Like a Child

Most of my life currently revolves around children, so brace yourself for another kid-saturated blog!

In the nineties, when I got my new pair of school shoes each year, I would save the shoe box. I knew I would need it a few months following when December rolled around, for my family took part in Operation Christmas Child. It’s a brilliant project extension of Samaritan’s Purse, an international aid organization initiated by Bob Pierce and Franklin Graham.

Essentially, millions of boys and girls around the world are mailed shoeboxes stuffed to the brim with little toys, candies, toothbrushes, socks, or crayons…whatever can fit! My sister and I used to have a ball (i.e.: we would actually dance around in the aisles of the Dollar General) shopping for these items.Packing a shoebox each fall took sponsoring a child to the next level. Somehow, the faces on the refrigerator pinned by a World Vision magnet suddenly became more real and alive.

On a whim, I decided to participate this year after a lapse of a decade. Then, I thought, “Why not have Sophie help me out?” Sophie is the bright and lively 5-year-old I have the privilege of watching. I thought she might enjoy prancing around Target with me searching for fun little items. Boy, was I wrong.

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I mean…I was right, but I was definitely wrong about the measure of her willingness. She was distinctly overjoyed to help. Within minutes of explaining the project, she was looking for things around the house. I had to gently explain that we needed to buy the gifts. A few moments later, she was making a card for our prospective little girl. It was no longer a project, but a gripping mission.

It was and is remarkable.

Oh, Jesus. I can see You smiling. Oh, that I would capture this heart of giving in my everyday, “run-of-the-mill” life.

Mailing these boxes is such a small stroke of the more grand portrait in the Kingdom. But I know opening those boxes must bring about extraordinary joy for those children who receive. And I know sending those boxes produces joyful givers for those who send.

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“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  -2 Corinthians 9:7

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Just a Little Journal

Today, I got a glimpse of what it might be like to have a real job…you know, an office job or something. I was inside all day, which is quite contrary to my norm. You see, being a nanny allows me to spend most of my work hours out under the sun. I get to walk a lot, too. With walking the kids to and from school, I average four miles per day, but let’s be honest…pushing a stroller must make it count for six or seven. Once, I tried running while pushing said stroller. Wow, kudos to moms everywhere who can pull this off. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. My arms were like jelly after only a few blocks. I haven’t tried again.

I was inside all of today and most likely will be tomorrow, too. Sick kids are truly one of the most disheartening sights. You know a kid is not faking illness if she says watching television gives her a headache and denies the chance to watch The Incredibles. And you must believe it to be true when she won’t accept chocolate as a bribe for swallowing her grape Tylenol. I was under high demand re-filling sippy-cups, dousing surfaces in Clorox, doing loads of laundry with yack-splattered garments, giving baths, checking and re-checking temps, making toast and tea, reading stories, and of course……cuddling. Littles just want to be loved, especially in their most dire states. This afternoon, Sophie didn’t want anything except to lie next to me on the couch.This little girl who is constantly busy creating something with materials from her art box or hunting for nature objects in the backyard.

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It was after dark when I got off this evening. Craving some fresh air and a bit of exercise, I walked with no destination in mind through my quaint little town of Del Ray. The temperature was perfect. It was just cool enough for a sweater, but nothing more. The air smelled of fire the entire way. I did wind up having a destination. I went to a cafe and bought hot chocolate, mostly for nostalgic purposes. It was decadent, tasting like my mom’s. She used to make a colossal pot at every big snow. Chris, Lindsay, and I would invite all our neighborhood friends once we were too frozen to bear even another sled ride. The foyer was always filled to the brim with dripping, wet rubber boots and the large picnic table in our kitchen had bodies crammed on both benches.

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These memories flooded my brain as I walked on darling sidewalks, passing old houses with backyard pits and highly strung twinkly lights. The upbeat, girly music (Regina, Ingrid, etc.) coming through my left earbud was putting a pep in my step. Then, my phone vibrated in my pocket. It was my mom. She was texting me out of the blue, writing some things I needed to hear tonight. In short, she was telling me that she loves me.

I love learning about love and life through the seemingly insignificant and “unimportant” days. It’s days like these, the “in-between” ones that sometimes wind up bringing the most perspective, thanksgiving, and adoration. Today was a gift from Jesus and I recognized it multiple times throughout. I pray the same for tomorrow. Heck, I want to see Him more.

