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lilies101In the movie Darby O’Gill and The Little People, Father Murphy asks who is willing to go to the next down and bring back a bell that has been donated to the church. The town bully offers, allowing that he be paid more than the good Father is willing to pay.

Darby O’Gill, a poor single father, finally offers and says, “I’ll do it Father. I’ll do it for nothing. The kindly Father has compassion on Darby, knowing his short-comings but recognizing the innate goodness of his heart, accepts his offer, saying, “No, as a reward, you, you may have the music of the bell.”

What a beautiful gift – to be given the music of the bell.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” ~ Luke 6:38

I don’t know what I’ve given sacrificially that that sounds as noble as fetching the bell for the church tower but He has given me . . . the beauty of the lilies that bloom right now – and the hydrangea that froze in a late frost last year leaving us without hydrangea until now – He has given me the blue hydrangea in abundance. The seeds of the zinnia have popped their greenness out of the ground – and He promises all the zinnias offer, too – the beauty, the butterflies that come to snack, the joyful color.

Today, He has given me the coolness of the day, too – the coolness under my feet, to my skin, the cardinal’s song, and the call of the red-winged black bird.

. . . and he has given me home after a short journey that he filled with gifts of unanticipated blessing.

Maybe the key to contentment, to a choose-joy life is to give without expectation while living expectation full of God’s goodness, knowing He is gracious, generous, good, lavish with His love. After all, He does collect our tears in a bottle, he offers the warm, comforting protection beneath his wings, he plans the best plans – if we don’t spoil them. Even if we spoil His plans, He’s got the plant to pull us out of our mess. . . and He makes miracles.

“I’ll make a list of God’s gracious dealings,
    all the things God has done that need praising,
All the generous bounties of God,
    his great goodness to the family of Israel—
Compassion lavished,
    love extravagant.
He said, “Without question these are my people,
    children who would never betray me.”
So he became their Savior.
    In all their troubles,
    he was troubled, too.
He didn’t send someone else to help them.
    He did it himself, in person.
Out of his own love and pity
    he redeemed them.
He rescued them and carried them along
    for a long, long time.” ~ Isaiah 63: 7-9

He wants us to remember; it grieves him when we do not. As parents, do we not want our children to recognize, remember the love we have lavished on them – and does it not grieve our hearts when they forget, when they don’t remember?

“But you did not remember. . . you have forgotten” – God says over and over again – forgotten what he has done in the long ago past. . . and our daily past. . .

I want to remember his lavish generosity. . . . because He wants me to remember. . . to remember and acknowledge He gave it to me, He loves me, “He will never stop doing good to me” (Jeremiah 32:40).

I want to remember because in remembering, I draw closer. In remembering, I my eyes are opened to more of Him. In remember, my heart grows in love.

“Because you did not remember”, he says, (Ezekiel 16:43, Hosea 13:6, Psalm 78:43, Psalm 106: 13)

Good relationships remember the good! The good is cataloged, savored, told about over and over again, so much so that some people might go, “Here she goes again.”

“Remember Me,” God is continually saying. It grieves him when we don’t.  Selfless hearts remember the generosity of others. Hearts that practice love remember the goodness of others. I want to live selflessly, to practice love. I want to live thankful!

I never want to stop  remembering, so today, I remember the blessing of the lilies. Thank you, Father, for in remembering me, you teach me to remember you!

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“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him,
and he delivers them.
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” ~ Psalm 34:7-8

(Note: Cooking isn’t just cooking at the Blue Cotton House. There’s always a story, a Mom Lecture Nugget, a little nourishment for the soul with words or without. As my first born said a long time ago, there are some people you can run by and spend a second with – and there are some people who really want to know what’s going on, who want to sit long and talk, listen, discuss the heart of what’s going on. So, if you just want to avoid that, The Recipe is at The End)

I’m behind – I need to finish Part II of the our miracle story  – there’s so much to say . . the miracle, God’s amazing mercy and lavish generosity, the post-challenge-post miracle living, the everyday ordinary of the daily challenges, and the littlest of our boys graduating high school, a 10 Year Blogaversary – it feels like yesterday I hit the first publish button – and Blue Cotton Memory was born.  Instead of the usual everyday ordinary where little stuff tumbles  until the shaken out of its monotony by pops of Big Stuff,  it has been a season marked by Big Stuff happening one on top of another.

Some friends asked for a recipe – a recipe that’s been so much a part of this season, starting when Christmas, Easter and Passover collided in December. There were a lot of showerless days in the hospital though the rain poured constantly outside, about an hour and a half away from home depending on traffic – and a Panera around the corner with its chocolate croissants and huge Kitchen Sink Cookies. Across the street is a favorite little restaurant that makes the best salads, and a fast-food drive-through with strawberry lemonades that tasted good to my husband.

For 14 days (first stay 2 days, second stay 6 days, 3rd stay 6 days), the hospital room became a nest, a home away from home. Pillows, a quilt from home, books, bible, knitting projects – and savories like chocolate croissants and huge Panera Kitchen Sink Cookies –  littered a corner of the room with the chair that folded back to make an impromptu bed. These bits and pieces of home created a cocoon of comfort, vigor and hope.

All our boys, the ones still in the nest and the ones with their own nests pulled together keeping the business running, the dog walked, the cat and each other fed, the high school and college class work successfully done, chores normally ignored and left to mom weren’t ignored – I was completely hands off, (though, friends – I was hands up living)! Basically, these boys were not so much boys as men who kept the everyday ordinary running smoothly, so we could work through the extraordinary. I was so very proud of how they handled The Season of the Great Challenge.

