THE OWENS FAMILY CHRISTMAS…2017

This year’s mantel…

 

Levi’s tree…all vehicles carrying trees on top.  We started this collection the year he was born and love adding to it every year!

 

 

A few days before Christmas, John Thomas and Levi and I had a craft day.  We decorated cookies, painted trees, made ornaments, and ate lots of decorated cookies!

 

 

 

 

As soon as the tree went up, Levi put his nativity scene in place…

 

Christmas Eve, lunch after church.

 

At Church, Christmas Eve

 

 

Making that important visit…

 

5 teeth gone…

 

Christmas Day started with a gourmet breakfast by none other than Chef Ian.  OH! MY!  So yummy!

The Owens Family…

Don and Pop…

My sweet sister…and her sweet sister…

My children and my Pop…

 

Alex and Ian…

My sweet daughter in love…

Joy and her boys…

Lori and I…

Adam, Suzanne, Levi…

 

 

My eldest, Adam…

 

A gift to all, Alex celebrated the day with us…

Pop telling Alex something important….

Alex and Pop…

Someone’s getting a little tired…

Don’t know what they are looking at, but it sure has their attention…

Lori and Joy…

Joy and Tommy…

Tommy and Don…

Lulu and Levi…

Love comes in many forms…

Taking it all in…

Lori and Ian…eating buddies!

Though unable to be with us (John Thomas had the flu)…Will and Tara celebrated, too…Sure missed them!

 

Pop, Joy and Tonja…

Don and his boys…

Closing up the Nativity…He said it was time for them to rest…

Beautiful Nativity from Europe gifted by Joy and Tommy…

Our sweet Levi…

The sweet memories we make linger in our hearts long after December 25 is past.  We are blessed in so many ways.  Even though we could not all be together on Christmas Day…we were together in heart.  I thank God for his mercy and grace and for every good gift he sends our way!

To my dear Mom, who celebrates Christmas in Heaven now, I missed you today as much as on the first Christmas without you.  Your touch resonates in our hearts and souls.  You are forever in our hearts.

PROVING FAITH

My sweet Levi has learned many lessons at the tender age of 6.  From walking to talking to ‘going potty’, to riding a bicycle, to riding a little motorcycle, to sitting quietly in class, to diving and swimming like a fish.  He knows how to apologize, he has learned what it means to hurt someone’s feelings.  He has learned to read and he has learned try new foods (with coaxing).  He has learned to perform on a stage and he knows how to sit quietly in an adult setting (though it is very hard).  And, he has learned that he is a sinner.  That Jesus came to this earth to pay a price for us, so that we may live with him forever.  He understands what means to sin.  And, he understands forgiveness.

I say all this, to say that he has been surrounded by learning since he was born.  So has every child.  They will learn…whether we choose the lessons or not.  As it has been said, “You can be a good inspiration or a horrible example”.  But it is seen and tucked away…part of that learning process.

We (his parents and 5 grandparents and aunts and uncles) have always tried to mirror that strong sense of faith that we all understand so well.  We have found our faith tested and seen it proven true and real time and again!  And we wish to show to our little man just how faithful God is.  We know God keeps His promises, and we want him to know that.  We know that God answers prayer, and we want him to have the joy of seeing that for himself.

And while none of his family is perfect…we all try to use those ‘teachable moments’ when they arise.  Lessons to be learned are so much easier if the teaching is done while the situation is close in mind and heart.

Now that he is in first grade, none of us ‘grands’ get as much time with him as we would like.  But life moves along and we have developed our own routine.  Every morning Levi is dropped at my house, gets dressed here, eats breakfast here, and Don or I take him to school.  Then his other grandparents pick him up from school and start his homework with him.  How I love getting to share a meal with him and pray with him and send him into the school building with an ‘I love you’ and ‘Have a great day’.  His other grandmother gets the joy of hearing all about what went on that day and all his adventures…and spelling words.

We prepare breakfast and always call Uncle Alex on the intercom and ask him to come join us.  Most times, he can’t.  But sometimes we are blessed that he can.  Such was what happened yesterday.

After breakfast, as Alex was going back to his room, and Levi was putting on his shoes:

ALEX…I enjoyed having breakfast with you this morning, Levi.

