CHAPTER THREE

SURRENDER ON THE TRAIL

CHAPTER THREE

I looked at the mountains, and they were quaking,

all the hills were swaying.

Jeremiah 4:24

MAY 6, 2016

I write the answer to “what’s on my mind” on Facebook: 

Calling all friends who have back country skills and equipment! I have an opportunity to hike part of the Appalachian Trail coming up very soon on a shoestring budget. I would welcome and take good care of any items you might allow me to borrow. Need: a less than 5 lb. 1-person tent, a trail worthy backpack, sleeping pad, lightweight sleeping bag. Plus, anything you know from experience might be helpful.

I click “post” then grab my son’s empty L.L. Bean backpack. I put a couple text books inside to add weight to the pack, lace up the stiff new Swiss hiking boots, and begin going up and down the hill outside my house. We leave this month. I’d better do anything I can to get my body ready. From the trail plan, I know that climbing hills is going to be a tough part of the experience.

Three times down and up my perfectly paved suburban sidewalk leads me to take a break. I sit on the porch with my love handles drinking water while out of breath. Then I begin the descent and climb again and again until I am certain Netflix calls my name to go back inside the house. Sweat is overrated.

MAY 7, 2016

Today is Saturday. I am at my second job. A beautiful spring day is outside through the window and beyond my grasp. I miss the boys.

My supervisor gave me a quarter raise above minimum wage last week like it was exuberant cause for celebration. I try to be grateful. I tell myself: this is a season in your life. Carry on. Having to clean bathrooms at the end of each shift when the body already aches is the most humbling. I have gagged more than once.

I convince myself that the small additional paycheck helps with groceries for two hungry teenage boys. They are worth it.

Some of the worst moments here are when people I knew from better employment years come into the store and eye me with questioning eyes or pity. They are in a rush on their way to a bridal shower or stopping by for luxury beach accessories on their way to Florida. They complain about trivial things like a broken nail or how on earth they could possibly pick a fine china place setting pattern from so many choices. Today a guy visiting the customer service desk asked me, “Didn’t you used to be my boss at…?”   

“Yes,” I smiled and did not offer one bit of explanation.

I hustle upstairs to my locker on a ten-minute break in hopes of a text or sign of life outside the walls of me saying “Would you like a gift receipt?” and “Would you like to purchase the item of the month?” to every single customer. You never know when the next customer might be a Secret Shopper who will report back about our store performance to the general manager.

I unlock my phone to find texts from JoAnn. Yes! Texts on break breathe life into me.

She sent a picture of a picture.

JoAnn—THIS IS FLAT KEVIN! HE IS GOING WITH US!

Who?

Flat Kevin is a 2D image of JoAnn’s nephew. She cut the background away from a candid photo of Kevin and laminated the remaining shape of his body. He is tall with dark hair and a kind smile. I recognize the wide bright eyes that JoAnn and many in her family seem to have. She says Flat Kevin will fit into her backpack perfectly. I guesstimate he is about 5 inches tall from the text. 

JoAnn fills me in about his story and why he is going. The real Kevin is 44 and the father of 6 children. His youngest is 3 years old. Kevin is fighting Renal Cancer. He has gone through a round of Interleukin so far. She tells me Kevin is living life as best he can right now. JoAnn is dedicating her hike to him. We will take a bunch of pictures with Flat Kevin during the hike so she can share those pictures with him after the trip.

My heart acknowledges his struggle. I have nothing left to internally complain about today. I text back my support for Flat Kevin on the trip and she continues with more news.

JoAnn—GUESS WHO ELSE IS GOING WITH US?!!  DRUMROLL….

No idea. JoAnn knows I am on a work break, so she does not leave me in suspense.

JoAnn—COURTNEY!!!!  AFTER GRADUATION SHE HAS A LITTLE BREAK WHERE THIS TRIP WILL FIT IN PERFECTLY.

So, she WAS interested in going. Cool. Courtney is a nice addition. 

Courtney and I ran a Girls Circle® group for 5th grade girls together during the winter. Before the students learned our names, they called her the “blonde one” and me the “dark haired one”.

Courtney has an old soul in a 22-year-old body. She was a reliable partner. I enjoyed her occasional surprise over what some of the young girls had to say. One of my favorite moments was when the girls mentioned that the next day school was going to have “the talk” with them about puberty. Their parents had to sign a consent form for them to participate. They asked Courtney if we knew what this means. Courtney replied, “Yeah, Glenna and I went to that class a long time ago.” The girls burst into an exchange of giggles.

The retail break time clock is ticking.

A group text pops up.

Courtney—MY ROOMMATE RACHEL WANTS TO GO WITH US ALSO!

JoAnn—OH WONDERFUL! WE HAVE FOUR SEATS. THAT WORKS!

The car is getting crowded, but I do like even numbers on trips. 

Courtney—GLENNA, RACHEL IS TO ME LIKE DEB IS TO YOU.  WE COMPLEMENT ONE ANOTHER.

Oh wait.  I recall some difficult stories with one of her classmates.

Glenna—RACHEL’S NOT THE “CRAZY ONE” IS SHE?

Gotta verify. I am too old for petty, jealous girl stuff.

