..we should not call anything trouble which brings to pass good..

DSC_0325“I am anxious, and it soothes me to express myself here. It is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.” —Mina Murray in her journal

Sunday morning.  I had considered going to my parent’s house for the day as it was only an hour and a half drive from where we were in Pennsylvania.  But I was suffering with a cold and we decided to stay where we were.  Grace showed us a nice coffee shop and the three of us had breakfast together there.

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We spent the rest of the morning at a bookstore and Grace bought a journalling Bible with a beautiful cover and nice wide margins for her thoughts.

She was craving macaroni and cheese for lunch and we went to Ruby Tuesdays.

By this time, Joanna’s family was back from church and she was able to meet us with her daughter.

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I love her.

Joanna took Sarah along home with her.  Grace and I went to the hotel to get her things so she could do homework at Aunt Joanna’s house.  And then we spent the rest of the afternoon until bedtime with them.  It was as cozy as could be with all the family and me and my two girls all together in the cozy kitchen, dining room, and living room.  We had delicious Dominoes pizza for dinner.

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We love to exchange our big journals and look through them as we visit.  Joanna’s journal is big and heavy and full of quotes, pictures, found papers, and art.  Coco stayed by us and was inspired enough to get up and find things to glue into her first journal.

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((red shoe))

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Inspiration, Idea, Execution (the top corner of her journal shows a picture of how she came up with the art on the wall—her own photography))

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(green page)

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(brown)

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(old recipe)

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(photo by Jo)

“Some may say [journal keeping] is a great deal of trouble. But we should not call anything trouble which brings to pass good. I consider that portion of my life which has been spent in keeping journals and writing history to have been very profitably spent. If there was no other motive in view [except] to have the privilege of reading over our journals and for our children to read, it would pay for the time spent in writing it.” —Wilford Woodruff

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“Never forget that writing is as close as we get to keeping a hold on the thousand and one things — childhood, certainties, cities, doubts, dreams, instants, phrases, parents, loves — that go on slipping, like sand, through our fingers.” —Salman Rushdie

doxology

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It’s Saturday afternoon.  Joanna and I go back to her house and find her son Eti in the kitchen busy with dinner preparations.  Beebs the baby is playing with the trains I gave him.  Jeff is working on the computer and the girls are playing.  Her husband Steve has taken good care of everyone all day long while we were at church.

There is just enough light left outdoors for some photos.  We want to take pictures of the girls in their matching clothes.

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The children are happy all around us and us two mamas are laughing….we try and try for just the right picture.  And then we hand our cameras to them and let them try.

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I think about 20 years ago when I first met Joanna at Bible college.  I marvel at the longevity of our friendship and all the things that have happened since then; marriages, births, adoption, moves, and all the other events of living both big and small.

The biggest blessing of all to me is the soul and depths of two women sharing with each other what they are learning deep down in their hearts.  Truthfully enjoying motherhood, deeply loving our husbands, joy-aches, sorrow-aches, emergency prayers, understanding, wisdom read, copied, scribbled on slips of paper, sent through the mail, saved, savored, felt, journaled.

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We add the moments of this very afternoon to our collection of friendship memories with the knowledge that life is short, and full of holy experiences.  Our hungry eyes search for them all, each one worth praising God for; the innocence of childhood, the smells of good food in the kitchen, a loving man, adoring happy daughters, steadfast sons, a friendly dog, crunchy leaves underfoot, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness.

******

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above all ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

yes

It’s Friday, and I pick up my little travel companion from school early.  She’s so excited that she can’t stop talking.  We are going to see her best friend and her sister.  She’s holding my hand and skipping to the car.  Her joy is contagious.

We stop at Starbucks which is our tradition before every road trip.

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The drive takes us all afternoon.

At one point we go from sun to rain and I see a rainbow in the sky.

I listen to podcasts; she watches Shrek for the 10,000th time.

We stop at TJ Maxx for a curling iron because I forgot mine at home.  We leave with little presents for all five of Joanna’s kids…..and no curling iron.

Eventually we reach our hotel.  It’s getting dark and it’s cold.  But we settle into our room and get back into the car to meet sister Grace and her boyfriend Caleb for dinner at a Greek place just a few minutes away.  We can’t wait to see them.

