Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Meeting Sheila - a divine appointment...

(photo on our recent trip to London)

When we boarded our nonstop flight to JFK in New York City, our layover stop on our flight to London, we were both exhausted from the physical and emotional impact of moving and saying goodbye to our home of sixteen years the day before.  I intended to rest on the flight, but I guess God had other plans.

She was in the seat by the window. I was in the middle seat.  My husband was in the aisle seat, already settled in with his noise canceling headphones on, shutting out the world around him. I knew he'd be asleep before long.  By her feet was portable oxygen being pumped into her nose and lungs.  It made a soft woosh, woosh sound.  I guessed that she was in her early to mid seventies, but it was hard to know for certain.

Our conversation began by her expressing concern that my foot room was being cramped by her oxygen, or that the noise was bothering me.  I could tell right away by her accent that she was heading home to New York City, or at least somewhere close by.  I was right.  She lived just across from Manhattan in New Jersey.  Her husband sat a few rows ahead of us and across the aisle.  They were returning home after enjoying a river cruise on the Columbia River.  They loved to travel, and were determined to keep doing so as long as they were able.

It was after she found out that my husband is a pastor that the conversation shifted to deeper things.  I'm used to this, people tend to either shut down or open up.  She did the latter, even saying that she felt she could talk to me because most ministers, most Christians, stand beside Israel. Sheila is Jewish. I explained to her that Christians feel this way because the Bible tells us that God will bless those that bless Israel and that He also told us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  I told her that we believe that God is a promise keeper, and that He made a covenant with Israel that He is fulfilling.  I even went on to explain that He made certain promises to the Arabic people as well.  She and I both agreed that the slaughtering of Arabic believers is of the same spirit as the return of rampant anti-semitism.  She's as sickened at the martyring of Christians as I am of the slaughter of the Jews. 

The next two hours she told me the story of her family, those that died in the Holocaust, those living now in the United States and what brought them here, those living in Israel.  Throughout the conversation there were times when both of our eyes filled with tears.  I loved listening to how she tracked down long lost relatives in Israel, how they often fly to Israel to celebrate Passover.

I grieved with her when she talked about the shift in the U.S. policies toward Israel.  She worries about her loved ones in Israel not being able to count on the U.S. being a place of refuge for them.  She told me about her and her husband's love for travel and all of the places in Europe that they've been and would love to return to.  Except, her husband won't let them go anymore.  He feels it's not safe.  He doesn't want to spend money in countries that are allowing a return of nazism and other anti-semitic activities.  He sees history repeating itself.  Sheila looks at me and my husband, at the Christians we represent, as the last people who won't forget, who won't let it happen again.

As we neared our destination, where we would board our flight to London and she and her husband would catch their ride to New Jersey, Sheila told me about their winter home in Florida.  There, she told me, she has been attending a ladies' Bible study on the book of Revelation.  "I'm the only Jewish person at the the Bible study",  she told me.  

When we parted, I told her what a blessing it was that we had met.  I told her that she'd be in my prayers.  I often think of her sitting in that Christian Bible study.  I pray that those ladies love her well.  I pray that Jesus' great love is revealed to her.   I pray that she has a revelation of Jesus as the Messiah Israel has been waiting for. I don't think I met Sheila by accident or happenstance. I think God put me there for a purpose, to confirm to her that Christians care and so I would be praying for her.  I'm asking you, will you join me in praying for Sheila?

still following,

Darling Downs Diaries

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Monday, September 28, 2015

A sunny yellow mum...

(Psalm 62:1-photo edited with Kim Klassen's elevate texture, hard light, 20% opacity)
When I had the no good, terrible, horrible stomach flu last week, my husband bought me some 
soft, cozy, new pajamas and a bouquet of sunny yellow mums to sit on my nightstand.
He's good to me like that.

(edited with Kim Klassen's 2303 texture, lighten, 30% opacity)
Today, one little sunny yellow mum in an old ink bottle became my still life subject.
Our new to us house is full of wonderful windows and light, 
whereas our former home had only one good spot for shooting photos.
It's fun getting used to this new blessing!