Courtney—LOL. NO, RACHEL IS NOT THE CRAZY ONE, BUT WE ARE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO TELL THE C.O.

Whew. Good.

I pause, then send a text to Courtney directly. I know that Courtney was involved in and valued her past experience in high school church youth groups, so this idea might go over ok.

Glenna—DO YOU WANT ADVICE ABOUT TELLING THE C.O.?

As a personal rule, I attempt not to give input without asking if people want advice first.

Courtney—YES, PLEASE.

Glenna–BEFORE YOU TELL HER, PRAY FOR A GOOD TIME AND AN EASY PATH FOR COMMUNICATION. THEN HOPEFULLY A CONVERSATION WILL OCCUR NATURALLY, NOT FORCED.

I have been to the movie of dealing with a few Crazy Ones over the years. Jealousy filled and irrational relationships wear me out. I have found that God has a way of working out the crazy upfront when you take the time to ask. So, perhaps I will pray right now too.

Dear God,

Please help Courtney and Rachel tell the friend that they are going on a trip without her. Soften everyone’s hearts involved and allow there to be a peaceful exchange.

[pause]

And please work out the crazy circumstances in my own life too.

Thank you.

Amen

Then I think about how even if Rachel is not the Crazy One, she is still an “unknown” for me. I hope she is not someone with a bad attitude. I do not like when there is a dud on a trip. 

The time clock makes the punch back in sound.

MAY 8, 2016

Jacob hands me the Mommy Boot Camp notebook I made him. For the last month he has been completing household tasks along with preparing his body for basic training and working. The home version boot camp is not because I want him to clean or repair our house (a nice benefit), but because I want him to know how to do things when he is living on his own. 

We tried to teach him life chores as he grew up, but he is a dismissive one. He often surprises you later that he was paying attention at all.

Mommy Boot Camp has been a bit like Karate Kid’s “Wax on. Wax off.”  He has done laundry, yard work, made calls to get information, wrote paragraphs about the dangers of drinking and driving, cleaned the crevices of our 6 panel doors, reviewed articles about youth who made big mistakes while abroad, prayed, looked up helpful life Bible verses, swept, mowed the lawn, drove his brother to appointments, was left alone with a banana and condom (while also having conversations about the benefits of waiting), folded clothes, Googled various topics like how to reduce anxiety, wrote down the Serenity Prayer, did countless sit ups, pushups and more.

“Mom, I’ve learned and done everything you asked.” He continues, “Now I’d like a few weeks off to relax before I’m gone for most of the next 6 years.”

“Ok.” I hug him. My tall handsome boy smells faintly of manly cologne.

I go to a quiet spot in the house to let a few tears pass.

MAY 13, 2016

NOON

May 31st is 18 days from now. My mind is racing about all I need to prepare and what I need to learn before we depart. 

I realize that I have never put up a tent by myself. Maybe I helped once or twice in the past by holding a tent pole for someone else while they did the real puzzle work. 

Fortunately, there is YouTube and Google. I search for videos, articles and how to information about hiking the AT:  what food to pack, how to select and put on a proper hiking backpack gear, how to protect yourself from the elements, how to keep bears and critters from your campsite, how to sleep in the deep woods at night (Eek! It is going to be DARK!).

Sounds like the most important things are to not leave food out to attract animals and to not be smelly yourself. And by smelly, I do not mean smell good or fragrant with normal wash products. It is important to have as little scent as possible.

Oh, and apparently people have trail names. You can have a special name just for the hiking experience. Given my recent life challenges, I could use a departure from reality. I ponder what my trail name will be.

1:00PM

News breaks that a man, age 49, was bitten through his tent by a bear while sleeping along the Appalachian Trail in the Smoky Mountains. Through his tent!?! 

It was just two days ago that I felt peaceful that I probably will feel safe enough at night once I am inside a 1-person tent. The dark will remain outside. I will zip up at dusk and not come out until daylight. That was my solid plan.

And now I am thinking, bitten THROUGH his tent by a bear?! I yi yi. He was inside.

I group text the story to Courtney, Rachel and JoAnn.

Courtney—OH MY!

JoAnn—THAT GUY PROBABLY HAD FOOD OR AN ODD SMELL IN HIS TENT.

JoAnn—ALSO, I’M BRINGING BEAR BELLS AND A BEAR BAG.

Courtney—I’LL GLADLY CARRY A BEAR BELL.

Rachel—DOES THE BEAR BELL ENCOURAGE THE BEARS TO STAY AWAY FROM US?

Good question.

JoAnn—BEARS DON’T LIKE BEAR BELLS. AND AT NIGHT WE PUT ALL OUR FOOD IN A BEAR BAG AND SLING IT WITH A ROPE HIGH OVER A TREE BRANCH ABOUT 200 YARDS FROM CAMP. I’VE BEEN PRACTICING.

Rachel—OH, OF COURSE. BELLS, BEAR BAG, ROPE, GOT IT. THIS IS ALL NEW TO ME! CAN’T WAIT, LADIES!

JoAnn has been practicing. Good to hear.

JoAnn—IF YOU’RE GOING TO WEAR DEODORANT, MAKE SURE IT IS UNSCENTED.  NOT EASY TO FIND, BUT THERE IS A BRAND CALLED TOM’S THAT MAKES UNSCENTED.

