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Archive for June, 2012

Earlier this week, when feeling like a pig, I wrote a post that got an unexpected amount of response, and discussion among friends (the Fat came Back).

As I read the comments, and discussed the subject of women (I cannot pretend to understand the mind of a man, on any subject, so, please do not feel terrible excluded guys) and weight, I realized it is such a common issue for most women.

I expect that it comes primarily from the reality that women are extremely conscious of our outward appearance. We are also extremely aware of the affects of the outward appearance of women on men (watch a sporting event on television, and you will wonder if you ever want your sons to be exposed to the advertising that is shown). On top of that, we women are extremely aware of how other women see, and judge us, based on our outward appearance.

If the importance of outward beauty were not in our DNA, we would definitely get the message from when we are just little girls, as our affirmation comes mainly from words such as pretty, cute, or beautiful.

We are so very insecure about how we look!

I think that we are particularly humbled and humiliated with our outward appearance when it is not due to what nature dealt us, but is instead due to overeating, and under-exercising. In a sense (and I speak only for myself here), when the scales are moving in an upwardly direction, I feel that I am wearing my sin, for all to see. For me, it is not a private failure, but a public one.

As I said in the post earlier this week, “the fat came back, not because of stress, but because I lifted my hand to my mouth. It is time for a change!”

So, rather than drown my sorrows in a big bowl of chocolate ice cream, with chocolate sauce and almonds (like I have obviously been doing for far too long), I am ready to make some changes to go from where I am (the old) to where I want to be (the new).

Earlier this week, when speaking with a friend about writing, I was telling her that writing a daily (Monday to Friday) blog, has been what I needed to get into the habit of writing regularly. As I said the words, “it makes me accountable to be consistent” I realized I might have found the way to become consistent in re-losing the fat that I have found.

Although the transparency that this requires makes me shudder in my shoes, I have decided to blog about my “Old to New” walk, every Monday.

I am not sure what form this will take, or how quickly this might bore both you and me, but my skinny jeans (that I have NEVER owned) are calling my name.

More importantly, I have three kids who I want to not just see grow up, but experience a full and active life with.

So, if you can relate to the struggle and frustration that I have shared, I challenge you to join me. I will be getting weighed today (Friday … oh yes, not just starting on a Friday, but, it is a long weekend, the first weekend of the summer, and I have dear friends coming to stay next week … why wait? This mountain of gelatinous material will not be moved all at once), and I will share my plan on Monday, along with successes, and … the rest. Maybe you would like to interact with me (and maybe others)? We can share how we are doing?

Lets turn this old sow into a sleek silk purse!

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Today our ‘kids,’ who are not, will go home to their parents, who are, for the summer.

It has been just over ten months since the brother and sister pair moved into our home, our family, our hearts. Even after all that time, I struggle to ‘name’ our relationship.

Hubby and I house them, feed them, drive them here and there. We assist them with homework, with filling out forms, and with understanding life. We sign permission forms and make appointments. We assign chores to them, and speak to them in our firm parent voices. We applaud their successes, we hug them and hear their tales of woe. We attend their school events and sports games. We host their friends, and take them shopping.

But, we are not their parents.

We are a homestay family.

I really struggle to know what our relationship should be called. I really struggle to know how to be a parenting, non-parent.

As a woman who is a mom, I believe they need a daily mom to care for them. I do not just mean to care for their basic physical needs, like food, and shelter. I mean to care for their hearts, their souls and their minds. I believe they need a middle aged woman to say good morning to them, to drive them to school, to scold them when they take too long to get ready in the morning, to ask how their English test was, to watch them play basketball, and drive them to the mall (and shake in my boots as they enter the mall without an adult with them). I believe they need someone to sit on the sofa and watch a movie with, and one to applaud their piano playing, and their math award, and their homemade sushi, and someone to tell them to clean their room. I believe they need a pat on the back, that unimpressed mother ‘look’, and someone to pray with when life just sucks.

Today, as my two children, who are not, head across the world to their mother, who is, I will bid them adieu. In french, a dieu, meaning ‘to God’, commonly translated, I command you to God.