(edited with Kim Klassen's evolve texture, multiply mode)
On another photography note,  the Apple pro told me that my computer memory
 needs to be bigger to run a big photo editing program like Lightroom. 
 So, until we decide to buy a computer with more memory, I'm still hobbling along, 
but having fun doing so, editing my photos using the subscription version of PicMonkey
 and textures I've collected along the way, mostly from Kim Klassen.

still following,

Kim Klassen {dot com}

Sunday, September 27, 2015

My good Father...

I was sure that this was the week I was getting back into somewhat of a normal rhythm of life after six weeks of moving and travel and transition.  Then, the stomach flu from Hades hit, and I was out for the count for two days.  (And I might as well admit it, if there's anything I'm a big baby about it's the stomach flu!  Talk about miserable!)  By Saturday, I was back on my feet enough to enjoy some time with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law who came to stay with us, because today was their son's beautiful autumn outdoor wedding at a park outside of our town.  

Life is full of unexpected things isn't it?  Happy things, like two people meeting, falling in love, and getting married. And not so happy things, flu being on the light end of the scale of unhappy things.  This morning as we worshipped in church I was reminded of the truth that through it all, through life's highs and lows and the ordinary in-betweens, God's a good, good Father and He is perfect in all of His ways to us.  For that, I am so very, very grateful.

Since 2009 I've been counting my blessings thanks to the prompting of Ann Voskamp.
 I continue to count my thanks
piling up gratitude day by day
in my little green journal.
(and capturing some of my blessings via my camera or iPhone)

-a reminder from the Word to let nothing keep me from praising God
-help with a computer glitch
-a good pot roast for dinner

-Isaiah 49
-the God Who has us firmly in His grasp
-our kids coming over for homemade taco soup and cornbread
-a text video of my youngest granddaughter singing "zippity do dah"

-gaining understanding
-a long overdue hair and nail appointment 
-spending time with my hubs

-a home and comfortable bed to be in when the flu hit
-a good clean t.v. series to watch while I lay in bed sick
-my husband taking care of me

-sleep and rest
-my husband buying me some cozy new pajamas and some flowers for my bedside table
-my sister-in-law and brother-in-law making themselves at home when I was too sick to be a good hostess

-feeling well enough to eat a little bit
-feeling stronger as the day went on
-texts and phone calls from friends

-He's a good, good, Father who is perfect in all of His ways to us
-our church
-our nephew's beautiful wedding
-long time friends

gratefully yours,

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The mysteries of answered prayer...

I'm a "pray about everything sort of person", from world affairs to asking for God to help me find a lost item or to find the best price on something we need to purchase.  So, it should come as no surprise to you that when I knew we were going to London for my husband to speak at a conference, I asked God to make a way for me to see Paris, a long time dream of mine.

The way God answers some prayers that seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and leaves prayers that are of great eternal significance seemingly hanging out there in the air, is a great mystery to me.  God gave me the desire of my heart to see Paris.  Yet, there are prayers that I have prayed for decades, prayers that are life and death in light of eternity, that I've yet to see Him answer.  I'm not close to having all of the answers about how, why, or when God answers prayer.  But, I do have a few things that I believe He has taught me through the years.

In the life of a believer, especially one who "prays without ceasing", meaning that praying is a lifestyle, there are hundreds of requests being offered up to God from just one person.  Sometimes those requests even contradict each other.  For instance, let's say I prayed for God to do whatever it takes to make me what He wants me to be. Then God allows a very uncomfortable circumstance to arise in my life that makes me cling to Him with all that I have, so I pray for Him to stop this trial I'm in.   The trial persists, and I become discouraged that God isn't answering my prayer.  Oh, but He is!  He's using the tool of suffering and contrary circumstance to shape me and mold me and make me more like Jesus.  (I don't like this anymore than you do, in case you're thinking I don't resist suffering with all that is in me.  Sometimes adversity is sent by satan, and we need to resist him and engage in spiritual warfare.  Sometimes suffering is just part of it "raining on the just and unjust".  Sometimes suffering is allowed by God for His purposes.  I think in the life of a believer it's quite ok, even necessary, to ask God exactly which of these you're dealing with.)

So, is there anyway for me to make sense of what prayers God will answer?  I guess my response would be both sort of and not really.  The not really part is that God is sovereign and sees things we don't see, so we aren't always going to see or understand His ways that are so much higher than ours. At the same time, there is a "filtering system" for lack of a better word,  that our prayers go though.  

