Hero

Jun

25

Posted by on Jun 25, 2018 in Memoir, Mom stuff, Parenting, Personal, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Hero

  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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First Ask Why || Interview With Author Shelly Wildman & Book Giveaway!

Apr

24

Posted by on Apr 24, 2018 in Book Review, Books, Mom stuff, Parenting |

First Ask Why || Interview With Author Shelly Wildman & Book Giveaway!

  The internet has introduced me to a lot of writing friends, and when they go on to publish a book, I can’t help but stand on the sidelines and cheer. Today, I’m celebrating Shelly Wildman, an internet-turned-real-life friend who has just released a wonderful parenting book: Just Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship. Shelly and I have a lot in common, starting with our age and including each of us having three children. We’ve learned over the years we share a similar parenting philosophy, and when she told me she was writing a book about parenting, I knew it would be one I’d recommend to others. I was right. It’s good, y’all. This isn’t a how-to book, but it lays out a framework for (as I phrase it) parenting “hard and on purpose;” in her case, in particular, with the goal of discipling your children in their faith. Parents of children still living at home will want this book, and it will make a fantastic Mother’s Day gift for anyone in the childrearing trenches. I’m also giving away a copy (comment on Instagram or Facebook). I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read the following interview with Shelly; you’ll understand quickly why I regard her counsel and why I’m bossing you to pick up your own copy.   Writing about parenting can be a powder keg—people have pretty strong opinions about raising kids. Why did you choose to write a parenting book?   I kind of feel like I didn’t choose to write a parenting book, but that the book chose me. (Sounds like a scene from Harry Potter, doesn’t it?) I fought writing it for a long time because I knew I wasn’t a perfect parent—I had messed up so many times that I didn’t feel qualified to write this book. I still don’t. But the idea kept nagging at me for so long that I finally felt like God might have been pushing me to do it.   I believe with all my heart that stronger families will make for a stronger society, which is so important today. And I believe that the strongest families are those that have Christ at their center. But so many parents today have lost their focus or their sense of purpose. They spend their time on meaningless, temporal things, when, really, the most important mission field is right in front of them. I’m hoping to encourage parents to look at the bigger picture, to ask why they are doing what they’re doing, and to think critically about God’s purpose for their kids and for their families.   I have three adult daughters now, and my hope is, now that my husband and I have raised them, that they will go out into the world and make a difference. And should they have children someday, that they would also make disciples of their kids. Instilling a Christ-following legacy is important work—I believe it’s THE most important work parents can do—and we’ve got to be intentional about it.   What makes your book different from other parenting books?   So many parenting books are “how-to” books. They seem to say, “Just follow these ten steps and here’s what you’ll get in the end.” But I don’t believe...

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Oh, lovely day

Feb

15

Posted by on Feb 15, 2018 in Art, Celebrations, Faith, Family, Family Traditions, Inspiring, Life Philosophy, Memoir, Mothers and daughters, Personal, Valentine Tea, Valentine's Day | 4 comments

Oh, lovely day

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...

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The Gift of a Lifetime

Dec

15

Posted by on Dec 15, 2017 in Advice, Art of Simple, Favorite things, Memoir, Parenting, Personal, Uncategorized | 2 comments

The Gift of a Lifetime

  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.   * * * Oh! I hope you’ll click over to continue reading The Gift of a Lifetime at The Art of Simple today....

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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...

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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...

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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...

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