The Story Behind The Sticker

I can’t count the number of times I have been stuck in traffic or on the freeway behind a vehicle sporting a “my kid is…” bumper sticker. I’m bet you’ve lost track as well.

You know the sort of sticker I’m talking about right? They say something like “my kid is on the honor roll at such and such school” or “my kid could beat up your honor roll student.” (to which I reply “good for your perfect kid” and “I think I’ll give you a wide berth because you scare me.”)

I always assumed that the award winning kids behind the stickers were the real life equivalent of Hermione Granger of Harry Potter fame, rule abiding know it alls and teacher’s pets. The sort of kids you brag about and drive the other moms nuts with.

The Perfect kids.

Then my husband Kel texted me a grainy video which prompted me to burst into tears.

Earlier in the day my phone lit up with the name of my daughter Noelle’s school for the second day in a row. The first time was due to a pants malfunction on superhero day, bummer, a pain, but manageable. 

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The bad pants debacle

I have only one reaction when I see that my children’s schools are calling midday. Oh Expletive %#*@… Continue reading

4 Things To Hold Onto When Your Backstory Tries To Take You Down

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Source

It’s been nearly 5 years since my mom took her own life and it’s really hard to put into words how I deal with that on a daily basis.

Most days I am still in disbelief that this is a part of my story, my family’s story. I joke to new friends that I feel too normal to have such a dramatic back story.

The back to school days have me in a bit of a depressive funk. Some days it’s just a small gray cloud but once in a while it’s a bit worse than that. I am upping my meds since I am on a low dose currently and choosing to be thankful for Zoloft rather than feel shame that I can’t hack it “au natural.”

The bad depressive days are the hardest when I start thinking about my Mom, when the enemy creeps into my ear and says “maybe you will repeat her story, or maybe your kids will…. it’s in you, it’s in them.” Continue reading

On Crappy Sleepers And Knowing Your Kids

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There is a standard by which all babies are judged, besides cuteness, cuteness is like a babies #1 currency. The other thing is sleep. If you want to be loved and admired as a baby, you gotta be a good sleeper.

When admiring a baby, the first thing an acquaintance will mention is the cute. Even ugly babies get called cute, it’s probably in the bible. I’ve even been told this by the nurses at the Pediatrician’s office. She said “we have to say they’re all cute, but they’re not… yours really is though!”

Anyway, after cute, the next thing a baby will be judged on is their sleeping habits.

It goes something like this:

Look at this little cutie, what a doll baby! She looks like a (kewpie doll, gerber baby, baby gap model, chub-muffin, angel… you get the drill) How does she sleep at night? Is she sleeping through the night?

How weird would this be if we greeted a new adult friend the same way?

Hi, I’m Leanne. And you are?
Great, nice to meet you Bob, but how well do you sleep?
Continue reading

A letter to my Son After a Bad Bedtime

I just need to write, to process life through words and to blog, I miss it and even if it’s imperfect or not tagline worth I’m going for it.

So today I’m sharing this letter I wrote last week after a particularly bad bedtime, I bet you’ve been there too. 

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Dear son,

you fell asleep in the hallway tonight, laid your little body down on the cold and unforgiving wood floor in protest of something that, to you, seemed monumentally unjust.

I tripped on you a bit as I made my way down the hallway, because you’d wrapped yourself from head to toe in your quilt. You scared me, I had no idea you were in there, I was sure you’d given up and crawled into bed.

I have no idea why you chose to fall asleep this way, but I’m sure it has something to do with the protests you were yelling down the stairs to me, the ones I ignored by turning the TV up and repeatedly yelling “goodnight!”

The last thing I heard you were complaining about your sister breathing too loud, so I’m thinking your floor shenanigans had something to do with that. I never have any idea what to do with that request, by the way, people need to breathe, that slow rhythmic in and out is something to be thankful for.

It was a rough bedtime, with Dad gone and you making multiple trips down the stairs requesting a snack, a chance to give the cat a treat, some time to watch TV with me and of course the breathing complaints.

