Faith Over Fear

This year, 2020, has been a scary one for many people. We’ve got the Covid-19 pandemic raging, there were a great many protests in the streets, and our rather polarized nation held a presidential election. Now that it’s the end of the year, we have a new president elect, no violent protests taking place, and two approved vaccines that have started being distributed. You’d think people would start feeling more hopeful. The social media posts that I’ve been seeing the last two weeks, however, reveal that many people are living in fear, and I’m not talking about those who are facing the possibility of losing their jobs or their homes due to the recession. I’m talking about people like this woman who said she’s going to take all of her money out of the bank before our new president takes office, the man who said that cash will be worthless soon, and the many who are saying there’s no way they’re going to take the vaccine because [insert false rumor here]. Seeing comments such as these has made me realize that people are buying into conspiracy theories and letting fear take over their thoughts and actions .

What’s truly shocking to me is that some of the people buying into the conspiracy theories claim to be staunch Christians. I know this because of the posts I’ve been seeing on a Christian Facebook group that, until yesterday, I was a member of. One of the members posted, “I’m not getting it because I’m healthy, and there’s a 99% chance that I’ll be fine if I get the virus. For all we know, the vaccine will give us the mark of the beast.” Really? REALLY? I couldn’t ignore this comment. After some thought, I politely pointed out that each vaccine has been administered to over 30,000 people and no one has died from it. I also responded that most people need to get vaccinated if we’re to develop herd immunity, but I was quite tempted to add, If you’re okay with contracting the virus and unknowingly passing it to others who aren’t as healthy and may die, or if you’re okay with having it mutate into a new strain and then passing that new strain along to others, I really don’t think you need to worry about getting the mark of the beast. You’ve got a much bigger problem…the mark that God can see on your heart.

Jesus states in 1 John 4:18, “There is no love in fear, but perfect love casts out all fear. Can we honestly say that we love God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves if we are living in fear? If we have an “every man for himself” attitude? No! You cannot love God and let fear control your conscious behavior. (I’m not talking about the kind of momentary fear you experience when a vehicle in the Walmart parking lot that is barreling toward you. We all have momentary fear that gives us the fight, flight, or freeze response. We have no control over that type of fear. I’m talking about fear that you hold onto that controls your long-term decisions.) Jesus said in John 14, “Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid. Trust in God. Trust in me also.” How can we assert that we are following Christ but then not trust God, and instead, let our fears rule our hearts and minds?

What about this classic from Psalms: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”…He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.  You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.  A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you…For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways…“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him…” Psalm 91:1-16. Do you have this type of faith, or are you acting like the panicked disciples in the rocking boat when the wind and the waves picked up and Jesus said, “Oh you of little faith. Why are you so afraid?” Matthew 8:26.

I do have to caution against the other extreme, however. There are some Christians who are saying, “I don’t need to get the vaccine. God will protect me.” Let’s not forget that the bible also says, “Do not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” Even Jesus didn’t do that when the devil was tempting him in the desert. Of course, God wants us to prosper and not come to harm, but we must trust in him while also remaining humble. I must add here that God gave us science, logic, and reason, and I think that science can serve a higher purpose. It’s quite possible that the vaccines may be answers to the prayers of millions who have been asking God to help us with this pandemic.

I urge you to let go of the fear you are holding onto today and put your trust in God. Pray to Him to help you discern fact from fiction and then show others that you love them as you love yourself by wearing a mask and getting a vaccine.

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“…but your will be done.”

I think the hardest thing for me to do when praying an intercessory prayer is to add on those five little words “but your will be done”. This has been especially difficult as I pray for a certain outcome to the presidential election. Some people argue that you shouldn’t ever pray for anything specific because God knows your needs. However, we’re told in Philippians 4:6-7, “in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”. Likewise, Jesus states in Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” There are many other bible verses that express these same sentiments.

