Monthly Archives: February 2013

By George, I Think She’s Got It!*

*I’m pretty sure it should be, “I think she HAS it,” but I’ll leave it alone since it’s really more of a cultural reference kind of quote.

Hello to you from where I sit, smack dab in the middle of my Monday. Most of you are almost finished with your Mondays, but please don’t tell me how the rest of the day goes. I want to be surprised and I don’t like spoilers. Which is why I’m not even sure if I even need to start watching Downton Abbey, because according to Facebook, everyone dies at the end of this season.

I wish I could camp out here for awhile, but I only have a short time to write. When the oven timer dings, I have to get back downstairs because lunch break will be over and the second part of our school day will begin. Now that we’re nearing the end of our first real  year of homeschooling, I’ve had some time to reflect on lessons learned. I don’t cry every week anymore so that’s definitely a check in the “plus” column. I can’t even remember the last time I met Kelly at the door with my car keys in hand, threatening to run away and never come back. Of course, that could be because when you live on an island, running away threats aren’t taken all that seriously. Where am I going to run? Wahiawa?

I hate feeling rushed because I have lots I’d like to talk about and timed events make my insides jumpy. While I’m typing, I’ve been downloading the pictures from my phone to my computer. As the pictures show up on my screen, they remind me of even more things that I’d wanted to write about. All I need is the song from Jeopardy to play in the background and I’d be on my way to a full-fledged panic attack.

Deep breath.

Okay. I’ve narrowed it down to one. I want to show you a picture of an email that I received the day after my last post about how God always provides.

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Isn’t that crazy in the most fun way? I’m sensing a theme of sorts, are you?

My mom once told me that she and my dad named me Amy because they wanted something that would be short and easy for me to spell. I’ve always thought that didn’t demonstrate a lot of faith in my intellectual capacity. But when I see how many times God uses multiple messages to get His point across to me, I realize they may have not been way off the mark. I often need God to say things slowly and use small words so I’ll get what He’s trying to say to me. I’m glad He obliges.

And in case that wasn’t enough…

We had a guest speaker at church yesterday and his sermon was about “The Land Between.” It was about the Israelites and the time they spent in the desert. Do you remember who I compared myself to in that last post? Those same whiny Israelites and the time they were camped out between Egypt and the Promised Land.

I’m reading through the Bible along with my church and we’ve been wandering through the desert with the Israelites through Exodus, Leviticus, and now Numbers. It made me think of the time my oldest son looked down at his brand new baby brother and sister and with all the love he could muster in his three-year-old heart, patted their heads and said, “Aw, aren’t they just the cutest little Hebrew babies?” One of his favorite books at the time was about Moses so I’m guessing that’s where he got the idea to call them that, but aren’t we all like those little Hebrew babies sometimes? Especially when we’re traveling that “Land Between.”

Now you’ve got me chasing rabbits. Although I have much more I could say about my desert wandering ways, the point I was trying  to make is how sweet and loving I think it is that God wants us to get what He’s saying to us. I think I’m especially sensitive to the way He makes Himself clear right now because honestly, for the longest time I’ve felt like I’ve been on the wrong end of the parable. Know what I mean? I feel like everyone around me is experiencing great moments of clarity where everything makes perfect sense and I’m the only one saying, “I don’t get it.”

“I don’t understand what this verse means.”

“I can’t make sense of what this person is saying about You, God.”

“What in the world do you mean by that?”

As my friend (just because she doesn’t know me doesn’t make it not so) Beth Moore used to say, “Sometimes I’m blonder than I pay to be.” That’s how I feel in my walk with God some days.

But then God makes things abundantly and exceedingly clear in a way that not even I could miss it. So I’m telling you about it. Because maybe you still need to hear it, too. So let me say it again until we’re all  completely and positively sure:

God provides.

He told me so, Himself. More than once.

I’m posting a link to the video of this weekend’s sermon. The speaker’s name is Jeff Manion. It was a great sermon if you have time to take a look and listen:

http://enewhope.org/videobeta/index.php?id=308

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GD always PRVDS

Sometimes I feel like I live in the intertestamental period. Camped out somewhere between Malachi and Matthew.

