Confession of A Christian – I Didn’t Feel A Thing…Until…

 

yellow flower with butterflyI had a sneaking suspicion that my Easter celebration was not going to feel much like a celebration this year.  Last week I saw it coming. Bloggers wrote about Lent, Good Friday, and posted recipes, tablescapes, door décor and fun, spring crafts. My Facebook feed blew up with scriptures, links to online devotions and inspirational photos.

Friday was here, but sure enough, Sunday was a comin’!

And I felt nothing.

I skipped the devos, scrolled right past the photos and laid nary an eye on the recipe for yeast rolls.

As a member of my church choir, I was there early Easter Sunday, albeit five minutes late. With limited time before the first service began, we quickly rehearsed one more time and then took our places on stage.

Church started and we sang. All the while I scanned the sanctuary for my husband and oldest son. Finally, they made it but they had missed all but one song and the sermon.

I had just enough time to say a quick word to them before they left for home and I left for the choir room before second service began.

We sang again. With the first service acting as an extra rehearsal, we nailed the one song on which we had a minor flub earlier.

Afterwards, I spoke with some friends before heading toward my van and home.

One problem. The van was deader than a doornail.

Did I say, “One problem?”

That was premature.

Two problems: the dead van AND my cell phone – the one that was not in my purse. The one that was sitting on my kitchen counter.That one.

Remember the part in which I was five minutes late? Running out of my house hours earlier I decided not to waste the time to go back for my phone. After all, I never needed it on Sundays at church.

Never say never. Now I needed it to call my husband. Sure, I could borrow a phone but I couldn’t recall his or my son’s number. I can barely remember my own and often give the wrong one – usually off by one digit!

I borrowed a phone and dialed my own. I tried three times! I knew they could hear it and I also knew they probably wouldn’t answer it.

A friend offered to take a look under the hood of my van and in short order he had it running after tightening a loose battery cable.

On my way home, I silently fumed about the delay, the phone I left and the fact that no one answered my call. Plus, I was hungry!

I sighed heavily as I passed the turn-off to the cemetery where my younger son’s body rests. (I hate even writing that sentence. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it.)

As I drove, I thought I should take a lily to the grave site but going there makes me feel so sad. I relive the day we left him there. Oh my. Dear Lord, help me.

When I got home, I set immediately to preparing our big Easter meal. Ha! In years past, yes, it was a big meal followed by either my made from scratch carrot cake or my coconut cake. Then it was out to the yard for an Easter egg hunt and pictures. But not this year. Not the past four years.

For some reason this year’s Easter weekend felt sadder to me than last year’s.  I think because the evidences of change are sharper with each passing Holiday.

Our menu this year: steak on the grill, roasted veggies, baked potatoes, deviled eggs (only 4!) and a store bought pie.

Our table this year held no special arrangement and neither did my door. There’s one lone nail in it. Perhaps that is symbolic after all – the Easter nail.

Only three of us sat at the table. It felt lonely to me.

There was one bright spot–a divine spark–to the day however. It came as a complete surprise. There had been no build up to it and it caught me off guard.

During the first service we sang a new arrangement of an old song. I sang it often in church as a teen and young adult.

It was the one song we sang this season in which I did not need to learn the words. I had those memorized years ago.

Amazing Grace will always be my song of Praise,

For it was Grace that brought me liberty,

I do not know just why he came to love me so,

He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs.

 

I shall forever lift my eyes to Calvary,

To view the Cross where Jesus died for me,

How marvelous his Grace that caught my falling soul,

He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs.

 

And right at this point: “I shall forever lift my eyes to Calvary,” tears filled my eyes, and at “To view the Cross where Jesus died for me,” my throat tightened.  With, “How marvelous His Grace that caught my falling soul,” my hands were uplifted.

Despite everything – my lack of feeling much at all, a van that wouldn’t start, a ringing cell phone on a kitchen counter, deviled eggs sitting forlornly on a plate, and only three of us around the holiday table – the truth of the sacrifice on a cross on a hill met me in the words of a song.

