Archives for category: a few thoughts on
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Cross at Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, Conway, South Carolina, April 9, 2017

I have a distinct memory in my high school years. Our beloved Latin teacher gave quite dramatic deliberations on a variety of subjects. She was always incredibly entertaining.I remember her talking about bubble gum giving your mouth a sugar bath of decay. I remember her literally sliding across a table with her hands clenched saying, “PLEASE, PLEASE…”  I don’t remember what she was begging for, but the manner of asking made quite a long lasting impression, that’s for sure.  Yes, Mrs. Goodman was one of my favorites.  She was an incredible teacher, full of inspiration, drama, quick wit, and unconventional methods which sure made her students take note, and learn, like it or not.  I still remember a lot that I learned in that class…

Well, one day, she started a very passionate dialogue. And she said something that really struck me. But this time it wasn’t about health or education or daily stuff. This time it was about faith, Christianity, and the Cross. She asked the question, “Why in the world would a religion choose a symbol as morbid as a cross? It may as well be a tombstone for what it represents.”   And as a young believer in Christ, well, my wheels started spinning quite a bit. I mean, she had a point. The cross was a symbol of death. Not just a natural death, but a violent death where one is being killed. Killed. Punished. Put on public display.

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Beaver Dam Baptist Church Cemetery, Shelby, North Carolina

So I got it. I got the reasoning for her diatribe. And as a new believer in Christ, this most often quiet high school girl wanted to raise my hand  and raise my voice and say, “…but Mrs. Goodman…” But the class time was limited and my words didn’t formulate quickly even though my wheels were spinning fast. My hand stayed down and voice was silent. Ever since that time, I sometimes find myself thinking of Mrs. Goodman and her question. And here are some of my thoughts… (which so wouldn’t have been able to be spit out quickly in response to her age old question during a class period in high school…)

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Cemetery across from airport in Shelby, North Carolina, April 2017

A week before Jesus was nailed to a cross, literally nailed to a cross, he was being praised, cheered, exalted, as a Savior. People lined the streets of Jerusalem and hailed the “King” on the donkey.  They cried out “Hosanna!”  One translation of “Hosanna” is ‘save now’. SAVE…NOW.  Another translation is “I beg you to save now.”  All signs were pointing to Jesus being the Messiah, the promised One who was to be the Savior of the World. And people were recognizing him as such. They saw the miracles, some realized the prophesies, listened to His words…and were moved by His presence.They were recognizing that this one born in Bethlehem under Beacon of a Star could be the One, the Messiah, they were waiting for. “Hosanna!” was shouted, palm leaves were waved as people lined the streets and hailed Jesus as King.

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Cross at Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, Conway, South Carolina, April 9, 2017

But their definition of SAVE…SAVE now…it was a bit different…more temporal than the one that Jesus spoke of. The week before Jesus was crucified on a cross, people had lined the streets to praise Him as the one who would save.  But that ‘saving’ didn’t look like they wanted it to. They wanted the ‘SAVING’ to be from present circumstances.  They wanted the ‘NOW’ to be…now. Days later, cheers turned to jeers, waving palm branches turned to whips, a road to a throne turned to a road to a cross.

But here’s the thing. That had been Jesus’ destination all along. To be the Lamb of God, the Sacrifice, the One who was to SAVE us, not only from present circumstance, but from our Sins….the Sin the like cancer eats away at us, but more than that, the sin that separates from a Holy, Pure, Righteous God. This Messiah came not only to “save now” from sins, He came to reign in our hearts as Lord.  Sometimes we want to trade the external-temporal-SAVING-NOW, for the internal-eternal-Saving-for-all-time.  The internal-external-Saving-for-all-time would take a sacrifice. Literally.  The Messiah would be ‘pierced for our transgressions..’…and the cross, would be where that sacrifice would ultimately take place.

