Stay Tuned…

For awhile now, I’ve been thinking about how I can make this blog more focused and intentional. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to encourage, but my process has always been to just post something when I feel like it…or when a random thought runs through my mind. There is nothing wrong with that, but I want to think about it and pray about…and it may take several weeks. Meanwhile, I will take a break from posting.

Who knows, I may return with improvements…or I may return and continue to be random. LOL

Until the next post in a couple of months, feel free to check out the old posts via the Categories or Archives. I know we have some newcomers in just the last month, so it’s the perfect time to catch up! Thank you for choosing to come here to read and be encouraged. I hope when I get this sorted out you will continue to visit and read on.

Stay safe and be well. 🙂

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Photo by Jacki Drexler on Unsplash

Patient Grace

Gratitude overwhelms me. Sincere, amazed gratitude. Humbling gratitude. The kind that causes me to weep with thanksgiving over my eggs and toast at the breakfast table while I try, ineptly, to explain how grateful I am to be loved by God. The kind that doesn’t come often enough. How moved I am to remember the point in time leading up to when Jesus rescued me. And how He rescues me still.

How could I ever forget that? Has He been patiently waiting for me to recognize all that I’ve missed the mark on lately? Thank you, Lord, for showing me once again. May I never lose sight of You.

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As I approach the autumn of my life,

When I long to hold on to the summer of my existence

To remain…to explore…to inspire…to love…

When spring is what I long to return to—

Back when all things were blossoming and new—

I find now that I have no choice, really,

Than to drop the phone, to close the screen,

To take the time to reflect upon all that led me here…

To this moment in my years, to read His words of grace once more

And fall to my knees, breathless, as I remember how unworthy I was…am…

But it is by His grace I have been saved through faith in Christ alone–

It’s nothing I earned; it’s all a gift….

A wondrous, humbling offering of Love—

Not demanded, not deserved.

Despite my wretchedness, still I am loved…

For who I was, for who I am, for who I will become.

And who am I, to gain such a gift?

How glad I am in knowing

That even if I cannot adequately express to anyone

The love and thankfulness I feel for my Redeemer,

God can decode every single grapheme of gratitude

Etched across the memoir of my heart.

And that is all I need,

As this heart still beats, rejoicing.

For neither autumn, nor summer, nor spring,

Nor even the winter of my life, when it debuts, too,

Can outdo the agenda of God and the glories of Heaven.

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“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” -Ephesians 2:8-9

Photo by Dominika Roseclay from Pexels

More Dancing, Please

You know that saying, “Dance like no one is watching”? Literally, right now no one is watching. I know this because I pretty much danced the whole way home during The Walk Up the Hill today, and not a single quarantined soul saw me. I think.

But you know what? At this point, I really don’t care if they did.

I’ve been frustrated, stressed out, sad, and missing life as it was before the world turned upside down. I’m always trying to look on the bright side, but some days it’s just a hard battle no matter how sunny you are. Life gets that way.

One of the things that has helped these past few weeks are our walks. We head out when all is still, the crickets tuning up for their evening chorus…the light breeze chilly enough for long sleeves. I often watch my husband and try to figure out what’s on his mind as he treks a few hundred yards ahead of me.

I know he misses golf. He doesn’t talk about the loss of his stress-relieving pastime, but I can tell by the way he sometimes skips the sidewalk in the narrow park and marches through the cool, thick grass alongside it…as if pretending he’s once again heading down his Sunday fairway, toward the green. Our happy yellow dog trots right beside him. Nothing’s changed for the dog. Except she’s getting more walks now, so all is right in her world.

But nothing feels right in mine. Unless I take the time to really think on what I can be thankful for. Unless I have the pleasure of being stopped by a friendly neighbor on my way to the mailbox, and we have a longer than usual six-feet-apart chat in real life. Real life! No screens or miles between us. Unless I find myself tutoring a smiley student or two in a video conference while clutching my Christmas gift teacher mug that says “Best Teacher Ever” and is full of my homemade chai tea latte, which makes me feel like I am almost holding a Starbucks in my hand and almost in my classroom. Almost.