The Last High School Soccer Season started before we were home for good. High School soccer started for us in 2000 – all five boys played. It was the littlest-who-wasn’t-little-any-more ‘s senior year, the last soccer season – yes! But it was the end of an era . . . and, Thank You God! My husband was here for it, his health blooming from the miracle after miracle. I think I understand the parts of the story the gospel doesn’t tell us about – life after the miracle, after Jesus opened the blind man’s eyes, healed the leper, restored the health of the soldier’s valued servant, called life back into Lazarus.

Living life after the miracle has been all the sweeter. Sweeter maybe because we’ve been more intentional about it. There’s still challenges, still frustrations – still all the everyday ordinary ups and downs – but maybe it’s also more intentionally living with thankfulness, macro focusing on the goodness He gives us – in each other, in those around us, in the blessing details of the daily. Sweeter for sure because when you’ve walked so close to God,  where you didn’t take your eyes off him as he fought the battle for you, when you’ve been ensconced under his wing, covered so securely in his Holy Spirit protection – the saturation of His presence seeps into every place you go, everything you do, affecting how you do it!

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It was time to focus on the little one grown up and graduating high school! It was a Big Stuff Moment! What a semester he had! He kept up with two college classes, did an internship, and an on-line class at the high school. He wants to be an engineer like his dad – and he played his best soccer – earning All-District First Team. He graduated with Honors. What I’ll remember most about this season? The first is when he said, “God’s got this Mom!” His quiet, confident assurance in a challenging moment! Then the hugs! Such sweet hugs! Later when he said he wanted me to do his senior photos instead of paying someone else!

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Soccer leads up to graduation where we live – and if it’s a particularly good season, it goes beyond. Our team played their heart out – and a couple of seniors who’d played soccer with our guys for years started a new tradition: The Kitchen. They came with pots and pans, with big ladles and spoons, with chefs hats and aprons – and a menu. Even on away games hours away. They came and they banged those pots and pans and cheered! I’ll admit – sometimes they out-noised the home team when we played away games. I loved their heart – and their out-of-the-cake-box creativity!

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I thought The Kitchen needed some Kitchen Sink Cookies – because, friends, when you’re on the game field – your cheer section can carry you through – and it’s important that the cheer section is cheered on, too.

Cost and Cookie Size prohibited me from ordering Panera’s Kitchen Sink Cookies for The Kitchen, so I tried an on-line copy-cat version. I don’t know what I did wrong, but they ended up  in the garbage. It was an utter fail experience. So, I thought and pondered – and the light bulb finally flickered on – I just needed to use my chocolate chip cookie recipe as the base – and add everything and the kitchen sink!

The response? A Savory Memory to a Season of Big Stuff! It was a particularly good season. Graduation came – and soccer continued. The team made it to The Final Four of the State Playoffs! What a run it was! But now we’re back to the everyday ordinary. The depleted schedule has left us in a quiet season. It doesn’t smell like soccer cleats and jerseys that reek of hard, sweaty work. My husband is walking six miles a day – and we had our first kayaking outing of the season. We’ve entered a new season of living but we’re keeping our eyes focused on The One Who Saves. I don’t ever want to lose that feeling of being saturated with His presence – that being wrapped up in a cocoon of his love and protection, regardless of whether it’s Big Stuff or Everyday Ordinary Living.

Muddy’s Kitchen Sink Cookies 

3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
1/2 cup Crisco Baking Sticks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 10-oz package chocolate chip cookies
2-3 cups tiny twist pretzels (measured BEFORE spinning in a food processor)
Caramel sauce (I use Torani Caramel in squeeze bottle)
(Recommended: (2) 12 X 17 cookie sheet or(2)13 X 18; a small melon scoop; parchment paper to line cookie sheet.)Preheat oven to 375°

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and Crisco Baking Stick until creamy. Add granulated and brown sugar and vanilla to the butter mixture. Blend until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Beat in flour mixture a half a cup at a time until you don’t see any white flour. Stir in chocolate chips. Then add the broken up pretzel twists.

Using small melon scoop, space two inches a part, then drizzle caramel syrup over the tops (if cold, it will not slide down sides but melt as it cooks). Set timer for 9-11 minutes and check. Bake time depends on the individual stove.If the cookies have spread together, separate when warm. Let cool for at 5 minutes.

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Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysTea and Word TuesdayPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

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“All change comes from deepening your understanding of the salvation of Christ and living out the changes that understanding creates in your heart.” ~ Tim Keller

. . . Because Cooking can be so much more than just cooking. . . .

I adore the Louisville Hot Brown Sandwich. For a long time, I rarely ever made it. Not because the recipe was difficult, but because I believed that it must be served it on individual, stainless-steel Hot Brown plates in order to oven-broil until the sauce puffed up just a bit and turned a hint of golden brown.

Being a Louisville girl, I had to do it more right, than, say, someone not from Louisville. . . right. . . ?  But what newlywed can afford little stainless-steel Hot Brown plates? Should I have bought them one at a time. Then “Poof,” we were a family of seven and buying them just wasn’t on top of the necessary list. Since I couldn’t afford the plates, I didn’t make the dish.

