Door number two

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Let’s face it, some days are just harder than others.  Every once in a while you wake up realizing immediately that your attitude needs adjusting and sometimes all seems well until a challenging situation comes out of nowhere.

You wake up on time feeling ready to take on the day.   The aroma and taste and just right temperature of your coffee pleases 3 of your senses.  Your devotion reaches down to touch you in the very depths of your soul and your prayer time is heavenly.

Your cereal doesn’t get soggy and your toast doesn’t burn and you find the perfect outfit on the first try.   You get out of the door with time to spare and notice that your hair looks almost perfect in your rear view mirror.

You run some errands.   Everyone is pleasant.  Traffic is light and you find a nice shaded parking spot.  You’re in a marvelous mood.  That’s a pretty easy accomplishment when everything is going your way.

Then boom, out of the blue, just like that it can all change.  The day that was so agreeable just a few moments ago takes a turn for the worse.  Sometimes its a call or a text.  At other times, it is something more subtle and sneaks up behind you and grabs you before you know what hit you.

Either way, from this point forward something shifts, the atmosphere around you that was filled with peace and hope now feels like turmoil and dread.   Your once sincere smile turns into a pinched and pained one.  Tension hovers over you like a cloud ready to burst.

It is what you do at this point that sets your course.  You can choose door number one, the one our flesh wants to chose every time, and open it up to continued strife.  You can embrace the sour mood, wallow in the unpleasantness, welcome the surly attitude and guarantee more negativity.

Or you can choose door number two, and press in to prayer and worship.  Find your strength, peace and love in Christ and let Him be your rock.  Lift your head up, forgive quickly, remember to Whom you belong and encourage yourself!  Amaze yourself (and others) in your reaction to what the enemy tried to use to defeat you.

I’m learning to choose the second approach and save myself a lot of stress and grief (and repentance).  I don’t always succeed but I can definitely say my percentage is improving and that’s a start.   Mom always said, “it’s the little foxes that spoil the vines”.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Optic Flow

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At lunch today, I enjoyed warm sun, a nice breeze and fresh air; an elixir guaranteed to induce tranquility and on occasion deeper than normal thought.

The chair I was lounging in was positioned so that I could look across the creek to a more densely wooded area.  Although there is a small clearing, the foliage is pretty dense, so I have never seen much except a few birds and a lone raccoon foraging for food.  Birdsong is plentiful from that direction though and today with me having just scared all the black birds away from my cardinal feeder and scattering over there, it was exceptionally loud.

There are always multiple bird species around, but today I noticed something I had never paid attention to before.  I was watching a particular bird fly from somewhere behind me into the wooded area and I noticed that he flew into the foliage and managed to dodge branches without even slowing down.  Having just watched the raccoon pick its way along the branches and move along carefully, the difference was made all the more obvious.

So, once again, I sat amazed at the wonders of our Creator.  I googled it later and found out that birds do this by a trick of the eye called optic flow.  Optic flow is the way our eyes perceive motion as we travel thru a landscape.  It is the illusion that trees and buildings are passing us by; the greater the optic flow the more quickly things seem to be moving.  Below is a short pbs.org video, in case you are interested in knowing more.

Optic Flow Video

As I sat and thought about this, it reminded me how the bird fully trusts his Creator; he forges on ahead using the talent God gave him.  And as God cares for this little bird, He cares for me.  He sees every obstacle ahead and prepares me to meet them head on.  I just have to do my part and trust Him every step of the way.

Matthew 6:25-27 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

The Anything But Ordinary Day

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Today started out like most ordinary Fridays, with me peering through half closed eyes at the clock to check the time, then realizing its almost seven and feeling like I’m wasting the day away.  I stumbled to the bathroom and on to the kitchen for coffee.  Thursday is my Friday, so today I allowed myself to sleep late (for me) and take my time getting the day started.