Breath-Giver

Lately, my favorite thing to do is breathe.

I’m reminded of that particular Facebook page a few years back entitled exactly that: Breathing. If I took a shot in the dark, I would say half of my friends joined the hot page circa 2008. We were on to something. The respiratory system is crucial, as we also learned in Anatomy and Physiology classes. If you’re one of my doctor friends (I seem to have more of these recently), you especially understand the significance of the lungs.

Probably over the past year or so, I’ve heard the phrase “just breathe” from various people and multiple avenues. It’s great advice, right? It gleans peacefulness and relaxation. In my mind, it paints a picture of a person walking in nature, walking from everything and toward absolutely nothing. At the same time, that person is headed toward everything. He or she is simply being. Hakuna Matata.

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Not more than a week ago, I actually did it. I finally took the advice to heart. I breathed. I closed my eyes and took the deepest, intentional breath I can remember since I was a kid. When the Dale siblings went to Dr. Adams for our yearly medical exams, I found it completely necessary to exaggerate to the millionth degree when it was my turn for the stethoscope. After all, I didn’t want my jovial, white-haired doc to have any reason to give me an injection or tell me to stop eating Pop Tarts. I loved Pop Tarts. That was my 10-year-old perfectionist brain. I still love Pop Tarts. I’m still a perfectionist.

I want this newfound hobby to become consistent and frequent. However, it’s more sacred than a hobby, because when I took that earnest breath a few days ago, I found freedom again. I remembered in that moment who I am and why I am. I remembered my Maker, the One who gave that breath and gives this one…and the next…and the one following.

And when I think of this intricacy, I can’t help but feel my soul come alive. I am reminded of the scripture in Acts 17:28.

For in him we live and move and have our being.”

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Briefly backtracking for some more context, I found that Paul is speaking to the people of Athens who are always busy searching for the latest fad (verse 21) in religion. He is preaching about Jesus to these multitudes who possessed religious spirits and had created many gods.

In response to their way of living, Paul proclaims some comforting and luminous words in verses 24-27.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”

I can breathe deep when I’m praising Him, basking in His goodness all the more.

I can breathe deep when I’m running out the door, hurriedly walking and prodding the girls to school in the mornings.

I can breathe deep when my mind is battling all the injustices throughout the world.

I can breathe deep as I ponder my unknown, yet terribly exciting future.

I can breathe deep. And in that breath, I seek him. I reach out for Him. Best of all, I find Him.

I can be still and know He is my Comforter, the One who provides, the One who gives that very breath with which I praise Him.

His presence is the only gift we need.

Loosen The Grip

Saving money has been a recent undertaking of mine. Traveling, missions, low-paying jobs and internships have prevented me from doing so in the past. Finally, I’m able to stash away some hard-earned cash.

I can’t lie, it’s a good feeling…having some money in the bank. No, I’m certainly not rolling in the dough…but for the first time in my life, I’ve got some financial stability.

Or do I?

I would be sincerely mistaken to think money is my security. I would not say it is, however, I often become side-tracked into thinking this way. I want to give God every area of my life and quit compartmentalizing. But that voice of rationality kicks in…

“Save, Marissa.

You might need a car sometime soon.

You won’t always have cheap rent.

You’re almost 26. You’ll soon actually have to get your own health insurance.

Who knows what bills will spring up?

Save. Just save. Don’t touch that money.”

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I want to abandon this thinking. I want to withdraw from thinking I need to save and keep money for my well-being.  Even now, right now, I’m feeling foolish for writing these words in the previous two sentences.

“You need to be responsible. You need to plan for your bills. Have money stashed away. Be prepared for anything.” 

But then, the most of me doesn’t care about the logic, the stuff that should make sense.

I have full confidence that if I give my dinner to a homeless man in D.C., He will provide me with my daily bread. He’s done this. And so, I must have full confidence that if God has me give away my entire savings to people in need, He will indeed take care of me.

I’ve never taken a financial planning course. I’ve never read more than a few quotes by Dave Ramsey. I’m certain there is much good to note and apply in such strategies.

I’m grappling. Recently, this area of finances and giving has been the “Predestination or Free Will” question. Through my grappling, I’m realizing that when this rubber meets the road, I reach my conclusion with ease. God is saying to me, “Relinquish completely.”