Maybe I’m more like one of the Israelites Moses led out of Egypt, wandering around kicking the same, tired dirt in a dry, dusty desert of my own making. I’m just cooling my heels, waiting for a prophetic word to give me direction, a cloud of fire to lead me, or even a piece of manna to satisfy the hunger that gnaws into the pit of my very being.

But then God does something to remind me that He is more than what I think or feel.

Kelly and I were talking about the future on the way to baseball practice the other day. His future. Our future. We have decisions to make in the months ahead. Decisions that will set the course for our family in the days and years to come. It wasn’t a tense conversation. We were just discussing possibilities and trying on different tomorrows in our heads to see how they fit.

As the traffic snaked along, I happened to notice the license plate on the car in front of us.

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GD PRVD.

God provides.

Right in the middle of our conversation about what our future holds, God sent a sign. Just a little reminder that we didn’t need to worry because “He’s got this.” And His message wasn’t delivered on the back of a beat-up clunker.  I think God wanted to point out that when He provides, He does it in style. He gives like He loves: extravagantly and completely.

Whether I deserve it or not, God provides.

When I don’t even know what I need, God provides.

Beyond what I could ever ask or imagine, God provides.

Even what I don’t see His hand or hear His voice, God always provides.

The story of my life is made up of chapters of how God has provided for me exactly what I needed every step along the way.

Lately I’m digging down deep into the foundation of my faith.  As I look at what I know for sure, I’m thankful that God doesn’t withhold His love or plans for me based on my faithfulness, but He provides because He is faithful.

Even when I’m living somewhere between Malachi and Matthew.

 

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The Post In Which I Probably Offend All My Traditionalist Louisiana Friends

I wasn’t born in Louisiana. We moved there in 1985, the summer before my junior year. I’ve said before that if you look closely you can still see the claw marks along I-20 where I was dragged (sounds like a feather boa and a Cher-look-alike would be involved), drugged (with what, Benadryl?), forced against my will to move from my home state of South Carolina to a state where I was convinced I’d have to learn French, ride to school in a pirogue, and fight alligators. I didn’t have to do any of those things, and since my kids and I have lived more of our lives in Louisiana than any other state, we consider ourselves part Louisianian. Maybe one day I’ll dig a little deeper and write about what I’ve grown to love about that quirky little state, but I’m on a deadline, so read faster, please.

Yep, I love Louisiana. Especially this time of year.

We aren’t Catholic, but Mardi Gras in Louisiana is as much of a cultural event as anything. It’s hard to explain, but I think my friend Candace did an amazing job of describing feelings about Mardi Gras that I didn’t even know I had! You really need to read her post. Plus she’s a great photographer, which will make the sad little phone pictures I’m getting ready to post look even more pathetic.

We live a long way from Louisiana and Mardi Gras now but I still wanted to celebrate our love for Louisiana so I decided to create our own version using one of my absolute favorite things about my adopted state: the food! Last night for supper we ate gumbo and homemade king cake. The gumbo was from the freezer. I’d made a pot for Christmas Eve and put the leftovers in the freezer. I made that gumbo from scratch using a roux and everything. I was extremely proud of myself. In fact, you may have seen my press release at the time.

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I made the king cake from a recipe I found in Southern Living because they rarely steer me the wrong way. The only thing I changed was I added a little bit of cinnamon to the cream cheese filling.

In case you’re unfamiliar, a king cake is a pastry to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, or when the Magi visited Jesus, and a celebration of his physical manifestation to the Gentile people. Today king cake is served all through the Mardi Gras season. Over the years, many bakers have created their own versions of the king cake, but my true Louisiana friends are very picky about what a king cake should be.  I interviewed two friends on Facebook and they were very clear on what makes a king cake the king. Grace insists that it must be oval with a hole in the center. She says it should be more like a bread or cinnamon roll than a  cake. And the filling, although she prefers hers sans, should be light, not, and I quote “squish-onto-your-pants-when-you-take-a-bite filling.” Lindsey agreed but added she prefers one baked in New Orleans bakery. Which I do not have here. So this was the best I could do:

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The recipe I made makes two cakes and since I didn’t have my act together and my people didn’t get to eat king cake until 9:00 p.m. last night, I sent the other king cake to work with Kelly this morning. On Ash Wednesday. Which probably breaks all kind of Mardi Gras rules and is sure to get my part-Louisianian citizenship revoked.