Filter number one - Is it God's will? Is it God's will for me to pray for the salvation of my child?  Absolutely, without question.  There are things we absolutely know, based on the Bible, that are God's will.  Should I ask God for provision?  Absolutely!  A trip to Paris?  I'm not arrogant enough to declare that it is God's will for me or anyone else to demand a trip to Paris, but it was a heart desire of mine that I knew I could present to Him, and trust Him with.  If it hadn't happened, I might have been sad and disappointed, but certainly not angry, because I'm aware of the fact that there are other layers of "filters" that our prayers go through.

Filter number two - Is it God's timing? This is a hard one.  God and I have butted heads more times than I can count when it comes to waiting on His timing.  When I saw my oldest daughter crushed with longing for a baby, when she went through ten long years of infertility and three agonizing miscarriages, God and I had some heated discussions about what He was up to. (Yes, I think we can be gut wrenchingly honest with God.  Read the Psalms of David if you doubt this.)  Six and a half years ago, God declared that the right time had arrived, and our daughter gave birth to her first of two miracle babies.  I argued with God again when my youngest daughter, who longed to be married and have a family, who set herself apart and "waited" in the old fashioned sense of that word, went through a broken engagement and other instances of thinking God had led her to the right one, only to have her heart broken.  Last May, at age 32,  God's timing and will intersected and she married a guy that truly is the desire of her heart fulfilled is so many ways.  The problem with the timing of God is that it rarely lines up with our timing! 

Filter number three - Is it beneficial for us?  God's Word says that no good thing will He withheld from those who walk uprightly.  I've seen that word good translated as beneficial.  Sometimes what we want is just not the best thing for us.  Parents can certainly understand this.  It may not be the best thing for us ever, or it may not be the best thing for us at this time.  Either way, God is a good Father, and He's not going to give us something harmful. (Unless, like the children of Israel who weren't satisfied with the manna that God provided for them to eat, insisted on meat and grumbled and complained until God relented.  God sent them quail until they were so sick of quail that they vomited it up.  Yes, it's not always a good thing when God gets to the point where He says, "have it your way!")

So, back to my prayer request to go to Paris.  My oldest granddaughter and I had often talked about going to Paris someday.  She was in Ghana with her mama, (our middle daughter),  her baby brother, and another gal from our church.  They flew from Ghana and met us in London, with our Bishop friend from Ghana, to attend the conference that my husband was speaking at.  My daughter decided to surprise my granddaughter with a day trip from London to Paris on the Eurostar train.  When my granddaughter told me, "guess what Nana?  Mama's going to take me to Paris!"  I tried to act shocked and surprised. "Wow!", I said, "Really?"  When I added, "Guess what?  Nana's going with you!", her voice did that thing that's hard to describe in words.  "Nana!", she said, with a shaky voice that was a cross between a giggle and a cry.  So, now that I think of it maybe it wasn't my prayer that God answered after all.  Maybe it was the heart's desire of our beautiful twelve year old granddaughter.  I guess that's another mystery I'll have to leave in God's hands.

still following,

Darling Downs Diaries

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A touch of autumn in our new home...

There are still some unopened boxes tucked into the corners of the living room and our bedroom.
The garage contains other boxes.
At this point I've lost my will to open them and to organize the garage.
I should make myself start tackling that later today.

Most of the unopened boxes are filled with dishes, ironstone, and decor.
In this new to us house, we've chosen to make the small family room off of the kitchen into a large dining room, and to make the formal dining area/living room into one large living room.
That being said,  the fireplace that faces the dining room is being turned around to face the living room, and all of the kitchen, dining room, living room, entry and hallway will be getting new hardwood flooring.
So, there's not a lot of seasonal decorating going on until after these huge projects are completed.

However, I had to add a simple homage to autumn's arrival on the dining table.
I used my new 1761 bread board as the base.
When we were in London I admired a breadboard just like it at Harrod's.
 I was tempted to shlep it home with me on the plane until I saw the price, about $200 U.S.!
Then I noticed it was made in the U.S. A. and had to laugh at me wanting to bring home a souvenir from London and that I picked something made here!

