…No Edits!.&

Morning chaos.

I think I handled it all gracefully. I’ve been trying to handle situations with more peace and calm. People think I’m even-keeled. HA. My husband probably thought this before we married. I’m pretty sure his opinion has changed, though he is more than patient and forgiving of my sometimes erratic self.

This morning’s first half hour was smooth. I was up just a bit before Alisan, so I was able to get some coffee and feed the dog and pull the sheets up over the bed. All amazing feats.

The first few minutes with her were swell, too. She was a talkative, happy girl this AM. I slipped her into her high chair and began to pull her hair back to prevent it from making contact with her applesauce spoon. I saw little white things in her brown mop. OH NO. Panic. We were actually Skyping “Mom-mom” and little cousin Caleb. My mom (having gone through the louse bout with my sister) was asking me questions about the infrastructure of these white fragments. I tried to remain calm, examine, describe… In my mind I’m thinking, “We leave for vacation this afternoon. Alisan is supposed to go to daycare today. I can’t deal with this.” Breathe. After forking (literally, with a fork) and sticking a few of these “seeds” on a piece of tape, I came to the conclusion it was SAND. The beach trip yesterday helped me to verify. Face palm.

I then booked it out the front door with the babe and pup for a quick walk. Twenty minutes remained before we were due to pull out, which was just enough time for Romero to run around by the river to do his business and get out some energy. He got his energy out, alright. I was texting my friend Amy about vacation plans when Rom-dog leapt off into the dense brush. I heard hissing. Poor kitty. Don’t hurt it, silly pup.

Rustling. Chasing. There was no telling what was going on in that jungle greenery.

Waiting. Lots of waiting. I don’t think he knew how to get out of the thick, for there was no opening. His nose eventually helped him out.

Walking briskly back to the house, I was thinking I knew we would be late. And we were. Alisan screamed to her full potential when I dropped her. My heart ached as I handed her over to her care giver.

Kids and dogs… A whole lotta work, but I wouldn’t want life without them.
I have so much to do for our long weekend away. How funny of me to choose THIS morning to write. I never write when I actually have the time. It’s not even 9:00 and so much has happened.

What else will life throw my way before we take flight over the East China Sea in a few hours?¬†Probably some things. ūüôā

And what else will take place before the baby comes and then while we’re moving back to the States? Probably some more things!

In fact, it’s been a really rough couple of months. Between some pregnancy symptoms (I’m fine now) and other family affairs, we seem to have been through the ringer. Even still, there are many others who are going through much more than I. The flooding in Houston has helped to put this into perspective. And even if I was going through losing all my earthly possessions such as a house and car, I would be ok. Life would move on. It would be as hard as heck, but thankfully, I have my faith and Rock to lean into, who is Jesus Christ.

I’ve been learning more than ever before and am continuing to learn THIS day that this world shifts and sways and disappoints and is a bit crazy! But there is One thing that will never change and His promises are true. I can trust He’s HERE. I can know He loves me. I can believe He has ALREADY overcome the world. He is bigger than pseudo nits and detrimental flooding.

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He knows the outcome of the rest of this day and the rest of my life. In this moment, I choose to embark on the rest of today’s adventures, knowing He can be my guide if I allow.

No edits, here. I haven’t looked over what I just wrote, for I need to get packing and cleaning.

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A Letter to my Brother

I think about you a whole heck of a lot. I’m reminded of you daily because ever since I moved to this place, it has occurred to me how much you would love it here. You and the west side would get along great. Surfing, skate boarding, fishing, unique food, all forms of art,¬†people of different cultures to your fill. Your vibe and personality is written all over this place and you haven’t even been here. I could see you¬†thriving here, Jeff.

I’m glad you got to meet my daughter last fall. I wish she could have known my cousin, but your story will have to live on through my stories, of which I will certainly tell time and again.