It didn’t seem . . . seemly. . . to serve it any other way. Any other way wouldn’t be authentic, genteel southern. . . the right way. Besides, it smacked of wrongness to take something with a bit of white linen grandeur served with a bit of horse racing kick to it. . . and put it in an everyday ordinary casserole dish, kind of like taking a Derby winner and turning it into a plough horse.

Preconceived Notions of how things should be done are sometimes the biggest self-imposed Stop Signs preventing everyday ordinary experiences of goodness.

An it’s-just-not-done-that-way kind of mentality can sometimes make it hard for the good things to grow in life – good things like God-designed skill sets needed to build God-designed dreams, or strong, comfortable-in-their-God-designed-skin kids, life-long love, a life-changing relationship with the Father who creates and the Savior who saves.

Sometimes, I have learned, I need to let go of preconceived notions of how I think things should be – and just do them in a way that enables me to do them.

Tradition and innovation are not easy friends.

Maybe I don’t always make homemade Alfredo sauce over pasta. Maybe I buy the pre-made sauce and add garlic and parmesan, while sauteing the chicken in olive oil and Italian seasoning.

My oldest, he came home from college one day, walked through the door, saying, “We’re not like other people, Mom.”

I answered somewhat cheekily, “We’re called to be a peculiar people” (referencing 1 Peter 2:9).

I don’t think that’s what he meant. He never elaborated. Maybe that is something we could have sat long and talked much about – but, probably, it’s just that our family, my husband, me, five sons, living in a town where our extended family was hours away –  preconceived notions of what some traditions ought to be didn’t allow our ideas of life, faith, love and family to thrive, so we made adjustments to our life recipe for the outcome our hearts sought.

Maybe I don’t make homemade bread. Maybe I buy biscuits in a tin, brush them with butter mixed with pressed garlic and salt, and when they come out of the oven, brush them again.

Maybe we don’t always sit down around the kitchen table for dinner because there’s a college student, a high school student and one who works still living at home – and maybe we sit more often at the counter some evenings and have individual conversations about big and little things. Sometimes we’re all at the counter, some finishing up, some coming in, some in the middle – and the conversations intertwine in an oddly real, sweet, out-of-the box meaningful way that is soul food in itself – all because I let go of Preconceived Notions of how I once thought things should be done – and in order for an environment to be created that makes room for God with us, in us, around us, in the good and the bad, the wins and the losses, the overcoming and the misses, the hard challenges and the celebrations.

I’m not angling for a t.v. show, though I’m into “good things” and “best dishes” for my family. I’m angling to make those who sit at my kitchen counter or table content, satisfied, comforted, filled with stuff good for the body with side dishes of soul food – both love and truth, the sweet and savory, the easy and the hard, the veggies and the meat – and I want them to come back for more. . . even when their mail doesn’t come anymore to this address.

Yes, after 36 years of marriage, almost 33 years of parenting, I am still weeding out preconceived notions of how to do things – or maybe they’re inappropriate expectations of how things ought to be done – and making changes for better-hearted, God-designed living.

So I finally gave up on the most authentic way to serve a Hot Brown Sandwich – and turned it into a casserole – much to my sons’ delight! I hope it gives you an opportunity to sit long and talk much with those God gives you to sit at your table or you kitchen counter!

“To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”
~ John Henry Newman

hotbrown2cMuddy’s Hot Brown Casserole
The crux of the sandwich is the sauce, which, oddly enough, is a combination of two sauces

Sauce One or Bechamel
½ cup butter or margarine
½ medium-sized sliced onion, minced
1/3 cup flour
3 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon salt
A dash of red pepper
A couple of sprigs of parsley if you have it, but parsley isn’t a must
A dash of nutmeg

Melt the butter or margarine in a saucepan. Add onions and cook slowly until a light brown, about 15-20 minutes. Add flour and blend until the flour makes a smooth paste(you will see the browned onion minces in the paste). Add milk and other seasonings and cook 25-30 minutes, stirring constantly and briskly at first until the sauce of thick and smooth. When it is thick and smooth. Some recommend straining the sauce. I never have.

Sauce Two or Mornay
2 cups of sauce one
2 egg yolks
½ c. grated parmesan cheese (more doesn’t hurt)
1 tablespoon butter
8 tablespoons Heavy Whipping Cream Whipped

Combine egg yolks with a 1/2 cup of room temperature Sauce One. When combined, add to the rest of Sauce one. Heat, stirring constantly and remove from stove when starts to bubble. When hot and thick add cheese and the butter. The sauce must not boil or it will curdle.

hotbrown3cThen for every ½ C. sauce that is to be used for the sandwich, fold in 1 tablespoon of whipped cream. For this it would be 8 tablespoons whipped cream. The cream gives a lift to the browning-off under the broiler.

hotbrown4c.jpgTo assemble, cut the crusts office 2 slices of bread for each sandwich. Toast the, lining with toast either a casserole dish or a cookie pan (I use a 15X21 when we have a house full to feed)  On top of the toast, layer a slice of country ham topped with a layer of chicken. Enshroud with a goodly portion of the sauce. Place in a very hot oven or under the broiler until the sauce slightly puffed with a little bronze to the top, but not too bronze.  Top each piece of toast with a half a slice of cooked bacon and parsley.