It is in that word, adieu, that I get an understanding of parenting that goes far beyond just my role as a homestay mom. In that one word, I am reminded that whoever God places in our care, whether they be our biological, adopted or ‘borrowed’ children, we are required, and our children benefit most from our giving them back to God.

And, whatever I am to them, and they to me, today my mother heart will bid them a dieu.

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School is out! The year is done, and I find myself thinking about how it began, and now how it ends.

I love that I work in a high school. The benefits are so perfectly fitting with who I am. I get to take my kids to work, and bring them home. The hours I work are, predominantly, the same hours that they are in school. The maturity level of the students matches mine quite closely. I get the possibilities (just not often enough) of snow days! To top it all off, there are those enviable summer breaks!

My original plan for my summer break last year, had been to spend parts of the summer creating a plan for the work experience course I had taught the previous school year. I had so loved my job that previous school year. I was challenged by the students I taught, and by the new experiences and skills that I had to develop within myself to accomplish the tasks at hand. I was excited to develop it to the next level, and to dream about new directions that it might take.

Unexpectedly, though, last summer ended up being busier than I had expected, as I ended up taking on a summer job. So my planning and dreaming did not materialize.

When last summers ‘break’ was winding down, and I returned to school, I was surprised that my position from the previous year was not to be my position for this school year. My first reaction was to wonder if I had ‘blown it’ the previous year. Then I was disappointed. Then I was … lost. My vision for the future had changed, so much so, that I did not know what to do, what to say.

So, I dug in, and approached the new year, as if it were a new job … with my tail still hanging between my legs.

I discovered this year that I quite enjoyed being back in the classroom. I discovered that I loved assisting students in math, and that I should NEVER, EVER be placed in an English classroom to assist anyone (if you have read even one of my blog posts, you will know that I have no abilities or training in grammar). I discovered that I can quickly take a Bible passage and make it relevant for the students I am assisting. I discovered that, I may not be the best ‘teacher’ but I can encourage a discouraged student to the point where they are willing to keep trying. I learned that I can go from gentle to firm to gentle again, and that I must, in that order, if I am ever to convince the students that I am ‘for’ them.

I have been privileged to be placed into the lives of students who I was able to assist, and who assisted me on this journey of living and learning. They brought to the table suitcases full of ‘the past’ … and so do I. They also brought to the table empty suitcases, and I was constantly aware that ‘baggage’ was something I needed to prevent myself from packing into them.

All year, the constant voice in my head was telling me ‘it’s not about you” …
* when the students were not eager to work, or when they worked so faithfully
* when they did not give their all, or when they gave everything
* when they didn’t want to share, or when they would not stop sharing
* when they came to school faithfully, or when their attendance was sparse
* when they barely spoke, or when they spoke rudely

IT WAS NOT ABOUT ME! What I was paid for was for it to always be about them …

Now today is the last day before summer break. I will leave work today pleased with all that I discovered in so very many ways, knowing that next year is still a blank slate, and it might bring more discovery.

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With hubby off on his East Coast trip, I have re-learned the beauty of sleeping alone in a queen-sized bed, and hubby is going to be shocked with the changes.

Since he has not been here to insinuate that I snore (what a horrible thing to say! He says it is a horrible thing to hear), and therefore I should not sleep on my back, I have become a back sleeper. I have also gotten quite accustomed to sleeping diagonally across the bed.

Since hubby has been gone I have also learned more important things than the benefits of sleeping solo.

I have heard and read 1 Corinthians 7:8 many times, and it has always made me wonder about how Paul’s words  apply to my own life; “to the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.”

It is intriguing that, in Genesis 2:18, “the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.””

So, which is it? Better to be single, or married?

Well, I think I might have it figured out … (the Christian church accepts no responsibility for the opinions expressed in this grammatically flawed blog, featuring little … NO …  formal theological training upon which to trust what I say to be anywhere near Biblically accurate).

When a woman is married, it is easy, natural to look to her husband as the main one to meet all of her needs. It is a natural thing for a wife (or husband) to look to her spouse as the supplier, sustainer, provider and protector. But, in doing this, what the woman has done is replaced the God, who is all of that, with a human being, who was never intended to be more than a helper, a partner to walk through life’s journey. A person to make the walk easier, less lonely, and to experience human oneness of mind, heart body and spirit.

