Sunshine in the Valley

humor and encouragement from my heart to yours

Sometimes….

….life doesn’t make one lick of sense.

Have you ever noticed this?

Everything is backwards. Nothing is as it seems.

People get the opposite of what they wish for, and are the reverse of what we think… a lot of the time.

That which seems perfect is not remotely so, while that which seems unlikely ends in success.

Hopes and dreams of a lifetime are dashed in the course of a day.

The good die young, while the stinkers live forever. (you know it’s true! Don’t look at me like that! :P )

There is no limit to the pain which we may have to endure, or to the blessings we may enjoy.

The unthinkable does happen, frequently when we least expect it.

Yet in the midst of it all… one thing is sure.

God is still there. Still the same. Still truth, love, and hope in the middle of  the darkness. The one Constant in a world of perpetual change and confusion…and the Healer of the brokenhearted. He’s the One who knows when to draw the line of our sufferings before it becomes too much to bear, while walking beside us every step of the way.

Without Him, life would have no hope and no meaning. But with Him is fullness of joy… and a song in the night.

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Meeting the Duggars

Ok, so I have promised this entry for a couple weeks now, and have been reminded that I *still* have not posted about it, so here goes. ;)

On Resurrection Sunday evening, Lacey and I attended her church’s Easter concert. As we drove over, I expected to enjoy spectacular music and a worshipful service. I never dreamed I’d be meeting “celebrities”!

We had only been seated a few minutes, though, when word spread like wildfire that the Duggars were in attendance. Josie’s doctor was a church member there, and had invited them to the event! It was hilarious to see all the heads turning and craning to catch a glimpse of the TLC stars! ;) I was glad they were able to come, but did not initially plan to join the huge crowd around them. I figured they had enough company to last a lifetime, and didn’t want to be pesky.

The service was, indeed, enjoyable, and I was glad I went. I fully expected to just go on home, though, until Lacey came with surprising news. A good friend of hers invited the Duggars and a few other families to all go out for dinner, and she included Lacey and me in the invitation! :shock:

It only took about 2 minutes to decide we wanted to go. Seriously, how often does such an opportunity present itself? :D We were not about to miss out!

The two of us hurried on ahead of the enormous crowd heading to Cozymels, and informed the startled servers that there would be a group of 50 people coming which included the Duggars! The first thing they asked was “Are there TV crews?” The relief they evidenced upon hearing that there weren’t any was intriguing to Lacey and me…was this a good thing? Or…a bad thing? :P Hmmm.

Anyway, they managed to seat our entire group in a huge private section of the restaurant. It was kind of surreal. There were a few other large families along with the Duggars, so there were kids, kids, and more kids! The amazing thing? They were all so well-behaved. It was not pandemonium as you might expect. Everyone was minding their manners and behaving as good children should. “Controlled chaos” about sums it up. ;)

I was impressed.

The servers were scrambling to keep up with everything, and were awesome. There were a few mishaps, but we all reassured them, and I was so happy to see how everyone behaved in a Christian manner even when things went a little awry! Little issues like that can either make or break one’s testimony before others, and I hope those waiters saw Jesus in us that night!

Lacey and I sat at the table with Jill, Jessa, Joy Anna, and…oh rats. Two of the other little girls whose names just escaped me. (It’s a terrible thing to get old. :P ) They were very sweet. I noticed how each of the older siblings took care of her “buddy”, and even though it was late, the little Duggar toddlers did not fuss at all. It was really neat to see how well-disciplined and genuinely happy the kids were. The eldest, John David, kept his table in stitches, and I noticed how sweet his wife really is. They are all just good people. What you see is what you get.

I had a chance to talk more extensively with Jill later in the evening, and was impressed with her grace and poise. We had a delightful chat! I asked if it was hard sometimes to live with camera crews around all the time, and she replied that actually the film crew have become like family to them now. It really isn’t that invasive as one might imagine, because they have a relationship outside of the show: several of the staff have had their entire family over to spend the night at their homes! Isn’t that cool? Although it would still be challenging to have your personal life splashed all over the country, I’m glad that she seems to take it all in stride. They really are remarkable.

This is most of the group… sorry for the poor quality of the picture. I only had my iPhone that night, and for some reason it did not want to cooperate very well. :P Guess it was shell-shocked by the sheer number in the picture, ha.