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Wilmington, North Carolina, February 2017

So, the cross became the symbol not for death but for life. It became the symbol for the death of sin’s hold and the redeeming of the soul.

I’m not sure what my Latin teacher would say after reading this.  And I think it’s ironic that her name was Mrs. Goodman, because, she was good. In fact, she was great. She was a nut, but she was so loved and appreciated by so many.  And like her name “Good – man”, there’s something in us that wants to believe that if we’re good enough, if we’re great enough, then, THEN, we or those people can earn their way into Heaven. And that’s the thing. It’s a faith thing. Not a works thing. The Bible says, “all have sinned…all fall short…” The chasm between holiness and humanity is too wide. And the cross of Christ, that symbol of death, becomes a symbol of life. Resurrected life. But the gift, it needs to be received. By faith. Alone.

But…if we don’t believe we are sinners, why would we need a Savior? And if we don’t believe God is a Holy God, and we are so not, why would we need a Redeemer?  And if we don’t need a Redeemer, a Sacrifice, then why would we need a cross?  Paul even recognized that reasoning when he said, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  (I Corinthians 1:18)

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I am a sinner. From the get go. I need a Savior. Every Single Day. I need a Redeemer, a Messiah promised from the beginning of time. I need a cross. A symbol of temporal death becomes a symbol of eternal life. Why?  Because Death didn’t have power over Jesus. He was resurrected. Changed. Sin had no hold on Him, and He was raised…and Lives. My Redeemer Lives. That’s what I see when I see the cross. I see a Sacrifice and a Resurrected Savior.  When I see the cross, I see the Love of Christ that breaks sin’s hold on me and breaks through vain religious hoops and striving. When I see the cross, I see Jesus.

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 11.58.12 PMI’m not sure where Mrs. Goodman is now. And if I could go back and sit in her class…in a few words, I think I’d say that the cross is the crux. It’s the heart of a redemptive God. The Isaiah 53 Messiah was the Jesus on Calvary who didn’t stay down, but was resurrected. And my awesome Latin teacher would know that the root of resurrection, the Latin ‘resurgere ‘ means “rise again, appear again”. His death is the gateway to life. And because of that, by faith, Death can’t keep a good-man down. Not when a resurrected Christ is your advocate. And that, that is something to celebrate.

A Blessed Easter to You~

Heather

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”  

I Peter 1:3-4

Isaiah 53

“A ship in the harbor is safe.

But that’s not what ships are for.”

William G.T  Shedd

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Wrightsville, Beach, North Carolina April 7th, 2017

I saw some ships today, and some smaller vessels on the water. They were coming in to the harbor just as the sun was going down. My son and I watched as the boats in the distance moved a little closer in to the dock.

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It was windy and cold, but beautiful on the patio as we ate.  Hot Clam chowder tasted really good on a chilly day like this. But we definitely preferred the view with the cold over the comfort without the view. We watched (and shivered) as the ships came in and the sun went down.

I know that ships are meant to sail. Some are meant to be on the high seas and others are meant to be a little closer to shore. But all are meant to venture out from the safety of the harbor. Yeah, I get that. I do.

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Ocean Isle, North Carolina April 8, 2017   (Zac)

And anchors help to provide stability out on the seas. And there are times to use anchors, and times when anchors are dangerous. And moorings are meant to keep one safe in the harbor. Moorings need to be tied tightly at the right times, and loosened when it’s time to set sail.

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Chase, Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina , April 7th, 2017

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Zac, Ocean Isle, North Carolina April 8th, 2017

My  “ships” are all venturing out these days. Only have one who is ‘safely in the harbor’ of our home, but all of the others, well, they are venturing out, all at different distances, different speeds, different tracks, but all venturing out nonetheless.

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Chase and Josh, Wilmington, North Carolina April 7, 2017

And I’m proud and thankful for the courses that they are on. And at times I’m fearful of the storms blowing in and the potential dangers that they have faced, are facing, and will face on their journeys.

