Culinary Quest #11 Fresh Corn & Basil Salad

Welcome to one of my very favorite salads! It’s refreshing, filling and healthy – the trifecta for side dishes or as an entree.  Before reaching for the typical potato salad, cole slaw, etc. which are high in fat and, well, boring, give this taste of summer a try!

It all started with extra corn I had on hand and needed a side dish for dinner (I way over-estimated the number of ears I bought). So I gathered other items we had on hand and experimented to see what cooked up.

This salad was love at first bite!! The combination of sweet corn, savory basil, buttery avocado, and bitey pickled red onion – this is quintessential summer flavor with beautiful colors and textures.

Ingredients:

5 ears of fresh corn; steamed or roasted, cooled and cut off the cobs (NOT canned corn)

1 cup pickled red onion; chopped (This is my favorite pickled red onion recipe, but should be made at least one day before for full flavor, thanks Brenda for such a delicious recipe!) *NOTE  If you don’t have time to pickle the red onion, use fresh red onion finely diced.

3 medium-sized fresh tomatoes; diced

2 cups fresh basil; measured before chopping

1 cucumber; diced

1 avocado; diced

1 cup mozzarella; diced (optional)

Dressing Ingredients:

4T white balsamic vinegar

2T olive oil

1/2t-3/4t salt to taste

1/2t black pepper

1/2t granular sugar (I use raw sugar)

2 cloves fresh garlic; minced

Directions:

Add all prepared ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

Add all dressing ingredients into a seperate bowl. Whisk together and immediately pour over the rest of the ingredients in the bowl.

Gently mix everything together. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Stir again before serving.

* This recipe can be served immediately and does not need to set up for full flavor. It will keep for 1 day in the fridge, but it’s best served the day of. If you need to make it ahead of time, swap regular tomatoes for grape/cherry tomatoes to keep the tomato juice from producing too much liquid, and hold off adding the avocado until ready to serve. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Seeing God’s blessing with fresh eyes: Guyana Part 2

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Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow…(Psalm 146: 5-9)

We’ve had the honor and privilege of serving folks in multiple countries in many capacities with several non-profits over the years. However, our recent mission to Guyana’s jungle and remote areas brought a new task for Bruce and me.

It was a joy to fit men and women with reading glasses! Such a small token can change a life. I know because I’ve worn glasses for most of my adulthood. Not only do glasses help make words easier to see, but no more eye strain means no more chronic headaches. Hallelujah! No squinting. More reading!

I love how Psalm 146 describes the mercy and compassion of God our Father. Yes, he is focused our salvation and eternal destination, but he also cares about the here and now. The Bible is full of ways he offers tangible help to meet people’s needs.

We’ve all been the recipient of his gracious heart. The farmer gives thanks for rain. The sailor gives thanks for wind. We give thanks for medicine, help with a broken car on the side of the road, and neighbors who offer to help chainsaw huge branches that fall in the storm (Thanks, Jesse!!). All of us receive blessings every single day from our Creator as said beautifully by the anonymous author of Lamentations.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

It’s always exciting to wake up on mission and see what the day will bring. Fitting folks with reading glasses was a tangible way to help better the lives of others. We enjoyed great conversation with them, helping improve their reading vision, and serving them in this personal way in the name of our Lord.

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There’s also a physical exchange that was quite meaningful. The exchange of glasses hand-to-hand; helping gently fit them on their faces; the eye-to-eye contact when asking how they well they worked for them; and cleaning the lenses & straightening the arms of the glasses for them once their perfect pair were found was personal and sweet. It felt intentional. Care-filled. Love-driven. One person at a time. One pair of glasses at a time. It was beautiful.

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The process is remarkably easy. Start with a 1.0 lens and ask them if it makes it easier to read. If it’s too strong, then they don’t need glasses. If it’s not strong enough, keep going up until we find their perfect number. Then they can pick out the frames they like and that’s all there is to it! They leave with a new pair of reading glasses free of charge.

ICA buys the glasses from dollar stores so they’re an affordable, helpful way to bless someone in need. I have no idea how many pairs of reading glasses we gave out on this mission, but a few folks’ smiles stay with me.

One woman only had sight in one eye and that eye was strained. Keeping her only seeing eye is imperative to her quality of life and independence. She owned a pair of glasses, but they were the old, were the wrong strength and were pretty much useless. She was THRILLED to have a new, correct pair. Her smile said it all!

One man, in his late 40’s, never spoke a word. Bruce and I helped him together as we tried pair after pair. We knew we found the perfect ones for him when he did one thing – he gave two thumbs up, way up! His enthusiasm was contagious.

