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...

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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...

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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 :)....

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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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wonderstruck

Jan

03

Posted by on Jan 3, 2016 in Beauty, Christmas, Faith, Family, Inspiring, Memoir, Personal | 2 comments

wonderstruck

  I was sitting in my kitchen, reading and alone. In the peace of Christmas Eve’s morning, I sensed something different, a change in atmosphere. There are a lot of windows in our small house; two entire sides of it are practically all glass. Streaming – practically screaming – through all of them was an eerie rosy glow, so peculiar it lured me outside to see if someone was shining a giant rose-colored light. No one was there, of course, but the old saying whispered– Red sky at morning, sailor take warning… And I wondered just what the day would bring. If I wouldn’t be enjoying a white Christmas – unseasonable temperatures breaking record highs – a pink one was just fine by me. Matching my delight in this magical sky was anticipation for the day to get on with itself. By suppertime all my children would be gathered ’round our table, a rarity anymore. Good food is secondary; it is these moments I savor. Right now I’m a little in the dark. It’s an odd spot for me, someone who typically lives with an expectancy of good things, God things. I’ve prayed for direction for this new year, but I’ve felt more like a wanderer. The sky felt like an omen. I don’t mom on a daily basis anymore, not the way I’ve done for the past two decades or so. I’m thankful for good and challenging work, because it fills time and space, but I can’t help but question its significance. What does it really matter, you know? But then in a stroke of divine timing, I stumble across a writer new to me: Rachel Naomi Remen. I don’t know anything (yet) of her faith persuasion, but she says some pretty wise things, the kind of things I needed to hear. In her words I remember that my life has meaning and significance, to remember what I already know. And then it occurred to me how often God uses the sky to speak to me, today, yes, but a few weeks ago, a few years ago, and problem a zillion other times I didn’t bother to record in writing. My babies were all out at 1:30 that afternoon when the warnings began. A tornado in December? What the heck? Red sky at morning, sailor take warning…. It was surreal when the weatherman said the rotation was heading straight to us and I seriously wondered what it would sound like if our little stick-built house splintered. I was sitting in our only interior room with no windows, a powder room off our kitchen, toilet on one side and sink on the other, phone in hand, and wondering if a bike helmet ever saved anyone’s life in a tornado (the weatherman had said to go to your safe place and put on a helmet…). It was comical, but even my husband was on edge. Soon enough the warnings passed and that swirling mass of air never touched the ground. No damage, no death, no splintered houses this time. We’re into this new year now and I’m still on a Wander. But the old year ended in wonder, and with a challenge to see anew. A perfect place to end and begin again, don’t you think?...

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The beautiful-est little Christmas thing ever

Dec

24

Posted by on Dec 24, 2015 in Art, Christmas, Faith, Family, Favorite things, Personal, Uncategorized | 5 comments

The beautiful-est little Christmas thing ever

  I believe in the art of play. I believe in the play of art. Scripture tells us we’re created in the image of God, and in him we see creativity beyond comparison, imagination with no bounds. Nature screams it in her beauty, her complexity, her diversity. Study your hand. An odd thing, perhaps, but look at it in a way you never have before. You’ll be amazed. Your nails, the joints, the prints on fingers and thumb. Lines that might not tell your future, but certainly tell your life. Your hand is art by a masterful creator. And that’s only one tiny part of you. As image bearers we share in God’s creative nature, and I think children know it best. Or maybe they’re freer to declare the joy in, and goodness of, their work: “Look what I made!” They know how to be proud without a hint of arrogance. Children grow up and forget so many important things (adults forget so many important things), or maybe self-awareness settles in and we stuff down or crowd out or silence the creative in ourselves. Of course, Hobby Lobby and Michael’s exist for those who remember. This year I signed up for a clay class at my church, led by two friends whose artistic talents match the joy they have in sharing their giftings with others. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and they make you believe there’s Midas touch in your fingers. Each week they supplied us with a flat of clay and new instructions, and from there we cut and shaped, slipped and scored our way to something incredibly special: my new favorite Christmas nativity. I’ve always loved crèches, and though there are so many beautiful ones you can buy, my favorites are handmades. A beautiful takeaway from the class is a deeper glimpse of God as potter; clay in my hands helped me grasp the care and intention in God’s creation of humanity. Not that I’ll ever fully understand it…. I loved both the process and end result. I strongly encourage you to take an art class in your area, but it comes with a caution: Don’t strive for perfection; go for perfect imperfection. It’s so much more beautiful.   My angel. I’d probably re-think that heart now, but when I added it, it was a simple expression of love.   I had a hard time with Joseph and my little sheep. I couldn’t get Joseph’s hair quite right, I smudged the pattern in his cloak when shaping him, and my sheep? Well, he looked like a cross between a brain and a wig for Joseph. In the end they were fine, a great reminder how forgiving clay is.    Mary, Babe in Manger…and tools of our trade. I had hoped Mary’s head covering would be removable; same with Jesus’ swaddling cloth. But, the way I made them they became attached (a little harder to paint…I’ll take note the next time I work with clay).   Glazed but not yet fired in the kiln. It is amazing to me how different they look before…   And...