Ingredients List:

Bread (one long loaf of white bread)
(20 slices of bread for a 15X21 cookie pan)
Bacon (a half a slice for every piece of toast)
1 lb. sliced turkey or chicken
1 lb. ham or country ham
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 cups hot milk
½ cup butter + 2 tablespoons (or 10 tablespoons total)
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
A dash of red pepper
A couple of sprigs of parsley
½ medium-sized sliced onion, minced

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Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/ Coffee for Your Heart
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory
abounding Grace/Graceful Tuesday/
Creativity with Art

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysTea and Word TuesdayPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

 

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. . . and the naysayers said she wasn’t good enough, smart enough, creative enough, worthy enough . . . who said her dream was just that – a dream – and nothing would come of it. . . and the thief called Doubt tried to pick her soul pockets, steal her identity, take away all she held dear, all the goodness that her Lord had seen fit to give her.

“All is well. . . ,” she said as she ran, choking back her despair, unable to see beyond the tears . . . she ran to her Savior, grabbing hold of her Lord. . . and she didn’t let go.”

. . .  and the girl said to the wolf stalking to destroy her and all she held dear, “All is well.”

“What have you to be ‘Well’ about?” asked the wolf, encroaching on her peace and safety, as the wolf shadowed her, threatening her. “I am more powerful than you!”

“All is well,” the girl repeated. “Because my Lord has said so.”

The shadow of the wolf receded as he slunk away; Her Lord was more powerful than the wolf.

winterwell2 2019c.jpg. . . and the girl spoke to the storm that bore down upon her to rip her apart from root to heart, “All is well.”

“That cannot be,” said the storm, a vortex of chaos, rage and coldness, twisting the dirt, roots and limbs of the earth up to the heavens. “For I have more strength than you. ”

“All is well,” said the girl. “Because my Lord said so.”

. . . and the storm for a moment quieted as if deflated, then roiled itself up into a rage, unleasing its full force on the girl, bashing against her like a tsunami to a shore – and the storm saw her Lord, standing between the girl and the storm, protecting her with his gleaming shield – and the storm raged onward, searching for those who didn’t know “All is well,” those who didn’t have the protection of the girl’s Lord to save them.

. . . and the girl spoke to the fever that came quiet and hot into her home, trying to break the life of someone the girl loved very much. . . and the fever taunted her, as she dipped the cloth into the cool water, squeezing out the excess, and laying it on the forehead of the one she loved so, she spoke saying, “All is well.”

“I have come to break your spirit and to destroy your  heart’s desires,” the fever whispered, knowing she alone could not control the army of unknowns that gave the fever its authority to determine life and death.

“All is well,” said the girl,” dipping the cloth into the water, wringing the excess out and gently placing the cloth onto the fiery forehead of the one she loved.

. . . and the fever surged, burning her fingertips, “How can that be? You don’t even know from where I come. You have no wisdom to stop me. Love and determination cannot sway me.”

“All is well,” said the girl. “Because my Lord said so.”

. . . and the fever broke, withdrawing his army of unknowns, abdicating his position of influence to the greater power of her Lord.

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. . . and the girl sat in a quiet moment, time after time, with her Lord, thanking him – that because of him, “All is well.”

We at the Blue Cotton House have been walking through a BIG challenge since a few days before Christmas. I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around how to talk about the challenge – or how to pray about the challenge. It was in my kitchen, as I was cooking through the challenge, that God sent me to 2 Kings 4: 8-36 – and “All is Well” became my battle cry. I couldn’t determine how to write about it until this morning – because it’s not my story to tell but I am a supporting character in the story – and this morning, while a Little Snow came, my husband and I drove to a mountain view where we will build one day – and God showed me how I could write about the challenge – and his amazing grace and saving power. Not long after I finished writing this, we received an answer where the fullness of joy overflowed our home and hearts. There is still a Little Ways to journey to the Challenge’s End, but, let me tell you – miracles do still happen, God makes ways where there was no way, and He will, if you let him, stand with you every step of the way, and, while sometimes when the journey isn’t a journey we want, “All is well.”

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence” ~ Psalm 91:1-3.

“The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my savior; thou saved me from violence. I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies” ~ 2 Samuel 22: 3-4.

“How precious is Your loving kindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings” ~ Psalm 36:7.

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusts in thee” ~ Psalm 84: 11-12.

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Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/ Coffee for Your Heart
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory
abounding Grace/Graceful Tuesday/
Creativity with Art

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysTea and Word TuesdayPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

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“Give thanks to the LORD,
for He is good;
His loving devotion endures forever”
~ Chronicles 16:34

“The LORD is my strength and my song” ~ Exodus 15:2.

My husband received a call the other day about unclaimed money – apparently, there’s some out there, and we ought to go claim it. Yet, what about the unclaimed goodness God has left for us since the day we were born? God has left and continue to leave his goodness in every day of our lives. This isn’t about prosperity. It’s about the goodness God leaves us in the daily, how he lavishes his love on us, letting us know he is there, wooing us into relationship with him. There are years and years of unclaimed gifts because I didn’t know – years I spent not understanding how he is present in every moment of my day, how he leaves reminders of his great love for me . . . in what seems like the everyday ordinary. Maybe I cannot vintage all the goodness He left me in the past, but I can certainly claim the goodness he has left me today and in the future.

I’m in the middle of a challenge right now – and I find myself needing to keep close to the one who knows my heart – who designed it and understands it better than I do, so right now – and maybe throughout the summer, I’m going to be journaling God’s goodness He leaves me along the path of each day’s journey. Maybe you will join me with your own journals of his goodness and leave a link in the comment section.