LEVI…I did too, Uncle Alex.  I’m glad you are not hurting today!

ALEX…  Well, Buddy, I am hurting today…just not as bad as usual.  Today is a ‘better’ day.

LEVI…(raising his hands in the air)  That’s what we have been asking God to do!

ALEX…And He did, Levi.  He gave me a morning to enjoy with you.  He is so good.  He always hears us when we pray.

Wow!  What an affirmation in a little boy’s mind that God was busy about answering his prayers!

Today was a little nerve wracking for me.  My health has taken a nose dive lately and I am facing 3 operations in the coming months.  It’s hard to get old and ‘wear out”!  This morning I had the first of the procedures, because this was the most urgent.  Without going into too many details, I have a kidney that is not doing what God put it in there to do.  We’ve known that it was ‘different’ for a few years, but until today, we did not know how ‘no good’ it really is.  Suffice it to say, although it may continue to reside in the place it lies…it is of no use to my body.  The only thing it could do is affect my other kidney.  You know, the one that ‘gets with the program’, the one that does its job mostly without complaining ( except for throwing a few stones at me through the years), the one that goes about its life following the rules.  If it gets too unruly, it will be tossed out…but for now…it stays.

So today my faith was tested.  I was nervous about the results we would find, as it looked on CT scan as if there was a mass on it.  However, yesterday, as I was reading or flipping through Pinterest or catching up with you on FB…Bible verses kept coming before me…“Do not be afraid”….“The Lord goes ahead of you”….“He is with you wherever you go”….“I know the plans I have for you.” ” I knit you together in your mother’s womb.”  All reminding me and encouraging me of what I knew was truth.  But, fear can override our good sense sometimes, can’t it?

Then this morning, Don and I had prayer in the waiting room…and put our trust in Him again…asking Him to guide the doctor’s hands and give him wisdom as he performed the surgery.

As I waited in my room, a dear friend texted me and began going on about some nonsense about me wearing my ‘crown’!  She made me laugh.  I sent her a ‘selfie’ of me in the bed.  She sent me funny emoticons!  What a respite that was as I waited!  I received other texts from friends who assured me they had been praying and would continue.  I was confident that I was being covered in prayer!

And, when I arrived in Pre-op…there was my friend of some 30 years waiting on me.  She is an anesthetist at the hospital and we have been in church together since our children were small.  She took my case.  She brought me warm blankets.  She gently started my IV.  She ran to the pharmacy and got me some nose spray so I could breath (darn allergies).  She reminded me that she would be there through it all.  Her kindness and gentle spirit calmed my soul.

 

It was God who led me to a doctor I had confidence in…it was God who put words of affirmation and truth in front of my eyes…it was God who arranged it for my friend to be by my side.  Perhaps you were the one who posted a Bible verse on FB yesterday, or perhaps it was you who was remembering me in your prayers.  Maybe it was you who sent me a text reminding me of your love and concern or held my hand and prayed with me.  Let no one ever tell you that doing and speaking about the Lord …about His kindness and care…His love…is ever is in vain.  I may not be able to thank you in person…but I know…and God knows.  To those of us who are Christians, God expects us to act at all times as if we were serving Him.  And, we are.  We are God’s hands.

 

I am resting at home now…taking my pain meds…uncomfortable, but satisfied.  A trying day to, to be sure.  But a day when God once again proved to me that He is faithful!  He works in our lives when we need Him.  He works in our world…just for us…and so many times, we don’t even realize it to acknowledge it.  But, friends…this I know is true:  God is who He says He is.  God does what He says He will do.  God is always with me.  God watches my every move and sends people or words or scripture, even hymns (‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus) straight to me when I need it.

He will do the same thing for you.  Because as much as He loves and cares for and protects me…He loves and cares for and protects you just as much!   Just keep looking.  He’ll prove it to you!

 

 

 

BOOGALOO CAMP… 2017

 

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And…once again   Boogaloo Camp is history… for this year.  Oh, but the memories will keep us happy until it’s time to do it again!

***Lots of pics here, but it’s all about the documentation***

Joy and I arrived at The Sandcastle on Monday and spent two days watching the rain pour and pour and pour!  Which wasn’t too bad.  Gave us a great chance to catch up and just spend time together.  We did manage to get to the grocery store.  I had chicken salad to make…which is a tradition at BC….and Joy wanted Potato Salad, too…so we did that, too!  The girls and boys arrived on Wednesday!  Fun was just waiting to happen.