IF we are going to wear deodorant?  I add to my shopping list:

  • Unscented deodorant

I do not think I can give up deodorant. I also do not want any rodents or bears curious about me. 

4:30PM 

At an after-school club I tell co-worker Maria about the trip. I know she is an outdoor person. Maria had many adventures around the globe in her 20’s.

“I think you’ll love it,” Maria says. “And you need to read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods.”

“Is it a book about the AT?”

“Yeah.  You will learn a lot of tips.”  She continues, “Like cotton is rotten.”

“Huh?”

“You don’t want to wear anything cotton. Cotton stays damp and gross. You need to wear things that are synthetic. Synthetic materials dry fast.”

“Really?” I’d already been planning cool cotton attire and a couple of my favorite summer outfits. Do I own anything NOT cotton?

“Oh, yeah. Very important. No cotton.”

Once again, I am re-thinking what to bring and what to wear.

5:30PM

I stop at the Half-Price Bookstore. I already looked online to see that A Walk in the Woods is checked out of the library.

Ah-hah! Half-Price has a few copies. I use a bag of change to purchase a copy of the book plus a blank journal and head home. I want to keep thoughts and lists for the trip in one place. 

6:00PM

I walk down the neighborhood hill and back up several times. 

9:00PM

I am in bed reading while thinking I should still be cramming exercise into the day. My legs are sore. I wish I had more time to prepare.

My eyes enlarge. On page 6 of A Walk in the Woods, the author is preparing for his AT hike.  Included in his prep is awareness that:

“…there is the little-known family of organisms called hantaviruses, which swarm in the micro-haze above the feces of mice and rats and are hovered into the human respiratory system by anyone unlucky enough to stick a breathing orifice near them—by lying down, say, on a sleeping platform over which infested mice have recently scampered….”

What?!

In YouTube videos I remember seeing occasional AT platform shelters in the woods where the above quote could be a problem if we sleep on one at night.  No thank you. I vow to stay in my tent. Two, I need to add buffs or handkerchiefs to my packing list! I will cover my mouth, nose, ears and all orifices while sleeping.

In the back of my journal, I make a page for my packing list:

  • Buffs to cover face at night
  • Synthetic, quick dry clothing–No cotton!
  • Bug spray
  • Food –what kind of food?! (need to research)
  • 1-person tent (need to find or borrow)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Some type of pillow (or use rolled up clothing at night?)
  • Advil/Tylenol
  • Magic boots
  • Socks
  • Unscented deodorant
  • Travel toothpaste and brush
  • Hair ties
  • compass
  • Other items TBD

I turn off the light and pull the covers over my head. I try to comprehend what pitch-black dark will be like out in the woods at night.

MAY 14, 2016

This is really JoAnn’s trip. I remind myself of that. She has been planning to go since September. 

The timing fit and the boots fit, but the origins of this trip are hers. I vow to respect that.

JoAnn turned 60 in November. She was super busy around that time and so was I. It bothered me that I did not get to properly celebrate with her on or near her birthday. But I have an idea about how to have a celebration moment for her while on the AT.

I message her husband, Steve, on Facebook to ask what her favorite candy bar is. He replies Babe Ruth. Perfect. 

I saw a Pinterest video recently about making a little cake of candy bars attached to a small round Styrofoam piece. I can pick up miniature Babe Ruth bars and a small floral Styrofoam half ball from Wal-Mart. Oh, and I guess glue would be best to get the wrapped bars to stick to the Styrofoam. I can pack the completed “cake” in a Ziploc bag with a birthday candle. It will be a sweet moment while on the trail to celebrate.

I read about the importance of minimal weight supplies on the trail.  You carry everything on your back: tent, change of clothes, food, etc.  It is best to be as light as possible. I think this small cake idea can be lightweight.

I do not want to wait to the last minute to make the cake, so I begin working on it.  It takes a while for the candy to stick to the foam, so I upgrade to a strong epoxy tube of glue.  Soon the cake takes shape.

I text a picture to Courtney and tell her the mini birthday celebration for JoAnn plan.

Courtney—LOVE IT! VERY SWEET IDEA.

Glenna—THE TUBE OF GLUE SAYS HIGHLY FLAMMABLE, SO WE’LL HAVE TO LIGHT THE CANDLE AND HAVE HER BLOW IT OUT QUICKLY.

Courtney—YES! NO EXPLOSIONS ON THE TRAIL. I’LL HELP YOU ON THIS.           

Glenna—GOOD. THANKS!

I am beginning to call this trip Highway 2246 in honor of our decades. Two are in their 20’s, one is in her 40’s and one is 60 years old.

MAY 15, 2016

I am struggling overnight and this morning thinking about Jacob’s departure to basic training next week. Tomorrow he has a last briefing with his recruiter. I connect online with other military moms. Turns out a lot of them are crying too. Knowing there are other moms like me out there makes me feel somewhat more normal and not as alone. 

Only 1% of young people join the military in the USA. No wonder I do not have any local friends going through the same thing at this moment. This is not as common as I thought.  There are few brave young men and women who sign up to protect and defend our freedom.