If that doesn’t, this might. Now, after the king cake is baked, a tiny baby is inserted into the cake to represent Baby Jesus. Traditionally, the person who gets the baby in his or her piece of king cake has to throw the next king cake party or at the least, buy the next king cake. Well, I was fresh out of plastic babies to insert in our cake. So I tried to be resourceful and used what I had on hand:

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We purposely chose a figure that didn’t look a thing like Baby Jesus because I truly meant no offense. And for us, the king cake is more about Louisiana culture than it is a religious pastry so we talked about the Epiphany but totally downplayed the significance of the baby representing Jesus. But when boys see Legos they want to play. So when Kelly bit into his piece and found feet, a dramatization ensued.

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That’s an ambulance coming to rescue the little man trapped in the king cake.

And that was the sound of all of my traditionalist Louisiana friends leaving my blog forever.

Anyway….

Today I’ve moved on to Valentine’s Day plans. I have to make our traditional Valentine’s Day breakfast (an idea I stole from my wonderfully creative friend Tanya), chocolate covered strawberries. And I need to figure out a way to not be with my kids for a few minutes so I can get a little Valentine’s searcie for them. I still haven’t figured out how other homeschool moms do that. Anyone want to help me figure that one out? We are always together. Unless I’m in the bathroom. And somehow I don’t think they’d be thrilled to receive hotel soaps for Valentine’s Day.

I digress.

I hope your Mardi Gras-Ash Wednesday-Valentine’s Day week is full of time for celebrating, reflecting on what’s most important, and spending time with the ones you love.

Laissez bon temps rouler!

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Bald and Bare are Brave and Beautiful….*MGO

If we’re Facebook friends then you may have seen my post about Pastor Elwin Ahu and his battle with leukemia. Pastor Elwin was one of the pastors of my church when we lived here nine years ago, but a year ago, he left to plant a new church in the city.  On December 7th of last year, he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. Thankfully, when caught early, as his was, this form is 95% curable. But the journey to the cure is long. And hard. And full of setbacks. Because of chemotherapy treatments, Pastor Elwin had started to lose his hair, so he decided to shave his head during yesterday’s church service and take a collection for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds childhood cancer research grants.

I couldn’t help but think of the post I published Friday as I listened to Pastor Elwin bare his heart before his church ‘ohana about his struggles. His honesty reaffirmed my belief that people truly hear our hearts when we are not afraid to be vulnerable and real.

Pastor Elwin talked about a conversation he had with a family member who wanted to know if he’d figured out why God had allowed this to happen. Did he think he was being punished? Was God causing him to suffer in order to be blessed? Finally, he said he’d come to the conclusion that maybe he was in this difficult time just because life is hard.

I wonder how many people sitting in that room with their own unanswered questions breathed a deep sigh of relief when they heard their pastor say that.  I know so many who have have no energy left to fight because they’re exhausted from trying to figure out the reason they are hurting. Maybe some who heard Pastor Elwin were able to let go of the “whys” and move on to the “hows.”

Sometimes we think being brave means never letting anyone know we’re afraid. We think in order to be brave we must soldier through with our shoulders back and our heads held high. But the bravest people I’ve ever known are the ones who honestly said in their darkest days, when they could barely even lift their heads, “This is hard. I can not do this. Only God can.”

One of the greatest gifts my dad gave me was the opportunity to watch him deal with life when it wasn’t fair. I saw him struggle. I saw him cry. I saw the fear in his eyes. I also saw him dig deep. It’s one thing to tell your kids to trust in God when life gets hard. It’s something very different to live that faith out before them when God is the only hope you have left.  It’s one thing for a pastor to tell his church how to weather the storms of life. It’s something very different to have him live out that lesson in their presence.

