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

I’ll Tell You First

I ponder who to call.

The friend who will cheer for the dream despite disappointment?  The problem solving friend?  The friend who will wallow in the sadness with me for a few minutes?  The friend who will say what I want to hear?

Stars are visible in the night sky.  I drive silent.  The Holy Spirit touches my heart and I sense a, “How about you tell Me first?”

This leads me to ask myself, How many times do I tell God last?  

Answer:  Often.

This time I choose differently.  I turn off the car and sit in the driveway to converse with our Creator before approaching the threshold into house chores, next day work prep, mom, wife, and caregiver roles.

Dear God,

The publisher that stayed in touch since June and seemed to seriously consider my manuscript finally sent the decision email.  I’m sad, Lord.  She’s passing.  I really thought she was the person to take next steps with me.  Please show me what to do going forward.  I surrender to Your will for this book.  Amen.”

One thing I’ve learned especially in the last two years is that every time I am perplexed the best choice is to surrender.  Immediately.

What to do will become clear soon.  For now I will be still and listen.

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

Love,

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

 

 

In About A Year…

She energizes me every time we are together.

We make a plan of attack.  We let go of stress.  We choose to focus on our project and nothing beyond the scope of that project.  We slash 12-15 occupied hours from our week to make this happen.  This is bold and brave in my tangled world.  This is unpaid time to create something bigger, better, broader.  This choice frees our minds and invites creative space.

We have been so busy delivering the service that we miss consistent time to compile, gather, and finish content for the workshop series.  We’ve done the research.  Now we write what we’ve wanted to complete for three years.  More youth and children can have access to the opportunity in upcoming days when we hit pause so we can adjust our work.  As a different friend says, “Sometimes you need to take a minute.”

We pick a date for our next meeting and hit the bi-weekly calendar repeat button.  It feels good to be with a fellow creative person.  And she’s so smart.  She’s done the surrender work in her own life.  She is at peace.  I want peace.

Back in the car I think, In about a year we’re going to meet our goal.  Maybe in six months!

My car rattles.  I make my way to the highway, then catch myself.  No.  Not in a year.  Not in 6 months.  We will do the work and it will happen as it happens.  This project will unfold as it is meant to be.

I will not force it.

I will surrender to the process.

I will do my part of the work and we will see the reveal in time.

I pray, Show me the way.

I am a planner who can also be spontaneous.  I get hung up in the goal setting and walk in circles around the straight line that would be the easiest route.  I make things harder.  Not this time.

Make me a new vessel, Lord.  Guide my path.  Not my will, but Yours.  I don’t want my work-all-night-to-meet-a-deadline mode of operation.  No.  Not this time.

And so, the project begins with fresh air and a relaxed attitude.

       Proverbs 37:7 Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret….

In about a year…  We will diligently do the work with an open mind and see what happens.  I will rest when it’s time to rest and I will work when it’s time to work.

Does this make sense to other artists/writers out there?  Does surrender lead to a better way through life’s path?  I welcome your thoughts.

Pictures from the Cincinnati Nature Center on 9/17/18.  I was there for a training event.  The instructor gave us time to explore.  I saw deer, frogs, turtles, and I watched the leaves begin their seasonal descent.

God bless you,

Signature GSE

SURRENDER – 3 day experiment, day 2

God wacked me over the head with a song this morning.

I spent quiet time yesterday and early today poring over every word of Proverbs 3:5-6.  I personalize the words.  Trust in the Lord with all my heart…not my understanding…submit…He will direct my path….

Leaving home for outsourced biscuits and gravy (don’t judge), I ramble with God in the silent car:  I committed to share this surrender experiment.  I’m not sure I have much to say, God.  Is surrender acknowledging Your power?  I gratefully let go of any power I thought I had.  Really.  My body aches every day with this crazy clean out the house effort. It was all I could do to resist taking a muscle relaxer at 6am.  I can’t do that because I need these daylight hours…yes, I need You too.

Driving downhill sunshine flutters through leaves into the car.  I hear the words HERE NOW loudly in my ear/mind.  I recognize that phrase is a song title by Hillsong United that I haven’t heard in a while.  I sing some of the words:

Here now.