Most of my memories with you derive from my childhood. You were a critical part of it. If we were eating popsicles in the backyard while running through the sprinklers with all the neighborhood kids, you were most likely there. You were there shopping with us at Kmart. You were there at Grandmom and Grandpop’s. I loved catching toads with you for hours in Caravel Woods. Adventurous kids all us cousins were…especially you. No doubt, you got into a bit of trouble. Remember the time you ran into the rose bush?! How about that time in McDonald’s when you sprayed water ALL OVER THE BATHROOM? Ha, my childhood certainly wouldn’t have been the same without you. You were, you¬†are¬†another brother.
The summer of 2005 was the sweetest. I was about to be a senior in high school and ate up the opportunity to live at Grandmom and Grandpop’s, making “bank” at Bethany Beach. You were there practically the whole summer and my only friend in Sussex. Thanks for waiting up for me when I got off my night shifts with mini crab feasts and hours of tv-watching. Riding around in the Dodge pickup with you through cornfields in the heat of summer, running errands to Bodie’s or Hocker’s made us feel grown up. Thanks for¬†trailing¬†me on the bike during my painful runs,¬†while I attempted my last shot at making the varsity cross country team. I made it and now that I think about it, I probably owe it to you.

I haven’t been able to truly grieve. It has been difficult being thousands of miles away from our family, being so removed from it all. In a sense, I wish I could have somehow felt it all more. I wish I could have hugged all our blondie cousins and wept with your parents and our grandparents. It didn’t and still doesn’t seem real.

As I was talking to your mom on the phone right after your passing, she told me something right off the bat that I still struggle with. I know she was trying to reassure me, and I constantly need to remember her words, deal with them. ¬†She said to not have regret, to not think about what I could have done to help you. Jeff, I have regret and I absolutely HATE it. Why did I not keep in better touch with you after we all grew up and left our parents? How did weddings and Christmases and Easters become enough time with you? Why did I not pray for you more? Why did I not visit you on my own? But ¬†Aunt Jeanette is right. I am not a savior. None of our family could have been no matter how hard we tried. I know many tried very hard to bring you home. But the truth is, Jesus is the only One who could have helped you fully.¬†And so, there is only one thing I can do now and whenever tragedy may strike again. Through all the questions and unknowns, my heart sings…

“Even when the fight seems lost
I’ll praise you
Even when it hurts like hell
I’ll praise you
Even when it makes no sense to sing
Louder then I’ll sing your praise”

Jeff, I believe you are in the arms of the Savior, worshipping Him like none of us can fathom. You see more clearly than ever and the thought of it makes me eager to join you. I remember the moment you gave your life to Jesus. The recollection of yourself as a little boy on that day gives me the greatest joy.

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You have been a brother to me and so many others. Conversations were deep with you and it was obvious you cared more than most. The kindness you have given to those you love (and those you don’t even know) will always have a profound impact on my life. I’m torn that¬†you could never visit me in Oki or give me my first tattoo. But don’t worry, I still plan on getting that¬†ink one day in the near future (after I’m done having these babies). I love you forever.

Young and Free

Laying back on a crash pad, dusty¬†white hands behind my head was just what the doctor ordered this week. As I gazed up at my husband who was climbing a high bouldering route, I felt “normal” for the first time in a long while. Climbing was fun, too.¬†I worked through about five easy-ish routes and called it a night because one of my fingers was throbbing from a cut I earlier gained. But I didn’t care, for I felt young and free.

I felt as such because I was enjoying an activity of my¬†“prime.” And I was on a date with my handsomely rugged husband, watching him kill it on the wall. And there were many seemingly¬†young and free¬†individuals surrounding me in the cozy rock gym. I took the stairs to the loft, washed my hands in the giant metal sink and perused the “Resting Place.” A substantial wooden table with its chairs sat in the center of the dimly lit room. One wall housed bookcases of comic books and adventure magazines. I took a seat on a couch opposite the books, letting my thoughts continue to trail.The diapers and rice cereal and spit up and pulled earrings were behind me for now and I was in heaven. It wasn’t but a few minutes before Dave joined me. He often checks in on me and I like it. I appreciate how he constantly derives how he can be helping me and seeks to understand how I am doing. I need it these days.

