2 Turtles in Rush Hour

On the way to work I see a turtle halfway across Dudley Road hill. There’s no safe place for me to pull off and safely move him to the other side. At that hour with so many cars I might cause more harm than good. His outstretched neck on the double yellow line haunts me as I blink my lights at oncoming traffic.

Then on the expressway onramp I see a similar turtle crossing with head held high.  What in the world? Two within one mile? Neither I can help safely. I pray for their protection.

I think of those two turtles for days.

Today I ponder the two perspectives in my marriage. On selfish days I wonder if Hubby can possibly see or care about my inner struggles.  I only need his encouragement and an atta girl once in a while (ok, every 1.5 days please) to keep going. I’m “fine”. Everything is fine.

On less selfish days I ponder what life is like from his perspective.  I may never know completely what his muscle loss feels like or the struggle to walk or the occasional cognitive glitch. How frustrating it must be.

We have opposite personalities to begin with so perspective sharing has long been a challenge.  Of the many things I’ve learned from two opposite wired brains over the years, I am certain there are at least two ways to do most tasks and both can feel like the right way at the moment until one considers the other person’s point of view. Many of our brief spats involve arguing the exact same point from different angles.

“You’re saying the same thing.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Ok.”

What I hold onto year after year is that God’s love is greater and more fulfilling than any love I might find or desire on earth.

We are lucky.  We choose Jesus to be at the center, our Translator In Chief. Time after time our hearts soften and we hear one another eventually.

I saw this on a Lysa Terkuerst Instagram story  post:  “If lesser love ever fulfilled us, then we would have no need for God.”

So true.

We are all turtles daring to cross the road.

Romans 15:13 NIV:  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Gas Pedals & Mommas

Accelerating on an interstate entrance ramp, I think about how gas pedals are small yet mighty.

Then I consider how the go of the gas pedal is balanced by the stop of the brake pedal.  I ponder how cars have seats, steering wheels, mirrors, lights, and all the many parts that work together for the cause of convenient transportation.

My mind spins in a thankful vortex. How wonderful it is that we have little gas pedals that can do great things. I can go down a mental rabbit hole, I tell ya.

I asked a friend what she is doing for Mother’s Day.  Her mom passed away recently.  “Do you have a plan for Sunday?”  What I really am asking is does she have something to be distracted by that day?  I try to be there for those who face fresh grief during emotionally charged holidays.

In my own world, I am getting better at zero expectations for special dates.  A different friend pointed out that as long as they’ve known me (since childhood) I’ve been overcoming something.  A parent leaving or coming back, sicknesses, multiple deaths close to me, and so forth.  They are not wrong.  It’s been a mountainous road.  I once had romanticized hopes for days like Mother’s Day, birthdays, etc. which of course leads to disappointment.

Now I have learned small gestures are bonus moments. I enjoy surprises that pop up in ways I don’t anticipate. I allow part of every day to be a celebration of the life I get to live. Yes, I’ve been known to turn up Mandisa’s Overcomer song on the car radio.

Four of the best strategies I know for getting through tough times are:

1. Identify a gratitude anchor.  Is there a memory you cherish? Hug the memory and thank it for being part of your life. Is there an object of wonder? Take time to be thankful. Fill in the blanks: “I appreciate _________ because _________.” Repeat.

2.  Help someone.  You might be the bright spot in someone else’s day.

3.  Give yourself permission to check out of a situation especially if you are recovering from a tragedy or grief. I am new to giving myself time-outs from people, places, or things. I’ve found time-outs helpful in 2019.

4.  Do something you enjoy and fully relish it.  My go to the last two weeks has been listening to Journey’s timeless music Faithfully and with Open Arms.

Romans 8: 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.

Deep, slow breaths.  Happy Mother’s Day.

Love,

Signature GSE

 

Permission

My mind, body, and soul have been confused since mid-February.  I laid down my superpowers.

That is when I let go of working four jobs simultaneously.  The same week Hubby finished his last day at work never to work a full time job again.  Meanwhile our house is for sale, and we are responsible to help one of our close family members who struggles with mental illness.