And maybe I need to be logical for a moment. Maybe I need to plan.  It makes sense. Many Proverbs could be aptly cited here. They would urge counsel and planning. Sure, I agree completely. Wisdom in finances is necessary. But mostly, I long to be able to hold a loose grip, place everything in His hands, for all I truly need is Him. He will take care of me. He so cares for His children.

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“See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith?” – Matthew 6:28-30

so long to hold my earnings and possessions loosely, ready at any moment to give something or all  of it up.  No, I’m not trying to achieve saint status or anything. I simply want to know my Father. I want to be in step with the Spirit, and this is such a large aspect that can’t be overlooked. Because while in pursuit of Him, open hands are a natural outpouring and ever-increasing desire. It is then He can best use us for His glory.

I expound upon all of this because I believe it is necessary to explore when considering a life of giving. We live in this consumerist, Western side of the world where we work hard for our money and feel entitled to reap its security and thoroughly enjoy its benefits. It sounds right and justified, but the more I read the Scriptures, I see a different way. I see giving and sacrifice and love. And it’s beautiful. Because when we live in this way, Jesus promises we will be blessed and cared for beyond explanation.

That’s how the Kingdom works.

As I reflect again, I’m admittedly daunted. I’m thankful I can bring these stipulations to a God who is undaunted by our fears.

Here’s to the journey.

Back To Giving

I know I’ve slacked. This is entirely more difficult than I presumed. No excuses.

My mom repeated some renowned lines when my siblings and I were growing up.

“Buck up.”

“Quit your belly achin’.”

Here’s my new quote…

“Just write.”

I’m coming back to it all. I’m returning to the thought train of giving.

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It never fails. The following song always comes to mind when I think on this subject.

Here are a few of the stanzas:

There is plenty on this earth to suit our needs

But there will never ever be enough to satisfy our greed

Weigh this heavy on me now until can hardly breathe

Love through me

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I feel in the right, self-justified giving coins away

But what about the time I consider mine not tomorrow but right now today?

Clothe the naked; feed the hungry; welcome strangers

Come on, get up and open your eyes

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So would I give up:

Pillows and cable, clothing and candy,

If a girl could have some more to eat?

Would I lay down:

Making all this money, just to have my milk and honey,

If my fellow man could get the chance to hear about the King?

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I want it to be weighed heavy on me now. Maybe I want it weighed so heavy that I can hardly breathe. I think it will be worth it. For what it is worth, endeavoring into this realm for this brief period of time has already shown me a glimpse into the Father’s heart…in a brand new way. There is so much more to be discovered in all of this. His Word is pouring with scriptures about the topic.

I can’t find a “quality” recording of Love Through Me by Jenny & Tyler, but it’s still a sweet song worth sharing in any capacity.

TIME Hoarder

I spend a good amount of time alone. There’s no need to feel badly for me because I actually really like it. Life hasn’t always granted me this opportunity and I know this season won’t last forever, so I embrace it as fully as I know how. Plus, it’s just who I’ve always been. For all my life, I’ve prefered the smaller group to the large and a few friends instead of the posse.

Time is mine.

It’s now been ten months I’ve lived in the Washington, D.C. area. I’ve explored museums and monuments at my leisure. I’ve boarded the metro with no destination in mind only to sit in a park for hours. I’ve walked along the Potomac River dreaming of living on a sailboat. I’ve been to every coffee shop I know exists within a respectable radius…far too many coffee shops. If you find yourself in the vicinity, Grape + Bean and M.E. Swing are my top recommendations in Alexandria.

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I do things. I work, run, go to church and Bible studies. I occupy myself with other random social events and the occasional coffee date with friends (as if I don’t consume enough coffee). I’m sipping a latte right now. Regardless, I block off personal time like it’s untouchable, holy. I’m convinced it should be untouched to a degree. I hear story upon story from people I know. I hear stories of work and life balance. I hear stories of frustration and regret. They don’t have time for anything. They don’t know how they can possibly set boundaries in order to make time for themselves and a book or themselves and a wooded trail. They can’t recuperate from stresses. I’m beginning to see how much I actually crave their problem. Maybe I don’t crave it to this extent, but you probably get my point.

I need to make myself busy. I don’t need to make myself busy for the sake of being busy. I need to be intentional with my time.

Time is not mine.

I need to give time. Who can argue that time is one of the best gifts a person can give to others?

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People want to be heard. I like to be heard.

People want to be loved. I like to be loved.