You are good, Father, my strength and my song
two red birds chasing each other, flying
ahead of me
God invited to the table
a little boy snuggling close, trusting,
falling into nap
ice cream joy
the quiet with God before the busy sets in
You are good, Father, my strength and my song

morning footsteps in the kitchen, sharing coffee and the needs
for the day ahead
courage to push the clamor of tasks back to give attention to the call of my soul
golden-retriever comfort
the soothing repetition of layering, brushing melted butter,
layering, brushing pastry sheets
for baklava
in a space not hurried by the clock,
the methodical layering, brushing, layering, sprinkling walnuts slowing
my harried heart
the layering, brushing, sprinkling training me in healthy barrier setting
so God joy and peace in the little things
aren’t rushed away
before being savored
little arms hugging in excited, happy welcome
You are good, Father, my strength and my song

vanilla drops in ice water
hearts that don’t let misunderstanding stop the conversation or break the connection
chocolate kisses, sour-patch kids and jelly beans in candy jars
remembering good memories
self-less prayers for others
for God-designed plans fulfilled,
insight into choices,
needs met for the day’s challenges,
for success to rise out of failures
and desire fanned to draw closer to God –
self-less prayer not to make me breathe easier
worry less
but for others to live their God-designed plan
because their story is their story
not mine
You are good, Father, my strength and my song

the bantering of my boys
cooking behind the kitchen counter and watching . . .
one son opening books to study,
another sitting down to take an on-line quiz,
a group sitting around the table talking,
the plastic glasses taken out of the cabinet,
filled with water, one stirring chocolate into his milk,
shoes kicked off and left in the middle of the floor,
“What’s to eat?”
daughter-in-laws who break the boundaries to become daughters
Sadie, our golden, running for her stuffed bunny when someone walks through the back doors.
chocolate ganache over white butter cream.
You are good, Father, my strength and my song

Thank you Father, for your goodness, for your enduring devotion.

Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/ Coffee for Your Heart
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory
abounding Grace/Graceful Tuesday/
Creativity with Art

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JTcross15152“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19).

A college speech instructor asked my son’s class to name three people who have influenced him. He listed Jesus, Peter and David.  I would have listed my grandmother, who taught me to stand up for what I believe, St. Therese of Lisieux, from whom I learned about an alive relationship with God, and Pastor Eddie Turner, who taught about the power of the holy spirit, speaking faith, who I am to God,  Jesus pursuing and saving the broken sinner.

Who would you have listed?

I bet it wouldn’t have been Judas Iscariot. I doubt he would be found on any list. Yet, possibly, from him we can learn the powerful difference of grace over law – of exactly what Jesus’s crucifixion did for you and me and every broken person between and around us.

I don’t know if I can ever fully understand the sacrifice of God-made-man – the son of the king who gave up his power to save me from a graceless life. I don’t know if I can ever fully understand the burden of the sin he carried on the cross – and the willpower to stay on that cross.

Yet, when I study the story of Judas and Peter, I understand more what Jesus saved me from. I need that understanding to better give thanks as I remember what Jesus did for me. The difference between the two is the difference between how we survive our sin, how we are resurrected with Christ and restored to the Father. About 2000 years ago, two men betrayed the Messiah. One ended up crushed, broken and dead. The other preached the gospel the rest of his life, dying a martyr’s death for his faith, never failing his Savior again.

Let’s lay out the facts first:

  • One night, two betrayals.
  • Both betrayals were foretold by the one they betrayed.
  • One man betrayed for greed; the other fear for self-preservation.
  • Both betrayals happened in the shadows – and both saw the face of the one they betrayed afterwards.
  • Each man repented, recognizing his wrong.
  • One repented to church leaders. The other out alone and wept bitterly.

Both had heard the word. Both had walked with the Lord. Both regretted and repented. One died, and one lived.

What really is the difference between Judas and Peter at the point where they recognized their betrayal? Why does history forgive Peter and condemn Judas? Is it really as simple the difference between grace and law? A veil’s separation of two man’s redemption?

The first difference is what each did about their sin – their weakness – whether it was pride, fear or greed.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two choices.

One sought absolution from church leaders. The other sought Christ.

Judas represents the hopelessness of the law, while Peter represents the grace of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice.

Judas sought absolution through the church leaders. Judas sought repentance, but he sought a go-between. The veil was still between him and Jesus. Judas sought forgiveness, but from the church leaders. He regretted his actions. I don’t doubt that he wept bitterly. I would think a man about to hurl himself to his death would weep.  Under the law, the weight of his sin was unbearable, irredeemable. The church leaders didn’t grant Judas the forgiveness he desired. When absolution was denied him by church leaders, the unbearable burden of his sin led him to suicide.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two choices.

The record of Peter’s story line pauses after his betrayal, weeping and repentance. There is no written record of where he was between the time he wept and resurrection morning. I imagine the grief of his sin equaled Judas’s grief. I imagine he beat himself up for his major fail moment. Haven’t we all had those fail moments? Moments where we betray our hearts, our values, our faith? How can we condemn others when we, too, have failed and sinned?

Peter seemed to not only understand that he was a sinful man, but he understood the need to repent. Peter didn’t seek go-betweens.  The night before the crucifixion, the veil was firmly in place; the law still ruled. No priest interceded for him, and without a priest to intercede for him, there was no absolution.