Oh, and my nearly new laptop broke.  Boo!

Somehow with three less boss supervisions to schedule per month I thought I would jump into a writing routine.

Nope.  I found myself instead grieving the losses and challenges our family faces.  I enjoy my new job, yet could not make the turn to be disciplined with writing during evenings and weekends.  With the size of my household to-do list, free time is debatable anyway.

Then there is the ever present internal fight for gratitude.  I wrestle with the fact things could be worse, way worse.  I tell myself:  Enjoy right now.  Count the blessings even when the challenges feel like too much.

So I rested and watched winter play out its final weeks.  I wondered when would I feel like digging into my passion?  Afterall, I have not one, but two manuscripts that need attention!  Do I dare say who need attention?  I sense the writing files need me to breathe life into them.  They will walk upright alive.

Worse, I received unexpected feedback from more than one friend that I don’t seem available or as connected as they thought I would be after the job shift.  Don’t I have more time for them now?  Haven’t the number of hours in a week expanded for me somehow? [No, it’s the same number of hours, Ladies.]

Some folks thought I would be more fun perhaps.  I am flat emotionally.  Even if I go through the motions to return texts, friends may pick up that my vibe is “off”.

I became quiet.  I said no to multiple social outings.  I don’t want to be that person who struggles all the time.  I have less and less to say out loud.  Besides, a realtor might request a showing any minute.  I better stay close to home to swish a toilet or run the vacuum–this home in which I can no longer fully relax.

At times I dream of moving far away.  Montana, Florida, Oregon, a random place with no expectations.  I could take my troubles elsewhere.

Fortunately kindness and encouragement arrive from various people in surprising ways too.  Cookies baked by a neighbor for our open house.  A box of positive intentions to read one note at a time.  Patience.  Laughter.  Forgiveness.  Someone asking if there are ways for her to be a good friend to me right now.  All good things.

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Leveling up to a new reality is not instantaneous.  I need time to adjust.

I cling to daily Bible verses, but I do not communicate well with God or anyone other than maybe Hubby right now.  Perhaps I’m in the eye of the storm or this is the whole Footprints poem with one set of footprints at the moment.

I follow strong women on Instagram. What would authors Elizabeth Gilbert and Glennon Doyle do to self-care through this, I ponder?  They are unapologetic in their processing.

Then Lysa Terkuerst makes the Word of God light up on my cell phone.  She’s been through trying times.

And how about the young woman at my church who is blogging her heart out?  She’s cool and fun to watch grow deeper into adulthood.  Or my 100 miles consecutive running friend with a book coming out later this year.  Love you, Kelly!  I am still in awe that Kelly played on her high school football team.  Shout out for writing consistency Brieanna Arsenault and K. A. Wypych!  I am inspired by you weekly!

What emerged in my brain a couple days ago is that I dwell in what I should be doing rather than what I desire to do.  And there’s too many should-be-doings.  As a wife and mother maybe it is time I recover from some of that.  I could be cooking, cleaning, and gosh darn organizing every hour of the day.  Or I can give myself permission to write.  Permission to take a time out.  Permission to rest.  Permission to be me.

Permission to say no as long as I need to say no.  Permission to say yes to the right things for right now.

Permission is a different way of thinking for me.  It is a shift in my perspective.

Permission means releasing the coulda shoulda woulda pressures.  I can choose and then not think about the decision again.  I have permission to let the chips fall where they fall.

Permission means I get a vote.  Permission means I don’t constantly worry about everyone else’s needs before I do something for me.  Permission might seem selfish.  And I have permission to let go of that concern.

There are people I admire who give themselves permission freely without thoughts of repercussions.  I love them and don’t judge them.  I have permission to do the same.

I have permission to dial direct in my prayers and say more than early morning, “Hold me and ease me out of this bed, Father.  That’s all I’ve got to say today.”  I have permission to recognize seasons of life.  I have permission to pray all the things and seek the path I know He imprinted on my heart long ago.