All of us will have our Good Friday feeling that doesn’t feel so good because this world still holds pain and disappointment. For every pretty frock and smiling family on Facebook, there are those who keenly feel the absence of a dearly loved son, daughter, wife or husband. Perhaps they are even the ones smiling for the camera or, like I, never even picked it up because why record a lackluster occasion.

For every lovely spring wreath and bounteous buffet photographed for social media display, there is another picture not taken – the last minute store bought pie and a solitary nail in the front door.

The spring outfits, the ham and yams, the bling on the door…it’s all just stuff. But I admit, this year I missed the stuff.

Still, I’m glad I have that moment in the music–when the words rang out from a painful, yet grateful, place in my heart—a place that Someone who died for me dearly knows.

Jesus, the Son of God, knew that place in my heart when He died for me on a cross on a hill. He knew it when the first nail was driven. He knew. He knows. He cares. He loves.

And even today, He looks beyond my faults—my unfeeling, my bare, my empty, my lonely, my resignation, my selfishness, my disappointment and my pain—and He sees my needs.

In spite of this, He loves me still.

In light of that “resurrection” moment that filled my heart, my soul can truly sing, “How marvelous His Grace that caught my falling soul…”

I hope yours can too. If you don’t know what it means to feel the peace of God and know that even when life is hard, God is good and you can place your heart in his hands, please take a minute to find out how. (Go here.)

How about you? Did you have a “resurrection” moment on Easter weekend? Were you able to look past the “stuff” and truly recognize His sacrifice?

I’m linking up with Jen (“Finding Heaven Today”) and the Soli Deo Gloria Party.

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A Shark’s Tooth Weekend Tale

Shark's Tooth 10k collage

Last weekend my husband and I drove a couple of hours from our home to Venice (Florida, of course!) to run the Shark’s Tooth 10k (6.2 miles). There were about a thousand runners and my husband placed second in his age division. I, on the other hand, did not. But I was satisfied with my run.

Before leaving, I told my son, Avery, that I was a little nervous about running since I had only run 6 miles twice in the past few months and had not entered a race in over two years. As I walked out the front door, Avery called out, “You’ll do fine. Just run your race with endurance.”

Ahhhh…now THAT made me feel good. And that’s exactly what I did.

Shark's Tooth 10k

 

There are two things, however, that I do not enjoy about races.

1. Running in a crowd (explanation below)

and

2. Port-a-johns (explanation unnecessary!)

I prefer to run alone most of the time. It’s my time to unwind and do my own thing – run as fast or as slow (usually the case) as I want and go 3 – 5 miles or even the occasional 6 miles if I have the time and inclination. I’m not on anyone’s time table but my own. Lately I’ve been listening to Harry Connick Jr. Radio on Pandora when I run.

This is a fun little number to run to!

We made a mini-vacay out of the weekend. We stayed in an
“Old Florida” style beach inn. Our view was spectacular! We relaxed and walked the beach collecting shells, shark teeth and rocks. In fact, I came back with more rocks than shells!

Mel loves dan collage

Before heading home on Sunday, we ate breakfast at a bakery/cafe in downtown Venice. In an effort to cut down on carbs (I LOVE carbs!), I had an omelette but I have to admit I also ate a few bites of my husband’s blueberry pancakes. They were the perfect pancake – fluffy and golden brown!

After breakfast we enjoyed an antique car show. Something about a white car with a wide gold stripe caught my eye!

car show collage with text

The hardest thing about coming home after spending time away is the realization that our son, Andrew, is not here. It hits me every time I go away even for a couple of days. It’s just something we have to deal with on an ongoing basis. The pain is not as sharp as it was in the beginning but it’s still there. Always there. I am blessed to have my husband. He understands. He feels the same. There is comfort in shouldering the pain together as well as the times in which we’ve shared the joys.

One of our “joys” was when our kids were little, we took them to the beach in Venice and let them search for shark’s teeth!

In 10 days we will remember Andrew’s birthday. Had he remained here on earth, we would be celebrating his 17th birthday on April 25th. I do believe when I see him again, he will still be my “12 year old son.” My son with the honey colored hair and amber brown eyes. My son with a love for dogs and an impressive skill on a skateboard. My son…my brother in Christ…my friend.

