Carried Items

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(This will be a winding one.)

Some of the most intense experiences of my life have no social media trail, strange thing in this day and age. It is worrisome to think that we might be starting to treat undocumented experiences as less real or less true, as if because they are not publicly accessible, they are not personally significant.

This morning I woke up thinking about my twenties. That both vivid and blurred decade of accomplishment and pressure, freedom and choice and the looming expectation to figure.it.all.out.

I was unscathed by the statistical type of major occurrence. I was always safe and protected, but I didn’t always live bravely out of that security. It was (and still is) the ongoing work towards greater emotional dexterity, like dancing in a prairie-dog hole filled obstacle course, unassuming and potentially devastating. I graduated from college at 22, holding a degree but no picture of the next step. I moved permanently to my on again off again city, but moved about 10 times. I simultaneously begged for attention and hid in corners. I met best friends, maintained decades long friendships, regretfully let go of a few, and necessarily let go of a few. I met my spouse in my mid-twenties, but did not have a full conversation with him until a few years later. I was watching others and believing that they had it all figured out while I was the only one scrambling. I can be gullible in that way.

There is evidence that I didn’t try at much because I didn’t want my try to be public. I was stunted by the thought that I was just supposed to be good at things. Holding tight to a world view that 

if I had to work at it, it must not have been mine to do.

That is a world view terrified of rejection. It took a bit to recognize that there is very little, be it skills, talent, or anything that just appears and is sustained by 100% natural ability. We buy in, or at least I bought in, to the illusion of effortless. An illusion that still gets under my skin in an Instagram world. I am sure that even in the most gifted, there is an internal struggle to be more and do more. I know this to be true in many women. We are taught to hide the process that makes us what and who we are. The work we put in to be this thing we are shown to be. White-knuckling the myth of perfection potentially at the neglect of our intrinsic selves. That buzzword team we hear constantly now of natural and sustainable, cannot manifest itself without being intentionally nurtured.

There is also evidence that I tried too much in arenas I should have run from, over and over again blind and/or naive crossed into unnecessary and wounding.

A persistent theme of the decade felt to be the perpetual almost. Almost friends, almost a career, almost love, almost this or that. There is rejection in almost. It’s as if the heartbreaking no of almost inclined my trajectory, causing me to grit my teeth, clench my fists and either stand frozen or barrel forward. I spent time in contradictory states, manipulative or vulnerable, blind or wide-eyed, to maintain the perception of control. I don’t think I am alone in the reactions associated with either my real or perceived rejection. I would venture to say that such reactions are inspired by the reflexive need to keep a tight lid on our rattled interior worlds, afraid to let anything come out, unsure precisely what it could mean or produce. There are consequences to keeping our interior worlds bottled.  We don’t know what we are full of until we let it see the light of day via verbal exit.

I can feel the accumulation of good and grit from the decade. It seems while I was trying too little or too much, and perhaps occasionally, just the right amount, I was gathering little artifacts to carry with me, dirt or soil. The evidence of defining experiences that crafted me and my landscape. I argue that there is a significant difference between the two and that we all have excavated layers of both. The dirt is just that, dirt. It is messy and residual. The soil is rich and life-giving. To me its fresh, earthy smell contains a touch of metallic hose-water, the smell of planting season in our yard as a kid. That little touch makes it homey and hopeful. In the dirt are the things that did not go according to plan or preference, that almost and the residual shame. I carry the soil, the ground that sprouted life and gave foundation, promise and resolution.

There was a man named Naaman who dipped himself seven times in the Jordan river to be healed of leprosy. He came out of the water with fresh skin and asked if he could scoop up the earth on the banks to take with him; to be his transportable altar.

Altars, made of either stone, metal, brick, or earth, were places where ‘the divine and human worlds interacted’ and were places of exchange, communication, and influence.”

Naaman wanted the earth as a reminder of a divine interaction and marker of an irrevocable exchange. In his experience of disease and the isolation that disease innately provokes, he must have accumulated a grand amount of dirt, gritty and filling up his interior world. But the wonder of the new earth must have deeply altered his dirt-to-soil ratio, that by storing it and reconciling the experience of healing, particles of the soil infiltrated and changed it all.

