for flowers.

 

And this is precisely why when DaySpring invited me to join FTD Flowers onstage at the Designer’s Studio at the Philadelphia Flower Show, I said Yes! with no hesitation.

And then I learned about FTD’s #ILookToHer campaign, an initiative celebrating women and how they inspire us. I knew before I shared about my experience in Philadelphia, however, I had to introduce you to my grandmother, the reason it made sense for me to go, the woman who has continued to inspire me over 40 years after her death.

I can’t wait to share images from the Philly Flower Show, and my Designer’s Studio segment with the incredibly talented Andrea Ancel, lead floral designer for FTD. It was a blast and an honor, and I’m very thankful to FTD for sponsoring my visit.

Stay tuned….

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Helpful New Resource For Moms Who’ve Ever Lost Your Temper #TemperToolkit

Feb

02

Posted by on Feb 2, 2017 | 1 comment


TemperToolkit_SM3-color

 

 

Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs on the planet.

 

I also believe it’s the best job on the planet, and I can say now, from where I sit as an Empty Nester, it’s beautifully, thought sometimes brutally, worthwhile and satisfying.

My three children are becoming the humans I prayed and hoped they’d become, but it was not without a thousand misfires during the years they were daily under my roof.

Some days I didn’t know if I would make it to the next.

Some moments I didn’t know if I would make it to the next.

Some seconds I didn’t know if I would let them make it to the next.

Parenting isn’t easy.

But we parented hard and on purpose, making the best decisions we could with what we knew. We read books and even took parenting classes at our church. Thankfully, we had a strong community of young parents walking the same road shoulder to shoulder.

The internet wasn’t yet a thing when they were young, or at least not what it is today. There weren’t bloggers and websites and social networking that connected you to “experts.” For us there was Dr. Leman and Dr. Dobson, and the good parts of the Ezzos.

But there were wise parents a few years ahead of me, families I could observe. When I saw older kids who seemed to behave the way I hoped mine would eventually, I took note. I watched those mamas and daddies to see if there was anything I could learn from them. They had no idea.

Fast forward to now, and there’s a wealth of parenting resources out there. It’s a “chicken and bones” kind of thing – pick and choose what works for you, keep the chicken, toss those bones. 

I’m excited to tell you about a new “chicken” you’re going to want to eat:

The Temper Toolkit, a special parenting resource from my friend Lisa-Jo Baker. Many of you will already know Lisa-Jo as one of my (in)courage writing sisters, and as a blogger and author, she’s been encouraging moms for years (if you haven’t yet read her book, it’s a GREAT addition to a mom’s library–and on sale!). The beauty of her Temper Toolkit is she has lived this in the trenches. She’s consolidated helpful practices she’s learned over time into a video series that is sure to encourage mamas of younger children (and even those tweens and teens). There’s a reasonable price tag attached to her content; and it’s only fair to compensate her for her time in pulling this all together to make a beautiful, truly helpful resource for you.

 

TemperToolkit_HavingABadDay

 

From Lisa-Jo herself:

I’ve packaged up everything I’ve learned about my mom temper (the hard way) over the last decade of parenting and everything I teach at my workshops so that you can put it into practice in your own homes. And I’m calling it The Temper Toolkit.

The Temper Toolkit is a labor of love from me to you — a collection of practical strategies, honest stories, and Biblical resources from one mom to another to help you take control of your temper BEFORE you lose it. 

It includes: 7 teaching videos, downloadable audio (so you can listen on the go) and key takeaways from each lesson beautifully designed as phone lock screens, computer wallpapers or a print so you can choose which format is best to help you take the lessons with you on the go. 

And there are a 5 bonus videos including how to talk to your husband and how to talk to your kids about your journey with temper. And what 6 daily steps you can take to defuse. 
 
The Temper Toolkit includes real life tools for real life change. Because what you don’t need is more guilt. What you need are the tools to get you through.

By the end of our time together I hope that by sharing my own (embarrassingly) honest temper stories and coping strategies I will have convinced you of three things:

  1. That you’re not a bad mom.
  2. That a good God is using your kids to transform you into His image.
  3. That temper is not an incurable disease, but a treatable condition.  