Everything I’ve ever truly desired in this life has come to me by way of marriage and motherhood. I thank God for that. That must be why matrimony is referred to as holy and birth as a miraculous event.

Friends, that’s my week-end wrap up!

How about you? Did you do something fun and/or out of the ordinary over the weekend?

Do you have a son or daughter who would like a shark’s tooth? I’ll mail one to the first person who says they have a child who would like to have it! The ones we found last weekend are a bit smaller than a penny.

If you are the first to request the shark’s tooth in a comment, make sure you leave your email or fb info. 

 

 

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Summer Tripping!

At Rudy's BBQ

What a wonderful visit I had with my daughter and her husband! I have not seen them since their wedding day in March and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip to Albuquerque. Audra wanted to make sure I enjoyed the local cuisine and I did! We ate at Flying Star Cafe, Rudy’s and Weck’s (twice).

We rode the Sandia Peak Tramway – the longest tram in the world! The mountains are beautiful and depending on the light of the day the mountains appear different shades – lovely!

Sandia Mountains Welcome Center

Welcome Center – Sandia Mountains

 

I enjoy spicy food so my taste buds were at home with the green chiles and red sauce.

We went to see the petroglyphs – very interesting. The air was so still and then suddenly a wind began to blow so hard I thought I’d lose my earrings!

I’m not sure what’s going on with the placement of these pictures but I just wanted to share some of my trip with you.

After returning from NM, I was home one day and then headed to Indianapolis to speak and sing there. I’ll share about that later this week! I hope you’re having a fun and relaxing summer. My plan is to rest and refresh!

At the Petroglyphs - It was so windy!

petroglyphs

petroglyphs

Last day with my girl ~

My Daughter – I’m so very proud of who she is.

Weck's - soooo good!

Weck’s – soooo good! I recommend the Carnitas Enchiladas.

Audra & Sam in Santa Fe
Audra & Sam in Santa Fe

Singing at Evangel Christian Center, Albuquerque, NM
Singing at Evangel Christian Center, Albuquerque, NM

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Call Her Blessed – “An Everyday Kind of Woman”

Memorial pictures

My mother’s “freedom celebration” was described by one of my cousins as a combination of “funeral, gospel sing and CHURCH!” She is correct in that description. Below is the tribute I shared at the service for my mother.

Today I rise up and call my mother blessed.

Most of us here today grew up in the church and most of us heard the obligatory Mother’s Day and Ladies Luncheon message about the Proverbs 31 Woman. But if we misunderstand the poetry of the passage that begins, “Who can find a virtuous woman…” we lay a misplaced burden on the godly women we know and the godly women we are.

The passage was never meant to be a daunting list of never ending chores and responsibilities that only a Wonder Woman could accomplish.

The opening line is best translated, “A woman of valor, who can find…”

In the Jewish culture the passage is known as the Eshet Chayil  – The hymn for the Woman of Valor. It was never meant to be used as THE standard for the woman of excellence but rather to “highlight the glory of the everyday.”*

My mother was…IS…an everyday kind of woman –  Eshet Chayil – A Woman of Valor.

Let me share with you some of my thoughts about this Everyday Kind of Woman, a woman of valor – my mother.

My mother was present in the life of our family. By that I mean she was “there.” Every family is unique and makes the decisions that work best for them. Mother’s choice, as well as her opportunity and her privilege was to be home. When we lived in Hattiesburg (MS) during my high school years, Mother’s habit was to fix our breakfast before we left for school. Every morning, it seemed, Mother prepared our breakfast and left it on the kitchen counter. Because I didn’t like mayonnaise with eggs, my egg sandwich got grape jelly which turned my eggs green.

A mother preparing breakfast for her kids – in our home it was just an “everyday” kind of thing. Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!

One afternoon I got off the school bus and walked into an empty house. Usually Mother was always there when I got home. I remember the feeling of something missing because Mother was gone. Soon she returned and everything felt right again.

Our mother being home – it was just an “everyday” kind of thing. Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!

