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Who of you by grumbling?

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Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens.                                                                                                                       1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, MSG

“But I don’t want water. But I don’t want to do that. But I don’t like that. Ugh, that’s nasty.  But he never. She never. I want this. I want that.”

Grumbling. No rejoicing. All on a day I had planned just for them.  I don’t think the day went by with one single praise for anything He had done, or I had done, in fact.

It is on days like these that I would like to pack up my family. Move to some distant land. Let them see what “living” really is. Without internet. Without clean water. Without air conditioner, and the drive-thru of their choice.

There are days I need this reminder, too.

Because, quite honestly I have a lot of reasons to grumble. And on the days I find that maybe I grumble a little more, I also have many more to be thankful. Many more reasons to be grateful.

I’ll be missing one more person again this year during the holidays. While it seems I should be used to it at this point, it seems to be harder this time around. Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s because my little family is now a generation larger since I have become a MeeMaw and life has taken on new meaning.

I still find reasons to grumble. But the things that used to bug me, just don’t anymore. I also find the things that used to get under my skin, and make me angry don’t have the same effect on me as they once did.

I have not always been this way. I am a scream in traffic girl. A glass half-empty girl. A “I hate people” girl. Yes…there are days I don’t like people. I really don’t like to be around them. On those days, I just want to be alone, with a blanket, and a book.

And because I have to force myself to see life in that glass half-full perspective, I also have to force myself to count my blessings each day, not just during the Thanksgiving season. So I simply started keeping track of three small things for which I was grateful each day. And, while it may not have made me forget that there is something missing again this holiday season, it has done a few things. Forcing myself to be thankful has also forced me to think about all the things on a given day that don’t cause me to grumble. That make me happy. That bring me joy.

Those three things give me reason to praise God through the loneliness, thanking him for all the times He has placed someone in my path in those times of loneliness or defeat to breathe life into those empty places.

To praise God for all the times He did answer me, even when I thought he was not listening.

To stop rushing to work every morning, and actually stop and enjoy a morning sunrise. To enjoy the quiet, calm of an office before the morning buzz takes over.

To appreciate cute baby onesies picked up for the grandson. Or a new mug to enjoy my morning cup of coffee. To reflect on the conversations that have value and meaning, with the people that mean the most to me. To remember the times that I laughed with my kids, and the times they also did not complain and grumble through the day.

To relish the conversations that a 21 year old still wants to have with his mother. And the memories that an older sister has with her once again absent brother.

I can grumble over all the things that are wrong. I can complain over all the things that are bad. Continue to be sad over all the things that are not going as planned. I will always find something that will fit into one of those categories.

And, I will also always find something to bring me joy.

I just have to take the time to look for it.

Stop my grumbling. Change my perspective. Choose to be happy. Choose to be thankful.

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Posted by on November 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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When loving others makes you “Crazy”

Ever been called crazy? Reckless? Dangerous? Ever wondered why others don’t fight the way you do? Think the way you do? Feel the same anger at the same injustices you do? Even look at the “others” with the same love you do? Ever had something really important you know had to be said, only to feel no one was listening?

I have. Many times. And many more times, I have found myself asking God: Why?

But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 1 Corinthian 2:14

Twice last week I heard this verse. Once in my quiet time with God, when I had asked him why He kept insisting I keep pursuing even though it was oh-so-hard, and again in a preaching class.

Yep. I must seem pretty crazy.

Or am I?

I spent a good amount of my weekend pondering why we so desperately long for love, yet are so unable to give it, express it, and show it, and knew then…His message is not all that outrageous. It just takes a lot of work. Work that is necessary. May cost something. May get us called a few names, and let’s be honest-work that some of us think not everyone deserves.

And, yes. Work that has deemed me crazy. Because it is what hurt the most, but it was also my greatest source of light. The only thing that kept me from moving out of a darkness that cast a shadow over a good part of a year.

Believe it or not. Love is in fact what often motivates us.

Francis Chan says this about love in his book, Crazy Love:

“When you are truly in love, you go to great lengths to be with the one you love. You’ll drive hours to be together, even if it’s only for a short while. You don’t mind staying up late to talk. Walking in the rain is romantic, not annoying. You’ll willingly spend a small fortune on the one you are crazy about. When you are apart from each other; it’s painful, even miserable. He or she is all you think about; you jump at any chance to be together.”

What if we had this kind of love for God? For others? What if we were so crazy in love with our Lord we kept Jesus’ greatest commandments?

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally as important” ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39

So, how do we love like crazy? Love Him. Love others. Recklessly and outrageously pursue love for those that are not like us, even if it costs us something.

