Goodbye, Old Friend

A sad goodbye was said today. My old buddy, the Melitta Mill and Brew Coffee Maker bit the dust.

I have no memory of where I got this coffeemaker, but I’ve loved it. I think he came along in the aftermath of Katrina.  I don’t remember buying him, but don’t remember having him before the storm.  Wierd, I know.  Anyway, it grinds and brews. It’s programmable, so it has greeted me with hot coffee many mornings. Ol’ Mill and Brew had one drawback. He was a lil’ complicated…needed somebody who knew just which buttons to push, just how to make him work. So I was saddened to discover that someone worked Mill without that special touch. A tiny little tab that held the top closed during brewing and grinding was snapped off.

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See it there in my hand? The tiniest little piece broken off and the whole pot gone to…. well… gone to pot!

There are a lot of lessons in this. I stared at that tiny broken piece and God reminded me that sometimes the most insignificant seeming piece can be the difference between working and not working. I’m reminded that God values me, even when I feel like the tiniest piece of forgotten black plastic. He values the little ones in my home and expects me to do the same. He values the small details like smiling while I help my husband and holding back a remark about what I’d rather be doing. He values the itty bitty details like remembering a name, taking time to notice when someone’s had a bad day, and looking my kids in the eye. Little things, my friends. They DO make a big difference.

Sometimes I get frustrated because I can’t pull off the big stuff. It was nice to be reminded that it’s the little stuff that often makes the biggest difference.

 

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These are the new guys!  I couldn’t afford another Mill and Brew (those things are EXPENSIVE, makes it even more puzzling that I don’t recall paying that much for a coffee maker…still no clue where I got it…but I have a feeling some kind soul gave him to me.  Thank you, whoever you are!) so I got a Wal-mart special and a cheap-o grinder.  I think I’ll call them Sylvester and Tweety!

In other news, have ya’ll seen YouVersion?  No clue how I’ve survived this long without this app.  It even reads OUT LOUD to me!  I can set it on my daily reading and it reads scripture to me while I’m getting dressed, doing makeup, whatever.  I’m into this, ya’ll.

Also, MY BABY DROVE for the first time!  I know.  It’s crazy!!  I’m so proud of her.  She did great!  Driver’s Ed class and permit, here we come.  He’p me, Jesus!

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Also here’s a couple shots of last Thursday evening with the Jeffries-Hyman family.  We bake, yall!

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Mackenzie’s rosary bread for the St. Joseph Altar.

20130317-223146.jpg The whole gang workin’ away!!

Man, my life is full of good things!  Love!!!

 

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Jam

Jesus told a story about a farmer. Check it out here. This weekend our little church group studied this parable and the whole weekend seemed to carry a theme of sowing and reaping, planting and growing. The Parable of the Sower always reminds me of my Dad, my Papa, and home. I have vivid pictures of my faithful dad planting his garden every year, the joy found in the process, and the harvest at the end. It’s a precious story, so close to my heart.

In an attempt to do a better job of putting healthy food on our table, and to teach our babies that food really comes from God’s earth and not a brightly colored box, we’ve been frequenting Hollygrove Farmer’s Market. I love the idea of supporting local farmers and eating fresh food. After our Sunday morning spent with the Sower, what better to do than head out to the farm and market? I couldn’t resist this picture of the inner city bunnies!20130313-003054.jpg (Bunnies to left behind the kids)  It inspires me to see an oasis of a garden in the middle of our crazy city.

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Anyway, with the market’s bounty, and thanks to a Winn Dixie buy one, get one free sale on Plant City strawberries, I made jam. 20130313-002918.jpg

Few things, my friend, are more comforting and confidence-boosting than making your own jam. I put on an apron and for a while behave like the women of my roots, the heroes of my faith and heart. When I was a kid, there used to be a song “God Loves to Talk to Boys While They’re Fishin’.” I think there should be one about how God loves to talk to moms while they make jam.