Most Friday’s I do errands and this day would be no exception.  As I journeyed to town, I took the time to thank God for the beauty all around me and to ask for His mercy throughout the day.  I thanked Him for loving me and loved on Him as I enjoyed the view and the drive.  I felt such peace and such a spirit of gratitude enveloped me.  I determined in my heart that nothing would take that perfect peace away today.

I thought of a quote I had read this morning that said something about how we could be standing right next to someone who is completely broken and never even know it.  I would approach others with this thought in mind and show love.

As I drove on, I didn’t sense any agitation over other drivers or traffic.  I had a busy day ahead and many things to do, but I turned up “The Message”, sung along and resolved to do each errand without rushing and with patience and kindness.

Part of my list today included picking up some of my granddaughter’s medications.  This can be a test in and of itself because often they aren’t ready, doctor hasn’t approved yet, they require a specialty pharmacy or a compound pharmacy (all things I would have never known about until Cali).   I called the farthest pharmacy away (the compound pharmacy) and although that one wasn’t ready yet, they said they would text me when it was.  My first actual stop was another pharmacy.  The prescriptions weren’t quite ready here either, but they told me to come in and by the time I got to the counter, they would have them.  They weren’t all covered by insurance, but the cashier offered to find a coupon that saved me $20.

One of these meds needed to be refrigerated, so I bought an inexpensive cooler and ice and was on my way to grab lunch.  My hubby’s business needs required my next two stops and I found what I needed without delay and readied myself to kill time waiting on the other prescription.  But, I got a text hours earlier than anticipated and proceeded to the other place, where everything was ready.

I went on about my day and every single conversation and experience was a pleasure.  Traffic seemed to be waiting to give me the best spot in line; everyone was kind and helpful and returned my smiles.  At my last stop, I talked to lady who was busily stocking shelves and she gave me a much appreciated compliment and then at the checkout I got to hear a story about a man who is helping build homes in earthquake devastated countries.

I left there with a grin on my face and the realization that today had been an extraordinarily good day; a day filled with peace and laughter.    Many days are filled with impatience and agitation.  Some “errand Fridays” I complain about traffic, rude people, long lines and anything else I can think of.  Today, I didn’t!

Yes, I know that all days aren’t amazing and bad things happen, and we are faced with trials and troubles.   However, I also know that how you approach your day makes a big difference in the outcome.  Oh, the problems are going to show up.    It’s how we deal with them that matters.

If I mediate on and implement the scriptures that say “love is patient and kind and long suffering” and the ones that say “think on good things” and “say things that edify others and build them up”, I know without a shadow of a doubt my day is going to go better than if I gripe, grumble and complain and look for the bad.  If I meet others with a long face or a scowl, guess what I will probably get in return?  If I greet the day with a grateful heart, thankful that I am saved by grace and given this precious gift that comes with such amazing peace I am much more likely to stay on the positive side of things.

As I sit here, errands done and the day winding down to a close I am thanking God again for His many blessings and for this anything but ordinary day.

The other side of the fog

Sunday morning Word

This morning I was studying the story of Joseph from his coat of many colors and the telling of his prophetic dreams, to the jealous brothers casting him into a pit, and then selling him into slavery.  But all along God had a plan and He positioned Joseph to save Egypt and Canaan from famine.  A good outcome didn’t look possible to the human eye, guided by the flesh.

I was reminded of one of my recent trips to Miami to be supportive to my youngest daughter and visit my almost 8 month old granddaughter, struggling with an infection in her lungs.  Since her diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis, she has fought and won many battles in the short time she has been around to bless us.  I attribute this to many prayers.

On the particular morning, the fog was thick and blanketed everything for miles.  My travelling progress was impeded as I slowly navigated my way through the unknown.  Visibility was limited, and I found myself a little nervous because I couldn’t see the cars coming toward me from miles away and I was unsure of what was creeping up behind me until the headlights broke through the fog.  I found myself focusing on the fog and its dangers, ready for the sun to break through and begin to burn it all away.