The way a personal experience is reconciled makes marked differences, forming boundary lines or separate expanses. It becomes this and that, like the land from the sea or the above from below. In that parallel, expanses are neither good nor bad. I do not think the presence of dirt, the hard things that may be slower to work through, threatens the goodness of the soil. Dirt has the possibility of redemption. The addition of organic matter changes its makeup so that it becomes useful. The organic matter of Truth can be delivered to us in unexpected ways, like 7 dips in a river we’re hesitant to wade into.

Redemption is allowing good things to be a product of hard things.

Sometimes, I feel like I spent my twenties dunking myself in the river with motive to be otherwise, to get my version of clean, or get better, or get what I wanted. I was dunking superstitiously, trying to be this perfect thing in the form I assumed I was supposed to be. But despite my superstition of ritual and expectation, God was dunking me legitimately. Good things were happening in what I reduced to the perpetual almost and it was leaving me with goodness to carry.

When God separated the light from the dark, he was not made weary by their distinct difference or the overwhelming nature of darkness. Instead He gave both a governing light, the bright spots that light up the days, nights and seasons both temporal and eternal. The bright spots in the dirt reveal its possibility for transformation, how small and temporal it is. The presence of dirt is not threatening to or diminishing of the redemptive work of God. He is fully aware that our internal worlds may feel segmented and he meets us in a place of exchange to say, here is a moment of resolution, carry it with you. That Truth supersedes all experience and sustainability is won in its accumulation and nourishmentMake room to carry the eternal kind of earth.

My husband is in Colorado today. Before he left this morning I asked him to bring me back a jar of earth. My memento. The place of exchange, communication, and influence that got me here. This is the land, in all its layers, that I live from and expand upon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What John Mayer Told Me

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I like John Mayer. His voice reminds me of high school and my best friends and the discovery of joy riding with the windows down at 17. It was the start of “adulthood” to the guitar intro of “Why Georgia.” He’s written some of my favorite breakup/ sad love songs, arguably my favorite genre of songs, and my husband and I’ve played the recent “In the Blood” over and over. The wordsmith’s gifts have also gotten him in trouble like anyone else, except that, by being famous and charismatic and public there is a higher percentage of the dumbest things said and done being laid bare in the media.

All of this to say, I follow him on instagram and I find him to be pretty entertaining. He brainstorms, he tells tales, he shares innovative snack ideas and pictures of his questionable footware. His recent multi-story of minds being blown after offering up a world changing idea was a real creative production. And sometimes he even supplies a piece of wisdom.

“The days of consensus are over. There will never again be a great big world that agrees on you… it’s an outmoded [attempt].”

The days of consensus are over. Outdated. We can no longer conceive consensus as possible and it is definitly not something to strive for, the world is simply too vocal for that.  What is instyle is the speed of production and the voracious consumption of headlines. I don’t need an article of outlined facts, I can be incensed by a mere heading. They say content is king, therefore opinion in limited characters, lacking in substance and often fact, rules. Have you noticed that a significant number of articles are composed of reactions. The news is, he tweeted and then she tweeted and then they tweeted #reactions. Over and over again. The story is what others think of the happening. And that does not even include the comment section. Which I admit can really suck me. I click “read more” and then am usually horrified by what I am reading more of.  I close it while shaking my head thinking about all the idiots, and worse, behind screens. Sensationalism is nothing new. Articles have always been written to intrigue or rile, (full disclosure: In my mind I keep picturing the play/movie/prophesy of the ruthless Kardashian’s Chicago) but never have the reactions been so accessible. There are so many avenues for folks to share their thoughts and strangely, it’s most often about what is making us all angry, or better than, or more right. A lot of it is incredibly unproductive. So much energy goes into getting the last word. So much energy goes into the false narrative of mutually exclusive

John Mayer’s post gives a bit of freedom to any creative.

“The way to happiness is to accept this. Find you audience, love them, play to them, but protect yourself from the certain injury of trying to bring the larger world to agreement. That pie is sliced in so many slivers now.”

I  am pretty low on the radar of any kind. I think my posts have been read by maybe 122 people. I don’t say that in a pitiful way, I say it to emphasize this point. I, who have limited impact, have been scared at times to write a definitive word for fear of rebuttal or worse, being misunderstood, of not having all my ducks in a row before I tell a story or before I add another opinion to the mile high hay stack. I have been intimidated by the idea of how I make them like me. Then wacky Mayer says to me, find your audience. Stop trying to win the world. It’s not going to happen. It reiterated what I’ve heard before, to tell the story, clack the keys to your hearts content on this gorgeous Sunday.

