Tag Archives: gratitude

Neck Up Check Up

I’ll just say it; I crack me up.

This morning began even earlier than usual for me. It’s hot, so I didn’t sleep as well as I typically do. I rolled out of bed thanking God for another day with Him. But soon I grumbled and complained about the dead bugs here and there from the summer’s quarterly spraying. Disgusted, I tied a frozen bandanna around my neck and stepped outside.

Instead of heading for the pastures first as I usually do, I walked toward the front yard and the gardens. It didn’t occur to me that the cattle and the mare would notice me in the pre-dawn light. They did. Loudly. Their calls to me actually warm my heart most days, but it was very early. Silly me, I worried the premature noise might disturb the neighbors – the nearest one being too far to hear. After I walked the other way, out of sight they quieted back down quickly.

I adore growing my own food. Over the weekend we’d placed Sevin baits to help reduce the earwig overpopulation. Still finding the live, slithering masses under everything I touched (checking for squash bugs or eggs) annoyed me. So did the screen door banging against the planter – someone left it open after using the grill the night before. As the first sun beams streaked across the tree trunks I felt taken for granted noticing the empty bird feeders. Poor, poor, pitiful me.

Clearly I desperately needed coffee.

Once the coffee began pumping I felt revived and happier with the world. I followed the cattle to the pasture to see how the new controller program I’d set the day before went. That was a long process in itself: find a manual on line, find the information I needed rather than read every jot and tittle about the device, hand write the step-by-step instructions (of course the printer cartridge emptied at that particular moment, and forget a WiFi signal in the metal barn), walk back to the cottage for a flashlight since the new lights in the barn aren’t connected yet… I already had half my daily steps in.

Then I noticed two swamp spots in the first sprinkler zone – yep, the cow’s knocked off two more sprinkler heads so the water pooled around a two-yard radius instead of the 20 yard circles they should have soaked. Stupid cow.

I shot a text off to Brother reminding him to bring more replacement heads home with him and headed back to my desk. I pulled fresh weeds to feed the chickens – killing two birds with one stone (the young hens will just have to get over that expression – or start laying soon).

Within minutes at my desk, my brand new wireless keyboard had me wanting to punch something. Does anyone actually use F keys instead of hot keys? How is learning to stretch the fingers higher better than CTL+S, CTL+A, CTL+C, CTL+V, etc? I literally walked away after the fifth or sixth time a Save As dialogue box popped up rather than the cursor back spacing over yet another key error. Grrr… And I saved to buy this device for months!

The sound of Old Dog sniffing around my open door was all it took to push me over my threshold. Time for a walk.

Before we’d walked fifty yards I noticed Senior Neighbor Lady waving her arms and calling me. Walking past our three dogs noisily engaging in their daily fence fight I finally heard her tell me, “Honey, I don’t have my hearing aids in and couldn’t hear what you were yelling to me.”  Hmmm… I only waved hello as I do every morning – usually two hours later.

I easily find patience with seniors – sowing what I hope to reap, so I hugged her and wished her a nice day.

As Dog and I rounded the first bend in the road, I heard what sounded like angry voices nearby. Dog paused, his aging ears pointed toward the source of the sound. It appeared one half of a young couple was loading a pick-up truck bed and the other half was getting her wounded, parting words out. He wordlessly pulled items out of the pile she’d created next to the garbage can before the collection truck arrived.

Been there, done that. I prayed.

I continued to pray as we continued our walk. Dog doesn’t mind – he can’t hear my lower register anyway. God does.

As we headed back up our driveway I noticed the fruits of my labors in the pretty, colorful, well-trimmed yards, and the unmistakably peaceful atmosphere of the place. Yeah, the lots between the main house and the pastures seem chaotic, but that’s what Brother’s business going in good a direction looks like.