I told you the kitchen was closed, I threatened to take away screen time, but mostly… if I’m honest? I yelled at you. Continue reading

Thoughts and Feels on Being Judged About My CSection

Tomorrow will find me 32 weeks pregnant. Can you believe it? I can’t, but then I get up to pee for the 173rd time each day and and yup, I can believe it. I’m so ready to be done peeing.

This pregnancy has flown by and dragged on simultaneously. One the one hand I feel as though I’ve been expecting this little girl forever, then on the other hand I am completely unprepared to bring her home.

No, my bag is not packed. I actually don’t even have the things I need to pack, my nursing camis from the last two babies disintegrated and the yoga pants I brought to the hospital became rags after being bleach-stained beyond repair.

No, the nursery is NOT ready and it might not be before she arrives. Kel is working two jobs and we don’t see a lot of each other these days. When we do finally have a chance to be in the same room, painting is the last thing on our minds. Usually it’s more like, “hey come sit on the same couch as me, bring the remote. Let’s pass out.”

So I’m not ready, but I know our sweet new daughter will be here soon, just the same.

And if I need to have a friend or family member run to target to buy nursing camis and yoga pants and she sleeps in a pack and play in our room for the first months, so be it.

It’s not even a third baby thing, it’s a life-right-now thing. I’d rather have a sane family, a (sorta) rested husband and space to take it all in than kill ourselves putting together a pinterest-worthy nursery.

The state of our hearts over the look of her room.

However, there is one thing I am extremely ready for.

I’m ready for people to stop judging me about my C-section. Continue reading

The day I realized I had Kindergarten all wrong

“Her mom probably cried when she left for Kindergarten and I celebrated with my friends by going out to brunch.”

I picked up this (mis)quote somewhere along the road (I think it’s from Jen Hatmaker and I think it’s from her blog, or her book Seven. Forgive me for my terrible sourcing here.)

I’ve repeated it with friends during friendly banter about how ready I was for my children to go off to school.

I’m one of THOSE moms, I said, the ones who will drop them off at school and head for the coffee shop with a grin on my face.

And then came the night before Kindergarten. As I emerged from the bathroom after brushing my teeth Kel signaled for me to follow him into the kid’s bedroom.

“This is the last night we have two preschoolers, she starts Kindergarten tomorrow… We have a school kid!”

We squinted at each other in the dim light and exchanged some sort of “holy crap” type look complete with raised eyebrows.

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She was going to school, for real school, not preschool but like big, huge, out in the world school.

And then I started to cry, and panic, and wish that we had some paper bags in the house so I could hyperventilate properly. (Kel offered to get me a plastic bag to which I responded “are you trying to kill me?!?”)

We headed to bed to chat about it all more and I started sobbing to him.

“I get it! I get why Moms cry when they send their kids to school! It’s not because they can’t stand to be without them for a while, it’s because this world is so damn scary and mean and we won’t be there! I need five more years to talk to her about All. The. Things!”

“Like how to be resilient when people are mean to her! And how to show love to a kid who everyone else is being mean to! And how she needs to believe what we teach her about who she is and who God says she is so if someone teases her for being too busy or picking her nose she will know that what they say doesn’t matter because people suck Kel! And OH MY GOD someone is going to offer her drugs like tomorrow, I just know it, we haven’t talked about drugs. I need five more years, I won’t be there! She is NOT READY for the big world.”

I am not ready to let the world have a crack at her. Not yet.

Because guys? The world can be so mean, so so mean and she is sweet, she is all kitties and big brown eyes and almost too many hugs and kisses every single day.

I don’t want careless people to break that.

Do you remember how scary school can be? And how mean kids are? I may as well toss her to the wolves as send her to Kindergarten!

I know she will come home crying and I know that we will have 17,842 more talks about life as it’s happening, complete with names, faces and context.

But Kindergarten day was dawning and I felt suddenly obscenely unprepared.

Still, the sun rose and we pulled on her skort and her polo. I did her hair in pigtails WITH little braids in them, completely exhausting my updo skills.