I saw Pastor Elwin after the “Shaving Party” and he reminded me of my dad after he shaved off what was left of his hair. They both looked freer somehow.  Maybe deciding to shave their heads gave them back just a little bit of the control that it felt like cancer had taken away from them.  I think also there’s a freedom in sharing openly from the depths of the heart.

Bald and bare are truly brave and beautiful.  I saw it firsthand today. But what I think was most brave was not what happened at the end of the service, but what happened in the heart of the message that Pastor Elwin spoke.  Please pray for Pastor Elwin and for New Hope Metro. If you have a chance, set your DVR to tape The 700 Club today.  They will be airing an interview with Pastor Elwin. He has also been blogging about his journey on New Hope Metro’s website if you want to hear more from him.  Praying we all will continue to dare to be bare!

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*MGO stands for My Grief Observed. These are posts I write about dealing the fact that my dad lives in Heaven and I live here.

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Five Minute Friday: Bare

Sometimes on Fridays, I join They Gypsy Mama and her friends for Five Minute Friday. She gives us a topic and we “write for 5 minutes flat for pure unedited love of the written word.” Today’s topic? Bare.

I wrote this post in my head while I was taking a shower. An appropriate place to think about the word “bare,” don’t you think?

I was always the modest one, hiding in the corner of the girls’ locker room to change clothes for P.E., marveling at those girls who could pull their shirts over their head mid-sentence, seemingly unaware that they were exposed to the rest of us.

I remember the day I became less modest: January 20, 2001. It was the day my first born son made a scene when he entered the word, displaying for the first, but not last time, his strong-willed tendencies when he refused to take that first breath on his own. I’d had a perfectly blissful and boring pregnancy, so none of us were expecting any problems. I’m not sure if it was the shock or the fact that I had been a NICU nurse, but as I watched the doctors stick a tiny tube down his throat and saw them press on his little chest, I felt like this craziness was happening to someone else’s baby. This surely wasn’t happening to me or my child. From my cloud of surreal surprise, as I watched nurses and doctors flood into and out of my hospital room, the most out-of-place thought popped into my head:

“I’m lying in this bed with my feet in stirrups and the door wide open, totally exposed for the whole wide world to see.”

And I just as quickly realized that the baby they were working on and had been waiting to meet for over nine months was in danger and I could not have cared less who saw all of me at that moment. All of my attention and energies were focused on that little boy and praying like I’d never prayed before that he was going to be okay.

The crisis passed almost as quickly as it had began, and that little baby is now a 12-year-old boy who still has strong-willed tendencies and a flair for the dramatic at times. But I’m not as modest as I was before that day.

My emotional modesty wasn’t lost in a moment or even a day. I think I’m still losing it in stages.

I lost a little the first time I shared a little bit of my story to a group of ladies and was overwhelmed by the number of new friends who came up to me after to say, “What, you, too? I thought I was the only one.”

I lost a little more when I married a man whose job requires us to move a lot and make friends quickly. I don’t have time to hide myself under layers and layers of pretense for potential friends to dig through and uncover. I have to be who I am right from the first hello.

I lost more when I decided to start a blog, not knowing that this would be the place I processed how I was feeling about my dad’s cancer and the fact that God decided it would be best for him to be healthy in Heaven but not here. I’ve bared my heart and soul here even when it wasn’t comfortable.

I lost even more on the blog that I didn’t make public and in my heart-felt prayers that I didn’t put into words. The places where I spit and spew and wrestled.

Bare is only one letter away from brave. It takes a lot of courage to say, “Here I am. This is me. This is my truth.” But with that openness comes freedom to be who we were created to be, not some cheap facsimile of ourselves that we don’t even recognize in the mirror.

I’m learning to bare myself to my Maker. Although He knows me better than I know myself, something happens inside me when I’m completely, unashamedly honest with Him.

Just as I am,

though tossed about

with many a conflict, many a doubt.

Fightings and fears, within, without

O Lamb of God, I come.
I come.