People want to be known. I like to be known, too.

There are innumerable individuals who come to mind. They are people who could use practical help, folks who can use a listening ear. They are people who can help me learn and grow.

Time has seemed to be mine, but I feel I need to relinquish it. Yes, I need to relinquish every last minute…all the way up to my personal time. I still need alotted moments for sitting on a rock by the river talking to God or scribbling away in a journal. I still need the personal time, yes. All the same, I want to release that time too. I want to release it to God. He must guide my hours.

It seems like a large undertaking, just like everything else in life. I could probably categorize and make a chart, figure it out logically. But I don’t think that’s what God wants. Should I make a plan and map out my day? Sure, why not? Should I hold tightly to these plans? Heck no.

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If He’s put me here for His fame, I’m sure HE has better strategies and means than I could ever chart.

If I’m here to proclaim His majesty and love for His people, I’m sure He wants me to spend time with them.

And the sweetest thing about all of this is, when one intentionally spends time with people, they find themselves impacted just as much…maybe more than the other.

He loves His children. We are invaluable.

Simply Come

I’m thinking. I’m thinking waaaay too much.

I’m thinking of how I can truly surrender in this area of giving. I’m thinking about what it looks like for my current life situation. Do I drop off everything and live in a house in Philadelphia with The Simple Way community, making my own clothes and spending time with homeless? Do I give away everything I own?

One thing I know, no matter what the capacity of this yield to “stuff” and money, there must be one. I’m not exactly sure what it looks like, but it’s kind of beautiful that way. It’s incredible to know I need not lean on my own understanding. He will make straight my paths, our paths in everything as we seek after Him.

This morning, I want to worship. In worship, the dying of my desires and the joy found in His love invites His presence into the atmosphere around me. This morning, I seek after Him, basking in His eternal goodness. Everything else will follow, including grasping how it is I should give.

My Puzzler Is Sore

I read some literature today. Allow me to quote a portion.

“And the Grinch with his grinch feet ice cold in the snow stood puzzling and puzzling, “how could it be so?!”

“It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags!”

“He puzzled and puzzed until his puzzler was sore. Then, the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. “

I read this to Mia today. It was the first time in months we had cracked it open and I could still quote many of the parts, including this segment. My memory is actually not very superb, we’ve just read it that many times.

What lessons can I learn from green the monster? Is he a monster? What is the Grinch? But then, what are all of Dr. Seuss’ other creatures?

Can you tell I’m just trying to find something, anything to write about without having to think too deeply? It’s past my bedtime.

The Grinch. Mia. Today…

Wow, am I setting a good example? I think I am, but am I really? Am I living in such a way that Sophie, Mia, and anyone else would say, “there is a giver?” I might have to say no. Man, being a parent must be terrifying. Being a nanny is already ample responsibility.

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I pray I can be more giving (in all facets) so the littles who look up to me might be inspired to do the same. I pray they aren’t only seeing me, but also the Love who fuels me.

For His glory.

That is my prayer tonight. I blogged about giving. I’m signing out.

“Second Mile Service”

We all know the place. Most of us love it. Some of us have complete and utter devotion. Those of us with the highest dedication (the fanatics) will camp out in parking lots all over the U.S.A. because we just can’t get enough.
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I can write about anything having to do with giving, right? Today, I choose Chick-fil-A.
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My friend Amber and I with the owner of a new Chick-fil-A in Denver after a long, nippy night.

My friend Amber and I with the owner of a new Chick-fil-A in Denver after a long, nippy night in a tent.

I don’t doubt most know about the admirable legacy of S. Truett Cathy and his infamous restaurant chain. For one, the leaders in this company set God at the beginning and look to him throughout undertakings. They hold true to this standard and it’s even gotten them into a bit of trouble. Still, they remain fixed to their Biblical convictions. Additionally, Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays. Don’t say you haven’t done it. Don’t say you haven’t driven there only to find a desolate parking lot, unable to satisfy that hankering for a box of nuggets with waffle fries and polynesian sauce. I used to think their decision to keep the doors closed on Sundays was pretty cool. After studying a bit about covenants not too long ago, I find this even more honorable. There are plenty of other observations I can make about the eatery. The final one I will mention is their incessant generosity.
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I used to work for Chick-fil-A…at the Bear, Delaware location to be precise! I was the opening supervisor (goodness, those mornings were early)! I stayed through to the afternoons assisting with large outgoing sales in the catering department. Admittedly, the job was hard…probably my most difficult to date. The place was simply so busy! But the short period I served with Adam Marcus and the exceptional team members in Bear proved to be one of the biggest blessings. Undoubtedly, I often got wrapped up in the minuscule tasks such as assembling the Ice Dream machine and taking phone orders from doctor’s offices. However, I distinctly recall moments of knowing why my company existed and how critical it was to uphold the standard of kindness and generosity.
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Work day, 22nd birthday.