At the restaurant, we order macaroni and cheese for Sarah, a pork chop dinner for Grace, and gyros for Caleb and me.  The food is delicious and filling and gives us energy.

After we eat, we go next door and visit puppies in a shop.

*****

It’s Saturday and Grace’s 18th birthday.

She has plans for the day with Caleb so I take Sarah to see her best friend and pick up Joanna for a women’s Bible conference.  She’s speaking and I can’t wait to hear her.

We drive to the church early and then sit in the car and talk while I put on make up.

It’s been a year since our last visit but it feels like we were never apart.

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We go into the church and find seats.  The tables are decorated with pretty lanterns and pumpkins and doilies.  There is cold water and coffee or tea to drink and miniature bagels and clementines to snack on.

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While she is away saying hello to some of the other ladies, I take a photo of our Bibles on the table and feel my heart bursting with gratitude for the moment.

The talks with other women are just what we need, the songs we sing help us to praise Him with the center of our being, and we pray together and learn more about Him.

We learn to say “Yes, Lord”;  yes, and amen.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.  2 Corinthians 1:20

I am astounded once again, that He has said Yes to me.

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Joanna and I go into a little classroom after the conference and both of us take photos of an amazing mobile that has caught our attention; it is made out of a tree branch, and used for the church’s preschool ministry.  We both decide we want to make one, too.

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After the conference, we go to the hotel so I can change and then go back to her house to check on the girls.  Grace and Caleb will be joining us for dinner later and we have the whole evening to look forward to.

friend

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N A T U R E   W A L K; God gave us 60 degree weather and we wore our boots.  We smelled pine needles, picked up birch bark, peered down into deep springtime puddles and streams.  The best part?  Sitting for a while on the same big boulder in the middle of a rushing stream.

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J O U R N A L S; hers is HUGE and full of the best magazine clips, quotes, photos, art, and words.

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A B A N D O N E D   H O U S E   A D V E N T U R E; there is an old house nearby that is empty of people but full of stuff of every kind.  The teenagers came with us and we explored to our hearts content.

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A N T H R O P O L O G I E; one of our mutual favorite stores… and we had the best time looking at everything and getting inspiration from the walls, bedding, clothes, books, stationary, etc.

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B A R N E S and N O B L E; in which we chose a huge stack of books and magazines, & talked, while looking through everything.  We drank a chai latte.

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We found a picture of us as children in a magazine! (dreams)

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P A N E R A   B R E A D; for an early dinner.

And so many other things seen and heart-noticed but unphotographed.

We’ve been friends for over 20 years beginning when we first met at Bible college in upstate New York.  Like with all my soul mates, I remember the exact moment I first saw her.  After college we each got married and started our families while keeping in touch using lovely handwritten snail mail letters (nice and fat) because there were no computers or email back then.  When we did get our first computers we emailed almost daily.  Now and then we would enjoy a nice chat on the phone.

We had visits when we could.  She drove to my mom’s house once when our Grace and Jeff were babies (they are 17 now).  Rich and I stopped at her family’s place on the way to amish country a few times.

EVERY visit was ALWAYS photographed.  Pictures have been a huge part of keeping in touch.  I have a whole album of photos she has sent me through the years.

Now we use FB messenger to text and send (miraculous!) *instant* photos of what we are doing that day…the kids, books we read, food, selfies.  Yes indeedy, it’s such fun.

The snail mail has slowed down but we still spoil each other with a letter now and then, oh and boxes of gifts at christmas and birthdays, too.

She drove to my house on Friday afternoon for a long awaited visit (three years!),  I had already been to the doctors that day and was put on antibiotics for strep but that did not put a damper on our visit which lasted until Sunday morning.

“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”

Joanna has soul depth and wisdom.  She has strength with an endearing touch of vulnerability.  She is a forever friend.

She’s also at the doctor’s today, getting checked for strep throat.

but wait, there’s more!

“From first to last it was crowded with delights.” LM Montgomery

My go-get-’em daughter Grace is on the hunt for a college and she made the decision to go to a Christian one.  Weeks ago, it came to my mind that perhaps she would enjoy a college that was very familiar to me as it was a popular option for church students in the area that I grew up.  In fact, my father took a few classes there, and Rich’s aunt also attended.