I felt the stirring of the Holy Spirit as I realized that once again, God was trying to teach me something.  You know, if we slow down and pay attention long enough, we can hear that still small voice.

Such is life.  In this journey through the vast unknowns with Cali, I know that on the other side of it, there is clarity.  I cannot begin to figure it all out now, to predict what is coming or to visualize the hidden hazards along the way.  I can apply this to so many situations in life; those where I can barely navigate on a daily basis, much less discern the outcome.

But, this I do know; on the other side of the fog, there is a Son and He always burns for me.  His will may not be understandable at times, the outcome may not always make sense to me, but I will continue to live in the knowledge that He wants the best for me.  In the midst of a broken, fallen world, He is my hope, my strength and my refuge.

Remember, it was never God’s intention that we live in a broken, fallen world that is filled with sin and hurt and hate.  And, He loved us enough to send His Son, to give us a chance at redemption, restoration and an eternal life, a life much more important than the short one we will live out on this earth.

Rain or shine

Storms never last

It was a muggy Sunday afternoon and the steam rose up from the pavement as I traveled towards Miami to visit my granddaughter in the hospital.

Thankfully, I was nice and chilly thanks to my Explorer’s air conditioning unit.  As I took in the beauty around me and prayed for our little Cali and other needs, I remember becoming very aware of a Florida weather phenomenon if you will.

One minute it was raining, pelting down all around me, wipers rushing side to side on high speed, struggling to keep up with the falling drops.  The next minute, the sun was peeking out, I caught glimpses of that steam rising, and I could see blue skies ahead.  Then again suddenly, the clouds overhead would fight to shed their moisture, seemingly all on in one area and then I would burst forth out of the deluge again and readjust the wipers.  As soon as I thought we were down to that low intermittent speed, the skies would open up again.

If you are from Florida or traveled Florida much in the summer, you are likely shaking your head in agreement, as the same thing has happened to you.  Maybe it happens in other places too, but I’ve only experienced it in my home state.  Rain is pouring down on my neighbor and my grass and foliage is begging for a drop.

Anyway, all of this is occurring as I am fervently praying for answers and help with all of the complicated little vignettes of drama in my life.  The same thing occurs 4 or 5 times, and I was beginning to think it was getting a little creepy like I was in the twilight zone.   Finally I go through what was to be the last storm and I see the light…the sunlight and no more clouds.  I see perfectly beautiful, clear skies with no rain in sight.   I feel like God is showing me that there will be days of rain and days of sunshine, there will be storms, there will be times when you aren’t sure what to expect but in the end you will make it through.  There will be days of bright sunshine again.

Then I feel that peace, that wonderful peace that always assures me He has heard my cries.  And I know that he will continue to give me strength for the journey.

Blessings!

What lies beneath?

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Today’s prompt hit a nerve as soon as I read the word….surface.  My mind immediately began to form poems about layers and things hidden deep within.  It affected me because it reminds me of a topic that I’ve been contemplating for days.

A few nights ago, I taught on Motives; those deeply private and often impure reasons we do the things we do.  As I studied in preparation, I thought a lot about my own motives.  I asked myself questions like, “What is hidden in this heart?” and “Are my motives usually pure?”  I know better than to ask “always” because I think we all know that our hearts deceive us sometimes and there are other times when we have just allowed the wrong things in and our actions correspond.

I knew I had written on this very topic before so I did a quick search on “motives” and lo and behold, I find Check My Motives.  This post was from 2014!  So two years ago, God was dealing with me on the same topic.  I’m thankful for God’s long-suffering towards me as obviously He is re-addressing this with me once again.  I am either a very slow learner or my human heart just needs a reminder from time to time.

We do find ourselves with messy motives though, don’t we?   Have you ever done something for someone else with the hope that someone else will notice and praise you?  Would you do some of the good things you do if there was to be no visible payoff?  Do you hide behind social media and post something with a motive to hurt someone or embarrass them, but tell yourself you are innocent of such?