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As a matter of fact, I have permission to open the screen door, listen to the rain, and write life into my novels.  Right now.

CPR in progress.

Love always,

Signature GSE

P.S.  What do you have permission to do?  How are you managing the seasons of life?

 

 

 

For the Broken

I did not see that coming.  Twice, in fact, I paused in awe within the last seven days.

First, I went to spaghetti-a-plenty night at our local Larosa’s restaurant with the young man who has helped us accomplish countless house tasks over the last two months.  He and I have painted wall after wall and multiple ceilings while worship music played.  We sang or talked about life along the way while occasionally saying we’d go get spaghetti when the list of to-dos were done.  He’s done carpentry and plumbing work.  The list is long.  He’s 26 and he could have chosen to be anywhere.  He didn’t know us until he answered a random church text to go help a family in October.

That introduction day surrounded by our mess, he looked deep into my eyes to size up the situation.  He promises that he will not leave our family’s side until the house is ready to be put on the market.  “I’ll care for you the way I would care for my own mom,” he said.  He delivered mercy with a paint brush to my soul.

During dinner he shares, “I look at your husband whose body is broken and it makes me think of how broken I have been on the inside.  Through this time with you I am reminded that no matter how his body is failing him that he has everything I’d ever want:  a wife and family behind him.  Kids that love him.  ALS can’t take that.  He is more whole than I have felt in a while.”

I see the reflection in this young man’s eyes that his heart is healing and he is moving on with God into the next season of his life.  He’s spending time in prayer, scripture, and seeking wisdom.  I hope I get to serve punch at his wedding one day.

Second, yesterday Hubby and I went to church.  Often this fall we watched online as the home tasks were many and his body struggled.  It is Christmas.  We want to be inside our church to worship.

Hubby had a rough morning so we need more than the rollator.  I quickly load the wheelchair into the trunk.  The sun is shining.  The car is old but warm.  We are smiling.  A friend checks in on text and I reply that I feel peace and hope to carry it through the holiday.

And then 10 short minutes later…

As we roll toward the door the gravity of Hubby not being able to walk into church rips open my tear ducts.  We can not get into the sanctuary where it is dark fast enough.

I don’t make eye contact with Hubby for the first half of service.  I look away to wipe my tears and wonder about my mascara status.  I place my hand on his knee.  I hope that he will take my hand.

He doesn’t.  I can feel his pulse.  It’s a strained rhythm like the rhythm happening in my own body so I know he is fighting tears too.  Eventually I peek and see his wet eyes.  I don’t know if he’s missing our son in the Air Force, missing his mom who passed away this fall, or if it’s the weight of simply everything we face right now.

Releasing my stubbornness, I stop waiting for his hand to move and move my own hand to find his.

I am reminded that whatever brokenness we feel, there are many more who feel angst too.  Sometimes the holiday lights amplify pain or grief.  For all who suffer right now I lift up this prayer for you.

Dear God,

We praise your name even when times are difficult.  Lord, lift up the brokenhearted.  Please help the lonely feel your presence this season.  Be with those who long for a loved one who has passed.  Your Word in Psalm 34:18 says you are near the brokenhearted and we claim that promise right now.  Be near us.  Bring joy in the simple things.  Heal the sick.  Give hope to the hurting.  Bless the caregivers.  Ease suffering.  Be with military families near and far.  Help all who feel alone to find joy that can only come from you.  Wrap everyone with your love and peace.

Amen

With love to all,

Signature GSE

Eyeballs On Row4ALS

They finally caught my full attention after months of me casually following them on Instagram.

“They” are a team who is preparing to row across the Atlantic ocean!

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On board will be the first person with ALS to be part of such a feat.  You can read Alan’s story on their website http://www.row4als.org.

As I type the Row4ALS team is in Spain preparing for their December to February journey.  Their goal is to raise money to cure ALS.

I am concerned that they do not have enough social media followers!  Please follow or like Row4ALS on Instagram or Facebook!  They have a Twitter account too, but it does not seem as active as Instagram and Facebook.