I realized how silly I’d been earlier. Though I never expected to be unmarried, my life now is what I’ve always hoped and wished for. Despite the daily annoyances that are certain to arise as I learn about ranch life, with such a benefactor as Brother, my life has become a story I want to write. Most important, I realized how quickly I suffer for discounting my relationship with God.

Today I’m humbled recalling one of Daddy’s iconic expressions, “How soon we forget.”

Today I’m grateful for the reminder to never step out the door before prayer time – or without my latte.

Now I’m off to get the rest of my steps in before it’s too hot!

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4 (NLT)

 

Image courtesy MemeGenerator.net.

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Stuffed

Late winter is my favorite season for baking. It warms the cottage while filling it with delightful aromas.

It was the last week of the month. With frozen, wet roads I had left the ranch only when necessary, so supplies dwindled. This is typical. I have seen hard times, so any day there is food is good and having choices is great! I take advantage of bargains and stock the freezer and pantry. Still, there was remarkable room in both.

That particular day I had to be especially creative. I was delighted to find all the makings for a pumpkin cheesecake pie – of all things! Hey, it includes all four food groups.

I gathered the ingredients and began making the crust. But when I went to roll out the dough I couldn’t find my rolling pin.

After exhausting every possibility I looked about for anything suitable for the task. Rolling the dough with a tall juice bottle, I mentally rummaged through lists of things I’d inadvertently left in Texas or Colorado last year.

I put the pie into the oven and began cleaning up. As I put things away I began to laugh. Without some extensive reorganizing I actually have no place for anything else. This cottage is stuffed full!

I know any time I need a rolling pin or baking sheets, I can walk 20 yards and borrow Kendra’s, but the situation made me deeply reflective.

Over my history I experienced some devastating losses. Yet, hard times taught three generations of my family to be resilient, flexible, inventive and most of all thankful for what we have.

It’s not my preference, but if I must I can fish and hunt. I know how to clean fish and dress out a deer, rabbit or fowl. More important, I adore growing vegetables and canning them.

Over the years, I learned to use a pair of forks or knives as a pastry cutter. A tall glass makes an adequate rolling pin as well as a cookie cutter. Since I needn’t make it anymore, a quart of yogurt provides me calcium and protein and a storage container as well. With friends I learned how to make cheese and delightful breads. Long ago, Moms passed their talents for making biscuits, tortillas and pancakes from scratch on to me. And hanging out with Kendra I recently learned to make candy.

Though some of my history is grievous indeed I’m glad for it all today. Because of hardships and heartbreaks, God and I are sufficient in all things. I am blessed indeed!

“I am not saying this because I am in need. I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances. I know how to survive in tight situations, and I know how to enjoy having plenty. In fact, I have learned how to face any circumstances: fed or hungry, with or without.” Philippians 4:11, 12 (The Voice)

 

*Image courtesy of ABSFreePics

All other images courtesy of Gigi @ A Warm Hello

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Changing Things Up

 

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This morning started out amazing.

First, I slept. Yay! Then I woke up feeling exceptionally happy for no apparent reason.

With my next heartbeat I felt extraordinary gratitude. Rather than bolting out of the bed to check the wood stove, I pulled the goose down comforter over my shoulders. Annnd that familiar pain shot through my arms.

I didn’t care. I snuggled in and had a long talk with God.

I started by thanking Him, beginning with the obvious blessings in my life: good health, comfortable bed, a warm home, firewood, a variety of food…

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name.” *

Soon I asked for specific blessings for my family, friends and essentially everyone I know. Before long I was back to telling God how great I think He is, how good it is to know Him.

I gotta tell all y’alls, this scenario is rare. I typically begin my days with prayer and thanksgiving for my life – from my desk or armchair with a Bible, a freshly brewed latte or mug of tea, a good fire crackling in the stove…

Me lingering in bed rarely happens. During this exceptionally harsh winter my morning dialogues have started with “Thank You, Jesus. Now, please help me,” just to get out of bed – and then I hit the floor running. Today without thinking or planning I changed things up a little.