You see, motherhood hasn’t been a walk in the park. Don’t get me wrong, I adore spending my days with Alisan. She is cute and easy to love, especially with all her new little babbling and baby tricks. Being a new mom has been rough¬†in the aspect of T-I-M-E. I wake up early to her screaming her little lungs out and by the time I gently lay her to sleep at night, there are counters to wipe. By then, I’m more than ready to hit our creaky, government-issued bed. She and I do¬†have a ton of fun in between. I break up the feedings, laundry and errands¬†with long walks around town with the pup, lunch with friends, story time at the library, Bible study… It’s all so very fun, it’s just that I can’t always do what I used to. With a baby attached to me like a kangaroo, I can’t go to a yoga class whenever I’d like. I can’t hike a hill and read a book. I’m not able to do a great many things because…nap time….and nursing. I’m not complaining. Regrettably, I sometimes I do complain because sometimes I get sad. But when it comes down to it, I gladly give up my age old pleasures for the honor of raising a daughter. Gosh, that’s weighty. And God gave me this specific job for this specific time and this specific (little) person.

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Back to¬†time. Thursday nights are special. Every other Thursday evening, Dave and I date like we’re still dating. We climb, we coffee shop, we walk the beach. I’m grateful for those three hours and our dedicated babysitter. It’s been remarkable for our marriage and I might could write another post about this another day. On the opposing Thursdays we have alternating personal nights. Those are good too. This weekly routine has been essential for us. It’s just one night a week and doesn’t feel like much sometimes, but I get to look forward to it with so much excited anticipation. I feel¬†young and free. I feel like¬†myself.¬†Extended moments to journal and drink a cold brew is all I sometimes need to rejuvenate my mind and get ready to get back to it.

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Yes, I’m a wife and mother. These are my roles. I understand there are seasons and that I’m growing up. I am learning to embrace all this season has to offer.¬†Caring for a little human, cooking healthy meals for my family, clinging to the Lord’s promise of peace during fussy¬†spells, praying dangerous prayers for my family, learning to better love my husband and learning to make bread rise (two takes last week, both failed) only scratch the surface!

My life is beautiful. But it’s wonderful¬†to step aside and reflect, connect with my husband and my Father. I’m grateful to Dave for being my biggest fan when I feel insufficient and overwhelmed. Who said having one kid is easy? ūüôā And I’m grateful to God for walking with me up the stairs to the nursery and down the street to the grocery. Your quiet whispers keep me focused on that which is of true importance.

I may not be getting any younger (the silvers atop prove this), but I can confidently can say I’m becoming¬†more free. Whether I’m out on the town on a Thursday night or trying to squeeze in time with the Lord during morning nap, my soul is exploding all the more, with each passing day. His love is at work in me beckoning me to indulge in and share of His freedom, if only to my babe and pup that day. Before this turns into what looks like one of my journal entries, I’ll call it a night.

Anticipation

Not in the 26 years leading up to marriage did I ever think I would get hitched to a U.S. Marine and find myself living in Japan. I also never thought I would adopt a dog named Romero and have a daughter named Alisan. A Hispanic dog and an Asian child. But you see, Romero is actually Japanese and Alisan is an American citizen.

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Life is funny and wonderful. It’s painful and whimsical. It has so many characteristics, yet the FACT that it is temporary has been hanging in the forefront of my being. It’s flying by like the gargantuan Okinawan bats in front of our riverside house. Yes, I’m excited for what is to come in the near future. I am profoundly looking forward to the possibility of spending Thanksgiving in Korea. The day Alisan takes her first steps will bring Dave and I immense joy (we are DYING to take her hiking). I anticipate the next place we will call home. I dream of a front porch and a fire pit round back. I dream of so many things, but there is still one dream which surpasses the rest.

As I hear Alisan’s¬†subtle breathing and peer overtop this Ergo¬†carrier at the laptop screen, I pause. I’ve written. It’s been over a year and I’m certainly¬†rusty.I know this because I’ve switched pronoun usage more than a few times. But anyway, I do hope you can pause today. I pray many of you can stop and reflect on where your life has and is taking you. God’s grace be with you and may you look forward to the place He has prepared. Until then, may we be overflowing with thanksgiving, exuding the joy of the Truth to this fleeting world. This is my best dream…my best dream until He takes me home.