Another man showed up hours early because he was going to be at work when we opened the reading glasses clinic. We were more than happy to fit him with new specs, just in time for his shift. Yay!

Missions is God’s time, not ours. It’s not volunteer tourism – though that in itself is a great thing. Our daughter volunteered in Costa Rica to rehabilitate injured animals for eight weeks. Amazing work!!! We are huge fans!!

Mission work for God is surrendering oneself to the cause of Christ however needed; easy or hard, in our comfort zone or way outside of it, it’s all good. Even a simple conversation can be life-changing, both for us and those we serve. That’s a different blog post. 😉

There is nothing more rewarding than to be a vessel to help heal hearts while meeting tangible needs. This assignment was to give away as many reading glasses as possible. I loved every minute of it and hope to do it again and again.

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One of my favorite quotes is from Schoolhouse Rocks, “Knowledge is power!” The more people can easily read, the more information they will have that can change their lives and others’ in countless ways. This was one of those tasks that you walk away from knowing it will have a lasting effect and that feels GREAT!!!

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Below are photos of some of the recipients. I never grew tired of seeing people walk in with curiosity and leave with new reading glasses and big smiles. We can’t wait to do it again! See below how you can get involved.

Wow! These folks are rockin’ their new specs!!! 🙂

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If you’re inspired to help, there are two easy ways. You can donate to ICA as they continue to ship reading glasses, clothes, shoes, Christian books and cds, and a non-denominational bible study to Guyana on a regular basis. The Guyanese team with this ministry directly receives it, no middle man. They also organize food distribution to those in need all over the country of Guyana. Everything given away is a gift of the ministry with no cost to the recipients.

Another way to help is to choose International Celebration Association as a charity that receives a portion of your Amazon orders. There is no cost to you as Amazon donates a portion of your order. Simply to go AmazonSmile to find out more.

(Disclosure: Bruce and I are volunteers with this ministry and do not receive any compensation of any kind for our time or service. We serve in a volunteer role and do not work in any official capacity for this non-profit.)

 

 

 

 

Tyrique: Guyana Part 1

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We were serving a village deep in the jungle. It was our fourth mission to Guyana and Bruce and I were thrilled to back. However, this was our first time in the jungle. We came by ourselves from America, representing this ministry, and partnered with three of the ministry’s Guyanese team for this mission.

We were guests in a small, wooden, hand-built church where we worked and slept. It was nestled between the dirt road before us, the river they call “black water” behind us, and the warm spring sun above us.

It had been a couple of hours since we climbed out from under the mosquito net and began another day in the “interior” (locally known as the jungle).

Our team lead, Jai, was cooking lunch while we fitted folks for reading glasses as part of our ministry when a man with a long, desperate face walked into the church through the back doors propped open for ventilation. His eyes were swollen and glassy. His clothes disheveled. His countenance down and body utterly depleted.

We will call him Tyrique for privacy. He came for prayer.

The service we planned to hold did not start for several hours, but his body raged with malaria and spiked a high fever, nausea and joints screaming in pain.

Bruce, Wayne and I gathered around his body slumped on the wooden bench, one arm slung over the back holding him up. I stood next to him, and for a moment we caught eyes. His eyes were bloodshot and tired. As he wearily looked up at me, they pierced my soul and told me he wasn’t only struggling with malaria.

Bruce gently placed his hand on Tyrique’s back. Wayne clasped his hands together in reverence, and I rested my hand on Bruce’s back, agreeing in prayer.

The prayer was simple and to the point. We asked God to heal his body and for relief from the symptoms of the illness.

Tyrique softly muttered, thank you, and slowed peeled himself off the bench. A young guy, he walked hunched over in pain and weakness like an old man. Slowly, he shuffled through the doors and down the steps of the little church built on stilts.

He disappeared into the bright sunlight, and I left him in the Lord’s hands and went back to the people waiting for reading glasses.

Hours later, our evening service began. Music played and I could feel the thin boards beneath me rumble with vibrations of enthusiastic kids and adults singing to the worship.

I was alone at the back of the church photographing the service because one of my primary assignments of going on this mission was to photograph and videography the jungle part of this ministry.

Behind me in the dark night air, I heard a horrific screeching howl and chills ran down my spine. I thought it was a child. I quickly turned around to see one of the feral dogs who had been sitting on the steps of the church being attacked by a much larger feral dog. It was awful. Bruce ran past me and chased them off. My heart raced as they reminded me, I was in their element; a guest of the jungle.

Focusing back on the task at hand, photography, I caught a glimpse of someone on the back row through my lens. I lowered the camera and took a closer look.

