You know how sometimes you make plans for something and you’re just sure they’re going to be awesome? And then they’re not? They’re actually better? I love it when that happens. That was our story a few weekends ago and it was so sweet.
Our church family started a wonderful tradition a few years ago. We reserve a cabin, or three, in the Smoky Mountains and spend the entire weekend just hanging out and enjoying the views. Or hiking, playing games, fishing, cruising Gatlinburg or doing nothing … basically whatever strikes our fancy at the time.
It’s such a fun balance between being away and being together. Oh, and we eat. And maybe nap. And then we eat again. And enjoy the views.
Our family drug in pretty late Friday night this year. I was up early Saturday morning as part of the breakfast crew, which obviously called for coffee. I was a little surprised when the mug had the name of a Bed & Breakfast where we had stayed for two nights as part of our honeymoon almost 25 years ago.
I sipped my coffee as we finished up breakfast and then headed out to the other cabins to let everyone know breakfast was ready. As I was heading back I noticed a little tree house off one of the rooms of the main cabin, and that’s when it dawned on me.
Made a little sweeter this year
It was the B&B where we had stayed, and suddenly it’s like I saw and remembered so many details. The latticed brick entryway floor and beamed ceiling in the kitchen. The deck stretching across the entire back of the large cabin. The little bridge out to the private tree house that at one time held a hot tub.
I was so excited I could hardly stand it. I quickly found another mug with the name of the B&B on it and poured Steve’s coffee. When he showed up a few minutes later I led him out to the little tree house deck to show him the view.
As if that wasn’t awesome enough, his expression showed the exact moment he recognized everything. Even our teenage girls were impressed with the story.
What are the odds? There are hundreds upon hundreds of cabins for rent in the Smokies, and we just happened to be at the very one where we had honeymooned.
I had actually searched for the B&B a few years ago to surprise Steve for his birthday, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. We ended up camping for his birthday and it was great fun. And this better-than-expected surprise was such fun to share with a few of our kids and each other 25 years later.
My own reminder to notice the details and savor the surprises
So I guess my reminder in all of this is to pay attention. I’m sure at some point it would have dawned on me where we were staying, but I’m so glad it was at the start of our weekend. It made our time even more enjoyable and special.
And the other lesson? Coffee. First thing. Every day. You’re welcome!
What sort of better-than-expected moments have you celebrated lately?
I’ve been praying for a few friends and dear boy mamas this week who are struggling as they send their little guys off to school. And as I crawled into bed a few days ago, a picture of my boy on top of a mountain popped up on my phone. Along with it came a flood of thoughts about my own little ones, most of whom are girls and all of whom are now taller than me.
And then a picture of a friend’s little guy looking so small and forlorn reminded me of my own who had a habit of hiding behind my leg when someone spoke to him. And now? Well, now that timidity is unrecognizable, partly because of my hubby’s encouragement to let our boy be a boy and grow into who he was wired to be.
Now let me just say here, there are so very many times I’ve messed it up, this Mama thing. My boy and I have had our share of tough days and hurtful words and we still have plenty of room, and prayers, for our relationship to grow stronger with each passing year. But through it all, I’m so grateful for God’s grace to help us remember the beautiful moments and to cover those that were just plain “less than” in one way or another.
So for all you Mamas of boys struggling in these first few weeks of school and for those who find yourself still waiting for your boy to return home, please know that you are being prayed for and that you are brave. And perhaps find a little encouragement in the flood of thoughts that bombarded my memory on the other side of this grand undertaking of raising boys into men …
Dear Boy Mama
Dear Boy Mama,
Yeah, it’s scary. This releasing them into this big world when we’re never quite sure they’re ready.
They’re sure, sometimes. Other times, not so much.
As hard as it is … we let them go. Their first big day could be heading off to kindergarten, or it could be more like our oldest whose first day of “real school” included car keys and college textbooks.
At some point, they’ll toss the phrase “I was born ready, Mom” or some other cheesy cliche over their shoulder as they head out the door as if to prove their readiness to both themselves and you all in one fell swoop. You might as well know they very well may be trembling inside a bit too, but seeing you believe in them helps them to do the same.