Therefore, I am specific in my requests, but even though I know who I think will be the better president, I still add “but your will be done” because only God knows the hearts of men and women, and only God knows what the long term consequences of a president’s term or terms will be in office. Perhaps the man I’m voting for wins the election, but because he wins, some terrible tyrant wins the next election as a result. God is certainly in a better position to pick our president than I am!

So why bother praying for a certain person to be elected? First, I want God to know how I feel and I want Him to know my concerns. I don’t see this as “wasting God’s time” because I think, as a good father, God is interested in my thoughts and feelings, and sharing one’s thoughts and feelings is an important part of any relationship. How easy it would be for me simply to say, “God, whatever you want, your will be done.” That just seems a bit lazy to me. I want God to know that I care about the people in our country and the events that are taking place in the world. Maybe knowing that I care for others and for the state of the world pleases Him. I’m not certain of this, of course. Perhaps someday I’ll get to ask Him.

One thing I do know is that God told us not to be afraid, so I’m not. We may be in the midst of a pandemic with riots regularly taking place, but God is ultimately in control. I do think He would like more people to turn back toward Him and put their faith in Him, but I don’t think God is punishing us. Sometimes, as the old bumper sticker insists, “S#*t happens”. It just does. That being said, I think there’s a power in prayer and in putting our absolute FAITH in God. Therefore, it troubles me when my nephew posts on social media that he’s glad “our side has more guns”. It troubles me when my neighbor who goes to church every Sunday says (while taking a break from sharpening a machete in his garage) that he’s worried about the outcome of the election because “they’re saying there’s going to be really bad stuff happening on election day” and he needs to be prepared. I let him know that I’m not afraid because Jesus said, “Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid. Trust in God. Trust also in me.” (John 14) I didn’t, however, add, “Those who live by the sword die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52) though I was sorely tempted.

Right now, it’s important to remember that God is more powerful than any president, more intelligent than any Nobel Prize winner, more loving than any saint. If we put half as much faith in God as we do into guns, and we love God and our neighbors (REALLY LOVE God and our neighbors), just think of how pleased our heavenly father would be. And then think of the miracles that would follow! If only…

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Morning Walk

Up before the dawn,

my dog at my side,

I walk along the lake’s edge.

The sun slowly meets

the hazy horizon,

casting a gentle glow on

the ducks in the shallows,

murmuring softly.

A breeze rustles the leaves overhead

as the sun, at last, conquers

the clouds.

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Staying Positive during a Pandemic

At this time, the Covid-19 pandemic is raging around the world. There are 328,275 confirmed cases and 14,366 deaths. 26,747 of the confirmed cases are in the U.S. with 340 deaths.

How can we stay positive? Why would we? Isn’t it wrong to try to be positive when so many are sick and dying? I’ve been debating this for the last few days as the numbers have risen and I’ve seen funny memes and watched people online such as Neil Diamond sing parodies of songs like Sweet Caroline, changing the lyrics so that they pertain to hand washing and social distancing (the new term for staying six feet away from someone to avoid spreading this highly contagious virus). Part of me has felt a little guilty when I know there are people who are dying or losing loved ones, but there’s another part of me that is raging against this guilt.

Elie Wiesel famously wrote in his memoir Night that in the concentration camps, “If you cried, you died.” Likewise, Viktor Frankl, another concentration camp survivor, stated in his famous work Man’s Search for Meaning that, “It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.” (By the way, if you still haven’t read Man’s Search for Meaning, read it ASAP!) This was insightful of Frankl, and we now know that humor and laughter decrease our stress and have health benefits, including boosting our immune system

So here’s what I’ve decided. I’m going to keep on laughing and praying and helping others in any way that I can. I will maintain faith the size of a mustard seed and lean into God, beseeching him to protect his people, especially my family and friends, and I will reach out to others on the phone or on Zoom, offering moral support and groceries if they cannot go out themselves. I encourage you to do whatever will keep you happy and healthy while also helping others. May God bless and protect you and your families during this difficult time.