MAY 16, 2016

12:00PM

Surprise! The recruiter said we get to keep Jacob around a little longer due to his emergency appendectomy recovery time. The USAF Surgeon General wants to give him an additional 90 days to heal. Now we wait for a new ship date.

This was a practice round.

I pause to adjust.

I think about it briefly, then decide I am still going on the AT.

6:00PM

A group text begins as often is now the case with the 4 women of Highway 2246. 

Courtney—I’M LOOKING AT OUR HIKE PLAN. WE END AT A DIFFERENT PLACE THAN WE BEGIN. HOW DO WE GET BACK TO THE CAR?

JoAnn—PEOPLE HITCH HIKE ALL ALONG THE AT. THERE’S A LOT OF GOOD PEOPLE WHO WILL PICK US UP AND TAKE US BACK.

I receive a direct message from Courtney–&^%$?  IS SHE SERIOUS?

JoAnn might be serious. 

Or she might be joking. I do not know.

Texting takes a timeout as heart rates increase.

Then we read:

JoAnn—I’LL RESEARCH AND GET BACK TO YOU.

8:00PM

JoAnn—I FOUND A REGISTERED DRIVER. HE’S AGREED TO DRIVE US. AND HE HAD A LOT TO SAY. TALKED MY EAR OFF. SOME OF IT WAS HELPFUL.

Rachel—OH GOOD. 

Courtney—WHAT’S HIS NAME?

JoAnn—DICK.

Pause.

Glenna—SERIOUSLY?

JoAnn—DICK RICHARD

Pause.

Glenna—SO HIS NAME IS DOUBLE D…

I do not finish.

Courtney–MUAHHHHH

JoAnn—LOL. DICK PROMISES TO BE ON TIME. HE’S AWARD WINNING IN HIS TRANSPORTATION AND AT GUIDANCE.

Rachel—WELL, WE CAN’T QUESTION DICK THEN.

Courtney does her own research. She texts a picture of Dick within minutes. I am impressed by her rapid fire online investigative skills. In the photo Dick has white hair, a white beard and is holding up an award. 

JoAnn—THAT’S DICK!

Glenna—I FEEL SAFER ALREADY.

Not really. But I am going with the flow. Surely JoAnn speaking with someone in advance rather than hitch hiking is a good thing. He is “registered” whatever that means.

Courtney—DOES ANYONE KNOW THEIR TRAIL NAME YET?

JoAnn—I THINK I’M GOING TO BE SUNFLOJO. 

The rest of us do not know yet.  We have a little time to figure it out.

10:00PM

My mind wanders. 

My heart is heavy. I need to de-burden, defragment, and cleanse my soul.

Fresh air will be good.

I hope to find the tallest mountain ridge and spend time with God. I thought the delay in Basic Training date would help me feel better, but there is so much more going on with our family. I have no words, but I feel the stress in the space that has opened up further in my mind.

MAY 17, 2016

Paul and I watch Appalachian Trail YouTube videos. There are a lot of them. 

  • How to cook on the AT
  • How to pack for the AT
  • Let’s talk Food on the AT
  • How to prepare physical endurance for the AT which totally makes me feel like a slacker at this late date!
  • And my favorite title: Preparing for My Thru Hike So I Don’t Die.

I watch and re-watch How to Pee Outside along with other ladies’ guides to peeing in the woods. This is vital information. I eye my backyard wishing the neighbors did not live so close. I do not plan to practice before going (pun intended!). I will be ready when there is no other choice.

I have a backup plan just in case I cannot manage to go when it is time or if I must figure it out at night.

This girl will not squat over mystery grass in the dark! So, I bought a guy version portable urinal. It is lightweight and has a smallish opening with a lid. I am confident in this Plan B because when I was in China several years ago, I cut off the top of a Pepsi bottle, made it work, then dumped the pee in the hole in the floor for waste. That is a whole other story involving dress clothes that did not work well in that country. If you have ever been to China, then you know what I am talking about.    

Paul and I watch one video and then watch another and another. In-between he gives me tips or encouragement.

He is getting into this. He prints out enlarged 8 ½ by 11 pages of each part of our hike plan.  He walks me through each page with a different color highlighter to mark each turn on the connecting paths.

I share with him, “JoAnn has taken classes and she told me she has an official AT trail guide map, but I’m glad for the blown-up versions so I can anticipate the experience up close on the map a little in advance.”

He knows I am visual, and he appears to want me to come home if lost. I will have more landmark names in my head than I need thanks to him.

Paul says, “Let’s go over it again. You follow the trails and make the turns with your finger. Describe each turn. You flip the pages. Let’s make sure you’ve got this.”

I begin, “We hike the Lower Hawksbill Mountain Trail first. We will climb the mountain to see the view from the highest peak in the Shenandoah National Park. Then we take Salamander Trail down the mountain to connect with….”

We practice the whole thing late into the evening.

I am amazed how much energy he can put into helping me with something like this.

MAY 19, 2016

I am tired.  The next payroll week looms as I wait for invoice payments to arrive this week.

Semi-facing the inevitable, I meet with a local career strategist, Dr. Angie Taylor.

Angie asks, “So how long have you been struggling with your finances?”

“Three years, maybe four.”

Angie states, “Glenna, you know the definition of insanity, right?”

“Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?”