Cause I know that you are here now.

It makes no sense, but this is grace.

I know you are with me in this place….

I continue to sing.  My voice raises in worship.

And then it hits me.  I am overcome thinking and KNOWING that surrender brings God up close.  Our Higher Power is ever present.  When we surrender it is in those moments that we are in total closeness, togetherness, and in acknowledgement of God’s love.

Huh.  I’ll be chewing on that thought for a while.  What do you think?

Also, God is love therefore it should not surprise me the love I’ve felt both for God and for people in the last two days.  Random people:  The mother of a 3-year-old and 6-month-old at the laundromat, a pregnant cashier at Bob Evans, the man at Great Clips with a suicide prevention tattoo…and not so random:  my husband, sons and friends.  If you poke my arm heart emojis may float out of me.

Here is the verse for day 2 along with my surrender list continuation:

1 Peter 5:6-7 (NIV) Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

5.  I surrender my path.  God, take the lead.  I trust You know a better way.
6.  I surrender debt.  God, please clear the way to debt free living.  I hand over the mistakes made when we inaccurately counted the cost of what it would mean to live in the non-profit world with a corporate world house.
7.  I let go of fears related to ALS in our family.

Now back to sorting, trash bag gathering, and lugging items to Goodwill.

If you chose to join me, how is your surrender experiment going?  Am I on to something?  What are you discovering?

Sidebar:  Do you see a face in the clouds with the rainbow picture?

Love,

Glenna

 

SURRENDER – 3 day experiment, day 1

Happy 3-day weekend!  Here’s hoping you get 3 days off from work.  I know that is not the case for everyone.

I am writing to you from our local laundromat.  I have been a regular patron for about 7 weeks since our washing machine at home refuses to spin clothes at the end of a cycle.

One of my manuscripts that is looking for a publisher is about the topic of “surrender”.  Independent readers have said of the most recent draft that once they are deep into the story they don’t want it to end.  I take that as a good sign. 🤞

The manuscript file is saved, backed up and closed for now, but the topic of surrender still wanders around in my brain.  Do I understand the spiritual act of surrender?  Do I know how to surrender?  Just because I wrote an entire book about it does not mean that the answer to either of those questions is yes.

When I visualize surrender, I think of handing things to God.   I imagine release of what I try to control.  I see a road that is not nearly as difficult to navigate as my life feels many days.

For each of the next 3 days I will meditate over a verse and then make a list of what I surrender to God.  I have no idea what I will discover in this weekend of brain travel.  I would much rather be suitcase loaded and off on a physical adventure.

I sense this is a necessary experiment for me.  I may unlock discoveries.  We shall see.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)   Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will direct your path.  

  1.  I surrender my timing to God’s timing.
  2.  I give my thoughts away to be open to God’s thoughts.
  3.  I offer my heart to God.
  4.  I let go of my understanding of life and why I’m here.

Really, what do I know and what can I learn if I attempt to blank slate my brain and be open to divine direction?

You’re welcome to join me.  If you do, let me know how it goes!

I am writing key words from the verse above in my notebook to reflect upon throughout the day.

Scripture Spoke Louder

I find treasure each weekend as we prepare to move.  Most recently I discovered a 2-inch x 3-inch notebook from 1983.  The paper has yellowed.  The spiral wire feels rough like rust.  The pages are difficult to turn.

Inside are Bible verses from a time when I took every curly q of cursive writing seriously.  I was 11 years old in 1983.  My guess is that in Sunday School we wrote a verse or two each week.  The notebook is divided into Old Testament and New Testament sections, poetry, prophecy, and more.  I have no idea who my Sunday School teacher was for this weekly exercise, but he or she was wise.  What an excellent way to learn scripture.

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Almost every page contains Bible verses that have been with me nearly my whole life.  They reside not only in a dark corner of my basement moved from home to home but also in the foundation of my heart.

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Exodus 14:14, When adults have competing agendas and it is best to hold my tongue.

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Leviticus 19:4, When the boy broke my heart.  Uh, ok, boys.  Plural.  Worshiping another human is a trap often leading to disappointment.  I learned only God can “complete me”.