We say we are safe in our homes, we say we are doing our part to save lives, we say things could be worse–how dare we complain–but the reality is that our community is distanced, our activities are no longer scheduled, and that takes a very real toll on our emotions.

I am not a runner, but tonight I wanted to break into a full sprint. I didn’t want to hurt myself, so instead…I danced. I didn’t care if I looked like a fool. But no one was watching anyway.  And it helped that is was nearly dark. The streets were silent, with no cars passing by on the newly paved road…the houses were all tucked away with their people, as if calling it an early night and heading to bed. The sun had barely settled in itself. Not even my husband who was ahead of me knew that I was groovin’.

The walking is good for us. The fresh air is an amazing feeling when you’ve been stuck to a computer screen for hours all day. And it is when I walk that I start to forget all of my struggles and all of my worries. It is when I begin to brainstorm creative ideas….it is when I begin to daydream of better days.

The walking is good, but the dancing is better. Dancing is like a gift to the stars, as they show up to their cozy, indigo theater seats one by one. Dancing is a better representation of your soul rather than simply plodding along with one foot in front of the other. When life feels grim, it’s the music that has the power to unlock your tension which begins the life-giving movement and fills your body with new energy and delight. It’s in the dance that we discover the freedom to feel.

My walk didn’t start out that way. I was as grumpy as a bear woken up out of an early hibernation when we first set out. But about halfway through (I’m sure there’s some science in this having to do with endorphins or something), a new song came on through my earbuds and I rebelliously decided to smile and bust a move right there on the sidewalk in front of an audience of none.

By the time I got home, my frown had disappeared and I felt a little closer to content than I had all day.

So I’m going to try to remember this dancing day. And I might just do more of it.

But don’t tell anyone.

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Photo by Josh Willink from Pexels

 

Keep Going

You. The one who keeps trying, even when things get hard? This one’s for you.

Totally impressed am I when you keep showing up and persevering. When so many other people are convinced they can’t, you say,  “Well, hang on a minute…maybe I can.”

When I was in high school, my grades were not what my mom wanted them to be. One evening after she came home from work, she came into my room with a box and said, “This is what you’re doing this weekend. And you’re taking notes.”

A feeling of dread washed over me as I glanced from her face, tight with determination, to the box that lay on my bed. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what was inside.

“Notes?” I stammered. I couldn’t be bothered with those back then. When I sat in the classroom each day, my mind was filled with daydreams of the New Kids on the Block. Who had time for notes?

I took my headphones off and set my Walkman on the mauve and forest green floral bedspread. Lifting the brown cardboard flaps, I peered cautiously into the box.

When I looked back up, eyes like steel were waiting for my reaction. Stifling my groan, I knew better than to argue. So I sighed and agreed that in the morning I would start watching the entire VHS series of Where There’s a Will There’s an “A”…a seminar on how to take notes and get good grades.

Good grief. 

That series wasn’t a miracle in the making. I’m not sure my mom got a good return on her investment. Okay, wait, I need to be nice to myself. I did complete college…eventually. 

The one thing I do remember about that punishment is the title on those tapes. That alone ended up being very valuable to me because, even now, while there might not always be an “A” in the outcome of things, I do believe that, as the old saying goes, where there’s a will there will often be a way. A way through that difficult thing. The first step is to try. And the next step is to keep trying. Until it gets done.

That weekend in high school wasn’t my only experience of not being allowed to quit trying my best. I’ve had to pick myself up and keep going many times, even while dealing with parts of my life that were just. plain. hard. Things haven’t always been roses and fairy tales. I wasn’t allowed to give up, so I get a little peeved sometimes when others do.

Of course, there are always exceptions, and I have no idea what it is like to live someone else’s life.

On the flip side, I can’t stand if someone judges me when they haven’t walked in my shoes. Everyone has a different level of tolerance, a different history, and a different set of capabilities. I am not unsympathetic to that. There are still times when I give up, too.