I was especially excited about it because my dear friend Joanna (who is mentioned on this blog about a thousand times) lives not far from the school.  So I thought, “Wouldn’t it be neat to visit the college with Grace and then get to see Joanna?”

We went on their website and chose a date to visit:  November 11th.  Conveniently, this was a vacation day for Grace from school.  I emailed Joanna to see if she would be in town that day.

BUT WAIT, there’s more!  Not only was she in town, but she was SPEAKING at a ladies conference and asked if Grace and I would like to go with her.  Of course we would!

About a week later, as I was preparing our trip details, it came to my knowledge that…..

BUT WAIT, THERE’s more!  My son Ethan (who is a Freshman at a college in Vermont) was going to be IN THE SAME AREA for a wrestling tournament!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What???? are the odds?  The tournament was on the same day as the conference so I was conflicted.  After thinking about how to solve this problem, I thought that perhaps Ethan’s girlfriend would like to come along with us.  SHE could surprise Ethan by showing up at his meet and that way I wouldn’t feel bad for being at a Bible conference while my son was literally only 30 minutes away from me (my heart!).

So, eventually, I received a “yes”from Tessa, but she asked if maybe David could go along as well, so she wouldn’t have to hang around at the gym alone.

Our little trip now included two extra teenagers=the more the merrier!  I made reservations at a hotel situated in between both events and had good reviews, and a reasonable price.

We headed out of town in the darkness of 4:30 a.m. on Friday morning.

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Grace was blessed over and over by the people of this school, and during the tour she was shown many things to be excited about.  She enjoyed every minute.

BUT WAIT, THERE’s more!

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While we were sitting in the dorm listening to our tour guide explain dorm life, a familiar face walked by.  I recognized this young lady as the daughter of an old friend of mine!   It was a joy to see and speak with her, and for Grace as well, especially after realizing she was the cousin of her friend Kyle and a best friend of her cousins.  “It’s a small world” & “church connections” are the best!

Our tour at the school was over at 3:30. Joyfully, Joanna was able to finish up her work and texted me to ask if we could go to her house for pizza dinner.  This was another unexpected blessing: to be able to see her entire wonderful family, see the things she’s done in her home since the last time I was there, and also allow Grace and Dave to meet her husband and children.

Before we went to her house, we decided to head to our hotel to relax for an hour.  We checked into our room and dove on the beds, each of us with our own electronic device.

But wait, there’s more!  I checked our group text (between my husband, myself, and our three oldest) and saw that Rich had questioned Ethan about where the wrestling team was staying that night.  We hadn’t asked him before because we didn’t want him to become suspicious about us going to his tournament.

GUESS WHAT????????  The team was driving to our VERY SAME HOTEL to spend the night!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  You can imagine the squeal of shock as I leapt out of bed in my joy.  Tessa and I were beyond amazed and thrilled to learn that we would actually SEE ETHAN THAT VERY NIGHT!

You have to realize, we were in a very populated area in PA, there are probably one hundred hotel options, and God put us in the SAME EXACT ONE!

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WITH MY FRIEND AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!! after two years!

love you, Josephina!  🙂

Steve and the kids were just the sweetest and nicest and we had delicious pizza together before heading back to the hotel.

Using the handy dandy “find my phone” feature on our iPhones Rich was able to let me know when Ethan’s bus was within 10 minutes of the hotel.  Grace and I sat in the lobby, and I was still in denial that this whole thing was happening.  I felt like “I’ll believe he is truly staying in this hotel when I see the bus pull up.”

AND IT DID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Grace ran off to get Tessa for Ethan’s surprise #2 and I wasn’t aware of it so I didn’t get that one on video.  But he was thrilled to say the least.  After the team settled into their rooms, Ethan was able to come back to us and we were able to see each other until almost 11pm.

The next morning, I drove Dave and Tessa to the college to watch the wrestling tournament.  Grace and I continued on to Joanna’s house.  We picked her up and had time to go through Dunkin’ drive thru for tea, and then to the church where Joanna was one of three women speakers.