First, we love God.

What does it mean to “love God?” It does mean to follow His commandments, to live life a certain way. To be of a certain noble character. But, it’s also more than that.

I have two signs in my kitchen. They are on my wall as soon as you come in our house. The kitchen door is on the side of our house, but for those who come by frequently, they know you come in through this door…because someone is ALWAYS in the kitchen. Anyway…the first sign reads: “GOD BLESS THIS HOME.”

The second is below the first and reads: “FAMILY IS THE HEART OF THE HOME.”

God first. Family second. Everything else after.

It’s why my kids know “quiet time,” may extend past the scheduled 30 minutes, because Mommy is talking to God.

It’s why when the youngest asks “Are you always going to be on your computer working this school year at night?” during a breakfast conversation, that you realize you need to shift priorities.

God first. Family second. Everything else after.

Loving God means He is the center of my life. My ability to make decisions is no longer based on what I want. And, to some that is crazy talk.

When questions like, “Are you sure you can handle that?” are met with, “No, but God knows I can.” People look at you funny. Because, the worldly expectation is that you are bound by your strength and abilities, not the power of Him in you.

When you make a career move because it is wise, and healthy, and the response is, “Are you sure you want to make that move, with them?” And you respond with, “I don’t have a choice, God decided for me.” People don’t know what to say. Because the worldly expectation is that decisions are based on pros and cons lists, not answered prayers.

When you are asked over and over again how you can allow people to spit hateful and abusive words at you over and over, and continue to smile and forgive, and you respond with, “Because God asked me to,” you get labeled the crazy one. Because who loves like that?

People who love God. Parents who want their kids to love God. God-loving people who want others to know just how much God is crazy in love with them.

Because, when we love God, we also reject this idea that we need to fit in and be accepted by the world. We measure our worth by His standards, by how He sees us, even if today we are broken. Even if today we make a huge mistake. Even if today our hair is a mess, or our dress is wrinkled.

We know in the words of an 11 year old girl that I am slowly finding may be wiser than me in all her sassy ways: Who cares, because Jesus sure does not! He says to come as you are!

When we begin to love God, we also begin to love all the messy parts of ourselves. Because we know. We believe He is crazy in love with us.

And, when He is crazy in love with us, He gives us this love to share. His second greatest commandment. To love your neighbor as yourself. One that can often be the hardest.

Why? Because it means we have to love those who hurt us. Those with whom we tend to disagree. And, yes…those we don’t like. We have to love the messy.

I learned this truth myself in a moment of self-righteousness over the summer. Yes, I have these moments. Until someone reminds me…usually my kids-as was this case, that I need to practice what I preach.

During a talk with them about their constant fighting, I shared something with them I had only mentioned in passing. It was the story of a Post-it note I had stuck in my Bible, and the particular prayer, I prayed each morning and night over that Post-it.

I think we are all familiar with 1 Corinthians 13, the “infamous” Love Chapter. And, I say infamous, because it is often read at many a wedding…it was read at both of mine. That is right…even at my first one. Which is why over the years, I have read over, and pondered the true meaning of this passage, and wondered if we truly understand what is being asked of us in terms of “love.”

I explained to Hayley and Hunter that I had read or seen somewhere that we can measure our ability to truly understand Paul’s description of “love,” and whether we are displaying it by reading the chapter and inserting our own names. So, I read it, and inserted theirs.

Hunter/Hayley is patient and kind. Hunter/Hayley is not rude, does not demand his or her own way, and is not irritable.

“Have you been these things to each other lately? To me?”

Then I shared with them the reason that Post-it was in my Bible. I had been transparent with my daughter about my struggles over my year of hurt, only because it was apparent many afternoons when I arrived home, that I was not in a good place. I value honesty and transparency, and not only do I value them where I work, I do at home, and in all areas of my life. She knew that “love” had not always been welcomed in every place God had me assigned.

So, I explained why I had the sticky notes on my office door. That it was part of a self-esteem assignment. I explained that they were all supposed to be gone. All spread to different parts of the school to spread random “feel good” messages. How one was still stuck to the door when I returned. One that said, “Always be Kind.” I told them I didn’t think it was left by chance. I told them how I rolled my eyes at God that day, but took the note down anyway, and placed it right there in my Bible, where Paul had defined love. Each morning and night, I inserted that individual’s name, the one written on that Post-it. Prayed that God would show what love was supposed to look like. That this person would know how much God loved them. And, I wanted my kids to know that, too.

That He loved them even if they messed up. And, even if in that particular moment they didn’t like each other very much.

And, then it came. That moment of truth. When my own need to insert my own name in that Love Chapter was revealed.