Either way, we let them go and quickly find that when they return they’re full of stories. Some comforting, others not at all and sprinkled throughout there may even be a tear or two. You’ll listen to their stories and wipe the hurt from their eyes as needed. Then they’ll tell of newfound friendships, those also falling into the same categories of comforting, not so comforting and those capable of bringing a fresh flow of tears.
Laced throughout are a few stories about new things they’re learning and suddenly you see a deeper passion ignited in their eyes than had been there before.
Then they grow. And they grow. Typically a good 6 inches in some random summer when we looked away for a mere moment. And suddenly we find ourselves looking up at them in conversation instead of the other way around.
And the shoes and adventures seem to grow one right alongside the other. All the while their voice is deepening and their personality is emerging with greater confidence than ever before. And prayerfully some of those encouraging friendships of days gone by have grown deeper with each passing year.
Before we know it they’re heading off on some grand adventure to do daring things of which we would never approve were we standing there beside them. Nothing illegal or immoral mind you, just daring and bold. Definitely bolder than we feel watching our hearts waltz right out the door to conquer the world, or maybe just their little corner of it.
They’ll send pictures. Maybe not lots and lots of them, they are boys after all, but they’ll send the coolest of their collection. You’ll gasp at how close they are to the edge of safety and, from where you sit, sanity.
Yet you’ll beam because deep down in the very depths of your soul you know they were made for this. They were formed for this scaling of mountains and this swinging from trees.
You’ll hear, more than once mind you, “Love you, Mom!” just before some daring feat or grown-up decision. And you’ll want to look away for a split second just hoping it to all turns out okay. Somehow you know this “Love you, Mom!” is a veiled request for affirmation of some sort because we’re all wired to need such things from those whose opinions matter.
They’ll drag in a good kind of exhausted from the adventure of it all. And you’ll hear more stories. Oh the stories, and more pictures if you’re lucky, but mostly you’ll see the light in their eyes from the sheer excitement of it all.
And you’ll just smile as you listen and soak it all in. Every sight, sound, smell and touch of them and who they’ve become. And then you’ll smile even deeper knowing that this learning to let go is the greatest gift we can give these young men of ours.
The freedom to scale the scary mountains that lie before them. If not for scaling them, how could they ever be ready to move them in the days ahead? And who’s to say it’s not precisely that for which they were created?
It’s our gift to them, this letting them go, season by season. And thankfully it comes bit by bit, for our hearts could never handle this letting go all at once.
And their gift to us? It’s the coming home. It’s a way of saying “Love you, Mom!” for letting them go in the first place. For believing in them enough to unclutch our hands for them to fly. For being the voice in their head cheering them on. For a Mama’s hug, because there’s just nothing quite like it, and perhaps a batch of their favorite cookies too.
So smile deeply, Mama. Yes, your lip may quiver. That’s okay. As you well know, this being brave often happens in the face of fear, not the absence of it. You’re brave enough to give one of the greatest gifts you possess. And those always seem to come with more sacrifice than we believe we have to offer.
For without this letting go for them to soar there would be no glorious homecoming now would there?
27 years ago, I walked into a singles group at a local church and met a slew of new people, some of whom became lifelong friends. And then there was this guy, who became my lifelong love. And today we celebrate 52 years of him!
I’m not really sure if it was his blue eyes, the ever-present smile, the infectious laugh or a combination of all three that I noticed first. Either way, I noticed. And I’ve been noticing ever since, along with a few other things too …
He loves his family well. Every Sunday of these past almost 25 years, save a mere handful here or there, he has called Mom and Dad Moore . Sometimes the rest of us join in and other times they spend the better part of an hour talking about everything and sometimes, nothing. As I see it, it’s one way he chooses to honor them.
He also loves learning and I see no stopping of that as he heads into year 53. One thing he’s definitely learned is the value of seeing what needs to be done and jumping in. He’ll gladly step way on out of his comfort zone to serve others in the most menial of ways when that’s what’s needed.