In all seriousness and honesty, I really do want to have pure motives all the time.  In order for that to happen my heart has to be pure, because out of the abundance of it, the mouth speaks (or writes, or posts).

Sometimes things done with insincere motives unwittingly benefit others and often we don’t even realize where our motives are coming from when we act.  It is a topic definitely worth reflecting on in your quiet time.

Proverbs 16:2 says, “People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives.”  We know God looks upon the heart, but we may forget what that means.  He examines our motives.  If that isn’t reason enough for me to examine my own, I don’t know what is.

 

 

 

Cali; the gift that keeps on giving

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The prompt was “Crisis” and since NICU parents deal with this all the time, I thought this was appropriate.

My daughter and I had a great day with our little Cali yesterday.  I blogged before about Cali’s premature arrival and the complications she has faced since.   She is 3 ½ months old and we still don’t have a homecoming date.

We stayed in Miami last night so we were with her until around 9pm and my daughter even got to help give her baby a bath for the second time ever.  It’s tricky with a PIC line.  Also, when you live over 80 miles away and spend most of your days here, and the baths are given at night, it’s tougher to participate.  Last night was the first time I had ever seen my beautiful little granddaughter’s skinny little behind.  What a sight to behold!

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All Clean!!

We got up this morning and had breakfast, anxious to arrive at the hospital.  In good spirits, I parked the car and I chose the stairs as my daughter took the elevator.  We usually park on the 5th floor but I always beat her by taking the stairs.  And believe me; I need the exercise with the delectable guava pastries (stress eating) that Nicklaus Children’s Hospital serves.  Leave it to me to know about the food.

There was a long line at the check in and since I had left my monthly pass in the car (and I wasn’t going back outside and up those stairs or in the sweltering parking lot elevator) I had to wait in it.  Impatiently, Morgan flashed her pass and went on up to the 2nd floor, eager to see Cali.

When I arrived in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) a few minutes later, I could tell by Morgan’s face that something was wrong.  The nurse explained that Cali had begun vomiting last night and her heart rate had dropped a little a few times.  This can mean so many things, but they were immediately stopping all food and doing blood work to rule out infection.  They asked us to leave so they could insert a second tube in her nose (opposite nostril from feeding tube) to pull excess air from her stomach.

My eyes welled up and in all seriousness, I wanted to curl up on the floor and cry.  However motherhood kicked in and I knew I had to be strong for my baby girl.  We went to the waiting room until the procedures were over and then my baby girl wanted to hold her baby girl.  I sat in a chair beside her, more for moral support than anything.  Cali slept and I looked around the room, which currently is home to approximately 7 babies; I overheard them say they have a total of 42 patients in NICU right now, which I understand is a lot for them.

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Morgan and Cali

There are babies in much more serious condition than Cali’s.  There are older ones, younger ones, bigger and smaller.  Some cry a lot and some you never hear a peep out of (at least when I’m there).  I pray for all of them and I ache for the parents and what they are going through.

They come here from all over, show their ID or passes, push buttons so doors will open and wash their hands thoroughly multiple times per day.  They sit in a room that is filled with beeping machines that have the power to give them quite a scare and they listen and try to understand as doctors and nurses reveal plans and strategies.  Some of their children are growing out of the clothes and diapers they got at baby showers and some have even outgrown some of the toys.

Yet, they face each crisis with a strength that I had never seen before, having had two healthy, and delivered at-term babies.  I look at them and not only compassion floods my soul, but also respect and admiration.  I will shed tears in my prayers over this little world I didn’t realize existed until April 13th.  Sure, I knew there were sick babies, but I had no idea of the big picture.

I have focused on one small group of breaking hearts in my post, yet there are hundreds of others.  More people going through this life with a heavy load and dealing with things we can’t imagine unless we have been there.