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Faith in the Time of Covid-19

Writer George Santayana once stated, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I would add that those who do not know the past are also condemned to live in fear. If you research history, you’ll find that there have been many instances of people facing horrible epidemics. One of many instances is the Spanish Flu of 1918 which was far deadlier than the Covid-19 virus with which we are currently grappling. In fact, the Spanish Flu killed between 20 and 50 million people worldwide during World War I, but most of the 1.8 billion people living at that time survived. They grieved for their deceased loved ones, and they began the work of rebuilding their cities, economies, and/or lives. Unfortunately, some people are panicking and clearing out the store shelves, hoarding food and supplies for themselves. Many state and city governments are enacting curfews and mandating the immediate closure of restaurants, bars, and more. The public entertainment industry including professional sports games and concerts have been cancelled. Schools are closing, some indefinitely.

I think it’s important for people to take the virus seriously, become educated about it, and do what they can to protect themselves and their loved ones, but paralyzing fear can also have negative consequences, and God doesn’t want us to live in fear. Mind you, He doesn’t want us to take unnecessary risks and test him, but panicking and assuming the worst can create shortages of supplies and food. Not worrying at all can cause people to endanger their loved ones by gathering in large groups, picking up the virus, and passing it along to the elderly or those who have a compromised immune system.

This is a remarkable time in our world’s history, but we have been through similar or worse situations in just the last century. When I hear people complaining about the current social restrictions or the loss of privileges they have to endure, I want to tell them about my father who didn’t have shoes to wear when he was a teenager during the Great Depression, how he dropped out of high school to join the Civilian Conservation Corps doing manual labor to send money home to his family, and how he then joined the Army and was sent off to fight all over Europe during World War II. He was in an artillery unit and saw friends killed in front of him. His unit liberated a concentration camp, and he saw decaying bodies stacked everywhere. I only found this out after he died because he wouldn’t talk about it. There’s a reason why his generation is known as the greatest generation. While he and many others were fighting overseas, those left at home were rationing and working hard to support the war effort. We come from a long line of strong people who survived depressions, wars, and plagues, diseases such as diptheria, typhus, and polio. Now is not the time to be weak or to grieve for lost privileges. This is a time to be strong…for ourselves and for others.

God will see us through this as a civilization. Yes, there will be those who perish. I pray to God that my friends and my family will make it through this alive. However, I live with the knowledge that we will all die eventually, and we will see our loved ones again in Heaven, and there will be a joyous reunion when that happens. And I also know that God is watching us. He is listening to our prayers and performing miracles in response to those prayers. He is watching to see if we sit back and complain or if offer to help others…perhaps going to the store for an elderly person or sharing our own resources when we see or hear that another is in need. He also wants to know if we have complete faith in Him. Do you have faith in Him? If so, how will you show it during this epidemic?

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“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash no foolhardy and does not tempt God.” Martin Luther’s Works Volume 43 pg 132 the letter “Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague” written to Rev. Dr. John Hess

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The Blessing of Forgetfulness

I often complain about my memory becoming worse as I get older, and I’ve tried everything from Ginkgo to Prevagen with no success as far as I could tell. However, I realized today that perhaps forgetting can be a blessing. I was bullied quite recently on social media by a complete stranger, and I tried to remember other times when I felt insulted and harassed. It’s happened before, but the memories are dim…those I remember at all, and I suddenly realized that forgetfulness can be a good thing. Consider how you would feel if all the verbal abuse you’ve experienced from others or every bad day you’ve had were etched on your memory. While it’s certainly true that the words and actions of others can have a profound effect on us when they occur, the memory of these events fade with time, providing relief and a way to carry on.