As readers know, ALS has hit our family hard.  I am inspired by the Row4ALS team.  Most mornings when I wake up, I pull the covers up and ask for a hug from Jesus.  Then I read verses from the Bible.  Then I look to make sure Hubby is breathing.  Then I watch the latest on Instagram from Row4ALS.

Go Alan & team!  Thank you for seeking a cure!

Deuteronomy 31:6 ~ Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid…; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Signature GSE

Welcome to Our Mess

Sweet Baby Jesus, I think with 100% praise and 0% sarcasm.

In the same moment when I’m both on the bathroom floor at under the toilet rim level and inside the sink cabinet level, I see the ancient WD-40 can.  Maybe I have seen the idea written on a meme or maybe someone wise mentioned it along the way, but I suddenly know exactly what I can do with said can.

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First, I spray the rusty cabinet hinges.  The doors adjust into their appropriate spots and squeak sounds disappear.  Second, I spray under the toilet rim, wait, add bleach to the bowl, and scrub.  Stubborn stains that I missed in past weekly scrubs begin to melt away.  It’s a toilet gunk miracle.

And all this happened after a friend installed new sink faucets.  Gasp!  He may have seen the gunk pre-miracle.  It also took place in the mostly off-limits for 20 years master bathroom.  Guests don’t go there.

But now they do.  In this challenging time for our family we’ve learned to be open.  There’s not a single off-limits room now.   Every step of the way has been about surrender.

Being honest with friends and strangers has led to more love than we could have imagined.  People who love Jesus also found room to care about us.

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One of my work philosophies is to meet people where they are without judgement and with listening ears.  In recent weeks that same kindness has been reflected back to us.  I see it in soft eyes and busy hands.  We are down to packing, moving what’s left of our furniture, carpet installation and a thorough cleaning.  This is doable.  Thanks will never be enough.  For my praying friends, please pray us through to the other side.   Our bodies and minds are weary, but God’s love is strong.

Psalm 31:1-5  In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame;
    deliver me in your righteousness.  Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.  Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.  Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.  Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

Signature GSE

 

3 Songs of Surrender

And then the fridge broke.  Dear God, I can not handle one more thing breaking.

Quickly the Holy Spirit reminds me that this is a first world problem.  We go a week with the contents gone and the refrigerator doors open.  I surrender this too, Lord.  Take it please.  I have nothing left in my brain to solve this challenge.

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In a moment that reminds me there are no coincidences, I run into friends from a past small group at church.  Within 50 hours the fridge is fixed.  Hallelujah.  I continue other house projects with volunteer help as it is available.  Hubby has an extra tough week physically.  ALS seems to have lows and lower lows, then levels out.  There’s a pattern I can’t identify, but I know the clock ticks and we need to move to a more accessible home soon.  I look forward to the day when I can see him rest easier in a new environment.

I listen to music while painting.  Worship is powerful.  It is my battle cry and my surrender prayer.  Here are 3 songs that I listen to most through the brush strokes:

1. Who You Say I Am – Hillsong Worship.  When I feel like I have failed, this song reminds me I am a child of God, chosen, not forsaken.  While watching church online I share with Hubby, “I’m sorry.  We were blessed to work with almost 7,000 kids and families in the last 15 years, and maybe this work has been a failure for our own family.  It’s my fault.”  He kindly answers, “How do you know it’s failed?  Maybe not.”  God is bigger than what my limited view can see.  bitmoji-20181002082758_15385264950172. It Is Well – Kristene DiMarco & Bethel Music.  No matter what happens “through it all my Eyes are on You, through it all it is well…and it is well with me.”  “This mountain that is in front of me will be thrown into the sea.”  “The waves and wind still know His name.”  “So let go my soul and trust in Him.”

3. No Longer Slaves – Jonathan David & Bethel Music.  Fear and spackle are frequent companions these days.  This song reminds me “Love has called my name”.  “I am surrounded by the arms of the Father”.  “Let us sing freedom”.  Fear is not welcome, but it is a daily fight.