I looked up 1761 bread boards when I got home, and used some birthday money to buy this one.
I love it, and though it was made and purchased here,
 I'll always remember the trip to Harrod's in London where it first caught my eye.

(all photos edited with Kim Klassen's hughes)

still following,
Kim Klassen {dot com}

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Living in thanks...

The past six weeks have been jammed packed with dreams come true, answers to prayer, and blessings.  A trip to London, getting to visit Paris(!) and Scotland, moving to our wonderful new to us home, so many things to give thanks for!  There have been some hard times as well.  Transition, moving, delays, there were frustrations in the midst of all of this blessing that I honestly didn't handle all that graciously.  Meanwhile, God has made evident to me the mystery of why he gave me the word endurance as my word for this year.  It's not because I'd need endurance to get through this transition, though that has indeed been the case.  It's because He's answering a deep heart cry longing that I've prayed for a long, long time.  It's not like my prayer for the right house or to get to see Paris, it's a much deeper, much more personal desire than that.  The thing is, I can see God working in the area I've been praying about, but the process is a bit painful and scary.  I need God-given endurance until the good work He's begun reaches the completion that He's promised.  So, I'm trying to do this, "in every situation (no matter what the circumstance) be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18) It's a whole lot easier to give thanks for things like the house or Paris than the not so comfortable processes of God!  But, I know that He's a good Father that I can trust.
Since 2009 I've been counting my blessings thanks to the prompting of Ann Voskamp.
 I continue to count my thanks
piling up gratitude day by day
in my little green journal.
(and capturing some of my blessings via my camera or iPhone)

-our new bed that is so much better for my back
-my friends' help with more unpacking
-our first home cooked meal in our new home-chicken and rice soup-and sharing it with our friends
-fresh cool air after the rain

-the leaves turning golden
-help with painting our armoire and putting together new shelving for the garage
-revisiting how so many of the books on my shelves have impacted my life while I put them into order on the shelves in my office

-a friend's help unclogging our kitchen sink
-God's provision
-catching up on my Bible reading

-finishing getting my home office unpacked and organized
-our youngest daughter and her husband texting from Vienna
-a sweet time of worship

-having devotions at my new desk, in my new office, in my new home

-finding beautiful new hardwood flooring for our home within the budget we set
-our oldest daughter, son-in-law, and two youngest granddaughters coming over 
-going out for Thai food together
-hugs and snuggles from my granddaughters

-going up to Lake Washington with my husband
-having devotions by the lake

-coming "home", (still getting used that this new to house is home!)

-seeing old friends at church
-He's a good, good Father
-God hearing my heart's cry and working

gratefully yours,

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Grateful to be home...

After a month and a half of living in limbo, we are happily nesting in our new to us home.  If you've been a reader here for any length of time, you know that fluffing my nest is my happy zone.  While packing up and moving is near the top of things I don't like to do, unpacking and putting things away and making a new to us house into a home is near the top of things I do like to do.  This is the fun part of the transition! The kitchen and bathrooms and bedrooms are unpacked and operational, so life is already feeling a bit more "normal" after the topsy turvy ride we've been on since our former house sold.

Thank you for your patience with my hit and miss blogging during this time.  It may be a short while before things get back to "normal" since we don't have wi-fi hooked up yet and we are still in the thick of unpacking and house projects.  Meanwhile, I want to make sure that I'm at least being faithful to post my weekly gratitude list.
Since 2009 I've been counting my blessings thanks to the prompting of Ann Voskamp.
 I continue to count my thanks
piling up gratitude day by day
in my little green journal.
(and capturing some of my blessings via my camera or iPhone)

-a new soft, cozy sweatshirt
-our oldest daughter bringing us lunch
-our two youngest granddaughters having fun at the hotel swimming pool

-Wendy's frosties with them after swimming
-watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and munching popcorn with my hubs
-catching up on sleep after our London trip

-sunrise from the hotel window
-this transition reminding me that home is not a place or even another person but is Christ alone
-the phone call that we're finally "clear to close" on our new to us home

-new running shoes
-a long phone call from my friend
-showing our friends our new home
-our nephew cooking us a great dinner of kebabs and rice

-we closed on our house!
-funded and recorded and keys in hand!
-money due back to us
-another piece of good news and answered prayer
-getting our new bed all set up to spend the first night
-help from friends