I’m still modest. Inside and out. And a little modesty is good, both inside and out. Some things are just not meant for the whole world to see.

But I’m still learning to be dare to be bare (just inside) to myself and to the rest of the world, discovering who I am and who I’m supposed to be.

Okay, that was a full 15 minutes because I got interrupted twice and was in  the middle of a sentence and thought it rude to not let myself finish a thought. But I’m pushing the “publish” button without editing, which still makes my insides hurt.

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Hitting the Hard Stuff

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Coffee. That’s coffee in that there cup. I don’t suppose many of you find that unusual, but it’s a little strange to find in my mug, because I’ve never really been a big fan of coffee. I’m usually more of a hot tea kind of girl, but a couple of weeks ago I graduated to the big stuff.

Of course, I have to ask my son to make it for me because I’ve never quite perfected the art of making the perfect cup of coffee. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a proper copper coffee pot. (And if that reference flew right by you, your life has been missing Trout Fishing in America and I feel very sad for you and yours. And by the way, if you watch the video, if you can suffer through the first few seconds of filming like a drunk man walking, the cameraman finally stands still.)

Anyway, I can make a creme brulee that will make you weep for the years you existed without having known its greatness but my coffee is either black water or tar. I know. I don’t understand it myself. It irks Susan and leads to texts like these:

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(Don’t be jealous of my amazing photo editing skills that allows me to erase our last names. I know, you didn’t even know I’d edited.)

So why have I switched to java? Well, I’ve been the one and only grown up in my house for the last eleven days. Kelly has to travel a good bit with this job. I’m not complaining because two weeks or so at a time is a lot easier to handle than six months or a year at a time, so we are grateful. Still, I miss him when he’s not here. Not only because he’s hot (although he is) and a good snuggler (yep, he is) and I enjoy hanging out with him (I always have!), but because he’s the best tag-team-life-handler in the world.

Besides, as everyone who is married to someone who has to travel can testify, stuff just has a way of falling apart the minute Kelly leaves town.

Which is probably why my oldest was sick from the morning his dad left until the end of last week.

And why we had no electricity in the downstairs bathrooms and bedrooms from Wednesday night until about 6 p.m. Monday night.

And why our credit card numbers were stolen from a merchant, causing Capital One to shut down our card, creating a rather embarrassing situation at the Marine Corps Base post office. (I’m not the primary card holder so they’d been calling Kelly and since he’s been on a ship in the middle of the ocean somewhere, he hasn’t been getting his calls.)

Those were just a few of the highlights. I won’t bore you with the rest. But suffice it to say, all of these happenings have led me to understand that at least for some mornings, coffee can be my friend.

But despite the fact that we miss our guy and I’m hitting the hard stuff, the kids and I have had some fun along the way. They have grown into these funny people who keep me laughing.

Sometimes they misunderstand song lyrics, which you know I find so hysterical that I’ve devoted no less than one, two, three, four blog posts to times when people misunderstand what other people are saying or singing. One of my people misunderstood the lyrics to fun.’s song  “We Are Young.” What they actually sing is, “Tonight, we are young. So let’s set the world on fire. We can burn brighter than the sun.” What my son heard was, “Tonight, we are yum.   So let’s set the wood on fire;  make it burn brighter venison.”

Sometimes they misunderstand their mother. After I told them repeatedly to get their stuff out of the living room, one of my children, in an effort to support and help me told the other two, “You heard her! Clean up the commoner areas!” I think I called them “the common areas,” babe. We don’t live in Downton Abbey.

Sometimes they rewrite the lyrics to songs. I may be raising the next Al Yankovic, which must be every mother’s dream. Right now they’re working on their own version of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” They’ve changed “It’s hard to look right at you baby,” to “It’s hard to look right at YOUR baby!” which reminds me of the “Ugly Baby” Seinfeld episode.

Anyway, we’ve survived, but all the same, for so many reasons, I am more than willing to chug a big mug of coffee at o’dark thirty tomorrow morning in order to drive to the airport to pick up my main man who is FINALLY coming home!

