I’m Mad And I Want You To Know Why

Oct

30

Posted by on Oct 30, 2017 in Advice, Cancer is NOT okay!, Family, Health, Mothers and daughters, Personal, Uncategorized | 8 comments

I’m Mad And I Want You To Know Why

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...

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After the Silence || On Motherhood, Wisdom, Listening

Aug

11

Posted by on Aug 11, 2017 in Parenting | 8 comments

After the Silence || On Motherhood, Wisdom, Listening

After the silence, sound is different.   It’s not necessarily better or worse, it’s just different. Maybe it’s more about discernment; being careful about what you’re listening to, who you’re listening to. And I’m not talking about Who you’re listening to – though every “good Christian” knows when I capitalize Who, I’m referring to Jesus, right? Can you imagine a world in which the Who we’re listening to informs everything else we hear? Glory! We’d glimpse the garden. After the silence, your ears become a discriminating filter recoiling from noise, resisting the fray. It’s like when you’ve been skipping rope a long, long while, and you’ve got a certain rhythm…perpetual motion – twirl-skip twirl-skip twirl skip – but then you stop, and only then do you realize how tired you’ve become, how it drained energy like a hole in a bucket. When you pick that rope up to start again, you’ve learned to be more efficient, set limits, make it work for you, not against you. My Friday morning playlist? The dryer’s tumble, nearby traffic’s rush, my Precious (Praise God from where our coffee flows), moving boxes begging to be unpacked–but loudest is what I don’t hear. I’m an empty nester, a phrase I do not care for, I suppose because “empty” has more negative connotations than positive? I don’t know. Two of our three are adulting well, fierce and independent, with real jobs and living in places I have nothing to do with that they dare to call home. Sometimes I have to remind myself that isn’t a slight. The youngest returned to college yesterday after spending the summer living at home, our home. Last summer he worked at a summer camp and the only time he was able to visit was the week he got pneumonia (who gets pneumonia in the summer?!), the same week I had a business trip across the country. Are you kidding me? Only once have I had a trip that took me out of town five days. Thankfully, he wanted to spend summer break with us this year, because, in his words, “it might be my last chance.” He worked full time(ish) in a local internship and I expected his evenings to be spent hanging out with friends, also home from college. I was wrong. More often than not he was happy to be with us. Between college and camp he had been gone the better part of two years, meaning we had to work through a few things, but overall it was so good. So, so good. One of those summer nights was my favorite, the one where, standing in our kitchen, our conversation veered deep. His heart opened wide and he invited me into his interior. Sacred places. We ventured into a similar but different space last week, and I considered myself fortunate to have gone “there” twice. Conditions have to be perfect for those conversations, and the best advice I can offer a parent is to be available when the stars align. And listen more than you speak. Two ears, one mouth–do the math. With his car jammed full, he turned to tell me good-bye, and like a child or a fool, I started running around the kitchen island. He started to follow until he realized what I was doing, and I said, “If I keep going forever will you stay?” and he answered,...

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Storied Dishes || ~ a Grace Table feature ~

May

03

Posted by on May 3, 2017 in Family, Family Traditions, Favorite things, Friends, friendship, Grace Table, Uncategorized |

Storied Dishes || ~ a Grace Table feature ~

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.   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…. Share...

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The Panhandler’s Breath

Mar

26

Posted by on Mar 26, 2017 in (in)courage, Faith, Family, Memoir, Personal |

The Panhandler’s Breath

He slipped in sideways between the closing elevator doors, as if he were late to a meeting; he pressed the “5” without looking. Instead of suit and tie, though, baggy pants and faded navy hung on his tall, slim frame. His stealth entry stiffened the hairs on the back of my neck. I had noticed him a few seconds earlier, just after we had parted a sea of rowdy teens. He was smiling, grandfatherly, standing maybe 30 feet away where the downtown electric shuttle picks up. I had no idea he had been watching us, studying us, predator patiently awaiting his next prey. The four of us were sealed in a four-by-six-foot metal tomb. Tomb — that thought really muscled its way into my mind. I wondered if he had a knife in his pocket. I wanted to protect my son. Fight or flight pumped adrenaline but there was nowhere to run.   A true story, the kind that reveals so much. Hope you click through to read The Panhandler’s Breath over at incourage and then share your own thoughts in response (the last line still rattles me….). Share...

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

Feb

02

Posted by on Feb 2, 2017 in Advice, Affiliate links used, Kids, Mom stuff, Parenting, Uncategorized | 1 comment

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

    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.     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...