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Right off the bat, my soul was being soothed by the songs, the women, and the atmosphere.  It was just what we needed to make this weekend away from home PERFECT.

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And to see my daughter and my dearest friend together…..Bibles open…..learning, growing, singing praises, loving…..it was such a gift.  God ministered to me and my children over and over in the most tangible ways.  It was overwhelming, to say the least.  I’m still feeling the adrenaline rush as I type.

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Joanna’s talk was Christ centered and soulful, I was in tears.  One of the stories she told was about the time she and her husband adopted their daughter from Ethiopia, and how moving it was to be able to take the orphanage clothes off her new baby, and, as her new mama, to dress her in a handmade, beautifully smocked dress (made just for her by dear Dawn).  This continues to serve as a beautiful reminder to her of the very same way that God clothes us as His dearly beloved children, showing us that we belong to Him.

She even had the dress with her to hold up and show the women.  Tears!

(Dawn made Sarah Joy a dress with the same pattern)

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sisters in Christ, friends for over twenty years, soul sisters, always and forever

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Joanna came with Grace and me to the remainder of the wrestling tournament.  This was the first meet she had ever watched, and it was fun to share with her something that is a HUGE part of my life each winter.  We had missed out on Ethan’s two matches but Tessa was kind enough to record them for us.  He lost his first match by points, and won the second by a pin.

I was able to meet one of the other moms of the team, and two of the coaches as well.  It was fun to watch the matches and it made me excited for the upcoming wrestling season for my younger boys.

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The meet ended and we took a few photos before Ethan got on the bus for Vermont.

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(David took a 2 hour nap in the hallway during the meet, LOL)  And Grace (although you can’t tell) was in tears and starting to feel shaky and sick.  The excitement was starting to catch up to her.

So Joanna and I dropped them off at the hotel and the two of us were able to go out to eat.  She took me to a Greek place that she and Steve go to on their dates. (Thank you to Steve for the suggestion!)

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You can just imagine all the talking we did.

I took her home and continued back to my hotel room, completely filled up with the goodness of the day.

The next morning we allowed ourselves to sleep in a little.  We left by 9 and made a stop at Krispy Kreme donuts before entering the highway for the three and a half hour drive home.

This post doesn’t even begin to describe all the ways God blesses our lives.  But it does give a taste of how what we think will be an ordinary life can become abundantly and richly touched by His hand.  It was a *praise and thank you Jesus* sort of weekend!  And it is a *praise and thank you Jesus sort of life* for all those who believe on His name.

“May the Lord bless you and protect you.  May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.”  Numbers 6:24-25

But there are also many other things which Jesus did–so vast a number indeed that if they were all described in detail, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would have to be written.  John 21:25

 

 

 

take no thought for the morrow

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Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…….

Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Matthew 6:26

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Thank you for the egg.

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Thank you for stopping to say hello.

*****

Samantha was covered in glittering dusty dirt!  Have you ever seen a cat roll around in dry dirt puddles?  It’s very cute.  I watched her walk in the sunshine after a nice roll-around, she was twinkling and sparkling proudly….nothing like a good dust bath.

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Today is a very important day.  Today I figured out how to shoot sun stars!!!!!

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I really like listening to podcasts while I’m walking.  (I walk daily) And one of the ones I listen to is about hobby landscape photography.  The hosts were chatting about sunstars the other day and I was like, “wow, that’s a thing!” and looked up more information online.  It seemed rather straight forward and although the effect is much better during *the golden hours*, I was way too impatient to wait until then.

I put the f-stop to 18 and partially blocked the sun behind a tree and held my breathe.

CLICK.

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It worked!

I know all you professional photographers out there are laughing but this was such fun.

Eventually, I was seeing stars myself!  Rather blinded by the sun, you see.

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This one was ridiculous.  I decided to look for other things to “shoot”.  Like this old rose:

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And this squirrel:

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running away from me like I was something out of his nightmares.  SO insulting.

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It has an acorn in his mouth.  I do so like to crunch acorns under my feet as I walk, so satisfying.

I carried two home in my pocket, along with a pinecone.  I’m giving them to Joanna when I see her on SATURDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Life is just way too exciting.