“Right. The non-profit is like your baby. You don’t want to let go, but you’ve got to do something different. It sounds like your spouse’s earnings are not going to change and you’re not in a good position to sell the house.” She sighs, “If you have to answer right now, what do you do from here?”

Defeated I say, “Get another job or different part-time job so I can pay the mortgage on time.” What I do not say is that the paperwork and effort to change course, though, seems daunting.

“Alright, let’s talk about how to go about doing that.”

We brainstorm how I can make room in my schedule and obtain new sources of income.  Resentment brews in my heart. 

Angie is wise. I am grateful for her time, but why do I have to do this?!

MAY 21, 2016

I have begun to meet people to collect supplies. Today I meet with Amy K, who used to live and have outdoor adventures in Alaska.

“Here you go,” Amy K hands me a 45 Liter backpack. It has many pockets to discover. Best of all, it is red, my favorite color.

“Inside is a sleeping pad that you roll up and hook to the outside while hiking. You don’t have to blow into it at night. Open the valve and it will inflate on its own.”

“Wow,” I say.

She unzips a side pocket, “This is a little ring of flatware. And, I don’t know if you’ll want it, but this contraption becomes a chair if you fold it right. Sometimes a bit of back support is nice when resting in the woods.”

“I wish I could go,” I see the sincerity in Amy’s eyes. She is another person we know that has knee problems at the moment.

“Maybe next trip,” I say. “If this goes well for JoAnn, she plans to do many sections.”

“Yes, I hope so.” Amy and I hug. I leave grateful for the pack. It is perfect. I already feel one with it. It has compression straps which I know from videos will help distribute weight evenly.

I stop at other friends’ homes. The support and willingness to share has been greatly appreciated.

I return home to try out the growing pile of borrowed equipment in our dining room.

Paul is there looking through the boys’ closets. “This will fit you.  And this will too,” He says.

He has a stack of shirts and shorts which are made of synthetic material.

“This is great. Thanks,” I think about the savings but am a bit sad that I’ll be wearing all boy clothes. I have stopped at a few thrift stores and not found any trail clothes that will work.

I share, “I’m a little concerned about creepy crawling things and would like to have pants on the main hiking days, but I’m not sure what pants will work.”

Paul thinks for a moment then takes my hand to our shared closet. “What about these?”

He holds up his old pair of Boy Scout pants. For a few years he was one of the leaders for Jacob’s Cub Scout group.

I laugh, “Let me try ‘em.” 

My brain connects the outdoor pants with images I’ve seen in AT videos. The pant vents, cargo pockets and zippers make sense for the first time. 

“Tah dah!” I spin around once and stretch in the bedroom. No seams rip. That’s a good sign.

“They fit well,” he observes.

That settles it. I toss my new-found clothes in the wash and then hang them to dry. I have pieces of clothing from each of my guys and none of it is cotton.

MAY 26, 2016

I wake up at 5am to walk the neighborhood hills wearing Amy K’s backpack for an hour. 

In my early morning thoughts, I face that I haven’t cared much if I live or die in recent years.

Now, surviving the AT is fresh motivation. I want to both live through it and not hold back my group.

It feels good to want to live. 

I see this quote in a devotion book while getting ready for work. I dwell on it for the day.

When we are no longer able to change a situation,

we are challenged to challenge ourselves.

–Viktor Frankl, survivor of 4 concentration camps

MAY 27, 2016

Courtney and Rachel stop by the non-profit office. They come to collect excess equipment that caring friends have said we can share.

This is the first time I get to meet Rachel.

Courtney walks into the room, “Whazz Uppp?” She has been working out this morning. Her hair is in a ponytail. She wears her favorite Cross-Fit t-shirt.

“Hi.”  I am wading through end of the year student survey data.  A bit of spring air wafted in when the girls opened the door.

“You must be Rachel.”

“Yes, I am.”  Rachel is a tall brunette with a sweet smile.

I fan out little plastic bags with fabric inside. “These are buffs from Deb’s mom. She thought she would want them when she went through chemo, but she did not. They’re all brand new.”

Rachel says, “Ooo. There’s a bunch.”

Courtney says, “Tell Deb I’m grateful for these.  Nothing is allowed to crawl in my nose while I sleep!”

I agree, “Same here.”

Rachel chooses a turquoise blue. “Look, Court, it matches this backpack.”

Perfect. JoAnn had dropped off a few of her family backpacks to choose from. The girls load up.

“Yes, we’ll have to color coordinate a little bit on the trail,” Courtney smiles. “We’re off to buy food for the trail next.”

“Oh yeah, it is hard to commit to food choices,” I say.

Rachel shares, “It’s like you have to be ok with the fact that what you pack could be your last meal or something.”

We chuckle. “I’m committed to get through this, ladies. Yet, I have some doubts.”

Courtney says, “I am right there with ya.”

I offer, “I bought snack size peanut butter tubs, crackers, organic marshmallows—yum, tried some—cashews, ginger chew candy, packs of noodles that we can cook quick on JoAnn’s stove. Oh, and beef jerky in a few flavors.”

Courtney says, “Jerky is life. I’m all about the jerky.”

“We’re gonna need protein,” Rachel says.

“I hope we don’t see any snakes,” Courtney offers.