I know I’ve said this over and over, but let’s give people the benefit of the doubt because we truly don’t know.  That lady in line in front of you with the blank look on her face who doesn’t hear the cashier saying, “Next, please”, could have been my daughter this morning.  Be patient with her.

We are praying and believe that Cali will bounce back from this step backwards and come home quickly and give her doctor’s a shock.  This journey is increasing our faith and our strength and I thank God for that. God will continue to provide the strength, mercy and grace for each and every day.  He always does!

I would also be remiss if I didn’t thank the amazing team of doctors, nurses and all other staff at Nicklaus.  We couldn’t be in better, more caring hands and I’m truly grateful.  Oh, and a special kudos also to the cafeteria staff for their tasty creations and their smiles of concern.    We also have the best friends and family ever and our community has rallied around us like a great wall of love and protection.  There is NO way to begin to thank them all appropriately!

Life is a saga

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Life is a saga, a long and complicated story with many details. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you live very long at all this applies. Our life begins on page one, with our birth and if you have ever been in a room of women discussing childbirth, that can be a saga in itself. We live, we learn, we grow and we change.

We all have a story but it’s what we do with our stories that can make a difference. I was discussing this a little bit in my Sunday school class this morning. We go through things sometimes that make no sense, seasons filled with trials and tribulations. They are going to touch each one of us, but oh the difference when we allow God to teach us through them instead of sinking and wallowing in a big warm pile of self-pity.

I’m not saying not to grieve or that it’s wrong to cry, but when we’re done, get up and move on and let what we have learned, even when it was a tough, teach someone else. Some of the things I have been through in my life have allowed me to counsel or encourage other mothers or wives who are now going through the same thing. Can God really take that year of weeping and hurting and use it to impart healing in someone else? Why, yes He can and I can attest to having been on the giving and receiving end of both trial and help.

At times we try to pretend like we don’t know the meaning of grief or affliction and I’m not sure why, as we all are familiar with its sting. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, as long as we are this side of heaven, we will encounter difficulty. It’s how we deal with it that sets us apart.

Wouldn’t it be great to know that your saga didn’t end at your death because even after your demise other lives were still touched because of you? I think we all want to leave this world knowing we have imparted wisdom, hope and truth into others.

I was cleaning out a closet the other day and found an old journal of my mother’s. I’m sure I saw it and positive that I would have looked inside near the time of her death. The other day coming across the old treasure again I opened it up and saw that old familiar handwriting on the yellowing front page. For some reason I leafed through the other pages and buried in the middle were about five more pages that I had never seen before. They were written in and around December of 95’ and into the first months of January 96’. Mom died in June of 96’ so these “new” words were like gold to me. They were a new discovery of some of her personal thoughts in her final months. More of the saga of her much shortened life and they meant so much to me. They touched me and as I read them, I again felt her faith and strength. She imparted another precious gift to me almost twenty years after she met Jesus.

I was blessed to have a mother whose wisdom and guidance has served me well over the course of my life. Whether we are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters or friends, we too can choose to let our stories help us grow into better people and use their lessons to love on others. Isn’t that part of what love is all about?

 

Daily Prompt:  Saga

Daily Prompt: Flourish

Rose

As I pondered the word flourish from today’s prompt, I couldn’t help but think about my one month old granddaughter, Cali.  If you read my blog or follow my Facebook page, you are already acquainted with Cali as she has been a repeat guest.  She is flourishing in her NICU environment, and almost up to 6 lbs.

I was telling my daughter the other day that as much as we would all love to see her home, she is where she needs to be right now.   They have adjusted her environment from the day she arrived until now to ensure she is thriving.  She arrived on a ventilator and worked her way down to no oxygen support at all.  She no longer needs the added warmth of incubation as she can now adjust her own body temperature.  She continues to flourish, surrounded by prayer in the hands of these skilled doctors and nurses who are blessed with their talent by God.