There are miracles in process all around me.  My angst is cast onto the Father continuously.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18

I can not explain the miracles and help that has shown up but for the grace of God.  To Him we give the glory.  One day we may list out these miracles for you.  To those who have literally been the hands and feet of Jesus, we thank you.  And thanks is not enough.

We carry on in the home stretch marking things off the to-do list along the way. 20181029_064305

When times are tough, what are your songs of surrender?  What keeps you going?  Do you have a worship battle plan?

Whistle Stop For Self Care

I saw the train at the top of the hill on two previous trips.

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Once again I head toward Cleveland to take a class.  Surely I could stop at “that exit with the train restaurant” this go round.

But by the time I finish home duties Thursday there is no way I can make the trip before midnight.  Shucks, no train.  Hmmm, if I can slip away from the class right away the next day…then maybe.  I need to return through Cincinnati before President Trump shuts down the road with his evening visit, and I need to get home to prep walls for paint and visitors.

Post learning on Friday I slip away asap and head to the location I find via Google:  Buckeye Express Diner.

Alone and near giddy, I drive up the hill.  I ration 30 minutes.  I need a late lunch and I crave minutes of peaceful adventure.

“First time?” The man at the counter asks.

I scan the menu posted on the wall and place my order before finding a seat in the train.  There is a juke box and TV screen.  I opt to look out the window.  I take time for slow breaths.  I attempt mindfulness.

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My server is sweet and attentive.  I wonder if people like her know how their random kindness is extra appreciated these days while I am tired and putting together the puzzle pieces of a home move.

The food is good.  Yum!  I eat half of it.  It is just enough.

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Time’s up.  I am reminded as I exit that there are more good things in the future.  There is special seating (with permission) in the caboose area.  I make a goal to sit there next time.

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Love,

Signature GSE

 

 

Not Forsaken

Is that a trick question? I wondered.

The Wells Fargo operator had asked, “Is this a time of hardship?”  I didn’t understand why she asked at first, but then realized it was because I paid the October mortgage bill on the last day of the grace period.  For me I felt like we were winning–aka, no penalty. The mortgage company sees this differently than I do.

A month ago I wondered how in the world we would get the house ready to sell.  Hubby’s muscles have left us.  The 16yo has to be taught how to do every odd job plus has homework.  The 20yo is 1526 miles away with the Air Force.  I have multiple jobs.  We gave most of our money away over the years doing the ministry I thought God asked me to do.  The clock is ticking.  We have one asset, the house, and it needs to go in order to start over.

Help comes from unexpected places.  Someone I work with said she’s been reading scripture and decided she would get people together to help.  Two miracle gift cards showed up to help purchase paint.

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I prepped the house as best I could and busy friends took time to help me move furniture around and patched a ceiling hole.  A neighbor and co-worker helped me sell other furniture and miscellaneous items to make room and to assist with the cost of more paint and supplies.

October 13 came and I had little idea who would come.  I thanked God in advance for whatever muscles that would arrive.

First, dear friends near my age came along with a 32yo new dad who could choose to be anywhere but chose to paint with purpose.

Around mid-day two young guys arrived.  I thought they were going to be disappointed that the basketball goal was already sold the hour prior.  “We’re here to paint,” they said.  When one took off his sweatshirt and out popped an arm with Jesus’ face tattooed on his muscles, my tears were unavoidable.  I knew right then miracles are happening.  The hands and feet of Jesus are present.

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As the weekend progressed people came for different reasons.  Some said they want to give back because their life has been better lately.  Some because of their love for the Lord.  One couple came partly because familial ALS is in their family too.  I began to pass out house keys like candy.

One young man looked deep into my soul, sized up the situation, asked me to list out the projects that scare me, and promised he’d stay by my side until the jobs are done like he would for his own mother.  He’s 26 and has a lot of carpentry, plumbing, etc. skills.  Wow. Wow.  Wow.

We’ve been full steam ahead with volunteers ever since.  I’d love to say some of their names, but I haven’t asked for permission.  I do my best to thank them personally.