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What’s more, I think I’m better for… Wow. Sunshine!

And good just keeps on coming.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:38 (NLT)

*Psalm 100:4  (NLT)

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The Stihl of the Night

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**

Sunday night Cole was plowing after dark. Although I typically avoid working on Sunday, I pulled on my boots to help shovel the pile-up from the walkways. Sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Almost immediately Cole passed between my cottage and the shop. As he went, he called to Kendra and me, “Let’s build a bonfire!” – long after dusk on a work night. Crazy. Right?

icy-snow

We often enjoy bonfires at parties or on a relaxing evening after a hard day’s work. But not in 9 degrees and wind with a foot or so of snow. And it was late.

Cole and Kendra also know I typically retire early in the evening. I’m not literally an insomniac. Still, turning my brain off takes hours, so I typically “rise and go to roost with the chickens.”

As we shoveled Kendra shared that Cole had mentioned cutting wood earlier. I’m ashamed to admit my next thoughts were how I’d told him the day before I’d cut all the wood I could with my little chain saw – that he gave me for Christmas. He’d responded saying he’d go to the grove the following day, bring in more wood, split some logs and start up the big Stihl saw.

Another job came to the shop, so that didn’t happen. And then it snowed – yet again.

As Kendra and I worked I realized some other important facts:

  • The main house where they live has forced heat and air. Their wood burning stove is essentially aesthetic, more for ambiance. They don’t need wood for heat. I do.
  • For several consecutive days Cole spent hours on the tractor moving snow from the lots and the driveways. We all appreciate a path to the pastures.
  • Cole and Kendra team up to ensure I have all I need: heat, transportation, food, companionship and even hugs.

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Fortunately, before shooting off my mouth without engaging my brain, I realized Cole was looking out for me. Sure, he teases me saying, “You’ve been sheltered too long. You’re spoiled.” Cole actually doesn’t know better. He sees me today with all my “quirks” – not the scarred and torn Former Me. As Kendra said, “translated that actually means, ‘I have your back, Sister.’ ”

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.*”

Daily I thank God for my whole family. While Cole’s manners and personality can sometimes be annoying, Kendra is his soft side. We have shared some rough times together.

Four years ago, with my sister, brother and niece, we were all a family here together on the ranch. Cole, Kendra and the boys occupied what’s now my cottage and the loft. And then all our lives changed forever; Roan and I were barely settled into our apartment in McKinney, Texas when Cole called. Without warning Cole’s best friend, Kendra’s favorite neighbor, my precious kid brother suddenly, unexpected died here.

Jan 26, 2014 5 a.m. Opal, Roo, Seagh, Roan, Cole, Kendra

Jan 26, 2014 5 a.m. Opal, Roo, Seagh, Roan, Cole, Kendra

Yes, life goes on. Still, Seagh is such a huge part of our lives we all miss him – daily. We all occasionally see him in our peripheries. We need never explain those moments.

Initially Cole was my brother vicariously through Seagh. Though he knows comparatively little of my history, today Cole’s close as a brother. In his life Seagh called three men his brother; one is by blood, one a friend from his youth and then Cole. Kendra’s become a sister.

Sunday night was a reflective occasion, only it didn’t hurt as much. Because of Cole and Kendra I was only mildly concerned taking the last of the cut wood early that same morning. At the time I had no idea exactly how much the full wood box would actually comfort me that night.

God blessed me with many brothers and sisters and good friends. Though I miss many of them often, especially Seagh, Cole and Kendra have my back – daily.

I’m glad to see I “Stihl” have room to grow into a better person.

Have your circumstances forced you to grow where you didn’t realize you could?

It’s -3 degrees this morning. With this crazy weather the crib’s almost empty again. No problem, we got this.