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But I remind myself that ships…ships were meant to sail. Birds were meant to fly.

DSCN3273 Children were meant to grow up and become independent, to use their gifts and give it all ‘out there’. And they are not alone ‘out there’. I’ve gotta remember that.

DSCN3203And the fact that my ‘ships’ are out sailing, well, it makes me so thankful for times when they get to come back in to the harbor, so to speak.  It makes me thankful when the moorings are tied, and they are safe in my sights for a little while.

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Chase, Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina April 7th, 2017

And we can talk about the journeys and the trials that have been, and maybe prepare a bit for the ones that are to come.  I love that ships don’t have to be tied to a specific dock to be safe…it just takes that connection, that mooring, that link to that holds them close to shore.

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Chase, Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, April 7th, 2017

So, the past few days have been precious, because, well, it’s felt like my sailing ships (3 out of 6, anyway…)  and I docked for a bit. ( And we were reminded that home is so much more than a place and family is a gift, and God is good and present and available on high seas and safe docks, college campuses and work environments.

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Zac and Melanie, Ocean Isle, North Carolina April 8th, 2017

And I’m catching glimpses of their world and am thankful for where these ‘ships’ have sailed.  And I’m thankful for moorings that look like cups of coffee and walks on beach and ‘remember when’s. I’m thankful for moorings that look like  T   I   M   E…not stuff, but   T   I   M   E, and conversations that don’t always include lots of words, but might include lots of listening. And prayers prayed sometimes out loud and sometimes not. I’m thankful for moorings  that look like warm chocolate chip cookies, kale smoothies, clam chowder in the cold, or walks on the beach.  I’m thankful for moorings that look like truths stated and not danced around and hugs afterward. I’m thankful for moorings that look like laughing at ourselves and not having to be anything but what we are in that moment. And I’m just thankful for moorings, connections with these ships that were entrusted to me so long ago.

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And I’m aware I’m so not the Captain. My job isn’t to steer the ship. It’s to trust the One who is steering, and encourage those ships to listen, to yield, to the Captain. Am thinking in this stage of my life, my privilege is to focus on the moorings…so that in the midst of all the venturing out, there’s always a connection, a safe place to dock when those venturing ships need a reminder of why they’re venturing out in the first place. After all, ships were meant to sail…

Blessings~

Heather

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up”

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 

autumnrainIn a little over a week, Autumn will officially become Winter. The leaves are leaving…a few are still hanging on, but most seem to be ending up in places like my sidewalk and yard and deck.  December has come and even though yesterday I was wearing flip flops, now I feel like I should be wearing a parka.  Seasons change, sometimes so quickly.

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Yes, things can change so quickly. I learned tonight that a woman who we used to go to church with has passed.  She was 69. I didn’t know her well at all, but what I did know was that every single time that I saw her, she made a point to smile  a welcoming smile and make my family and I feel invited.  She loved well. That was obvious.  And I’m sure that those who knew her will have a void, an empty space in their lives as the reality of her passing takes hold.  Her love and inviting spirit just filled people up to the brim.  She has left a legacy behind that is so real, but her passing definitely does leave a void.

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Sometimes voids are noticed right away and we can directly attach them to a specific occurrence or event, rather than one that has gradually been built over time.   These voids are the ones that cause our stomachs to rumble, hearts to beat a little faster, voices to scream, and tears to fall. These are the voids that emerge so quickly that we feel as though or worlds have immediately changed. Death. Divorce. Financial Loss. The list goes on and on.  Like a violent wind that sends  leaves flying and branches crashing down, these voids come in like a storm.

But sometimes voids go unnoticed and grow over time. Sometimes voids, those gut-level voids, go unnoticed. Like a slow seep, they gradually become bigger and bigger until we turn around one day and wonder why we’re feeling such a huge sense of emptiness.  The gradual voids of little disappointments, loss, and struggles, add up and chip away at our core, leaving space.  They are kind of like the hollow spaces and gaps underneath the ground that become sink holes later on. Often the source of enormous sink holes that swallow up everything in their path go unnoticed under the surface for a long time, and no one even knows they are there. Sometimes voids are like that.