I think that maybe what Paul is saying is that when we chose to marry, although that pairing up might be what God intended (to defeat loneliness). It also means that our spouse can have God-like expectations heaped on him, or her. And these expectations take our eyes, our focus, off the only true Provider, Supplier, Sustainer, and Protector that we were meant to rely on.

Then, in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35, Paul mixes me up even more!

“I want you to live as free of complications as possible.
When you’re unmarried, you’re free to concentrate on simply pleasing the Master.
Marriage involves you in all the nuts and bolts of domestic life
and in wanting to please your spouse,
leading to so many more demands on your attention.
The time and energy that married people spend on caring for and nurturing each other,
the unmarried can spend in becoming whole and holy instruments of God.
I’m trying to be helpful and make it as easy as possible for you,
not make things harder.
All I want is for you to be able to develop a way of life in which
you can spend plenty of time together with the Master without a lot of distractions.”
So, another challenge of marriage, is that there are more demands on your attention, time and energies, and that means less to spend with God.
It is not that it is a bad thing to spend time “caring for and nurturing each other,” that is something we must do for each other in the marriage relationship, for it to survive. But it does divide our energies and attention more, and in that, our lives become more complicated.
This is why it is so imperative that, when we marry, we do so to one who shares our love for God, so that our marriage can also strengthen and encourage our relationship with our God.
Without hubby here, I have been freed to spend this week with my Maker. Although there are still distractions ALL around me (if Paul had been a mother, he might not have even addressed marriage), I have had more still, quiet moments with my Creator. And it is that which will make me a better wife.
“For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.”
Isaiah 54:5

					

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How is it that you can look at yourself in a mirror every day and still not see what you really look like until someone takes your picture?

As I looked at that picture, containing myself, I realized that the image I have been seeing in the mirror for months has not been a true reflection. Although I saw the realities of the imperfections and flaws, my eyes had somehow missed the significance of just how much I have grown (and I’m not talking growth of character).

A year ago I was celebrating the positive changes that I had made to my daily life. I was walking regularly, I was eating more healthily, I was taking the time to fulfill a passion (that would be this blog), and I had lost over thirty pounds of dense, life-hindering fat.

But, the fat came back.

And now I am hanging my head.

I saw the photo that is the outward expression of my failure, and hung my head in shame, and disappointment.

Oh, I was aware that the fat came back, because I have stood on the torture tool that we keep in our bathrooms … the scales. Somehow, although the numbers where the scale would point were indicating that I had gained it all back, the reality of my sins had not become real for me until I saw myself in a picture.

What I saw was that my face was bigger, and my eyes were disappearing into my swollen cheeks. My normally big mamma arms had grown to look like those of a trucker (without the trucker tan). Thankfully I had worn black on black, so I did not have to see my stomach protruding beyond “the girls.” And my best asset (no I am not talking about my rear) was my legs, because I had shaved them, and they were silky smooth … of course THAT could NOT be seen in the photo.

After the tear fest into my pillow, I had a conversation with myself (if you tell anyone that I admitted that I talk to myself I will deny it completely, and I have sworn my pillow to secrecy).

My self said to me, “it’s been a stressful year, Carole. Last year your hubby was on sabbatical, and that eliminated some of the stresses in your life (and he was gone for about two months, which eliminated even more stress … just joking, hubby 😉 … and don’t tell me that you did not benefit from being away from me for two months!). Then, you worked through much of your summer break last year. Then you had two adolescents move into your home and family. Then you started a full time position, for the first time in eighteen years. Then your dad was dealing with health issues, and living too far away to help your parents just about drove you insane. Then there was the ‘normal’ stresses of life; money, work, marriage, kids. Your weight gain is just a reflection of the stresses in your life.”

And my response to myself, MALARKEY!

Oh, it would be far too easy to claim ‘stress’ as the reason for why the fat came back. The problem in doing that is that it removes your personal responsibility for your decisions. And it just does not make logical sense.

If I were to perform poorly at work, would my stressful home life excuse my negligence of my students? NOT!