God and I talked about how I want to be the “good soil” Jesus spoke of in the above mentioned parable. The soil that produces fruit. Too often I’m the thorny kind, or even the hard, stony kind that won’t accept a seed at all. I want to produce fruit, to grow in my faith. But sometimes the process doesn’t stop with a gorgeous, fresh, red berry. Of course, there’s something to be said for ripe, plump fruit. But then there’s the further process of making the jam. The washing, the cutting, the crushing, the heat. All these turn the fruit into something that can last. Something sweet and enjoyable that can be tasted long after the harvest has come and gone.

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Could it be that the Grower of All Things sees me, a plump lil’ berry in His hand and says “I’m gonna make some jam with you.”? Why do I fight and scream and worry and fret over the difficulties in my life, when all along, He could be making jam? Is He really using all my craziness to make me sweeter and longer-lasting? Lord, I hope so. Some days I wonder why he’d bother for a second with me, but even in my wildest moments my heart cannot escape Him.

Oh ya’ll. I do wanna be sweet. I do want to last.

Me & Jesus… we makin’ jam.

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That’s Ya’ll Boyfriend

Oh. My. Goodness.

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Fun doesn’t do it justice. Fabulous is a gross understatement. Ca-razy might come a little closer but still not quite accurate.

We. had. an. INCREDIBLE. time!!!

Considering the jam-packed nature of both our lives and schedules, it’s nothing short of a miracle that Christy and I carved out three days to spend alone together.

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Wellll… not quite alone, really. There were hosts and hostesses, patient friends, waiters, waitresses, bartenders, tour guides, jazz musicians, streetcar operators, and plenty of other colorful characters who pitched in to make our weekend happen. Not the least of which would be two fantastic husbands who played Mr. Mom, and contented themselves with a seat on the bench while their two wives played starting positions on the team of ENJOYMENT. They made life happen without us and were genuinely happy to see us have fun. Those are great guys, I tell ya.

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s been seven years since last we attempted such an indulgence. We had a lot of making up to do. And we did a darn good job!!

When you’ve been friends for ohhh, twenty five years or something, there begins to exist between you a language all its own. Inside jokes, knowing looks, laughter for no apparent reason… all these are part of the weaving together of hearts and lives through friendship. I joked with Christy this morning that if we create many more memories like this, we’ll be telepathic with so much shared experience. It really feels as though she is more with me and I with her, even though we aren’t with each other at all. But we share so much, and have added in heaps and piles to our shared stuff over the past three days. I lost count of how many times one of us said, “I was just about to say the same thing.”

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It’s not easy, you know, to share that much of your heart with another person. Especially one that isn’t legally bound to you in any way. Especially when 777 miles separate you physically. Especially when both of you drop in bed exhausted at the end of every dizzying day with no desire to say another word to another person. Especially when life takes twists and turns and opinions and perspectives twist and change like a kaleidoscope. Especially when the once black and white fades into a misty gray that nearly blinds you both. But we’ve managed to do it somehow.

This weekend was epic. We talked and laughed. We sat in silence. We looked each other in the eye. And told the truth. We acted dumb and silly, and we acted smart and serious.  There may have been a powdered sugar incident.

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We walked in a cemetary, sang in a bar, took a tourist-y tour or two, walked down St. Charles, and down Bourbon. We walked along the river, ate beingets, drank coffee. Explored a unique house or two, took streetcars at night, crossed the Mississippi (thanks, Janet, Bex, and Mary!), ate chocolate for breakfast, and took in some incredible jazz. And that’s just the stuff I can tell out loud!!!!!!

I feel like I’ve been on a month’s vacation. That’s how much good was done in my heart. I feel challenged to be a better me because of hanging out with her. I can tell that girl how I really feel about anything. She may or may not agree, but she’ll still be on my side. I’m so grateful for friendship. It is to me one of life’s most precious gifts. Laughter doeth good like a medicine… and we’ve had a near overdose.