Did I mention that he’s the youngest of four? Four boys. It’s true. And that when God gave us our four, He chose three of them to be girls. Yep. That’s a lot for any guy to adjust to, especially when he’s been raised around older brothers. He’s taken to it well, this being a dad to girls, and the girls have taken to him too!
I’m not sure if it’s because he was the tag along on so many of his big brothers adventures or not, but he has a healthy sense of adventure. Granted, sledding isn’t the riskiest of behaviors, but moving from his forever home on the coast of south Florida to the icy Januaries of the Bluegrass was more than just a temperature shift.
Honestly, I’m not sure if it is considered adventurous or resourceful when you give two grown men the task of carving the Thanksgiving turkeys and they clean up the reciprocating saw and declare it the perfect tool for the job. Just walk away Mama, walk away, because sometimes boys just gotta be boys, even when they’re all grown up. And then all ten kids gathered around the table declare it one of the best moments of the day. Because dads just know how to make things memorable!
His adventurous spirit is only matched by this leading the rest of us right along with him. I’ve lost track of the number of missions trips he’s led overseas. Though I do know that he’s enjoyed such delicacies as Curried Goat in Haiti, Fried Guinea Pig in Peru, Whale Sushi in Japan and Balut in the Philippines. They all make the crawfish in that first picture up there look like nothing, even though I don’t think I could deal with eating a plate full of that sort of nothing for dinner.
The best part of these adventures, is when the rest of us have been able to come along with him. We’ve been blessed to be able to take 3 of our 4 kids to a third or fourth world country at the beginning of their teen years, and hope to bring the last one this next summer.
The kids have worked hard to save money for each of these trips and he has worked to help them glean every ounce of learning out of these experiences. We have thoroughly enjoyed these trips with each of the kids one at a time, and we wouldn’t trade it for anything. But as much as I’m always ready to go on these trips, if the planning and details were left to me. we probably would never have set foot in the airport for the first flight.
More than any of these things, he is a mighty prayer warrior. When I’ve called him at the office on the verge of a Mama meltdown, he doesn’t just say he’ll pray for me, we stop right then and pray. It felt a little weird at first, this praying on the phone, but I’ve found these moments to be some of our most encouraging over the years .
And our kids, along with their future spouses have been the focus of many of these prayers. I can’t ask for much more than a man who loves God with all his heart and prays fervently for those God has brought across his path.
Though his calm to my energy has been one of those glorious differences that we’ve had to work through, it has been such a steadying gift for me. Almost half of our years have been spent together, and I look forward to so many more birthdays to celebrate him.
Happy birthday babe! I love you more than you’ll ever know.
This scene caught my eye the other night as I was driving home.
Rain had poured down much of the afternoon leaving the horse farms bathed in the glow of the setting sun.
Just past this was a section of busted up fence and the once-green tree that had crushed it in a previous squall.
And then there was this scene …
The sunbathed beauty that came in the wake of the storm had left the countryside glowing a bright green and the flowers bursting with blooms and life.
Isaiah 43:18-19 immediately came to mind.
It felt a bit like a rainbow moment. A sort of promise that even in the wake of a terribly strong storm, God can bring tremendous beauty. He can bring such healing and light that it’s almost brilliantly blinding.
I don’t know about you, but there are moments and seasons in the past few years that have felt like the worst of storms in my world.
You may be counted among those facing rising waters in the south or raging fires in the west or your own more private storms and battles.
May you find encouragement in knowing that God’s desire is for redemption. May you find Him doing a new thing right smack in the middle of where a mere moment before you only saw destruction and devastation.
May you see this new thing even today and see His healing more clearly in the light of a new day.
Seven years ago today Dad, Andy, Sarah and I gathered around Mama, hugged on her and prayed before she was wheeled into surgery to repair her heart. She requested that Andy play “Give me Jesus” on his phone and that’s how we spent our last few moments with her.
Jesus did heal her heart that day, not in the way we would have desired, but in a different way. Our hearts hurt desperately, but slowly and surely he’s been healing them with each passing day.
I’m so grateful for how Mama gave me Jesus, in a way I could understand and know Him, as a child, as a young woman as a wife and mother.