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Understanding Others || a guest post by my daughter

Oct

17

Posted by on Oct 17, 2015 in Family, Inspiring, Life Philosophy, Missions, Mothers and daughters, Personal, Uncategorized | 11 comments

Understanding Others || a guest post by my daughter

Motherhood is a gradual series of Letting Go. Some days it’s harder than others. Today is one of the hard days. My daughter is in her second month of a two-year fellowship with CrossPurpose, a training program “designed to bring together highly motivated individuals with diverse backgrounds and interests, and develop them into powerful kingdom builders for the public, private and nonprofit sectors.” Their mission is “to launch a movement of lifelong urban church leaders who will work through local churches and their communities to advance the mission of God and transform the cities of the world.“ My girl explains CrossPurpose’s philosophy, in part, the way it was explained to her: “You can’t solve a problem you don’t understand, and you can’t understand from a distance.”   Long story short, this means she’s living among the people she’ll serve, at the poverty level…by design. She knows she’ll be stretched thin and pulled outside her comfort zone. Figuratively, sure, but also literally. A few weeks ago she took part in a 48-hour weekend homeless immersion experience where she “entered the world of poverty and homelessness [to] discover the unique challenges of ministry among those on the margins of society.” She wrote a recent update for her supporters, and I asked her permission to share excerpts of it below. You see, I’m her mama and I know what she and her co-workers are doing is hard. I’m asking your prayers on her (their) behalf. Especially this weekend when she’ll be taking part in another 48-hour encounter: a Refugee Immersion – “an intense, physically challenging immersion experience that exposes [participants] to the parallel universe and ministry challenges among refugees.” Even if you discover this post after the fact, please pray. While the Refugee Weekend ends on Sunday, there’s no doubt its impact will linger, and the Fellowship is ongoing. Please continue reading for a glimpse into the life of a CrossPurpose Fellow. My daughter would be the first to shrug off any personal accolade, but the program is special and what they’re doing is revolutionary. * * * * * “First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” ~ Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird __ This new skin I put on smelled bad. It was baggy and stretched from walking for miles. It did not endear me to others; on the contrary, this skin and the words that came from it garnered a type of reaction I’ve never before received. Dread dropped into my stomach to mix with my hunger as we were given a series of assignments throughout the weekend intended to provide a brief glance into the lives of those who have no place to call home. People who didn’t know better would easily make assumptions about who I was. What I was. * * * * * My daughter recently experienced a Poverty Immersion Weekend, where she and others spent a weekend on the streets, feeling and experiencing the lives of people who are homeless. This simulated experience has taken place for 18 years, guiding hundreds of individuals to empathize more deeply with our brothers and sisters who don’t have a place to...

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Greater Love

Sep

14

Posted by on Sep 14, 2015 in (in)courage, Empty Nest, Encouragement, Faith, Family, Life Philosophy, Mom stuff, Mothers and daughters, Parenting, Personal |

Greater Love

Sometimes when you get what you hope and pray for, it’s not just hard, it hurts.   I’m a mama to three — two brothers born before their big sister turned five. Babies, then toddlers, are so active, aren’t they? Endless demands and never enough sleep, a constancy of care and attention. If you see a woman with raccoon eyes and a coffee IV, she’s probably a new mama. Every day is a learning experience for both child and parent. Perhaps the greatest surprise of parenting has been how much my children teach me. I presumed this teaching business was a one-way street, where I played the role of teacher, and they, always the students. While our home has certainly been a classroom, often it was me learning the lessons of love and life and forgiveness and sacrifice through them. The hardest lessons were those of self-discovery, where conflict or circumstance revealed my own sin. Sometimes parenting is knee-bending humbling.    Time plays tricks on mamas. Days stretch forever long but years end impossibly quick. And then one day you wake up to beds already made, an empty laundry basket, two glasses, and two plates in the dishwasher . . . and quiet. On brutal days of parenting, you’ll wish it would come faster. On days stitched in joy and sunshine, you will time to stop, if only that were possible. Yes, you will know this empty nest thing is coming a mile away. You’ll steel your heart for the inevitable. The Day will come softly with no fanfare, the way summer sneaks into fall. In nature and in life, seasons are creation’s evidence that change is good and necessary. Our youngest son started college last month, our middle son began his junior year . . . and on Tuesday we returned from a cross-country trip to move our firstborn into her new apartment. Sometimes parenting means letting go all the way.   We must let go of tiny hands so they can walk. We’ve got to release the seat of the bike so they can ride. When it’s time for them to leave home, we can’t attach strings of manipulation or guilt. We began praying for our children when they were only sparkles of hope in our eyes. When they were old enough, we kneeled right beside their bed or lay side by little side, our nightly prayers a bedtime ritual, a necessary prequel to sleep. That’s something not often marked in a visible place — the last time you say nighttime prayers with your children. I don’t think you recognize it as such; maybe because it’s more gradual than that. And maybe because you never actually stop praying. It’s safe to say that most parents pray their children will follow the Lord’s will for their lives, that they will love and serve Jesus for all of their days. Our world is a broken one and, increasingly, our culture seems to fight Judeo-Christian values. It is no small thing when our children leave home with their faith intact. When they’re on their own, free to experiment and explore, it is reason to downright celebrate when they still choose Christ again and again. Throughout their lives I’ve prayed for my babies to follow Jesus, but it never occurred to me that might come at a cost. Keep reading Greater Love over at incourage, won’t you?...

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