All for the cost of one exhausted drive-through dinner with the kids after a day of meltdowns.

 

AND…if you’re one of the first 50 people to purchase the Temper Toolkit, you’ll get a FREE copy of Surprised by Motherhood!!

I’m convinced if you’re struggling as a mom, if your temper sometimes flares, if you just wish you had some help or wisdom from someone a few years ahead of you, you’re going to gain some insights and tips to help calm your spirit and reduce the chaos.

You’ll have to act quickly! Lisa-Jo is only going to keep the Temper Toolkit
available for purchase for five days (today through Monday, February 6th.

I hope you’ll share this post with every mama you know could use some practiced advice.
(easy share buttons are at the bottom of this post)
If you have questions or need help with the course, please email support@tempertoolkit.com.

 

Temper-Toolkit-with-Lisa-Jo-Baker

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Why I Jump

Jan

12

Posted by on Jan 12, 2017 | 3 comments

IMG_2453

It’s always surprising to me, these obscure things my brain tends to remember.

 

There are times I try so hard to tuck a memory in tight, to hold it close, to never forget, but I’m finding I can’t always control what sticks and what releases. My recall is as fickle as time, the way she speeds up the things we want to linger, and inches along those thing we want to hurry.

I see this with books a lot. A turn of phrase will settle in deep; the perfect adjective in the hands of the best author makes special what most writers would leave bland, tasteless.

It’s why adults love Harry Potter. Rowling isn’t just a children’s storyteller–she’s magical.

Years ago I read “Same Kind of Different As Me.” At its core it is a love story, the kind birthed in tragedy, lived in fragility, and told with sincerity. It’s based on a true story, a tale of unlikely friendship, and though there’s plenty to find fault with, there’s one thing that has remained with me eight years after reading.

Deborah’s attitude.

Mostly people consider it a friendship tale between her husband, Ron Hall, and a man they meet at a homeless shelter, Denver Moore, but Deborah was the catalyst for all that came later. Her determination and moxie were inspiring.

Deborah battled cancer like a warrior. She didn’t live in denial. She celebrated “what is,” not “what might be.”

She understood life is precious, each day a gift.

 

There was a point in her illness when she and Ron would begin their days with a declaration of what they knew for that moment–

We’re alive!

We’re alive.

I’m alive.

I’m not battling cancer, but there are days I’d rather not face, circumstances that challenge all I know. Whenever I wake up with any type of destructive thought or dread for the day, I find myself echoing Deborah’s words–

I’m alive!

 

This day is all I’m promised, this moment is all I know with complete certainty I’ve got. Indeed, it is reason to praise God. It is motive enough to celebrate every moment.

 

I think this is why I love princess dresses and joy-jumping:

They’re outward expressions of this inner declaration: I. AM. ALIVE!

When despair or defeat threaten to creep into your soul, scream that back at ’em. They’re trying to kill the best parts of you, but I’m convinced when we remember Whose we are and who we are, we stand a fighting chance.

 

***

 

The image above is taken at my local Barnes and Noble, where I first saw copies of Craving Connections: 30 Challenges for Real Life Engagement on the shelf. I’m thrilled to have a chapter included, one that covers 20 years of my life and the people who impacted me along the way. As part of its promotion, book elves are sneaking Starbucks gift certificates in stores all over the country, and also autographing copies. If you aren’t familiar, please check out the book’s site to learn more.

Also? If you’re one of the lucky ducks who’ll be at the Atlanta Market this week, DaySpring is giving away free books to everyone who stops by our booth. Co-author Dawn Camp and I will be there to sign copies, and play cheerleaders for a wonderful book celebrating community, and what it means for all of us. Do stop by if you’re able!

Friday, January 13th, Noon – 2 pm
DaySpring Showroom
Building 2 – Floor 7 – Suite 750A

My friend, Judi, and I, playing Craving Connection/Starbucks elves at Barnes and Noble, Macon.

My friend, Judi, and I, playing Craving Connection/Starbucks elves at Barnes and Noble, Macon.

Craving Connection Authors

Craving Connection Authors

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