Monday Thoughts

I have a love/hate relationship with the library.

I love the access to free books, free kid’s classes, the community there.

I may owe them 100000233333340004040404.00 dollars in overdue fees because I CANT EVER RETURN THINGS ON TIME.

And when I take my kid, she likes to play with the computer.

The COMPUTER.

Mine is the kid, at the library, filled with books, trying to get Dora to pop little bubbles floating across the freaking screen.

I read to my child.

Promise.

I’m conflicted in the rejoicing of this weather as I’m just waiting for my eyes to swell up like Golum and for my nose to be a perpetual Rudolph but so far, they haven’t.

My kid is currently sitting on the t.v. stand with her face pressed up against the screen, mouthing everything Mickey Mouse is saying.  Hot dog.  I’m an awesome parent.  I haven’t even fed her breakfast yet.  The idea of scrambling an egg screams, “too much effort”.  Wow.  I have serious Monday problems.

I pour over my little seedling packets like some women do their jewelry.  My husband turned over our garden yesterday and I’ve already had deep dreams about dangling cucumber vines, red current tomatoes and jeweled eggplants.  Come on.  My backyard may not be big enough to park a mini cooper, but I WILL GROW A GARDEN.  Rich had to talk me out of chickens.  For now, people.  For now.

Sometimes I fantasize about buying a whole block where all of my friends and family could live, so when my kid wakes up at 6 and wants to go blow bubbles outside before I’ve brushed my teeth all I’d have to do is open the door and tell her to find someone awake to play with.  Until I think about how weird and cultish it sounds.  I assure you, it’s purely for nothing other than selfish reasons.  No koolaid involved.

I’ve been walking around with this huge weighty responsibility that my kid can now grasp things of importance like the resurrection, social justice and the Gap Outlet sale.  AHHHHHHHHH.  How do I teach her all of these things?

My Wellies died this year.  They were perfect and yellow and there’s a hole so big in the sole that to keep them would be a defamation of their character.  My heart is deeply broken and I feel nearly adulterous that I’ve already fantasized about a new hunter green pair.  Too soon.  Too soon.

I have avoided buying jeans for going on two years and there is a tiny tear along the inseam.  If I don’t sit down, bend over or make any sudden movement, I am positive they will last another year.

I am unsure why I have not figured out a way to become independently wealthy.  I scratch my head with confusion every Monday.  After all the brainstorming effort I put into it, I really should have figured it out by now.

My kid has requested siblings.  Two of them, specifically.  One boy, one girl.  I told her I was not in charge of the decision making of what child comes to Earth to live with us.  She disagrees.  We are at a stalemate.  She is convinced I am holding out on her.

I wrote a check for pre-school this week.  That’s what people do.  They write checks for preschool and pay credit card bills and forget to get their car inspected when it was due in February.  FEBRUARY.  I should really get on that.

I am reading all of Willa Cather right now and I love her. The end.

Happy Monday!

 

 

Recovery

I’m not sure exactly how it happened.  I was drinking coffee one morning, and suddenly, I realized that I had forgotten who I was.  Just like that.  No forewarning of amnesia.  No tragic accident.  No post traumatic stress.  Just an overwhelming dread that I had misplaced my being and was unable to determine how to go about finding something that has no social security number.  I had become fearful in speech and in pen- terrified to send wrong messages, hurt someone’s feelings, cause controversy.  I didn’t want to be the voice who brought discord.  The face synonymous with upheaval.  In short, I became lost in thinking that my words were both more and less important than I thought they were and I allowed it to bridle me.  And so, they became less important by the omission of who I was, and thus, dull and lifeless rhetoric ensued filled with useless anecdotes and screen shots and phone conversations full of text that didn’t sound like me at all.  Because they weren’t.  Me. 

I think it happens to the best of us, when we have to sift through labels and sit on sidelines and pick teams, in the kindest and most destructive of ways.  We are often the first one we cut from own team, and courage failing, remain on the bench willingly, unknowing that there was nothing keeping us there, but, well, ourselves.   It’s just easier to stay out of the game.  See what I mean? When would I ever use a sports metaphor? But sitting out takes its toll.  It makes you forget that you were even a player at all.