When Hayley looked at me and said: “So, if you pray for that one, do you pray for the other person involved? The one who hurt you? Do you insert that name, too?”

OUCH!

No. No, I hadn’t. I didn’t like them very much. I was glad God had delivered me from that. And, honestly. I was still hurting a little.

So, when Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, he isn’t talking about the people we like. He is talking about everyone. And later when he recounts the story of the Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), he also explains what a loving neighbor does. He shows mercy, or “compassion and forgiveness toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.”

See, showing mercy and praying over that sticky note was easy. Praying for those we are concerned for, for whom we care and love. That’s easy.

Loving those who hurt us. That stuff is hard. And it is downright crazy. But, that is the kind of love God calls us to.

And, that is where forgiveness comes in. Forgiveness is crazy love.

It looks kind of like this:

“But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them. Genesis 50:19-21

Here is what we know about Joseph. He was loved by his father more than his brothers. He was even given a special gift-a beautiful robe from his father, and the ability to interpret dreams. Because of this his brothers grew jealous and resentful of this love. They sold him into slavery, where Joseph was wrongly accused of crimes against Potiphar’s wife, and remained in prison for several years under Pharoah’s watch. Now, he was eventually freed and became ruler of Egypt. But, he didn’t dwell on his past. He was made victorious, and when confronted with his brothers, he offered forgiveness, and promised to look after their children.

That’s some crazy love, right?

While she may not be the epitome of Christian decorum, I do love this statement from Beyonce:

“Love is an endless act of forgiveness. Forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me. Forgiveness is the final act of love.”

Now, while I am called to pray for those who intended to harm me as Hayley reminded me, I am not so sure I could open my home to and promise to look after their children like Joseph. While, I have been called crazy in the name of love, I am not sure I could do that for some who have hurt me. Thankfully, forgiveness didn’t say I had to do that in order to love. I don’t have to set myself up to be harmed again. God provided me my way out of that. But, it does mean there may come a time, this person is the Jew on the side of the road, and I am the neighbor being asked to show mercy.

My call from God is to be the despised Samaritan, and to “go and do the same” as Jesus commanded in Luke 10:37. To do as I would want done to me. To reach out and help. Even if I feel like it is undeserved. Offering the love God so freely offered me.

A love that offered its final act of forgiveness. Its final act of love on a cross. For me. For you. Even for those who harmed us.

So, to recap…what is crazy love?

It’s loving God so much that we will go to great lengths to do what He asks even if it does not make sense. We want more than just a five minute devotional time with Him during the day. We want hours of quiet time with Him.

It is loving our neighbors so much that helping is not an obligation, not a nuisance, but an honor. We jump at the chance to feed the hungry, to help the needy, to lend a hand to the hurting.

It is loving without conditions. Forgiving others faults because your Savior forgave you. It’s allowing others to come to you each day as a new person, because “love keeps no record of wrongs.”

It’s crazy to some. It’s reckless to others. And it is always pursuing. Never giving up on its mission to go after the one. But, God’s love is worth it. It is always worth it. It is not something to keep to yourself. It is something to be shared.

So, go ahead. Be crazy. Crazy in Love with God. Crazy in Love with your neighbor. Offering forgiveness like crazy.

Because crazy love wins. It always wins.

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2018 in Like Jesus Does, Loving Others

 

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“Costumes” and a Little Boy’s Lesson on Self-Acceptance

After being asked this morning, “Where is your costume?” I can totally understand my son’s desire to simply be himself. Costumes are fun, but being who He has made me to be is so much better!

Coffee with a Shot of Faith

“You are the light of the world-like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:13

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“I am being nothing! I am dressing as Hunter!” “What about your shark mask?” I kindly plead with my four year old son. “No! Nothing! I am going as Hunter!”

That is right. Hunter is adamantly boycotting the custom of wearing a costume on Halloween. As a child with sensory processing issues, he often has a hard time relenting to our demands of wearing anything that buttons, anything that covers his face, or anything that requires tugging on, pulling on, or tying on! For the past few years he has managed to wear at least part of his costumes sans hat, crown, or whatever head or face adornment that came with the Halloween duds…but, not this year. This year, he is going to be Hunter.

“I don’t need to dress up to…

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Posted by on October 31, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

And I know He watches me…

I don’t like birds. May seem like a random bit of information. And, it could even seem a little strange, since as a child I used to watch them. Study them. Wonder where they were going. Had been. What their behavior said about them. However, I also remember walking to the school bus and getting pooped on by a bird. I remember getting attacked by one as my brother and I walked through our neighborhood as kids. I don’t really like the gulls who think I packed all those sandwiches on the beach for them.