I’m even more grateful that this gift He gave me is eternal.
5 reasons why you Gotta Hafta go to Haven Conference
It’s been pretty quiet here in this space for about a week, but not because nothing has been going on with the blog. More like because all sorts of exciting things have been going on!
I was blessed to spend this past weekend in Atlanta with over 400 pro-bloggers, 100+ sponsor representatives and a whole big bundle of excitement everywhere we went. In all the excitement, there was little time to sleep and even less time to blog, a little pre-planning issue I intend to change in the future. In the meantime, consider this your advanced invite to join us at Haven 2017 because once you hear these 5 reasons why you gotta hafta go to Haven Conference, you’ll want to reserve your ticket too!
What’s that you say? You don’t have a blog so you can’t go? Au contraire! I met several amazing women this year who don’t have a blog but are wanting to start one. What a brilliant way to learn blogging before accumulating a host of mistakes to correct. Wish I had thought that way a year ago so I could spend much of the next month creating instead of correcting. I heard about another non-blogger who came with no desire to start a blog, but simply an excitement to enjoy DIY classes and exhibits with some cutting edge products and project ideas.
So without further ado, 5 reasons why you gotta hafta attend Haven Conference …
1 | Because Grand Hyatt, Grilled Salmon, Starbucks & Chandys upon Chandys
It’s not that you’ve never stayed in a nice hotel, it may be more like you’re kind of an outdoor girl at heart. An awesome family vacation for you might involve the mountains or beach, a nightly fire with s’mores and an overcrowded tent. So, yeah, the Grand Hyatt is a bit swanky.
And the chandeliers are everywhere. The Hyatt staff pretty much expect all of the DIY/design bloggers to take multiple pictures of the chandys. You’ll still look ridiculous staring up at the ceilings and snapping away, but it would never stop you from appreciating such beauty! This ginormous one in the main stairwell may quickly become a favorite.
Although it’s gorgeous, it’s not the design that you’ll love. It’s the group of women who will gather, ones who had previously only shared a few sentences online if that. You’ll love how the adventure begins immediately as you run across the street through a deluge of rain so you can dine in a trendy restaurant looking as stylish as a pack of drowned rats. You’ll have absolutely no inkling of how special each woman will become by the end of your weekend. Maybe there’s some sort of magical bond formed when you walk into a classy restaurant looking all disheveled and soggy. Whatever it is, it’ll work!
From that first night of swanky accomodations, to the grilled salmon and roasated veggies for lunch, to the morning Starbucks coffee on tap and plenty of spaces to sit and chat – you’ll quickly find it to be the perfect venue for gathering and connecting deeply with others who get you.
2 | Because Geeking out on Tech Tips, New Apps, Analytics and Knowing there’s Always Something New to Learn
But, I’m not a techy person, you say. I’m not a business-minded person, you say. And this blogging thing requires a good bit of both. So when you have the experts in the field sharing the tips, tricks and techniques they’ve learned along the way, you listen. And you take notes. Lots and lots of notes. And when you miss some, one of your new-found friends will mail her notes to you. And just in case, lots of the speakers will add their notes for all the Haven attendees to enjoy. Even if you didn’t even go to their class in the first place!
And oh my, the ways to really discover and understand your readers! What matters to them? What’s the best way to connect with them?
And if you already know that stuff, or don’t need to know the techy stuff, then the hands-on classes are some of the best you’ll get anywhere. From water painting with crazy gifted artists to photo styling to building cool stuff out of concrete.
3 | Because Swag Bags, Dance Parties, Awesome Brands to Work with … and did I mention Swag Bags?
Perchance “free” is your thing … who am I kidding? Have you ever known anyone who didn’t perk up a bit when they heard the word “free”. If not, then I don’t know how to say this nicely, but our friendship from here on out just might be on shaky ground.
The first thing that happens when you check in at the Hyatt is that you’ll be offered some yummy fruit infused peach tea. Becuase, Georgia and peaches go together like oreos and milk. Next, you’ll pick up your name tag and your swag bag.