Either way, voids are voids.  They just are.  And here’s a thought.  Better to have a void, than to have a filler that temporarily fills the space, but ends up creating a bigger void in the long run.

As the Fall turns to winter, the spaces between the trees becomes more visible.

silentsunday2  The voids created by leaves fallen are easily seen.  We know that the leaves were  once there, and that they will come again. We can remember the beauty of the emerging lime shades of Spring, deep greens of Summer, and the multicolored hues of Autumn.  But in this season, they are but a memory, or visible only in the browns that crunch under our feet.

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That gradual process  of beautiful colors which began in the Fall comes to an end until the trees are bare,with naked branches in the cold of winter.journey

It would be a ridiculous thought for someone to try to somehow dress up the barren branches with leaves.  I mean, we know that Spring will come, right?  And with Spring, will come the little teeny, tiny lime green sprouts. grow.jpg

And we know with totally certainty that the naked, bare and grey trees of winter are just in the natural order of things, right?  They are just one season of many. So of course, we wouldn’t try to fill those gaps, those voids, those spaces and empty places with something that was just a mere filler, a counterfeit, artificial filler that wouldn’t last, would we?

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Of course not.

But then again, maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly what we do when we rush the order of things.  Maybe sometimes the voids in our lives are there for a reason….for a season. And if we try to cover them up or fill them in or pretend that somehow they are not supposed to be there and rush to fill the empty space, maybe we’re really missing out on the true beauty of the space between.  Maybe the space between can sometimes tell us a little something.  Maybe the ache, the longing can help us take some steps to change things up a bit in our lives.  Maybe voids kind of help us get us back to basics of what needs to be in that space in the first place.  They are an indicator of sorts.

Life is full, full, full of so much beauty.  But on the flip side, life is filled with so much loss. What we do to fill the aches, the voids in our lives during those times of life is like the rudder of the ship of our lives…it leads us. Forward?  In Circles?  Backward?  All of the above?  Yeah, our responses to voids leads us. Somewhere.the-ride-home

Jesus had 4o days in the desert.  Void of food. Void of interactions. Void of any benefits. It was  a time of prayer, resolve. He knew that His ministry was about to begin and that much would be required of Him.  Everything.  He was tempted at that time but would not give in to any counterfeit.  Satan tried.  Here’s bread.  Nope.  Here’s kingdoms. Nope.  Jesus was fully aware that anything filling up the empty space that was not of God would merely be a temporary fix that would only leave much greater voids later on. Jesus knew the value of letting God  use the void to draw Him in a closer relationship to Him.

So, no, we would never attempt to attach leaves to a barren tree. Never. That’s stupid. We know that Spring will come.  But how often in my life I’ve tried to put temporary fillers and fixes in that only make the void more apparent.   Voids that might just last for a season can become a way  of life, when filled with things that only create bigger vacuums. Diversions can all be a temporary fix to a need, but like the rudder on a ship, they lead me.  How often I’ve forgotten that sometimes things happen for a reason,…for a season.  Even if I don’t understand reasons why, I can know that things last for a time.

And another thought.  During those seasons of need, of void, …I’ve been learning in recent years, that a lot of things that happen just can’t or won’t be explained.  Oh people can try to say this and that and offer explanations, but sometimes questions of “Why?” just go unanswered. They just do.  And a whole lot of wasted time and energy can be wrapped up in trying to find an answer to the question why, when on this side of Heaven, a lot of answers just won’t be found or understood.  Lots of things are beyond our comprehension for sure, so like Elisabeth Elliot so often said, “In acceptance lies peace.”