6 & 7

The glorious, long-awaited weekend is about underway. I’ve put a bit of thought into how I’d like it to run its course. I hope to relish in these objectives.

SLEEP IN. Sleeping in means 6:30 these days because I’ve officially become a morning person! I have my husband’s early work start and our pup’s beckoning for a walk around the 5 o’clock hour to thank. And I’m thankful, really. I’ve always wanted to be a morning person.

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TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES. The Nikon my husband got me for my last birthday has been seriously neglected. Maybe I haven’t been getting out enough. That will change this weekend. I’m going to get out and capture creation. This leads me to the next bullet‚Ķ

GET OUT. I get out. I take Romero for extensive walks and scoot on over to the beach down the street and run errands and hit up restaurants with my husband. But I’m in serious need of adventure. Dave and I have a plan to make this happen.

MOVE. I exercise‚Ķ.casually. I really do need to exercise more intently. Do you ever have the inkling to scramble up a tree or run as fast as your legs will carry you through wooded trails? This is what I’m talking about.

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DON’T CLEAN. At least, I don’t want to stress over cleaning. If things aren’t perfectly in their place, I find myself deeply disturbed. Beginning when I was in junior high, I could not bring myself to do any homework until my room was pristine. Regrettably, this is still a part of me. Admittedly, I find this taking a toll on my time with God. I will clean and organize and straighten for hours before cracking open my Bible or falling to my knees. It’s utterly ridiculous and embarrassing. This is something I’m learning to let go, by the grace of God.

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TALK. A spark has begun again. A spark has begun and I can’t let it die. I yearn for it to become a blazing campfire and more. I want people to know of this Love that found me long ago. Living as an example is no longer sufficient. Hoping they see my “happiness” and mostly joyful attitude will not save their souls. How will they know if I do not say? Why wait for a convenient conversation to arise? About all of this I am praying and seeking and fervently. I want to talk. And I want my words to be worth it. And to be that, they must not be mine.

Jotting down my weekend goals has turned into writing of my life ambition! Ultimately, I want to live and move and be one with His Spirit. I want to be grateful always. I want to pray without ceasing. I want to draw closer and closer to who He is and reflect this to the surrounding world. When I’m taking a picture of a magnificent Okinawa sunset, I pray I can see His splendor. When I’m running down a path atop one of the capes, may I deeply know from where that joy derives. More than anything, I want to be willing to do anything for the bringing of His Kingdom. This world is but a shadow.

Our Ugandan Family

“Hallo my dear dota Morissa”

Receiving monthly emails with some sort of variation of this greeting could not be sweeter. After correcting him once, I didn’t have the heart to go at it a second time. His smile was so colossal and sincere, he could have called me Martha (not my favorite variation of Marissa) and it would have been fine by me.¬†Anyway, people in North America often call me Melissa, so I can surely deal with an East African calling me Morissa.

God bringing me in contact with a person such as Pastor Moses Luzinda has opened my heart and mind to live selflessly. Knowing him and Mama (his wife) has furthered my ability to look outside my severely blessed life here in the West. With their children grown and pursuing their prospective careers, this couple continues to parent the orphaned children they have adopted. They pastor at their church in town and hold marriage counseling classes. Mama runs a wedding catering business out of their home, specializing in ground nut sauce, cassava, fried chicken, and chapati. In addition to countless pastoral and community duties, Pastor Moses has begun a school, Hope Infant Primary School.

Mama Luzinda, March 2012

Mama Luzinda, March 2012. Credit: Stephanie May Wilson

¬†Hope School is a daytime haven for hundreds of orphaned and vulnerable children in the area. Attending a public school includes paying what are hefty school fees for even the average Ugandan. Because of this, many children stay home and tend to their siblings or try to sell things in the market. This is why Hope exists. As expected, the school’s numbers are past capacity and it grows so quickly that the pupils¬†can no longer squeeze on the classroom’s splintery benches. At mealtime, the staff scrapes the¬†bottom of the porridge pot. The teachers have not been paid in months, for there simply are no funds. Still, they keep on showing up, keep on teaching because these children are the future of their communities, their country. The students¬†adore¬†their school! There, they can learn about the solar system, how to write an essay. Most of all, they come to know about Jesus.¬†It is evident they know Him. During times of worship, they close their eyes and raise their hands as if they are reaching for God, Himself. They simply don’t have physical things to distract them or people who love them whom they can rely upon. They need Jesus. I want to need Him like that too. More than needing Him, they love Him with every fiber of their tiny bodies.