The fear of human opinion is incapacitating. The threat of having to keep up, to respond rapid fire is incapacitating. It is exhausting and a little bit soul crushing. Shauna Niequist wrote, “Exhaustion and starvation are the twin virtues of the world.” She said it is countercultural to be rested, unafraid, and not panicked. And to that I say, phew. We don’t have to play along.  I cannot placate that demand of consensus.

Get free by giving up the mirage of absolute acceptance. What’s the plan or the seed in your hand? Drop it in the ground and change the nearby terrain. And, even if it doesn’t change much, at least the view in your sphere will be better than it was before.

Side note: Speaking of outmoded, think about his song 3×5. The literal interpretation of 3×5 anyway. Since now the majority of our view is dots making up things, pixel elements, on screens. Kind of sad when you read the beautiful description of actually developing a photograph, “an image made by a photo-chemical reaction which records the impression of light on a surface coated with silver atoms.” The impression of light.

The lesson of the song still stands.

(I am not 100% on how accurate my understanding of pictures and pixels is, so perhaps I’ll find a tweet to explain it to me.)

New Year, 2018

IMG_3291Our New Year’s Eve was a real bust. The accessories above were purchased after the fact (and at a super sale cost) to initiate a do over. We have to start better, I told myself. I try not to add “or we’re doomed.” I always put too much weight on step one.  I forget the follow up step should be/can be just as effective. Left foot stomp. Pivot in new direction; 2018 will not mirror the disconnect of the evening’s failures.

Less than a week later, I see the humor in its all over pathetic-ness. There was at least one serious sore throat and a potential one, one irrational meltdown, one round of the silent treatment, the saddest homemade soup ever created, and the strange urge to select to watch, within the thousands of options in our combined streaming services, Julie and Julia.

The more serious sore throat was mine, which is why we ended up staying in instead of joining family for the city wide celebration downtown.  Insert hand raising blonde emoji for the irrational meltdown. It was instigated by the flash-warning thought that I might be blowing what could possibly be our last New Year’s Eve without kids. Note the use of “might” and “possibly.” I don’t need set in stone to freak out. A true gift, I know. The silent treatment was him (sorry, babe) but I get it, the tone of the night had already been well established as rocky.  After two failed pho to go attempts, I announced I could easily make soup at home. I had chicken broth, a few leeks and a squash I had chopped four days earlier plus salt and pepper. He’d already had pizza, so I didn’t have to carry the weight of preparing dinner for two at time like this. Perhaps inspired by what I  thought was an inspired soup and the fact that I  was unchaperoned in my choice, I turned on Julie and Julia. The riveting film about the creation and use of, you guessed it, a cook book. Watching, I quickly realized my soup was lacking butter. And flavor.  I was later joined by my silent companion and together we took shifts napping our way into the New Year. At 12:15 I woke up to the end credits, roused my couch-neighbor, crawled to bed and grumbled, “Happy New Year.”

This is how I know my husband is a saint. I am sure any other cranky human with foiled New Year’s plans, could have really lost it at the sound of Meryl Streep/Julia Child’s high octave, exceptionally enthusiastic vocal styling.  It’s delightfully a lot when you know what’s coming and way over the top if you don’t.  He never made a comment. He did inquire about the name of the movie, so I am certain the intentionally silent portion of the evening had ended. He didn’t even leave the room. He stuck it out, albeit with the help of some sleep, but God bless him nonetheless.

New Year’s morning I woke up desperate to find an empty journal and record the start of 2018. A clean slate to remove the bad banner of the night before.  I told my husband that I needed to do something immediately to really let it soak in. When I asked how he was going to mark the day, he said, “I’ll just write the date sometime today, and then I’ll know it’s a new year.” Simple. Unburdened. It is a clear illustration of the differing ways we think. Mine, steeped in overarching meanings and rituals to make definitive moments, he in practicality and clarity, moments are because they already are. It is highly admirable.

These are the words that came to mind to mark New Year’s Day 2018.