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Maybe we’ll stop at Starbucks on the way!

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Stuff My Pastor Said: Your Five Percent

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This is the first of an ongoing series of posts about “Stuff My Pastor (Pastor Wayne) Said” that made me think. I love my church. It’s a  big reason Kelly and I wanted to move back here. We made lifelong friends at this church when we lived here before, and even though some of our most loved friends have moved on to do great things in other great places, we feel like this is where our family needs to be right now. I like leaving every week with thoughts to chew and digest through the week. It feels good to want to go to church again.

I’ve been thinking about something my pastor said during the first message of 2013. He was talking about moving beyond our good intentions. Most of us start off each new year intending to do better and be better but fall short because just setting goals isn’t enough.  I can intend to eat healthier and exercise. I can wear cute workout clothes and running shoes all day. I can even “pin” 131 ab exercises and “clean eating” recipes, but none of those activities will result in a healthier me at the end of the day if wishing, hoping, even planning is all I do.

This is not new information. But then something Pastor Wayne said made me think.  He said 85% of the stuff we do every day are tasks anyone else could do. Eat meals, answer emails, post lame status updates on Twitter, fold laundry: anyone could do those things. Ten percent of what we do someone with training could do. B.C. (before children), I was a registered nurse. I had to go to school and pass a test to get a nursing license, but anyone else with a nursing license could do the things I did as a nurse. But 5% of what I do, no one else can do and that is what I am going to be held accountable for at the end of my life. To move beyond good intentions, I have to identify that 5% and plan all of my activities accordingly. Pastor Wayne encouraged us to write our five percent in our calendars so we would be reminded daily of what should be most important.

So what is my 5%?

First, only I can keep myself spiritually fit. No one else can spend time reading the Bible for me. No one else can grow closer to God for me. I have to do that for myself.

Second, only I can be Kelly’s wife. No one else better even try.

Third, only I can be my kids’ mom.  And at least for this season, only I am called to be their teacher.

Fourth, only I can be the daughter, sister, and friend to those God has put in my life to love.

Those relationships are my God-given right and responsibility. At the end of time, no one else will be held accountable for what kind of wife or mother or friend they had but me.

Fifth, only I can take care of my physical well being. Oh, how I wish I could farm that chore out to anyone crazy enough to enjoy exercising because I do not, but at the end of the day, I have to take care of this body that God gave me.

Finally, only I can show up in my own life. Only I can live and love my life to the fullest. No one else can appreciate the blessings of my life for me. I get to do that and if I don’t, no one misses out on my life more than I do.

It’s not necessarily what we do in life that will count at the end, it’s how much of what God asked us to do that we actually did that will matter.  Just because I’m busy doing good things doesn’t mean I’m busy doing the right things.

Under each item on my calendar I’ve listed a practical step I can take this month to make sure that my 5% is my priority. For example, I wrote down that I would start journaling my alone time with God again. I wrote that I would work on speaking to my children in a calm voice. I wrote that I would work towards getting 7 hours of sleep at least 3 times a week and start taking my vitamins again. For each item I listed I wrote something I could actively do.

Since I’ve started working on my 5%, I’ve had to make some changes. I’ve had to say no to some good things in order to make room for even better things.

I’m still figuring things out. Last week, I read a post my friend Meredith wrote that resonated with me in this new “5% Season.” She asked her husband to look at her schedule with her to help her find more white space. I thought this was brilliant because, A, sometimes we need objective eyes on a situation to see what we can’t, and B, that had to make John feel like a validated and trusted member of her team. She made me realize it would be prudent to make an accounting of how I’m spending my time each day by writing it down so I can see what I do each day. I know I fritter away minutes I would desperately love to have to do worthwhile things. Or simply to have white space to dream….or write on my blog that I desperately miss.

I also read a post from Shaun Groves that made me realize I need to take care of my body and do the things I’ve always “intended” to do while I still have the health and youth (comparatively speaking anyway) to do them.

It has all been food for thought. Kind of like this verse:  Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts (Psalm 90:12).

How do you number your days? Any tips for keeping the most important things the most important things?

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