Peter repented by faith. Just him and Jesus.  By faith, just like Abraham, Noah, Sarah, Moses, Rahab – and the heroes of the bible – by His faith and hope that Christ was the Messiah, before the temple veil was rent from top to bottom when Jesus died and man was no longer separated from God, Peter held on in the darkness of the crucifixion before the resurrection. The burden of his sin must have been overwhelming. After all, the same burden caused Judas to end his life. Yet, the power of faith always proves stronger than the burden of sin.

Have you ever wondered how Peter could have returned to the other ten? How he could take his place – how he could be a rock for Christ’s church? Are you willing to weigh another’s sin? To judge whether one betrayal is worse than another? After all, a betrayer was needed – just as Samson’s sinful behavior was needed to bring down the Philistines (Judges 14:4).

Yet, we find Peter restored to the ten – not meek, not unworthy, not out-cast for his betrayal.

There’s a story I know, of a man who went into basic training in WWII. His sergeant constantly rebuked him as he was trained for  war-time responsibilities. There wasn’t a day, it seems, he wasn’t called into the sergeant’s office for some infraction. Those rebukes stung, yet they had a lasting impact. He told me, “He grew me up. He taught me to be a man. He was a father to me.”

Peter was that way with Jesus.  Peter pushed away Jesus initially, before he was called to be one of the twelve: “”Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8)

Jesus rebuked him over and over, “. . . he rebuked Peter and said, Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man (Mark 8:31-33).

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matt 14:28-33).

“Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. Simon, I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start (Luke 22: 31-32, The Message).

Peter, so like the World War II soldier, took those rebukes, remembered and learned from them, and held on to them in the darkest of moments.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two Choices. Both pursued by Christ.

One man looked to his fellow men for redemption and didn’t find it. Who he looked to led him to death.

The other looked to Jesus, the man who had rebuked him, and in the rebuking, taught him. Who he looked to led him to the resurrection and redemption.

How did one survive the burden of sin and another didn’t? Could it be Peter kept his eyes on Christ, kept his focus, his hope in him, though he yet didn’t see, didn’t understand about crucifixion tearing away the veil (the law) separating us from God?

It was a “Faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for;-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen”  (Hebrews 11: 1) moment.

One was overwhelmed by the burden of the law; one was redeemed through faith by grace, the burden lifted and born by Christ.

That we sin doesn’t surprise God. We are fallible, and in our fallibility, we are only complete and whole through God.

To truly understand the power and grace of Christ’s crucifixion, we need to understand man’s hopelessness and separation from God by the law.

It isn’t enough to say that Judas betrayed Christ. To most, he is a man defined only as the betrayer – and whose death was a fitting judgement against him.

Yet, God saved killers. God saved thieves. God redeemed selfish men. The stories say so. If we leave Judas in the potter’s field, dismissing him, we fail to truly see the power and depth of what exactly Jesus did for you and me. It might only be a veil’s difference, but when the veil separates us from God – it’s the difference between life and death.

Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserable is a story of two similar characters – one who represents the law (Judas/Javert) and another who represents Grace (Peter/Jean ValJean). Javert sought salvation through the law. Law breakers were irredeemable, unworthy of God’s grace, of man’s kindness, benevolence and second chances. In the end, Javert realizes he had it all wrong. In a life-changing moment, Javert recognized that God redeems the sinner. The revelation into God’s grace also revealed the wrong he had done to so many people. The realization of the weight of his sin overwhelmed him. He could only feel the soul-killing burden of sin’s weight. Having kept is eyes so long on the law, Javert is unable to set his eyes on his Savior and the forgiveness he so readily offers. Through forgiveness the burden would be released through redemption, all because of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Javert didn’t believe it could be for him – and so he threw himself into the river.

Judas repented without salvation hope; the law was his hope and the men who kept the law denied him forgiveness. He is a living example of sinner’s hopelessness under the law. His hopelessness is even foretold:

“For I must die just as was prophesied, but woe to the man by whom I am betrayed. Far better for that one if he had never been born” (Matthew 26:24).

Judas betrayed Jesus, yet Paul killed thousands of Christs (for if Christ is in each believer, then each person is Christ). If God redeemed Paul, would he have not redeemed a repentant Judas? Would he have not lifted the burden of sin off Judas, just like he lifted the burden off Paul? Off Peter?

Under the law, aren’t we all like the Cain crying out:

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden” (Genesis 4:13).

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two Choices.

What we do know is that Peter pressed forward towards Christ. Peter held on to this truth:

 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6)

Despite Peter’s betrayal, he was welcomed back in to the group. We don’t know what he did during those hours after his betrayal and resurrection morning, but whatever he did led him back to Christ, to the embrace and acceptance of the fellow apostles.

Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection gives us a grace over law culture, a redeeming of the soul out of sin culture, a salvation infused with God’s grace culture.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two Choices. Two Endings.

 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here—he has been raised! Look, here is the place where he was placed.  Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter” (Mark 14: 6-7).

Peter passed the test. He came through – and Jesus was letting him know that he knew, that he was forgiven, that he was part of this new life under grace. “Including Peter”– including you, including me – including all those broken sinners repenting but not believing they are good enough, worthy enough.

There would have been no crucifixion with betrayal, and, without crucifixion there is no resurrection. Without resurrection, there is no grace.

. . . . and that is what we are doing this Easter season: remembering just exactly what Jesus did for us, remembering exactly what the crucifixion was all about.

A tale of two betrayers – and all the difference a veil makes.

Are you looking to Jesus in your fail moments? Do you you believe God’s grace is for you, too – no matter the weight of your sin?