Resolve|Reduce|Review|Rewrite|Reconvene

Somewhat out of order. I suppose review should have been first, but I realized long ago that I do not think linearly. Also somewhat repetitive, but I realized long ago that repetition is the key to learning. And I like resolve over resolution in terms of “to decide firmly to do something or not.”

Resolve- What will I hold tight too? What do I dismiss or dismantle or even absolutely destroy? What will I make this year, without the imposed pressure, but actively pursue  and create as loudly or as quietly as I need to, everyday to reinforce the resolve?

Reduce- What was too prominent in 2017, and however many years before that, that needs cut out this year? To reduce the clutter of mind/sound/atmosphere to make more room in my heart/mind/eye/life to see and hold the resolve?

Review- What was gained, lost, renewed, challenged in 2017? Where was the strength gained and the fissures found? Where do I start 2018, personally and professionally?

Rewrite-  It is not permanent. To write over to the bad patterns, habits, communication styles. Start fresh.

Reconvene-  What do I return to? Who do I return to? Where are the meeting places as husband and wife? My meeting place with God? Where is the substance coming from? To go back to the altars, or touch points, of movement, change, grace, reflection and be propelled forward.

and Ritual- What gets kept? What gets established?

I don’t have all of the answers to my questions lined up yet, but I feel confidant in their existence and of what they’ll lead me to.

In summation, do overs are possible (review, rewrite, reconvene, reduce) and fresh starts can happen on footstep number 2 and 3 and so on (resolve, resolute). The point is to keep moving. Oh, and refuse to hang up the banner of foreboding doom.

“The end of a matter is better than its beginning.”- Ecclesiastes 7:8

PS. 2018 has recovered. I have not made that soup again. And I think my husband liked the movie by the time we watched the slept-through ending again the next day. Although we did talk through most of it.

 

 

Who She Is

I made an over easy egg for breakfast today, as I do any morning I have time.

Just like grandma.

She likes hers so runny the whites still have a little jiggle. With it, she has a slice of toast with Earth Balance butter and local honey from a brown clay jar labeled honey and perpetually sticky. When I was young she drank coffee. C.O. In a heavy, cream colored mug with a cobalt blue Japanese print.  It seems like only a few years ago she switched to chamomile tea, but time is complex, a blink and an eternity, and it was actually more like 15 years.

But that is who she is. Long red finger nails, holding the mug with only a slight tremor when she presses her thumb on the top of the handle, sitting in a house coat in her plush orange rocking chair, feet crossed on the footstool, trading stories in the paper with my grandpa. Many of her stories not news at all, but playfully made up on the spot. Soon she’ll get up to do her chores, to talk to the plants.

That is who she is. Well loved dancing heels on the shoe rack in her closet below hot and baby pink, royal blue and vibrant red clothes.  Shoes saved from former Friday nights out at the Safari. I’ve seen the pictures. Remember their New Year’s Eve trips to Little America to polka to the sounds of their favorite band leader. She was glamorous. A forest green sequin dress in her closet and then in mine. A fur coat. Bell sleeves and tall boots in a photograph. I believe that was the dress she sewed herself, the arms too tight.

That is who she is. Homemade spaghetti sauce, fried chicken, white rolls, and applesauce made with real apples sliced and simmered with cinnamon and sugar, cottage cheese, a full cookie jar.  She is rows of canned peaches, pears, cherries, a spoonful of ice cream standing in the light of the freezer at night.

That is who she is. The rhythm of her bare feet back and forth on the concrete patio, rocking the swing back and forth. We sit in the afternoon, swinging and talking,  grandpa out working in the roses. We like it here in the shade. I am not a sun bunny, she says. Me either, Grandma. Grandma’s girl.

That is who she is. Pink curlers in black hair, faint scent of Skin So Soft, a tube of lipstick in the bathroom drawer, the kitchen drawer, the coat pocket, the purse. She chooses shades of deep pink, red.

How can you do it without a mirror, grandma?

Well, I know where my lips are.

She is not ready for the day until her earrings are in, bright gems like rubies or sapphires, or dangling delicate ones. It is Young and the Restless at 11am, a nail file by her blue rocking chair.

It is the same rhythm of her feet on the wooden deck of the cabin, or on the splintery wood on the swing in the yard. Come on, let’s go swing. 