We all agree. I type into my computer and say out loud, “How to repel snakes.”

Rachel says, “Research. Good idea.”

Not as many articles or tips come up as I hoped. “Hmmm.” I point at one short piece of information, “Looks like snakes do not like moth balls.”

“I don’t know much about moth balls,” Courtney says.

“Well, they are kind of toxic for humans,” I say. “I’ll put some thought into it, though. There might be a way to incorporate them safely into some type of snakes-stay-away-system.”

I walk the girls out to their car.

It is time for me to leave for the day too. I welcome the warm afternoon sun. 

On the way home, I stop at Wal-Mart.

I walk around the camping aisles for general inspiration and stop at the knife case.

Jacob has asked me a few times to take some type of protection. I purchase a light weight yet menacing looking knife that flips open easily.

This metal will be clipped in my pocket during the trip because you just never know what might happen.

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© Copyright 2016 Surrender On The Trail – Glenna S. Edwards

Thanks for reading or listening. Check back next Sunday for CHAPTER FOUR.

Highway 2246 is almost on the road!

Valentine Antidote

It is that day when I promise once again that next year I won’t be in town on Valentine’s Day. I will be with girlfriends or on a beach, on a mountain top, anywhere else doing something–anything–not so ordinary.

Valentine’s Day is a double whammy. It’s also my birthday. Growing up, I loved celebrating with red hearts, white paper lace, pink streamers, balloons and all things Valentine.

As an adult, I realized many people have jumbled emotions linked to February 14. Happy feelings, angry feelings, dread, anger and so forth.

Then I married someone who expresses love inversely to what I anticipated. Let’s just say his first romantic gift was a bright yellow personal alarm to wear on my waist so I could pull the cord for it to wail and screech if someone nefarious came too close to me on my college campus.

We’ve worked it out. It’s taken a lot of tears and years. I’ve learned that the antidote to my occasional sad feels is to have less expectations, ask for something specific if desired, support or help others.

These days, ALS-21 plus a Pandemic make it so Hubby can’t get out to shop, or walk much, or feel good for a full day. I am happy simply when his words are kind. I like thoughtful and kind. Lately, I’ve been quietly thanking the writers of Call The Midwife. Hubby really likes that show. I call it his daily empathy exercise. Women have been through so much and that binge worthy series does not shy away from hard topics.

Speaking of writers, my feel better about Valentine’s Day activity this year was to support authors I care about. I directed Hubby to my wish list and he placed the order. I was excited to open the packages.

Janine Rosche is an author who picked me up off the floor when I received a bad news phone call at a writer’s conference. She prayed with me. Then I found out she was looking for a certain agent to meet. I am thrilled to say they met indeed and are three books into a successful journey. I now have a trifecta of inspirational romance to read:

William Klein’s book was lost in our move so I needed a replacement copy. This is a timely fictional story about a painful border experience.

And Jessica Terry is a writer that cracks me up with her Instagram stories. Like me, she was a basketball player in her youth. We’ve never met. I appreciate her work ethic and passion. So, I soon will read:

Who would you like to support? Someone creative? An organization that does something you value? Church? Someone elderly or ill? Doing a little something for others could brighten your Valentine’s Day. Earlier in the week, I called a couple people who I hadn’t spoken with in a few years. It was a good time on old fashioned phone calls.

Frequently, I think of the verse Love One Another (John 15: 12). Loving others does not result in only one direction of good vibes even when that should be our intention. When you love others, the good feels return to fill your heart and strengthen the weave of the universe.

Still in town,

P.S. Hubby also visited the Shari’s Berries website. Winner. Yum.

The In-between

Welcome to the in-between weekend.

  • Christmas lights are hit or miss now.
  • It is hard to remember today’s date.
  • New Years is coming.

I’ve heard some grumbling and sadness around town.

Maybe you are a Have-Not who listened to The-Haves talk about expensive gifts received.

Perhaps you just heard, “but we’ll always be friends” as he shared he is serious about a new relationship.

It’s not even break up season yet. You were blindsided.

Or your mini vacay to-do list is not close to done.

Did you use all the energy you had to cope during a time of grief?

Fear not.

To the person who needs to hear this today, you are valued exactly as you are.

You matter.

Order and routine will be restored.

It’s ok to take a nap.

Embrace what is and give it to God. Allow the feelings to pass through your body so you can move on. If you fight emotions, the pain lasts longer.

As for that to-do list, tackle something manageable first.

This is a good time to pray, praise, rest, connect to your source.

Reset for 2020.

Remember there is a time for everything. Don’t beat yourself up in this short window.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time.

How may I pray for you? Dm me with prayer requests for the new year.

Love,

Glenna

In the Stillness

Chronic illness and caregiving are lonely places to be. And a lonely place can be smack dab in the middle of your own house. It is easy to be forgotten when you don’t show up hardly anywhere social anymore. It’s easy to miss friends even when you talk to them a lot via text.

This is one of those posts that is scary to write because I certainly don’t want to hurt Hubby’s feelings; however, he has said to me before maybe if you write the truth it will help other people not feel as alone.

I try to look at our situation like we’re lucky because we have each other. If you’ve ever lived this type of life, then you know that’s just as funny as it is true. I hold onto what I can. I miss him. And I hate that he feels (in my opinion) sick 80+% of the time. We each silently regret some of the things we could have been out doing in our early years together.