I don’t know how many years my mother went along with us to church youth camp. Sometimes she was the counselor for my cabin and I got to see how all the other girls loved and appreciated a mother like mine. One year she was the camp nurse and even I knew that was a stretch for her. She just joked that she was inspired by the words of Jesus, “Suffer the little children to come unto me…”

The funniest role she fulfilled at youth camp was to serve as the lifeguard for the girls. Mother was a decent swimmer—as long as she stayed out of the deep end!

Camp Counselor, Camp Nurse, Camp Lifeguard – In our youth camp years, it was just an “everyday” kind of thing. Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!

Mother had a gift for making a house a home and in our ministry life we lived in a lot of houses but it was not until Mother added her decorative touches did it feel like our home. For a few years she worked part time showing other women how to hang pictures, put arrangements together and make their houses  prettier homes.

To us, mother “pretty-ing up” our home was just an “everyday” kind of thing. Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!

We had a lot of traveling ministers (evangelists) who stayed in our home. I remember this well because I always gave up my room for them. But if you were to ask those ministers what they remembered about Mother I can assure you it would be two things: her cooking and her praying.

In our home Mother’s prayers and her delicious southern cooking were just an “everyday” kind of thing. Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!

A few days ago a pastor in my area, Tyson Prater, wrote this tribute to my mother on facebook, “Don and June Clark were my pastors during my teen years in Clearwater. They would later become wonderful mentors as I entered the ministry. Sister June was always a great encouragement in those early sermons Pastor Don would allow me to preach. That was her -an encourager, strong in faith, funny, and always straight to the point. I have always loved and appreciated them both for all they did for me. She always sat on the front row every service, Pastor Don would say, “to keep him straight”, but I always admired her that she would be there for him.

When Jenn and I married and accepted our first pastorate I said, “I would like you to sit on the front row like SIS. Clark always did” and she has always been there just like Sister Clark. I pray for the family in the loss of Sister June, but I rejoice today with her because she has made it home…blessings and I love you all…and Sister Clark, ‘thank you.’”

My mother supporting my Dad – for her, that was just an “everyday” kind of  thing. Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!

When my son, Andrew, was first diagnosed with brain cancer, my mother, who lived 12 hours from me, called me. I lay on the floor of my bedroom sobbing and groaning on the phone with her. She prayed for nearly a half hour and then asked, “Do you need me to come?” I choked, “Yes, I need you.” Within two days Mother and Dad had packed and made the long drive to come stay for several weeks with us. She spent hours in prayer for the healing of my son.

Less than four months later Andrew had left our home for Heaven and Mother and Dad were with us again. One morning a day or so after laying Andrew’s body to rest, I woke up crying uncontrollably and Mother left the room where she had been sleeping, came into my room and crawled up into the bed with me. She lay her hand on my head and prayed until finally I stopped crying. When she and Dad returned to their own home, she called me each day. She knew I was grieving deeply and that my thoughts were consumed with questions and confusion. Each day she asked, “How is your thinking today?” I answered in a monotone, “I’m okay.” But she knew I was not. Mother prayed over the phone with me day after day until finally the fog covering my mind and my heart began to roll back.

A mother who pours her heart out before God on her children’s behalf, for me and for my brothers, it was just an “everyday” kind of thing. Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!

Continuing with Christmas - 10 days after Andrew's passing.

Continuing with Christmas – 10 days after Andrew’s passing.

My dad, a Louisiana Boy met my mother, a Mississippi Girl, as he was traveling to hold a revival. A month later they held hands and said, “I do.” And just like that they were off on their big adventure with God and each other. He preached. She played – accordion and organ. They sang. Her soprano voice was limited to alto because he could only “hear the lead.”

Growing up, I heard my mother’s prayers from behind her bedroom door, at the stove stirring pots, from room to room with dust cloth in hand smoothing over bedside tables and bookcases. It may not have been 5000 that she fed her home cooked meals – pork chops, peas and cornbread -  but it is one of the things people still remember. It’s the love she put in caring for her family that inspires me to lovingly care for mine.

Learning from my mother it was easy for me to consider her kind of love an “everyday” kind of loving. Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!

