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Hospitality was the overriding theme of last week’s Allume conference: both hospitality in your home and on your blog. But the final night I received a visible lesson in where its home truly lies: in your heart.

One of the attendees, Amanda, planned an after-party, but the guests she invited didn’t come. You know that feeling when you’ve prepared for company and no one shows? Yeah, I think she felt it, too.

Instead of feeling sorry for herself or embarrassed that the employees had set up an area especially for her group, Amanda—determined to share her hospitality with someone—stuck her head out the door and invited my friends and me to join her in a cozy restaurant on Main Street in downtown Greenville, SC.

She treated us to drinks and appetizers as if we were her intended guests and welcomed us like a host sharing her home. Her heart inclines toward hospitality and she made a place for it to happen. We spent a delightful evening around an extended table swapping stories, seasoned fries, and smiles.

I even got to share my encounter with Harry Connick Jr. with a new audience. :)

Amanda’s family practices hospitality on the road as a way of life; they call it Digital Tentmaking. They paid off their debts; sold their home; and travel the world homeschooling their three small children and connecting with other believers.

Tonight I discovered that Amanda (who loves Jane Austen and banjo music, just like me) has also written about the evening from her point of view. {Don’t you just love hearing both sides of a story?} Click over to read it and meet her here!


{This is day 29 of a 31 day series, 31 Days of Daily Grace. Find all posts in this series here.}


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My sister asked me to photograph her wedding just two months after I got my first DSLR. Boy, was I nervous. I carried Scott Kelby’s digital photography books in my camera bag and read them every spare moment; drove to Nashville to attend a NAPP (now KelbyOne) one-day seminar tour; and studied like I was back in college because this was a test with stakes higher than any I’d taken.

I crafted a DSLR photography crash course and these were my Cliffs Notes.

Thankfully it was an outdoor wedding, which saved me because I didn’t know my camera well enough to be shooting a wedding much less for someone that I would face for the rest of my life. Somehow I pulled it off in spite of botched settings and not fully understanding which lens to use in which situation.

I got some shots that I’m still happy with six years later, when I know more, like the moment my brother-in-law saw my sister for the first time: the look of awe and wonder on his face while his dad (who passed away too soon after) smiled in the background.

What set me up to succeed instead of fail—nerves and all—was the knowledge that the jitters were all mine. My sister wasn’t worried; she trusted me and put no pressure there.

In her eyes I could only succeed.


Now two of my sons are engaged and I feel the pressure again, like I need a crash course on how to be the mother of the groom. I fear failure at whatever it is I’m supposed to do and whatever it is I’m supposed to be.

But one of my sons told me last week he appreciates my and my husband’s easy nature in this wedding business and I wanted to cry. In that moment I knew the expectations upon me are self-imposed and not from him.

It’s the gift my sister gave: love, acceptance, trust.

To grant someone the grace to do their best without crippling expectations is a gift, one they might not extend to themselves. The acceptance of that gift—well, that’s another story—but there’s generosity in offering it.


{This is days 27-28 of a 31 day series, 31 Days of Daily Grace. Find all posts in this series here.}


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“No one wants to talk about God,” he says, and something in my heart breaks both for him and the world into which he was born. In a culture obsessed with knowing the latest celebrity gossip, taking the perfect selfie, and living in the moment instead of for the future, it’s no wonder that Jesus is a tough topic transition for his twenty-something crowd.

Intellectual by nature, I know he can discuss theology with insight and intelligence, but I worry that this floundering in the shallow end of the conversational pool reflects the current depth of his thoughts and relationship with God.

Does he see Jesus as real and alive, an ever-present companion? Putting Him to the side is like leaving your best friend in the corner.

You can articulate your faith as the greatest theologian, but it means nothing if it’s only head knowledge and not heart knowledge.

Please join me at (in)courage for the rest of the story!


{This is days 21-26 of a 31 day series, 31 Days of Daily Grace. Find all posts in this series here.}


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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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