And that is what happened, as I sipped my coffee ( a bit too dark, because I’m the one who made it instead of my husband this morning).  The realization of who I was hit me at exactly the same time the caffeine kicked in.  (And now you know why I’m writing at 7 am, on a Saturday morning).  A securing of footing, a breath of courage, a whisper of fortitude.

 I’ve remembered my position.

It’s time to play.

The Women I’m Reading

Since I’m no longer a public school teacher, I miss out on awesome things like pretending to pay attention in faculty meetings, lunch hour, and my favorite, Women’s History Month.  I used to make sure my kids would read all of the female authors that were notable and that the curriculum deemed unworthy.  It was my favorite part of the teaching year, with April for poetry Month right after.  Oh, but then there was Macbeth…….I digress.

In honor of the Women’s History Month that I overlooked and missed, for yet another year, I thought it might be fun to clue you in on some of the women bloggers I spend most of my time reading.  These women are as witty as they are, well, real.  They prove to me day in and day out that yes, of course, women’s voices are as valid and integral in matters of instruction, encouragement, theology, philosophy, hermeneutics and exegesis just as they are at sharing how to budget organic meal plans and organizing car pools.  I’m thankful they make it a priority to send out their thoughts into the deep internet abyss for floundering people like me.  

Here’s the List (in no particular order)

When I want to be challenged in my growth and encouraged to “work out my salvation”, I sit down with Carolyn Custis James to remember that I’m an “ezer”.  I always leave feeling empowered, ready to stand in the gap for those I’ve been called to and mostly, so glad God crafted me to be a woman.  Truly. (I’ve obsessively read her books as well, The Gospel of Ruth, Half the Church, and The Lost Women of the Bible. So. So. Good.)

I often hear my own thoughts reflected back to me through Rachel Held Evans .  I am brought to tears by her honestly, her desire to reach God through her doubt and searching, her longing to love others and her occasional confusion on how to marry that with the Bible she loves so well.  I love her bravery, and her heart and that she lays it all, good and bad, on the table.

When my soul feels broken and I need refreshment, encouragement and a giant dose of my reminder of the Prince of Peace, Ann Voskamp provides a depth and breadth of biblical knowledge and truth I’d be lost without.  Her words have brought me back from the ledge more times than I can count, simply because she allows Jesus to talk through her.  

When I need to learn not to take myself so seriously, that there’s grace for even screw-ups like me and throwing Motherhood into the mix, Kristen Howerton provides both the insight and the humor necessary to survive pre-school applications and Let It Go on repeat.

I resonate closely with Jen Hatmaker and applaud her strength and conviction for discussing the difficult, while exemplifying what the term, “truth in love” really, truly means.  Her blog is covered in grace and love but mostly, it’s about Jesus- the person and what he’s called us to do.  Love Him.  Love his people.  The End.  She does it well.

Lastly, though this collaboration has some men thrown in there, I wanted to share The Liturgists as we’re still in the Lenten season, and truly, I’ve found the liturgies to be most refreshing and beautiful.  God is the creator of all things, the Father of beauty.  It feels so wonderful to celebrate and meditate on that!  I’ll leave you with an excerpt:

Holy 
You oh God are Holy
Trees clap their hands for you
Oceans they dance for you
You are holy 

Oh the mystery of it all
I can never peer within 
I’ll never find the words or understand 
The fullness of a God
Become a man

Holy 
You oh God are Holy
Trees clap their hands for you
Oceans they dance for you

 

 

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The Next Step

As a Mom of an active three year old, I’ve been saying, “It’ll get easier” every year.  The first year of sleepless nights.  The second year of sleepless nights and beginning a new job.  The third year of incessant questions and the why and the energy and the tantrums and the discipline and the second guessing and the foul word coming out of your little’s mouth because you stubbed your toe that morning and it may or may not have slipped out and now she has something new she’d like to teach everyone in the long line at Shoprite.  Every year, there is a continuous, anxious stream of consciousness-

Is she breathing?

Is she hungry?

Why is she crying?

Do I get her outside enough?

Were those carrots organic?

Where did she get that cup from?

Is she sick?

Did she kiss that kid with the snot running down her face?

Am I acting in grace or anger?

Do I pray enough about discipline?

Do I discipline her appropriately?

Do I say no more than I say yes?

Do I ignore her to pursue my own goals?

Will I regret this?