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We walked down to the fantastic Montessori school and I kept breathing as we stood amongst a crowd of other excited buzzing parents and children.

When her teacher walked out I eyeballed her and thought something along the lines of: you better cherish her little heart and see how wonderful she is or I will break you in half…(just kidding Ms Jennifer… if you’re reading this I’m sorry and I swear I will rock snack duty next week.)

It’s like this:

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” ~Elizabeth Stone

This quote nails it.

Suddenly you wake up and you send your unprepared heart to Kindergarten, and it’s all exposed and out there. You can’t swoop in to protect it and past experience tells you that there’s a 1000% chance it will be broken time and time again.

You think of every mean thing that happened to you and try frantically to protect your child from enduring the same. You know broken is beautiful and that she has to learn to endure heartache, to believe in who she is because she’s had to defend it, to see the world through other people’s eyes because she has access to them…

And you want to believe that God has her, but your life tells you that his “in control” and your “in control” are worlds apart. He will allow hard things to happen to her, the bitter and the sweet are coming, neither of which call to question his power or love… somehow.

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So you send your heart to Kindergarten and you make peace with the lump in your throat and the look of terror on your face. You remind yourself that you are new at being a school-kid mom and that you have much to learn as well.

And you will learn, both of you, and it will be some sort of okay even though it will constantly take you by surprise.

And you realize the morning of Kindergarten that not only do you have no idea how to spell the world, that you grossly misjudged how it would feel to send her through those doors to face the big world, to let it have access to her.

See how I spelled it wrong? I clearly don't get Kindergarten. Stupid german words.

See how I spelled it wrong? I clearly don’t get Kindergarten. Stupid german words.

Oh world, be gentle
Oh God shape her, May I always be her safe place second only to you as you are the only one who has staying power on this earth.
Oh Noelle, be brave, be unapologetically yourself, be a good friend, a passionate learner.
Oh God… be with her in that classroom, preserve that heart so she can show the world how much beauty you jam packed in there… 

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Lessons from a Creepy Bagel Gawker (On Encouraging Moms)

A few weeks back Caedmon and I were out for Bagels as a break in the middle of errands.

I let him pick out his bagel and his cream cheese flavors from the case we affectionately refer to as cream cheese heaven. (Think a glass case full of huge bowls of every flavor cream cheese and you’ll see why.)

We waited at our table for our toasted and schmeared carbs to be delivered and as we did he started to whine for juice. This happens a lot, but I generally hold my ground because I want my kids to drink water. Also I hate shelling out $2.50 for a bottle of juice.

Yet, he wouldn’t drop it, he’s three, there are very few hills he won’t die on when it comes to getting his way: Underwear, hand washing, juice, who turns off the TV… these are all battle-worthy topics to him.

It went something like this:

“I want juice!”
“I’m sorry buddy, we are having water today. But I think your bagel will be here soon.”
“I don’t want it, I want a donut from Tim Hort’s… and juice!”
“Those aren’t choices right now, but a blueberry strawberry bagel is. Here it comes!”
“No, I hate bagels!” (goes to smack bagel basket…I block his shot because I know his game)

All the while I notice a middle age man across the aisle staring at us, obsessively and without apology. I try not to catch his eye after the first round because he is really making me uncomfortable with his constant gaze.

Eventually, somehow Caedmon calms down and digs into his bagel, even sipping and backwashing into his water after a few minutes.

All the while our friend across the aisle stares us down like my son stares at a Tim Horton’s donut case.

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From this past Sunday when we accidentally missed church and ended up giving our kids donuts instead of Jesus. #wetried

My creeped out levels were high when he got up to clear his table to leave (Phew!)

As he did he walked crossed the aisle to our table: “Hey. I just wanted to let you know that you’re doing a great job with him. You’re a good mom.”

My jaw dropped open. (don’t worry there was no bagel in it, I devoured that in 1:17 flat)

The whole creepy staring was an appreciation of my parenting skills? Who Knew? And what a weird way to go about it!