Work day, 22nd birthday.

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My days spent at Chick-fil-A often astounded me. How could they possibly afford to give away so many free meals? My boss saw to it that every homeless person who entered received food. Often, we would give away free meals “just because.” Those in uniform payed no more than a few dollars. Free breakfast mornings ran ramped. Most nights, the dining room was occupied with fundraisers for charities and community groups.
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We were taught to “go the second mile.” Once you see the effects of “second mile service,” it’s impossible to imagine doing life in any other way. It was incredible to see team members change on the inside for the better because they were held to the standard of going farther than the norm.
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The company is blessed and growing at an epic rate because they are giving freely. It’s a continuous cycle, the greatest kind to be tangled up in.
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“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” – Proverbs 11:25
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I remember a staff devotional in which this verse was the focal point. I remember picturing myself handing a sweet tea to a guest. I remember trying to see my job as something more than meeting the physical needs of people. I love that I was able to learn about Truth on the job. I love that I discovered the gift of giving while serving chicken sandwiches.
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It was my pleasure.
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This video was produced while I was working for the company. Every once in a while, I go back and watch it for renewed perspective. It’s totally worth a watch!
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Stop Thinking.

We walked through a muddy chicken coop with scattered, broken bricks and a smoldering fire to the left. We had to duck our heads to enter the humble, stick-like structure. Inside were an elderly African lady and her teenage granddaughter. That’s all I remember about that particular house visit. I’m sure we prayed for them. Was there salvation, healing, or breakthrough? I can’t say.

While my friends were ministering, my mind was preoccupied with the dirt floor, the brown calloused feet. I was having trouble keeping my eyes off of them. I would glance away, objectively focusing my eyes on other eyes in the compact dark space. But my mind still remained on the feet of that timid and insecure teenage girl.

That afternoon in Tanzania, I wanted more than anything to pull the sandals off my feet and slip them onto hers. The thoughts were stirring and building. When I was just about to act on my notions, I couldn’t bring myself to move. I sat, frozen. I felt she somehow knew my inner turmoil. I was paranoid.

Stephanie May

Stephanie May

Sure, I was fond of those brown, beaded thongs I bought in southern India the previous month. It wasn’t parting with the shoes that stopped me dead in my tracks. I had running kicks and flip flops back in my pack. And even if I didn’t have these other pairs of shoes, I still don’t think I would have been somber over the parting. I wasn’t concerned about walking in the dirt. I got all my vaccinations and hadn’t managed to get guinea worms yet.

Fear, pride, uncertainty, and everything else having to do with these inhibiting words got in the way. How would the girl react? Would she embrace me with pure exuberance or remain quiet and apprehensive? Was it God giving me the idea or was it only my human self? What would the translator make of it? My teammates? I didn’t want it to seem like I was having a “greater than thou” disposition.

These concerns were and are absurd. I absolutely hate that this happened last January. And I despise every other instance I thought about doing good but abstained. I am however thankful the Lord is using this past experience to teach me how to give without restraint.

I’m not advertising that whole checking the brain at the door model. I’m clarifying the necessity to give…to give more often than not. Do I need a divine word from the Lord to help a brother or sister? I don’t think so. Maybe it will happen (and I welcome it!), but if it doesn’t, do I withhold what already belongs to Him?

I long to get over my pride. I desire to rid these excuses disguised as boundaries.

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I like to believe the shoeless, calloused girl would have been beaming. I also like to believe everyone in the room (myself included) would have caught a deeper glimpse into the Kingdom of Heaven.

“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” -James 2:15-16

Tonight, God is saying, “Give. Give knowing you are my very hands and my very feet. Don’t fret about wrongly acting. My Spirit will guide you if you ask. Act. Give. Love.”

“That’s one of the things about love. It doesn’t recognize boundaries and never obeys the rules we try to give it.” – Bob Goff