There is sweetness too. When he verbally appreciates my weak effort to do house chores. When he offers me quiet time in the house because he knows the silence soothes me. When he will go to the end of the Google search engine to research anything the boys or I need. And, I have my thoughts about him always being a man of integrity. That is one of the things that attracted me to him long ago. Recently he agreed to do an audio book club with me. I am hopeful the first book discussion will be fun from our different perspectives. I’ve listened through chapter 9 so far.

I ponder if this time of both rest and stress ultimately helps me focus more time on writing projects. The quote below got my attention this morning after waking up from another nightmare for the sixth morning in a row:

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Writers need a platform. Mine is growing. I am thankful that my Twitter followers are 18 away from 1,000 (as of the time of this post) which I read is an important step in jumping onto a propulsion algorithm. We shall see. Fingers crossed. It’s not about “likes” for publishers. It is about “would anyone buy her book?”. Since I am 60% introvert and 40% extrovert, this writer life climb is filled with internal conflict–hence the nightmares? Being on a team is joyful for me. Putting my neck out there solo causes a touch of angst.

I enjoy getting to know a little bit about people in the writing world who live around the globe. That part of the journey is fun. I just cyber-met someone who is on number 200 of her 300 bucket list items. How cool is she? Go girl, @VickyJones7.

So in this life filled with challenges, I say: Carry on in the stillness. Carry on in the Light. Carry on, dear readers, carry on.

Much love,

Glenna

Exodus 14:14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Put It In The Bear Box

I could not physically go on. After walking sunrise to sunset miles down a mountain and then miles back up, I was d-o-n-e done.

In fact, I was not sure I could make it from the large rock where I sat to where we were supposed to pitch tents for the night. My feet felt as if each toe was on fire.

SunFloJo [trail name] returned from scouting the campsite while the group of us stayed with the backpacks and overnight equipment.

I confessed, “I don’t think I can do this another day. It is your dream to hike all week and you should not miss the chance. I’m slowing you down, and I’ve thought it through. I absolutely will be fine if you leave me behind. I’ve got a book. And I am sure I’ll be safe. You must go on without me.” I even carried a fairly lethal knife that my oldest son insisted I have in my pocket during the trip. Whether bears or other probs, I would be fine. My biggest challenge would be disappointment in myself as I watched the other women leave me behind.

I gauged her facial expression to be a mix of “so true that you are slowing us down and yet no, I can’t leave you alone“.

I hobbled to camp and collapsed for a while as daylight slipped into night sky.

My mind spun around options regarding what to do next. I felt beyond grateful to no longer have a sweaty back and backpack attached. The group ate and laughed.

We placed food or items that might cause animal smell curiosity into a bear box.

The bear box was a new concept for me. I marveled at its purpose and convenience. To prepare for the trip we had brought a bear bag and rope to place items away from us and up a tree. This night, though, we had the fancy metal box.  It felt like we had a community chest of drawers out in the woods. I appreciated the safety and kindness of the bear box.

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One Benadryl later, I fell asleep too tired to wonder what that scurry sound was swishing by my single person tent.

Birds became my alarm clock that week. I lay thinking hard about what it would take to continue the trail.

What if half of what I had been carrying simply stayed behind in the bear box? Could we swing back by this place at the end of the week when we have access to a car again?

Long story short, that is what we did. Everyone, especially me, lightened our load. The bear box held the burden. I dared to lace up hiking boots again and head back to the trail knowing the next stop did not have the convenience of a bear box.  The next stop we planned to be much deeper in the woods.  I didn’t want to miss the next level challenge.

The bear box has become a mental metaphor for me when times are tough.  What can I leave behind for now?  What do I need to deal with today, tonight, and leave the rest for later?

In many ways, the bear box represented my faith during that trip.

Best wishes to you this week. If you can’t carry the burden, feel free to stick it in the metaphorical bear box for now.

Love,

Glenna

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Matthew 11:28-30 28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

I love you, Ariel Gore

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She showed up for me.

We never met in person, but her words knew me.  I feel my face smile chapter after chapter of Ariel Gore’s book How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead.  My eyes enlarge and my head nods each page turn.

Is this what it’s like when a writer encourages the deep inner being of another writer?

Yes.

Ariel,  thank you.

Around page 79 an unexpected tear escapes and a memory flashes through my brain.  I remember the day no one showed up.  Not a soul.  Every other college student had parents, grandparents, maybe aunts and uncles too.  Dang.

The ceremony is held in a red brick colonial style building with tall windows trimmed in white.  The large room has plenty of chairs, food that I am too scared to touch, and lemonade that I dare to enjoy.  I am thirsty.  My writing professors say hello and are pulled away because other people’s people want to meet them.  I find a seat in an empty row on a green cushioned chair with a straight backrest made of metal painted white.

While today that scene cuts me a bit, I assure you that on the actual day I am joyful and feel justice is about to be announced.  I am 22 years old and delighted.

“This year’s Best Graduating Senior Writer goes to…Glenna S. Edwards for her submission Bertha.”