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Presents or Presence (The Difference in Listening Well)

Dec

24

Posted by on Dec 24, 2016 in (in)courage, Advice, Christmas, Faith, Family, Friends, Service to others |

Presents or Presence (The Difference in Listening Well)

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” (John 3:16)   You can’t fool her, you know. Two pudgy hands cup your cheeks to turn your face, demanding your eyes look deep into her own. “Mama, you’re not listening!” You can almost feel her heart stomping its tiny imaginary foot to accentuate the point. Of course, you’re right when you insist, “Yes I am, honey, I can just do two things at once.” You did hear her, after all. But she’s right (more right?) because you weren’t listening. Hearing requires only ears. Listening demands ears, eyes, mind, and maybe most important, heart. The difference matters. A lot. Here’s why: Your children don’t just notice the difference between hearing and listening, they understand the difference: Something else is more important than them in that moment. O u c h! This isn’t confined to children; don’t we all hate it when we know someone is only half engaged in conversation? Present in body but absent in thought? I grow weary from all the admonitions to focus on Christ during the Christmas season, to resist holiday busyness. Please don’t get me wrong — I agree — but then I see a believing people tangled and lifeless in sticky-webs of shopping, baking, parties, and school or church programs. We are distracted. Everyone is working extra hard to pay for All The Things. And though our homes have never looked more lovely or smelled more delicious . . . Our actions are speaking loudly, and they don’t always match up to our words. Can I get an “Amen!”?   Please click to continue reading Presents/Presence for incourage. Promise: if you’ll follow this friendly advice this Christmas season, you’ll be  giving and receiving something precious. Share...

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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 in Family, Gratitude, Mom stuff, Mothers and daughters, Personal, Uncategorized | 2 comments

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

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...

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Love at the Table {a tribute for Grace Table}

Nov

20

Posted by on Nov 20, 2016 in Family, Family Traditions, Grace Table, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Love at the Table {a tribute for Grace Table}

I still remember the first time I met her, emerging from the shadow of her garage to meet us at the car. Her eyes were the same piercing blue as his; or rather, I suppose, his, hers. I think I told her so right then. I don’t know if he and I were in love yet but we were headed in that direction. He brought me home to meet his parents, after all; obviously, something was simmering. Three decades are sandwiched between then and now but I can still recall two things about that weekend: initial introductions and Sunday lunch. A college sophomore subsisting on starchy dining hall fare, I had come to deeply appreciate home cooking. It was a thing a kid takes for granted if they’re fortunate enough to have a family that gathers for dinner more often than not (I was one of the lucky ones). Sarah’s table was beautiful, set with Haviland china, sterling, and crystal. Platters and bowls full of comfort covered every square inch. Everything looked – and smelled – delicious. It wouldn’t take long to find out every dish delivered what it promised. I wasn’t shy about helping myself to seconds, and Sarah declared how glad she was for her son to bring home a girl who would eat. I was a little embarrassed at her observation, but I took it as the sincere compliment she intended. That was the first of dozens (hundreds?) of  meals I’d enjoy around my in-law’s table. Sarah’s recipes account for a substantial portion of my own culinary arsenal. Her fried chicken is magical, her sour cream pound cake might well be the best in the world, and Thanksgiving isn’t the same without her dressing. Her hand-pressed butter mints are magical. Sarah’s life has preached hospitality without her ever needing to say a word; she’s a There you are! person from the moment you step through her door. Around her table, there’s always room for one more. Her whole life has been an offering poured out in service to others, most often through her oven. She has always understood that something special happens when family and friends gather ’round a table. Frequently using her china taught me not to wait to use my own. Sarah recognized that extraordinary moments are found within our ordinary days. But with Thanksgiving next week and Christmas just around the corner, I’m acutely aware how life has changed…. * * *  I hope you’ll click to complete reading Love at The Table over at Grace Table. Grab tissues…. Share...

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The ministry of tears

Jun

05

Posted by on Jun 5, 2016 in (in)courage, Faith, Family, Memoir, Mom stuff, Nostalgia, Personal, Uncategorized | 1 comment