So thanks, Christy, for teaching me how to be a friend, grow a friendship, disagree and still love, and risk being vulnerable. Thanks for paving the way for me to have the richest of friendships with the other jewels God has bedazzled into my life. Thanks for the gift of knowing. Thanks for the gift of acceptance. Thanks for coming 777 miles to make crazy, profound, embarrassing memories with me.  And dear reader, should you find yourself thinking, “I don’t have a friend like this.”  GET ONE!!!

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And Christy?

THAT’s ya’ll boyfriend!!

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Serious Business

Guess what?  Around 9 on Saturday morning, an airplane will land at the New Orleans airport.  On that plane will be someone who has been my friend since around the age of 13 or so.  We’ve had weddings within days of each other,  had babies within months of each other, (here’s a pic of those babies about a year ago) we got our first tattoos together.  This lil ol blog even started with her as coauthor! (Check out a couple of blasts from the past about the last time we got away together.  Here’s one by me, one by Christy.)

Yep!  Christy’s comin’ to New Orleans!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Her first time here!

Whaaaaat????

And, as a gift for my birthday, my hubby has given me two, count ’em, TWO nights and days with which to do whatever we please!  Don’t hate!  I know I’m a lucky lady, but I also need this BAYUD!!! (that’s southern for BAD)

We are going to paint this town some sort of swirly-type tie dye inspired something.  Forget plain ol’ red.  The owner of the little B&B where we’ll be staying asked if I was a writer.  She read my email address and assumed I was.  She is, too!  She told me she thought I’d find the house and it’s art collection inspiring.  I keep thinking on her words.  It’s been, what? Seven years since our last weekend getaway?  I’m STILL going on some of the inspiration from that weekend, but it’s WAY past time for a booster shot.  Inspiring, indeed!  We shall laugh and cry and whisper and shout. We’ll have a few firsts and laugh at our lasts. We’ll do a few crazy things, but not too-much-whiskey-actin’-stupid kind of crazy.  Just free to be ourselves without worrying about a darn thing crazy.  But if you see us and need to look away, go right ahead.

Let this be a warning to all:  For about three delicious days, these two plate spinners shall not spin.  Not. one. plate.  Prepare accordingly.  We shall return to our regular scheduled programming soon enough, and we promise the world will continue its orbit while we’re gone.   This ain’t your ordinary paint-your-nails, shop-til-you-drop kind of girls getaway.  This is two people who’ve known each other too long and love each other too much to settle for mediocrity and surface scratching.  Depths will be explored, true feelings expressed, solutions brainstormed, goals set, and complacency challenged.  God will change our lives.  Again.  He always shows up when we’re together.  I think He likes hanging out with us! This is serious business.  The business of being friends, of walking the lovely flower-laden paths and navigating the stinky, muddy, sewers of life.  This ain’t no joke.  It’s going to be AMAZING!!!!

Pictures and profundity to follow.

 

 

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Bow-chicka-wow-wow

Look at this.  Just look!  Is he YUMMY or what??? 

Check out the hands.  Try not to swoon. 🙂 

 

Yeah, he’s got his flaws, honey.  He’s also got a heart of gold, would move heaven and earth for me, and is right beside me crying and yelling and fighting and working on our cumulative baggage reduction procedure in order to make this marriage as healthy as it can be.  Second marriages ain’t easy dawlin’, and I’m pretty happy this man has chosen to make one work with me.  Anyway… who can resist a man in uniform??

 

 What can I say, baby?  I LOVE dat man!  (Photography by Michael Deris)

 

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I’m Baaaaaaaack!

 

Hello, world!  It’s been a while…. too long since I posted.  Here’s what I’ve been up to:

20130219-211739.jpg20130219-211833.jpg  Christmas in Florida with mom and dad.  Our whole family was together and it was AMAZING!

20130219-211915.jpg20130219-211957.jpg  We brought Mom back from Florida with us.  We crammed as much special as we could into her visit!

20130219-212036.jpg  School started again.  I’m running study hall and a social studies project!