We started off with me explaining to the boys what a Scavenger Hunt was.  And, then I gave them a list of things to be looking for all week…such as a red straw, a throw away cup with writing, a rectangle shaped napkin, a smooth rock, a lea with two colors, a ticket stub, etc.  They did great. They stayed busy everywhere we went looking for those 12 items!

Another continuing project we did was weaving.  I tore up an old canvas and used just the frame.  We tied jute on tip and bottom .  Then we learned about weaving…under, over, under, over….then over, under, over, under.  They caught on pretty quickly.  We even used some palm fronds and drift wood and finished off by tying on some shells they found with holes in them!

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That tropical storm didn’t bother us…we saw a break in the weather and made a beeline for the Panama City Beach Pier!  One of our little campers wasn’t sure if it would be sturdy enough for us to walk on, but soon those fears gave way to fun!  This was probably not the best time to go walking on a pier.  Winds, we found out later were at 40-45 mph!  We were blown sideways by that mighty wind!  The boys had a ball!  But, us girls, had mighty tangles in our hair!  Oh my!

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We stopped at a restaurant just outside the pier, Hook’d, and had delicious fish tacos!  The rain held off, but the wind continued to blow!

Up early the next morning and an art project to start.  We tried to do tie dye last year, but, ran out of time.  But, we got it in this year!  The boys designed their own shirts.  They decided on the design they wanted and picked their own colors.  Us girls all made us one, too.  We had to let them set overnight…so we began another project…String Art.  We had previously hammered nails into a circle on a slab of wood.  The boys then used all different color string to wrap the nails and come up with their version of a beach ball!  Looks pretty good!

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And, here’s how the shirt making turned out…

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We took a little trip over to Destin, because I wanted the boys to  experience the fun of eating at LuLu’s.  (In case you don’t know, this is a restaurant owned by Jimmy Buffett’s sister.  It’s on the water, and all open air.  Their is a big sandy playground for the children complete with water play, and bungee jumping .  The boys loved it!  We all did, actually!

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We stopped and did some very minor shopping…you know…two little boys…not what they wanted to do…whines and “let’s go!”.  Back home the girls took the boys for a walk out on the beach…almost dark.

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Then they stopped for ice cream.  Joy and I stayed home and rested!

Bright and early the next morning…we started another art project…this time we made candles.  We decided on color…and scent…and containers.  John Thomas was the instigator of this fun idea!  The boys were amazed that they could actually make their own candles.   They measured and leveled, added wicks, and leveled again!   And, boy did they ever smell good.

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The sun was out in full force and it would have been terrible not to have enjoyed some sunshine and swimming!  So off we went to the PC Water Park…which has a wonderful facility for younger children!  It’s the boy’s favorite place to go.  We spent several hours there.  And, SURPRISE !!!!…our Lori showed up!  We had missed her, but her work wouldn’t allow her to be with us all week.  But, there were 2 happy boys when she showed up!  She lightens up all our lives!

And, after showers, we all went out to BoonDocks for a delicious meal!

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And with that, we had to begin gathering up supplies…cleaning up…

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…and preparing to leave the next morning!

A FEW MORE PICS…

The boys had a pillow to color and went about their work diligently.

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Levi made a very interesting color choice on his and I complimented him and said, “Levi, I like how you are using your artistic eye!”  He turned and look at me…did this…

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and said, “Actually, Lulu, I have 2 artistic eyes, don’t you know!”  So you do, my Little Man…so you do!

I taught them to play Old Maid…that was lots of fun!

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John Thomas looking cute in his new outfit…

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I bought the boys some cute shorts and painted them a shirt to match…

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Another fun project was a little tedious…on my part.  I made pics of the boys in the same location.  We then had them printed.  I taped the picture to a stack of 6 square Duplo Blocks, then carefully cut apart the picture between each block with an exacto knife.  Then I handed the boys a jumble of pieces and they had to put themselves and their cousin together.  Then is was so funny to put the wrong legs or the wrong arms on the other person!  Picture Blocks!

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They each have a set, and can take each other home and play together whenever they like!  We used one rectangular block on the bottom so they would stand side by side.