Her children rise up and call her blessed,

her husband also praises her:

“Many daughters have done valiantly, but you surpass them all!”

Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, 

but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.

Give her credit for what she has accomplished,

and let her works praise her in the city gates.

Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!

Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!

Eshet Chayil! Woman of Valor!

 

* Quote from Rachel Held Evans

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Finally Free

June Williams Clark 6/28/38 - 5/9/13

June Williams Clark
6/28/38 – 5/8/13

Yesterday my mother gained her freedom. Freedom from a body that betrayed her. Freedom from the limits of confinement to a bed. Freedom from sustenance in a bag attached to a tube in her stomach. Freedom from the fear of increased pain.

Finally my mother is free. Free to walk once again with the beloved ones who gained their freedom first. Free to thank God for the miracle she had been believing for and waiting on for nearly a decade.

“For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.”

 

In so many ways my mother’s life portrayed “living Christ.” Now in her dying is her gaining of eternal freedom.

Mother, finally you are free!

Mother, kiss my boy for me.

Mother, I love you.

Mother…

 

 

 

 

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Tutti Fruitti Tonga & Other Important Matters

Well, THE BIG DAY is almost here. By that I mean THE WEDDING. I got my MOB dress a few months ago – about a week after the engagement – and finally found a pair of shoes two weeks ago. Let me tell you about the shoes. I have been casually looking for a pair of nude slingbacks possibly with a peep toe to wear with THE DRESS. But not until a couple of weekends ago did I drag my husband along with me to the mall to seriously shop for some shoes. We went to the Macy’s which usually has a pretty decent shoe sale nearly all year long or at least every time I go to the Macy’s which is not really all that often since I’m not a big shopper anyway. No luck there.

Across the way and circling the ice skating rink to the Dillard’s we went. A goldmine, I tell you, a glorious goldmine! They were having a 65% off sale plus another 40% off! I did not find a pair like I had been envisioning but hey…if you can’t find the pair you love…love the pair you find for 65% off plus another 40% off, right?! Here’s the shoe but I have to say, they’re much cuter on and comfortable, too. When did I become my mother? For years I remember she shopped for a “comfortable pair of low heeled black shoes.” I don’t look for black shoes so much as a pair that matches my hair color. Yes, you read that right. I try to match my hair color so no matter what I’m wearing the look is coordinated from head to toe. Think about it.

So this week I’ve done the following:

  • colored my hair (8 N)
  • got my hair cut – a few more layers
  • highlighted my hair myself – a bit challenging since I’ve grown it quite long
  • changed my toe polish – OPI “tutti fruitti tonga” OPI Soft Shades Nail Polish - Tutti Frutti Tonga NL-S48
  • lost a few pounds by cutting out wheat (and sugar except in dark chocolate because I’m not completely crazy)

I’ve done a lot of other wedding stuff too but it’s not as exciting and riveting in a blog post as shoes and nail polish.

With just a few days to go, the weather forecast is great for a backyard wedding – high 70′s and clear skies. I’m excited to see how it all comes together:

  • the white tent strung with pink and white paper lanterns
  • the collection of milk glass vases we’ve acquired filled with pink carnations
  • tables topped with white tablecloths and vintage, mismatched china plates on silver chargers
  • Ball jars with name tags tied with twine for drinking
  • the lovely green lawn trimmed in pink and white flowers in full bloom
  • family and friends gathered to share in the celebration

Most of all I’m excited that our family is growing with the addition of a wonderful man who will make a fine husband for my girl. I can’t wait to hear their vows and witness their smiles. I know they will weather their own storms as life brings those to each of us. I also believe they will stand together with the their faith as an anchor.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:13)

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Sharing A Little Merry

My book pages tree – I made it with pages from an old dictionary.

I gave a couple of these as gifts.

The birthday meal for my husband – seafood bisque (crab/shrimp) and red velvet cake with mascarpone frosting. Check out the recipe for the cake and the BEST frosting I’ve ever made. It’s on my Pinterest board, “Cake!”

My girl & me on Christmas Eve

Audra and her fiance, Sam ~

Audra with our Santa Pup, Ted ~ Does he look a bit like the Grinch? We think so!