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Ruth 3:10, When I found strength in the fact that a gentle woman can still have power and grace.

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2 Samuel 22:4, When I trusted God to deliver me from less than nice people.  [Sidebar:  Have you heard that 1 in 25 people may be a functioning sociopath?  Check out a great book for more info:  The Sociopath Next Door.]

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Ecclesiastes 7:9, When I developed a slooooow fuse.  I don’t anger easily.  That is a blessing in my relationships.

Micah 7:7, When I feel scared or lonely and ask Jesus to wrap His arms around me as I go to sleep.

2 Corinthians 5:7, When I take healthy risks with hope for the best outcome.

John 3:16, When I maintain perspective on the greatest love story of all time.

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Mark 16:15, When I chose to write a Christian blog and Christian manuscript about freedom found in surrender.  Preach, sisters!

What scripture has spoken louder than your circumstances?  Is there a teacher you need to thank?  Or children in your life who will benefit from the time you take to build a notebook with them?

I am grateful for the caring adults who poured light into me even if it took 35 years for me to realize the lasting power of the wisdom they shared.

Glenna

#MeToo and the Christian Woman

Before I hit “send” on the type of email that 99.9999% of the time you should not send, I shared it first with my new boss.

Within minutes the office phone rang.  “Come see me please,” he said.

My boss looked me in the eye and expressed with stern lips, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“I’ve counted the cost.”  It’s a hill I’m willing to die on.

He nods, “Ok.  Good luck.”

I proceeded to send the email to the head of the company and Human Resources.

~~~

I’ve been asked a few times what I think about the #MeToo movement.  The experience I describe took place a long time ago, way before #MeToo.

Once upon a time I spent over a decade in the corporate world.  It was clear that some men abused power or said whatever crude thing they wanted with little consequence.  I wondered why I was told as an adolescent that girls can do anything we set our mind to do, but once I was in the business world somehow, I, a woman, often felt “less than” or “used” in some way.

There were many examples.  I entered a meeting where a client raised an eyebrow and said to the men with me, “Well, I’ll sign the contract since you brought this.”  I was a this?  One year I spent every work day at 5pm being critiqued by a boss for my performance beginning with how my hair, clothes, and makeup looked that day.  A year.  Every day.  He thought he was helping me function in a man’s world–that’s what he called his pacing and instructing while I sat wanting to go home.

I’ll spare you the long and varied list of inappropriate moments.  Not all men behaved this way.  Men who were spiritual or had a personal growth mindset were respectful.

~~~

Back to the email sent with no turning back.  Times were tricky.  An executive woman had been fired and then settled a lawsuit.  I knew those in charge were on edge.  I had asked for months to increase pay for my staff as well as provide equal pay for males and females.  My request had been dismissed multiple times.  It bothered me when females with similar qualifications were hired for less salary than a man for the same job.

So, I wrote key bullet points of concern and asked to meet with the head of the company and HR every Friday at 1pm for about 20 minutes.

“What do you want?!” The head of the company bellowed at the first meeting.  He had invited another male executive who was known to be threatening.  I knew first hand because he had threatened my family the year prior when I pointed out something else unethical.  Specifically, “It would be a shame if your boys grow up without a mother.”  The Holy Spirit reminded me of David and Goliath.  I wasn’t afraid.  The HR representative brought two pens and a yellow writing pad.

“I want to discuss an example or two each week of things that have been said or done that involve discrimination.  I believe our company can treat people better.  Twenty minutes each Friday should do it.  I believe we can work together for healthy change.”

“For how many Fridays?” his nostrils flared with suspicion.

“As long as it takes.”

And so, we began.  I brought weekly succinct topics or situations and explained why you can’t say this or that about women, or make fun of people in general, or discriminate against minorities–conscious or unconscious.

Outside of these meetings, a nervousness grew in the boardroom.  The leadership group said cursing was no longer permitted.  Jokes were shut down with side-eye looks before punchlines arrived.  My department’s pay raise was approved after six Fridays.

I think the men began wondering what in the world I planned to say next each week.  Eventually I offered an ending, “I think we’ve covered what needed to be said.”

HR put down her pen.  The threatening guy yawned.  The head of the company snorted relief.  We almost had become comfortable in the muck.