This is where she tells the stories of her early life. An orphan,  a mother who died and a father who left and the chain of homes she lived in. The love and foundation of a woman named Mama Della, the hate of a woman in Texas and the subsequent lifelong disdain for cornbread, the eventual permanent home in eastern Colorado, making meals she didn’t know how to, a step brother named Pete,  an aunt name Maude, and Uncle John. There is the boy named Kenneth Dale, who passed by her classroom door one day, I am going to marry that one. She did. At 17. And then there was a war and a daughter and years apart. There was another daughter and a son, the family of her own.

Her stories often include the phrase, You know what thoughts do, teasing, like she was giving a cautionary tale. No, grandma, what do they do? We’d ask and she’d hold out and say, one day I’ll tell you.

Now thoughts are broken or completely lost. Transformation right in front of us.

There probably is no concrete answer. But I still hope that maybe one day we’ll find the anecdote scratched down on a piece of paper like the little notes she would leave for Grandpa to find. What thoughts do.

We know what’s deep down, etched in like fingerprints. Love and sacrifice, resilience and investment. To her belongs the sounds of Patsy Cline, the lid of the cookie jar, the smell of cinnamon Trident gum, the playful slap on grandpa’s arm when he teased her and she’d laugh, “Oh ho, Dale. It is not,” three kisses out the door, love you much, rummy, pit pats and tut-ens, the way she would wind into singing a song,  let’s dance.

That is who she is.

2016

 

Every year about this time, in the season of both retrospection and brand new,  I think about how madly and beautifully the world spins. I reflect on what’s happened and what those events or moments produce in us, how they shape us for the next one.  2016 was chalk full of major events on a personal and familial level, not to mention all that’s occurred on a global level. All of it produced a  broad spectrum of emotion. It’s been a year of intermingling, bliss and deep joy met thick trial, coexisting like laughter and tears. It’s in the crossfire of the spectrum that living gains depth. I know I’ve lived deeply this year. I know this also to be true for those closest to me. I’ve read the headlines, so I know this to be true for people I’ve never met. People who’ve experienced what I cannot imagine. I pray they’ve had peace scattered in the incomprehensible.

I’ve been looking over past posts and found a running theme of structure from rubble like redemption. Throughout is a vein of recognition that brokenness is merely a possibility, that imperfection is inevitable and that life still goes on. I wrote it, but how quick I am to forget it. I wait for the reminder to sink in, to permanently reside in my mind and in my heart. The list I’ve compiled of all that’s happened this year is further proof that God is resolving what I call incomplete and imperfect; a life being orchestrated goes on in redemption and possibility.

2016- Miracles and Mire

Engagement at the end of 2015.

The marathon of 50+ wedding dresses in two different states.

Venue hunting and planning, margaritas reduce the productivity of financial planning sessions.

Employment after 6 months of waiting.

New apartment, new furniture, new fridge full for the first time with groceries only belonging to me. Strange how big changes can be charted in the smallest of things.

A June visit from family, two parents and one nephew, we play at the beach.

Sonoma and Colorado in July, wine and paddle boarding respectively.

Bridal showers and rehearsal dress meltdowns (many other kind of meltdowns).

Wedding time brought people from across the country, my grandpa drove across states against a medical advice to make it. The generosity we experienced on every level was overwhelming.

Wedding day. Any day preceded by having dinner with all those who mean the most to you is going to be a good one. Any morning featuring your persons, good coffee, and soft pajamas will lead to a great day. Any day set aside to marry your best friend in a room draped in gold, pink, glitter and giant white flowers, where prayers are given and honest vows are said, is going to be a perfect. And it was, to the very end and a midnight drive thru run in a dress and tux. The only thing I wish I could’ve changed was the pace of time; gone in a blink.

New position at work,  a promotion of sorts, and the learning process begins again.

Husband in school and working also gets a promotion, weekends are for races.

We fight for time and weekends fill up so we conquer Disneyland on a Monday, my very first trip is deemed a success.

We experience a big surprise and then a big loss. Laughter and the tears show up. The man who said I do said I will: I will be excited about the unplanned nature of life, I will realistically look at what’s next, I will make you eat and let you sleep, I will make you feel safe.