Acceptance of seasons…that there are some things we can’t control, and acceptance of seasons…that some things just take time…is freeing. It’s saying that we don’t have to be it all. We don’t have to be the blooming tree in the season of winter because it’s a season. We can be right where we are and not have to look to the left or right feeling as though we gotta be in a different season. And we don’t have to put in fillers because we know the real deal is so much more valuable and fillers only create more voids.  And when there’s acceptance of where we are, maybe we have the eyes to see the beauty that IS, rather than the voids and what ISN’T.

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There’s beauty in every season when we have the eyes to see it.  Just a matter of accepting where we are and allowing God to fill the voids in His time.  Funny how needs can draw us to Him.  “His strength is made perfect in my weakness…”  Love that. Because it is.  And here’s an awesome visual.  Light.  Light that fills the spaces, gaps and voids.  FLOODS them, warms them, fills them.  I think that’s what the Lord wants to do in our lives. Fill us up to be poured out.  With light.  With Life.  With Love. With Truth. With Him. Maybe the ache, the season where there are voids and empty spaces are just merely opportunities to be filled to the brim with the power that only comes from Him.

I don’t know what ‘season’ you’re in. Maybe it’s Spring and things are full and awesome and beautiful. Or maybe  it’s summer and steady and fun and sweet.  Maybe it’s winter of Fall or a combination of all of it. But whatever the season, am hoping we can encourage each other with hope, accepting where we are, encouraging us to trust God with where He has us, and have faith to keep pressing on to know Him more no matter what lies behind, or what lies ahead.  Just a few thoughts as the season turns to Winter here and I choose to be thankful for what is…photo 4

…and trust that …Spring…Spring is coming.

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Blessings ~

Heather

P.S.  (You knew it was coming ,didn’t ya?So long winded…)  Just a little reminder that there are people walking through all sorts of seasons around us.  Maybe you have a ‘winter’ who needs a reminder that’s Spring is coming. Or maybe you’re in winter and need to give grace and vicariously enjoy the beauty experienced by the friend who’s in the midst of a ‘spring’.  Whatever the season, am thinking there’s grace that can connect us regardless and only add depth to the season we’re in as we remember past seasons, look forward to future seasons, and accept and make the most of the minute that we’re in… ❤

” So, let us know. Let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn. And He will come, He will come to us like the rain. Like the Spring Rain, watering the earth.”

Hosea 6:3

“Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage;

Yes, wait for the LORD.”Psalm 27:14

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“For behold, the winter is past. The flowers have already appeared in the land; The time has arrived for pruning the vines, And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.…”

Song of Solomon 2:11

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So, my son’s birthday was yesterday.  He had a few specific things that he wanted:  a red-tailed catfish for his aquarium, and possibly a Lowe’s gift card for some tools, wood, etc for his projects.  We decided to celebrate a day early because our youngest son was going out of town for a retreat and wanted to be there to celebrate his brother’s birthday.  So after work on Thursday, I rushed out to Lowe’s first to get the gift card.  That’s an easy present and was quick to check off the list.  So then, I was off to the pet store.

As I walked in the pet store, a woman about my age greeted me.  “Can I help you find anything?” she asked.  So of course, I say that I’m looking for a red-tailed catfish.  I was pretty relieved to not have to wander past all the aquariums in the huge space to find a little fish.  So, then the man behind the counter, who is about my age as well, says, “We just sold the last one.”

Pause.  What did he just say?  You mean the one thing that this son asks for is not here…and it was just sold.  Yikes.  But as the wheels in my head starting turning, I said, “Was it a tall man about my age who just bought the fish?”  Affirmative.  The man behind the counter said, “Yes, and he bought a gift card as well.”  Bingo. I laughed and said, I think that was probably my husband.  “Can you tell that we don’t communicate too well?”  The man and woman gave a knowing look and smiled.  The woman said, “You’re not the only ones.”  As I walked out the door I wondered if they were married as well.  My guess is: affirmative.