Lacey enjoyed getting to know some of the girls too! It was fun.

Jackson is absolutely precious. Such a little charmer already! :D He was too, too cute.

It was an unexpectedly fun and spontaneous evening, and I really enjoyed meeting them all. As we parted ways, our lighthearted farewell was “See you on TLC!” :lol:

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In the midst of unthinkable tragedy…hope

I try to mainly post cheerful topics here on my blog… there’s enough gloom and doom in the news right now without my adding to it. However, last week I learned of a tragedy so severe that it has been hard to shake from my mind.

The Eshes were a family of Mennonite singers from Kentucky, well loved and respected by their church and community. A friend was to be married out of town, so all 10 family members–Mr and Mrs. Esh, their three daughters, son and daughter-in-law, two adopted little sons, and a family friend–headed out in a van to attend the wedding. But they never arrived.

A tractor-trailer rig crossed the median and smashed through the cable barrier, crashing head-on into the Esh’s vehicle. The two little boys miraculously survived, but every other person in that van died instantly. Every one of them. Eleven people. In that instant, an entire family was gone.

This was not the first tragedy to hit their family. Several years ago their oldest son was killed in a snowmobiling accident while serving as a missionary in the Ukraine. Last December, their home burned to the ground. And now this.

I can’t wrap my mind around a tragedy that unspeakable. These were people who loved God and served Him faithfully. One would “think” they would be the last folks in the world to experience such things. Yet no one is exempt from suffering, and for reasons unknown to any of us, He chose to allow particularly fiery trials in their lives before taking them home early. They are face to face with Jesus now, and will know no more pain. But I can’t imagine what their extended family and friends….and those precious little boys… are going through right now. To the world’s way of thinking, they should be angry at God. But as the following interview reveals, their faith remains strong even in the midst of extreme tragedy.

Talk about grace in the fire….

There is so much mystery, too. If you copy and paste the following link in your browser, http://www.wbko.com/news/headlines/89644927.html, you will find that there was another young lady planning to travel with them that fateful day. She had arranged everything with her friend, and then strangely forgot all about it until hearing news of the wreck. God intervened and kept her off that van, sparing her life. In my human reasoning I want to ask, “Lord, why not the rest of them too? Why did such a horrific accident have to befall that sweet family? I don’t understand!”

But the truth of the matter is, I’m not promised I am always going to understand. I’m promised that God is good even when everything my eye can see would seem to disprove it. As I’ve heard it said, when we can’t understand the hand of God, we trust His heart. I do not personally know any of the family, so I am on the outside looking in. This is not “my” trial, yet I know I can learn from it. My own faith has been encouraged to see the grace evidenced in the loved ones left behind. Please pray for them though; trusting God doesn’t mean that coping is easy.

I want to close with a link to a song the Esh family sang several years ago. It is beautiful, and the video includes pictures of them, a very touching memorial to a family whose lives–though sadly cut short– were wholly given to God to the very end.

Praise God they are home.

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Spring Break Part 2

So I can’t resist sharing the adventures of the second half of my “spring break” with you. Who says you have to be in college to get one?? Not me! :P

Last week was such a fun time! I returned home from my first trip on Tuesday, went to work on Wednesday, and then was gone again on Thursday. (yeah yeah, I know…party-harty! :P) Melissa and Ms Debbie (her mom), two precious friends of mine from church, had invited me to accompany them to Branson during Melissa’s spring break. They are some of my favorite folks, and Branson is one of my favorite places, so that was a very easy “yes”. ;)

It was a rainy, chilly trip, but the gray skies could not dampen our joy at having a “girl’s getaway”! We made it safely in to town, and got settled into our condo. Then we did what any normal females would do in a town like Branson. We went SHOPPING!!!

The next day was full of fun. We stopped by the Sight and Sound theater to reserve our seats for the “Noah” musical that night. I was impressed with the beauty of the building and property…. it was really neat!

The lion and lamb were just out front, and made a perfect backdrop for a picture. As did the gently rolling Ozarks in the next photo. :)

Ahem. Well. As you can see, we tend to be Rather Goofy when we’re together. Sometimes Very Goofy, as a matter of fact. ;) But who wants to be serious all the time? Not us. (not that there was any danger of that anyway…) Ok, how ’bout a “take two”?

