Military Mom

20190717_120253Of my many jobs and titles in life, one I didn’t anticipate began about three years ago when our son joined the Air Force. Or I could say four years ago if I count the year of paperwork and appointments that led up to him swearing in officially.

Since 1% of young people choose to be in the military that means there’s only about 1% of us momas inside the tornado of being a military mom also. The tornado involves support, concern, pride, and wondering how your child could be this brave, among other things.

There are private social media groups where I see posts from moms all over the USA updating the “club” with needs and requests. I find myself praying daily for someone somewhere.  A parent or grandparent is sick or a funeral is happening. A baby or a relationship needs divine intervention. The strained hearts over a countless number of miles is endless.

I am struck by how isolating it can be to be in the military and even in my small role as a military mom.

Our family figures out how to visit our son on a tiny budget. Some families never figure out the cost of travel to see a loved one.  We are blessed that our son has adapted well.  But for some in the service, they may struggle to adjust or to make friends and then lose those friends to deployment or a new duty station.

People say “that’s what they signed up for.” And of course they did, but no one really knows what it fully means until they live the life.

On our last visit, I saw several ferral cats that reminded me of the isolation. My heart hurt thinking of the lonely metaphor parallels.

 

The suicide rate is high in the military. It is easy to forget that when any service member is lost for any reason there is a ripple effect which impacts other people and families.

Whether in the military or not, much needs to be done in our nation as a whole to help people get help before it’s too late.

Would you pray with me for the mental health needs of both citizens and service members? Please encourage people in your life to seek support.

* It is ok to not be ok.

* Talking to a professional when you feel blue is a healthy choice.

* Offering to go with someone to an appointment (without judgement) can be helpful.

* Don’t ignore anything serious. Get help when you need it in order to help someone else or to help yourself.

* Don’t ignore gut feelings. Ask the hard questions so you know if someone is safe.

Signature GSE

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.

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.

See the source image

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

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?

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.

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

Wet Soil

I saw a grasshopper jump 6 feet Sunday.  Impressed, I measured to be sure.  Sometimes I just want to know.

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Thinking about my already stressed immune system, I pop an extra Flintstones vitamin.  It’s time to tackle the landscape while rain drizzles.

The ground is soft.  This is my best chance to rip out overgrown weeds.  Working wet soil is easier than working hard soil on a sunny day.  I accept that my clothes and shoes will become muddy.  I give thanks for consecutive hours to focus on yard work long overdue.

 

Crickets chirp for hours likely because it is so dark they think it is night time.  I double check online and sure enough crickets usually stick to nocturnal chirping.  Again, I wanted to know.

Digging literally into my work, I smile thinking that crickets may not know that even when it’s dark during the day, there is light on the other side of gloomy clouds.  Then I mental note rephrase light to be a capitalized L, Light to represent Jesus.  My speed remains steady.

Eventually I realize that if I am going to finish all that needs to be done, then I’m going to have to get on my knees.  There’s no avoiding the mud or muck.  I must get serious.  Kneeling reminds me to pray.

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Section by section and weed by weed, I become increasingly meditative and prayerful thinking about how if wet soil is easier for me, then how easy must wet soil be for God?  I consider how God uses our tears.  I pray in thanksgiving and surrender that God will use my tears for good.  Our family is in a season of change and pain.  There is good to be found on the the other side of the clouds.  The Light is always there.

I uncover a decorative rock that I haven’t seen in a while.  I nod to the sky as if to say, “Metaphoric show off, Lord…my Rock.”

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I’m in the deep end of the pool as my mind wanders.  Part of my thoughts skim along the idea of leaving the day job that I’ve done to positively impact the lives of children and families for 15 years.  The personal cost has been more than I imagined.  Maybe it’s time to quit.  I’m terrified to quit because I don’t want to disappoint God, and I truly adore my students and families.

Perhaps it was the earth and dirt that took my brain to a time that changed my life’s direction back in 1992.  A group of college students and ministers  (all guys from the states plus me and one other girl) dug dirt out of a foundation for a church in Mytishchi, Russia.  Then we began adding brick to raise the walls.  We were the first team of several teams to visit that location.  I never got to see in person the finished church.

I think about the dirt moved, the drunk local brick layers, and the many crumbling bricks I carried.  The Russian bricks were unlike anything I’d seen in the USA.  To follow are pictures from my 1992 scrapbook.

 

On my knees in my messy front yard God whispers to my soul that just as my hands were a small part in a physical foundation that carries on His work beyond the summer of 1992, my efforts for the last 15 years are also part of foundations in lives that I can not see.  His work carries on with or without me.  My job is to surrender to whatever is next, to be open to possibilities.

I search the Internet once in a while over the years but rarely see any structure that might be close to what we were building in Mytishchi.  I know from the scrapbook that this is a sketch the Russians had on the wall.  This was their goal during a time of limited building supplies.  I wondered back then how the rough red brick could become a white smooth surface.

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Then last night as I prepared this post, I found it.  I am certain.  To follow are pictures of a thriving 2018 church in Mytishchi, Russia.  I’m so pumped that it exists.  There’s even a few online pics of people, now 26 years older, I recognize.

 

Hi Peter!  Then and now:

 

My hands were a small part of a lasting foundation that I don’t get to see up close and I may never see in person.  I don’t get to know.  It’s not for me to always know.

Jeremiah 18:3-4 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

I surrender to whatever vessel God wants me to be next.

Meanwhile, the yard is looking much better!