So I walked out of the store and called my husband…who turned out to be the tall man about my age who had just bought a red-tailed catfish and a gift card.  Turns out he had been to Lowe’s earlier in the day as well!  Oh, brother.  Nope, we are so not good communicators at all.  Never have been.  We are about as opposite as two people can be.  But do you know what we have in common?  Red-tailed catfish and Lowe’s gift cards.

When I called Buddy about the whole deal, we both laughed and I remembered a few things.  I remembered that we have a lot in common.  We love our kids, though often show it in much different ways.  He makes me so mad about some things and drives me crazy with big issues like money and little issues like the thermostat set on FREEZING.  He leaves a mess and laughs at things that I just don’t think are too funny.  But then again, he can make me laugh in a heartbeat because he has a great sense of humor. He’s made a lot of mistakes in his life and is a recovering alcoholic with a lot of regret.  But I see him trying to make up for lost time.  Perfectly?  No, not at all.  But the attempt is so there and so apparent.

As I drove home and thought about the red-tailed catfish, I was really thankful to be reminded to focus on the common ground in relationships rather than the differences.  Some differences are crucial.  For a single person, my advice would be so different as common ground on key issues such as faith and beliefs so matters. It so matters because the man or woman you marry will change and lead your world.  Be wise with choices. Take seriously to heart Paul’s words about being unequally yoked. But on this side of marriage?  I stood on sacred ground 25 years ago and said “I do.”  “I do” through ‘better or worse’, ‘richer or poorer’, ‘sickness and health’, ‘to love and to cherish till death do us part.’  I never in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) would’ve imagined some of the things we’ve gone through.  But there is still common ground.  There is still love.  There is still hope.  There are still red-tailed catfish to remind me that we care about so many of the same things.

I could write a book on the struggles in marriage.  And I have a feeling that I’m not alone on that one, for sure! But one of the long chapters in my little book would definitely be…common ground.  Be aware of the common ground and don’t lose sight of it in the midst of all of the struggles of daily life and the differences that can be so exaggerated with daily stressors.  So many marriages end because we forget.  We forget who our spouse is/was.  Sometimes we need to be the ones reminding them of who they are.  Or, we forget who we are…and then they can’t see us either.  My book would not be a “how to” for sure.  It would be a collection of stories of grace and hope and, here’s the key word…forgiveness.  Because in order to have common ground, there’s gotta be a willingness to stand on it and we all have things we need to forgive before we can stand together.

Anyway, the birthday celebration was a success.  The red-tailed catfish is doing just fine, and the son has gift cards to both Lowe’s and the pet store which are much more valuable had they been if his mother had been the one to buy them! I’m sure he’s glad that his Dad made it to the pet store before his mom!  He knows us both too, and given the values of the gift cards would know that the lesser one would’ve been from me and the more extravagant amount would’ve been from his Dad.  But in the end, he hopefully knows that we’d both run to the store and try to make his birthday more special.  Hopefully, all my kids know that we, these two incredibly different beings, love them with all our hearts.  And that is the common ground on which this family tries to stand.  The ground is so shaky at times, but bottom line, I hope they know we are for them. And when we struggle? May we have some red-tailed catfish scenarios to help us to remember and smile.

Oh, and one last thing.  I went downstairs this morning to find a mess in the kitchen…and…scrambled eggs on a plate for me on the counter.  They were covered in saran wrap and cooked just perfectly.  Buddy had called and said, “I made you breakfast” before he had left for work.  So it is.  Should I focus on the mess or the scrambled eggs? I’m choosing to focus on the scrambled eggs.  They were delicious by the way.  And the mess?  The dishwasher is running, the counters are clear and the mess is gone.  But being thankful that my husband made me breakfast?  Thankfully, that will linger a lot longer than the mess.

Blessings to You and Yours~

Heather

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant  you to live in such harmony

with one another in accord with Jesus Christ.”

Romans 15:5

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