Ok, now we look like our usual proper selves. :halo:

I realize we are covering it up a bit, but isn’t that ark well done? I should have taken more interior pictures… the architecture was really beautiful!

After securing our desired seats for later in the evening, we headed down to the Landing. It was my first time, and I loved it! We had a lovely walk along the river to get there.

We then met up with some church friends who were in the area, and had an entertaining lunch at Famous Dave’s. I haven’t been at my church for long, but already I love the sweet people there. We had the best time together! I thought it neat that we were able to pull together an “impromptu” group so easily.

We shopped down the bustling strip…. there were stores of every kind you can imagine! We probably had the most fun at the Yankee Candle outlet, though… smelling candles can be quite the experience.

Yeah, well… this one was not impressive. Mistletoe may be festive and fun  during Christmastime, but its scent is not remotely romantic!  (do people hold their breath while kissing under it? Hmmm)

We grabbed a bite at McFarlain’s, and had a good laugh over the pranks pulled there. They have a table which gradually rises throughout the meal until it’s practically up to your chin. We observed the victims’ initial puzzlement, and then their amusement as they realized they’d been “had”. :)

Then we headed to the Noah play. It was awesome. Really.

I wish so bad I could have photographed the amazing costumes and set (particularly their stunning portrayal of the ark) but alas, no cameras were allowed during the show. So you only get to see this pitiful little screen. I say “pitiful” because the actual production was on such a grand scale. Ah well… guess you just need to go see it yourself! It was highly enjoyable, and I liked the way they clearly presented the Gospel without being “preachy”. It was a wonderful way to end a fun day!

We were sorry to have to head home the next day, but unfortunately most good things have to end eventually. It was sure nice while it lasted though… good friends make life so sweet!

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God cares about brakes…and pocketbooks

The providence of God never ceases to amaze me. It doesn’t have to be in something big. It can be little stuff. Like car brakes.

A couple weeks before leaving to visit my friends in Missouri, I began noticing my car was making weird noises. When I hit the brakes, there frequently came a ghastly growling sound, almost like a cooler full of melting ice being shaken around. Of all the timing, I fussed to myself. Right as I am paying off the last of my medical bills and getting ready to spend my money on fun for a change, my car has to mess up.

I asked my coworkers about it, and they gave me the grim news that a big-time brake job was most likely in my future. Great.

It got really bad the day before my scheduled departure, so reluctantly I called Midas and arranged to bring my car in the next morning. I then contacted Rebekah and explained the scenario. She was very sympathetic, and I promised to get up there just as soon as possible. Meanwhile I struggled not to feel grumpy about the enormous bill looming in my future.

Then my phone rang.

It was Rebekah again. She’d told her husband my tale of woe, and said she now had good news for me. “Alan says that if you’ll just get your car up here, HE will do the brake job for you himself!” He WHAT?? “He says it doesn’t sound like your brakes are at a dangerous point yet, so as long as you use them sparingly, you should make it up here fine. Then he will take care of it himself.” I hardly knew what to say! Oh my goodness… what a perfect solution! Alan is a wonderful mechanic, and would do good honest work. I wouldn’t have to worry about being over-charged, or told I needed parts replaced when it wasn’t necessary. I really didn’t want him to have to go to all that trouble, knowing how busy he is, but they insisted. How could I refuse? :)

As I hung up the phone, I was overwhelmed by the goodness of God. There I’d been fussing over the timing of it all… that timing which in actuality could not have been more perfect! I could definitely see His hand in it all, and I had perfect peace that He would keep me safe on the trip up. Sure enough, I didn’t have a moment’s trouble. Alan discovered that my front brakes were 90% gone and my back brakes were 70% history, so both needed rotors and brake pads replaced. But that was all I needed…nothing more. ;) Ah, gotta love a good honest mechanic!

But that’s not all. He would ONLY accept payment for the parts. That’s it. He would not take one dime from me for the labor. That total brake job ended up costing me a whole $116! My brakes work great, no more growls, and I am good to go. I also have true friends who are ready and willing to help when I’m in trouble, and that’s worth far more than any amount of money.