If I were to have left my husband, because I could no longer handle the stress in my life, would my children be able to understand and forgive me? I DON’T THINK SO!

If I were to have killed someone, would the stresses in my life be a good rational for my crime? NO!

Stress does not dislocate my brain cells. I may have to concentrate more on the decisions I am making, and be more intentional in what I am doing, but I do still have the power to do what is right, and good, and healthy.

Sure, it has been more challenging to find the time to go for long walks. Sure it has been more difficult to force the multitude of things on my mind aside, so that I can clear and renew my mind and heart and soul. Sure, solitary has become almost an impossibility in our home. And, with house maintenance on Saturday, and hubby’s church-related committments on Sunday, there is an absence of a ‘sabbath’ in my life.

But, the fat came back, not because of stress, but because I lifted my hand to my mouth.

It is time for a change!

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I have many memories of spending hours and days in preparation for a long distance trip, by car or plane. Then, just minutes after leaving our home one of our children would cry from from the backseats, “are we there yet?”

It is the most familiar cry of family road trips. It is acceptable, and even humorous to us, because it comes out of the lack of awareness and experience of a child’s understanding of place and time. If our twenty-something year old were to ask that same question, in the same context, it would not be as acceptable or humorous.

That is how it is with how we deem something to be an age-appropriate response or action. We consider the maturity level of the person.

A burp or toot from an infant is ‘cute’ but anything similar from your hubby is inappropriate and distasteful.

We watch our toddler race toy trains, planes and automobiles, encouraging them to ‘go faster’, but a new teenage driver who participates in street racing is ridiculous, and should lose their license.

These are the double standards of moving forward, of maturing, of growing up.

Are we there yet?

It is also our innate, human cry. Our bodies cry it from our first breath, until our final exhale.

We spend most of our lives trying to identify, trying to find ‘there’. We are like the child in the back seat, too young, too immature to understand distance or time. We just know that we are going, and we want to be ‘there’ so that we can discover what it is.

‘There’ is like a present, placed under the Christmas tree too many days before the due date to unwrap it. It sits, and waits for the mysteries inside to be revealed. We do not know if we want what it contains inside, we just know that we want it to be fully revealed to us, but it is not time for that.

Waiting for the right time is not something that I do well, or naturally, and I do not think that I am alone in that.

Like that child awaiting the right time to open the gift, I just want to get on with it … whatever ‘it’ is.

Being of advanced years, I am starting to learn something about the season of waiting. I am learning it is not empty time. It is not a waste of time. There is a purpose in this season of waiting and anticipating.

In the season of waiting, there is opportunity to to not be that child in the back seat, but to be one of the maturity to notice the beauty along the way. We can learn that age-old lesson to “be still.”

Somehow, to we mere mortals, “be still” sounds like a demand, and, for the impatient like me, it sounds like a punishment.

There is more, though, to that age-old lesson. The lesson comes from the Psalms (Psalm 46:10).

It says:
“Be still, and know that I am God”

When I read beyond those first two words, I sense not a demand or punishment in it’s message to me, but an opportunity to let the chips fall where they may.

It is like someone giving me money to play the slots. It did not cost me to play, so, win or lose, I get to pull the handle and still walk away without having had to gamble.

Unlike that child tortuously awaiting the appointed time to reveal the contents of the beautifully wrapped box, I can enjoy the presents of today, knowing that God has not only the appointed day in control, but also what is contained in the wrappings.

Are we there yet?

No, but each day of anticipation is an opportunity to trust in the God who already knows what is awaiting me.

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This is a series about a woman, roses on a park bench, and an amazing set of circumstances that bring her into a new future … one she never could have dreamed, would take her from sorrow to hope.
Each week there will be a new installment.

As I looked back to see what is was that caught my eye, I was intrigued to see it was a bouquet of flowers, laying on an empty park bench.

The bench was seated in front of a small apartment building, but near to the sidewalk. So that if one was out for a walk it could provide a place of rest. Although there was a bus stop just a few feet away, the bench did not have the appearance of a bus stop bench, but one a person might have in their garden.

The bouquet of flowers looked fresh, very fresh. As though they had been just bought that morning, but forgotten on the bench by someone.