When I was reflecting on this earlier, I couldn’t help but think of my mother who lived with dementia in the last couple years of her life. Sometimes, she seemed quite happy and carefree when she thought she was young again, asking me if mom and pop were downstairs or if John (her older brother) had gone back to the base. She sometimes thought she was a kid again which meant she didn’t have the memories of some of the sadness and trauma she endured later as an adult. Because of what I observed in my mother, when I meditate, I often picture myself in the back yard of the home where I was raised. I picture myself sitting on the back step petting our outdoor cats on a spring day with my mother’s daffodils and roses blooming nearby. The grass and the leaves on the trees would be so green and everything smelled fresh and new. The wild cherry tree in the center of the yard would be covered in blossoms, and I loved to hear the wind in the dozens of trees bordering our property. This is my escape now, and I relish this time to remember.

I look forward to the time when I no longer have to face the hatefulness of this world, and I feel only the love, joy, and peace of the next life. For now, I will carry on, blocking the bullies of the world the best that I can.

Photo by Sebastien Gabriel on Unsplash
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Counting My Blessings

It’s New Year’s Eve again, which means it’s time to count my blessings and, quite literally, count the slips of paper I’ve put in my blessings jar this year. (See photo at the end of this post.) I can honestly say that this year was better than the one before it, though it has been a bit of a mixed bag. Whose life isn’t? As far as the blessings go, I think the major highlight was going to Ireland in November with my sister-in-law. I’ve always wanted to go and was not disappointed. It was cold, rainy, and my ankle hurt (little did I know then that my ankle bone was grinding its way through my Achilles tendon and is 60% of the way through), but the sights and sounds of the southern half of Ireland were amazing.

Bunratty Castle

Next, my husband is still working full-time and has been since May. He even accumulated a few days off. Additionally, this summer, I not only spent a few days with family in the Ozarks but went hiking with them at Devil’s Den. The kids, who seemed reluctant at first, had a wonderful time exploring the main trail, skirting waterfalls, and splashing in Lee Creek. I also have a new great-nephew! One of my blessings I wrote down was “cold winter days for enjoying stew”, but another was “unexpected warm days in winter for going to the park and grilling”. I also wrote down summer break and rollerskating…not how I tore my Achilles by the way. I am going to try to put off surgery until June when I’m off for summer break since I’ll have to be off of it for a few weeks.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned came this year from my sister Valerie. She taught me that we should show people grace when they ask us for forgiveness, and not just grace, but the grace that God grants us. It was extremely hard to put this into practice. When you’ve been hurt and abandoned, it’s not easy to forgive and accept the person back, but I usually feel like this was the right thing to do, albeit there are days when I struggle with this decision.

So what does the new year bring? Very little can be predicted of course, but I do know that I will be attempting to use my time more wisely. In this last year I felt like I drifted away from God a bit. I still pray to him each day, but I feel like my prayers have been repetitive and hollow. I miss the closeness I felt to God when I had cancer and my mother was dying. I had to lean into him for strength and comfort and now I feel I’ve become too self-sufficient again, if that makes any sense. I need to take what I learned during that year and put it into practice, helping others who are now going through a difficult time, and I plan to return to spiritual disciplines such as reading scripture and devotions each day.

I don’t know about you, but I look forward to seeing what 2020 brings, not with trepidation as I did this time last year but with renewed hope and purpose, trusting that God will provide for my needs and that the good will outweigh the bad.

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Does it really matter?

This past weekend, I was honored to attend my niece’s baby shower in Tennessee. It was a reason to get together with my four older sisters, and we had a great time eating BBQ on Saturday night at Corky’s world famous BBQ. One thing I realized the next morning, however, is that it’s probably not a good idea for a devout Baptist and a devout Catholic to stay under the same roof.

When I went into the kitchen Sunday morning, two of my sisters were debating whether or not Mary, the mother of Jesus, remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus. Both of them cited their own textual evidence for their position based upon their bibles, one a protestant bible and one a Catholic bible. Voices started to get raised and I let them know that this bothered me. They lowered their voices, but it wasn’t long before they were in a heated debate again. I finally said, “Does this really matter?” One sister responded, “Well, yes because…” She then explained why it mattered to her. I then asked while pointing at the other sister, “Do you think she’s going to hell for not believing as you do?” That took her back, and she admitted that she didn’t. I then asked the other sister if she thought the first sister was going to hell for not agreeing with her. She also said no. I said, “See..doesn’t matter, so why argue?” I got up and went upstairs for a couple minutes to finish getting ready to go.