Ain’t God good? :D

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Country boys meet city girl

I have so much catchin’ up to do here. It hasn’t been all that long since my last post, but I’ve been traveling so much here in the last week or so that it seems there is a ridiculous lot of telling to do! ;)

I have been friends with Rebekah W for years. I remember when she was Rebekah M, with no thought of Mr. W. :P I remember when we met her family when they sang at the Folk Center all those years ago, and how quickly we became friends. I remember all the long letters we wrote back and forth. Now she is a happily married woman, as well as the mother of 3 endearing little boys. It’s been several months since the birth of her latest munchkin, so I decided last weekend it was high-time I got myself up there to meet him. Plus his brothers have been wanting “Wydia” to come for a while now, and it isn’t nice to disappoint little boys.

I enjoyed a most pleasant trip up there, and arrived at their cute little place out in the boondocks almost before I knew it. They have about a 30 minute drive to get anywhere close to civilization, so safe to say they live in the “sticks”. ;) This city girl was thrilled to be surrounded by rolling hills and peaceful farm country! I loved the change of pace from my usual “norm”.

The boys have not had much exposure to gals from “the big city”, though, and were intrigued by some of my everyday habits. They had never seen a blow dryer before. (the looks on their faces were priceless when I first turned it on!) Makeup brushes were a novel concept. (“Doesn’t that tickle your face?”) Every morning they came to the bathroom and watched in fascination as I “put on my face” and styled my hair. It was quite hilarious, actually.

They may not have been too impressed with my “foof” and styling nonsense, but there was one piece of city technology that totally won them over.

My iPhone.

It was a total hit during my visit. The boys had never seen one before, and absolutely loved the little car racing app! I joked that they were going to miss my phone more than they’d miss me when I left. ;) It was so cute how much they enjoyed that phone!

They still love good old-fashioned puzzles and board games too, though, and we spent many an hour playing together.

See that big grin on my face? I absolutely loved being surrounded by kids all weekend! Candy Land was one of our favorite games, as you can see. Aren’t they darling?

This is a player piano. (yes I know you have eyes, but it needed an explanation :P) Alan bought it for next-to-nothing, and is now in the process of restoring it. We had so much fun playing merry old tunes, yet another highlight of my visit for sure.

Just look at that little blue-eyed boy. He totally stole my heart while I was there! I relished the chance of having lots of baby time!

All in all, I had a lovely time catching up with old friends and getting away from all the hustle-bustle of city life. Don’t get me wrong; I love my life. But every now and then it’s nice to get out to the country, away from it all, where the air is fresh and life is simpler. It’s just good for the soul. ;)

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“When I consider the work of Thy fingers…

…the moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained, what is man that Thou art mindful of him?”

I used to be such a fuddy-dud when it came to the outdoors. I didn’t want to get all sweaty and yucky and was just way too stuffy about that for my own good. I look back and just shake my head: how much I was missing!

I have now reformed. :) The more I go along in life the more I absolutely love being outside. There are so many life lessons to be observed in the nature around us; so many of God’s laws are visible in His creation. His love of beauty and order is evident to even the casual observer. The intricacies of even the smallest creatures (like bees, for instance!) give silent witness to the infinite wisdom and creativity of the Lord of the universe.

I experienced the great outdoors this weekend with my friend Elizabeth. We both love Pinnacle Mountain, and immensely enjoyed taking a hike on the Rocky Valley Trail. It was a cloudy, cool day, and there wasn’t much green to be seen, but that did not diminish the beauty before us:

The Arkansas River winds its way down the valley as Pinnacle Mountain rises above the hills in the distance.

Elizabeth enjoying the panoramic landscape!

Ditto that... :)

Don't look now, but Elizabeth is holding a boat between her fingers! :)

Awww...friends! :) And hiking buddies, too.

"There's a patch of blue sky...let us chase it!"

Ah, nothing like unexpected sunshine on a cloudy day!

Look at the beautiful color of the water behind me! So lovely. Elizabeth decided she'd had enough pictures for one day, which is why she is curiously absent here. :P

We noted what appeared to be the remains of a most unfortunate vehicle. We puzzled over how it managed to even *get* there as we climbed the steep trail...until we discovered a road at the top of the ridge. Evidently someone drove off it. I sincerely hope they are ok, but one does wonder.