You have two choices – grace or the law. What do  you choose?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)

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The old man, he sat on the front porch in the heat of the day, turning his head right, squinting his eyes in the high noon sun westward down the long dusty road. A hot day in the south can be awfully unforgiving.

After he had assured himself no one was coming down the road, he turned his head left, peering closing down the eastward dusty road. There weren’t many trees along this stretch of the road – until you came to the old man’s yard and the borders of his fields.

Satisfying himself, there wasn’t anyone on the road, he sighed, picked up a glass of sweet ice tea. There’s nothing like a glass of ice-cold tea on a hot afternoon to cool a body from the head, down the throat. . . nothing.

The old man continued sitting . . . and watching. There wasn’t much else to do, not like today. I don’t know what the old man thought about – maybe he talked to God inside himself. Maybe he thought about his regrets, his misdeeds, dreams that never came to life.

Maybe he saw a rabbit hare off through a blueberry bush, trying to get away from the antics of a frolicsome pup – and thought later how he’d tell his wife about it.

What did a man – or woman – do when there wasn’t so much to fill up time with . . . stuff.

The old man, he didn’t sit as though bored, tapping his foot in a hurry-up way or huffing a what-can-I-do-fun attitude. He sat with calm, pregnant anticipation, a hopeful expectation. Maybe his nephew coming to visit? Maybe a neighbor’s children coming to see the new baby lambs? An old friend with which to share the heat of the afternoon? Maybe someone to haggle with over seed, hay, sheep, chickens and cows?

After his long drink, he shut his eyes for a minute, savoring the fluid coolness. With a quiet, drawn-out “AAAhhhhh,” he opened his eyes and began once again his vigil of looking west, then east. As the sun reached its pinnacle, he took another long draught, closed his eyes for a moment, savored the coolness of the tea – and opened his eyes.

Three strangers stood at the gate by the road. “How? . . . Where? . . . What? . . ,” he thought. How did he miss them? Where had they come from? What in the world?

He bound off the porch, joy breaking across his face in a wide smile, welcome outstretched in a hearty handshake.

“Come! Come! Rest a while in the shade,” he said. “Let me get you some cool, sweet tea and something to eat to give you strength. This mid-day heat sure is a scorcher today.”

The men probably hemmed and hawed about how they didn’t want to put him out, but the old man pressed them, “I want to do this for you now that you have journeyed by my place.”

To you and me, the old man might seem desperate, too desperate, for company. It might have been off-putting – and maybe you and I would have not gone beyond the gate, been wary of accepting a glass of water or tea from this old man. To the old man, this was the tradition of his father, his grandfather and his grandfather’s father. Many people had abandoned this tradition of hospitality, but he had not. Possibly many travelers didn’t understand this generous hospitality, maybe mistrusted it.

The three men accepted his invitation, walking through the gate the old man had opened for them and settled into the comfortable porch chairs, the shade giving cool respite.

The old man opened the screen door and disappeared into the depths of the house, returning a short time later with a tray holding glasses and a large pitcher of water. There were three bowls, one for each guest, filled with freshly picked blueberries, blackberries and raspberries to stay their hunger until supper could be brought out. He’d told his wife to make sure she prepared the best steaks, the most golden buttery potatoes spiced just right, savory green beans – and her angel biscuits cooked to perfection. Nothing was to be spared for the weary travelers.

His wife didn’t rail at him, berating him for this last-minute meal with these last minute guests that she didn’t know from Adam. She didn’t begrudge the extra work, sharing the best food they had, or the time spent preparing the meal because it was a way of life for them. She’d gotten used to unexpected guests. She’d been trained as a child for moments like these. She’d been taught that hospitality prepared with a generosity of gift blessed the food and the time. Begrudging was a spice that spoiled the gift. Not all her neighbors continued this tradition of hospitality. It was a tradition started long ago in the long, hot stretch of road – to give travelers a meal and rest in the heat of the day, to refresh them to continue on their journey until evening came.

While the old man’s wife prepared their meal, he brought around from the well two white tin basins filled with water so they could soak their feet. The three men removed their shoes, leaned back and soaked their feet, relaxing as the soreness ebbed.

The old man talked with these strangers who weren’t his daily responsibility as if they were cherished guests. Maybe they talked about the news from the towns they had come through. Maybe they talked about the price of sheep and cows. Maybe the old man talked to them about his God, what a mighty God he was who had provided this home, the farm land for grazing, planting and harvesting.

“No,” he said. “No, I don’t have any children,” he responded probably to the questions about his family, a brief shadow of disappointment crossing his face, giving hint to the sorrow at a dream unfilfilled.

Midday ebbed into mid-afternoon. The great oak tree’s shadow grew longer. Supper was served. A satisfying supper it was, too. Some might consider it a feast. A quiet contentment stirred in those sitting on the porch. The conversations were quieter.

One of the men asked the old man, “Where is your wife?”

“In the kitchen,” the old man answered, suspecting that she was probably now sitting near the window listening to their conversation.

The three men put their shoes on, stood up, readying themselves to continue their journey.

The old man stood with them to walk with them to the gate. One of the men grasped his outstretched  hand, “I will surely return to you about this time next year. Your wife will have a son.”

The traveler’s strong grip kept the old man from falling. Who is this traveler, he thought to himself.