When I say swag bag, think ginormous tool bag, that one in the bottom right corner above, stuffed with all sorts of tools and treasures. Like, bring an extra suitcase big, because if you can somehow fit your swag bag contents in your usual luggage, you’ll never get all the other giveaways in there too. There’s just that much stuff these companies send home with bloggers. And we’re not talking stress balls and pens here, we’re talking coolers, hardware, specialized paints and stains and a Dremel tool, the same one that’s been on your wish list for a few years now. You also need to be prepared to explain to the men in your life that the power tools are part of your swag and not their Christmas wish list. Yeah, have fun with that!
4| Because Mentors, Tribes, Friendships and Big Girl Sleepovers
One of the new features of Haven this year was mentor groups. As a Haven attendee, aka. Haven Maven, you’ll be placed in a group of about a dozen or so others and a mentor, all of whom are quite experienced and gifted.
Your mentor just might be Mandi from Vintagerevivals.com, whose tagline on her home page reads “This DIY blog runs on paint fumes and blind enthusiasm. Consider yourself warned.” What’s not to love about that?! You may not think you’re much into the mid-century decor stuff until you see her blog and promptly change your mind. After reading her crazy-fun-embrace-life creativity you too will respect her, even more, when you hear her heart on life, marriage, facing fears and growing strong in the grit of life. What a gift to hear her heart and see her genuineness and her desire to encourage others and most of all to remain true to ourselves and our readers.
If that mentoring weren’t enough, you may also have the privilege of making the 6-hour trek to and from Atlanta with someone like Cyndi from cyndispivey.com. Cyndi is a fashion blogger who not only shares great fashions and tips, but also beauty for the heart as the foundation of our outward beauty. Cyndi did not teach classes at Haven this year, but she has in the past, so it was like another 14 hours of blog / life mentoring. Note to self, a 12-hour round trip can easily become a 14-hour round trip if I’ve you’ve had very much coffee to drink.
You may even bump into someone you met several years earlier for just a few short minutes. And even though you each knew the other was attending Haven, you would have no idea how quickly you would connect and how excited you would be to see what God does with that friendship in years to come.
And you may just end up rooming with a few women you’ve never met until you checked into the hotel. And you’ll smile at the blessing they were and will continue to be on this journey. And you’ll come across those crazy talented creatives with loads of energy who make it hard to wait and see what they do and how many they inspire in the years ahead. But you’ll watch nevertheless because you just know it’ll be worth it.
Then you’ll meet women from all over the US – Kentucky, Oregon, North Carolina, Washington, Arkansas, Tennessee … This will become your tribe. Some of them will be such huge influencers that it could be intimidating that is, if they weren’t also so down-to-earth and interested in journeying together.
What encouragement, laughter, wisdom, and general silliness you’ll share together. Not to mention some pretty tasty dinners too! You’ll hear everyone talking about the networking friendship thing almost as soon as you register. But you can’t grasp the depth of what they mean until you’re there, at which time it’ll become crystal clear and beyond your wildest expectations.
And then you’ll just settle in and enjoy the best big girl sleepover of your life.
5 | Because Coaxing, Pushing and Soaring out of our Comfort Zone are non-options in this life
You may find that right up until just a few days before Haven you’ll be excited but you’ll mostly be intimidated. Unlike a lot of bloggers, you may be an extrovert. You may love meeting new people, hearing their stories and connecting. You may even love setting out on new adventures and learning new things. But, you may not love all of those things happening at once, without the comfort of people you know or a base of knowledge. It’s so easy and natural to compare. Comparing ourselves to others who are further down the path we’re pursuing, yes. But even comparing ourselves to where we would like to be. Some of us are true over-achievers in this area. It can be completely defeating and hard to pull out of once we head that direction.
Scary stuff here, mixed with a bit of excitement too. But some days, mostly scary.
Even with the scary intimidating stuff, you’ll not find a better way to spend your days. And you may need to have lots of conversations in your own head as needed. You’ll recognize them after a bit because they usually start with, “Suck it up, Buttercup” and move on from there.