It was Tyrique!

He wore the same dirty white undershirt and black jeans. His dreads were wrapped in black cloth. Something about him was different, but I couldn’t figure it out. He was standing for one thing. He clapped his hands to the beat of the worship music as his body swayed back and forth.

I thought to myself, “Wow! He looks totally different from this afternoon.”

His body had strength again. He participated in the worship. His face was no longer drawn and depressed.

And just like that, my job as photographer turned to speaker as Jai opened in prayer and I stepped up to the mic to give my testimony. I’ve had the privilege of sharing my story all over the world. Each time, God gives me the pieces of it to share for that particular audience. This night was no different.

Before speaking, I always pray that God will put his words in my mouth for that moment. Indeed, He did. God pulled out parts of my story that were right for these folks. As I spoke, I gazed into the faces looking back at me. No one even blinked. They sat silent, captured in the moment. I knew God was doing something.

I caught eyes with Tyrique more than once. His body leaned to the left, so he had an unobstructed view from the person sitting in front of him. He stared at me the entire time I spoke. This time his eyes gave a different message. They looked like my dry plants at home in that, when I remember to water them, their dehydrated soil soaks up the water faster than I can pour it.

His eyes absorbed every word. I knew for a fact God was doing something in Tyrique’s heart.

The service continued and then we concluded and said warm goodnights to everyone and the little church on stilts was once again quiet.

Bruce and I pulled out our air mattress and mosquito net while the Guyanese team hung their hammocks for another day’s job done.

The next morning, while packing up to leave for another village, Tyrique came back. He told the team that the day before, when he came for prayer, he was completely healed! He said that on his way home after praying with us his fever broke and malaria symptoms simply vanished.

He. Was. Healed.

God’s healing he experienced was why he came back for the service that evening. And what happened at the service was why he came back the next day.

Turns out, Tyrique is a drug dealer, and at the end of the service he prayed to accept Christ.

He came back the next day for counseling and sat with Jai, Bruce and Wayne for a while.

He has amazing potential for change and we are thrilled to know a local pastor will follow up with him for discipleship.

God surely had his hand on Tyrique’s heart. He was calling Tyrique and he answered the call.

Just think, if Tyrique had never caught malaria, he would have never wandered into this church for prayer which led to him accepting Christ as his Savior. It’s all about perspective.

This was the first time this ministry has witnessed a healing in its 12 years.

His miracle was water to my thirsty soul. In the excitement of it all, I’m glad I didn’t know what was coming next…

Stay tuned for more posts about our Guyana mission.

If you’d like to know more about the ministry, check out InternationalCelebration.org.

 

 

The Mammogram

Today was my yearly mammogram. However, the doctor was concerned about something and ordered a 3D diagnostic test plus an ultrasound.

I’ve had a mammogram every year since I was 26. Believe me when I say I’ve gone through every emotion possible over the years. But this time, I was full of angst. I had not seen a doctor’s concerned expression like that since my first test. And because she was concerned, so was I. I haven’t slept well for days and have had terrible dreams.

On the way there, a familiar song came on the radio. “I lift my hands to believe again. You are my refuge, You are my strength. As I pour out my heart, these things I remember, You are faithful, God, forever.” I often lift my hand in the van (safely) in worship. Today was no different and I gave Him this appointment all over again.

However, worry unlocks the gate in my mind and lets my imagination run wild! I thought about the worst-case scenario. So, what WOULD I change if I was told I hadn’t much time? Evidently a lot according to my rambling thoughts. Hmmm….

While waiting in the office, I caught a friend’s smile from across the room. She is a special friend to me; someone with whom conversation is always thoughtful and deep. She is a tender soul and is a compassionate and kind woman. She is Chinese and noticed my necklace that I often wear. She said, “Your necklace. It is the Chinese symbol for faith.” “Yes,” I told her. “I bought it in China and wear it almost every day.”

It began a conversation where we talked all about faith, her family in China and her home country’s lack of faith in God. She talked about faith and trust and how we are called to live it every day. I smiled and listened. She had no idea that I had this same exact conversation with God mere moments before walking through the heavy, wooden doors.

While she talked, I noticed a woman walk in with her husband. He was gentle with her and protective of her. He waited in line with her. He wrapped his arm around her tight while she filled out her forms on the couch. They sat close, folded into each other…and waited. When her name was called, she slowly stood up. He still held her hand. He held her hand until the steps she took toward the technician pulled their tender hands apart. His back was to me, but after the door closed behind her, I saw him wipe his eyes and nose.