20130219-212052.jpg  MARDI GRAS!!  My sister and her kids visited for the first weekend of Mardi Gras.  It was EPIC!!

20130219-212122.jpg  A costume party was attended by this really groovy couple…

20130219-212218.jpg  My baby turned three.  I now have a fifteen year-old, a ten year-old and a three year-old.  Blessings upon blessings upon blessings!!!  Heaped upon my head (literally!)

 

 

20130219-212250.jpgFat Tuesday came and went.  We celebrated in the rain and went home and took a nap.

 

I have a quote taped to my desk that says “We feel inadequate because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

So. True.

Above you’ve seen the highlight reel.  The behind-the-scenes would reveal some pretty intense stress, an emotional breakdown or two, a few lessons learned, and no small number of mistakes made.  Ever seen that episode of “I Love Lucy” where Lucy and Ethel work on the assembly line at the candy factory?  If not, check it out here.  And THAT’s the way the last several weeks have REALLY been!

So nope… not a single New Year’s resolution.  Not a solitary Christmas musing.  Super Bowl was held in my town and I said nothing.  Silence about the Mardi Gras season in its entirety.  I may not have found a moment to chronicle them here or write profound words about them… but I DID live them!  So I’m back and perhaps better for the crazy rush of the last 8 weeks.

Happy ChristmaNewYearMardiSuperBowlGrasBirthdayValentineBeginningofLent to you all!!!  Hope your parties were fun, your joys were many, your sadnesses were lessened, and your lives enriched.  Ours certainly were!  More to come…

 

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Iced Tea and Hot Romance

There’s no such thing as a perfect marriage.  Even if there were, mine would be far from a candidate for the title.  We’ve got our moments of crazy, and we both carry plenty of baggage.  So does everyone!  That’s life!

But every once in a while, the most romantic moment will come along and I’m just overwhelmed at how incredible love is.  Today, a glass of tea ushered in one of those moments…

We work together, me as director of marketing and he as executive chef, at an upscale assisted living home.  We’ve been SO busy at work lately, and today was as intense as ever.  I was working hard, deep in concentration, and focusing completely on how I can best serve a family who is looking at our home as a possible residence for their dad.  As part of the process, families often eat a meal with us, and today was such a time.  I gave our drink order to one of our care managers, Kathleen, and she headed to the kitchen.  She returned in a few moments with salads and drinks. Everyone else had water, but I had asked for iced tea.  Normally I’d have water because I like my tea sweet and we serve only unsweetened tea at work.  But I felt the little caffeine would be just what I needed, so I went for tea, figuring I’d drink it plain since I don’t do packets of sweetener.  When Kathleen put down our drinks, I was deep in conversation, focused on the issues this family is facing with their father.  In mid-conversation, I took a sip of my tea and…

Sweet.

Cold, and sweet, and wonderful.

Not the kind of sweet you get from a pink packet.

 

Washing down my throat, and over my heart, was the knowledge that my husband had just stood in the kitchen in the middle of his busy lunch service, made a simple syrup, and sent an authentic glass of sweet tea to me.

A few seconds later, he popped in with the food.  I wanted to run across the room and tackle him, kiss his face and tell him how incredible it is to be loved like that.  I couldn’t.   I had to maintain my professional composure.  But inside, I was being melted by a glass of iced tea. (I *might* have sent him a “for your eyes only” text later… you know… just to express my sentiments.)

We might not have much.  We’re working extra jobs and stretching our pennies and our time and our emotions to make this family work.  Really though, it doesn’t take much.  I don’t need diamonds, don’t need prestige, don’t need exotic vacations.  What could be hotter than a man who not only would make me a glass of tea, but  is willing to spend thirty seconds of the busiest, most intense part of his day to make sure mine is sweet?

That’s sexy.  It’s love.  It’s incredible.

Feel free to print this and pass it along to any significant other who may need to consider making a glass of tea. (Here’s a link to a great article showing you how) Or maybe you should make one for someone yourself???