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Students gathering water, fall 2014

These children also need water. During the day, students leave the classroom and miss out on instruction to go on water hunts. The results are always grim as they return with murky sludge from holes where animals drink and bathe. Unsurprisingly, these kids are sick. They have seen their friends and family members die and they understand the reason. Friends, they are praying for water. It dawns on me that just this afternoon, I gazed at a lake on the Las Vegas Strip, containing 22 million gallons of water, spewing it all over the place for pure entertainment. Oh, to be able to bottle it up and ship it to the Luweero District.

Morning school commutes

Morning school commutes. Credit: Stephanie May Wilson

I have seen a need, a need more tremendous¬†than I have ever known. Thirst has never overtaken my body to the point of drinking contaminated water and obtaining disease. Three years ago when my friends and I stayed a month with Pastor Moses and his family, I knew this place and these people would be a part of my journey for years to come. I am still awaiting the day I will return to the African sun and hear the flawless melodies of hundreds of children’s voices rising into the heavens in unison.

They are still part of my life, in the greatest way, for they¬†pray for¬†me. And so, I must write this. I’ve got to ask for your help for our brothers and sisters. I would be lying if I told you I’m always hopeful this money will appear. I’m not. My spirit sways and questions, but the love of Christ urges me to hold on to hope. I know His Spirit is more powerful than my words and it is His love that compels His people, you and I. Maybe He will provide through this blog, or maybe He will have the well built in a way my human mind can’t fathom. That’s something I love about Jesus. He is FULL of surprises. As I sit here in the Las Vegas Venetian drinking a bottle of Nice! spring water and staring at rows of colorful pastries, I pray. I pray for those dear children and¬†the plans He¬†has for them as they grow and learn! Tonight, they are why I write. Here it is, I ask you to prayerfully consider joining by giving to this CAMPAIGN¬†to get clean water to these precious kids in Wobulenzi, Uganda.¬†Let’s be the hands and feet of Jesus, taking care of our dear brothers and sisters in Christ as we are commanded.

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” -I John 3:17-18

World Race mission team to Wobulenzi, March 2012. L-R: Katie, Pastor Moses, Brittany, Stephanie, Natalie, Shay, myself, and Mama

World Race mission team to Wobulenzi, March 2012. L-R: Katie, Pastor Moses, Brittany, Stephanie, Natalie, Shay, myself, and Mama

One Month Married

My least favorite part of the day is “zero six thirty” when David leaves, cycling down the road to work. This is also my most favorite part of the day. Early mornings in their shadowy darkness and quietness are lovely despite my best friend leaving. I start the dishwasher, make the bed, pick up the house, and sit down on the couch by the kerosene heater. The only thing that could possibly disturb the silence is the back-door-neighbor, a green-eyed pit bull who lives in the dirt behind a chain fence. If his owners have not yet let him out, all is silent and communion with my Father proceeds in peace.

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Twentynine Palms, California. I’m here. Rather, WE’RE here. David moved here to the Mojave Desert in the fall for Communications School and I joined him after our Christmastime wedding.

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I’m married! I’m married and I love it. Plainly, it has been just one month (to the day!), but I rest certain, knowing I will forever delight in this decision. David is the most caring, calm, God-loving, intrepid, and handsome man. There is no one else with whom I would rather spend my time. I like eating cereal and toast with him before the crack of dawn. I like when he rolls in the door all sweaty (sorry, Dave) in the late afternoon and I get to kiss his face. I like running with him. He is so kind to do this with me though his mile time is four minutes faster than mine. I like when we pray together. I like reading together. He can stay up taking in C.S. Lewis stories on his Kindle for what seems like hours while I doze off after a few pages. I like that we can talk about anything, even more things now that we’re married. I like long drives with him and slowly grazing bookstores together and hiking mountains and climbing rocks. I like visiting friends from church and listening to him talk so purely and joyfully. I like going to Del Taco with him‚Ķ.sort of. We visited once and both agree we can most definitely live without returning to the local fast food joint. But I reckon I’ve made my point. I like to do most everything with my husband. Call it the honeymoon stage if you like, but married life is terrific.