John Thomas designed, painted and lettered the Boogaloo Camp sign at top of this post!

PaPa Clyde…we were thinking of you while we were gone…

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Scavenger Hunt went well…they found all on their list and both won prizes!

And, of course, Thomas’ Doughnuts was visited quite often!  

I could go on and on here about the blessings we have and the memories we made on this trip!  But, I’m going to leave it here with just this thought.  Every good thing…every happy thought…every burst of laughter…every sweet hug…every goodnight kiss…and every Good Morning…is a gift from Almighty God.  He causes His favor to rest on us all.  He gives us more than we deserve.  He sends His love to us in so many ways.  I praise Him and honor Him and thank Him for this beautiful week!

“It is God who has given us these times of joy.”  Psalms 81:4

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READY, FREDDY?

“Ready, Freddy?”  “Ready, Betty!”

Levi and I have used these code words since he could buckle his carseat by himself.  It let me know that he was buckled in and ready to ride.  (Course I always double check first.)  He used to think it was so funny.  When he was first learning about rhyming words…we would continue…“Where’s Eddie?”   “Have you seen Letty?”  “I’m feeling sweaty.”  “I want spaghetti.”  And on it would go until something else caught his attention.

Yesterday…4/12/17…after school pickup…

“Ready, Freddy?”  No answer.

“Ready, Freddy?”  Still no answer.

“Levi, are you buckled up and ready to go.”  “I am.”

“Well, why didn’t you answer me?”

“Lulu,…… I just didn’t want to say it.”

“Why not?”

“Well, Lulu…it sounds a little silly to me.  And I am in kindergarten now, you know?”

“Oh, so you think you are too old to play this game anymore?  It always makes me smile when we say it.”

“Don’t be sad, Lulu, I just think I’m too big now to say that.  Can we just not do that anymore?”

“Well, of course, Little Man.  I understand.  When you grow up, some things you thought were funny one time…just seem silly now.  So we don’t have to say that anymore.”

“Will you be sad, Lulu?”

“Of course not!  You can always tell me if you prefer not to do something.  Maybe I’ll agree.  Maybe I won’t.  But, you can be honest with me always.”

“I love you, Lulu!”

“And, I adore you, Levi!  Now are you ready to go!”

“Yes, m’am.  I am!”

And then we both started laughing again…his attempt at becoming grown up had led him to make another rhyming answer!

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He understood the irony of that without me saying anything….another sign of maturing and growing.  I can say I’m sad to see it happen, but that’s not really the truth.  The truth is I will forever miss these little jokes we have had between ourselves.  But, I want him to grow and explore and change.  This is what he was born for…to become a man.  And, even though he has lots of growing left to do…now that he’s 6…some things will be forever different.  As he begins first grade, he will see this world with such different eyes.  My prayer is that God gives him a mind that delights in new information….that he will always nurture his creative side…and that his goal will always be to be more like Jesus everyday!  And, that he can always laugh with his Lulu!

He’s ready, Freddy!

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ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY….I AM….

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I am a woman…daughter…sister…wife…mother…daughter-in law…mother-in-law… sister-in-law…cousin…aunt…great aunt…grandmother …friend…teacher…nurse…classmate…church member.  I am a story teller… planner…artist… crafter… a decorator…a musician…writer…a collector.   I am a driver…cook…caregiver…dishwasher.

I love blue skies…sunshine…kisses from my boys…tenderness from my husband…smiles of pride from my daddy…sweet memories of my mother…hugs from my friends…laughter from my grandson…talks with my daughter-in-love…time with my sister…camp with the family.  I love reading a good book…watching a funny TV show…cooking out in the backyard…and floating in the pool.  I love to be silly…plan surprises…have fun…make people laugh.  I am messy and unorganized.  My mind is always on overdrive…I have ADD.  I have health issues that cause me pain.  I have hope that tomorrow will be better than today.

I love chocolate..sweet tea…bread…Chinese food…Mama’s pound cake…sweet potatoes…broccoli…filet mignon…baked chicken…zipper peas…cheese crackers…graham crackers…peanut butter…eggs over easy with grits and bacon… little white powdered doughnuts…and chocolate.