All in all, it was a most pleasurable hike. We both felt invigorated and refreshed. Arkansas has much simple beauty to offer, and although it may not rival the Rockies or other marvels out West, it certainly contains much enjoyment for those who venture out!

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I was a disgrace to homeschoolers…

So the day started out like a perfectly normal Saturday morning, a couple of weeks ago. Little did I know that it would end up being completely different from what I expected… :P Cheerfully oblivious to this fact, I threw on my workout clothes and headed to the gym for some much-needed exercise. I decided to leave my phone and keys in my bedroom, since my pants have no pockets and I wouldn’t be gone terribly long. Lacey had just returned from a 3 mile run, and I knew she was tired. She is not a morning person anyway, so she wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while.

I enjoyed an excellent workout, and headed back to the apartment to get ready for the day. It was such a beautiful morning, though, that I decided to briskly walk around the apartment complex first to end my routine. Lacey’s car was still there so I knew all was well. I happily listened to Casting Crowns and thought how life really couldn’t get much better than this.

Boy, was I about to get a reality check.

After a 3 minute walk, I headed back to the apartment for a much-needed shower. To my surprise, the door was locked! How strange, I thought. Lacey must’ve decided to lock it while I was gone. I knocked several times, but received no response. Suddenly I had a sinking feeling. Running back out to the parking lot, my fear was confirmed. Her car was gone!

I had to laugh at my silly predicament, and ran back up to the office. They’ll have a spare key, I thought cheerfully. No big deal. I merrily threw open the office door and nearly collided with two well-dressed young men. They were waiting to sign a lease, and stared at me in what seemed to be horrified amusement, silently observing me from head to toe. Of course. That is always my luck. I can’t run into a sweet old grandma who won’t notice my fly-away hair, rumpled workout clothes, and red sweaty cheeks…nope, it has to be sophisticated fellows who scrutinize every sad detail. :lol:

But no matter. I explained my predicament to our sympathetic apartment manager, and she assured me they had a spare key. We headed to the back office… only to discover that it wasn’t there. The maintenance guys still had it, and weren’t working that day! She called and left a message, but said she had no idea when they might return. Rats.

I ran back and tried to open our windows, but like any halfway sensible girls would do, we had locked them. I hoped nobody noticed my “suspicious” behavior, as I climbed back over our patio railing and pried at our windows, and called the police on me. It isn’t a crime to break in if it’s your own apartment, right? :lol:

My next course of action was to get Lacey’s number from the office file and ask her to come rescue me. Once more our sweet apartment manager willingly obliged me, and actually called Lacey herself. I knew it was a bad sign though, when she told me to pick up the call on line 2 in the neighboring office. Uhoh. Meanwhile, Mr Sophisticated #1 sat at her desk, observing all. :P

“Did you forget?” was the first thing Lacey said as I picked up the phone. “Remember, I am having my oil changed this morning! I’m at the mechanic’s, and it’s going to be a 45 minute wait!” Mhm, that would be me: Miss Forgetful! We laughed and laughed over the whole crazy scenario, and she promised to come back as soon as possible. It would naturally be my luck that she would happen to have NO access to her car on the one day I lock myself out of our apartment! :lol:

I headed back to the gym and decided to extend my work-out while I waited. Maybe if I burned lots of calories, my brain cells might work better! One could always hope. :D

And then came the final blow as I suddenly looked down at the shirt I had chosen to wear this particular morning. Of all days, I would pick today to wear my brown “Homeschool Alumni” t-shirt from last year’s reunion! The hilarity of the whole scenario sent me into gales of laughter. I had run all over the apartment complex like a silly goose, locking myself out of my own apartment, all the while advertising the fact that I was a homeschool graduate. Yep, that would be me.

To my homeschooled friends: my humblest apologies for the disgrace I have brought upon the rest of you intelligent peoples.

To my other friends: go ahead and laugh. It’s ok. I am too! :lol:

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Sometimes it’s the little things…

….that matter most in life. :D Ever notice that? It’s the answers to “small” prayers, a smile on a hard day, or an encouraging word in a moment of need that are fondly remembered and sometimes the most special. Really.