And the best part? You’ll quickly discover that everyone’s feeling the same way. Even those with tens of thousands of Instagram followers, and subscribers that extended beyond immediate family members. And the beauty of the assortment of those gathered is in seeing how sensitive so many are to including others instead of allowing them to be left sitting alone. Because when that’s the prevailing attitude, the “alone” never lasts very long as it’s quickly replaced with a “Hey, come join us”.
Along the lines of doing brave things that terrify us, you may find yourself and your new blogging friend being roped into participating in a fashion show. Along with the blogging mentors, remember the really big bloggers that were holding your hands and walking you through this adventure that is blogging, yeah, them. Let me just say, you may be the type who would rather spend a Saturday afternoon at the mall in mid to late-December than do anything that involves a catwalk and others looking at you. That’s when you’ll text a pic like the one above to your family, along with the “You better be praying hard because I just might puke” command.
They will. And somehow you and your friend will both survive and manage to have a little fun along the way. And then you’ll get to work with an awesome company like Glamour Farms Boutique. There will be more on them and some of their sweet clothes and accessories in the days to come. Trust me, you’ll love their hilariously fun selves and their great selection of clothing and accessories!
Then, after your first of many Haven Conferences, you’ll be so so so very glad that you did what you knew to be the brave thing and started a blog. The thought of putting your ideas and words out there for others to receive or reject can be quite intimidating, but you’ll know that you know that the idea of living all boxed up in your little comfort zone can quickly become quite stale and drab.
Because it’s all about the journey, those we journey with and what we learn along the way
The really cool part is that none of this would have been possible without another friend like Traci. A friend who would gift something huge to you, freeing up the finances to even make Haven a possibility. It’s a beautiful picture of this entire Haven journey. It starts with one kindness followed by the kindness upon kindness of others that make this a conference you’ll plan on attending for years to come.
And then as you go about working to improve your blog space, and learn more about your readers and what makes them tick, you’ll want to be more mindful of encouraging others.
This isn’t a race – not with ourselves or others.
This is a journey. And most journeys are meant to be made together.
Your being here encourages me more than you’ll ever know!
So thank you! Thank you for the comments and the sharing! Thank you for coming back! And thank you for joining in on this adventure!
And since you’re here and still reading along, how can I encourage you today?
Haven is a Conference for those who are passionate about blogging, DIY projects and creating beauty in the home. This will be its 5th year and the 1st time I get to go. Actually, it’s the 1st time I get to go to any sort of blogging conference, training, networking event…
I’ve wanted to go since I first heard about it a few years ago, but I wasn’t really blogging at that point, and it wasn’t in our budget. Until now!
So, this week has been filled with packing lists, planning which breakout sessions to attend, travel arrangements and trying to sleep in the midst of the excitement. And that, of course, is worked in between days spent nannying and trying to keep up with all the kids who happen to be home at the very same time this week.
I hope your summer has brought a few moments that leave you all picture-snapping, post-worthy, starry-eyed!
We’ve been flooded with pics and snap chats from the other side of the world for a full week now. I’ve been a bit more tied to my phone for that very reason, as I check for updates and glimpses into the “to Russia with love” adventure.
This morning’s pics were from Red Square. It’s at the top of the tourist “must do list” for Moscow. It’s iconic. I suddenly realized that we now have one of almost our entire family posing with cousins, an Aunt and Uncle or Grandpa in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral.
I knew in my head that we had all been there, but somehow seeing this morning’s picture just brought a flood of gratitude. To watch our kids experience such a grand adventure that we could never have imagined, and to do so with their cousins, Grandpa, Aunt and Uncle.
My memory fails me so much more than I like these days, which is precisely why I have to record these gifts somewhere. Whether that’s in my 1000 gifts journal or here in this space, for my own sake and that of our kids, I have to make note of it.
So today I make note of the blessing of travel. The blessing of family. The blessing of new friends. The blessing of grand adventures. The blessing of ministry wherever we may find ourselves. The blessing of things that are so much bigger than we are.
So how about you? What blessings are you counting today? How do you prefer to make note of them?