Family of Five Forever with Andrew in our future ~

Andrew loves this puppy! Ted was Andrew’s birthday gift when he turned 10.

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The Holy and the Humble

photo ~ Michelle Smith

I clipped three pink roses from the front yard and arranged them in a small crystal vase. These will be nice in Mother’s room…a little bit of the outdoor scenery for her to enjoy.

“Look, Mother. The rose bushes are really blooming.”

Nodding her head toward the chest of drawers, Mother answered, “Your daddy usually puts them up there for me.”

I swiped at some dust with my bare hand and placed the vase of roses next to the small T.V. that sat on the chest.

For the past year my mother has been mostly confined to her bed. Due to a severe problem with her esophagus that has resulted in her inability to even swallow water her only source of nourishment is through a feeding tube. Mother’s mobility is also limited because without notice her knees buckle and she cannot support herself to stand. My dad is her sole caregiver. It takes me twelve hours to drive from my home in Florida to the rural town in Mississippi where my parents retired from the ministry. We have discussed their moving in with my family but so far Mother is holding out to remain in her own home. One day I know this will not be possible. For now I drive out every 3 months to visit and give my dad a break from the daily care.

I help Mother with her basic needs and read from My Utmost for His Highest with her. I talk with her of trivial things and important matters. We watch T.V. together.

I organize, clean and cook for Dad. On one visit I made a big pot of turkey and wild rice soup and filled quart sized bags to go in the freezer. Another time Dad and I had a fish fry. He fried the catfish and potatoes while I mixed up the batter for the hush puppies.

I timed my last visit so that Dad could attend summer camp meeting services in Jackson. Each morning he got mother’s “tube and nutrients” going first thing. Then showered, shaved and dressed in a suit, he drove an hour and a half to Jackson to the campground.  It was good for him to go and visit with the other pastors he’d known and had fellowship with for many years. He shared with me how two or three of them had hugged him and prayed for him and Mother. I could hear in his voice how this act of kindness and compassion had touched him.

Each time I drive out to visit with Mother and Dad I pray that God’s grace would be sufficient—and it always is. I pray that God would be glorified in our time together and our service to one another—and I believe He is. I have come to expect and to bear witness of God’s grace and glory on each visit.

One thing I did not pray for but have experienced and now expect is with each visit I learn a little more about myself. It is as though God shines a white hot light upon the little issues existing here and there in me that need refining. And refine them He will—and He does. It is a process however.

There is no hurried work that is God’s. We may wish to rush Him but He will not have it as He conforms us to the image of His Son.   (click to tweet)

 

I see now with clarity what I only saw dimly a year ago. Our service for one another comes in many forms but always at its seedbed is the image of Christ washing His disciples’ feet and the holy preparation of His body by the women who served and worshiped Him. It is in the image of our risen Lord grilling fish on the fire for unsuspecting guests.

And when we give someone a glass of water or pour the nutrients into the bag of a feeding tube, when we empty the container of bodily waste, when we sponge a back with a soapy cloth, when we prepare a meal for the freezer, our service is an aspect of our worship.

Do our big dreams of ministry to the body often overshadow the reality of small acts of service to one body?

Hours after I had placed three roses in a crystal vase, I glanced from where I sat in the living room to Mother’s bedroom. There I saw the pink roses in the crystal vase and just behind them a bottle of Gold Bond Powder and a tube of Avon cracked heel cream.  My first inclination was to remove the medicated powder and foot cream from sharing space with the lovely roses in the crystal vase. But that urge was quickly replaced with a stronger one from the Holy Spirit to leave them together. After all, I have witnessed on many occasions that the beautiful and the base are often interwoven.

The unlovely and ignoble things are not of the physical body nor of the practical matters, but exist in the cravings of the flesh.

So I cry out, “God, do Your holy work in me. Shine Your light upon my little issues here and there. Refine me as gold. Conform me to Christ. Perfect Your work in me…unhurried, not rushed but at Your leisure. Merge the holy and the humble within me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

(This post is linked to Finding Heaven and the Soli Deo Gloria Party.)

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