I thanked him profusely, felt immensely flattered and proceeded with the rest of my errands like the all star mom that I apparently am. With an extra dose of patience and understanding because of the compliment I’d been paid.

What’s up with the power of these words: “You’re a good mom.”

I hate that it takes a compliment from a real live person to make me feel more secure in my parenting, certainly I would like to be in a place where my call and my identity in God speak to that the most.

Yet, I cannot deny that every time someone has made a point to lift me up as a mom, it stands out.

I remember it, I feel it for the rest of the day and even longer.

Then last night, I saw Facebook post that brought all these compliments back to the forefront of my mind.

A friend from Oklahoma, who parents six beautiful children like a rock star, received a note on her windshield from a stranger at Target.

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Someone took the time out of their daily jam to notice her with her children, find a paper and pen, write a note and stick it under her windshield!

Whoever you are Target stranger, you are an answer to prayer.

Because how many days do we pray for strength, and how many times could we be the answers to each other’s prayers by taking the time to say: “Well done good and faithful (and obviously exhausted) mama?”

Not enough.

So yesterday I posted a Facebook challenge:

“Mom challenge: Let’s all tell three mothers that they are doing a great job this week. Bonus if it’s a stranger, double bonus if they’re having a hard day.”

What if we all complimented three mamas this week? Went our of our way to tell them that they’re great mothers?

What if we took the time to say “Hey, well done mom. It’s hard, but you are loving those little ones into beautiful people.”

What if we left notes on the windshields of dirty mini vans and cars?

What if we bought their much needed coffee at whatever drive thru is on their way to the grocery store or soccer field?

What if, when we saw a Mom struggling we intervened by holding doors and sharing looks of “I’ve been there?”

I know my world would be a more beautiful place if I answered a few more prayers with my actions.

So, are you in? If you are please let me know in the comments, or leave a comment about your encouragement in action. 

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We Are Five, We Are Free

My daughter Noelle turned five yesterday. My oldest baby is five.

As I removed the classic, waxy number five candle from it’s packaging, while children gathered around plates of cupcakes, it struck me hard.

She. Is. Five.

We are five. Five years of mothering and daughtering together.

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Five years of stories, kitties, curly hair and a bouncy brown eyed daughter playing upon my every imaginable emotion.

As I looked down at that candle in my palm I fought the urge to stop the party, scoop her up and never let go.

How can she be five? Telling jokes? Heading to kindergarten? Starting to make her way in the world?

Where has it all gone and for the love of mercy if I cry this much at preschool graduation, how on earth am I going to weather further milestones? I think I’ll have to bring a therapist and an oxygen mask to her high school graduation, and college? Forgetaboutit.

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This weekend has been a time of celebrations, streamers, kitty masks and cupcakes.

But it has also been one of reflection for me, of inner processing and renewed resolve.

There is something that happened inside me over the last five years, this season of raising a daughter while grieving my broken, painful relationship with my own mother.

And this weekend it all came into focus for me: I have been mothering my daughter out of fear.

Fear that she will grow to hate me, fear that I will hurt her more than help her, fear that she shares all my worst flaws and that the world will hand her more than her fair share of pain and steal her joy.

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Noelle and I are cut of the same cloth temperament-wise. We are extroverted, busy, bright and distractible. It’s more personality type than a diagnosis, more learning-style than disability, but here we are.

This shared temperament didn’t serve me well as a child, maybe it was my peers or the adults who had influence over my life, but I grew up a sad, lonely little girl.

I spent years of my life believing that although they said God didn’t make junk, that I was the exception to that rule.

I fought to fit in and generally failed, I grew up feeling rejected and small.

The past five years with Noelle have been spent worried that history would repeat itself, that she would feel rejected by the world and that our relationship would somehow be strained and broken.

That my life was somehow starting over again, through hers.

I don’t know if you project your worst fears and past issues on your children’s lives , but I do. It’s far more inward than outward, but I worry and wonder if all the worst things of my life are guaranteed to play out in theirs.