I wonder if they were forgotten by someone. Maybe that person laid them on the bench for just a moment while making a call, or helping a young child pick up the toy they dropped. Then, when their bus arrived they forgot to pick them up again.

Or, maybe a woman had been given the flowers while on a date,  last date, with a man whose charm was only on the surface. And maybe he gave her the flowers at the beginning of the date, only to dump her as their time together moved on. And maybe, the beautiful on the surface, but bitter to her heart’s eyes bouquet got thrown to the bench, like her heart to sorrow.

Or, maybe there was a woman waiting for her love to arrive off of the bus, and when he arrived he was overcome by her appearance, and set the bouquet down on the bench. Then he rose to go to her and greet her with a passionate kiss. The flowers forgotten as his eyes and thoughts were only of her.

What was that?

Oh my, horns are honking! I just lost my head in my imaginative world. I am ridiculous!

I looked back at the man in the vehicle behind me. He was angry, volatile really, with his mouth moving, and hands flailing. It was as if my crime of daydreaming which caused him to have to wait a few seconds longer at an intersection, was the worst violation possible.

I moved my vehicle into drive, and looked straight ahead to avoid the glares and raised finger of the man in the truck behind me. He could seriously use a romantic story right now.

As we were directed through the intersection I glanced around, wondering about the stories of the lives of the people who had been involved in the accident. I wondered if they were hurt badly. I wondered what this accident might have kept them from. I wondered if the effects of this seemingly minor accident, might affect the course of their lives.

Then I shook my head.

What was I thinking? My daydreaming had just about caused the heart failure of the man driving behind me. I could not allow my pondering of what looked like a minor fender bender to possibly cause some other horrible fate for another.

The possible stories were endless, though.

One chance meeting, one glance in a certain direction, could result in a tragedy that could change the lives of people forever.

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My family has been so good to me this past year. They have all forfeited the opportunity to visit our extended family on the East Coast, so that I could go and see my parents, as my dad was experiencing health-related issues.

But tonight, when the jet plane is leaving, I will not be on it.

Hubby and daughter number two will be heading to the far East (Canada style) tonight. It has been about four years since they were each there, and that is at least two years too long.

There has been much excitement and planning, telephoning and texting, and social media communicating between Canada’s two coasts. It is a short visit, so strategic planning is a must if they are going to get everything accomplished that they are hoping to achieve.

The main focus of their trip is family. There is a graduation to attend, grandparents and parents to hug, sleep-overs to attend, biscuits to eat, people to visit, and sarcastic East Coast humor to participate in.

My hubby and daughter have the ‘look’ of East Coasters. Hubby has the ruddy complexion and freckles of his British heritage. Our daughter has the red hair and freckles of Anne Shirley (aka. Anne of Green Gables).

Although our daughter has lived her entire life in Beautiful British Columbia, and hubby has lived more of his life away than there, they will be constantly asked if and when they (we) will move back home to the East Coast.

It is a question that always makes me smile. It reminds me of the pride of those who live there. It reminds me of how much they would love for our lives to intertwine more regularly. It also makes responding difficult, for our response is not the one they desire most to hear, it is not even the one we desire to say. But it is the honest reality that we have chosen for our family.

Our lives are on the west coast. We made a promise to our children, when our oldest was only six, and our youngest not even a glimmer in his father’s eye. Our promise was, and is, that we would provide opportunity for them to experience ONE school community. And that we would trust that God would allow us to fulfill that promise to our children.

Thirteen years later, we are only five school years away from fulfilling our promise. It has not been without sacrifice; financially, professionally, personally OR from the perspective of our distance from our extended family. But it was, and is, in our hearts, minds and souls, the right and only way to go.

So, although our hearts live simultaneous on opposite sides of a country and continent, we continue to move forward. Believing that our sacrifice, and that of extended family, will be worth it in the lives of our most precious investment, our children.

 

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It is end of the year at school, with exams, report cards, prom and graduation the main talks around the water fountain.

The students who are graduating out of the school system are a totally different group than when they entered.

In the beginning they were possibly still struggling with toileting, could barely print their names, might have been dealing with separation anxiety, and possibly still even needed a car seat .

