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The Gift of Rest


It wasn’t my intention to start a 31 days series and let it fizzle after 10, but keeping up with that schedule showed me what I’d otherwise missed: I’m burned out right now—physically and mentally—and the late nights spent writing made it worse. I don’t plan to abandon the series, but it might look different, more photos and less text.

My husband and I celebrated our 29th anniversary this weekend. We spent Saturday in the north Georgia mountain town of Dahlonega, site of Georgia’s gold rush. First we went to Three Sisters Vineyards for Swine and Wine, where we ate the best barbecue sandwiches catered by Rib Country BBQ and walked through the vineyard with my camera. I haven’t downloaded the pictures yet (the ones in this post are from my phone), but I hope I got at least one keeper.

Photographing both an apple orchard and a vineyard this fall is exciting stuff!


Next we went to Dahlonega’s Gold Rush Days festival. Call me ambitious, but my primary objective was to find a caramel apple. When your goals are so lofty, your chance of success increases. I knew the Fudge Factory would have what I needed and they didn’t disappoint: thick, buttery caramel. Yum!

At one of the craft booths I found a necklace that was exactly me and the vendor made us a deal on matching earrings, so now I have anniversary jewelry!

We ended with a movie. No lovey dovey suspense (what, you didn’t know that was a category?), but actually the opposite: Fury, a realistic look at WWII through the eyes of an Allied tank crew. Violence, yes; language, yes; but actually a very good movie.

Anniversary weekend! #DateNight #SkyViewAtlanta

We extended our anniversary weekend with a trip downtown Sunday night. I found the gift cards I won and lost last year so we ate a free meal in a fancy restaurant and then used passes that I’d won to the new SkyView Atlanta Ferris wheel. Free is always good!

I’ll spend the end of this week at the Allume Conference, so I’m extra glad my husband and I had a full weekend together. One of the best pieces of marriage advice I can give you is this: never stop dating!


{This is days 14-20 of a 31 day series, 31 Days of Daily Grace. Find all posts in this series here.}


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Amaluna_Island image

[Contest is closed: Alex Perez is the winner!]
#CirqueSelfie @cirque #Amaluna
Sunday night my husband and I experienced Cirque du Soleil for the first time when we saw Amaluna at Atlanta’s Atlantic Station. I expected an over-the-top visual experience, but I wasn’t prepared for performers whose abilities extended beyond what I believed possible.

More than once I shook my head in disbelief: the human body is capable of amazing things with skill and practice.

Amaluna runs here in Atlanta until November 30, 2014. Leave a comment at the bottom of this post for your chance to win four tickets!

Fun Facts about Cirque du Soleil and Amaluna

After the show we stayed for a Q&A session with a representative from the show and learned some fascinating facts about Cirque du Soleil and Amaluna in particular.

  • Performers do their own makeup, which consists of 15-20 pages worth of instruction. With practice, it can be completed in 40 minutes to an hour.
  • Amaluna is self-sustainable: the tent, 2600 seats, and full set travel from location to location in 64 trucks.
  • A typical Cirque du Soleil cast is 70-75% male, but Amaluna is 70% female with a 100% female band.
  • Nineteen different Cirque du Soleil productions are currently on tour around the world.
  • It takes 8 days to set up for Amaluna and 3 days to tear it back down.
  • Cirque du Soleil performers come from a variety of backgrounds, from multi-generation circus families to athletes scouted at athletic events.
  • The Amaluna set contains a large water bowl, which takes 4 hours to fill and weighs 4000 lb.; the water, kept at 98°, is filtered and only filled once per city.
  • Amaluna travels with a kitchen and 3 chefs.
  • It is estimated that 165,000 people will see Amaluna in Atlanta.
  • The story fuses classical elements, including tales from Greek and Norse mythology, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
  • It takes 2-4 years to create a new Cirque du Soleil production before it goes on stage, from visuals to marketing to costumes to performers learning their parts.








Experience Amaluna from Cirque du Soleil, now playing under the blue and yellow big top at Atlantic Station. CLICK HERE to save 20% on a Family 4 Pack!

Enter to Win Tickets for Four!

Leave a comment at the bottom of this post for your chance to win tickets for four to see Amaluna in Atlanta on Tuesday, October 28, at 7:30 p.m.! Have you ever seen a Cirque du Soleil performance? If so, which one?

{Email subscribers, click here to enter.}

[Disclosure: Tickets provided for review and giveaway. The photos in this post (other than the selfie at the top!) aren't mine, but are from the show's press release.]


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The Dots that Connect Us

My hometown hosted the Arkansas Oklahoma State Fair, one of my fondest childhood memories. My family owned a piano company and my daddy tuned the pianos for the acts that performed when the fair came to town. If it was open, we were there.

As a teen I was too cool for country. My daddy still reminds me how I could have seen George Strait for free (I later paid to see him as an adult), but many are the lessons you’re too impatient to learn at 17.

Uncle Earl lived across from the fairgrounds. A people person and all-around character—if you know what I mean—he entertained the folks who paid to park in his yard. He kept the property even after moving from the house and we wondered how much he made during that one week each fall, when he held court in a yard densely packed with automobiles.

I regret that my children don’t have those fond memories. Although our Georgia county fair is a good one, it’s not the same (although the locals might argue that point). The size of our family keeps us from experiencing it as fully and often as in my childhood. That’s a lot of funnel cake, caramel apples, ride tickets, and nights away from home.