There are those of us who have also had to work really hard to change our beliefs about ourselves, so that we can move forward and persevere to the best of our ability. None of us are perfect, nor will we ever be. Once we realize that, the trying gets easier.

So tonight, before I go to bed and dream of New Kids on the Block the vacation my husband and I will get to take once the COVID-19 quarantine has been lifted, I just want to say to those of you who see tough things to tackle yet you don’t back down from them…Bravo. 🙂

Seriously. I am so inspired by you. By all of you who might be shakin’ in your boots and want to throw up your hands and say, “Forget. This.”, but you keep going. It might be pain you have to deal with, it might be low confidence, it might be trying to understand or do something you have never done before. Yet….you get it done.

Rest is good. Reviewing our options is great. Reconsidering our negative thoughts is even better.

At the end of the day, if we’ve tried our best and have done all we can, we can go to sleep with a sense of pride and accomplishment which is worth putting one foot in front of the other every single time.

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Make Room for Joy

I know you had a rough day today. You’ve been trying so hard to stay positive, and that takes a lot of energy. Sometimes we get determined, though, to retreat our little turtle heads inside of our little turtle shells, and no matter how much knocking goes on to try to get us to come out, we just. don’t. want to—-Right? I’ve had days like that, too.

But I can’t to go to sleep tonight until I share with you this…

It will pass, that heavy thing. Some way, somehow…it will.

That great big world out there is waiting patiently for you to discover its brilliance once again. Those cotton candy clouds and that radiant shining sun that you loved to watch? They’ll be there for you when you’re ready.

Sometimes we feel imprisoned by what we feel we can’t do, but we are not prisoners. We have so much to be thankful for…a roof, water, heat, technology, books, memories…the ability to breathe. Even for those who may not have a backyard or a window to open, even for those who may not be able to go for a walk…nothing can incarcerate the imagination…nothing can snatch hope away…unless we let it.

Don’t let it. 

Create! Innovate! Choose to look for the good. You have a mind that can be original and smart, so use it. Look around and see all that is there for you. Look, and see the gifts you’ve been given. Give in to gratitude, and hang on tightly to hope.

Hope does not disappoint.

Unless you let it disappoint you.

Don’t let  it. 

You are stronger than that. You can do hard things. We can have our moments of sadness, and we will have journeys with grief riding along in our pockets. There’s room for that. But Joy is where the power lies, so let’s make even more room for that.

Hold on.

And I’m going to knock on that shell just one more time to say…watch Some Good News. 🙂 It just might help turn that frown upside down.

 

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Easter At Home: Rejoice!

Today, I’ve got a list of 7 things you can do at home to celebrate Easter, and even some things for the kids! 🙂

If you’re worried or sad about not being able to go to church this weekend, I understand. But remember this:

God is with us wherever we are.

You may be depressed that your egg hunt won’t be the same, or that you may not wear that special Easter dress to mark the occasion. Instead, we’ll be watching church through our computer screens and singing worship songs in our living rooms, which will be very…different. Just remember, God loves you no matter what you are wearing and He is excited that you’re celebrating his son Jesus no matter where you may be.

God is with us wherever we go.

Church is important to Christians. Absolutely. It’s where we go to worship together as a body of believers, where we learn more about what the Bible says, and where we go to be supportive of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  But in times like these, during the COVID-19 crisis, do not fret because we can’t be there together in the same room right now. We can worship God and praise Him at any time, from any place.

I can say with confidence that He knows exactly what is going on in our world, and He understands why our Easter won’t look the way we are used to.

We needn’t worry because…He is with us wherever we go.

So while you’re at home on Easter Sunday…rejoice as you normally would, in your heart and with your soul. We humans like to keep to our traditions as much as possible, though, so if you need some ideas of how to celebrate Easter without leaving your home, I’ve got a list for you.

Here are 7 things you can do to celebrate Easter from home:

#1) Read the Easter passage in the Bible. It can be found in Matthew 28:1-20, Mark 16:1-20, Luke 24:1-53, or John 20:1-31 .To read or listen to these passages, click on the name of the book in red that you’d like to go to. Better still, go back a little further or read the whole book of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John for the entire account of Jesus’s life on earth, including the time when Jesus died on the cross three days before Easter.