I worry, then I do everything in my power to give them a foothold for better.

Did I ever tell you why we named her Noelle? 

It’s because Christmas was a revolution, the baby in the manger came to offer a fresh start, a new thing, a rhythm of grace and love open to all.

Given the broken, painful homes we came from, we wanted something new, a fresh start, a revolution.

So we named her Noelle, the beginning of our revolution.

Yet these past five years haven’t felt too revolutionary, how could they when I’ve spent them mothering in fear?

This weekend as she bounced through the celebration of her life God showed me something new, something beautiful, something intrinsically true.

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She is Noelle, she is His creation and she is exactly who he had in mind for her to be.

She will be loved, if not by all than by many, for she embodies his joy and creativity in her approach to life.

He will sustain her through the inevitable brokenness, just as he did me.

She is my beautiful daughter and the energy we share will flow through her to bring about good works, to bring grace to pain.

I need not fear her or what we share, rather I shall join in (finally) in celebrating what I have spent too long worrying about and projecting upon.

This is my daughter, sent to me by a wise and wonderful God on purpose, with purpose for the benefit of so many.

She is holding up to her name, she is healing brokenness through God’s work in her life.

And she has started with her Mother.

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Do you project your worries on to the life of your children? How has God set you free from that?

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A Bringer of Water (Even though it’s easier to ignore thirsty people)

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I’ve already referenced in this post that my time at Festival of Faith and Writing made a significant impact on me.  But nothing struck me more than my two sessions sitting at the feet of Anne Lammott.

Because when you hear Saint Anne (as my friend refers to her) speak it fills up your grace tank for a while, it changes the way you look at things and people, including yourself.

A week later her words were still ringing in my mind and echoing in my stream of consciousness.

Miraculously, they managed to make their way into my head during the least likely hour imaginable, the post bed hour when I’ve officially clocked out but my kids are still intent on getting a bit more from me.

More water, more snuggles, more words, more attention.

All when I have absolutely nothing left. 

It was one of THOSE nights, where you’re playing whack a mole, and you’re losing. When you swear that if another child appears at the top of the stairs you’re going to really and truly start sobbing.

And then there they are, standing at the top with a small pleading voice with a myriad of requests. I need you to scary spray the room, I need some more mommy snuggles, Caedmon stole my puppy, I have to poop and you need to wipe me.

In this particular instance it was our four year Noelle, and she wanted some more water, serving three of water to be exact.

I struggle with doling out water at bedtime and here’s why: On the one hand, it’s water and a basic human need. On the other hand, too much of it and I’m stripping the bed in the morning in exchange for clean sheets.

I was about to yell “No, Noelle. Back to bed!” When my voice caught in my throat.

Why? Because I was thirsty, I myself needed some water.

And that’s when Anne Lammott’s words floated back to me. She said so much on grace and loving well and often her controlling metaphor was water.

“We get people glasses of water when they are thirsty.”

Noelle was thirsty, I was thirsty too and she couldn’t get herself water, the cups were out of reach. And there I laid on the couch, the one given charge to keep her from being thirsty, even when it was incredibly irritating to do so.

Sure, there was a chance that her request was really just a ploy for bedtime avoidance, but do you risk it when someone is genuinely requesting water? I mean, it’s water.

I got off the couch, suddenly tenderized by the basic truth of our shared need. My daughter and I needed water.

I told Kel: “I can’t yell at thirsty people, I have to get her water even if she’s just stalling, this is what loving well looks like.”

I probably wasn’t that eloquent at 8:45.

But I got her a little water, right after I made her use the bathroom. And there was something in Anne’s words and my challenge to be my daughter’s water carrier that caused me to respond to her in love, with genuine tenderness as I put her back in bed for the fifth time.

And this interaction has been challenging my thought life ever since, asking me: “What does it look like to give water to the people in your life? And what is water to them, for their bodies, for their hearts? What is the thing you are charged to do so that their basic thirsts are met?”