I like to decorate…plan parties…throw parties.  I like to play inside games…give gifts…read books to my grandson and grand nephew.  I like to travel and explore new places.  I like to dress in style.  I love beautiful jewelry.  And shoes.  And purses.

I love listening to music…all kinds of music.  I love to sing… but only with children….or congregational hymns at churchor in my car when I’m alone.  I like making lists and marking things off…I like to take hot showers.  I love to sit outside in nature and just breathe.  I love to get a good book and get lost in it.  I am truly happy to share everything I own.  Things are not heart possessions...people are.  What I have, I’ll gladly lend to you!

I love to teach children.  It is my life calling, I believe.  It brings me joy to see a little one coming to grasp some new information.  I believe in following rules and having boundaries. I believe children should be immersed in art and music!   I believe children should be listened to and taught when to listen themselves.  I believe children should be taught there is always someone in charge.  I believe they should learn about self control…and empathy.  I believe we should respect a child’s feelings…never telling them ‘they shouldn’t feel that way’…they do.  We should try to understand them..  I believe that they should know that doing the right thing...is its own reward and not expect another! I believe they should be surrounded by Biblical teaching from birth.  There is nothing that matches the look on a child’s face when they ‘get understanding’ about a detail!  It is magical to watch!  There is no love that is so pure or honest and true as the arms of a child begging to wrap you in a bear hug!  I imagine that’s the way my Heavenly Father feels about me, too!

I love a full moon…and the birds that come to the feeder outside my window…especially the redbirds…I love bare trees in the winter with all the branches showing…I love seeing tiny green buds appear on those same trees in spring.  I love swinging in a porch swing.

I totally and unabashedly adore my 3 boys! My boys are strong, and they are weak.  My boys are kind and gracious, but they are selfish and stubborn also.  My boys are full of empathy…they lived through learning that trait.  They ‘re the best parts of their father and I..and their grandparents.  They never followed all our rules…sometimes they went their own way.  They had the opportunity to choose the easy way…some took the hard.  I believe that every single thing you go through in this life is a piece of the puzzle that fits together to make you who you are.  Lessons learned come at a price…we all paid.  We all grew.  They are men who I love to talk with and yes, even still try to reason with and finagle.  They love their Mama.  They hold my heartstrings. We walked through the ravages of disease and sadness and pain together….and we grew through it and are the better for it. Brother helped brother helped brother and still do today.  I weep at the goodness of God to bless me with the total and complete perfect gifts they are to me!

God blessed me with a husband who is a man of God.  He is a deliberate thinker and a fairer man you will never find.  He weighs both sides of a situation and with God’s help makes his decision.  Always, he waits on God.  I admire his peaceful nature and his patient ways.  I rely on his wisdom to reel me in when I go off on some tangent. He is a man after God’s own heart.  He is my anchor in this life we chose to go through together.  (We absolutely argue and fuss.  We absolutely don’t always agree.  He absolutely drives me bonkers at times.  We absolutely are together forever!)

I am a sinner saved by the grace of Jesus.  I am a follower of Jesus Christ.  I love reading my Bible…singing the old hymns…responsive readings.  I am Heaven bound!  The Word of God can bring tears of joy to my eyes as I read it.  He wrote it just for me! He added things that just I need to hear!  It is my personal letter from Him!

I believe that God is in total control of the universe.  I do not worry about global warming and such…my God is big enough to handle this planet…after all He created it.  If we need more bumblebees, He can handle that!  I believe God uses many things in our world to speak to us.  I believe He speaks to animals…I believe he uses animals to teach us and to guide us and to protect us.  He made them all and they are one of His great gifts.

I love life…and the people in it…I love learning about people groups of other cultures…I think missionaries that spread the gospel in foreign lands are true heroes.  I love seeing the beautiful people who are so different than me, and were raised differently than me and do life differently than me.  And, yet, we can serve the same God!  I so admire and pray for those who give their lives in the winning of people to the Lord…especially in difficult situations.  They deserve my praise.

I know who I am.  I know what I believe.  My belief system was formed from childhood as I was raised around the people and places my parents thought were decent influences.  The friends I grew up with and their parents…the teachers and leaders in my church…my teachers at school and college…all left their lessons on me.  I am strong and resilient.  I have weathered very tough times.  I have been inundated with stress and grief.  These times brought lesson to my soul that stay with me always.  Lessons learned from living through tough times sticks well!   I am a survivor!   I can speak for myself and am not afraid to do so.  I believe it is always possible to be kind.    I believe that you have the same right to your beliefs as I do.    I do not need to belittle your beliefs.