“And my God will supply every need of ours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (ESV)

*James 1:27

**Image courtesy Pixabay

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More Thanks

While I await the moist heat to relieve the aching muscles I’d forgotten I have, with a good connection back at home again in Washington, I’ll share a couple of my favorite moments from Thanksgiving weekend in Idaho with the extended family.

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Roo and the new boyfriend

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Show me the snacks

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Do I smell apples?

Potlatch

Harvest time beauty

“May He grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed.” Psalm 20:4 (NLT)

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Deep Gratitude

This week I asked God to show me things and events I take for granted or overlooked, things for which I’m thankful.

All y’alls probably don’t forget the epic moments in your lives that turned the tide for you. This morning I awoke with one such memory – that ended a friendship.

Typically I prefer to avoid dwelling on the dark times of my early past, but this week memories blessed me with a clearer perception of God’s infinite grace, the day I didn’t pull the trigger.

My family of origin is rich – with extremes. Some of those include violence. When I was young I witnessed such from a distance and was sometimes at the receiving end. While I not only survived but overcame them, they affected me. Not always in positive ways.

I left my marriage not solely to remove my sons and myself from physical harm but because of infidelity on many levels. We all got over it, but soon after the separation I recognized violent roots in me.

A good friend surprised the boys and me with a visit to our new home. She’d told me weeks before her new husband had shoved and grabbed her hard enough to bruise her. I wasn’t as happy to see him with her.

woman-angry-pixabayHe quickly felt my reluctance to receive him and soon began urging her to leave. Forgetting all she’d confided in me, she simply said they wouldn’t stay long.

 

After chatting in the kitchen I started walking them through the house to show her the changes we’d made. Soon didn’t come fast enough for him. Entering the second room he grabbed her arm forcefully, insisting they leave immediately. I perceived violence.

revolver-sillouette-bixabayFaster than I recall ever moving before, I reached into the closet we stood next to and retrieved the single action .22 revolver we kept at the back of the high shelf.

I aimed the barrel at her husband’s brow saying, “Let go of her, and leave.” My eldest son later said my strange, icy tone gave him chills from the other room and the pitch of my friend’s voice confirmed her terror as she warned her husband, “She will shoot. Don’t test her.”

The husband realized his life depended upon his next move. He slowly let go of her, raising his hands above his head. From the doorway, thirteen-year-old Iain stepped beside him, and taking his elbow urged him toward the back door saying, “Good choice.”

As the husband backed away with Iain, he cautiously said “Honey, if you’re ready I’ll be in the car.”

In my history the behavior and attitude the husband initially exhibited typically led to me bleeding. One of the last such instances, my friend was in the house during some of the brutality I had survived. In the present all I could think of was protecting my sons and perhaps my friend.

Iain guided the husband outside. After closing the door I lowered my weapon. My friend shocked me by shaming me for doing what I considered the best response to the situation. She cried saying she couldn’t understand me. I was dumbfounded.

Months before Erin came to take me to the hospital. I’d been hit so hard I didn’t get up. After I came to I determined it was the last time I was going down defenseless. The friend I presently stared at, mouth agape in disbelief, had witnessed the attack and called Erin.

As the couple drove away I checked the pistol and then put it back on the shelf. I gathered my sons and assured them everything was okay and then encouraged them to talk about what had just happened. Soon I asked Iain why he went to the husband. He answered, “I saw you hadn’t pulled the hammer back, but he didn’t.” Then shrugging his shoulders he quoted his uncle, “Neutralize the threat.” There were no other questions.

Iain has always astounded me – often in good ways. He never forgot Grandpa, a WWII vet, vigilantly teaching the family of huntsmen, “You hear that sound [a firearm cocking], drop wherever you are.” Iain had’t heard that distictive sound that day.

Minutes later we all returned to what we’d been doing before the guests arrived as though it was any other day.

In almost 25 years, I did not recall that event. After many changes in my life and my heart the memory came to me, tormenting me for days. At the time of that incident I was remarkably spontaneous, especially proactive regarding any perceived threat. A practiced shootist then, I gladly remember now that I never cocked the gun that day. It was the last time I’d pulled a firearm for over two decades.