Later, when I came back downstairs, they were debating the Catholic sacrament of Confession and whether or not a person must go before the priest and confess his or her sins to be forgiven. My Catholic sister cited her textual evidence and my Baptist sister countered. As the debate continued, I finally felt the need to witness…something I would never have thought of doing a few years ago. I’ll spare you the details since this post is already running a bit long. It’s nothing I haven’t shared in previous posts. Anyway, things were fairly peaceful after that, and we enjoyed the rest of our weekend.

That being said, I think that our conversations with other Christians need to focus on the core tenets of our faith as Christians (e.g. because God loves us, he sent his son to die for our sins, for instance) and in following his greatest commandments of loving Him with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength and loving our neighbors as ourselves. It’s bad enough that we have all of these different denominations dividing the body of Christ. Do you truly think God is happy when he sees his children arguing? Wouldn’t our time be better spent in showing the love of Christ to others? Is it better to be loving or to be “right”?


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Where charity and love prevail,
there God is ever found;
Brought here together by Christ’s love,
by love are we thus bound.

With grateful joy and holy fear
God’s charity we learn;
Let us with heart and mind and soul
now love God in return.

Forgive we now each other’s faults
as we our faults confess;
And let us love each other well
in Christian holiness.

Let strife among us be unknown,
let all contention cease;
Be God’s the glory that we seek,
be ours God’s holy peace.

Let us recall that in our midst
dwells God’s begotten Son;
As members of his body joined,
we are in Christ made one.

No race or creed can love exclude,
if honored be God’s name;
Our family embraces all
whose Father is the same. 

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If you’ve ever read the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, you’ll remember the part at the end of Tom Robinson’s trial when Jem and Scout are shocked that Tom was found guilty of a crime he so obviously couldn’t have committed. This was a pivotal moment for the children of Atticus Finch; it was the moment in which they lost their innocence. When Tom is found guilty, the kids realize that even those who seem like good people, can be biased and that they can be blinded by that bias. Jem likens his former innocence to being in a cocoon. He had thought the people around him were “the best in the world”.

This week I can relate to Jem and Scout. I truly felt that the delegates voting at the General Conference of the United Methodist Church would vote for the One Church Plan, allowing individual Methodist churches the choice to ordain and marry LGBTQ members. Our motto after all is “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.” But instead, the majority of delegates voted for the traditional plan. I wouldn’t have been surprised 25 years ago, but I am a bit surprised today, but I guess that may be due to my own experiences.

When I was young, I was brought up to believe that homosexuality was wrong, but while I was in college, my best friend told me that she was gay. This was a person who had been there for me when I’d been upset, angry, frustrated, and depressed. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I needed to reject the ideas I’d been raised with and accept her for who she was. She has now been with the same woman for over twenty years and married to her for seventeen. I, on the other hand, got divorced after six years of marriage to my first husband so, according to Jesus, I am an adulterer. Who am I to point fingers? I would be a hypocrite, indeed, if I rejected her and said she was doing wrong or that she can’t be in love. All of us have done things that go against scripture…whether it be lying, drinking too much, having lust, cheating someone, disrespecting a parent, not keeping the Sabbath holy, etc. Is sexual immorality wrong? Yes. Is being in a loving, committed relationship with someone who is the same gender wrong? I don’t think so. And let’s face it, Jesus didn’t even say anything against homosexuality. St. Paul is the one who talks about it. This is the same man who said that slaves should be obedient to their masters and women should be quiet in the church and never teach. Let’s not forget also, that homosexuality in Paul’s time mainly took the form of pedophilia, rape, orgies, and temple prostitution, all of which are about lust and not love.