Now, thirteen years later, they can fix an engine, write a manuscript, run for miles and recite Shakespeare. They can drive a car, survive alone at home, and are just months away from being able to elect our politicians.

Truly, if anyone has, they have experienced the reality of metamorphosis. Who they were in the beginning of their schooling is barely a shadow of who they are today.

Those who are graduating this year are fully immersed into all of the farewells, from all that they have known for the past thirteen years. They are having celebrations, receiving gifts and making plans for the rest of their lives. They may not know what their immediate or long term future will look like, but they all share one common bond … they are leaving home.

Now they might not be leaving their parent’s home, but they are leaving their school, and whether they spent just a year or all thirteen years there, they are leaving home.

School is not just a place of education, it is also a microcosm, or small picture, of society and more specifically, of family. Within the walls of every school are:

* the ‘perfect’ cousins, who do it all the right way … always!
* the uncle or aunt who is always carrying mints.
* the grandfather with a flatulence problem.
* the grandmother who cannot match her clothing colors.
* the weird uncle.

The list goes on and on.

The school family, like the ones we share Christmas with, is not perfect. It is often unpredictable, nosy, odd and embarrassing. It can make you feel as though it is ruling and ruining your life. It can seem like the only chance at freedom and a good and healthy future is to leave.

And then the day comes, and you hold that diploma, and it is time to leave … forever.

And whether you loved your school home, or were convinced that you never should have been there, all that you knew is done, over and gone … and it is never, ever going to be the same again.

The school family was not just the negative, the strange, the obscure. It was also the place where you had, not just moments of failure, but also moments of success. It was where that one teacher would say, “how are you?” and you knew that he or she really wanted to know. It was where you got your first taste of a gift or ability that you could be passionate about … in the lab, the computer room, the drama class, the gym, the English class, or in chatting it up with the custodian. It was where you first dealt with your fear of public speaking, test taking, sports, an engine, or computers (okay, that is just the staff).

When a graduate leaves their school home, there is adjustment coming. The expected is no more, the unexpected is all that is before you. The safe places to hide, and the spotlight to shine on you are changed. A temporary homelessness descends, and adjustment is necessary.

It was the school home. It is the place where students have gone from child to adult.

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I’ve got Karen Carpenter singing in my head, as I sit at a coffee shop, watching the rain fall, and looking at the depressing forecast for the week to come.

It is now mid-June and the monsoons continue, with little relief (aka. sunshine) in sight … literally.

I have yet to swim in our pool, get a suntan, or have the sun hide my darker (or lighter, as the case may be) roots. I have yet to wear shorts, a tank top or sunglasses. I wear only hoods, slickers and galoshes. And I am considering that Prozac might just be a big part of my near future.

Despite how it sounds (and looks) the weather is not all doom and gloom. This west coast winter weather in springtime does make it easier to keep the grass green and the plants watered. It makes the final days of working in a school, before summer break, far more bearable. It makes barbecuing less appealing, and using the slow cooker more appealing.

All that said, the first day of summer is this very week. The countdown is not down to days, but hours, and the calendar may just turn without any other outward signs of this seasonal change. Today, that reality is really getting me down.

Just a week ago the office administrator at our church had put the following on our church sign:

“Whoever it is that is still praying for rain,
STOP!”

I have to say, it was my favorite message board saying ever!

As I sit, enjoying my warm drink (a London Fog … could I choose a more appropriate cool and wet weather drink?), I noticed a small, sparrow-like, bird looking for edible treasures outside the window. For this small creature, the rain does not seem to hinder it’s daily routine. As a matter of fact, it is probably benefiting from the wet soil that draws the worms out of the ground, making it’s take-out meals more like delivery.

Out of nowhere an old, old (like over a hundred year old) song starts playing on the record player of my mind:

“Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

The words make me wonder, is this less appealing weather worthy of complaint? Why am I allowing something that is so out of my control, to control how I look at this day? Even when my complaint is of greater value than the reports of a meteorologist, there is always something to be thankful for, because there is always one who watches over, cares for and loves me.

“Funny, but it seems I always wind up here with you
Nice to know somebody loves me
Funny, but it seems that it’s the only thing to do
Run and find the one who loves me”

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