The Panhandler’s Breath

Mar

26

Posted by on Mar 26, 2017 in (in)courage, Faith, Family, Memoir, Personal | 0 comments

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 | 0 comments

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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A father’s plea

May

05

Posted by on May 5, 2016 in Do Something!, Family, Mom stuff, Mothers and daughters, On my soapbox, Parenting, Teens & Tweens, Uncategorized | 2 comments

A father’s plea

 An email shared with me today, from someone our family loves. I asked permission to post it here, hoping to share its heart-breaking message beyond his original recipients. Please read it as if your husband or father or brother or best friend wrote it; it’s that personal. It’s that important. If you’ve never shared a post of mine before, now is the time. Use the easy share buttons at the bottom of the post, cut and paste it, email it…I really don’t care. I believe it is so affecting, you could possibly be saving lives. Thank you. Love, Robin    * * * * * * * * ** *   My beloved children,   This morning on my way to work I came up on a head on car collision that had just happened seconds earlier.  A young boy was thrown into the front seat in one car, air bags deployed on both cars. At first glance it appeared that one driver and the child may be dead. We could not open the doors and had to call 911 and wait. Fortunately the drivers and child started moving. When emergency rescuers arrived they were able to get the child out and it appears he will be okay. The drivers are alive but who knows if they have head trauma.   You guys know about the UGA girls and the tragic accident there.   While we don’t know, my suspicion is the drivers were distracted, and my guess is they were distracted by a cell phone.   I am guilty. I let my phone distract me at times. I check a text or email. I look up a number to call someone, maybe calling you.   These events remind me it’s not worth it. It happens in an instant.    Please, please, please. Leave the phone in your pocket when you are driving. Look at the directions before you leave to go somewhere. Program the GPS before you leave. Do something radical and turn your phone off. Don’t tolerate your friends using their phone when driving.   I love you all so much and don’t want a distraction to hurt your or someone else, to cause something like this.   Please hear your Dad’s plea when that text message goes off while you are driving.   It ain’t worth it. Share...

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My 1st Podcast: Raising Kids on Harry Potter

Apr

05

Posted by on Apr 5, 2016 in Harry Potter, Parenting, Personal, Podcast, Simple Mom | 4 comments

My 1st Podcast: Raising Kids on Harry Potter

Over the weekend, while I was busy wedding-ing and celebrating one of my almost-daughters, a podcast featuring yours truly and recorded for Tsh’s The Simple Show aired. I’ll be honest: a) It’s the first time I’ve ever accepted a podcast invite. b) It’s the first time I’ve ever listened to a podcast (don’t judge me. It’s a phone issue.) c) It was incredibly and surprisingly fun, and not awful to hear it played back. A sweet friend who texted me after listening had this to say about it: Just listened to your podcast episode with Tsh! Loved it!! You really should consider doing a podcast yourself. You’re very engaging, smart, knowledgable, wise, witty, and I could go on. Count me as your first subscriber.   (Cindy isn’t just a sweet friend, she was my first friend and neighbor after I got married and moved a long way from home. We were delighted to “find” each other again a few years ago at a blog conference–how cool is that?) It seems poetic and lovely that the first podcast I join would be one talking about Harry Potter. For those of you who knew me for my first years of blogging, you already know I blogged under the name of PENSIEVE, a HP relic introduced in book four, The Goblet of Fire. I truly hope you’ll check out The Simple Show’s 25th episode, “Raising Kids on Harry Potter” and tell me what you think. As long as you’re nice about it, you can even disagree with Cindy’s perspective. Otherwise, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything” should apply. Silence speaks volumes :). ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: {If you have children and don’t own the HP series, buy it. If you don’t have children and haven’t yet read the series, treat yourself with my affiliate link. I wouldn’t call it great children’s literature, I’d say it’s great everyone’s lit :). } Share...

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Why Clemson is STILL #1

Jan

13

Posted by on Jan 13, 2016 in Family, Family Traditions, Favorite things, Nostalgia, Personal, Uncategorized | 8 comments

Why Clemson is STILL #1

Looking back through my lens as a parent, it’s difficult to understand why my father allowed it–   Me going to an out-of-state college four years, especially in light of what influenced my decision: It was only 90 minutes from home. I loved the Tiger paws dotting the highways leading into campus. It was not where my sister – 16 months my senior with a shadow that shrouded me for 18 years – went to college. Oh, sure, I probably gave a more intelligent explanation when asked, but those were the real (now mortifying) reasons. Of course, my Grand Plan included me returning to my hometown to attend the University of Georgia my sophomore year, so it’s not like I set out to break the bank. Daddy had wanted me and my siblings to have a “true college experience” away from home our freshman year, and apparently I wanted him to pay dearly for it. It’s not like we were spoiled – it was rare for us to ask for extras, and we all worked as soon as we could to earn spending money – but I still can’t believe my gall to think it was okay. At best I was insensitive to the cost differential between in- and out-of-state tuition, and at worst, invoked some sense of entitlement. My collegiate decision had nothing to do with academics. Clemson didn’t even have the major I was interested in so I had to chose something close. I can think of no other more shallow or immature decision made my entire life.   My husband is quick to remind me it worked out pretty well, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Monday night in a ferocious contest, Clemson’s #1-ranked, 14-0 football team, played for the National Championship. Though they didn’t come away with the win, I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of or happier for my personal association with the school. From underdogs to wonder cats, Clemson has endeared us all. In full disclosure, I’m not a general football fan; it’s team specific and I only care about a few. Having grown up in Athens, GA, I can’t ignore my long-standing affection for the Georgia Bulldogs, and with my youngest there now I, once again, have a vested interest (I’m still incensed they ran off Coach Mark Richt; he is as fine a man as they come, concerned about developing his players as good men as much as he cares about winning…but that’s a rant for another time). Here’s why the Tigers are still #1 to me:   1)  Quarterback Deshaun Watson. J’adore a good story, and that’s exactly what Deshaun brings along with his cool composure under pressure, wicked passing precision, and the Eye of the Tiger when reading and running the field. Of course, I’ve got near-family affection for this guy–he’s from the same hometown as my sister and her family, and they’ve long lauded his talent and character. There’s great reason former Clemson standout Steve Fuller graciously unretired his number 4 jersey for Watson (a story worth reading), and when you learn why Watson partners with Habitat for Humanity, you might just cry. As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t become a fan of this kid, your heart might just be stone cold. 2) Dabo Swinney. I’ll be honest–at first Dabo’s wiles and ways didn’t win me over....

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