Is she getting enough stimulation?

Is she learning?

Should she go to school now, or wait?

Public or private?

Can we afford it?

Will she hate me?????????

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.  No wonder I need a bath and a glass of wine every night.  This parenting thing never gets easier, much as I’d like to perpetuate the lie.  And it always seems like there’s a barrage of social media Mamas who’ve got it all down.  Oh, look at my 365 days of healthy lunches I pack for my child every morning with a darling note inside while I darn socks and knit them new sweaters that they would actually wear.  I’m not knocking them, truly.  I think that’s incredible.  I just have to remind myself that I am not them, that Ellie is not their child, and how we do things is exactly what needs doing for our family.

We’re entering into a new season of kid-dom at our house.  El’s not a baby anymore.  She’d like to be a ballerina or a farmer when she grows up, when I tell her she can’t have ice cream before dinner she tells me, “That’s a-fortunate”, she loves playing with her friends and suddenly, I find myself with a little more time.  Thanks for sticking with us through our transitions, and here’s to a year full of different material.

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Summer Vacations

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It’s that time of year again.  In the U.S., on the east coast, April is just a big tease.  The calendar says it’s spring, but the weather tells us otherwise.  We’re all holding our breath until the warmer weather rolls around so our (cabin-fevered) kids can get outside.  But, until then, my husband and I have made it a practice to dream/plan/drool over our summer vacation plans to get us through the fog (literally).  I know we’re not alone.  The thing is, dreaming about summer vacation is always a little bit different with kiddos in the mix.  So, in the spirit of hopeful spring-dom and holding out for the summer vacation, I collaborated with the talented Kendra Thornton to provide you with a few tips to ensure that your family vaca is as happy and healthy as possible, whether you’re flying away somewhere tropical or taking a family road trip.  It’s working.  I think I see a crocus already.

Tips for a Healthy Family Vacation-Kendra Thornton

Staying fit takes effort. At home, I help my family by keeping the kids involved in sports and serving healthy meals and snacks. On family vacation, the same rules apply, but it can be tricky to keep up with a healthy routine. Here are a few tips I use to keep my family healthy and happy when we travel:

 1. Drink Water

Drinking enough water is always important. On vacation, a family needs to make double sure they drink enough. Outdoor activities, especially on hot summer days, can cause dehydration, and not drinking enough water can also play a part in heat-related illness. My family always brings along water bottles. If we have a big outing in the sun planned, I often chill the full water bottles so that we have something cold to sip on throughout the day.

 2. Use Fitness Amenities

Hotels today are offering more fitness amenities. I always look for a place with a well-equipped gym when booking a family vacation. Some hotels also have running trails for guests and available bike rentals. Pick a hotel that offers fitness amenities your family will use. I did this for an upcoming trip to Orlando. There are so many hotels in Orlando so using sites like Gogobot where you can read user reviews can be really helpful.

 3. Plan Active Events

As a family, we plan to be active on vacation. We often enjoy playing sports together. Many vacation spots have places where you can play classic, active games like volleyball, badminton, basketball, tennis or shuffleboard. If you visit a beach, pick up some Nerf items to play with during your stay. You probably won’t do your usual workout during your trip, but you can certainly get your exercise.

 4. Eat Carefully

There are always buffets around for a family to enjoy on vacation. Enjoy them with care. I make sure that my plate is half-full of delicious vegetables before loading up with other foods. If you choose to indulge in rich, high-calorie foods, make the next meal a lighter, healthier one. You don’t have to go without to make healthy choices even at restaurants.

 

As a mom, I work hard to keep my family fit and healthy. These tricks help my family stay healthy and truly enjoy our vacations together. I hope this gives you some ideas to implement on your next vacation.

 

 Family Road Trips 101- Jenny Shannon

Our family looks forward to our yearly summer vacation at the lake, but we know how easily things can go downhill if we’re unprepared. Here are a few tips to ensure your family’s vacation is the happy, healthy and restful get-away it’s intended to be.            Traveling with children can be precarious if you let it. Whether traveling in the car, train or plane, we always make “Vacation Bags” for our daughter to open on the way. They could be filled with small activities like crossword puzzles, coloring pages, new crayons (washable, of course) stickers, snacks, a new book, a journal or small box to put keepsakes in from the trip, etc. It’s exciting to open, it keeps them occupied, and it’s less reliance on the electronics synonymous with long trips. I always like to see her face without a screen-glow in the backseat.