I believe every law abiding citizen should have the same rights…I think our country should welcome any non-criminal  who is willing to become a citizen, and learn the English language.  I believe we should protect ourselves from the evil in the world whenever we can.  I believe we should be knowledgeable and up to date on daily news.  I believe we should never put our full trust in anyone other than God.  I believe we should be discerning about who we follow.  I believe the Bible when it says to “flee from evil”.  I believe we can be kind to everyone, regardless whether they think like we do or not.  But, your rights don’t trump my safety!  I believe no group should have to sacrifice their rights just to make another group happy. I believe in the sanctity of life.  I believe every child deserves the right to life.  I believe those who abuse children and animals are deserving of a hotter hell.

I believe our guiding light should always be the Bible.  I believe it is the perfect Word of God with no mistakes or double meaning.  I believe our lives should be governed by His Word.  I fully believe that God makes NO mistakes.

I believe we should pray for our government leaders.  They are in their positions because God allowed it.  Whether we voted for them are not.  They are leading our nation and need the intervention of the Holy Spirit in all they do!

I believe I am wonderfully made.  I believe God chose me to be who I am…where I am…with whom I am.  I believe He chose the circumstances of my life in order to mold me into what He wants me to be.  I believe He is always good.  I believe He hears and acknowledges every prayer.  I believe His way is always right.  I believe He speaks to me and you.  I believe He sends angels to watch over us.  I believe He created everything just as His Word says and I believe He is in charge of what happens…when it happens…and where it happens.  I believe He is never surprised.  I believe He is all knowing .  I believe Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven.  I believe He always keeps His promises.  I believe He is truth.  I believe God is love.  I believe I will live with Him forever.

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It is for me, then, to speak up when the opportunity is put before me…to speak wisdom when it is the appropriate time to do so…to take every chance God puts in front of me to speak the truth as I know it…to be quiet when silence is the best answer.    I can impact others by living true to God and myself…where He put me…when He tells me.

This is the woman that I am.  These are the ways I live my life with the freedoms that I enjoy…fought for and won by patriots and many wise and wonderful women before me.   I am a woman of value.  I matter in the lives of people I meet.  I matter to my friends.  I have been blessed with the best group of heart friends ever!  Women whom I love and cherish and who continue to teach me!  I matter to my family.  This is what I am grateful for.  I thank God I was born an American.  I thank God that He chose me to belong to Him.  I am blessed beyond measure.

I believe these words with all my heart and soul.  Amen!

3/8/17…International Women’s Day

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You are equally as valuable. You have your own set of values and likes.  You can take some things easily and others turn your stomach.  You are wonderfully made.  I encourage you to take the time to put it all down in an essay such as this.  There is no formula to follow.  Who you are and what you experience works together to make the special woman you are.  I do not feel boastful for sharing with you my heart thoughts.  I feel understood.  Tell someone today….better yet…write it down…just for you…just for posterity…for your great grandchildren to get a glimpse of who you are.   You are important…You are special...You deserve to be known!

 

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Just a short little post today…..something that caught my attention.

For Christmas, two of my dearest friends gave me a necklace that was handmade by an artist one of them knows.  They had been to her studio and picked out a piece, so they got me one, too.  (Oh, I like it when friends think like that!)

So here’s a picture of the necklace…

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Then, today, while I was scrolling through my Pinterest feed, I came upon this verse.

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Wow!  Isn’t it amazing to think that Almighty God cares enough about little ole me to choose me..to want me in my sinful nature…to appoint me to do His work on Earth…and to set me right smack down here in Dothan, AL.

Well, I don’t know about you, but that just makes me feel all kinds of special!  The God of the Universe, the Creator of Life, The Mighty Savior, The Great Protector…He…yes He did all this for ME!

Oh, I’m so undeserving and so unworthy…but you know what makes me feel better?  He doesn’t think that about me!  He cherishes and adores me!  And, I thank Him with all my being!

And I’ll tell you a little truth…..He did the very same thing for YOU!

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