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Whenever I just breathe deeply enough to feel the familiar old scars where my ribs and scull cracked beneath my beloved’s boots, I am thankful. Today I’m thankful to be home safe and sound. I’m not proud, but I’m thankful for the times I stood against physical violence with equal force. And I thank God especially that one particular stand could have gone horribly wrong, but didn’t.

Mostly I’m thankful for my sons. Against the odds they are peacekeepers today.

“When I think of all this I fall to my knees and pray to the Father… Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:14, 20 (NLT)

Images courtesy of Pixabay

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Walk #3

In my Neighborhood

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Walking with my head lowered, my cap visor pulled down reflected how I felt after examining my finances. Suddenly I nearly bumped into a man standing at the edge of the sidewalk. I startled just a smidgen, but looked closely at the shabbily dressed, but immaculate looking man of indeterminable age.

He smiled.

He said nothing and I felt comfortable stopping a scant few feet from him. Looking into his smile I felt a weight lift. In heartbeats I forgot my troubles and the mood of my day changed. I asked if I could take his photo for my blog about our neighborhood. Hands in his pockets, he didn’t move but his smiled broadened. I snapped, thanked him and began walking again – the sun would be hot soon.

A few steps later I looked back to wave but didn’t see him. In my newfound peace I felt a little sad he was gone, but then I too smiled. I am blessed. As I envisioned his smile again something shiny in the grass caught my eye:

homeless memorial

“Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.” 1 Peter 3:8 (NLT)

 

Images are from my private collection and aside from reblogging or reposting the article in whole, are not to be copied without prior written permission. Thank you!

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How to be Happy – Reblog

I hope What’s Next readers enjoy this delightful reblog by my blogosphere buddy Mitch Teemley:

being happy

How to be Happy

My holiday comedy sketch The Thanksgiving Fairy features Rick and Toodie, a married couple who are having one of those “nothing-to-be-thankful-for” days. Ever had one of those?

The setting is a laundromat:

To read more see the original post at Mitch Teemley’s blog, The Power of Story

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The Liebster Award!

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I owe sincerest thanks to Caitlin at Full of Joy Happenings for nominating my blog post for The Liebster Award. Who doesn’t appreciate someone going out of their way to say, “well done?”

Best Things First, some wonderful bloggers:

Discovering the Unknowns

The Truth File

Brand of Man

Storyville; Storeis, Tales, Yarns and Other Adventures

The Cranky Blog

Hundred and Counting

Two are Better Than One; Partner Up

Pebblestone Steps

Kyrianinthekitchen

My Life in New Zealand; Living in the Auckland

Tangerine Wallpaper Feminism. Crochet. Books. Music…

 

Eleven facts about me (spoiler alerts):
– In the third grade I broke a months-long silence (not speaking at all) to announce my school principal put my essay on the main bulletin board.
– I dropped out of high school to be a full-time mom, but returned to college twelve years later. I’m still working toward that degree :>
– Laughter through tears honestly is one of my favorite experiences. Sadness and tragedies happen; one simply doesn’t plan for them. But one doesn’t forget something naturally hilarious breaking through overwhelming grief.
– Beatles, Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, John Denver, Paul Simon songs (I admit it) or Big Band music (from way before my time) can lift me from the foulest mood.
– My mother would lock me out of the house during summer break or I’d hide away with a couple of books until I had to come out for food, water or the bathroom.
– I have lived in about thirty homes from the midwest, northwest, southwest and midsouth continental U.S. large cities, towns, and small hamlets including a summer in a rustic cabin in the sierra foothills and a year on a sailboat.
– Settling down on (a working ranch) self-supporting, acreage in a co-op community to raise organic, non-GMO food and raising livestock is my ideal home.
– Given a choice, I would live on home grown vegetables and fish year-around (I like canning home-grown food).
– While I adamantly avoid religious systems, Jesus is my all-time hero, favorite personality, favorite teacher and best friend.
– Long visits in large cities is exciting, informative and exhilarating, but given my choice I’d live in the country, not far from a coastline.
– Little else settles my nerves like relaxing on a catamaran within sight of land – now that I can’t afford personal injury from surfing.