            If you’re traveling in a car with kids, I always suggest keeping travel time to a three hour maximum. Stop every three hours, get out and stretch, use the bathroom. Do a little research before hand to see if there’s a historical site, museum or amusement park at the three hour mark. If there is none, stop at a rest stop and make the most of it. We always keep a wiffle bat and ball, a soccer ball or some other outdoor activity in the trunk of the car for exactly these rest-stop purposes. Kids need to expend their energy in order for them to rest when you get to your final destination, it gives them benchmarks to check off (only one more rest-stop break before we get there!) without asking when they’re going to get there every three minutes, and it’s good for you, too. Just make allowances for the extra time you’ll need.

 

            Food on the run is rarely nourishing. When we travel, we always bring staple snacks that will sustain us. Fruit such as apples, bananas, avocadoes, oranges and pears require no refrigeration and are a quick and easy fix to satisfy hunger or to supplement nutrition where it might be lacking. Carrot sticks can last fairly long without refrigeration as well. I often make a large batch of these granola bars before a big trip, and they’re always a big hit. (I use dried coconut, dried tart cherries, slivered almonds and mini chocolate chips). A jar of any nut butter goes a long way (we prefer almond or natural peanut) but for those with nut allergies, sunflower seed butter is just as tasty. If you’re traveling by car and have room for a cooler, I always pack yogurt, hummus, sliced veggies and sliced cheese and crackers. This eliminates the need to go out to eat as soon as you reach your vacation destination.

 

            Being on vacation doesn’t mean that I stop caring about my family’s physical health or nourishment. By taking care of a few things before hand, I can ensure maximum vacation enjoyment. Hope you can, too!

 

Hope these are helpful as we struggle along the next few months to get to summer!

 

Don’t Mix the Play doh and Other Idiot Parental Moves I’ve Made

It’s the day after my little one’s monumental third birthday bash, and truth be told, I’m a little overcome.  It was a beautiful outpouring of people who love her filled with the things that her life revolves around right now: her friends and family, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and carrots with hummus, pink princesses and pirates, and a ridiculous amount of play doh.  But I’m no talking about that today.  I’m talking about the fact that I was awoken by a little blonde head donning a princess crown and roller skates inquiring, 

“Can we play with play doh, Mom?”

And my sleepy, not-yet-had-coffee answer was a resounding,

“Not yet.”

Every year on El’s birthday, I have chosen one thing specifically to pray for her for.  The day she was born, Rich and I prayed that she would be a fearless little warrior.  We may have overdone that one.  On her first birthday, we prayed that she would learn that night time was a beautiful time for rest.  And though we still struggle with this one, she is so much better than that those first two years and we are nothing short of thankful for all of you who prayed for us as well.  Last year, we prayed for opportunities for her to grow and learn and she took swimming lessons and gym lessons and started going to “big girl” Sunday school and play dates with her friends.  But this year, as I reflected on what I can pray for her for, I heard my own voice echo in my head.

“Give me a minute.”

“In just a second.”

“Not right now.”

“Maybe later.”

“Tomorrow.”

“No.”

“Don’t touch.”

“Don’t go there.”

“Don’t do that.”

“No.”

If you were to sum up my dialogue with my daughter, these phrases would make up the majority.  True, she’s three and it is prime time for discipline as they really are the little sponges everyone warns you about, but matters of discipline aren’t really what I’m talking about.  I say no to jumping in puddles because I don”t want to clean the clothes.  I say no to going to the park because it’s cold, and truth be told, sometimes I’m too lazy to chase her around.  I say no to having friends over or reading a book because I’m too tired.  I yell when she gets food on her clothes, when she can’t focus on what I’m saying, when she won’t say thank you.  I hate play doh and it kills me when she mixes the colors.  Or breaks her crayons.  

I am a “no” machine.

But I don’t want to be.  The reason why I’m saying no to all of those things above has everything to do with ME and nothing to do with her. 