-getting all the cabinets and drawers in the kitchen and bathrooms cleaned, 
stripped of old contact paper, and freshly lined
-one of the young men from church cutting down some of the old overgrown arborvitae in the yard
-our two oldest grandkids, my nephew and his wife, and friends from church all helping out
-new faucets installed to replace the old out of date ones

-sweet quiet time in the Word before the busy-ness to come
 when the Uhaul boxes containing all of our stuff get delivered today
-the Uboxes delivered and unpacked!
-the kitchen boxes all unpacked and put away
-all of the amazing help we have had

-a friendly bluebird in our new backyard
-meeting our neighbors
-an encouraging morning at church
-a housewarming gift
-our soon to be niece's wedding shower

gratefully yours, 

Monday, September 7, 2015

A long overdue gratitude post...

Without so much as a "fare thee well",  I disappeared from blogland three weeks ago.  In those three weeks we packed up the majority of our household goods into UHaul boxes and sent them off to a storage warehouse.  The items that were either too fragile for me to want to store in that way or too big to fit in the UHaul boxes are scattered among gracious family and friends.  Speaking of family and friends, we couldn't have made it through this transition without their help!  Truthfully, we're still in transition.  Our new to us house still hasn't "closed".  Tuesday it is supposed to finally happen.  (God, please make it so!)

On the day that we packed up the last of the odds and ends from our home, ran a vacuum over the floors for the last time, and said a teary good-bye with a closing prayer of gratitude for all God's faithfulness in the sixteen years that we lived there, we also packed our suitcases to leave for London the next day. (Packing lesson learned: When you're going to be taking the train, riding city buses, and walking all over London, Paris and Edinburgh, leave the cute clothes and shoes at home and just pack your comfortable ones, because, in reality, that's all you'll wear.)

In spite of the fact that, due to all sorts of odd delays, I had a fear that the buyer's deal on our Portland home was going to fall apart and that we were going to have to come home and move back in, three days into our trip we got the happy news that the sale of our home had closed.  Meanwhile, delays on the closing of our new home meant that we returned from London "homeless".  So, here I am, typing away in our temporary resting place at a hotel, way too early on Sunday morning because I'm all messed up from the eight hour time difference from London to here.

Our trip?  Amazing!  So, so, so, wonderful.  Our middle daughter, oldest granddaughter, youngest grandson and another young gal from our church met us in London after being in Ghana since the beginning of August.  We rented a little apartment right on the Thames river through VRBO.  It was perfect!  We were just one short bus ride away from most everything you'd want to make sure to see in London, as well as close to the church that my husband was scheduled to speak at while we were there.  I must admit, left to ourselves, my husband and I would never have been as bold and determined to master the public transportation system as well as the trains and to see as much as we did in a week and a half without our daughter's help.  She is, and has always been, an unintimidated traveler.  So, thanks to her, we experienced much of London, and had wonderful day excursions to Paris, France and Edinburgh, Scotland.

That's the Reader's Digest condensed version of our last three weeks.  Through it all, I've still been keeping my gratitude journal. So, bear with me as I record here three weeks of my thanksgiving.

Since 2009 I've been counting my blessings thanks to the prompting of Ann Voskamp.
 I continue to count my thanks
piling up gratitude day by day
in my little green journal.
(and capturing some of my blessings via my camera or iPhone)

-facetiming with my youngest grandson from Ghana
-help from my nephew, son-in-law and friend
-singing along to worship music while packing up the house

-some moments to write
-a good long talk on the phone with a friend
-more progress on packing with the help of my friend
-talking to my husband, who's on a layover in Amsterdam on his way home from Ghana

-pink sunrise
-fresh tomatoes from the back yard eaten with salt
-my husband is home from Ghana!