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This season is undoubtedly a testament to God’s never-ending faithfulness. I’ve prayed long and hard for my husband. God did clearly intersect our paths. And our¬†new path couldn’t be better. Am I naive to the fact that trials and less than awesome times may materialize? I don’t think so. If truth be told, I sometimes wonder when they will eventually happen. But for now, I am living in gratitude for these days and pray I can do so when life brings¬†valleys. And when I’m stuck in a ditch, I rest assured Dave will help to pull me out. I pray I can do the same for him. When we’re down there together, we’ll have a hand to hold.

I thank God for this time in Southern California. I am grateful for the blessings of a sweet, sweet place to spend time as a newlywed. The mountains and our little home and the people in our lives are beyond what I could have hoped or dreamed. I am getting to know my husband better by the day, by the hour. And I love him increasingly more. Time here will be short-lived, for we are headed to Okinawa in April. I am thrilled and prayerful about the coming months here and abroad.

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In short, marriage is GOOD. My friend Stephanie Wilson once said, “marriage is like having a slumber party with your best friend every. single. night.”

Today’s Letter

God and I have conversations in my journal. Sometimes I write far too many of my own babbling words. Other times, I’m willing enough to listen and let Him speak. This tweaked and highly edited version from today might be¬†for more than only myself…

Dearest [Marissa/your name],

Pause for a moment. Take a deep breath. Inhale and know how lovely you are. Do you comprehend it yet? Keep contemplating, breathing…

Catch a glimpse of how wonderful you are to Me. You don’t fully know right now, but be assured. Have no doubts that you are perfect in My sight. This grace that has found you does not recognize the boundaries you try to establish.

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Look upon me, your most genuine friend and warmhearted Father. Read my promises and believe they withstand your doubts. I wrote them while you were on my mind. You are always on my mind.

Be relieved of the burdens of this day, this week, this year, or as far as they seem to stretch. Today is a new day. Though it may be well into the evening, it is still brand new.

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Step out the door and be thankful for your uninhibited freedom. It is indeed yours. And it is cause for celebration.

Let this joy and freedom you find through celebration carry you today and everyday after. Let everything else be ruined.

He has been teaching me to celebrate each moment because He exists¬†in every single one. He has been showing¬†me ¬†how to embrace the love that is already being poured out on me. He has been helping¬†me see why I exist…for freedom and the illumination of that freedom.

Invitation

Preheat.

Watch four minutes of Downton, Season 4, Episode 1. Poor Mary.

Bake.

The kitchen is dark and cozy. The illumination of my laptop supersedes the glow of the oven light. Right now is the most quietness I’ve known for days. Yes, The Shins are faintly streaming on Pandora and there is the muffled hubbub of cars, planes, trains, and metro close by. Nevertheless, the solitude of this time is distinct.

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I didn’t intend to be awake. No, it’s not intrusively late, but just late enough to interfere with my proposed routine. I was nearly about to crawl into my sheets when I remembered the pan of dough rising. Now I’m baking. No, now I’m waiting while the oven does the work. The decision to make a cup of tea was problematic, for I have already brushed my teeth. Fighting the urge to indulge in a snack is taking all my effort.

30-minute mark. Cover with foil.

I’ve become pretty good at this. I’ve become pretty good at realizing that when something unexpected like this happens, I am being beckoned to listen. It’s a wake-up call every time I encounter a “wrench.” It’s an invitation and reminder that¬†right here¬†is where I want to be, always.

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Tonight, I am compelled to drop all busyness and enter sweet Rest.

65 minutes. Done and Cooling.

Yes, Pandora, I’m still listening.

Eating.

Thank you, Jesus for intervening in big and seemingly small ways. Thank you for your presence even when I fail to recognize. Thank you, Spirit for teaching me. May I exude this thankfulness, revealing Your joy and salvation tomorrow and everyday.