Eleven questions:
1. What got you started with your blog?  An friend, writer, journalist and mentor started it. A second dear, (older 🙂 ) friend also reminded me every time we talked the good blogging would do me. When a third friend refused to publish copy I wrote for her until I did, I got the point.
2. Please link to your favorite post you have written and why is it your favorite?  I wrote it, let it ‘cure’ and when I came back, certain it would need editing, I liked it and posted it as is: Learning From Life – Extended Course
3. What is your favorite color?  What day is it? What’s my mood? I lean toward jewel tones, accented with yellow and red.
4. If a movie were to be played about your life, who would play you? Ah! Meryl Streep.
5. Where would you like to travel that you haven’t traveled to yet? Where both sides of my family began in Cork County Ireland; Italy, all of it beginning at the Amalfi Coast, Greece, The wine regions of France. How much time do we have?
6. What was your favorite book or movie as a child? The Littlest Angel, John Wayne movie late at night (I’d sneak about it), The Wizard of Oz
7. What is your favorite season and why? In Southeastern Washington, Autumn. In Chicagoland late spring
8. What is your astrological sign and do you feel it describes your personality? Gemini. People tell me yes, it does, but I don’t know.
9. Do you have a bucket list? What is number 1? Not a printed list; it changes to often for me to keep up with. I’m leaning on travel; the New England Seaboard for a summer.
10. If you like to exercise what’s your favorite type of exercise? brisk walks/salt water swimming
11. What’s your dream job? Publishing Manager for Harper Collins, Random House or Navpress in that order 🙂

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The Liebster Award Acceptance Rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated and link back to their blog.
2. Display the Liebster Award on your blog.
3. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
4. Answer the 11 questions you were asked.
5. Nominate 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers for the award, by asking them 11 new questions or
6. …(or) answer the questions you were asked.
7. Make sure to let the bloggers know you’ve nominated them!
8. And don’t forget to copy the rules into your post!

1. What got you started with your blog? 
2. Please link to your favorite post you have written and why is it your favorite? 
3. What is your favorite color? 
4. If a movie were to be played about your life, who would play you? 
5. Where would you like to travel that you haven’t traveled to yet?
6. What was your favorite book or movie as a child?
7. What is your favorite season and why?
8. What is your astrological sign and do you feel it describes your personality?
9. Do you have a bucket list? What is number 1?
10. If you like to exercise what’s your favorite type of exercise?
11. What’s your dream job?

 

Thank you Caitlin!

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Epic Awesome Award!

epically awesome award

My retarded response in no way takes from my profound, sincere appreciation for the Epic Awesome Award. I only imagined before how such recognition from my fellow bloggers feels. Thanks to Joana Salazar I relish the astoundingly uplifting sensation.

While I am not awesome, learning to blog has been a marvelous experience. I want to encourage others with my stories and ideas. New friends such as Joana and Michelle, make my work brighter and happier for their efforts. I want to do that too! I believe God makes us all awesome by imparting some of Himself through us. By supporting one another we are untied with Him and one another. And we get to have fun in our new blog community. Win-win!

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Among the amazing blogs that light up my imagination (other than those JoanaYecheilya, and Charles French already mentioned) are:

Arlene Powers

Two Are Better Than One

Spiritual Musings From an Educated Redneck

Brand of Man (the BOM)

Meganelizabethmorales

Create More – Consume Less

Sarah’s Attic of Treasures

Discovering the Unknowns

Koolitzable

And so many others, but my brain is now numb reviewing their ‘awesomeness’!

Thank you, again.

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