No. I don’t like birds.

Yet, a bird is the subject of one of my favorite songs when I used to sing in high school…before I ever knew God. Two are tattooed on my hand to remind me of this song, and it’s corresponding verse:

“What is the price of two sparrows-one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.” Matthew 10:29

But, I hate birds.

God. He has a sense of humor.

For two summers, I found the time to enjoy my front porch. I wrestled with some hard stuff there. I cried many a tear. Screamed many times at God.

And, was visited each summer by a bird. Tiny little sparrows. No. I ain’t lying.

Yes, during those times when I felt distant from Him-much like a forgotten sparrow that had fallen to the ground-I have watched one of these lonely birds calling to someone in the distance. Pleading desperately on my porch railing, as I pleaded desperately for it to just fly away. For any ole bird out there to hear its call. To come help him so he can fly home, to where he or she was going. Or was supposed to go.

Two years later. I sit again. On this porch. Watching this squeaky little bird That I just want to go away. And, I stop for a minute and remember God’s promise in Matthew 10:29. In that song I used to sing so long ago: His eye is on the sparrow. And I know He watches me. 

See, I had just asked Him: What is the point of all this? Why did all this happen, and when the heck are you going to give me any answers? Are you ever going to listen? 

I had been wounded. I had been attacked. I had felt abandoned, like a lost bird, and I didn’t understand it. And I needed his help, and I felt like he was silent.

Sometimes I feel like a wounded sparrow desperately calling out, and no one hears me. Yep…not even Him. He won’t give me the directions, and sometimes He isn’t telling me where to go.

When, in fact…He does. His Word. The very One that said I would never be forgotten in the first place. So, I opened my Bible, turned to a page at random and read Jeremiah 30 and 31 finding some of His promises:

“I have wounded you cruelly, as though I were your enemy. I will give you back your health and heal your wounds. In the days to come you will understand all this.” Jeremiah 30: 14,17,24

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Jeremiah 31:3

Tears of joy will stream down their faces, and I will lead them home with great care. They will walk beside quiet streams and on smooth paths where they will not stumble.”  Jeremiah 31:9

He is telling me to trust Him. To stop worrying, and he promises he won’t leave, He won’t drop me on my face, even though it feels like I am suffering down here.  He will pick me up when I fall, and he won’t ever let me go. He loves me.

I may feel like a lost bird some days. I may feel like that sparrow on my porch howling for someone to please come get me. To hear my little shriek down here below.

I may “feel” like he isn’t listening, but just like he gives flight to those birds. Gives them a place to land. Watches them, and won’t let them fall. He won’t let me either.

His eye is on this little sparrow, and I know He watches me.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2018 in How Is Your Faith

 

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Need an answer? Don’t Google it…

“I saw it on the internet.”

“I don’t know. I googled it.”

This. This is how we get our answers to many of life’s problems. To the things we don’t know.

I am of the generation who had to research via encyclopedia. Trying to find out information on anything took more than 30 minutes; sometimes even days, and if the World Book didn’t write about it, well you had to trek to your local library hoping to find an actual book that was written about it. Then read it.

These days you can pick up your trusty phone, ask Google and she (or he) will come back with a number of “hits” all about your chosen topic in a matter of seconds. Problem is…most are not based on fact. And, many…many are definitely not family dinner conversation worthy.

We decide what’s right or wrong based on what we read on websites, or see on YouTube.

We can determine our level of “cool” based on what everyone else is doing on social media, or what our friends tell us.

We look for “signs” from Insta-worthy quotes.

We can even ask our “friends” for recommendations on the best places to go, the best movies to see, even the best way to handle a nasty co-worker, or a salty spouse; and get a ton of advice. Some probably really great. And none at all the same.

Instead, we either listen to the wrong voice, or simply just give up.

Rarely do we dial up God about something. You don’t hear in our daily conversations “Oh, I read the Word, and this is what it said about that.”

I have asked God recently over a number of months the same question. I have prayed the same prayer over and over. I have come away not hearing the answer.

Searching instead for a sign on the internet to solve my problem. Hoping Google will provide me with some answer. Ready to give up, because I came up empty each and every time.

Until, I opened up His Word, and was given the answer that I needed.

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. Psalm 23:1-2

See, I had been hanging on to the past. To the hurts of the past. To those who had harmed me. To those who had mistreated me. Used me. Manipulated my compassionate nature.

I was no longer in that place physically. Yet I was still living there in my mind and heart. Looking for answers and healing from worldly devices.

When it was right here in His Word all along.