For Kel it’s words of encouragement and for Caedmon it’s the knowledge that he is needed and his opinions matter. For Noelle it’s time and attention when she wants to read or play kitties.

There are so many things that people are really, genuinely thirsty for. Am I doing something about this?

Or have I been too preoccupied by my own needs to notice the thirsty all around me.

I want to be a bringer of water, not because I’m amazing or even all that Holy, but because there is a Spirit alive in me that I’ve made head space for. I want to quiet the bulk of the noise to make room for the cues that tell me, this person needs water from you.

Bringing water requires paying attention
Bringing water requires telling the head demons in your own mind to be quiet, because you’re living for someone else please and thank you.
Bringing water requires a laying down of what you thought you’d being doing and instead, redirecting your energies.

I want to be a bringer of water in this world, with my words, my hands, my time. To leave the space I live in and the people in my life just a bit more deeply quenched.

This will require prayer, sacrifice and attention, may the Lord grant me more of these things.

How do you bring water to those in your life? How is God leading you to do this in new ways? 

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Life lessons on frustration and forgiveness from Dishwashers, Taxes and Friggin Gogurts

Do you know what frustration is? It’s the conflict between expectation and reality.

I’ll give it to you in a kitchen metaphor: When I open my dishwasher and pull out the racks, I expect them to slide out and give me access to clean dishes. But they don’t, they always catch on each other.

So every time I have to snake in my hand to figure out what the issue is. Sometimes I skin my cuticles and knuckles doing this.

I expect to be able to open my dishwasher. The reality is that I usually can’t. This is frustrating and I want to take a bat to the dishwasher and then give my lovely landlords a check for a new one that is cool with the simple act of washing normal sized plates.

Right now frustration and I have been spending a lot of time together. Tons really. 

Each morning I make a list, say my prayers and get after my day of finding socks, unloading the dishwasher, packing bags, making breakfast, bundling children against another day of bitter cold Michigan winter.

Each evening I fall asleep frustrated, without an ounce of personal satisfaction for a job well done.

Each night my expectations and my reality are miles apart and I have no idea what needs to move but I feel frustrated to the point of anger.

Yesterday I depleted my resources of “go get em” and my storehouses of patience and kindness which, to be honest were running low to begin with.

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It culminated while I was on the phone, trying to make an appointment with our tax person.

Just before I dialed I gave each of the kids Gogurts and just as the tax office picked up my son started wailing about how he didn’t want the Gogurt I’d given him, he wanted a different one.

I cannot stress this enough: They are all the same. Exactly. The. Same flavor, shape, packaging. The. Same.

So I walked away from him and locked myself in the bathroom to have some serious fun figuring out our taxes at which point he proceeded to kick the door and wail “MOOOOM!!!!” for the entirety of my phone call.

I had to choke back sobs during the entire call (“Thanks, one o’clock it is…whimper…. thank you!”) I was frustrated to tears that my expectation of a 3 minute phone call was going unmet.

This is when my dark side took over and I grabbed his hand while he was in the middle of kicking the door, took him to his bed and administered three swift spanks on his bottom.

Then we both cried and held each other. Because I don’t really spank. I hate it. ANd on top of everything I’d done it out of sheer anger over the collision of our strong wills, taxes and friggin gogurts.

As I held him I uttered one of the most ironic things I’ve ever said: “You can’t treat other people so awfully just because life isn’t going the way you want it buddy.”

No sooner had I uttered those words than my breath caught in my throat and I cried some more because I was preaching to myself.

Wherever the roots of my frustration stem from I don’t have the right to take it out on other people.

And when I do it’s on me to make amends, to admit my ugliness and beg forgiveness. Which is the least fun imaginable in the midst of mountains of frustration and anger.

As I laid my head on my pillow last night I felt like a whimpering puddle deserving the love and mercy of no one. Yet somehow I felt myself getting swept up, quite undeservingly, into the arms of a God who’s mercies are new every morning.

Every. Morning. New Mercies

Another sunrise, another battle with the dishwasher, another moment to crawl into his lap, apologize and try again.

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