The ministry of tears

I have cried more in the past three weeks than I have since my mother’s death, and that was a long, long time ago. Emotions? Threadbare. Sleep? Fitful at best. And eating a real meal? Wishful thinking. Who needs a meat and three when you can have a Snickers and coffee? I wish I were kidding on that last one. It’s embarrassing to admit the “Why” of it, because, if I play the Comparison Game, it’s not a good enough reason to justify my fragility. I’m not facing illness or financial trouble, my children and marriage are doing well; in fact, the “Why” of it is ultimately good: We sold our house, the one we haven’t lived in full-time in almost three years. I mistakenly thought selling was the hard part. Packing up and purging the house my children will remember as Home — the place destined to inhabit their dreams when their minds drift back to childhood — undid me. As my oldest son and I emptied the attic, their lives passed before me, twisting my heart into knots. I didn’t expect to feel every memory, to re-live so many moments I had taken for granted at the time. As we emptied the attic, their lives passed before me, twisting my heart into knots. I didn’t expect to feel every memory, to re-live so many moments I had taken for granted at the time. The first instance happened as I passed down a box of their handmade Christmas gifts to my son, and the weight of all I hadn’t accomplished punched me in the throat. So many unfinished plans, slick roads paved with good intention. Life events, milestones, a childhood of Firsts times three. Tears were impossible to control. I could barely speak as I asked . . . “Did I get it right? Did I miss it…?” and poor Thomas, my 21-year-old, tried to answer the question he thought I was asking, “Mom…stop! You’re a great mother, we couldn’t have had it any better….” but he couldn’t possibly know what I meant. He hadn’t yet earned the right to understand; that price would be paid with a lot of life between now and then. Years. Decades. We’ve been married almost 29 years; our babies are 23, 21 and 19. The oldest just received an amazing marriage proposal; the middle one will graduate college next May; and the youngest just finished his freshman year. The house we lived in most of their lives was big enough to hold a lot of memories, and many of those memories were now represented by things made or bought. Downsizing to a much smaller house forced decisions I didn’t want to have to make. To toss any “thing” felt personal, as if I were saying that memory didn’t matter. Suddenly everything mattered and I was paralyzed by emotion and indecision, and just about anything could trigger an emotional breakdown.  I was grieving a certain kind of loss, and though that loss wasn’t marked by tragedy, and it wasn’t attached to relational devastation, financial ruin, or health scares, it was final. I was saying good-bye to more than just a house. I cried a lot, and instantly felt guilty or hated myself for it, because selling our house was a good thing. But then it hit me– Crying wasn’t weakness or pity party, it was catharsis. Tears are an incredible...

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If these walls could speak

Jun

02

Posted by on Jun 2, 2016 in Art of Simple, Beauty, Empty Nest, Encouragement, Family, friendship, Home, Love Where You Live, Memoir, Mom stuff, Nostalgia, Parenting, Personal, Uncategorized | 6 comments

If these walls could speak

A week ago we sold the house my children will always remember as home, the one they will dream about when they are the age I am now, when sleep makes them think they are young again. We’ve packed and we’ve purged and we’ve cried – a lot – but we’ve also seen precious people who mean a lot to us, friends who’ve sat around our table through the years, and kids who’ve grown up right before our eyes. They’ve helped us put things into boxes, and loosen my grip on anything that didn’t make sense to keep. I’ve found that being a sentimentalist about e v e r y t h i n g has the potential of making me a hoarder. Even now, just the thought of that is offensive to me – I am not a hoarder! Except the two-and-a-half filled and emptied curbside dumpsters would suggest otherwise. And the Goodwill truck locked and loaded with stuff that used to live in my house. And the things we sold on Craigslist. Not to mention all the stuff we’ve stored for our kids or later use, or given to friends who had the eyes to see the treasure in our trash. It made my day when Abbie texted me a picture of my old copper cookie canister that had been gathering dust in my pantry (the holder of rarely used cookie cutters) sitting on her shelf alongside her wedding-new copper cookware. We haven’t lived in that house full-time for three years – a long story that makes sense for us – so I didn’t expect…I wasn’t prepared for, the depth and breadth of emotion attached to selling it. We moved there the summer before our children began 1st, 3rd, and 5th grade; 13 years later we said our final good-byes. It is the summer before my babies’ sophomore and senior year of college, and the oldest is engaged and a year past her graduation. If it sounds like I’m in mourning, I suppose I have been. I mean seriously – if I have trouble tossing a pair of ratty short-alls, so shredded you can barely figure out which hole to put your leg through, just because Tad gave them to me as a gift when Thomas, now 21, was born – it makes sense that selling the house we lived in during our children’s most formative years would be difficult. Shout out to Stephanie and Paige who looked at me like I had grown another head for wanting to keep those short-alls. Still, Glory! Hallelujah! It’s sold and we’re thankful. In addition to all the packing and purging and crying and good-byeing, we’ve been remembering. We’ve watched our children’s lives pass before our eyes.   Three kids makes for many a keepsake. The things they’ve made for us. Treasured school and artwork. Love notes to us. Their special lovies. Every single thing stacked in their closets and crammed in our attic meant something. Stood for something. Held precious memory. Every time I held a thing, whether to keep or toss or give away, it was an exercise in remembering. Memories are powerful.   Maybe something fun or important or special, or I don’t know, something less concrete. The boys sword fighting with light sabers. Thomas reciting all the lines from his pull-toy Woody...

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