 

 

 

 

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Stingy with my Heart

Tears ran down my face as I drove home last Friday. At 5:00… quittin’ time… one of our residents clocked out of this life. I said goodbye to one of my friends. It was Dwayne’s birthday and I had planned a fun night. I wondered how I was going to pull off happy birthday when I was trying to process these emotions. My knee-jerk reaction was to think about something else, get it off my mind, and try to detach.

Then I thought again.

I leaned in to the emotion and went ahead and cried great big sobs for my sweet friend. He had no wife or children. He lived a bright and interesting life and I loved getting to care for him. I let the tears flow, knowing that there are plenty more where that came from. I thought about God, about His love for me and about His grace. I realized that there is enough of my heart to go around when I don’t hold back the parts He asks me to give away.

I cried all the way home and drove up to the house where my beautiful husband was waiting on the front steps. I went straight into his open arms and cried some more. Then I went inside and hugged my three babies. Tight. “We can stay home.” Dwayne said. But no way was I missing a chance to celebrate our life… his life. The tears subsided, mascara on, and out we went.

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We had a blast!

I cried that day. I lost that day. I loved that day. I laughed that day. I LIVED that day.

I realized that I’m the one who really misses out when I’m stingy with my heart.  It’s giving my heart, open and real and honest, that gets me the riches of life.

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Minivan Mojo

I’ve finally got my dream car.  It’s a sleek silver seven-seater. My husband is way too cool to drive it, but when I get in it I feel like the coolest, ever.  I’ve called her Sylvia.

Me N Sylvia

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being a minivan mama.

First, there’s the fact that it’s the ideal mode of transportation for children.  The seats are just at the right level so that my toddler can get in and I can buckle his seat belt while standing up straight.  No longer do I have to lean in and over to wrestle with the buckling two-year-old while my rear end (“trailer” as my daddy would call it) is the only part of me out in the daylight.  Try this in a skirt and you’ll go directly to your local minivan dealership.  No longer do I have to try to figure a graceful way to back my behind out without hitting my head or falling, readjust the clothing, and look around hoping nobody was watching my show.  Sylvia’s got my back (side) and has preserved my dignity many-a time.  There’s a veritable playground in there, so I can open the back, toss in the toddler, and load groceries to my heart’s content knowing he’s safe and sound, out of the parking lot… and he thinks it’s the greatest since he got to climb in the back.  There is room for several gadgets at once, so the two-year-old, ten-year-old, and teenager can all travel in harmony and comfort.  Whether we’re going two blocks or a thousand miles, this does untold wonders for my sanity.  Since my minivan is practically a living room in itself, I can climb in with the kids, close and lock the doors and take my time getting everything situated and ready to go.

Second, there’s the thrill of driving the minivan… alone.  There are the compartments and pockets and cupholders, all with MY stuff tucked away just the way I want it.  I get in, shut the door, start her up, and breathe in the cavernous space behind me.  Space.  My space.  Quiet space.  Maybe this isn’t a big deal to you, but I haven’t peed by myself on a regular basis in almost 15 years.  I share a bedroom with a guy who likes everything just-so.  I’ll often come home and my bedside table will be bereft of the books I’ve been reading or the earrings I stuck on the dresser top so I could grab ’em quick will be back in their hiding place… and he’s a chef so the kitchen isn’t exactly my domain either.  But my van… (hear soft music) my van is my space.  Drop the last kid off at school and honey, you’ve got a bubble bath on wheels all to yourself for ten whole minutes!!  I’ve got napkins, snacks, a change of clothes (for a two-year-old, but still…), magazines, makeup, and a little money all right where I want and need them to be.  I’m sorry, Sylvia’s not available for loanership. But I just may invite you in by calling you on my hands-free blue tooth system.  Sylvia knows all my friends’ names and numbers and calls them on voice command.  I’m not trying to show off, I’m only sharing my shock and awe that I actually figured out how to make her do it.  Sylvia’s very discreet and won’t leak a word of our conversation.