#2) Pray to God, thanking Him for Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 6:23. If you haven’t yet done so, ask Jesus into your heart and believe in Him, as He is the only way to eternal life.  Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” -John 14:16.

#3) Pray for your loved ones, your community, your country, the world…and anything else that might be burdening your heart today.  Wow. We have a lot to pray for these days. Many people out there need our prayers. Beyond thanking and praising God, praying is a means to communicate with Him….asking for wisdom, comfort, healing, or specific needs. Sometimes you don’t know the words to say, but God hears your heart. He knows what you need.

#4) Sing!

  • Click here for Good Housekeeping’s list of 20 Best Easter Songs–Worship Music for Easter Sunday

#5) For the kids 🙂 :

#6) Easter meal ideas….click here for 87 of them from Country Living.

#7) Watch an Easter service online. If you need some links for that, here is one for South Valley Community Church and here is one for Twin Lakes Church, both in California but can be viewed anywhere.

Have a blessed Easter! Stay safe, be well, and fear not. God is with us….always.

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“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9

Let’s Take the Time to Say Thank You

How do you feel when someone tells you thank you? Usually, you feel good, right? A warm glow blossoms inside of you, and you’re pleased that you were able to help someone. Some of us are humble and feel funny when we’re told thank you, but don’t let that stop you from doing the right thing. People need your kindness, so keep at it. 🙂

On the flip side, the world needs the thankers, too. I realized this today when the pest control service technician stopped by our house for his regular service call. My crazy, yellow lab puppy was loose in the house and trying like a wild monkey to get out the front door when I opened it. Because of the shelter in place and social distancing that is in effect, the technician stood a safe distance away, but because of the dog I held the door open a crack and talked through two inches of space. I didn’t even see his face.

He was very polite and friendly, as always. Because of the unusual times, I got to thinking as I closed the door that his day must be pretty lonely. I imagined him driving from house to house, not encountering many friendly smiles (or any faces at all) as people are likely not even opening their doors during this time.

At one point during his service call, I saw out the window that this young man, who looked like he was just starting out in the working world, stopped for a moment on our ghost town of a street and made an effort to greet a little gray and white striped neighborhood cat. She is always making her rounds in our court, looking for a warm car to hide under or a black bird to chase. I’m not sure who she belongs to, but she looks like she could use a friend.

The cat stopped and faced him, and when he spoke to her she swished her long tail back and forth, a friendly little flag that seemed to say, “Good morning to you, too”. The tech took a few more steps forward and knelt down and leaned his arm out a bit. I watched as the cat inched forward cautiously, and then she moved just a little bit closer until they finally connected. She let him pet her, and he took his time doing so. It seemed this little act brought him some joy and even a little peace. You know how you can just tell sometimes? I could just tell, even from a distance.

When they finally parted, she sashayed over to another house and the technician finished up his job then left on his way to another house, as well. I was glad that little cat was able to give him some connection today, a little something to put a smile on his face in these strange and lonely weeks.

After he left, I recalled how many years we’ve had pest control service from this company, and how each technician we’ve had over the years has always been very polite, professional, and friendly. I was so glad for their sake that they have the kind of job that would allow them to keep working during the COVID-19 pandemic. And I thought about how, in typical times before the shelter in place, I would be so hurried that I would barely say hello or often missed their service call altogether because of my own work hours or crazy busy schedule.

So I picked up my phone and sent an email to the company, mentioning the technician’s name and telling them he did a great job and that I just wanted to say thank you. It took maybe three minutes. Three minutes that I couldn’t seem to spare in the last fourteen years.

Later in the day, I received an email back from a customer service representative. They were over the moon and thrilled that they received some kind words today. They couldn’t wait to forward my email to their supervisors and to the technician so that he would get the credit he deserved. Can you imagine, working in customer service? I bet it is a department that gets nothing but complaints and requests and little thanks is probably given. I think, in the future, I will take the three minutes it takes to send a nice email once in awhile, even after we are done sheltering in place.