A Christmas Day like we’ll never have again. It was simply the two of us and presents and breakfast over It’s a Wonderful Life, a walk and a trip to La La Land. It was one necklace in the shape of a heart to remember and one Chromebook so I could get back to typing words.

 

At the beginning of 2016 I wrote that it would be the year cynicism die.  2016 saw miracles.

Cynicism and miracles cannot coexist.

It was the year when silent prayers, “perhaps one day,” showed up. It was redemption and possibility, miraculous in nature and accomplishment. So on the last day of it, I reflect on its orchestration and resolve to remember. To take what I’ve learned into 2017 and to ready myself for a continued education in what it means to be faithful, kind, content and responsive.

Resolution:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.  (Galatians 5)

 

 

Discover Challenge: Retrospective

via Discover Challenge: Retrospective

 

Unable to saturate ourselves

we hold tight to the glass half-empty

unwilling to hope for immeasurably more

The banner prayer of 2016-

the year cynicism dies,

we are being built.

The example has been set

it is both the weight of the human experience

and the abundant understanding that

there is more to hold and more to give,

cinch tight the velvet bag.

Hold onto the gems, recognize the threads of light

in the dark void

scattered rubble is not definitive,

We are being built.

 

-The banner prayer of 2016-

I didn’t really even want to

write it,

I want to live it.

 

Found poem from posts: One Year Later; Headlines; The Truth About Lilacs; Make Room; Water Wars

One Year later

Exactly one year ago today I took up residence in my new state.

There are mornings still where I think to myself, I can’t believe I live in Southern California. The land of heeeeeeeeeeeat and palm trees. And him.

It’s been one very full year with time furiously flying by. I hope I am remembering it all. Take a deep breath, focus I tell myself often, take notes and live it. “Being intentional” is an oft over used phrase among the crowds I know and the Facebook feeds  I read. I don’t want to read it or think it or even say it. I didn’t really even want to write it. I want to live it. I want it to become so much a part of my person that intentional as a phrase is erased. It just is and I just am. Especially now at this moment when I have three more Saturdays of singledom. For when the fourth one hits I will be surrounded by people I love getting ready to walk down the aisle to the one that brought me out here. To the one that explored Hoover dam with me in blistering heat on the last day I was in between states and the one that calmly dealt with my melt downs along the way. Change ain’t easy honey, even the really amazing kind can make my head spin. So he spent time distracting me on trips to the mountains (even though I mocked them as mountains in the beginning because this Coloradoan knows what a real mountain is. I’ve since relented, they qualify.) He let me trail along on his work trips so I could see the beach nearby or endure the crowds of Downtown Disney. I lost my keys skipping along the water of Redondo Beach one of those days. When I am happy I have a tendency to skip. The beach brings me the skipping-joy. He made sure I was comfortable with my surroundings and made sure I had a couch in my new apartment. He made sure in some way everyday.

I’ve written about standing at the edge of the water and feeling the sand being pulled from beneath my feet, how the earth literally shifts and I’m left standing in uneven and refreshing pools of water. In my opinion, it is one of the best sensations in the world. The earth moves and you’re still standing grounded and kept and cooled by the salt water.

I’ve grappled in parts over who I am and what I am doing,  the identity crises that comes from everything new and the sand being pulled out from beneath my feet, because it is both wonderful and awful to be in a place where no one knows who you are. It makes you ask yourself that same question, who am I here? It’s been an opportunity to practice the person I’ve been shaped in to and  to engage in the ways I am still being shaped. It’s been about learning to trust myself. For the past six months I’ve gone to a job I don’t fully know how to do to impact a community I don’t really know. The first months were exhausting and everyday is still a practice in trust, self and otherwise.

Everyday inside and outside it’s been sand pulled and pools collecting because that is grace. It is bounty in the midst of reduction and bounty in the midst of bounty. And God is full of it, constant and sure. On my first anniversary, I dig into what has happened and right now where I am and what will be in three Saturdays. I think of how the Most Sure has given me one who is sure. I think of how I will most likely skip my way down the aisle to the next shift and wait for the cool pools to surround us and if I lose my keys so be it for we will learn a new way to be, together. This time we will both be in new state, learning a new posture, swept up in grace and absolutely sure.

 

“What is desirable in a man is his kindness.”

Proverbs 20:22