The old man’s wife was listening inside the house. “I’m an old woman,” she thought to herself. “Too old for a young woman’s dreams to come true.” She laughed a bitter-sweet laugh. Old as she was, too late as it was, the idea of the joy of having a baby of her own was a dream that still stirred in her heart. Does a heart ever really give up on dreams? Or does a logical head bury them, hiding the dreams voice from surfacing?

One of the men revealed himself then as the God the old man had told them about, when he heard the old woman’s bittersweet laugh, “Why did you laugh old woman? Why did you say, ‘Will I really have a baby, now that I am old?’ Is anything to hard for me? I will return to you at the appointed time next year. You will have a son.”

The old woman, now standing inside the door, frightened, denied laughing.

The Lord looked straight at her, knowing her heart and her secrets, “Yes, you laughed.”

Would the old man and the old woman have been blessed with a son if they hadn’t hearts of hospitality for those they didn’t know? If the old man, Abraham, hadn’t invited them to eat of the best he had, with a heart free of grudging of time, effort and product, would God have given them their heart’s desire – a son? Would God have made him the father of a nation if Abraham had not extended such gracious, welcoming hospitality? (storyline from Genesis 18:1-16)

Generous, heart-outstretched hospitality in the everyday ordinary – God blesses us when we serve with generous, welcoming, heart-felt kindness like the old man did, like Abraham did.

favherdsheepccGod has a history of blessing those who welcome him unawares with a generosity of spirit. Before Peter was invited to become a fisher of men, he invited Jesus to his house (Luke 4:38). His mother-in-law wasn’t well. No one was prepared for company. Food stock might have even been running low. Yet, Peter invited Jesus anyway. While there, Jesus healed his mother-in-law, and then stayed to eat with them. Imagine that conversation. Peter is known for his bold questions and conversation. Before Jesus called Peter, according to Luke, they sat around the table eating an everyday ordinary meal. Maybe it was kinneret sardines with bread, something as simple as our tuna sandwich. God doesn’t expect us to prepare meals fit for a king. He expects only the best of what we have in our cupboards. He wants willing hearts not grudging giving of the our time, our resources or our energy. If Peter hadn’t been willing to make room for one more at his supper table on a regular everyday night when there was sickness in the house, just maybe the opportunity to be called a fisher of men might not have occurred. Peter did ask Jesus into his home, to sit at his table – and a day or two later, Jesus asked him to become a fisher of men.

Arms-wide-open hospitality is what God calls us to. Unabashed hospitality! No matter your social standing. No matter your financial condition. No matter whether you’re prepared or not! God just wants a heart waiting with expectation to sit down with whoever he sends to your gate, to your door, or to your kitchen.

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God blesses those who love one another as he has loved them. Two men, on the Emmaus Road, deep in conversation, were caught up in their own grief of their savior crucified. If they hadn’t made room for one more, not only in their walk but at their roadside table, what would they have missed? Instead of dismissing a stranger walking near them, dismissing him because they didn’t know him or their story, these two men invited him with hearts wide open into their conversation. Then, like Abraham, they urged the stranger to remain in their company and eat with them. . . . they urged him, meaning they didn’t give up when the stranger expressed, “I don’t want to intrude. You have only enough for your journey – not for a stranger, too.” They urged him, pressed him, tried to get beneath codes of etiquette to establish sincerity in the invitation. This stranger wasn’t part of their community, their intimate group, an insider. Their sincerity, their determination convinced the stranger, who after being urged with a generosity of spirit, acquiesced.

This stranger, “when he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight” ~ Luke 23: 30-31

What would they have missed, if they hadn’t welcomed a stranger into their conversation, into their meal, pressing him with a hospitality filled with a generosity of spirit that gave truth to their invitation. They would have missed seeing the newly resurrected Jesus Christ.

Feed my sheep, Jesus tells Peter (John 21:16).

Feed my sheep! Through the breaking of bread, eyes are opened—those of us who believe and those of us who don’t yet.

Feed my sheep! Sons and daughters of the father, live making room for one more in the everyday ordinary

Every day, look to the east and west, the north and south, look with joyful expectation for God to send someone. Invite unashamed God’s sheep and lambs to your table. Sit long and talk much. I imagine in the shade of Abraham’s tent, in Peter’s house, on the Emmaus Road, there was a lot of time to sit or walk long and talk much. Sitting long and talking much is a seed planting and watering time. Sometimes the conversations are directly about things of God. Sometimes the conversations are nothing about God but the spirit of God plants seed from the discussion. Sometimes it is just God seeing if we will welcome his blessing.

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Feed My Sheep Part I: When Kitchen Living Becomes God-Radical
Feed My Sheep Part II: Living a Lifestyle of Making Room at the Table for One More
Feed My Sheep Part III: Which Sheep are Mine to Feed
Feed My Sheep Part IV: How do I Feed All these Sheep? (When there’s Nothing in the Fridge)
Feed My Sheep Part V: A Heart Looking with Joyful Anticipation

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Porch Stories – http://kristinhilltaylor.com/
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
Woman to Woman – http://www.w2wministries.org/
Searching for Moments http://www.lorischumaker.com/better-wife/
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http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
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http://3dlessons4life.com/     Thought-Provoking Thursday
God-sized Dreams http://www.godsizeddreams.com/
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
The Modest Mom The Art of Homemaking Musing Mondays
Purposeful Faith Tea & Word Tuesday Talk  
 Blessed But Stressed
 Embracing Everyday Glimpses
Fresh Market Friday:  Fresh Market Friday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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