In contemplating this, I began to think about how often we attempt to make all the conditions right for things to flourish.  We plant that rose bush where it will receive 5-6 hours of sun per day, we water and fertilize it faithfully, we remove any encroaching weeds and pick off the dead bulbs and we watch and wait, hoping for a beautiful blossom covered bush.

Do we do the same thing for our souls?  Do we make sure we are planted firmly on truth, rooted and grounded in faith?  Do we water our souls with the Word of God, eating and drinking from the wellspring of Divine knowledge?  Are we conscious of our environments, realizing that the places we go, the things we do and yes, even the company we keep has an effect on our lives?  Are we cautious about who or what we pledge our loyalty to?  Do we dig up, pull out and destroy the encroaching weeds of resentment, bitterness and un-forgiveness?

If we do, we are growing stronger every day and we can look forward to spiritually prosperous lives.  If not then maybe this will serve as a gentle reminder.  Let’s grow and thrive together!  Blessings!

You can’t change their spots

 

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My love and I in 94′

Since I like to impart knowledge to the younger crowd, I listen to their conversations with great attentiveness to things that bother them.  When I hear them discussing relationships, my ears perk up because I have been married for 22 years and let’s just say I’ve learned a lot.  So, in an attempt to save someone a little heartache or just to make you think, I wanted to share some thoughts.  If you are currently in a relationship, it would behoove you to take great care to notice the things that irritate you now.  Once you have been married for a few years, they will irritate you more.  That cute little snuffling snore will become something you despise.  Trust me on this one.  I write more about it at Sleeping with the Enemy .

A good marriage is work; it doesn’t just happen and it’s not 50/50 like so many say; it requires each giving 100% for the best shot at making it work.  Because it isn’t easy, you should be careful when you begin to consider a spouse; someone you intend to spend your life with (because in my opinion that should be the goal at the onset).  If you are looking at it as something you can jump out of at a whim, you’re going in with the wrong attitude. Unfortunately, that seems to be how many younger folks see it, but I digress.

One of the things to consider is the fact that you cannot change someone.  They are who and what they are and no amount of whining, griping, threatening, withholding or pouting is going to change that.  That will only serve to make both of you more miserable.  So, if you already have a growing list of the many things you do not like about your “love”, you better think long and hard about this.

When you’ve been married a couple of years and the baby has been up all night, the ac is out and your checkbook is in the negative, it takes patience and stick-to-itiveness.  At times like these, when your knight in shining armor has let his facial hair get all prickly and he is sitting in his favorite spot in his boxers all puffed up like toad, you have to dig deep, sister.   It’s not always like the movies…wait, it’s rarely ever like the movies.

What I am trying to convey is, don’t settle now thinking that your Mr. (or Mrs.) with the problem(s) is going to change once you marry, or once you have a baby, or once they get a job they like.  If they have an addiction problem, they are going to carry it into the marriage and, in my opinion, keep it until they allow God to deliver them.  If your “girl” has a spending problem, and you are very frugal, think twice or you might be paying off credit card debt for decades.  If they aren’t romantic and you are sappy and schmaltzy and not happy if you aren’t having dinner by candlelight, think it through.   I hear way too many of you young ones say, “Things will change when X happens”.  No, they won’t.  Don’t fool yourself.

No marriage is perfect, but figure out what your deal breakers are.  I am saying this as a woman with a failed first marriage that lasted 10 years and a 2nd one that has lasted 22.  I love my husband dearly and I am grateful that we can talk things through and we have overcome many obstacles and have been through many storms together.  We had family values in common and that is important.  We don’t believe in going to bed mad so we don’t let things fester and get bitter over them.  We are experts in the art of compromise.  I would be remiss if I didn’t give glory to God for giving me the faith, grace and love to be a godly wife as I’m sure things wouldn’t have gone as well without His divine hand.

Remember what real love is and ask yourself if this is the kind of love you have.  Obviously we all fail at some of this at times, but it’s a good set of scriptures to meditate on and have been a source of strength for me in the darker hours.  In the words of St Paul – Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

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