I make my way to receive the certificate and $500 check.  Only on rewind do I remember the surprised audience members whose faces turn to question that the alone girl is a winner.  The money is a bonus compared to the certificate that I want most.  I need someone to say I am a good writer.  And they do out loud and on paper.  Boom!

This was the vengeance I longed for because four years earlier at a smaller scale spring time writers event, no one said anything.

That was high school.  Back when I participate in many extracurriculars, but the only award I ever hope for is the Golden Pen award.  A plaque hangs in the English department where the new winner’s name will be engraved.

Sitting in the cafeteria listening for the announcement, my 18-year-old mind practices being a good loser.  The only other candidate who might win deserves the prize too.  I will remain kind and congratulate her then run home to lament.

I also practice remaining calm and gracious if I do win.  I will not jump up and down though my legs may try to betray me.

The other possible winner may throw a fit.  She has a reputation.  She has publicly wailed sometimes when things did not go her way.  I try to remember her personal story about how her mom didn’t know she was pregnant until she went to the hospital for extreme food poisoning but came home with a baby.  For reasons I do not fully understand while in my youth, her tale helps me be patient with Miss Could-Make-A-Scene.

The teacher says into the microphone, “Thank you for coming tonight.  This concludes our evening.”

What?!  They must have forgotten.  I see the other candidate ask about the Golden Pen.  The teacher pretends not to hear.  We all go home never to know exactly why the 1990 Golden Pen is not awarded.

My adult self has multiple guesses why 1990 was skipped.  And I remain thankful 1994 happened.

To my writer friends, read Ariel Gore’s book How To Become A Famous Writer Before You’re Dead.  It is encouragement served all you can eat buffet style.

To be fair to those who knew me in 1994, I didn’t know to ask for representation.  I realize now why the obvious choices didn’t jump at the chance.  Me becoming a writer terrified blue-collar adults around me.

To Ariel, I promise never to use the word p_ _ _ _ _ _ _ mentioned on page 82.  I get it.

Much love & peace to all readers & dreamers.  oxox

Signature GSE

What Swirls In Your Head

Are there negative comments made by others about you that come to mind easily or often?

And worse, were those words said many years ago, but still linger today?

Yeah?  Me too.

I’ve chosen to address some of the aforementioned.  To follow is one example.

Shortly after Hubby and I were married my mom said, “I know he must love you because I know what that (me!) looks like in the morning.”

Some might think that she was jovial or meant her over share for fun, but in that moment I felt her words pierce my newlywed abdomen. Deep.

Over the decades I barely noticed that I heard her say it over and over within the swirling sauce pan on my mental health back burner.  Her sentence low level impacts my ability to function.

I don’t want to see me in the mornings.  I can be slow to rise post alarm clock.  Her words are there even when I mostly ignore their existence.  I take way too long to get out the door.  I dread the daily get ready ritual.  And frankly, I’d like a blue ribbon for managing to get me from bedhead to work while also getting children to school for much of the last 20 years.

Recently I allowed myself to tune in to the slow burn frequency.  I decided that every single day for the month of February I would take a morning selfie within minutes of being awake.

Maybe if I head on face my own face and wild AM hair, then I could find release from those stupid words?

So the selfies began.

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I challenged her comment.

And I felt annoyed mostly.

I laughed at frayed ponytails.  I dared to whisper “make up free is beautiful” or “lingering one eyed eye liner is hot”.

I hid sometimes.

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I took a pic daily no matter what.

I guessed by my birthday mid month surely I would be past carrying the hurt.  I am a gosh darn Valentine Day born person filled with Love and Light.  I am done with holding myself back.  Right?

Nope.  I did not feel better the 14th, 15th, 16th, and so forth.

I continue with my selfie promise and determine that I will learn to love all this.  After all, God loves me.  And there are plenty of people who may not be traditional magazine cover material, but I find them gorgeous inside and out.  Could I admire the undone me?

Along the way I accept that I may complete the month without feeling any breakthroughs on the subject of my morning time look.  I pondered verses like:

Psalm 139:14 I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this.

Ephesians 5:29 For no one has ever hated his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, as the Messiah does the church.

Proverbs 19:8 To acquire wisdom is to love oneself; people who cherish understanding will prosper.

Then one night last week I had a dream.  A detailed dream.  People I trust and value greatly were there.  I was invited to go on a hike.  I had to pack quickly borrowing some supplies, grabbing what was available, and choosing to do without some items.

My hiking buddy was a young early 20’s gal with red hair.  As we passed an amusement park on our way to nature she said, “I may not be or feel pretty,  but I always have adventure.”

Yes!  Something shifted in my body.  I connected with the free to roam, always have adventure statement.  When I woke up, I no longer felt linked to the negative feelings.  I felt change.

I thanked God for my sense of departure from the negative weight.

Since that dream I have continued the February commitment while also noticing my improved ability to love the person I spend the most time with: me.

The 28 pictures have formed into an art collection.  I appreciate both the humor and seriousness found in the pictures.

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I am pretty excited today is March 1.  No more morning selfies and no more need for morning selfies.

What swirls in your mind?  Is there something you can address with the intention of breaking free from it?  I’d love to hear how you creatively kick certain thoughts or words to the curb.

Wishing you health and freedom,

Glenna

 

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

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.

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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?