That was a time and place where I chose to go uphill alone after deciding I could accept potential negative repercussions.  One thing I like about #MeToo is that people are saying you are not alone when discrimination happens.

With or without such a movement, God gave us road maps in the Bible to address wrongs peacefully.  Actions are not to be taken lightly.  Here are steps I followed:

  • Consult scripture.  [Matthew 18:15-17,  Galatians 6:1]
  • Pray.
  • Go to the person directly.  I had with no progress.  That’s why I moved on to request the Friday meetings with HR present.
  • Seek wisdom and/or wise counsel.
  • Think about timing.  My guess was it was a time when the head of the company would listen to me whether he liked what I had to say or not.
  • Consider chain of command.  My new boss learned my intentions from me first.  I had reason to believe based on his professional behavior that he would be supportive.
  • Count the costs.  I remember thinking of the best and worst scenarios that could happen and accepted in advance that the outcome could be good, bad, or something I couldn’t imagine yet.

~~~

Down the road after the head of the company left the organization and later I had too, I saw him one more time.  He wanted me to work on a project with him.  I asked why would he want me to do that?  His answer, “Because you taught me about love.”

I didn’t see that coming.  But it made sense.  God is love.

Surrender ~ Noun & Verb

13350430_10154248049089508_2287349314446751966_oI had about 18 days to prepare for an Appalachian Trail section hike in 2016.  Everything on the outside of my body appeared like this was a bad idea.  I had not exercised much in the winter or spring that year.  Meanwhile, everything on the inside of my body screamed that this was not only a good idea but also the only idea.  I had to go.

Before departing the word “surrender” rolled around in my head and got my attention in multiple songs.  Surrender became my trail name and my goal.  I thought about the word a lot as our four-women team hiked.  The below picture is part of the trail.  It was rocky and tough terrain.  This path represents how my life felt at the time.  Our family was amid big changes and stress.  I grumbled to myself that the sharp and wobbly rocks were fitting as a metaphor for that year.
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I wrestled and searched my heart for ways to surrender to God’s will in my life.  I read that the word surrender can be a noun meaning the action of yielding or a verb meaning to cease resistance.  I knew I absolutely needed to submit both as a thing and a process.  My mind rolled around and through the definition as I prayed to God for answers.

And this is a picture of a portion of the hike where I felt solidly surrendered.  Whatever You want, God.  Whatever You want.  Show me.  Please.  Mostly what I heard back from our Higher Power was simply to take the next step, then the next, and repeat.  In the walking, I felt peace.  Hot, sweaty peace.  I would keep walking even if it meant I had to crawl eventually.

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Since returning from the trip I’ve continued to take next steps.  One of the steps was to write down the adventure of that week.  The trip provided so much humor and gut-wrenching self-reflection that I suspect others may glean something for their own journey while reading about it.

I’m still learning about the word surrender.  In 2018 the word has led me to a specific prayer.

Dear God,

Lead me.  I trust You to lead the way. 

And, I promise to do the work You ask of me. 

Amen

The manuscript and book proposal about the trip is written and I’m seeking representation to take even more steps.  We’ll see what happens.  In the waiting, I appreciate the following verses:

1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

2 Corinthians 12:9a NIV

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”…

And then the rest of that passage I struggle with:

2 Corinthians 12:9b-11 (NIV)

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Boast, really?  Ugh.

The NLV says “take pleasure in my weakness”.

The KJV says “glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

My personality teeter totters on the extrovert and introvert line.  This week a participant at a workshop I facilitated commented at the end, “Wow.  I have thought for two years you are super quiet, but you’re really not.”  I would say I try not to waste words.  [sidebar:  That was a great event by the way.  I will post the workshop guide in a different work blog soon.]

I have a hard time blogging sometimes because it feels “showy”.  I have matured enough now to know that I need to do what God has placed on my heart through skill, talent and calling.  I may not sign up to boast per se, but I can laugh at myself and give glory to God, allowing His power to work through my story in whatever way He leads.

I anticipate that you will hear more from me about the word surrender and the trip as the days ahead unfold.

God bless you,

Glenna