I thought about their journey. Was she in the beginning, middle or post cancer? Was it cancer or just a horrific scare? Was this her first mammogram? Her tenth? Had she lost a loved one to cancer? What made this appointment so hard for them? I don’t know them, but I deeply cared about them because, without a spoken word, they told a beautiful love story.

Still listening to my friend, we talked about faith. I wondered if this man, who sat directly behind her, could hear – and if so, what did he think about our conversation?

My name was called. I hugged my sweet friend and we parted. I know exactly how this goes. No deodorant, no perfumes or powders. Use baby wipes just to make sure. Undress from the waist up and put on the disposable blue half robe with white snaps, open in the front. Then wait for the tech to come get me. Yep, got it. This was my twenty-first time.

It took a little while for the tech to come back, and Fixer Upper played on a small tv monitor in the tiny room with well-worn magazines and sugar cookies under a glass dome for patients. I thought, “I can worry or I can relax and watch tv. Either choice doesn’t affect the outcome of the test.” So I watched tv, ignoring the pit in my stomach and lump in my throat as I kept seeing the doctor’s concerned expression play in a loop in my mind.

Every year I forget to take Motrin first. Shoot. Mammograms hurt. They really do! Not gonna lie. But, it’s short. As the tech worked through the process, I gritted my teeth and held my breath, squeezing my eyes tight, she said, “Now place your hand here.” I had to raise my arm to the spot she wanted.

Just then, I sang to myself, “I lift my hands to believe again. You are my refuge, you are my strength. As I pour out my heart, these things I remember, You are faithful, God, forever.” It was not a coincidence that song played on the radio as I pulled into the office.

See here’s the thing. I believe God and I trust God. Period. Walking into the office I quoted Psalm 139 in my mind over and over. “Every one of my days were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Walking out I quoted the same verse.

I praise God that my results are normal. I felt my knees grow weak from relief on the way to my van and I shed happy tears in the parking garage. I was so ecstatic that after putting back on my bra I turned to leave the dressing room, topless! :O

But, I also carry love for my precious friends who are my age and are also mothers – one is suffering from spinal cancer and the other from lung cancer. So I don’t even want to quote the over-used phrase, “God is good” for me, lest someone think He is bad for my friends.

None of us know the number of our days. I can get a pass on this breast test, but then be killed in a car accident on the way home five minutes later.

The reality is that what we’ve all been given is today. Not tomorrow. Today. How are we going to spend the 86,400 seconds that make up this day?

Wiping the tears away, I recounted the list I had made about what I would change if the tests had rendered a different result. What do I do with that list now?

And on the matter of faith, I need not look farther than Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They had a moment with King Nebuchadnezzar that I have used to define my life in words for the last three decades –

Daniel 3:16-18, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

God can do anything. A.N.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

Why He does some things sometimes and not others other times I have no idea.  But I know He is sovereign. He sees. He knows. He cares. He fights for His children.

I think we get tangled up in our thinking that this life is our happily ever after. It’s not. This is a life where we were born into sin and live in a broken world controlled by the enemy of God. Does it have awesome highs? Yes! I can name many. But with the mountaintop comes the valley in this life.

For children of God, our perfect life still awaits. Our reward awaits. Hebrews 11:39-40 says it best, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

Unless Jesus comes back first, we are all going to die. My pastor said it well once, “We’re not afraid to die. We’re afraid to suffer.”

As a believer, I only have today to make it count for Christ. Do I want to stay on this earth longer for my husband, children, family and friends? Yes! Do I want to complete the work He has called me to (Phil. 1:6)? Yes! Do I have hopes, dreams and goals? Yes! Does it utterly break my heart to hear of people who don’t get that chance? Absolutely!!

I read a story of a married mom with young children. She was dying of cancer. The family photo in the article had all of them piled on Mom & Dad’s bed like a sleepy Saturday morning. They were smiling while playfully knotted in the sheets. She said she wasn’t afraid to die, but she “loved her life and wasn’t ready to leave the party yet.”

My heart BROKE for their sweet family.

Those us of who haven’t been told a time or date still have a time and a date, though we walk around in a hazy stupor as if that were the farthest thing from reality.

Maybe it’s my age that I am acutely aware of how short life is. Nah, it’s not my age. I learned that lesson when my mom died when I was only 16 from breast cancer that spread to her lungs in less than a year. Since June 13th, 1987 I have never lived a day in a euphoric state of ignorant bliss that life should be our Disney princess dream.

No, that life is coming. And because it is, even today I had a brief moment of sadness that I am going to have to wait a little longer to see God face-to-face. The overriding joy is that I get to see my family’s faces tonight, and Lord willing, tomorrow.