People need to be recognized. They need to know they matter. We have the power to help our fellow human beings by recognizing them, applauding them, and thanking them whenever it’s due. I know many of you already do this. It was good for me to be reminded of it today.

I tell this story not to applaud myself for doing something kind, but to hopefully encourage anyone who is reading this (including myself) to take a little extra time to think of who might be out there doing something good or doing something right who could be thanked…and maybe hasn’t been thanked in awhile.

There are a lot of essential workers being thanked right now. They are amazing, and have always been essential. It’s nice to see that they are no longer being taken for granted. Many heartfelt thanks to all of them. If you, like me, are also looking for someone to thank, that’d be a good place for us to start.

Thank you for your time today.

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Some Good Stuff

Well, here’s some more good stuff for you today! Thanks to Facebook friends, some of these videos were shared this past month and they put a smile on my face during this time of uncertainty and isolation.

Pop some popcorn if you have it, put your feet up, and enjoy! I hope you like them. I’m so grateful for these creative, talented people who decided to look for the good.

For a smile…

Some Good News with John Krasinski, Episode 1

  • This video is the first true thing that put a smile on my face after being sent home from work to work from home. I love that it’s not a parody, it’s just honest to goodness things we can smile about these days.

 

Some Good News with John Krasinski, Episode 2

  • If you’re a Hamilton fan, there’s quite the surprise for you here! The rhythm alone of the song they sang made my heart glad when I heard this for the first time the other night. I’m looking forward to Episode 3!

For inspiration…

If Quarantine Is Driving You Crazy

  • Don’t be fooled by the depressing beginning. I promise if you watch and listen to the end, you will be inspired to get on your feet and make the most of your day however you can.

For the soul…

It Is Well With My Soul (virtual choir)

  • This has been one of my all time favorite songs since high school, especially when I learned the story behind it. This talented group of singers performs it beautifully despite not even being in the same room together!

 

Hallelujah (virtual choir)

  • Another beautiful virtual performance.

 

Have a wonderful day and look for the good stuff!

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10 Things to Do to Pass the Time

I’m so excited! I have gifts for you today—some links to things that will help you pass the time while you’re sheltering in place. I don’t know about you, but we’re in Week 4 of staying at home and it’s time to change the scenery here a bit.

It’s raining today, so most of us are staying inside. We’re supposed to be inside anyway, but I believe it’s still important to get out and take a walk or a drive to nowhere to get out of the walls of your home at least once a day. A walk around the neighborhood while being mindful of keeping your distance from others is good for the body and for the soul.

When it rains, however, our outdoor time is dashed. So what do you do when the clouds are releasing their burdens? It can be especially quiet around the house if you are an empty nester or don’t have children, like me. Also, I’m typically working from home now during the day, but we are currently on Spring Break.

Scrolling through Facebook for a limited time is good for connecting with others, but it’s probably not a good idea to stay on it all day long. Certainly, it’s nice turn off the TV now and then, too. I rarely turn that box on at all.

There are lots of things you can do without leaving your home. The thing is, you just might need to be brave and try something new. So here’s my list, just for you:

10 Things You Can Do At Home To Pass the Time

  1. Read a book—My all time number one fave thing to do. No explanation needed. 🙂 Click here for a current list of the New York Times Best Sellers. Most of my reading time this year has been devoted to children’s books. Therefore, my current read (technically reread) is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, which is a gem of a book. I am sad to say I have not read any of the Top 5 in any of the categories on The NY Times Best Seller list YET, except for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. Teacher life. *Sigh*.
  2. Work on a puzzle—This is not one of my favorite things to do, but I thought I’d list it because I’m seeing a lot of my friends’ finished puzzles pop up on their news feeds, and they are beautiful. Trivia is more my thing, and recently I discovered Trivia Plaza which has tons of online trivia questions with a lot of different categories. That’s another option if you don’t have a puzzle handy. Riddles are fun, too. In fact, I’ve been working out a riddle on Facebook recently. Trying to find connections with mystery is fun. Playbuzz has a page with 13 fun riddles that aren’t too hard, yet will still make you think.
  3. Reorganize something in your home—Last week, I created some office space of my own in the guest room since I’ll be working from home for the next several weeks. It was fun to get creative and find some things in the garage that I could use for my home office since I couldn’t go purchase a small desk. That is, until the little table I was typing on yesterday collapsed and caused my head to ram into the wall. But that’s another story. Stay safe in your house, friends! Or get LifeAlert. I might need that, myself. Anyway, if you don’t need some office space, maybe cleaning out your closet is just the thing (I love StitchFix, by the way…and no I’m not getting paid to say that). Or reorganize your garage or pantry.
  4. Call someone—At least every few days I like to make some phone calls or texts and check in on some people to make sure they are doing okay. It’s nice to hear their voice. The human connection is truly important, and unless you’re involved in a battle with someone, talking with someone always lifts your spirits and reminds you that you’re not alone in this strange event. If you make each other laugh, you get bonus points. If you’re kind of shy when on the phone, click here for 3 Ways to Make Your Phone Call Less Awkward. This has always been a struggle for me. Again, you’re not alone!
  5. Sing along to karaoke songs on YouTube—Did you know that you can search for pretty much any song title on YouTube and add the word “karaoke” after it to find a sing along version of the song? One of my current favorites to sing to is Memories by Maroon 5…the melody reminds me of a fast relative of Pachelbel’s Canon in D.
  6. Dance…it’s exercise!—-Speaking of music, turn your living room or kitchen into a dance studio. Push back the furniture, turn up the volume, and shake it. Meghan Trainor’s I’m A Lady always gets my feet moving.
  7. Play solitaire—If you have a deck of cards and you’re by yourself, solitaire is a great game to play. It will really help the time pass by. Never played before? For the rules of the game, click here. Or you can play a digital version here if you don’t have cards at home.
  8. Write a letter—If you’ve been too busy before to sit down and write a letter like back in the old days, now’s the time. Grab a pen and paper and surprise someone with snail mail. My best friend from college, Rosie, did this for me just a couple of weeks ago. She used to write me when I studied abroad in England, and said she thought she’d surprise me for old time’s sake. It really brightened my day.
  9. Try a new recipe—-Well, because we were out of it and I want to avoid the store as much as possible, I found a recipe to make my own BBQ sauce for our pulled pork nachos tonight. It was fab! Loved it so much, I don’t think I’ll ever buy bottled BBQ sauce again (although the sugar content is quite high). And it was super easy. For the recipe, click here.
  10. Write your story—Last, but not least, having extra time is a blessing for writing. Is there a story on your mind you’ve been wanting to put onto paper? Is there a time in your life you’d love to share with readers? Have you always wanted to document your life and the many lessons you’ve learned along the way? Any struggles that have turned into triumph? Or maybe you want to teach people how to do or make something. The words are your oyster. Hee hee. Seriously, though, to quote other writers out there, “your story matters”. Connect with others through writing yours.

BONUS ACTIVITY—-Think of something kind you can do for someone. Here’s a list of 58 Random Acts of Kindness, many of which you and I could still do even during the shelter in place.

Have fun, and please drop a comment if there is something you love from the list, OR if there is something that is not on the list that you’d like to share.

Stay safe and have a great week!

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Struggling

This encourager needs some encouragement.

Keeping my mind preoccupied from the very shaky state that the world is in right now has been my priority today.

So I rearranged some space to create an office at home, since it will be a longer time than we hoped for. The creativity of that brought me some joy.

Overall, I’m content…but it’s mixed in with one part stress, one part frustration, and many parts sympathy. So when I do turn on the news, my heart hurts for others and my fear returns a bit. It’s a struggle, that.  I don’t want to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. But I also wish I could just ignore the news.

But you know, it’s got to be expected. The down days.

Everyone has down days.

And that’s why I’ll continue to pray and remember to count on the sunrise. And Jesus.

Tomorrow will be a new day, with a new beginning, and another opportunity to keep our eyes fixed on what we can be thankful for.

Just wait and see.

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