-my sister's birthday
-walking to Dairy Queen with our oldest daughter and two youngest granddaughters

-lunch at Chang's with our son-in-law and grandson
-love and forgiveness
-the hub's help with packing

-a long walk after a long day of packing
-letting go of more stuff

-our church family
-pizza party after church
-almost done packing up the house

-coffee and God's Word to keep me sane
-a breakfast of bacon, toast and scrambled eggs made by the hubs
-most of our belongings packed into Uhaul boxes

-progress on both house closings
-cleaning our current home for the last time
-a relaxing dinner out after too much grab and go food

-help from a friend from church who is storing our outdoor furniture for us
-more help packing up from my friend
-all of our stuff now in storage

-God's provision day by day, need by need
-help with a repair 
-my friend's texts and prayers
-God's help to find an available dentist to take care of a broken tooth

-God's grace, mercy and forgiveness when I'm not handling the chaos of this move so well
-a better afternoon than morning

-a run to destress while listening to podcasts that were just what I needed
-packing of my suitcases all done for our London trip
-dinner with friends from church-great food, great fellowship, just what we needed

-a great Sunday
-saying our last goodbye to our Portland house
-my nephew and niece-in-law letting us stay at their house
-going to frozen yogurt with our oldest daughter, son-in-law and two youngest granddaughters before leaving for our trip
-our oldest grandson spending the night with us at our nephew's

-at the airport, ready to leave for London!
-the most amazing encounter with a dear Jewish lady who sat next to me on the plane
(truly an amazing God moment that deserves a whole blog post of its own)

-a safe trip
-Jacki and Freddie from New Testament Assembly there at Heathrow to pick us up
-seeing lots of London just on the car ride to our lodging
-a wonderful little vacation rental apartment right on the Thames river!
-a reasonably priced little grocery store right near the apartment
-a great nap after a long trip
-an evening walk by the Thames when we woke up
-making eggs, fried potatoes and crumpets for our dinner 
-catching up on my Bible reading
-good news from home re. our house 

-a good night's sleep
-a day late due to a plane mechanical problem, but our daughter, oldest granddaughter, youngest grandson and a young gal from our church
 arrived safely in London from Ghana
-taking a nap with my grandson, (I'm still jet lagged!)
-our daughter arranging our day trip to Paris
-figuring out the buses here in London
-seeing Buckingham Palace!

-a yummy dinner of fish and chips
-our house sale is closing tomorrow!

-the sale of our house is closed, funded and recorded!
-seeing more of the sights of London-the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace, Big Ben, touring Westminster Abbey, 
(where we saw the graves of people like Handel and David Livingstone)

-the opening service of the conference at New Testament Assembly

-our real estate agent, nephew and son-in-law taking care of some things re. our new house
-going to Selfridges
-my husband preaching an amazing message at the conference-
a wonderful service, (and great Lebanese food at a restaurant and fellowship afterwards!)

-riding the Eurostar to Paris!

-baguette with butter and ham bought on the street
-going to the top of the Eiffel Tower!

-a boat tour down the Seine
-croque madame at a sidewalk cafe, followed by a fabulous dessert of crepe royale

-a great message at NTA this morning
-an afternoon nap
-good news from home
-quiet time in God's Word

-a new roof on our new house
-lunch with Bishop Frank who is in London, from Ghana, for the conference
-the way our youngest grandson loves our wonderful Ghanaian brother like another papa
-going to the British Museum, (it's free admission!)

-a fun trip to Harrod's
-a wonderful time of Jamaican food and sweet fellowship at the home of a dear family
 from New Testament Assembly
-our nephew's help back in the U.S. with things re. the house

-the train ride through the countryside from London to Edinburgh, Scotland

-my Scottish husband teary-eyed to stand in the land of his grandmother
-soup, sandwich, scones and tea at an old Scottish pub
-touring Edinburgh castle and a bus tour around Edinburgh 

-dreams of coming back to Scotland one day

-Bishop Frank taking the underground just to see us off to the airport
-icy glaciers and fjords seen from the plane
-a safe trip home
-another night at our nephew's since our house still hasn't closed

-our anniversary!
-God's provision for a nice hotel room
-reassurance from our lender that our house will close soon
-praying and trusting when things have not gone smoothly

-catching up on reading in the books of Isaiah and Acts 
as I continue to read and journal through the Bible this year
-our spiritual dad/mentor 
-God's answers to prayer that sometimes come in unexpected ways

-waking up way too early due to still adjusting to the time difference between London and here, 
but it giving me precious time in the Word
-a beautiful sunrise
-our supportive church elders
-soup and salad lunch on this rainy Sunday afternoon

gratefully yours,