She should jump in puddles-it’s fun.  She should play with her friends and wear her nightgown to church if she wants to.  And heels with everything.  Cake for breakfast every once in a while is not going to kill her.  And let her mix the damn play doh.  Does it matter, really? She should roll around in the dirt and go to the zoo in the snow and watch the same video over and over again because it’s her favorite and the fact that if I hear that song again one more time I’m going to sc

I’ll continue to pray for my girl as she grows, but this year, my prayer for her is one for me.  That I say yes more than I say no.  That both stand alone and with strength so that she knows what is important and what is not.  

So, when she asked me again (after two cups of coffee) I put on my happiest face and set up the play doh ice cream factory she got for her birthday all over the dining room table.  I even made a cone or two.  Pink and yellow swirl.

Progress.

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Seasons and Turning North

It’s a little less than desirable out today.  My kid actually cried when she woke up and saw the rainy mess. Winter has always been my favorite season, with it’s wonderland-like quality, hot cocoa and snuggles.  But this year, I felt it in my bones long before the Christmas season was over.  I am ready for something new.  

It’s an odd feeling- this restlessness with nature, unsettled in my environmental season and the season of life I’m in.  I’ve even resented that term. Season.  Heard in phrases, clips of advice, supposed encouragement.  It’s just the season of life you’re in. Seasons can last a wicked long time, you know? Like this endless winter we’re in…… what do I do in the interim? How do I ride out this “season” with grace?  

This season in our family is an interesting one.  I’ve needed to go back to work.  Rich has worked overtime.  I am trying to be the present Mama for our little one in the morning hours but find juggling the pieces of myself exhausting at times.  And then there is the wife-me, who wants to be available and engaged and the friend-me who wants to maintain relationships, and the professional-me who wants to do a good job and the creative-me and the intellect-me and the physical-me who are screaming out with neglect.  This is just a season.  But who knows how long a season will last? People have given up on hope during their seasons and have wandered for 40 years in the desert.  I don’t want to wander.  I want to make this season count.

Deuteronomy 2:3 has popped up all over my life the last two weeks.  In my quiet time, in time spent with friends, on my newsfeed.  “You have circled this mountain long enough.  Now, turn North.”

Like I don’t have enough mountains in my life.  Which one was He talking about? Which aspect of my life is He calling me to leave behind, to seek out something new? Could it be a command to leave something behind? 

It wasn’t at all what I had hoped it would be.  I longed to hear from God about a specific direction, a lead one way or the other. What is the mountain?????

Me.

I am the mountain.

All of my thoughts, all of my struggles, all of my stress.  I’ve made this season all about me.  Even in writing, it’s plain.  I’ve used the word me more than anything else.  If I am constantly focused on myself, I keep walking in circles.  I miss Him entirely.  But, if I turn North…..

It may be just a season.  It doesn’t really matter.  I’m leaving it behind and turning North.  I’m fixing my eyes on the heavens.  I’m going to stop walking in circles and trust that He knows better.

 

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Dryer Sheets are from the Devil, and other Tuesday Morning Thoughts

The mystery of the insanely itchy, bizarre rash is solved: Shoprite brand, fake lavender scented dryer sheets are the devil’s work.  I’m highly allergic.  HIGHLY. Good to know.

I am tormented all day with plans for our garden this year since the daylight is stretching out into the later hours.  Tormented.  Snap peas or asparagus? Wild flowers or a potted meyer lemon?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? I can’t decide.

Rich and I have been fantasizing about moving to Portsmouth, NH.  Ocean? Check.  Lakes? Check.  Mountains? Check.  City? Check.  Country? Check. Good schools? Check.  Lower taxes? Check. Good breweries? Check, check.  Only three and half hours away from family? Check.  AHHHHHHHHH.  I love my house, I love my family, I love my friends.  But sometimes, we just want to high-tail it out of the good old tri-state area and find out what it might be like not to live under CONSTANT FINANCIAL PRESSURE AND ANXIETY AND BREATHE CLEAN AIR AND HAVE A BACKYARD THAT ACTUALLY HAS GRASS.  You know?

I have already had four cups of coffee this morning and a nutritious breakfast of graham crackers and peanut butter.  My kid has painted our television with her french toast.

I’ve devoured all of Carolyn Custis James’ books in the last two weeks.  I think she’s a rockstar and I want to be her.  Well, I want to be me.  But smarter. Like her.