In reading blog posts from several Methodist ministers, I am comforted that they are also disappointed with the outcome of the general conference vote. They talk about how all are still welcome at the table. While that may be true, I worry that members of the LGBTQ community feel as though they are being singled out and excluded even though no one else in our church is being singled out. As I sat in church, listening to my pastor speak today, however, I realized that it may be a bad idea to leave the church as I had been considering. How can I affect change from within if I leave the church? How can I let my voice be heard if I am not present?

Even though Atticus Finch knew all along that he would lose the case, he still represented Tom Robinson. And, surprisingly, the jury was out for quite a while. In fact, one of the Cunninghams from Old Sarum was even pushing for an acquittal. (The Cunninghams had tried to break out Tom Robinson from the prison in order to kill him before the trial.)

I think that one of the statements the author of the book, Harper Lee, was trying to make was that change can happen. It often comes in “baby steps” as Miss Maudie put it, but it can happen. But it won’t come if people remain quiet and don’t speak up for others. What Atticus Finch did in representing a black man accused of raping a white woman placed his business in jeopardy and put his family in danger, but he knew he couldn’t hold his head up if he didn’t. I hope that many in the church who agree with me will speak out against the traditional plan and push for a more inclusive church that recognizes God’s love for ALL of his children.

mockingbird pic

Photo is in the public domain and may be found at 


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Three weeks ago I had my first shot of Enbrel for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Besides the fact that the autoinjector hurts quite a bit, it seriously lowered my immunity. I felt relief from joint pain the day after my shot and for the rest of the week, but by the end of the week, I had a horribly sore throat and knew I was coming down with something, so I skipped my next dose. By the following week, I felt like I was getting over what had ended up being a seriously horrible cold, and because my joints were aching again, I gave myself another shot of Enbrel. By the end of this week, I had relapsed, and I had a respiratory infection and bronchitis. Therefore, I am not giving myself another dose of Enbrel. I will see my rheumatologist in a week and will let her know that I want off the Enbrel and back on the Arava which is MUCH cheaper and doesn’t lower my immunity so much.

Of course, it didn’t help that I had to present to a group of teachers Tuesday afternoon which meant spending last weekend creating a presentation…or rather, seriously revising an old one. It also didn’t help that I had to stay late on Wednesday, so someone from HR could talk to us about how we shouldn’t take off work…among other things. It certainly didn’t help that I had a meeting at church from 3-4 on Thursday followed by another meeting at church I facilitated from 7-8. This meeting was enveloped in the middle of a function at school, so I had to go set up before my meeting and then go back to school afterwards and put things back where they belong. Then, because I like helping people in need, I heeded the call to judge speeches at an academic competition at my school from 3:15 – 9:15 Friday, but I didn’t get to leave until just before 11:00. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed listening to the kids’ speeches, but I was bone-tired when I left, and I felt exhausted and horribly ill all day yesterday. At least now I’m on antibiotics, so hopefully I’ll feel better soon.

Am I meeting my resolution to take care of ME? Not so much. I’ve hardly gone for any walks or bike rides, and I haven’t put very many notes of gratitude in my “blessings” jar. My husband quit his job AGAIN, so he’s home all day everyday AGAIN. The silver lining…the house is cleaner and the laundry is done. I have found time for a few long baths with soft music and have been praying Psalm 23 on my way to work most days. These and the fact that my bible study was canceled Wednesday night helped me to make it through a rather tumultuous week. Otherwise, I think I may have ended up in the hospital.

So I’m hitting the reset button. This week should be much easier than last week with only two after-school engagements, and one of those is a spa event our district cosmetology students are hosting which one of my regular library visitors asked me rather kindly to do, BUT I have got to say no when asked to take on more work though. I don’t know why I’m having such difficulty with this.

How I feel right now:


How I want to feel:


Photos courtesy of Pixabay

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