But I take five kids to the fair on opening night, when admission is free and $20 buys unlimited rides. It’s a good place to people watch, even your own children. Who likes to be scared? Who’s afraid of heights? Sometimes the answers surprise me.

The county fair, a melting pot, also provides a study in socio-economics and local diversity: everyone is represented. I like to look for the dots that connect us—our points of intersection— instead of what stands between us.

A young black mom thoughtfully eyes my (in)Mercy tee, a fundraiser for a maternity home in Kenya. Connect a dot. A Hispanic girl, crosses dangling from her ears, stands in line near me and I think about how we worship the same Jesus. Connect a dot.

“It made me so mad,” my daughter said later that night. She heard a boy complain about the number of Hispanics at the fair and it’s no wonder this hurts my daughter, whose best friend is a petite Filipino in an adoptive family that includes a Mexican brother and sisters.

In eight and a half years of blogging, there’s no mention of politics or race here, but these two verses have weighed on me lately:

  1. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God . . .” – Romans 3:23. We’re all unworthy based on our own merit.
  2. “God is no respecter of persons . . .” – Acts 10:34. If God doesn’t rank us, I assume we’re not supposed to rank each other, either.

Don’t we all want to be judged for ourselves, not as part of the groups we’re born into?

All of us—white, black, Hispanic, or other—have prejudices. What matters is whether we choose to fight them or to embrace them. As a parent, it’s my job not to spread attitudes to my kids that would hurt them or the people around them.


{This is day eleven, twelve, and thirteen—yep, I’m granting myself the grace to combine them after a busy weekend—of a 31 day series, 31 Days of Daily Grace. Find all posts in this series here.}


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Searching for God’s daily grace this month is showing me how important it is to look for it, to actively seek it. It’s easy to miss as you fly through the day, pulled in a hundred directions.

I created this free printable image to remind you—and me—to watch for those grace moments in our days.

Daily Grace

Click the image and you’ll go to the page on Flickr where it can be downloaded. Click the arrow in the bottom right corner and select “original” to download it in a size that will print on standard 8.5″ x 11″ paper.

{This is day ten of a 31 day series, 31 Days of Daily Grace. Find all posts in this series here.}


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If I had to pick next year’s topic for my October Write 31 Days now, I would choose 31 Days of Bible Study Notes. I keep a journal where I write the verses that appeal to me most from each day’s reading (and yes, I miss days, too), but I wish I could discuss them with someone.

I’ve always wanted to be in a Bible study or book club with other women, but coordinating one face-to-face isn’t easy. So today I set up a private Facebook group for my husband, the five of our children old enough to have Facebook accounts, and our two future daughters-in-law.

Those of you with older children know it becomes difficult to stay connected when you’re all in different places. I’m in group chat conversations with multiple small groupings of my kids and my husband, but I miss sitting down for deep conversations with the older boys and I’m embarrassed to say how rarely we coordinate a family devotional here at home.

I’d love tips from anyone who coordinates or participates in a discussion group over the internet!


{This is day nine of a 31 day series, 31 Days of Daily Grace. Find all posts in this series here.}


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motion blue

Writing for 31 days on a theme varies by author. Some pre-plan and pre-write and I envy that level of organization. I approach life with much analysis (bordering on over-analysis), but one day at a time, and while 31 days of one-day-at-a-time will stress and stretch me, I enjoy this watching for the daily grace.

I’m a reluctant runner. Don’t get me wrong: running has made me stronger than I’ve been in years. I spent most of my twenties and thirties steadily expanding our family of ten. Eight babies in nineteen years kept my arms strong (a baby’s weight doubles once you place him in a carseat—don’t ask me the science for that, but it’s true), but it didn’t do much for the rest of me.

When I told you about my first book—which comes out in less than four months!—I left out the part about gaining 10 pounds last winter while compiling it. On a good day the scales say I’ve lost eight of them, but it’s been a slow process. I’ve never gone on a diet, so I look to exercise as the answer to my problems.

[I posted in early 2012 about starting to exercise because of health issues. This year I found out the swelling in my left leg is caused by veinous reflux disease. I cancelled an appointment next week to correct it thanks to health insurance that doesn't actually pay for anything. Are any of you frustrated over your insurance or the lack of it? Sorry to digress . . .]

I feel burned out from so many early mornings in a row, but I made myself run during my kids’ cross country practice today. My husband says, “I’m going to go sweat!” but I fight and procrastinate even though I know the results are worth it. I don’t enjoy listening to myself whine (in my head) any more than I enjoy hearing my kids do it out loud, so this morning I chanted gratitude instead of grumbling.

Thank you, Lord, for this mild morning, not too hot or too cold.

Thank you for the ability to run; don’t let me take it for granted.

Thank you for increased stamina; I haven’t always had it.

Thank you for the beauty of the greenway; focusing on it distracts me when I want to quit.

Thank you for the kiss of rain on my face; a gentle conversation between us.

I’m even thankful for my RunKeeper app, which enables me to compete with myself—at least with other daily versions of myself. I’ll sprint like I’m being chased if there’s a chance of beating my miles-per-minute for the previous run.

Do you find it difficult to be grateful for things that you don’t necessarily enjoy?


{This is day eight of a 31 day series, 31 Days of Daily Grace. Find all posts in this series here.}


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