 

Take no thought for the morrow, for the time to come. Be not anxious for the future, how you shall live next year, or when you are old, or what you shall leave behind you. As we must not boast of tomorrow, so we must not care for to-morrow, or the events of it. God has given us life, and has given us the body. And what can he not do for us, who did that?  Matthew Henry

no charmed life, but many charmed moments

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“Not a day goes by that I don’t still need to remind myself that my life is not just what’s handed to me, nor is it my list of obligations, my accomplishments or failures, or what my family is up to, but rather it is what I choose, day in and day out, to make of it all. When I am able simply to be with things as they are, able to accept the day’s challenges without judging, reaching, or wishing for something else, I feel as if I am receiving the privilege, coming a step closer to being myself.  It’s when I get lost in the day’s details, or so caught up in worries about what might be, that I miss the beauty of what is.”  Katrina Kenison

Today I decide to walk around with my camera to see what I am most grateful for.

Seth sneaks up behind me to steal a hug and as I turn to put my arm around him I catch our reflection in the mirror.  I feel his smooth skin under my hand and see how dark he’s gotten this summer spending so much time outside, just like mine used to when I was small.

Later on, I crop my head out of the photo because I don’t like the way I look, I am ashamed of my double chin and poor posture and can’t bear to leave the photo the way it is.

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He sees what I am doing and makes a face.  He has football practice later and has to rest for a little while so I leave him cuddling up into my down comforter.   Soon he is sound asleep.

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My friend Joanna sends me a letter with photographs that she has taken.  I love seeing her handwriting on the pages.  I am thankful for the last 20 years of writing back and forth with my friend.  She sees beauty all around her and I spend time on my bed putting some of her beauty-pictures in a frame.

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Earlier in the morning I had opened up my Bible and read from Ezra about the time of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.  I read 1 Corinthians and out loud I read from Psalms.  Sarah listens, curled up with her head in my lap.  She wants Fruit Loops for breakfast.

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Later I spend time looking through old catalogues.  I am working on a piece of mail to send to my friend.  I tear out a couple of pages to send along with a note and an article.  As soon as I open the door to mail it I see my neighbor on the porch about to knock, so we sit down and visit for a while together.

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Our dogs have a playdate and we laugh at her dog meeting our rabbit.  We talk about our children and Caleb talks about Star Wars.  She says she will lend him the movies she has and he squeals with joy.

It’s a beautiful day and we keep seeing hummingbirds.

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I say goodbye to my neighbor and tuck Sarah into bed for her quiet time.  She doesn’t sleep, and I can hear her talking, singing, and making play sounds.  I love to hear them.  Soon she appears downstairs again and I take the coloring books and crayons out of the cupboard for her to draw with.

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I clean my bathroom.

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I go outside to see the gardens.  I have small gardens but they bring me so much joy.  After months of making vines and more vines, morning glory blossoms are starting to open.

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My cat Snickers sees me and comes over to rub against my legs.  I sit on the grass for a while and pet him.  His purrs are loud and there is fur floating around me and sticking to my lap.  I tell him he is my good kitty.  I pick him up and press my ear to his side to feel and hear him purring.

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We get the mail together; but the box is empty today.

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I see a peach with an open bruised spot on the side so I pick it.  The other side was smooth and clean so I took a bite.  I am surprised by the juicy taste of perfect peach and assume that they are ready to eat.  I pick three flawless looking peaches but when the children try to bite them they are too hard and I have to throw them away.

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I laugh when I see Sherlock.  He tries to get my attention.  I am thankful to have the time today to stroke his fur and show him I love him.

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“…there is no such thing as a charmed life, not for any of us, no matter where we live or how mindfully we attend to the tasks at hand. But there are charmed moments, all the time, in every life and in every day, if we are only awake enough to experience them when they come and wise enough to appreciate them.”  Katrina Kenison

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As I am blogging, the plumber comes to fix the dishwasher.  While he works, I put away my computer and fold the laundry.  I finish my cup of coffee and hang up a load of towels to dry on the clothesline.  Caleb works on a crossword puzzle and Sarah colors in her book.

The sun is shining but there are clouds, too,  and I can’t ignore the anticipation of knowing that my husband and teenagers will be coming home again tomorrow, after being away for a week.

I love these ordinary moments and days the most.