Those people are not here, where I can rest in a green meadow if I so please. Walk across a bridge, through a path, and meander by a rock-strewn stream if I desire. Those people didn’t come with me.

But, He sure did.

He had never left me. He had come with me. He was simply waiting for me to let all that other stuff that I left behind go, so He could do something greater here.

I didn’t find that answer on the internet. Because it wasn’t going to give it to me.

I found it by looking around at the beauty He had placed around me. The place He had put me. I found it by praying. By listening. By surrendering my need to fix the past, and focusing on one truth: His Word.

Which provides the answer every time. Google can’t hold a candle to that.

So, need an answer today? Don’t Google it, or expect Facebook to provide it…ask God. Or even better-open up His Word, and read what He has to say about it.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2018 in How Is Your Faith

 

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Only One can “fix” them…and it’s not me

“Well, we can’t wait for you to work your magic on this one!”

And, yes. Sure. I couldn’t wait either. But, magic? Was the idea that I had magic dust in my pockets to make people do what needed to be done, destined to deem me a failure?

What was the “magic?”

The “magic” was the thought, and a common misconception that counselors, or anyone else in a helping profession, including doctors, pastors…are known to “fix” people. That it is their sole responsibility to fix what is broken.

See, that comment about “magic” made by a colleague at that particular time, though surely meant as a compliment, placed undue pressure and responsibility for me to do all the “fixing.”

I need to fix this kid. I need to ensure he/she makes good choices. Makes progress. Is changed.

I absolutely have to guide them from taking the wrong path. I have to make them listen. Behave. Never err from where I am pointing. Tame the impulse to act or speak without thinking.

I put a huge amount of pressure on myself to work my “magic.”

To “fix” what was deemed broken. Wave that magic dust in my pocket, and have everything and everyone fall neatly into place.

And, I can’t handle that pressure. I am bound to fail. Miserably. Magic dust and all.

He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

He holds the “magic.” He holds the answers. He protects. He takes on that responsibility. And, while I like to think I hold all the magic to make change happen. To know that they will always make the right choice. I just don’t.

I do have something that is pretty magical. I have the reassurance that God will restore and repair what needs to be fixed. My job isn’t to do it on my own. It’s certainly not to take all the credit. To manipulate someone to listen to make myself look good or “magical,” and make anyone here honor me and my supposed success (or failure).

My job is to offer prayers for each child’s “fixing.” To ask Him to provide me the words that will touch a tender heart. Ask Him to show me how to come along someone who needs a little “magic” to help them handle tough stuff. I don’t get the credit. I ask for the Father to work His magic, and I watch and praise Him while He does His work!

So next time you find yourself trying to fix everything or everyone that is broken.

Next time you feel the pressure to be the perfect parent, raising perfect kids, who make perfect choices, only to realize you are failing.

Next time you find yourself trying to figure out why that individual got burned on a hot stove again. Why those kids just won’t listen. Behave. Do what is expected.

Next time you expect someone to wave a magic wand, remember the one who truly fixes. And pray that folks will come to seek Him for their “fixing.” Call on Him to restore the broken, because he is the only one who can “fix.”

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2018 in Grace, You Make All Things New

 

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Your “good” name

A good name is to be chosen over great wealth. Proverbs 22:1

“Oh, you’re January!”

This could be a statement that fills you with a sense of dread. Hmmm…what did they mean by that?

Thankfully this time, the comment was made in the local Starbucks that I frequently visit many mornings. The one that knows me by name and drink. A new barista had greeted me this day. And, since I am usually all smiles and conversations when I come into this place (because, well…I am picking up my liquid courage), I knew I could rest easy.

She had heard about THAT January.

The one with the “good” name.

I am one who believes that reputations should not proceed people. One, you never know when someone speaks about a person whether it’s out of good intentions, or bitterness and ill-will. Two, sometimes even with “good” names, we all have “bad” days.

However, when we represent Christ, our names are not only ours, but His. The world is getting a chance to meet Jesus through our words and actions. Through our name. Do people light up when they hear or say our name? Or do they scowl, and grumble?

I think this passage from Job 29 represents what I want people to think when they hear mine:

“Men and women listened when I spoke, hung expectantly on my every word. After I spoke, they’d be quiet, taking it all in. They welcomed my counsel like spring rain, drinking it all in. When I smiled at them, they could hardly believe it; their faces lit up, their troubles took wing!” Job 29:21-24

When they hear or say my name I want them to think of Jesus. To think of mercy, compassion, and love.

I want them to remember my “good” name.

It’s never too late to make sure someone remembers yours!

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2018 in Like Jesus Does

 

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