I’m having a serious identity crisis, which I’m blaming on my 31st birthday.  Since, my 30th was wonderful and not terrifying at all, I think I saved up all anxiety about growing older for THIS birthday.  What am I going to do with my life ?!?!?!?!?!

I’ve been asked more than three times in the last two weeks if I’d ever return to the classroom.  Let me give you the unabridged version:

No.

If sushi was offered to me for breakfast, I would eat it.

My daughter is tall and says things like, “A-fortunately” and is acting too much like a child instead of a baby and I’m actually not sure at all how I feel about it.

My count it all Joy thought today: I am sooooo thankful that I don’t have to work until the afternoon so I can still sit in my pajamas at 9:50 am.

Amen.

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Count it all Joy:

I’m in no mood for a list of things I’m thankful for.  I’ve been having a strange allergic reaction to something environmental or internal that has resulted in an awesome rash around my neck and arms, and under my chin.  Perfect. I had to to take Benedryl as soon as I woke up which caused me to drunkenly stumble into the kitchen to pour coffee down my throat while my kid’s eyeballs are glued to Sofia the First.

Thank you, Disney.  Thank you.

Buuuuut, I promised to try and count it all Joy for Lent. So, here it goes.

Last night as our little family snuggled in bed, Rich and I were chatting softly as Ellie tried to get our attention.  We kept talking until we were finished before directing our attention to her.  When we acknowledged her and asked what she wanted she rolled her eyes and said,

“I been calling you! You guys are toooooooooooooo in love.”

We’ve been called worse, that’s for sure:)

Hopefully this will always be the memory she has of her parents.  Happy Monday.

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Lent and The Count it all Joy Project

My faith community doesn’t really actively participate in the Lenten tradition.  Growing up, I thought it was just an awesome weight loss tactic- I mean, if you give up chocolate or soda on your own it’s hard to be accountable but if you give it up for JESUS and you cheat, you’re screwed for sure. Right?  I watched kids pass on the cheeseburgers in the cafeteria on Fridays and truly, felt a little left out about the whole thing.  Why didn’t we give up anything for Lent?

Lent in a nutshell is practiced in order to honor Christ’s suffering in the wilderness; to better grasp the beauty of resurrection.  The idea is to give up something important to you, something that you have allowed to define your person in order to realign yourself with Christ’s story, his suffering, and HIS identity.  I have always half-heartedly participated.  This year, I am IN IT.

I’ve heard people often muse how, if Jesus is really as good as we say He is, why are all of his followers so miserable? It’s one thing to be unhappy and quite another to be joyless.  In fact, if I really believe what I say I do, it is impossible to be joyless.  It should be hardwired in our DNA.  And yet, I find myself wallowing in anxiety, depression, loneliness, angst, and other turmoil simply because life didn’t turn out as I expected.  Where is my Joy?  I believe God is good, that He will work through all circumstances for His glory, that I am His, that He will never leave me, that He has a plan for me to prosper and not to harm me, that He means for me to rest, to live in community, to love.  But if I were to ask any of my friends what some of my shining attributes are, I know for a fact not one of them would put, “joyful” on the list.  

That sucks.

So, I am an active participant in the Lenten tradition this year in order to remember.  Who I am in Him, what His promises are and to celebrate His triumphal return.  

What am I giving up?

That’s the tricky part.  

For the entirety of this season, I am giving up hopelessness.  I’m giving up worry.  I’m giving up fear.  For the next forty days I will wake up every morning, repeating, “Count it all JOY….”

I am embracing Joy today.  The only way to do that is to recognize who Christ is and who I am in Him.  Every Day.  

I’ll be updating here regularly to let you know how it’s going.  I’m already positive it’s not going to be easy.  I have a list a mile long of things that need to be planned, scheduled, prepared for during the entire month of March into April.  It’s enough to make my skin crawl.  (Although, I do have a pretty bad viral infection accompanied by a rash, so that might be the cause of the skin crawling thing.) But I am also pretty determined.  Christ died so that we might live- and live abundantly.  In the peace and glory of His presence, in the knowledge of His saving grace.  If I walk with those things every day, it would be impossible to be joyless.  

Walk it with me, this year?

Yeah, sure, you can give up Dove’s Ice Cream Bars. Again.  

But maybe try something different this year?

Something transformative?

Something life giving?

Count it all Joy. 

 

 

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