I’ve been blessed with some of those “little” things this week. On Sunday, I headed to Kroger to get ice cream for the apple pie I’d made, and in my haste to get home and eat it :D, I managed to forget my change at the self-checkout. Granted, it was only $4, but still. That can buy a lot. ;) I realized my mistake just as I was starting my car, and began berating myself. So much for that, I thought gloomily, just sure that it was long gone by now. As I opened my car door to check “just in case”, a guy came running up holding a roll of bills. My money. My four dollars! “Hey, you forgot this!” he exclaimed. I delightedly told him I’d just discovered that fact, and profusely thanked him for returning it. “Did you forget a can of pork and beans too?” he cheerfully inquired. I had not, but was touched by the thoughtfulness of a stranger. He could so easily have pocketed that money (especially since it was “only” 4 bucks) but he was honest and ran all the way out to the parking lot to give it back. He even made sure the abandoned can of beans wasn’t mine.

Honesty is not dead. Isn’t that refreshing? :)

The second “little” thing happened today. I must confess something first, though, to provide background.

I have really strong maternal instincts. I’ve had them since about the age of 14, and they don’t seem inclined to diminish one little bit. Not even a smidge. In fact, if anything I suspect they are getting stronger! :P

One of the hardest things about my present singlehood is the fact that it keeps me from being a mommy. I believe in doing things in proper order, and the old saying “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage” pretty well sums it up. Seeing as how I am presently without the first two, naturally the third is not an option right now. But it doesn’t take away the longing for a sweet little cuddlebug of my own. Some days I just have a sadness in my heart, because I wish so bad I could be a mommy.

Today was one of those days. Working with babies all the time usually keeps me satisfied, but every now and then it’s still just hard. But isn’t the tender mercy of God amazing? :) He is so caring… so thoughtful towards His children. He knows the struggle of our hearts, and knew exactly what I needed today to make mine better.

An adorable little girl came toddling into our clinic this morning….rosy cheeks, big solemn blue eyes, and the cutest little blonde pig tails you ever saw. She was not quite two, but was already way too smart for her own good. She didn’t miss a thing! ;) Her mommy was pregnant, and trying to keep her in hand. My coworkers and I couldn’t resist little Abigail’s cuteness, so went over to say hello.

After chatting with them a few minutes, I was amazed when she suddenly reached her tiny arms out to me. She wanted me to hold her! I naturally could not resist, and scooped her up. She was such a little doll baby! I was amused to note that she’d figured out that by having me hold her, she could escape the little Pooh “leash” her mommy had attached to her back. Kids are way smarter than we think sometimes. :)

I initially thought I was only an “escape route” from the Dreaded Pooh Leash, but when I gave her back to her mom, she started crying and reaching for me! How sweet! Later I heard her crying in the exam room, so opened the door to see if I could help. The minute she saw me, she reached out for me and started smiling. Mommy gladly relinquished her for the duration of the exam, and I had a perfectly lovely time babysitting little Abigail. She was so sweet and inquisitive, and we had quite the “conversation” as we headed around. I could not get over how cute and endearing she was as I carried her around to “meet” everybody, and it did my heart more good than I can express here to spend that time with her. We just bonded instantly, and she clung to me the whole time. I truly believe she was a little God-send. He knew I needed that today, and sent that precious little girl my way to give me a little “boost” of encouragement. She cried when I gave her back to her mom (who is a very wonderful mother, I might add), and was just so sweet! We laughed over the unusual scenario and I told them I will be happy to babysit if she ever has need of a sitter. :lol:

It wasn’t that I was something “special”. It was that I serve a special Savior who eased that longing in my heart by giving me the love of a very special little girl.  All is well again, and I am content to be single as long as He wants me to be, once more. :)

My heart overflows with gratitude to Him who reigns from the majesty and glory of Heaven, yet stoops down to encourage the hearts of “little” people like me…not because He had to but because He wanted to! How great is our Father’s love for us!

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Why I need to marry a pianist…

Ok, so watch this, and you’ll see why I say that! This is the cutest older couple ever. :lol: They are so adorable, and still making music together after 62 years.

Obviously one or both of them have health problems, or they wouldn’t be at the Mayo Clinic, but they haven’t lost their song. They are evidently still in love too. And have lots of spunk. :lol:

That’s the way marriage ought to be. ;)

And is also an example of just how awesome musicians are. :mrgreen:

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