Haven’t made a believer out of you yet?  Well, don’t discount the minivan’s romance factor.  Add a couple of pillows and the right beverages and “parking” takes on a whole new level of luxury.  (Also disproves the misconception that married people with kids no longer have fun.)  We can steam up windows with the best of ’em.  (So what if we don’t leave the driveway?)

Sylvia holds my extra brochures and business cards and keeps the pee-pee accident kit discreetly hidden.  Or she’ll proudly display the toys and dirt and roll up to the playground lookin’ like the mommy-mobile extraordinaire, with extra wet-wipes to loan to the mom with the Camry.  She’ll seat a business executive and won’t (hopefully) leave an old french fry stuck to his pants.  Or she’ll open her doors to six of my girlfriends and become the ride of our lives.  Sylvia can serve a family dinner if need be, and even has a kid-watching mirror so I can glimpse mine enjoying ice cream or cheeseburgers or whatever we’ve found to get into.

Maybe it’s silly… but ol’ Sylvia makes me feel like I’m ready for whatever my wonderful life demands of me.  I’m thinking about getting a theme song and some loudspeakers… maybe hydraulics….

Maybe not.  But it’s still ON like pecan when Sylvia and I get on the road.  Grab ya sunglasses and let’s go for a ride!!

 

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Mama’s Peace

Her fingers clicked across the keyboard as she typed a few words.  Then, just as many times, she tapped the delete key.  How to pull some kind of coherent thought from the fragmented bits that swirled incessantly in her head?

Lists.  She could make lengthy, detailed lists of all the things she needed to do.  She could bullet the bills, errands, library books, phone calls, emails, notes to teachers, and plans to arrange.  Grocery lists, menu lists, and birthday gift lists.  She could jot forever the undone tasks that haunt her mind at night, keep her from focusing at work, and steal her miniscule lunch break time.

Laments.  She could wax poetic about her stress and shortcomings.  She could write long complaints about the way things are, and paint wistful pictures of how she wishes they were.  She could give in to the longing sob that lurks in the back of her throat at every thought of her mother, father, sister or brother.  She could explain why everyone should cooperate with her plans, and expound on the misery that results when they don’t.  She could compose a heartbreaking account of betrayal and brokenness, nearly drowning in the sorrow of it all.

Laugh.  She could throw up her hands and laugh at her ineptness.  She could give in to the cheshire cat smile that would make anyone wonder what she’s up to.  She could let out the giggle that erupts instantly at the sight of her two year old boy.  She could snort with her ten year old son at words like “fart” and let herself thoroughly enjoy that his presidential candidate choice is based on that candidate’s opinion of McDonald’s.  She could roll her eyes with her soon-to-be fifteen year old daughter and enjoy the inside jokes just the two of them share.  She could send her husband a steamy, silly text message and wait with baited breath for his reaction.

Love.  She could let herself feel the painful tidal wave of love that threatens to burst her heart each time she kisses her children goodnight or good morning or goodbye.  She could plan an unforgettable birthday celebration for the husband whose love overtook her life.  She could try… just try to love that someone she just can’t stand.  She could bake something, write something, give something to try to show her adoration for those friends that see her through the best and worst.  She could mail something to her mom and dad, Fedex something to her sister, fix up the guest room for when her brother comes to stay.  She could forget the remark, overlook the mistake, let go of the offense.  She could remember a name, remember to hug, remember to look an old person in the eye.  She could let the tears fall because she knows no way to contain her affection for a God who loved her first.

Her chest heaved a sigh and she did the thing she hadn’t yet dared to consider…

She let go.   She let go of it all and let it fade with the daylight.  She loosened her grip and let the load she’s carrying settle into a pile that will still be waiting for her in the morning.  She dropped the notion of perfection and propped her feet up on the ottoman of “good enough.”  She popped the top of something cold and slipped into a tub of something warm.  She kicked back and let Jesus take the storm of wife, and mother, and professional, and writer, and sister, and daughter, and friend, and citizen, and believer, and somehow bring about….

Peace

Night moon

 

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