On Tuesday night I went with my best friend since birth to see Hillsong.  I had no idea how I could stand on my sore feet and I stressed internally that I should be home working.

During the song I Am Who You Say I Am God mushed my heart like Playdough.  In a prayerful time I felt the Holy Spirit tell me, “You answered the call.  You gave up a lot.  You never let go of the house or lifestyle, and you’re going to have to let go of that now too.  It will hurt.  And you will go on.”

Like the song says:

I am chosen, Not forsaken

I am who You say I am

You are for me, Not against me

…I am a child of God.

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The castle I painted for our sons is gone, covered by “falling snow” white semi-gloss.  We are packing for a new adventure.  I am struck how the answer is “surrender” every time I am perplexed.  I look forward to sharing the manuscript Surrender on the Trail with readers one day.  As it turns out the trail was merely the beginning of what I am learning about surrender.

Love,

Signature GSE

P.S.  Thank you to new and old friends from Springdale Nazarene Church and SNC Norwood who took time to help our family.  May you be blessed abundantly.

Dear Ed Sheeran

Before sunrise Hubby stumbles across the bedroom and kindly whisper mumbles, “Good morning.”

My response is internal, I don’t like mornings and I hate ALS.  I need your body to help me with this blankety blank moving sale and I know you can’t physically share the load.  I speak nothing.  To be fair, he helped in the ways he could yesterday.  I’m grumpy and tired from weeks of prep in a house with a to-do list that has gotten away from us.  ALS has stolen the feeling of team chores over the years.  The playbook has shifted.  Team means new things now.

My mind wanders to the letter I had wanted to write Ed Sheeran a while back.  I planned to say, “Wow.  You sing the most perfect lyrics for our marriage in the song “Thinking Out Loud”.  Please meet us in Pompano Beach, FL on our 25th anniversary weekend, bring a guitar, and sing that to us on the beach.  Just once please.  That would be cool.”

I pull back my inner crazy lady and did not send such correspondence.

On Saturday of our trip we figure out the mechanics of getting us both on the sand.  Once settled, YouTube plays the Ed Sheeran song.  Then we listen to the ocean waves for hours shaded by an umbrella.  That was my favorite day.

Sunday he rests and I suggest we do dinner out to officially celebrate.  Monday could be another rest day before navigating the airport with a wheelchair Tuesday.  Oh, the things I’ve learned.  For instance, there are indoor hills, PeopleIndoor hills.  Pacing ourselves is important in the approach to such phenomenon.

We arrive at public parking for the restaurant 5 minutes before our reservation.  The parking meter doesn’t work.  It’s humid.  The restaurant is across the street and upstairs.  We see there is an elevator down the road.  I clumsily pay through their online app.  I wonder if I look pretty.  We gals can fit 100 thoughts or more into such moments, can’t we?

As we roll to the crosswalk, we hear music.  The beginning chords play “Thinking Out Loud”.  Hubby says it’s a popular song so no surprise.  But in my head I’m like, The Universe got my letter!  Thanks, Ed.  Thanks, God.

The words follow us all the way to the restaurant.  The patio overlooks a boat dock.  Our table has a sunset view.  It is a lovely evening.

Peace & love,

Signature GSE

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When your legs don’t work like they used to before
And I can’t sweep you off of your feet
Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love
Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks

And darling I will be loving you till we’re 70
And baby my heart could still fall as hard at 23
And I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe just the touch of a hand
Oh me I fall in love with you every single day
And I just wanna tell you I am

So honey now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are

When my hair’s all gone and my memory fades
And the crowds don’t remember my name
When my hands don’t play the strings the same way
I know you will still love me the same

‘Cause honey your soul could never grow old, it’s evergreen
And baby your smile’s forever in my mind and memory
I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe it’s all part of a plan
I just keep on making the same mistakes
Hoping that you’ll understand

But baby now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
Thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are

So baby now

Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Oh darling, place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are
Oh maybe we found love right where we are
And we found love right where we are