Lying on the table during the ultrasound, I stared at the ceiling, trying not to peak at the monitor because I have no idea what I’m looking at. But, every single time she paused the ultrasound gun and snapped a picture I thought, “Is this something? Did she find something?” And I peeked at the screen. With each time, I wrestled with what to do with my emotions. “Is this where I fall apart? Is there where I run to the roar? Is this where I stand strong or emotionally crumble and weep?” I only had one answer.

I said to God, “I did my part. Now you do yours.” Meaning, I came in for the mammogram. What you do with it is up to you.

It is a familiar, though not very eloquent, prayer because I’ve been praying this prayer since I was 14. Not about mammograms, but about our roles in our relationship, His and mine.

I am not a “saved by works” girl (I’d NEVER, ever be able to do enough to save my own soul!!), but we do own the first step. We have the choice to believe. When I made that choice when I was 14, I gave Him my life and I’ve never taken it back.

He’s had every second, minute, hour, day, month and year of mine in His hands. When I chose to follow Christ, I have never looked back. So I see life’s timeline in a continuum of sorts. This life is just a blip on the radar; a piece of a much larger puzzle. There is so much before and after it and so many parts to it.

I accepted the cost of following Christ no matter what back then and still do today. My only prayer is that the suffering I am called to experience (physical, emotional, spiritual or intellectual) for Him draws others to Him so they will know God as their One True God and Christ as their Savior.

So whether that is to succumb to an illness I cannot control; be killed while serving others for Him; or live a long, healthy life and quietly pass in my sleep – I just want my life AND death to bring others to life through His saving grace. Through medical tests, gunfire I recently heard while we were on mission, and dashing to my car in a massive thunder and lightening storm last night, I want every second to count for Christ.

The solar eclipse is coming and people are so excited about it. It makes me wonder how many rotations this ‘ol world has left. How many rotations does this ‘ol girl have left?

I am somberly grateful for my good report today. It makes me pray harder for my friends who are suffering from this wretched disease that I hate with a fiery passion. But I can tell you one thing, these women are running an amazing, magnificent race – one worthy to be called a child of the King.

Whatever may come my way, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, whether God chooses to walk in the fire with me or deliver me from this life through it, either way I will follow Him. I will continue to lift my hands to Him – in the car, during a mammogram and in every moment in between.

I want my life to be seen as a symbol of faith, like the necklace that rests on my chest. I want people to look at me and say, “Your life, it’s a symbol of faith” like my friend said of my pendant.

Whatever has to happen to make this reality, come what may. Because I believe God and I trust Him. We are inseparable, like the couple in the waiting room. He is gentle with me and protective of me. He holds me tight. The difference is that He never lets go. He walked with me into the mammogram. He kept me company in that tiny room. He drove home with me in rush-hour traffic. He sits with me now. Why? Because I asked Him to. Will you?

Merry Christmas!

A little note to wish you a very Merry Christmas!

More than anything we could buy, give, receive, unwrap, exchange, return or even make by hand, may the love of God and the saving friendship of Christ be yours today and always.

The Shepherds and the Angels – Luke 2:8-20

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Just as Mary treasured these events in her heart back then, may they be written on our hearts and reflected in our lives today.

Merry Christmas to you! 🙂

Warmly,

Kristi

 

Off The Grid

This summer has to be one of the most interesting ones I have ever had.  Great experiences, new friends, some tears and lots of laughing.

It’s late, and just now I looked at my calendar.  Yes, on an old-fashioned calendar with big squares to write on and a real blue ink pen.  I can’t seem to embrace electronic calendars – visual girl that I am.  I do this weird thing of crossing off the days because it gives me some sense of satisfaction or accomplishment – even if there isn’t much to show for my day’s work.

So I looked down and saw that I haven’t marked off a day since last Friday.  On the outside, that doesn’t seem like a really big deal.  On the inside, it reflects this season of summer – disconnected.  We have thoroughly been enjoying our family’s recent visit and for once in a really long time, I don’t really care what day it is.  I am not stuck to a time schedule of people, places and appointments.  My emails are temporarily nonexistent and my Facebook status has been blank.

And that’s okay.

It’s okay to fall off the grid every once in a while.  Very soon, I will jump back on the hamster wheel and will begin a new season.  Until then, I am soaking in the fact I can’t keep track of the day, much less the date.  Think I’ll just let that ink pen sit right where it is for now.

There is so much to share about lessons I’ve learned this summer – I can’t wait to share.  In these last few days, I’ll be content to simply keep reality at bay.  A few more moments of empty thoughts, and listening more than speaking, is good for the soul.  It’s amazing how much life has to offer when we simply look up and see it.